PC Hardware Buyer's Guide May 2012

Written by Antony Leather

May 18, 2012 | 08:47

Tags: #best-components #build-advice #buyers-guide #pc-buyers-guide #recommended #what-hardware-should-i-buy

Companies: #bit-tech

Enthusiast Overclocker May 2012

Overclocking is just as much about getting more out of your system as it is a fun past time. It gives you the ability to increase your PC’s performance for free, meaning you’ll end up with something that’s worth a lot more. All you need is to brush up on your overclocking skills and you can tap in to the extra horsepower available from your CPU and graphics card. Our Enthusiast Overclocker is all about buying cheaper hardware and overclocking it and we’ve selected the components that are particularly suited to the task.

If you need a helping hand when it comes to overclocking then you can check out our How to overclock the Intel Core i5-2500K and Intel Core i7-3770K articles.

 Enthusiast Overclocker
 ProductUK Price (inc VAT)US Price (ex tax)
CPU3.4GHz Intel Core i5-3570K£165$239
MotherboardAsus Maximus V Gene£140$199
Memory8GB 1,600MHz DDR3£30$46
Graphics CardNvidia GeForce GTX 560 Ti 448 Core£165$280
PSUCorsair Professional Series HX650£90$120
CPU Cooler (UK)Arctic Freezer i30£29$44
CaseFractal Design Arc Midi£65$99
Optical driveSATA DVD-RW£15$20
Storage1TB Samsung SpinPoint F3£65$90
 Overall Price:£764$1137

New This Month

Our Enthusiast Overclocker is far more geared towards the latest hardware releases than cheaper PCs, and given there have been plenty of these over the last few months, we’ve changed quite a few options.

First up is the shift from Sandy Bridge to Ivy Bridge. While a Core i5-2500K and Z68 motherboard are still a potent mix, it makes sense to spend a little more and opt for the latest hardware in the form of a Core i5-3570K and Asus Maximus V Gene. You'll get native USB 3 support and more importantly PCI Express 3.0, which is worth having given you probably won't be wanting to swap your motherboard out for a couple of years at least. That said, if you already have a Sandy Bridge CPU, there's little point opting for the equivalent Ivy Bridge model as an upgrade (going from a Core i5-2500K to an i5-3570K for example).

PC Hardware Buyer's Guide May 2012 Enthusiast Overclocker May 2012
Click to enlarge

We haven't looked at any of the cheaper Z77 motherboards to see how they fare with Intel's new Ivy Bridge CPUs yet, but the Maximus V Gene comes highly recommended as a board with oodles of features, fantastic looks and superb overclocking potential. If you're keen to save more cash, then you may want to look at a cheaper Z77 motherboard - but we'll stick to our guns in trying to only recommend gear we've tested so we'll report back once we've had a look at other examples.

We've bumped the memory up to 8GB this month too. 4GB is certainly the sweet spot, but if you're buying a new PC and spending more than £500, the price difference is so small that it makes sense. We're seeing a few games and applications that tip our Windows 7 PCs over the 4GB barrier so in a year or two's time, 8GB is likely to become more useful.

PC Hardware Buyer's Guide May 2012 Enthusiast Overclocker May 2012
Click to enlarge

Nvidia has yet to drop its low to mid-range graphics cards on us, and if you haven't been tempted to splash some cash on a GeForce GTX 670 2GB, then Nvidia still has some of the better sub-£200 graphics card offerings. The price difference of our old favourite, the GeForce GTX 560 Ti 1GB, and GTX 560 Ti 448 core is extremely slim, so we've opted for the latter, which does have a noticeable edge in our benchmarks. It's also cheaper than the HD Radeon 7850 2GB while bettering it in several of our benchmarks.

We also decided to update the case. The Cooler Master HAF 912 Plus is still available in a few places but there are a number of better options for you to consider. We've recommended the Fractal Design Arc Midi, which costs about the same. It has dust filters, great cooling and even room for a double 120mm-fan radiator in the roof should you wish to try your hand at water cooling in the future.

If you can cope with something a little smaller, Fractal Design's Arc Mini costs even less and would make a great home for the Asus Maximus V Gene. Remember, it only accepts micro-ATX motherboards though.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Alternatively, there's also its smaller brother, the Fractal Design Arc Mini. This coped well with our test system and would make a pocket rocket of a PC combined with the Asus Maximus V Gene. However, while the Arc Midi accepts full ATX motherboards, the Arc Mini, is limited to micro-ATX.

Other shiny new hardware in our line-up includes Arctic's i30 CPU cooler. Our previous favourite, Be Quiet's Dark Rock Advanced, is still an awesome cooler, but at £40, the Freezer i30 has a clear advantage in value, and performed significantly better too. It's great to see Arctic return to form and the Freezer i30 should help you get to giddy heights with your Core i5-3570K.

And The Rest

With the changes out the way, there's not much left in the list. The Corsair Professional Series HX650 is still our sub-700W PSU of choice, and with Ivy Bridge CPUs and the latest generation of graphics cards consuming less power than their predecessors, there's little point opting for anything beefier for a system similar to our Enthusiast Overclocker. It's modular too, which means cable tidying should be a doddle.

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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