After a solid 3 years of scraping and saving, and slowly upgrading, I've finally gone a built myself a proper PC. The "Zombie" moniker comes from how I've added new parts as I've been able, with none of them really matching the other, but still functional (kind of like a zombie). If you want to check out the previous iterations of the Zombie, you can check them out here: Zombie 1.0 Zombie 2.0
With most of the major parts out of the way, I focused here on just saving for the best possible combo of Core i5/i7 and Z97 motherboard. Without further ado, let's take a journey through my finished rig. Parts marked as $0 are parts that I already had.
CPU: After years of being on the AMD platform, I've finally been able to switch to Intel. While I'll say up front that you CAN build a respectable AMD rig, Intel is so much easier and more powerful. Another advantage over my old FX-6300 & FX-8350 processors is that the system is much cooler and quieter. It's also given me a 2k+ point boost in my Firestrike benchmark.
Cooler: From the Zombie 2.0 build. Noctua's mounting systems are easy to work with and solidly built. My CPU is kept nice and frosty under this guy, and it'll keep it that way when I start fiddling with overclocking.
Motherboard: This was the hardest part to select. I spent the better part of 3 months searching for a great deal, and while I was tempted by some of the refurbished selections from Newegg and Amazon, I decided that I wanted to get my parts new when at all possible, especially for something as important as the motherboard. I knew that I wanted 1. A Z97 chipset 2. SLI and/or CrossFire support * 3. A PS/2 connector for my mechanical keyboard The Z97-G45 from MSI met all three of those qualifications, and it looks sharp to boot.
RAM: 16 GB is a bit unnecessary for just gaming, yes, but I am a bit of a tab fiend and I've been spending a fair bit of time with video editing software, so this definitely helps.
Storage: SSD for boot drive, other HDDs for storage of games, music, videos, etc. Surprisingly, I didn't have to reinstall Windows, I just plugged up my drives and was able to boot up with no problems whatsoever. I was certain I would have had to (going from AMD to Intel, different mobo manufacturers, etc.), but the only hitch I encountered was having to install new drivers for the motherboard, which took about 10 minutes (5 to install from the CD, then 5 to update from MSI's website).
GPU: My favorite part of my rig. Plenty of power for 1080p gaming, low power consumption, nice and quiet. What more do you want?
Case: A Christmas gift from my parents. Solidly built, sleek, and with plenty of room for upgrades.
Power Supply: The last part that I needed to upgrade. Fully modular, 80+ Gold and EVGA quality.
Optical Drive: Yeah, I know, I've got a grandpa disc drive. But hell, I don't see a reason to throw it away. And more to the point, I don't know where the cover for that bay is, so the drive stays.
OS: Copy of Windows 7 from my university. Nothing fancy there.
Fans: Two Fractal Design 140mm fans on a filtered intake at the front of the case (I keep them at the middle position on the R4's built in fan controller), and then 2 Corsair SP120s for exhaust, which are much quieter on their low noise adapters.
Peripherals: The Dell monitor is a hand-me-down from my dad, while the Asus monitor was one I bought in college for my Xbox. The Das Keyboard is a great choice for a mechanical keyboard if you don't want a whole bunch of LEDs and don't want/need gaming centric design choices/features. As for the mouse, I wanted something simple and understated that didn't have a million buttons or cost a million bucks. SteelSeries delivered on both accounts.
Once I put my system through some gaming benchmarks I'll update the post with some FPS numbers, as well as when I start overclocking.