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Building a powerful gaming PC, September 2012

If money were not an obstacle and you could build a PC of all the highest tier components, what would you use in your build? Could you then make a few substitutions to bring your build down to a more moderately priced purchase? We’re going to find out what we can do using the latest and greatest as of September 2012. Feel free to toss out your recommendations for better parts or substitutions in the comments.

Building a PC, Going all out

Case

I currently have the Antec Nine Hundred case and love the sturdiness, the airflow, and the look. For that reason, I’m going to stick with the Antec brand and pick up the Antec Twelve Hundred V3 Full Tower case. Price: $159.99

antec1200 Building a powerful gaming PC, September 2012

Power Supply

When it comes to a power supply, we’re looking at 3 factors: reliability, wattage, and efficiency. We would also want a modular power supply so only the cables we need are taking up space in the case.

XFX ProSeries P1-1000-BELX 1000W ATX12V 80 PLUS Platinum Certified Modular Power Supply $244.99

xfx powersupply Building a powerful gaming PC, September 2012

Motherboard

When it comes down to the motherboard, there are lots of things to consider. The main factors that will set one mainboard apart from another in today’s world will be the connections it offers: Thunderbolt, USB 3.0, gigabit ethernet could become regrets further down the road. Of course, it also has to offer the socket to match your great CPU and enough other slots for your cards and other connections. Using UEFI BIOS should provide faster POST and faster boot with Windows 8.

MSI Z77A-GD80 ATX Intel Motherboard with UEFI BIOS and Thunderbolt $244.99

ASUS P8Z77-V Pro/Thunderbolt ATX Intel Motherboard $249.99

CPU

Intel’s Ivy Bridge processor is the 3rd Generation Intel Core processor and is a worthy upgrade. The Core i3, i5, and i7 lines have all been updated but the i7 boasts the best performance.

Intel Core i7-3770K Ivy Bridge 3.5GHz (3.9GHz Turbo) LGA 1155 77W Quad-Core Desktop Processor $329.99

CPU cooling

While sticking with the stock cooler would be  a great spot to save some money, the cooling offered isn’t as great but mostly the construction is just shoddy with plastic rivets on the underside. Since we’re going all out, we’ll try out some of the all-in-one liquid cooling solutions with radiators and fans to cool the CPU.

With the dual fans on the back side of our case, we’ll be able to use the Thermaltake WATER 2.0 Extreme. $117.99

Corsair also makes a liquid CPU cooler with their Corsair H100 Extreme Performance Liquid CPU Cooler $109.99

Corsair offers their Corsair Link Cooling Kit to control all your fans. $99.99

RAM

The chosen motherboard supports up to 32GB of DDR3 RAM, so let’s max it out with 8GB sticks in each slot.

Corsair Dominator Platiunum 16GB (2x8GB) 240 PIN DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 $159.99 x 2

corsair RAM Building a powerful gaming PC, September 2012

Video card

The nVidia GTX 690 card is the top of the line right now and is the better than equivalent to having two cards SLI together.

EVGA GeForce GTX 690 4GB 512-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 3.0 x16 Video Card $999.99

Storage

Storage on a traditional spinning disk is inexpensive and abundant. However, if you don’t want your storage to be your bottleneck, you should use a solid state drive. Because of their expense/gigabyte and limited capacity, we’ll get both a SSD for the operating system and frequently used programs and a large hard drive for file storage.

OCZ Vertex 4 512GB 2.5″ SATA III Internal Solid State Drive $499.99

Western Digital Caviar Black 2TB 7200RPM 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s Internal Hard Drive $179.99

Monitor

A good monitor has the latest technological advances but outside of the technology, it also allows height, swivel, and tilt adjustment. LED monitors can reduce electricity and a fast response time can reduce blurring. It also needs to have the inputs to match your graphics card like DVI or DisplayPort. Using IPS will also offer a wider viewing angle. We’ll also get 3 monitors for use with NVIDIA Surround Vision.

LG 23″ 5ms adjustable Full HD IPS Panel LED LCD Monitor $199.99

Speakers

Can you hear the difference? Here is a set of surround sound speakers with remote control.

Logitech Z906 500W 5.1 Speakers $339.99

logitech speakers 500x188 Building a powerful gaming PC, September 2012

Mouse

A comfortable, accurate mouse can make the difference between an enjoyable PC session or a frustrating one. I like Logitech’s laser mice because they track better than optical mice and they have some heft to them, making them more comfortable for larger hands. However, Windows 8 is coming and the “touch” interface of Win8 can be aided by a touch-capable mouse. I hate having to use batteries that comes with wireless

Logitech G600 Gaming Mouse Wired Laser 8200dpi Mouse $67.99

Microsoft L2 Sculpt Touch Mouse 3 Buttons Bluetooth Wireless BlueTrack Mouse $49.95

Keyboard

You can get pretty fancy with a gaming keyboard but unless it’s comfortable, the extra features are wasted.

Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 $39.99

Optical drives

Optical drives are still useful even as many things become download only. The latest and greatest would allow Blu-ray playback.

LG Black 14X BD-R 2X BD-RE 16X DVD+R 5X DVD-RAM 12X BD-ROM 4MB Cache SATA BDXL Blu-ray Burner $59.99

Grand total

Case (Antec): $159.99
Power Supply (XFX): $244.99
Motherboard (MSI): $244.99
CPU (Intel): $329.99
Cooling (Corsair): $109.99
RAM (Corsair): $159.99 x2
Video card (EVGA): $999.99
SSD (OCZ): $499.99
HDD (WD): $179.99
Monitor (LG): $199.99 x3
Speakers (Logitech): $339.99
Mouse (Logitech): $67.99
Keyboard (Microsoft): $39.99
BluRay drive (LG): $59.99

======================

$4,197.83

Yikes! Let’s see if we can trim some of this cost so this decent build is actually reachable.

Save money

We’ll reduce some quantities and substitute more practical components so we’re not quite on the bleeding edge.

Antec Nine Hundred ATX Mid Tower Computer Case: $95.99

Rosewill FORTRESS Series 750W 80 PLUS Platinum Power Supply: $159.99

MSI Z77 MPOWER motherboard: $209.99

Zalman CPU cooler (instead of liquid cooler): $61.99

LG DVD Burner (instead of BluRay): $17.99

GeForce GTX680 video card: $499.99

Crucial M4 128GB SATA III SSD (reduced size): $109.99

Two monitors (instead of 3): $199.99 x2

16GB of RAM (instead of 32GB): $159.99

Grand total

Case (Antec): $95.99
Power Supply (XFX): $159.99
Motherboard (MSI): $209.99
CPU (Intel): $329.99
Cooling (Corsair): $61.99
RAM (Corsair): $159.99
Video card (EVGA): $499.99
SSD (OCZ): $109.99
HDD (WD): $179.99
Monitor (LG): $199.99 x2
Speakers (use what I have already): $0
Mouse (Logitech): $67.99
Keyboard (Microsoft): $39.99
DVD drive (LG): $17.99

========================

$1,798.87

That’s a bit more reasonable and the system is still very high-end. You could still do some trimming depending on how important performance is to you. You could drop the SSD all together, decrease the RAM to 8GB, decrease the video card, or drop the second monitor. If you already have monitors, speakers, keyboard, and mouse, the total cost will just continue dropping.

You can also comparison shop for parts and components on Amazon.com and TigerDirect.

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