How to build a premium PC
For our premium PC, we allowed ourselves a budget of £1,000 – and we got pretty close!
As the foundation of our high-end system, we chose the Core i5-2500K processor. We considered the top-of-the-range Core i7-2600K, but that costs almost £80 more and the performance benefit isn’t that great. Since the 2500K is unlocked, it can be overclocked to achieve excellent performance – so long as you have a suitable motherboard.
We chose our A-List favourite, the feature-packed MSI P67A-GD53, and partnered it with a Corsair A70 cooler to keep temperatures as low as possible. This let us push up the processor from its stock frequency of 3.3GHz to 4.6GHz, for a remarkable benchmark score of 1.1.
CPU: Intel Core i5-2500K £172.99
Cooler: Corsair A70 £32.99
Motherboard: MSI P67A-GD53 £107.99
RAM: Graphics Card: MSI Nvidia GeForce GTX 570 £259.99
SSD: OCZ Agility 3 60GB £82.99
Hard disk: Samsung Spinpoint F4 2TB £57.99
Optical drive: LiteOn iHBS112-37 £79.99
Case: Cooler Master CM-690 II Advanced £84.98
Power supply: Antec TruePower New Modular 650W £71.99
Total Cost: £1,005.99
We decided to equip our premium PC with 8GB of RAM, to ensure our system could accommodate even the most demanding tasks. We also chose a SSD as the system drive. We opted for an OCZ Agility 3 drive, costing only £83 for the 60GB model.
This is plenty of room for Windows, but we also wanted somewhere to store our personal data: for this we chose a Samsung Spinpoint F4, costing £58 for the 2TB model. For archival and media duties, we picked the LiteOn iHBS112-37 Blu-ray writer. It’s twice the price of a regular Blu-ray reader, but we decided to treat ourselves.
The final key to performance was the graphics card. Here we pushed the boat out and opted for Nvidia’s super-powerful GeForce GTX 570.
At £260 for an MSI-branded card this was easily the most expensive single component in our PC, but it drove 3D performance through the roof – with medium detail at 1,366 x 768, Crysis averaged 130fps.
Even when we pushed the settings right up to High Detail at 1,920 x 1,080, the game remained playable at an average of 83fps.
To wrap it all up, we chose a Cooler Master CM 690 II Advanced case: this tower offers a capacious motherboard tray and tool-free drive bays with handy, side-facing caddies (some of which can be removed).
Our power supply was the Antec TruePower New Modular 650W, providing enough juice for our high-power components, and a modular design that let us detach unused cables and keep our case tidy.
We were left with a system capable of truly excellent 2D and 3D performance. It isn’t quite the fastest we’ve seen: in last month’s Ultimate PCs Labs (see issue 204, p130), we saw systems achieving even higher benchmark scores, with larger SSDs, multiple graphics cards and twice the RAM – not to mention extravagant water-cooling systems and luxuries such as wireless networking adapters and discrete audio cards.
Such systems, however, cost £2,000 and up. The system that we’ve assembled here (in this case, sourcing our parts from Overclockers barely nudges over £1,000, yet it will tear through desktop applications and 3D games at lightning speed.