We review a lot of products during a year here at OC3D, some of them are great, some okay and some less so.
However there are always those bits of hardware that stick in the mind, the ones that really blew our socks off. The ones that, if we were building a rig, we'd be happy to buy. This led to some discussion about which items from each section we'd pick. Not only was this a perfect excuse to pop to the pub and have a heated debate, but we enjoyed it so much we thought we'd share the final list we arrived at.
So without further ado, bring on the fanfare and settle in with the last of your festive nibbles, as we present the Overclock3D Best of 2011. Please remember for a product to be considered for this it had to be RELEASED in 2011 not just available to buy. Please take a look at the following pages for all of the awarded products but TTL has been on the coffee again and made us all a monster video about the awards too!
Intel Core i7-2600K
Starting with the first decision anyone has to make when building a rig, which socket, and therefore which processor, will be the heart of your system? For us there is only one winner, the Intel Core i7-2600K. Although the Core i7-3960X was ridiculously fast, it is also ridiculously expensive, whereas the 2600K provides all the performance you could ever desire at a very reasonable price. Hyperthreading, great overclocking performance. It's the Daddy.
You can read our review here or watch the video review here.
ASUS Rampage IV Extreme
When the LGA2011 socket was released there were only a handful of motherboards available. However the ASUS Rampage IV Extreme was so brilliant it would stand out regardless of how many others are available. Great design, a truly stunning BIOS and all in all a very pleasant motherboard to use. The price is rather eye-watering, but if you want the very best foundation available, this is the board for you. Read our review here Or watch the video review here.
ASUS P67 Sabertooth
The early LGA1155 motherboards fell into two distinct categories. Expensive/great and cheap and cheerful. Then along came the P67 Sabertooth. At £150 it is one of the most affordable motherboards around, yet it looked the business and pushed our 2500K to 5GHz as easily as anyone could hope for. It completely redefined what performance and feature-set we expected for our investment and we were deep into the Z68 motherboards before we started to see similar value. Read our review here.
Gigabyte X58 G1.Assassin
Just when we thought that we'd seen the last of the big X58 motherboards, along came Gigabyte with the excellent G1.Assassin. Not only was it a good performer but the design ethos is what really caught our eye. A lot of boards have a flash name and that's about it, but Gigabyte took the Assassin name and ensured that the heat-sinks and colour scheme matched the spirit add to that real creative audio a Killer network chip and overclocking good enough to find the aircooling limits of our CPU and you have an awesome package. Read all about it here or you can watch the video review series here.
Gigabyte X58 OC
It's not often we find ourselves enjoying a board that's rather short on features, but the Gigabyte X58 OC was one such motherboard. Regularly manufacturers design their motherboards to overclock, except they add an array of features to ensure that your average user might decide to purchase it. The X58OC was 100% pure in that it was built to break benchmark scores, and nothing else. If it didn't add to the boards ability to create world records, it was left off. Everything was sacrificed in the quest for enormous benchmarks, and it succeeded admirably. Read our sub-zero review here.
Corsair Vengeance LP
Such is the quality of the RAM chips used that a lot of Memory kits are inseparable. So when we first saw the Corsair Vengeance with its white heat-sink and extremely low voltage we sat up and took notice. Not only did it have great performance at stock settings but with some extra volts pumped through you could get the kit down to a low CAS7. More importantly its the first ram from Corsair to work with large CPU coolers. Read our review here.
At the other end of the scale was the 2133MHz version of the G.Skill RipjawsX. A big 8GB kit running at CAS9 2133MHz provided great lumps of memory bandwidth and performance to match, all wrapped up in the gorgeous RipjawsX heatsink. Read our review here.
When it comes to GPUs there is a clear King of the hill and it's the GTX580 (fan boy arguments can be saved until later). Of all the versions we saw this year one really captured our imagination with a great cooling solution and sledgehammer performance. The Gigabyte GTX580 Super OverClock was simply fantastic. Read our review here or watch our video review here.
Sparkle GTX560Ti Calibre
When the GTX560Ti Calibre from Sparkle arrived we were stunned. Sparkle had been quiet for quite a while and suddenly this card appeared that was blisteringly fast, quiet and damn good value. It was proof you don't need to sell a kidney to get a decent level of eye-candy in the latest titles. Read our review here.
Many graphics cards have appeared in 2011 with a variety of underlying GPUs and many different ways to approach the problem of giving fantastic performance, good looks and be cool and quiet. We've always said here at OC3D that if it was our wallet on the line we'd plump for a GTX570 as the perfect balance of performance and price, and the KFA2 GTX570 was the finest GTX570 we tested. Read the review here.
Quite probably the most surprising product this year, the NZXT Havik proved that you didn't need a cooler the size of Manhattan to keep your CPU nice and frosty. It was such a shame that some politics regarding an earlier case review meant that we didn't test it sooner. Fantastic. Read our review here or watch the full video review here.
Our love for the Noctua NH-D14 is not only well known, but well founded. However it is definitely an acquired taste in the looks department. Phanteks PH-TC14PE has all the performance but looks the absolute business. With many colour combinations available and great performance it's high up on anyone's list of twin-tower coolers. Read all about it here or watch the full video review here.
NoFan CR-95C IcePipe
Passive cooling has always been something reserved for extremely low-power installations, but the NoFan CR-95C proved that, with a little care, you could run even a 2600K without a fan on the cooler to bring the noise. 100% silent and capable of keeping a stock Core i7-2600K at just under 70°C with very easy installation, the only fly in the ointment is the hefty price-tag. But if you demand silence, this is the one for you. Read our review here or watch the video review here.
CM Storm Trooper
The CM Storm arm of Cooler Master has brought us some good cases that generally have a couple of small issues but tick most of the boxes you desire. Then came along the CM Storm Trooper. A case that absolutely blew us away with its brilliance. We just couldn't fault it. It looks the part, has loads of space for massive coolers or even water-cooling, plenty of drive bays that are removable if you prefer radiators or extra air cooling, the full monty. It's spectacular. In fact we'd go so far as to say it's possibly the best case from Cooler Master ever. High praise indeed. Read more here or watch the video review here.
Caselabs - Best Chassis Manufacturer of 2011
If you prefer your cases to be limited only by your imagination, and even then you'd struggle to imagine something that you couldn't do, the Caselabs M8 is the one for you. It refined modular cases to a fine art and, despite the hefty price tag we really loved it. Sure it's not the prettiest girl on the block but you have to respect its capabilities as an enthusiast case able to do whatever you desire. Case Labs have done such an awesome job this year that they have left Mountain Mods in the shadows to such a degree that they have made their designs look so out dated they almost look like high school projects. We all actually feel that Case Labs are our Chassis Manufacturer of 2011. Read our review here or watch the full video review here.
Solid State Drives
Kingston Hyper X
The performance of Solid State Drives has gone stratospheric in the last 12 months. Whereas once we considered 200MB/s to be blazing, we now see 400MB/s and upwards. When Kingston decided they were confident enough in the performance of their latest drive to brand it with their high-end Hyper-X label we expected big things and big things were delivered. The packaging was gorgeous and the drive itself not only looked the part, but was fast as you like. Read the review here.
The first SATA3 drive from Crucial was the C300 which concentrated solely on big read speeds. The successor to that was the M4 which not only brought the write speeds up to par, but came in at a very affordable price too. The 128GB model we reviewed was right on the sweet spot of performance and capacity and is definitely worth checking out. Read our review here.
It's rare we find a product that completely nails everything, but the SteelSeries Sensei is in that elite group. It looks gorgeous in its brushed chrome finish. It's so comfortable you can use it all day, every day, without issue. Most importantly though it's the most customisable mouse we've tested. No matter what you wish you could do it, it's all possible with a combination of the brilliant mouse and the SteelSeries Engine software. It might be a little pricey but it's worth every penny. Read our review here.
Gigabyte Aivia M8600
As more and more mice seek that miniscule edge we see less and less wireless rodents. So imagine our delight at discovering the latest mouse from Gigabyte, the Aivia M8600, was not only wireless but had the best solution to the problem of charging and swiftly swapping batteries we've ever seen. Lots of customising options and great performance merely add to its charm. Read our review here.
CM Storm Xornet
When we think of the Xornet the first word that springs to mind is cheeky. It's like a little Terrier. Small, outstanding value but not lacking in ability. Yeah it doesn't light up and there isn't really much to it beyond being a comfortable, good performing mouse. But that's the charm of it. The Xornet is pared to the bone and none the worse off for it. We like it very much indeed and if you want to know how much your game can be improved by a good sensor but haven't the money to go for a £60+ mouse, this is definitely the chappy for you. Read our review here.
There have been a fair few keyboards come through OC3D towers this year, all with different target audiences. However when it comes to being all things to all men we think the Roccat Isku has things covered. It's a nice keyboard to type on, despite only being a membrane affair. The whole keyboard is backlit in the Roccat Ice Blue, and it has more macro options than you could ever hope to need. Read our review here.
The Acrylux is similar to the Xornet in that it's very much a stripped-down and good value option that neatly straddles the gap between the cheap but rubbish and good but expensive sections of the market. It looks lovely and is a joy to type on, being the silent, scissor laptop-style keyboard. It even has a couple of stealthily placed USB ports built in. Read the review here.
Audio - Desktop & Headphones
Desktop - Corsair SP2500
You would be forgiven for thinking that a couple of little satellite speakers couldn't give you the range of a larger set, but the SP2500 quickly dispels that notion as soon as you turn them on. Ear-bleedingly loud and with outstanding bass and sound quality, they really are a pocket powerhouse. Read our review here or watch the full video review here.
Headphones - SteelSeries 7H
The SteelSeries headset range is split between the open backed Siberia V2 and the close-back 7Hs. As great as the V2s are, the 7H are absolutely exceptional. Amazing sound reproduction, high build quality and unmatched comfort prove that a stereo headset can still give you everything you desire. Read all about them here.
Discuss your thoughts on the awards in our community forums.