While the i5 3470 will give system integrators some wiggle room on price, we're fans of sticking to the i5 3570K for everyone else.
If you thought dual cores were over the top, get ready. Intel presents the Core 2 Extreme QX6700, a single CPU with four distinct processing cores. At $999, the first quad-core CPU will remain an enthusiast part for a while, but as a glimpse of the future, it's clear that clock speed is out and core counts are in.
We recommend the AMD A8-3850 to mainstream desktop PC users in search of capable gaming power and multithreaded application performance.
If you're looking to build a home theater PC, we recommend ATI's Radeon HD 2600 XT as the midrange card to use, thanks to its nearly perfect HD video image and its no-fuss installation. But for 3D gaming, you'd be much better off looking for a good deal on a faster, older graphics card.
For the aspiring digital DJ, the M-Audio Torq Mixlab is an unmatched value.
Hauppauge's WinTV-PVR-500 MCE is a good choice if you want to record two programs simultaneously, but it assumes you have a Media Center remote and the correct decoding software.
Nvidia's GeForce GTX 295 is the single fastest 3D card on the market, and for a relatively aggressive price. Added bonuses like power efficiency and PhysX support sweeten the deal, but even without those extra benefits, we'd still recommend this card for its processing power and comparative value.
Unequivocally the most powerful graphics card on the market, ATI's Radeon X800 XT Platinum Edition hands Nvidia's new card a stunning defeat.
This plug is smart enough to know when its outlet doesn't have power, and uses cellular signal to keep you informed.
We're quite sure the Vengeance C70 will be home to some great mods — considering the price though, we'd have hoped for some more fit and finish.
Overclocking gives the BFG GeForce 6800 GT OC a slight performance boost over comparably priced stock 6800 GT models, but you'll have to supply your own games.
ATI Radeon 9800 XT
ATI's second-best 3D card brings all of the requisite features to the 3D gaming table, but its specialized performance makes it less compelling.
With a couple of exceptions, PNY's Verto GeForce 7800 GT card provides everything we like to see from a 3D-card package, including fast performance.
Dedicated 3D gamers need not bother, but home or business users will appreciate the solid 2D performance and a new approach to face-to-face communication over the Internet.
Creative's new X-Fi processor makes the X-Fi Elite Pro the most advanced and priciest Sound Blaster ever.
AMD's new Phenom quad-core CPU has little to recommend it over competing chips from Intel. The Phenom is marginally less-expensive, but not enough to make up for its subpar performance. Unless AMD drops prices more aggressively, it looks like Intel will maintain its grasp on the CPU market for the foreseeable future.
This one is easy. Nvidia's GeForce 8800 GTX not only beats ATI to market with its next-gen 3D graphics hardware, it also eliminates ATI's image-quality advantage in current-generation titles. Throw in its sheer horsepower, and Nvidia gives the high-end enthusiast every reason to make this purchase.