Gaming Workhorse

While our Enthusiast Overclocker system is built around maximising overclocking and gaming potential on a budget (well, as much of a budget as Lynnfield allows, at least), those looking for excellent all-round performance will want a 'proper' LGA1366 Core i7. LGA1366 is great for any demanding use - be that gaming, processing a heap of RAW images or encoding video or audio - and you can build a powerful system with few compromises for well under £1,000 (or even under $1,200 ex. Tax).

Even before our LGA1156 Core i5 and Core i7 review, the LGA1366 Core i7 920 was a great choice for anyone with a bit of cash and a desire for performance.

With four processing cores, Hyper-Threading, and a triple-channel memory controller, the i7-920 isn't left begging for high-end features and performance. It'll easily overclock all the way up to 4GHz, as we found out in our Core i7-920 overclocking guide. With the new D0-stepping adding a little bit more overclocking potential and reducing power consumption a touch, what more could you want from a £200 CPU?

Coupled with this is the excellent X58 chipset of LGA1366 boards. With 36 lanes of PCI-E 2.0 bandwidth on offer, this chipset can run both SLI and CrossFire at full speed, something that the single 16-lane PCI-Express controller in an LGA1156 CPU can't do. Choosing a competitively priced LGA1366 board at the moment makes for a tricky choice though, so read on to find out what we'd plump for, and what graphics card we'd use to make an epically fast PC for a reasonable amount of cash...

What Hardware Should I Buy? - Nov 2009 Gaming Workhorse

UK Price | US Price: Intel Core i7-920 (D0 Stepping)
UK Price | US Price: Gigabyte GA-X58-UD3R

While the CPU for this system is a no-brainer, there are a few cheap quality LGA1366 motherboards to consider. Of the two more affordable boards we've tested, there's the Gigabyte GA-X58-UD3R and the MSI X58M. Both cost around £130 inc VAT, and have plenty of features and overclocking potential. The difference is that the MSI is a micro-ATX board with six memory sockets while the Gigabyte is a full ATX-sized mobo with four memory sockets.

If you were to opt for a 3GB kit (3 x 1GB DIMMs) you'd probably want to opt for the MSI as you could buy another 3GB kit at a later date to boost your memory to 6GB. However, we've had situations where populating all the memory slots has stressed the memory bus heavily, and monkeyed around with the overclocking capabilities in the past, so we're sticking with a plain (3x2GB) 6GB kit.

UK Price | US Price: OCZ/Corsair 6GB (3x2GB) 1,600MHz CL8/9 DDR3 kit

As we'd pick a 6GB memory kit from the off, we're going to go with the Gigabyte as we don’t expect most won't be needing more than 6GB of memory any time soon - if you do, then certainly upsell yourself for a 6-slot board. The Gigabyte UD3R will then let us space out our expansion cards, so if we do add a dedicated sound card later, that can be as far away from our hot graphics card as possible.

UK Price | US Price: Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 1GB Vapor-X

Speaking of graphics cards, which one would we choose? This month has seen complete unavailability of the Radeon HD 5850 we recommended last month, so in light of this, we've had to substitute it with the next best thing we could find available. The Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 1GB Vapor-X might not equate to HD 5850 performance and its latest features, so we really recommend you wait it out, however if you must get something in this price range the quiet Sapphire is a decent choice. We've reviewed the 2GB model, however there's very little performance difference between this and 1GB 4890s.

UK Price | US Price: Cooler Master HAF 922

That's the basis of an awesome gaming PC sorted but, as ever, the choice of case is a tricky and mostly personal one; cooling ability is all well and good, but if you think the case looks ugly, you're not going to want it next to you on your desk. We've gone for the Cooler Master HAF 922 to keep costs under control, but you could just as well go with the aluminium luxury of a Lian Li PC-P50 or even the menhir-like Lian Li Tyr PC-X1000 for £300. Equally, you might not care what the system looks like and go with a cheap high-airflow case such as the Antec Three Hundred.

We quite like the HAF 922, though, even if we'd want to fill the side-panel fan mount with a 200mm fan. The best 200mm fan we've tested to date is the Antec Big Boy 200, which will adds £14.69 inc VAT to your build price. You could bung in two spare 120mm fans if you want though, such is the flexibility of the HAF 922.

UK Price | US Price: Corsair HX 650W

Our favourite Be Quiet! Dark Power Pro 650W is being phased out in favour of a new model, and so until that arrives and we test it we're opting for the Corsair HX 650W PSU instead both here and in the US. We've already reviewed the HX 850W for the magazine with a great result, and the HX 650W has received many recommendations elsewhere too. 650W should be enough to cover this system easily, and will certainly take a HD 5850 when they finally come available too.

UK Price | US Price: 1TB Samsung SpinPoint F3

A decent SSD is still out of this system’s price range, especially considering their prices are ever increasing. The money better spent on the beefier core hardware, in addition to the superb new 1TB Samsung Spinpoint F3. With twin 500GB platters and a 7,200RPM spindle speed it’s an absolute beast when it comes to sequential and real world performance and at just £55 it’s an absolute bargain too, thrashing every other mechanical drive. As we said in the review - "get one".

UK Price| US Price: : Titan Fenrir TTC-NK85TZ

Cooling the CPU is the seemingly ubiquitous (since we published our review, anyway) Titan Fenrir TTC-NK85TZ which is not only excellent at keeping LGA1366 CPUs cool, but is quiet too. Even better, it’s now available in the USA thanks to the chaps at FrozenCPU, allowing our stateside chums to get in on the Fenrir’s awesome cooling capabilities.

UK Price | US Price: LG GH22NS50 SATA DVDRW

Finally, there's an optical drive. It's a SATA one for under £16 inc VAT. Yay, SATA.
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