Monday, 13 August 2012

Getting The Best From The Second Hand Parts Market

Part 1: CPUs

Why doesn't everyone own a gaming PC? After all, the benefits in control and graphical fidelity are obvious. Two of most often cited barriers to entry are usually the difficulty of figuring out what to buy, and cost. Those of you who have been travelling, or away with work for just a few months will return to find an astonishing array of new models, product names and numbers staring blankly back at you from the virtual shelves of your favourite online store (not helped by the baffling suffixes some of those crafty folks in marketing add to the names of their latest GPU). By doing our best to keep you up to date with all the latest hardware, this part of problem we can help you with. The second part of the problem is harder, but while we can't help you earn the money to pay for your parts, we can most definitely help you save some money, and maximise your bang for buck. 

Luckily for the thrifty amongst you computer hardware becomes outdated almost as soon as you buy it, and as such the used parts market is absolutely thriving. A quick look on ebay under the heading 'components' returns nearly a quarter of a million individual items. For those that don't know exactly what they are looking for, it can sometimes be a confusing and potentially costly experience, but for those that do, there are most definitely bargains to be had. Over the next few weeks we are going to guide the budget conscious system builder through buying all the major components within a PC on the second hand parts market.
CPU's continue to march to the drumbeat set by Moore's law in 1965. The power currently on offer from the latest chips has arguably outpaced the power required by even hardcore gamers, let alone everybody else. This, combined with the fact that CPUs contain no moving parts, and unless heavily overclocked, very rarely go wrong, mean that they should be a prime target for those looking to play the latest games without breaking the bank. For the exceptionally budget conscious a quad core Athlon X4 can be had for between £40 and £50 and will provide decent gaming performance at 1080p. In this case and others it’s important to remember that at the bottom end of the market, the law of diminishing returns works in reverse, and sometimes a little extra investment can net a large gain in performance.  With this in mind, the pick of the bunch here is the Phenom II 955 Black Edition which changes hands for around £70. Its unlocked multiplier means it will happily overclock to 3.8Ghz or more with adequate cooling. Given that upon its release this chip cost over £200 and is still powerful enough to rarely be a bottleneck, savvy buyers should keep their eyes peeled. The intel equivalent, the i5 750 is arguably faster, but P55 motherboards with which to pair the chip are considerably rarer than their AM3 counterparts. This makes the i5 harder to recommend and thus the Phenom II 955 Black Edition is our best buy.

Best buy: Phenom II 955 Black Edition at around £70

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