I had been messing around with computer spec sheets for a while. Built a small HTPC machine for myself last year ($275 budget). This year I had contemplated building myself a serious gaming machine and escaping the pitfalls of laptop gaming (though my laptop is stilldecent). However, I also had my fourth child in September which put a slight ding in my "disposable income" category.
Enter my brother. We had been talking computers for some time and originally proposed about an $800 budget. However, during our contemplations his laptop which had been crapping out on him for some time finally met its maker. He decided to bump it up to $1200. He only intends to use it for moderate gaming. Though we got Farcry 4 with the videocard and it works like a charm--smooth as butter.
I am happy to say we came well under that mark on hardware. A couple of software necessities put us over (Windows 7 and BluRay player).
Notes on the build. You will notice in the pictures I do not have the water cooler installed. The instructions were a bit more complex than I was aware (first time user of water cooling) so I decided to hold off for a day or two and simply do a test boot with the stock cooler after the completed assembly since it was close to midnight. I had done a test boot on just the cpu/motherboard/ram/power supply, but there is something satisfying about seeing it on a computer monitor.
It was a fun project and should last my brother a good long while. Took about two and a half hours to do the initial build, probably an hour wiring and adding the watercooler.
Everything worked like a charm. Humorous points to add:
- Don't forget the power supply has an on/off switch. About 45 seconds of unnecessary panic as nothing happened.
- This case is excellent. Tons of space, classy wiring solutions. Though I did notice if the wiring on the back side wasn't tight putting the side back on could pop the tool-less removable hard drive cage out. Also one of the front fans was hit or miss on working probably just a loose wire (nothing to write home about).
- Power supply is excellent, wires are beautiful and tough.
- RAM cycled up at 1333 and not 1600 as it claims to be. Probably something I need to alter in the bios, haven't looked into it.
- OMFG I can't believe the impact the water cooler had on CPU temps. It is crazy. The ambient temperature in the room I was working was about 25 degrees Celsius. At idle with the stock cooler we were sitting in mid 50s. Underload it bumped up to about 77 degrees which seemed really hot for an intel processor. With the water cooler at idle it was in mid to high 30s and under load in the mid 50s. Excellent choice and worth every penny.
- This videocard is the best dollar for dollar on the market on the high end. It will devour your soul, uses much less power, and is cool.
- I had a spare 3TB drive which I added. Caused a bit of heart burn getting it recognized but that is my fault. Don't forget to format the damn thing after installing the 3TB unlocker. Simple google search fixed that.
- DVD/BluRay drive worked great.
- Motherboard came with a few nice accessories and built in bonuses. Wouldn't mind working with it again. This was not the originally planned motherboard, but the bundle from Microcenter was sold out DOH! It worked out in the end.
Side notes. While totally within this machines capability we did not try any overclocking on the CPU or the videocard. However, with the integrated software it is really point and click which is excellent. If it had been my machine I would have messed with it for maximum performance, but my brother wanted something energy efficient, cool, quiet, and reliable. Massive performance is an option but second fiddle to the other requirements.
Please let me know your comments to the build. I don't think it could have been a more efficient budget wise and as powerful.
My brother lives about ten hours away from me so I have not seen his set up, but he bought a 50 inch HD tv to use as the computer monitor. He tells me it looks bad ***.
If I had the money I would build something identical or very close to this for myself. I would probably drop the BluRay player, use a bundled motherboard, and downgrade slightly on the computer case.