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Written by Vito Cassisi - Edited by Olin Coles   
Sunday, 27 June 2010
Table of Contents: Page Index
Enthusiast Custom PC Build Q3-2010
The Battle Plan
The Builds
Enthusiast PC Build Alternatives

The Battle Plan

If we're going to design a computer, we're going to need a source of parts. To keep things simple we've opted for a single source (NewEgg, to gather prices. Our focus is on a general bang-for-buck build which covers:
  • General purpose usage such as office applications and multimedia playback
  • Modern gaming
  • Video editing and encoding
  • Upgradability and enthusiast tweakability
Naturally, a machine capable of the above is capable of satisfying majority of end-users wants. Afterall, a system built for gaming requires plentiful resources. To satisfy the spec, we're going to need:
  • A powerful modern CPU (Core i5/i7 or AMD Phenom II)
  • A powerful modern GPU (Nvidia GTX4xx or ATI HD5xxx series)
  • A full featured motherboard, including USB3.0/SATA3.0
  • A decent capacity HDD (1TB+)
  • A wad of RAM (4GB - 6GB)
  • A case capable of moving air quickly, quietly, and efficiently
  • A large chunk of metal to cool the CPU (aftermarket heatsink)
  • An efficient, quality power supply
Cramming so much power into various price points means we're going to have to shop smart!

AMD vs Intel, ATI vs Nvidia - Hold your fire!

Choosing the CPU

When it comes to designing a PC, there's an important prerequisite that dominates the entirety of the project. If you haven't guessed already, this is the platform, in particular, which CPU brand to opt with. The choice of CPU dictates the choice of motherboard. It's an important consideration to ponder before diving head first into part lists. Choosing a platform isn't always straightforward. Readers in the know are probably familiar with Intel's dominance when it comes to performance parts. It is generally accepted that a machine away from 'scraping the barrel' budget offerings are best off with a Core i5/i7 processor. However, AMD do produce some competitive parts, particularly their latest X6 range. For example, the AMD Phenom II X6 1090T is a six-core part which matches the price point of Intel's budget Core i7 quad-core range. More cores doesn't always lead to better performance however, which is evident by benchmarks placing the Intel parts ahead in core independent applications.

Pretty Pictures

The graphics platform debate is still a difficult one. Nvidia and ATI often compete with similar performance parts at equivalent price points. The main considerations when choosing a card are:
  • The temperature of the card, and by extension, the noise generated by the cooling system
  • The price/performance ratio
  • Scaling of performance in a multi-card setup
  • Power draw

Choosing a card can be daunting with so many models on the market. The good news is that only a few models exist at each price point, each with a set of manufacturers who produce them. A quick look at a few benchmarks and you can get a good idea of what’s suitable. Selecting a manufacturer is as simple as picking the cheapest one with a decent warranty.



# Exactly 2 months after he dissed the i7-930...Greg 2010-06-27 16:56
...Olin has finally seen the light and acquired one.
More power to him!

IMHO, it's the fastest processor that makes sense to buy right now.
(Micro Center sells it for $200.)
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# Seriously?Olin Coles 2010-06-27 16:59
LOL! I'm not the only person writing for Benchmark Reviews... this was Vito's project!

For the record, I never 'dissed' the i7-930 at all. I'm not even sure where you got that, because our previous discussion was about how more people had the i7-920.
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# These are configurations of PC lenses!Federico La Morgia 2010-06-27 23:20
I guess we just do not, these configurations are for enthusiast gamers, but gamers medium level.
If you want you can benchmark review I propose a configuration enthusiast gamers, since daily selling PCs because of this score:)
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# RE: Enthusiast Custom PC Build Q3-2010Robert17 2010-06-28 04:31
Well done!

I've upgraded continuously for 21 years tossing a few bucks at a time into replacing older components. When the kids were growing up I had three units networked which killed my ability to perform a new build. During those years a new build utilizing higher performance parts such as you list above, all modern and shiney new, would have cost a couple of thousand bucks easily. I recall performing the "dream" exercise a few times with an outcome of $3000 to $5000.

It's remarkable that such "hot rods" are relatively afordable these days. Just goes to show what free markets are all about. Now that the kids have left us empty nesting the upgrades are on a little quicker path and I'm enjoying my hobby with gusto. Thanks for your help, along with a few others, in keeping pace with the rapid changes.
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# NobodyJames the Hamster 2010-07-31 13:52
I have always wanted to do a build using the I7 920, now I think I will use the 930. Appreciate the info, and what I may need to build a decent build.
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# Building Custom PCRob Mills 2010-12-24 05:44
Great guide and packed full of tips - I was going to be attempting a custom build myself recently although it all started to look a little overwhelming when trying to get all the componenets together - I didn't realise that I have recently noticed a number of website systems such as where you can build your own system choosing the parts as you go like CPU, motherboard, graphics card etc so i might end up using something such as this - at least i can select the parts i require/need whilst keeping a close eye on budget as i am building it.

Would you recommend this or do you reckon i should just jump straight in and try building one myself? heh.
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# RE: Building Custom PCOlin Coles 2010-12-25 03:40
I recommend building the computer yourself. It's not very difficult, and there's plenty of instruction available (especially on this website). Plus, you'll be able to repair/upgrade your own system if it's ever necessary.
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