And so it begins... building my first gaming PC (part 1)

Posted by Wuddel (2078 posts) -

Good old times

So over the last 1.5 years I was contemplating the idea of getting a new PC. The problem was, that I was unemployed and did not feel dishing out my benefits for a new PC, because I like to eat. Anyway I finally found a job, and today I ordered the parts for my first "homegrown" PC in years.

Let me tell you a little bit about my backstory here: I always have been a primarily PC-gamer. Yes, as a kid I owned a Super-Nintendo (boy, did I mowed a lot of lawn). I grew up in "communist" Eastern Germany, and by the time the reunification hit (and we could get some western money), I kinda was to old for Nintendo already. I had good fun playing Zelda Mario Kart etc, but as I was playing them as a young teenager and I already thought "Meh, these are kinda kids games!". I think after that I directly went to a 486 DX 2-66 in a ridiculous Colani-design. My dad dished out an even more ridiculous amount of money for that thing. Looking back I really have to admire my father, putting so much hard work towards his sons passion.

Look at these curves, man!

So this thing could run Comanche pretty good. And of course I "borrowed" all the games from friends. Consoles were almost not existent. I heavily leaned towards games with well ... spreadsheets in them. Patrician, SimCity or Theme Park.

Well, this thing lasted me some years. I could experience the joys of IRQ configuration or installing my first CD-Drive. I then got a much less "top of the line" Pentium 133 based machine. Then finally in 1998 I built my first PC. I was interning at a lokal ISP, which also build websites, and I did some simple on the side website building. These guys (the ISP company were really 3 guys: a mid40ies business guy who seemed to shag 21year-old-girls on a daily basis, a ex-con system administrator who ran the servers from his basement, and a laid back, gay-as-a-picknicbasket pc hardware store owner), paid me in PC parts, so eventually I could build a Celerion 300 MHz based PC. Followed by a couple of years of gaming bliss.

Later I went to university and had my first serious girlfriend, and consequentially neither time nor money. So I really only got back into gaming about 2005, when I moved to Europe's island of peace and prosperity: Switzerland. This meant 1.5 years of a hardcore World of Warcraft addiction (on my MacBook), followed by buying a PS3 and a 360 to cure me (successfully) from this addiction. When Sid Meier's Civilization V was nearing release in mid-2010 I knew it was time for a proper gaming PC. I bought mine from a store that essentially custom builds them like one would do yourself. But now it is time for an upgrade!

The actual PC

So I was pretty anxious about building a new PC. Now it seems like a science in itself. Sure, configuration and such stuff is pretty easy now, but on the other hand so much specialised hardware exists, and things like cooling and airflow are big topics. So it took me a long time to prepare myself. A huge help was the video of Norm & Will from Tested.com building a PC together with Loyd Case.

The Prodigy is the poor mans PM G3.

The moment when I saw this case I was very interested, because it reminds me of the Apple PowerMac G3, which I always wanted back in the day. It would be great to build a modern PC into a bondi-blue PMG3-base, but I am not that crazy. Yes, I am a passionate Mac user. (But PCs are pretty cool, too.) Then again, today my "personal computing" needs are almost covered by my phone. And I do not work at home or such things. Also I have a ThinkPad in the office should the need arise.

There is a slightly never version of a PC-building video here, but with a boring mini-ATX case. So I will use the BitFenix Prodigy case featured in the first video. I had my doubts about this case - mainly that it is to crammed for a beginner - until I yesterday saw this video about what you can do with it:

So today I ordered the parts! Here we go:

  • Case: BitFenix Prodigy - Mini ITX, black (the black is not as cool but comes with a mesh front for better airflow)
  • Mainboard: Asus R.O.G. Maximus VI Impact, Z87, LGA1150, WLAN, mini ITX
  • CPU: Intel Core i7 4770K BOX, 3.5GHz, LGA 1150, 4C/8T, unlocked
  • Video card: Asus GTX-780 DirectCU II OC 3GB GDDR5 (with free Batman: Arkham Origins)
  • Memory: Corsair Vengeance Pro Black 2x 8GB, DDR3-1600, CL9-9-9-24
  • CPU cooler: Corsair H100i, all-in-one liquid CPU Cooler (240x120 radiator with 2 fans)
  • PSU: Seasonic P-660 (SS-660XP2 F3) Platinum - 660 Watt
  • alternate case fan: BitFenix Spectre PRO 230mm Fan
  • Storage: Samsung SSD 840 EVO Basic, TLC, 250GB and WD Caviar Green 3TB HD

This PC will play games and movies and surf the web to e.g. look at QuickLooks. It will be attached to my TV initially. I had my previous PC also on the TV, but it is very loud and big. I hated that. I moved it to the kitchen (yes, the kitchen, I have a tiny flat) and attached it to a 22" monitor. This is great for strategy games which I play a lot (that´s why I got the relatively powerful CPU), but pretty odd for controller games. So small footprint and noise reduction were priorities for this build. It is obviously not small enough to sit under my TV next to the PS3.

I do not need an optical drive or many drives, so I will remove the 5.25" tray and the upper 3.5" trays. This will free up enough room to mount the huge radiator facing the top hole of the case. I am not sure where to place the fans. Either the fans next to the outside or the radiator, and in which direction to adjust the fans. Or just get 4 new silent fans and push and pull - but that seems like a (noisy) overkill. In any case there is still enough room to install the SSD, the new 3TB drive and maybe a 500GB 2.5" drive I have lying around. In the front I will put the big 230mm fan and suck in air (which will be filtered by the front mesh).

The main board will be delivered on wednesday, so hopefully I will have a new PC in one week.

EDIT: Cost is approx. 2350 US-$. Also typos.

#1 Posted by IIGrayFoxII (302 posts) -

Congrats man, that is very nice build you have there. I am very jealous. I hope the build goes smoothly for you. If you don't mind me asking, what was the final price of this build? Second, what are your plans as far as keyboard and mouse?

#2 Posted by mikey87144 (1649 posts) -

It looks like you're spending close to $2500 US. Nice. The only thing I will say about the optical drive is that it's cheaper to install windows through an optical drive, (yes optical drive and windows priced together), than it is to buy the download from Microsoft.

#3 Posted by Wuddel (2078 posts) -

@mikey87144: I got a disc of Windows 8.0 which I upgraded to 8.1 on my current PC. I was under the impression that you can make a USB-thumbdrive for installation.

@iigrayfoxii: 2105 Swiss Francs = approx. 2350 US-$ including tax. Well. I have a gaming PC now, I will just continue to use my wireless solar Logitech K750 and my wired Razer Naga Hex. Its a bit awkward to use them on a 10 bucks Ikea coffee table, then again my flat is tiny.

#4 Edited by notdavid (815 posts) -

That 780's a great card. I've been rocking mine for a few months, and I haven't hit any games it wouldn't max out.

#5 Posted by Bollard (5209 posts) -

Gay-as-a-picnic-basket is an amazing phrase.

GLHB duder! If you need help with the build, just shout.

#6 Edited by Andorski (5179 posts) -

Very nice list of components you are going with. I too am going to do an ITX build and will be using the ROG Impact, i7-4770k, 16GB Corsair Vengeance Pro, and a GTX 780. I was also going to use the Bitfenix Prodigy case but ended up getting in on an Indiegogo crowdfund for a very small ITX case that can fit a 240mm radiator (NCASE M1).

If I were you I would try and cancel ordering the GTX 780 and then buy it on October 28. If you buy it on that day up until November 26 you also get Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag and Splinter Cell: Blacklist.

#7 Edited by Seppli (10251 posts) -

I wish you the best of luck in your endeavor. So far, changing a CPU cooler is the most advanced PC tomfoolery I've done. I definitely want to build a PC of my own at some point, but I guess for right now I'm not willing to carry the risk of fucking it up.

P.S. I had an all-in-one watercooler solution (Domino ALC), which was on the verge of shitting the bed, which can have catastrophic consequences. Literally the moment I had that thing out of the case it started to leak cooling fluid profusely, but I guess you're deadset on it due to making it silent and small?

#8 Edited by Andorski (5179 posts) -

It looks like you're spending close to $2500 US. Nice. The only thing I will say about the optical drive is that it's cheaper to install windows through an optical drive, (yes optical drive and windows priced together), than it is to buy the download from Microsoft.

You can buy an OEM disk of Windows, go to the MS website, and then use the CD Key to download Windows 8.

#9 Posted by DetectiveSpecial (464 posts) -

@seppli said:

I wish you the best of luck in your endeavor. So far, changing a CPU cooler is the most advanced PC tomfoolery I've done. I definitely want to build a PC of my own at some point, but I guess for right now I'm not willing to carry the risk of fucking it up.

I built my PC, and I would say that the worst part of the entire process was installing the CPU cooler - if you fuck it up, there are dire consequences.

You have already reached the peak of the mountain, my friend - the rest is cake.

#10 Posted by Bollard (5209 posts) -

@seppli said:

I wish you the best of luck in your endeavor. So far, changing a CPU cooler is the most advanced PC tomfoolery I've done. I definitely want to build a PC of my own at some point, but I guess for right now I'm not willing to carry the risk of fucking it up.

P.S. I had an all-in-one watercooler solution (Domino ALC), which was on the verge of shitting the bed, which can have catastrophic consequences. Literally the moment I had that thing out of the case it started to leak cooling fluid profusely.

Pfft that's like the hardest bit.

#11 Edited by Wuddel (2078 posts) -

@seppli: Corsair is a brand name, so I hope I am in luck. The installation of the liquid cooler is certainly the thing I dread most.

@andorski: Wow, this is a great looking case, sir. Good to see some people actually have some taste. I will actually get Black Flag on the PS4, so I have something there as well. Also I am kinda annoyed by the whole Ubisoft DRM stuff. Is this still an issue? Last PC-Ubisoft game I played was Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2. I usually buy their titles on consoles, though I have Far Cry 3 still sitting unplayed in my steam library. Also, seeing Watch Dogs system recommendations convinced me that now is the time to get a PC.

#12 Edited by Three0neFive (2285 posts) -

@detectivespecial said:

@seppli said:

I wish you the best of luck in your endeavor. So far, changing a CPU cooler is the most advanced PC tomfoolery I've done. I definitely want to build a PC of my own at some point, but I guess for right now I'm not willing to carry the risk of fucking it up.

I built my PC, and I would say that the worst part of the entire process was installing the CPU cooler - if you fuck it up, there are dire consequences.

You have already reached the peak of the mountain, my friend - the rest is cake.

Yeah, definitely. I've done probably about a dozen builds for myself and friends, but installing my Hydro H80i was easily the most frustrating, nerve-wracking thing I've ever done - mounting it from both sides was a gigantic pain in the ass.

#13 Posted by Andorski (5179 posts) -

@wuddel: I never found UPlay to be too much of an annoyance. It's just an unnecessary program that I need to boot up so I can click "play game" one more time. On the good side UPlay isn't resource intensive at all.

#14 Posted by Wuddel (2078 posts) -

@andorski: So I just heard there is a price drop alongside getting Batman AND AC. So this might be worth the wait. However, who does this work. The price drop is issued by Nvidia. Who does this usually reflect on the other video card makers.

#15 Edited by jgf (382 posts) -

@wuddel: Dude I remember the Colani 486DX-66 system as well. It was our second PC. After out first system, a 8086 with 20mb harddisk, this thing felt like a monster and it could run Doom in fullscreen! My 386 neighbor was very envious :). Later on he got a pentium and the tides turned in his favour. Those were the days. Wow now I feel really old :D

#16 Posted by Andorski (5179 posts) -

@wuddel: If you can, find out if whatever store sold you your GTX 780 will give your some store credit for your card. All GTX 780s will drop down in price to $100USD minimum within the next day or two. Newegg already has the EVGA GTX 780 w/ ACX Cooler selling at $500USD.

#17 Posted by Asurastrike (2157 posts) -

My only regret in building my PC was getting an i5 instead of an i7.

#18 Posted by Wuddel (2078 posts) -

@andorski: Do you have a link which shows how to make a bootable device? I have a Win8 DVD in front of me, however I really would like to already have 8.1 on the usb-stick is this possible?

#19 Posted by Andorski (5179 posts) -
#20 Posted by mosdl (3228 posts) -

@asurastrike said:

My only regret in building my PC was getting an i5 instead of an i7.

Unless you do CPU-intensive stuff like high res photo editing or working with really huge files an i7 is overkill. Its great if you do a lot of virtualization though.

#21 Posted by DGBruin08 (87 posts) -

Good luck with this endeavour.

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