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Written by: Bob Mandel
Now that we’ve begun a new gaming year, I’m writing for the first time about the top hardware goodies of the past year for PC gamers. If you have any extra cash or gift cards from the holidays, this article might give you some ideas for possible purchases. This is an opportunity for me to talk the best new hardware of direct interest to the gaming community. In thinking carefully about what would be of greatest use to our readers, I decided that commenting on standalone products — not components such as graphics cards, motherboards and hard drives — would appeal to the largest audience. Although I do not subject selections to rigorous technical tests or offer comparative benchmarks, I choose products that appear to contain the most useful features and to be the easiest to use. All the selections reflect personal preferences, which I try to make explicit.
BIG TICKET ITEM
For those with a lot of loot in their pockets, a big-ticket purchase might be in order. With the emergence of software titles demanding more horsepower and stiff minimum system requirements (just look at Blacksite: Area 51 or Crysis as recent examples of this trend), many gamers might be tempted to buy a new machine. Now that more than a few games take advantage of DirectX 10 under Vista, the benefits of such a purchase have grown.
Many excellent computers have competed for the top of the heap for games, and all have the capacity to smoothly run the most demanding software. My personal preference is one I admittedly have not yet had a chance to test directly, but one where the features and design philosophy appear to be the best suited to avid PC gamers – HP’s Blackbird 002 (named for the world’s fastest jet, the SR-71 Blackbird), whose price ranges from $2,500 to $7,100.
Constructed out of black aluminum with a shiny ribbed exterior, the case has several special features, including a hidden compartment containing a media card reader and USB and FireWire ports, and colored LEDs lighting up the front and rear ports, where gamers connect their peripherals. Five tool-less slide-out trays are available for SATA drives, and you can swap out a hard drive incredibly quickly or a graphics board without any tools. An exquisite water-cooled system for both the CPU and the GPU is included.
This model is extraordinarily flexible and totally configurable using industry standard components and with a motherboard with a completely open BIOS. Rather than just maximizing the price-performance ratio, HP emphasizes innovations in engineering and customizability — a philosophy that’s well suited to gamers (like me) who are extremely particular and want to control every choice involved in their rig, including the ability to upgrade the moment new technologies emerge.
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