Build a PC: Recommended Builds (December 2013)

Tom McNamera

Budget, baseline, and performance PC builds!

What time is it? It's time to build a PC with our Blueprints! This month, we've built three rigs at three approximate price points: Baseline, Performance, and Ultra. Baseline gets you a powerful that is suitable for gaming and content creation at 1080p, Performance beefs everything up across the board, and Ultra is the kind of rig you build when price is no object.

These rigs are lab-tested and editor-approved. Feedback is, of course, welcome. Tell us what you think!

We're trying something different this month by switching our CPU from Intel to AMD . The FX-6300 appears to be a better value at first, since it costs about $120, while the Core i5-4430 we used previously is around $180. We like to overclock though, so we needed a fancier mobo and CPU than the Core i5-4430 combo we were using, as well as an aftermarket CPU cooler. Add in price fluctuations elsewhere in the build, and we were able to upgrade and save $16 overall. We took that cash and spent it on another upgrade, going from a 1GB Radeon HD 7790 to a 2GB Radeon HD 7850 . The Corsair CX500M power supply we used previously is no longer available, so we swapped it with a quality 500W unit from PC Power and Cooling.

Intel doesn't have as much competition at this semi-powerful tier, so we're holding firm with its Core i5-4670K and a Gigabyte Z87X-UD3H motherboard. This build uses the most current-generation Intel enthusiast platform, Haswell and Z87, so it offers six native SATA 6Gb/s ports and integrated voltage regulation. The Radeon HD 7950 may be discontinued by the time you read this; the GeForce GTX 760 is a similar alternative. The Fractal Design Define R4 case we used before is no longer on sale, so we've switched to the militaristic Corsair Vengeance C70 . The Seasonic SS-650KM PSU sale is over, so the Cooler Master Silent Pro M2 is a fine alternative. Finally, the Intel 530 Series SSD was on sale this month, so we swapped it for the 335 model.

This system is a bit tricky. If we dropped the solid-state drive from 500GB to 250GB, traded the Blu-ray drive for a DVD burner, and maybe made a couple of cuts elsewhere, we could upgrade from the quad-core Core i7-4820K to the hexa-core Core i7-4930K . It all depends on what you want to use this system for. If it's primarily gaming, you'll benefi t more from the extra storage space than the additional CPU threads. A Steam/Origin library can take up a ton of space. If you do a lot of video encoding and other highly threadable tasks, then the hexa-core would make more sense. Since we like the extra storage, we stuck with the quad-core. Regardless of your CPU plans, you'll still benefi t from the AMD-Nvidia sale-pocalypse, which has delivered a big upgrade with the GeForce GTX 780 Ti from the GeForce GTX 780 video card we previously had in this build. This new "Ti" flavor is the fastest single-GPU card on the market, and costs just $30 more than what we were paying before. Yes, it’s even speedier than Titan , for $300 less.

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