How to Build a Monster PC in 2011 (Without Spending Millions)
While investing in a long-term, moderately powerful computer makes the most sense financially, every diehard PC gamer needs to splurge on a monster gaming rig at least once in their life — ideally, during that sweet spot after they’ve gotten a steady job and can afford it, but before they have a wife who will scream at them to no end for “wasting so much money on toys.”
So for you, the unwed PC gamer who has decided to make the leap and buy a monster rig, as well the married gamer with balls of steel, we put together the following system for approximately $1500. It may not have all the pretty bells and whistles of more ridiculously-priced systems, but in terms of raw gaming power, it’s tough to beat.
Antec Three Hundred Illusion
Antec’s Three Hundred Illusion is a humble mid tower at a reasonable price. Built with a steel frame, it offers terrific cooling potential with a bottom-mounted power supply, a 140mm top fan and three 120 mm fans (two intake, one exhaust).
If the endorsement from Tom’s Hardware isn’t enough, this reasonably-priced motherboard offers everything we need to complete our rig: 4×240pin memory slots, two PCI Express 2.0 slots, four SATA 6Gb/s, and multi-display support with CrossFireX and SLI.
This 850 W Seasonic model will provide enough power for an SLI/CrossFireX setup, and an efficiency rating of over 85% is hard to argue with.
Intel Core i7-2600K
This is where we pull out all the stops: the i7 is a significant step up from the i5 due to Hyper Threading technology, and Sandy Bridge delivers exceptional per-core performance. Throw in some decent overclocking potential, and it’s hard not to fall in love with this processor.
Xigmatek Gaia SD1283
It’s quiet, and it provides decent cooling for an excellent price.
8GB G.Skill Ripjaws X DDR3-1600 CAS 8
G.Skill provides this cheap, reliable RAM with 8-8-8-24 timing. The fact that this kit consists of two sticks of 4GB means you have room to expand to 16GB in the future with the four slot motherboard we selected.
OCZ Vertex Series 30 GB SSD
An SSD is essential for booting up at lightning-fast speeds. 30 GB is big enough for your OS and allows you to save money that you can spend on other gaming-performance components.
Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB 7200
Western Digital provides this quiet, fast hard drive with enough storage to survive many a Steam sale, for a fair price.
LG WH12LS30 12x BD-R
While you can definitely get away with a $20 optical drive, it’s hard to call a system a monster without a fast Blu-ray burner.
Here’s where we’ll leave the most room for customization, providing high- and mid-priced Nvidia and AMD cards to suit your tastes and budget.
2x GeForce GTX 580 1.5 GB in SLI
2x GeForce GTX 460 1 GB in SLI
If you’re willing to spend nearly $1000 on video cards alone, two GTX 580s in SLI will blow you away. For about a third of the price, you can pick up two GTX 460s, which can rival a single 580 in power for $125 less. If you’re not a fan of SLI, you can get by with just one GTX 580.
2x Radeon HD 6970 2 GB in CrossFireX
2x Radeon HD 6850 1 GB in CrossFireX
At 75% the cost of dual GTX 580s, two HD 6970s in CrossFireX will pack less of a punch, but are a step down in price from “astronomical” to “stratospheric.” Descend another step and we arrive at twin HD 6850s.
Without video cards: $967
With 2x Radeon HD 6850 1 GB: $1267
With 2x GeForce GTX 460 1 GB: $1287
With 2x Radeon HD 6970 2 GB: $1647
With 2x GeForce GTX 580 1.5 GB: $1859
Not a powerful enough rig for you? Tell us your specs and cost in the comments below!
Note: All prices were derived from NewEgg. Monitor and peripherals were not included in this build due to the variety in permutations based on personal taste: multi-monitor setups, wired or wireless peripherals, headphones or speakers, etc.