In many respects, it’s more difficult to build a great cheap PC than it is to build a more expensive one. In fact, the less money you have to spend, the more vital it is that every dollar delivers measurable value. With that in mind, we sat down with one simple goal: to build the best inexpensive, multipurpose PC that we would want to use ourselves. We didn’t start with any particular budget, but at every turn we shaved as much from the cost as we could—trimming the fancy case, ditching an unnecessary 800W PSU, and scuttling the spendy Core i5 CPU.
The result is an incredibly lean, but still powerful machine featuring a quad-core CPU, a GPU capable of playing anything on a 22-inch panel, and… well, you’ll have to hit the jump to see the rest. Rest assured, though, this is a machine that would be welcome in any of our homes, whether we’re playing games, editing video, touching up photos, ripping movies, or simply surfing the Internet. Oh yeah, we’ll also show you how to assemble the components like a pro, one easy-to-follow step at a time.
And just to keep the whole thing good and honest, we stopped by our local Best Buy and bought the best comparably priced system they had, which we pitted against our ultra-budget machine in a steel-cage match to the death. Want to see who wins? Read on to find out.
A lot has happened in the last 12 months. At the start of the year, iTunes was still peddling DRM, Yahoo and Microsoft were at bitter odds over the latter’s takeover attempts, Nvidia had the fastest consumer videocard, and the ”cloud” was still a burgeoning concept. Oh, how times have changed. Follow along as we relive and reflect upon some of the most memorable moments, products, and people to impact computer users over the last year.
What was your favorite tech product or event or 2009? Let us know in the comments!
A new computer is like a blank state--there's a lot of potential there, but without some work on your part, it's useless. It's not hard to get started, but there are some essential first steps that everyone should follow when breaking in their new PC. In this guide, we've compiled a step-by-step list of essential tips, tricks and advice from many of our other features, to provide you with just the information you need to get off to a great start with any new PC.
So if you got a new rig under the PC under the tree this year, or even if you're just thinking about getting one in the future, read on to find out more!
It's the holiday season, the time for giving and receiving gifts. If one of those gifts turns out to be a netbook--an inexpensive, ultraportable notebook computer--then you've got some work ahead of you. To get the most out of your new netbook, there are a number of tweaks and upgrades you'll want to perform. In this netbook starter guide, we show you 10 essential things you should do after powering up your system for the first time. This checklist will save you from worrisome troubleshooting in the future and ensure that you make the most out of your portable companion computer.
Read on and find out how you can get more out of your littlest computer.
This holiday, you pull the wraps off a brand new laptop and open the lid to your shiny new mobile companion. The first thought you might have is to consider which apps you should install first and what's the fastest way to load the up the hard disk with music and movies. Of course, you inevitably have to think about your old laptop, and what price you can sell it for on Craigslist. But before you dump an old laptop or retire it to the den of forgotten gadgets, here are eight practical ideas on how you can extend its life.
The Windows ecosystem is filled with more programs than we will ever need. But while you know to install essential programs like Firefox and Steam onto every new PC, there are plenty of core utilities you should install before downloading any application software.
We pick out the 33 most useful utilities that enhance the Windows operating system. These aren't apps used for productivity (like word processing or web browsing) or entertainment (like video playback or gaming). Instead, they strengthen the backbone of Windows by optimizing hardware and system software. From single-purpose diagnostic tools to user-interface replacements, these programs provide general support to overhaul the gestalt of the Windows experience.
Think you have every utility to bend Windows to your wishes? You'd be surprised!
This week's edition of the Freeware Files may seem a little unusual, but hear me out. A number of you faithful Freeware Files readers are going to be receiving (or have received) awesome gifts from Santa/your parents/Best Buy this holiday season. Trust me--I checked the list myself. Caught up in the frenzy of new toys, phones, and gaming devices to play with, you've probably neglected your poor ol' PC for the time being.
A number of the goodies you're playing with actually have unique little third-party tricks for interfacing directly with your desktop or laptop. Yes, that's right. You can actually use the non-computer components and devices from your living room or pocket to enhance your normal PC use. And these aren't just little remote desktop hacks that let you see your PC's screen on your phone or something. I'm talking about hacks that blur the line between your PC and your game controllers or phones, unlocking new usefulness for your desktop system with devices that are anything but.
So, if you're the proud owner of one of these products, click the jump and see how you can use them to enhance your PC experience:
Although USB flash drives have become the most popular way to transport project files between systems, you're probably looking for a cheaper way to distribute presentations, music, photo, or video compilations. For these jobs and others, creating a CD or DVD make more sense. However, there's plenty of confusion at home and the office when it comes to what media to choose and how to write your files.
Read on to discover our ultimate guide to CD and DVD media, burn strategies, and freeware CD and DVD burning programs.
PC gaming isn't dead, and you know it. Just take a look at the new games available on Steam or populating the shelves at Target. The sheer number of excellent PC games released this holiday season is a testament to the strength of the platform. From high-profile blockbusters like Batman: Arkham Asylum to critical darlings like Torchlight, there's no shortage of quality content to keep you gaming through the new year. We pick out 22 of the best PC games you can buy right now (many of them already discounted as a part of holiday deals), and spotlight several indie gems that cost under $10. We also name 8 highly-anticipated games coming out in the first part of 2010.
Read on for proof that PC gaming still has a lot of fight left in it. And be sure to let us know what your favorite PC games of 2009 have been, what you've bought this holiday season, and what you're looking forward to as well!
Downloading video isn't rocket science, but it sure can feel that way sometimes. First, you have to figure out what kind of video it is you're trying to snag from cyberspace. Then there's the question of what to do with it once you've downloaded the clip to your hard drive. And that's assuming you even got that far, fetching Flash-based content isn't as simple as mashing a 'download' button, nor will it play in Windows Media Player. In fact, there's' a good chance the video you downloaded won't play on your portable device, either.
The underlying problem with video playback is there isn't a single universal standard. There are as many file containers as there are handheld digital devices, and don't even get us started on codecs.
Is this all starting to sound foreign to you? Don't worry if it is, on the following the pages we're going to show you the ins and outs of video playback. We'll start with the basics, like explaining what a file container is and why it matters, and then move on to more advanced topics, such as how to convert just about any video clip into a format that's compatible with your mobile device. We'll also show you how to handle subtitles, enable GPU Flash acceleration, and a whole lot more.