It's the debate that rages in pubs across the land, and we're no different here at OC3D. Any time you get more than two tech-heads in the same place, the same question always crops up.
"If you had to spend your own money on a system, what would you buy?"
That's a hard question. Getting maximum value for money is something we're constantly evaluating. Whenever we get a new item of hardware in, we always look at how it performs compared to how much it costs. Equally is there something that performs at a similar level but for far less money. There is a level at which we don't worry about the price, because you're talking about the enthusiast end of the market where money is no object.
Back with the majority of our readers, and indeed ourselves, we also are aware that if anyone you know (even tenuously) knows that you have computer knowledge, they will come to you for advice. Friendly, family, your uncles cousins wifes brothers sisters flatmates all come asking if you can fix their computer, what they should buy to upgrade it, is this particular system worth it, blah blah blah. We've lost track of the amount of "it's a bit slow can you have a look at it" that we've done and discovered people trying to run Windows 7 on a 486DX.
So with that all in mind we've put together three systems which we feel cover the main bases.
We have a £500 system that will provide a decent gaming experience, isn't compromised in looks or quality, and hasn't got one major component sucking up all the budget. It's pointless having a 1GHz dual-core CPU and a GTX680. So if you are on a limited budget but still want a PC that doesn't cause you to rend your garments, that's the first one up. Squeezing everything in at our £500 price caused endless adjustments to the specification, but we think you'll be amazed at what you can get for the money.
Our second system proved the hardest to build. When you double the initial budget up to £1000 there is a HUGE range of hardware to choose from. Retaining the key point of a balanced system, and yet one that actually gave you sufficient extra performance for the money, caused a lot of beer to be quaffed as the debate raged. It's so easy to think "if I spend another £20 on this and £30 on that I can get something much better, but the budget quickly grows far beyond your initial budget. In the end we're extremely happy with our choices, and think that you'll struggle to better our specification.
The final one is the easiest. Without fiscal constraints the world is your oyster, and even the most casual reader will have an idea of what they would buy if they won the lottery. So rather than just do the obvious we tried to retain the value aspect. PC hardware changes so fast that a £5000 system will be worth half that in six months, and in two or three years you'll be looking to upgrade again. So we've spent a lot, but haven't gone mad and kept it attainable at £3000.
Enough preamble. You're as desperate to see what we've put together as we are to share our thoughts with you. Onward.
Little Black Dress
For our first, lowest cost, system we're basing it around the AMD A8-5600K CPU. A Quad-Core 3.9GHz number it has the heft for all but the most demanding tasks. The Gigabyte D3H motherboards provide excellent value in whatever form they take, and in the 85X guise it also has the all-black looks which will go perfectly inside the 200R, and match up with the black of the GTX650Ti from ASUS and the Corsair Vengeance RAM.
Just because you're on a limited budget doesn't mean you want limited aesthetics, does it?
|Product||Price (with link)|
|8GB Corsair Vengeance 1600MHz RAM||£59.99|
|Corsair Neutron 64GB SSD||£67.20|
At a hair over £500 (£501.48 to be exact) this gives you a seriously quick system for the money. A near 4GHz CPU backed up the speed of an SSD pumping through the excellent GTX650Ti, it shows how much performance is available for a bargain price these days. It's great value, all black and guaranteed to make your jaw drop. Hence, Little Black Dress.
Rocky - The Pound-for-Pound Champion
The high-midrange, where everyone is desperate to get the very finest hardware possible for a price they can afford, is the most cut and thrust sector of any market at all. What we wanted to do was put together something which would blow your doors off in real-terms. A specification that demonstrates that price doesn't always equate to performance.
The basis for our Pound-for-Pound Champion is the outstanding i5-3570K, a CPU that overclocks like a nutter and has great stock performance too. It's kept cool with a Corsair H100i, and the MSI GD65 Gaming is full of features that will be useful to everyone from hardcore fraggers to dedicated movie buffs. With the push-button overclock available there is no excuse not to get the most from the Intel CPU. The Kingston Predator RAM is blisteringly fast, looks fantastic, and has the backup of the excellent Kingston support. With a Club3D HD7950 Royal King, a HD7970 for £80 less, all of your games will look lovely and run smoothly. With the wonderful Samsung 840 Pro pushing it along everything will load quickly too. It's all held in our favourite sensibly-sized case, the NZXT Switch 810 which means this system is ripe for an easy custom watercooling upgrade if and when funds allow.
|Product||Price (with link)|
|Intel Core i5-3570K||£166.79|
|MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming||£151.01|
|8GB Kingston Predator 2400MHz||£72.71|
|Club3D HD7950 Royal King||£256.09|
|Samsung 840 Pro 128GB||£107.06|
|NZXT Switch 810||£135.99|
£1090 on the nose, which for a system with this much potential is an absolute bargain. Whilst it's always a balance between price and performance, this is the specification we'd recommend to anybody except the most well-heeled. Other models might be higher up the hardware range and therefore look better in your signature, but for blazing performance in every single task, at a price that wont leave you living on beans and noodles, this is the one.
If you wondered why we lauded the setup on the previous page so highly, then a glance at the total price of our Extreme system will answer those questions. This is three times the price of that, at a whopping £2959.30. Of course when it comes to a money-no-object system it would be easy to just talk about a i7-3960X, SLI GTX Titans etc, but we wanted to produce something realistic. Expensive, high-end, but not just throwing money at something which is either overpriced or will quickly become obsolete, such is the ridiculous pace of PC hardware development.
|Product||Price (with link)|
|ASUS Rampage IV Extreme||£334.80|
|Intel Core i7-3930K||£443.99|
|2x Club3D HD7970 Royal Ace in Crossfire||£754.88|
|16GB Corsair Dominator Platinum 2400MHz||£206.80|
|2x Corsair Neutron GTX 240GB SSD in RAID0||£373.60|
|XSPC Raystorm D5 RX||£289.68|
|Corsair Obsidian 900D||£299.99|
So, relatively speaking, this is a mild specification, but still brutal in its clawhammer to an eggshell performance. The combination of a i7-3930K, the best value of the LGA2011 processors, and the ASUS Rampage IV Extreme gives us a serious platform. When you add in two overclocked Club3D HD7970s, 480GBs of RAID0 Corsair SSD and 16GB of gorgeous Corsair Dominator Platinum RAM, it will eat anything you throw at it. Wrap all that up in an XSPC watercooling kit and a Corsair 900D case, and you have a system that dreams are made of. Athena is the Greek goddess of wisdom, war, the arts, industry, justice and skill. Considering how well-rounded this system is we felt it was appropriate.
We hope you've enjoyed our look at three systems that all provide excellent value for money, and would be things we'd happily buy ourselves with our own money.
Let us know your thoughts in the OC3D Forums.