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A Exotic Gaming PC can be an incredible waste of money.

Exotic gaming PC's are the driving force to the success of game consoles, such as the Sony, Wii, and XBox.   You should carefully shop game consoles before plunking down a chunk of change for an exotic gaming PC which will have an alarming rate of depreciation.

what's a gaming pc?

Falcon Northwest Computers
A gaming PC, in a nutshell, is basically a "souped up to the MAX" PC with a very fast processor, high performance System Board, and premium video card, designed to render complex 3d graphics. It will have large amounts of Memory, large, high performance hard drives, and a large power supply. Some gaming PC's can cost $750 to a staggering $7,000.

Why Does a "Gaming" PC Cost so Much More?
If you're thinking about a gaming PC, I'm going to brush the surface of this complex subject. This came about when a customer asked about getting a new PC for his son, capable of running today's modern games. Selecting a system involves making a lot of difficult choices, because, like your normal desktop PC, the target is always moving. If you buy too little of a gaming PC you'll be stuck and disappointed with it as newer games appear on the horizon. Buy too much PC, and you can set back a very large chunk of change (try over $4,000). The customer asked what to expect in paying for a entry level gaming PC - he was sticker shocked when I informed him that the lowest end gaming PC's will set him back at least $750 to $900. Why so much?

Assembling your pc
Although there are a few manufacturers (both large and small) who specialize in gaming PC's, most users tend to build their own system. You've probably seen this bunch at Frys, perusing the motherboard, processor, video card, and memory sections. Building your PC piece by piece is generally a more expensive way to go, because you hand pick what components go into your gaming system. You have to find the best tradeoff between price, performance, and future proofing. If you're fortunate, sometimes you can re-use components from an earlier PC into a newer one.

Processors - AMD or Intel?
For a while AMD has been the leader in the processing field, with their 64 bit AMD Athlon and x2 Athlon Processors. Now Intel has garnered the spotlight with their 64 bit capable Core Duo processors, and has topped AMD for the first time in years. Just the processor's alone, depending on clock speed, will set you back at least $200, $300, $400, $500, yes even up to and over $1,000. That's correct, that's just the processor.

System Boards
System boards for these high end processors, range from affordable to glitzy. Expect to pay $80 to $300. The PCI Express Bus has eclipsed AGP 8x ports, for future proofing you should definitely buy a Motherboard with PCI Express slots. What does more $ buy? Newer system boards (as of this writing) can use DDR2 memory in paired configuration. DDR2 is the next generation (DDR or DDR1 is the original), and offers higher performance (when paired with a fast, high end processor). Higher end motherboards known as SLI have the ability to accommodate more than one video card. This makes it possible for both video cards to work in tandem, which will increase such things as the framing rate (more on this later) which, as a general rule, immerses you into the game more as it becomes a more surreal experience.

Many of the Motherboard manufacturers recommend specific types of memory, such as lines from Corsair and Patriot. This is high performance, high quality memory. One gigabyte is a good starting point, though the mainstream gaming PC typically will have 2,000 megs memory. 64 bit Processors feature "dual channel" memory. Dual channel is a "wide" path for the 64 bit processor, and is usually split between two DDR1 or DDR2 Dimm modules. Thus you need at least two (of the same size) memory modules; preferably purchased in a matched pair.

Power Supplies
User recommendations for the Asus Crosshair (one of the glitziest Intel Based boards available) call for a 650 watt PC Power supply. A good quality 650 watt power supply is $150 to $200. Other lesser models of motherboards require power supplies in the 450 to 550 watt range. This is in comparison to most typical desktop PC's without the high end hardware have 250 to 400 watt supplies, at about $49 to $69.

Lest not forget a high quality PC case. The power supply and PC case are critical to the system board. What we're looking for is a spacious case with copious amounts of air flow. Some SLI motherboards run at high temperature. A case with poor air circulation will reduce service life of the Motherboard, and may cause over heating problems and operating system crashes. Some Motherboards have raid configuration. This allows multiple hard drives to be installed in the system, and spanned, which increases hard drive performance. Stacking up the hard drives requires a larger PC case. Installing after market CPU (Processor) coolers to help keep the processor cool can be very large, and may not fit in smaller PC cases. HIgher end video cards (sometimes called double width cards) require properly spaced motherboards and larger PC cases. For a case without a power supply, you should expect to pay between $100 and $250.

3d Video Cards
You've probably seen the first person shoot-em-up games at your local retailer. You can move forward, backward, look up and down, and fire your weapon. That's considered a 3 dimensional rendering. A powerful video card is needed for this kind of display. As you move through the puzzle the movement (and animation, as you blast away at your enemy) needs to be smooth and realistic. When you're moving through a room, you want to see detail, not "square pixels" and "jagged lines" (a feature called anti-aliasing). When you're at an outdoor scene, looking at the waters, higher end Video cards will see the simmering, gentle waves in the lake water, where you may not see this on a lower end card. This is called texture, or anisotropic filtering. Framing rates correspond when moving through a scene. A card with lower frame rates and the motion will be choppy.

All this comes at a price. These "3d" video cards have their own processor - often called a "GPU", plus their own memory - often 256 to 1,000 megabytes. Memory speeds differ; they can have DDR1, DDR2, up to DDR4. Video cards can have differing channels (paths). Lastly, certain 3d Cards can be "paired" in an SLI Motherboard, that's right - doubling the cost of your video. Note that hard core gamers go this route. However it's possible to buy a SLI Motherboard and run just one card.

Selecting the right Video Card can be a daunting task. The two main manufacturer's in this arena are ATI and NVidia. ATI and NVidia license their chipsets to various manufactures. That's why, for example, when you visit your computer store, you may see an NVidia 7600 GT series chip on several manufacturer's boxes, such as EVGA, Mad Dog, PNY, XFX, Diamond, and BFG (to name a confusing few). These manufactures design their card around the ATI or NVidia chipset (not both on the same board). Often manufacturer's performance will be the same, between chipsets. That is, a 7600GT from eVGA will be similar to a 7600GT chip from PNY. However, research is strongly recommended, as boards have slightly different sizes, some may have noisier cooling fans. EVga has a trade up program, where you can trade-up your card for a higher end model, within the first 90 days, and receive your full purchase price towards a new one. The technical name for these high performance cards are "T & L" cards - Nvidia's phrase "Transform and Lighting" definition, in which the card contains a separate graphical processor, or GPU.

Good sites for research are:, (for their user opinions), and for a mix of both.

For a basic overview of chipsets and capabilities, from high end to mainstream, see Gamespot's review of video cards here: