This page is the component list for the gaming rig I'm using today. My build tends to be a case study of bang-for-the-buck components over time. I haven't done a full upgrade in quite a while; I tend to have more of a rolling, constant upgrade in the works. It's certainly not going to be the very hottest thing out there, but it's certainly not going to have cost me like the hottest thing out there either. I tend to try to stay between the mainstream and enthusiast rigs in cost, but much closer to the mainstream in terms of cost.
Yep. I'm getting carried away with the whole 'c' alliteration thing. Couldn't quite keep myself from completing it. (Sorry.) Since I tend to purchase partial upgrades over time, I'll put down the dates that I purchased each component as well as the price I paid at that time. As time goes on, those prices tend to drop, so you could probably pick up the exact rig I have beside me for less than what's listed below. That's just the way it is with computers.
CPU - If I was buying today, I'd get an Intel Core i7 930. At the time, however, I got an Intel Core 2 Duo E8500 from - where else? - Newegg.com. Interestingly, at the Intel® Core™ i7 and Core™i5 Launch webcast that Newegg and Intel hosted, I asked the following question, which the Intel folks answered: Are game developers starting to take advantage of the dual and quad core processors? (Older games were written to run in one tightly-controlled thread that took over the CPU.) One of the Intel people, a manager on the Intel extreme motherboard team said that she was a gamer, too, but she is not seeing the developers make use of the multiple cores/threads yet. It sounded like Intel is working with them to encourage it, so that will change sometime. Until then, faster clocked single and dual core processors may still have an advantage over quad core (and quad core/hyper-threaded) CPUs. I have my E8500 clocked at 3.8 GHz when I'm playing a game. (Actually, I used to set it back to the stock 3.16 GHz when I was not playing a game, but since I got the new cooler, I haven't bothered. See below.) I bought mine for $175 on a $10-off weekend deal with free shipping.
Motherboard - In the last year, I've really become a fan of the Gigabyte board's Ultra Durable line. I've had several now with both Intel Core 2 Duos and Quads. I've had good success with them all so far. My current board, the Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3R was the first of the bunch I bought. With 2oz of copper in the full-sized motherboard along with some hefty heatsinks, this is not a light board before the components are added. There are so many things I like about this board. The onboard LEDs to indicate the various power levels and settings in use are nice as are the eight SATA ports. Since I'm using RAID 0+1, four ports are in use by the drives alone. One of the two DVD/RW drives takes up another one. The rear-mounted ESATA pigtail adapter takes up two more (but those are technically open unless I have two external SATA drives in use). There are eight USB 2.0 ports on the back as well as headers for four more (2 pairs of 2) USB ports, which I have one of in use by the front panel of the case. This board is not an SLI board (The Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3P is.), but I've lately become disillusioned with SLI. By the time I get to the point where adding a second graphics card is useful, there's a better graphics card out that would be faster than the SLI setup that's not that much more expensive than just getting a second matching card.
Memory - Here, I've got 4GB of DDR2 1066. I don't recommend buying any system with less than 3 GB any more, and 4GB was a good price. Unlike most parts that go down in cost over time (or stay about the same price, but improve in performance), the price of memory has really gone up. I could sell the memory I have now for a nice profit. I really like the OCZ Reaper HPC 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500) kit. I like the look of the heat pipe heatsinks (The "HPC" in the name is "heat pipe conduit".), and they actually serve a function. This memory doesn't get all that warm, so I guess it's mission accomplished.
Graphics Card - I mentioned in the budget build section that my target price range for a graphics card is about 10-15% more than the CPU. For this rig, that would mean a graphics card in the $193-$201 range. I almost followed my own advice. The CPU was on a $10 sale when I got it. I bought an MSI N275GTX TwinFrozr OC GTX 275 for $219 with a $15 rebate. If I consider the CPU worth $185 rather than the sale price, the MSI card is right in the range if I complete the rebate (which I have). I feel vindicated. The MSI N275GTX comes with 896MB of 448-bit GDDR3 memory. What I really liked about this card other than the factory overclock is the cooling solution MSI used. It's a twin fan, multiple heat-pipe cooler. I don't see this card ever go higher than 62°C even after hours of game play. I've paid for aftermarket VGA coolers (in the $20-$40 range), so I consider this card worth at least $30 more than it price. This is the other component (see Memory above) that I happened to snag at a good time. This card would sell for over $300 today -- if you could find one. I run at 1920x1200 resolution with most games set at their max settings, and it's just beautiful.
Sound - For the last three builds, I've used the exact same sound card, the Creative SoundBlaster X-Fi Fatal1ty. This setup is expensive even for a higher end Creative sound card. It has the external break-out box with headphone and mic jacks (1/4" not 2.5mm) - both with volume controls, midi in, midi out, SPDIF (coax) in and out and RCA audio inputs. I bought it for the headphone and mic jacks because my previous case had no front panel I/O ports. It dawned on me afterward it would have been cheaper to buy another case with front panel I/O, but then I wouldn't have the Creative X-Fi sound goodness that I can hear (or have convinced myself that I can hear). Since it's on it's third build, I don't feel so bad about this splurge.
Case - My gaming machine right now is in an Antec Nine Hundred case. I love the case. The only thing I wish it had (now that I know how useful they are) is a top/front ESATA port. This case has lots of features that I like including:
This case and I are going to have several builds together. I just know it. I got lucky and picked this up on another of Newegg's weekend sales for $99 and $10 shipping. I've only seen that sale once since then. If I were buying a case today, the Antec Nine Hundred Two would likely be my choice.
Power Supply - The PSU I'm using for this system is the OCZ GameXStream OCZ700GXSSLI 700W SLI Certified CrossFire ready with active PFC. I'm only using it with a single card system, however. I been a fan of OCZ power supplies for a while, but ever since OCZ bought PC Power and Cooling - my favorite PSU manufacturer - I've felt a lot more comfortable with OCZ's line. It's quiet, works, has lots of fairly long power connectors, which are all sleeved. If it was modular, I might think it was a tad cooler, but I use almost every power line it has as it is, so modular wouldn't buy me much.
Hard Drive - This is my one sore spot with my current system. I'm using RAID 0+1 as supported by the motherboard. I'd wanted to go from RAID 0 to RAID 0+1 (or RAID 10) for a while to pick up the speed boost by having a set of mirrored, striped disks. (See the explanation of RAID 0+1 for details.) Due to various upgrade of other systems, I found myself with four (actually five) 250 GB Seagate drives. Four 250GB drives in a RAID 0+1 array yields a 500GB logical drive. That's plenty for what I do. My beef is that I'm on the eighth hard disk - four having failed and been replaced under warranty. I've purchased two extra over the time I've been using the Seagate 250GB drives, so I've got a myriad of model numbers at this point. They also cost me several different prices. The price below is the total what I think are the costs of the current four drives I have running. My advice: try Western Digital. I've been using them for new builds for about the last year and so far, so good. Of course, I used to use nothing but Seagates, so let's see how long this lasts. I don't trust any drive manufacturer at the moment; hence why I have RAID 0 or RAID 10 going in all systems I care about.
DVD-RW - I'm not quite sure how to cost this. Now, DVD/RW drives are commodity items. However, when I bought a Sony DVD RW DRU-710A back in 2005, it was well over $100. I can't find the receipt, but I'm thinking around $150. It's still running though, and it's still in my system. I now use it mostly as a "copy from" drive since I have a much faster LG GH22NS30 DVD burner. The latter cost me $24. I guess I'll just add the two together and take my lumps. You wouldn't pay that much today of course. Now, if we are talking a Blu-ray burner ... Hey! How about that. Blu-ray burners are about $180 for the cheapest one. The cost remains constant, but the capacity jumps dramatically. Come back in four years to get one for $24. Seriously.
Operating System - Another problem with pricing here. Since I have my own business that develops software on Windows systems, I belong to the Microsoft Action Pack Subscriber (MAPS) program. Because of this, I pay a yearly fee and get the rights to a copy of Windows 7 Ultimate (32 or 64-bit) and 10 copies of Windows 7 Professional (32 or 64-bit). MAPS program members got download access to the RTM copy of Windows 7 Ultimate and Professional on August 23, 2009. I installed Ultimate on this machine on the 25th. I had been running the release candidate under Sun's Virtual Box VM before that as a test. It's very similar to Vista Ultimate in terms of gaming performance. The new Windows 7 explorer is worth upgrading for though. I originally thought it was just sort of nice, but now I hate it when I have to use a system without it (i.e., any XP or Vista system). If I didn't belong to MAPS, I would just use an OEM version Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit. That appears that it's going to retail for $110-$120. I'm going to use $110 here.
Miscellaneous - SanDisk Cruzer Micro 4GB USB flash drive (for SpeedBoost). I upgraded to the 8GB model, so I stuck the old 4GB one on here so Windows 7 (and Vista) could use it for SpeedBoost. I paid $27 for it originally. Some other items I have that I haven't included in other builds, but could have. I won't include them in the cost below because such items aren't included on the other builds on this site, but I'll mention list them here for completeness.
|Component||Description (Purchase Date)||Cost|
|CPU||Intel Core 2 duo E8500 @ 3.8 GHz (12/01/2008)||$175|
|CPU Cooler||Arctic cooling Freezer 7 Pro (01/23/2009)||$35|
|Motherboard||Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3R LGA 775 (12/14/2008)||$115|
|Memory||OCZ Reaper HPC 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500) OCZ2RPR10664GK (12/14/2008)||$71|
|Graphics Card||MSI N275GTX TwinFrozr OC GTX 275 896MB 448-bit GDDR3 (08/11/2009)||$219|
|Sound||Creative SoundBlaster X-Fi Fatal1ty 7.1 (06/01/2007)||$183|
|Case||Antec Nine Hundred ATX Mid-Tower (06/08/2009)||$99|
|Power Supply||OCZ GameXStream OCZ700GXSSLI 700W SLI Certified CrossFire Ready Active PFC (12/12/2006)||$150|
|Hard Drive||Seagate Barracuda 250GB 7200 RPM SATA (01/04/2007, 12/10/2007,
08/18/2009) (4 drives for RAID 0+1) (Estimated. See above.)
|DVD/RW Drive||LG GH22NS30 22X DVD Burner (06/10/2009) Sony DVD RW DRU-710A (2005)||$24 $150|
|Operating System||Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit (08/23/2009) Read the explanation above.||$110|
|Miscellaneous||SanDisk Cruzer Micro 4GB USB flash drive Read the explanation above.||$27|
|Total||The final damage less shipping||$1630|
There it is. My pride and joy. I really am happy with it .. for the moment .. with the possible exception of the hard drives, which I'm sort of expecting to die any day. Stay tuned.