Gaming Workhorse September 2010

While our Enthusiast Overclocker system is built around getting 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)
CPU2.8GHz Intel Core i5-760£145$210
MotherboardGigabyte GA-P55M-UD2£85$105
Memory4GB 1,600MHz DDR3£65$75
Graphics CardZotac GeForce GTX 470 AMP! Edition£245$350
PSUAntec TruePower New 650W£85$100
CPU CoolerThermaltake Frio£40$60
Case (UK)Fractal Design Define R3£85NA
Case (US)Silverstone Raven RV02(£140)$160
Optical driveSATA DVD-RW£15$20
Storage (HDD)1TB Samsung SpinPoint F3£45$70
Storage (SSD)64GB Crucial RealSSD C300£110$135
Sound CardAsus Xonar DS£35$50
 Overall Price:£955$1,330

New This Month

After having very little to talk about for the last few months with our Gaming Workhorse build we’ve decided to take another look at just what we want from a gaming PC. Essentially we’ve gutted the beast.

First off, we’ve ripped out the Intel Core i7-860 and replaced it with the equally powerful Core i5-760. The i7-860 isn't a bad CPU but with prices as they are, you can sacrifice the Hyper-Threading of the i7-860 and save some cash to spend elsewhere.

This saving has allowed us to shoehorn a 64GB Crucial RealSSD C300 into the build - if you’ve never had the chance to use 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 with 64GB to play with you should also be able to fit a few games on there too. Equally, you could use the SSD exclusively for games.

PC Hardware Buyer's Guide November 2010 Gaming Workhorse November 2010

We've also had a bit of a change around with the cases too. We have been recommending the SilverStone Raven RV02 for this build for a little while now but unfortunately its recently shot up in price. This is because SilverStone is now shipping the Raven RV02 with its excellent but expensive Air Penetrator fans. This is a good thing, but the price increase just tips it over what we’re willing to spend on a case for this build.

As a result we’ve included the beautifully elegantFractal Design Define R3 in its place. The case does a great job of keeping even the most powerful of components quiet and we were fans of its quietly understated looks. If you’d like a case that looks a little bit more distinctive then the Raven RV02 is still a great case, you’ll just have to pony up a little more for it.

PC Hardware Buyer's Guide November 2010 Gaming Workhorse November 2010

Finally, we've ditched the Radeon HD 5870 1GB in favour of the Zotac GeForce GTX 470 AMP! Edition card. This card is not only faster than a HD 5870 1GB, but it's quieter and cheaper - that's a win in every department.

And The Rest

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

As previously stated, we like having 4GB of memory in our PCs, and we’ve chosen 1,600MHz DDR3 to give us a bit of headroom for overclocking the CPU. For example, if we wanted to aim for a 4GHz overclock we’d use a Base Clock of 191MHz (as 191 x 21 = 4,011).

PC Hardware Buyer's Guide November 2010 Gaming Workhorse November 2010

If we’d opted for 1,333MHz memory, we’d have to use the 6x memory strap with this Base Clock, which would give us a memory frequency of 1,146MHz, which is a bit slow. With the 1,600MHz memory, we can safely use the 8x memory strap and have our memory run at a more healthy 1,528MHz. We wouldn’t recommend overclocking 1,333MHz memory to 1,528MHz for everyday use unless you really know your DRAM.

Define-s.jpgThe CPU cooler we’ve chosen is the Thermaltake Frio which blasted through our thermal benchmarks. With both its fans installed its one of the best cooler we’ve ever seen. With both fans installed it could be considered a little loud though so it’s also worth considering the Gelid Tranquillo which, when combined with the R3 case, is likely to 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 also added an Asus Xonar DS sound card to avoid conflicts with the Realtek audio codec of the motherboard and enhances 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.
Discuss this in the forums