PC Hardware Buyer’s Guide October 2010

The headline release this month has been the Nvidia GeForce GTS 450 which, as many of our regular readers will know, turned out to be a damp squib. The main reason for this is the price crash we saw in the Nvidia GeForce GTX 460 768MB cards towards the beginning of last month, which made the GTS 450 look tragically bad value. Prices seem to have evened themselves out now however, with a good £20 or £30 between the cheapest GTS 450 and the cheapest GTX 460 768MB, rather the £10 difference we saw at release.

We also
The Raven RV02 proved extremely capable

The Raven RV02 proved extremely capable

found time to review a number of cases this month, each of which had some stand-out features making it worthy of our attention. The BitFenix Colossus, for example, was one of the most eagerly anticipated cases we’ve had in our labs for a good while nowas we’ve been watching the development of the case.

When we finally managed to get our hands on it we were awed by the sheer size of the case and dazzled by its unique looks. We were underwhelmed by its cooling though, which was shown to be well below par for a case of its size. More capable in the cooling department was the excellent Cooler Master HAF 912 Plus which proved itself to be both tiny and capable. Its styling may not be to everyone’s tastes, but we were quite enamored with the cute little thing by the time we’d finished our review of it and it walked away with a coveted recommended award as a result.

An other case we took a look at was the Corsair Graphite 600T which was an absolute dream to build a PC inside of due to its clever cable routeing touches. The styling split opinion here in bit-tech HQ however as its excessive use of plastic on the exterior detracted from the quality of the interior. The cooling the case offered was also average at best, though the built-in four-channel fan controller is a nice touch.

Finally, we reviewed the SilverStone Raven RV02, which managed to effortlessly cool our updated test kit. Part of this is down to the unusual inverted design of the case which makes the Raven RV02 look unique and quirky without compromising on cooling or build quality.

Buying a new PC isn’t just about the core components though, and it’s a pretty good bet you’ll need new peripherals too. Fear not, as we’ve taken time to review the full holy trinity of gaming peripherals this month; headset, keyboard and mouse. Headset duties went the unimaginatively titled Corsair HS1, which was ludicrously comfortable and, despite being slightly light on bass, was pleasing on the ear too. This, coupled with the fact that it is relatively keenly priced for a top-end headset, meant it bagged itself an award too.

Unfortunately, our other two peripheral reviews were a little less glowing. The Logitech G700 gaming mouse suffered from a lack of responsiveness when working in its wireless mode. This is a shame given that its performance when wired was excellent. The Tt eSports Challenger gaming keyboard also failed to impress despite proving positively bomb-proof. We demand more than just build quality from our keyboards, and it was its poor set of features that let the Challenger down.

For those of you ready to embrace 3D gaming we also reviewed the Asus VG236H 3D monitor and bundle. It didn’t tick all our boxes, but was one of the most fully featured 3D screens we’ve seen for a while; we can’t help thinking you’d be better of waiting for 3D screens to mature a little more before splashing the cash.

PC Hardware Buyer's Guide October 2010
The Corsair HS1 uses the same type or memory foam as some mattresses to make the ear cups super-comfortable

How does our buyer's guide work?

We show an average price that you should be looking to pay for the products we've recommended, and then an overall budget for each of the PCs we've designed. This is in response to the fact prices fluctuate over the month, and products go in and out of stock, not to mention the included cost of delivery for all the parts that we need to take into account - and everyone has their favourite retailers and e-tailers they buy from.

As usual, a run-down of our systems is as follows:
  • The Affordable All-Rounder is highly budget conscious, but still offers plenty of gaming potential and an upgrade path.
  • The Enthusiast Overclocker system is for those who want to squeeze the most performance, although not necessarily the most MHz, for his or her money. It has tons of gaming grunt for the best use of little cash.
  • The Gaming Workhorse offers supreme performance for the heavy multi-tasker and gamer, while staying firmly under the grand mark.
  • Our Premium Player package is for those who want the latest, highest performing kit with excellent cooling that won't sound like a hive of angry hornets, and without going way into the thousands.
  • Finally our Folding Rig caters for those looking to build a capable folding farm by using all the best hardware for folding.

As always, we write the buyer's guide not as a definitive must-buy list, but as a monthly update of systems and parts we know will work well together within a particular budget. Take what you want from each build - from affordable, capable PCs to gaming behemoths - whether it be just a few bits of hardware for an upgrade or the whole system. We sift through the mass of hardware and recommendations, decide from what we've tested and what we know to be good, then set up the above PCs to fit several budgets.
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