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TR's July 2007 system guide


Recommendations for building the right enthusiast's PCs
— 12:00 AM on July 6, 2007

WITH THE INTRODUCTION OF NEW mid-range and high-end DirectX 10 graphics cards from both AMD and Nvidia behind us, it's high time for a new system guide. We've neglected the guide a little lately, but we've been swamped with other pursuits, including Computex and "Weighing the value of today's processors." In the meantime, the hardware landscape has been altered quite substantially. Processor and memory prices have plummeted, new CPUs and graphics cards have been released, Intel has rolled out a new generation of chipsets, and other manufacturers have introduced an array of new products to keep things interesting. With those changes in mind, we've concocted a brand-spanking-new system guide to, er, guide you through picking the latest and greatest hardware for a new build.

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Rules and regulations
Before tackling our recommended systems, we should explain some of the rules and guidelines we used to select components. The guiding philosophy behind our choices was to seek the best bang for the buck. That means we avoided recommending super-cheap parts that are barely capable of performing their jobs, just as we avoided breathtakingly expensive products that carry a hefty price premium for features or performance you probably don't need. Instead, we looked to that mythical "sweet spot" where price and performance meet up in a pleasant, harmonic convergence. We also sought balance within each system configuration, choosing components that make sense together, so that a fast processor won't be bottlenecked by a skimpy graphics card or too little system memory, for instance. The end result, we hope, is a series of balanced systems that offer decent performance as configured and provide ample room for future expandability.

We confined our selections to components that are currently available online. Paper launches and preorders don't count, for obvious reasons. We also tried to stick to $500, $1000, and $1500 budgets for our desktop systems. Those budgets are loose guidelines rather than hard limits, to allow us some wiggle room for deals that may stretch the budget a little but are too good to resist.

We've continued our tradition of basing the guide's component prices on listings at Newegg. We've found that sourcing prices from one large reseller allows us to maintain a more realistic sense of street prices than price search engine listings, which are sometimes artificially low. In the few cases where Newegg doesn't have an item in stock, we'll fall back to our trusty price search engine rather than limit our options.

Finally, price wasn't the top factor in our component choices. Our own experiences with individual components weighed heavily on our decisions, and we've provided links to our own reviews of many of the products we're recommending. We've also tried to confine our selections to name-brand rather than generic products, and to manufacturers with solid reputations for reliability. Warranty coverage was an important consideration, as well.