In September, I recently picked up all of the components for my new PC. This would be my main video editing and gaming machine. I'm going to go through all the parts I used, and why I picked them. You can see the full list with the most up-to-date prices for each component by going to PC Part Picker. I'm not suggesting you build the same exact system as me, as things always change in the world of computers.
When selecting the parts for any system, you have to start with a budget.
Just joking, I didn't do that. Instead I did much fierce research on each individual component, possibly spending up to 8 hours per piece. I did this to find the absolute best value for each component. Turns out, in my opinion, the $1,500 - $1,600 price range is where the best PC values are found these days.
My power supply and my cooler were the two components I spent the most time on, as I wanted this system to be near silent. I also spent a little bit more money on the graphics card by picking one with a custom cooler that was reviewed to be very quiet. In my experience, these are often the 3 loudest components in any computer: the CPU cooler, the power supply, and the graphics card. Case fans can also add noise, but if controlled, they don't present as much of an issue. Still, I went with highly regarded Noctua fans. Each model has its own properties. The Noctua NF-S12B offers very good airflow, but not much pressure (quietest). The NF-P12 offers good airflow and good pressure (mid-quiet). Those are the two I went with. Noctua also has the NF-F12 which offers fantastic static pressure, but not as much airflow and is a bit louder. This fan is suitable for radiator or heatsink use. With any of these fans you can run them at very low RPMs if your motherboard supports it, which makes the difference in noise between them all nearly inaudible.
CPU: Intel Core i7-3770K 3.5GHz Quad-Core Processor $278.19 CompUSA / TigerDirect
For this price, there's no way I could pass up the opportunity to have a 3770K — especially since I'm doing video editing. If you're building a machine strictly for gaming, this is not necessary. Go with a 3570K or lower depending on how much you can spend.
CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-D14 65.0 CFM CPU Cooler $69.99 NCIX
The Noctua NH-D14 is the best air cooler you can buy. It even competes well with water cooling systems like the Corsair H100 and Corsair H100i at lower decibel levels. The included Noctua fans are much quieter as well. Also, a dual 120mm water cooling system like the Corsair will force you to keep the top of your case open — allowing noise to pass through the top of your case directly into your ear canals. Not good, unless you just don't care.
Motherboard: Asus P8Z77-V PRO ATX LGA1155 Motherboard $189.98 NCIX
The pro version of this motherboard offers more 4-pin controllable fan headers than the non-pro versions. Can't go wrong with Asus.
Memory: Corsair XMS3 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR3-1600 Memory $78.99 Newegg
I might buy more ram in the future, but 16GB has been enough for now. I decided to save some money here, and not go with higher clocked ram. I don't find there to be enough reason to spend more money on higher clock speeds and lower CAS latencies — yet.
Storage: Seagate Barracuda 2TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive $94.99 NCIX
Western Digital is still raking people over the coals with the whole flood situation, charging around 72% higher prices than Seagate's comparable products! Only buy a Western Digital if you absolutely need that 5-year warranty vs. the paltry 2-year warranty Seagate offers. From what I've heard, a hard drive will most likely die within the first few months of owning it. If it doesn't die then, it will probably last forever, forever being exactly 2 weeks past the 5-year warranty.
Storage: Samsung 830 Series 256GB 2.5" Solid State Disk $198.99 Newegg
Get an SSD for your boot drive no matter what your budget is. If you have to wait 2 months longer to save up and buy an SSD, do so. Samsung creates their own flash and controllers, while many other companies don't. This gives them the upper hand, although any SSD is better than no SSD.
Video Card: MSI GeForce GTX 660 Ti 2GB Video Card $317.55 Newegg
For video editing, get an NVidia card. Otherwise, just look at benchmarks for the games you play. Adobe products can utilize CUDA cores. This graphics card has 1344 CUDA Cores with a 192-bit memory interface. Keep in mind the higher the CUDA cores is not necessarily the best, as the memory interface also matters quite a bit. Older cards with lower CUDA cores but a higher memory interface sometimes perform better than newer cards due to the increased bandwidth. There's an entire website talking about how to unlock your card for Adobe products.
Case: Corsair 550D ATX Mid Tower Case $125.99 Amazon
This case has sound dampening foam, fan filters, and a minimalistic style. Another great option for a silent build is the Fractal Design R4.
Power Supply: Corsair Professional Gold 850W 80 PLUS Gold Certified $164.99 NCIX
Fully modular, 80 Plus Gold, nicely sleeved cables, made by Seasonic, silent / very quiet operation. Read Jonny Guru's review if you want all of the technical details. Some may think 850 watts is overkill for my system, and I won't deny that it is, but think about it: If the power supply isn't working too hard, it's also not generating much heat. If it's not generating much heat, the fans don't run as much or as loudly, and therefore it's not generating much noise. Noise = Evil
Extras and Other Expenses
Exhaust Fan: Noctua NF-S12B FLX $16.24 Amazon
This fan has a very good airflow / noise ratio. Since nothing is restricting an exhaust fan, it's a perfect choice for this application.
Intake Fans: 2 x Noctua NF-P12 PWM $42.50 Amazon
I'm using these fans as my two intakes in the front of the case. With the slightly higher static pressure offered, they can push through the hard drive cages. I might choose Noctua NF-F12s instead — it was a tough decision.
Shipping Insurance: $4.27 NCIX
You usually want to insure your orders, especially when coming from another country. If you're using UPS, they already insure anything valued $100 or less. If you order from a lot of different places to get the best price, you may not have to spend any extra on this.
Thermal Compound: Innovation Cooling Diamond "7 Carat" Thermal Compound - 1.5 Grams $8.29 Amazon
There were many excellent reviews and ratings on this particular compound. It was an impulse buy. The Noctua NH-D14 already comes with excellent thermal compound.
Operating System: Windows 8 Pro $14.99 Microsoft at http://windowsupgradeoffer.com
Since it's going up in price after January, get the deal while you can — it's legit.
Tips and Notes
- You can find my original part list at PCPartPicker: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/hFFa
- Never include Mail-in-Rebates when you're searching for the best deal. Many of them fall through, and if you do get them, it often takes 3 months or longer.
- Don't go with a cheap power supply. Check with Jonny Guru first. http://www.jonnyguru.com/
- Look for good deals on your components by using Reddit. I saved $30 on my CPU by doing this. http://www.reddit.com/r/buildapcsales
- Also, if you're new to PC building, there's the very helpful BuildaPc Reddit. http://www.reddit.com/r/buildapc
- There is no such thing as future-proofing a computer. Don't believe the lies. Search for the best value, not the best specs.
The total cost for my system (after extras and other expenses), after looking for deals and searching for the best prices.
Quoted by PCPartPicker.com at the time:
Parts alone actual paid:
After extras and other expenses: