Now we’re in the Spring-tastic month of May, we can look back on one of the busiest months of the year for new hardware. It seems that everyone was pushing out new kit in time to hit that crucial Q2 deadline of 30th April.
We’ve seen everything from the fastest CPU ever, to crazy graphics cards and cases that are brilliant value for money. As a result, you can expect a few changes on the buyer’s guide this month.
The biggest news is AMD’s new range of six-core processors, with the flagship Phenom II X6 1090T Black Edition launching on 27 April. Previous AMD desktop CPUs didn't usually push past the £160 mark, with the respectable Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition topping the firm's range. The X6s change all that, and AMD’s range now extends up to £260 - as a result, you need to do some serious research before buying a fast CPU.
To go with the new six-core CPU, AMD has released its 890FX chipset, the most overclockable of its new 8-series range. We looked at the Asus Crosshair IV Formula and MSI 890FXA-GD70 and came away underwhelmed. We’ll keep looking for bargain 8-series motherboards, but the £120 Asus M4A89TD Pro/USB is still the best 8-series board we’ve found.
Meanwhile, we hear rumours that a range of quad-core Phenom II processors based on the same Thuban core as the Phenom II X6 CPUs might be released sometime soon. Look out for ‘T’ suffixes, such as Phenom II X4 960T, as this means you might be able to unlock one or both of the disabled cores to get a six-core chip on the cheap. If you’re unsure why that’s possible, read our guide to how core unlocking works.
While there’s never a good time to upgrade, the leaked details of Intel’s processor and socket roadmap for the next 18 months might make you think twice. However, these Sandy Bridge CPUs and sockets are still a way off, and if you get a Core i5-750 or Core i7 now, it’ll serve you well for a good long time.
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.