Sport & Auto
- About Future
- Digital Future
- Cookies Policy
- Terms & Conditions
- Investor Relations
- Contact Future
Sticking to a budget can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be painful. Our mid-priced rig, the Budget Surplus, is remarkably similar to the computers that most Maximum PC editors run at home—$1,500-ish rigs that are adept at many tasks. Whether you’re browsing the web, playing games, ripping DVDs, or editing video, the Budget Surplus delivers.
When building a $1,500 rig, it’s easy to get your priorities out of whack. We love the power of a Core i7 CPU when we’re encoding video, but we couldn’t sacrifice GPU to get it. Likewise, we wanted more performance than a single GPU could deliver, but couldn’t skimp on CPU to find the cash for SLI or CrossFire. Luckily, we found a great compromise in the form of an inexpensive Core i7 920 CPU and a dual-GPU Radeon 4870 X2.
The result is a machine that’s only about 20 percent slower than our highest-end configuration, but costs half as much. That’s a surplus we can get excited about.
Gigabyte’s X58-based GA-EX58-UDR3R balances features with price. You get CrossFire plus SLI capability (something most budget boards don’t include), and it’s overclocker friendly. The bad news is that instead of the typical six RAM slots, you get just four. You still get tri-channel, but if you ever intend to add additional RAM later on, you’ll take a memory-bandwidth hit.
It’s no wonder Intel’s 2.66GHz Core i7-920 stole the show when introduced. It’s incredibly low-priced and gives you more computing than you’ll probably need for the foreseeable future—and that’s at its stock clocks. There’s actually a state law that says a 920 has to be overclocked, so we obliged—all the way to 3.66GHz.
Thermalright’s Ultra 120E-1366 isn’t fun to install but the payoff is well worth it. This tower-of-power heatsink is the most effective air cooler we’ve ever tested. Pushing our 2.66GHz Core i7-920 to 3.66GHz was child’s play for this bad mother of a cooler. And to top it off, it’s actually fairly quiet for the performance that it offers.
If you think we’re hypocrites for dissing DDR3 in our budget box but using it in our midrange machine, you’re wrong. You choose the right tool for the right job. DDR3 is the only option for Core i7 and it’s actually pretty damned affordable itself. We got 6GB of Patriot’s Viper DDR3/1600 for just $79.
You know how good ATI’s Radeon HD 4870 X2 card is? It’s so good that this is the first time we’ve ever used a videocard from a previous-generation Dream Machine. That’s just a testament to the legs that the Diamond Radeon HD 4870 X2 has.
Corsair’s 850TX lacks the modular cables of its big brother, but it gives us a reliable 850 watts without breaking the bank. Simply put, the 850TX gives us a lot of bang for the buck. It doesn’t hurt that Corsair’s PSUs are garnering high praise from reviewers and customers for solid reliability. Did we mention that it’s just $135?
Do you really need Blu-ray in your mainstream PC? That one is easy to answer: nope. Thus, we used the same $25 hella-fast DVD burner that we used in our Recession Special, for all the same reasons.
It may not feature exotic materials, lights, or a built-in minibar, but the Element S is truly marvelous to build in and easy to keep neat. For example, getting a tight and tidy appearance inside the Antec 900 takes serious imagination, but thanks to the forethought that went into the Element S’s construction, a ship-shape interior requires minimal work.
SSD prices have plummeted in recent months, but they’re still too rich for our blood. Instead, we tapped Seagate’s superfast 1.5TB Barracuda 7200.11 for storage duties. It’s damn-near as fast as a 10K VelociRaptor, and with 1.5TB of space, you’d be downloading for months before you could fill it.
Windows 7 is like a new topical cream: It will ease the burning and itching sensation that PC users have suffered with Windows Vista and at the same time make it easy to crow about how the PC is better than the Mac once again.
|CPU||Intel 2.66GHz Core i7-920||$280||intel.com|
|RAM||Patriot 6GB Viper DDR3/1600||$79||patriotmemory.com
|Videocard||Diamond Radeon HD 4870 X2||$389||diamondmm.com|
|Hard Drive||Seagate 1.5TB 7200.11 Barracuda||$130
|Thermalright Ultra 120E-1366||$70||thermalright.com|
|Thermaltake Element S||$120||thermaltakeusa.com|
|Windows 7 Ultimate RC1||$0||microsoft.com|