TechSpot PC Buying Guide: 2011 Kick Off

By Julio Franco · 107 replies
Jan 12, 2011
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  1. Marnomancer

    Marnomancer TS Booster Posts: 723   +51

    Just copy-paste them into the browser nav bar. Reviews tab on TS is WAY up.
  2. Matthew

    Matthew TechSpot Staff Posts: 5,332   +101

    Actually, the guide is updated bi-weekly and the last changes were made on May 24. It's entirely up to date as far as I'm aware.
  3. The Grudge

    The Grudge TS Rookie

    Thanks Matthew, I really appreciate keepig the buyer's guide current. The hardest thing is getting a video card from some manufacturers before they go out of stock.
  4. t3chn0vamp

    t3chn0vamp TS Booster Posts: 128   +19

    Thanks guys for your help! As far as I know RipjawsX is better as it has overclocking capability up to 2133 MHz while base Frequency is 1600 MHz.
  5. Luay

    Luay TS Enthusiast Posts: 79   +13

    As far as RAM kits go, all manufacturers are stuck on 60nm while Samsung took it to the next generation 30nm. Lowest profile, lowest voltages and one of the highest stable overclocks. No competition there!

    Every race track has its stallion, as every chipset has its motherboard. For Z77 Gigabyte beats everyone hands down. Asrock comes second. Asus is resting on its laurels and are overpriced and have less features.
    For multi GPU, the G1 Sniper is the high-end choice and it already has a dedicated sound and network chip.
    For SLI, wierless, bluetooth and many the options the UD5-WB is the mid-end choice.
    If you don't need wireless and extra connections but do want SLI, the Asrock Extreme4 with its latest ALC898 audio chip is a solid choice. Gigabyte skimped on the audio in the low-end while Asus skimped on it in the low and mid-end. That wouldn't matter if you plan on having a sound card and don't mind paying extra.

    Fort PSU I would not settle for silver when Gold or even Platinum is a few bucks away. Seasonic 860W Platinum is $220.

    Case is a matter of taste, but $350 is not worth it because Rosewill's Thor V2, a full-tower case with 4 230mm fans (2 front, one side, one top) and a 140mm exhaust, creates an air tunnel that will cool all your parts with minimal noise for $120. It does the job at least as well but it aint a looker.

    As for monitors, IPS sure gives a nice picture but it's main use is for photos and graphic design. The trade-off is that you lose response time (fastest is 6~8 ms lag) and that might affect gaming in FPS (ghosting effects).
    3D monitors with 120hz refersh rate are the best choice for gaming. The ASUS VG Series VG278H is the only one with Nvidia's latest 3D Vision 2.0 technology. Nvidia cards only!
    TN panels are good for multi-monitor gaming. Asus VK278Q & ASUS VE278Q are solid choices.
  6. AlienOverlord

    AlienOverlord TS Rookie Posts: 27

    I was thinking about building something between the entry level and enthusiast and just read that the i3-2100 doesn't cause any bottleneck with graphic cards until you get to 6950 range of cards. I've also been reading good things about the pentium G620 card. The i3-2100 is only about $120 and the pentium only $65. What if I saved money on the CPU and picked up a 7850 to go with it?

    I'd like to play Skyrim and Diablo on high settings (1920x1200) and be able to use this computer for 3 while playing new games on medium settings. I'd also prefer it use less energy and be quiet.

    I currently have an e8400 paired with a 4850 and would like to see a significant improvement.

    Any thoughts or leads to where I can do some further reading would be much appreciated.
  7. AlienOverlord

    AlienOverlord TS Rookie Posts: 27

    I actually found a comparison of the e8400/G620/i3-2100 at
    It indicates that the G620 beats the E8400 but only marginally and loses marginally to an overclocked E8400. This means it would only be a slight upgrade for me while the i3-2100 should be noticeably faster. Unfortunately they only tested on built in GPU for games which I won't use so I couldn't see if the G620 would hamper game performance. Both Sandy bridge chips use roughly 20% less power.
    This all makes me wonder why the entry level rig has a $200 CPU. Am I missing something?
  8. Matthew

    Matthew TechSpot Staff Posts: 5,332   +101

    Your decision to purchase a lower-end processor and a higher-end graphics card is perfectly fine, it's just not how we've structured things. The systems are geared toward both gaming and productivity and components are recommended with the machine's full lifespan and upgrades in mind. You'll gain more graphics performance upfront by opting for a cheaper CPU and pricier GPU, but platform upgrades cost more than GPU upgrades in the long haul and GPUs hold their resale value a bit better in my experience.

    In other words, I'd rather buy a higher performance processor and skip two, three or even four CPU/chipset generations, then dump that cash into bi-annual GPU upgrades, which tend to matter more for gaming (especially because older cards don't always get driver optimizations). That's not entirely unlike the route you took with your last build (the pricier CPU, not the GPU upgrades). If memory serves right, the E8400 was $170-$200 when it arrived in early 2008 and there were many cheaper options around.

    To reiterate, the systems aren't meant to be the best gaming rigs for the money. They're meant to be a template for the best all-around machine that'll last a few years. For a system better tailored to your needs, you'll have to do research and swap a part here or there and that's precisely what you've done. I say roll with it. The HD 7850 is a great value and a nice jump over the HD 7770. I guess the only other tip would be to hold off for a few weeks or months and see how Nvidia's mainstream Kepler cards shake things up.
  9. AlienOverlord

    AlienOverlord TS Rookie Posts: 27

    Thank you so much Mathew. Yes my current rig cost me a fair bit and I'm hoping to replace it with something that's a significant improvement but keep the costs lower than last time. I bought this one using these guides and it has served me well.
    I will continue to wait for the rest of the GPU lineup to come out and maybe an Ivy Bridge version of the i3-2100. I hope the picture will be more complete in the next month because that's when I'm planning to pull the trigger.
  10. AlienOverlord

    AlienOverlord TS Rookie Posts: 27

    Decided not to wait any longer since I've read the 8000 series will come out at the end of the year and then I'll just be in perpetual waiting.
    So I just ordered off new egg:
    -Asrock H61M/U3S3
    -Intel i3-2120
    -HIS H687QN1G2M 1GB HD6870
    -Crucial M4 64GB SSD
    -Seagate Barracuda 1TB 7200 SATAIII
    -Kingston DDR3 1333 2x4GB
    -Antec EA650 Green 650W

    Total $700
    Still need to take in to a shop to pick out a case and have it built. Decided to get the last gen GPU since it's better than the HD7770 at nearly the same price, while the HD7850 costs 50% more here.
  11. Matthew

    Matthew TechSpot Staff Posts: 5,332   +101

    I probably would have splurged a little more on the 128GB M4 and offset $20 by opting for the Antec Neo Eco 520C over the EA650, but it seems like you have the makings of a fine PC :).
  12. NitPick

    NitPick TS Rookie

    I find this guide really useful, it helped me a lot when I built my first rig, and nowadays when I recommend builds or upgrades to my friends, and even for myself.

    Just wondering, are you guys planning to review the Korean IPS monitors that have been quite popular in the market lately? I'm referring to the Achieva and Yakamasi monitors. I've seen these and think they might be a good higher-end entry to the enthusiast level. :)
  13. Matthew

    Matthew TechSpot Staff Posts: 5,332   +101

    We generally don't review monitors, but they should definitely be mentioned in the guide. I'll work on it tonight or tomorrow. Thanks for the feedback.
  14. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,891   +1,264

    They are definitely the real deal. Just be aware that 2560x1440 (and the 30" 2560x1600 versions) is quite a jump in pixel count over the more standard 1920x1080/1200 screen and graphics architecture/frame buffer - vRAM and memory bus width- become more of a consideration in gaming.

    As for the quality of the general the build quality is acceptable -on par with the cheaper offerings from ViewSonic, Benq, Samsung, AOC etc. Definitely not up to the standard of the comparable Dell, HP, NEC offerings at this resolution- but then the price is considerably less.

    Pricing starts (at the time of this writing) at ~$US280 inc worldwide shipping. This is usually for a "tested" panel, although under the S.Korean consumer law from what I understand, up to 5 dead/bright pixels are considered acceptable in this class. Expending another $50 can get you a "perfect pixel" panel - a zero defect screen. These are the ones I buy, and of the eight purchased, all have been defect free. Many of the cheaper "tested" panels are also often defect free...but that depends on luck of the draw.
    Moving up through the pricing adds to the feature set. The standard/entry level panel is gloss/reflective- although unless you are really bothered by gloss screens, it isn't that bad (the piano finish gloss bezel is more reflective). Matte screens are available at an extra cost and usually accompany a higher level of input features (see below). Some screens also feature a tempered glass cover -non removeable- over the actual screen (a la Apple iCinema which use the same LG panel) which is highly reflective. Note that the cheaper "tested" panels may also have a certain amount of dust trapped between the glass and the screen.
    Input connectivity starts with a sole dual link DVI (and a 3.5mm jack if the panel has integrated speakers) for the base model with one or two HDMI, component, Display Port and composite connectivity options offered on the more feature-laden models -this connectivity, along with a more complex stand to allow increased tilt (usually 5-10° on base models), rotation, height adjustment and swivel (both absent on the base models as is a fully functional OSD). Expect to pay ~$US440 and up for these extra's at the present time. All the panels I've had ( Yamakasi, Achieva Shimian, Potalion, First) feature a standard VESA mount, so an aftermarket stand is an option if the limitations of basic limited-adjustment are an issue

    The other specification metric that is associated with these panels is the ability to overdrive the panel to 120Hz. This is limited to a select number of panels -noteably the Yamakasi Catleap. Now that the feature has become more widely known, the pricing of these models (typified by having a 2B revision mainboard) has skyrocketed. Anyone with an interested in a 3-D capable 2560x1440 screen should head over to for more info.

    Subjectively, I couldn't find any major differences between these screens and a compareable Dell U2711 I had here side-by-side for a while. Backlight bleed on these panels ranges from "better than virtually any TN panel I've used" to " pretty outstanding with maybe a little bleed in one corner- but certainly no worse than any non-pro IPS" - sorry about the lack of numbers.
    Colour is very close to the more expensive Dell, HP and Apple screens- the white does tend to have a faint blue hue at the factory default setting. This can be alleviated through your video card's control panel calibration.
    Brightness is as good if not slightly better (depending on vendor) than the branded IPS panels, and for gamers, the input lag seems lower than the more complex Dell and HP's I used, to the point of not being noticeable in twitch shooters.

    Not much to add, except that they weigh in at a little under 5kg, are very easy to assemble, and have a relatively small footprint (here's my Achieva Shimian QH270SMS next to a standard 24" 1920x1080).
    Be aware that some of these vendors automatically undervalue goods so as not to incur customs taxation/import duties for the buyer. If you're unsure about the courier/delivery service in your area to the extent that you might want to claim the full value for insurance then you might need to attach a note to that effect when payment goes through ;)

    Please see the guide for links to OCN forum and Tech Report's review of these monitors that Matthew has added. Anandtech also recently added a review.
  15. Ravey

    Ravey TS Rookie Posts: 20

    It's been a month since the last comment on here and I havent seen a change in any of the guide specs. Christmas won't hold forever though and I would love an up to date as possible guide so I can let Father Christmas (thats Santa to you non english) know what to get me!

    Particularly in the SSD department.
  16. Yes, please update the guide soon. It's been close to a month since the last update, and I want to make sure I use the most up-to-date parts for my build. Thanks.
  17. Matthew

    Matthew TechSpot Staff Posts: 5,332   +101

    The update is admittedly behind schedule, but I'm not aware of any noteworthy components that will be swapped, so you should be safe to use the current recommendations.
  18. rvnwlfdroid

    rvnwlfdroid TS Booster Posts: 177   +41

    It's a sad world when a case costs more then the CPU... Mainly talki9ng about the "The Luxury System"

    That being said I must be pretty sad myself because I've been looking at that case for a while now. If things go well it will be my x-mas present to myself. :)
  19. Ravey

    Ravey TS Rookie Posts: 20

    I have ordered a Vector 256 SSD for christmas! I may just have to unwrap it early. I'm not sure if it has been mentioned but my SSD is getting shipped with Acronis True Image 2013 for back up and cloning. I think it might be a similar deal to what Western Digital has with Acronis - free back up software for anyone who owns a Hard Drive by Western Digital. So double check what you get before you buy.

    As for the rest of my upgrade, I think I will hold off until more has been announced on the new 4th Generation Intel Chips.
    Merry Christmas!
  20. Matthew

    Matthew TechSpot Staff Posts: 5,332   +101

    Fine choice in picking the Vector. Merry Christmas to you as well :).
  21. veLa

    veLa TS Evangelist Posts: 781   +235

    I'd have to disagree with a lot of the choices made on there, but that's just me. Only 8GB of RAM for a luxury machine? Memory is dirt cheap these days, 16GB of faster DDR3-1866 is far easier to recommend than 8GB of DDR3-1600.
  22. LukeDJ

    LukeDJ TS Maniac Posts: 350   +112


  23. Tonydee

    Tonydee TS Rookie

    Thanks for the extremely informative and easy to read article! I only buy a new PC every 2 years so I tend to fall behind all these new trends and techs. This article really brought me back to the present. Thanks!!
  24. Ravey

    Ravey TS Rookie Posts: 20

    So I couldnt wait for christmas! so 4 weeks into using my new Vector SSD and I am extremely happy with it! Every issue I was having with lag during gaming and poor performance using Internet Explorer and Windows 7 has just disapeared. (Although I have to admit I wiped my system completely clean too and started over).

    I am so happy with the performance now that I have decided to hold off on any further upgrades (unless computer says no). With the savings I have bought myself an Iiyama IPS Monitor.
    Matthew likes this.
  25. Luay

    Luay TS Enthusiast Posts: 79   +13


    Would be nice to hear from you guys on CPU coolers.

    The GTX 680 is $50 more expensive than the HD 7970, not the other way around , and the performance is almost the same without overclocking since the latest driver update.

    SSD+HDD in one system means SSD is for OS, apps, games, exe files etc., and the HDD is for storage. and that renders the speed of the HDD as irrelevant (minus file transfers which don't happen often), so why recommend a power hungry, loud and performance oriented HDD when the focus should be the opposite? WD greens for storage and red for 24/7 operations is the right choice. It really is crazy to invest in expensive and quite components and then F it all up with a WD black drive.

    I barely use my disc drive (once or twice last year) and you install two?

    Finally, just imo, Gigabyte motherboards for their futures and Silverstone USB3.0 cases such as FT03 and RV02E for their superior air-cooling deserve a nod.

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