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 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.
This month is the first time you'll notice an obvious gap because we've been genuinely stuck: there's no high end graphics product available. From anyone. Nvidia has discontinued its high-end GTX 275s and 285s, except for the few remaining in stores we'd never buy because they are too expensive niche editions, and ATI, well, good luck in finding a HD 5800 series in November. If you really, really want one (and we'd push you towards one instead of an Nvidia card right now) then we recommend you join a very long queue as soon as possible.
AMD Radeon HD 5870 1GB GDDR5?
AMD's latest performance graphics card is a single GPU monster. Because we eschew dual-GPU solutions whenever possible, the HD 5870 makes perfect sense, but given extremely limited supply and huge demand prices are inevitably increasing.
However, with essentially no other option, you get future DirectX 11 support as well as an incredibly low idle power and other architectural advancements you can read about in our Tim-depth guide
and performance review
While it’s the top card right now though, we are still waiting for Nvidia to show its DirectX11 card later this year, so some may want to hold off for now. However, the HD 5870 is an undoubtedly powerful single GPU card and the gauntlet has been firmly thrown down for Nvidia to respond. If you have to have the biggest, fastest, most future proof graphics card in the room though, only the HD 5870 will do.
UK Price | US Price: Intel Core i7 920 (D0)
The Core i7 920 (d0 stepping) is still the performance value part to buy. Again. Forget the more expensive 950/960/975 parts, because the 920 will hit a happy ~4GHz on the Asus P6TD Deluxe suggested which, combined with eight threads and plenty of cache makes it a performance beast that'll cruise through any task.
UK Price | US Price: Asus P6TD Deluxe
Another week, another P6T Deluxe pops out of Asus it seems. This is number three in the series, with the recent V2 discontinued, the thrice-optimised P6TD thankfully still incorporates a rock solid build quality and fantastic performance and overclocking potential of its predecessors. Coupled with six memory slots and future 6-core CPU support (we anticipate), it offers plenty of upgrade potential for the future. Asus' P6T Deluxe series has consistently been recommended by bit-tech
and Custom PC since its launch a year ago, proving that Asus got this one right. Again.
UK Price | US Price: OCZ/A-Data 6GB (3x2GB) 1,600MHz Cl8/9 DDR3 kit
We've used the same 6GB kit from the previous build here too. It's not super high performance, but with DDR3 memory prices up considerably we've opted for good performance with best value option. It's not like LGA1366 Core i7 CPUs are starved of memory bandwidth after all. If you have a favourite supplier or spot a good deal, don't be afraid to substitute it in here.
UK Price | US Price: Cooler Master ATCS 840
With all this premium kit, you'll want a case that looks suitably impressive, and we're big fans of the Cooler Master ATCS 840
. It's got the space inside to comfortably house all our high end bits, while the exterior is sleek and elegant. Its stock cooling is both effective and pleasingly quiet, and there’s plenty of flexibility in the design for you to add almost any hardware configuration you can imagine, with plenty of provisioning for watercooling mounts too.
UK Price: Enermax Revolution 85+ 850W PSU
US Price: Seasonic M12D 850W PSU
At the time of writing the buyer's guide this month the 850W M12D from Seasonic is currently out of stock, and we've also heard might be subject to a slight price increase too. With that in mind, we've opted for the equally awesome Enermax Revolution 85+ 850W for a nose more. Under full load it's a bit quieter than Seasonic, and it's also a touch more efficient too.
For our US friends, the The M12D 850W PSU
still is the preferred choice, but either will make an excellent addition to the system.
UK Price| US Price: : Titan Fenrir TTC-NK85TZ
We've gone back to air cooling this month because Swiftech stopped selling its awesome watercooling kit! Silly blighters! The Titan Fenrir takes the reins then, and for just £25 it's an awesomely inexpensive alternative until we find something a bit more hardcore.
UK Price| US Price: Asus Xonar DX Sound card
Throw in a quality, PCI-Express soundcard such as the Asus Xonar D2X
and there's perfect-pitch audio to match the power of the system as a whole. Despite on-board audio reaching such a level that it's suitable for the vast majority of us, if you're dropping one and a half grand on a hardcore PC, there's a strong likelihood you'll also want to balance it with a tasty audio setup. Be sure to keep in mind the Xonar Essence STX
as well if you need coaxial connectors instead of 3.5mm audio jacks.
UK Price | US Price: Crucial CT128M225 128GB SSD
UK Price | US Price: Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB hard disk
The case has also got plenty of room to house the two storage devices we'd recommend - the Crucial CT128M225 SSD and the 1TB Samsung SpinPoint F3 - plus any other disks you might want to carry over from your current build. Because of NAND price increases along with DRAM recently, the Crucial SSD has increased dramatically in price: almost doubling for our US friends. With that in mind, we've swapped it out for the cheaper 128GB Patriot Torqx: but both are Indilinx drives that offer excellent performance.
If you don't fancy just tucking the drive away in a nook of your case, then how about an SSD caddy
UK Price | US Price: LG GH22NS50 SATA DVDRW
Finally, there's a SATA DVD drive. While it's tempting to add a Blu-ray drive to any expensive PC, only movies are distributed on Blu-ray, and you'll want to watch these on a super-quiet media PC hooked up to a large HD telly, rather than monster PC with a comparatively small 24in or 30in screen. The only reason you'd want to add a Blu-ray drive to a powerful PC is to let you rip Blu-ray films, and as that's illegal, so we know you definitely
won't be doing that, hence the standard DVD drive recommendation.