Occasionally, I put together ridiculously expensive "dream" systems—computers worth as much as a car that feature multiple high-end CPUs, dozens of terabytes of storage, exotic cooling solutions, or enough GPUs to run flight simulators on five monitors at high framerates. These computers are a real treat to build, but they are not at all mainstream. While others have different ideas about what constitutes the upper end of the mainstream DIY PC market, generally speaking, $2000 represents a reasonable threshold. Past this point, returns for increased investment decrease very rapidly, such that they are justified only by niche use—or glorious indulgence.

In our recent midrange buyer's guide, I outlined three systems: a less expensive general use system capable of lighter gaming, a $1000 gaming box, and a $1200 work-oriented PC. In this guide, I detail three more systems, each around $2000 in cost. First up is a $1900 small form factor (SFF) home theater PC (HTPC). If it weren't for the anomalously high prices of hard drives at the moment (and for the near term future), this system would be much less expensive. However, high hard drive prices are a reality, and thus, this HTPC is now at the high end of mainstream PCs. Second, we have an $1800 gamer that is substantially more capable than the $1000 gamer in the midrange guide. Finally, because we eschew the fastest GPUs, we're able to bring you a productivity PC that features a higher-than-mainstream CPU—the less expensive of Intel's newest six-core Sandy Bridge-E chips.

In the midrange buyer's guide, I emphasized my confidence that those systems will likely remain enjoyable to use through 2016 for a number of reasons. The systems outlined in this guide are even more powerful. While I hesitate to speculate about the computing world past 2016, but I am confident that the three computers detailed in this guide will probably remain relatively capable for another five years—delivering more than acceptable and even enjoyable experiences. If you buy at the high end, there's probably a reason for it, so very likely you'll upgrade before five years have passed. Even so, with computer performance requirements leveling out, you can always sell a still-fast PC or give it to a friend/family member.

Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind when designing and building a $2000 PC is to have fun and enjoy it! Any reasonable enthusiast would be more than happy to use any of the systems outlined in this guide. So without further ado, the next page starts with a system that packs a powerful CPU and lots of storage space into a small chassis.

$1900 SFF HTPC
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  • ckryan - Friday, December 9, 2011 - link

    I really like the upscale HTPC build. I've been wanting an InfiniTV quad for quite some time now, but I've been told it won't work well with my cable provider (by one of their technicians).

    I like that all the systems have SSDs (M4s and Samsung 830s). The new Marvel controlled drives with Toshiba toggle NAND have a healthy increase in speed over the Marvel-equipped M4 and it's 25nm Micron *AAB sync NAND. The Corsair undercuts the M4 in price at the 128GB level, but the M4 seems to have gone up in price recently. The Samsung 830 is similarly fast, and I got a free copy of Arkham City with mine.
  • A5 - Friday, December 9, 2011 - link

    Unless your provider doesn't issue Multistream CableCards, the Ceton will work fine with any system.
  • konroh - Friday, December 9, 2011 - link

    As an alternative to the Ceton, consider the HD Homerun Prime from Silicondust (http://www.silicondust.com/products/hdhomerun/prim... I have one and love it, every machine (with windows 7 MC) on my network can tune and record cable. It was a little buggy at first but with the latest firmware it's been solid.
  • konroh - Friday, December 9, 2011 - link

    broken link:
  • QChronoD - Friday, December 9, 2011 - link

    The technician was lying to you.

    "Cable companies in the United States are required to provide CableCARDs conforming to this specification, and must correct incompatibilities between their networks and certified CableCARD devices." - from wiki about cablecards

    You will lose some features that the cablebox provides, namely VOD and their guide data and oh-so-lovely GUI.
  • mdlam - Friday, December 9, 2011 - link

    WD 2tb Green for $98 at Datavas.com = win.
  • sna1970 - Friday, December 9, 2011 - link


    X79 is supposed to be quad channel memory ... you should add 4x4G there not 2x4
  • JarredWalton - Friday, December 9, 2011 - link

    It's two kits of 2x4GB, which is why it says "(2) Crucial 8GB...."
  • chrone - Friday, December 9, 2011 - link

    the board only have 4 dimm slots dude. Zach already posted that he had choosen 2 8gb kit in the above specs (2 x 2 x 4gb ~ 4 x 4gb). :D
  • MrCrispy - Friday, December 9, 2011 - link

    I recently built the following -

    Asus P8Z68-V LX
    Corsair H80
    Seasonic X760
    Fractal R3
    16GB Ripjaws X

    I feel really good about my choices now :) Haven't bought a video card, I can wait till the 7000 series debuts. Already have an old ssd and optical. The whole thing only cost me $640 incl tax+ship, no rebates involved, thanks to all the BF deals. I have a $200 budget for a video card (new or refurb) and it should be plenty.

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