$800 / $900 Custom Gaming PC Build

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If you are an enthusiast PC Gamer, this custom configuration should be the very one and truly gaming rig you’d ever built; and better yet, the computer will definitely require a very reasonable budget.

This system sharply aims for processing power as well as ultra 3D rendering performance.

But for the heads-up, it probably takes a backseat in mean of storage capacity due to the trade of mechanical drive for a single Solid State Drive.

Consequently, as the result the machine gains so much faster data transfer rate along with a very respectable application responsiveness.

Components Advice

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Processor

You may often hear people suggest we should go with an Intel i7 or the top of the line AMD processor FX-8150 to guarantee an uber fast computer. I guess rumor has it. But as the matter of fact the answer is really blowing in the wind: any thing more than a quad-core processor is totally unnecessary for most mid-range to even high-end gaming system, especially for this assembly we are working on.

Once explained in Choosing an AMD or Intel Processor for Your Custom Computer, I mentioned that today typical applications and games are still not taking full advantages of even a quad-core processor.

Thus, the four extra logical cores created by Hyper Threading Technology in the quad-core i7, or the 8-physical cores of AMD FX-8150 can only do little difference for 3D games and almost any every-day applications.

Unless you require to run a video production workstation or a home server for number crunching demands, you can be confident that you will not need to spend the extra cash for anything more than a decent quad-core processor.

Perhaps, it is more important to stay within the preset budget for other essential parts of the PC. (..or save money for some self-rewarded bacon later!)

The entire purpose of building your own computer is to have an optimal system for exactly what you need at the price you can afford. You are now the boss of the whole project, as well as your wallet. So we should have our knowledge ready before the shopping day.

Let’s first take a brief look at this Intel i5 2500k!

The second generation Intel processor was released on the end of 2011 and made immediate records in many benchmarks.

The Core i5 is a true quad-core processor that does physically have four internal cores on die, along with a small dedicated area for an integrated graphics controller. The graphics chipset is now built-in onto the processor itself, not the on the motherboard.

AMD actually has something similar called APU and we successfully made use of this unit in the $350 / $600 Custom Home Theater PC (HTPC), check it out when you have a chance!

Just one generation before, most quad-core or even dual-core CPUs usually had a lot of heat issues where exceeding temperature was the death sentence for the processor. By shrinking the internal die to 32nm architecture, Intel effectively reduces the amount of thermal release from from all the cores. This gives way to a whole new level of overclocking efficiency.

The new technology called Turbo Boost also has a huge impact on system performance.

It automatically fluctuates the stock clock-speed in the i5-2500k from 3.3GHz to 3.7GHz, depends on the resource requirements. With proper air cooling, you can set the cap of the maximum clock speed on this unlocked CPU up to 4.2GHz just as easily as a click away in the UEFI BIOS interface.

You can also push it a little bit further to 4.8GHz or 5.0GHz, but you must equip your system with one of the Prefilled Liquid Cooling Kits; I’m sure you don’t want to set the processor on fire like you did on the ribs!

The Intel i5-2500k will diligently accompany you for a good amount of years coming and it will not have any problem catching up with future component upgrades.

But..Why not Ivy Bride? Why not the new i5-3570k?

The new Gen i5 is only slightly faster than Sandy Bridge i5-2500k; and it is a very bad overclocker due to the cheap TIM thermal layer that Intel has implemented. Our budget also does not allow us to spend too carelessly on something that does not give us remarkable advantages. You could consider the Ivy Bridge option if pricing isn’t too far off.

On the alternate option to i5-2500k is its little sister i5-2400. You only sacrifice a little performance over the Intel i5-2500k, however the 2400 does not have superior overclocking ability nor an integrated graphics controller. If you find those two factors insignificant to your demand, you can be happy with the the second choice without making any damage on the system performance.

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Motherboard

For motherboard I choose to go with ASUS P8Z68-V Motherboard, one of the best performance motherboards in the market. The mid-range V series has two different controllers for SATA III Drive interface.

One by Marvel and the other is Intel. Most enthusiast users prefer to have Intel controller because it has better compability to get  the most out of SATA III Solid State Drive and supports RAID. On other hand, soon you may also need extra storage ports for future expansion and the Marvel chip will be able to serve well.

This board also gives you a sweet counts of USB 3.0/2.0 ports for your love of peripheral units. Stripping up all the add-on and fancy features, we have a powerful motherboard with plenty of overclocking ability and solid performance.

Now if you are not interested to push the CPU to its limit, one great alternate option is the Z77 PRO4 Motherboard motherboard by Asrock.

Powered by the newer Z77-chipset, this mother board is ready to handle the 3rd generation Ivy Bridge processor if you happen to do upgrade in the future.

Asrock offers us two SATA III ports less than the Asus motherboard for a total of four (without 3rd party SATA controller), couple less USB 3.0 ports and PCI slots but besides all the additional features, you have a very well-made motherboard from another reputable brand.

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Read The Differences between All Mainstream Asrock Z77 Motherboards for more information :)


Graphics Cards

This system build means to tackle any games without compromises, while giving yourself a fair budget. I decide to select a variety of sub-$200 range for video cards that actually falls into Mid-range / entry High-end category: GTX 650 Ti, Gigabyte Radeon HD 7850 or even GeForce GTX 660.

If you have to go with Radeon video cards, you have the options to run up to six individual monitors while NVIDIA limits it to two (unless it is the new 600 Series that have just come out recently). However performance-wise, neither one of these will deliver significantly lower frame rates than one another.

If you look up online benchmarks, you should soon realize that those numbers mean very little. Synthetic benchmarks are unreliable and sometimes can be tricked by manufacturer’s driver.  Sometimes they create a rare environment where not many casual gamers would care about (three or four monitors setup in extremely high settings for instance). Real time in-game benchmarks from the link above, on the other hand, can tell a little more.

Nevertheless, the difference might only be a few frames apart. Normal human eyes can barely tell when the number is higher than 60fps. Thus, it makes more sense to find the best bang for the bucks pc components not the super expensive top-of-the-line, new-out-of-the-oven offer.

Before you make the final decision, I have some personal comments on these two video chipset makers.

NIVIDIA tends to have a few bugs in their newest driver therefore it is recommended to use a second or third before latest driver to avoid random crashes.

Radeon does have some issue with their control panel which it is prone to get stuck and crashes during high load but it should not have any major impact on the games.

All the video cards in this list have at least two to three fans for better cooling and overclocking demands.

I’m a little bit against single-fan design because they are loud and run pretty hot.

You will absolutely appreciate the better heat dissipation design that actually generates less noise and runs more efficient than a single-fan video card.

Need More Help ? Try Radeon vs. NVIDIA Gaming Graphics Cards Round-Up : Let The Right One In

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Solid State Drive

We totally remove the existence of mechanical drive in this system. Instead, we leave all for the faster and quicker seek-time solid state drive. Having at least 120GB Solid State Drive in the system should give us plenty of room for the Operating System and at least 5-8 games.

You will notice how much faster the system finishes starting windows from boot and way less waiting on any load screen during game play.

Recommended ReadingRound-up of Solid State Drives from 7 Reputable Brands

Because space is a limitation for this configuration, it is advised to have a portable drive for your personal data. You could also install a secondary conventional drive later on if you find a need for additional storage.

Another advice I have for you is to read the 3 Steps to Optimize Solid State Drive before the O/S installation.

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Solid State Drive
Thermaltake Commander Snow-Edition
is a very good looking case with many special touches to make it stands out from the crowd. You find a half transparent side panel on the outside, a fine internal cable management with cleverly placed cut-out holes; and a nice mesh design on the front and top panel for smooth ventilation.

It also brings a bonus of one USB 3.0 port in the front where you can directly connect to the motherboard USB 3.0 header.

Don’t like the Commander Snow-Edition chassis ? Check out 12 Kick-Ass Gaming Cases with Clear Transparent Window :)

On the power concern, we count on OCZ ModXStream Pro 600W PSU to deliver juice to this machine. With 600-wattage and surge protection, this power supply delivers a sufficient and uninterrupted current requirement for any game session we play.

You will be fine running this unit on any video cards except those dual-core graphic cards or SLI/Crossfire configuration. In that case you may have to refer to more powerful power supply units such as those 850W or 1000W featured in All OCZ and PC & Power Cooling Power Supply Units or All Corsair Power Supply Units

Last of all, this power supply supports modular cable-management. That means you can easily detach any extra cables for sophisticated wiring works. This bonus greatly improves internal airflow and the tidiness of the case.

As the result, this effectively makes the chassis becomes a very friendly environment for all other gaming hardware we have picked.

The final two components that complete this system are the 22x DVD Burner and a pair of 4GB DDR3-1600MHz Memory (total of 8GB). It is possible to overclock the memory to 1866MHz but I find no true impact on any gameplay or real life performance difference of the computer. In fact, it may make the system stable if you are not careful on the settings.

This is my first custom gaming computer and I have always loved it as much as the first day I built it. One of my friends bought it later and sold on craglist for over $1100 , good for him :( !

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Now you can get out there, spend some money and have fun with the assembly!

Keep me posted with the progress if you actually decide to make this configuration in the comment section. It will give a lot more insight for other readers here on Custom PC Guide .net :)

Bad Luck Brian strikes again..

Next Bracket$1000 / $1500 Custom Workstation and Super Gaming PC Build

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