Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Build your own Custom PC: HD and beyond gaming for $1200

Building Your Own Gaming Computer for $1200

Last week we built a PC that was targeted at providing a very good HD gaming experience for $850. Today, I am going to build a gaming computer that will provide a great gaming experience for less than $1200. This computer is overkill when using a single HD monitor, you should have no problems with games running with the settings to maximum. It will also game very well with multi monitor setup, say 3 HD monitors in surround. Or a high resolution 27" monitor. Not only that but this computer will give you a very powerful computer for just about any task like video and high resolution graphics editing. It would also make a good development machine as well.

Full HD and Beyond Gaming Computer for less than $1200

Price: $1200 (Price does not include mouse, keyboard, speakers or monitor.  It does take into account shipping and all available rebates.  It also include the cost of the Windows operating system) and can change at anytime.

Recommended Case

I am sticking with The Silverstone SST-RL01B-USB 3.0  that I used last week. You get dust filters for the fans, a CPU cutout on the mother board tray, and space to route your cables behind the motherboard. You will also get two USB 3.0 ports on the front of the case. It is a very good case for the money and works well for this kind of system.

Pros: Price, USB 3.0 front ports, room for large video cards, large CPU coolers, CPU cutout on the motherboard tray, bottom mounted power supply. dust filters and room for cable routing.
Cons: None at this price point.
Comments: Silverstone is known for making some of the best cases in the industry. This case offers most of the features you would expect from Silverstone but at a very low price point.

Recommended CPU

We are going to stick with the Haswell line of processors but we are going to step up to the i5 family.  Not just any i5, but the unlocked, over-clocking friendly i5-4670k.

Pros: Haswell True quad core. Runs cool. LGA 1150 compatible. unlocked and ready to overclock.  
Cons: This CPU lacks the hypertheading of the i7. 
Comments: The i5-4670k is $100 more than the i3-4130 used in the last build but offers 4 full cores and is fully overclockable. 

Recommended CPU Cooler

Your CPU may or may not come with a heat sink and fan.  If it comes with it, the one thing you can be sure of is that it will not be great.  The Hyper 212 Evo offers great performance for a low price. There is no real need to change get a different cooler.

Pros: Probably the best cooler for the price.
Cons: Too large for some cases.
Comments:  We are using a larger cooler with a CPU that puts out less heat. This will keep the noise level down. 

Recommended Motherboard

The i5 CPU used in this build is over-clocking friendly, so you can take full advantage of the Z87 chipset and over clock the CPU. A motherboard using an H87 or B87 chipset would have worked just fine and saved a little money but would have limited what you could do with over-clocking the CPU. If you need even more power for video editing you could install an i7 cpu and up to 32 gigabytes of RAM.  For an extra $20 or so you can get the ASRockZ87 Pro4 which supports Crossfire and SLI, if you want that option in the future.


Motherboard: ASRock Z87 PRO3 ($94.95 @ Newegg) 
Pros: LGA 1150, lots of SATA ports, four ram slots, 7.1 audio, and Z87 overlocking friendly chipset.
Cons: Does not support Crossfire or SLI so limited to a single graphics card.
Comment: A good over-clock friendly LGA 1150 motherboard. 

Recommended Memory

The extra budget for this computer means that we can boost up the memory to 16GB of ram. We now have more than enough memory for gaming and just about any other task that you may want to do with computer.

Memory: PNY XLR8 8GB DDR3 1600 ($145 @ Amazon)
Pros: Fast ram for the money.
Cons: None.
Comments: Good fast memory for the money.

Recommended Mass Storage

With our much larger budget we are going to step up to a 120GB SSD from Samsung. 

Solid state drive: Samsung Electronics 840 EVO-Series 120GB 
Pros: It is one of the most highly rated SSDs now on the market.
Cons: It is only 120GB. 
Comments:  Adding an SSD is one the best bang for the buck improvements you can do for you PC. 

Pros: The Caviar Green line offers a low power hard drive for a good price.
Cons: Not much is wrong with this drive. 
Comments: Probably one of the most popular drives on the market.

Recommended Graphics Card

With a larger budget we can look past using just one HD monitor. nVidia and AMD both offer technologies where you can use multiple monitors while gaming. Three 1080p monitors are the most common configuration. Large high resolution monitors are also becoming popular with very high resolution 27 monitors starting to come down in price to around $500. To drive those types of displays at high quailty settings you are going to want a more powerful graphics card. If you are going to use a single HD display this graphics card should allow you to turn your settings to max on most games with no problem.

Video Card: ASUS GTX760-DC2OC-2GD5 NVIDIA GTX 760 DirectCU II ($239.99@MicroCenter) 
Pros: Great performance at 1080p and above, good support for Linux, proably the best bang for your buck video card on the market
Cons:  Not any really..
Comments: Graphics cards tend to fall into two broad categories, reference designs and custom designs. This ia a custom designed card that comes with ASUS's Direct CU II cooler. This card will run cooler and quieter than a reference design GTX 760.

Recommended Power Supply

The same advice applies to this computer as every other build I have posted. Do not cheap out on your power supply. A bad power supply can destroy other parts of your computer.  The keys to choosing a good power supply are will it supply enough power and is it from a good company. The 80 plus bronze efficiency means that this power supply has been tested and does not waste power. We are going to take a big leap in power and cost for this computer and jump up to a 750Watt power supply. 

Pros: Good price, Bronze 80+ efficient,  and modular.
Cons: None really.
Comments: The extra power that this power supply gives you a bigger margin and the modular cables will help you keep your PC tidy.

Recommended Optical Drive

A lot of people do not use optical drives in their systems.  The problem is that unless you have some way to make a USB Windows install disk and/or you like to buy games on DVD instead of downloading them from Steam, having a DVD drive makes your life easier.  If you have an old optical drive from an older system you can put it in and save a few bucks.  Or you could buy a Blu-ray drive and have the option to watch your Blu-rays.

Recommended Operating System

I am not a fan of Windows 8, but Windows 8.1 is a big improvement over Windows 8 and if you want to be able to play the widest variety of games, you will need to use Windows.  The only bad thing is the cost.  Windows is now more expensive than the motherboard.  Ubuntu, and LinuxMint are options for those that are brave. Your selection of games will also be much smaller but the price is free. 


This computer will do just about any task you could imagine. It is compete overkill if you are only going to use a single HD monitor. You may want to add a BluRay drive, so you can rip your BluRays or even create your own BluRays.

Some sites that can help you pick the right parts for your own custom PC are 
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