Premium Player August 2012

If you're after a refined, powerful and super-fast PC, then our Premium Player has what you need. It's quiet, cool and has an awesome mix of hardware that can batter games into submission at very high resolutions and those all important maximum detail settings.

As usual we've picked hardware that can dish out this most awesome of experiences but we've got some alternatives for you too, if you want to save some cash, or splurge a little more in one area.

 Premium Player
 ProductUK Price (inc VAT)US Price (ex tax)
CPUIntel Core i7-3770K£230$360
MotherboardAsus Maximus V Gene£140$199
Memory8GB 1,600MHz DDR3£30$46
Graphics CardNvidia GeForce GTX 680 2GB£400$499
PSUAntec High Current Pro 850W£120$200
CPU CoolerAntec Kühler H2O 920£70$100
CaseSilverStone FT02B£195$250
Optical driveSATA DVD-RW£15$20
Storage (HDD)2 x 2TB Western Digital Caviar Black£170$240
Storage (SSD)Samsung SSD 830 256GB£149$240
Sound CardAsus Xonar DX£55$90
 Overall Price:£1,574$2,254

Recommendations and alternatives

We haven't changed anything in our Premium Player this month but as many of you pointed out in our last buyer's guide, there are some worthy alternatives to our recommendations here that you should consider. We've listed the Core i7-3770K for a couple of compelling reasons. It's faster than the LGA 2011 Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition in many of our benchmarks, while costing a lot less, consuming a lot less power and generating far less heat. It's also noticeably faster than the Core i5-3570K in multi-threaded tasks such as rendering or video editing - something we envisage the owner of this PC to perhaps be dabbling with. It's highly desirable and the perfect balanced choice for our Premium Player.

PC Hardware Buyer's Guide August 2012 Premium Player August 2012
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If you must have the ultimate in multi-threaded performance, then look no further than Intel's Sandy Bridge E LGA2011 CPUs along with an Asus Sabertooth X79 motherboard. They're even faster than Core i7-3770K in some multi-threaded tests, but the latter is a better all-rounder. Alternatively, if this multi-threaded malarkey isn't going to part of your PC's list of tasks, then you could consider saving some cash and opting for the Core i5-3570K.

Our motherboard choice also remains the same. The Maximus V Gene looks fantastic, overclocks like a trooper, is fast at stock speed and when overclocked and comes packed with useful features. You'll also be able to pick up some tasty waterblocks for it as Asus' ROG range of motherboards is always popular among waterblock manufacturers. If you need more PCI expansion slots than it can offer (after all, it's only a micro-ATX motherboard), then Gigabyte's GA-Z77X-UD5H is the one to go for and costs only a little more.

Nvidia's GeForce GTX 690 4GB launched in May, but we've held off including it in the Premium Player for a couple of reasons. Firstly it costs twice as much as the GTX 680 2GB, retailing for an eye-watering £800 - the GTX 680 2GB is now £30 cheaper too. Secondly, the GTX 680 2GB is able to play all our benchmarks bar one, at more than 25fps, even at 5,760 x 1,080, 4xAA spread across three monitors. Only in Crysis 2 did it drop below a minimum of 25fps, so even if you're gaming on three monitors, the GTX 680 2GB can hold it's own in a vast majority of situations. However, if you must have the absolute best, and aren't afraid to drop another £400 to spend two grand on your system, then the GTX 690 4GB is the ultimate weapon.

PC Hardware Buyer's Guide August 2012 Premium Player August 2012
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If you're not planning on splashing out on a custom water-cooling system, then you have two options - an all-in-one liquid cooler or a high-end air cooler. We've opted for the former in the Antec Kühler H2O 920. It can be tuned using software to your preferred noise:cooling ratio while offering fantastic cooling, even at its lowest fan setting. Alternatively the Phanteks PH-TC14PE is an awesome air cooler with sublime noise levels and excellent cooling.
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SilverStone's FT02B is our favourite air-cooled case. It looks fantastic, and provides a chilly, quiet home for your hardware. It might cost around £200, but it's by far the most desirable case for an air-cooled system on the market at the moment.

While our choice of components hasn't changed, prices certainly have and our Premium Player costs over £100 less than last month. This is due in part to the GTX 680 2GB costing a little less - yet another reason we've continued to recommend it - but also thanks to the Samsung SSD 830 256GB now costing just £149. It's a super-fast SSD that finally offers premium SSD speeds in a capacity that should allow most of us to install all our games and programs with room to spare. Sadly the 512GB model still retails for a painful £410.

If you haven't got a copy already, you'll also need 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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