Hey, look at the gaming PC I just built.

This may be of no interest to anyone, but I'm pretty proud of this. This is my first real PC build, after being a mac user for the past ~7 years. I was drawn to the concept after getting totally addicted to Skyrim, and seeing all the mods available on the PC. Last summer's Steam sale, however, was what really got me interested in making the jump. So I read Reddit's r/buildapc for months, made some draft builds, watched the prices on pcpartpicker, and finally pulled the trigger.

Build Goals: A lot of power out of the smallest possible case that would allow me to add a second GPU if necessary - a little bit of future-proofing. There are a lot of small cases out there, but many are either too small (limiting GPU choice) or expensive with wacky/non-ideal cooling (Lian Li, Silverstone TJ08e). I achieved my goals, with sales, for about $1,400.

Component Choice

  • Micro-ATX form factor because it is small, but has the potential to add a second GPU.
  • Intel i5 i3570K for its apparent "sweet spot" value and ability to overclock (I'm running 4.3Ghz on air right now).
  • Gigabyte 7970 Ghz Edition GPU because I planned to run Skyrim with a lot of high-res texture mods.
  • Silverstone SG-09 case because of its small size and cooling setup (180mm top fan, 5 case fans, and a front-mounted PSU that vents zero heat into the case). It has space for two 92mm fans blowing air directly onto the GPUs, which is great because mine has a non-reference design. The case's small size also effectively creates separate chambers for CPU and GPU cooling. It's basically silent. BTW, the case also has mounting points for 2 full-size hard drives, 8 SSDs, AND a slot-loading optical drive, all separated from the GPU/CPU area. You can really make this case DENSE.
  • Maximus V Gene motherboard because, in part, it has an slot for a mSATA/mini-PCIe combo card. I have a 128GB mSATA SSD and a mini-PCIe wifi/bluetooth combo card sitting right on the motherboard now, taking up no space in the case. The Wifi/Bluetooth antennae are hidden inside the case, snaked around to the plastic part so they can get a signal. The 128GB SSD is my boot drive, and I use a separate 256GB SSD for games and other storage.
  • I used the optical drive area to hide a Wireless Xbox 360 Controller Adapter. Once paired, you never have to think about it again.
  • Windows 8's start screen works pretty well as a 10-ft interface on a 63-inch TV, since large icons are easier to click with a mouse that you're reaching for on a table. Alternatively I use a Splashtop iOS app to function as a touchpad/keyboard.

Build Experience: I ran into some difficulties that might not have happened if I had more experience. The case is so small that there were some challenges with getting things mounted and cables routed. The drivers that shipped with all my hardware were for Windows 7, so their installers would not run. I had to manually download and install everything. I knew I would screw up the thermal paste, and I did. Messing with GPU drivers is as much a crap shoot as it ever was, but basic overclocking (not messing with voltage) is easy enough.

It's a little monster, eating up every game I've thrown at it so far, with just the one 7970. I keep it running pretty lean, since I use cloud storage for everything but games, and I only keep 1 or 2 Steam games downloaded at any given time. This allows me to use nothing but SSDs, which means that it boots quickly and loading screens are almost non-existent. It's also reasonably portable, since it only really needs its power cable, HDMI cable, and xbox controller to fully run. It's quiet and temps are good.

Here's an Imgur album with the build pics: http://imgur.com/a/DWCQm (The game shown is Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, which I happened to be playing at the time.

Here's a pic of it right after it was built. It actually fits in that space on my media center right above my router, so that's where it lives now.


via i.imgur.com

My only regret, to be honest, is the possibility of missing out on console exclusives. If anyone has any questions, please ask. If you're thinking of building a PC on your own, you definitely should.