6. AMD A10-5800K
As bargains go, one of 2012's best was AMD's A10-5800
. The sucessor to its popular Llano APUs boosted its 2D performance - a much needed gain, and it proved to be even faster in games too. Of course, it's appeal is slightly limited in that an Intel CPU plus a discrete graphics cards will offer considerably more performance.
Click to enlarge - A reasonable on-board GPU makes the 5800K a great value choice.
However, with an A75 motherboard, you're looking at half-decent gaming from a complete system that would cost less than £350 for every bit of hardware you need. This makes ideal for more casual gamers. If you game at resolutions below 1,920 x 1,080 you'll be able to ramp up the graphics settings too and we even saw playable framerates in games such as The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim running at thier highest settings.
7. Corsair H80i
Corsair was one of the first out of the blocks with a decent all-in-one liquid cooler in the shape of the H50 three years ago. Thankfully, it stuck with the concept and in conjunction with CoolIT, Corsair has improved upon the H80 and H100 with the recently released H80i
. It's performance is amazing and even better than the previous generation of coolers that already dealt with overclocked CPUs admirably.
Click to enlarge - The H80i is leagues ahead of the competition when it comes to cooling
While there's still a case for fully-fledged water-cooling systems (you can take our lives, but you'll never take our compression fittings!) Corsair has pushed the envelope of closed-lopp coolers further, making the H80i and H100i obvious choices if you're reluctant to go all out with a custom water-cooling system, but want better-than-air performance without the noise.
8. BitFenix Prodigy
2012 was undoubtedly a huge year for mini-ITX. We saw several motherboard manufacturers finally take notice of the enthusiast mini-ITX segment, with case makers taking note and producing some innovative mini-ITX chassis. Our favourite was BitFenix's Prodigy
. It wasn't afraid to think out of the box when it came to internal design and while it's not the smallest case on the market, nor the best built, it's cooling prowess and flexibility when it came to modding and water-cooling has made it a firm favourite in the bit-tech lab as well as with thousands of modders. The fact it costs less than £70 means it's one of the cheapest mini-ITX cases out there too.
Click to enlarge - Not perfect, but the Prodigy is small and very flexible.
9. SilverStone Sugo SG09
Oddly enough, our favourite micro-ATX case of 2012 is actually smaller than the Prodigy. SilverStone's Sugo SG09
lacks any fancy carry handles or other extremities and offers a somewhat boxy appearance. However, this allowed SilverStone to really reign-in the dimensions - it measures just 30cm high and 35cm deep yet can accommodate a micro-ATX motherboard and a dual-slot graphics card. It managed to keep our overclocked CPU and HD Radeon HD 7850 graphics card cool too thanks to its monstrous 180mm Air Penetrator fan.
Click to enlarge - Great cooling and clever use of space, even if it does look like a UPS
Combined with all the usual mod-cons, such as USB 3, dust filters and space for a large graphics card, the SG09's price tag of under £90 makes it a great choice for a small case to house a micro-ATX motherboard-based system.
10. NZXT Phantom 820
We're big fans of NZXT's Phantom cases and the latest beefed up model stretches the dimensions without sacrificing looks or features. In fact the Phantom 820
offers even more compared to the smaller models, particularly in the water-cooling department.
Click to enlarge - With so much room for radiators, it'd be a crime not to water cool it
There's room inside for a triple and double 120mm-fan radiator with no modding required and has all the usual features you'd expect from a Phantom case - multi-channel fan controller, USB 3 ports, dust filters and even custom LED lighting. It's the most interesting case in water-cooling terms for a long time and retailing for less than £200, it's cheaper than most of the competition too.
What's your favourite hardware from 2012? Let us know in the forums.