December 15, 2011
Ray Walters

This is my rig: ExtremeTech reporter Ray Walters

There are times, as a computer builder, that I relate to waiters that work at fancy restaurants. When someone gives me a $2,000 build order for a gaming rig, I make sure I have a paper towel with me to catch the drool caused by my tech addiction lust and the fact that up until recently I could never afford the goodies I was installing for others. So when an opportunity arose to do some work that would require a high-end machine, I jumped at the chance to build a balanced rig that I could use for both gaming and the work that I need to get done.

My cost ceiling for this build was $1,800, pretty reasonable for a mid- to high-end rig that has enough power to satisfy my needs. Since this was a scratch build, there is nothing that I upgraded — everything was a newly purchased or a part that I had lying around.

Intel Core i7-2600

CPU: Intel Core i7-2600k

Processing power was something I planned to splurge on. Having a screaming processor never hurts, and since I won’t be building another computer for quite a while, I wanted to try to plan ahead for coming technology. The Core i7-2600k is a CPU that I have had installed in many rigs with a lot of success, gauged on the raves it gets from the people who ordered them. An additional benefit is the overclocking that it’s capable of handling — if I ever need to speed up my system, I can. At $315 the CPU was a hefty chunk of my budget, but the benefits far outweighed the cost.P8P67_M_PRO

Motherboard: Asus P8P67-M Pro

To go with the CPU I needed the right motherboard. I am a fan of Asus products, as I have had few issues with them in any of the rigs I have built. I wanted a board that had a full range of inputs and could handle as much memory as I could get my hands on. I knew that I was going to be working with dual video cards, so I wanted to make sure it had plenty of space for everything to fit. Lastly, I wanted to keep the cost around $185 so not to blow up my budget right out of the gate. I ended up choosing the P8P67-M Pro board. It cost about $20 more than I wanted, but it fit the bill for my needs.

Asus GeForce 550 ti

Graphics: 2x Asus GeForce GTX 550 Ti

Some of you hardcore gamers out there may be scratching your head with my choice of the Asus GeForce GTX 550 Ti for my video needs. I have a simple explanation: I already had one of these from one of the builds I did. This was the perfect time because this card is capable of SLI and getting a second one was only going to cost $145. Sure, the 550s don’t get great benchmarks on Skyrim set to Ultra, but I can play the game at the high settings preset and get a smooth frame rate.

Not that it means a whole lot, but the dual card setup is getting a 7.8 rating in Windows Experience which is not bad at all. Simply put, the cards fit my needs for the right price, and they feed into my Asus fetish.

Power supply: Corsair 750 TX

With the Core i7 and two video cards in a SLI configuration, I knew I was going to have to install a larger power supply to feed the beast. For me, there are no better PSUs than those made by Corsair. I know this is like the battle between Ford and Chevy fans, but I have had nothing but good luck with Corsair supplies. I opted for the Corsair 750 TX enthusiast series brick because of the higher output power and the fact that it comes with connections for every conceivable configuration. The cords are a reasonable length and come pre-wrapped which is nice. The unit is a bargain at $105 for the performance you get out of it.

The PSU is not pictured — you know what a power supply looks like.

Corsair memory

Memory: 16GB Corsair Vengeance Kit

You can go ahead and accuse me of being a creature of habit, because it’s true. For memory I went with Corsair again. Partly because I like the company, but mostly because this 16GB Vengeance kit was only $80. As I mentioned at the top of this post, I wanted to get all the memory I could and this package fit the bill.

Bonus: it looked great on the board after the mobo was put into the case.

Smilodon case

Case: Raidmax Smilodon

Pictured above is the Raidmax Smilodon case that I used. It wasn’t my first choice, but it saved me money (it was a trade). On a server build, a client purchased a kit from Newegg, which was a pretty good deal. However, when the package arrived with the Smilodon case inside, the client was quick to offer it in trade for a more subtle mid-tower that I had laying around. For me it ended up being good trade for the weird-looking case.

I will say however that the Raidmax design is much more accessible than a normal tower. Both sides of the case open and lay down, allowing free access to interior components. Putting the computer together in this was a dream compared to some builds I have done.

Rig chart

Wrapping up

As far as storage is concerned, with the astronomical prices of hard drives due to the flooding in Thailand, I opted to go with two Western Digital 500GB drives at $100 each as well as a 1TB Samsung drive that I was given from helping with a move. For a monitor I am using a 23-inch flat panel that I have had for a while now. I also threw in a SATA Blu-ray drive that I was no longer using in my HTPC so I would have a way to install software; other than that it doesn’t get much use. For an OS, I plunked down $199 for Windows 7 Professional. That one hurt the most out of the whole build.

The rig is the fastest I have ever owned personally. While not the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy, it suits my needs. The only issue I have is that the fans in the case are pretty loud, so I may have to switch cooling methods in the future. Also, my cord management did not go as well as I would have liked, so I will likely rewire the system at some point.

I came in well under budget, with the entire build costing $1230. Throw in some SATA cables and cord management supplies and you can round that out to $1250.

Feel free to give advice in the comments as to how I could improve on this build.