System recommendations are harder to do than most people think, but we’ve diligently worked to keep our guides up-to-date with the most mouth-watering hardware. Our last regular update in April saw some new hardware. This time? Read on…
But reader beware: we’re not going to just choose the cheapest or highest-quality stuff and throw it together and call it a system (as many "recommenders" are wont to do). Rather, our guides are meant to reflect real world issues. For example, we’ll tally up prices for you based on what we glean from our own online comparison shopping engine, not vendors that we have special deals with, or even worse, MSRPs. Real-world prices, baby.
And, of course, this is Ars Technica. We are not concerned with what you should be buying your 500-person company for the next mass upgrade. These are the systems that we, your fellow enthusiasts, either have, plan to have, or would love desperately to have. We know how you think, ’cause we think that way, too.
Now, when recommending products, you’ve got to take two main factors into account: available funds and performance. Some lucky bastards have unlimited funds; some have to pinch every penny. Most of us are somewhere in between. So, when you say something is the “best thing out there,” it’s important to ask, “Best for whom?” In recognition of this fact, our recommendations come in the form of three hypothetical computers.
Budget Box (June 2006)
If you’re trying to build on the cheap, we’ve got your answer: the Budget Box. This puppy is dedicated to finding the least expensive options possible while still giving you full functionality. The Budget Box may sound cheap, but it’s not. It’s simply inexpensive power, priced at under US$800. It will also be ready to handle everything Vista is able to throw at it when it ships in January 2007.
Hot Rod (June 2006)
Next, there’s the Hot Rod. This one’s been juiced up, but with limited funds. Think of the auto hobbyist. He may not buy the fastest car out there, but he does the best he can with what he’s got. Likewise, the Hot Rod is going to be based on a price/performance ratio, as we look for the best bang for the buck. It’s also going to be a system that almost anyone can build. Rather than cook up some mineral-oil soaked, refrigerator-powered machine, we’ve set out to bring power users systems that will rock without having to be tweaked to extremes. Extreme tweaking is cool, but it’s not the purpose of this recommendation.
We try to keep the Hot Rod right around US$1,600.
God Box (June 2006)
Last, but certainly not least, there’s the God Box. This is for the guy who has just won the lottery, or whose company is funding the purchase (same thing). Of course, this doesn’t imply adding stuff for the hell of it. Even on this spec, we don’t want to be wasting money. It will be, however, generally beyond the range of mere mortals.
So how do we define performance? Well, it depends on a lot of things, and can change from day to day. Benchmarks are important, but so are quality issues. Is the video crisp? Is the sound realistic? For each component, we’ll try to tell you what factors led to us choosing it. You may disagree. If so, we’d love to hear about it. Maybe you’ll even make us change our minds… Maybe. Keep an eye out to see what we put in these systems, and stop by often, ’cause they’ll be updated.
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