Dream Machine 2009: How To Build the Best PC For Any Budget!



+ Add a Comment


I havent bulit a new pc in 6 yrs and this Feb, I got quite the surprise from my wife she asked me if I could build a new puter what would I build it with I gave her the following list

1 Gateway 30 inch mont, Antec 1200 case, ocz 80 g ssd, 2 4570x2 video cards, soundblaster xfi champion soundcard, 8 gigs 1066 corsair, 1 wd 1 TB drive black, 2 wd 300g VR's, Crosshair 2 motherboard, Amd 940 phem 2 black and TT V1 for cooling 

I came home from work and all this was there it was a gift for our 18th wedding anvis. Needless to say I was speechless I couldnt ask for anything else from her, And for thoae who want to know what I got my wife a sebring conv. 




I don't believe you. There, I said it.



I understand the reasoning behind this.  The economy is not as it use to be with previous Dream Machines.  But MaxPC does budget builds all throughout the year.  This is a once a year thing and you just continue with budget builds for the Dream Machine.  With the money spent on the three machines you actually could have had a nice dream machine.  The dream machine does not need bling, it just needs to perform.

Currently I am not a subscriber, I use to be but i didn't want money wasted, well because of the economy.  And I could get stuff here even if it is a month or two later.  But releasing the Dream Build article on this site when the Mag with it has not been delivered to all the subscribers is pretty bad.  The Dream Machine Mag is probably one of the most popular Mags every year.  Why pay a monthly subscription if the same stuff is going to be on the website at the same time?

Lastly configuring all your builds with practically a Beta OS is deceptive.  Yes it is RC but pretty much still a beta even though it is not labled as one.  For someone to add a paid OS could cost 100-300 dollars.  And that not being figured into the build is wrong for you guys to publish.  Because people who actually do this might not have the money when their OS starts randomly restarting and then will not start at all because they were not aware that was going to happen.  Now if somebody is going to build their own machine then you would think they would be smart enough to relize that the RC will not last forever, but stupider things happen.

Overall I am disapointed.  Its a once a year thing.



 i got my issue before this article posted but i'm also disapointed. This is a dream machine? Hell the forums couldbuld a better rig for less..the dream machine is just that...a dream. Not a budget badass...

If fact i'm going to post thprice point for your stimulus package and see what the forumite can do for a REAL dream machine

Coming soon to Lulu.com --Tokusatsu Heroes--
Five teenagers, one alien ghost, a robot, and the fate of the world.



DM is supposed to be no limits, anything goes. Screw the economy! Some of us are doing well regardless and we want to know what over the top PC parts are out there and how they work together. "More for the sake of more" is the motto. You also are cheating without listing the cost of Win 7. Just because you can run RTC doesn't mean you should be recommending it in anything but the economy model. The DM should be the price iis no object machine we WANT to build, not the one we have to settle for.

The econo model should not be built to a price point but rather to a performance point: the 0 pt baseline. Set the minimum acceptable performance and build around that. Price is easy to mark but it is too variable with sales and rebates as to be almost meaningless after a month. Performance doesn't change that fast, usually with new generations of hardware.If you can play Crysis at 40fps for $800 one month, three months later it might be $600 for the same parts or better.

Skip the middle model, its neither fish nor fowl. Stick to Dream Machine and Lean Machine, and keep the updated price point builds in the website where you can respond to market changes faster. If anything I'd like to see a SFF build so we can learn the choices and compromises that segment has. What do I gain, what do I give up to save some space or gain portability.



I completely agree with installing Windows 7 on the entry level box, but to cost it out as free is a little deceptive . Yes, if you're not planning on using it for more than 6 or 8 months, it is free, but this is a budget machine and not a throwaway. You will need to buy an OS for it eventually, and that will be $110, so that should have been relected in the total cost.



After 6 months, it's just an "upgrade", right?



I always look forward to the dream machine articles.  The excess of them is truly amazing.  This year's recession specials are a big dissappointment.  I know the world is going through hard times, but I think this kind of steps on the feet of what the dream machine is all about.  EXCESS, MAXIMUM PC.  I've read the "build it for x dollar amount" 1700 times, so I guess i feel a bit let down considering this is usually one of the most entertaining articles of the year.  I know what I can get for 1K, 2K, 3K, but 17K? I don't go there...  I understand what they were trying to do but it's been done about every six months to a year on other sites/publications.  I've never seen any of those other turkeys build a 17K LCed skulltrail system before though...That was Max, this is meh.  I still enjoy the articles, this was just a bit boring. 



The difference between looking at pictures of naked women and pictures of computers built at outrageous prices is the fact that, like concept cars that most people will never own, some of the ideas implemented into the machine will eventually trickle down and become affordable and integrated for those of us  who can't afford to do it now - the women, on the other hand, will only get older and more out-of-reach.

 If you want reality, there's plenty of it throughout the rest of the magazine, and the rest of the other issues as well.  (Okay, we can make exception to the holiday shopping guide - which is a handy way to suggest gifts for family and friends to get you.)  If you're going to call something "Dream" or "Ultimate" (or any other word with similar meaning) or throw it in front of a name, such as the "Dream Machine," it should live up to the title.  Does it have to be ultra-xpensive?  No.  It does, however, need to be awe-inspiring, which is what I felt was lacking.

Finally, since it looks pretty split amongst those who want reality and those who don't - I won't say 50-50, but it's a lot closer than you are making it out to be - don't throw in "The rest of us" on one person.



I just finished a case mod but have nothing to put in it, now (since im a high schooler without a job) I can just save a little and buy the recession special parts (without a case of course) and not buying the case can bump me up to a 4890 (hopefully)


EDIT: WAIT A SEC! No crazy, off the wall, never could afford it PC? where is the max in that?




What do you get when you combine dirty politics and greed?  Maybe_ a financial crisis?

I do enjoy and looking forward for the Dream Machine from Maximum PC every year. This year I can understand the change, but I wish it wasn’t so.  I think you guys did a very good job on them and they are systems I would build, but I would add a sound card to the lists. They just as well are DM’s to me right now because I am collecting unemployment from a job which closed and building a new rig will have to wait for a while.  I hope that the Holy Grail of the magazine, the Maximum PC Dream Machine, is not changed forever.  Last years DM case was extreme at 5000 dollars, but I did like it. Also, I wish you could have added a compromise to the to this years list of systems with a kick ass DM, maybe without the extra bling ., or at least the a parts list of the system you would have built. Politics SUCKS!!! Oh, and did you know that bling is not a real word, go figure.  More on that at the link below, and maybe if you read a little between the lines, their, you’ll catch my meaning. One more thing, what happened to the rig of the month and BEST OF THE BEST? This years DM is really a DM, because it left me dreaming of what it should have been!


The more I learn, the more I realize I need to learn. So, am I really getting smarter or am I learning that I am not so smart?



Nice touch using the black inserts on the silver Coolermaster 840...also nice was the fact that you DIDN'T go crazy this year, but instead, took into consideration...todays economy.  I'm sure some will complain but MOST will appreciate these builds.

Side note:  When you do the BIOS Reference Manual next month, it had better be HUGE and include AMI BIOS ...and most important...be UP-TO-DATE...as of...let's say...the last month or so.  I'm salivating at the thought of a BIOS Reference Manual, not to mention your other teaser:  "Incredible Hacks"  :)

As for the online before mag arrives.....almost happened to me also...but I assume that it's the guys in the post office reading it, before delivering it.  :)


Take an OS, and edit out all the efficiency, and what you have left is a post-XP Microsoft operating system :)



You could have added a quad core proc to your recession special if you had purchased the CPU and Motherboard as a package and spent less money than you did on for the tri core setup. The smae motherboard with an X4 9750 Quad core processor runs for 235 at Tigerdirect if you purchased the CPU/mobo combo.



1:  I'd rather have a tri-core Phenom II than a quad-core Phenom any day of the week.  Seriously, the original Phenoms were ass-tastic.

2: If we're going to factor in combo discounts (which, let's face it, are extraordinarily volatile, so I wouldn't),  Newegg has a Phenom II 945 combo right now for $238.  And I just rebuilt my system last month with a PII 940 BE combo that was a whopping $199 -- no Crossfire, sadly, but I don't have any plans to run Crossfire anyway.



You have to admit that makes pretty good sense dude!




1) where the hell did you find an antec 900 for $77 dollars<

 2)the second machine why did you go with 4870 x2 instead of sli 260, they would have performed better in the long shot and would have costed less and you could have gotten a better case?


Its like your guys didnt even pay attention to the other team on video cards.  I know ati cars rock ( i at least 2 systems buitl with them) but you got to face the facts when it comes to it, some cards are bettter than others. expecially at the price.

but In all i am very pleased to see how the budget thru the dream machine came out. rock on you guys, now send  me the systems so i can put it through my rigor. HEHE



1) As of July 30, the 900 is selling on Newegg for $100 (and that's WITH a $40 mark down)! In other words, you ask a good question.



I was able to get mine for about that as well ($70)...if you order it B-stock from Antec then its cheaper because it might have a ding or a scratch



I've got an article for you guys.

how to kill paid subscriptions in one easy step:

1. release articles online before people get their freaking issue.



You guys do realize that you can get two single 4870's cheaper than the 4870 x2 and get more advantages, like actually being able to disable crossfire if you're a folder, have 4 dvi's opposed to two, and save about $80, plus you get better performance out of two seperate ones.   just so you know. 



Theres No Such Thing As A Stupid Question....Only Stupid People



There's only one problem with your solution:  What if you wanted - and could afford to - double up on graphics card in a few months?  If you have 2 cards in there already, you may be lucky to squeeze two more onto there, providing you have the right motherboard.  With the X2, all you have to do is add a second card - or third, which would give it more power than 4 regular 4870's - or even a fourth.  Yes, the other route may be cheaper and produce better results in the short run, but you also have to look at the future of your machine and what you may/will want to do with it down the road.



I also noticed a slight upward bend in the retention bar in the 4.a) pic that you posted (pg 6 at the top.) I noticed it took some force to get it locked as well. Did you come across a "snap" at all because I didn't - just one solid motion of force and now I'm paranoid I didn't do it right. I think that mobo needs a redesign of the entire cpu holder.

Antec 1000w psu and xfx 4890oc comin today for me so we'll see :)



1) I'd like to see some benches with the fourth core unlocked on the 720 - I'm surprised no one has mentioned it yet.

2) I live in Victoria, BC and got my issue today...so you guys living down south who haven't got their issues yet, take it out on your local postal service rather than showing us your tear-filled eyes and trembling lips.

3) To those guys going off about how the Dream Machine falls short: smarten up.

There is no limit to the amount of money you could dump out to get The Ultimate Computing Experience - no water cooling? Pfeh. Water cooling is so 2005 - where's the LHe pot? No gold-plated chassis with lapis lazuli and mother-of-pearl inlays and airbrushed artwork so awe inspiring it produces spontaneous orgasms upon viewing? Whatever.  $3500 to spend on computer hardware is plenty dreamy for me.



Smarten up?  As much as I like the polite cutdown you offered (as opposed to calling us idiots or worse), I suggest you  look at past issues to see what I am talking about.

We could have had a real dream machine WITHOUT some ridiculously-overpriced "bling" or "flair" on it, and it would have really held up the mark for what I am talking about.  There's nothing wrong with these PCs, and they would have fit the articlethat would normally have followed within a month or two of the Dream Machine article.  These Machines, However, lack that certain flair and finesse, that awe-inspiring thing - be it the looks or new ideas or functions - that previous dream machines have had.  I still remember dropping my jaw at seeing that integrated second monitor, which still boggles my mind as to why few people ran with it.  These Dream Machines lacked that Jaw-dropper, unfortunately.

 I'm not saying go blow a ton of money unnecessarily, pimp it out like you would a car, add lights up the yin-yang or any other ridiculously stupid and useless things I've also seen in the past, and I'm not saying to go create or waste time on something that would be completely useless.  I don't care how much money you put into it, I'm just saying create a PC that really lives up to the name "Dream Machine."



I do see your point, and I totally agree with you. I was underwhelmed when I saw the Dream Machine for this year - but I understand what the editor's point is. I get it, times are tough all over and people's dreams are more in line with reality. Besides which, there's so much krazy krap out there right now (oil-immersion rigs, near-zero Kelvin cooling, thousands of radically different case designs) that throwing out a Dream Machine encased in a magical talking crystal orb that floats above my desk and heats my morning Pop-Tarts wouldn't seem that out of control. My personal reality is that I build a computer for myself once every five years and don't spend more than a thousand on it, and certainly not all at once - this is a luxury hobby for me.

I would love to have $3500 in disposable income to build my dream system and not feel guilty that I didn't spend it on my wife and son and everything those two people imply. 



Okay, once again you're missing the point of it.

Just as you have responsibilities to your wife and kid (which, unless it's not something you want, I hope becomes kids), I have not been able to afford to build any of the dream machines either.  This, too, is due to the realities of my life, of which recently became complicated with another person.

Just because I can't afford to blow $3500 (or higher, since most of the preview Dream Machines have been well more expensive than that) doesn't mean I don't want to see the over-the-top production they usually do.  It's sort of like going to a major car show where companies build concept cars:  You know you're not able to buy one, and even if you could afford to, there'd still be the matter of those new concepts, which will take years to iron out and get rid of the bugs, and you don't know which concepts will go mainstream or which ones will disappear.  Water-cooling may be so "2005", but I bet it's a lot easier to build a water-cooled system today than it was then.  As for the LCD thing I keep harping about, we do have it - and it is easier - in some HTPC cases and fan controllers, so even though it's not widespread, it also became one of those things.

Of course, I also see the counter argument to this as well:  With a bad economy, companies may not have the  up-and-coming technolgies to share like they've had in the past, thus yet another possible reason for being so underwhelming.  Still, I'd rather have seen something -anything - that made me drool in envy and hope that it comes around in a few years.



Cost is irrelevant.

How many people could (or would) afford the DM 4 years go? Or 3 years ago when the economy was better? About what? 2% of the readership?

You seem to be equating a Dream Machine with just cosmetic bling and missing out on other important factors. Like the years that MPC get products well ahead of retail to put in them, or seeing how creative they can be with existing components, or introducing new techniques or companies to the audience that handle crazy stuff like chrome plating or keyboards with blank keys.

I can't afford a Bugatti Veyron but that doesn't mean I don't want to see how they are built, why they are designed like that and photos of the components that make it go vroom.

This isn't a Dream Machine. This is Just Another Maximum PC Build. Search this site, and you'll find articles that go through the same price points every other month.

Even the Best of the Best section pushes the envelope more than this. And that's always available.




You see the title of the magazine? That's "maximum" not "Just above average."

On the plus side if you think $3500 is too much then you should be happy with the rest of the year, because I'm sure builds like this will be in every other issue. So for you every issue will be a Dream Machine.

Even an entry level Phobos system retails for the same price as the MPC DM 2010. That's "entry level." The mimumum amount you can spend without even trying.

This is the equivalent of buying The Dupont Registry and finding the Honda Accord is the best model they have.



Well holy poop, I've been reading the title wrong all this time. Thanks for pointing that out to me.

Speaking of reading, I'd like to introduce a word I learned in tenth-grade English: it's called a theme. The theme of this year's Dream Machine is centred around the recession, in that the recession has made some people's dreams a bit more grounded. You know, because they're frickin' poor, now.

Oh, and congratulations on completely missing my point, which is that there is no maximum you can spend on a computer these days...I could blow fifty grand on the case alone, not to mention the liquid helium tanks I would require on a daily basis to maintain my 7ghz oc.

There is maximum, and then there is gaudy excess. 



Good job learning the word theme.  Here's another word you can look up: DREAM. 

Are you telling me that your dreams are as mediocre as the Dream Machines this year?  If so, I feel sad for you.

I've never been able to afford any of the Dream Machines, because they're simply that: dream machines. Just like I can't afford my dream car, or dream house, or dream job.  But throwing this mediocre effort out there and calling it a Dream anything is like saying "My dream job is to finally work the counter at McDonalds, not the grill."  

The Dream Machine is supposed to be the pinnacle of computers.  Any idiot could buy what they threw together this year.  Thoroughly lame effort by what I guess we'll now have to call the "Pretty Good PC" staff, and doubly piss-poor showing by putting the article up on their web site before most subscribers have even received the mag.

 If I would have known I could read the content online so soon, I never would have bought the thing in the one store that still carries "Barely Adequate PC" in a three-town radius.



"But throwing this mediocre effort out there and calling it a Dream anything is like saying "My dream job is to finally work the counter at McDonalds, not the grill."Sorry, "to finally work" is a split infinitive."If I would have known I could read the content online so soon, I never would have bought the thing in the one store that still carries "Barely Adequate PC" in a three-town radius."Your verb "still" conflicts with "store" which is a singular noun. I guess you fail again.I'll let you go on this one; website or web site. By far, however, website is the more popular spelling.

Finally, I noticed you really like to do this: BIG WORD. It's not all that cool.




I realize I've only been buying or subscribing to this magazine for only the last few years, but two things drew me to the magazine in the first place:  The Mod of the Month you used to post as your last page and your yearly Dream Machine, both of which used to inspire me with ideas for what I want to do with my own dream machine.  I can understand dropping the former due to both a lack of good new submissions and a bad economy that makes it difficult to build the darned things, but combining the dream machine article with the "Best you can build within a budget" article I've seen the last year or two?

Needless to say, I am thoroughly disappointed.   I liked what you guys did whether it was something that was ahead of its time (such as the integrated smaller second screen) or Utilizing a unique and expensive case (Such as using the firebird case like you did last year.)  I know the economy's bad and very few people can afford to build the caliber of machine your dream machines used to be, but there's a reason WHY it's called DREAM MACHINE.  I know many will disagree with me, but I feel strongly that you missed the mark - by miles.



and it doesn't explain why the wiring is so poor either.

My dream is not to have a case full of wires hanging everywhere or bunched up in a pile. The least they could have done was to make a good wiring job.



I just built my own Dream Machine last week, looks alot like yours. Here are my specs:

 Coolermaster ATCS 840 - Black W/the optional side window
 & 3 extra CM 120mm blue led fans (inside painted black)
Core i7 920 2.66GHz - Stock clock (for now)
MSI X58 Platinum SLI mobo
300GB 10k Velociraptor system drive
1.5TB Seagate storage drive
Thermaltake Spin-Q cooler
Coolermaster UCP 900w PSU
EVGA 8800-GTS GPU (adding another for SLI soon)
6GB Corsair 1600 RAM (for now)
3x Samsung 22x DVD burners
Aero Cool 55 in 1 Card Reader w/LCD Display
Vista Home Premium 64 (waiting for my free Win7 upgrade)

My budget was $2000, and I am extremely happy with my new rig. She looks and runs fantastic.

The only thing I went cheap on was the videocard, as I'm not a gamer. This was built as a video encoding/burning rig, and for that, it's a screamer.

I also wanted to agree with you about what a great case the ATCS 840 is. You are right, I can see me still swapping out hardware in this case 10 years from now.   



2000 budget and you get a single 8800 GTS? Why?



"The only thing I went cheap on was the videocard, as I'm not a gamer.
This was built as a video encoding/burning rig, and for that, it's a

That being said, I probably will add a second 8800 soon, since I can get one pretty cheap. And I'll go ahead and add another 6 gigs of ram while I'm at it, for another $100. I intend to be upgrading on a regular basis. That's why I love the ATCS 840 so much. 



I'm disapointed in the enthusiast rig. I know the economy is down, and I understand not spending money on bling. But for a "Dream Machine" it should have the best performance possible. Overclocking a 975 to 4ghz on air and calling it a dream machine is a disservice to the technology. This thing is begging for atleast water cooling, or even phase change if you want to get carried away. I also dont see a reason not to add a second optical drive for burning blu ray. The other two systems had decent specs for their sector of the market, but pairing a $1000 cpu and $700 worth of video card with air cooling doesn't do this system justice.



This is a complete waste. The dream machine is exactly that. It's a machine that uses the "best of the best" components we can only dream about gettting and in ways we wouldn't think of. Occasionally that gives you an idea for something on a smaller scale or a year later the option to actually build it when the prices come down.

It's a quick way to see what a good combination of the highest perfomance parts is.

This. Well, this is pathetic. What we have here is an article that basically compiles every other article that will run throughout the year. How many "how to build a kick-ass gaming PC for under $700" style articles will there be in the next year? Probably quite a few.



Do not get me started. Too late.

I have subscribed for the last year, but for some reason I have not received the last four issues. I email custserv and they soothe me by saying that they're coming, that they will extend my subscription, that I ought to check with my post office.


I have even asked them if I should sic their own Dog on them.

 Get your stuff together people and mail me what has been paid for, TWICE!


The Relic

I have that problem periodically myself (the Sept. issue has yet to come even though it has been on the stands here a week), but I suspect the problem is the idiot mailpeople around here.

Occasionally I don't get issues of the magazines I subscribe to, or packages get sent to the wrong places. We still get mail from a street over (same house number, different street), even though the house has been empty for about a year, We prep packages on-line, only to have the mailpeople fail to pick it up (even when it is directly under the mailbox in a basket.

And worst of all? When we contact the post office we get a "we'll look into it" when what they really mean is "we'll laugh at you when we get off the phone". It seriously makes me want to quit receiving magazines through the mail.

And the USPS wonders why their revenue stream is drying up...



Makes me reconsider buying the Antec 1200....That Cooler Master is sleek, and it seems to have a better time fitting modern graphics cards. Bah! ><

All of the comments so far have been hilarious lol. As for OS X bashing, its deserved, especially since there is nothing special about it, since its just a glorified Unix OS.



Anybody else notice that the first RAM stick (closest to the CPU) in the Stimulus Package rig isn't properly seated? The bottom clip is down...



If you look closely that is a vacant slot the cooler appears to big and blocks it.



I live in rural WI and got this issue like a week and a half ago....



I usually laugh at the commenters who do nothing but complain.  They're always finding something to be pissed about.  And now I'm one of them.  I'm a subscriber and haven't even gotten the mag yet.  Seriously you guys couldnt have waited, I dunno, 3 days.  It's the cover story of one of the more anticipated issues of the year.  Not gonna curse or make too much of an ass of myself, just gonna be sad that the world got to open my Christmas in July present before Santa even got in his sleigh...

 Love the mag, love the site.  Just wish i got the mag before it was on the site.  Cheers mates.



they did the same thing last year. Started revealing the lead story of the year for the entire magazine before it was in print.

I cancelled my sub then, because why bother buying the magazine if what you are paying for goes live and for free?

I just resubscribed for $7 a month ago because of the dirt cheap deal, and now I'm thinking tha teven that amount is a waste of money now.



seriously.  Windows 7 is not the Second Coming of Christ or anyhting. I tried it and its barely better than Vista. Windows 7 is just Vista done right. And its more of copying OS X. I use Vista and Windows 7, and Linux, and OS X, and I prefer OS X. because its better. I have installed more drivers on my computer in the last nine months (since I built the Thing) than I have ever in my life.  But I still use Vista more often because of compaatibility, and because I built it. I can't believe I am ranting like this.... at one in the morning. I have no life.



I agree with you. What's all the hype about? I've been using Win 7 on my work computer for weeks and I've yet to see anything that gets me excited. It's Vista SP3.


My Vista rig at home runs like a champ and I don't see any reason to spend my hard earned dough on upgrading until I have to.






I live in the San Diego area and I haven't received my copy of this issue yet either.


I have to admit that I'm disappointed in the top Dream Machine this year.  There are some interesting motherboards out, like the EVGA water cooled X58 that I would have loved to see how it could over clock a core i7.  Tri-SLI GTX 285s or a pair of GTX 295s in SLI, water cooled of course, would have been a hoot.  The bling, bling case for last year’s dream machine did nothing for me, so I welcomed the off-the-shelf parts for this build.

You should have had a fourth machine as an example of spare-no-expense for performance (forget the bling).

That’s my two cents.

Log in to MaximumPC directly or log in using Facebook

Forgot your username or password?
Click here for help.

Login with Facebook
Log in using Facebook to share comments and articles easily with your Facebook feed.