CPU, Motherboard, And Cooler
CPU: Intel Core i5-2400
With our sights set on a $550 Radeon HD 7970 for our $1250 build, we have to cut some corners. And it's not like the $190 Core i5-2400 is a bad CPU. After all, we’ve been recommending it in the sub-$200 space for some time now. Moreover, in our recent sub-$200 CPU gaming comparison, this processor performed very closely to the Core i5-2500K overclocked to 4 GHz.
Although the Core i5-2400’s multiplier ratio is locked, we’re interested in seeing how much speed this 3.1 GHz model gains when we peg it at its highest available 38x Turbo Boost ratio.
Motherboard: ASRock P67 Pro3 SE
We heard good things about ASRock’s P67 Pro3, so we thought we’d give the SE version a try. At $95, it certainly didn’t hurt that this was also the lowest-priced motherboard we could find with Intel's P67 chipset.
On paper, it has everything else we need: DDR3 memory support up to 2133 MT/s and a PCIe x16 slot. Reality turned out to be a little different though, as we suffered from from a BIOS limitation that we’ll discuss in the overclocking section. Know this: if you plan on overclocking, spend a few more dollars on a platform with more complete firmware settings. If you’re not overclocking, you might appreciate the Pro3 SE’s thin footprint, which fit into our mid-tower enclosure with ease.
CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper TX3
We know that there are better coolers out there, but you’ll have a hard time finding one for $20. Given tight budget constraints, we opted for Cooler Master’s low-budget option. It just so happens to be a decent model for the price, and it's significantly better than the solution you get bundled with Intel's Core i5-2400.