It’s time to DIY

As a holiday gift to myself, I decided to upgrade my own personal machine this Thanksgiving holiday and thought it would be a good idea to record the physical construction process to share with our readers.

It may come as a surprise to some of you, but even as the owner of PC Perspective, my PC isn’t always full of cutting edge technology.  To the contrary, the system being replaced with the updated one shown below consisted of a P45 motherboard, Core 2 Quad Q6600 processor, GeForce 800 GTS graphics card, WD VelociRaptor hard drive among other things.  It had been running Windows Vista since the operating system was first released with oodles of software installed and uninstalled.  As is the case with any machine that gets used for a lot of purpose over the course of a couple years, the system was slowing and having software complications. 

With all the new hardware that had been released since then, and of course the advantages of a fresh install of Windows 7 to tempt me as well, it was time for a new system. 

The Video

In this video I will walk you through all of the different components selected for the system and then give you a step-by-step over of the installation process.  That includes CPU and heatsink installation, putting all the components in the case and routing the necessary cables (both data and power) through the Corsair Obsidian 800D. 

Parts List and Links

Intel Core i5-750 Processor – $199
The Lynnfield processor release this year brought the Nehalem architecture to a much lower price point and the Core i5-750 CPU is the cheapest of those parts.  The quad-core processor does NOT have HyperThreading enabled, so if that is a feature you are really keen on getting (making for a total of 8 threads of processing) then you need to upgrade the Core i7-860 CPU for about $90 more. 
PC Perspective Core i5/i7 Lynnfield Review

Video: Building a New PC Tutorial and Walkthrough - Systems 6
Lynnfield over Nehalem, deuces are wild

ASUS P7P55D-E Premium Motherboard- $279
This motherboard was the featured product in our recent SATA 6G and USB 3.0 testing and as such was the most “future proof” motherboard I had sitting around the office.  Now, when those USB 3.0 accessories start hitting the market next year I’ll be ready for them without the needing an add-on card.

2 x 2GB of OCZ Blade DDR3-1600 Memory – $73
Unfortunately I found out that the OCZ Blade series of memory is really only available in 3 DIMM packages – obviously not needed with the dual-channel memory controller found on the Lynnfield processors.  Instead, I am linking you guys to a set of OCZ memory modules that should get the job done.

Thermalright MUX-120 Heatsink – $60
The Thermalright MUX-120 heatsinks has apparently been MIA since they were sent to reviewers along with the Lynnfield CPUs this year, but the Ultra-120 with the LGA1156 adapter should be more than capable of handling these processors even with overclocked settings.

ASUS Radeon HD 5870 Graphics Card – $389
The only downside to the Radeon 5870 graphics card today is that they are hard to find!  This ASUS model is up for a review very soon here at PC Perspective and happen to find its way into my new PC.  The ability to run any game at top resolution (2560×1600 on my displays) is key and the option to run Eyefinity down the line is also a great feature to have.

Intel X25-M 160GB G2 SSD – $589
The SSD debate continues, but the Intel X25-M keeps its place as the best performing overall solid state drive in our view.  Pricing needs to come down more than a bit though – I bought my single unit during Newegg’s holiday sale for $414.99!  So keep that in mind as you hover over the BUY button at anything higher than $450 or so…  With the updated firmware (hopefully re-available soon) you get TRIM support in Windows 7 – a big performance boost for any G2 X25-M users.
PC Perspective X25-M G2 update article

Video: Building a New PC Tutorial and Walkthrough - Systems 9

2 x 1.5TB Seagate Barracuda HDD – $89
With an SSD as the boot drive and application drive you will no doubt need some other storage options, just as I did.  I decided to go with a pair of 1.5TB drives from Seagate in a RAID 1 array because I am way too nervous about drive failures these days.  (I almost went with RAID 1 on the SSDs!)  Of course you can even go bigger with 2TB hard drives but these were a much better value in terms of $/GB at the time.

Topower PowerBird 1100w Power Supply – $229
This power supply was sitting around our offices for a quite some time and while we haven’t reviewed it here, several other online sites we trust have and found it to be a quality unit.  Feel free to find other power supplies from OCZ and Corsair in the 650 – 800 watt range that would be just as capable in powering this system build. 

Corsair Obsidian 800D Case – $289
Probably the first choice I made on my new system was to use this unique chassis from Corsair.  Yes, it is pretty expensive for a pretty normal looking case on the exterior, but definitely check out my construction video above as well as our video review of the 800D before just shrugging this option off.  I know I am in love with the simplicity of making my new system build look great!
PC Perspective Corsair Obsidian 800D Review

Video: Building a New PC Tutorial and Walkthrough - Systems 10

My total: $2196

Final Thoughts

Now in this article I didn’t go into the whole software installation process; for those interested though I used a copy of Windows 7 Professional as the base and then installed all applications I use on a daily basis: Photoshop, FireFox, Office 2007, Zune, Digsby, etc.  I will tell you this much though: the process of backing up date, reinstalling applications and moving everything from the old machine to this new build was 100x more painful than the simplicity in the system build and operating system installation.  Almost makes me long for the days of cloud computing domination…almost.

The total component cost of my new computer was almost $2200 – that really falls into the high end of new PCs these days and there were some decisions we could have made to lower the cost.  First, the use of an Intel-based SSD is always great for performance, but the cost of nearly $600 is still VERY prohibitive.  Also, a $300 motherboard will probably also fall outside the budget of most users as would a $300 case.  We could have built a very similar system for something under $1400 most likely and still include the core components: the Core i5-750 and Radeon HD 5870.  In fact, you can see our selections for four different system builds at our PC Perspective Hardware Leaderboard right now – even the sub-$1000 model uses some impressive selections!

Thanks for reading/watching this review and if you have any questions or comments for me, please head into this thread of our PC Perspective Forums!