This hardcore gaming build was a lot of fun to put together! It's a bit different from our budget gaming PC builds - as is the nature of having a larger budget (we targeted $900 for this system) - and as such, is fully-equipped and ready for battle.
I tasked myself with the mission of putting together a build with the newest generation of Intel's gaming-grade CPUs -- the 3rd Generation, or Ivy Bridge, chips -- added a Z77 motherboard and 660Ti GPU for around $900. The 660 Ti is still a brand new GPU and has a lot of life ahead of it -- you can read more about the 660 Ti here. Beyond pure components, we opted to focus on an orange/black theme to help you game style. The component design and color schemes match up excellently, making for a killer build that has a flowing aesthetic.
Let's look at that list!
2012 Hardcore Gaming PC Build for $900
|Gaming Parts List||Name||Price||Rebates/etc.||Total|
|Video Card||ZOTAC 660 Ti||$300||Free Borderlands 2||$300|
|CPU||Intel i5-3570k(COMBO 1)||$230||-$11, Free Shipping
$10 Newegg Gift Card
|Memory||G.Skill Ares 8GB 1600MHz||$40||Free Shipping||$40|
|Motherboard||ASRock Z77 Pro3 Motherboard||$95||-||$95|
|Power Supply||RAIDMAX 700W Modular PSU||$65||-||$65|
|Solid-State Drive||Kingston HyperX 120GB SSD||$110||Free Shipping||$110|
|Optical Drive||Samsung Optical Drive (COMBO 1)||$15||-||$15|
|Case||NZXT Phantom 410 Orange||$99||-$30, Free Shipping||$69|
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||$1013|
The first thing we wanted to do with this build was figure out how to make a 660 Ti fit with the budget; well, we did just that: nVidia's newest graphics chip - which comes with 1377 CUDA cores and 2GB of memory on a 192-bit interface - should have no problems playing most games on maxed-out levels (or near-max). Zotac is a respectable name brand with reasonable products, and when we throw in the fact that it perfectly fits the orange/black theme, there's plenty of reason to opt for this card. Although AMD's recently-dropped prices on their 7870 and other 7000-series cards makes them a strong competitor, this video card's added PhysX support (as seen in the upcoming Borderlands 2) and functionality makes it nearly equal in strength.
For a build that's over our "Cheap Bastard" budget, it was a no brainer to select Intel. As you may know, we usually select AMD for our lower-budget builds, but Intel pulls away at the higher budgets. The i5-3570k is hands down the best CPU for the price, and it performs beautifully, too. Unlike their counterparts, Intel has no problem coming out with quality chips every generation, and the 3570k is getting rave reviews. The "k" is Intel's overclocking indicator, stating that it comes with additional unlocked multipliers to overclock this bad boy, and if you decide to do so, we suggest picking up an aftermarket heatsink (ask us in the comments what we think you should get). The overclocking will raise temps, and the stock cooler most likely will have trouble keeping them down.
Not every high-end build needs to be Intel, but going this route does give you some room for other applicable uses - like video editing, encoding, rendering, or compiling, all of which perform significantly better on the higher-powered Intel chips.
We combo'd this chip with the optical drive to save some cash.
I have a color theme I am working with, and this should look nice through the side window on the Phantom 410. It is 8GB of G.Skill RAM, with a nice heat spreader to keep temps at an optimal level as well. Clocked in natively at 1600MHz, for under $40, this RAM should be great in your system. It's also low-profile, making it easier to work with when installing large heatsinks.
Our main purpose here was to fit the i5-3570k, Z77 chipset (read about chipsets here), and 660ti in a build for under $900. Well, we succeeded!
ASRock has become our go-to brand for budget-friendly motherboards with a concern for quality -- ASUS, MSI, and Intel all make excellent boards, but they struggle to compete on the features-to-price level that ASRock has set.
Here you get an ASRock Pro3 Z77 motherboard for under $100. It natively supports USB3.0 devices on-board, 1600MHz memory, features 1xPCIe 3.0 port (don't plan on using SLI with this board), and the now-common UEFI BIOS to make your overclocking much easier. Combined with the i5-3570k, this motherboard will be a delight to beginning overclockers everywhere.
If you plan on SLI or would like a slightly more powerful board, consider ASRock's Extreme3 or Extreme4 line.
700W of raw power will be plenty to push your system to its peak performance, yet still leave some room for growth. This PSU is also modular, meaning you can more easily cable manage your system (view our guide here) once it's complete.
Since the price of HDDs never completely came down, getting an SSD just seems to make more sense to us. The Kingston HyperX 3k SSD is one of the SSDs we have tested in-house, and it tested great. For only $109, it's a great deal, but keep in mind it is only 120GB. You may want to find a SATA HDD for storage to complement this lightning fast drive; we'd recommend 500GB - 1TB, but you can ask us in the comments for build-specific advice. There is absolutely no excuse to not have an SSD given their new prices -- don't hold your build back with a mechanical primary drive.
There is absolutely no science to picking this part out. I select the lowest priced and go with it (provided it seems reliable and the speeds are decent). This technology is getting stale anyway, as making discs spin is not a very complicated thing anymore. This $15 Samsung optical drive should spin some disks just fine...
Check the promo code on the product page for free shipping.
We've come to really appreciate NZXT's quality in their Crafted Series cases -- as Cooler Master, Corsair, and NZXT continue to expand the gaming case market with quality options, we see an ever-increasing minimum for build quality. (NOTE: Use promo code EMCNBHB237 at checkout for 20% off the case).
This Phantom 410 is one of many NZXT cases that come in a variety of colors, and the black/orange one just screams autumn to me - it fits the theme perfectly. This is the reason I decided to go with this color theme to begin with, and beyond the appearance, the Phantom 410 provides you with ample cooling options to keep those expensive parts cooled during long gaming sessions. Shipping with 2x120mm fans and 1x140mm fan, it should offer you adequate cooling to start with, but supports up to eight fans for optimal push/pull cooling in the future. This case also provides directional cooling to target those hot spots, particularly the GPU. This case is a nice size, allowing for the longer video cars, but not a huge case that will take up your entire desk. There is a clear side panel to view your cable management, and side facing expansion bays make for easy swapping of your drives.
That's it for this build! Visit our forums for any questions or concerns and for more in-depth support; for quick support, post in the comments below!
- Michael "Mikagmann2" Mann