$600? Gaming PC?
$600 will, at best, get you a budget PC w/ moderate gaming capability.
If you're on a tight budget, sure you can get away with it. But your computer will be obsolete much faster, and the overall return on your investment goes down. You can get just past the $1000 before serious diminishing marginal returns kick in (google the term if you're not familiar with it). I actually just finished teaching a unit (I teach high school computer studies) on building a PC, and one of the things the class built was a gaming PC.
IMO, parts costs are in the following ranges:
I disagree with a lot of this. Americans, note that I'm using Canadian prices, so USD will usually be about 15% less.
CPU $200 for a Core i5 or AMD equivalent. Nothing in a quad core will be under $175, and buying a dual core now with more and more developers supporting quad-core processing is just asking for your computer to run next-gen games slowly.
$200 is a good place (i5 750 or Phenom II X4 965) but hardly essential. For $130 you can get an i3 530 or an Athlon II X4 635. Games are barely using two cores at this point, so by the time you really need four cores those $200 processors will be junk. (The X4 635 actually is a four-core processor, but it's no better for gaming than the i3 530).
Motherboard $150 - for a decent motherboard with decent on-board sound, the right socket for the quad core CPU above, and a reasonably full feature set. Nothing bottlenecks a PC like a cheap motherboard.
If you're going with AMD, you can get a top-brand motherboard with every feature you need (AM3 socket, DDR3 support, plenty of ports and connectors) for about $100. For Intel (socket 1156) it's more like $130. If you want a little more future proofing, add $30 to each of those for boards with USB 3.0 and SATA 6 GB/s.
RAM $150 - 4 GB of quality DDR3. Pretty simple. 2GB is not enough for gaming any more. If you're buying a PC that supports DDR2, you're buying a slow PC.
Agreed on the recommendation, but you can get 4 gigs of DDR3 for more like $100. I think RAM might have jumped in price again lately, so it could be more like $115.
PSU $100+ - I strongly urge people not to cheap out on PSUs. They need to provide uninterrupted, clean power to your PC. More importantly, though, better PSUs will save you a LOT of electricity. With power costs rising, and more and more pressure to be environmentally responsible, a $60 PSU will be anti-green
Agreed there. The main thing to worry about is your PSU frying and taking out something else with it. Keep the $100 price point in mind and look for something 80+ certified (>80% efficient). But time it right and with sales or mail-in rebates you can probably grab a nice one for $50-70.
Graphics Card $200 - This is the most important component of a gaming system. There are decent cards in the $150 range, but you'll lose framerates over a $200 card. Currently for $200 you can get a 216 core GTX260 1800MB card, or (and I might not be remembering the model right) the Radeon 5750 1GB. Both are a LOT better than any $150 card.
The HD 5750 actually is a $150 card, but it's a bit on the low end of what I'd go for. You might have been thinking of the 5770, which is a better starting point at $170-190. It's not an amazingly powerful card, but the next step up is overpriced (5830, only slightly more powerful at $250) and the next good value (5850, much more powerful at $320) is twice the price.
NVidia is hardly worth mentioning right now, unfortunately. Old technology, no DX11, poorer price:performance ratio.
If you don't mind an old card, the HD 4870, which someone else mentioned, is another possibility. Cheaper than the 5770 and more powerful. No DX11, but FFXIV won't support that anyway and by the time you really want it there will be much better cards available.
So if we figure $130 for processor, $115 for mobo, $115 for RAM, $80 for PSU, and $180 for video card, we come to something like $620. That's still lacking a case, HDD, monitor, etc., but ****, dig those out of your junk pile or something.
PC game graphics haven't kept up with hardware advances over the last three years. This system will play just about any game out now or on the horizon (Crysis being an exception, but it would still be quite playable) with full settings and 1080p resolution and hardly ever dip below 50 fps. Plenty of less demanding new games like Batman: AA will run at close to 100 fps. Considering the human eye tops out somewhere around 60 fps, that's a pretty good deal.
The machine won't last forever, but since the console and PC markets are so closely tied these days, we're not going to see much of a spec jump in PC games until about 2012 when the new consoles launch. That gives you two years of top performance even if you upgrade at the earliest opportunity.