One of the constants in the do-it-yourself PC market is change. And that means it's best not to be lulled into a "this is the best product" mindset, because before you know it, there'll be a better product, but you'll only catch it if you're paying attention! Some of these new components change things up enough that they actually affect the way you build a computer, not just what you buy. And that's why we're determined to bring our readers up-to-date PC assembly guides on an annual basis, especially at the high-end of the market, where so much changes so fast.
And so here we are with our Guide to Assembling an Ultra-High-End PC, all new for 2016! Some may ask why we're re-inventing the wheel with this Ultra-High-End PC Assembly Guide, which is officially replacing our 2015 Edition as the go-to step-by-step guide for anyone looking to put together a PC in the $2,500 to $8,000 price range. Well, as we stated above, things are changing fast in the PC market, and three of the critical examples of modern PC tech that we used in this system are ones that have only been introduced or become mainstream in the past year or so: PCIe-based M.2 solid-state drives, modular cases that do away with standard drive cages, and the dual-link Nvidia SLI bridge. Each of these is far superior to what's come before, so we think you really have to consider them if you're building a new ultra-high-end PC. When we published our ultra-high-end guide last year, we thought it was pretty comprehensive. And it was... then. But enough has changed in this market that it's important that we bring you an all-new take on building the PC of your dreams.
Now, truth be told, there are a couple of parts we're carrying over from last time. First is the power supply, an EVGA 1000W Platinum-rated unit, which was brand-new in 2015, and is still pretty darn cutting-edge. The other part that carries over is the motherboard, because luckily for us, this time around Intel decided not to deprecate an entire chipset when it introduced a new CPU. So we were able to flash our 2015 Asus X99-Pro up to 2016 status, allowing us to drop in a brand-new Core i7-6900K processor. Don't you just love upgrades?!? Indeed, along with the CPU, we're bringing you a new CPU cooler, new SSDs, new video cards (yes, two of them!), and of course a new case, because if you're going to keep up with the latest styles, last year's look just won't do!
To give our readers a sense of the range of components available on the market today, we've combined some of our favorite parts from the ultra-high-end offerings in our Do-It-Yourself PC Buyer's Guides. As you can see below, this isn't an overly-complicated build, but it is fairly cutting-edge. Here are the components we used:
- CPU: Intel Core i7-6900K
- Motherboard: Asus X99-Pro/USB 3.1
- Memory: G.Skill 4x8GB Ripjaws 4 DDR4-3000
- Video Card #1: EVGA GeForce GTX 1070 SC 8GB
- Video Card #2: Asus GeForce GTX 1070 FE 8GB
- Solid-State Drive #1: Samsung 950 Pro 512GB M.2
- Solid-State Drive #2: Samsung 850 Evo 1TB
- Case: SilverStone Primera PM01 ATX
- Power Supply: EVGA Supernova 1000 PS
- CPU Cooler: Corsair Hydro H100i v2
- Operating System: Windows 10 Home
This system is based on Intel's Broadwell-E platform, introduced in May 2016. That makes it the newest kid on the block, and the best Intel will offer until at least mid-2017. We've chosen to build up our system with the 8-core i7-6900K chip, as we believe it offers the best combination of extreme processing power and reasonable efficiency, while maintaining a moderately-sane price. While there is now a 10-core processor (the Core i7-6950X), it offers just 20% more processing power than the 6900K, despite a price that's 50% higher. Intel has the high-end market all to itself, and the company doesn't look to be driving any hard bargains, does it?
Because the Broadwell-E design pumps a lot of heat through a small surface area, you need a cooler capable of compensating, and the Corsair Hydro H100i v2 is that cooler, and you can read our full review of it here. While larger 280mm-based models are a bit more powerful, we've found that they are far more likely to cause clearance issues in modern cases. We've also chosen a 4x8GB RAM kit, up from the 4x4GB kit we used last year, in part because 32GB is the new 16GB, but more importantly because we don't think PC builders should be investing in 4GB sticks, as they aren't going to be around all that much longer, in our opinion, making it hard to match them (or sell them) later on.
Also along for the ride is Samsung's awesome PCIe-based 950 Pro 512GB SSD for the ultimate in OS responsiveness, along with its sidekick, the SATA-based 850 Evo 1TB, for fantastic capacity and performance per dollar. At this point, there's almost no reason to put anything other than a Samsung SSD in your high-end rig. The same could be said for Nvidia with regard to video cards. For the rest of 2016, and perhaps into 2017, Nvidia GeForce-based video cards will be the only ones you'll be seeing in serious gaming machines, and here we're going with a tandem of GTX 1070 cards in SLI.
Finally, we have the SilverStone Primera PM01 case, which offers an eye-catching exterior design along with a thoroughly-modern interior layout. We love the fact that it's moved all of its drive bays "below deck," clearing the way for its three front-mounted 140mm fans to keep things amazingly cool. You can read our full review of the PM01 here.
All right, now that you've heard why we built this PC, and what components went into it, it's time to see how it actually all came together!