Parts List: $1200 PC
$1200 gives us room to choose more powerful, more visually appealing, and less noisy PC parts, for a better overall experience. This PC should be able to handle almost anything you throw at it during the next few years, from video conversions to high-end PC games. The result: a PC that truly does it all, and does it well. Here are the parts we chose for our $1200 PC, along with our rationale for choosing each. We found the prices listed here at reputable online stores; the precise numbers may have shifted by the time you read this.
Intel Core i7 875K (2.93GHz)
Priced at just over $300, this Intel Core i7 processor has four cores (eight threads) to deliver plenty of power. And since it's unlocked, it gives overclockers lots of options.
Cooler Master DP6-9EDSA-0L
We opted for a fairly inexpensive CPU cooler. It's fairly quiet and does a good job of keeping the processor cool, but if you plan to overclock the CPU, you'll want something a little more substantial.
Asus P7P55 LX
This motherboard has a fanless design, and its two graphics slots let you run dual ATI graphics cards. The P7P55 LX supports up to 16GB of RAM and any Core i5 or i7 processor that uses the LGA 1156 socket type.
OCZ Platinum DDR 1333MHz (two 2GB modules)
4GB is enough for any modern home PC, and we'll have two slots open, so we can double our system's memory later by adding another pair of 2GB memory sticks.
Zalman Z7 Plus Black ATX Tower
The Z7 Plus is a great midsize tower PC case for the price. It looks nice, has thick sides to dampen noise, and includes several large (120mm) fans to keep things cool.
Antec EA650 650W
Antec's EarthWatts power supplies are energy-efficient and reasonably priced. We don't need 650 watts for the components we've chosen, but it's smart to build in a little breathing room for future upgrades or overclocking.
XFX Radeon HD 5850
This is one of the best sub-$300 graphics cards out there. It's quiet, it supports DirectX 11, and it can run every modern game, even at high detail levels.
Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 750GB
This drive resembles the excellent workhorse we used in our $500 PC, only with 50 percent more storage capacity. We wanted to get the 1TB model, but we're pushing the $1200 limit as it is.
This model is quite capable. It burns single and double-layer DVDs as well as CDs, so with the exception of Blu-ray support, it does everything you could want of an optical drive.
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit (OEM)
To make full use of our 4GB of RAM, we want the 64-bit edition of Windows 7. Even if our configuration were more modest, we'd still want 64-bit: It's the future.
Microsoft Comfort Curve Keyboard 2000
This very serviceable keyboard has an unbeatable price. (It's the same one we chose for the $500 PC.) We couldn't find anything better that didn't cost at least $20 or $30 more.
Logitech MX 518
Our more expensive PC requires a better mouse than the $500 system's Microsoft Comfort Optical Mouse 1000. Logitech's MX 518 is large and comfortable, tracks smoothly, and is sensitive enough for gamers.
Total = $1203