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How to game like a fanboy for less than $1700


politbureau
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OK, so I've had about 6 people over the last week ask me, "politican, whats the cheapest way to be uber-l337 like you?" Well you illiterate kiddies, here's what I'd buy if I was trying to imitate the fabulously rich and famous politbureau, if I wasn't already fabulously rich and famous. And me.

 

I give you, the ideal starter/gamer system for the poor or monetarily dysfunctional. Seriously tho, this is a good guide to anyone building an inexpensive gaming system. I have owned all these bits and bobs at one point in my paltry existence, so can vouch for their performance.

 

Speakers

>>Logitech Z-5500, THX, 5.1 - $250

For the money, I think there is no better system to get the aspiring gamer started. The control center decodes Dolby 5.1 and DTS from both optical and coax inputs (only one of each, sadly), and does it in tight package. The music reproduction is a bit weak overall, but for movies and games, its pretty bang on. The sub could be tighter, and the remote could be better, but at $250 or less, this is where it's at to get 5.1 sound on a budget. Now all you need is two turntables and a microphone.

 

TV

>>Samsung LN-T3253H, 32", 720p - $850

No, it's not 1080p, but from the distances you're likely to be watching it from, it's not likely going to matter. For $850, you simply can't buy a better performing LCD with this kind of picture quality. Don't be tempted by the 40" version - it goes for a cool $1200, and you're better off looking at a 42" plasma at that price.

 

Game System

>>Xbox 360 'Falcon' or PS3 60GB - $400/$500

Frankly, I think the Halo 3 Edition Xbox 360 console is the best deal going in this category. You don't get any (crappy) games or the swanky 120GB hard drive like the Elite, but you do get all the other goodies - HDMI, a matching snot green Halo controller and even a rechargeable battery as part of the included 'Play and Charge Kit' - an essential extra you'd be buying anyway. And it's $50 cheaper than the Elite, too. If you're lucky (and read around at some other forums) you can even score yourself the new 65nm 'Falcon' chipset, which means you can even put this baby inside your AV cabinet without fear of it burning a hole through the furniture like so much of that cytoplasmic goober from Aliens.

 

Protection

>>Monster HTS1000 MkII - $100

Settle down. I mean it. Trojans aside, protection is probably THE most important part of your AV setup, as it provides a happy, loving circle of protection for all your current and future components. Nothing turns a good rainy-day frag fest into a steaming pile of poo as fast as realizing that the rain storm that kept you home from school turned into a lightning storm and now all your new uber-gear is smoking like the van from 'Up in Smoke.' The Monster power bar costs more than the average surge stick, but it also offers real power conditioning, which means better image and sound, as well as a longer, happier life for your kit.

 

Cables

>>Monster Ultra 800 HDMI Cable $40

I saw a marked improvement in blacks and contrast just from swapping the stock HDMI cable that came with my Elite with this inexpensive jobby from Monster. You will too. Buy it.

>>Name Brand Optical Cable - $30 max

Get yourself a half decent optical cable for connecting your game console to the Logitech setup. A nicer cable will improve bass response and overall quality, plus they generally last longer than the POS twizzlers that come bundled with things these days. Buy a name brand like RCA, Acoustic Research or Monster, but don't spend more than $30. Make sure the connectors feel solid and the cable thickness is decent to prevent kinking and damage. And don't buy Rocketfish. Period.

>>Generic 12/14-gauge Speaker Cable - $CHEAP

The cables that come with the Logitech system SUCK. There's no other way to put it. They're something along the lines of 20 or 22 gauge, and they munch more carpet than the girls in 'Embrace of the Vampire.' Buy a small spool of some cheap-o house brand cable from your local megamart and custom cut it to length. They will sound better, guaranteed. You may want to measure first, by the way. Bonus points if you solder the ends to keep them from fraying and oxidizing. Extra bonus points if you don't burn yourself.

 

Total Cost: $1700 (max)

 

Not a bad way to spend a paycheck. Or 5. Sorry.

 

Cheers!

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Guest r3d c0m3t

Actually, I'd like to contest two of those rather exciteful entries, with minimal bitchin' from any cash hog considered.

 

While LCD is prominent to the entertainment enthusiast, for those who know the technology well or well enough (such as I), but can't bare to afford a good enough set there's the HDTV I have in my room right at this very moment.

 

TV

 

>>Toshiba 26HF66, 26", 1080i - $450-499 (Depending on where you go)

 

Everyone knows as of this very moment, that nothing has a better contrast ratio than a CRT, and therefore CRTs have to ability to better define the blackest blacks, and the whitest of whites. I won't list every pro, or every con when comparing the two because that just takes too long, but I can personally vouch for this set. The colors are vibrant, it supports HDMI, albeit only one port. It supports Dolby Digital. And it definitely supports the somewhat "mainstream" 720p. The only downside is it's overscan. This may have been resolved by now, because I picked up one of the earlier sets, but it's an honest suggestion with an honest problem, kind of.

 

Speakers

 

>>Logitech Z-5450, THX, 5.1 - $399

 

Yes, they're $149 more expensive than the Z-5500 speakers, but you get what you pay for, right? Yes, you do. The Z-5450's support DTS, and Dolby Digital. They're awesome quality for the money spent on them, and the biggest draw-in is the wireless remote and rear speakers. Just plug the rear speakers in, route them to the control center, and enjoy wireless 5.1 surround sound. The Z-5450's can support up to a total of two optical connections, but only one coaxial. You can connect your iPOD or any other MP3 player to the control center as well, you can also plug in some headphones for when you're gaming late at night so you won't wake the neighbors, or your folks. :sweat:

 

This would also bring the total down a few hundred or so, perfect for the penny-pincher. Haha.

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How about for less than a grand? I got all of the following from the 'egg and private parties with the exception of the Raptor drive which I already owned. I also brought over the keyboard (Media Elite) and mouse (G7) from my old rig.

 

mobo: DFI Infinity nF UltraII-M2 AM2 nForce4 Ultra

case: Antec Nine Hundred

cpu: A64 X2 4600+ Windsor (65W)

ram: 2x1GB OCZ Plat Rev DDR2 800

hsf: Thermalright Ultra-120

psu: Antec True Power 550

vid: eVGA 8800GTS 320MB

hdd1: WD Raptor 36GB

hdd2: Seagate Barracuda 400GB 3.0GB/s SATA

dvd: generic black SATA 16x/48x

snd: SB X-fi Xtreme 7.1

spkr: Logitech X-530

mon: Viewsonic Optiquest Q20WB 5ms 20" LCD

os: XP Pro w/SP2 (actually, this only non-hardware part put me just over)

 

I've yet to build it, but have all the parts. I'll start on it in the next couple of weeks after I move into my new place and start the OC process. Hope to hit 3GHz which shouldn't be much of a problem.

 

The Z-5500s may well be the best for aspiring gamers with the budget to spare $250 on speakers; but my budget was much tighter, so had to opt for the 60 dollar X-530s. And while it is true that you get what you pay for, by all accounts the 530s should last a couple of years banging out the sounds and by that time I'll be ready for an all new system for another grand or so. :D

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>>Toshiba 26HF66, 26", 1080i - $450-499 (Depending on where you go)

 

Everyone knows as of this very moment, that nothing has a better contrast ratio than a CRT, and therefore CRTs have to ability to better define the blackest blacks, and the whitest of whites. I won't list every pro, or every con when comparing the two because that just takes too long, but I can personally vouch for this set. The colors are vibrant, it supports HDMI, albeit only one port. It supports Dolby Digital. And it definitely supports the somewhat "mainstream" 720p. The only downside is it's overscan. This may have been resolved by now, because I picked up one of the earlier sets, but it's an honest suggestion with an honest problem, kind of.

Not a bad set, overall, but a few problems I would point out. I would imagine that a good majority of gamers would probably want a VGA port, especially those without a new, HDMI-enabled Xbox 360. The Toshiba doesn't have it, but the Samsung does. Also, I'm not sure what "it supports Dolby Digital" means, since it has only two 5W speakers, and does not have any digital optical or coax inputs, so can't even pass the signal through.

 

While CRTs do produce an exceptionally nice image, you will find this CRT can't reproduce a true 1920x1080 image correctly (hence the overscan), can't resolve every detail of a true 1080i test pattern, and does not employ 2:3 pulldown on video material, leading to mildly degraded image quality when watching DVDs, for example. Thats not to say the set is bad - by no means, and it is a valid alternative to the Samsung, but for a couple hundred bucks more you get more real estate, a smaller, lighter and more energy efficient piece of tech, better connectivity, USB MP3 and image viewing support (including firmware upgrade ability) and nicer, more powerful speakers.

 

Image quality you will find quite similar on the two sets. CRTs are great with blacks and colour, but due to the nature of their electron beam technology, they tend to soften the image quite noticeably. The Toshiba does have QAM tuning, for those that could take advantage of it. You will also likely perceive ever so slightly less motion blurring or 'judder' on the CRT vs the LCD. Also bear in mind that even though the Samsung is 720p vs the 1080i of the Toshiba, you will likely see a sharper image out of the Samsung for most material.

 

>>Logitech Z-5450, THX, 5.1 - $399

 

Yes, they're $149 more expensive than the Z-5500 speakers, but you get what you pay for, right? Yes, you do. The Z-5450's support DTS, and Dolby Digital. They're awesome quality for the money spent on them, and the biggest draw-in is the wireless remote and rear speakers. Just plug the rear speakers in, route them to the control center, and enjoy wireless 5.1 surround sound. The Z-5450's can support up to a total of two optical connections, but only one coaxial. You can connect your iPOD or any other MP3 player to the control center as well, you can also plug in some headphones for when you're gaming late at night so you won't wake the neighbors, or your folks. :sweat:

$150 is a lot to spend just to get wireless connectivity. Bear in mind that the overall system specifications on the 5450 are much lower than the 5500 - 315 vs 505 watts RMS respectively. The extra optical input is nice, but the decoding is identical - in fact they both use the exact same on-chip decoding solution, so both will do Dolby Digital and DTS identically. The 5500 also features higher SPL, better signal response and better signal to noise ratio numbers, meaning a much cleaner overall output. The bass is also significantly better on the 5500s, since it pushes an extra 70 watts to the driver.

 

This would also bring the total down a few hundred or so, perfect for the penny-pincher. Haha.
True enough, the message here being buy what you can afford, and what gives you the most enjoyment. Considering PC gaming solutions can set you back significantly more than $2k, I thought a console solution including a TV with a tuner that you can watch regular programming on for under $1700 was a bargain.

 

Plus you can call yourself a l337 fanboy, like me. LOL

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