Gaming Workhorse February 2011

While our Enthusiast Overclocker system is designed to get maximum performance on a reasonable budget, you’ll have to step up the hardware scale to get excellent all-round performance. With about a grand to spend, you can build yourself an enviable PC that can take heavy gaming at 1,920 x 1,080, and is capable of processing a heap of RAW images or encoding video or audio pretty quickly.

 Gaming Workhorse
 ProductUK Price (inc VAT)US Price (ex tax)
CPU3.3GHz Intel Core i5-2500K£180$230
MotherboardAsus P8P67£120$190
Memory4GB 1,600MHz DDR3£45$45
Graphics CardMSI N560GTX-Ti Twin Frozr II/OC£200$250
PSUAntec TruePower New 650W£60$90
CPU CoolerThermaltake Frio£40$60
Case (UK)Fractal Design Define R3£80-
Case (US)Silverstone Raven RV02-$180
Optical driveSATA DVD-RW£15$20
Storage (HDD)1TB Samsung SpinPoint F3£45$70
Storage (SSD)64GB Crucial RealSSD C300£90$180
Sound CardAsus Xonar DS£40$60
 Overall Price:£915$1,375

New This Month

We’ll repeat here what we said about the Enthusiast Overclocker build - the Intel Core i5-2500K and the Asus P8P67 that we’re recommending in the build above come with a massive caveat. This is due to the well publicised problems with the P67 and H67 chipsets that affect the SATA ports provided by the chipset. Intel is in the middle of a massive replacement operation right now, so it’s only worth investing in a Sandy Bridge board if you either don’t plan on using the SATA ports (i.e. you’re planning to purchase HighPoint Rocket card) or you’re happy buying from a retailer who has guaranteed that boards bought now will still be under warranty, such as Scan.

That said, we highly recommend holding off with your purchases until the picture becomes a little clearer. If you do go ahead with a purchase, though, we certainly recommend running regular backups to ensure your data is safe.

PC Hardware Buyer's Guide February 2011 Gaming Workhorse February 2011

The other, slightly more cheerful addition to the build, is the MSI N560GTX-Ti Twin Frozr II/OC 1GB. This is a pre-overclocked and custom cooled Nvidia GeForce GTX 560 Ti 1GB, which is currently retailing for almost exactly the same price as stock models of the card. This makes the card great value, especially when you consider that its overclock enables it to compete very closely with a stock Nvidia GeForce GTX 570 1.3GB; a card which currently retails for around £280. In fact, only those who own a 30in monitor should consider stepping up to anything more expensive.

And The Rest

One of our favourite parts of this build is the 64GB Crucial RealSSD C300 solid state drive. If you’ve never had the chance to play about on an SSD-equipped rig then you’re missing out. Installing Windows 7 on an SSD gives the OS a level of pop and responsiveness that really makes a difference to everyday tasks, and 64GB offers enough space for a few games too. You could drop this component if you’d like to knock £90 quid off the build, but it’s something we really recommend keeping.

Meanwhile, the case we recommend changes depending on the side of the Atlantic on which you reside. For those of you in the UK and Europe, we’ve listed the beautifully elegant Fractal Design R3. The case does a great job of keeping even the most powerful components quiet and we like its quietly understated looks.

PC Hardware Buyer's Guide February 2011 Gaming Workhorse February 2011

However, those of you reading this from the US can’t get a hold of any of Fractal Design’s products yet, so we’ve added in the SilverStone Raven RV02. This is an ace air-cooling case that even outstrips the Define R3 in terms of pure cooling, but it’s a fair whack more expensive now that SilverStone has stared shipping the case with its excellent Air Penetrator fans.

As we previously stated, we like having 4GB of memory in our PCs, and we’ve chosen 1,600MHz DDR3 for this PC. This is currently the sweet spot in the memory market, as these kits are particularly affordable at the moment. Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about memory straps and Base Clock ratios if you’re buying a LGA1155 based system as nearly all overclocking is carried out via the CPU multiplier.

This means that all you need to do to make sure your RAM is running at its full rated speed is to drop into the EFI and select the 16x memory strap in the relevant menu. If you’re unsure of where to find this menu in the EFI, you can check out our i5-2500K overclocking guide.

If you're into your gaming audio, then the Asus Xonar Xense card-and-headset bundle might be of interest for this system too. It's finally on sale, and for less than £200, making it well worth a look if you're serious about gaming audio.

The CPU cooler we’ve chosen is the Thermaltake Frio, which blasted through our thermal benchmarks. With both its fans installed it's one of the best coolers we’ve ever seen, although it could be considered a little loud so it’s also worth considering the Gelid Tranquillo which, when combined with the R3 case, will make for a whisper-quiet but potent PC.

We’ve also listed the brilliant Antec TruePower New 650W PSU, a 1TB Samsung SpinPoint F3 hard disk and a cheap SATA DVD drive. We've added an Asus Xonar DS sound card as well , in order to avoid conflicts with the Realtek audio codec of the motherboard and enhance the sound generally.

If you haven't got a copy already, you might want to factor in a copy of Windows 7 - if you're confident that you won't be upgrading much, then an OEM copy should be fine, but serial upgraders need the pricier retail version.
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