Just a little more than a month has passed since I last made my recommendations however there has been quite a reasonable amount of change, firstly Intel’s confirmation that the current Sandybridge motherboards will be compatible with their soon to be released Ivybridge CPUs as well as Nivida launching their new 680 GTX which has reclaimed the the ‘top graphics card’ crown.
What does this mean for our entry level system? Directly, not a great deal however it has had some impact on prices as well as give a view on future upgrade paths.
The Entry to Mid Level System:
NZXT Source 210
Cost – £36
Slightly more expensive than the Coolermaster case I have been recommending of late however for the extra £2 you are getting rear and ceiling fans included, internal cable management, screwless design, a bottom mounted PSU as well as a USB3 compatible front socket. From a personal perspective, I think its a nice looking case to boot. Also available in white if you are a tart!
Corsair CX V2 600W
Cost – £53
A trusted brand, plenty of power headroom for most upgrades you might consider later, 80% efficiency which should give you a nice stable platform. Spending less on a PSU is usually false economy especially in a machine you plan on using for games.
Intel Core i5 2400 3.1Ghz
Cost – £146
Unless you are planning on overclocking there really is no point in spending money on the higher spec K series chips and on the whole for gaming its best to put the money into graphics power. This i5 sports intels turbo boost and has more than enough power for games. Given the specs released on the Ivybridge CPUs there isnt a great deal to get too excited about. Sandybridge will do you for a good while.
Asus P8Z68-V LX
Cost – £76
Excellent highend Sandybridge board with lots of upgrade potential (including support for Ivy Bridge this year) as well as support for mSata connectors to enable Mini SSDs to use Intels caching capabilities. Switched to the Asus over the Gigabyte purely due to it being a few pounds cheaper however both are excellent value boards. A slight creep in prices which may be due to confirmation of compatibility with future Ivybridge CPUs
8GB Crucial DDR3 1600MHz Ballistix Sport
Cost – £30
RAM is very cheap at the moment and prices seem to be holding although I woundnt count on that forever. Lifetime warranty and good service from Crucial when you need it. I would also say that we are now getting to the point that its worth having a minimum of 8GB RAM for gaming comfort.
PowerColor HD 6870 1GB
Cost – £135
This is a decent low cost card that will fill all your gaming needs on a single monitor. Also cheap enough to consider chucking in a pair to run in crossfire in the future should the inclination take you. The XFX I previously recommended can be found cheaper than this however I upgraded to the PowerColour as in my experience they offer a better service generally than XFX and their aftermarket cooler is also better than the reference design. The icing on the cake is that this card is also boxed with a coupon for Dirt 3. All of this seems worth the few extra pounds.
Seagate Barracuda 500GB 7200RPM 16MB Cache
Cost – £60
Hard disks are still pretty expensive but prices are falling quickly from their peak. I have switched to the Seagate as this is a SATA III drive which will perform better than the budget drives I have been previously recommending although this has raised the price a little. The prices still need to drop considerably to start looking at the drives you would typically want to use.
Samsung 22x DVD/RW
Cost – £13
With the exception of Sony which I would tend to avoid, all optical drives are the same so buy the cheapest. No real point getting Blu-Ray yet unless you are planning on using the PC as a media centre.
Asus Xonar 5.1 PCI with Headphone AMP
Cost – £24
This card has no onboard processing so it wont boost framerate, however having a plug in card gives a much cleaner experience to sound by separating it from the electrical noise of the other onboard components and the headphone AMP will improve the sound output for unpowered headsets.
LG 23″ IPS235V
Cost – £140
LG are leading the charge for low cost E-IPS screens and at this price and with the favourable reviews they are generally receiving its hard to argue in favour of the older TN panels any more. No change here however more options in this price bracket are becoming available, its worth shopping around.
Cost – £17
Clearly modelled after other successful gaming mice, Gigabyte have pulled together a very attactive combination of functionality, performance and price. Its very hard to justify more expensive options with this on the table.
Cost – £34
I have switched from the Microsoft X4 on the basis that as MS are closing the brand, its arguably better to buy something thats going to recieve ongoing support. Back lit, anti ghosting and macro keys make it hard to beat at the price which is more or less like for like with the X4.
Plantronics Gamecom 380
Cost – £19
Plantronics have recently updated their Gamecom range and this 380 replaces the outgoing 367. As before the 380 has high quality sound, comfortable for long play sessions with a reasonable mic attached as well as a much improved build quality around both its cabling and headband. Not something you typically see in headsets of this price.
Total cost of the above:
Ill be shortly following this article up with an update to the Overclocker’s system previously recommended.