Not all chips are produced as equals: Some bin-out with a higher frequency threshold than others, and K-SKUs (by both AMD and Intel) often have a higher bottom-line than their non-K brethren; these chips are made for overclocking, and we think you should take advantage of that function -- it's a quick way to eek more life out of your system, oh, and it's fun. I love seeing how much I can get out of my system, and with this in mind, we designed this build to push the limits of what you may think a gaming rig can do. Oh, and as a quick side note, we're currently giving away a 256GB Samsung 840 Pro SSD, so go check that out if you'd like to win an expensive drive.
In this joint-effort "intro to overclocking" high-end gaming PC build, we've picked out the best components for an affordable, beginner's overclocked gaming system at around $1000; if you're interested in learning how to overclock, be sure to check out our Overclocking Primer guide for a quick intro on the basics.
I realize that the FX series was designed with intentions to overclock, but they just do not perform as well as Intel in gaming uses (a mix of issues with architecture -- like fewer FPUs -- and poor overall performance in non-integer-based applications). We put together a build with the i5-3570k, a Z77 motherboard, and an MSI 660 Ti built for overclocking, all capable of playing nearly all modern games out there at the highest settings, and will overclock like a champ in the process (and quite easily).
Brought to you by GN's Steve and Mik, let's get to this killer build.
$1141 High-End Gaming PC Build - January, 2013
|Gaming Parts List||Name||Price||Rebates/etc.||Total|
|Video Card||MSI 660 Ti OC Edition||$320||-$10, Free Shipping||$310|
|CPU||Intel i5-3570k CPU||$220||-||$220|
|Memory||Corsair Vengeance 8GB 1600MHz||$48||-||$48|
|Motherboard||MSI Z77A-GD65 OC Board||$170||-$10||$160|
|Power Supply||Rosewill HIVE 750W(COMBO 1)||$90||-$20 combo||$70|
|SSD||Kingston 120GB HyperX 3K SSD||$105||Free Shipping||$105|
|Hard Drive||WD Blue 500GB 7200RPM HDD||$60||-$10||$50|
|Optical Drive||Samsung Optical Drive||$18||-||$18|
|Case||Rosewill Armor Evolution (COMBO 1)||$115||Free Shipping||$115|
|CPU Cooler||Corsair H70 Liquid Cooler||$65||-$20, Free Shipping||$45|
OS & Optional Extras
|Add-on Parts List||Name||Price||Rebates/etc.||Total|
||Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit||$100||Free Shipping||$100|
||1TB Toshiba HDD 7200RPM||$70||-||$70|
We scoured the net for the perfect GPU for this build -- it had to be affordable, proportionately powerful, and easily scalable in overclocking endeavors. Eventually, we settled on a reasonably-priced 660 Ti from MSI with advanced voltage controls for the GPU and memory, as well as high-quality caps to ensure future stability. The chip ships pre-overclocked, but should be able to scale upward with the use of MSI Afterburner (which we use in that previously-linked OC primer) and careful voltage increases. The 660 Ti, of course, offers PhysX support for those interested in games that utilize it - like Borderlands 2 - and is 3D Vision-ready. I think the take-away here would be the high-quality caps and metals, which will hopefully elongate the life of the card by being more resistant to cap leaks and aging over the years.
Finally I get to recommend what is one of the best gaming chips out there: the i5-3570k from Intel. The i5 outperforms anything AMD can offer in this price range (and in terms of gaming, even outperforms the flagship 8350), and the K-flag on the end, for the uninitiated, simply means that the chip has unlocked modifiers for higher OC potential than non-K SKUs.
We'd highly recommend that you discard the stock heatsink and opt for Corsair's H70 CLC, which is currently on sale at $45 -- a great deal for a mid-range water cooling solution. The aftermarket unit will be quieter and more efficient at keeping your OC'd unit cool.
To minimize noise level and keep thermals under control, it is always recommended to pair an overclocked CPU with some form of cooler; air coolers work perfectly fine for this, but liquid can (at times) be quieter and will look cleaner when installed. Given the excellent price of the H70 right now, it's an easy unit to recommend for a beginner's OC rig. You'll want to mount this top-side or to the rear of the Armor Evolution.
We turn again to Corsair's tried-and-true Vengeance memory (8GB), which ships natively at 1600MHz and will OC easily up to 1866MHz (or potentially higher, with careful tweaking) with motherboard support. Although the included heat spreaders are more for looks than anything, they will assist in low-level heat dissipation for overall better thermals under higher voltages; this all feeds into our intro to overclocking PC build theme, of course, and should make for a fun system to toy around with whilst learning the OC ropes.
Our brand new test bench (which will be officially announced this week) for 2013 utilizes MSI's GD65 Z77 motherboard, and we've immediately grown to appreciate many aspects of the board: the overall build quality, performance-grade construction, easy-to-use BIOS with high OC potential and quick automated OC, on-board toggles/checks, high-quality caps, and any other feature a mid-range to high-end gaming PC could want.
If you're building a PC to overclock—which, given your presence here, you should be—it only makes sense to use one of the most enabling mid-range boards for overclocking. The board comes with a custom-built UEFI BIOS with OC Genie, making for a simple OC method if you're afraid to try your hand unguided; we'd recommend running the system through OC Genie first, write down the recommended settings, then use that as a baseline if you're new to the OC world. It's a great place to start. You get all the extras that come with the Z77 chipset at a reasonable ~$160.
I just love it when a good deal comes together.
Since we are going with an OC-geared build, it's important to use stronger PSU than we usually recommend in our budget gaming PC builds. This modular PSU from Rosewill is a solid deal -- aside from its active PFC (read about this here) and basic 80 Plus Bronze qualifications, the PSU is spec'd for 750W, easily enough for the base rig and your overclocking endeavors; it even gives a bit of room for expansion, should you need it.
The modular design will really benefit with cable management in the Armor Evolution case, which already has fantastic routing passthroughs. This combo will save you $20 instantly on the case/PSU, making it a pretty easy choice for the build. With power supplies for overclocking, it's mostly important to look for high stability under abnormal (read: increased) load levels, and while the HIVE-750 isn't the best power supply money can buy, it's pretty darn good for the combo price.
The price of Solid-State Drives is at a point where we like to recommend them for every build greater in cost than ~$700. This SSD is one of our favorites - the HyperX 3K has consistently delivered in testing, and its SandForce chipset has one of the best datarates when dealing with normal workload (i.e. non-synthetic use; synthetic benchmarks tend to favor other controllers, but that's when dealing in incompressible data). At less than a buck per gig, finally, you really can't go wrong. This will lower the load times dramatically for not only your games, but your operating system and core applications as well.
Want to avoid paying for an SSD? We're currently giving one away.
Since we are using an SSD for the operating system and games, we thought the WD Blue 500GB hard drive (7200RPM) was a good archival storage option for around $50. It is really nice to see the prices of HDDs return to normal, making 500GB drives a valid option for storage once again. Paired with the Kingston HyperX 3K, you'll not only be able to save all of those legally-obtained movies you may or may not have, but boot quickly as well.
I have run out of things to say about optical drives: Spinning discs, low prices, even burns DVDs and CDs. As we always recommend, pulling an old optical drive from another system (if SATA) is almost always worth the effort; you save some cash and, as long as that system isn't running discs regularly, you won't be missing anything.
The Rosewill Armor Evolution is a new arrival from the makers of the beloved R5. It boasts 6 fans out-of-the-box, two of which are user-designated (not pre-mounted), two in the front, one in the rear, and one on the side. The massive 230mm side intake fan should be great for brute-forcing air into the GPU and CLC (and doing so quietly, given its size), and given the case's elongated dimensions, it can easily support longer GPUs if you decide to upgrade in the future. The claim-to-fame for this case is its ease-of-installation options, particularly the cable routing design, making it one of the easier cases to work with for a new builder; paired with a modular PSU, it really can't get much cleaner. If you'd like to read more of our first impressions on this case, check out our previous post.
We're pretty excited to share with you a build that is close to our hearts as overclockers; this entire build is designed with overclocking in mind, so we really think you'll benefit from all of the extras we packed into the system. At roughly $1100, this rig is an affordable option for anyone who not only loves gaming, but also tweaking and playing with hardware (true enthusiasts, as it were). Besides, it'll kick ass for video editing and rendering, too. Please visit our forums or post a comment below if you require any help at all. That's why we're here.
- Michael "Mikagmann2" Mann and Steve "Lelldorianx" Burke.