Graphics, CPU, And Motherboard
Video Card: PowerColor PCS+ AX7870 Myst Edition
AMD’s Tahiti LE GPU hit the PC gaming scene hard with shocking value from three launch partners, all of which were safe bets in my experience. Somehow, the only model in stock on the day we placed our order from Newegg was the same one we tested for that launch, PowerColor’s PCS+ AX7870 Myst Edition. Clocked at 925 MHz core (975 MHz Boost) and with 2 GB of GDDR5-6000, my only reservation about the recommendation Igor gave the card was PowerColor's relatively brief two-year warranty coverage.
I was also forced to set aside my reservations about axial-flow fans that recirculate exhaust air inside a chassis, since no Tahiti LE-based cards were available with centrifugal coolers. That's probably just as well, though, since I couldn't afford a quiet-enough case to stifle the added noise most of those blower-style designs generate.
CPU: Intel Core i5-3570K
Intel’s Core i5-3570K gives up around 3% of the Core i7-3770K’s clock rate, a little shared L3 cache, and Hyper-Threading in return for around 30% cost savings, making it a clear value play.
Lacking the budget for a higher-end Core i7 processor, I'm hoping that most of our benchmarks don't punish me for giving up the ability to schedule to eight threads simultaneously.
Motherboard: ASRock Z77 Extreme4
Weary of the weak voltage regulator found in our previous build, we decided to take a chance with an less expensive board that advertises a few extra voltage phases. Phase count isn’t nearly as important as total amperage capacity, but at this price, we were forced to stick with a known part that'd be good enough or gamble on something that might have worked better (but maybe not).
We gave ASRock’s Z77 Extreme4 a similar rating as Gigabyte’s Z77X-D3H, though our round-up’s overclocking test was performed at a mere 1.25 V processor voltage setting. The Z77X-D3H later proved itself incapable of supplying stable current at voltage levels beyond 1.25 V, and we were shooting for around 1.28 V when we discovered that problem. We’ll “go there” again today.