Enthusiast Overclocker May 2011

The Enthusiast Overclocker is a PC designed for those looking to build a fast PC without splashing out on pricey hardware. If you're not into speedy video encoding and heavy multi-tasking, but still love your high-resolution gaming, we've created a PC with the best balance of performance possible. However, you'll need to apply your overclocking skills to get the most from this system, but then, that's half the fun of a DIY build, isn't it?

 Enthusiast Overclocker
 ProductUK Price (inc VAT)US Price (ex tax)
CPU3.3GHz Intel Core i5-2500K£160$225
MotherboardAsus P8P67£120$160
Memory4GB 1,600MHz DDR3£40$45
Graphics CardMSI R6850 Cyclone Power 1GB£140$180
PSUOCZ ModXStream Pro 500W£50$65
CPU CoolerGelid Tranquillo£25$40
CaseCooler Master HAF 912 Plus£55$60
Optical driveSATA DVD-RW£15$20
Storage1TB Samsung SpinPoint F3£40$65
 Overall Price:£645$860

New This Month

The only change to our Enthusiast Overclocker this month is an upgrade in the graphics department. We’ve swapped out the stock AMD Radeon HD 6850 1GB for the MSI Radeon HD 6850 Cyclone Power Edition, which proved to be a gem of a card when we looked at it a few weeks ago. The card comes complete with a factory overclock, a custom PCB design and an excellent custom cooler that runs very quietly, all for roughly the same price of a normal stock-speed HD 6850 1GB.

PC Hardware Buyer's Guide May 2011  Enthusiast Overclocker May 2011

The card performs around ten per cent faster than a regular HD 6850 1GB, and sneaks ahead of an Nvidia GeForce GTX 460 1GB too. The excellent custom cooler attached to the card also meant we could push the card way beyond its rated speed. We eventually settled on a stable 1GHz GPU overclock and 1,175MHz memory (4.7GHz effective), using a vcore of 1,250mv. This is a massive 29 per cent higher than a stock HD 6850 1GB, and we saw plenty of extra performance. In Arma II at 1,920 x 1,080 with 4x AA, the minimum frame rate rose 15 per cent to a noticeably smoother 30fps.

And The Rest

The only CPU that we could even contemplate putting into a build labelled Enthusiast Overclocker is the relatively cheap Intel Core i5-2500K. The CPU is quick at stock speeds thanks to Intel’s Turbo Boost 2 technology, but excels when overclocked; it’s not uncommon to see i5-2500K CPUs clocked around the 5GHz mark using air-cooling alone. At these speeds the CPU can compete with Intel’s top end LGA1366 processors, and even surpass them in tasks that don’t benefit from the extra threads at their disposal.

PC Hardware Buyer's Guide May 2011  Enthusiast Overclocker May 2011

The motherboard we’ve chosen to use for the build is the excellent Asus P8P67. It’s been our favourite for a little while now, and saw off the challenge of Asus' Sabertooth P67 this month. However, we recommend checking back to the site in the coming weeks, as we’ve got plenty more B3-stepping P67 boards in the labs at the moment, any of which could dethrone the P8P67 as our favourite P67 board.

As we’re planning a fairly heavy overclock, we needed to add a great cooler to the build, and we chose the Gelid Tranquillo for its cooling ability and its quietness. If you wanted to chill your CPU even lower then you could sub out the Tranquillo with either the Thermaltake Frio or the Be Quiet! Dark Rock Advanced. Both provide better cooling than the Tranquillo but they're also more expensive and, in the case of the Frio, noisier too.

We've also kitted out the PC with 4GB of 1,600MHz DDR3 memory. This is the sweet spot in the memory market at the moment, as these kinds of kits are currently particularly affordable. Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about memory straps and Base Clock ratios if you’re buying an LGA1155 system, as nearly all overclocking is carried out via the CPU multiplier.

PC Hardware Buyer's Guide May 2011  Enthusiast Overclocker May 2011As such, you just need to drop into the EFI and select the 16x memory strap in the relevant menu to make sure your RAM is running at its full rated speed. If you’re unsure of where to find this menu, you can check out our i5-2500K overclocking guide.

The case we’ve chosen for the build is the Coolermaster HAF 912 Plus, which is a small but capable case. We particularly like its solid construction and rugged but tidy looks, and it’s also got a number of natty cable-tidying features that make building a clean PC easy, despite its size. We've recommended the Plus version of the case, which has a black painted interior, but this version isn’t available in the US for some reason, so we’re recommending the normal version without the painted interior for US readers. If the styling of the HAF 912 isn’t your cup of tea, though, you could of course opt for the excellent and similarly priced Xigmatek Utgard, or the slightly more expensive but extremely quiet Fractal Design Define R3.

We’ve also packed in the 500W OCZ ModXStream PSU, a cheap SATA DVD drive and a 1TB Samsung SpinPoint F3 hard disk. If you haven't got a copy already, you might want to factor in a copy of Windows 7. If you're confident that you won't be upgrading your motherboard, then an OEM copy will be fine, but serial upgraders should opt for the full retail version.
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