I have been wanting to upgrade my gaming PC for quite a while now. I used to build a new machine every 3-4 years. Each time I would try to by the latest and greatest parts and I usually managed to skip a CPU generation each time. My current PC has been near it’s end of life for quite a while now:
- Intel Pentium 4 3.2 Ghz
- 4gb of RAM
- Windows XP 32-bit
- ATI Radeon x1950 Pro AGP
I had upgraded the memory and video card over that last two years in an effort to delay the big upgrade. The biggest problem was the motherboard predated PCI-E so I couldn’t upgrade to any of the current drop of high-end video cards. And a motherboard upgrade meant that the CPU and memory both had to be upgraded. Which all adds up to money.
It used to be that wasn’t a problem, I was single and had a well paying job, so I had quite a bit of disposable income. Now five years later, I’m married (and my wife is not a gamer) and I have a 10 month old son, so money for upgrading a computer is not high on the priority list. So over the last year I’d been putting a bit aside each money with the goal of building a new machine.
I hadn’t planned on building a new machine for another two months or so, but two things put me over the edge. First, Crazy Kinux built a new machine and I started feeling like the last gamer on the planet still using a Pentium 4. Second, I started playing the Champions Online beta and I had to turn down so many settings to get it to play smoothly that I realized I was finally too far behind the curve.
So I took gave myself a budget of $1400 and started shopping online. After checking my back issues of PC Gamer and Maximum PC and reading some reviews online I here’s the parts list I settled on:
- Intel i7 920
- Asus P6T
- 6gb RAM DDR3
- Cooler Master Storm Sniper case
- Silent Pro M 700W Power Supply
- Cooler Master Hyper N520
- EVGA GeForce GTX275
- Seagate 3.5″ Barracuda 1.5TB SATA drive
I decided to use the on-board sound and networking, and I already have a good monitor (Dell 1907FP), keyboard and mouse. All in all, not an extreme high-end machine, but not a budget box either.
I intended to buy the case locally and order everything else online. So I headed to the Fry’s here in Indianapolis to pick up the case and see how they compared on the other parts. Turned out that Fry’s prices were as good as most of the online prices (without even accounting for shipping), so I ended up buying everything that day. The final total was $50 bucks under my budget, and that’s not counting rebates.
I also cheated a bit by paying the service department to install the CPU and fan on the motherboard for me. I hate working with thermal paste and after seeing the directions involved on installing the fan, I decided that was the best $10 I’ve ever spent.
Here’s a few shots of all the beautiful boxes (click to enlarge).
After I unboxed the case and started to install the mounting screws, I ran into my first problem. There was no IO shield in the parts bag from the motherboard. I made a quick call to Fry’s and was told I would probably have to return the motherboard, which meant removing the CPI and fan. I was not happy about the situation as I drove back to Fry’s, but when I got there customer service allowed me to take an IO shield from another box already setup for a return. So at least I had a quick resolution and a happier drive home.
Lot of trouble for such a small part.
Fortunately the rest of the build went pretty smoothly. The Cooler Master case was a joy to build in, completely tool-less for everything except mounting the mother board and some really nice, large fans. It also has a nice set of USB and audio jacks on top along with a power button and a fan control. It also has a set of blue LED’s in each of the fans and there’s a button on the fan control to turn them on and off.
Geek's version of Black Beauty
Completely tool-free for all drive and card installation.
Three 120 MM fans in the case.
Not a professional wiring job, but good enough.
The Final Product