Back in August I set out to build a decent PC gaming rig without breaking the bank. I wanted to show how much money can be saved when purchasing all the parts separately and assembling it yourself. For the price comparison I chose Alienware as they are pretty well-known for making high-end gaming PCs and Notebooks but with a hefty price-tag.
Since the PC is now built, I figured I’d follow the last post up with some performance benchmarks and updates on the changes made (notably the price). It has pretty much remained the same apart from the graphics card and a few minor changes. But the few minor changes have saved even more money. All the parts arrived about 2 weeks ago and I have found the time to put it together and run some benchmarks. So if you’re interested in building your own rig, read on if you want to see the kind of performance that can be attained on this budget.
The previous build came to a total of 1,534.79 Pounds Sterling, with Alienware costing almost double for practically identical specs. My slight hardware revision shaves even more off that price and weighs in at a more pocket-friendly 1,251 Pounds Sterling. That equates to $1,970.67 USD, but these parts are much cheaper in the U.S. as opposed to here in Europe so it would be even less expensive than that for my Yankee comrades.
Processor: Intel i7 950 Quad Core
This is a great Quad-core processor with Hyper-threading. All cores run at 3.06GHz but individual cores can be bumped up in speed when applications don’t make use of all the cores. It has come down in price literally by 50% in the past few months, so as I was going i7 anyway, this was a no-brainer for me. Plus if you’re into overclocking the CPU, I’ve seen people reach 4GHz with ease (with a decent air/water-cooler).
Graphics card: MSI Cyclone GTX 460 1GB
I can’t begin to praise this card enough. It cost me under 200 Euro; it runs silent, even while in game and has more than enough beef to handle any game I’ve thrown at it so far. The desktop temps are in the mid 20s and when I get out of a long stint of gaming, the card never gets hotter than 44 degrees. Plus this little mid-ranger is a Herculean overclocker, but more on that later.
The original build included an ATI 5970 but for one 22″ monitor that was a little overkill in retrospect.
Motherboard: Asus P6X58D-E
This board is basically the same as the Premium variant but with a few minor features missing. It’s the perfect budget-board for anyone interested in building an X58 system. It supports 3-way SLI and Quad-CrossfireX and has support for USB 3.0 and SATA 6GB/s, with all the usual ASUS features you would expect. Obviously it can house any Intel i7 processor, including the 6-core Gulftown.
System RAM: Corsair Dominator 3 x 2GB
This RAM performs very well. Although I had to adjust the frequency in the BIOS settings in order for the Corsair Dominator to run at its native speed of 1,600MHz. But that was painless and literally took seconds.
Power supply: Cooler Master Silent Pro M850
I went with the Cooler Master Silent Pro because it has an 80 Plus Bronze rating and got rave reviews pretty much across the board. It is extremely quiet (as the name
would imply), comes with a 5 year warranty and has ample power to feed my rig, even when I add another graphics card sometime down the line.
Modular PSU ftw!
PC case: Cooler Master HAF 932
The Cooler Master HAF 932 is one of the main stars of this build, and is a shining beacon of engineering prowess. I cannot heap enough praise and when you look at the Amazon page, you’ll see others sharing in my enthusiasm. The case’s aesthetics are first and foremost what drew me in. It looks like something you’d find in Darth Vader’s chamber in The Empire Strikes Back. It’s black all around with some red LED lights on the front intake fan.
The case sports 3 x 230mm case fans; one that blows from the side door right over the graphics card and processor, the other sucking air from the front and one more venting heat out the roof of the case. There is also a smaller fan at the rear, sucking hot air out the back. I could literally cool beers inside this case, it’s pretty amazing. If you’re looking for something that will give you ample room to
work in, have plenty of cable management holes, great air flow and killer looks, than I highly recommend the HAF 932 full-tower case from Cooler Master.
Hard drive: 640 GB Western Digital Caviar Black 6GB/s
I know a lot of you recommended an SSD, some were horrified that I would dare put a mechanical hard drive into a new gaming rig. But unfortunately price-per-gigabyte, I cannot justify spending money on these things just yet. I’m happy to see that the prices are coming down all the time, and I will add one in at a later stage, probably around the same time I pick up another GTX 460. For now though, the Caviar Black is a decent hard drive, very cheap and serves its purpose well. It’s limited to 7,200 RPM but I can live with that until SSDs come down a title more.
Mouse: Sidewinder X3
I really like this mouse. I’ve always said that Microsoft make great mice, that last. This mouse feels like it was custom-made for my own hand. I can game for yours with no cramp or wrist pain to speak of. The only thing I would complain about is the buttons on the side are a little far to the front of the mouse. But other than it’s a cool little mouse and pretty darn cheap.
Keyboard: Sidewinder x4
I’ve been using laptop keyboards for damn near 8 years now so it was a little bit of a transition to get back into PC keyboards again, but once I got past that hurdle, this is one comfortable keyboard with a wrist-rest at the base. It has all the usual features from a gaming keyboard; like the ability to assign macros to certain keys, and the likes of volume control, play, stop, etc. Very good price. Plus the keys light up in red, which matches the LEDs at the front of the case..’nuff said!
Monitor: 22″ LG E2240T LED
This is one sweet little monitor, with a crisp clear image. Compared to the laptop I have been using for the past few years, this monitor is like sweeping the cobwebs from my eyes and getting a cornea upgrade. For the price, wow.