The Editor's Choice
What TR's editors would get—if they had time to upgrade
Staying within the Sweet Spot's budget requires a measure of restraint. With the Editor's Choice, we've loosened the purse strings to accommodate beefier hardware and additional functionality—the kind TR's editors would opt for if they were building a PC for themselves.
|Processor||Intel Core i5-3570K 3.4GHz||$229.99|
|Motherboard||Asus P8Z77-V LK||$139.99|
|Memory||Corsair Vengeance 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600||$40.99|
|Graphics||Sapphire Radeon HD 7950 Boost||$304.99|
|Storage||Kingston HyperX 240GB||$199.99|
|Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB||$84.99|
|LG WH14NS40 Blu-ray burner||$69.99|
|Audio||Asus Xonar DSX||$52.99|
|Enclosure||Corsair Obsidian Series 650D||$189.99|
|Power supply||Corsair HX650W||$119.99|
We considered stepping all the way up to the Core i7-3770K, the fastest fully unlocked Ivy model, but $340 is a lot of scratch for a processor. Compared to the Core i5-3570K, all the 3770K has to offer is slightly faster base and Turbo speeds (3.5GHz and 3.9GHz, respectively, up from 3.4GHz and 3.8GHz) and Hyper-Threading capabilities. Having eight graphs in the Task Manager is nice, no question about it, and the extra threads can help with heavy multitasking. If you think that's worth $110, see the alternatives section on the next page. We're of the opinion that the i5-3570K is a better deal.
Pricier motherboards may get us more bells and whistles, but the Asus P8Z77-V LK from our Sweet Spot already has plenty. Besides, the point of the Editor's Choice is supposed to be a well-balanced system that does everything TR's editors would want their own PCs to do—not an excuse to splurge on the cream of the crop in every department. Saving a little money here gives us more room for a faster graphics card, too.
We've used these particular Corsair Vengeance modules on our test systems for quite a while, and they haven't given us any issues. They have lower timings than the ValueSelect modules we paired with the Econobox and Sweet Spot, and they also have big, spiky heatsinks.
The Sapphire Radeon HD 7950 Boost is such a good deal with its free game bundle, we've included it in our Editor's Choice build, too. (Remember, the card comes with free copies of Sleeping Dogs, Hitman: Absolution, and Far Cry 3, plus a 20%-off coupon for Medal of Honor Warfighter Deluxe Edition.)
AMD offers the same game package with the Radeon HD 7970, but the stock version of that card costs about $100 more, and it's barely any faster than "Boost"-enabled variants of the 7950 like this one. The 7950 Boost should chew through today's games like butter on 27" and 30" displays at their native resolution, so we're not exactly left wanting more GPU power.
Our budget for the Editor's Choice leaves room for the 240GB Kingston HyperX as our primary pick. We'd have preferred a 256GB drive, but the HyperX offers a pretty compelling combination of performance and capacity at this price point.
Again, 256GB may not cover all your games and software, so we recommend grabbing a relatively speedy mechanical hard drive to pick up the slack. Samsung's Spinpoint F3 1TB should fulfill that task admirably; it's fast, quiet, and reasonably priced by today's standards.
Would you spend $1,400 on a new system without a Blu-ray burner? Probably not. LG's WH14NS40 seems to be the cheapest option available at Newegg, and we see no reason to spend more.
Now that we've tested the Xonar DSX, we think it's a better deal than the Xonar DX we previously recommended for this build. The DSX is about 30 bucks cheaper, and the only major feature it lacks is Dolby Headphone support. The two offerings are otherwise very similar, and they sounded very close in our blind listening tests.
As we explained in our review, Corsair's Obsidian Series 650D enclosure essentially melds the innards of the Graphite Series 600T with the exterior design of the bigger and more expensive 800D, all while retaining Corsair's famous attention to detail. The 650D has fewer front-panel USB ports and less granular fan control than the 600T, and it costs a little more. The more we think about it, though, the more we prefer the Obsidian's overall looks, lighter weight, and less bulky design.
We're keeping the same Corsair HX650W power supply as in our last few guides. This 650W unit has plenty of power and 80 Plus Bronze certification. The PSU also features modular cabling that should make it easy to keep the case's internals clean. The 650D may have excellent cable management options, but we'd prefer to have fewer cables to manage, as well.
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