It's the weekend, so time for our round up of the best deals in PC hardware that have caught our eye over the last seven days. What we do is this: find the best kit available less than a total budget of £1,000/$1,500 and make a machine out of it.
This is the PC Gamer Rig: your weekly guide to the best value components, which will deliver top notch performance today and for some time to come.
You've probably been too busy playing Skyrim to worry about upgrading your PC this week. And since that's a game which should run well on a fairly aged machine, the best thing you can do to improve performance is check out Tom's thread full of tweaks or download the latest drivers for your graphics card: NVIDIA has released a new beta driver for especially for improving Battlefield 3 and Skyrim framerates, so go download it now if you haven't arleady.
Otherwise, this week's point of discussion is solid state drives (SSDs). I'm not going to list one in the core components for the Rig, because they are still a luxury rather than an essential, even if they're falling in price.
It's worth pointing out that with the Intel Z68 motherboard below, you can add a small drive to act purely as a cache for your main storage. That means that rather than fiddling around and trying to free up space on a small SSD to install a new game, Intel's Smart Response Technology (SRT) will kick in and move regularly accessed files into the fast SSD space.
Some Z68 motherboards – like the one below – have a special type of small hard drive connector which was developed for use in laptops, which is designed purely for an RST drive. Most of the major SSD manufacturers have produced small drives which fit into this mSATA port. The advantage is supposed to be that you can get away with a low capacity, low cost SSD if it's just going to be used for caching.
The economics don't quite add up for me, mind. A basic 30GB mSATA drive costs around £40, but I'd rather spend £80 on a drive that's more than twice the size and much, much faster. Even though it connects to a regular SATA port, you can still use it for SRT caching, and it just seems to make more sense to me.
Still – if you're on a budget, picking up an mSATA drive to go with this motherboard will deliver results. It's not quite as fast as using an SSD by itself – there's a bit of software overhead that slows down performance – but it's close enough for all practical purposes.
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 for £50. Grab it quick, just in case it's a misprint.
A good low cost card that'll get you gaming at decent framerates on a single monitor.
Hard drive prices have shot through the roof over the last week, doubling as a result of flooding in Thailand. They're rising especially quickly in the US (it's a different, but similar, drive in the $ link).
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.