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PC Hardware Buyer's Guide, January 2011

Posted on 19th Jan 2011 at 11:05 by bit-tech Staff with 55 comments

bit-tech Staff
As you can probably tell from the format of this article, we won’t be publishing our usual buyer's guide for the month of January. This is largely because there's a heck of a lot of cool stuff around the corner, and if we put something up this week it will be out of date by next week anyway.

At the top of this list is a not-so-secret graphics card launch that we’re expecting early next week, which promises to make most cards in the £150 to £220 price bracket seem utterly archaic. Add to this the pile of new LGA1155 motherboards that are currently taking over our labs, and it's clearly premature to recommend anything concrete right now.

That said, we don’t want to leave you totally in the dark, so below is the system we would build right now if you put a gun to our collective head. The core of the PC consists of the mind bendingly overclockable Intel Core i5 2500K seated in the excellent Asus P8P67 motherboard. This combination will keep just about everyone happy, but if you simply have to get a dual-GPU setup, then you should opt for the Pro version of the P8P67 or the MSI P67A-GD65, both of which support SLI and Crossfire.

We’ve also answered the question of graphics with the GeForce GTX 460 1GB. These cards can be had for just a smidgen over £130 at the moment, which is a steal for a card that can play most modern games at up to 1,920 x 1,200. However, if you’re desperate for more gaming grunt, then swapping this out for a GeForce GTX 570 1.3GB will do you proud.

Meanwhile, we’ve used a Gelid Tranquillo cooler to tame our 2500K CPU. Of course, you could opt for something a little flashier, but LGA1155 CPUs put out relatively little heat, so it’s not absolutely necessary. The case we’ve chosen is the Xigmatek Utgard, as it has great build-quality and a and a well-rounded feature set for an affordable price. However, if you’d like something a little more distinctive or specialised, perhaps for a large water-cooling system, then there are plenty of other options to consider. Other good cases on offer include the Silverstone FT02 and RV02, the Fractal Design Define R3 and the Cooler Master HAF 912.

As for the rest of the kit, we’ve added a healthy 1TB of storage to the build, along with 4GB of branded 1,600MHz DDR3 and a standard SATA DVD-RW optical drive. You could, of course, also complement the 1TB disk with an SSD if you’ve got the budget for it. If so, we recommend the C300 range of drives from Crucial.

PC Hardware Buyer's Guide, January 2011 PC Hardware Buyers Guide, January 2010

We hope you'll agree that getting a fully-fledged Sandy Bridge system for a shade under £700 is pretty reasonable, especially when you consider that the build will offer performance near to an LGA1366-based system.

We'll be back to our normal monthly buyer's guide at the start of February, so check back then or ask in the forums if the above build doesn't quite match your needs.

55 Comments

Discuss in the forums Reply
mobius 19th January 2011, 11:12 Quote
Presumably you mean January 2011? ;)
arcticstoat 19th January 2011, 11:14 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by mobius
Presumably you mean January 2011? ;)

Oh damn, you got in just before I fixed that!
mclean007 19th January 2011, 11:20 Quote
Nice, but - as you say - buying a new rig now rather than waiting a week would be pretty foolish, tempting though it is to get stuck in to Sandy Bridge.
smugboy 19th January 2011, 11:31 Quote
Built pretty much this exact system at the weekend (carried over the GFX card, HD, and a few other bits). I love it but a couple of niggles:

1) Removable Utgard hard drive cage is pig. Quite tricky to get the HD in (think keyhole surgery to screw HD in), but more importantly the HD cage conflicts with the edge mounted SATA ports of theP8P67 mobo. This means that you can't install / remove the hard drive without removing the mobo (and guess what I put the mobo in the case before the HD). Don't think I was doing anything wrong, but maybe I missed a trick

2) Shipping BIOS for this mobo (0402) is a bit rough. For example didn't want to let me install Win 7 on the 1T Samsung F3 (new UEFI partition structure). THere is a work around. Also seems to want to run my 2*4Gb Corsair RAM at 1066 rather than the rated 1600. Need to play with the BIOS/UEFI, as I guess there is an answer there, but plan on a BIOS flash instead/first.

This said though 2500K @ 4GHz (for now) + GTX 460 1GB + the rest of this shiny stuff is a really nice PC. My OC'd C2D is now out to pasture.
eddtox 19th January 2011, 11:35 Quote
What is this new graphics card release I hear you mention? I'm going to need one very soon
Mitcian 19th January 2011, 11:44 Quote
God damn SIMLINKS! I hate thee!
memeroot 19th January 2011, 11:50 Quote
the 560 against 570 580 question is one we all want answered.....

will 560>570?

sounds stupid but I think it will
Xir 19th January 2011, 12:15 Quote
I only wonder about the 4GB memory, i've read fiery pleads for more from your staff.

Otherwise, well, we'll have to wait once more. I'd have kicked myself if I'd have bought a i/-950 system one week before sandybridge. :D

I don't suppose the "new to be announced card" will move to top-end graphics, but we'll see.
Also, I'm looking forwards to a ton of MoBo tests
sp4nky 19th January 2011, 12:27 Quote
December's Buyer's Guide was cancelled because we were waiting for the Sandy Bridge info. January's is cancelled because of an impending release of a graphics card.

What's February's guide going to be cancelled for? A super new motherboard that gives a 5% increase/decrease in performance/energy use?
Xir 19th January 2011, 12:36 Quote
Well, if you're waiting for peace and quiet, wait till 6-8 weeks after CeBit :D
May-June is usually the quiet area hardwarewise
smugboy 19th January 2011, 12:36 Quote
Like Xir I would love to here Bit-tech's (who I respect) view on 4Gb vs. more. I read an article in Tomshardware (who I don't really trust), saying that more makes a big difference (although not measurable in FPs), and went for 8Gb in my Sandybridge upgrade.

Like sp4nky, I am always nervous of the delay strategy (always something better around the corner in PC tech), but I'm glad I waited a couple of months for Sandy Bridge - I nearly bought a i5 760 ~Nov. I also wouldn't buy a GTX 460 now, so I was glad that I upgraded this seperately when it came out, and had one to carry over to my new build. Phased upgrade may be the answer vs. waiting for all the stars to align (i.e. all the cool new components to come through together). Used in this way regular Hardware guides are really useful.
Denis_iii 19th January 2011, 12:42 Quote
"which promises to make most cards in the £150 to £220 price bracket seem utterly archaic" , do you mean the Geforce GTX 560?
Ljs 19th January 2011, 12:47 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by smugboy
Like Xir I would love to here Bit-tech's (who I respect) view on 4Gb vs. more. I read an article in Tomshardware (who I don't really trust), saying that more makes a big difference (although not measurable in FPs), and went for 8Gb in my Sandybridge upgrade.

Maybe you missed this article?
CAT-THE-FIFTH 19th January 2011, 12:53 Quote
You do realise you have linked to GTX460SE which has only 288 shaders unlike the normal GTX460 1GB.

Both the GTX460 1GB and HD6850 1GB can be had for around the same price it seems(around the £130 mark).
smugboy 19th January 2011, 12:59 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ljs
Quote:
Originally Posted by smugboy
Like Xir I would love to here Bit-tech's (who I respect) view on 4Gb vs. more. I read an article in Tomshardware (who I don't really trust), saying that more makes a big difference (although not measurable in FPs), and went for 8Gb in my Sandybridge upgrade.

Maybe you missed this article?

I had skimmed that article, but it seems more about speed than size of memory. The last line says >4Gb if heavy multitasking, but the Tomshardware article talked about other benefits, e.g. general smoothness, GFX memory is better fed leading to less HD driven stutters and objects appearing in view at longer distances rather than popping up when you get close.
Pete J 19th January 2011, 13:01 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by eddtox
What is this new graphics card release I hear you mention? I'm going to need one very soon
That'll be the GTX 560 (Ti)
Quote:
Originally Posted by memeroot
the 560 against 570 580 question is one we all want answered.....

will 560>570?

sounds stupid but I think it will
It can't, simply because there would be no point in the 570! I imagine the 560 will match the 570 when overclocked though.
Quote:
Originally Posted by sp4nky
December's Buyer's Guide was cancelled because we were waiting for the Sandy Bridge info. January's is cancelled because of an impending release of a graphics card.

What's February's guide going to be cancelled for? A super new motherboard that gives a 5% increase/decrease in performance/energy use?
Personally, I think BT are right to hold on for a while; the new tech coming out is quite a change in performance, certainly more than 5% anyway.
Ljs 19th January 2011, 13:06 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by smugboy
I had skimmed that article, but it seems more about speed than size of memory. The last line says >4Gb if heavy multitasking, but the Tomshardware article talked about other benefits, e.g. general smoothness, GFX memory is better fed leading to less HD driven stutters and objects appearing in view at longer distances rather than popping up when you get close.

Ahh I see, I haven't read that article actually - I'll go have a quick flick though it.
Foiseworth 19th January 2011, 13:36 Quote
Whilst I was really wanting to hear you say 'This is what you should now buy on a budget...', I can't fault you for essentially saying 'If you can hold off buying there is going to be game changing stuff around the corner...'
Zurechial 19th January 2011, 14:24 Quote
Whether to hold off or buy now really depends on just how much of an impact those items around the corner are going to have.
When bit-tech tells me to hold off I trust the advice because it's usually due to something signifianct and it hasn't let me down so far.

Since we can safely assume that the 560 release will shake things up in that pricerange, I'm wondering if it's going to affect the higher end market segment.
If people settle on 560s more, will the prices of 570s and 580s come down slightly to make them more attractive, or will nVidia be content to just shift boxes of 560s and keep the 570/580 at premium prices?
McSteel 19th January 2011, 14:53 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zurechial
Whether to hold off or buy now really depends on just how much of an impact those items around the corner are going to have.
When bit-tech tells me to hold off I trust the advice because it's usually due to something signifianct and it hasn't let me down so far.

Since we can safely assume that the 560 release will shake things up in that pricerange, I'm wondering if it's going to affect the higher end market segment.
If people settle on 560s more, will the prices of 570s and 580s come down slightly to make them more attractive, or will nVidia be content to just shift boxes of 560s and keep the 570/580 at premium prices?

Supply vs Demand is what dictates the prices. Even if nVidia decides to keep the price of the GTX570 GPU and the AIB partners follow suit, the retailers will simply stop stocking up, and eventually lower the prices themselves, when the demand goes out the window. Sure, they'll sacrifice profits, but it's better to minimize losses than to be stubborn. In turn, nVidia will have to cave in and either lower the 570 (and maybe 580) prices or introduce something to fill the gap, say, 565.
Scootiep 19th January 2011, 15:14 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by sp4nky
December's Buyer's Guide was cancelled because we were waiting for the Sandy Bridge info. January's is cancelled because of an impending release of a graphics card.

What's February's guide going to be cancelled for? A super new motherboard that gives a 5% increase/decrease in performance/energy use?

THANK YOU!!!!! Seriously Bit-Tech, if you guys put off a buyer's guide every time there's something new around the corner, you're NEVER GOING TO HAVE A BUYERS GUIDE AT ALL. Just publish a "What's best this month" with a disclaimer about what's coming soon. There are people out there who aren't in a position to wait and would like the info. Either that or just postpone your buyer's guides until Quantum Computing becomes a reality and stop f&$king with us.
mjm25 19th January 2011, 15:39 Quote
Skimlinks suck... "A not so secret graphics card launch" i thought there might a be a clue... no, it was a skimlink. suckage.
fingerbob69 19th January 2011, 16:10 Quote
"this list is a not-so-secret graphics card"

An ebay page? Ha ha!

"a not-so-secret graphics card launch ....which promises to make most cards in the £150 to £220 price bracket seem utterly archaic"

BUT WILL IT PLAY CRYSIS? ...and more to the point ...WILL BT TEST IT IN THAT GAME TO PROVE THAT IT CAN ...OR CAN'T???
streetuk 19th January 2011, 16:14 Quote
For the people that don't sit on their PCs 24/7 can you explain what we're actually waiting for and why its worth the wait? Seems like I was waiting for this guide since the beginning of January and that wasn't worth the wait either. Not expecting you to make the PC industry move quicker but do you mind letting us know early on in the month that there isn't going to be a useful buyers guide this month.
streetuk 19th January 2011, 16:18 Quote
Also, why not just release the buyers guide next week when these graphics cards come out?
CAT-THE-FIFTH 19th January 2011, 16:47 Quote
I still see the article is still linking to the GTX460SE 1GB and NOT the GTX460 1GB on Scan.

The GTX460SE,ie, GTX460 Smart Edition has less shaders than a normal GTX460 1GB.
Cyberpower-UK 19th January 2011, 17:07 Quote
I'm confused, do you mean the GTX560Ti, or HD6950 1GB with a BIOS unlock to HD 6970 1GB, all due around the 25th.

I'm seriously tempted by the latter, but then I've always been on the ATi side of the fence.
CAT-THE-FIFTH 19th January 2011, 17:27 Quote
Excellent! The link has been changed now.
javaman 19th January 2011, 18:05 Quote
I liked the way that was laid out, showing options from a base system.
javaman 19th January 2011, 18:14 Quote
Double post
frontline 19th January 2011, 19:24 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cyberpower-UK
I'm confused, do you mean the GTX560Ti, or HD6950 1GB with a BIOS unlock to HD 6970 1GB, all due around the 25th.

I'm seriously tempted by the latter, but then I've always been on the ATi side of the fence.

I could also be tempted by a 560 or 1GB 6970, depending on the price/performance of both.
Star*Dagger 19th January 2011, 20:54 Quote
Thanks for delaying, I think all the EnglishTrolls need to move to a place with more sun, never seen so much complaining about nothing.
streetuk 19th January 2011, 21:31 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Star*Dagger
Thanks for delaying, I think all the EnglishTrolls need to move to a place with more sun, never seen so much complaining about nothing.
You do realise this site is based in the UK? Don't understand how you can call us trolls either, you're basically causing an argument by calling us all trolls. We have the right to post a complaint. All you've done is post something that is irrelevant and is just going to wind people up.
Saivert 19th January 2011, 21:49 Quote
I thought nobody would recommend anything but Corsair HX or AX series PSUs now. and 650W ? isn't that a bit short?
mute1 19th January 2011, 23:21 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Saivert
I thought nobody would recommend anything but Corsair HX or AX series PSUs now. and 650W ? isn't that a bit short?

Nope.
Also, bit-tech were right to delay the guide. The games they've chosen for graphics testing on the other hand........
Phoenixlight 20th January 2011, 07:28 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scootiep
THANK YOU!!!!! Seriously Bit-Tech, if you guys put off a buyer's guide every time there's something new around the corner, you're NEVER GOING TO HAVE A BUYERS GUIDE AT ALL. Just publish a "What's best this month" with a disclaimer about what's coming soon. There are people out there who aren't in a position to wait and would like the info. Either that or just postpone your buyer's guides until Quantum Computing becomes a reality and stop f&$king with us.

I agree this is stupid, instead of waiting for the GTX560 just put a Radeon HD6870 in the build instead.
phuzz 20th January 2011, 08:45 Quote
Or even, given that this is the internets, just update the guide in a couple of weeks with whatever new hotness is about to come out.
(oh, and it's lovely and sunny here near bristol today. Freezing, but sunny.)
Luay 20th January 2011, 13:07 Quote
Love the Sandy Bridge!

Best motherboard so far is the Asrock Extreme 4. 8x8 dual GPU and all the overclocking futures you will need for a price even cheaper than the P8P67. I'm hopeful that you guys will agree. Ultimately I think Intel will dominate the motherboard arena but they are a bit behind schedule for now.
Snips 20th January 2011, 13:28 Quote
I've built my last 3 systems based on Bit-Tech's recommendations.

If you had the money or needs to build a rig now then buy their recommended base unit or go back to November for differing budgets.

If you can wait a couple of weeks then I'm sure you will benefit from it.

SandyBridge appears to be a no brainer, it's just the GFX releases that will be the key and team green appear to be the preferred choice there. Let's wait and see.
Yslen 20th January 2011, 14:44 Quote
I think some people will be disappointed by the 560 when they see the benchmark results... better than a 570? Come on! It's the same Fermi architecture with fewer shaders and slower clock speeds, it won't be faster.

The 480 to 580 upgrade was done by unlocking some SMs and increasing the clocks, leading to a performance increase of about 20%. The same changes made to a 460 will put the 560 somewhere in the gap between the 6850 and the 6870, though closer to the 6850. A 35% increase would put it on par with the 6870, 40% would put it somewhere between the 6950 and the 6970.

I would be surprised to see more than a 30% increase on the 460's performance with what they've done to the card, so the chances are this new card is going to replace the GTX 470, which is old, hot and noisy now. A nice cool, quiet NVidia card is needed around that performance level. The 570 is similar to the 480, so it makes sense that the 560 will match the 470, or more likely beat it a little bit.

As for overclocking, I don't see how the headroom will have increased on the 560 compared to the 460. Yes the 460 could be overclocked by a large percentage, but that's because it had relatively low stock speeds. The 560 starts with higher clock speeds so if they've not done anything significant to the card to change how high it'll clock it's not going to go much beyond what the 460 could do. Based on that, it's possible that while at stock speeds the 560 will beat the 460 by about 30%, it might drop to below 20% when both cards are overclocked.

Time will tell I suppose!
Yslen 20th January 2011, 14:50 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by memeroot
http://www.fudzilla.com/graphics/item/21578-msi-twin-frozr-ii-oc-gtx-560-ti-listed-in-europe

wonder how close to 570 it will get!

Although having seen the price of that perhaps they are aiming for the 6870-6950 gap. It's not a big gap, so fancy versions like this will be between the 6950 and 6970 instead. I'll stick by my 30% performance increase for the stock cards, though perhaps I should be updating that to 35%.
Cyberpower-UK 20th January 2011, 15:03 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by frontline
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cyberpower-UK
I'm confused, do you mean the GTX560Ti, or HD6950 1GB with a BIOS unlock to HD 6970 1GB, all due around the 25th.

I'm seriously tempted by the latter, but then I've always been on the ATi side of the fence.
According to Hardware Cannucks there wont be 6970 1GB, just 6950. In other news AMD just slipped the 6770 and 6750 out, basically 5700 + HDMI 1.4 so no fanfare needed.

I could also be tempted by a 560 or 1GB 6970, depending on the price/performance of both.
Cyberpower-UK 20th January 2011, 15:04 Quote
*FIXED*
Quote:
Originally Posted by frontline
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cyberpower-UK
I'm confused, do you mean the GTX560Ti, or HD6950 1GB with a BIOS unlock to HD 6970 1GB, all due around the 25th.

I'm seriously tempted by the latter, but then I've always been on the ATi side of the fence.

I could also be tempted by a 560 or 1GB 6970, depending on the price/performance of both.
http://www.xtremesystems.org/forums/showthread.php?t=265470
Guinness 20th January 2011, 15:17 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yslen

Although having seen the price of that perhaps they are aiming for the 6870-6950 gap. It's not a big gap, so fancy versions like this will be between the 6950 and 6970 instead. I'll stick by my 30% performance increase for the stock cards, though perhaps I should be updating that to 35%.

Even if an overclocked 560 matches/exceeds the 6950 performance at the right price, wouldnt the fact that you can flash a 6950 BIOS to a 6970 still make it a poor choice?

And if the same is true of the imminent 6950 1GB, it should be an interesting fight. Definitely worth waiting a week to find out.
Yslen 20th January 2011, 15:21 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Guinness
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yslen

Although having seen the price of that perhaps they are aiming for the 6870-6950 gap. It's not a big gap, so fancy versions like this will be between the 6950 and 6970 instead. I'll stick by my 30% performance increase for the stock cards, though perhaps I should be updating that to 35%.

Even if an overclocked 560 matches/exceeds the 6950 performance at the right price, wouldnt the fact that you can flash a 6950 BIOS to a 6970 still make it a poor choice?

And if the same is true of the imminent 6950 1GB, it should be an interesting fight. Definitely worth waiting a week to find out.

Bear in mind some people have had stability issues flashing up to a 6970. They were probably resigned to 6950 duty for a reason, after all.
Snips 20th January 2011, 15:24 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cyberpower-UK
*FIXED*
Quote:
Originally Posted by frontline
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cyberpower-UK
I'm confused, do you mean the GTX560Ti, or HD6950 1GB with a BIOS unlock to HD 6970 1GB, all due around the 25th.

I'm seriously tempted by the latter, but then I've always been on the ATi side of the fence.

I could also be tempted by a 560 or 1GB 6970, depending on the price/performance of both.
http://www.xtremesystems.org/forums/showthread.php?t=265470

What was the point of that link?
Guinness 20th January 2011, 15:42 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yslen

Bear in mind some people have had stability issues flashing up to a 6970. They were probably resigned to 6950 duty for a reason, after all.

Very true, although I cant say I've read of many stability issues.

There are rumours that AMD are revising the 6900 series to put a stop to this. They wouldnt bother if people werent having some success.
urobulos 20th January 2011, 16:34 Quote
This is a bit daft. Before, no hardware guide because SB is coming out, now now hardware guid because the 560 is coming out. Well, it is possible the 560 will not make it into the lowest or highest tier of systems so i see no point in scrapping everything. Hell, even do the other 2 mid-range ones, list whatever card is best now and have a disclaimer at the top of the article saying that 25th of January something awesome is coming out and leave it for readers to decide. Or just kill this section and stop doing these lame articles.
Xir 21st January 2011, 09:48 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Saivert
I thought nobody would recommend anything but Corsair HX or AX series PSUs now. and 650W ? isn't that a bit short?

Nope, most people have a tendency to really overpower their PSU's :D
xaser04 21st January 2011, 10:42 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yslen
Quote:
Originally Posted by Guinness
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yslen

Although having seen the price of that perhaps they are aiming for the 6870-6950 gap. It's not a big gap, so fancy versions like this will be between the 6950 and 6970 instead. I'll stick by my 30% performance increase for the stock cards, though perhaps I should be updating that to 35%.

Even if an overclocked 560 matches/exceeds the 6950 performance at the right price, wouldnt the fact that you can flash a 6950 BIOS to a 6970 still make it a poor choice?

And if the same is true of the imminent 6950 1GB, it should be an interesting fight. Definitely worth waiting a week to find out.

Bear in mind some people have had stability issues flashing up to a 6970. They were probably resigned to 6950 duty for a reason, after all.

The stability issues all seem to relate to the differing memory timings between the HD6950 and the HD6970. A way around this is to flash the card with a unlocked HD6950 bios which gives you the shaders but keeps the clock speeds (and timings) of the HD6950 intact.
Cei 21st January 2011, 14:33 Quote
Argh, just when I needed a budget build guide for a spare machine in the boxroom...
Yslen 21st January 2011, 22:11 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by xaser04
The stability issues all seem to relate to the differing memory timings between the HD6950 and the HD6970. A way around this is to flash the card with a unlocked HD6950 bios which gives you the shaders but keeps the clock speeds (and timings) of the HD6950 intact.

I wasn't aware of this, have some rep!
kingbradley.jr 30th January 2011, 08:41 Quote
About the Asus P8P67 there is a 50 dollars difference in my country so I'm thinking to change it to Asus P8H67-M about $150 in price. Any review about this mobo?
sp0rk 31st January 2011, 09:04 Quote
When do you anticipate to launch the February buyers guide? It seems prices of old i5 stuff have remained fairly stable despite the sandy bridge launch.
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