Systems based on the BTX form factor are a rarity, primarily because only Intel motherboards are available in this form factor, and there aren't many of them out there. BTX was introduced by Intel to improve system cooling. In this form factor the CPU is situated near the front of the case, where a case fan feeds cool air across it and through the rest of the system.
Altech's Sputnik is the latest system to use the BTX form factor and its inclusion in our Best Buys is due to its competitive price and decent performance. We also love the fact that it comes with two 250GB Samsung hard drives installed in a RAID 0 array. Its 500GB of total space is the most we have seen in a sub-$2000 machine and it's perfect for those of you who like video editing. To facilitate video editing, the machine does have FireWire ports in addition to numerous USB 2.0 ports and Gigabit Ethernet.
A Pentium 4 630 CPU is installed, along with 1GB of RAM, which will give you decent straight-line speed for working with office applications and encoding media files (it took 2m28s to encode 53 minutes worth of wave files to 192Kbps MP3 files) and its GeForce 6600GT graphics adapter will let you play a few games on it, too. Altech ships the machine with a double-layer DVD burner and decent input peripherals, as well as a 17in Samsung LCD monitor, but omits a media card reader. The machine's build quality is sturdy and the cable management is neat, but the hard drives are in a position where they can not be cooled by the main system fan.
Verdict: If you don't mind the BTX case, which won't let you easily upgrade your motherboard in the future, then this system is worth considering.
Specifications: Windows XP Home, Intel Pentium 4 630 CPU, Intel 945 chipset, GeForce 6600GT graphics adapter, 1GB RAM, 2 x 250GB SATA hard drives, DVD burner, 17in LCD monitor, 6 x USB 2.0 ports, 2 x FireWire, Gigabit Ethernet, 4 x 3.5in drives, 2 x 5.25in drives.