This is my first self-built system and it runs amazing so far, I can run all my games on high settings. I haven't gotten around to fully fully testing out the engineering applications yet, but I'm confident it will handle those all great also. Building the PC was a fun learning experience, and chances are I won't be buying pre-built desktops in the future. The process was made a lot easier by the guides on this website, along with the excellent feedback I received when reaching out with questions throughout the project.
Built: January 2015
Ben passed along a photo of all his gear prior to cracking open the boxes. This shot really puts into context what it takes to build a high-end PC. Just ten parts here...that's all you need to build your own dream PC! Note that while Ben based his system off of our $1,500 High-End Gaming PC Builder's Guide as published in December 2014, he made a few tweaks along the way to suit his needs and tastes. The most obvious custom touch is the Cooler Master Storm Scout 2 Advanced case. It has a bit more of the "gaming" look than the standard case, and even has a useful handle on top for carrying it around.
1. CPU: Intel Core i7-4790K
2. Motherboard: Asus Z97-A
3. RAM: Corsair Vengeance Pro 2x8GB DDR3-2400
4. Video Card: Gigabyte GeForce GTX 970 G1 Gaming 4GB
5. Case: Cooler Master Storm Scout 2 Advanced
6. Solid-State Drive: Crucial MX100 512GB
7. Hard Drive: Seagate Barracuda 2TB
8. Power Supply: EVGA Supernova G2 750W
9. Optical Drive: Samsung 24x DVD Burner
10. CPU Cooler: Thermalright Macho Rev. A (BW)
11. Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8.1
12. Monitor: BenQ XL2720Z 144Hz 27" Gaming Monitor
Because Ben was looking to build a PC that would excel not just at playing games, but also at game streaming and computer-aided design (CAD) and other engineering applications that he'd be using in college, he went with the Core i7-4790K quad-core processor, rather than the Core i5-4690K. The 4790K is 400MHz faster than the 4690K, and also offers Hyperthreading. In applications designed to tap into its extra threads, performance can jump up to 50%.
Of course, gaming was still priority number one, and visible in the photo below is the hot-clocked Gigabyte Geforce GTX 970 G1 Gaming video card, sporting a triple-fan cooler with a blue LED WindForce logo. This card provides incredible gaming performance for the price. Not shown in the photo, but also contributing greatly to the gaming experience, is the BenQ 144Hz monitor that Ben went with - there's just no substitute for ultra-high refresh rates when it comes to gaming immersion! To power up the rig, Ben chose an EVGA Supernova G2 power supply with 750W on tap, which is actually enough to support two GTX 970 cards in SLI. Ben also took advantage of fantastic holiday pricing to pick up a pair of Corsair's Vengeance Pro DDR3-2400 8GB RAM sticks, giving him tremendous memory bandwidth. In processor-intensive tasks, this kit can provide a 5% boost in performance over standard DDR3-1600 memory.
Note that the Thermalright True Spirit Rev. A cooler used in this build is relatively thin from front to back, but has a very tall and wide fin array (along with a big 140mm fan). Because cooling air tends to slow down the further it has to travel through a heatsink, a wide array is much more beneficial than a deep array. Thus, this heatsink's cooling potential is superior to bulkier 120mm models. But it does make the heatsink tall, and Ben passed along the following useful tip about installing the True Spirit in the Cooler Master Storm Scout chassis: "in case anyone wants to attempt this build... the CPU heatsink/fan is supposedly 3mm too tall for the case (165mm vs. 162mm supported). This isn't actually a problem since the case panel protrudes outward on the side and the CPU fan/heatsink doesn't even touch the wall, but it made me hesitate before trying to install it."
In the storage department, this system uses the winning combination of a large mechanical hard drive along with Crucial's bargain-priced 512GB MX100 solid-state drive for lightning-fast access times. Providing the backbone to the system is the popular and well-priced Asus Z97-A motherboard. All-in-all, this is a great high-end gaming build with some premium upgrades to let Ben get some serious engineering work done between gaming sessions!