Intel CPU: Core i7-2600K (3.4GHz)
Current Cost: $315
For our Intel build, we're once again sticking with the Core i7-2600K, a four-core processor with 1MB of L2 cache (256KB per core) and 8MB of L2 cache. Faster processors are available from Intel, of course, but at this price point and with this budget, the i7-2600K can't be beat.
Cooling: Zalman CNPS9700 LED 110mm 2 Ball CPU Cooler
Current Cost: $41
As we've noted in the past, cooling is one of those things 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 include at no additional cost, or you can spend a fair bit more than $41 on a higher-end cooling solution. Our recommendation, the Zalman CNP9700, should meet the needs of most users at an attractive price-point.
AMD Motherboard: ASUS Crosshair IV Formula (890FX)
Current Price: $220
Also making a return in our Enthusiast Gaming Guide is our recommendation of the ASUS Crosshair V Formula motherboard for the AMD build. As we previously mentioned, ASUS has long held the high esteem of gamers and enthusiasts. Powered by the 990FX and SB950 chipsets, this motherboard offers four PCI-E slots, four memory slots (with a max of 32GB of RAM), Gigabit LAN, integrated audio and seven SATA 6Gb/s. And if you're looking to overclock that AMD 3.6GHz FX-8150 CPU, this motherboard will let you do so easily.
Intel Motherboard: MSI P67A-GD65 (P67)
Current Price: $170
Similarly returning to the guide is our motherboard recommendation for the Intel build, the MSI P67A-GD65. 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. And overclocking, finally, is made easier by the addition of MSI's OC Genie II.
Memory: CORSAIR Vengeance 8GB 2 x 4GB kit (CMZ8GX3M2A1600C8)
Current Price: $80
For each of our builds, we've stuck with the CMZ8GX3M2A1600C8 8GB (2 x 4GB) kit from Corsair. This kit populates half of the available memory slots, leaving you room to grow in the future.
Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar Black 1.0TB (WD1002FAEX)
Current Price: $155
Crucial RealSSD C300 2.5" 64GB
Current Price: $107 + $9 for a 3.5 to 2 x 2.5" Bay Converter
Hard drive prices have fortunately been making their ways back downwards after a significant uptick following the flooding in Thailand, albeit not as quickly as we'd like. Our recommended drive from Western Digital, the WD Caviar Black 1.0 TB, can now be had for $155, down $30 from the last edition of this guide.
To allow for faster OS performance, we've once again paired that larger storage drive with a 64GB SSD from Crucial and a bay conversion kit that you'll need in order to mount it into your case. By pairing the Crucial RealSSD C300 64GB drive (CT064M4SSD2) with the WD Caviar Black, you'll end up with a combination of storage and speed that will more than meet most users' needs.
Optical Drive: LITE-ON iHBS112-29 12x BDR 2x BD-RE SATA (OEM)
Current Price: $96
With an 8MB cache and SATA interface, the LITE-ON iHBS112 drive remains our choice for the enthusiast gamer's build. It can burn BD-R discs at 12x, BD-RE at 2x, and DVD+R at 12x.
Video Card: ASUS ENGTX560 GeForce GTX 560
Current Price: $200
At this price point, we decided to stick with a GTX 560 video card. This time around, though, we're suggesting you take a look at the ASUS ENGTX560 GeForce GTX 560. As with the EVGA card we previously included in this guide, the ASUS ENGTX560 sports 1GB of GDDR5 memory, one mini HDMI port and two DVI ports.
LCD: ASUS VE247H 23.6" LCD
Current Price: $189
For our display recommendation, we're once again sticking with the ASUS VE247H 23.6" LCD monitor. This TN display offers a 2ms response time, LED-backlighting, native 1920x1080 resolution and integrated speakers. Connections include one analog port, one DVI and one HDMI. And for those looking for more flexibility than the included stand offers, VESA 100x100m mounting holes provide plenty of options.