A Sandy Bridge Gaming Computer

posted by on 19th January 2011, at 2:15am

Addendum January 31st, 2010: While this build is still good it is worth noting that Intel has announced a recall on P67 based chipsets. The motherboard used in this build uses an Intel P67 style chipset. The recall has to do with the SATA ports degrading over time which may cause performance or functionality issues. You can find Intel’s full press release here.

Welcome to my first article for 2011. I would like to say welcome back to my regular readers and hello to any new ones joining us this year. 2010 was a major year for technology ranging from the announcement and release of the iPad all the way to Intel’s newest lineup of CPU’s. Over the course of 2010 I attempted to bring lesser known areas of tech to this section of Informer, that will continue this year. This year I want to focus on discussing the future of technology, discussing obscure concepts with you in one way or another, and most importantly I want to focus on enabling you to find your passion for tech. In spirit of this my first article will cover a gaming PC build utilizing Intel’s new Sandy Bridge CPU architecture.

For those unaware of what Sandy Bridge is and what benefits it brings I invite you to read Intel: P5 to Sandy Bridge and Beyond from November 2010. Sandy Bridge brings a small performance boost over the last generation of Intel processors (Nehalem i3, i5, and i7). If you have a Core 2 Duo or Core 2 Quad you will receive a noticeable boost from upgrading to Sandy Bridge. The boost will be seen in some new CPU bound games and in multimedia work, for example, video trans-coding. The question of whether or not you need a new gaming computer can simply be answered by examining your gaming collection and taking note of which games suffer due to frame rate issues and/or CPU issues. If the issues you are having are mostly related to frame rate a video card upgrade would suffice. If the issues are a combination of both, it’s probably time for a new computer. That’s the case that this article will cover.

The build I am going to be outlining here is a semi-budget build. I will highlight where potential upgrades can be found or where you could save money recycling components. There are also other options for manufacturers for parts such as the memory, motherboard, and video card. At the end of the day the brands chosen are brands I have had success with in the past and would recommend.

The first component I want to talk about is the CPU. This build is focused around Sandy Bridge so it makes sense that the CPU should be the first component we choose. I have selected the Core i5-2500 as our CPU. The 2500 is a mid-range CPU in terms of the current Sandy Bridge lineup. This CPU retails for $209.99. One should note that the CPU is the 2500, not the 2500K, the main difference between the two models is that the 2500 is not nearly as overclock-able as the 2500K. For someone who is interested in overclocking the 2500K is a better alternative. If you are a person who must have the best of the best then the Core i7-2600K is the best Sandy Bridge CPU that can be bought now. If you are looking to save money then the Core i5-2300 at $184.99 is a good choice, remember that this CPU is not going to offer overclocking flexibility.

The next essential component is our motherboard. I have selected a Gigabyte board as I have personally had good experiences with them. I will not be providing an alternate in terms of an upgrade or downgrade to save money as this board will probably only be good for one cycle since Intel has reverted to changing CPU sockets regularly. The board I have selected is the Gigabyte GA-P67A-UD3 which sells for $129.99. This board is ideal as it has USB 3.0 capability, has the potential run dual graphics cards, and will allow for future memory expansion if needed.

In terms of video cards, there are a number of choices to choose from. The video card chosen is an EVGA GeForce GTX 460 (768MB memory model). This video card sells for $189.99 (currently on sale, $5 off). For more performance you could upgrade to the GTX 470 or even GTX 480. The GTX 470 requires more power and will generate more heat. The GTX 470 will add an extra $80 onto the grand total, is it worth it? Probably not since you won’t notice the difference unless you are running games at resolutions larger than 1920×1080. The GTX 460 will be able to play pretty much any game that is currently released. The GTX 470 would be better for future proofing but is not worth it for our build.

Memory and hard drives are simple. In 2011 there’s no real reason to worry about what brand of memory you are getting unless it’s an obscure brand that is completely unknown. The same can be said for hard drives. For memory I have selected a 4GB set of Crucial DDR3 1333MHz memory. If you are looking to get faster memory you could move up to DDR3 1600MHz or DDR3 1866MHz, however, the boost will not be noticeable. The set comes with 2 2GB sticks for $44.99. The hard drive I’ve chosen is a Seagate Barracuda 500GB drive for $49.99. If you have existing hard drives you could recycle them and use them in this build. In the future an upgrade to a solid-state-drive (SSD) would be logical, but right now it’s too expensive for a budget based build.

Perhaps the second most important component which is often overlooked is the power supply. A good power supply is important. If your power supply shorts out it has the potential to take your entire system with it and any peripherals attached. The power supply I’ve selected is the OCZ ModXStream Pro 600W version. This power supply was suggested to me by Mike as he has a similar model. This can be found for $69.99 (after mail in rebate). This power supply will provide enough power to your system and some extra in the event a video card upgrade is ever needed. Along side this I’ve selected a generic Antec Mid Tower case for $59.95. The case is also something that can be recycled if you are happy with your current case or come across one for a low price from a friend. If you’re looking for something with more features I invite you to take a look at Newegg’s cases. A computer case is something that’s very personal, you may like a different case layout than I do or you may want a different size.

For this to be a fully legit build we must also include a copy of Windows 7. Windows 7 Home Premium is the standard version most people should be using. I’ve selected the 64-bit build since we have 4GB memory, selecting 64-bit will enable an upgrade to 8GB memory later on. The Windows 7 Home Premium OEM version is available for $99.99.

We’ve covered the essentials, the only thing left is an optical drive, keyboard, mouse, and display. The optical drive is one of the components that can be recycled easily. If you don’t have any spare CD/DVD readers/writers available you can get a 22x Samsung DVD writer for $17.99. Also consider the option of not using an optical drive if your software is downloadable (legally) and don’t backup to physical media. This article assumes that you have access to keyboard, mouse, and display that can be used on this new computer.

You can find the full list of parts and prices in this spreadsheet:

If you have any questions or suggestions about this build feel free to send me a message. I’m also open to hearing your ideas about what we can talk about in 2011.

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