When my home-built desktop unexpectedly dropped dead of what the coroner will record as a motherboard aneurism, I did what any geek would do. I freaked out for five minutes or so, and then I started thinking about my next build.

With my key criteria of speed, quietness, and affordability firmly in mind, I pointed my browser toward my favourite online parts stores, whipped out a credit card, and set to work. What follows is the first half of the component list that ultimately became the fantastic new desktop I'm writing this column about. The prices listed below were accurate at press time.


My last two PCs used AMD CPUs. But for this build, going with Intel was a no-brainer, as its chips tend to be much better performers at most price levels. Although a quad-core Intel processor sounded appealing, a well-optimised dual-core made more sense, I decided (few apps today use all four cores well, anyway).

I went with the E8400, a 3GHz CPU based on Intel's new 45nm fabrication process. The chip is fast, runs relatively cool and is popular with enthusiasts (and consequently to find). I spent £126 on it.

SHOP AROUND: Read PC Advisor's reviews of the latest processors here.

CPU cooling

Standard CPU heat sinks are for suckers (or people undisturbed by turboprop engines), so I opted instead for Scythe's Ninja Plus Rev B SCNJ-1100P, which uses six pipes to draw processor heat up through its aluminum fins. A 120mm fan attached to the side of the sink then blows the heat away.

At £30, it isn't cheap, and it wasn't particularly easy to install (you must attach it before installing the motherboard in the chassis). But the hassle was worthwhile: my CPU has yet to exceed the 32º Centigrade mark under load. Even with the case open, the fan is nearly noiseless.

NEXT PAGE: motherboard, graphics card and the cost so far...