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Get a Great Gaming Rig without Breaking the Bank

When it comes to buying a PC designed to handle today's demanding computer games, there's good news and bad news.

Let's start with the unfortunate reality—the latest PC games require a fast processor, ample RAM, and a high-end video card. But despite popular belief, you don't need to take out a second mortgage on your home in order to afford one. And it is possible to save cash without sacrificing much performance.

Hard to believe? You can order a new PC from us which features many of the components outlined in this article.

So consider this article a starting point for what to look for in an affordable gaming PC, component by component.

Piecing it together
There comes a point in every computer gamer's life when they decide to buy a whole new PC instead of upgrading an existing one.

Here's a look at the various components to shoot for when shopping for a reasonably-priced gaming PC:

Processor . A PC's processor is the brains of the machine. The rule of thumb is the higher the number, the better. Today, an Intel Core 2 Duo chip is a great start. You may see cheaper PCs with an Intel "Celeron" chip, but it doesn't process data fast enough to support high-end games. On the other hand, more expensive Pentium processors include Intel's Core I3, I5 & I7 with Turbo Boost & Hyper Threading technology, but this will add more to the budget.

Alternatively, AMD's Athlon X2 Dual Core processor is also a good choice. In fact, AMD's 64-bit platform extends the current x86 instruction set architecture and is often preferred by gamers for its fast performance and reliability; the Athlon 64 processor in particular is designed for applications that require multi-processor scalability and fast 3-D processing. Games certainly fit that bill. And AMD-based PCs may be slightly less expensive than Intel-based ones.

Memory . Like the processor, memory (or RAM) affects the speed and performance of your computer, and also makes it possible to run more than one program at once. Because the price of memory has dropped considerably over the years, chances are any new PC you purchase—even value-priced ones—will ship with 2 Gigabytes (GB) of RAM.

Video card. One of the most important considerations when buying a new PC is its video card and the amount of video RAM on the card. The card will determine how fast and smooth those 3D graphics in games render. It's easy to upgrade these over time, but you'll want to find a PC with a decent card already installed.

Hard disk. Hard disk space has also come down in price over the past few years. The more you have, the more games, programs, and files you can store on your computer. Be sure to purchase a computer with at least 260 GB to 500 GB of hard disk space. To ensure the hard drive is a fast one, look for at least 7,200 RPMs (revolutions per minute) and 8 MB of cache.

Sound card and speakers . When it comes to audio, today's games may feature a number of bells and whistles—such as 7.1 surround sound that splits audio into seven different tracks, plus the bass via the subwoofer. But don't bother investing in one of these audio cards if you're counting your coins. A regular Creative Labs Sound Blaster Audigy card is all you need to deliver great-sounding music, voice, and effects. Pass on the 5.1, 6.1, or 7.1 surround sound set-up if you're watching your wallet, and instead choose a PC with a good set of 2.1 speakers.

Optical drives. All PCs now come with dual layer DVD+/-RW optical drives.

Monitor and chassis. Choosing one of those snazzy LCD monitors can really eat up one's budget. Start with a 22" wide-screen and then work out if your budget will allow for a bigger screen.

When it comes to your desktop computer's chassis, a mini-tower or mid-tower is fine, but be sure there are a couple of expansion slots so you could add more components, if so desired.

Power Supply Unit. Often overlooked but a vital part of the system. The thing to look out for is 'true wattage'. Many PSUs say they are a particular wattage but are not capable of that spec under gaming conditions. Good brands include Antec, CoolerMaster, Seasonic & Zalman. A typical gaming rig should be running with at least a 600W PSU.

Software. Some PC manufacturers load up the computer with extra software such as ISP set-up software, anti-virus and firewall programs, and other freeware or shareware. This can congest your desktop and may affect the performance of your PC. If you can, tell us you don't want anything but the operating system.



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