In the first edition of this book, we built a LAN party PCone designed for high performance and maximum portability. When we built that system in the summer of 2004, it was faster than any system we were likely to encounter at a LAN party. Even today, its Pentium 4 Extreme Edition processor and RADEON 9800XT are fast enough for any but the most intense recent games.
But after more than two years, it was time to update our gaming system. We call this version a gaming PC rather than a LAN party PC because we designed this system to be appropriate both for LAN parties and for gaming at home. We found ourselves traveling less than we expected and playing more at home, so for our new gaming PC we decided to deemphasize the portability aspects and pay more attention to issues that bear on home use.
Of course, our gaming PC is useful for much more than just gaming. Gaming demands more from a PC than any other common task, so a PC that's configured for gaming is by definition good for nearly any other job you throw at it. For most people, our gaming PC configuration will also serve as an ideal general-purpose system.
In the first edition of this book, we described our LAN party PC as a "kick-ass" system, which it indeed was for the time. It used a $1,000 processor and a $600 video adapter, for example. This time, we decided to set our sights a bit lower, for two reasons.
First, many of our readers expressed their desire for a configuration that could be built on a reasonable budget and still provide decent gaming performance. Getting that last few percent of performance isn't cheap, and many people will never notice the difference. Fanatic gamers for whom cost is no object will still want expensive options like dual video adapters (along with the costly extras they require, such as SLI-certified power supplies and extreme cooling solutions). But for most of us, a solid gaming system that can be built on a reasonable budget is a more realistic option.
Second, the price of performance has dropped remarkably in the last couple of years. Certainly, you can still spend $1,000 for a processor or $600 for a video adapter, but you probably don't need to. Today's $175 processor is faster than last year's $1,000 processor, and fast enough is fast enough.
That's also true when it comes to video. For example, we actually recycled an older video adapter for our own gaming PC. That video adapter was a $600 card little more than a year before we built this system, but comparable video adapters are now available for under $125. No, that older video adapter won't provide the fastest frame rates with the newest, most intense games, but who cares? It's playable even for the most demanding current games, and it's as fast as ever on less demanding titles. Nowadays, all but the most rabid gamers will be quite happy with the performance of a $200 video adapter, and many will be content with a $100 model.
Manufacturer hype aside, the truth is that serious gaming is now accessible for those on mainstream budgets. So we set out to design a gaming PC on that basis, and what we came up with is, for us at least, the perfect gaming PC.