Build a PC with the Best Bang for the Buck

Build It: Our Bang for the Buck configuration finds the sweet spot of price and performance for each component. Recent processor changes make this update a dramatic change from last year's Build It.

Typically, our Build It systems are purpose-built. Designed to do something and do it well, theyre laser-focused on providing a single optimal, but realistic, solution. Perhaps its a money-is-no-object Gaming PC or a Media Center PC. But the very nature of the PC is to be flexible and customizable, and we realize that not everyone can have their needs pigeonholed into these purpose-built PCs.

Some of us just need a good general-purpose PC that can handle almost any task. Many of us use our PCs for a whole wealth of activities, and need something thats great for typical office desktop applications, downloading music and video, syncing up with a music player, burning DVDs, lightweight video editing, playing games, watching movies, editing photos…and most DIYers will want it to be able to run Windows Vista well.

With this edition of our Build It series, we strive to recommend system components for just such a PC. The idea is simple: Rather than picking a price point or a particular task and optimizing a PC for it, well examine each part in the broad context of a general-purpose PC, choosing the component that falls into that magic spot where performance and features intersect with price.

This is one of our most popular Build It configurations, and it always generates plenty of heated discussion. We hear everything from, "Thanks for the article, thats exactly what I was looking for," to "You should have used a cheaper CPU," or "You need a more powerful graphics card." Naturally, different users have different needs and desires. If you dont play any games, you might opt for a sub-$100 graphics card. If you do a lot of video editing, youll want a bigger hard drive and maybe a faster CPU.

With that in mind, lets be very clear about what this Build It configuration represents. This is not meant to be the be-all end-all solution for every users needs. Feel free to customize it as you see fit. Its also not meant to be "the least expensive PC that wont embarrass you." We already have that, in our $800 model. This is a system where, in choosing each component, we pick what we feel represents the best value for your dollar—with an eye toward longevity—because nobody wants to buy a whole new computer in a year. This system isnt all things to all people: No system is. It is, however, a build-it project that wont break the bank and will perform quite well at a whole host of tasks. And it should last a few years.

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