The Enthusiast Overclocker is a PC designed for those looking to buy a PC that maximises performance, without splashing out on premium hardware. If you're not into hardcore video encoding and more extreme multi-tasking, but still love your high definition gaming, we've worked with this PC to generate the best balance possible, providing that is, you spend time learning how to overclock it.
Reviewing the latest C3 revision of the Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition recently has only gone to reaffirm our choices of previous: sticking with an entry level Core i5 system as the basis for this month’s overclocker build stretches the most performance possible for your money.
It’s fair to say LGA 1156 has a stronger future going forward than AM3, considering we expect the latest Phenom is pretty much as far as AMD can push its 45nm process without a complete core revamp. As such, LGA 1156 is the superior platform going forward, with the i5 750 processor hitting the sweet spot when it comes to value, and offering future i7s as an upgrade path to more multi-threading support.
UK Price | US Price: Gigabyte GA-P55M-UD2
We've yet again changed our minds on the LGA1156 front as we look at ever more new boards. In the labs we've just this last week been through several sub-£100 P55 motherboards to see if they are up to scratch, and literally at the last minute the Gigabyte micro ATX UD2 has shown its (very blue) colours shine brighter than the rest.
As a very capable overclocker, a great BIOS, and featuring "enough" hardware on top of a quality Gigabyte base of dual-BIOS and other Ultra Durable 3 technology, for the average build the great value UD2 makes sense. It lacks SLI support, but if you want more graphics grunt we simply advise you buy a faster single card rather than two slower ones. Clearly this is also an area that can offer an increasing set of features depending on the user: so keep in mind the Asus P7P55D (Vanilla), Gigabyte P55M-UD4, MSI P55-GD65 and Asus Maximus III Formula if you really want to go "overclocker". However, by the time you've reached the latter you might as well build our Gaming Workhorse PC anyway.
UK Price | US Price: Intel Core i5 750
UK Price | US Price: G.Skill/OCZ 4GB 1,600MHz Cl9 DDR3
The Core i5-750
at just under £140 is a great quad core for the money, and we've included the same branded DDR3 memory kits from G.Skill and OCZ that provide the best price to performance ratio
. Since memory prices continue to shoot through the roof, we recommend sticking to 1,600MHz CL9 kits to get the best value and concentrating your money elsewhere. If you have a favourite memory supplier or find a great deal on your own, don't be afraid to substitute it for that instead because at the end of the day: memory is memory.
UK Price | US Price: Asus and Zotac GeForce GTX 260
The best we can come up with for this system is still the GeForce GTX 260. The Radeon HD 5700 series just doesn't cut it so well in our books so if you still need to upgrade this month, grab yourself a GTX 260 to pass the time. It'll still generate the frame rates, games supporting DirectX 10 will be around for quite a while yet and while it's still available it's still an excellent performance value part, month after month.
UK Price | US Price: Cooler Master HAF 922
The Cooler Master HAF 922’s
great price, flexibility and excellent out of the box cooling makes it a fine choice for an overclocking rig, especially as it has inbuilt fittings for watercooling radiators should you choose to get your hardware wet.
However, if you're not digging the less than elegant look of the HAF 922, other fine choices include the Antec P183 or a few LanCool cases
, although to be honest there's not a lot around the £90 mark that's really got it all like the HAF does. If you do like the HAF, but find even this expensive, the Cooler Master Scout
is a little cheaper still, although suffers from inferior build quality in places.
UK Price: Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus
US Price: Thermaltake Silent 1156
While the retail Intel CPU cooler will suffice, we'd strongly recommend upgrading to something a little meatier for overclocking. In the office we've been using Noctua's NH-U12P
and Cooler Master's V8
heatsinks, but these unfortunately retail for upwards of £50, pushing them out of our budget for this machine. If you already own a Noctua though, don't forget an upgrade kit costs nothing
from Noctua directly - so perhaps it's worth considering this as a future-proof purchase anyway.
Despite our lamenting the Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus
as mediocre, it does suffice for an overclocked Core i5-750, but be wary that it can't take heavy overvolting. The awesome Titan Fenrir should now be selling with an LGA 1156 kit, in which case we can thoroughly recommend it, although you’ll need to check with retailers to ensure the 1156 mount is included. For our US friends, the equivalent Thermaltake 1156 product is well priced and we've found works just as well.
UK Price | US Price: OCZ ModXStream Pro 500W
The OCZ ModXStream Pro 500W
might seem a little weak, but for the money it's very quiet, modular, and works perfectly fine when we tested it
. All too often it’s tempting to buy the PSU with the most watts you can afford, but the ModXStream 500W is more than enough to power the system we're recommending here and still keep in budget.
UK Price | US Price: 1TB Samsung SpinPoint F3
UK Price | US Price: LG GH22NS50 SATA DVDRW
With even budget SSDs well out of this system's price range, we’ve instead selected the superb new 1TB Samsung Spinpoint F3
, which finally dethrones its predecessor, the Spinpoint F1, after previously featuring in every single bit-tech
buyer's guide to date. At £55 it’s an absolute bargain, thrashing every other mechanical drive when it comes to sequential speeds and matching the very top end of hard disk performance when it comes to real world uses such as boot times and loading games.