For over 15 years, I’ve built my own PCs. The first was a 486/DX2-66 based machine just before Windows 95 came out. I’ve done it out of interest, but also to give me control over what I buy, and make replacements and upgrades cheaper.
My build was getting a bit old, the parts being between 2 and 3.5 years old and was missing some current technologies, so I decided to replace the main components, and sell the parts on to cover some of the cost of the new build:
Old build: AMD Athlon II 645 4 Core CPU, AMD 5750 graphics, ASRock motherboard, 430W Antec PSU, Lian Li case, DVD-R drive, 12GB RAM.
It was a good build, and still had some legs, but was deficient in some areas. The CPU was capable, but for the increasing amount of virtualisation and editing/encoding/rendering I’m doing, something faster was definitely going to be better. Moreover, though the ASRock was a great motherboard, it lacks PCIe 3 and USB3. The 5750 is a good card, but after nearly three years, is showing it’s age, and though I don’t game like I used to, I decided it was time to get a PCIe3 1GB card and play older games with more detail, and get a bit more out of newer games. The Antec PSU has been great – so much better than the Enermax I had previously, but I felt I needed something with a bit more capacity, to handle the extra GPU load, but potentially more from CPU and other components. The DVD-R drive had survived a few rebuilds, but I’ve wanted a BluRay drive for a while since I actually have some BDs now. The RAM is actually one set of 2*2GB from an older build, and 2*4GB I bought a couple of years ago – I’m going to re-use the latter only – they’re all fine, but I expect to add a further 2*4GB kit later this year.
So what’s new?
For the first time since the very early 2000s, I’ve gone with a retail Intel CPU. That last one was a Celeron 333 I think, and I used to overclock the hell out of it. Since then, it’s been AMD all the way, but now I’m back with Intel and the i5 3470, based on the Ivy Bridge architecture. Interestingly, this model has HD2500 graphics built in, rather than the more common 4000 part, but since I have a discrete graphics card, it doesn’t make much difference, and I think results in a lower power wattage rating. Perhaps for the next upgrade, the Bulldozer/Piledriver cores from AMD will have evolved a little more.
For a motherboard, I chose to stay with ASRock, and got one of their H77 based boards, the H77 Pro4/MVP. It’s an ATX sized board, and though there is a Micro ATX version, that was more expensive, so I stuck with this one. I find the ASRock board to be reliable and well laid out. I used to swear by Abit, but again, I had some bad run-ins, and moved on. The board has PCIe3 for graphics, SATA3/6Gb, and USB3, as well as some of the tweak utils they use, and for the first time for me on a PC, UEFI instead of the old BIOS. Also, it has enough monitored fan connectors to match my case for a change.
For graphics card, I basically trawled Tom’s Hardware, and went with the AMD HD7770, which sports an acceptable price, but also a good power efficiency. I went with the Gigabyte model, which is moderately quiet, and was a little cheaper, instead of having a pile of cables and bundled games I didn’t need.
I bought a new power supply – essentially the 650W version of the previous one. I’ve always had good results from Antec and SeaSonic PSUs in all the builds I’ve done for myself and for friends, and when I’ve tried something different, I’ve been disappointed. It’s not a sexy part of a build, but it’s the one part which has the capability to blow the rest of the machine, so choose wisely.
Lastly, I picked up a cheap, bulk, LG BluRay player, so I can watch some discs on my PC, which will be convenient.
I’ve kept the memory, and my aluminium Lian Li case, which I really like, all the peripherals, and drives, and my X-Fi audio card.
I bought pretty much all the parts in Akihabara, from Dos Paradise (DosPara), which is a great set of shops, and they always seem to have decent prices. Pricing was mainly done on kakaku.com, with research from Tom’s Hardware, PCper.com and Anandtech.