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How-to: Build a killer gaming PC for under $1,000

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By Vlad Savov and Sean Hollister

Ah, the self-built PC. It wasn’t until the turn of this century that computer components were finally affordable enough for the regular Joe and Vlad to build their own, but we made up for lost time in a hurry. The insatiable appetite for newer and better hardware intermingled with the wealth of knowledge that was the internet to produce some wonderful DIY PCs. Oh sure, garish LED lights would peek out at you from some overzealous builder’s case, but at least they were a sign of the close bond shared between a machine and the human that built it.

Modern trends have threatened to leave the custom-built computer behind, what with multifunctional home consoles and constantly connected mobile devices, but there’s still one overwhelming reason to want a good old desktop tower: gaming. The highest possible visual fidelity is still reserved for the PC gamer, with games like the recent Battlefield 3 exhibiting breathtaking graphical detail.

As keen gamers ourselves, we thought it’d be a good idea to show how we’d spend a reasonable sum of money, say $1,000, in the pursuit of such splendorous visuals. This guide will walk you through the dos and don’ts of picking out the right components, before showing you how they all fit together. In the future, we’ll be using the resulting Verge Gaming Rig as a testing platform for other goodies on the desktop hardware front, while also reviewing potential upgrades to keep it in tip-top shape. Today, however, is all about piecing it together and making sure it boots up.

The Components

Before you start assembling any sort of a computer, you’d do well to remember the universal maxim that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. A typical computer workflow involves (1) taking data from the storage drive, (2) transferring it to memory for more rapid access, (3) sending it in smaller pieces to the central processing unit (CPU) for handling, and finally (4) pumping it out to a display via a graphics processing unit (GPU). Because the CPU and GPU "do all the work," they command the highest order of importance (and price), but you'll never see them performing at their maximum without equally speedy memory and storage or a reliable power supply and motherboard. So, if you’re not keen on creating bottlenecks from the start, make sure to balance your budget so that you can buy high-quality components throughout.

We aimed to do exactly that with the fiscally constrained Verge Gaming Rig, and just managed to scrape in under the $1,000 mark. Pricing of PC hardware actually fluctuates quite a bit, and we were the beneficiaries of quite a few bargains when we put the Rig spec list together over the Black Friday weekend. Thanks to a number of seasonal rebates and a deep discount on the power supply unit, we were able to overspend on the CPU and GPU while still obtaining a Blu-ray player, half a terabyte of storage plus a solid state boot drive, and one of the best motherboards around. Prices have since risen, but if you stick to our rough budget guide above, you should be able to find suitable components that strike the right balance between price and performance.

CPU: Intel Core i5-2500K ($209.99)

When processor price wars happen, they typically take place at or around the $200 mark. It's the sweet spot for consumers on a tight budget, mostly because it tends to be populated by high-end CPU architectures with a little less power than the $300 to $600 flagship models. The i5-2500K is just such a chip, and it has quickly developed a reputation as the best value Sandy Bridge processor. In its stock configuration, it runs four cores at 3.3GHz each, but the heart of its widespread appeal is in this CPU’s ability to operate at speeds of 4GHz and above. The K in the model number denotes the unlocked multiplier on the 2500K, which will allow you to overclock it to your heart’s content (or, more realistically, as far as your cooling will allow).

If you have extra room in your budget, you can step up to the Core i7-2600K ($320), which adds some extra cache (super fast on-chip memory), accelerates the stock speed, and seems to have a slightly higher overclocking ceiling. Hyper-Threading is also available on the 2600K, meaning it can perform two tasks per core for a total of eight threads, but that hasn’t shown itself to be much of an advantage in gaming. Alternatively, you can go nuts and spend $1,050 on the six-core Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition processor that Intel introduced recently — we’d hardly call it good value for money, but out of the box it's the fastest thing you can buy right now. AMD is producing some interesting parts too, however they’re just not competitive enough with Intel’s well-priced inventory to merit an endorsement.

Pc-guide-parts2



Rough budget guide
Graphics card $220
Processor $200
Motherboard $160
Storage $150
Power supply $120
Case $60
Memory $50
Optical drive $40

Remember that any chain is only as strong as its weakest link

Intel-corei5-2500k

What's overclocking?

The "clock" of any processor is the frequency at which it operates, as measured in hertz (or cycles per second). An obvious, though rarely linear, improvement you can make to your PC’s performance is to increase that frequency so that it works faster. That’s all overclocking is, you’re just raising the operational speed in the hope of obtaining a tangibly faster user experience. As with humans, however, a processor that works faster is also working harder, leading to proportional increases in power consumption and heat emission. If you’re not ready or willing to deal with the risks of destroying your computer in the effort of finding out its performance limits, we’d advise sticking to the stock settings.

Some manufacturers do provide pre-overclocked designs, such as graphics board makers who might take a reference chip from AMD or Nvidia and run it faster than recommended speeds after upgrading the cooling and power-regulating components. AMD and Intel also have dynamic overclocking systems for their latest generations of CPUs, which disable some cores in order to provide enough thermal and power overhead to reach higher speeds. The difference between manufacturer-provided overclocks and the DIY version is obvious: the former is much more rigorously tested and doesn’t run the risk of voiding your warranty.

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Motherboard: Asus P8P67 Pro Rev 3.1 ($144.99)

If you’re going to pursue the path of the overclocker, it’s of paramount importance that you find a motherboard that can withstand the additional stresses your sped-up CPU will inflict upon it. Asus’s P8P67 Pro is an established champ in that category, with the company also providing a handy and comprehensive overclocking guide over on the Hard Forum. The P67 chipset is Intel’s performance-oriented setup and Asus outfits it with all the extras you’ll need: four 6Gbps SATA connections, four USB 3.0 jacks, Bluetooth 2.1, 8-channel audio, and support for dual-card graphics solutions such as Nvidia's SLI or AMD's CrossFire.

In place of the old school BIOS, you get the fresh and new Unified Extensible Firmware Interface, which performs all the roles of a BIOS, but does it with a much friendlier graphical UI that also lets you use your mouse. Asus also throws in a heap of power-tweaking options and fail-safes to prevent your clock speed experiments from ending unhappily. Intel’s newer Z68 chipset adds a pair of intriguing features in enabling Quick Sync (video transcoding acceleration using the integrated GPU) and Smart Response (using an SSD as a giant memory cache), but neither of those is particularly relevant to our purposes, so we considered this a good moment to step back from the latest model and save some money.

Graphics card: Gigabyte GTX 560 Ti OC 900MHz 1GB ($214.99)

Pick any price point you care for and you’ll find the nearest affordable graphics card from AMD is almost indistinguishable from its Nvidia-built competitor. There are technical differences aplenty, sure, but the two companies are matching each other in performance almost across the board, and where they don’t, the slightly slower chip sits proportionately lower on the pricing scale. That’s not to say that all GPUs provide the same value for money. The $200 to $250 bracket is still the place where you’ll get the most frames per dollar spent, and it’s presently led by the Radeon HD 6950, which consistently outperforms the GTX 560 Ti but also costs a little bit more as a result.

Gigabyte3

We’ve settled on a happy compromise between the two by choosing a manufacturer-overclocked version of the 560 Ti. Gigabyte’s OC variant of this graphics card doesn’t just turn up the clocks, it also adds higher-quality capacitors and a custom dual-fan cooling solution with four copper heatpipes. It received a glowing review from the guys over at the Tech Report and has enough grunt to allow us to play most games at 1920 x 1080 resolution with all quality settings turned up. 1080p is by far the most popular resolution on desktop monitors today, meaning that you'll be unlikely to need any more firepower than the GTX 560 Ti provides to enjoy games at their highest fidelity on your display's native settings.

Thanks to its strong performance and palatable price, the 560 Ti (and the Radeon HD 6950 alongside it) is a great choice for a lynchpin to build a true gamer's rig around. Should your budget extend further skywards, the GTX 580 from Nvidia and the HD 6970 from AMD are the obvious top-tier choices, though we’d actually recommend against investing in either of them right now. Both companies are scheming up upgrades with a new 28nm production process, which should push the performance ceiling up and prices of current-gen hardware down. In general, the best advice with any graphics cards, and probably hardware in general, is to buy the tier just below the absolute top end, where prices are within closer reach, but performance remains high.

Memory: 8GB Corsair Vengeance CL9 DDR3-1600 RAM ($44.99)

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Memory is dirt cheap these days, so you could easily push this boat out to 16GB without bankrupting yourself, but 8GB is sufficient for most tasks. Corsair is a memory maker we’ve used and trusted for a long time and its new Vengeance 8GB kit has proven to be as stable and reliable as the company’s reputation would lead you to expect. Points may be added or taken away for the macho look of the heat spreader, depending on your preference. A good alternative here is the G.Skill Ripjaws set of two 4GB DDR3-1600 sticks. By the way, don’t bother spending extra for faster memory (DDR3-1866) or tighter timings (CL8 or CL7). AnandTech performed a study recently that showed anything over DDR3-1333 was overkill for Sandy Bridge CPUs. We’ve opted for DDR3-1600 because it costs practically the same as the lower-specced stuff.

Storage: Samsung 64GB SSD 830 ($94.99) +

WD Caviar Blue 500GB 7200RPM HDD ($99.99)

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Hard drives would be tracking a similar price trajectory to memory right now were it not for the floods that hit Thailand this year, so magnetic storage is atypically pricey. That being the case, we opted for a 500GB archival unit plus a 64GB solid state boot drive. The half-terabyte HDD is still the most cost-efficient way to obtain tons of storage, whereas the SSD is something we now consider a basic necessity in all new computers. Once you’ve booted up a PC from an SSD, you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about — it’s a whole new world. To avoid bottlenecks, make sure to buy a SATA III drive. Our chosen Samsung 830 and the similarly priced OCZ Vertex 3 SSD both offer higher than 500MBps reading speeds, which wouldn’t be possible without the 6Gbps bandwidth of SATA III. As far as the HDD goes, when prices return to their usual levels, you should be able to grab a 1TB hard disk without spending much more than we’ve done here.



AMD and Nvidia are matching each other stride for stride right now
Bigger fans don't need to spin as quickly, making for a quieter PC

Power supply: Corsair Enthusiast Series CMPSU-650TX ($59.99)

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Not the latest and greatest model, but in the world of power supplies, that doesn’t actually matter a great deal. What matters is that you’ll get plenty of power, delivered in a reliable fashion. This 650W Corsair unit is certified for 80 percent energy efficiency and comes with Japanese capacitors, which have become an industry byword for reliability. The 120mm fan is big enough to push air around the PSU without getting too noisy, though if you’ve got room in your budget, Corsair’s 750W and 850W Enthusiast Series come with 140mm fans. A nice extra that we couldn’t fit into our PSU budget was a modular design, wherein the cables connecting to the power supply can be disconnected if not in use. That helps cut down on the clutter inside your case, improving both its looks and ventilation.

Case: Fractal Design Core 3000 ($64.99)

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We’ll readily admit that these last two parts were lowest on our list of priorities and were therefore subject to a tight financial squeeze, though neither of them is a terrible choice. The Core 3000 is reasonably priced for a case that seems to be lacking little, with removable and rotatable hard drive cages and seven fan mounts, three of which are already populated by one 120mm and two 140mm fans. The flexibility of its design means you can fit even the longest graphics card inside and it has enough clearance for most of the oversized aftermarket CPU coolers. Externally, it keeps to an understated look, with a honeycomb mesh up front and on top allowing for improved air flow. Unfortunately, its build quality left a lot to be desired, as we discovered once we received ours and had to use a screwdriver to turn the supposedly tool-free thumbscrews. Consequently, we wouldn’t really recommend the Core 3000 to anyone that plans on swapping parts out on a regular basis. The good news, however, is that there are usually great deals and discounts to be found on cases, and it’s really just a matter of preference and patience to find the right one. If we were to make this choice again, we might opt for one of Cooler Master’s range of affordable steel cases.

Optical drive: SAMSUNG SH-B123 12X BD-ROM DRIVE ($59.99)

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We thought long and hard about dispensing with the optical drive altogether, but games are still mostly bought and sold on discs and it’d be silly to have a Gaming Rig without a convenient way to plug ‘n' frag. The small premium for Blu-ray compatibility was worth it to us, but you could just as easily save that cash and put it toward a mildly faster graphics card.

Final specs
Processor Intel Core i5-2500K $209.99
Motherboard Asus P8P67 Pro Rev 3.1 $144.99
Graphics card Gigabyte GTX 560 Ti OC 900MHz 1GB $214.99
Memory 8GB Corsair Vengeance CL9 DDR3-1600 RAM $44.99
Boot drive Samsung 64GB SSD 830 $94.99
Storage drive WD Caviar Blue 500GB 7200RPM HDD $99.99
Power supply Corsair Enthusiast Series CMPSU-650TX $59.99
Case Fractal Design Core 3000 $64.99
Optical drive Samsung SH-B123 12x BD-ROM $59.99

Total cost before taxes and shipping: $994.91


Peripherals and Operating System

We've focused exclusively on the things that go inside the case of your computer in this build, but you'll obviously need to accessorize that engine of lag destruction with an operating system and a few choice peripherals. Why didn't we include them in our budget above? Well, if you've owned a desktop computer in recent memory, you might already have them. If you've got a perfectly good monitor, keyboard, mouse and / or Windows install disc sitting around, there's no need to spend money on new ones, unless they've worn out their welcome. The second myth to dispel is the idea that you have to search out speakers, input devices, and monitors built specifically for gamers. Your primary consideration in all three categories should be comfort — your comfort, not that of a theoretical gamer whose needs include lots of blinking lights and the superfluous use of hard metals in tactile devices. We've managed to wear the keys of a trusty Logitech Ultra X keyboard down to a fine glossy sheen over the past few years, and can see no reason why you shouldn't stick with whatever has been working for you until now. If it's good enough for Word, it's good enough for World of Warcraft.


Also from Logitech, the G5 gaming mouse (okay, some gamer-centric peripherals are actually good) has served us well for a mighty long time, and its G500 successor features a similar molded grip for enhanced ergonomics. The one big upgrade among peripherals in recent years has been the move of IPS displays to both more affordable price points and more responsive technology, making them viable options for some seriously pretty gaming action. Check out Dell's UltraSharp series or NEC's IPS-equipped MultiSync monitors to get a good idea of the difference a high-quality display panel can make. Alternatively, you can seek out a monitor with a 120Hz refresh for the smoothest possible frame rate or, given that there's an HDMI output on the back of this rig's graphics card, why not just plug into your nearest HDTV? We did all of our testing on a Panasonic plasma display and would have a hard time going back to a desktop monitor after that experience.

N.B. If you're wondering about the fingerless gloves in the video, they don't serve a purpose functional to the build; it was just really cold at Sean's place.

The Build

This isn't a robot, it's not going to just assemble itself
Pc-guide-pcix2

So now that you've got the perfect parts, it's time to build your machine. That might seem like a daunting task, but believe us, color-coded connectors and one-way slots actually make it quite easy. If you can put together your own IKEA furniture, you're overqualified for the job. All it takes is a bit of patience — expect to spend an afternoon — a small Philips-head screwdriver, and the instructions below!

Setup

It turns out integrated circuits aren't fond of electrostatic discharges (ESD), so before you start juggling processors and memory modules, you'll want to ground yourself. Typically, that means you'll want an antistatic wrist strap to channel static electricity to a bare metal surface on your case, but you can also simply touch the bare case at all times to achieve the same thing. While you're at it, you might want to consider whether you're wearing the right clothes for the task. Socks on carpet are probably not a good idea, and the polar fleece your mom gave you last Christmas is right out. You can build in the nude, however, if you're particularly worried about static, or the other alternative is to invest in some antistatic gloves. By the same token, you might want to leave your components in their anti-ESD bags until it's time to install them, but go ahead and remove each from their cardboard boxes right now. Don't throw anything away quite yet, though!

Motherboard, CPU and memory

Motherboard prep

You can combine PC parts in many different orders, but if you want the least amount of trouble doing so, you'll want to begin by assembling the components that reside on the motherboard. Pull out your motherboard and — here's a handy trick — instead of setting it on a hard flat surface like a table, lay it on top of the ESD bag and foam or cardboard that came with it. You're going to need to push some components down onto the board, but you don't want to damage the soldered pins on the underside.

CPU

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See that metal trapdoor in the center of the board? That's a CPU bracket, and you're going to want to pull the little lever on the side (down, out, and up) to open it and remove the plastic placeholder. Inside is the LGA 1155 socket, and you can probably guess what goes in there. Pull out your processor (you're grounded, right?) and gently set it down on the springboard of tiny little pins. There's only one right way to do it, so don't force it down, just line up the little golden triangle at one corner and the notches on either side, and ease it into the socket. Then close the metal bracket again, slide it underneath the retaining pin, and cinch it down with the lever. It should resist you, but if you lined things up right it shouldn't take too much force to lock it back into place.

Cooler

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Your boxed CPU should have come with a heatsink and fan combo, and installing it might be the trickiest part of the whole build, because Intel's stock cooler is a little finicky to put on. Here's how it works: there are four spring-loaded quick-release pins that hold the cooler down, a patch of thermal grease on the bottom, and a set of tiny wires to give the fan power. First, make sure all four pins have their arrows facing away from the heatsink, then line up the pins with the four matching holes on the motherboard surrounding the CPU, such that the power cord for the fan can reach a matching socket on the motherboard too. Press down lightly on the center of the cooler to gently squish the thermal grease against the top of the CPU. Next, simultaneously push down on two of the pins on opposite sides of the CPU until they click and are firmly secured into place, then push down on the other two pins until they click as well. To check your work, flip over the motherboard and make sure both prongs of each pin are sticking through the other side. Finally, plug in the fan power cord.

Memory

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Now that the hard part's over, let's socket some memory! RAM is one of the most sensitive components in your computer — so take care to ground yourself — but actually installing memory sticks is the easiest thing you'll do. Just be sure you're putting the memory into the right slots; look for the ones with standing clips on either end. Generally, the first memory module goes into the socket closest to the CPU, and the second one skips a slot, but the easy way to tell is just to make sure both slots are the same color. (Don't worry, you can't break anything even if you get it wrong; your computer may just perform slower than it should.) To insert, just pull open the clips on either end of a memory bank (this Asus board actually only has one moving clip per slot), line up the stick with the grooves, and gently slide it into place. Then, firmly press down until those clips click closed, and repeat for the other stick. DDR3 RAM has a groove about two-thirds of the way across the stick, so be sure your memory is facing the right direction before you apply force!

Pc-guide-mobo-layoutAre you properly grounded? Let's begin
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Black never goes out of style

Case

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Motherboard, CPU and memory are the heart of a computer, and now it's time to put them all in their place. For a standard ATX (full-size) motherboard, that means you'll be using nine standoffs and nine screws to attach it to your case. Take both of the side panels off of your case, lay it flat on its side, and screw each of the standoffs into the metal motherboard tray in the appropriate spots. Remember the flimsy little piece of metal that came with your motherboard, filled with holes? Pop it into the back of your case, from the inside out, so it can shield your ports. Then, carefully angle the rear end of your motherboard so the ports line up with the holes, and gently set the rest of the board down so the standoffs line up, too. Then it's just a matter of screwing it down. No need to apply force; with nine screws, the motherboard's not going anywhere even if one or two are loose.

While you're at it, this is probably a good time to hook up your power and reset buttons, LEDs, case speaker, and fans, not to mention the front USB and audio ports, too. Look for a bundle of cords coming out of the case, and find their matching headers on the motherboard. Asus makes it even easier with a removable front header module so you can plug almost all of them in at once. Each individual item should be clearly labeled, and if you're not sure, there are full instructions in your motherboard manual as well. Just remember that the little black arrow on the back of the connector points to the positive (+) terminal.

Drives

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PC builders these days have it so easy with quick-release HDD trays, and we've got six of them in this case, each one with a thumbscrew in the side for added security. After removing its screw, pull one out by squeezing the tabs on either size, then screw your drive in using the holes on the bottom of each, four screws per drive for maximum security. Which way should your hard drive and solid state drive face? Either way works: point them towards you if you'll be swapping drives often, or away if you want to hide your cables neatly.

To install the optical drive, you'll need to remove the entire front of the case for a moment, pop out the 5.25-inch faceplate, and then put the case's front back on again. Then, simply slide in your optical drive and screw it into holes on either side of the drive cage.

It'll be tricky to route data cables once you install the graphics card, so take care of that now. Find the flexible SATA cables that came with your motherboard, and plug them into any open port (make sure to connect the SSD into one of the 6Gbps SATA III ports, marked with 6G on this motherboard), then either cleverly route them through your case for a neat appearance or leave them dangling. The choice is yours.

Graphics card

Pc-guide-gpu

Once upon a time computers would have plenty of rear-facing expansion cards, but your GPU board will likely be the only one nowadays. Find a PCI-Express x16 slot on the motherboard (it should be clearly marked) and unscrew the two case covers immediately next to and below that slot. Then, insert your GPU at an angle, starting with the pointy end of the metal bracket — it slots between the edge of your case and the motherboard — and gently push the PCI-Express connector into the slot on the board. (If the PCI-Express connector is covered, like on this Gigabyte card, remove the cover first!) Use the thumbscrews you just removed to tighten the retaining bracket down, and then it's time to install the power supply.

Power supply

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We're on the home stretch. Just stick that chunky PSU into its dedicated spot at the bottom of the case, with the switch and power socket facing rear and the 120mm fan facing the grate at the bottom of the case. Screw it in with the four included screws, and you're nearly done.

Cables

Pc-guide-cables




From the power supply:

Plug the chunky 24-pin ATX connector into your motherboard, near the RAM.

Plug the 8-pin ATX connector into your motherboard, near the CPU.

Plug a SATA power connector into each drive.

Plug two 6-pin PCI-E power connectors into your GPU.

Route the rest of your power cables behind the motherboard tray, into an empty drive cage, or somewhere else to keep them out of the way.

From the motherboard:

Plug the SATA data cables into your drives now.

On the back panel:

Plug in your monitor to the VGA, DVI, or HDMI port, depending on your cable.

Plug in your mouse and keyboard, using either the PS/2 or any available USB port.

Plug in your speakers to the rear digital or 3.5mm audio jacks.

Plug in your power supply.

Close up your case, turn on your monitor, flip the power supply switch, push the power button on the front of your case, and you're in business! You've still got an operating system and drivers to install, but the physical labor is over. Congratulations on building a desktop computer!

If the fans are spinning, you're in business
Pc-guide-heatpipe

The benchmarks

Mixing a few synthetic tests with real world gaming experience
3dmark-2011


You'll no doubt want to take a moment to savor your handiwork after your rig is complete, but only a fleeting one. After all, you built it to play games, and as Duke Nukem would say, you're all out of bubble gum. Well, if you choose the same components we did, we're happy to report that you'll be fragging foes in style; we just finished cutting the Verge Gaming Rig's teeth on several of our favorite titles at 1920 x 1080 resolution.

First, we tossed our regular benchmark buddy Just Cause 2 at the machine for an appetizer, and we were pleased as punch with the result: a perfectly playable 30fps minimum framerate at 1080p resolution, with truly maxed settings and the gorgeous buttery blur you get when you combine 32x coverage sampling anti-aliasing (CSAA) with the game's Bokeh Filter. That's actual gameplay, mind you, not the built-in benchmark. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, admittedly a less demanding game, fared even better, requiring us to force tons of extra anti-aliasing in the Nvidia Control Panel (above and beyond, right?) to pull the framerate below 100fps on average.

Then it was on to The Witcher 2, a beautiful game that typically chokes up modern systems despite its DirectX 9 roots. We were able to play through a chunk of the storyline at 1080p with max settings (save the ludicrous Ubersampling) and average 40fps while doing so. Of course, if you're questing for graphical glory this holiday season, Skyrim is your realm of choice, and our rig handled it quite nicely at 1080p. It's playable at max settings with only one concession, and that's dropping the anti-aliasing to 2x or 4x MSAA.

So far, we've only tested one game where we couldn't have it all: Batman: Arkham City, with its dizzying array of visual goodies. It's fluid at nearly maxed settings as long as you only pick one of these three: PhysX particles, DirectX 11 tessellation, or 4x MSAA. You can probably find a more pleasing harmony if you're willing to tweak.

Update: We've been spending some quality time with Battlefield 3 as well, and we're afraid that maxed settings are slightly out of reach. Playing through the first real mission, Operation Swordbreaker, we found that the High spec was just about perfect for our 1080p monitor and rig, averaging around 60fps, with a minimum framerate of 30fps — just the kind of smooth response you need for a fast-paced first person shooter. On Ultra spec, urban combat looked decidedly better, but those framerates got nearly cut in half, and our Nvidia drivers also spontaneously crashed on two occasions. We'll see if we can isolate the issue, but it looks like High spec is where you'll want to be.

This is only the end of the beginning

When we set out to build an official gaming rig for The Verge, we knew it wasn't going to be your typical machine. Neither an underpowered budget rig nor an overpriced blend of exotic components, it had to satisfy the serious PC gamer who wants real value from every hard-earned dollar. We also didn't want to pretend that once a homebuilt PC is constructed, its story is over. The upgrader's tale is at least as fascinating as that of the builder creating afresh.

Over the months to come, we're going to keep testing this rig with the latest games to make sure it's up to snuff, consider new hardware and configurations if need be, explore new options and ideas in the realm of desktop computing, and give you a heads-up if our chosen parts somehow prove less than satisfactory. For instance, we didn't particularly care for the poor tooling on our computer case. What does that mean for you? Tune in next time and perhaps we'll explore a range of enclosures that are better suited to the task. Until then... happy fragging!

Score
Windows Experience Index 7.5
PCMark Vantage 19,301
3DMark Vantage P18,801
H13,933
X10,014
3DMark 11 P4,828
X1,604
Boot time 38 seconds

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