PC Hardware Buyers Guide - March 2010

March has arrived with more optimal conditions for overclocking in the UK (read: it's still freezing cold), but unfortunately for our PCs, prices seem to have fluctuated considerably in some areas.

Radeon HD 5000s have seen considerable price rises: as much as £40 in some cases, which is down to the increased cost of GDDR5 and lack of competition from Nvidia. AMD explained to bit-tech that it's still selling its GPUs the same price, however the market is simply reacting to increased demand and limited supply with manufacturers, partners, distributors and retailers each adding a couple more per cent, significantly increasing the overall cost. With Nvidia's GF100 'Fermi' due later this month you would be forgiven for wanting to hold off, however how many will be available, at what cost and what performance? We don't know, so if you cannot wait, this month the Radeon's still gets the nod.

Recently we've investigated the overclocking potential of the Intel Core i3-530, which is a reasonably cheap CPU with tons of potential. At the other end of the scale, the Core i7-930 CPU replaces the older i7-920, however we're seeing a £30 price premium for the i7-930 as retailers try and clear older i7-920 stock. Whether the price of the new CPU will drop as time progresses we don't know, but again, its own popularity and lack of direct competition creates an unfortunate end result for consumers. The Core i5-750 seems to be creeping up in price by about £10-15 in many retailers too, although some places still stock it for February's price - obviously buy sooner rather than later for this one.

*PC Hardware Buyers Guide - March 2010 PC Hardware Buyers Guide - March 2010

AMD's 890GX has also arrived, with the notable addition of SATA 6Gbps, but will this change our choices on the AMD front with no new CPUs to match? Despite that fact AMD's 6-core CPUs are making a debut at CeBIT as I type this, we've not had confirmation about when these CPUs will actually be released. Also on the 6-core front is Intel's Gulftown. it's due towards the end of the month, so while it hasn't affected our choices for March keep it in mind if you are planning a Premium Player rig.

In general, it's been a great month for components - the Cooler Master CM-690 II Advanced won a recommended award, and there's also Kingstons latest V+ SSD, yet another Radeon graphics card or two, and we'll be taking our conclusions from the energy efficient PC hardware feature into account in our purchasing decisions as well, should we find the right products.

How do our buyers guide work?

We show an average price that you should be looking to pay for the products we've recommended and then an overall budget each of the PCs we've designed should aim for. This is in response to the fact prices fluctuate over the month, and products go in and out of stock, not to mention the included cost of delivery for all the parts that we need to take into account - and everyone has their favourite retailers and e-tailers they buy from.

As usual, a run-down of our systems is as follows:
  • The Affordable All-Rounder is highly budget conscious, but still offers plenty of gaming potential and an upgrade path.
  • The Enthusiast Overclocking system is for those who want to squeeze the most performance, although not necessarily the most MHz, for his or her money. It has tons of gaming grunt for the best use of little cash.
  • The Gaming Workhorse offers supreme performance for the heavy multi-tasker and gamer, while staying firmly under the grand mark.
  • Our Premium Player package is for those who want the latest, highest performing kit with excellent cooling that won't sound like a hive of angry hornets, and without going way into the thousands.
  • Finally, the Folding Rig is designed to get the most PPD for the least £££ to regain our rightful place high up in the Folding@home world rankings!
As always, we write the buyer's guide not as a definitive must buy list, but as a monthly update of systems and parts we know will go well together within a particular budget. Take what you want from each build - from affordable, capable PCs, to gaming behemoths - whether it be just a few bits of hardware or the whole thing if you need a ground-up upgrade. We sift through the mass of hardware and recommendations, decide from what we've tested and what we know to be good, then setup the above PCs to fit several budgets.
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