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Considering all the exciting news coming from E3 2011 last month, it's a good time to start planning your next PC upgrade. You don't want to be left out when all of the new PC game releases land this fall, do you?
Fortunately, the desktop PCs category is full of attractive options for gamers. Here are a handful of machines equipped with the latest and greatest hardware, tailored to a wide range of budgets.
A Little More Than Just the Basics
We'll start at the low end, with a budget desktop that breaks the budget mold. The Micro Express MicroFlex 23B will set you back only $600, yet it delivers plenty of gaming and general-computing prowess. The specs aren't especially impressive, but they get the job done: Under the hood are an Intel Core-i3 2120, 4GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive. The MicroFlex 23B earned a score of 141 on our WorldBench 6 testing suite, moving to the top of our budget-desktop rankings.
The AMD Radeon HD 6670 graphics card is an inexpensive part, but a stalwart performer--the card achieved 42.6 frames per second on our Unreal Tournament tests, at a resolution of 2560 by 1600 at the highest settings. A bit of perspective here: Those were the highest possible settings, on a 30-inch monitor. You'll need to scale the settings down for higher-end games, but the MicroFlex 23B makes for a compelling investment if your needs aren't too demanding.
The MicroFlex 23B also includes a Blu-ray drive, which is pretty much an anomaly in the budget-desktops market.
I Scoff at Your System Requirements
Moving up the chain, here's a mainstream desktop for gamers who have put away a bit extra. At $1849, the Maingear Vybe Super Stock is a steal. It's equipped with a Core i5-2500K processor, overclocked to a staggering 4.8GHz. Add 8GB of RAM and a 60GB solid-state drive (with a 1TB storage drive), and it's no wonder the Vybe Super Stock hit a lofty score of 207 on our WorldBench 6 benchmark suite.
Gaming performance comes courtesy of a single Nvidia GeForce GTX 570 graphics card. On our Call of Duty graphics benchmark, it generated 79 frames per second--once again, at the highest possible settings on a massive 30-inch monitor. Maingear's Vybe Super Stock is fairly small as cases go, but it still has a bit of upgrade room should you decide to toss in another graphics board later on.
Gaze Upon My Mighty PC, and Tremble
The gamer who has It all (and wants a little more) should skip straight to the top of the performance-desktop category and take a look at the Origin Genesis. What does $6400 get you? The best performance we've ever seen, for six months and counting. Origin took the everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach with this behemoth: The Core i7-2600K CPU is overclocked to 5GHz, kept in check (and surprisingly quiet) with an extensive liquid-cooling array. You'll also find 16GB of RAM, a pair of 128GB solid-state drives in RAID 0, 2TB of storage, and three Nvidia GeForce GTX 580 graphics cards.
Our benchmarks? Ravaged. The Genesis earned a WorldBench 6 score of 233, and produced 101 frames per second in the graphically intensive S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat. Honestly, when the time came to ship it back, we were sad to see it go.
But let's be a little more pragmatic: The V3 Convoy is well within the reach of mere mortals, a performance desktop that'll set you back "only" $2500. It doesn't offer the bells and whistles that Origin's juggernaut does, but it will let you glide through the latest games and keep up with your mortgage payments. The Convoy's Core i7-2600K processor is also overclocked to 5GHz, but the system couples that CPU with a comparatively meager 4GB of RAM, and a pair of 64GB SSDs in RAID 0 (with a 2TB drive for storage).
The results are impressive, as the Convoy received a mark of 204 on our WorldBench 6 suite, and generated 224 frames per second on our Unreal Tournament benchmark.