PC Hardware Buyer's Guide May 2012

Written by Antony Leather

May 18, 2012 // 8:47 a.m.

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

Companies: #bit-tech

Premium Player May 2012

Our Premium Player is the ultimate combination of our favourite, most desirable components. If you need the best, or the fastest ,or just want your friends to be as jealous as possible, out list of premium hardware will do the trick. This awesomeness comes at a price, but we're not talking about throwing money down the drain here. This hardware has proved itself to be the best that money can buy so adding it to your existing set up of single 30in monitor, or triple monitor setup and other to-die-for peripherals will create the ultimate premium PC experience.

 Premium Player
 ProductUK Price (inc VAT)US Price (ex tax)
CPUIntel Core i7-3770K£230$360
MotherboardAsus Maximus V Gene£140$199
Memory8GB 1,600MHz DDR3£30$46
Graphics CardNvidia GeForce GTX 680 2GB£430$499
PSUAntec High Current Pro 850W£120$200
CPU CoolerAntec Kühler H2O 920£70$100
CaseSilverStone FT02B£195$250
Optical driveSATA DVD-RW£15$20
Storage (HDD)2 x 2TB Western Digital Caviar Black£170$240
Storage (SSD)Samsung SSD 830 256GB£225$274
Sound CardAsus Xonar DX£55$90
 Overall Price:£1,680$2,278

New This Month

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As with our other builds, a lot has changed since September last year when we last gathered our hardware know-how to create our lists of the best hardware for various price brackets.

If you're considering spending this much on a PC, then you'll want nothing less than Intel's Core i7-3770K CPU. With a nominal frequency of 3.5GHz and a turbo boost frequency of 3.9GHz, it's ridiculously fast out of the box and features hyper-threading, netting it four virtual cores in addition to its four physical ones (eight in total), meaning it's one of the fastest desktop CPUs out there for video encoding and other multi-threaded tasks. It's also lightning fast in games.

Our motherboard of choice for the Premium Player is Asus' Maximus V Gene. It looks fantastic, overclocks like a trooper, is fast at stock speed and when overclocked and comes packed with useful features. You'll also be able to pick up some tasty waterblocks for it as Asus' ROG range of motherboards is always popular among waterblock manufacturers. If you need more PCI expansion slots than it can offer (after all, it's only a micro-ATX motherboard), then Gigabyte's GA-Z77X-UD5H is the one to go for and costs only a little more.

PC Hardware Buyer's Guide May 2012 Premium Player May 2012
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The jewel in the crown of our Premium Player has to be the Nvidia GeForce GTX 680 2GB. It's the fastest single GPU graphics card we've ever seen and it obliterated our game benchmarks even at 2,560 x 1,600 at maximum settings. It was also the only single GPU model to obtain a playable frame rate at 5,760 x 1,080 with maximum settings in Battlefield 3, if you're keen on some super-wide resolution, triple monitor FPS carnage and it was fairly quiet, cool-running and power efficient too.

PC Hardware Buyer's Guide May 2012 Premium Player May 2012
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The sub £70 cooler market is exceptionally crowded at present, with both air and water cooling in the mix. While Be Quiet's Dark Rock Pro is awesomely quiet and excellent at cooling, the Antec Kühler H2O 920 is even better. You'll be the proud owner of a water-cooled
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PC, but the real fun starts when you install Antec's fan control software which gives you complete control over the unit's noise/cooling ratio from the comfort of your desktop. It also fits nicely in our case of choice - the SilverStone FT02 too, and only costs a little more than the Be Quiet.

The final amendment to our shopping list this month is the Samsung SSD 830 256GB. SSDs are now standard on our two most expensive builds in the PC Hardware Buyer's Guide, such is their prowess compared to hard disks. It's the fastest SSD we've tested - even faster than Crucial's M4 in sequential read and write tests. At £225 it's more expensive than other 200GB+ models but the additional speed worth the extra asking price.

And The Rest

A number of items haven't been changed since our last round-up of cool hardware, for the simple reason that they're still awesome. However we have dropped the Antec High Current Pro 1200W in favour of a lower wattage model. The HCP-850W is enough, even if you overclock it to the hilt and add additional graphics cards, hard disks and water cooling. We're sticking to 8GB of RAM for the simple reason that next to nothing uses any more than this. However, if you're regularly dabbling in super high-end image or video editing, or maybe rendering, then there are plenty of 16GB sets out there that should satisfy your needs.

Our case of choice, the SilverStone FT02, is a thing of beauty. Its graceful curves and rotated internal layout make it a very unique-looking beast but it's also one of the best cases for air cooling we've ever seen. There's plenty of room inside for our chosen hardware, and more. The only reason it might not be up to scratch is if you're hankering after a high-end water-cooling set up. In which case, a SilverStone TJ07 is probably the way to go.

2TB hard disks represent the best value when it comes to obtaining substantial amounts of storage and with the latest DSLR cameras filling a 16GB memory card at a scary pace these days, it pays to buy more storage than you initially think you need, especially if you'll be using some of it as a backup. As we mentioned with our other builds that centre around Asus' Maximus V Gene this month, a discrete sound card is optional, but we've included one anyway in the forum of the Asus Xonar DX. If you haven't got a copy already, you'll also need 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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