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Monthly High-end Gaming System Buyer's Guide

PC Buyer's Guide for Gaming Enthusiasts, August, 2011

By Housen Maratouk August 31, 2011

The Enthusiast-level PC Buying Guide offers processor and motherboard suggestions for both Intel and AMD system, though the other components will remain the same.  For this we went with a Sandy Bridge processor. No, they’re not the absolute fastest Intel processors available. But they offer the best bang for buck in a system with a $2,000 budget.

 

 Introduction

This guide will offer processor and motherboard suggestions for both an Intel and AMD system, though the other components will remain the same. The biggest difference you’ll find in this installation of the guide is that for the Intel build, we went with a Sandy Bridge processor. No, they’re not the absolute fastest Intel processors available. But they offer the best bang for buck in a system with a $2,000 budget.


System Case: Cooler Master HAF 932 RC-932-KKN5-GP Full Tower
Current Cost: $139

Few of the choices you make will play as big, and as enduring, an impact on the system you end up with as the system case. Given how long you’ll be living with this selection (potentially through multiple system builds and upgrades), you don’t want to skimp… but you also don’t want to break the bank.

The Cooler Master HAF 932 RC-932-KKN5-GP Full Tower is more or less the same case we suggested in our last Enthusiast guide, with the main changes being that it now sports USB 3.0 ports and a black interior.  Its weight went up slightly to 29.5 pounds, with its 9.6” (W) x 22.0” (H) x 22.2” (D) size making it well suited for today’s ever-growing graphics cards. It offers plenty of ventilation, with 230mm fans at the front, side, and top, a 140mm fan in the rear, and room to add either additional fans or an easily-accessible liquid cooling system at the top of the case. And as we mentioned in previous issues of this guide, the red LED fan in the front and the meshed side window will make it look as good, as well.


Power Supply: Corsair HX Series CMPSU-750HX 750W ATX12V 2.3
Current Cost: $144

Once again our choice for the power supply, the Corsair HX CMPSU-750HX 750W is an 80 Plus Silver certified modular unit that will help keep things from getting cluttered while all the power you need in an enthusiast gaming system. Backed by a seven year warranty, this is a unit that demonstrates how Corsair earned its reputation in the industry.

 


 

AMD CPU: Phenom II X6 1100T Black Edition (3.3GHz)
Current Cost: $195

Our choice for the AMD build remains the Phenom II X6 1100T. At just $195, there’s just no beating this processor for this build. This AM3 socket processor comes with 6MB of L3 cache, with 512KB of L2 cache dedicated to each of its six cores. And like other Black Edition processors, the 1100T’s multiplier is unlocked, allowing for overclocking.


Intel CPU: Core i7-2600K (3.4GHz)
Current Cost: $315

In this issue, we’ve decided to go with a Sandy Bridge processor: the i7-2600K, a four-core processor with 1MB of L2 cache (256KB per core) and 8MB of L2 cache. It also includes HD Graphics 3000. But we can’t imagine that anyone wanting to go with integrated graphics on an enthusiast PC.


Cooling: Zalman CNPS9700 LED 110mm 2 Ball CPU Cooler
Current Cost: $41

While the Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus we recommended in previous editions of this guide is still a solid choice, we decided to spend just a little bit more this time around and go with a unit that should offer a bit more in the way of cooling for those who are planning to overclock: the Zalman CNP9700.

As we’ve noted in the past, cooling is one of those things is something you have to decide for yourself how much you want to spend on. You can go with the stock cooling that the retail CPU kits come with at no additional cost, or you can spend a fair bit more than $41 on a higher-end cooling solution. This unit, we think, should meet the needs of most users at an attractive price-point.


AMD Motherboard: ASUS Crosshair IV Formula (890FX)
Current Price: $210

Once again reappearing in this issue of the guide is the ASUS Crosshair IV Formula motherboard for the AMD build. As we previously mentioned, ASUS has long held the high esteem of gamers and enthusiasts, and the Crosshair IV Formula demonstrates why. Powered by the 890FX and SB850chipsets, this motherboard offers four PCI-E slots, four memory slots (with a max of 16GB of RAM), seven USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, an eSATA port, an IEEE 1394a port, gigabit LAN, integrated audio, and 6 SATA 6Gb/s connections plus one SATA 3Gb/s connection. And if you’re looking to overclocking that AMD Phenom II X6 1100T, the TurboV functionality will let you do so easily.

Intel Motherboard: MSI P67A-GD65 (P67)
Current Price: $170

With the switch to a Sandy Bridge processor comes a new motherboard recommendation. The MSI P67A-GD65 is an LGA 1155 chipset motherboard that is powered by the Intel P67 chipset. It offers two  PCI-E 2.0 x 16 slots, three PXI Express x1 slots, four memory slots (with support for up to 32GB of RAM), two USB 3.0 ports, eight USB 2.0 ports, two e-SATA ports, one IEEE1394 ports, gigabit LAN, integrated audio, four SATA 3GB/s connections, and four SATA 6Gb/s connections. Overclocking, finally, is made easier by MSI’s OC Genie II.


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