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The Enthusiast's PC
The Enthusiast's PC incorporates the perfect blend of both the Entry-Level Rig and Luxury System, making this our most balanced build. Our intent is to keep this system within the grasp of the average computer enthusiast, essentially offering a fully loaded PC minus some of the unnecessary bells and whistles that could set you back another grand or two.
|Processor||Intel Core i5-4670K||$240|
|Memory||2x4GB G.Skill Ripjaws DDR3 1600MHz||$90|
|Graphics||Nvidia GeForce GTX 760||$260|
|Sound||Asus Xonar DX 7.1||$90|
|Storage||Samsung 840 Evo 250GB + Western Digital Black 1TB||$180 + $90|
|Optical||Lite-On iHAS124-04 + LG WH14NS40||$20 + $60|
|Power||Corsair HX Series 650W||$110|
|Case||Cooler Master Storm Trooper||$160|
|Monitor||27" 2560x1440 IPS display||$400|
|Speakers / Headset||Logitech Z-623 / Sony MDR-V6||$125 / $70|
|Peripherals||Logitech G400s + MS Sidewinder X4||$50 + $60|
|Core System Total||$1,440|
|Core System + Monitor and Peripherals||$2,035|
Motherboard, Processor, Memory
In our review, the fourth-generation Core architecture (Haswell) managed to offer a bit more performance for about the same price as Ivy Bridge. The $240 quad-core Core i5-4670K is a suitable replacement for our previous picks, the i5-2500K and i5-3570K. It's worth mentioning that the i5-3570K has an unlocked multiplier so it's easier to overclock, but if you don't plan to take advantage of that feature, you can probably safely downgrade to the i5-4430. Similarly, if you don't think you'll take advantage of the extra connectivity offered by Asus' Z87-Plus, you can save a few bucks by opting for the Z87-A.
If you can find the Radeon R9 290 for its MSRP of $400, then that's what we'd suggest you buy. It's a little pricier than we'd usually recommend for this build, but at that rate it offers more performance per dollar than just about any other high-end GPU available, including the R9 290X and the various versions of Nvidia's GTX 780 and 780 Ti. If possible, find one with an improved aftermarket cooler though, as AMD's reference design provides lousy thermals (keep an eye out for promotions that'll land you a copy of Battlefield 4 too). Unfortunately, the R9 290's pricing is actually around $500 because of Hawaii GPU shortages, at which point the GTX 760 is far more practical.
With Creative's sound cards and drivers having left a bitter taste in the mouths of many enthusiasts, Asus has largely become the default choice for discrete audio cards. The low-profile Xonar DX 7.1 is easily one of Asus' best sellers, offering excellent sound quality and features including EAX simulation for well under $100. If you've only ever experienced onboard solutions, we've offered a glimpse at what you might be able to expect from upgrading to dedicated audio (using this very Asus sound card).
Sometimes we're fortunate enough that a component is so solid it practically picks itself, and that's fair to say of Samsung's 840 Evo. It's pretty fast, plenty roomy and seemingly dependable, yet it manages to be one of the most affordable high-end drives around thanks to its use of TLC memory. If that's a dealbreaker for some reason, the OCZ Vector, SanDisk Extreme II SSD and the venerable Samsung 840 Pro remain highly attractive options, while the aging Crucial m4 or Samsung 830 Series also remain practical choices. We had high hopes for OCZ's new Vector 150, but unless you're particularly drawn to its hardware encryption it seems like a relatively poor value.
All of them come in affordable capacities that should offer enough space for Windows 7 and applications, especially if you disable Windows features such as hibernation mode. Meanwhile, the Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB is a tad pricier than competing HDDs from Seagate and Samsung, but has a lengthier five year warranty, which is worth a few bucks to us.
We've chosen to pair a standard DVD burner with LG's affordable Blu-ray burner to give your Enthusiast's PC that extra mile of functionality, but if you want to save a few bucks, feel free to drop the spare DVD drive. Likewise, if you have no use for a Blu-ray burner, exclude it from your purchase or downgrade to a Blu-ray reader (around $30 cheaper).
Power, Case, Cooling
Although you could probably get by with a solid 500W PSU, that would be cutting it close with some multi-GPU configurations, so spending a few bucks more now to have headroom later makes the most sense to us.
Having fallen head over heels for Cooler Master's previous full tower designs (namely the HAF 932, HAF X and HAF XB), it should come as no surprise that we have a strong affinity for the company's latest creation. The CM Storm Trooper represents the culmination of the company's efforts, featuring a new chassis handle, revamped drive cages, an integrated fan controller, excellent stock cooling and the same mildly aggressive aesthetics.
If a full-tower chassis is too large for your taste, the CM HAF 922, Corsair Graphite 600T and Antec Nine Hundred are worthy purchases – though they're a bit showy and that's a deal breaker for some folks. For something a bit tamer, see Corsair Obsidian 650D or Lian Li's cases.
For its price (about $50), Thermaltake's Macho Rev.A offers a surprisingly complete package, delivering on virtually all fronts except compatibility, which is mostly because of its massive size.
We think a 23" to 24" monitor should be the absolute minimum for the average enthusiast system and if feasible, we recommend buying at least two. Although TN-based displays start at less than $200, we strongly encourage you to splurge on an IPS panel for the added color depth and overall higher quality image, and if you're a graphics professional, this is a must.
Both HP and Dell offer great products in this category (ZR2440w and U2410) if you want something from a mainstream vendor, while some of those Korean IPS displays are finally cropping up at US stores such as Monoprice, which regularly offers a 27" 2560x1440 monitor for around $400 – not a whole lot more than you'd pay for a 1080p display of the same size.
Generally, situations like that are too good to be true, but many enthusiasts have taken the gamble with no regrets, including TechSpot member and contributor dividebyzero, who has purchased eight of them this year. The displays vary in features, especially in connectivity, so you'll have to see what fits your needs best, but it seems you can't really go wrong no matter which you buy. Read this lengthy thread at Overclock.net along with this review by The Tech Report.
Speakers are a tricky component to shop for because a higher price and wattage don't necessarily equal better accuracy. As long as you don't expect studio-quality reproduction and you're not trying to rattle any walls, the $40 CA-3602 should be fine (also recommended for the Entry-Level Rig).
If your budget allows it, Logitech's Z623 200W 2.1 speakers should exceed your expectations in movies and games, especially when you consider the countless positive reviews received by their predecessor (the Z-2300). More of a headphone person? The Sony MDR-V6 and MDR-V7506 have stood the test of time and are a personal favorite.
Mouse & Keyboard
Between the number of possible keyboard and mouse combinations in the high-end price range, and the various uses you could be making of this system it's virtually impossible to recommend a single component. That said, we think Logitech's G400s mouse is a perfectly good starting point as it's are suitable for just about any build and our 12-way gaming mouse roundup should offer a broader look at the market if you're after something a little different.