Despite accusing online retailers of being a bit overzealous with their "Black November" approach to what was once a one-weekend sale, there are numerous legitimately good deals out on the web for gaming hardware that should be taken advantage of. Black Friday prices on SSDs, video cards, RAM, even CPUs can easily knock off hundreds of bucks on higher-priced gaming rigs.
In the spirit of spending money—because we needed an excuse to do more of that—we've assembled this "hardcore" DIY gaming PC using only Black Friday deals, which prices it out to a very reasonable $1083.
We also have an Enthusiast / Workstation build and Cheap Bastard / Budget build going online this weekend, so keep an eye out for those if you're looking to spend more or less, respectively.
$1083 Custom Gaming PC Build - November, 2012
|Gaming Parts List||Name||Price||Rebates/etc.||Total|
|Video Card||GTX 660 Ti (COMBO 1)||$270||-$20, Free Shipping,
|CPU||Intel i5-3570k (COMBO 2)||$220||-$25, Free Shipping,
$20 Gift Card
|CPU Cooler||Cooler Master T812 Cooler||$60||-$20, Free Shipping||$40|
|Memory||G.Skill Sniper 8GB 1866MHz||$30||Free Shipping||$30|
|Motherboard||ASUS P8Z77(COMBO 2)||$140||-$20, Free Shipping||$120|
|Power Supply||Cooler Master 720W (COMBO 1)||$120||-$18, Free Shipping||$102|
|SSD||Kingston HyperX 3K SSD 120GB||$100||Free Shipping||$100|
|Hard Drive||Seagate Barracuda 1TB 7200RPM||$70||Free Shipping||$70|
|Optical Drive||Lite-on Optical Drive||$16||-||$16|
|Case||Cooler Master Storm Stryker||$160||Free Shipping||$160|
|Total||$1186||-$103 (not counting GC)||$1083|
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||-$20 code "EMCJJHF52"
Nvidia's GTX 660 Ti has had stellar performance in benchmarks thus far, and while we'd normally recommend AMD's 7850 for affordable gaming machines, the price on the 660 Ti is too good to ignore for the weekend. At less than $300, the 660 Ti in a combo with our PSU makes for an unbeatable value.
This particular make of the 660 Ti ships with a free copy of Assassin's Creed III and clocks in with a 980MHz core clock, an effective 6008MHz memory clock, and 2GB of on-board memory with a 192-bit interface width. If you're unfamiliar with any of these specs, check out our GPU dictionary for further information.
The 660 Ti also hosts nVidia's proprietary PhysX technology, so games that make use of it (Battlefield 3, Borderlands 2) will exhibit higher-quality physics interactions. This also helps retain calculations on the GPU rather than the CPU, ensuring that your (more powerful) video card can deal with the bulk of gaming computations. You should have no problems running most modern games on max or very high settings, though a select few may require a hybrid mix of medium/high. Adding 3D Vision to the mix will obviously strain the GPU much more, so if that's a consideration, consider asking us in the comments if we think you should swap for a more powerful GPU.
You've seen it plenty of times before, and with good reason: The i5-3570k makes for an excellent gaming CPU and has plenty of overclocking room (and the motherboard we combo'd it with has easy-to-use overclocking features). We've assembled this rig with the expectation that you'll be using the 3570k to its full potential by overclocking it at least slightly beyond stock settings, so with that in mind, novice and intermediate overclockers may want to read our Overclocking Primer.
The i5-3570k is currently shipping with a "free" $20 gift card, which is unfortunately useless for this purchase and is thus not calculated in the final cost of the build. At a stock 3.4GHz and 77W TDP, the CPU has great thermals under load and can overclock to 4GHz pretty effortlessly; it's also great for gaming -- because many games are still running on two threads most efficiently and a few are starting to adopt quad-core technology, the 3570k gives great room for technological leaps but remains price-friendly.
If you don't plan to overclock at all, consider one of Intel's cheaper non-K CPUs, drop the aftermarket cooler, and also consider a Z75 or H77 motherboard instead. Here's why.
It's tough to beat Cooler Master's T812 aftermarket cooler, and at $40 after rebate, it almost can't be beaten. Short of going for a closed-loop liquid cooling option, this cooler will give you ample room for overclocking with its excellent heat dissipation design and high build quality.
Need to cut off a few bucks? NZXT also just put out its Respire series (which we reviewed here), and while they don't perform as well as this option, they're going to be cheap for Black Friday.
As Kingstontold us in a previous interview, "memory is a commodity." We see further focus on low-profile options, color choices, and other not-so-impactful kits as the performance itself stagnates.
G.Skill doesn't ever reduce focus on performance, though -- as evidenced by their recent world record in memory overclocking. This memory ships at 1866MHz, but you'll need to enter BIOS to ensure it is operating at optimal efficiency when installed.
With the $25 off combo discount granted by the CPU/motherboard combo, ASUS' P8Z77-V LK board hasn't looked more appealing for a new DIY gaming PC build. If you end up purchasing a different CPU (if you're not planning to overclock, for example) be sure to use this promo code at checkout for the motherboard: 20LK11211127.
As for the specs, this ASUS board has great heatpipe design, a solid northbridge sink (important for high load times), enough PCI-e ports (x8/x8 or x16) for SLI, and 2xSATA III ports for your new SSD (below).
It also uses Intel's Z77 chipset, which is the only one capable of full CPU overclocking and SRT.
Again, we combo'd this with the GTX 660 Ti (giving an instant $18 discount), so the deal is too good to pass up. Cooler Master's new-ish 720W Silent Pro PSU has active PFC, which is a nice way to ensure more power from the wall is being efficiently delivered, enough wattage for the current build and an upgrade, and is fully modular - making for easy cable management.
SSD / HDD / Optical
Here's the fun part! Exploring how SSDs are made with Kingstonand LSI was a blast, and with the recent Samsung 840 and Kingston V300 releases, we're really starting to see speed pick up in the SSD market. There's a lot of competition vying for the top right now, and that's good for consumers.
Despite the excellent deal on the new Samsung 840 SSD, it just couldn't beat-out the trusty HyperX 3K SSD (which we've recommended fairly regularly). The drive is one of the best value-to-performance options out there, and while the M4, 840 Pro, and Force all compete very heavily, we've been most impressed withKingston's build quality and architecture.
The drive operates at a max of 85k IOPS random 4K read and max of 73k IOPS random 4k write, and more importantly, we found that it had high sustained random read/write speeds in our review.
As for the HDD - because every hardcore gaming PC build needs archival storage - we've opted for the relatively standard Seagate 1TB / 7200RPM drive, which is currently a reasonable price. Fancy that. This one's on NCIX, though.
Then there's the optical drive, which is the delinquent child of the build family. If you've migrated off discs completely, don't worry about it; if, like most of us, you still use them with some infrequent purpose, grab it for a cheap $15.
Nothing will quite live up to the Phantom 820 that we just reviewed, but it's far too expensive for this build. We went with a sleek white design for this case, but if you prefer a black case, consider this one instead. The Cooler Master Stryker is certainly an upper-range case with a full load-out of features, but most importantly, it has great cable routing and cooling options, has reasonable dust management, and is big enough to comfortably accommodate your upgrade (i.e. SLI). The case ships with 2x120mm fans, 1x140mm fan, and 1x200mm fan (push-pull config), so it has enough cooling where you don't need to worry about order extra fans.
If you like the sleek white / black design, you may want to consider spicing up the internals with a premium cables kit (multiple companies sell them - just type "premium cables kit" or "power supply cables" - they should look like this).
And that's it for this build! If you have any questions at all or need help with checking a parts list, please feel free to post a comment below or ask our experts on the hardware support forum.
- Patrick Stone & Stephen Burke.
Quick thanks to forum member RebornSAZ for spotting the Windows 7 deal!