Desktop Systems Guide

PC DIY Buying Guide - Q3 2010

PC DIY Buying Guide - Q3 2010



The High Flyer (Under S$2500)

The High Flyer (Under S$2500)

Our top-end machine, the High Flyer, was configured with a budget of S$2500 in mind. It's a chunk of cash that will buy you quite a lot of computing horsepower, but let's be realistic too; it's not going to get you those jaw-dropping systems that enthusiasts swoon over. It will however be sufficient to last you a number of years with minimal upgrades, while being ready for future upgrades if you choose to do so. You will have no issues playing the latest games at the highest settings with this system and the 6-core option handles anything that you won't need a workstation for. Like the previous two configurations, we have listed two alternatives for the platform (CPU and motherboard), with the other components held constant.

Click on the links in the table below to find the product/review page on HardwareZone, or the manufacturer's product page for more information. 

The High Flyer Configuration
PC Component
Our Picks
Price (in SGD)
CPU and Motherboard
  • $831
  • $748
Memory 2 x 2GB Kingston DDR3-1333 (CL9)  $136
Graphics MSI Radeon 5870 1GB  $599
Hard Drive Intel X25M Gen 2 80G (Boot drive) with Samsung F3 1TB (Storage drive)  $434
Optical Drive Samsung 22x SATA Internal DVD Writer $30
Power Supply Seasonic X Series 750W $249
Chassis Cooler Master HAF X $289
Total
  •  Intel based system
  • AMD based system
  • $2568
  • $2485

 

CPU and Motherboard

Intel's latest Core i7-875K marks a change in attitude towards overclocking from Intel; it's one of the first non-Extreme Edition processors from the company to feature unlocked multipliers. One can easily overclock this processor just by incrementing the CPU multiplier in the BIOS. Intel however is asking a slight premium for this, though it should be a boon for overclockers.

For the Socket LGA1156 motherboard, we went with the P55 chipset again and the ASUS' P7P55D-E EVO, which takes a step further than the PRO model that we picked for the Mainstream Machine. In short, it's double of everything, with dual Ethernet, multi-GPU support and of course, true SATA 6Gbps and USB 3.0 support, along with the wide range of ASUS proprietary technologies. Together with the processor, this bundle will cost you $831, though if that's too rich for you, you can always go for a motherboard with some of these features removed.

 

ASUS' 890FX board is not the top offering from the manufacturer, but it has more than sufficient features to justify our selection. It has the latest technologies for one, thanks to its AMD chipset and Southbridge, while the layout is very decent. Together with AMD's top 6-core offering, the AMD Phenom II X6 1090T, which comes with Turbo Core for those times when you're not using the full number of cores to boost the processor performance further, it should be a potent combination that can match a similarly priced Bloomfield Core i7.

 

 

Memory

With the unlocked Core i7-875K, it's no longer required to have high speed memory with low latencies for overclocking, which is why we continue to opt for the value option with Kingston's DDR3-1333 memory modules. Like our Mainstream Machine, OCZ's Fatality series of DDR3-1600 memory is a good standby if you do need to overspeed your memory.

 

Graphics

There's only one choice for a single GPU graphics card given our budget - ATI's Radeon HD 5870. NVIDIA's highest end GeForce GTX 480 may have the performance edge but it's much more expensive and more power hungry and warmer to boot. Among the 5870 cards that are available here, we went with the reference model, as one of the overclocked models with custom cooler can push the price significantly higher. Hence, our choice of the MSI Radeon HD 5870 1GB, which will cost you around S$599.

The other option, for those who don't mind the extra power and heat for a multi-GPU setup, will be a pair of NVIDIA GTX 460 graphics cards in SLI, which will give more performance than the Radeon HD 5870. Even a pair of those with 768MB of memory each, like the Palit GTX 460 768MB will only set you back by S$590, less than a single Radeon HD 5870. For those interested to know more about the performance capabilities of the GeForce GTX 460 in SLI, do check our article for the full details.

 

Hard Drive

Solid state drives scene may be heating up in the past year, but it's still a slow burn rather than a blaze of adoption. Prices have remained relatively high compared to the traditional platter based hard drives. Despite the introduction of some promising SSD controller technologies recently, Intel remains the gold standard. This coupled with the fact that many of the newer SSD models do not find their way to Singapore soon enough, means that we went opted for the second-gen Intel's X25-M (80GB) for our boot drive. This will ensure that our applications and OS boot up quickly. For your usual storage purpose, the Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB that we have been recommending will do fine here to complement the Intel SSD.

Alternatively, if  SSDs still seem like a luxury to you, why not have two 1TB hard drives in RAID? You could use the RAID setup for backup (RAID 1) or performance (RAID 0) and two of these drives will still cost less than the SSD and storage HDD combination. For instance, dual WD Caviar Black with SATA 6Gbps costs S$304, less than the Intel SSD.

 

Optical Drive

With the increased budget, you can technically try to fit in a Blu-ray drive. The Liteon 8x Blu-ray internal drive costs S$229, which is not out of reach for most users. However, if you've no need for Blu-ray movies on your small screen, you can go with the Samsung DVD writer for S$30.

 

Power Supply

Seasonic's X Series of PSU, with its 80 PLUS Gold rating and modular design gets our nod here. The 750W unit is sufficient for our needs and at S$249, it's reasonably priced compared to its competitors. Another option would be the Corsair HX850W, with its Silver rating and a 7-year warranty from the local distro.

 

Chassis

Finally, the new flagship of Cooler Master's HAF chassis series, the HAF X is our choice for the High Flyer chassis. At S$289, it's not treading into the luxurious, high-end territory, while providing lots of expansion options, including support for larger motherboards and even USB 3.0 front panel support. Cooling and installation have never been better.

Silverstone's Raven RV02 is an interesting alternative if the HAF X is too much for you. The lower, S$249 price tag helps too, and the Raven's unique mounting and installation leads to very decent cooling as well.