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

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  • Iketh - Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - link

    You didn't read the first page did you?
  • geofharries - Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - link

    If you're a Canadian, I really recommend shopping at <a href="http://www.ncix.com/">NCIX</a>. We've bought both fully customized and pre-built machines from them, and in all cases, get terrific customer service and buying assistance.

    In fact, if you go the custom PC route, just pick all of your desired parts and NCIX will follow up with recommendations or changes (if necessary) at no extra charge. Compared to the Dell, HP and Lenovo's of this world, NCIX, and others like it, are worth branching out to try something different.
  • Tigashark - Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - link

    I just checked "War Factory" out of curiosity as I built a similar system today for a friend...

    I dropped all the parts onto their website... and a similarly configured system, including windows cost ~ $400-450 more when Compared the one i just built from newegg (at regular prices)

    Admittedly I went with the 880g because he isnt a hardcore gamer and the built in HD4250 is ample for browsing and video playback.. and went with a PhenomX6 1090t becuase he intends to do photo editing, so for the budget it fit perfectly.

    But still... for 400 more I easily could throw in a GF 570 and turn it into a well performing gaming system and still have some change left over AND totally outperform the WF system in every way, with better quality parts too...

    Not dissing that particular vendor... but also not seeing the value for a 35% markup over newegg pricing..

    Then again ive had people ask me if "this is a good prebuilt" for gaming and took one quick look and seen GF520 so... very much a case of buyer beware ...

    Shopping around pays off too..
  • Penti - Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - link

    I have actually never really got why you would want a store/internetretailer built or boutique built machine built on retail components, it's not like they would give any sort of support that would be acceptable to ordinary home users. From a real systems vendor you can get better prices, less overhead and simply machines you can't build cheaper yourself, since they order their parts according to their specs from the contract manufacturers and ODM's. The only drawback is that it can be hard to get a machine configured properly for example for gaming. However when it comes to quality and formfactor you can hardly build a machine like HP's workstation lineup with z800, z600, z400 and z200. Chassis the boutique builders and other small system builders use don't compare.
  • Scannall - Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - link

    A couple years ago now I was about to build a gaming rig. And right as I was getting ready to buy parts, I saw a really good sale on a Cyberpower PC that was just about identical to what I was going to build. And it was just over $200 LESS than buying the parts and building it myself. So, I went the pre-built route instead.

    When Ivy Bridge comes out I'll look at building a replacement. Maybe I will see another sale? Only time will tell.
  • Penti - Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - link

    Alienware is btw a bit on it's way out just like Voodoo PC was thrown out of HP, you'd be better off just buying/getting a XPS line PC. Most of the time. The Auroraline seems pointless. On another note at least the MAINGEAR Shift looks better when it's built with a custom chassi which other small vendor systems don't use most of the time. All still have stock retail components though.

    For 1200 you get a whole gaming machine with SSD when you build yourself yet you recommend a Puget system that starts at above 1200 USD without a graphics card. When you get an XPS 8300 with 560Ti/6870 for 1200 for example. They are only not options when you need faster graphics cards. (Preinstalled any way). But you can get the Alienware Aurora or HP H8XT with a better graphics card like GTX 580 for about 1500 dollars for the HP and about 1800 for a Aurora with 2x6870, so I fail to see the value of the Pugets systems here. Your recommended configure for the Deluge A2 is 2200. Maybe you should take a look at systems like HP h8xt when it's prebuilt machines we are talking about anyway. I see no reason to promote Puget and AVADirect really any way. Btw for ~900 you can at least get a PC with GTX 550Ti graphics. Yet you recommend a machine for 800 with way worse. Sentinel as suggested costs 1000 USD.
  • MrCrispy - Thursday, December 1, 2011 - link

    1. If you want a pc for normal usage, buy a Dell/HP. They go on sale all the time (Dell pretty much have a coupon always), there's the Factory Outlet etc. Just can't beat the price, esp if its refurb/used.

    2. For a more custom pc, pick Cyberpower/iBuypower, and pick your own parts. Both have an excellent selection and you pay maybe $50-$100 max premium over Newegg, which when you count the Windows license comes out to a wash. And these go on sale too. If you don't like something, you can always replace/fix/upgrade it since it is a custom build unlike the specialized cases/mobos used by option #1.
  • Toughbook - Thursday, December 1, 2011 - link

    I was recently in the market for a desktop, having never actually built one myself, I really wanted to try it. Being self employed did not help with the time factor too well, so I ended up going into my local MicroCenter and got a Lenovo K330 for $649.00. I feel the specs are pretty darn good, but I can't seem to figure out what segment this would fall into. Any help out there?

    Nvidia GTX 520
    1TB 6Gbps HDD
    Intel 82579 Lan
    USB 3.0 x2
    6GB Ram
    16N1 Card Reader

    I just can't seem to find a comparable unit at this price. I had an Intel 80Gb G2 SSD laying around that I wasn't using and made it the boot drive and geez this thing screams!
  • piroroadkill - Thursday, December 1, 2011 - link

    A 2300K would be an interesting bargain if it existed. I had to double check, because I was certain only the 2500K and 2600K were unlocked in the SB line.

    And they are.
  • LoneWolf15 - Saturday, December 3, 2011 - link

    I find that if you want solid, reliable, without being flashy, the Dell Vostro desktop line gets the job done. The 260 minitower can be had in no-frills configurations (sans monitor) for $300-400, the 460 for a bit more.

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