These are some really interesting results here and we are able to get a fantastic idea of what exactly a $599 US Gaming PC can offer us. I personally don't think NVIDIA was throwing the term loosely around, because it's clear that in something like Mafia II we're able to get that 60 FPS we aim for, making sure game play is silky smooth.
From what we tested here today we know exactly how the system is going to perform in a wide range of games. You're going to see older stuff like Street Fighter IV and non-intensive games like Portal 2 run exceptionally well with higher resolutions or maybe even AA not being an issue.
At that middle of the road area with games like Mafia II, Far Cry 2 and Batman AA you're going to see strong performance at 1680 x 1050, but 1920 x 1200 being a bit of hit and miss.
Of course, when we start to get into really intensive games that are heavy on detail like Lost Planet 2 and Aliens vs. Predator, the system is going to struggle. The thing is if we remove the video card, we've got a fantastic base for our system.
Budget permitting, the way I would head from this system is to move to a faster HDD; something like a Western Digital 1TB Black. It's about $28 US more over the Green, but is overall faster and offers a 5 year warranty.
If you could stretch your budget to maybe around the $700 US mark, I'd make the move to a single 8GB kit. I would actually stay at 1600MHz DDR, though, just because the kit would be an extra $50 at $99 versus an extra $150 at $199 for a 2133MHz kit.
So if you want to spend around $700, that's where I would go. If you want to move to $800, I'd do just as we said, but replace the GTX 550 Ti with a GTX 560 Ti. And if you want to spend even more money again, you would just start to move your video card north along with your CPU.
As soon as you got to around GTX 570 / HD 6950 performance I would suggest making the move to a 2500k. More money again and you can add an SSD into the mix and as you are willing to spend more and more you can go SLI, CrossFire, RAID 0, bigger PSU, fancier motherboard etc. etc. until you get to the point you're dropping $4k on a system.
In the end, though, what it all comes down to is that for around $599 you're able to get a PC that will perform strong in games that are graphically middle to top end at 1680 x 1050. Games at the top of the graphic pyramid are going to struggle without major detail or resolution drops. If you're only a weekend gamer or just enjoy playing some Steam games with your friends, it's safe to say that $599 is really going to build you a great little box.
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