What Can Your Budget Buy? (Part 3)

1/11/2013 9:04:24 AM

High-end PCs have many advantages. Spend $1612 on a system, and you can expect it to meet any task expertly, whether that’s gaming, photo and video editing, or simply browsing the internet. You can take advantage of the latest technologies, and get access to far more power than most systems could offer. But even better than that - if you buy a high-end machine, you can be sure that it’ll remain competitive well into the future. The more you spend, the longer it’ll be before your system’s out of date, and you’ll definitely get your money’s worth in the long term.

Overclockers Vortex i7

Overclockers Vortex i7

Housed in a rather imposing BitFenix Alpha Merc, you can be sure from the start that the Vortex i7 is a PC designed to impress. Its pedigree from Overclockers means you’re guaranteed expert build quality and reliability: systems are stress-tested for 8 hours before being shipped.

The case hides a formidable interior, including an Intel Core i7-3770, although it’s a shame that you don’t get the 3770K by default. 8GB of 1600MHz DDR3 RAM, a 600W power supply and a Radeon HD 7970 means you’ve not only got one of the best graphics cards to come out in the last few years, you have the juice to back it up.

A 60GB SSD is a nice nod towards improving game speeds with modern hardware, and with some steady space management, it might even prove sufficient, but to be honest, we don’t think much of including a wimpy SSD alongside bags of HDD space. A 60GB SSD is hardly worth the money it costs, and prices are already dropping fast. In a year it’ll just look ridiculous. And we know we keep complaining about it but, especially in a gaming system, a built-in wireless card would’ve been nice to ensure the CPU isn’t propping up a cheap USB adapter.

Still, aside from those minor complaints, this is a system that looks great, has tonnes of power, and features some of the best components around. You don’t get an OS in this price, but you can add Windows 8 for $40 - pennies to anyone considering a PC at this scale (and hey, if it does stretch your budget, get rid of that SSD drive). It’s not the best system you can get for $1612, but it’s definitely up there - not least because of who’s building it.


·         Pre-Build: Overclockers Vortex i7

·         Price: $1601

·         CPU: Intel Core i7-3770 (4 x 3.5GHz)

·         RAM: 2 x 4GB Geil Black Dragon 1600MHz

·         Storage: 60GB SSD + 1TB HDD

·         Case: BitFenix Alpha Merc Mid-tower

·         Graphics: AMD HD Radeon 7970 3GB

·         Optical Drive: OcUK 24x DVD±RW SATA ReWriter

·         Power Supply: Power & Cooling 600W PSU

·         CPU Cooling: Default Intel

·         Motherboard: MSI Intel Z77

·         Sound: 7.1 HD Sound

·         Wireless: Wireless LAN 54Mbps

·         Operating System: No OS (extra cost)


Customised Computer Planet GX2000

Customised Computer Planet GX2000

We used Computer Planet’s mid-market GX2000 gaming PC as the basis for our high-end system, because it was already very good to begin with. And by the time you get close to the $1612 budget limit, it’s frankly spectacular. We’ve upgraded the CPU to an Intel Core i7-3770K, which is one of Intel’s best Ivy Bridge chips with Intel HD 4000 on-board graphics (but that doesn’t matter, because you won’t be using it).

The chip, of course, is the multiplier unlocked version, and since the Arctic Freezer 7 CPU cooler is around 30% better than Intel’s own fan, the system should already be capable of handling any temperature increase that overclocking might entail. Unlike the Vortex i7, there’s additional capacity in this system to be taken advantage of.

16GB of RAM is hefty even for a gaming system, and the Corsair branding means you’ll get good speeds and performance. A 1TB Caviar Green hard drive is suitably high-end, and while an SSD would substantially improve performance, you’d also be looking at an extra $160-$320 just to get one of a respectable size. If you’re on a budget at all, SSDs are still out of reach. The 800W PSU allows you plenty of space to expand in the future, but it can also ensures the graphics card is given the space it needs to operation. And speaking of which, the systems graphics are taken care of by a GeForce GTX 660 - the best value card on the market right now (even if it’s a bit less powerful than the Vortex’s Radeon).

As well as the hardware, you also get an operating system included in the price, but if you have one already you can happily save another $104, making this an even better deal for people who are looking to replace a current system rather than build one from a scratch. To our delight, we even found room in the budget for a wireless network card!

What it tells us, though, is that the more you spend, the better the deal becomes on selecting your system’s parts from scratch. You can’t beat the convenience of a pre-build, but if the budget really is your concern, putting yourself in charge of choosing components is a quick way to get a decent discount.


·         Custom-Build: Customised Computer Planet GX2000

·         Price: $1569

·         CPU: Intel Core i7-3770K (4 x 3.5GHz)

·         RAM: 4 x 4GB Corsair PC3-10666 1333MHz

·         Storage: 1 TB Western Digital Caviar Green

·         Case: Coolermaster Elite 430

·         Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 - 2GB

·         Optical Drive: 22x dual-layer DVD/CD writer

·         Power Supply: Corsair 800W Gaming PSU

·         CPU Cooling: Arctic Freezer 7

·         Motherboard: Gigabyte B75

·         Sound: 7.1 HD Sound

·         Wireless: Wireless LAN 54Mbps

·         Operating System: Windows 8 Standard 64-Bit


Is Price Your Top Concern?

There’s a question that not everyone likes to ask themselves when they’re shopping around for a new computer, and that’s this: are low prices really the bargains they look like? We’re not just talking about overpriced components, here. We’re talking about the value of your purchase, as opposed to the mere cost of it.

After all, it’s not just a race to the bottom. Some things are actually worth paying more for. Current generation Intel CPUs, at any level, are superior to AMD chips, so you can often get a bargain on AMD hardware, but when it comes to a future upgrade path, or when the hardware starts to age, your cheaper AMD system could prove a dead-end. You’ve emphasised short-term decisions over long-term ones, and that’s ultimately lost you money.

Current generation Intel CPUs, at any level, are superior to AMD chips, so you can often get a bargain on AMD hardware

Current generation Intel CPUs, at any level, are superior to AMD chips, so you can often get a bargain on AMD hardware

Furthermore, sometimes money isn’t even the issue. Buying from a chain retailer might get you a long warranty, but if something goes wrong with the system you’re unlikely to get a personal service. You send them your machine, they’ll wipe it, and replace the broken parts and you’ll get it back. It’s inconvenient and annoying.

But a smaller company might be able to preserve your preferences, installations and documents under their warranty terms. Maybe they cost a little more, but the personal service they offer could outweigh the extra money. We’re not suggesting that price shouldn’t be a major factor in your thinking when buying a PC, on the contrary, these days it’s obviously something most people have to pay constant attention to. We can’t all afford dual-graphics card systems with custom-overclocks and water cooling.

What we are suggesting, though, is that you pay particular attention to balancing the price of whatever you buy with the value of the services and experience of the company that surrounds it. Maybe you pay a premium for the personal touch, maybe you don’t, but remember that there’s usually more to consider than price alone.


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