Because it was about damn time
Computer hardware is a "special" interest of mine. Ever since joining the Escapist, I've been running up and down the Advice board, searching out the latest thread posted by somebody doing a build, having computer trouble, or asking for hardware advice. I've always been there (or at least tried), doing my best for my fellow Escapists.
However, my life has been a lie.
You see, for the longest time I've been using an older machine, one built for a person on a budget circa 2002. 2.4 Ghz Pentium 4, 1.5 Gb SDRAM, ATI Radeon 9800 AGP, you get the idea (I hope).
After being able to just barely squeeze out a session of Half-Life 2 and fighting through 9 Frames per second on Killing Floor for 5 years, it was high time to upgrade.
The main idea behind this build was to focus on building the core of the system, while using basic components everywhere else. While the Mainboard, Processor, RAM, Power Supply, and Video card are in the higher ranks; this computer is air-cooled, with only a CD/DVD burner and a 1 Tb Hard-drive that were bought on a special package deal with the system core. The case I used was already the case from my existing system, without any case mods added during the build.
Besides that, I needed the system to be stable and solid right out of the box, which meant that overclocking and other bits of tweaky hardware were out.
This is Gigabytes absolute latest offering in the Intel LGA-1155 socket line-up. Even before you get a chance to crack the box open, you get a very good idea of what you're getting: 10 USB connectors, 1 gigabit Ethernet adapter, Dolby Home Theater HD 7.1 channel audio, built in support for Fire-wire and HDMI audio/video, 2 PCIx slots compatible with Nvidia SLI and ATI CrossFireX, support for up to 32 Gb of on-board DDR3 RAM, 8 SATA connectors, and the list just goes on.
As far as features go, this one has built-in bells and whistles in spades. On top of all of these, the BIOS is also very flexible, even allowing the user to take advantage of processors with unlocked multipliers for overclocking.
At around $120.00 U.S., this one was a steal and a half.
Intel Core i7-2600
Intel's latest quad-core i7 processor, running at 3.4 Ghz.
Built to be used in main-boards supporting LGA-1155 socket-type processors, this is the first choice most people look to when they're looking to build a top-flight computer.
Between its specialized support for graphics-intensive applications, enormous on-die RAM cache's, and its incredible use of available Hyper-threading technology, this processor is more than capable of handling any given task. In the past, AMD has been the common choice when going for a game-centric machine, but Intel's current offerings, particularly this one, beg to differ.
The only difference between the i7-2600 and the i7-2600K is an unlocked multiplier used for overclocking. With a price difference of nearly $100, I opted for the cheaper, fixed-multiplier processor. With OEM packaging, the price came down to approx. $180.00 U.S.
Corsair Vengeance DDR3 1600
When it comes down to the physical system RAM, nothing really matters beyond raw grunt and ability.
Corsair, one of the biggest names in RAM (and computer tech in general) have out-done themselves with this selection. Not only does it have the guts to handle anything, it is built with a mind toward overclocking, and features a very low power draw for RAM of this caliber.
Even though it's really not worth mentioning, it also looks really neat in the case.
2 pieces at 4 Gb. a piece came to a total of $80.00 U.S.
EVGA GTX 560 Ti Special Edition
When I went for my graphics hardware, the focus was to get the fastest possible non-SLI setup, which meant getting a card that was near the top of the line, without going absolutely nutty with the price point.
Currently, the Nvidia GTX 570 Fermi card is the absolute fastest you can purchase, and the going price of a single card is around $350.00 U.S.
One step below and $100.00 cheaper is the Nvidia GTX 560 Ti, which is only marginally slower than its big brother. While it is capable of being setup in SLI mode with a second equally-abled GTX 560 Ti, it's highly questionable what kind of results you'd actually notice with an additional card at the moment.
At the time of purchase, I managed to get a hold of the "Special Edition" of EVGA's version of the GTX 560 Ti, which featured a improved cooler design. Total cost came to $220.00 U.S.
Thermaltake TR2 RX 750w
With all of this hungry-hungry hardware itching for something to give it the juice, a much larger PSU was required, as my then-current 430w Antec wouldn't even begin to handle the processor and main-board, let alone the rest of the hardware.
Rough estimation figured that the average power consumption of everything would amount to around 500w peak. Even a highly rated 500w PSU wouldn't be able to put out that much, and adding a bit of breathing space for the peak power rating is ALWAYS advised, though going overboard on purchasing even higher-rated PSU's than necessary is just wasting money.
Beyond that, the cooling of the rig needed to be taken into much consideration, so a modular PSU (which allows the adding of only necessary cabling) was a must.
In the past, Thermaltake's PSU's were widely considered to be of poor quality, but their releases in recent years are far more stable and of much higher quality.
For $120.00 U.S., this 750w option with a large, quiet cooling/vent fan was more than perfect for this build.
Other Components, Building, and the Results
When it came down to other components that were required, the list was very short:
3 120mm cooling fans
1 Cooler Master 212 CPU cooler
1 Hitachi 1 Tb HDD
1 LG CD/DVD reader/burner (Non-Bluray compatible)
The total for all of this hardware came to around $150.00, and ended up being the last components necessary for a full computer. None of them really merit any special mention, thought the Cooler Master 212 is definitely one to read up on.
All of the components, even the CPU cooler, were all a snap to install. The mainboard featured highly detailed on-board silk-screen labeling, the fit and finish of every slot and clip was pristine, and everything came out solid and well placed.
As for results, there is no argument. I decided that the best way to stress-test a gaming rig would be to start up multiple games and see how they run.
FarCry 2, Mass Effect 2, Duke Nukem Forever, Killing Floor, NFS: Most Wanted, and Rainbow Six: Vegas were all played for at least an hour a piece. Each of them ran at a solid average of 58.6 Frames per second with every available option turned up as far as it would go.
The temperature of the CPU never went above 46 Celcius, measured with a thermal-probe built into the case's front panel display.
The only real issue was the Graphics cooler, which whined it's fans up to high speed whenever the on-screen scene started to heat up the cores, but the added cooling abilities provided me with a crash-free experience.
For around $1,200.00 U.S., I expected a top-flight performer that wouldn't give out under stress. I wasn't disappointed.
As of right now, this is some of the best tech available, and hardware isn't looking as though it will make another massive jump within the next few years. I'd say well worth it, considering the old machines specs.