PC Build 3: The Buildening

July 23rd, 2011

It’s been a while since one of my more popular posts on how to build a small media PC, and even longer since I built my last ‘main’ PC (2008).

But due to age, and a growing addiction to FlightSim, I decided to build a whole new PC.

Here are all the bits (well, minus the motherboard that hadn’t arrived when I took this photo):

PC Build 2011: The Parts

I’ll talk about the various bits as I put things together. Everything except for the motherboard was purchased at MSY, who have great prices and a Canberra store front. The motherboard came from Aus PC Market, another fantastic supplier of bits, especially stuff that’s a bit more bleeding edge.

First up, here’s the case fully disassembled, with all the cables running everywhere:

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The case is an Antec Nine Hundred Two V3, which is probably a bit more garish than I’d like, but was a good price and a good size. I would have preferred a P182 or P183, but no one had those in stock at reasonable prices. Here’s the case cleaned up and ready to start building:

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First up is installing the motherboard I/O plate. The motherboard here is an ASRock Z68 Extreme 4. This is probably the most ‘bleeding edge’ component I’ve ever bought – Z68 motherboards have only been available since May! We can see on the I/O port a few of the important features – HDMI out on the onboard video card, USB 3.0 ports, FireWire, 5.1 sound and so on.

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Next, the power supply. This time around I have a Thermaltake 875W power supply – slight overkill for what will be in it at first, but I wanted to be able to add another video card later on, if needed.

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Another first for me, this is a modular power supply, meaning that you plug in only those cables that you need. This is a huge help in keeping the inside of the case reasonably neat.

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Here’s the motherboard, ready for component install. Another first for me, I’m using an aftermarket cooler, in this case the Coolermaster Hyper 212+, which is rated as one of the best of the low end coolers. It’s about 5 times the size of the stock Intel one, so it at least made installing a lot harder!

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The processor is an Intel i7 2600K, about the best balance between cost and performance available at the medium to high end at the moment. This is the ‘K’ variant, so it’ll be easier to over clock later.

Here we see everything installed on the motherboard ready to go. The memory is G.Skill Ripjaws, and is 8gb of DDR3-2133. Probably the place in the computer where I went furthest up-market, but RAM speed helps a lot, especially in flight sim.

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So now proceeds an hour or so of swearing at drive bays, coaxing drives into place and so forth, to arrive at this:

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There are three drives installed here. There’s an LG Blu-Ray drive, purchased only because Blu-Ray adds very little to the cost these days. The main boot drive is a 64gb Kingston SSD, to speed up boot and operating system performance. The main storage drive is a Western Digital Caviar Black 7200rpm 1tb drive.

A bit of cable dressing, and putting the covers back on and we have this:

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All ready for the next stage, putting on the software. This is a PC for flight sim, so the only choice is really Windows. In this case, Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit.

Finally, here’s everything in place in my home office/cockpit:

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The other components for the build are a Microsoft wireless mouse and keyboard set, and an LG 27″ monitor. The flight sim controls are all from my old PC, relegated to the far right of the desk now.

It’s working very well so far, giving me 45.0 frames per second on FSXMark11, a pretty respectable performance for a sub $2,000 PC.