Gaming Workhorse May 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, and is 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£160$225
MotherboardAsus P8P67£120$160
Memory4GB 1,600MHz DDR3£40$45
Graphics CardMSI N560GTX-Ti Twin Frozr II/OC£190$250
PSUAntec TruePower New 650W£90$80
CPU CoolerThermaltake Frio£40$60
Case (UK)Fractal Design Define R3£80$100
Optical driveSATA DVD-RW£15$20
Storage (HDD)1TB Samsung SpinPoint F3£40$65
Storage (SSD)64GB Crucial RealSSD C300£100$130
Sound CardAsus Xonar DS£40$50
Sound CardOverall Price:£915$1,185

New This Month

We’ve tweaked the makeup of our Gaming Workhorse build a little this month, as the Fractal Design R3 case is now available in the US. This means that we’re recommending this case no matter which side of the Atlantic you reside on, as it offers great cooling in a sleek, low-noise package.

There are a lot of options in this price bracket, though, and you could also be forgiven for asking for a little more cooling-power than what's offered by the Define R3. 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, which outstrips the Define R3 in terms of pure cooling. However, it's also a fair whack more expensive, although the build would still slip in at under a grand with it included. 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.

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

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 clocked around the 5GHz mark using 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. Also important here is the high number of instructions per clock (IPC) that LGA1155 processors are capable of delivering, as games generally love high-IPC processors.

The motherboard we’ve chosen to use for the build is the excellent Asus P8P67. It’s been our favourite for a little while now, and saw off the challenge of Asus' Sabertooth P67 this month. However, we recommend checking back to the site in the coming weeks, as we’ve got plenty more B3-stepping P67 boards in the labs at the moment, any of which could dethrone the P8P67 as our favourite P67 board.

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 on 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 provide some space for a few games on there too. You could drop this component out if you’d like to knock £100 quid off the build, but we really recommend keeping it. That said, C300 drives are getting harder to find of as they're going end-of-life soon - expect to see the review of their replacements, the M4 range, on the site soon.

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

This snap and responsiveness in Windows is also complemented 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 GTX 560 would probably suffice in this build, but the MSI card comes with a guaranteed pre-overclock and a custom cooler for the same price as a stock card, so its inclusion is a no-brainer. Its overclock also 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.

As with the previous builds, we've kitted out this PC with 4GB of 1,600MHz DDR3 memory. 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 an LGA1155 system, as nearly all overclocking is carried out via the CPU multiplier.

PC Hardware Buyer's Guide May 2011  Gaming Workhorse May 2011As such, you just need to drop into the EFI and select the 16x memory strap in the relevant menu to make sure your RAM is running at its full rated speed. If you’re unsure of where to find this menu, you can check out our i5-2500K overclocking guide.

PC Hardware Buyer's Guide May 2011  Gaming Workhorse May 2011The CPU cooler we’ve chosen is the Thermaltake Frio, which blasted through our thermal benchmarks. This may surprise some of you as realistically the Frio is probably overkill for an LGA1155 processor, but the cooler that we’d recommend instead, the Be Quiet! Dark Rock Advanced, is only available in Europe at the moment. If you can get your hands on a Dark Rock Advanced, though, then you won’t regret it; the cooler proved to be as effective as the Frio while staying a little quieter.

We’ve also listed the brilliant Antec TruePower New 650W PSU, a 1TB Samsung SpinPoint F3 hard disk and a cheap SATA DVD drive. You could of course step up from 1TB to a 2TB if you think you’ll need more storage space; expect to pay an extra £15 or $15 for the 2TB version of the Spinpoint F3.

In addition to all this, we've also added an Asus Xonar DS sound card to avoid conflicts with the motherboard's Realtek audio codec and enhance the sound generally. If you're really into your gaming audio, then you may consider upgrading this card to 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 your motherboard, then an OEM copy will be fine, but serial upgraders need the pricier retail version.
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