Midrange: Puget Systems Obsidian

Both my midrange and high end recommendations come from the same vendor: Puget Systems. Puget tends to be pricier than other boutiques, but what you get in return are simpler configuration options backed up by more careful, stricter component selection than you're liable to see from other boutiques and certainly way more than from a major vendor.

For midrange, I defined the system as being something in the neighborhood of a grand, and something that could be configured with a dedicated video card as needed but will otherwise fit the bill for the kinds of multimedia work that more and more of us (and our folks and their folks) are getting involved in. I wanted a machine that had a healthy amount of horsepower on tap if you need it, but is a good citizen of your home under less demanding circumstances, and the Puget Systems Obsidian fit the bill.

What makes the Obsidian such a solid choice is the smart component selection all around. The enclosure is where a lot of boutiques will tend to skimp, but Puget uses quality cases across the board and the Antec Mini P180 is among them. Thanks to the P180, the Obsidian is able to keep noise in check while still offering a healthy amount of performance thanks to the Intel Core i5-2400 quad-core processor in the baseline configuration. This system is cool, fast, and quiet. Puget Systems recommends the Obsidian for business and enterprise work, but that's not exactly a bad thing if you want a reliable workhorse.

Recommended Configuration: Baseline
Available from Puget Systems starting at $1,224


High End: Puget Systems Deluge A2

If you've been keeping track of recent reviews you'll notice I wasn't particularly fond of the highest end Puget Systems had to offer, the Deluge L2. Intel's Sandy Bridge-E platform really is basically a bust for enthusiasts; a fast hex-core processor can be invaluable for tasks like video editing, but it's next to worthless elsewhere, and I've found that even on my desktop a mildly overclocked Intel Core i7-990X is still getting bottlenecked by a two-disk RAID 0 when it comes time to render. When you start looking at how high the price of entry is for SB-E, you realize just what a poor deal it really is.

The A2, on the other hand, looks like a far better bargain. It still starts at a high price and doesn't feature the flashy custom liquid cooling job that some of you took issue with on the L2, but it's easily the least gaudy looking gaming system I've ever tested and the components are always quality. The customized Antec P183 V3 enclosure is also much appreciated, guaranteed to keep the noise down better than other boutique builds might. If I weren't so invested in rolling my own, this would probably be the desktop I'd order for myself.

Recommended Configuration: Baseline plus NVIDIA GeForce GTX 570 or AMD Radeon HD 6970 and an SSD
Available from Puget Systems starting at $1,830

All-in-One and Budget Desktops Budget Gaming Desktop and LAN Machine
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  • just4U - Friday, December 2, 2011 - link

    While we all learn this lesson (earlier or later..) I still find it's better to build a system for family or friends. Most of mine last 5+ years and if they have a problem they send it to me. Why? Well, waiting waiting weeks to get it fixed for starters.. or having to take it into local shops where they will charge you 1-300+.placing you into the que.

    I put my foot down long ago and am firm with them. None ever blame me any more (even tho I know .. and likely some of you do as well..) that occasionally it's something we did or didn't do that caused the problem.

    I do however think we get the shaft on the OS. Microsoft should be offering better on OEM. We drive the industry as much as others do even if it's not on the same scale. Not that it matters though.. SInce we can't get into building little smart phones and are pretty much locked out of the lap top section we are a dieing breed.
  • Samoht - Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - link

    "even in their high end desktop machines, to say nothing of anything south of a large."
    Just out of curiosity, what does that mean? I have never heard that expression before, but then again I do not have english as a first language.
  • Draconian - Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - link

    South of a large = less than $1,000
  • Draconian - Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - link

    If you're going to go with a pre-built gaming desktop and you're on a budget, you gotta go with either Cyberpower or IBUYPOWER.

    Newegg was selling this PC for $459 this past weekend, even though the price jumped back up to $600.


    You can get a decent $700 gaming PC on Newegg, or get one pre-built from either company and get a 3 year warranty.
  • jigglywiggly - Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - link

    horrible list
    midrange 1200$?
    Are you guys out of your minds?

    I cud find a better prebuilt anywhere.
  • KoolAidMan1 - Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - link

    yu cud also lern 2 spel
  • bruf - Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - link

    Great idea and I agree with previous posts, for friends & family it's definitely the way to go especially when you have dozen of "clients". ;)

    I'd like to see a similar guide (with different budget/profile) for notebooks, especially in the crowded 500$ market. Is it something you've started working on or that we could expect in the next few weeks/months?
  • Lunyone - Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - link

    Your ideas of Budget & Midrange systems seem a bit too high! I would opt for a budget system at or about the $300-500 range, depending on needs and budget of coarse. Midrange should be around the $600-800 price range, but that is just my opinion.

    When building for most people (friends/family) I can't beat Dell, HP, Gateway, Acer, etc for the budget low end. If I could get Windows for about $20-30 (without using a student discount) than I could be close to their prices (if I don't charge for any of my work/time). This would be nice, but it isn't the case. The OEM's get the best pricing, so I can't/won't ever get to the really low end of the market.
  • Grandpa - Thursday, December 1, 2011 - link

    If you're not building a gaming system, why not use linux and save all that money.
  • piroroadkill - Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - link

    Buy an ex-business SFF desktop like an Optiplex. mostly well built, quiet, small, cheap, and plentiful.

    I got a core 2 duo optiplex sff for about $100 delivered. threw in some spare ddr2 I had, and installed windows 7. it came with a radeon x1300 with dual display capability even.

    this is still more than enough than most people need unless they game or are a power user. unbeatable ..

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