Drives & Cost Breakdown

STORAGE: OCZ Vertex 2 60GB

As PC games become increasingly large, load times can slow to crawl especially when a mechanical hard drive is being used. The tech community has crowned the OCZ Vertex 2 and other models featuring Sandforce's controller as the pick of the litter when it comes to affordable SSDs. A cleaned up install of Windows 7 can come in at about 10~15GB and most games use 5~10GB each so the 60GB model is really the bare minimum a gamer should consider. The 60GB version is selling for about US$140, but it may be safer to spend US$185 on the 90GB model. If not used strictly for gaming, a WD Caviar Green hard drive can be added for cheap storage without making the machine noticeably louder.

Use the SPCR/Pricegrabber Shopping Engine to help you get the best deal on a solid state drive.

OPTICAL DRIVE: Samsung SN-S083F/BEBE

In this day and age, many PC games can be downloaded from their respective publishers or from Steam, so an optical drive may be completely unnecessary. For most users though, there's usually some form of optical media sitting around that may need to be accessed from time to time. The Sugo SG07 only takes slim notebook style optical drives but nowadays, these units don't carry much of a price premium over standard drives. For example, an OEM drive like the Samsung SN-S083F DVD burner can be found for around US$30. It should be noted that OEM drives do not ship with slimline SATA adapters needed for use with standard SATA data/power cables; an adapter will cost you about US$7 if you don't have one handy.

Use the SPCR/Pricegrabber Shopping Engine to help you get the best deal on an optical drive.

COST BREAKDOWN

The total cost of our proposed system is approximately US$1,175 which isn't bad for a high performance gaming rig that is both small and presumably quiet. For the more budget conscious there are a few components that can be replaced with more cost-effective models without sacrificing too much in the way of performance.

SPCR Build Components
Estimated Street Price (US)
Budget Build Components
Intel Core i5-760
$205
$115
Intel Core i3-540
Scythe Samurai ZZ
$30
same
Gigabyte H55N-USB3
$105
same
4GB Corsair DDR3-1333
$60
same
Radeon HD 6870
$250
$200
Radeon HD 6850
Scythe Musashi
$45
same
OCZ Vertex 2 60GB
$140
$60
WD Caviar Green 1TB
Samsung SN-S083F/BEBE
$30
$0
none
Silverstone Sugo SG07
$210
same
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit OEM
$100
same
TOTAL
$1,175
$925
TOTAL

For those less dependent on optical media, the DVD drive can be thrown out to slim down the total cost a bit and the SSD in our build isn't 100% necessary. If you can endure longer load times, a WD Caviar Green 1TB drive is less than half the price and delivers more than 16 times the capacity. A 7200 RPM desktop drive would probably be preferable, but we haven't reviewed many in the past couple of years and it would be remiss of us to recommend one without firsthand knowledge of its acoustics.

A processor downgrade to the dual core Core i3-540 running at 3.06GHz would shave off US$90 and wouldn't be that detrimental as there are many games that don't take advantage of four cores, and for those that do, its Hyper-threading capability may help somewhat. As a last resort, a slower GPU like the HD 6850 can be considered if you can live with a little less eye candy or a little jitter now and then when playing at higher resolutions. These two changes would actually make the system quieter as they use less power so the fans cooling them would not have to spin as fast.

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