Some of you may have been watching my Facebook and Twitter feeds recently and have deducted that I was building a new computer. I wanted to share my experiences and the details in this post so I can direct people to it later. It’s been about a year since I started putting together the wish list and I’ve finally reached a point where I am running the machine, albeit not in its final form.
So to start out, let me say that the reason the process took so long is because I’ve spent a lot of time waiting for items to go on sale. By doing so, I have saved over $175 on the original price as specified by rebates and coupons. Sometimes I managed to combine coupons or “check out codes” with rebates for significant savings. Any savings leave room for upgrades and improvements without a lot of loss to the original budget. Budgeting your computer build is just as important to sticking to it.
In the list below I’ll show you the computer part, make and model, original price (at the time of purchase, including shipping), sale price after any coupons or discounts (also including any shipping), any rebates available, and savings. I’ll also put a link to the online storefront of my place of purchase on the make and model of the computer part, so you can read the details of each part and view the item itself.
- Case – Thermaltake V9 Black – Original Price $138.98 – Price paid $89.99 (-additional $20 Rebate) – Savings of $68.99
- Motherboard – Asus Sabertooth X58 – Original Price $199.99 – Price paid $179.99 – Savings of $20
- CPU Cooler – Corsair H70 – Original Price $109.99 – Price paid $96.29 – Savings of $13.70
- Hard Drive – Western Digital VelociRaptor 600GB 10000RPM – Original Price $279.99 – Price paid $249.99 – Savings of $30
- Video Cards – Zotac GTX 460 1GB – Original Price $407.72 – Price paid $387.73 (-additional $40 Rebate) – Savings of $60
- Power Supply – Corsair AX850 850w Certified Gold – Original Price $211.29 – Price paid $191.29 (-additional $10 Rebate) – Savings of $30
- RAM – Corsair XMS 12GB (3x4GB) DDR3 2000 – Price paid $314.24
- CPU – Intel i7 950 3.06Ghz Quad-Core with HyperThreading – Original Price $294.99 – Price paid $243.79 – Savings of $51.20
Total savings came in at $273.89 after rebates (I’m still waiting on Zotac and Corsair to send me theirs). It’s worth noting that Corsair and Thermaltake send rebate debit cards, a move in the rebate field I’m not terribly fond of. Zotac, I think, sends a check.
I’ll delve into my individual notes for each of the parts now, with particular care as to why I chose an item. You’ll find that price (with comparable features), and length of warranty play a very large role in my choice of parts. I’m also a very brand-loyal customer. A lot of these manufacturers have a lot of credibility with me and I tend to not stray from a brand that’s done me right in the past.
First things first in building a computer is to choose a CPU platform, and CPU series. I knew I wanted to go Intel this time from a longevity point of view. I have had AMD since I started building and the platform just didn’t seem to last as long as the Intel platforms some of my friends have kept. Therefore, my platform and series was going to be the Intel i7. At first I was watching the 980X with hopes that it would come down in price pretty drastically over time, however the 6-core just wasn’t budging from the nearly $1k price tag. Then I shifted my focus to the easily overclockable i7 920, a lot of power could be squeezed out of that 4-core wonder. I started comparing prices and looking at the i7 950 after reading some forums and noticing it was showing up as a “well what about this?” question. The higher core multiplier made it a better choice for me being a newbie at overclocking, and after seeing it priced WAAY below market at MicroCenter (local pickup only) I chose that route. I’ve managed to keep it at a stable overclock of 4.03Ghz! More to come on the overclocking process in a later post.
On the case, my choice was pretty much the fact that I’m brand-loyal to Thermaltake. However, I knew I didn’t want any side-windows or doors on this case. I also wanted large fans (greater than 120mm). My last cases were windowed and doored and I’m totally over that. The nearly 50% off in discounts and rebates lead me to the Thermaltake V9 Black. Overall I’m pleased with it, but some of the “quick-install” parts were pretty shabby and I ended up removing them altogether. I also had to remove the large 230mm fan from the side panel to make room for the H70. I would like to note that Thermaltake warrants 3-years on their cases from the date of purchase.
In choosing the motherboard I was eying the Rampage III X58 boards from Asus for awhile, with closer attention paid to the Rampage III Gene and Rampage III Formula. At some point in my periodic checks for reduced prices I saw an advertisement for the “newly available Sabertooth X58”. Asus has a 5-year warranty on the Sabertooth X58 board, due to it being part of the “TUF Series”, with comparable features to the Rampage III boards and lower price this was a board I had to do a double-take on. I’m glad I got it. My only qualms are with the fact that the PCI-e x16 slots are very close together, and cause my top video card to be starved for air. This could become a problem in high-demand video processing situations.
Next up was the choice of Video Cards. I knew I wanted something relatively powerful, but in sticking to my policy of not paying much more than $200 per video card ($400 for SLI) the options I was left with were limited. Thankfully some articles solidified my price point as valid, and I found that nVidia’s GTX 460s were turning heads in the terms of price-per-performance as well as overclockability. See this article for how a GTX 460 SLI setup can take on a Radeon 5970 head to head. The results are astounding considering the prices of a Radeon 5970. I had recently advised of purchasing an ION platform for my parents and for that we went with Zotac products. I had also been running my own ION platform pretty hard until building this machine and it was also a Zotac product. The Zotac GTX 460 1GB was reviewed on a few different occasions and heat and noise were the concerns most reviewers had. Seeing that Zotac puts a lifetime warranty on their cards (if you register within 30 days of purchase) and the rebates and discounts at Newegg for the cards I figured this was a winner. I must say, I am blown away at the performance of these cards. I’ve got them overclocked to the Zotac GTX 460 AMP! levels with ease. Cooling is a concern, but I listed that up with the motherboard notes.
For me, choosing a CPU cooler is an exercise in patience, understanding, and a lot of reading. I began to pay careful attention to what overclockers were using as their cooling for the i7 series when I was looking for a CPU. There were a few that were using traditional heatsink + fan air cooling, but most were using some form of water cooling. I wasn’t very confident in my abilities to drop lots of money on something I’m new at, so when I saw the all-inclusive water-cooled loop of Corsair’s H50 and H70 I was intrigued. After reading the Corsair H70 reviews on HardOCP I was pretty much sold. Here’s one comparing the H50 to the H70 and here’s one more focused on the H70 with a couple other premium coolers as comparisons.
Quality of power is a major concern when you start overclocking, and for the longest time this was a part I felt I could skimp on. It wasn’t until my last computer that I put a bit more effort into finding a high quality power supply and after doing so I was pleased with the noticable lack of “blue-screening” I ran into. This round was going to be no different. Leaps and bounds had been put into the power supply industry since 5 years ago and efficiency has, thankfully, become a driving point in creating a quality power supply. After estimating my power consumption based on Video Cards, CPU, and estimated Motherboard/Chipset, I had determined that my minimum power requirement was going to be 750 watts. After browsing Newegg I had come up with a few options. After reading reviews of the 80 Plus Gold Certified 750w power supplies I was able to find that my goal was the Seasonic X750. I kept a close eye on it, and was ready to offer a HardOCP forum member $100 for the one he was trying to sell. By the time my message got to him his sales offer was already expired and he recommended I take a look at the Corsair AX850. After a bit of research, I added it to my watch list as the prices were close to the Seasonic X750, and the AX850 is actually a Seasonic in Corsair clothing. Sure enough, before I was able to settle into the idea Newegg had a Power Supply sale. I ended up buying the AX850 with the sale as much as I would have paid for the X750 without – and had extra headroom for the overclocking I was planning to do.
RAM was an internal debate for the longest time with me. I watched the Corsair Dominator PC1600 6GB kit (3x2GB), and thought about buying two of them. I watched a similar kit that was 12GB for 6x3GB modules at PC1600. I looked at my motherboard’s Qualified Vendor List, and picked a 6GB set out of that. I even looked at Finally I just looked for a $300 price point kit with seemingly easy overclockability and I found my 12GB PC2000 kit. It would give me more certified headroom for my CPU overclocking and that’s why I chose it. I never looked at other brands because I’ve been Corsair loyal for over 8 years regarding RAM. The lifetime limited warranty was a fine selling point in the past, and never having to take them up on it was a selling point here in the present and hopefully will continue to be in the future.
Choosing my Hard Drive was easy. I knew I wanted a VelociRaptor. Western Digital is the only brand that makes 10000 RPM consumer targeted hard drives, and the 600GB was at a price I was willing to pay. I may even add another in the future, but that will be after an SSD purchase to eliminate boot times and program loads. I use the 600GB VelociRaptor as my Games and Storage drive (and as a way to verify my SATA3 6Gbps link).
Well, there you have it folks. A long and dirty rundown of my parts and choices. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for an update that will give you a bit of insight as to my overclocking process and results.