Josh Walrath’s Picks
After playing with the AMD branded version (produced primarily by Asetek), I really enjoyed my time with the closed loop system with the dual fans and double size radiator. Corsair offers one with all of those same features, but without the AMD branding. This particular cooler can be extremely loud when called upon, but in normal operation it is whisper silent and offers temperatures that fall below that of high end air only coolers.
This product features nicely flexible tubing that should not be an issue to route throughout the case. The USB connection allows users to utilize the cooling software that controls the performance and functionality of this part. It even allows the user to change the LED lighting real time. How about that?
MSI R7970 Power Edition
The MSI R7970 Power Edition is essentially the same card as the Lightning Edition, but just costs less. For one reason or another, MSI has put this card out at a slower reference speed, but it can be easily overclocked to reach Lightning speeds (and above). The only real downside to this card is the lack of a single dual link DVI output. Both DVI ports are single link, but that allows MSI to slap on four DisplayPort connections and drive six monitors.
I have been using the Lightning card in my main system running three 1920×1200 monitors, so the lack of a dual link DVI is not an issue. Eyefinity runs nicely on this unit, and all of my games play perfectly fine in either Eyefinity resolutions, or in the cases of brand new games, at high quality levels at 1920×1200.
Corsair Obsidian 650D
The one thing in common with all of the picks I have made so far is that I have actually used them. The 650D is no exception. I procured one of these some months ago, and I have been extremely impressed with the case altogether. Cooling and expandability are impressive, the case looks very nice, and the price is not astronomically high. It does have many high end features and the cable routing is really second to none.
There are a couple of small issues that I have run into with this particular case. The first one is that it does not feature the correct connector for motherboard USB 3.0 connectors. It uses the old passthrough strategy to take rear USB 3.0 ports and put them up front. This can be worked around by buying a USB 3.0 plug to header adapter, which retails for around $15. It is a bit pricey for what one gets, but it does allow users to utilize the USB 3.0 headers on the motherboard without sacrificing any of the 3.0 ports on the back of the system. The other is that the large 180 mm fan that came with the case ended up freezing up. I attempted to clean and lubricate it, but the retaining hardware snapped apart when I attempted to remove it all. A bit disappointing on that last bit, but it was probably more of a matter of bad luck than an endemic problem. Other than those issues, this case has everything that I could possibly want.
Samsung 840 Pro 256
Unlike the previous picks, I have yet to try one of these products out. I do have a Sandforce 2 based OCZ Agility 3, and the 840 Pro easily trumps that particular part in pretty much every performance metric. These parts are a bit more pricey than my Agility 3, but when we consider that SSD prices have dropped pretty dramatically over the past year it is a price worth paying. I choose the 256 GB version because I simply found myself wanting more space than what a 128 GB unit provides. 256 GB should allow users to get all of their productivity software on there, as well as a couple of modern games which could benefit from SSD speeds.
There was initially a bug with the 840 Pro, but those issues were found in preproduction hardware. All shipping drives have the updated firmware installed that fixes the bug, and performance is retained. A great looking drive with outstanding performance.
Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion
Finally I have my software pick. I admit that I have played many, many hours of this highly addicting game. But obviously not at the expense of writing! In some ways this is a spiritual successor to the Homeworld series, but the mechanics are far different. A lot of strategy, clicks per minute, and excellent spatial and temporal awareness are required.
That’s it! These are my picks! Enjoy the Holiday Season and throw some cash into the economy!