We have a series of rigs that we’re getting ready for the Battlefield 3 release October 25th. Because of the unbelievable prices that you often find on Labor Day weekend we wanted to show you what we’re putting together for our clients. In this article we’ll look at some of the best PC parts and hardware available for 2011 and let you know where you can trim and skim your build in order to meet your budget for your custom system.
Building the Best Custom PC System – September 2011 – January 2012
Best CPU For gaming 2011-2012
We’ve been waiting for the Bulldozer release and while we’ve been hearing we’ll get to look at them the end of September or October for their high-end desktop chips – we’re not counting on it yet. Once AMD has made it’s release we’ll change this post to reflect those new processors.
For 2011 there are really only 5 CPU you should look at for your gaming rig. Here they are in order:
Intel i7-2600k VS i7-2600 CPU
The “k” stands for unlocked and if you’re an overclocker the i7-2600k gets stable speeds in excess of 4.4GHz. Both of these processors have Labor Day weekend deals associated with them at NewEgg and you should be able to get the k version for around $300 and the i7-2600 for around $279 – as low as you’ll see them for a while.
Highlights for this processor include hyperthreading which allows each of its 4 cores to give you up to 8 thread performance. This is great for multi-tasking but won’t give you a huge advantage over the i5-2500k for gaming. Another key feature is Intel’s turbo boost technology which allows the processor to boost from 3.4GHz to 3.8GHz when performance dictates. While this processor also has strong built-in visuals we’re guessing you’re not concerned with that.
Intel i5-2500k or i5-2500
The i5-2500k is the processor that we’re seeing most gamers purchase. It has all the power you really need for any game and you’ll get it for around $100 less than the i7-2600. At around $200 it’s probably the best deal around – especially when you compare it to other similarly priced processors at cpubenchmark.net.
If the i5-2500k is a little steep for your budget, then there’s nothing wrong with taking a look at the i3-2100 which gives you good speeds at 3.1GHz and has hyper-threading for up to 4 thread performance.
AMD 1090T, 1100T, 965
If you’re not willing to wait for the Bulldozer release, then there are 3 AMD processors that we’re still using with great success. The 1090T and 1100T offer you 6 core performance with 3.2/3.3GHz speed with boost up to 3.6GHz/3.7Ghz. For under $200 this is still a great deal. You can also consider the AMD Phenom II X4 965 which for under $130 is also a value play.
Best Gaming Graphics Card
If you’re serious about building the best gaming PC for your budget, then consider allocating 20-25% of your overall budget to your graphics card. Most gamers this month are looking at the GTX 560 ti which we’ve been able to find right around $200 at Amazon and Newegg – an unbelievable deal. For the money it’s really not worth it to go to the GTX 570 for at least $100 more. Why not just upgrade again in a year or two and use that money towards a newer card at that time? If you are power hungry and have some money to spare, then take a look at the GTX 570-590. If you’re low on cash take a look at the GTX 550 which you’ll find for around $125.
Radeon fans should go with the HD 6950 – right now the HIS (model number H695QNT2G2M) is what we’re looking at along with the HD 6950. Higher-end gamers see the Radeon XFX HD 6970 2 GB Graphics Card.
Best Gaming Monitors 2011
What good is an awesome build without an awesome monitor? This month there are a few solid options for monitors between $200-300.
Viewsonic VX 2453MH-LED and 2753MH-LED
We love these new LED monitors from Viewsonic the VX2453MH-LED and the 2753MH-LED. They have gaming grade specifications (2ms response time for the 24 and 1ms for the 27), with a dynamic contrast ratio of 30,000,000:1, and full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution. They are slim and light weight (around 10 pounds) because Viewsonic has taken much of the weight out of them. One of the key features is the design change which allows removal of the base and a bookstand option so you can lean back your monitor. Seriously, why didn’t anyone think of this before? This is easy to take to a LAN party. You get diverse connectivity options with 2 x HDMI and a D-Sub connector and if you need DVI just get a HDMI to DVI cable.
Other gaming monitors we’re looking at: ASUS VE278Q, Acer S243HL, Samsung S27A350H, ASUS VE247H , and for 3D the Acer HN274Hbmiiid, and the new ViewSonic V3D245 3D LED monitor.
If you’re building a new pc for gaming, then we can’t see you wanting to go with board other than the Z68, P67, or AM3+. We like the P8Z68-Pro from Asus, ASUS SABERTOOTH P67, GIGABYTE GA-990FXA-UD3 AM3+, and the Gigabyte Z68 GA-Z68A-D3H-B3 which is a great value play at around $120.
Gaming PC Cases 2011
We like the Cooler Master HAF 932 RC-932-KKN5-GP for our full tower pick and the Antec Nine Hundred Steel ATX Ultimate Gamer PC Case as our mid-tower pick. For a good value play check out the Antec Three Hundred Gaming Case, and the Cooler Master Elite Mid Tower Case, RC-310-BWN1-GP – both around $40.
Best Gaming PSU 2011
Do you know how much power you need for your build? We recommend you always estimate up 100W to be on the safe side. If you need to calculate, then see Thermaltake’s or NewEgg’s PSU calculators. For those of you looking for a great modular power supply, we recommend you take a look at the OCZ ModXStream Pro 700W. Right now at Amazon there are 2 rebates that will put this below $60! This is all the power you’ll need for single GPU builds and it’s up to 86% efficiency.
Best Gaming Ram 2011
We like any of the following rams for gaming: Corsair Vengeance, Corsair XMS3, G.Skill Ripjaws, Kingston Technology HyperX, Crucial Ballistix, Corsair Dominator, and the Patriot Sector 5 series. Get whatever you can find the cheapest, seriously. Yesterday (9/2/2011) we received a Daily Deal from Newegg which includes CORSAIR Vengeance 8GB (2 x 4GB) CMZ8GX3M2A1600C9B on sale for labor day for only 47.99. We’d suggest you look that direction over Labor Day.
Best Gaming SSD 2011
If you have a Z68 motherboard we recommend trying Intel’s new smart response technology which allows you to dedicate up to a 64GB solid state drive to “cache” which allows your entire hard drive to have SSD-like performance. Take a look at the Lexar Media Crucial 64 GB m4 2.5-Inch Solid State Drive SATA 6Gb/s CT064M4SSD2 at NewEgg for right around $90. This is one of the biggest speed upgrades we’ve seen in a long time.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this review of gaming PC hardware for the last part of 2011. Please leave a comment below and let us know what deals you come across. For Hard Drives, Blu-ray, and other options see our top ten tabs above.