How to Build the Perfect PC for the GTX 680
We’ve been awed by the NVIDIA GTX 680, the highest-performing single-GPU video card currently on the market. It’s fast, it’s quiet, it’s power-efficient, and it’s unfortunately out of stock in most regions. But if you manage to get a hold of one and want to build an entire gaming PC around it, then we’ve put together these suggested components to get the best bang for your buck.
The GTX 680 is so powerful that a main consideration is building a system that won’t bottleneck it, while trying to maintain a reasonable budget. This system will still be out of most gamers’ price range — my own included — but will be more reasonably priced than what else is out there.
CPU: You’re not going to drop $500 on a video card and skimp out on the CPU — but we’re also trying to set a realistic budget.
For the CPU, we recommend the Intel Core i7-2600K for $325. With four cores running at 3.4GHz — or 3.8GHz with Turbo Boost — and with hyper-threading support, it has plenty of processing power, and its fully unlocked multiplier grants it excellent overclocking potential.
Using only the stock cooler, you can easily reach 4.2GHz, and you can hit 4.4GHz to 4.7GHz without issue using an aftermarket CPU cooler. Low power consumption coupled with hassle-free overclocking makes this a winner.
The Intel Core i7-3930K is certainly an inviting option, but at almost double the price of the i7-2600K, it is difficult to recommend.
CPU Cooler: Given you can squeeze out an extra 1.0GHz of power from the Intel Core i7-2600K with proper overclocking, we want an aftermarket cooler that will keep those temperatures low.
We recommend the relatively inexpensive Xigmatek Gaia SD1283 for $35. It’s easy to install, spins at 800-1500 RPM while remaining quiet even at full speed, and comes with an anti-vibration rubber design. At 120x50x159 mm, it is on the large side, however, so clearance can be an issue — it may prevent the installation of particularly tall memory sticks.
Motherboard: The Intel Core i7-3930K requires a motherboard with a P67 chipset to take full advantage of its overclocking potential, which leads us to recommend the ASRock P67 EXTREME4 GEN3 for $150. An OC Tweaker feature in the BIOS allows for easy overclocking, the board runs stable even under heavy load, it has front panel USB 3.0 ports, and is future-proof with PCIe 3.0 slots.
SSD: While I wouldn’t normally state an SSD is a necessity, in this case, you don’t want to pass it up. You can get by with a 64GB SSD, like the Crucial m4 CT064M4SSD2 2.5″ 64 GB for $95, which has a SATA III interface, a lightning-fast read/write rate of SATA 6Gb/s, runs cool and silent, and has a low fault rate. If you’d like double the storage for 170% the price, you can get the equivalent Crucial m4 128GB SSD for $160.
Hard Drive: If you opted for the smaller SSD, then you may find yourself running games off a hard drive, in which case speed would take precedence over storage space. The $180 Western Digital Caviar Black 750 GB is tough to beat, with a 32MB cache, SATA 3.0Gb/s interface, and a blistering 7200 RPM.
If, instead, you picked the larger SSD, then your hard drive will likely be used for mass storage, and speed won’t be as important. For only $100, the Seagate Barracuda Green ST1500DL003 boasts 1.5 TB of storage space with a 64MB cache, SATA 6.0Gb/s interface and a humble 5900 RPM. That’s reasonable performance for a great price, and on top of that, the drive is quiet and has low power consumption.
Power Supply: The GTX 680 is the most power-efficient high-end card ever produced, so you won’t need a 1000W PSU to power it. The card’s minimum system power requirement is 550W, and it consumes a maximum of 195W. For $90, the 650W Corsair TX650 V2 will do the job. It’s stable, quiet, cool, delivers reliable performance, is 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified, comes with plenty of cables and free zip-ties for bundling, has a 5-year warranty, and is manufactured by a reputable name-brand.
Case: I find it difficult to justify spending hundreds of dollars on a designer computer case when a humbler case gets the job done at less than $100. For $60, the Rosewill Challenger-U3 mid-tower includes two 120 mm fans, a single 140 mm blower, and the opportunity to add two side panel fans. A roomy interior with the bottom-mounted PSU design that I love gives this case great ventilation.
Memory: For gaming, 8GB of RAM is the sweet spot. 4GB can leave you with little breathing room, while 16GB will only generally come into play when running multiple intensive applications. For $70, Mushkin Enhanced Redline 8GB 996982 is low-latency memory with 7-9-8-24 timings and a 1600 MT/s transfer rate. Aside from being stable, fast, durable, and highly tweakable, it also reportedly fits under large heatsinks — though we haven’t had the opportunity to try out this RAM with the Xigmatek Gaia SD1283 ourselves.
Operating System: You’ll need a 64-bit OS to take advantage of the 8GB of RAM. I recommend Windows 7 over Vista, but if you already have a Vista install then you can save some cash here.
Monitor: It’s difficult to recommend the GTX 680 if you’re not running a multiple-monitor setup, because less expensive cards generally suffice on a single monitor. The optimum setup here would be taking full advantage of the GTX 680′s four-monitor support, running games in 5760 x 1080 Surround resolution on three monitors, with the fourth used for simultaneous web surfing, instant messaging, watching videos, consulting walkthroughs, etc.
Because I feel 3D is largely a gimmick, I wouldn’t recommend investing in 3D-ready monitors, but if you have the extra cash and would like to enjoy all of the GTX 680′s bells and whistles, then you can even play games on 3D Vision Surround.
Optical Drive: You could get away with any cheap $20 DVD drive, but for those who would like to take full advantage of the GTX 680 — and purchased a 3D-ready monitor — the LG ELECTRONICS WH12LS39 is a Blu-ray rewriter that’s 3D-ready, burns at fast speeds, is relatively quiet, and supports M-Disks, which makes it future-proof. The $80 price tag isn’t bad, given all these features.
Including the $500 for the GTX 680 but excluding the price of a monitor, operating system, or peripherals, this system will run you approximately $1500. Again, we didn’t promise you’d be able to afford this system, but it’s far less expensive than it could have been.