If you haven't noticed, we've been providing a lot of holiday shopping advice for the computer geeks of the world this week. So far, we've covered most of the major components: motherboards, memory, graphics cards, displays, and power supplies and cases. We still have a few component guides remaining, but plenty of people would just as soon avoid dealing with the hassle and instead purchase a prebuilt system. There's nothing wrong with doing that, and in some cases you can actually get a reasonable system for less money than it would cost to build the same system on your own (although without some of the upgradability and/or quality). So that's the topic for this article.
One question some of you are inevitably asking is: why all these holiday shopping guides when Christmas is less than a week away? Should we have posted these earlier in the month? Certainly we won't dispute that earlier might have been better, but it's also important to remember that holiday shopping doesn't end with Christmas. Plenty of people will get cash and will be looking for a good deal after Christmas, and there's no reason why you can't try to return that ugly sweater to Wal-Mart and trade it in for a game or some computer hardware instead.
Keep in mind that all of the pricing we discuss in this article is at the time of writing, and around the holidays it's not unusual to see a ton of flux as sales come and go. Don't be afraid to shop around, as we can pretty much guarantee that someone is going to come out with a better price/performance system than some of our choices; it's the nature of the beast. And if you would just as soon put together a system yourself, don't worry -- we will have a guide tailored towards system builders in the near future.
Today, we are going to be looking at four different options: an entry-level system, a midrange system, a high-end system, and a small form factor system. We searched around at some of the major OEMs as well as the smaller system builders and have come up with a pared down list of candidates. We certainly aren't going to try and pretend that these are the only four system builders worth consulting, but instead we provide these as a baseline of what you might look for in the market and what you can expect to pay. Customer service, support, and system warranty are all factors to consider as well, so look at some of the company reviews available online before taking the plunge.
And with that out of the way, let's begin by looking at entry-level system.