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Sweeter Spot alternatives
Believe it or not, the Sweeter Spot can get even tastier.

Component Item Price
Graphics Gigabyte Radeon HD 6950 1GB $239.99
Storage Crucial m4 128GB $199.99
Samsung EcoGreen F4 2TB $109.99
Samsung EcoGreen F4 2TB $109.99
Audio Asus Xonar DX $79.99
Case Corsair Graphite Series 600T $159.99

Driver hurdles aside, the Radeon HD 6950 1GB is about as fast as the GeForce GTX 560 Ti and has lower power consumption. This Gigabyte model is an Editor's Choice award winner, and it even comes with a coupon for a free copy of DiRT 3. That makes it a fine alternative to our primary GeForce recommendation.

Crucial's 128GB m4 fills in as the slower-yet-potentially-safer alternative to our primary SSD. If stability concerns trump your hunger for top-of-the-line performance, then this is the drive for you.

On the mechanical front, folks wishing for a little more capacity may want to grab a pair of 2TB Samsung EcoGreen F4 drives. (Again, we feel better about recommending the EcoGreens over WD's Caviar Greens, which have accumulated quite a few negative user reports lately.) Running these either of these drives separately or in a redundant RAID-1 array provides a cost-effective way to beef up the Sweeter Spot's storage space.

For what it's worth, at least two TR editors run mirrored RAID-1 arrays in their primary desktops. Mirroring won't protect your data from viruses or other forms of corruption, but it does offer real-time recovery should one drive meet an untimely demise. We like that peace of mind.

The Xonar DG is awesome, no doubt about it. As one might expect from a budget card, however, the DG lacks some of the features available with more expensive Xonars. One of those is the ability to encode Dolby Digital Live bitstreams on the fly. Real-time encoding is a handy feature for gamers who want to pass multichannel audio over a single digital cable rather than a bundle of analog ones. The Xonar DX is up to the task, and it carries on the Xonar tradition of impeccable analog sound quality.

Although it's bulkier and doesn't look quite as good as the 650D, Corsair's Graphite Series 600T enclosure costs 30 bucks less and is good enough for a Editor's Choice Award. Also, it's available in white, if you're into that sort of thing.