I really wanted a high performance gaming computer to run flight simulator programs. I didn't want to completely demolish the bank, but I knew the price would be generally high. My budget for the system was about $2,000.
After doing extensive research with the program I'm wanting to play (DCS modules), the game runs better with one super powered GPU as opposed to two operating crossfire/sli.
I started out selecting a CPU. As many cores as I could get, and Intel for higher performance. Originally I selected a Sandy Bridge because most of the computing would be on the GPU, but the motherboard I was looking at would not allow 3.0 x16 with SB technology, only 2.0x16.
I selected the mobo based on inexpensiveness, socket size, and a well known company. Looking back, I might have done a bit more research and selected a different model, but I'm overall happy with the ASRock. I put it on my Amazon wish list, and it was given to me as a gift during Christmas, explaining why I set the price for my build at zero. I also received the hard drive and optical drive as gifts, helping reduce the cost slightly.
I chose the H60 water cooler for a couple of reasons. First, I'm a noob at this building stuff and I didn't actually know that when you buy the CPU is comes with a heat sink already. So my thinking was that if I have to buy a heat sink for 30 bucks, why not buy a better one for 20 bucks more? I realized my error when the CPU arrived, but I was still happy with my decision. The original CPU fan was about a 60mm (just guessing) fan and would have likely produced a much louder noise than the 120mm that comes with the H60. The instructions say that Corsair recommends you install the fan to draw in external air, and blow it across the radiator, into the case.
I decided that this would likely case some airflow issues, and chose to have the fan push air out of the case. My NZXT case came with 2 120mm fans pre installed. 1 fan was mounted in the front at the bottom that draws external air in, and the other was mounted at the top rear, that pushes air out.
Since I was mounting the H60 at the top rear, I moved the top rear NZXT fan to the front, so that I would have 2 fans drawing external air at the front of the case. There was an issue mounting it at the front because it required different screws that did not come with the NZXT case. I called around my local computer stores to no avail. I checked online and found a package of 4 screws for $2 but shipping and handling was $10. I discovered that the screws need to be 6-32 x 28mm (which is a little over an inch long) I checked my local hardware store for these, and they had them for .11$ each although they were silver and not black. They worked perfectly though.
One thing to note about the H60 is that the radiator has the female threads for the screws, so the mount directly to the radiator. So adding another fan on the inside of the case that pushed air out over the radiator would be a simple addition. Under idle conditions, the CPU temp doesn't get over 36C but the H60 fan is also noticeably louder than the 2 that came with the NZXT case.
This case was actually my second choice. I was really wanting to get the Fractal Design R4, but it was too large to fit into my computer cabinet. My wife really wanted the tower to be inside the cabinet for cosmetic reasons. It took a lot of looking but I was able to find the NZXT case. It's dimensions were small enough to fit and sound dampening foam and preinstalled fans really sold me. Additionally the middle hard drive rack can be removed to improve airflow (which I did). The side cutout for mobo cooling system wasn't as big as I needed, but I was able to attach the rear mounts after I loosened the motherboard screws, and place the cooling backplate between the aluminum and the mobo.
My graphics card was also my second choice. Originally, I had selected a Radeon 7970 that Asus had OC'd to 1GHz and added 6 display ports. Unfortunately, they sold out, and the entire supply of 7970's followed suit. It was virtually impossible to find them, and when I did the price had been marked up at least another 200$.
I started looking at other GPUs and decided to go with the Gigabyte GTX 780 because it was clocked over 1GHz, and had 3GB of memory, similar to my previous choice, which was based on tried and tested examples from the Eagle Dynamics forum for DCS. Also the driver support was much better, the card specs out slightly higher than the 7970 and (because of the recent mark up) was actually the same price as the 7970.
The card is powered nicely from the Corsair 750W PSU . it's semi modular design had enough cables to connect anything with anything. I went with an over sized PSU for system longevity. The packaging on this was simply amazing, felt covered bags, velcro containers top quality stuff.
Let's see, what else can I tell you, I went with the 16GB of RAM because flight sim graphics can really benefit from the increase. This also caused me to with Windows 7 Premium 64bit to take advantage of it while not gaming.
I also chose an old fashioned hard drive simply because of cost. Going with an SSD would increase the overall build cost, and not add a lot of performance while in the game.
Overall, I'm very satisfied in my build. This being the first PC I've ever built, it was the product of months of research, thousands of webpages and hundreds of reviews. At times is was stressful, nerve wracking and terrifying, but I'm so very glad I did it. The confidence that comes from building your own machine is huge, and all the information I learned along the way was well worth. Now I kinda want to build another one, but this time with somebody else's money.
I welcome friendly comments and suggestions below, thanks for reading. -Kirk