I was reaching a point with my previous 9 year old system where it was laboring to perform tasks and renders in increasingly demanding software environments. After a particularly point-heavy album cover bogged down my Adobe Illustrator to the point of nearly not being able to complete the final saves I realized it was time to upgrade.
My primary usage is graphic design and layout for both print and web with some video design and editing thrown in the mix. My usual tools span most of the Adobe master collection, from Illustrator to Photoshop to InDesign to Acrobat to Premiere to Dreamweaver. Also, I have a decent music collection but a massive stash of music videos, video projects and movies. I decided to give myself a good bit of drive space headroom. These factors influenced my decisions in relation to what and how to build. I do have a couple of games as well, I would never call myself a gamer. I'm not that hardcore and I'm infrequent to casual at best, so that had very little influence in my component choices. Lastly, I won't say money was no object (because it did matter), but I was going to get what I felt I needed without going crazy.
- Win7. The fact that I prefer Windows to Mac notwithstanding, I needed a stable, productive OS with no ridiculous quirks or limits that was usable "out of the box" and that would also offer flexibility as I have a propensity to "fiddle under the hood". I started with Home Premium, but will upgrade to Pro once I feel the 16GB RAM max is limiting my productivity.
- Asus P8Z77-V-LK. This board offered front and rear USB 3.0, enough SATA II and SATA III headers, all the PCI headers I could ever need, and even onboard TOSLINK. I didn't need anything extreme, so it's great for me.
- Corsair TX650. The capability of this PSU seemed right for what I was doing and the Corsair had good enough reputation that it was right up my alley.
- Intel Core i7 3770k. The 3770k is a beefy, fast processor that utterly dwarfs the capabilities of the previous system. I overclocked it a bit, mostly just because i could. Why not?
- Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO. Knowing that I'd probably tool with overclocking I knew I needed a decent cooler. The 212 had a nice look with performance good enough to make it a no brainer. The install was nerve racking (big hands/ fingers) but it does a great job with these components. Also the fan's height is adjustable so it can easily clear low profile RAM sticks.
- Corsair Vengeance LP 2 x 8GB. I knew that the tower configuration of the cooler could potentially cause issues with tall RAM sticks, so I went with low pro sticks from a trusted name, using just 2 slots so I could add 2 more of the same when the time came. 16GB gives me a ton of headroom, though.
GPU <<UPDATED 12/27/13>>
- Well, upgrade insanity kicked in and Robot Santa got me an EVGA GTX 780 SC ACX for Christmas. Didn't really need it, but but I'm a big believer in having headroom. My PCU can handle it so far with no problems, so I'm happy. Plus, I used the little badge on the front of my case, cuz it looks cool. Anyway, I'll have to figure out what to do with the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 660. I may use it for another more lightweight build, but we'll see. Twas a good card, so I'm gonna keep it.
- Crucial M4 128GB. My OS and application drive is a decently sized SSD with great speed and life expectancy.
- Crucial M4 128GB. I wanted a separate and fast application cache and TEMP drive and another M4 was the perfect way to go.
- WD Black 1TB. This was my first HDD. My last system drive was miniscule by comparison. Having so much space in a good, fast drive is such a relief.
- WD Black 2TB. I realized that the amount of video content I had would eat up an uncomfortable amount of space on the 1GB drive, so I got the 2TB for extra headroom, dedicated solely to video storage.
- Cooler Master Storm Enforcer. I knew I needed a case with at least a few 5.25" bays, a few HDD bays, at least one SDD bay, good space for wire management, bottom mounting for the PSU and USB 3.0 up front and in the rear. A good aesthetic was important to me as well but function was primary. The Enforcer has a nice presence along with the loads or practicality in its design. I put the front fan on a motherboard header to slow it down as the thing is quite loud when spinning at full speed. It can move crazy air when I need it too, though. The case also features a nice sized window that shows off the internals and encourages a tidy build. The illumination is red out of the box, and though it's easy to customize, it works just fine for me.
- Cooler Master R4 LUS Megaflow. The front of the case features a high speed 200mm red LED fan that moves a ton of air. The case has top mounting option as well, so I went with another 200mm red LED fan in exhaust configuration. It gives me continuity in appearance while keeping the internals nice and chill with no crazy noise generation.
- NZXT CB-LED20-RD (Red 2m braided LED strip). The lighting of my case's included front fan was red. I liked the look and continued it with the aforementioned red led fan up top. The case's window showcased an obvious dark zone in the bottom rear. The NZXT led strip is long enough to be run along the perimeter of the case giving an even bit of glow to the internals. Granted, cathodes may have more true glow, but this LED kit is well built with great mounting hardware and brightness options without the worry of heat generation, breakage or pinkish light. The PCI control module looks right at home mounted in the "extra" PCI bay on the case.
- My newly acquired GTX780 came with a cool little badge, so I replaced the Cooler Master logo with it. I basically just scratched off the CM graphic. It's looks rough up close and I may treat the scratchiness later on, but it looks cool, so I'm happy. You can see the roughness of the scratch in the photos above.
- Lite-On DVD/CD Writer. Nothing much to say about this one. I needed an good optical drive because I receive as well save a lot a content on discs. I have the space, so it's better to have than to have not. I "modded" the front of the drive using mesh from a bay cover for a nice cohesive front to the case.
- NZXT Aperture M. Call me compulsive, but I needed as card reader, and really felt that a mesh front would be awesome. It was impossible to find anything else, and NZXT has enough of a reputation to make this a no regrets purchase. I should mention that it comes with 2 USB 3.0 ports, but I capped mine since I prefer using the 3.0 ports at the top of the case.
- I love the size and comfort of the MS Ergo 4000. I've had it for at least a couple of years now. I have huge hands and the spacing combined with the padded wrist wrests are just great for me.
- The NAOS 8200 replaced an old Logitech "something or other" mouse. My buddy got that insane RAT9 mouse and I realized they do make bigger, better mice. I didn't need a "mouse of the future" but I did want something large, with high DPI, at least a few configurable buttons and changeable lighting if possible. I can't remember what I paid for it, but the NAOS wasn't expensive. That combined with its braided cord, excellent button customization, great weight and solid grip surface make it a great mouse in my book.
- I got the AOC e2450SWDs from Staples during a great sale. I can remember exactly when it was, but they are great for me. They "only" run in 1080, but that's perfectly fine for what I used them for and are very adjustable on the software side of things. The stands are generic though and I have them on the monitor stand to raise them up a little and give my better placement options.
- The Planar Dual monitor stand is great. The base is very heavy which is good, but it's a bit thick so it does eat up some real estate. This is infinitely better than the bases of 2 monitors sitting there, so it's fine. It's sturdy, adjustable, allows for easy on-the-fly turning/ twisting and features a handy cable management clip. I actually bought one for my Acers at the office because I liked it so much.
All in all, I'm extremely happy with this build. It is fast, powerful, quiet and a bit intimidating. I won't call it future proof, but the components allow me enough headroom and space to expand or upgrade as I might need to for what I hope will be at least a couple of years.
Also, I did the 3DMark 11 thing just because a couple of friends said I should. I guess I picked the wrong version at first, but now I think I'm in the right ballpark shrugs. Thanks, everyone!
I received advice and feedback from an awesome buddy at my 9-5 as well as invaluable information from forums and articles from sites like PCPartpicker, NCIX, Tom's Hardware, Overclock and Youtube. Thanks!