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Malefico’s Most Wanted

Mal’s Computer Corner

This page is dedicated to my picks for the best value PC gaming components available today, and those that are in the pipe for future release. I’ll also provide basic guidelines for broader categories like memory and storage. Because I want you, the reader to have a big say in what goes on this page, I’m going to run some polls for 30 days to get an idea of who is reading and what they want to see. If you have some spare time, scroll down to the bottom of the page and take the survey. Until then, I’ll update this page with industry standard items that represent great value and performance. In other words, the stuff to have. Anyone who has read my articles knows I always look for the best value parts. What you’ll see on this page represents components that perform better than they should given their price; sometimes the suggestions will be broad in scope while others will be for specific models. I’ll update this page once per month and I’m going to try to include a build of the week skipping around to account for various budget ranges. If you have a build you’d like to see posted here, or want me to feature a specific product please email me,

Most recent update: 3/19/2014

The products below are based on personal use and are not necessarily the right ones for you. If you have any specific questions, please email me, Malefico at Include your current system specs OR your budget and the kinds of games you play so I can make more individualized recommendations.


Budget- < $100

At this price point it’s all AMD, and yes, you can actually get a worthy CPU for less than $100. I like the new Athlon X4s. Starting at $80 for the Trinity versions you get four cores unlocked for OC and decent clock speeds/IPC for the price. If you’re on a super-tight budget and can deal with a dual-core, go for the Athlon X2 model (no OC) at under $50. Note that none of these CPUs have integrated graphics so a discrete GPU is a must.

Value- $100-$200

AMD– You have some choices here.

If you already own an AM3+ board, you can stick with the FX4300-6300 series. They’re almost identical in price. The 4300 is the more efficient CPU right now- the 6300 performs better, but barely despite its two-core advantage. However, if you’re looking to hedge your bets, as developers continue to find ways to spread workloads out more effectively the 6300 may prove its worth as the industry progresses. Also, the FX 8320 and 8350 make it into this bracket. I would like to point out that ALL the new AMD products are limited to four cores, and Intel limits its consumer chips to six, at most. I think the FX eight-core processors, while more powerful than four or six-core models, are not worth the extra power they consume and the heat they generate.

If you’re looking into an APU, check out the various Trinity and Richland A-10 options, especially if you’re going to just use the onboard graphics. Prices have dropped with the release of Kaveri, and there are some good deals out there, notably the A-10 6790K.

Intel– If you’re looking for increased performance in a more traditional setup (using a video card- Intel integrated graphics don’t cut it for gaming), Intel has some decent processors in this bracket. On the low end, the Core i3 Ivy Bridge and Haswell processors are very capable and start at $125. If you’re willing to spend a bit more, check out the Core i5 3350P at $180. Although it has no integrated graphics, you do get all the other quad-core Intel goodies except Hyper-threading- it’s an excellent basis for a system totaling $700-$800. Also, no OC capability for the Intel chips in this bracket

Gaming- $200-$400

AMD– Socket AM3/+ fans can find the FX 9000 series in this bracket. For $330, the FX 9590 is a very powerful CPU. Unfortunately, these CPUs  gobble up electricity like a starving dog at chow time, and put out tons of heat – you bring the FX, we’l bring the bacon (FX-9590 = 220W TDP!!!) and still pretty much get pwned by flagship Intel chips. What you save on the front end you’ll more than spend on the back end, especially if you use your gaming PC daily. Still, if you’re a diehard AMD enthusiast and are willing to pony up the cash, this is the one to have.

Intel– Starting at $230, Intel offers quad-core CPUs unlocked for OC (but still no Hyper-threading). The Core i5 3570K (ivy Bridge) and 4670K are both good values depending which platform you like. The 3570K is rightfully one of the most popular gaming processors on the market. If you’re looking for something above $300, check out the Core i7 4770K (Haswell). For the price, you get a quad-core CPU that comes with unlocked cores, Hyper-threading (finally) and offers 98.8% of the performance of the FX-9590 while using 185% less power. Pretty much a no-brainer.

Gaming >$400

No exceptional values here


A word about motherboards. I recommend you think about your choices in this area. As noted in other articles, Windows OEM software is locked to a specific model board once you install it, so unless you’re going Linux pick a board that will do what you want today and in the future. You can switch CPUs, video cards, etc. but once you install Windows you “own” the board unless you want to buy another copy of Windows, so it makes sense to get the board you think will best suit current and future needs. 


Socket AM3+ is still a viable gaming option. Although the platform is dated, it’s also very flexible. There are plenty of decent processors available and tons of used parts on the market, so this might be a good choice for someone who wants to put together a budget system that will perform better than its cost suggests. AM3+ is also very forgiving with RAM choices, not as picky as the newer AMD and Intel platforms.


AM3+ chipsets are as follows: 760G and 880G (Value), 970 (Mainstream/Performance), 990FX/X (Performance/Gaming).

FM2/FM2+ chipsets are as follows:  A55 (Value), A75 (Mainstream), A78 (Mainstream/Performance), A85X/A88X (Performance/Gaming)

Budget <$100

ASRock 970 PRO3 R2.0- This AM3+ board has some great features for the price. Four DIMM slots for flexible memory configurations, two PCI E X 16 2 slots in case you want to run dual GPUs, six SATA 3 ports, RAID support, 7.1 channel audio and two USB 3.0 ports (8 total). It will socket Sempron, Athlon II, Phenom II and FX chips and supports up to 64GB RAM. Overall a great board for the price, the only thing it lacks is integrated graphics support- you’ll need a discrete video card. I’ve used this board and other ASRock products and haven’t had a board issue yet.

GIGABYTE GA-F2A75M-HD2- An FM2+ board that offers a lot for the money. SATA 3 and USB 3.0 (four of 10 total) come standard, as does a single PCI-E 2 X 16 slot. The board features native D-Sub, DVI-D and HDMI outputs. Since this is a MicroATX board, DIMM slots are limited to two but still support up to 64GB of RAM. This board supports all Athlon and A-series Trinity and Richland processors plus the new Kaveri series, but be warned. If you buy a Richland/Kaveri CPU, you may have to then find a Trinity chip so you can boot the system and update BIOS to newer standards. Not a great prospect. Also check RAM compatibility carefully on all FM2/+ boards.

Value- $100-$200

ASRock Fatal1ty 990FX Killer AM3+- A true gaming board for a great price. The 990 boards offer faster bus speeds than their lesser brethren, and this unit has some additional great features. Four DIMM slots, SATA 3 and USB 3.0 (Four of nine + a USB mouse port), RAID, Killer LAN, very high-quality board components, full FX CPU support, 7.1 channel audio and three PCI-E 3 slots. This is truly a feature-packed board for the price, and demonstrative of ASRock’s growing presence in the market.

GIGABYTE GA-G1.Sniper A88X FM2+ / FM2- Solid performance and an excellent choice for the AMD fan who wants the newest tech. This is probably the best FM2-based gaming board out right now if you’re looking at price vs. performance. As a full-size ATX board it has four DIMM slots supporting up to 64GB, eight SATA 3 and two USB 3.0 (out of seven total), 8 channel audio, onePCI-E 3 and one PCI-E 2 slot, multiple fan connectors and more. Also supports AMD Memory Profile technology allowing easy OC or economy adjustments to system RAM. You really can’t go wrong with this board, it’s ready for now and what’s coming in the future from AMD.

Gaming- $200-$400

There are a number of great AM3+ boards available in this price range, and you’ll probably be happy with any of them. If you want specific recommendations please email me, but in general the ASUS ROG boards are awesome and among the best gaming boards available, if you’re talking about sheer speed, tons of features, great expandability and ASUS’ rock-solid reputation.


With Haswell as the most modern Intel series, prices have dropped on Sandy/Ivy Bridge products (the boards, and to a lesser extent the CPUs) and there is a healthy market for used Sandy/Ivy Bridge parts. If you’re willing to build with some used components, you can put together a wicked gaming rig for less.

Intel LGA 1155 (Ivy Bridge) chipsets are as follows: H61, H67, H77 (Value), B75 (Business/Mainstream), P67, Q77 (Mainstream), Z68 (uncommon, Value/Performance), Z75, Z77 (Performance)

Intel LGA 1150 (Haswell) chipsets are as follows: H81, H87 (Value), B85 (Business/Mainstream), Q87 (Mainstream),  Z87 (Performance)

Budget <$100

ASRock B75M-DGS R2.0 LGA 1155- Although technically a “business” board, this MicroATX unit works great in gaming systems too (caveat, it has the bare minimum of features for a gaming system). So long as you’re going to stick with one GPU, this board is very capable for the price. It’s two DIMM slots only support up to 16GB of memory, but really for the gamer in this price range that’s plenty. Only one SATA 3 and three SATA 2 ports, two USB 3.0 (of six total), one PCI-E 3 slot. Not a lot of bells and whistles but again, if you’re not going to try to build a real monster this board is worth checking out.

BIOSTAR Hi-Fi B85S3+ Ver. 6.x LGA 1150- Another good, inexpensive “business” board, this MicroATX unit actually has four DIMM slots supporting up to 32GB RAM, but only supports 1333/1600 speeds. Not a tragedy at this price. One PCI-E slot, four SATA 3 ports (of six total) and two USB 3.o ports (of six total). A great value for the latest Intel platform.

ASRock Z87 PRO3/PRO4 or ASRock Fatal1ty B85 Killer- These LGA 1150 boards deserve serious consideration. At just under $100, they offer a lot of great gaming features.

Value- $100-$200

ASRock Z77 Extreme3 LGA 1155- At just over $100, this full ATX board makes a good basis for a $700-$800 system. Four DIMMs support up to 32GB, and SATA3/USB3.0 (two of six ports each) are standard if not plentiful. It also has two PCI-E 3 slots for those who are considering a dual-GPU setup, full RAID support, plenty of cooling fan connectors built-in and a host of other advantageous features. Also, check out its bigger brother, the ASRock Z77 Extreme4 LGA 1155 at $120 if you want more SATA3/USB3 ports.

ASRock Fatal1ty Z87 Killer LGA 1150- At around $120, this board has some incredible gaming features. Killer LAN, three PCI-E 3 slots, four DIMM slots (32GB max at speeds up to 3000+), plenty of SATA/USB 3, 8-phase power delivery… These kinds of features at this price are rapidly turning me into an ASRock fanboy.

ASUS P8Z77-V PRO LGA 1155- Positioned at the higher end of this bracket, the ASUS P8 boards are very solid. The PRO version features four DIMM slots for up to 32GB, two PCI-E 3 slots, plenty of SATA 3 and USB 3.0 ports, a solid power delivery system, multiple fan connections, etc. You can’t go wrong with an ASUS board.

MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming LGA 1150- For under $200, this board will help you bring home the Bacon. Standard Z87 platform features plus an excellent power delivery system, and one-click BIOS and OC Genie for those who want to ramp up performance. A really nice board, should meet or exceed the expectations of about 99.9% of gamers.

Gaming- $200-$400

At this price for the Z77 platform, there are a number of good boards but I like the ones from ASRock (Z77 OC or Extreme 9/11) and ASUS Maximus units. No matter what board you pick, you’ll get more slots and doodads than you’ll probably ever use.

For Z87, the following boards stand out: Asus Maximus VI Impact (barely over $200 and a fantastic board for the price), ASRock Z87 OC Formula models, and ASUS Maximus VI Formula models.

Video Cards

Entry Level- $50-$75, suitable for casual gaming or those who don’t typically play FPS/MMO

Radeon HD 6670 – Available from a variety of manufacturers, this card is a good well-rounded unit that will handle basic gaming needs, but will struggle with all but the lowest resolution settings in FPS. It is available in DDR3 and DDR5 flavors. If you can find the DDR5 models, go for them.

NVidia Geforce GT 630- Slightly inferior in statistical performance to the 6670,  this little NVidia card is still a solid choice. Especially if you’re planning to go with multiple displays, this is the card to have. The slight gap in performance is scarcely noticeable and NVidia cards are much easier to configure for output to multiple monitors.

Low-end Mainstream- $100-$125, suitable for more serious gamers and players of FPS/MMO who don’t need super graphics quality

NVidia Geforce GTX 650 ti- These cards can be had with 1GB DDR5 for right at $100- it’s hard to beat at that price. The 650 ti is a solid mainstream card that will handle low to medium FPS settings with aplomb.

Radeon HD 7790- If you can stretch to $115, this card has a performance edge over the 650 ti, excepting Battlefield.  Definitely a strong card for the money.

Mainstream- $150-$200, suitable for  gamers who want to turn up the resolution, great image quality even on FPS/MMO although frame rates will suffer, as low as 30-40 per second on high/ultra settings

In this segment, there are a number of options. At this level you’re buying not only good performance but a certain measure of future-proofing (2-3 years). The low end of the bracket is occupied by 2GB DDR5 versions of the 650 ti and HD7790, but if you’re looking to spend around 2 beans…

Radeon HD 7870- An excellent card that will handle high to ultra settings in FPS games and play any other genre without breaking a sweat. Due to advancements in GPU tech, these cards can also be leveraged in everyday, non-graphics tasks as parallel processors. These work great in a Crossfire setup, and two of them are probably a better choice than spending $400 on a single, higher-end card.

NVidia GTX 660- Also a great card, about on par with the Radeon. Some users say NVidia cards render games more smoothly than the competition, but statistically this card is just slightly less competent. Also, it doesn’t offer the same parallel processing benefits in non-gaming use. These work great in an SLI setup, and two of them are probably a better choice than spending $400 on a single, higher-end card.

High-end Mainstream $200-$300, suitable for all gamers regardless of genre, frame rates well above 60 for most games, less likely to drop below this magic number for “smooth” game play.

Perceptually these cards offer very little over the Mainstream bracket, however you do get much improved frame rates. You’re getting more headroom before you need to start thinking about upgrading, probably 4-5 years at which point you’re most likely going to want another system anyway.

NVidia GTX 760- From $250-$270, this card dominates AMD offerings like the R9 270X. Right now, this card is the one to have if you’ve got a hard budget ceiling South of $300.

High-end- $300-$500, able to meet the demands of all but the snobbiest of the graphics elitist crowd. Frame rates well above 60 in all but the most resource-intensive games.

NVidia GTX 770- $340 and up, a substantial improvement over the 760. This card is pretty much the only one worth considering unless you are willing to stretch to $500, in which case…

NVidia GTX 780- Some of these just started showing up for less than $500. Relatively scant improvements over the 770 in the lower-priced 780s.

Super High-end Over $500, if you want to marry a video card, these would qualify, should last through one ultra-viable system and into the next, graphics-wise. Seriously, these cards push 2X or more HD quality at playable rates, depending on other settings. If you’re not happy with the performance these cards offer, don’t ever sit down in front of a game console, even the newest. You’ll be shocked at how the other half has to slum it…

R9 290- At $540, holds a slim edge over the basic 780s. Has an impressive 4GB DDR5, 2560 stream processors and will definitely help you take out the garbage.

NVidia GTX 780 ti- Above $600, these beasts get the job done, now and for the foreseeable future.

If you’re seriously considering spending more than this, email me immediately for personalized recommendations and directions on how to give me your cash instead.


Prices fluctuate wildly so instead of offering specific model recommendations, unless a certain brand really stands out as an exceptional value I’ll stick to general recommendations by platform. One basic guideline is that if you are using an APU, double up on memory. For instance, a low-end system can get by on 4GB system memory if you’re using a decent, well-matched video card. It’s been my experience that an APU-based system needs at least 8GB. Also as you scale in GPU memory, you’ll need more system memory to account for the RAM space the video card will share.

DDR3 1333MHz- Works well in older platforms like Socket AM3/+ and OK in LGA 1155

DDR3 1600MHz- Bare minimum for Socket FM2/+, does fine in LGA 1155 and 1150 with mainstream chipsets

DDR3 1866MHz- Better for Socket FM2/+ and LGA 1155/1150 systems with 75/77 and 85/87-based boards

DDR3 2133MHz- Ideal for Socket FM2/+ and more aggressive Intel systems

DDR3 2400MHz-3100MHz- Rarely used and probably more than you really need, also tends to get ludicrously expensive, like over $800 for 2 X 4GB sticks


Not a lot to say about storage- in most cases magnetic drives from different manufacturers are about the same price so it’s a matter of brand preference. I would stay away from Toshiba hard drives, they have earned a reputation for extreme unreliability.

For SSDs, Samsung 840 Pro, Maxtor and OCZ are good drives that I’ve used successfully.

Power Supplies

Here again, prices fluctuate a lot and there are constantly sales/rebates in effect. Brands I like are Corsair, Seasonic, Antec, Thermaltake and SuperFlower. FSP and Cooler Master are OK as well, and Rosewill seems to be upping the QC on their units so they are once again a brand to consider. These are by no means the only companies making good supplies, and you should take a look at prices, etc. on models offering the specific level of power delivery you need when you are ready to buy. If you see an attractively priced model that suits your needs, do some research online to see what others have to say, or check the Tiered Power Supply List.


Again, this is an area where there’s too many products out there. My PC Cooling article has some useful info and specific product recommendations, and you can always research specific products online to find a cooling solution that will work for you.

For case fans, concentrate on air flow, bearing type (affects noise) and of course select fans of the proper size to fit mounting points in your case.

For CPU coolers, focus on traditional heat sink designs unless

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