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TR's April 2013 System Guide


Game bundles and desktop ultrabooks
— 4:33 PM on April 15, 2013

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This is pretty good time to build a gaming rig, all things considered. We've seen a slew of new titles hit the market over the past three months—Crysis 3, SimCity, Tomb Raider, BioShock Infinite—and there are many more on the way. Not only that, but both AMD and Nvidia have released new graphics cards like the Radeon HD 7790, the GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost, and the GeForce GTX Titan recently, helping to rejuvenate both the mid range and the high end.

Other happy developments have taken place, as well. 3TB and 4TB hard drives have become not just commonplace, but also affordable enough to matter. New, higher-capacity solid-state drives have hit stores, and we've seen existing models come down in price.

Join us for this new edition of the TR System Guide, in which we've retooled our staple builds to account for the new product arrivals and price fluctuations. We've also spiced things up with a brand-new build: the Ultrabox, a small-form-factor machine based on Intel's Next Unit of Computing barebones PC. Keep reading for all the details.

Rules and regulations
A short disclaimer: this is a component selection guide, not a PC assembly guide or a performance comparison. If you're seeking help with the business of putting components together, you'll want to have a look at our handy how-to build a PC article—and the accompanying video:

If you're after reviews and benchmarks, we suggest heading to our front page and starting from there.

Over the next few pages, you'll see us recommend and discuss components for four sample builds. Those builds have target budgets of about $600, $1,000, $1,500, and $3,000. Within each budget, we will attempt to hit the sweet spot of performance and value while mentally juggling variables like benchmark data, our personal experiences, current availability and retail pricing, user reviews, warranty coverage, and the manufacturer's size and reputation. We'll try to avoid both overly cheap parts and needlessly expensive ones. We'll also favor components we know first-hand to be better than the alternatives.

Beyond a strenuous vetting process, we will also aim to produce balanced configurations. While it can be tempting to settle on a $50 motherboard or a no-name power supply just to make room for a faster CPU, such decisions are fraught with peril—and likely disappointment. Similarly, we will avoid favoring processor performance at the expense of graphics performance, or vice versa, keeping in mind that hardware enthusiasts who build their own PCs tend to be gamers, as well.

Now that we've addressed the how, let's talk about the where. See that "powered by Newegg.com" logo at the top of the page? Newegg sponsors our system guides, and more often than not, it will double as our source for component prices. However, Newegg has no input on our editorial content nor sway over our component selections. If we want to recommend something it doesn't carry, we'll do just that.

We think sourcing prices from a huge online retailer gives us more realistic figures, though—so much so that we quoted Newegg prices long before this guide got a sponsor. Dedicated price search engines can find better deals, but they often pull up unrealistically low prices from small and potentially unreliable e-tailers. If you're going to spend several hundred (or thousand) dollars on a PC, we think you'll be more comfortable doing so at a large e-tailer with a proven track record and a decent return policy. That vendor doesn't have to be as big as Newegg, but it probably shouldn't be as small as Joe Bob's Discount Computer Warehouse, either.