I made excuses about it the last time I wrote an article and Im going to do it again. Yes I know the original plan was to do this monthly, but the hardware market has been pretty stagnant of late now that all the major releases are more or less out of the way.
That said I thought that now would be a good time as we now have Nvidia’s answer to the midrange graphics card question and also Christmas is fast approaching which is often a good time to be buying a PC.
The Entry to Mid Level System:
Antec One Case
Cost – £43
Ive long been a fan of Antec cases as they are generally very well thought out and nice to build with. The Antec One has been targeted at the lower end of the market but it still comes with Antec’s usual attention to detail. Functional, with lots of space of cooling and expansion but with the addition of ‘nice to haves’ like front facing USB3 ports and even pre-drilled for water cooling.
OCZ CoreXStream 500W
Cost – £35
Slightly less powerful than previously but you really dont need all that power. In truth a 350W would manage but its always good to have a little headroom for any upgrades you might consider later, 80% efficiency, which at this price is excellent and 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 3570 3.4Ghz
Cost – £164
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 as well as a number of revisions that Ivybridge brings over the previous series. Admittedly there isnt a great difference in performance between the Ivybridge and Sandybridge, but the price is largely the same too so you may as well get the new one. The reason for the top end CPU rather than lower down the pecking order is again to do with negligible price difference but more about this being a good time to buy a PC so invest in quality.
Cost – £68
The board remains the same, I previously switched from the older 6 series intel boards to one of their new 7 series boards which support native Ivybridge, USB3 and PCI-E3 support as well as the various enhancements that Intel have made to caching, SSD support and other benefits. The limitation of the board selected here is that it only has a single high speed PCI-E socket and therefore will be more suited to a single GPU setup. An extra £10 will get you a Z77 board with this support but given the power of single card GPUs you really dont need to go to this length.
8GB Crucial DDR3 1600MHz Ballistix Sport
Cost – £27
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 and at this price I would even be tempted to double that to 16GB if you can stretch the budget.
Gigabyte GTX 660 OC 2GB Windforce X2
Cost – £172
Nvidia have finally shown their hand after months of AMD owning the midrange GPU market with their 7850s and 7870s which have been my primary recommendation. I think its fair to say that the 660 wasnt quite the card people were expecting especially after the success of the 560 but its still a very good performer. Is it massively better than the 7850/7870? Not really and ultimately your choice here should be governed by price. At the time of writing this 660 was only a few pounds more expensive that the Gigabyte, giving me the slight advantage of PhysX through Nvidias drivers. If AMD were to do another round of deals or special offers which they have of late then this recommendation could easily be a 7850 or 7870. My advice? Shop around and get the best deal.
Seagate 1TB Barracuda 7200RPM 64MB Cache
Cost – £60
Hard disks are still pretty expensive but prices are falling quickly from their peak. I have finally been able to recommend a 1TB storage as well as SATA III which will perform better than the budget drives I have been previously recommending although this has raised the price a little. We are finally back to being able to put in good performing platter based drives without remortgaging the house, but hopefully the prices will continue to drop.
Samsung 22x DVD/RW
Cost – £13
With the exception of Sony which I would tend to avoid due to their tendency not to support all disk types, 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.
LG IPS234V-PN 23″ Monitor
Cost – £113
LG, AOC and Asus may have started the trend of lost cost IPS screens, but there are now a number on the market. As with the other panels these are getting favourable reviews consistently getting better with every model released. On that basis its hard to argue in favour of the older TN panels any more unless you are interested in 3D. IPS options in this price bracket are becoming more and more common, with the AOC i2353Fh and the Ilyama Prolite X2377HDS, its worth shopping around although this is by far the cheapest Ive seen so far.
Cost – £16
Clearly modelled after other successful gaming mice, Gigabyte have pulled together a very attractive combination of functionality, performance and price. Its very hard to justify more expensive options with this on the table.
Microsoft SideWinder X4
Cost – £33
I previously removed this from my recommendation as it was rumoured that Microsoft were closing the brand however they have been consistently available and the price gets better and better. Back lit, anti ghosting and macro keys make it hard to beat at the price, what more do you need?
Plantronics Gamecom 380
Cost – £21
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:
A whopping £50 cheaper than my last recommendation!
Wouldnt it be great if there was a handy way of buying all this stuff together? Ive got you covered here
As before, Ill be shortly following this article up with an update to the Overclocker’s system previously recommended.