a small-form-factor box could work, too. Any PC should be tool-free and provide easy interior access, and all of the components should be easily removable. The interior cables should be routed neatly and allow easy part-swapping, which is why the nonmodular power supply in the Velocity Micro Raptor 64 DualX
Features: We tie value into all of the subratings, but here most heavily. A 10 requires a harmonious, stable config that overachieves. If the PC is marketed for a certain task, it should go beyond just getting you started. A $5,000 system should have the latest of everything, and its competitors should be more expensive. A budget PC would need one or more parts beyond those of other vendors for the same price. The iBuyPower Value-Pro
we reviewed last year (at the time, a $999 system) earned a 9. A better software package and better speakers might have earned it a 10.
Performance: A 10 beats all of the other systems in its category. If a $5,000-plus PC isn't setting benchmark records, there's already a problem (but it can't be too pricey, which is why the Overdrive Torque PC SLI
got a 9 last summer).
Service and support: To get a 10 in service and support, a PC needs at least three years of warranty coverage, 24/7 toll-free technical support, free onsite service for at least a year (probably more), a system-specific manual, system-specific driver downloads, online tech chat, and so on. Basically, we're looking for a combination of parts from all the various support policies out there, rolled into one monster package. And it should be included in the default price of the system.
All said, we don't ever expect to rate a PC as a 10. We'd love it if we could, but our bar is set pretty high. I should also add that last year we toughened our ratings scale. What we like to say around here now is that "7.0 is the new 8.0." So, any system reviewed in the last year that's a 7.0 or above will do you right, and if you have a specific need, sometimes even a system with a 6.0 could fit the bill.