Gaming system for around $800?
April 8, 2009 5:06 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking to get a new desktop PC for gaming purposes. I want to spend around $800. Where do I go for the best bang for my buck?

I'm generally a pretty computer literate guy, but every time I buy a new PC I get lost in trying to figure out the best value between various options, especially with key things like the processor, RAM, and video card. There are a million options and I can't gauge what is better than what and what is good value for the money.

Got any tips for what I should look for, or even links to systems you would recommend?

Mostly I just play WoW and I would like to play with the video settings turned all the way up and have a decent frame rate in Dalaran.
posted by furiousxgeorge to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh, and don't need a monitor or any other accesories.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:07 PM on April 8, 2009

I like Tech Report's system guides. I built This computer. The only difference was I increased the RAM to 4 GB. I got great framerates in Dalaran. But that guide is old. With your $800, you can afford to build this one which will also be more than adequate.

WoW is not very demanding, so it should be hard to go wrong. If your monitor is very large, I suppose that'll also affect things.
posted by kidbritish at 5:18 PM on April 8, 2009

I just built a really muscular gaming PC for less than $800 last year. If you've got a friend who can help you build a system (it's beyond easy these days), you can just buy parts on New Egg and get a much more powerful system than you would buying an off-the-shelf system for the same money.
posted by CRM114 at 5:20 PM on April 8, 2009

Oh, sorry - I just re-read the OP and it seems like you were already looking at building a system. Sorry for that useless post.

The first link in kidbritish's post is just a couple of notches below what I built last year, but I bought an OS and a new monitor so it came out to about $800 for me. You can't really go wrong with a duo-core because there are few to no games that actually take advantage of quad-core processors.
posted by CRM114 at 5:22 PM on April 8, 2009

Spend extra time and money to research how to make your case silent. It is very easy to build a powerful computer for that much money, but difficult to make it silent. You'll feel much prouder afterwards, I think, and the extra $20 or $30 on specific fans will be money well spent.

Also, spend extra money on an Antec (or equivalent in quality) case. Get any model you want--mainly it's about getting a quality power supply. Cheapie cases do not come with good power supplies.

The only real consideration for me when it comes to cases, aside from the power supply thing, is 1. will it hold everything I want it to hold? and 2. how many ports are crammed onto the front? (The more the better).

I would recommend against spending more than $200 on a video card, as when you get to the "high end," the value-per-dollar ratio gets depressing.

I think, if you plan things right, you can afford to get a blue ray drive with your computer. That's awesome. Regardless, make sure any drives you get are SATA, not lame ol' IDE.

A card reader, either to install in the case or an external one, is a great buy if you have a camera or something equivalent. Beware purchasing one that sets up actual drives for each slot when the computer boots up. That's lame.

Get a retail processor that includes a heat sink and thermal paste. It will Just Work and make your headaches much fewer this time around.

Do not listen to people who bash Vista. It's fine, and better than XP. Your computer will be blazing fast with Vista.
posted by Nonce at 5:46 PM on April 8, 2009

Response by poster: I am considering building, but if anyone has any links to good deals on premade systems that would be helpful too.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:36 PM on April 8, 2009

Wait for a deal on Slickdeals or Fatwallet. It'll be just as cheap or cheaper than anything you could build yourself, be virtually silent and have full warranty and support.

I picked up a loaded Dell Core2 Quad last year for $450. Toss in a 9800GTX for $150-ish off Newegg and you should be set.
posted by wongcorgi at 6:45 PM on April 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Just upgraded my WoW/home office PC last month, and I'm pretty happy with it. I spent some time looking over various online vendors. I recommend CyberPower PC. They offer several systems setups (AMD, Intel, Quad, Core Duo, etc) and let you configure your system to your heart's content. I went with their "Mega Special III" with a Core Duo E8400 processor and the ATI HD3850 video card that came in at $720 with shipping. (Like you, I already had monitor/keyboard/mouse) has lists of both barebones and full system vendors who offer online configurators as well, but none of them offer the same variety in their options, and it always seemed like I would have to skimp on something I wanted. I'd also recommend checking out the CPU reviews and video card charts at Tom's Hardware if you haven't already. Oh, and in line with Nonce's comment, if you do go with CyberPower, go ahead and opt for the extra 120mm case fan. It doesn't cost much, and it is unbelievably quiet. If the case didn't have all those cool blue lights, I couldn't tell it was on.
posted by MetalDog at 6:49 PM on April 8, 2009

Ok, looked over the initial question again and realized you were looking for options advice, not a vendor. I am not an expert, and I am guessing more knowledgeable people could pick apart my choices, but, here goes:

Core 2 Duo processor -- Basic choice here is Intel Core 2 Duo or Quad Core. Based on my review of CPU charts, (obviously not exhaustive) you can't get the same performance for the price with AMD. Hopefully they will catch up with their newer offerings. Quad cores up to the Q95XX series don't offer much improvement over the Core 2 Duo line for gaming because of smaller cache sizes and slower clock speeds. Also they run hotter, meaning you can probably overclock the core duo chips more. The last 3 chips of the Core 2 Duo series (E8400 - E8600)cost about same as the Quads up to Q6700. If you want to pony up for the Q95XX or higher, you will see better performance, but their are not many (any?) games that take advantage of quad cores yet anyway. Their are a lot of systems offered online with the Core 2 Duo E21XX chips. The E8400's chips are almost the same price and quite a bit faster.

Graphics Card. NVIDIA is probably better than ATI, but WoW doesn't really require a fire breathing graphics card. The ATI HD 3850 with 512 mb memory is "roughly" equivalent to the NVIDIA 9800 GT, but cheaper. The 9800 is the (old) baseline for what good cards are measured against. You should be able to play most new video games on this rig, without turning all graphic settings down.

Memory, 4gb, DDR2. DDR 3 is faster, but you need a more expensive motherboard, and a high end Quad processor to really take advantage. 4 gb's definitely cuts out the Dalaran latency. WG is a lot more fun too.

Case - The Antec Sonata was my favorite, but they don't have that at CyberPower. I went with the Apevia Telstar Jr. cause I like the 120 mm side fan. Quiet!!!

Power Supply - Worth it to get good quality. If you are going Core 2 Duo with a 512 mb video card, I think you want at least 600 watts. If you think you may upgrade to Quad later, you may even want to go 700. I upgraded to a 700 watt Ultra PS. Had positive experience with the last Ultra PS I had.

Motherboard - I've been a fan of ASUS motherboards since the 90's when it was fun and cheaper to build your own system. Their P5 series seems pretty solid. Gigabyte apparently has gotten a pretty good reputation too.

That's about all I got. Hope it helped.
posted by MetalDog at 7:46 PM on April 8, 2009

Try the Value Gaming System Guide from Sharky Extreme. It's a bit out of date right now though, last November. I second the advice above about buying a high quality case, fans, and power supply to keep the system quiet. Also Dalaran's a particularly odd computer speed problem, lots of computers that play Warcraft very fast have a bad time in that one spot.
posted by Nelson at 7:56 PM on April 8, 2009

Ars Technica buying guide

Best in the business, and has been for, what, a decade now?
posted by intermod at 9:05 PM on April 8, 2009

If my earlier rambling response wasn't what you were looking for, I would second Ars Technica's buying guide. I'd like reiterate the advice that it would be a good thing to spend some extra time making everything you get as quiet as possible.

The current guide is pretty old now, so just take everything it suggests and bump them up a notch. In particular, definitely get 4gb of ram.

If you wanted something pre-made, you may also want to check out the dell outlet store.
posted by Nonce at 12:11 AM on April 9, 2009

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