April has arrived an in the wake of reviews of Nvidia's long awaited new GeForce GTX 480 and GTX 470 graphics cards, we can safely say that neither made the cut in this month's buyers guide, given that they eventually hit with the success of a nat to a windshield. Never mind, maybe the upcoming mid-range parts will fare better in the coming months. Maybe?
Recently we've investigated the overclocking potential of the Intel Core i3-530, which is a reasonably cheap CPU with tons of potential. While it doesn't get an inclusion in our builds, it's worth thinking about if you want to skim £50 from our Enthusiast Overclocker PC.
At the other end of the scale, the Core i7-930 CPU replaces the older Core i7-920. While the Gulftown-based Core i7-908X Extreme Edition might be a temptation, as we say in the conclusion, it's not a CPU for everyone due to the lack of massively multi-threaded games and mainstream applications. But while Intel is treating the performance-hungry among us, the Core i5-750 continues to creep up in price - by another £10 this month - hitting £170 in many retailers. However, this is likely a consequence of its growing popularity, with cheap and overclocking-friendly P55 boards now readily available.
AMD's 890GX chipset arrived last month, with 880G and 890FX due later this month. All have the notable addition of SATA 6Gbps, but will this change our choices on the AMD front with no new CPUs to match? AMD's 6-core 'Thuban' CPUs are due soon, but we're unsure of the actual performance and cost yet, so we've opted for Core i5 and i7 LGA1156 processors in two of our recommended rigs.
In general, it's been yet another great month for components - the Corsair Nova SSD won a Recommended award just yesterday, and there's also the XFX Radeon HD 5830 which is better value than almost every other Radeon HD 5830 out there.
We've also seen a cute, but feature packed mini-ITX board from Zotac and ultra low voltage 'LoVo' DDR3 memory from Kingston. However, we've yet to see a price for that memory, so we're going hunker down on this fence we're on until we see a retail price.
Finally, there's also a roundup of budget sound cards too look at if you want to add better audio to one of our builds. Our long-term recommendation the Xonar DX, still came out on top, with the cheaper Xonar DS coming a strong second.
How do our buyer's guide work?
We show an average price that you should be looking to pay for the products we've recommended, and then an overall budget for each of the PCs we've designed. This is in response to the fact prices fluctuate over the month, and products go in and out of stock, not to mention the included cost of delivery for all the parts that we need to take into account - and everyone has their favourite retailers and e-tailers they buy from.
As usual, a run-down of our systems is as follows:
The Affordable All-Rounder is highly budget conscious, but still offers plenty of gaming potential and an upgrade path.
The Enthusiast Overclocker system is for those who want to squeeze the most performance, although not necessarily the most MHz, for his or her money. It has tons of gaming grunt for the best use of little cash.
The Gaming Workhorse offers supreme performance for the heavy multi-tasker and gamer, while staying firmly under the grand mark.
Our Premium Player package is for those who want the latest, highest performing kit with excellent cooling that won't sound like a hive of angry hornets, and without going way into the thousands.
Finally, the Folding Rig is designed to get the most PPD for the least cash to regain our rightful place high up in the Folding@home world rankings!
As always, we write the buyer's guide not as a definitive must buy list, but as a monthly update of systems and parts we know will go well together within a particular budget. Take what you want from each build - from affordable, capable PCs, to gaming behemoths - whether it be just a few bits of hardware or the whole thing if you need a ground-up upgrade. We sift through the mass of hardware and recommendations, decide from what we've tested and what we know to be good, then setup the above PCs to fit several budgets.