Planning a PC Build Before the End of the World

For over a decade now I have had an itching desire to construct myself a gaming PC – burning, even, probably from all that itching. Indeed, a computer that would facilitate ultra graphic settings; where I don’t even have to consider a game’s system requirements or even recommendation because the rig would be so slammin’. I’ve had my fair share of personal computers, be they gifted or shared or hand-me-downed, and am forever grateful for my time with them. And they weren’t utilized just for gaming. I taught myself the basics of HTML4, maintained a couple of websites, and dabbled in Photoshop, Visual Basic. A Compaq Presario was, amongst other things, my tap into the wonders of mIRC where I discovered a whole musical genre that I will take to my grave. This here HP Pavilion laptop, now 5 years old and running strong, has facilitated just about every computational task our family has ever needed… except running Black & White 2 or Medieval II: Total War or DreamFall. So, for as useful and pragmatic as these confangled doohickeys are for pretty much every facet of life, my main desire has always been to use them to game, though I haven’t always been able to be indiscriminate to system requirements.

But for whatever reasons I’ve never actually given myself the opportunity to build one. So, leave it to recent case of envy for my little brother’s ad hoc rig to help motivate me to get this project in gear. Plus, the world is ending in a month so why not go out with a bang? I’ve spent the last couple of months reading up and shopping around, and if more than anything else this has been a fun research project. The power and price of personal computing these days is enticing. What follows, then, is a glance at my thought processes towards what I want, what I can get and finding the happy space in between. Nothing has yet been purchased; this is all theoretical.

As a quick illustration to what I want my new computer to be, please watch the following clip:


Bam. Right there. Indy’s reaction. Love it.

I continue to read about these maxed out $5000 gaming systems – donning black and red color schemes, looking menacing, swinging weapons garishly to and fro –  and, although I do not doubt their superior computing power, I know there’s a more practical and economical way of freaking playing StarCraft 2. For this reason, my new system will assume the moniker ‘Indy’s Bullet’. Indy’s Bullet will be tight, precise and will get the job done. It will be forward-compatible. And it will be built from the following parts: (*NOTE: I’m still learning, please correct and/or suggest where necessary)

CPU – Intel i5 3750K

Motherboard – ASUS P8Z77-V PRO (no Thunderbolt)

I am listing these two main components together because I will be purchasing them at MicroCenter, thusly introducing a major variable to the construction of Indy’s Bullet. MicroCenter is within reasonable distance of me. Purchasing as much as I can from this at-a-loss retailer would only be wise. MC has a combo deal where they will automatically knock off $50 from the price of a motherboard with the purchase of a CPU. Plus, such a close proximity would be extremely advantageous should any part be defective and a plan of action for returns need to go into effect, which I am accepting as a very real possibility.

As per the Intel vs. AMD debate: I’m going with Intel because of reasons… And that’ll be the end of that. Plus, MicroCenter sells these babies at close to $40-$50 less than online stores. Win/Win so far. I’m choosing this model because 1) Ivy Bridge supports PCI-e 3.0, which is necessary for GPU(s), 2) i7 will just be overkill and 3) it is unlocked, and I find this appealing because I want to tinker with overclocking. And overclocking wouldn’t be possible if my motherboard is shoddy.

Yes. I have spent more time researching motherboards than I have any other component. After a great deal of pondering I’ve decided on the P8Z77- PRO because, compared to competing mid-level mobos, this board is more about focused performance than bells & whistles. Indeed, I do not need freaking six USB 3.0 ports. Although, it does come with a Wi-Fi antennae – Asus touting that Indy’s Bullet could also serve as a wireless router ( for what it’s worth this is appealing as our current wireless router is crap). But, back to performance: can overclock memory to 2800; two SATA 6gb/s; two PCI-e 3.0. It has a back-up BIOS, which is good in case I royally screw something up while overclocking. The P8Z77-PRO also has independent fan control, appealing to gamer and tree-hugger alike. And it has this new VirtuMVP technology which, if I understand correctly, will also help with power consumption and contribute to longevity of the GPU.

GPU – Gigabyte GV-N670C-2GD NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670 2048MB GDDR5 PCIe 3.0 x16

Translation: Bottom of the top tier of video cards, or top of the middle tier video cards. I am intentionally rounding down on all other computer components to finance this powerful tool. I am choosing NVIDIA because, more than anything, I’ve just been hearing too many scary stories about Radeon cards, especially when it comes to tweaking. There’s also a 4GB model for about $50 more, but I don’t know enough yet  about the ins/outs of GPUs to determine whether or not this would be worth the extra money. The 2GB model is reported to be nearly-silent, stable and efficient. Me Gusta.

Memory – G.SKILL Sniper Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1866

I must confess that the memory component is one that I’m still fairly ignorant to. But, nonetheless I am confident with my decision with the G. Skill Sniper Series. It’s got a good speed with a reasonable latency. It does not have flashy heat spreaders like Corsair sticks, which could very well get in the way of an after market CPU cooler. Plus, the Sniper Series is compatible with the P8Z77 – minor detail. And 8GB is plenty – PLENTY – for a gaming/enthusiast build; any more and you’re just playing with yourself.

Storage – Intel 330 Series 2.5″ 180GB SATA6Gb/s Solid State Drive(SSD)

Intel has been bringing the hammer down on other SSD manufacturers by creating capable drives at competitive prices. Despite their smaller capacity, SSDs are appealing to me because I simply do not need an abundance of HD space: I uninstall games as soon as I complete or grow bored with them; I do not plan on storing dozens of HD movies. The only media I foresee taking up any moderate amount of space will be audio files – And even then it won’t be that much because 90% of my music are stored on these circular plastic compact discs, or ‘CDs’ for short, that I keep in binders out of the reach of my kids; an even smaller more exclusive group are on larger discs made of wax, which, in the biz, we call ‘vinyls’. Snarkyness aside, a SSD would be right at home in Indy’s Bullet, and with prices dropping by the week there’s no reason in the world to go with a mechanical drive.

Monitor – *undecided brand* 24” Widescreen 1920 x 1080

I had originally thought about aiming towards a true color 1200 resolution but quickly came to my senses. For five years I’ve been using a laptop with a resolution that doesn’t even reach beyond 1280 x 800 (gaming with even less). Therefore a new 24” standard HD monitor will have plenty of WOW! factor. And I think 24” is the sweet spot because 27” is just a migraine waiting to happen.

Power Supply

Still researching these. Probably Corsair. 700, maybe 750 Watt. That GPU wants at least 550 – the hog.

Case

No more than $100. USB 3.0 headers. Front headphone jack. Nothing too gaudy or flashy so as to not be a temptation for my kids and their curious button-pressing fingers. It can’t be more than 22” tall in order to fit under my desk; I refuse to put my desktop on my desktop. I like what NZXT does.

This isn’t ugly.

 OS -

Windows 7. Eff Windows 8.

When all is said and done I feel that this is a very reasonable, well-planned build. Indy’s Bullet will play the RTS games that I long for, as well as facilitate any programming or audio editing/mixing that may come my way. All hail the PC.

Comments

  1. Yes yes yes!

    Great post and while you’re at it, make me one.

    I can recommend an Acer for a monitor – my recent purchase of an LED monitor last Christmas was definitely a good choice. Wait for some Christmas sales or even have the little lady look around on the day after Turkey day.

    I have an NZXT mouse that I’m not currently using: http://www.nzxt.com/new/products/gaming_mice/avatar_s

    it is the white variety. The problem is that it’s a clam shell/claw type of mouse and I appreciate the form-to-my hand kind of mouse. So, if’n you’d like to try it let me know.

  2. I concur — this is a great post. I’m cooking up something similiar about my thought process for picking my latest machine, and is pretty much the opposite of this. Interesting.

    The biggest regret I have is not going SSD. I have an SSD in my work laptop and this puppy is SMOOTH. I’m am currently investigating options to remove the two regular HDs I have in my home laptop and replace them with SSDs. Yeah, I’ll lose space, but I have a 2TB raided NAS, so I’m just fine for space. Couple that with what you said about SSD prices (I suggest Amazon for those, which has them for CHEAP) and it’s a no brainer.

    And for monitor, if finances allow it, I say splurge for the 1920×1200. I got that Lenovo I have from eBay real cheap (I’m still convinced the dude is selling them out the back of a van) but I really like those extra 120 lines.

  3. Agreed. Get an SSD for the system and apps, and get a 7200 RPM IDE drive for data (or 2 5200 rpm drives at raid 1)

  4. Cool. Thanks for the input, everybody. Installing a SSD only seems like the logical thing to do. I take comfort in knowing that a mechanical drive can be installed later on if space gets tight.

    Also, do I understand correctly that Windows 7 has a built in version of XP in case I ever wanted to set up a VPC? The idea of a virtual XP is agreeable because I have a handful of games would be inoperable with WIN7.

    And Tony, to what are you referring to by ‘opposite’?

    • I mean “opposite” in the sense that you are really drilling down into the details and into the nitty-gritty. My approach was much more “hands off”. You are shopping for individual components whereas I was mostly shopping for a system. I guess I should get that post finished!

      Also, you can run any program in “Compatibility Mode” (going all the way back to Windows 95!). I’ve never tried it but I’ve read it’s hit and miss as far as reliability goes.

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