You look over at your five year old gaming PC and you shake your head in wonder, how did it ever come to this, you wonder? Gaming on a 5700 Ultra just doesn't cut it anymore, sure you can run World of Warcraft (barely), but you can't even look at Everquest II, not to mention dream of pillaging in Age of Conan or racking up kinah in Aion.
It's time to take the plunge, it's time to invest in a new gaming rig. Don't worry, we're here to make the process quick and painless. In this feature we're putting together a reasonably priced gaming rig that'll rip through even the most demanding MMO's, keeping you happy over the holidays, and set for the next couple of years at least, this rig will run Aion flawlessly, power through Age of Conan at a steady clip, and blow the hinges of WoW at even the most demanding resolutions.
Let's start with a bang shall we? The most exciting part of the machine, and easily the most essential to gaming. Sure just about any new PC on the market can run World of Warcraft swiftly, but what if you're looking for something reasonably priced to take on the likes of Age of Conan, Aion, or the upcoming Star Trek Online? You'll have to splash out a few more kinah to replace that aging GeForce 8800GT, but it'll be worth it.
MSI N260GTX – 179.99. The GTX 260 may not have made the biggest splash when it was first released, but Nvidia quickly remedied the problem by switching to a smaller manufacturing process, which in turn allowed them to increase the number of stream processors on the original card from 192, to 216, bringing its performance more in line with its nearest competitor from rivals ATI.
It's also worth noting that the current 200 series of cards also comes with a code for a free version of the rather excellent single player game, Batman: Arkham Asylum, on its own worth anywhere from $25-$50
XFX HD-577A - $169.99. The Radeon 5770 from ATI is a newer card than the Nvidia model featured here, it's slightly cheaper and it sports DirectX 11 support. Performance between the two cards though, is pretty much even, with the Nvidia part taking the top honors in some games, and the ATI part trumping its competition in others. It really is up to you to decide which card you want to decimate Azeroth with, you can't go wrong.
Both the cards listed above are great pieces of technology, and providing you make the appropriate motherboard option (discussed below) you can pick up a second one a year or more from now at a super cheap price to double your GPU processing power.
It seems like only yesterday multi core processing was the next big thing. These days multi core CPU's are a dime a dozen, and before long we'll be seeing i7 CPU's come in flavors of six and eight. . . but lets not get ahead of ourselves.
Intel Core i7-920 - $278. At almost two hundred and eighty big ones, the Core i7-920 ain't cheap, but it's a lot faster than even the previous generation quad core processors. Add to that the fact it overclocks brilliantly (should you brave the option) and you're looking at desktop performance that would have cost you more than double the amount a little over a year ago.
Choose your motherboard carefully, because it's going to be the enabler for pretty much every other component you're going to get. Here again it's easy to go overboard and get something wildly exotic (and frighteningly pricey) that you're never going to get the best out of. Patience, and lots of research, as well as matching with the other components is the key to getting the right motherboard.
Foxconn FlamingBlade GTI – $144.99, down from $169.99. The FlamingBlade GTI is the kid brother of the dual slot enabled FlamingBlade (non-GTI). There are some minor differences in the details, but it's still a great motherboard specifically engineered for gaming.
Foxconn FlamingBlade - $174.99 down from $199.99. This is the GTI's bigger, badder, more fully featured brother, and if you've got just a little more wow gold in your coin purse, you'll want to opt for this little beaut. Configured with dual PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots, you'll be able to add a second video card for either SLI or Crossfire dual GPU powered gaming when you eventually start thinking about upgrading again.
Memory prices are falling all the time, DDR2 RAM is super cheap, but we're looking for the newer, faster, more expensive DDR3 variety, since that's what will work best with our blazing quick Core i7 processor.
Kingston 4GB DDR3 1333 – $107.99 You can always go back if and when you need more ram!
The Hard Drive:
Like memory, hard drives are almost laughably cheap, and should you need more, you can always get more (providing your power supply can provide the juice).
Western Digital Caviar Blue 500GB 7200RPM 16MB cache – 500GB is plenty for most gamers to start out with, no matter how large your ah. . . media collection may be.
The DVD Drive:
DVD technology is fairly ubiquitous, so you're safe with almost any major brand, and best of all they're all cheap.
Lite On CD/DVD Burner - $26.99 You can't go wrong with a Lite On.
The Power Supply:
For many folks the power supply is the least interesting part of a custom PC build, as such most people skimp on spending and end up with an inadequate power supply. Let's be clear, a good, efficient power supply is essential for a properly functioning personal computer. Get one that isn't efficient or poweful enough, and your independent parts will be trying to draw more power than the power supply can provide, causing the entire PC to shut off at a moments notice!
However, don't be fooled into thinking you need to get a monster. Unless you're running some sort of a monster quad-SLI set up with four hard drives, something modest, but efficient (rated at say 80%) will do you just fine.
CORSAIR CMPSU-550VX – $79.99 after $10.00 mail in rebate. This is easily more than enough power for any configuration we're going to be looking at and it comes with an 80%+ efficiency rating. Corsair PSU's are generally pretty reliable, and this one's rated for both an i7 processor and whatever dual card GPU solution (SLI or Crossfire) that you might consider in the future.
When choosing a case, you're going to want to consider three important factors the three A's; airflow, accessibility and aesthetics, preferably in that order.
Good airflow in a gaming case is vital because you want to make sure there's circulation inside. You can have the biggest case fans, the best GPU and CPU heat sinks and splash out on fancy thermal grease, but if your case doesn't have good airflow, the internal heat will just keep building up in there
Accessibility is all about ease of installation, usually when you're first putting your brand new PC together. Does the case come with tool-less thumbscrews? Are they too cheap to be useful? Are the internal wires nice and long? Is there enough space to actually get into the guts and install the motherboard, CPU, GPU, RAM and hard drives without any trouble.
You might think accessibility is something you can sacrifice for a cheaper case, but the truth is that if you do you're likely to regret it, as an inaccessible case can dramatically increase your build time and frustration levels.
One last word on build quality. In most cases you'll want to go for a steel case, as cheap aluminum cases tend to vibrate and get noisy. This isn't always the case though, as sometimes the aluminum is relatively sturdy.
NZXT BETA EVO - $29.99 after $39.00 mail in rebate. It's a sturdy, good looking case (if you're into more avante garde industrial design) with tons of room with great airflow.
Antec Nine Hundred – $59.99 after $40.00 mail in rebate. As the grand daddy of gaming cases, the Antec Nine Hundred is getting a little long in the tooth, but when you consider that this case retailed for around $150 just a few years ago, sixty bones is not a bad deal at all. It never hurts to sprinkle just a little bit more aoc gold to get a better product, and in this case it's a no-brainer.
COOLERMASTER HAF 922 – $39.99 after $40.00 mail in rebate. Coolermaster specialises in well, cooling, so as you'd imagine this case sports good airflow, it also looks pretty good and has a lot of room inside.
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