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Sharky Extreme : Monthly High-end Gaming System Buyer's Guide February 18, 2012
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Monthly High-end Gaming System Buyer's Guide

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PC Buyer's Guide for Gaming Enthusiasts

By Housen Maratouk :  February 19, 2011

Cooling: Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus Current Cost: $24

No, it's not the highest-end solution available. But the Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus is a solidly performing unit that offers better performance than either camp's stock solutions and will let you do some moderate over-clocking. CPU cooling is one of those things you basically have to decide how much you're willing to spend on. Both Intel and AMD ship their retail processor with heatsinks and fans that will support stock speeds as well as some light overclocking. So if you're not looking to do more than that, you can choose to forego (or at least put off) this expense. And if you really want to test the limits of your processor, you might find yourself spending 3x what we're suggesting on a cooling solution. Between those extremes is the Hyper 212 Plus.

AMD Motherboard: ASUS Crosshair IV Formula (890FX) Current Price: $200

Long a top-tier manufacturer of motherboards, ASUS has long held the high esteem of gamers and enthusiasts, and the Crosshair IV Formula demonstrates why. Powered by the 890FX and SB850chipsets, this motherboard offers four PCI-E slots, four memory slots (with a max of 16GB of RAM), seven USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, an eSATA port, an IEEE 1394a port, gigabit LAN, integrated audio, and 6 SATA 6Gb/s connections plus one SATA 3Gb/s connection. And if you're looking to over-clocking that AMD Phenom II X6 1100T, the TurboV functionality will let you do so easily.

Intel Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R Current Price: $200

Just as high on enthusiasts and gamers lists is Gigabyte, the manufacturer of our Intel motherboard recommendation. The GA-X58A-UD3R is powered by the Intel X58 and ICH10R chipsets and offers four PCI-E slots, six memory slots (with support for up to 24GB of RAM), four USB 2.0 ports, two additional USB 2.0 ports that double as e-SATA ports, two USB 3.0 ports, two IEEE1394a ports, gigabit LAN, integrated audio, eight SATA 3GB/s connections, and two SATA 6Gb/s connections. And is with ASUS, Gigabyte offers support for easy over-clocking.

Intel Memory: Corsair XMS3 DDR3-1600 6GB 3x2GB kit (TR3X6G1600C8 G) Current Price: $91 AMD Memory: CORSAIR Vengeance 8GB 2 x 4GB kit (^27CMPSU28^3M2A1600C9) Current Price: $105

For each of our builds, we went with Corsair kits. In the case of the Intel system, we went with Corsair kits. In each case, we populated half of the available memory slots, with a 6GB kit for the Intel system (3x2GB) and an 8GB kit for the AMD (2x4GB). More than this, quite frankly, is unlikely to yield any meaningful performance gains for most gaming and enthusiast users. So the money that might be spent on any more memory is better spent elsewhere.

Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB SATA (Bare Drive) Current Price: $88

At $90, the Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB (WD1002FAEX) drive offers quite a bit of performance and storage space for the money. Sporting a 64MB data cache, this drive supports the SATA 6GB/s interface and runs at 7200rpm. Backed by a five year warranty, this is solid drive from a solid company.

Optical Drive: LITE-ON iHBS112 12x BDR 2x BD-RE SATA (OEM) Current Price: $110

Given how affordable they've gotten, we couldn't resist including a Blu-ray burner in this system. With its 8MB cache and SATA interface, the LITE-ON iHBS112 drive can burn BD-R discs at 12x, BD-RE at 2x, and DVD+R at 12x.

Video Card: Sapphire 1003142SR Radeon HD 6870 Current Price: $220

While not quite at the highest end of ATI Radeon offerings, the 6870 is just one step down in performance at about $150 less in price. And with its 1GB of GDDR5 memory, 900MHz core clock speed, and 1120 stream processing units, it still offers enough performance to run just about anything. Ports include an HDMI port, 2 mini-DisplayPorts, and 2 DVI ports. Sapphire's recent revision to the 100314SR changes things up a bit from the reference design, putting their spin on things while maintaining the 6870's solid performance.

LCD: Samsung P2450H Rose Black 24-inch LCD Current Price: $220

With its 2ms response time and 1000:1 aspect ratio, this 24" 1920x1080 TN-panel display will help you immerse yourself in your games. Connections include an analog connector for those who are still emotionally attached to them, along with a DVI and HDMI port for the rest of us. It doesn't have the most versatile base we've seen, offering only tilt adjustment. But VESA mounting holes are available for those who want more flexibility than any included stand is likely to offer.

Sound Card: Creative Labs SB0880 Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium Current Price: $89 Logitech Speaker System Z623 Current Price: $130

In staying within budget, something had to give. But thankfully, it didn't give much. We just couldn't bring ourselves to recommend integrated sound, no matter how good it's gotten in comparison to past years. So we included the Creative Labs SB0880 Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium. But when it came to speakers, including a 5.1 system was just taking up too much of the budget. So we decided to instead go with a great 2.1 system: the Logitech Z623.

Mouse: Logitech G9x Wired Laser Gaming Mouse Current Price: $71 Keyboard: Microsoft SideWinder X4 Current Price: $53

You just can't have a gaming system without good input devices, so we went with the Logitech G9x gaming mouse and Microsoft SideWinder X4. Offering great performance, flexibility, and control, these two input devices will serve you well, whether you're gaming or getting some work done. Yes, we considered including wireless devices. But for a gaming system, we just aren't ready to cut the cords yet.

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

And last but not least, we went with the obvious choice of Windows 7 64-bit as our operating system. Considering that both of our build options exceeded the 32-bit version's memory limit, this decision more or less made itself.

Price Roundup

AMD Phenom II X6 System

Case: COOLER MASTER HAF 932 RC-932-KKN1-GP Full Tower - $120
Power Supply: CORSAIR HX Series CMPSU-750HX 750W ATX12V 2.3 - $145
Processor: Phenom II X6 1100T Black Edition (3.3GHz) - $240
CPU Cooling: Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus - $24
Motherboard: ASUS Crosshair IV Formula (890FX) - $200
Memory: Vengeance 8GB 2 x 4GB kit (^47CMPSU48^3M2A1600C9) - $140
Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB (WD1002FAEX) - $88
Optical Drive: LITE-ON iHBS112 12x BDR 2x BD-RE SATA - $110
Video Card: Sapphire 1003142SR Radeon HD 6870 - $220
Monitor: SAMSUNG P2450H Rose Black 24" - $225
Sound Card: Creative Labs SB0880 Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium - $89
Speakers: Logitech Speaker System Z623 - $130
Mouse: Logitech G9x Wired Laser Gaming Mouse - $71
Keyboard: Microsoft SIDEWINDER X4 - $53
Operating System: Windows 7 Professional 64-bit - $130
Total Price: $1,985

Intel Core i7 System

Case: COOLER MASTER HAF 932 RC-932-KKN1-GP Full Tower - $120
Power Supply: CORSAIR HX Series CMPSU-750HX 750W ATX12V 2.3 - $145
Processor: Core i7-950 (3.06GHz) - $293
CPU Cooling: Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus - $24
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R - $200
Memory: Corsair XMS3 DDR3-1600 6GB 3x2GB kit (TR3X6G1600C8 G) - $91
Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB (WD1002FAEX) - $88
Optical Drive: LITE-ON iHBS112 12x BDR 2x BD-RE SATA - $110
Video Card: Sapphire 1003142SR Radeon HD 6870 - $220
Monitor: SAMSUNG P2450H Rose Black 24" - $225
Sound Card: Creative Labs SB0880 Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium - $89
Speakers: Logitech Speaker System Z623 - $130
Mouse: Logitech G9x Wired Laser Gaming Mouse - $71
Keyboard: Microsoft SIDEWINDER X4 - $53
Operating System: Windows 7 Professional 64-bit - $130
Total Price: $1,989

Closing Remarks

Whether you go with the AMD build or the Intel, you'll end up with a solidly performing system that will meet the needs of gamers and other enthusiasts. Yes, there are always trade-offs to be made; and in pricing out your own system, you'll certainly choose to make some of them differently from how we did. But the this guide should help start you off in your quest to build the perfect $2000 Enthusiast Gaming PC system.


Page 1

Case, Power Supply, CPU, Fan

  • Page 2

    Motherboard, Memory, Drives, Video, Monitor