A Guide To Building A High End Gaming PC
Now that E3 and Computex 2013 are finally relegated to the annals of history, and with the recent release of new Intel CPUs and Nvidia’s new 7 series GPUs, I can deliver to you some buying advice for high end PCs. Instead of reinvesting money into South Africa’s burgeoning mining industry, you should invest it elsewhere–into the hardware that gets you that awesome gaming experience.
Not to put a dampener on my advice giving talent, but if you are willing to spend mad amounts on a gaming machine, I’m willing to bet my recently homemade biltong stash that you know a little something about current generation hardware. Regardless, the build guide found in this article might merely serve as positive affirmations of your knowledge, amounting to self “pats-on-the-back” for your similar wise choice of hardware. Privetstviya Comrade. We have to set up a budget that will sufficiently express our madness and dedication to the extreme gaming fidelity. The mid-range build I did many moons ago was pegged at around R12 000, so I was thinking a nice R20 000 budget should be more than enough to realise our gaming goals.
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At the moment South Africa is struggling against a massive increase in the price of new imported hardware due to exchange rate issues. The result of this is that I’m forced to forgo choosing the extreme higher end parts like the new i7 4770k and GTX 780. Both of these cards are relatively unchallenged performance wise, meaning Intel and Nvidia can dictate their high launch prices. I realise I could increase the budget to accommodate the increase in prices and get better hardware, but then I’d have to increase the budget into silly territory, at least higher than R25 000. Remember we are building a high end and slightly mad gaming PC, not a stupidly outrageous one. Therefore, because of this, I’m going to let the build slot in at a cool +-R20 000.
- CPU: Core i7 “Haswell” 4670k @ R 2773
- Motherboard: ASrock Z87 Extreme4 @R2608
- GPU: 1X Gigabyte GTX 770 OC – R5316
- RAM: Corsair Vengeance Pro DDR3 2133 8GB @ R1328
- SSD: OCZ Vertex 450 @ R1686
- HDD: 2TB Seagate Barracuda @ R1587
- Chassis: Corsair Graphite T @ R1491 /OR/ Cooler Master HAF XM @ R1587 / NZXT Phantom @ R 1449
- PSU: Corsair HX 650W @ R1345
- Cooling: Corsair H80i @ R1113
- Total: +- R 19 247
The CPU and Motherboard
Fourth generation Intel i7 chips are the new kids on the silicon block, based on Intel’s 22nm Haswell architecture. The new chips, unlike the cross compatibility between Ivy and Sandy-Bridge, requires a new motherboard socket type (1150 motherboard). Intel has designed this generation’s architecture for the mobile space, in lieu of the market’s turn towards increased mobile computing. Intel has incorporated this trend into its new architecture by making these chips “powerfully” power efficient, and are preparing for them to picked up and used in more mobile form factors–like ultrabooks and “gaming” tablets similar to the Razer Edge. Its focus on being a mobile solution does not detract from its prowess as a gaming grade desktop part, coming in at around 5-12% faster than the outgoing Ivy Bridge, and using less electron juice in the process. This second-in-command chip I’ve chosen is no slouch and needs less power to boot. It does not have hyperthreading like the 4770k, but for gaming it will provide more than enough grunt. And bless it, because this chip can still be overclocked due to the unlocked multiplier.
The motherboard chosen is based on the new socket 1150, as it can house the Haswell processor. The ASrock board I’ve chosen will more than suit the task at hand, and is a great looking component with decent features. ASrock have a proven hand at making affordable and feature rich boards for gamers and overclockers. Although it is early days for the chipset, we are yet to see a wide variety of boards on offer.
The choice of graphics card for this build seriously kept me up at night. It was down to the AMD 7970 OC–for about R4500–or the new GTX 770 OC. In the end though I decided on the Gigabyte Windforce 2GB GTX 770 OC. The GTX 770 is basically the same chip found at the heart of the GTX 680. The GTX 770 comes out the box with more core clock speed and a much higher RAM clock, courtesy of new GDDR5 7010MHZ modules from Hynix and Samsung. All of this has led to an increase in memory bandwidth from 192GB/s, found in the standard GTX 680, to a more commanding 224.3 GB/s. Other than that, the amazing Windforce cooled factory overclocked card from Gigabyte is picking up sticks and stones with the Powercolour AMD 7970 OC edition, and it will definitely perform better at delivering full 1080p HD gaming–with generous amounts of Anti-Aliasing at Ultra details. I have previously argued that the Powercolour AMD 7970 and other AMD 7 series cards offer great value with a mountain of extra games on offer. However, those games are no longer a major selling point. All in all, the GTX770 OC will be decidedly faster, and because this build is looking for the highest performance one can get within the budget, the GTX 770 OC wins out here.
RAM, SSD and HDD
The RAM and the SSD are a sore point in this build. A few months ago you were able to buy 16GB DDR1600 kits for a little more than the price of the 8 GB Corsair kits listed here. There are a few market forces at play that resulted in higher prices for both the RAM modules and SSDs. Essentially, the market became saturated with cheap modules and manufacturers started cutting back production, thus limiting supply to increase demand. I did want 16GB of RAM for this build, but the cost was just a little too high to warrant the extra RAM-dependent performance on gaming. Therefore, 8GB will suffice. The OCZ Vertex 450 128GB is the new SSD developed totally in-house by OCZ, and the reviews for this SSD seem quite promising. Although previous pricing on the outgoing OCZ 128GB Vertex 4, at its lowest, was around R1100 last year October. It just shows how affordable top-tier SSD offerings used to sell for, before the price increases started. The 2TB Seagate Barracuda will serve as an adequate storage device to house all your gaming media, while your SSD takes care of Windows and a few games.
I’ve gone a bit old school for the choice of case I’ll admit; it’s no spring chicken in terms of age, as it originally released back in 2010. Even though I’ve never owned this case, or had the pleasure of even seeing one in real life, it has been a dream case of mine for as long as it has been around. The fact of the matter is that computer cases are extremely varied in terms of design, aesthetics and build quality, so choosing one to play house with is an extremely subjective choice. Personally, though, a high end build screams for a high quality case to make it feel like a high end gaming PC. To me, nothing screams quality like the Corsair 600T. There is no point buying all these high end parts and placing them into a R400 cramped steel box with minimal airflow options, dust filters, cable management options and toolless hard drive mounts. There are definitely other case contenders I would heartily recommend, if you find the 600T to be a tad bland or missing some key feature you would like. Alternative cases I’d suggest would be the Cooler Master HAF XM or NZXT Phantom, both of which are extremely capable units. These three cases definitely embody different design and aesthetic appeal, so once again the choice is yours.
PSU and Cooling
I am a junkie for good quality PSUs, and I would never skimp out on paying high prices for peace of mind that my PSU won’t one day commit suicide–taking my expensive components with it. The Corsair HX 650W unit is a tried and tested unit, a few years old, but still extremely popular and powerful enough for the PC we are building. Moving to the cooler, some of you might forgo this particular item and opt for the stock cooler, but for those of you who want to push that Haswell chip to 4.5Ghz, you need some sort of aftermarket cooling to assist in that endeavour. I know some may not want to overclock, but if you are spending R20 000 on a gaming PC, you should overclock your CPU. Think of it as paying homage towards the Silicon gods; you just have to. But, if you still want to avoid your rite of passage, skip the Corsair H80i and put the cash towards a faster, hyperthreaded multiplier locked CPU like the 4770.
The total cost for the above build comes in at a little over R19 200, leaving one with some wiggle room between the price and R20 000 threshold. As it stands, this rig is capable of maximum quality gaming across any recent, and undoubtedly, future titles running at a 1080p resolution.
I want to be honest with you guys, I so badly wanted to do a dual card setup for this build, but even R20 000 is too little for that feature, without making the computer extremely unbalanced. That, coupled with the bloated South African pricing, makes that dream further out of reach. However I have some further advice that you may or may not take: if you want some GTX 770 dual card upgradeability for your future self, I would suggest you invest that money towards getting the Corsair HX 850W at R1925.
Once you have done that, bide your time and nurse your severed wallet until you can pick up another GTX 770 later in the year. If dual cards are not your idea of gaming greatness, then possibly spend the remaining difference on securing the 4770k, upgrading the HDD to 3 TB, or even upgrading the SSD to a 240GB OCZ 3.20 model.