When only the best will do, there’s a raft of hardware out there to cater for your needs, providing premium performance for a premium price tag. Without going crazy and losing our heads, we've really gone to town to maximise this set up because even with a high budget, we’re not out to waste money, and building a top-end system isn’t as simple as just buying the most expensive components out there.
While we're keen to point out that while the top-end hardware depreciates in value fairly rapidly, the sound card and SSD should last into future upgrades, so they can certainly be thought of as an investment for the future. If you’ve just bought that 24in or 30in monitor, surround sound speaker kit and nice comfy leather chair with foot rest (usually called the sub) and are looking for some kick-ass performance that won't wait for anyone, this is what we consider the very best hardware at the moment.
The Radeon HD 5870 1GB
is our pick for the Premium Player PC. We'd opt for one of these over the largely overpriced, very hot dual-GPU Radeon HD 5970 2GB as well. There is currently no Nvidia alternative and with no firm date for its upcoming GTX 480 and 470 card, just grab yourself an ATI card and start playing now. With games such as Mass Effect 2, Bioshock 2, S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Call of Pripyat, Star Trek Online, already out, and Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Supreme Commander 2 and Napoleon: Total War coming soon, to say there was a lot
to play within the next 30 days would clearly be an understatement.
We've opted for the excellent value Core i7-920
(d0 stepping) like usual, and combined it with our continual favourite Asus P6TD Deluxe
. Both of which draw just £400 from the bank, which is a relatively small proportion of this premium build. Be mindful though - we've heard the new rumors the Core i7 930
might be coming in February, but we've no official word from Intel yet.
Couple these with the excellent Titan Fenrir
cooler, and you'll easily see 4GHz from this combination, if not 4.2-4.4GHz at a push. With a BIOS update, this motherboard also supports Intel's forthcoming Gulftown 6-core
Included is 6GB of 1,600MHz DDR3
memory, which we feel is enough for most people, but if you seriously feel the need for more space to stretch your digital wares into, then the motherboard supports six DIMMs for 12-24GB of DDR3 memory. Bearing in mind the latest Kingston 24GB kit
will demand in excess of £900 from your wallet though.
As usual we include it all in the beautiful, yet largely inexpensive Cooler Master ATCS 840
, however if you want something a little.. blacker, then there's the Corsair Obsidian for around £210, various Lian Li cases - like the £300 Tyr X1000
- the Antec Twelve Hundred, the SilverStone Fortress FT02 for example.
Power is still provided by the Seasonic M12D 850W
- an extremely quiet (under normal load) and very efficient PSU, with a recent price drop since last month it's considerably better value for money than the Enermax Revoultion 85+
850W so we've recommended it alone here. However if you can afford it the Enermax is quieter under heavy load and a touch more efficient too. It's also the case for those of you who want higher power units: go for the Enermax. We've found both the 950W and 1,050W to be extremely capable products.
SSDs are still very expensive - no thanks to ever increasing NAND prices - but they also bring great benefits and this build really deserves one. Having locked Harry in our lab for over a week testing and re-testing all the most popular SSD solutions on Windows 7, including how efficient their TRIM and Garbage collection functions work, we can now recommend either the slightly cheaper OCZ Vertex 120GB SSD
or slightly larger Intel X25-M G2 160GB SSD
. Be sure to check out our latest SSD feature to see why - it's well worth the read. Be mindful that the Indilinx SSDs are 6-9 months old now and new SSDs released in the near future will offer SATA 6Gbps and improved performance again, however, at what cost we're yet unsure.
Combine either of these drives with the Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB
, or alternative Seagate 7200.12 or Western Digital Black for some mass storage and these make a great combination.
Finally we've also included a discrete sound card - the Asus Xonar DX
. It offers a better quality than on-board sound with more features, and finally uses one of 1x PCI-Express slots that rarely get used.