Should We Save the Optical Drive?

disc drivesIt’s nothing new to hear that Apple’s latest MacBook models come without a disc drive. They’re sleeker and thinner, and leaving out the “dated” technology allowed the company to pack in more features in less computer. They first did it with the MacBook Air in 2008, and with soaring sales, it’s likely the company didn’t see much of a draw back.

And because few people actually need their disc drive on a regular basis, computer engineers argue that the change is simply moving with the times. Games and CDs now come with digital download capabilities, and most software and entertainment can now be purchased completely online. As for CD lovers, audio book nerds, or vintage game players, a simple attachment can help cross this technological jump.

But what about the rest of computer companies? For now, most full-size laptops are still including a disc drive, but that isn’t the case for ultrabooks or tablets, which are being used more frequently as full-time computer substitutes. Due to both cost efficiency and technology trends, more and more people are finding it’s better to leave the drive behind. Custom models can still be ordered to include it, but not without a hefty price tag. And within only a few years, older models that still host the slot will become outdated, eliminating the pre-made option as well.

In time, it looks as though the disc drive may be almost completely extinct.

What We Lose

Without the ability to physically hold our own copy of music, movies, software, etc., a great deal can be lost. Digital copies are difficult, if not impossible, to lend to others because of DRM. Many downloads are given a one-click lifespan, meaning if a connection is lost or there’s a technical difficulty, you’re usually on the phone with customer support. And once you upgrade to a new device, replacing all your programs becomes a huge headache.

Even with completely legal tensions in mind (no illegal copies, etc.), losing the disc itself takes away a multitude of freedoms. Another issue comes with price, as few digital copies account for much of a discount. Despite not spending funds on physical materials, sales companies offer only a small price difference between their digital and in-person products. If you’re going to take away our ability to lend, can’t we at least save some cash?

Time will tell what’s really in store for our disc drives, and until then, we’ll be sure to borrow and share as many CDs as our drives will allow.

Build it on a budget: A $500 workhorse PC

You may remember well over a year ago when we first introduced a budget build guide for DIY PC builders, and it’s long overdue for a refresh. Computer components have come a long way since then, and Intel recently launched their new 4th-generation Core Haswell chips.

As I mentioned in last year’s guide, not everyone needs an end-all tricked out custom PC with water cooling and all the bells and whistles. You most likely just want a computer that can get work done. This budget system will be great for most everyday tasks, as well as more slightly intensive activities like some gaming, streaming movies and music, and editing photos and home movies.

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This budget build assumes that you already have a mouse, keyboard, and a monitor lying around to use with your new system, and that you’ll only need the basic components to get up and running. I’ll also only be listing off my recommended parts, so if you don’t know how to build a computer but want to learn, Lifehacker has a great guide that’s perfect for the computer-building novice. With that said, let’s get to it.

Case and PSU

Thermaltake V3 Black Edition ATX Mid-Tower with 430W Power Supply – $60

We decided to go a bit more expensive with the case and power supply bundle this time around, and we think the upgrade is worth it. The Thermaltake case is way better looking than the Rosewell that we chose last time, and the 430W power supply should be more than enough to handle anything with this machine.

Motherboard

MSI B85M-P33 Motherboard – $65

It’s a low-cost motherboard, but it has all the bell and whistles that you’d need; SATA III, USB 3.0, six total USB ports, and both DVI and VGA connectors. Plus, MSI is a good brand that we trust.

Intel_i3_SB_2011Processor

Intel Core i3-4130 3.4GHz Dual-Core Processor – $130

This is Intel’s latest 4th-generation Haswell chip, and with 3.4GHz of dual-coreness, it’ll be speedy enough to breeze through most tasks you throw at it. The 4130 is one of Intel’s slowest Haswell chips, so it certainly won’t be as fast as other options, but for a budget build, this will be pretty solid.

Graphics

Intel HD Graphics 4400

We didn’t include a dedicated graphics card, mostly because we’re trying to keep this build around $500, but the 4400 integrated graphics that come with the Core i3 CPU are actually pretty solid. They won’t be able to play any of the more graphic-intensive AAA titles, but HD video playback will be flawless and casual gamers will still be able to enjoy their selection of games.

RAM

G.Skill Ripjaws Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3 1600 – $72

While we chose 4GB as the sweet spot with the last time we picked out a budget build, we feel that 8GB is now the new norm. Any more than that would be mostly unnecessary unless you plan on rendering a lot of HD video and such.

Hard Drive

Western Digital WD Blue 1TB SATA III Hard Drive – $75

WDC-Caviar-BlueHard drive prices have gone down tremendously since our last budget build, so we decided to go with a 1TB drive this time around. We feel that this is an ample amount of storage for those who have a lot of photos, music, movies, etc., but it’s also not too much storage that you wouldn’t know what to do with it.

Of course, you can never really have too much storage, so feel free to bump it up to 2TB if need be. You can usually find some pretty good deals on high-capacity hard drives.

Optical Drive

Asus 24x DVD Burner – $20

This one’s pretty simple and easy; find a 24x DVD burner and buy it. They’re stupidly cheap and there’s no reason not to get one.

Operating System

Windows 7 Home Premium – $100

Yeah, we know that Windows 8 has been out for almost a year, but we’re still sticklers for Windows 7. However, if you really want Windows 8, it’s the same price as its predecessor. You can also get a copy of Linux for free, allowing to spend that saved $100 on upgrading other components.

Total Cost: $522

That final price doesn’t account for shipping, so you’ll want to make sure you set aside some cash for the guys at UPS or FedEx, but if you can find the parts at an online store with free shipping, then all the more power to you.

Obviously, don’t take my word for everything I suggested here. I know everyone has their own opinions on components. If you have any questions about your own budget build, you can leave a comment below or you can visit the many online resources available to you. Tom’s Hardware Forums is just one place that can provide you with a lot helpful feedback.

Image Credit: kodomut

Build it on a Budget: A sub-$500 get-work-done rig

Look, not every computer you build has to be a tricked-out gaming rig with flashing LEDs and a complete water-cooling system. Some of us just need a machine that we can use to get work done in an efficient manner. This is where my heavily thought-out budget build comes into play. And we’re not talking about really cheap APU crap — we’re going all-out Intel 2nd-gen Core i3 that will even have enough room for some expandability in the future, all for under $500.

This budget system will serve you well for most everyday tasks, as well as other more slightly intensive activities like some gaming, streaming movies and music from the web, and even bigger projects like editing photos and home movies.

This build assumes that you already have a mouse, keyboard, and monitor lying around to use with your new system and that you’ll only need the basic components to get up and running. Also, I’m assuming off-the-bat that you already know how to build a computer from scratch, but if you don’t (and there’s no need to be ashamed), Lifehacker has a great guide that’s perfect for the computer-building novice.

So without further ado, let’s take a look at the components that will make up this sub-$500 workhorse.

The Case and Power Supply: Rosewill R103A Mid-Tower Case w/ 350W Power Supply – $39.99

The R103A isn’t an Antec Twelve Hundred by any means, but it certainly will get the job done, and the included 350-watt power supply will give us more than enough juice to power our budget build.

The Motherboard: ASUS P8H61-M LE/CSM Micro ATX Motherboard – $70.99

Asus is certainly a trusted name in motherboards and the P8H61-M is no exception. It’s a budget board that will serve you well throughout the life of your machine. It sports six USB ports, four SATA ports, a PCI Express slot (for a future graphics card), and DVI and VGA ports for the integrated graphics.

The Processor: Intel Core i3-2105 3.1GHz Dual-Core Processor – $134.99

I went with Intel for this budget build, but you’re free to substitute in AMD if you choose. However, the Core i3-2105 is quite a bang for the buck. The 3.1GHz dual-core chip is a solid processor that will certainly be able to keep up with most tasks you throw at it, and the HD 3000 integrated graphics will play most basic games that you’ll want (From my experience, the HD 3000 graphics play Portal 2 without a hiccup).

The RAM: Crucial 4GB DDR3 1333 Dual Channel RAM – $27.99

4GB is the sweet spot for memory in most budget builds, but it’s so cheap nowadays that you’re free to upgrade to 8GB if you so choose, just be aware that the motherboard I chose only has two DIMM slots, which shouldn’t be too much of a problem here — 2x4GB memory kits are very common.

The Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar Blue 320GB Hard Drive – $74.99

Unlike RAM, hard drives are ridiculously expensive right now, but prices should go back down to normal before year’s end. I obviously would have gone with a larger hard drive if the budget was a little higher, but 320GB is enough room for the main system files, all of your programs, and a selection of media files.

The Optical Drive: Samsung 22x DVD Burner – $16.99

Selecting an optical drive is pretty simple and they’re really cheap: Just select something that works for your needs, but because of the low prices, there’s no reason not to go for an all-out DVD burner just ’cause.

The OS: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit – $99.99

A bulk of the price for the budget build is from the operating system. I chose Windows 7 by default since that’s what most of you will probably run, but feel free to save yourself $100 and use Linux or try your hands at a Hackintosh with a $30-copy of Mac OS X Lion.

Total price of the budget build: $465.93

Conclusion

As you can see, we have a bit of room to work with as far as our $500 budget. There’s $34.07 left over. That’s not a lot of money, but you could use it to upgrade the hard drive to a higher capacity or double the amount of RAM like I mentioned earlier.

Obviously, don’t take my word for everything I suggested here. I know everyone has their own opinions on what should have been included and excluded. Also, don’t feel obligated to use only Newegg/Amazon to buy your components. Feel free to use another e-tailer, especially if you can find the components cheaper there.

If you have any questions about your own budget build, you can leave a comment below or you can visit the many online resources available to you. Tom’s Hardware Forums is just one place that can provide you with a lot helpful feedback.

Image Credit: Iwan Gabovitch

Apple’s Natural Scrolling Feature Catches On

Apple’s introduction of “natural scrolling” with OS X Lion was a controversial move. Apple effectively decided that computer users had for years been scrolling the wrong way around. They changed things so that, by default, OS X Lion users would “push” content up to move it up the screen, and “pull” it down to move it downwards – the same way that everyone scrolls on popular iOS devices.

It’s hard to argue with the logic, but Apple clearly realised that some people would find it hard to change a lifelong habit. They presented Lion users with the option to change things back to the old way via OS X’s System Preferences.

I have to admit that I am of those stubborn old-fashioned users. I gave it a day, but having scrolled the traditional way for near-on twenty years, I was quite happy with the way things were.

The other day I was surfing the Web on my iPhone and I remembered that I could reconfigure my Mac to scroll in the same way. I changed it to “natural” for a while, but, once again, I struggled to get used to the change – even though it does feel perfectly natural on my iPhone. It wasn’t long before I again reverted back to the “unnatural” configuration.

This got me thinking. I wondered whether natural scrolling on a Mac had caught on with the masses – so I made it my business to find out.

Apple's Natural Scrolling
Apple's Natural Scrolling

I asked the question on a popular Mac forum and collated the results.

From my mini survey, I ascertained that while most people acknowledged that there had been a learning curve, 71% of the responders now use natural scrolling on their Macs. It’s perhaps worth adjusting the figure downwards slightly as Mac forum members are likely to be enthusiasts, but even with this adjustment, the indication is that people have largely taken to Apple’s new way of doing things.

The people not adapting to natural scrolling all gave similar reasons. Some simply preferred the old-fashioned way, and others commented that while the natural scrolling feels natural on a track pad, it feels wrong with a mouse wheel. Others (and I count myself in this camp) also use Windows computers regularly, and have difficulties switching back and forth.

The results of this (admittedly rather small) survey seem to suggest that Apple got it right with natural scrolling, and proves that Mac users aren’t resistant to significant change. I, however, will be sticking with the way things were. I’m old school.

[poll id=”11″]

Are Macs really overpriced? The PC-Mac price gap is shrinking

I recently switched over to a MacBook Pro after being a PC guy my entire life. Before my MacBook, I had only custom-built Windows machines in my possession. A lot of my close PC friends couldn’t believe  that I shelled out so much money for an “overpriced” computer. However, to my discovery, the large price gap that exists between a PC and a Mac has been shrinking and I believe it’s still going to shrink to the point where PCs and Macs will cost the same or at least very close to the same, especially because of where the industry is heading.

It wasn’t long ago when you could find a MacBook that was priced at an easy $1,300 and a comparable Windows laptop that cost half that. However, that was then and it’s 2012 now. Things have changed drastically.

Let’s start with a normal 15-inch laptop:

Obviously I’m not making much of a case here. The HP has more RAM and better graphics with a lower price tag. However, the price gap isn’t greatly significant.

Let’s look at all-in-one machines next:

This is a little better, but the HP Omni has better graphics and twice the HDD, but the difference in price is very small.

Now here’s where it gets very interesting. Let’s look at some thin-and-light laptops:

The Samsung has a slower processor and is the same price as the MacBook Air.

Let’s now move up to a bigger screen, thus more room for a faster machine:

Almost identical specs, but the Lenovo is $200 more than the MacBook Air.

Interesting, huh? Ultrabooks are the same price (sometimes more) as the MacBook Air, and this is where the industry is going. Expect to see thin-and-light laptops make a huge impact, and unless PC manufacturers can find cheaper ways to manufacture them, the price gap between PCs and Macs will only shrink.

Note: All prices and configurations were taken from the manufacturers’ own websites.

CES 2012: Day 2 Recap – LG, Samsung, Vizio, and Microsoft

The second day of CES-ness is now behind us and wow, was it a busy one! Numerous companies held their press events today, including Microsoft, which hosted the opening keynote for this year’s CES. To say the least, tons of stuff happened. Since I won’t cover everything (that would literally be like writing a book) and to save your sanity, I’m just going to go over the bigger highlights of the day that matter.

LG

Image Credit: VentureBeat

LG introduced its 2012 lineup of HDTVs and they don’t seem to disappoint. More than half of them are either 3D capable or Smart TVs. LG’s Cinema 3D Smart TVs range from 55-inches to a whopping 84-inches. The 84-inch model packs an “Ultra High Definition” (UHD) display that squeezes 8 million pixels with a 3840×2160 resolution. It’s only 28mm thick and has a tiny 1mm bezel.

LG also announced their new flagship phone, the Spectrum. It features a 1.5GHz dual-core processor covered up by a massive 4.5-inch 1280×720 IPS LCD screen, giving it a ppi of 329 — better than the iPhone’s Retina Display. It also has 1GB of memory and 4GB of internal storage. LG will be releasing the Spectrum exclusively on Verizon on January 19 for $200 on-contract.

Samsung

The Galaxy Note has officially been announced, even though we knew it was coming of course. It boasts a whopping 5.3-inch screen with a 1280×800 AMOLED display, making it a half-phone, half-tablet. It has AT&T’s 4G LTE built-in and rocks a 1.5GHz dual-core processor. AT&T hasn’t said when it will be available, but if color selection means anything to you, the Note will come in “carbon blue” and “ceramic white.”

Samsung also unveiled its Smart 3DTV lineup, and they’re nothing short of crazy. The TVs support voice control, motion control and face recognition. They also run on SoC (System on a Chip) kits that users can upgrade starting in 2013 when Samsung releases upgrade kits. Samsung says that this allows the user to upgrade their television without actually having to replace the entire unit.

Vizio

Vizio, long-time maker of HDTVs, has now entered into the PC and tablet market with an all-in-one machine, three laptops and a tablet. The all-in-one PC is still somewhat of an unknown as far as specs, but the company’s YouTube channel goes over the products a bit. As far as the laptops, they’ll come in three different sizes: 13-inch, 15-inch and “full-size.” Just like the all-in-one, specs are hard to come by at this point.

Vizio’s tablet is a 10.1-inch model that they’re calling the M-series. It’s also apparently powered by an unannounced processor, so they’re not able to talk details just yet, but all of these new products by Vizio are due out this Spring/Summer.

Microsoft

Microsoft actually didn’t have much to announce for the first time. CEO Steve Ballmer and company mostly discussed already talked-about subjects, including topics about the Xbox 360, Windows 8 and Windows Phone. However, there were a couple of new things.

Nokia and Microsoft announced the latest Nokia Windows Phone, the Lumia 900. It’s a 4G LTE phone with a 4.3-inch AMOLED display. It runs on a single-core 1.4GHz Qualcomm CPU and 512MB of RAM. It’ll be arriving within the next couple of months exclusive to AT&T. The Lumia 800 will also be coming to the U.S. unlocked within the next few months, Ballmer says.

Microsoft also unveiled the Windows Store, which is the equivalent to the Android Market or the iTunes App Store, but for Windows devices. It’ll be available on Windows 8, as well as Windows Phone in the future.

Lastly, Ballmer mentioned that Kinect is coming to Windows February 1st.

Bonus: Microsoft partnered with ZeptoLab to bring a HTML5 version of Cut the Rope directly to the browser. Anyone with a computer can play the game. If you’ve never played it before, do it now!

Other Fun Stuff

– Netflix has announced availability in the UK (£5.99/month) and Ireland (£6.99/month).

– microUSB 3.0 is coming to smartphones and tablets near you as early as late this year.

– The Samsung Galaxy Nexus is coming to Sprint.

– The HTC Titan II, the first LTE Windows Phone, will be hitting AT&T.

– Asus’s Transformer Prime tablet hybrid will be getting Ice Cream Sandwich.

Stay tuned to Techerator throughout the week to get more details from inside CES 2012!

CES 2012: Day 1 Recap – Acer, OLPC, and Lenovo

The first day of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2012 is under wraps. Overall, it was quieter than what it will likely be later today. Acer and Lenovo held the only press events, but there were certainly some bits and pieces that were revealed throughout the day that are worthy for a spot in today’s recap.

Acer

Acer announced what they claim is the “world’s thinnest ultrabook.” The 13.3-inch Aspire S5 is a mere 15mm at its thickest point and weighs just under three pounds. It comes packing with HDMI, USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt ports. The S5 can also be woken up from a smartphone and can immediately log into email and social network accounts. Specs are still something of an unknown, although we do know that it will run an Intel Core processor and it’s coming in the second quarter of this year.

Acer also announced another ultrabook model dubbed the Aspire Timeline Ultra. These will measure in at 20mm thick and will come in 14- and 15-inch variants. This laptop will run some type of Intel Core i processor and sport HDMI and USB 3.0 ports. The Timeline Ultra will ship sometime during Q1 2012.

Acer is also getting into the cloud business with their new service called AcerCloud. It’s pretty much the same concept as Apple’s iCloud, as in it “securely connects all personal smart devices for anytime, anywhere access.” It’s almost too close to iCloud, in fact. The graphic explaining the service is almost identical to Apple’s. In any case, AcerCloud will be out Q2 2012.

Lastly, Acer finished up their presser with a teaser of their next-gen, quad-core Iconia Tab A700. It’ll have a native 1080p display and be powered by Nvidia’s Tegra 3 chip clocked at 1.3 GHz with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich on board.

OLPC (One Laptop Per Child)

The makers behind the XO laptop for underprivileged children came out with their own tablet. Just like the laptop, it’s a cheap, educational tablet made for children who live in poor parts of the world. It has an 8-inch display and comes with both a USB port and micro USB port. On the inside of the tablet, there’s a Marvell Armada PXA618 SoC processor and a battery that will deliver between 8-10 hours of juice.

It’s obviously not going to outperform the iPad or any other mainstream tablet for that matter, but for a $100 target price that the company wants to meet, it’s certainly not a bad device. However, you won’t be able to buy one of these yourself. They’re only sold to specific countries in bulk.

Lenovo

Lenovo unveiled their own transforming tablet/laptop device to take on Asus’s Transformer. It’s called the IdeaTab S2 and is equipped with Android Ice Cream Sandwich. It runs on a Qualcomm 1.5GHz dual-core processor and has up to 64GB of storage. It weighs in at just under 1.3 pounds and is just 8.7mm thick. For now, the S2 will only be released in China, with a worldwide release coming later.

They also announced the K91 Smart TV that runs on Ice Cream Sandwich and has a 55-inch (or 42-inch) 3D-ready, LED-backlit, 240Hz display. A 1.5 GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor powers the software and has a built-in 5 megapixel webcam for video calling. The K91 is also a China exclusive, but no word on a worldwide or U.S. release.

Lenovo is also stepping into the smartphone market, announcing the S2. It’s really nothing special (even Lenovo admits that), since it only runs on Android 2.3, but Lenovo says it’s great for enterprise use since it has a secure kernel. The phone is already being made available to China customers for $400. No word on a U.S. release.

Other Fun Stuff

– It’s confirmed that Samsung’s newest device, the Galaxy Note (which looks to be a mix between a phone and tablet), will be headed to AT&T. We’ll hear more about the device in Samsung’s presser later today.

– Parrot, makers of the A.R. Drone, unveiled the 2.0 version of their remote-controlled quadricopter. This time around, the learning curve is much easier and on top of the updated build quality, the A.R. Drone 2.0 now records 720p footage.

Keep your eye on Techerator for more CES 2012 coverage throughout the week!

Holiday Gift Guide 2011: Build a Gaming PC Edition

This year I decided to use my holiday wish-list to build an entire desktop PC. I mean, as long as a majority of the parts needed to build a high performance machine are gifted to me over the holidays, in the end all of them can be combined for the common goal of playing Skyrim for 100+ hours with the maximum refresh rate and graphics settings.

So from one PC gamer to another, here are a few essential and non-essential recommendations to build a high-end gaming machine. Let the PC gaming rig wish-list begin.

CPU / Motherboard

The year 2011 showed the world some great processors (most notably Intel’s Sandy Bridge architecture and AMD’s Bulldozer), and it should not be difficult to pick out one for the list that satisfies all your gaming needs (as well as your Secret Santa’s budget).

1. Intel Core i7-2600K or Intel i5-2500K CPU ($220-$320)

This is where it all begins

According to this article by Tom’s Hardware, Intel has the best CPUs around for $200-$300. In the article, the quad-core i5-2500K is recommended for its lower cost and 3.3 GHz clock frequency with the Sandy Bridge architecture, but the i7-2600K gets a step ahead with its 3.4 GHz processing speed and by having hyper-threading technology (essentially making it 8 cores instead of 4) as well as an integrated memory controller that quickens the access rate of the DDR3 RAM.

In the end, the only noticeable difference here is price ($220 for the i5, $320 for the i7), so don’t immediately jump on the Core i7 train if you don’t think the family will fork out the extra $100.

2. EVGA Z68 Motherboard ($299)

Once the CPU is picked out, be sure to then find an appropriate motherboard suitable for the architecture. This EVGA board was chosen not only because it has the right socket for the Core i5 and i7 (the LGA 1155), but mostly because it has six PCI-Express 2.0 slots. That’s right, six. That means that technically you could put six video graphics cards in parallel and run them simultaneously. Furthermore, it allows for DDR3 Memory with speeds up to 2133 MHz (which is fast, by the way) and plenty of SATA/RAID connectivity.

Sounds like a bit overkill for the wish-list? Then I guess the ASUS P8Z68 would work as well. That one is under $300 and comes with just two PCI-Express 3.0 slots for graphics cards.

Graphics Card / Memory

Speaking of graphic video cards, there are lots of beautiful options to choose from this 2011 season and each one has its share of pros and cons (see: Tom’s Hardware for more research). But most notably, here are two options from both ends of the arena.

3. GeForce GTX580 or Radeon HD 6950 ($269-$499)

Two graphics card options; two different prices. The GeForce GTX580 is from EVGA and comes with 1.5GB of video memory and a 772 MHz clock, while the Radeon HD 6950 is from HIS and comes with 2GB of memory and an 840MHz core clock. Both allow for DirectX 11, 2560 x 1600 screen resolution, and at least three DVI/HDMI ports for output.

So why the price difference? Well the GTX 580 is SLI capable, meaning that it can be run in parallel with a similar device (like a second or third GTX580) and share the graphics processing power. How crazy is that? The only issue there is that if one wanted to run two at a time, that means that at least $1000 would have to be spent to achieve this goal. So maybe save one of them for next year.

4. G.Skill Ripjaws 8GB DDR3 Memory 2100MHz ($50-60)

Nowadays, memory comes in sticks of two and runs with DDR3 from 1300 MHz to 2100 MHz. These G.Skill Ripjaws (really, they are called that) are at 8 GHz and can run up to 2133 MHz. And they’re not $300, which is a pretty nice change from the other items on our wish-list.

Since the motherboards I’ve recommended in this article come equipped with four DDR3 dual channel slots, up to 16GB of memory is possible.

Power Supply / Drives

Now that the brains of the gaming PC have been chosen and added to the wish-list, the next step is to pick the other internal organs that complete the base computing components.

5. Corsair 750W Power Supply ($90)

This is the component that will give your future Frankenstein PC life, so don’t be stingy on the wattage or the price when adding this one to the list. This 750W beauty by Corsair linked above is an acceptable option for giving juice to the overpowered components, but if you’re feeling the need to go overboard the 950W option goes for just $150. That’s almost a thousand watts of gaming power!

6. Hard Disk Drive ($119-$249)

Right now, hard drives are not that cheap. So for the sake of the wish-list as a whole, a 500 GB drive at 7200 RPM is a good starter at a slightly reasonable price of $119. Western Digital still seem to be the king of the hill in terms of reliability and operating speeds, so any one of their Caviar Black, Blue, or Green products would be sufficient for one’s wish-list.

7. LG DVD/Blu Ray Drive ($65)

This is no-brainer for computer components: If you buy a PC game, most likely you will have to insert a disk of some sort to install/play it (unless one has jumped onto the digital download bandwagon). So when building your new PC, it wouldn’t hurt to add the Blu Ray reader/burner drive option to the holiday list just in case that whole digital streaming revolution doesn’t pan out.

Peripherals / Externals

Now that the internals have been selected, it is time to add the external inputs to the list as well. These recommendations are a bit fuzzier than the others, mainly because the price of these components will depend on how much your Secret Santa feels like spending on you (case in point, an optical mouse can be as cheap as $7 and a keyboard as inexpensive as $5).

This looks 'shopped. I can tell by the pixels

8. A Good LCD Monitor or Two ($190 each)

For a couple hundred bucks each, one can get their monitoring set up quite nicely. The LCD monitor shown in the picture above is a standard 23″ monitor with a 1920 x 1080 screen resolution and DVI/HDMI ports. Just don’t stare too long at it, you may hurt your eyes.

9. Gaming Keyboard ($9-$199), 10. Optical Mouse ($12-$69), 11. Audio Speakers ($20-$49)

In reality, these are going to be based on your personal preferences. Once again, for the sake of the list I would recommend going cheap on these so that money can be spent on the more crucial components, but if you’re curious as to what might be “cool” and “extreme” for your PC, here are some options.

For a keyboard, the $110 AZIO Levetron Mech4 seems to be right up the alley of gamers with its mechanical keys, modular design, and anti-ghost technology. For a mouse, try out the $69 Corsair Vengence M60, designed with a special “sniper” button and FPS gaming in mind. And finally, for a simple audio speaker bundle try out the $45 Creative Inspire T3130 speakers with 2.1 watts of acoustic harmony.

12. Computer Case ($40-$300)

Keep your computer from running around naked. Buy a tower for it.

Finally, let’s pick a computer case to drop all these gifts into. Again, this choice is entirely based on preference. Pick a case that suits your personal likes and dislikes (preferably medium to large to fit all these beastly components) and add it to your wish-list. The Antec Nine Hundred mid-size case for $99 is not a bad choice in terms of space and affordability.

Grand Total

So now, here’s the brilliance of this combinational theory. Since your family and friends will be buying your components individually, they can expect to spend around $100 to $400 for just one gift. But once all the computer gifts come together, you end up with a single PC gaming work horse at a total cost of about (let’s see here…carry the one, subtract the two, divide by the sales tax): $1500 to $2400. So just think, the bigger your family is, the more they can spread this cost over all your gifts!

One other thing to note is the factor of un-gifted gifts. It is a known fact that during the holidays, we don’t always get what we want. But the beauty of the theory is that even though you may get only 7 out of the 12 computer component items I mentioned, those 7 are still bundled to a common goal and value, so you still feel like you accomplished something with your wish-list. Let’s see Aunt Edna’s knitted socks gift do that.

So PC gamers, if you’re in the market for a serious new platform this holiday season, be sure to put my theory to work. What could possibly go wrong?*

*Actual results may vary, things might actually go wrong.