Chris' Feedback:

I made extensive use of TBG when I built last April, shortly after the first DIY guide appeared! This was a really fun build. The case was easy to build in and looks really nice. The only thing I don't love about it is the proprietary connectors for the fan controller, but if you're happy with the stock intake fans, it is perfectly serviceable. The CM Evo performs REALLY well for the price, I got to 4.2 GHz with just a slight increase to turbo voltage, but I was getting annoyed by how loud the stock fan was under load, so I recently swapped it with a Noctua NF-A15. The difference is remarkable, I can't hear it at all, even at full tilt, over the GPU fans, temps are ~5C lower, and it just sounds like a low rush of air if I'm pushing it without GPU stress. I game on a 1920x1200 monitor, so the 7870 XT was at the price/perf sweet spot. It has a little trouble keeping up in Crysis, but it crunches through everything else I toss at it. The SSD has changed my life and I will never go back.

Built: April 2013, Last Upgraded: September 2014

The Build

Component List:

  1. Processor: Intel Core i7-3770K
  2. Motherboard: ASRock Z77 Pro4
  3. Video Card: Sapphire Radeon HD 7870 XT (Tahiti)
  4. Memory: Corsair 2x8GB DDR3
  5. Solid-State Drive: Samsung 840 250GB
  6. Hard Drive: Seagate Barracuda 2TB
  7. Case: Corsair Carbide 500R ATX
  8. Power Supply: Corsair TX650M (replaced in Corsair's lineup by the RM650)
  9. Optical Drive: LG 24x DVD Burner
  10. CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo
  11. Operating System: Windows 7 / Ubuntu 14.04
  12. Monitor: Dell UltraSharp U2412M
  13. Keyboard: Logitech G710+

This is a great example of a clean high-end build. It starts with a big, well-designed case, the Corsair Carbide 500R, which we used in our High-End PC Assembly Guide, and of course includes a modular power supply, which we consider essential in a high-end machine. Chris has removed the middle drive cage to allow for better airflow from the mid-mounted front fan, visible in the picture above. This is a great benefit for video card cooling. By the way, Chris uses his PC to get serious work done too, which is why he has it set up to dual-boot Win7 and Ubuntu.

Inside Look

Upgrades List:

  1. CPU Cooler Fan: Noctua NF-A15
  2. Side Case Fan: BitFenix Spectre 230mm
  3. Rear Case Fan: Corsair AF140 Quiet
  4. Wireless Card: Intel AC 7260 Dual Band Wireless Card
  5. Firewire Card: Syba TI-Chipset PCIe Firewire Card

In the photo above, Chris shows off the best upgrade you can make to any CPU Cooler: a Noctua 140mm fan. This is the fan that comes standard on Noctua's ultra-high-end air coolers, and it totally transformed Chris' Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo heatsink. He reported a 5 degree C drop in temperatures once he replaced the stock fan with this Noctua. It's also very quiet compared to most standard-issue fans. Just a note about the use of 140mm fans in smaller builds - they can often block the first expansion slot, so they're not ideal for use in mATX cases, where the video card is installed in that slot. Here, Chris has a low-profile Intel wireless card in the first slot, and his video card has plenty of clearance as installed in the second slot. Also visible in this picture is the excellent AF140 fan by Corsair. By the way, nice bokeh in this photograph, Chris! Gotta love wide aperture lenses!