What Hardware Should I Buy? - Sept 2009

Written by bit-tech Staff

September 15, 2009 | 10:15

Tags: #build #building #buyers #case #cheap #computer #cost #decision #guide #hardware #inexpensive #make #new #performance #purchase #what

Companies: #bit-tech #game

Enthusiast Overclocker

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.

After many (still ongoing) arguments in the office, we decided to go for a Intel Core i5-750. Some of us believe that the system is still too expensive for what it is, and that maybe true; however, we're all agreed that you wouldn't buy a Core 2 or a Phenom II if you could avoid this Lynnfield system. It's fair to say that LGA1156 has a stronger future than either LGA775 or Socket AM3 (which will be replaced with AM4 within a year or so) and a Core i5-750 is significantly better value than current Core 2 or Phenom II CPUs.

This system is most likely to change month on month as prices drop and we discover new products that better fit the bill, and we'd strongly encourage you to avoid buying a Core i5 system right now if you can help it, because it honestly really is just too expensive for the audience we targeted this machine at. If you absolutely have to buy in September though, here's what we recommend:

What Hardware Should I Buy? - Sept 2009 Enthusiast Overclocker

UK Price | US Price: Asus P7P55D

We've not had time to thoroughly test every budget LGA1156 motherboard - there's still the Gigabyte UD2/3 and MSI P55-CD53 to check in more detail, but we did manage to get the Asus P7P55D (note: this is not the Deluxe version) down for some tests and overclocking already. Like its bigger brother, the P7P55D Deluxe, it still has a vast array of BIOS options. Its overclocking prowess isn't quite as good though, and the SATA ports are a little more awkward to use. But for £115, it seems a good buy however strongly we urge you to wait for prices to slip a bit over the next couple of weeks.

UK Price | US Price: Intel Core i5 750
UK Price | US Price: G.Skill Ripjaw 4GB 1,600MHz Cl9 DDR3

Squeezing in the Core i5-750 at just under £150 isn't bad money, and we've included the same great value DDR3 memory kit that was in the affordable system too. If you want something faster for a little more overclocking fun, there's always the slightly more expensive 2GHz option (US), however we think this system costs too much money already to really justify it. Naturally memory prices fluctuate wildly through the month, so 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: ATI Radeon HD 4890 1GB
US Price: ATI Radeon HD 4870 1GB

For absolutely no reason what-so-ever (and certainly not the impending release of the Radeon HD 5000-series from ATI) the Radeon HD 4890 card prices seem to have dropped through the floor. While we still think the cards are far too noisy under load, we would absolutely up-sell ourselves the extra £10 over the Nvidia GeForce GTX 260-216 to get one of these for better gaming performance. Our US friends aren't quite so lucky, so have to make do with something a little slower to keep within the same budget.

UK Price | US Price: Cooler Master HAF 922

We've opted for the Cooler Master HAF 922 because it's a great price and has excellent cooling. However, if you're not digging the less than elegant look of the HAF 922, other 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.

UK Price | US Price: Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus

While the retail Intel CPU cooler will suffice, we'd strongly recommend upgrading to something a little more meaty. 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. We strongly recommend waiting for other cheap heatsinks to hit the market quite honestly.

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. It should have plenty to power the system we're recommending here and still keep in budget, but if you do want something with a little more meat, turn over the page and check out the Be Quiet! Dark Power Pro 650W.

UK Price | US Price: 1TB Samsung SpinPoint F1
UK Price | US Price: LG GH22NS50 SATA DVDRW

We really did want to maybe squeeze in a budget SSD for optimum performance, but we've still not found one that fits the right price bracket for the necessary performance jump, so we're sticking with the 1TB Samsung Spinpoint F1 hard disk for just a little longer. It might not be as fast as the latest 1TB Seagate 7200.12 or Western Digital Black 1TB hard drives, but in the real world the difference is negligible at best, and the Samsung is still cheaper. If only by a few quid.
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