Well, I will say that if you already have a monitor, I actually picked up a pretty decent Dell system from Best Buy of all places for just shy of $1,000USD. I'll include a link at the end of the post. I don't really do much in the way of computer gaming, more of a console person myself, but I think the Radeon HD 2600 XT video card that comes in the system I got is on the low side of the performance card roster. There are certainly better cards out there, but it'll blow quite a large number of other cards out of the water, especially integrated graphics chipsets.

From what you've said, I would suspect this system would last you for probably 5-10 years easy.

For the most part though, if you're more than a casual PC gamer, you really can't beat having a custom built system. It costs more up front, but will more than make up for itself in the years to come. Custom built systems, if done properly, can be very modular. Meaning any given piece can be upgraded without having to chuck out a lot of the older stuff. So you can take advantage of short term things like promotional sales at your local electronics store.

If you want to go with a brand name system however, I would personally suggest limiting your search to Apple, Lenovo, Toshiba, and Dell. Listed in order of quality, except Toshiba and Dell which are probably tied for third. Avoid HP/Compaq systems like the plague. Don't even touch them with someone else's 10 foot pole no matter how good the deal seems. You WILL regret it very soon after if you do not heed my warning. Friend of mine bought an HP, despite my saying not to, and hardly a conversation goes by where he doesn't complain about it. Compaq is just another HP brand now, so if you have any expectations at all that aren't negative, you will almost certainly be disappointed by an HP/Compaq system.

Also, avoid the temptation to buy the cheapest system in the store or that is offered. Generally speaking, the more expensive the system, the more profit margin there is on it. That usually translates into fewer production corners being cut, and ultimately a better quality system.

I would avoid the temptation to buy any package deals as well. If there's a monitor or printer included, it's probably going to be a horrible monitor and/or printer. Odds are, you're better off waiting for some big sale to come along. Back to School sales are starting soon, and then it's not too much longer until things like Black Friday and Christmas. Plus any random holidays and/or promotions a company may decide to run in the interim. That would be a better time to look for a new monitor and/or printer.

Now, before I forget, the link to the system I just picked up a few days ago when my old system died after being manhandled like crazy by UPS. I'll let you look over the specs yourself, and if you have any questions, you know where to find us.

http://www.bestbuy.com/site/olspage.jsp?skuId=8878823&productCategoryId=abcat0501004&type=product&id=1210379087838

With about an 8% sales tax in California, the whole thing came out to around $970 I think. So it may be a little more or less where you live.

Granted I've only had the thing 3-4 days, so I can't really give a terribly detailed review as yet... But so far my impressions are positive, and I'm very demanding when it comes to computers. There are things about Vista that I could do without, but so far it doesn't seem quite as horrible as everyone's made it out to be. Just takes some time to figure out where things were moved to from XP.