PC Hardware Buyers’ Guide September 2010

Despite there being no major launches this month, we’ve still found plenty of hardware to keep ourselves occupied. Indeed, the traditional summer lull has given us the opportunity to review some of the more esoteric items that have come into our labs recently.



Top of this list is the bright pink, phenomenally expensive and beautifully made Lian Li PC-8FIR, it’s not our cup of tea but we’re sure someone out there wants a lurid pink PC case, even if that person is Paris Hilton. We also reviewed the tiny but powerful T-Balancer MiniNG fan controller. It’s awkward to set up and has poorly translated instructions but if you can get it working it offers unparalleled control over your fans.

Another oddity was the Killer 2100 gaming network adapter. We’ve seen gaming network adapters before and been unconvinced, and unfortunately the Killer 2100 did little to change this opinion. It’s not all doom and gloom though as we loved the two LGA1366 motherboards we reviewed this month - the Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R (rev 2) and the Asus P6X58D-E. Both are very competitively priced and make a perfect basis for a top-end but keenly priced PC.

If you’re in the market for a new PC then you’ll probably be looking over your storage options too. Fortunately for you we’ve reviewed a whole heap of storage devices this month. These range from the budget 30GB Kingston V-Series to the mental but flawed OCZ RevoDrive. If you’re looking at a more mid-range build then the 120GB OCZ Vertex 2E or the identically sized G.Skill Phoenix Pro may be more up your street as both provide blazing fast performance and rapid boot times. If you’re looking for a more traditional storage solution though, then we’ve also seen the new 600GB VelociRaptor 600GB; it's mentally quick for a hard disk but it's expensive and outperformed by most SSDs too.

If price isn’t a constraint then you may want to check out the biblically quick and monstrously huge EVGA SR-2. You’ll have to stump up for two Xeon CPUs and 24GB of DDR3 if you want to get the best out of the board, but if you do you’ll have an incredibly powerfull PC at your fingertips.

Last but not least we should mention that we took a look at the limited edition Silverstone FT02R-W. It's unquestionably one of the most beautiful and desirable cases we’ve ever seen, and made all the more exclusive by the fact that only around 100 of the cases are going to be available in the UK. Fortunately it provides incredibly good cooling too thanks to the excellent Turbo Penetrator fans the case is equipped with.

PC Hardware Buyer's Guide September 2010
We loved the SR-2, but you'll need deep pockets to get hold of this sort of performance

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, the Folding Rig is back this month, after we've found the time to test which is the best graphics card 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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