TechSpot PC Buying Guide: 2011 Kick Off

By Julio Franco · 107 replies
Jan 12, 2011
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  1. Just a quick question from a newbie, wouldn't the recently released 6870 IceQ X Turbo in Crossfire be a great choice of the Luxury System as well? I mean it compared with the 6990 and 590 while being around the price of the 580. From what I've read it does take up more power than the 570, but is quite cooler.

    Am I missing something? Or is the $200 gap worth the performance gain?
  2. Got a RAM question for all you enthusiast & luxury system experts: which affects performance more? RAM speed or latency? How about the number of RAM sticks?

    Latency increases with speed. Moreover, lower density RAM is often faster and has lower latency whereas higher density RAM is usually slower and has higher latency. And, I suspect there is some inefficiency with an increase in the number of RAM sticks, but I haven't seen any definitive testing to that effect.

    So, if I am going to spend money on RAM and I want 8GB, am I better off buying 4x2GB or 2x4GB? Do I get DDR3 1600 CAS 7 or DDR3 2000 CAS 9?

    What are the trades-offs in performance and where is the sweet spot?
  3. iHomeTech

    iHomeTech TS Rookie

    On the luxury system, which heat sink would you use? More importantly to me...if I wanted to liquid cool the unit, what would be the recommendation for this setup? liquid cooling better than heat sink/fan cooling?

    If I am paying this type of money...I want it quiet too.

  4. sjatin68

    sjatin68 TS Rookie

    2X6970 or even 2X6950 are better at 2560X1600 both of these setups beat 580S in SLI forget 570
    and where on earth did techspot find a 570 cheaper than 6950
  5. Hi, I'm building a computer based off the Enthusiast build that's been listed here (with my own minor tweaks). This is my first time building my own computer. I've done a lot of research but there is one thing I'm not sure of. With the motherboard listed for the Enthusiast rig-- What, if any, internet connection capabilities does that already come with? It says this on NewEgg:

    Onboard LAN
    .....LAN Chipset
    ..........Realtek 8111E
    .....Max LAN Speed

    But what does that mean exactly?
  6. Julio Franco

    Julio Franco TechSpot Editor Topic Starter Posts: 7,674   +990

    @guest, that means the motherboard is ready to receive a wired Internet connection via Ethernet. Just hook up from your ISP's cable modem or home router's connection.
  7. Luay

    Luay TS Enthusiast Posts: 79   +13

    While RAM speed does have an effect on a system's performance, it's noticeable when you go below 1600, which is the sweet spot. Some applications react differently to higher memory speeds than others. Compression and video encoding tests benefit from increased memory bandwidth while synthetic benchmark and 3D rendering doesn't. Lower latency shows no real world performance, but does so in bandwidth tests, so CL9 would be the right choice.
  8. Luay

    Luay TS Enthusiast Posts: 79   +13

    Sandy bridge almost eliminated the need for water cooling except for the ultra enthusiasts due to its massive overclocking room performance when air cooled. The best performing air coolers on the market today are the Thermalright Silver Arrow and Noctua NH-D14, and they are extremely quite when the amount of air pushed onto the CPU is put into consideration. The most quite Air coolers are the Noctua Nh-C14 and the Be Quite! Dark Rock Pro, and they are a notch below the top performers.
  9. Storage suggestions in enthusiast build need revision since update to motherboard with hybrid/built-in/on-board/whatever (thank goodness for anonymity) SSD. Just a heads up, sure you're busy, thanks for the guides, keep up the good work! ;)
  10. Matthew

    Matthew TechSpot Staff Posts: 5,333   +101

    Thanks for the note Guest, we'll update the guide this week :).
  11. Luay

    Luay TS Enthusiast Posts: 79   +13

    The best video card deal you can get today is the Radeon Sapphire HD6950 2GB Dirt3 Edition in crossfire for $500. GTX 570 SLI is $100 more expensive and in the same league.
    The best keyboard in the market is the DAS Professional Silent. Much better than the Razer but without macro keys and isn't backlit.
    Best Mouse I have ever used is the Steelseries Xai, very basic but flawless design.
    How about recommending a headset with a built-in mic?
  12. For the enthusiast build, I recommend changing the mobo from the Asrock P67 to a Asrock Z68 Pro3 Gen3, which only sells on Newegg for $109.99.

    Much better board overall, cheap to boot and it has all the bells and whistles you can ask for.
  13. Yep, me too. As far as I am concerned still no upgrade choice for me from my i5-750@4GHz+5870. Still play all games @ 1920x1200. A 20% max of more performance in some synthetic bench I would not call "smoked", it is normal that after 2 years the processor of the moment to have the same price as the one 2-3 years ago. It would be the correct choice if I would upgrade from a C2D.
  14. penn919

    penn919 TS Addict Posts: 220   +71

    Awesome guide. Thanks!
  15. Just curious as to how is it that all the systems are using Asrock motherboards as the default?

    HardOCP doesn't seem to be particularly enamored with the brand. Hard to fathom it being the default in each and every one of your listed builds.

    Love your site by the way
  16. Steve

    Steve TechSpot Editor Posts: 2,869   +2,038

    I would say that is because Matt has based his decision on my motherboard roundups.
    “Bottom line, the Asrock X79 Extreme9 delivered the best high-end reasonably priced X79 motherboard.”
    “We can't pick what are the right features for you but putting everything together we consider the Asrock P67 Extreme6 to be the best all-around value for the enthusiast shopper.”

    I didn’t like Asrock for the best high-end A75 motherboard but since this is a budget platform Matt likely chose the Asrock A75M-HVS because it’s the most affordable A75 motherboard money can buy. At just $65 the next cheapest boards come from the likes of BIOSTAR, Jetway and ECS.

    Again it is a similar situation with the H67 boards. The Asrock H67M costs just $80 pricing it along side the ECS board. When compared to the Asus and Gigabyte boards it is sightly cheaper and offers all the same features so being a value build this option makes the most sense.
  17. Matthew

    Matthew TechSpot Staff Posts: 5,333   +101

    Bingo. They're just a better value for the builds we're trying to promote at the moment. There isn't any particular favoritism toward ASRock. Gigabyte, Asus, MSI and others have had boards listed. In fact, Gigabyte and Asus have had more boards listed than all the other manufacturers combined, I bet. As always, thanks for the feedback.
  18. As someone who has built hundreds of custom PC's, I will at least share my opinions about the Enthusiast's PC list.

    Motherboard: an appropriate choice, but of course there are many options within that spec and price range that are suitable, but that range is the important thing

    Processor: an excellent choice for most users, although the K-revision is only for overclockers

    Memory: G.Skill DDR3-1600 is ideal for that system, and 8GB is sufficient

    Graphics: similar to the motherboard - an appropriate choice that reflects the general video price range

    Sound: debatable if a sound card is needed for even enthusiast, and the pci issue was mentioned by someone else, however this is a good price range for the inclusive Xonar, so it works

    Storage: would suggest a (sync, if possible) 90GB SSD near that price instead; 1TB is a sufficient choice; tough category to select at the moment as prices scale quite a bit

    Optical: would likely ditch the iHAS, the LG is quite capable. I do have a configuration like the one suggested and find it's more of a luxury, $20 is $20 in a tight build

    Power: sufficient choice, again, it's about price range, and this hits it nicely; I'm fond of the 650W offerings, the better quality supplies can run CF/SLI comfortably

    Case: I feel you can do more for less, the NZXT Phantom for example is regularly 100-130, there's the Tt Overseer (if ugly), etc. ~125 is a more suitable price range.

    Monitor: some people love their big monitors so I can't really talk this down, but for me, I'd either save money and go with a higher quality 23", or even better go with two 23" for the same price.

    Speakers: go with the cheaper Z-506. As for headset, there are tons of options for less money, but that's the problem here - people are strange about sound, esp. headsets. You're in for either the 20-40 range, or more likely the 100+ range, so finding a comfortable middle ground is tough; in that respect, your choice reflects this problem, although for me the headset is secondary and therefore a solid $40 set is the best match for all but serious music appreciation

    Peripherals: okay, okay, I'm partial to Razer (my list would have Abyssus + Arctosa), and their entry-level stuff has people eyeing the $40ish range for both keyboard and mouse; but the two choices listed are suitable for gaming even if paying a bit more for those married to Logitech

    Overall, not a bad list. As someone who deals with people on budgets, I'm used to tightening lists at all levels. I think fundamentally an Enthusiast PC should be in the $1500 range (not including some headroom for personal preferences), and I think that's doable here with some changes.
  19. I'm a total ***** because I've never built a PC before. But if some of these designs are meant to be overclocked, should there be liquid cooling components? Did I miss something?
  20. The Grudge

    The Grudge TS Rookie

    Hi all,

    Is there any suggestion for a alternative to the Radeon HD 7850? New egg doesn't carry that particular model linked in the enthusiast build anymore. I have been waiting to pay for school before buying what is for the most part the enthusiast build.

  21. Matthew

    Matthew TechSpot Staff Posts: 5,333   +101

    Sorry, I'm not sure what you're asking. The price link leads to a list of HD 7850s on Newegg. I see five or so in stock.
  22. The Grudge

    The Grudge TS Rookie

    Hi Matthew, sorry for the confusing question. Your link initially directed to a particular model and brand of card: Sapphire Radeon HD 7850 2 GB DDR5 HDMI/DVI-I/Dual Mini DP PCI-Express Graphics Card 11200-00-20G. It is no longer offered at Newegg. At Amazon it is now only available from a third-party vendor at $319. I figured the reason you suggested that brand and model was because it was the best bang for the buck. The models left at Newegg for the HD 7850 are unfamiliar to me, at least the XFX and the HIS are. I want to make the best selection and because the video card industry moves so fast, I was wondering if there was an alternative pick to that particular Sapphire card.

    I am way rusty on the latest and greatest regarding PC technology. These type of articles are great at helping make a decision, and in fact, is how I got introduced to this website. I now come here everyday to see what is new. My current computer is an AMD Athlon 3500+, and as you can see, a bit on the old side.

    Best Regards.
    I appreciate the help.
  23. t3chn0vamp

    t3chn0vamp TS Booster Posts: 128   +19

    Excellent guide ! just one question ... Which one is better ?
    G.Skill Ripjaws (4x4) OR G.Skill RipjawsX (4x4) ???
  24. Marnomancer

    Marnomancer TS Booster Posts: 723   +51

    This is a guide from 2011. Newer, better products are already out. Refer to newer guides here, or at,, etc.
  25. t3chn0vamp

    t3chn0vamp TS Booster Posts: 128   +19

    So if you can give me a link for any of those, that would be a great help.
    Thanks !

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