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Published on March 13th, 2012 | by Bob


PC Build Guide – March 2012



It’s been a while since our last build guide, hasn’t it? While we frequently field situational hardware selection questions, we have rarely put our heads together to come to consensus on the best bang-for-the-buck builds for different budget limitations. But a few nights ago, Dan, Brandon and I finally got together and did just that. We decided that the three pricing tiers that make the most sense to look at are in the neighborhood of $800, $1300, and $1800, so we chose to use these as our standard price points. We plan to release an updated build guide each month to keep our recommendations current as the hardware landscape changes over time.

We started under the basic premise that our goal was to maximize gaming performance before overall system application performance, exemplified by decisions like leaving out a solid state drive in our mid-range build and instead opting for a better video card. Then again, we don’t consider any of these builds to be lacking in performance.

As with all build guides, keep in mind that these part choices are just our opinions, and you’re welcome to change out individual parts to suit your own budgets and needs. As mentioned above, we tried to maximize gaming performance at each price level, and we feel these builds offer the best value for your money right now.

One last thing to note: None of these builds include a keyboard, mouse, monitor, speakers, headset, or any other peripherals. Yes, some of these items are essential, but they’re very reliant on personal preferences. Plus, we assume that many of you will simply re-use these parts from your old computers.

Without further ado, below are the builds for March 2012. Prices are subject to change and include shipping and discounts/rebates where applicable.


The Starter ($800 maximum)

Part list permalink:
Part price breakdown by merchant:

  • $199.99 | CPU: Intel Core i5-2500K
  • $22.99   | CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus
  • $104.98 | Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-P67X-UD3-B3 ATX LGA1155
  • $42.99   | Memory: Corsair Vengeance 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600
  • $97.99   | Hard Drive: Seagate Barracuda 1TB 3.5″ 7200RPM Internal HDD
  • $199.99 | Video Card: EVGA GeForce GTX 560 Ti 1GB
  • $58.53   | Case: Antec One ATX Mid Tower
  • $54.99   | Power Supply: Antec 550W ATX12V
  • $15.99   | Optical Drive: LG GH22NS90B DVD/CD Writer

Total: $798.44


The Enthusiast ($1300 maximum)

Part list permalink:
Part price breakdown by merchant:

  • $199.99 | CPU: Intel Core i5-2500K
  • $22.99   | CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus
  • $159.99 | Motherboard: Asus P8P67 PRO (REV 3.1) ATX LGA1155
  • $46.99   | Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws X Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600
  • $97.99   | Hard Drive: Seagate Barracuda 1TB 3.5″ 7200RPM Internal HDD
  • $479.99 | Video Card: Sapphire Radeon HD 7950 3GB
  • $129.99 | Case: Cooler Master HAF 932 Advanced ATX Full Tower
  • $139.99 | Power Supply: Corsair 750W ATX12V / EPS12V
  • $15.99   | Optical Drive: LG GH22NS90B DVD/CD Writer

Total: $1273.91


The Professional ($1800 maximum)

Part list permalink:
Part price breakdown by merchant:

  • $279.99 | CPU: Intel Core i7-2600K
  • $22.99   | CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus
  • $209.99 | Motherboard: Asus P8P67 Deluxe (REV 3.0) ATX LGA1155
  • $89.99   | Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws Series 16GB (4 x 4GB) DDR3-1600
  • $162.00 | Hard Drive: Crucial M4 128GB 2.5″ Solid State Disk
  • $97.99   | Hard Drive: Seagate Barracuda 1TB 3.5″ 7200RPM Internal HDD
  • $559.99 | Video Card: Sapphire Radeon HD 7970 3GB
  • $129.99 | Case: Cooler Master HAF 932 Advanced ATX Full Tower
  • $160.89 | Power Supply: Corsair 850W ATX12V / EPS12V
  • $56.23   | Optical Drive: Asus BC-12B1ST/BLK/B/AS Blu-Ray Reader, DVD/CD Writer

Total: $1770.14

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One of the founding fathers of KBMOD, and an unfortunate casualty of real life responsibilities. An IT professional by trade, and an elitist by choice.

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  • berealistic

    is the 212 evo as good as the 212 +. been looking for a 212+ but they dont sell them where i live.

    • The Evo is just the newer version of the 212+ and is slightly more expensive.

  • in norway the professional build is $2.800… fml

  • Fidees

    Why do you guys always recommend p67 instead of z68?

    • Trikay

      P67 might be cheaper in a lot of cases and z68 really doesn’t do anything that would be useful for gamers…

  • Aggh

    A build guide weeks/days before ivybridge and kepler hitting the shelves. Wat?

    • Errr… Ivy and Kepler are both a couple months away.

      • Aggh

        Ivy bridge is in April then june. The gtx 680 could be hitting shelves in a bit over a week, but even if that’s a stretch, will probably hit around the same time as ivy bridge.

        • Ivy Bridge has been delayed “indefinitely” and as part of that will be under a self-imposed shortage until Sandy Bridge parts dry up (they share the same socket, after all!)

          There is NO timetable on the Kepler release. I’d love to know where you’re pulling this information out of.

  • CharlieTango

    No z68 on the SSD build? Gotta get up in that SRT game.

  • WhosZach

    You guys just got me through drivers ed class, thank you. I would also like to know why not a z68 motherboard?

  • VerbatimGT

    Gotta have that Cooler Master Cosmos II

  • RE: Z68 – There are only 3 major differences between Z68 and P67
    – SSD Caching
    – Integrated Graphics
    – PCIe 3.0

    Only 1 of those matter, and I’ll tell you that it’s not SSD Caching or IGP. For current-gen Video cards, PCIe 3.0 is not necessary. SSD Caching is a worse solution than just installing Windows TO an SSD.

  • Why do you recommend that case on the professional build?

    • It’s a full tower case with great air flow and a moderate price tag. My personal preference was actually the Corsair 600T, but again this was a consensus between Brandon, Dan and I.

      • Thanks for the info, I was looking into the 650D myself.

        • jackkspro

          the 650d is great and has a leg up on the 600t in that it’ll fit water cooling better and it has a SATA connecter at the top which is something I would love in my 600t.

  • FireSafetySuperman

    Is the Starter build Crossfire-capable?

    • Crossfire and SLI capable but will require a larger PSU

  • for the enthusiast build can i replace the 2500k for a 2600k? im gonna be rendering a lot and i hear that hyper threading is a big help.

    • Absolutely – these are just reference builds for our “best bang for the buck” – a 2600k will likely be $80-100 more. If you’re going to render a lot, I’d suggest some additional RAM (16GB) as well.

  • Mr.Gibbz

    Do you think 550w is enough for the starter build? After all the horror stories John has with power supplies, I’m a bit wary.

    • jackkspro

      more than enough.referring to PSU’s it’s about brand rather than wattage.750 will most likely run dual 560ti’s. sure you can get a 1000w for the same price….but the PSU is not something you want to fail.

  • Pingback: PC Build help! - Electronic Arts UK Community()

  • Prowler4155

    Are the mother boards in Enthusiast/Professional builds compatible with Nvidia GPU,and if so,can I put in a GTX 560-590 ?.

    • nvidia/amd gpu does not matter for the mobo aslong ass there is a pcie2x16 port where you can put the gpu its cool. all mobo’s have pcie x16 slots and every gpu use pcie x16

  • next time might i suggest you give a brief explanation of why you choose every part like pcgamer does with its PCGamer RIG

    • nipnops

      With a guide this size that is a whole larger post for not much gain. If we had one build as they do, that would work better.

  • Benz

    Hey bros!
    I pretty much have the first build (i have the asus 560 ti) and i am very happy with it, the only game i cant play on max with 60+ frames is bf3.
    So that is a strong build :)

  • WhosZach

    Where can I get that kbmod sticker…that is the true question

    • I’m working on it ;-)

  • TagsWithScope

    Are ASUS motherboards better performance than Gigabyte or something? Just wondering why the budget one is Gigabyte and the higher ones are ASUS. Is there something specifically on ASUS boards not on Gigabyte or is this all coincidental?

    • Not better just different. I asked Bob the same question when the article was being written. It’s just a brand preference and the best part in the price range I would imagine. I personally would spend more if required and go Gigabyte, but I just like that brand a little better.

      • TagsWithScope

        Ahh…okay good because I like Gigabyte. If Asus becomes better than Gigabyte I will rage and kill them all

  • Akaitenshi

    isn’t that the HAF X in the picture? kinda confusing..

    • No, that’s a HAF 932 Advanced

  • thewiggly

    Do I need that CPU-Cooler in the first Build?

    • Clit Commander

      Need? No, if you’re planning to run the i5 at stock speeds. But if you do that, save yourself the money and don’t get the 2500K.

      The entire point of the 2500K is overclocking, and choosing to “save” ~$25 by sticking with the stock cooler AND OCing is a horrendous idea.

      • thewiggly

        Thanks for the info ! never overclocked so gonna try it out with this build

  • Fleinsopp

    Your love for the 212 is a bit silly. You should upgrade to a Noctua NH-D14, giving better temps and less noise(or just a lot less noise and the same temps). You don’t spend 1,800$ on a build if you’re short on money. If getting under the magical 1,800$ barrier, drop the blu-ray, as its not really necessary, and also spending more money on your optical drive than on your cpu cooler seems like prioritizing the wrong things.

    • Fleinsopp

      Lost some words there, should be:
      “…magical 1,800$ barrier is that important…”

      On a side note, wtb edit button in the comments.

    • Clit Commander

      Why is it “silly” when Tom’s Hardware regularly posts the 212 at or near the top when compared to more expensive similar coolers?
      Are the temps from the Noctua good enough to justify the jump in price? I’d rather put the difference toward something else.

      If you’re new to building, these guides are intended for you. If you have the know-how to determine what cooler is best, then you can likely roll your own and not have to go by the guide.

      • And that’s exactly the point that I had discussed on the podcast – diminishing returns on significant difference in investment. Is the DH-14 better? Yeah. Is it enough of a difference to warrant the price? Not in my (and our collective) opinion. We had a hard barrier of $1800. I’m not concerned about a 1-2, maybe 3C difference on average.

        • Clit Commander

          Maybe to address this in the future, include a cheaper/more expensive option for some of the components? Doing something like this might help someone who’s “just this far away” from the price of the expensive box be able to still build it, and give those who have an “extra” $50-100 to spend some direction on where it might best be spent.

          Maybe something like “If you’ve got $100 in either direction in your budget, consider stepping up to xxxx part or stepping down to xxxx part.”

          • Fleinsopp

            On the cheapest build in this guide that could be something along the line of a Corsair TX 750/HX 650/equivalent Enermax(only downside is the “shitty” braid on the cords) instead of the Antec psu, coming in at $40-60 more.

    • The 212 is the best bang-for-the-buck CPU cooler on the market, hands-down. Though Noctua, Prolimatech, and others do make great coolers, they offer marginal benefit for 2-5x the price of the 212. My PC was in the same price range as the Professional, and I still use a 212, so we are practicing what we preach, so to speak.

      • Fleinsopp

        You all have good points, it just seems a bit off (for me at least) spending more than twice as much on the optical drive(something that I wouldn’t even buy) as on your cooler. But we all have different priorities.

        Also my concept of money is nonexistent, being a spoiled Norwegian prick.

        • Well, you can blame Bob for that. He snuck that Blu-ray drive into the Professional build at the last minute without my knowledge. :p

  • LemonJelllo

    Can anyone give me an idea of what kind of games the Starter build could run at max settings? And where it would start struggling? Ex: It runs TF2 perfectly at max but, on Skyrim you might want to go to medium settings to run smoothly.

    • The only game that it won’t run at 60fps on high settings is BF3, which you won’t want to play anyway, with Origin and all that. Skyrim is well optimized, you won’t have a problem. If you want to be absolutely sure, go with a 570 instead of a 560.

  • Thompaam

    Lol, where I live I got the $1300 build to about $1800 :( Didn’t check too many websites though, doing that for my real build.

  • Do you have to have a CPU cooler for the 2500k? If sound is the only reason why, then I will leave it out, but if it is absolutely neccesary then I will get one.

    • Thompaam

      Your CPU always comes with a cooler but if you want to overclock or just keep your temps down, get an aftermarket fan (Such as the Cooler Master Hyper 212+ listed above).

  • HaichEllDubya

    I want to buy for upgradability, should I put more money into the motherboard and CPU so that I don’t need to completely reinvent my system 2years down the line, taking that cash out of things like the GPU and RAM, then improving all of that in 2/3 years or so, or should I keep the balance?

    • Thompaam

      You should probably keep the balance, if you buy a high end CPU and have a crappy GPU, chances are that you will put too much pressure on the GPU and it will not end well. Save up money so that you can buy stuff in about the same price range.

    • Seeing as how Ivy Bridge is on the same platform as Sandy Bridge (LGA 1155), a P67/Z68 motherboard will suit you well over the next couple of years. I don’t think you need to worry about that. I certainly wouldn’t spend more money and go Sandy Bridge-E (LGA 2011).

  • timboslice

    Is there anything i could change on the 800 dollar one that will make it cheaper but still about the same? im looking for maybe 600 dollars?

  • jackk695

    Building a new PC soon, most likely going to follow the $1300 build however how much extra performance do you get in the $1800 build compared to the $1300? Debating whether to save up the extra $500, may take some time but will do if worth it in the end!

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