High-end $1500 gaming/enthusiast PC:
With $1500 you can build a very nice PC that is capable of running demanding games at high resolutions and max detail. I will also include some part recommendations for video editing and encoding as well.
Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 3.0GHz 6MB L2 Cache LGA 775 65W Dual-Core Processor
This is Intel's new E8xxx range of CPUs. They are manufactured using the new 45nm process and therefore provide better performance, consume less power, and produce less heat than 65nm parts.
For video editing etc, I recommend a quad core, the Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 Kentsfield 2.4GHz 2 x 4MB L2 Cache http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16819115017
If you are a video editor, you will see big advantages from using a quad core, wheras games are better suited to higher clock speeds that are found in dual core CPUs.
GIGABYTE GA-EX38-DS4 LGA 775 Intel X38 ATX Intel Motherboard
Because of the chosen GPU, I have swapped SLI, for Crossfire support. This Gigabyte board also supports the new 1600MHz CPUs due in Q2 2008.
Patriot Extreme Performance 4GB(2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory
4GB is great for a high end build at the moment and DDR3 just isn't justifiable enough right now. The performance difference between DDR2 and DDR3 is very small, the difference in price however, is huge. This Patriot kit boast CAS 4 latencies and two 2GB modules which leaves two DIMMs free for upgrades.
Western Digital Raptor WD1500ADFD 150GB 10,000 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 1.5Gb/s Hard Drive
SAMSUNG SpinPoint T Series HD501LJ 500GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive
Finally! A big enough budget to be able to waste money on a Raptor! Nah, I'm just joking, Raptors I great and make loading screens that little bit less frustrating. Store your OS and games on the Raptor and all your media and files on the 500GB 7200RPM drive.
Like I said before, this is really a personal preference. I'd like to make a few suggestions though:
-GIGABYTE 3D AURORA GZ-FSCA1-ANB Black Aluminum ATX Full Tower http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16811233002
Aluminium and a full tower, perfect for this build!
-Antec Performance One P180 Silver cold rolled steel ATX Mid Tower http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16811129154
If you want silence, the the Antec P180 is the right choice.
Sony NEC Optiarc Black 20X DVD+R
No need to change anything here, SATA of course so nice, neat, thin cables.
XIGMATEK MC NRP-MC651 ATX12V Ver.2.2 / EPS12V Ver. 2.92 650W Power Supply
Xigmatek are relatively new on the block, but their PSUs are of good quality, and they better be as we don't want anything damaging all those shiney new expensive components!
SAPPHIRE 100221SR Radeon HD 3870 X2 1GB (512MB x 2) 256-bit GDDR3
At $400, $200 less than the 9800GX2, the HD 3870X2 still has a market. More powerful than the 8800 ULTRA, and unstoppable when two are paired in CrossfireX, even versus two 9800GX2s in SLI. Effectively two HD 3870s in Crossfire on one PCB, this card is one of the best.
(at time of writing)
HDDs: $170 + $105
Disk drive: $27
if you don't mind waiting a few more seconds at loading screens, then you can ditch the Raptor and spend the money elsewhere, on 9800GX2 for exemple: Leadtek PX9800GX2 GeForce 9800 GX2 1GB 512-bit GDDR3 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16814122050
This would bring about 20% on average gaming performance for $170 more than the HD 3870X2, and as we're abandoning the Raptor, everything evens itself out.
Section two: Builds for overclockers:
Low cost $500 overclocker's PC:
This build will be based around overclocking grade parts that provide brilliant performance for the money when overclocked:
AMD Athlon 64 X2 5000+ Brisbane 2.6GHz 2 x 512KB L2 Cache Socket AM2 65W Dual-Core Black Edition Processor
For $89, you can have what every overclocker dreams of, an unlocked multiplier. One simple change and you can have this CPU running at 3.0GHz to 3.2GHz. Of course, there are many more options that the more experienced overclocker can fiddle with to extract even more performance. At 3.2Ghz, this processor is roughly as fast as the Core 2 Duo E6750.
OCZ Vendetta 92mm Ball CPU Cooler http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16835202005
ARCTIC COOLING Freezer 64 Pro 92mm CPU Cooler http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16835185125
Of course, to achieve a decent OC, you'll need an aftermarket cooler. But on a budget like this, a Zalman 9700 is out of the question. These are two brilliant price to performance coolers that will give you a lot more OC'ing room.
ECS A770M-A AM2+/AM2 AMD 770 ATX AMD Motherboard
We don't have a whole lot of money to spend, but $65 can get you an AMD 770 chipset, PCI-E 2.0 support as well an AM2+ socket which will support the new Phenom CPUs.
mushkin 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) with EPP Profile Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory
Mushkin makes some of the best overclocking memory kits available. This kit which runs at 800MHz with CAS 4 latencies is capable of reaching speeds of up to 1100MHz. Read this article for more information: http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/mem...0_7.html#sect0
Antec earthwatts EA500 ATX12V v2.0 500W Power Supply
With dual 12V rails and an Antec sticker on the side, this is the perfect low-cost PSU for a cheap overclocking system.
COOLER MASTER Elite 330 RC-330-KKN1-GP Black SECC ATX Mid Tower
I'm a big fan of this cheap and cheerful case. In fact, my system is sitting in one right now! The perforated front panel and dual 120mm fans provide good airflow to keep those overclocked parts nice and cool.
Western Digital Caviar SE WD1600AAJS 160GB 7200 RPM 8MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive
As we don't have $150 to spend on a Raptor here, this 7200RPM Western Digital drive will do nicely.
Sony NEC Optiarc Black 20X DVD+R 8X DVD+RW 8X DVD+R
Boooring... let's get to the graphics card!!
ASUS EAH3650 TOP/HTDI/256M/A Radeon HD 3650 256MB 128-bit GDDR3
The HD 3650 is a 55nm part which means that it's very overclockable. Complete with an improved cooler, you should be able to squeeze lots more performance out of this card than what the stock speeds allow for.
(at time of writing)
CPU cooler: ~$30
Disk drive: $27
Graphics card: $90
$494 before rebates.
Price after rebates: $439
EVGA 384-P3-N851-AR GeForce 8800GS 384MB 192-bit GDDR3 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16814130332
If you feel that you can go a bit above your $500 budget, then the G92 based 8800GS will bring a decent performance boost for it's $50 price increase over the HD 3650.
MSI K9A2 CF-F AM2+/AM2 AMD 790X ATX AMD Motherboard http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16813130138
Pay $25 more for a 790X and you can have Crossfire support. A nice bonus if you would like to add another ATI card later.
And to seperate this build from the next $1000 one, you can boost your gaming performance a fair bit with an MSI NX8800GTS 512M OC GeForce 8800GTS (G92) 512MB 256-bit GDDR3 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16814127325