Mouse: Logitech MX310
Current Cost: $24
Consecutive Guides: 10
Price Change: $0
This is another area that we keep looking at each and every update, hoping to see another gaming mouse sink below the $30 threshold. Unfortunately, none have taken the plunge, and we're left with the very capable, if aging, Logitech MX310. It is a quality unit, but there is also very little in the $25 price range that stacks up, especially when it comes to the extra buttons that gamers find very useful. The Logitech MX310 represents a top-end mouse from a previous generation, which is usually a good sign for bargain hunters. The MX310 is a value-priced corded model with both USB and PS/2 support, and it features the very capable Logitech MX Optical Engine.
The Logitech MX310 was once the flagship of the Logitech gaming mouse line, and it continues to stack up very well at this price range. Its design offers a silver-black outer shell, utilizing the standard 3-button + scroll wheel design, with extra Back/Forward buttons on either side of the mouse. This model also features an application switch button on the top of the mouse, which emulates the Alt-Tab function. This translates into six programmable buttons, all in a format that is perfect for either right or left-handed gamers. The specifications are also nice, with image processing of 4.7 megapixels/sec. and a scanning resolution of 800 dpi, which is almost on par with a Logitech MX510 mouse.
* The type of mousing surface is the only real point to keep in mind, as some surfaces (such as clear glass) may cause the mouse's optical eye to "jump" if moved quickly.
Microsoft Multimedia Keyboard
Current Cost: $15
Consecutive Guides: 3
Price Change: $0
A keyboard is a very personal item, especially for gaming use, and we can only offer a very basic recommendation to get you started. It is best to test a few models out at a local store, and then decide which one is the right fit for you. Our default choice is the Microsoft Digital Media Pro Keyboard, which offers an exceptional value for approximately $15, and is one of the better entry-level keyboards out there. It has all the basics, along with some extras like multimedia keys, launch buttons, and even a zoom slider for desktop work. But at this price, just be glad it's a name brand keyboard that looks good.
Operating system: Windows XP Home or Windows Vista Home Basic
Current Cost: $82
Consecutive Guides: 4
Price Change: +$2
Although Vista is the operating system of choice for many, and MS has already decided on a date to halt Windows XP sales, we realize that many users are adamantly opposed to the Vista steamroller. This is most prevalent in the gamer community, so we're continuing to be flexible where the operating system is concerned. On the other hand, many prefer the updated user interface, and we all know the latest DirectX 10 games will be tuned for Vista.
Choosing the right operating system is a very difficult (and personal) decision, so it's probably one best left to the end user. We're offering up both Windows XP Home SP2/SP3 and Windows Vista Home Basic as potential solutions, and while lacking some of the bells and whistles of their big brothers, these are the only Microsoft OS versions that fit our budget.
The approximate $82 street price represents the cost of a licensed OEM Windows CD or DVD, and not the boxed retail version. This means that in order to get the lower-priced OEM deal, you'll have to buy the Windows CD with your new system or get it bundled together with one of the individual hardware purchases. If you forget, remember that the retail version will cost significantly more, so don't blame us when you have to hit your local Best Buy and pay quite a bit more than the OEM CD price.
Name Brand Floppy
Current Cost: $0
We've taken our reader's advice and scrapped the floppy from our main guide. This not only embraces the future of PC design, but also saves us a few bucks into the bargain.
Of course, this is a guideline only, and for those who will feel more comfortable with a floppy drive, just slap down $8 and buy a basic name brand (Panasonic, Sony, TEAC, etc.) and be done with it.