Gaming Workhorse March 2011

While our Enthusiast Overclocker system is designed to provide 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 happily run games at 1,920 x 1,080, while also being capable of processing a heap of RAW images or encoding video or audio pretty quickly.

 Gaming Workhorse
 ProductUK Price (inc VAT)US Price (ex tax)
CPU3.3GHz Intel Core i5-2500K£175$230
MotherboardAsus P8P67£125$170
Memory4GB 1,600MHz DDR3£40$50
Graphics CardMSI N560GTX-Ti Twin Frozr II/OC£215$250
PSUAntec TruePower New 650W£70$80
CPU CoolerThermaltake Frio£40$50
Case (UK)Fractal Design Define R3£80-
Case (US)Silverstone Raven RV02-$180
Optical driveSATA DVD-RW£15$20
Storage (HDD)1TB Samsung SpinPoint F3£40$65
Storage (SSD)64GB Crucial RealSSD C300£90$130
Sound CardAsus Xonar DS£40$55
 Overall Price:£930$1,280

New This Month

We’ll repeat here what we said about our Enthusiast Overclocker build regarding Sandy Bridge systems. Although LGA1155 boards are on sale, we haven’t yet had time to test any of them to check that the fix to the chipset hasn’t affected performance. As such, we recommend waiting a few weeks before purchasing. This will allow us some time for testing, so we can check that the boards still offer the same level of performance that they did before the Intel chipset debacle.

If you do go ahead with a purchase, then just make sure you’re definitely buying a board with the new B3-revision chipset. Most online retailers should clearly mark these on their sites. For example, Scan clearly marks Asus, MSI and Gigabyte boards with Rev3, (B3) and -B3 suffixes respectively to indicate new, fixed stock.

*PC Hardware Buyer's Guide March 2011 Gaming Workhorse March 2011

And The Rest

One of our favourite parts of this build is the 64GB Crucial RealSSD C300 solid state disk. If you’ve never had the chance to play about with an 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 64GB will give you some space for a few games on there too. You could drop this component out if you’d like to knock £90 quid off the build, but we strongly recommend keeping it.

This responsiveness in Windows is backed up by a beefy pre-overclocked MSI N560GTX-Ti Twin Frozr II/OC 1GB, which gives the PC excellent performance in games too. Realistically, a stock Nvidia GeForce GTX 560 would suffice in this build, but given that the MSI card comes with a guaranteed pre-overclock and a custom cooler, its inclusion is almost a no-brainer. Its overclock enables it to compete very closely with a stock Nvidia GeForce GTX 570 1.3GB; a card which currently retails for around £280. In fact, only those who own a 30in monitor should consider stepping up to anything more expensive.

Unusually, the case we recommend in this build changes depending on what side of the Atlantic you reside on. For those of you in the UK and Europe, we’ve listed the beautifully elegant Fractal Design R3. The case does a great job of keeping even the most powerful components quiet, and we're fans of its quietly understated looks.

*PC Hardware Buyer's Guide March 2011 Gaming Workhorse March 2011

Those of you reading this from the US, though, can’t get a hold of any Fractal Design products yet, so we’ve added in the SilverStone Raven RV02. This is an ace air-cooling case that outstrips the Define R3 in terms of pure cooling, but it’s a fair whack more expensive now that SilverStone has started shipping the case with its excellent air penetrator fans.

We've kitted out this build with 4GB of 1,600MHz DDR3 RAM, which 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.

As such, 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 how to find this menu in the EFI, you can check out our Core i5-2500K overclocking guide.

The CPU cooler we’ve chosen is the Thermaltake Frio, which blasted through our thermal benchmarks. With both its fans installed its one of the best cooler we’ve ever seen, although this makes it a little loud, so it’s also worth considering the Gelid Tranquillo which, when combined with the*PC Hardware Buyer's Guide March 2011 Gaming Workhorse March 2011 R3 case, will make for a whisper-quiet but potent PC.

We’ve also listed the brilliant Antec TruePower New 650W PSU, a 1TB Samsung SpinPoint F3 hard disk and a cheap SATA DVD drive.

In addition to this, we’ve added an Asus Xonar DS sound card to avoid conflicts with the Realtek audio codec of the motherboard and enhance the sound generally. If you're really into your gaming audio, then you may consider upgrading this to a setup such as the Asus Xonar Xense card-and-headset bundle. This is a lot more expensive than the Xonar DS, but you do get a top-grade sound card and headset for your cash.

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 will be fine, but serial upgraders will need the pricier retail version.
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