A companion to our Entry-Level Gaming PC Buyer's Guide, our Enthusiast Gaming PC Guide offers processor and motherboard recommendations that provide the best bang for buck in a system with a $2000 budget. We provide suggestions for both an Intel and an AMD system, although most other components will remain the same for each of the systems.
The biggest difference you'll find in our first installation of the guide for 2012 is that for the Intel build we went with a Sandy Bridge processor. While the Sandy Bridge processors may not be the absolute fastest Intel processors available, they do offer the best performance-to-value ratio, especially when it comes to adhering to our $2000 budget.
System Case: Antec Twelve Hundred V3 Full Tower
Current Cost: $160
Few of the component choices you make will have as significant — 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 here; at the same time you also don't want to break the bank.
In the spirit of this being the first enthusiast guide of the year, we're offering a new recommendation for the system case: the Antec Twelve Hundred V3. This full tower weighs 31.3 lbs and is sized at 8.4" (W) x 22.9" (H) x 20.2"(D).
Ventilation-wise, the Twelve Hundred V3 comes standard with two 120mm exhaust fans in the back, three 120mm intake fans in the front and a 200mm exhaust fan on the top of the case, all sporting blue LEDs, with a windowed side panel adding to the cool factor. Add to that its 13 drive bays, seven expansion slots, front ports that include two USB 2.0 ports, one USB 3.0 port and audio ports, and you have a case that should more than cover your needs both now and well into the future.
Power Supply: Corsair HX Series CMPSU-750HX 750W ATX12V 2.3
Current Cost: $130
Our power supply recommendation remains the Corsair HX CMPSU-750HX 750W, an 80 Plus Silver certified modular unit that will help keep things from getting cluttered while still providing all the power you can expect to need in an enthusiast gaming system. Backed by a seven year warranty, this is a unit that demonstrates how Corsair earned its stout reputation in the industry.
AMD CPU: FX-8150 (3.6GHz)
Current Cost: $270
For our AMD build, we're switching our CPU recommendation to the eight-core 3.6GHz FX-8150. We made the switch from the Phenom II X6 1100T partly because that older option is no longer widely available. This AM3+ socket processor comes with 8MB of L3 cache and 1MB of L2 cache dedicated to each of its eight cores. And if its out-of-the-box speeds aren't good enough for you, it's known to overclock well.