Raising the budget to S$1,500 will provide enough horsepower to play most games at 1900×1200 resolution on a 24-inch LCD monitor.
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3P [~S$240]
The spotlight may be on the X58 chipset motherboards right now, but behind the scenes Gigabyte has been hammering out new P45 motherboards. One of its newly launched motherboards is the GA-EP45-UD3P. Like the GA-EP45-DS3, the UD3P is also a notch above other boards in its class.
Not only does it have a decent cooling system for the chipset and power circuitry, it also features a wide array of tweaking options in the BIOS and good overclocking potential. All in all this board probably provides the best bang for the buck.
Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E8200 [~S$270]
Unless games start making use of more cores, getting a faster dual core CPU is preferable to a slower quad-core model for the same price. The E8200, like other Core 2 processors, is also highly overclockable, though one may want to consider purchasing an aftermarket heatsink to get the most out of an already good bargain. Read about an overclocker friendly heatsink, the Thermalright Ultra 120 eXtreme here.
Memory: Kingston HyperX 2x2GB DDR2-1066 CL5 [~S$160]
Going from DDR2-800 to DDR2-1066 nets us some performance gains which we feel we can be squeezed into a mid-range system despite the additional costs.Kingston’s HyperX is one of the more affordable premium memory around, guaranteeing 1066Mhz at reasonably low timings of 5-5-5-15.
The caveat is that the memory voltage must be increased from the default 1.8-volts to 2.2-volts for stable operation at those faster timing. Rest assured Kingston’s warranty covers operation at this specified voltage.
If you’re wondering, the reason behind this is that DDR2’s official maximum speed is actually 800Mhz. Anything above that is outside of the JEDEC DDR2 specification, and is technically an overclock even if manufacturers do guarantee it.
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 260 Core 216 896MB or ATI HD4870 1GB [~S$450]
Nvidia’s souped up GTX 260 with 216 shaders has caught up just in time to the 1GB version of the HD4870.
Regardless of which one you pick, make sure you don’t accidentally get the older version of the GTX 260 or the 512MB version of the HD4870, as these are still quite common in stores.
Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar Black 750GB SATA (WD7501AALS) [~S$170]
Western Digital’s Caviar Black is the drive of choice for performance. If you’d prefer to trade off a bit of performance in return for power savings, then their GreenPower line is a good alternative which provides a good balance between the two.
Optical Drive: Samsung SH-S203B [~S$40]
With the prices of Blu-Ray combo* drives, let alone Blu-Ray writers, remaining sky-high, our reccomendation remains the same here. Unless you’re a High-Definition (HD) junkie with a shelf full of Blu-Ray discs, saving your money for the time being and sticking to good old DVD is probably a better idea.
*Blu-Ray read + DVD read/write
Power Supply: Corsair HX520W [~S$150]
Corsair’s HX520W is rock-solid, efficient, and operates in near-silence. For the neat-freaks it is modular, and to top things off it comes with a 5-year warranty, all for a pretty reasonable price.
Casing: Lian-Li PC-A07 [~S$130]
Lian Li’s aluminum casings are known for their quality – the PC-A07 is the successor to the tried and tested PC-7+, incorporating several improvements to create a simple yet highly functional design.