Build a PC: Recommended Builds (March 2014)

Tom McNamera

Baseline, performance, and ultra 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 system for gaming and content creation at 1080p, Performance beefs everything up across the board, and Ultra lets the dogs out. These rigs are lab-tested and editor-approved.

Prices listed here reflect print time and may not match the ones you find elsewhere online. In addition, Newegg has jumped on board to offer packaged deals for each of the builds below in an attempt to offer a better overall value. To see these bundle prices, click the "Buy-or-get-more-info-at-Newegg" button at the bottom of each build. Feedback is welcome. Tell us what you think!

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Part Component
Case Corsair Vengeance C70 $110
PSU Corsair RM750 750W
ASUS Z87-Pro
Intel Core i5-4670K $220
Cooler Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO
GPU EVGA GeForce GTX 760 2GB 02G-P4-3765-KR
RAM 2x 4GB Kingston HyperX Black
Optical Drive Samsung SH-224DB/BEBE DVD Burner $20
SSD Crucial M500 240GB
HDD Seagate Barracuda 1TB ST1000DM003 $65
Total = $1240
Click here to see the live bundle price:

You could call this "high-performance entry-level." That's where the workhorse Intel Core i5-4670K CPU and the Asus Z87-Pro mother-board come in. This build previously had a Gigabyte Sniper Z87 board, but we favored the Z87-Pro's additional internal USB 3.0 header and integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. You do lose the Sniper's Creative sound and two PCI slots, so your mileage may vary. The Thermaltake Smart-M 750W power supply also shot up in price, but we found a Corsair RM750 to replace it. This premium PSU is overkill for one Nvidia GeForce GTX 760 (arguably the best value for gamers right now), but is ready to add a second card in the future.

Part Component
Case NZXT Phantom 530 $130
PSU Corsair RM850 850W
Asus Sabertooth X79
Intel Core i7-4820K
Cooler Corsair Hydro H100i
GPU EVGA GeForce GTX 780 03G-P4-3784-KR
RAM 4x 4GB G.SKILL Sniper F3-12800CL9Q-16GBSR
Optical Drive LG WH14NS40 Blu-ray Burner
SSD Samsung 840 Evo 500GB MZ-7TE500BW $265
HDD Seagate Barracuda 3TB ST3000DM001 $110
TOTAL = $2153
Click here to see the live bundle price:

Compared to Intel's Core i5-4670K in the Baseline build, the i7-4820K in this rig is actually slower sometimes, but we wanted an LGA 2011 motherboard. This socket allows up to four video cards without any bottlenecks, while the i5-4670K's LGA 1150 boards can experience bandwidth limitations running just two cards. The Corsair H100i closed-loop liquid cooler is a reliable 240mm unit that can rival a 280mm-based unit. The Seasonic M12II 850W is now a Corsair RM850 850W, because the latter performs about the same but was decidedly cheaper as we went to press. We swapped out the GeForce GTX 780 Ti for a regular 780 since it packs enough punch and helps keep our budget down a bit.

Part Component
Case Corsair Obsidian 900D $320
PSU Thermaltake Toughpower Grand TPG-1200M 1200w
Asus X79 Deluxe
Intel Core i7-4930K
Cooler Corsair Hydro H110
GPU 2x EVGA GeForce GTX 780 Ti 03G-P4-2884-KR
RAM 4x 4GB G.SKILL Sniper F3-12800CL9Q-16GBSR $155
Optical Drive LG WH14NS40 Blu-ray Burner $58
SSD Samsung 840 Evo 1TB MZ-7TE1T0BW $510
HDD Seagate Desktop HDD.15 4TB ST4000DM000 $165
TOTAL = $3913
Click here to see the live bundle price:

The Corsair H110 isn't the fanciest or most expensive closed-loop liquid cooler out there, but it's powerful and uncomplicated. Other than that, the Ultra remains largely unchanged from our last build. Its hexa-core Core i7-4930K is a beast, the Asus X79 Deluxe motherboard is high-octane and packed with features, and the GTX 780 Ti is rocket-fueled. The Corsair Obsidian 900D case is cavernous and sturdy, and the high-grade 1250-watt XFX ProSeries power supply should handle three high-end video cards without breaking a sweat. We could shave about $100 off and go with a 960GB Crucial M500 solid-state drive, but we have the budget to justify the Samsung 840 Evo's caching features.

If you want to try something a little different, the Cooler Master Glacer 240L is also an interesting 240mm water cooler. Unlike other integrated units, the Glacer has detachable tubes. That makes the tubes, the radiator and the pump replaceable, and you can add more tubing to expand your cooling to video cards and additional radiators and pumps. It's also an impressive performer in its own right. The problem is that it can be hard to find one in stock.

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