Building the Best Custom Computer for 2012
Gaming Graphics Cards 2012
Without a good graphics card you might as well quit now – in other words, don’t skimp on your graphics card. The best CPU in the world won’t help you run a game that needs a solid GPU. It’s been my experience that if you get a graphics card in the $200-300 range that you should be able to run any game at near max settings for 2-3 years. I’m of the opinion that you’re better off buying a mid-range graphics card and replacing it every few years than purchasing a high-end one and still having to replace it in a few years. The trick is to find the sweet spot between the high-end and mid-range cards. Right now (9/4/2011) that sweet spot seems to be with the GTX 560 ti. Radeon fans may want to consider the HD 6950.
Gaming Processors 2012
This is an exciting month for gamers as we’ve heard we’ll finally get a glimpse of AMD’s Bulldozer later this month and no later than mid-October. While we’ve learned from the past that this is certainly no “done deal” with AMD, it will still be exciting to see what they come up with. For now, Intel’s processors cover the entire top 20 in performance at Cpubenchmark.net. We’ll continue to use their parts until AMD proves that we should do otherwise.
How important is the CPU in your gaming computer? It’s important, there’s no denying that fact; however, many gamers believe they must have a great CPU in order to run the greatest games. The truth is somewhere in the middle and if you have a strict budget, then your CPU may be an area where you can cut a few corners. Here’s our picks for gaming CPU:
Intel Core i7-2600k Sandy Bridge CPU
As far as gaming computers are concerned you don’t need a processor better than the i7-2600k. The “k” stands for unlocked and has allowed many performance junkies to overclock to stable speeds in the 4.5GHz range. It has 4 core performance with hyper threading which allows for each core to operate as 2 (threads).
Intel turbo boost technology allows the processor to get a boost of speed from 3.4 GHz to 3.8GHz when necessary. If you don’t plan on overclocking, then you can save between $20-40 to go with the i7-2600.
Intel Core i5-2500k CPU
The Intel i5-2500k is probably the bestselling CPU of 2011 because it gives you incredible performance for about 60% of the price as the i7-2600k. The main difference between the two is that the i5-2500k doesn’t include hyper threading technology – which I don’t feel is particularly necessary for gaming rigs. If you’re trying to stick to a budget, then save yourself $100-140 by going with the i5-2500k.
Intel Core i3-2100
The i3-2100 is still a super fast processor and it uses Sandy Bridge technology to increase it’s overall efficiency and speed. It has 2 cores with hyper threading for up to 4-way multitasking. It’s around $200 cheaper then the i7-2600k.
AMD Phenom II X6 1100 T and 1090T
6 Core performance under $180 is definitely an option in this price range. One of the key features of this series is AMD turbo core technology which allows the six cores to switch to 3 turbo cores to increase performance for applications that need raw speed. Speeds are 3.3GHz standard, up to 3.7GHz (turbo), and you can overclock it. If you can’t quite afford the AMD 1100T, then consider the Phenom II X4 965 which should save you an additional $50.
Gaming Motherboards 2012
There is simply not enough room in this post to discuss all the great motherboards out there but I wanted to go over 2 affordable options that I’m using that might save you some money over other gaming motherboards.
Gigabyte Intel Z68 ATX DDR3 2133 LGA 1155 Motherboard GA-Z68X-UD3H-B3
The Gigabyte GA-Z68X-UD3H-B3 is a great value play as it has everything you need at a price that’s a little lower than others similar in specifications. It’s also received an editor’s choice award from HardOCP, Tweaktown, PCStats, and Bjorn3D.
As far as chipsets go in my opinion you’re best off going with the Z68 chipset. It combines the best of the P67 and H67 with overclocking and integrated graphics and it includes LucidLogix Virtu which allows you to dynamically switch between your GPU. You also get Intel Smart Response Technology which allows you to dedicate your SSD (up to 64GB) to cache in order to give your whole system SSD like performance.
Overall this motherboard is very reasonable at under $160 and it’s made with Gigabyte’s durable 3 copper components. It supports all the latest in technology for USB 3.0 and Sata III and it has plenty of support for multi-GPU builds.
AM3+ Motherboards 2012
For those looking for an AM3+ motherboard I recommend the GIGABYTE GA-990FXA-UD3, or the ASUS 990FX Republic of Gamers Series or the M5A88-V EVO for a value play.
Gaming Ram 2012
Ram prices are constantly changing. Right now they are at an all time low. Find some good gaming ram, with CAS latency of 9 or less, and go with whatever is the cheapest. I’ve had success using the following types: Corsair Vengeance, Corsair Dominator, G.Skill Ripjaws, Corsair XMS3, Kingston Technology HyperX, Crucial Ballistix, and the Patriot Sector 5 series.
Best Modular Gaming PSU 2012
The better the air flow inside your case, the cooler the overall temperature, and the cooler the overall temperature the better you components will perform. It’s also proven that components kept at a moderate temperature have increased durability.
I prefer modular power supplies so that I can easily manage my cable system. While it’s true that you can tuck and manage non-modular PSU cables the simplicity of being able to use just what I need is too tempting.
Another key feature to look for in a power supply is 80 PLUS Certification or 80% power efficiency. Right now one of the better buys out there is the OCZ ModXStream Pro series. The 700 watt model is perfect for any single-GPU build and if you feel you need more power, then take a look at the Corsair professional series.
Tip for calculating how much power you need: Use Thermaltake’s power supply calculator. While other calculator exist it seems to be the most thorough and accurate.
Need more help?
If you need more help building your own gaming computer, then I recommend that you order your components, grab a friend that’s done it before, and jump in. That’s how I got started and now there are for more resources for helping you learn how to install each individual component. YouTube has each step recorded, and each component comes with instructions for setup. You can also leave a comment below if you get stuck on a certain step.
Summary: I hope you’ve enjoyed this quick review on “how to build a gaming computer”. Sticking to your budget and prioritizing your components will allow you to build the machine you need to run all of your favorite games.