Well, I did it. After four years with a hulking, noisy, upgraded-to-the-limit Pentium 4 tower, I finally pulled the trigger on a new system. It's a refurbished HP Pavilion M9350F, which eCost has on sale for $619.99.
The specs on this thing are pretty unreal: a quad-core AMD processor, 6GB of RAM, a 750GB hard drive, a 512MB GeForce 9800GT graphics card, a TV tuner, and 802.11n wireless connectivity. No Blu-ray drive, but I honestly couldn't care less. I'm happy with the LightScribe burner.
I just hope that it's quieter than the jet turbine that currently sits under my desk. And I'm a bit concerned about overheating, which, according to a few user reviews I've read, is a problem with this model.
But I'll deal with that, if and when it occurs. This system lists for about $1,200, so $620 (plus $30 for shipping) was too good to pass up. I can't offer a hands-on recommendation yet, but I will say I've never seen a system as loaded as this one for such a low price.
Because this is a refurb, it comes with only a 90-day warranty. That doesn't bother me. In my experience, a desktop either works, or it doesn't. Any problems should manifest within those first three months.
Thanks to reader j_a_s_p_e_r for the heads-up on this deal!