Graphics and Input Devices
Graphics Cards / GPU:
Technically, the Radeon HD 6990 and GeForce GTX 590 are still the fastest graphics cards money can buy, but they’re becoming increasingly harder to find now that next-gen cards featuring new GPUs are on the way. While we dig having that much GPU horsepower in our rigs, sinlge-GPU powered cards suffer from fewer compatibility issues, require less power, put out less heat, and are usually somewhat quieter. They can, however, also be uber-powerful.
Take the EVGA GeForce GTX 580 Classified, for example. This puppy sports 3GB of GDDR5 memory clocked at an effective 4,212MHz paired to an NVIDA GeForce GTX 580 humming along at 855MHz. The GTX 580 was already the fastest single-GPU available, goose the clocks like EVGA has done, however, and slap on double the amount of frame buffer memory and you’ve got a killer combo on your hands. EVGA also outfits the card with a custom PCB geared toward optimal power deliver, a massive custom cooler, voltage check points and handful of other enthusiast-class features. Weak-hearted gamers need not apply.
The Radeon HD 6950 GPU powering the MSI R6850 Twin Frozr III is bumped up from the reference design’s 800MHz to 850MHz and the memory clock has been increased from the reference design’s 1,250MHz to (5Gbps effective) to 1,300MHz (5.2Gbps effective). The increases in GPU core and memory clocks will obviously give the card a performance edge over straight-up reference designs, but in addition to tickling the frequencies, MSI has tweaked a number of other aspects of the Radeon HD 6950 as well. The cooler and PCB on the MSI R6850 Twin Frozr III been revamped and the card sports high-density heatsinks, with dual cooling fans, and thick heatpipes that run from the cooler’s base up through the heatsink fins. We should also point out that the cooler’s base is made of pure copper and the entire assembly is nickel-plated.
Other features of the MSI R6950 Twin Frozr III include a 6+2 phase PWM design that’s not only more efficient and offers more stable, cleaner output, but it’s capable of outputting up to 37% more current than the 4+1 PWM on reference designs. Bundled with the MSI R6950 Twin Frozr III are a quick installation guide and user’s manual, a CrossFire bridge connector, dual peripheral to PCI Express 6-pin power adapters (the card requires two 6-pin feeds), a mini-DP to DVI dongle, a DVI to VGA adapter, and of course a driver / utility CD. Also available for the card is a copy of MSI’s Afterburner performing tuning and monitoring tool, which is available for download right from MSI’s website.
For users that don't need as much GPU power, and want to save a few bucks, the HIS Radeon HD 6850 1GB is a great option. The card is available for under $120 after rebates currently, and offers DX11 capabilities and plenty of performance for mainstream gaming on a single monitor.
High-End System: EVGA GeForce GTX 580 Classified 3072MB - $599
Mid-Range System: MSI R6950 Twin Frozr III Radeon HD 6950 2GB - $299
Low-End System: HIS Radeon HD 6850 - $119
Logitech G9x Gaming Mouse
Logitech's G9x is an improvement upon the older, but popular G9, and while the design may strike some users as odd at first, it was clearly designed with gaming in mind. The interchangeable grips gives gamers the ability to customize their experience, and the on-board memory allows for up to five ready-to-play profiles to be stored. There's also a weight-tuning system and an ultra high-res 5700DPI laser sensor, all of which contribute to the G9x's price tag. It's been out for a while, but the Logitch G9x is worth every bit of its $55 - $79 asking price.
Rosewill RK-9000 Mechanical Keyboards - Affordable and Widely Available
Users looking to enter the world of mechanical keyboards should definitely check out the Rosewill RK-9000 series of products. Rosewill recently introduced four mechanical keyboards based on Cherry MX Blue (clicky / tactile), Black (linear / non-clicky), Red (linear / non-clicky / light touch), and Brown (tactile / non-clicky) keyswtiches. All of the Rosewill boards look exactly the same and differ only in the type of keyswitches used. Rosewill prices the boards from $99 (black, blue, red) to $109 (browns). And anyone that’s shopped for quality mechanical boards with these keyswitches knows those are fairly good prices, especially for the Cherry MX Red version. Marco has been typing exclusively on the Rosewill RK-9000 since getting his hands on one and can say that it is a quality product all around. The only gripes with the board are the looks of the logo—which looks somewhat dated—and the fact that the cable end protrudes out of the back on the board, rather that being recessed into the case.
Mouse: Logitech G9x - from $55
Keyboard: Rosewill RK-9000 - from $99
That about wraps up our 2011 PC components Holiday Gift Guide. If you’d like to check out our thoughts on Notebooks / Laptops, Smartphones, and Tablets we’ve got you covered on those fronts too. We should point out, however, that the items we’ve featured are far from the only ones deserving of consideration. While we've highlighted a few of our favorites from 2011, we'd love to hear some of your alternatives down in comments below. Got any good gifts you're giving away or hoping to receive? Let us know!