Ah, PC Gamer Rig, how your very averageness excites us. This is the machine which we keep alive and well in the office as representative of a 'normal' reader's PC, against which we can benchmark the performance of new hardware and games releases.
And also, something to round up the week with.
The point of the Rig is to demonstrate the best value games system possible for less £1,000/$1,500 – and as such it's also a reasonably good guide to getting value for money when upgrading. You might spend more per part, but if we were to start building a new PC today, these are the very minimum specs we'd go for.
What's new this week? Mostly it's been used for testing hardware for the reviews section next month – although there's nothing suitable to replace any of the existing components. So instead, some advice. As I wrote a couple of days ago, hard drive prices are astronomically high as a result of flooding in Thailand – and they're likely to increase again yet. But one component you should be snapping up if you can is RAM.
Memory prices do tend to fluctuate over time, and they go up as well as down. Right now, you can get 4GB of DDR3 RAM for as little as £20 / $26 , which is ridiculously cheap. Going from 4GB to 8GB RAM can make your system noticeably faster, but more importantly it will help to keep things running smoothly – raising those minimum framerates and helping with multitasking.
A quick - and not particularly scientific - Battlefield 3 benchmark on the Rig showed that going from 4GB to 8GB increased the average framearate rising from 55fps to 62fps - which is very good. The minimum framerate leapt from 41fps to 56fps - which is excellent.
If you are upgrading, it's a good idea to go for new modules that are as close in timings and even brand as you can – I've found DDR3 to be far more finicky when it comes to mixing and matching different chips than DDR2 ever was. On the upside, you really don't need to worry about speed too much. Now that all new CPUs have the memory controller on board the base clockspeed of RAM makes very little – if any – difference to overall performance.
An unlocked Sandy Bridge quad core, capable of all the top end features but hyperthreading.
An awesome Z68 board, comes with mSATA connectors for mini SSDs and Intel's caching technology.
Eight gigabytes of fast 1600MHz DDR3, unbelievably nearly a tenner less than last week already.
A good mid range card that'll get you gaming at decent framerates on a single monitor.
If you have to buy a hard drive this week, there are few that remain as competitively priced as this.
Fast DVD writers are pretty much generic these days, and there's no real argument for spending any more.
Easy access to all components and not too noisy either, our favourite budget case looks better than others too.
A decent 650W PSU that's rated well for efficiency. The minimum you should try to get away with.
Classic Logitech style in a brand new mouse, this 3600dpi mouse is comfortable and precise.
Microsoft SideWinder X4
Backlighting, macros and anti-ghosting for £25? Yes please.
Some of you think that an IPS screen is no good for gaming because of low response times. All I can say is: your loss.
Being phased out for a newer model, so grab a bargain while they last.