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:
- pcpartpicker.com (I created a build that is very close but not 100% equal the one described in this blog)
- Tom's Hardware
- Cable Management
List of hardware parts I used with prices at the time of writing:
- Case: Ultra Defender II Black ATX Mid-tower Gaming Case (includes 2 case fans), $60
- Power Supply: Thermaltake TR-600, $60
- DVD Drive: Asus DRW-24B1ST 24X, $20 (more expensive option: 12x Blu-Ray Drive, $62)
- MoBo: ASUS M5A97 R2.0 AM3+ AMD 970, $89 (more expensive option: ASUS M5A99X EVO R2.0, $134)
- RAM: Kingston HyperX Blu 8GB 1333MHz DDR3 8GB, $53 (on sale form Amazon, regular price $76)
- CPU: AMD FX-6300 6-cores 3.5GHz, $110 (more expensive option: FX8350 4.0GHz 8-cores, $160)
- CPU Cooler: Stock cooler included in the CPU box, $0 (option: Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO 120mm, $30 or more expensive option: Cooler Master Seidon 120M, $65)
- Video Card: ASUS 2GB GDDR5 HD7770-2GD5, $113
- HD: WD Blue 1 TB Desktop Hard Drive, $58 (more expensive option: Intel 240GB SSD Drive, $154)
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:
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
- 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.
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.
Fig.3 - Start of the build: PC Case with added power supply
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.
Fig.5 - Memory and CPU with cooling fan installed
After that comes the motherboard installation into the case:
- Clip-in the MoBo shield to the case
- Place the motherboard inside the case and made a mental note where the fastening holes were and and screwed in the stand-offs
- Position the MoBo on top of the stand-offs and secure it to 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
- Free 2 slots on the back of the case
- Position the card on the PCI Express marked PCIX16_1
- Apply a gentle push and until you hear the card clicking into position
- Secure the card to the case
Fig.7 - Global view of the case
Step 4 - Connecting Cables
- Consult the motherboard schema
- The motherboard has 2 power cables that needs to be connected (CPU power and motherboard power)
- Connect the USB 2.0 ad 3.0 cables to the respective slots in the motherboard
- Connect the HD LED, Power and Reset switches to the MoBo switch board included (called Q-Connector)
- Connect the Video Card Power
- 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
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.