Back in 2008 I built a computer for less than $400. I was really being cheap because I didn't use it for more than the basics and some gaming. It lasted until now and it's still running strong and I have to say it really held up nice. But, because I have been building computer for some of my customers here at work I once again was hit with the upgrade bug. I'll post pics tonight when I am off work. I'll be giving a small review of the components I had and why I got them. Most of which are opinionated and not based on empirical evidence.
My PC motherboard combo.
I got a Asrock z77 extreme3, and a beautifully matching Core i5 2500k. I was thinking about going to the i7, but for what I use it for I couldn't vouch for spending the extra $150. I picked this CPU up off ebay in an auction for about $150. I got the motherboard from newegg.com (from ebay) for $100 in an open box. It came with absolutely everything and looked brand new.
Review of the CPU, I expected to hit 4ghz, obviously that's a minimal overclock. I researched and found the max voltage I should be using to OC, and then the hottest temperature. The results greatly varied so I went by the "mode" method of choice. I came back with the results 1.45 for the vcore. I know I overclock backwards it just seems easier to me. I also found that hitting 80C during a load test is supposed to be acceptable. So as long as my clocks let me hit that I was going to leave it there in the safe range and tweak it from there.
1st result, I ran a small xs bench from the program real temp. I got a score of 1150, my old cpu was hitting 1165. So stock I was slightly worried about my computers power. I understand it isn't a program which utilizes the quad core cpu so comparing my old dual core @4ghz was slightly unfair. However it was my base line to make sure my pc was doing ok and ready to run the stability test. It obviously passed and my temps even with the increased voltage hardly touched 55c.
Now for the limited version of the story so I don't bore you with trial and error. I was satisfied at 4.8ghz. However I'm going to get what I can under safe restrictions. Eventually my turbo multiplier was set at 54, leaving me a 5.4ghz overclock. Holy crap! Now to tell you how easy this was because it was too easy.
BIOS settings, vcore 1.45, turbo multiplier at 54. BAM done.... That's it. Now during stress my cpu was getting into the upper 70s. So time to dial back my vcore. I backed it off to 1.43 and dropped my turbo to 52. Viola, my temps under load went to 70c and my cpu was stable. So overall I'm extremely happy with my CPU. My Overclocked results on the xs bench were 2198, I couldn't get the extra 2 I tried running the test numerous times.
My motherboard, I can't believe how simple overclocking on this board was. The first time I turned in on I decided to start up with the auto turbo of 4.6 and it worked. But, I couldn't just leave that alone I had to play with it myself not someone elses preset.
My CPU Cooler
I went with the Corsair h50. Before anyone bashes it for not being a true water cooler and even beaten by a high end and cheaper air cooler. I didn't get it for that. I got it for silence and for looks. It REALLY opens up the case. It makes it look so much more modern than my old huge copper butterfly that I used to have.
Am I satisfied by the cooler or should I have upgraded? Honestly I can't say, knowing I could easily have went over 5.4ghz makes me think I would like to have upgraded. But, this CPU is far sufficient for me and for the cost of $39 I got off neweggs ebay site once again. I couldn't pass it up. For the $80 savings on the cheaper cooler vs the h100. I would have spent my money elsewhere even to an i7 2600k. So cost wise if you want more performance upgrade your CPU in my opinion.
My Video Card
I was online and did extensive research and so many people suggested the ATi route and I almost budged. But, Nvidia seems to always have better driver support. So I stuck with Nvidia even though the claims of brute power go to ATi. I haven't began to overclock my card yet, but the guy who I purchased it through said he ran it stable at 1200mhz. This thing is a beast my frame rates are unbelievable compared to my gtx 260.
Other purchases I can't really go too indepth with yet.
I got a case from NZXT, my only real gripes are the lack of thought put into simple things. If you have a typical aircooled heatsink and fan or even the closed loop water cooling systems, you can't use the two 140mm fan holes at the top of the case. If you have a CD/DVD drive on the top rack it hits the fan area as well. So basically I have dust holes on top of my pc. What I think I'll do is find 2 slim fit 140mm fans and put those in the top and move my DVD drive down. The stock case fans are great. They are quiet and move air. However the entire case is seemingly mesh patterned so you can't create an air current. What I think makes the most sense in this case is to have ever fan Blow inward and let the heat push out of the holes and rise to the top of the case where you have 280mm of holes. I do like the CPU cutout on the case and the way the wires can be hidden.
I'm not really sure what the difference in cheap vs expensive ram is I've always seemed to have luck with cheaper ram by good brands. I got Kingston DDR3 1600. I got 2x4gb so I could still expand. When I benchmark this on PC mark it ranks extremely high. I'm not sure if the ram is locked or if overclocking overclocks your RAM as well like it used to do.
I also purchased 2 1TB drives to run in Raid, but unfortunately my older PSU only had 4 SATA power cables and an onslaught of molex connectors. So I'm just waiting for my other SATA cable. If I connect my DVD drive it uses 1 of the 4, but since the cable is daisy chained it won't reach anything else. So I have 3 usable cables.
So I'm setting up RAID 0 with 2 of the 1TB HDDs. I did this and I'm not expecting a huge increase in performance benchmarking. But in real world situations where I'm downloading stuff I am going to have all of my programs on those disks, and my downloads go on my 1TB slower hard drive. Everything should load much faster with the raid and limited disk usage from splitting the work load on 3 HDDs now instead of 1.
So there you have the basics. The Benchmarks and pics will be started tonight.
CPU - $150
HDD - $90 for both off ebay
Mobo - $100
GTX 660ti - $250 auction off ebay
Cooler - $40
Case - $50
PSU -$50 (purchased in 2008 seems to be strong still even under load)
Ram - $42
DVD burner drive - $13
After shipping $800
For what it's worth, an $800 gaming/mutipurpose PC with future proof power for at least the next few years.