Putting Everything Together
Cost – $700 (parts) + $115 (labor) + $25 (shipping) = $840
For this build, I was contacted by someone who wanted a build that he could use for gaming, and not much of anything else. He didn’t necessarily want to play games at their highest or best settings, but he wanted a box that could play games pretty well, and he wanted it within a $700-$1000 budget (with a huge leaning towards the $700 side).
The biggest debate I went through was deciding on the CPU. Obviously the i5-2500k is a clear and consistent winner when it comes to price/performance. The ability to overclock it is another huge plus. In the end, however, I settled on the i3 as being the superior choice in a budget build. Overclocking means I would need a better motherboard and an aftermarket cooler for the PC, not to mention the i5 is a bit more expensive than the i3. These were all things that would drastically hurt my overall price point for the build. The only worry for the i3 would be whether or not it would bottleneck our graphics card, but we’ll get to that later on.
For a motherboard, pretty much all I needed was something that I could plug the CPU and the GPU into. The ASRock H77M easily got the job done, there.
RAM these days doesn’t seem to ever be a bottleneck for a system, and even higher RAM speeds seem to have little (if any) impact on gaming performance. I went with 8GB of G.Skill RAM, which honestly might have even been a bit too much, but I didn’t want to risk running into problems with only 4GB.
The 1TB Barracuda from Seagate is an affordable 1TB of storage. 7200 RPM should be fine for what we’re working with here. An SSD or 10kRPM drive isn’t appropriate for the budget I’m working with.
The GPU took a bit of consideration. I was really torn between the 7950 and the 660 Ti. When the 660 Ti was released it was the CLEAR superior against the 7950, and many reviews showed this. AMD’s driver releases, however, allowed the 7950 to close the gap very quickly against Nvidia’s card. To be completely honest, I’m not sure that there’s a “right” answer here, so I went with the 660 Ti to be safe. If you’re looking to imitate any portion of this build, I think you could easily get away with buying a 7950 instead.
The Case I went with was a Rosewill mid tower. No real attachment to it, it was cheap and got the job done. Managing the cables in it was kind of annoying, but I think that had more to do with the purchase of a non-modular power supply than anything else.
The 500W Corsair Builder PSU was plenty enough to get the job done. A lot of people like to go overkill on PSUs for some reason, but this one is perfectly fine for what we’re doing. The only drawback is the non-modular power supply. Again, having a modular power supply is fine, but it’s not appropriate or necessary for our budget constraints.
I threw in a Samsung DVD/CD drive just because the customer asked for one. For me, personally, I use flash drives to get everything done these days (including OS installations). I would have scratched this option if it was up to me.
Assembling the actual PC was a breeze. If you lay everything out in advance and you know what you’re doing, you could easily have this system put together and running in under an hour. The only issue I ran into was that the UEFI required an update before it would recognize the 660 Ti. If you’re looking to copy this build, you WILL need to update the UEFI before it will recognize your graphics card.
All in all, I’m really happy with how it turned out. I ran FRAPS and measured the FPS in three separate games: Crysis 2, Metro 2033 and Skyrim. Across all 3 games the machine was posting FPS’ similar to what I’ve seen in benchmarks. While checking the W7 system info and monitoring Afterburner I was able to see that the GPU was easily hitting 95-99% usage while the CPU was hovering at around 80% usage. For only $700, I think this rig’s quite a winner. I don’t know if anything else I’d cut back in to save some cost, aside from the CD/DVD drive.
If you’re interested in having me put together a system like this (or something completely different), let me build your next PC!