Gamer's Hardware Guide, Fall '08

If you're looking for the best combination of parts available for a little less than than top dollar, check out this guide to extreme gaming PCs.
(Page 1 of 8)

  • Page 1 Introduction and Case
    Page 2 Processors and Cooling
    Page 3 Motherboards and Memory
    Page 4 Hard Drives and Optical Drive
    Page 5 Video Card, LCD Display and Audio
    Page 6 Mouse, Keyboard & Controller
    Page 7 Communications, Operating System, etc.
    Page 8 Price Roundup and Closing Remarks


    With the back-to-school season upon us, and the sheer number of hardware choices out there, it's high time for another edition of our Extreme Gaming PC Buyer's Guide, complete with its outlandish $4,000 budget. There have been some noted hardware advancements since our previous guide update, including a few new AMD and Intel chipsets, and a plethora of ATI and NVIDIA enthusiast-level graphics cards. The overall look and feel of both system configurations will not change completely, but there will definitely be some upgrades and improvements in the key performance areas.

    Case: Cooler Master CM Stacker 830 Evo

    Current Cost: $239
    Consecutive Guides: 6
    Price Change: -$1

    No matter the budget, your system enclosure is a very key element, and is doubly so with $4,000 in cold hard cash to spend. It may not be fair, but the external look of a PC still counts for a lot, no matter what's inside, so we're not only looking for key ingredients like build quality, internal real estate, ambient noise, ventilation, and usability, but also keeping an eye on overall aesthetics.

    Consistency is another key attribute of any high-end case design, and once you've broken the code and found that special enclosure, it can be tough to find a reason to change. The Cooler Master Stacker 830 is one of those special cases, and not only do we feel it's a killer option for our Extreme Guide, but the enthusiast community as a whole has given it a big thumbs up. Sure, at just under $240, it is expensive, but with $4K to play with, it's an easy call to make.

    The Cooler Master Stacker 830 really has it all in terms of overall features. The unit's cooling power is impressive, and it features a plastic swing-away fan cage that can support up to four 120mm or 140mm fans. This not only supplies extreme cooling, but also covers the gamut of enthusiast hardware, and provides fan coverage from the CPU and voltage regulators, right down to a bottom-mounted second SLI/CF graphics card. A 120mm front-mounted fan handles the hard drive cooling, and a pair of 120mm fans on the top and rear of the Stacker 830 case help exhaust hot air. The unit supports a total of nine 120mm fans.

    The Stacker 830's internal real estate is also very impressive, and it can support all standard desktop motherboard formats, including EATX, ATX and mATX. The case features nine 5.25" bays, which can be adapted to 3.5" bays using an adapter cage and converter shields, along with the standard 4x3.5" bottom-mounted bays. The unit adds front-mounted 4xUSB 2.0, Audio, and IEEE 1394 convenience ports, and features a tool-free design with screwless drive mounting. The overall aluminum construction, streamlined design and silver-black accents also make the Stacker 830 one of the best looking cases in its class.

    Power Supply: Corsair CMPSU-1000HX 1000W

    Current Cost: $240
    Consecutive Guides: New
    Price Change: $0

    As we continue to upgrade components, adding more power-hungry processors, motherboards and graphics cards, we felt it was time to move back to a top-end 1000W power supply. Our previous Ultra X3 800W is certainly capable, but with our particular configuration, we wanted to be absolutely certain that one important upgrade would be easily attained. But we also didn't want to lose the modular properties of the Ultra 800W, so we have decided to move to the Corsair CMPSU-1000HX, which offers both the power and features our extreme systems require.

    The Corsair CMPSU-1000HX is an 80 Plus certified unit that is guaranteed to deliver 1000W of power at 50 degrees C. It features an independent dual-rail design with a whopping 80 amps of power on +12V. This PSU is a modular design with six PCI Express (2x 6-pin, 2x 6+2-pin, 2x8-pin) connectors, and 10x SATA, and with support for the latest ATX12V 2.2 and EPS12V 2.91 standards. Corsair offers a full 5-year warranty on the CMPSU-1000HX power supply.

    For those who may not feel the need for a whole 1000W of power, and might want to save a few bucks, the Ultra X3 800W is still a prime choice. It offers high-end performance, 60 amps on a 12V rail, and an 85% peak efficiency rating, and will handle just about any hardware you can toss at it.

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    Tags: video, Intel, AMD, nVidia, gaming PC

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