As of now, I am actively taking suggestions on new gaming PC components and/or bundles. While I'd love to save money by building my own PC, I would also like to avoid all the aches and pains that seem to come along with throwing a bunch of random parts into a system, and hoping that they all get along nicely. So I'm leaning toward a Tiger Direct sort of solution, whereby the system components have been tested together, but I still pay much less by assembling the computer myself.
I don't really care too much about having the latest technology in the thing (although the very idea of Intel's Core Quad processor kind of turns me on). No, all I want is a machine that will be able to run anything that the PC development community can throw at it for 2-3 years. And by run, I mean capable of taking on [all but?] the highest visual performance settings in games like Supreme Commander and Hellgate: London. I don't expect this new system to be able to run the games of 2010 with all the settings jacked all the way up; but that shouldn't be a problem as it's more likely than not that I'll be able to upgrade more frequently with the income increases I hope to have secured by then.
I want to be able to run Windows Vista Home Premium with the Aero interface, and I need the hardware to take advantage of Direct X 10. Though I am also open to advice about when would be the right time, if ever, to switch to Vista. One way or another, I would definitely like to procure an actual full (not upgrade) version of Windows, but I'm not sure if XP or Vista is the better bet at this point.
My first special need is the ability to run a dual-monitor set up (note that I already have two CRT monitors for this). It seems that games which utilize a dual-monitor interface are becoming more common, and just the idea of playing an RTS like Supreme Commander on two screens is fucking delightful. Though my knowledge of PC components has lapsed in the past few years, it seems like an SLI solution with two vid cards would be the easiest way to achieve this. Of course, I don't exactly want to shell out $600-800 just for a couple of GPUs. Additionally, if you know of a system switch that would allow me to go from controlling a dual monitor setup on my new PC to having one of the monitors (along with my mouse & keyboard) capable of switching interface back over to my old (current) PC, then I'm all ears. 'Cause there is something very appealing of having a new PC devoted entirely to gaming, and my old one on quick standby for e-mail, bills, word processing, heavy web browsing, data storage, etc.
Second special need is for this system to have rock-solid cooling. By far the biggest problem I've had with the computer I put together about four years ago has been cooling. I actually had to give up on running the thing with the case cover on awhile ago. This combination of no-nos has led to the frying of 2 or 3 motherboards, and I think at least one CPU. Though I don't plan on going through it again, I'd like the machine to stay cool with no problems even if the temperature in my room is 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Which is one of the reasons I've been considering going with a liquid cooling solution. However, I have yet to see one in the $200 price range that can really do what I'm asking in a reliable (based on reviews) and relatively low-maintenance way. Quiet cooling would be a plus, but given that I am already used to hearing the sounds of multiple fans spinning like wild in an open case, it seems hard to believe there might be a cooling solution that is louder with a closed case than my current one with an open case.
Peripherals I'm also looking for are a nice 500 GB hard drive (probably a Seagate); a reliable 250 GB "push button" backup drive; a decent DVD writer; a proven/durable 1 GB or more USB memory stick; a strong sound card; possibly a 4-7 speaker configuration; front-of-case USB ports (not really a peripheral I know); and mouse and keyboard setup good for gaming.
I'd also like to hear anyone's thoughts about who the best retailers are these days when it comes to parts and/or system bundles. I've had good luck with Newegg and Mwave; but now that Pricewatch includes vendor reviews in its listings I may just go that route. And, I don't suppose there are any actual physical stores that I worth my time, are there? Can Fry's compete with the online places?
If anyone has read this far, I should point out that I have a few components that I will probably migrate over to my new system: 2 decent CRT monitors, a 500 watt Fortron Source ATX power supply, and maybe my DVD combo drive.
Heh, mainly this post is for personal reference. A forming of the identity of what I want out of my new PC. It'll be a gaming rig all right. But if you can think of a system config that will get me most of what I'm looking for while remaining within the $800-1200 range, then you'll make my next 3 years :)
Ideal target date for procurement of new system: 06-15-2007
ABSOLUTE target date by which I must have a new PC: 08-15-07 2007 (at which time I'm going to be needing an X-Box 360 as well haha)
cross-posted to hardware