Even though I'm planning to get a whole new machine, I do not want to buy an off-the-shelf box from a major chain. The one experience we've had with that (getting an NEC from CompUSA) was bad.
I'm assuming that buying parts and building it will be the cheapest route. I should probably check that assumption once I know what I'm building. There is a local store that will assemble machines to spec, too, so if it turns out the price difference is small, I met yet go that way.
Anyway, I'm posting this to ask advice from all my techie friends. I don't want to get a top-of-the-line machine, but I do want a machine that will still meet minimum specs on most new games two years from now. (My current computer has lasted me three years, so I don't think that's unrealistic). These are the things I want to know:
1) Brands and parts to avoid or look for. What experiences have you had with, say, AMD CPUs or Voodoo video cards? What're the best values? What looks like a good value but is really a total dog? Etc.
2) Companies to avoid or use. If you've had a good or bad experience with buying from a particular chain, online store, or mail-order place, that'd be helpful to know.
3) Any other useful advice. :)