Hot Hardware Holiday Buyer's Guide 2006

Article Index

System Comparisons and Conclusion

For comparison sake, we have collected the lowest costs online for each component selected in the three system configurations and compiled a table to outline the variances in cost.

Flagship vs. Overclocker's Dream 

Component Flagship Overclocker's Dream
CPU 1004.49 309.00
Motherboard 375.00 233.81
Memory 459.00 369.00
Graphics Card(s) 1199.98 899.98
Hard Drive(s) 435.50 435.50
Sound Card 246.63 89.95
Power Supply 482.99 236.19
Total Cost $4203.59 $2570.42

Taking a glimpse at the various components which comprise the flagship system configuration, it is no surprise to see the price for the core components coming in at an astronomical $4,203.59. Mind you, this cost does not include peripherals such as a keyboard, mouse, speakers, and monitor. Surely, the fastest possible performance does not come cheap and this particular configuration speaks volumes in support of this point. However, it is interesting to see that the cost of the Overclocker's configuration is more than $1,300 lower and offers much of the performance. These days there are components which are specifically designed with overclockers in mind and the risks associated with overclocking have been dramatically reduced. Looking at the comparison here, it is hard to justify the additional $1,300 when the final performance could be so close in so many applications. 


Overclocker's Dream vs. Budget

Component Overclocker's Dream Budget
CPU 309.00 170.00
Motherboard 233.81 154.99
Memory 369.00 124.00
Graphics Card(s) 899.98 261.99
Hard Drive(s) 435.50 78.95
Sound Card 89.95 86.94
Power Supply 236.19 145.95
Total Cost $2570.42 $1022.82

Looking at the cost differences between the components of the two system configurations above, it is easy to assume that the budget system would have vastly inferior performance compared to the overclocker's system. Although the dual-GPU configuration, RAID array, and additional 1GB of memory certainly give the overclocking system a huge advantage (especially at high resolutions), the budget system will offer surprisingly competitive performance at lower resolutions depending on the image quality settings which are selected. Coming in almost $1,600 cheaper and being able to be overclocked itself, the budget system offers an excellent price/performance ratio. In all but the most extreme cases, the budget system will offer more than enough performance for any given application and would be ample for many users.

Although this guide could certainly be used as a blueprint of sorts for building your ideal system, it is meant to be more of a suggested parts list of sorts. Despite the fact that "other" brands can be alluring with relatively low prices and features which sound too good to be true, history has shown that these products are often the Achille's heel of a system and can do far more harm than good. As such, it pays to opt for a brand and a product which has earned a solid reputation. Although that product might cost more initially, it will more than make up for the difference in price with its stability, reliability, and performance over time. As we have seen, excellent performance does not necessarily have to come with an astronomical price. So long as you do your research and choose the right brands and components, you can build a phenomenal system for a very reasonable cost. With this in mind, we unleash you to the world of online vendors and the wealth of computer hardware at your disposal. Be sure to take advantage of Hot Hardware's Pricegrabber price-searching engine to find the lowest possible price for the hardware on your Christmas list!  Happy Holidays!

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