Building A Custom PC 2011 Part 2: First Draft

Martin Brinkmann
May 12, 2011
Updated • Dec 2, 2012

In Building A Custom PC 2011 Part 1: The Assessment I mentioned what I'd needed in a new Pc that I was about to build. I have mentioned my expectations and other requirements in the same article. Today I'm using the information to select a first set of components that I might use to build the new PC. This is a first draft as I plan to buy the new PC in the second half of 2011. That's a long time away in terms of new components that may get released in the meantime.

Lets start with a list of components that I need to build the PC:

Core PC Components

  • Motherboard - Determined mostly by the selected cpu and required connections.
  • CPU - Intel or AMD are options.
  • CPU Cooler
  • Power Supply
  • RAM - Maximum RAM may be limited by operating system and motherboard.
  • Video Card - AMD or NVIDIA. Onboard is not an option for the PC that I want to build.
  • Storage - SSD or conventional hard drives, or both.
  • PC Case - Basic or with extras.
  • Optical drives - DVD writer is a must, Blu-Ray not really needed.

Other components

  • Mouse and keyboard
  • Computer monitor
  • Audio Card / Onboard
  • Headset with Microphone

When I build a PC I usually start with the selection of the processor and go from there. When I have the processor I know which motherboard I need. From there I get the RAM, video card and the other components.


I never go for the fastest cpu available. The price difference to less powerful processors is just to steep and does not justify the price, at least not for a desktop computer. You can save lots of money if you buy a slightly less powerful cpu. That still leaves the question if it should be an Intel or AMD cpu. I do not really have a preference in this regard but have used Intel in the past which is why I stick with Intel on this one.

I definitely want to pick cpus with Intel's new Sandy Bridge architecture. You may notice that Sandy Bridge processors are offered with and without k after the number. K indicates cpus with an unlocked multiplier, which is great if you are into overclocking.

The following two cpus are my favorites currently.

  • Intel Core i5-2500K Sandy Bridge 3.3GHz - $230
  • Intel Core i7-2600K Sandy Bridge 3.4GHz - $320

The Core i7 is faster than its Core i5 counterpart but not as much as you might expect. Hardcoreware have compared the performance of both cpus. The differences range from negligible when it comes to PC gaming to somewhat noticeable for tasks like rendering or archiving. Does that justify the $90 extra that you have to pay for the i7-2600k? Not necessarily.


Now that I have the cpu, I can start evaluating motherboards for that cpu. Both processors require LGA 1155 socket type motherboards. Motherboards come in all sizes and shapes, and it is important to have a solid understanding of what you want before you start picking the first one you see. For instance, do you need USB 3.0, Firewire or Bluetooth support? Want two or four memory slots? Should it have a 1000 Gigabit Ethernet port? How many PCI Express slots should it have, and should it have PCI slots as well? What about SATA 6 GB/s?

My requirements are the following: I want a motherboard with an UEFI-BIOS which offers many advantages. I'd also like SATA 6 GB/s support and USB 3.0 support. I want it to have onboard sound, and I do not need PCI slots, only PCI Express. It should have at least one Gigabit Ethernet port.

The following two motherboards are my favorites:

  • ASRock P67 EXTREME4 - $160
  • MSI P67A-GD55 (B3) - $165

Both support all the features that I need and affordable enough.

CPU Cooler

I usually do not use boxed cpu coolers as they are often to loud and do not cool the cpu down as good as third party coolers. Still, I often try them out first before I purchase a new cooler. For now, it is the boxed cooler that I'll use. Selecting the right cooler is a science for itself.

One cooler that I'm currently looking at is the Noctua NH-U9B SE2 92mm.

Power Supply

The power supply has to be efficient and silent at the same time. It is at least 80 Plus power supplies that I'm after, preferably Gold standard.

My old PC has an Enermax Modu 87+ 700W and I want to buy the same power unit for the new PC as well. It is almost silent and very effective thanks to its Gold rating.

  • ENERMAX MODU87+ EMG700AWT 700W - $180


My old Pc has 8 Gigabytes of Ram, and my intention is to double the amount of RAM on the new one. This may be overkill and I know that. Still, the price seems to be right.

  • G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 16GB (4 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 - $210
  • CORSAIR Vengeance 16GB (4 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 - $210

Video Card

I just bought a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 470 which is sufficient for all the gaming that I do. I will keep the card for now in the system, and get a new card in a year's time when new cards are released by AMD and NVIDIA.

The card is a Zotac GeForce GTX 470


The combination of a fast Solid State Drive for the system partition, and a large conventional hard drive for storage is in my opinion excellent. My intention is to buy a new generation SSD that promises even faster speeds as this generation.

My current favorite is the OCZ Vertex 3 VTX3-25SAT3-120G. It is a bit pricey right now at $300.

The conventional hard drive should have storage capacities of at least 2 TB, better three. I only want one additional drive because of heat and noise.

One options is to wait until the new versions of the Seagate Barracuda XT are available which manage to pack 1 TB of data on one platter, making the 3 TB drive a three platter drive.

The drive currently retails for $200. Prices will drop when availability increases. I may alternatively look at a slower 5400 rpm drive.

PC Case

My old PC case is a Lian Li PC-8NB with additional noise protection build in. I'd like to buy the exact same tower for my new PC. It retails for roughly $150.

Optical Drives

DVD writers are very cheap nowadays and they are all that I need. You can get them for about $20. I have had good experience with Samsung drives in the past and will purchase one for the new PC as well.


CPU: Intel Core i5-2500K Sandy Bridge 3.3GHz - $230
Motherboard: ASRock P67 EXTREME4 - $160
PSU: ENERMAX MODU87+ EMG700AWT 700W - $170
Ram: G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 16GB - $210
Video Card: None
SSD: OCZ Vertex 3 VTX3-25SAT3-120G - $300
Hard Drive: Seagate Barracuda XT - $200
PC Case: Lian Li PC-8NB - $150
DVD Writer: Samsung HD203WI - $20

The complete PC in this form sets me back $1440. If you add a $200 video card and peripherals like mouse and keyboard you end up at about $1800 for the whole system without monitor. That's a lot of money for a computer system. I could probably reduce that by half if I'd change the components.

Have you built a PC lately? What where your components?


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  1. Daniel said on July 26, 2011 at 11:16 am

    With P67 Board and your excellent choice of power supply, you are prepared to add a strong video card as soon as you discover that P67 doesn’t support Intel’s best onboard video experience–the P67 is the gamer’s choice and designed for video cards.
    With H67 boards, advanced video acceleration features go full blast for quick onboard video, at the cost of slower everything else, because H67 is the econo chipset, even though its onboard video is much faster–the H67 is designed for reliance on onboard video.
    Due to your price point, you don’t have an “econo” build. So, use your P67 along with a strong video card (use P67 as intended), Dump the MLC (slow pauses) SSD and use a pair of extremely fast (see user reviews) Samsung hard drives in Raid 0 configuration. At this point, you’ve made your PC almost worth its price point.
    Due to the 4 core configuration and that many applications as well as almost all hardware drivers, will use only 1 core at 3.3Ghz, well, I’ve got to say that I’ve never seen a worse value in a PC. Do you have some specialty games or applications that demand 4 cores? If not, well do consider a 2-core with a much faster clock speed. It seems that you’re wanting to build a “futureproof” but why don’t you spend half as much on some seriously fast “now” value that will actually go faster?

  2. Peter said on June 12, 2011 at 6:46 pm

    Self building is not always wise… when you look at it now days you can get quality pre-builds that only need afew upgrades. Now is that worth less stress?

  3. stan said on May 14, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    hello martin,

    do i still need to apply thermal compound on new cpus?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on May 14, 2011 at 3:57 pm


  4. Jason said on May 13, 2011 at 9:44 am

    Yeah, it’s part of the case:
    One 2TB drive is inside the case, one is plugged in the external slot with a non-stop backing running to it, and the 3rd is stored off site. I swap drives 2 and 3 weekly.

  5. Jason said on May 12, 2011 at 11:12 pm

    And oops, I didn’t actually list the monitor, it’s a Dell (TM) UltraSharp U2410, a great IPS unit, well suited to calibration with colours that don’t vary wildly with viewing angle. And again I must sing the praises of an external sata bay for backups…

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on May 12, 2011 at 11:19 pm

      The external bay sounds like a good idea, how much did you pay for it, or was it included in the case?

  6. Jason said on May 12, 2011 at 11:01 pm

    Built back in January, before the intel chip issues (re SATA), but I’ve connected the mobo in a way that it’s no issue.

    My use is photo processing (hence storage and monitor choice), but I wanted graphics grunt for the occasional game (hence GPU).

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on May 12, 2011 at 11:03 pm

      Yeah I wondered about the 6 TB ;)

  7. Jason said on May 12, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    CPU: Intel Core i7 2600
    HSF: Zalman CNPS10X Performa
    Mobo: ASUS P8P67 PRO Motherboard
    RAM: G.Skill Ripjaws XL F3-12800CL9D-8GBXL (2x4GB) DDR3
    GPU: Inno3D GeForce GTX 570 1280MB
    SSD: OCZ Vertex 2 80GB SSD
    HDD: 3x Western Digital Green 2TB WD20EARS
    ODD: Lite-On IHAS524 24x DVDRW Super AllWrite
    Case: CoolerMaster CM 690 II Advanced White
    PSU: Silverstone Strider Plus 750W
    WL: TP-Link TL-WN951N Wireless N PCI Adapter

    And in photos:

    The SATA bay on the top of the unit is fantastic for backing up and keeping a drive off site.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on May 12, 2011 at 10:58 pm

      Great system as well, when did you build it?

  8. Ahmad said on May 12, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    My recent build:
    Intel i7 2600K
    Cooler Master Hyper 212+ Cooler
    MSI P67A-GD65 B3
    G Skill RipJawX DDR3 4 GB (2*2 GB) 1333 MHz Dual Channel (CL8)
    Seagate 1 TB 7200.12 SATA2 32 MB Cache
    Sparkle Nvidia GTX 460 1 GB
    Cooler Master 690 II Advanced
    Xigmatek NRP-MC 800W Modular PSU
    HP 1260i DVD-RW

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on May 12, 2011 at 8:45 pm

      Nice computer.

  9. Thomas said on May 12, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    That’s still my config, built it back in 2008. Not really comparable with todays hardware. Checked your case and it looks boring to me.

    PC case Revoltec RT-201B Rhodium MidiTower – black 75 €

    power supply be quiet Straight Power 500W ATX 2.2 70€

    ATX MB ASUS P5W DH Deluxe 90-MBB2X0-G0EAY, (dual PC2-6400U DDR2) 125 €

    CPU Intel Core 2 Duo E8400, 2x 3.00GHz, 333MHz FSB, 6MB shared Cache, tray 135 €

    CPU-Cooler Xigmatek HDT-S1283 (Socket 775/754/939/940/AM2) 28€

    4096MB-Kit Corsair TWIN2X DHX PC800/6400 CL4 83€

    XFX GeForce 8600 GTS, 512MB GDDR3, 2x DVI, TV-out, PCIe 55€

    3x Samsung SpinPoint F1 750GB 32MB SATA II 230€

    In total ~800 Euros

    And, I’m not a gamer…

  10. bsod said on May 12, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    Shouldn’t you go for Z68 motherboard? I didn’t read all the details but they look like a full version of P/H67 ones.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on May 12, 2011 at 3:47 pm

      Are they out yet? I will take a look at them in the next months.

      1. bsod said on May 12, 2011 at 4:22 pm

        Yes they are already out and available. I’ll wait for Ivy Bridge processor though but it will take a few months.

      2. Martin Brinkmann said on May 12, 2011 at 4:40 pm

        I have read about those as well. Will update the article in a couple month to see where we are then. Thanks for the tips.

  11. sulasno said on May 12, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    You missed the webcam :-)

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