Building My First PC – Step 1: Design

PC Build

I’ve recently decided to take the plunge and build my own PC. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and now that I’ve been working in the computer world for a while it seems like it just makes sense. I’m hoping to use it primarily for two purposes: as a Plex server and as a gaming machine. Because of that, I know that I need to invest in a good CPU for encoding movies, and a good video card for games. I also want to keep my build around $1,000 with room for upgrades in the future.With all of these criteria, I set out to tackle the world of PC components

I’ve been into computers for the majority of my life, and now fixing computers is my day job. Even with that experience, I wasn’t too sure about buying components and building a computer from scratch. I started looking up build guides, reading reviews of hardware, and watching build videos on YouTube. After sifting through countless websites and videos, I finally came up with a build that worked for me. If the criteria I laid out at the beginning sound like something you’re looking for, then you can skip all that research and just follow this guide.

CPU

Intel Core i5-4690K Processor 3.5 GHz LGA 1150 BX80646I54690K


When you begin looking at CPU’s, the first big question you have to answer is Intel or AMD? Both companies make great products that get great reviews. One of the main differences that usually separates these two is price. Intel tends to be more expensive and AMD tends to be cheaper, so if you’re not planning on doing a bunch of encoding or if you’re looking for an overall cheaper build, AMD would probably be the way to go. One exception to the rule for Intel is the Intel Pentium G3258 Anniversary Edition. It’s only $70 on amazon and is unbeatable at that price point. You can find it here.

For my build I decided to go with Intel. I flip flopped back and forth between going with an i5 or an i7, but I eventually landed on the Intel i5 4690K. At around $220, it provides the best performance for the price. I’ll probably eventually move up to an i7, but for now, the i5 should be more than capable for what I need.

Motherboard

Deciding which CPU to get determines which motherboard you’ll get. Take note to make sure you’re getting a motherboard with a socket type that lines up with the CPU you’re getting. Since I had decided on Intel, I began shopping around and found the ASUS Z97 Sabertooth. I had been looking at the Z97 line and decided to pay a bit more to move up to the Sabertooth for the added expandability down the line. From reading a lot of reviews, you can’t go wrong with one of the ASUS Z97 mobos.

Graphics Card

Sapphire Radeon R9 270X 4GB GDDR5 DVI-I/DVI-D/HDMI/DP Dual-X with Boost and OC version PCI-Express Graphics Card 11217-04-20G

Your graphics card and your CPU are going to be the most expensive components of your build. When it comes to how much to spend on a graphics card, it’s really up to what you’re willing to spend vs. how much you care about image quality. If money isn’t a problem, grab a Titan X. If you want to go a few hundred over my particular build, the 970 and 980 are fantastic. (Note: At this time, buying a 970 or 980 will get you a free copy of Witcher 3 and Batman: Arkham Knight).

For me personally, I wanted to go with an affordable option that would also last for a while and run better-than-console graphics. The one that hit that sweet spot for me, is the Sapphire Radeon R9 270X 4GB. At roughly $200, it’s the right balance of price and quality. This is a great beginning card that’s still going blow away console quality.

RAM

Corsair Vengeance 8 GB (2 x 4 GB) DDR3 1600 MHz PC3 12800 240-Pin DDR3 Dual Channel Memory Kit (CMZ8GX3M2A1600C9)

When it comes to RAM, you’ve got a lot of options. You can spend a lot of money for a lot of high quality RAM or you can spend not so much for not so much decent RAM. The choice is up to you. If you’re a speed junkie, you’ll probably want to go with some top of the line RAM like the Corsair Dominator Platinum series. If you’re not wanting to spend a lot of money you could go with something like Crucial Ballistix Sport. Whatever you go with, I wouldn’t go any less than 8 GB.

For my build, I decided to go with 8 GB of Corsair Vengeance. Corsair is known for making great products and this RAM has gotten rave reviews. 8 GB is going to be good enough to start out with, but I can’t imagine it’ll be long before I decide to ramp it up to 16 GB.

CPU Cooler

I know that right out of the gate, I’m not going to be overclocking my CPU or pushing my machine to the limits. That doesn’t negate the importance of a good CPU cooler. Even if you’re not planning to run hot, investing in a good CPU cooler is important. The last thing you want is to have your $1,000 machine crash because you didn’t spend an extra $35.

That’s just how much the Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO is. It’s got great reviews, it’s not going to take up a huge amount of space inside of your case, and it comes at a great price. If your needs line up with mine, this is the way to go.

Power Supply

Corsair CX Series 750 Watt ATX/EPS Modular 80 PLUS Bronze ATX12V/EPS12V 744 Power Supply CX750M

When choosing your power supply, you want to make sure that you pick one that’s going to provide clean energy to your rig. You also want to take future growth into account. Your current rig might run fine on a 500 W, but upgrading to a 750 W won’t cost you that much more. It’ll also cut out having to buy and install a new power supply when you eventually upgrade your graphics card. For my rig, I went with a staple for PC builds, the Corsair CX Series 750 W for $72.

Storage

Back in the day, builds just had one storage option. You bought a HDD and that was that. Nowadays, the SSD is king, and the ideal set-up is a SSD and HDD combo. That’s what I’m going to use, and that’s what I recommend you use as well. For the HDD, I’ve always like WD Green series. They make varying sizes, so the price is going to depend on how much you need to store. If you’re not looking to house a large Blu-Ray database like me, I’d recommend going with the 1TB WD Green for $53.

When you start researching SSD’s, there’s one that you will see pop-up over and over. It’s got excellent reviews and a great price for the capacity. The 500 GB Samsung 850 EVO is a fantastic option at $198. With your OS on this drive, you’re machine will be flying.

Case

When it comes to a case, it’s part quality and part personal taste. Chances are, you can find a well made case in a style and size that fits your liking. For my build, with the motherboard I chose, a Mid-Tower or Full Tower were the only options. Of those two, I went with a Full Tower, because I want the option to grow my machine. This is an investment, not a one time purchase like a console. I chose the Corsair Obsidian Series 750D Performance Full Tower Case. At $140, it’s a little on the pricey side for a case, but it provides the right level of expandable options and style that fits with what I’m looking for.

Corsair Carbide Series SPEC-01 Mid Tower Gaming Case CC-9011050-WW

If you want to go with something a bit cheaper, smaller, and that has a little more of the “gamer” look to it, the Corsair Carbide Series Spec-001 is a great option. You can also throw in an extra LED front fan to complete the red-light look.

Extras

There are of course other items you can, or possibly need to, purchase. I already have a keyboard/mouse, an OS, and a controller. Since I’m hooking it up to my living room TV, I also don’t need a gaming monitor. If you’re looking for those things, here a few options:

Logitech Wireless Touch Keyboard – $25

Logitech G502 Gaming Mouse – $61

Logitech G19 Gaming Keyboard – $115

Windows 8.1 – $100

Wireless Xbox 360 Controller for Windows – $43

ASUS 23.6 in. LED Monitor – $170

Next Time…


     Now that I’ve finished designing my PC, the next step is to pony up the money and start building. Since I don’t have around a grand to drop right now, I’m going to be buying components here and there as I can afford them. Once I get all the parts together, I’ll post a building guide.

Follow me on Twitter @jakecrump

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