December 2012 System Builder Guide


December 2012 System Builders Guide

Those who choose to build their own computers have a lot of different options to choose from.  There are many different components from different companies that allow you to build a system to your taste and liking.  This of course requires some knowledge to put together a well-balanced computer system and to avoid the most common pitfalls.

We here at BCCHardware are going to do a Christmas special and show you three different computer packages for those who happened to get caught trying to figure out what they want to build.  We are going to build systems on that are tailored to those with a budget and those that want to build a performance machine.

GigabyteBudget Gaming System:

High-performance gaming machines are great, but sometimes every penny counts.  The goal budget computer system for gaming is to push the FPS (frames-per-second) to the extreme with a machine for about $600.  We will show you our recommendations and help you build a system without taking some shortcuts and without closing the door to future upgrades.

The low price means that some luxuries simply cannot be included in the build.  For example, there will be no SSD storage and only the stock cooling will be included.  If you feel that there is something on the list below that is missing in terms of extras, simply open your wallet and to add a few dollars extra.

Intel Budget System:

CPU Intel Core i3 3220 (3.3 GHz) ~$129.99
Motherboard Gigabyte GA-B75M-D3V ~$74.99
Video Card Sapphire Radeon HD 6870 ~$169.99
RAM Corsair Vengeance LP DDR3-1600 8GB Kit ~$41.99
HDD Seagate Barracude (1TB or 2TB) HDD ~$84.99 or $109.99
Case NZXT Source 210 Elite ~$49.99
PSU XFX Core Edition 550W ~$69.99

Build price ~$620

First up is a system with an Intel-based platform under the hood.  The processor choice falls on the Intel Core i3 3220 - a model with two cores and four threads that performs good enough for most new and old game titles.  We could have added a quad-core overclocking variant of Intel Core i5 3570K.  This of course would provide additional performance, but it’s price drives it out of the budget range.

The Gigabyte GA-B75M-D3V motherboard runs on the B75 chipset which is Intel's simplest variant with support for SATA 6.0 Gbps.  Although it is less important for the system is the possibility always nice to have for future SSD upgrades.

We rounded up with 8GB of DDR3 memory in the form of popular Corsair Vengeance LP.

For this build we chose an AMD Radeon HD 6870. With a price tag around $170, the HD 6870 has good overclocking margin.  This card has proven to offer a lot of performance for the money and is certainly enough for most games at a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels.  It is powerful enough to run BF3 at high settings with good framerates.  If you want to spend some more money, you can always step up and choose an Radeon HD 7870 or the GeForce GTX 660 Ti.

For storage we picked the mechanical hard drive Seagate Barracuda 1TB or 2TB, which will be of service to both the operating system and applications.

The power supply of choice is the XFX Core Edition 550W unit.  This model has enough power for both the base system with overclocking and future modest upgrades.

The case is the affordable NZXT Source 210 Elite.

On the next page, we'll cover the AMD equivalent to this system and we'll see what you gain and what you lose when switching sides to the red team.


AMD System:

On the other side of the fence is AMD, and while they don't have the highest performing products anymore, they still have a lot to offer in terms of performance for the dollar.  We'll put together an AMD system that should compare with the Intel system in terms of price and see how that shapes up as well.

CPU AMD FX-6300 (3.5GHz) ~$139.99
Motherboard ASUS M5A97 2.0 ~$94.99
Video Card Sapphire Radeon HD 6870 ~$169.99
RAM Corsair Vengeance LP DDR3-1600 8GB Kit ~$41.99
HDD Seagate Barracude (1TB or 2TB) HDD ~$84.99 or $109.99
Case NZXT Source 210 Elite ~$49.99
PSU XFX Core Edition 550W ~$69.99

Build price ~$650

AMDIntel has some very good processors, but AMD also has a lot to offer gamers with a smaller budget.  Compared to the Intel system, the AMD system has slightly less powerful CPUs at higher clock speeds.  The FX-series does very well in multithreaded applications but runs a lot hotter due to higher power consumption.

For the AMD system, we picked up the FX-6300 Six-Core Piledriver CPU.  As is the case with other FX models, you have the ability to overclock with the unlocked multiplier.  This makes overclocking easy for the performance seeker.

Our motherboard choice is the ASUS M5A97 R2.0 that runs the AMD 970 chipset.  You get six SATA 6.0 Gbps ports, four slots of DDR3 memory, and up to four USB 3.0 ports.

Other components are identical to the Intel system. This means that the Radeon HD 7950 Boost graphics card, 8 GB Corsair Vengeance LP DDR3, mechanical Seagate Barracuda in 1 or 2TB and computer case NZXT Source 210 Elite.  The PSU is again from XFX and is the Core Ed. 550W number.  This should be powerful enough for overclocking and future modest upgrades.

On the last page, we'll put together a high-performance machine that should provide a very good gaming and general computing experience to those with a few more dollars to spend.

High-Performance Machine:

For those who are looking for extra performance and aren’t afraid to empty their wallet a little more, we have put together a nice performance package as well.  Here we chose performance before the price tag, but still kept the prices under control.  This is a high-performance machines - not an all-expenses-spared dream machine.  Besides pure gaming performance, we aimed to give the system a quicker overall performance for both typical operating system applications and especially in multi-threaded applications.

CPU Intel Core i7 3770K 3.5 GHz ~$319.99
Motherboard Asus P8Z77-V ~$149.99
Video Card SAPPHIRE Radeon HD 7970 3GB OC with Boost / MSI GeForce GTX 670 2GB OC ~399.99
RAM Corsair Vengeance LP DDR3-1600 16GB (2 x 8GB) ~$41.99
HDD Seagate Barracude (1TB or 2TB) HDD ~$84.99 or $109.99
SSD Samsung 830 Series 256GB / Samsung 840 Pro Series 256GB ~$219.99 / ~$339.99
CPU Cooler Antec Kuhler H2O 620 Liquid Cooling System ~$69.99
Case Fractal Design Define R4


PSU Corsair AX750 750W ~$179.99

Build price ~$1600

Our Intel processor of choice for this package is clearly the Intel Core i7 3770K Ivy Bridge  CPU.  In addition to outstanding performance in gaming and really low power consumption, it also offers excellent Hyperthreading technology, which gives a nice performance boost with multi-threaded applications such as image and video editing.  On top of that, this is also a processor from the K-series, which means it has an unlocked multiplier and has excellent overclocking potential.

ASUS P8Z77-V motherboard uses Intel's Z77 chipset performance and is perfect for this build.  The model offers easy to read and powerful UEFI configuration that makes it a breeze to overclock Intel unlocked processors and this can take performance to a whole new level.  It also shows good expansion opportunities as there are a lot of SATA ports, and lots of space arond the PCIe slots which gives you support for multiple graphics cards in either Crossfire or SLI.

Other good motherboard choices are the ASRock Z77 Extreme4, MSI Z77A-GD65 and the Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD3H alternatives.

The Corsair Vengeance LP memory was chosen for this build as well, but this time around we  picked 16GB of DDR3 memory.

After some updated performance drivers, the Sapphire Radeon HD 7970 3GB OC with Boost has quickly become a card to be reckoned with and it makes our build list this time around.  If you prefer to cheer for the green team, the Nvidia Geforce GTX 670 that has similar performance and price.  However, our decision falls this time to the AMD side of the fence due to the fact that the Sapphire card comes armed with a quiet and efficient cooler and comes factory overclocked.

A performance build of this caliber is obviously not complete without lightning fast SSD storage and here the popular Samsung 830 or the new 840 PRO 256 GB will be chosen to take up residence in our build.  The 840 Pro is a little more expensive and while the Korean company's 830/840-series may not be the fastest in the field, they have proven to be reliable and exhibit consistent performance over time.  For the storage of other data that requires a little more space, we throw in a Seagate Barracuda (1TB or 2TB).

The system's various components sit in the Fractal Design Define R4 case.  This cases innovative design makes it flexible for different applications.  The basic setup keeps noise in check, but with a few simple modifications, it can be turned into a high-performance heat-dissipating unit.

The processor is cooled in turn by Antec's proven water cooling package Kuhler H2O 620 that is relatively quiet, but also has what it takes to keep temperatures in check when the frequencies are pushed up.

Last but not least, we power the entire system on the Corsair 80 Plus Gold certified PSU AX750 750W PSU.  This unit offers a full modular design combined with high efficiency and low noise.  It provides enough power to run rock-steady during heavy overclocking and will be able to handle additional graphics cards and other upgrades in the future.

Of course, these are just a few of our recommendations and I'm sure there will be a lot of people who have different ideas.  Please feel free to leave your comments on your next (or recent) build in the forum at the link below.