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.
Read Customer Reviews of Intel's Core i5-2400 (opens in new tab)
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
Read Customer Reviews of ASRock's P67 Pro3 SE (opens in new tab)
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
Read Customer Reviews of Cooler Master's Hyper TX3 (opens in new tab)
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.