In my spare time I’m a PC Gamer so I need to refresh my gear every 1.5-2 years to stay up to date with the latest games. The whole process can set me back about $1,200-$1,500 every time.
I decided to assemble it myself so I can save money and create the right gaming PC for my needs. I calculated you can save about 30%-50% if you buy, assemble and test the part yourself. There are a lot of videos on Youtube on how to do it. If you can fix things around the house you can assemble you own gaming rig, it’s that simple! Here is what I did and how.

First, do your research before buying! I suggest the following websites:

List of hardware parts I used with prices at the time of writing:

Total Cost: $563

About the Build

I assembled this PC to be upgradable in the near future (12-18 month). By using a good motherboard and Video Card assures top performance and longevity. In the future I could upgrade to a faster RAM, better CPU Cooler and Video Card (maybe even in SLI/CrossfireX mode) without having to change PC. Let’s analyze each part in more detail:

  • Case Make sure you get a good ATX screwless gaming case with front access to USB (2.0 and 3.0) and headphone/mike connection. Also make sure the case has plenty of fan enclosures on the top and on the back so to have a good airflow. I prefer a case with the side window because it looks cool.
    Cable Management: This is something that doesn't cost anything but makes a big difference for the system as a whole. Good cable management does not impede air flow and helps keeping the PC cool and stable. Please refer to the link above for a very good article from PC World on the subject.
    Airflow  When you are building a system think about how you want the air to flow inside the case. A good airflow is essential to transport heat away from the component. What I suggest is positioning the fans to have fresh air flowing in form the front of the case and out from the back and top (as shown in the picture below ):
    • 1 120mm fan in the front pulling cool air in
    • 1 120mm fan on the top pushing hot air out
    • 1 (or 2) 120/140mm fan in the back pushing hot air out

 

<p align=center>Fig.1 - Air-Flow example thanks to Tom’s Hardware</p>

 

  • CPU A multi-core CPU is a must for playing last generation video games and the AMD FX6300 delivers 6 cores at 3.5GHz on a budget. After many hours of research I found evidence that shows that AMD has the same in-game result than Intel but with considerable cost savings. Sure, Intel i7 perform better in benchmarking but in a live game I personally could not see the difference. If you want to save even more you could switch to a AMD A8 or A10 series. A better (but more expensive) setup is to switch to the 8-cores FX8350 @4GHz.
  • CPU cooler: This is a very important component that will prolong the life of the CPU, help stabilizing its performance and allow you to increase the CPU clock speed (if you're into the whole overclocking thing). I really like water cooling: effective, silent and looks great when assembled. I priced this build assuming the use of the stock cooler included in the CPU box. I plan to upgrade to a water cooling device very soon. If you use the stock cooler please DO NOT attempt to overclock the CPU until you have purchased a better CPU cooling device.
  • Video Card: I spent a lot of time researching the best card for the buck. The HD7770 is under $150, proven architecture and with 2GB RAM DDR5 will work great for any game you have. Furthermore, in the future you could buy another one (when the price drops) and create a SLI/CrossfireX configuration with 2 video cards.
  • Motherboard: The Asus M5A97 is a very good "budget" MoBo with all the bells and whistles. The chipset is the AMD 970, which is a simpler version of the AMD 990FX. The more important difference from its bigger and more expensive brethren is the inability for the second PCI Express to work at 16x when in SLI/CrossfireX mode. When in CrossfireX mode the second PCI Express operates at 4x only. Just remember to install the video card to the first PCI Express slot to take advantage of the full 16x speed.

 

ASUS has launched three different motherboard models based on the AMD 970 chipset

Fig.2 - ASUS has launched three different motherboard models based on the AMD 970 chipset

Step by step assembly of the gear

 Step 1 - Power Supply and DVD

As initial step I opened the case and installed the Power supply, DVD and hard drive. This gives me an idea of how much room I have to work with. This case comes with two pre installed case fans.

 

Start of the build: PC Case with added power supply

Fig.3 - Start of the build: PC Case with added power supply

 

Fromt of the PC case after installing DVD

Fig.4 - Front of the PC case after installing the DVD

Step 2 - MoBo, CPU, and RAM Setup

After unboxing the motherboard, reading the manual and making sure all the pieces were present I installed the CPU and memory. Very easy to do. The CPU cooling fan included in the box comes with thermal compound pre-applied. Make sure you place the CPU fan as close as possible to the switch on the motherboard.

 

Motherboard, CPU and Memory

Fig.5 - Memory and CPU with cooling fan installed

 

After that comes the motherboard installation into the case:

  1. Clip-in the MoBo shield to the case
  2. Place the motherboard inside the case and made a mental note where the fastening holes were and  and screwed in the stand-offs
  3. Position the MoBo on top of the stand-offs and secure it to the case

 

Motherboard Installed in the Case

Fig.6 - The M5A97 fits nicely in the case. Make sure you free the inside from all the loose cables

Step 3 - Installing the Video Card

  1. Free 2 slots on the back of the case
  2. Position the card on the PCI Express marked PCIX16_1
  3. Apply a gentle push and until you hear the card clicking into position
  4. Secure the card to the case

VideoCard installed in the 1st PCI Express slot

Fig.7 - Global view of the case

Step 4 - Connecting Cables

  1. Consult the motherboard schema
  2. The motherboard has 2 power cables that needs to be connected (CPU power and motherboard power)
  3. Connect the USB 2.0 ad 3.0 cables to the respective slots in the motherboard
  4. Connect the HD LED, Power and Reset switches to the MoBo switch board included (called Q-Connector)
  5. Connect the Video Card Power
  6. Then finish with the HD and DVD SATA connectors and power

Step 5 - Boot up and Pray

Turn the power on and….We have liftoff! You can now proceed with the OS installation. Happy gaming!

 

Fig.8 - Fully Functioning PC. No need to pray!

 

Fig.9 - Ready for a new gaming session

 

###Disclaimer

This article is for general information purposes only. In no event I’m liable for any loss or damage of any kind including without limitation, indirect or consequential loss or damage, or any loss or damage whatsoever arising from loss of data or profits arising out of, or in connection with, the use of this article on how to build your own gaming PC.

 

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