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Sharky Extreme : Hardware February 20, 2012
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Building a Gaming PC: Processors and Motherboards

By Housen Maratouk :  December 6, 2011

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 $2000 budget.

System Case: Cooler Master HAF 932 RC-932-KKN5-GP Full Tower

Current Cost: $140

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 remains our choice, as it’s hard to beat for the price. It weighs 29.5 lbs, 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: $140

Also making another appearance is 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: $200

Our choice for the AMD build remains the Phenom II X6 1100T. Thought it’s inched slightly upwards in price since our last update, there’s still 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: $320

For our Intel build, we’re still going 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 going with one of them proved unfeasible, given our $2000 budget.

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 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, 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

This time around, we decided to switch to 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 SB950chipsets, 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 overclocking that AMD Phenom II X6 1100T, this motherboard will let you do so easily.

Intel Motherboard: MSI P67A-GD65 (P67)

Current Price: $160

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.

Memory: CORSAIR Vengeance 8GB 2 x 4GB kit (CMZ8GX3M2A1600C8)

Current Price: $75

For each of our builds, we went 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 1TB SATA (Bare Drive)

Current Price: $185
Crucial RealSSD C300 2.5” 64GB
Current Price: $108 + $8 for a 3.5 to 2 x 2.5” Bay Converter

As was the case with the entry-level guide, high prices on hard drives have forced us to scale back our recommendation for this build. Luckily, this drive still offers quite a bit of performance and storage space for the money.

We’ve once again paired that larger storage drive with a 64GB SSD from Crucial. This time around, though, we’ve remembered to factor in the minor cost of a bay converter, which you’ll need to mount this drive in the HAF 932 case. 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: $100

With an 8MB cache and SATA interface, the LITE-ON iHBS112 drive remains our choice for the enthusiast build. It can burn BD-R discs at 12x, BD-RE at 2x, and DVD+R at 12x.

Video Card: EVGA SuperClocked 01G-P3-1461-KR GeForce GTX 560

Current Price: $200

Once again, we decided to go with a GTX 560 video card from EVGA this time around. At $185, this card offers a while lot of bang for your buck. Sporting 1GB of GDDR5 memory, this card offers a mini HDMI port and 2 DVI ports.

LCD: ASUS VE247H 23.6” LCD

Current Price: $190

For our display recommendation, we stuck the ASUS VE247H 23.6” LCD monitor. This TN display offers a 2ms response time, LED-backlighting, a native 1920x1080 resolution, and integrated speakers. Connections include one analog port, one DVI, and one HDMI. And for those who want more flexibility than the included stand offers, VESA 100x100m mounting holes gives you plenty of options.

Sound Card: Integrated

Current Price: $0
Logitech Speaker System Z523
Current Price: $73

We’re also sticking with the integrated sound options offered by the two recommended motherboards. But needing to spend the price difference elsewhere, we had to drop our speaker recommendation to the Z523 2.1 channel system, available for $73.

Mouse: Logitech G9x Wired Laser Gaming Mouse

Current Price: $70
Keyboard: Microsoft Sidewinder X4 Keyboard
Current Price: $50

For our mouse, we stuck with the Logitech G9x gaming mouse. But this time around, we’ve switched our keyboard recommendation to the Microsoft Sidewinder X4 wired keyboard, available for $50.

Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64-bit 1-pack for System Builders Current price: $130

And finally, Windows 7 64-bit remains our best option for an operating system. The time will eventually come when this selection will change… but it won’t be any time soon.

Price Roundup

AMD Phenom II X6 System

Case: COOLER MASTER HAF 932 RC-932-KKN1-GP Full Tower - $140
Power Supply: CORSAIR HX Series CMPSU-750HX 750W ATX12V 2.3 - $140
Processor: Phenom II X6 1100T Black Edition (3.3GHz) - $200
CPU Cooling: ZALMAN CNPS9700 LED 110mm 2 Ball CPU Cooler - $41
Motherboard: ASUS Crosshair V Formula (990FX) - $220
Memory: Corsair Vengeance 8GB 2 x 4GB kit (CMZ8GX3M2A1600C8) - $75
Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB (WD1002FAEX) - $185
SSD: Crucial RealSSD C300 (CT064M4SSD2) - $108 + $8 for Bay Converter
Optical Drive: LITE-ON iHBS112 12x BDR 2x BD-RE SATA - $100
Video Card: EVGA SuperClocked 01G-P3-1461-KR GeForce GTX 560 - $200
Monitor: ASUS VE247H Black 23.6"- $190
Sound Card: Integrated - $0
Speakers: Logitech Speaker System Z523 - $73
Mouse: Logitech G9x Wired Laser Gaming Mouse - $70
Keyboard: Microsoft Sidewinder X4 Keyboard - $50
Operating System: Windows 7 Professional 64-bit - $130
Total Price: $1930

Intel Core i7 System

Case: COOLER MASTER HAF 932 RC-932-KKN1-GP Full Tower - $140
Power Supply: CORSAIR HX Series CMPSU-750HX 750W ATX12V 2.3 - $140
Processor: Core i7-2600K (3.4GHz) - $320
CPU Cooling: ZALMAN CNPS9700 LED 110mm 2 Ball CPU Cooler - $41
Motherboard: MSI P67A-GD65 (P67) - $160
Memory: Corsair Vengeance 8GB 2 x 4GB kit (CMZ8GX3M2A1600C8) - $75
Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB (WD1002FAEX) - $185
SSD: Crucial RealSSD C300 (CT064M4SSD2) - $108 + $8 for Bay Converter
Optical Drive: LITE-ON iHBS112 12x BDR 2x BD-RE SATA - $100
Video Card: EVGA SuperClocked 01G-P3-1461-KR GeForce GTX 560 - $200
Monitor: ASUS VE247H Black 23.6"- $190
Sound Card: Integrated - $0
Speakers: Logitech Speaker System Z523 - $73
Mouse: Logitech G9x Wired Laser Gaming Mouse - $70
Keyboard: Microsoft Sidewinder X4 Keyboard - $50
Operating System: Windows 7 Professional 64-bit - $130
Total Price: $1990

Closing Remarks

Though the increase in hard drive prices did force to cut a couple of corners, we think we’ve managed to stay within that budget for both of our builds without having to make too many sacrifices. Hopefully the coming weeks and months will see storage prices settling back down again.