It's been a while since we posted a high-end build, well, other than the $3000+ one, and we figured some of you enthusiasts were itching to look at another hardcore PC gaming build. Our "Hardcore" builds are designed for those who want to get the best graphics and performance possible and at the same time have enthusiast-grade components -- these normally fall within the range of $700 - $1200.
We kick-started the year by adding a few new columns, an awesome budget build, and a guide that helps you learn how to build a gaming computer, which you can read here. Check it out, it may help you in the future. Additionally, you may want to check out our guide on how to cut corners when building a gaming PC, which will save you a nice amount of money.
Without further ado, let's look at this beast:
|Hardcore Parts List||Name||Price||Rebates/etc.||Total|
|Video Card||AMD Radeon 6950||$240||-$31, Free Shipping, Free Deus Ex: HR||$209|
|CPU||Intel i7-2600 CPU||$300||Free Shipping||$300|
|Memory||8GB Corsair XMS3 (Combo 1)||$48||-$20, Free Shipping||$28|
|Motherboard||ASRock Z68 Extreme3 Gen3||$122||-||$122|
|Power Supply||Corsair 750W PSU (Combo 1)||$105||-$23, Free Shipping||$82|
|Hard Drive||500GB Seagate HDD||$85||-$10, Free Shipping||$75|
|Optical Drive||Lite-On Optical Drive||$19||-||$19|
|Case||AzzA Solano 1000||$100||-$20, Free Shipping||$80|
Optional Add-ons (pick and choose as budget allows)
|Add-on Parts List||Name||Price||Rebates/etc.||Combined Total|
||Windows 7 64-bit Home Premium||$100||Free Shipping||$1016|
The Radeon 6950 will be able to run almost all modern games at high graphics (including Skyrim, BF3, and even, gasp, Minecraft). This card, coupled with a powerful processor, can max out Battlefield 3 at around 30-40 FPS with a 1680x1050 resolution (View Benchmark 3D's bench for more on this). For an enthusiast, there's not much more you can ask for; it'll tolerate 1920x1080 resolutions as well, but you'll need to bump it down a bit from max. The card also comes with a free copy of Deus Ex: Human Revolution for you to tear through.
Want to save $50? Take a look at the Radeon 6870. It will still provide excellent performance and you will save around $50 USD.
The two most important components of a gaming computer, and arguably any computer, are the CPU and the video card. If these are not powerful enough, no matter how much memory you have or how much thermalpaste you apply to your floppy drives, you won't be able to run the games you want at higher graphics. For this reason, we chose the aforementioned GPU and paired it up with the world-famous i7-2600 Intel processor. This hyperthreaded, quad-core CPU comes clocked in at 3.4GHz and turbo boosts to 3.8Ghz. Turbo Boost is Intel's equivalent of a car's turbo charger -- it kicks in when it's under stress from serious gaming and gives you that last kick of power you need. As a gamer, you can't ask for more performance: this thing will shred through any game out right now.
Want to save some money? You might want to consider our $679 i5-2500 approach instead.
RAM & PSU:
These two items combo'd nicely and gave a $13 discount, so it was an easy choice - especially with the performance that the XMS3 memory gives. This wasn't the only reason we picked these components though, Corsair's XMS3 memory - which natively ships at 1333MHz - is very easily overclocked to 1600MHz in BIOS; the memory is ultra-customizable and gives you plenty of room to play with timings in BIOS settings. This will save you the extra $30 it costs for more expensive memory and perform equally. You get 8GB of memory with optimizable performance for only $27 after MIR.
The PSU we picked does what a PSU does best: powers your computer -- shocking it into life once the right sequence of switches are flipped. Be sure to scream "IT'S ALIVE!!!!" and cackle maniacally once you finally power this monster on. It'll be amazing, just don't let it turn on you. At 750 watts, this Corsair power supply will have absolutely no trouble keeping up with the 6950 and your i7-2600, and will even have plenty of room for future upgrades.
ASRock has built up a great name for itself in a short period of time -- short of ASUS, this board provides the best performance and upgradability for the price. It does run the Z68 chipset, so you have a few more overclocking options and enabled SSD caching, if that interests you. The ASRock Z68 Extreme3 Gen3 supports 1600MHz memory natively, so you can easily overclock your XMS3 RAM to reach its fullest potential; it also showcases 2xPCI-e 3.0 x16 slots (granted, those won't be fully utilized and will be effectively the same as 2.0 slots without an Ivy Bridge CPU) and allows a dual x8/x8 configuration for multiple GPUs.
It also looks cool. That's gotta count for something, right?
Want to spend a bit more? This ASUS P8Z68-V/Gen3 board is one of the best Z68 boards out there right now, but it is quite expensive.
HDD prices still aren't the best, and won't be for a while, but this particular one was a good deal (given the circumstances). Seagate's Barracuda drive has 16 MB of cache, which is about as much as an average HDD can efficiently use, anyway, it should be enough. For 500GB of space, this drive has an excellent price tag, ranking in at $74 after using the discount code they provide ("EMCNHJD22").
Want to be awesomesauce? Perhaps you want an SSD to speed up game load times? We recommend looking at the Corsair Force Series, which uses the latest SandForce controller for increased transfer rates and stability. This SSD gives enough room for your OS (which will take anywhere from 15-30GB, depending on the version), your primary applications, and maybe a couple of games on it as well. Remember, though, it's an extra $90 that was not factored into the original price of the build. Be awesome at your own risk.
Lite-on's DVD/CD burner should do what all disc drives do, really: read discs. Granted, if it does more - like toasts things - please tell us! If you have any spare ones lying around, be sure to use them, that's an easy $20 to save. We can't say this enough folks, it will save you a couple of bucks and it will do the same job as a new one!
AzzA's been gaining ground in the gaming case market rapidly, primarily filling the gap between the budget cases and high-end cases. Their Solano 1000 case has been in the eye of GN editors recently -- it has an exterior that's just begging for cool case mods, it's packed with cooling (2x140mm front; 1x230mm top; 1x230mm side), is relatively quiet, and looks damn cool. You really can't go wrong with this case.
That's all for our Hardcore/Enthusiast build! If you have any questions regarding the build or system building in general, be sure to head over to our hardware forums or ask in the comments section below.
~FJ "Trymutos" Ybarra.