Enthusiast Overclocker July 2011

The Enthusiast Overclocker is a PC designed for those looking to build a fast PC without splashing out on pricey hardware. If you're not into speedy video encoding and heavy multi-tasking, but still love your high-resolution gaming, we've created a PC with the best balance of performance possible. However, you'll need to apply your overclocking skills to get the most from this system, but then, that's half the fun of a DIY build, isn't it?

 Enthusiast Overclocker
 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 GeForce GTX 560 Ti 1GB£180$220
PSUOCZ ModXStream Pro 500W£50$65
CPU Cooler (UK)Be Quiet! Dark Rock Advanced£40-
CPU Cooler (US)Thermaltake Frio-$60
CaseCooler Master HAF 912 Plus£55$60
Optical driveSATA DVD-RW£15$20
Storage1TB Samsung SpinPoint F3£40$55
 Overall Price:£675$890

New This Month

The cost of our enthusiast overclocker build has been sneaking down steadily over the last few months, to the point where it was getting a little too similar in cost to the enthusiast all-rounder PC on the previous page. To remedy this we’ve beefed up the spec of the enthusiast overclocker to make it more of a halfway house between our budget build and the gaming workhorse.

To this end we’ve added a swanky new graphics card in the form of a stock clocked Nvidia GeForce GTX 560 Ti 1GB. There are plenty of overclocked versions of this card out there, but with this being the enthusiast overclocker build we think you’ll be better off saving £20 and overclocking the card yourself; in our experience a 900MHz core frequency should be easily attainable. Doing so will see you netting playable framerates in just about every game out there at 1,920 x 1,080, even with everything set to high. Except maybe for Crysis 2 in DX11 mode.

Following hot on the heels of the GTX 560 Ti 1GB is the MSI P67A-GD53 (B3). This LGA1155 board provides an excellent blend of price, performance and overclockability and deservedly bagged itself a coveted Premium Grade award when we reviewed it last month. It’s also got a number of features such as on-board power and reset buttons and a rear mounted CMOS clear switch which should make your overclocking exploits that little bit easier.

PC Hardware Buyer's Guide July 2011 Enthusiast Overclocker July 2011

As we had a little bit of extra money in the budget thanks to the cash we saved on the motherboard we’ve decided to retire the Gelid Tranquillo cooler from this build. It’s still a good cooler but if you’re serious about pushing your i5-2500K to north of 4.6GHz a better cooler is invaluable.

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, this cooler isn’t available in the sunny old US of A 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.

And The Rest

The only CPU that we could even contemplate putting into a build labeled Enthusiast Overclocker is the superlative Intel Core i5-2500K. This 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. At these speeds the CPU can compete with Intel’s top end LGA1366 processors and even surpass them in tasks that don’t benefit from the extra threads at their disposal.

As previously stated, 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 incredibly cheap 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.

The case we’ve chosen for the build is the Coolermaster HAF 912 Plus which is a small but capable case. We particularly liked its solid construction and rugged but tidy looks when we reviewed it and it’s also got a number of natty little cable tidying features that make building a clean PC easy despite its size.

One thing to note with the HAF 912 is that we’ve recommended the Plus version of it, which has a black painted interior. Unfortunately this version isn’t available in the US for some reason so there we’re recommending the normal version without the painted interior.

If the styling of the HAF 912 isn’t your cup of tea though you could of course opt for the excellent and similarly priced Xigmatek Utgard or the slightly more expensive but extremely quiet Fractal Design Define R3.

We’ve also packed in the 500W OCZ ModXStream PSU, a cheap SATA DVD drive and a 1TB Samsung SpinPoint F3 hard disk. 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.
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