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Gaming Workhorse July 2011

Gaming Workhorse July 2011

While our Enthusiast Overclocker system is designed to get 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 or even 2,560 x 1,600, and is capable of processing a heap of RAW images or encoding video or audio very quickly.

 Gaming Workhorse
 ProductUK Price (inc VAT)US Price (ex tax)
CPU3.3GHz Intel Core i5-2500K£160$220
MotherboardMSI P67A-GD53 (B3)£105$150
Memory4GB 1,600MHz DDR3£30$40
Graphics CardNvidia GTX 570 1.3GB£240$320
PSUAntec TruePower New 650W£90$100
CPU Cooler (UK)Be Quiet! Dark Rock Advanced£40-
CPU Cooler (US)Thermaltake Frio-$60
CaseFractal Design Define R3£80$110
Optical driveSATA DVD-RW£15$20
Storage (HDD)2TB Hard Disk£55$75
Storage (SSD)64GB Crucial M4£90$120
Sound CardAsus Xonar DS£40$50
 Overall Price:£945$1,265

New This Month

The drop in price of RAM and the fact that we’ve introduced a cheaper motherboard to the build gave us a nice slush fund of spare budget to play with this month. We did toy with the idea of adding a larger SSD or even upgrading the case used in the build but in the end we thought the cash was best put toward upgrading the graphics card. As a result you’ll now notice that we’ve got a beefy stock Nvidia GeForce GTX 570 1.3GB powering our gaming workhorse.

This may seem like an unusual move as the MSI N560GTX-Ti Twin Frozr II/OC 1GB that occupied this spot previously was heavily overclocked and almost as fast as a stock speed GTX 570 1.3GB in some tests. We always say, though, that the best way to future proof you build is to buy the absolute best GPU (that’s GPU, not graphics card) that you can, and it’s this logic that has made us opt for the GTX 570 1.3GB over the factory overclocked GTX 560 Ti 1GB.

The reason we say this is because stepping up to a bigger GPU, in this case from the GF114 to the GF110, means you’ll get access to more on-chip resources and it’s these, rather than pure clock speed, that usually decide how gracefully a card will age.

The GTX 570 1.3GB has almost twice as many tessellation units and rasterisers as the GTX 560 Ti 1GB for example and eight more ROPs too. The excellent cooler on most stock clocked GTX 570 1.3GB’s means they’ll overclock well too; a core frequency of 810MHz isn't an unrealistic target.

As with the enthusiast overclocker build we’ve also subbed in the MSI P67A-GD53 (B3) in place of the Asus P8P67. The new board may be cheaper but it also performs better when overclocked and has more features than the board it replaces. We also think it looks smart and it’s small VRM heatsinks will mean you’ll have more clearance around the CPU socket for fitting large coolers.

We’ve also made some smaller tweaks to the build, such as replacing the now defunct C300 SSD with its successor the M4. In addition to this we’ve also bumped up the amount of hard disk storage on offer to 2TB to give your media more room to breathe.

And The Rest

You’ll find the same Intel Core i5-2500K in our Gaming Workhorse PC as you found in our Enthusiast Overclocker build. As we said, the CPU is quick at stock speeds thanks to Intel’s Turbo Boost 2 technology but excels when overclocked; it’s not uncommon to see i5-2500K CPUs up around the 5GHz mark on air cooling alone. What's also important here is the high instructions per clock (IPC) that LGA1155 processors are capable of, as games in particular love high IPC processors.

One of our favourite parts of this build is the 64GB Crucial M4 solid state disk which is the replacement for the old C300 range of disks. The 64GB version of the drive does sacrifice write speeds, but it's 400MB/sec+ read speeds more than make up for it. If you’ve never had the chance to play about on a 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. You could drop this component out if you’d like to knock £90 quid off the build but it’s something we’d really recommend you kept.

PC Hardware Buyer's Guide July 2011 Gaming Workhorse July 2011

As we’ve said in our other builds, we like having 4GB of memory in our PCs, and we’ve chosen 1,600MHz DDR3 for this PC. This is the sweet spot in the memory market at the moment as these kinds of kits are particularly affordable right now. Fortunately you don’t have to worry about memory straps and Base Clock ratios if you’re buying a LGA1155 based system as nearly all overclocking is carried out via the CPU multiplier.

This means that all you need to do to make sure your RAM is running at its full rated speed is to drop into the EFI and select the 16x memory strap in the relevant menu. If you’re unsure of where this menu is in the EFI, you can check out our i5-2500K overclocking guide.

When it comes to the CPU cooler we’ve had to give different recommendations based on which side of the Atlantic you live. For the UK build we’ve added the smart and effective Be Quiet! Dark Rock Advanced which proved to be not just excellent at cooling but also whisper quiet when we tested it earlier this year. Unfortunately though this cooler isn’t available in the sunny old US of A at the moment so we’ve put the Thermaltake Frio into the US build. This cooler isn’t quite as quiet as the Dark Rock Advanced but it cools just as effectively thanks to its pair of powerful fans.

We’ve also listed the brilliant Antec TruePower New 650W PSU, a 2TB hard disk of your choice and a cheap SATA DVD drive. You could of course step down from a 2TB to a 1TB disk if you think you can get away without keeping so much pron media on hand; expect to save around £15 or $15 if you opt for the a 1TB version.

PC Hardware Buyer's Guide July 2011 Gaming Workhorse July 2011

The case we’re stuffing all this kit into is the Fractal Design Define R3 which is a beautiful, understated chassis. At this kind of price range though there are a lot of options and you could also be forgiven for asking for a little more cooling than the Define R3 can offer. If this is the case, then you could opt for the SilverStone Raven RV02 that the Define R3 has replaced. This is an ace air cooling case and outstrips the Define R3 in terms of pure cooling, but it’s also more expensive. It also has the advantage of looking more distinctive than the Define R3 if you’re not a fan of the latter’s understated design.

In addition to all this we’ve added an Asus Xonar DS sound card to avoid conflicts with the motherboard's Realtek audio codec and enhance the sound generally. If you haven't got a copy already, you'll 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.