Part 1: Building A Balanced Gaming PC

Memory, Hard Drive, Power Supply, Coolers

The following components are outside the scope of comparison here, but still very important to the results we're generating. We don’t want to limit our system with too little memory, a slow hard drive, a flaky power supply, or high temperatures. So, we’ve gathered an assortment of complementary hardware to help address our needs throughout this series.

Special thanks to Corsair, Western Digital, and Xigmatek for arranging the hardware needed to make this entire series possible.

Memory

Corsair Dominator TR3X6G1600C8D

This 6GB triple-channel kit of Corsair Dominator memory is rated DDR3-1600 and CL 8-8-8-24 timings at 1.65V.  Corsair backs these modules with a lifetime warranty and uses DHX (Dual-path Heat Xchange) technology to keep them cool.

We’ll be utilizing either two or three sticks of this high-performance memory in each DDR3 platform tested, depending on whether the setup in question employs a dual- or triple-channel controller.

Corsair Dominator TWIN2X4096-8500C5DF G

For our DDR2 platforms, we’ll use a 4GB dual-channel kit of Corsair Dominator, rated DDR2-1066 and CL 5-5-5-15 2T timings at 2.1V. This kit is also cooled by DHX technology and backed by Corsair’s lifetime warranty.

Hard Drive

Western Digital Caviar Black WD6401AALS

The Western Digital Caviar Black 640GB hard drive offers gamers a good blend of capacity, performance, and affordability.

This 7,200 RPM, SATA 3 Gb/s drive has dual processors, 32MB cache, and is backed by a five year warranty. Bear in mind that using an SSD instead of a mechanical drive like this one will almost certainly improve level load times, but it's less likely to affect your actual in-game performance.

Power Supply

Corsair CMPSU-850HX 850W

The right combination of motherboard, processor, memory, and graphics cards means little without a quality power supply unit capable of providing reliable, clean voltage to our components.

Considering the overclocking desires and multi-GPU configurations that you'll see later in the series, we chose an 850W unit from Corsair. The modular Corsair CMPSU-850HX has a single 70A, +12V rail, six 6+2 pin PCIe power connectors, a seven year warranty, 80 PLUS Gold efficiency certification, and a 140mm temperature-controlled fan.

Coolers

Xigmatek HDT-S1283 & Dark Knight-S1283V

We're utilizing Xigmatek’s HDT-S1283 to cool our Socket AM3 and 775 processors, and the LGA 1366-compatible Dark Knight-S1283V to keep the Core i7-920 running cool. On both heatsinks, Xigmatek uses its HDT (Heatpipe Direct Touch) system for thermal transfer and a PWM-controlled 120mm fan, with rubber mounts, for quiet operation. 

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    Top Comments
  • I see a great series coming
    18
  • This is good, this must be the first time in computer history things are beeing done right. And this is sure the best way i ever seen a review done, in my 18 yrs as an entusiastic computer builder. Looking forward to all the updates to come.
    10
  • Other Comments
  • Wow, this is an amazingly in depth review! I kinda feel that its sponsered by Asus or Corsair, but I guess you kept with the same brand for the sake of controls etc.

    Thankyou!
    4
  • I see a great series coming
    18
  • Very helpful stuff.

    I'd like to see some discussion on the availability of sub $400 (at times as low as $280) 28" monitors. At this price range, does it make more sense to spend more on the LCD even if less is spent initially on graphics? I would think the benefit of 28" vs. 22" is so great that the extra money could be taken from, say, a 9550 + 4890 combo and getting a 8400/6300 + 4850 instead, with the right motherboard a second 4850 later will pass a 4890 anyway.
    2
  • I like the balance charts. It's a good way to characterize the data. This article is well constructed and well thought-out.

    That being said - is there a way we can compile this data and compute an "optimized" system for the given hardware available? Finding the true, calculated sweet spot for performance/$ would be so nice to have on hand every quarter or twice a year. I'll have to think about this one for a while. There may be some concessions to make, and it might not even work out. But it would be so cool.
    6
  • Nice one.Now i want to see part two.
    1
  • I feel like the person that did this review got it finished alittle bit late. I can only assume he did all the testing some months back and has only just finished writing up his results. But its sad to not see the new P55/i5 Systems, AMD Athlon II Quad Cores, or the Radeon 5000 series.

    Good review, but hopefully it can be updated soon with some of the newer equipment thats out, to turn it into a fantastic guide for people.
    -11
  • Great job, this is the information people need to be seeing; the way people provide benchmarks these days hardly tells the story to most of the readers. It's definitely important to point out the disparities in ones CPU choice, rather than just assuming everyone uses the i7 all the sites choose. ;)

    Looking forward to part 2.
    2
  • wow! Awesome works! Can't wait til you guys get to the ATI 5000 series. Keep it up! :)
    4
  • This will take up some of my time. Even though I know how, it's nice to get a refresher every now and then.
    0
  • you are really kidding me by not considering the ATI 5000 series, although am a fan of nvidia , but this is not fair !
    -15
  • amazing article....one of the best I have seen in a long time (from any site)

    you all deserve a raise :)
    1
  • Very nice.

    The picture on the first page is better than any porno I've ever seen!
    1
  • Quote:
    Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550 (Yorkfield) 2.66 GHz, LGA 775, FSB-1333, 12MB L2 cache
    I'm pretty sure that its the Q9450/9400 is the one that runs at 2.66 GHz The Q9550 runs at 2.83 GHz.
    2
  • It took me roughly an hour and a half to read this article at work. Wow these are the types of tests and in depth articles that I’ve been waiting for. Its been about a month to two months since we’ve had such a deep study. The System Builder Marathon reviews and tests were great. The best GPU’s per price/performance are lacking and basic comparisons while this article shows us the true value and capabilities of certain GPU’s and CPU’s.

    Im however perplexed that the once good 4850 which is compared to my 9800GTX+ is deemed a weaker GPU now. I thought the Far Cry 2 tests shown in previous TOMs comparisons garnerd higher frame rates? I know that the systems were comparable.... Anyway keep up the good work and this is a Quality comparison/chart/review.
    1
  • This is a great review that people who are building pc's actual need to see.

    I was quite surprised by the power of the HD4890. It thumped the GTX285 and more powerful cards when using a dual core CPU. Even in Crysis which always seemed like it favoured Nvidia cards in past reviews. It is probably that the previous reviews all used overclocked quad cores and/or the ATI drivers have really improved.

    It also seems as though the Nvidia cards need a more powerful CPU in order to get equivalent performance to the ATI cards.
    1
  • It's just these kind of articles that make TH shine over the other sites. Well done!
    9
  • Looking forward to the rest of the series. Well done.
    1
  • Thank you Paul and team for sacrificing many weeks on this project. Its great to have something to point at and say this is why you shouldn't do that. It will be great to be able do direct price/performance comparison for the same results of a less expensive OC'd system and stock system.

    Can't wait for the rest!!!!!

    Also, whats the chance of getting a how to run you're own benchmarks article so we can test our systems against yours using the same method?
    2
  • This is good, this must be the first time in computer history things are beeing done right. And this is sure the best way i ever seen a review done, in my 18 yrs as an entusiastic computer builder. Looking forward to all the updates to come.
    10
  • My PC says 'bring in the part 2'. Is this would be a series also like the best GPU/CPU?
    1