I’ve decided to upgrade my PC and by that I mean getting a brand new one. I had a Dell XPS 420 which served me extremely well for the past 5 years or so although I had upgraded the RAM and graphic card.
I started by looking into fully assembled PC but I wanted to be able to pick individual components, so I found the Yoyotech website which offers partially assembled PCs or “bundles” (motherboard, processor, memory). All in all, it wasn’t exactly what I wanted but also turned out to be quite expensive. The difference in price between Yoyotech and individual components of eBuyer (just on motherboard, processor and memory) was about the price of a solid state drive. So I decided to build it myself.
Putting your own PC together from scratch is quite rewarding but because I had not done it for over 10 years and I had to do a fair bit of reading to catch up. Although the information available on the internet does help its use is limited because of its lack of structure and completeness. I had to go through endless amount of reviews, forums and blogs to slowly build a picture of what I wanted and eventually figure out what I needed – something overclockable, something which could support SLI, something badass (more badass than my Dell XPS anyway).
I’ve got to say what I’ve found to be one of the best source of information online is the Tom’s Hardware and TechReport website, there is a lot a reviews and rounds-up there. I’ve also read through their forum which also has a lot of people sharing their experience and thoughts. Although I usually apply a fair amount of gut-feeling and personal judgement when it comes to assessing forum information quality.
Now, the rig.
Case – CoolerMaster HAF 912 Plus
I actually started by buying a CIT Vantage for about £30 which was worth just about the money I paid for it. I built the whole computer around it before sending it back for numerous reasons: low quality, quite small (the long Gigabyte just about got in), the Noctua did not fit in at all, no cable management. In the end it just didn’t live up to my expectations of a gaming case.
In contrast, the CoolerMaster is over twice he price but worth every penny of it. It’s bigger than your average desktop case but you do need the space. The Noctua is quite large so is the graphic card and it’s nice to have the drives nicely laid out, all the cables out of the way behind the motherboard and a bit of extra room left. I’m not dreading to open the case anymore, shame it’s cramped up between the wall and the side of the desk ; )
Power Supply Unit – Corsair CX750M
This PSU feels like good quality. It’s modular so you only plug in the cables you actually need, in my case 1 SATA and 1 PCI-E. If you ask me, the PSU is over sized, the CPU power consumption is maximum 121W, the graphic card power consumption maximum is 174W, not sure how much the motherboard consumption is but the rest including a couple drives is negligible. I have however given into the 750 for 2 reasons. 1) all the scare mongering going on online about poor performance driven by poor PSU, I don’t really believe it, I’ve never witnessed it 2) I wanted to keep my options opened with regards to over-clocking and SLI.
Motherboard – Asus P8Z77V-LK
I looked into Asus motherboard because I had seen it on the Yoyotech website where they advertised over clocked setups. Plus I wanted support for SLI but didn’t feel I needed a fully featured motherboard which I wouldn’t fully utilise. I compared a lot of motherboards on the Asus website and came up with this one. Looking at the review I could easily have gone down the Gigabyte route I guess…
Processor – Intel i5 3570k
The i5 3570K actually seemed to be the obvious choice, it’s overclockable as I believe all the “K” series are and I didn’t want to pay the i7 3770K price which seemed to be the next step up. Also the TechReport cpu round up confirmed my choice.
Processor Cooler – Noctua NH-D14
Now the Noctua is an interesting choice. Water cooling seem to have grown quite a lot in popularity and I was considering it, the main reason being it seems fun and it takes less space on the motherboard itself which seemed neater. But looking at comparative test the Noctua seems to be good value for money when it comes to cooling, only the top water cooling systems really beat its performance – see 4 closed loop CPU coolers take on Noctua NH D14. Plus I love the look of it so I decided to keep it.
One thing’s for sure if you choose the Noctua you absolutely need low profile memory otherwise you might not be able to use all your motherboard memory slots.
Memory – Corsair Vengeance 8GB (2x4GB) 1866MHz DDR3 Low Profile
When it comes to memory, unless you’re an expert there are only 2 parameters size and frequency. I had 8GB on my Dell and that seemed to be more than enough, I can run windows and application without swap, games seem to be doing just fine. Frequency, I chose 1,866MHz again with over clocking in mind but I’m not sure it’s actually useful or necessary.
The low profile means it has “low” heatsinks, they do not come too high above the actual memory. This is a must with the Noctua NH-D14.
Graphic Card – Gigabyte GTX 670 Windforce 3X 2GB
To start with I bought an ATI once and was disappointed by it so I’m now buying NVidia. Apart from that this choice followed the same process as the CPU. The GTX670 seemed a good compromise of price performance. I chose the Gigabyte at the back of a Tom’s Hardware round-up. One thing to bear in mind is that the card is pretty long but still fits nicely in CoolerMaster.
Solid State Drive – OCZ 240GB Agility 3 SATA III 2.5 (Refurbished)
I chose the 240GB because looking at my previous PC I thought 120GB for a system disk would be pretty tight. Plus I wanted to have steam installed on that disk too so games would take advantage of it. As it turned out Windows 7 plus Borderlands 2 only was already 40GB, once you install Battlefield 3 for another 20GB, Far Cry 3 and Hitman Resolution I was quickly approaching 120GB.
I haven’t done a lot of SSD testing but the computer now boots before the screen comes on (Samsung 40inches LCD TV), SSD is definitely a life changer.
The first refurbished I received from eBuyer burnt within minutes but I put it down to bad luck, see how long this one holds on for.
I hope this is somehow useful, I wanted to share my experience putting this rig together and showing an example of a full rig with all pieces fitting together that works.