HotHardware Holiday Gift Guide: PC Components

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Motherboards:


Socket 2011: MSI X79A-GD65 (8D) X79 Express-Based Motherboard

The MSI X79A-GD65 (8D) features a mouse-friendly “Click BIOS II” UEFI that’s much easier to navigate than traditional text-based BIOS menus. The board is also in MSI’s “Military Class III” family and features super ferrite chokes, highly conductive polymer capacitors and / or solid capacitors throughout, which should offer increases stability and longevity. MSI also claims the board is PCI Express 3.0 ready.

The MSI X79A-GD65 (8D) also supports “1 second overclocking” thanks to its OC Genie II feature, but the UEFI sports all of the overclocker-friendly features we’ve come to expect from MSI for manual tweaking as well. MSI also includes their new Instant OC Control Center II utility, which gives users the ability the monitor and control system parameters from within Windows, with no need to reboot when making changes.

Other features of the MSI X79A-GD65 (8D) include USB3.0 and CrossFire / SLI support, along with “Super Charger” which allows users to charge USB devices even when the system is powered down. We found the layout of the MSI X79A-GD65 (8D) to be quite good and also like the dark blue and black features on the board. Its accessory bundle is also top-notch and includes additional USB 3.0 ports and numerous cables and manuals.

If a socket 2011 system is our of reach, however, a socket 1155 Z68 Express based board may be just the ticket. To that end, we like the Gigabyte GA-Z68XP-UD3-iSSD Z68 Express due to its good feature set, competitive price, and built-in 20GB SSD for taking advantage of Intel's Smart Response Technology.


Socket AM3+: Asus CrossHair V Formula 990FX-Based Motherboard

The Asus CrossHair V Formula is based on the AMD 990FX chipset and supports all current socket AM3 processors and future AM3+ based processors as well. Asus has also augmented the board with a number of additional controllers to further enhance its feature set and connectivity options. In addition to exploiting all of the features inherent to the 990FX chipset, the CrossHair V Formula also sports a pair of ASMedia controllers that add additional SATA 6G ports and six USB 3.0 ports. The board supports both 3-Way NVDIA SLI and AMD CrossFireX multi-GPU configurations and the board is outfitted with an advanced UEFI BIOS and DIGI+ digital VRM design as well. As you'll see a little later, the UEFI setup menu on this board is about as good as it gets.

As expected from an Asus RoG (Republic of Gamers) board, there are plenty of overclocking tools built in too and an onboard SupremeFX X-Fi 2 chip delivers decent audio, especially for an integrated solution. Other noteworthy features of the Asus CrossHair V Formula include its "CPU Level Up" tool which allows for easy overclocking, RoG Connect for accessing PC health status via a secondary system like a notebook or netbook, ProbeIt voltage check points, and its Intel Gigabit LAN controller. The layout of the board is also very good and there is ample cooling for the chipset and voltage regulators. As you can see in the final image above, there is also plenty of connectivity in the board's backplane, including USB 3.0, USB 2.0, eSATA, PS/2, LAN, digital and analog audio, and RoG connect port.

High-End Intel System: MSI X79A-GD65 (8D) X79 Express - $279
Mid-Range Intel System: Gigabyte GA-Z68XP-UD3-iSSD Z68 Express - $229
AMD System: Asus CrossHair V Formula - $229



Memory:



G.SKILL RipJaws Z F3-14900CLQ9-16GBZL Quad-Channel DDR3-1866 Memory Kit

The G.SKILL RipJaws Z memory kit you see here consists of four, 4GB, DDR3-1866 sticks of memory (total 16GB), model number F3-14900CLQ9-16GBZL. The sticks run at only 1.5v with CL9-10-9-28 timings, and are XMP 1.3 compatible. This is the memory kit we used for all of our SBE testing, on four different motherboards, and it ran perfectly throughout. And at about $130 it's fairly affordable too.


Corsair Vengeance 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1866 Memory Kit, Model CMZ8GX3M2A1866C9

DDR3-1866 memory seems to hit the sweet spot this holiday season. While DDR3-2000 and 2133 kits abound (and some even faster), they're price much higher than their DDR3-1866 counterparts. One of our preferred dual-channel kits comes by way of Corsair, the Vengeance 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1866 (PC3 15000) memory kit, model. CMZ8GX3M2A1866C9. As its name implies, this kit will run at 1866MHz at CAS 9, but it does so at only 1.5v. The kit also suppports XMP and it plenty overclockable as well. Although the kit is optimized for Intel platforms, its relatively low votlage requirements and high-clocks make it ideal for AMD-based systems as well.

High-End System: G.SKILL RipJaws Z Quad-Channel DDR3-1866 Memory Kit - $129
Mid-Range System: Corsair Vengeance 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1866 Memory Kit - $79
 

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Comments

Comments
ajm135 2 years ago

mmmmm... Looking foward to seeing what you guys recommend. I have been wanting to upgrade a little bit. My rig is not terribly old but definitely needs some upgrades

AKnudson 2 years ago

i am currently in the proccess of buildig my rig so i would really appreciate suggestions o what is in and what will be compatible so my system can survive this years hardware flood.

der meister 2 years ago

wow, ram has certainly come down in price. I would love to see a system with all the top end stuff you guys recommended.

lifeskills 2 years ago

Finally just caved on the ssd guys. I ordered a 60gb vertex 3 and pyro for me and my girlfriends stockings :) Had to get different kinds to take advantage of different mail in rebates, but after all said and done they are gonna be 80 each. Can't wait

Samar 2 years ago

Nice Collection HH.

omegadraco 2 years ago

Excellent suggestions. These are the parts that many of us drool over and hope to find under the Christmas tree...

@lifeskills nice going on the SSDs that should really improve your boot times :)

OptimusPrimetime 2 years ago

"The 600T white and the Phantom 410(black) are my favorite, though I don't know if the P410 can accommodate an EATX board. On the RAM side , the Vengeance is looking pretty good."

ThunderBird 2 years ago

The value of the Sandy Bridge is hard to beat for a gamer.

jonation 2 years ago

could not agree more

jonation 2 years ago

great looking mobo's. would be pleased with anything on this list.

Inspector 2 years ago

If i can have any one of these item i would love it :D. Btw whats the best mech keys / keyboard out there that are good?

marco c 2 years ago

If you're asking what the "best" are, my votes are for Filco keyboards using Cherry MX switches (the Ninja or Majestouch-2) or the Topre RealForce. Filcos are available via Amazon and Topres from EliteKeyboards.com. You'll pay for 'em though. :) If you want to see if you like using a mechanical, I'd stongly suggest trying a Rosewill. If you don't like it, NewEgg will take it back for a nominal fee.

omegadraco 2 years ago

[quote user="Marco C"]

If you're asking what the "best" are, my votes are for Filco keyboards using Cherry MX switches (the Ninja or Majestouch-2) or the Topre RealForce. Filcos are available via Amazon and Topres from EliteKeyboards.com. You'll pay for 'em though. :) If you want to see if you like using a mechanical, I'd stongly suggest trying a Rosewill. If you don't like it, NewEgg will take it back for a nominal fee.

[/quote]

Have you ever had the opportunity to try Deck keyboards they look amazing and I have heard some good things about them.

Der Meister 2 years ago

[quote user="Marco C"]

If you're asking what the "best" are, my votes are for Filco keyboards using Cherry MX switches (the Ninja or Majestouch-2) or the Topre RealForce. Filcos are available via Amazon and Topres from EliteKeyboards.com. You'll pay for 'em though. :) If you want to see if you like using a mechanical, I'd stongly suggest trying a Rosewill. If you don't like it, NewEgg will take it back for a nominal fee.

[/quote]

You should make the "best" then give it away for charity. Id put in $5 for it. 

MayhemMatthew 2 years ago

Id hve to disagree with some choices. The NZXT Phantom 410 for instance. Plastic build and theres just better out there. Spend some money, get aluminium. I stay away from MSI mobos religiously. If I ever get the chance, I will give them a shot, but they will not be the first choice. Id probably pick modules with less of a heatsink. Its unnecessary aand doesnt do jack. Enermax should be on that PSU list. They make great units... then of course there's the new Platinum rated ones.

MayhemMatthew 2 years ago

You should add some more affordable knick knacks that work well, but arent major components. Fans, LED strips, etc.

AKwyn 2 years ago

And so the series of Holiday Gift Guides end with a bang, one involving tons of recommendations for the new computer builder out there. To be honest, I liked all of the reccomendations out there and it's hard for me to pick which one is the best, though I was a bit sad that the MSI 580 Lightning XE was left out as I think it's a powerful card in my own right.

Still, nice job; and nice way to close out the series. I've enjoyed all four of them so far.

realneil 2 years ago

I liked the recommendations too.

The GTX-580 Classified does it for me.

Like to have one in each of the gamers.

OSunday 2 years ago

This should have a like button, great guide

AKwyn 2 years ago

@OSunday No problem, just click the thumbs up button on the article button. That is their appropriation of a like button.

JuicyFruitSweeT 2 years ago

I would recommend a Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition or Core i7-3930K to a friend

He will love it

Jojo23 2 years ago

"in quad-cores, we like the value curve of the Core i7-2600K and the Core i5-2500K's dual-core goodness."

-Slight error there: 2500k has "quad core goodness"... not dual, it just doesn't have the hyperthreading of the 2600k, or the 8mb cache.

AKnudson 2 years ago

wow these are great gifts, but i would like to see some a litle cheaper maybe for people like me with a budget:) these look awesome but i don't have money for really any computer that totals more than $500

eunoia 2 years ago

.

JKrouse 2 years ago

Ooo, I could go for a new Nvidia GPU right about now. My wallet is sad about it though.

tweed524 2 years ago

thanks for the gift guide, so hard to know what to buy for the GEEKS in my life

tweed524 2 years ago

Hope to find these under my christmas tree

Manduh 2 years ago

Thanks for another great holiday shopping guide!

That RipJaws mem kit is pretty cool looking :)

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