OK, now the fun part
Here's the list of components going into the new build and why:
1.) CPU: Sandy Bridge - i7 2600K
This was a "no brainer". Intel's brand new architecture boasts top of the line performance, competing with $1000+ CPUs in their "older" line, and at a reasonable cost. It seems for some time they have held the performance crown awaiting some unknown master stroke by AMD. As AMD had nothing ready to compete, I went with Intel on this one. I'm not fond of overclocking, but I thought the combination of hyperthreading support and potential at least of overclocking was worth the small premium for the K series. The "better" integrated graphics of the HD 3000 is useless, because it can't be used except with a cheaper H67 motherboard.
The Intel stock cooler gets surprisingly good reviews it seems, so I'm not planning to change anything about this if it stays cool and quiet.(I bought this a week before news of Intel's flawed chipset, see Final thoughts section below for more info)
2.) Motherboard: ASRock Extreme4 P67
Though Sandy Bridge was still new, there was a full complement of motherboards available. The decision to be made was between the H67 or P67 chipsets. H67 gets you use of the integrated graphics built into all SB CPUs, but offers limited overclocking support. P67 lacks the ports for integrated graphics, but allows overclocking the CPU. Also the P67 boards are generally higher end (more expensive) and offer more SATA and USB 3.0 ports, more stylish design, and features catering to the gaming- and performance-minded consumer.
This is a decision that requires consideration of the case to be used. If you have a case to recycle, you'll hopefully know what form factor it can handle. For me building from the ground up, I decided an ATX mobo would offer the best range of features for me, thus I would need a slightly larger case.
The Extreme4 offers a plethora of features that I like: high quality capacitors(!), extra room for expansion with plenty of on board USB and SATA ports, fanless cooling, clean logical layout. You pay a bit more for this, but as I found out before, if your motherboard lets you down your computer will be the definition of instability. It's not a place to skimp, in my opinion. ASRock was an unknown quantity to me, it seems they have built a reputation on offering "budget" boards, and some people steer clear of them. Now they seem to have expanded in their offerings and reviews are generally favorable, so I'm taking a chance perhaps.(I bought this a week before news of Intel's flawed chipset, see Final thoughts section below for more info)
3.) Case: Antec Three Hundred Illusion
This was a tough decision. The P180 series seems to get a lot more respect around here, I'm sure it's a great case and it looks fantastic. But for the moment the P180 series is hard to find and rather out of my budget. I also considered the Mini P180 for it's sleek minimalist design, dual-chamber interior and excellent reviews. Ultimately the deal-breaker was that the Mini P180 only allows a Micro-ATX or smaller motherboard, and so far the Sandy Bridge motherboards in that form factor are quite limited. Also there are doubts over how large a graphics card can fit inside that case, and if I have to mod or remove a drive bay - what's the point?
Less headaches and more options are why I went with the good ol' Three Hundred.
(The "Illusion" means the case fans have these terrible blue LEDs
which are impossible to miss, and there are 2 additional fans included. The price difference is minimal, so I figured a couple of extra fans was worth it, and if the LEDs proved too annoying I could do a little *snip snip* to fix them.)
4.) PSU: Seasonic X650 Gold
I care about the environment and even though the new PC that I'm building won't exactly be "green", still I'd like it to be as efficient as possible. So that means I wanted an 80PLUS rated supply, and the Seasonic as reviewed on SPCR
, seems to be a great choice. Less noise, less waste, and fully modular - what's not to like? It's a step up from 400W on the old computer to this 650W supply, but I bet the difference in efficiency is huge. The old one literally blows out hot air.
I'm hoping this combined with an LED backlit display and other energy efficient components will also reduce our utility bills...
5.) GPU: ASUS DirectCU Radeon HD6850
Some graphics cards are for people who want to run all the latest games, squeeze out every watt and FPS they can get from their system. Those people probably don't care about how loud the card is. They don't flinch at spending $500-1000 for a new card. But I do. So I looked carefully for a well performing, quiet card, and thanks to a review right here on SPCR, I found it: Asus DirectCU & AMD Radeon HD 6850 Graphics Cards
The relatively low power consumption of AMD/ATI's HD6000 cards allow for quiet fans, but every manufacturer can tweak the cooling design and performance characteristics a bit. The 6850 seems to be the sweet spot of performance, price and efficiency. ASUS just happens to have a very quiet fan/heatsink combo. Also under consideration were some of the PowerColor models, a company which is known for using fanless heatsink designs. While there was talk about a fanless HD6850, it wasn't available at the time, so I went with the ASUS instead.
6.) RAM: G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 2x4GB DDR3 1600
This is one of the places I cut the cost a bit, by going with a slightly less expensive brand of memory. The P67 memory controller I believe officially supports up to 1333Mhz memory and anything above that is overclocked. I haven't looked deeply into this yet, but I did buy 1600 rated RAM and will probably need to play around in the BIOS to get this to work. Right now it's listed as 1333 in CPU-Z, for what it's worth. Overclocking is not really my thing, so I might not even bother.
Thankfully the P67 is also dual channel memory, so I don't have to buy into the overpriced triple channel scam!
7.) SSD: Crucial RealSSD C300 CTFDDAC128MAG
I guess a solid state drive can still be considered a luxury, given the difference in price compared to a mechanical drive. Also I've been reluctant because of some stories about how performance degrades over time. In the end, the thought of a totally quiet, super fast drive won and I dished out the extra money for one of these beauties. I figure with a modern OS (Windows 7) and the new technologies that SSDs have, some of the initial pitfalls are minimized. This model had a rebate at NewEgg (probably due to new chipsets ready to launch this summer) so I jumped on it. Ever so glad I did...
This eliminates a lot of the hassles and what-ifs when planning a quiet build. I still planned to use two old mechanical drives for data storage, but this was not a big concern: if they prove too noisy I can always replace them.