Getting your money’s worth with PC’s: Why good machines do not have to cost you thousands

Recently my old PC has started to show the signs of its slow death. It is over 4 years old, it has put up with countless hours of gruelling gaming processes and overheating, and so now is the time for me to move on. And so I have. Several days ago I managed to buy up to date components for a new computer and boy did I get my money’s worth.

Now if you are looking for a new computer that can not only play the latest games at high speeds, but also be able to be used as a multimedia platform, but you do not want to be ripped off by buying from brands such as Alienware, then custom PC building is the path for you.

Take my experience for example:

  • Case     -       NZXT Phantom full-tower chassis (White & Red Edition) £99.99 ($157.16)
  • CPU     -       Intel i5-2500k Sandybridge 3.3Ghz £169.99 ($267.19)
  • GPU   -      MSI 6970HD Graphics Card 2GB £199.99 ($314.34)
  • RAM    -      Dual Ripjaw 8GB £33.33 ($52.38)
  • HDD       –      Seagate Barracuda 1TB 7200rpm £69.98 ($109.99)
  • Motherboard    -     Gigabyte Z68AP-D3 Mini-ATX £59.64 ($93.74)
  • PSU     -     OCZ ZX Series 850Watts £95.82 ($150.60)
  • Other Drives    –      1 Samsung Optical Disc Drive £12.00 ($18.86)
  • Coolant & Heatsinks    –      1 Akasa Venom Voodoo CPU Cooler £44.99 ($70.71)


Overall price (plus 20% VAT and P&P): £848.16 ($1,333.13)

Don’t take this wrongly, that is a good price for what the stats show. If you bought an Alienware for the same specs, it would cost you near enough £2000 ($3,143.60) or even more.

So lets take a view of what exactly the components are;

The case is a NZXT Phantom full-tower chassis. If you are a big PC fan that likes to have a tower that offers a huge amount of space and a very user-friendly, sleek design, then this case is for you. However, if you are limited to space or prefer smaller cases, I would recommend not buying it because it is HUGE. (222mm width x 541.34mm height x 623.8mm length) However if this does not mind you at all, the case can come in a wide variety of colour schemes. The three default colours are: White & blue, black & blue or red & black. However, as I said there are more colours to choose from. (Mine is white & red.) Also, be aware that this case comes with 4 installed fans, one 200mm fan at the top, two 120mm fans at the side and one 140mm fan at the back. You still have space for 3 large fans however. Now before you go ahead and claim one for yourself, (that’s if you’re interested) bear in mind that it will cost you over £100. Luckily I got mine for £99.99 whereas it could have cost me £135 in a different shop.

The CPU is a good, cost-effective Intel i5-2500k sandybridge processor, with a default speed of 3.3Ghz, however it can be overclocked up to 4.3, thus surpassing some of the i7′s, however at that speed you can cause a great risk of frying your CPU if it isn’t cooled effectively. For me, I don’t see much point in OCing it as it is easily capable of carrying out most high-performance tasks at 3.3Ghz.

Thats the MSI 6970HD next to my head in comparison to scale. IT IS HUGE!

The GPU however is where it is more up to you to decide. I have gone for an MSI 6970HD card that holds 2GB of memory.As this card easily surpasses most other mid/high-end cards, it should not be a problem for me to have any graphical or lag issues when playing modern games such as Crysis 3 or Bioshock Infinite at high settings. Also, it is big, really big, huge in fact.

However, to play these games effectively you need to have a good amount of RAM to carry out the gruelling tasks of loading the game before you arrive in the area. If you haven’t got enough RAM, your computer will take longer to load and thus cause lag. Everyone hates lag, so why put up with it? RAM is extremely inexpensive and simple to install. The RAM I purchased only cost me £33. However, you do not want to go overkill on RAM. 16GB is more than enough for even the most elitist of gaming rigs. 8GB is for those who want to push their computers to high levels of power, and have a smooth gaming experience, but also able to have multiple applications open at the same time. 4GB of RAM is for those who prefer a more laid back experience when playing games or to be used as more of a multi-media PC. 2GB of RAM, now you’re just being silly, or you’ve got an old PC like what I’ve still got.

The HDD again is more towards your own opinion. 1TB of data storage should be more than enough to hold a vast amount of media whilst it holds about 20-30 installed modern games. I play a vast range of games, new and old, therefore I would most likely take up 1/3 of the hard drive on game data over the years. However, I also hold around 2,500 songs and hundreds of pictures, therefore, it will add around another 250GB of data. You can never have enough memory on your Hard Drive, it just depends on what you use your computer for.

The motherboard was a cheap, simple but sensible option. Do not be deterred by it being a Mini-ATX, this board is capable of holding even the biggest of graphics cards and CPU coolers. (Trust me, I know.) It is very cost-effective by being just under £60, this board can hold up to 32GB of RAM (although you’d be stupid to have that much,) all of the latest graphics cards and more. It has 4 USB slots, 1 HDMI slot and the usual mouse/keyboard socket and mic and headphone jacks. HOWEVER it is an INTEL motherboard, not an AMD motherboard. This is important for those who want an AMD CPU instead of an Intel.

Again, just like the HDD, you can never have enough power for your computer. I’ve gone for 850Watts of power as I do not intend to OC my processor. Most of the power will go towards the graphics card instead of just the processor as well as the many huge fans that lie around the case. Getting the right power supply is one of the most important and most of the time underestimated components of a PC. If you get too little, your PC will become unstable and ultimately break. This is why more is always better, despite its cost.

The optical drives are dirt cheap, literally, you could probably buy them in bulk they’re that cheap. £12 for a simple CD/DVD reader. BAM! Done.

The processor should come with its own heatsink, which is good because without one, it would overheat and destroy itself (And you don’t want that!). Intel heatsinks are good, but they’re not the best, not for gamers like you or me, and that’s why we want something better! As I said that I didn’t want to overclock my processor so there wasn’t much point in me buying a huge and rather expensive watercooling kit. Instead, I bought the large and slightly cheaper Akasa Venom Voodoo CPU heatsink. Its big, its bold, and it is rather awesome just to look at really. But enough of that, let’s get back to what it is. The Venom Voodoo is a large heatsink with two 120mm fans on each side of the central aluminium grille. Because of it being produced from Akasa, the fans have specially designed blades that effectively regulates airflow through the grille and ultimately cools the processor below. Although despite its size, I still would not recommend to overclock your processor, at least to extreme clock speeds. It may cool effectively, but it is still not as effective as watercooling.

If you want you can add a lot more to that list, especially if you buy the Phantom case. However ,that just goes to prove that you don’t need an over-priced, overkill gaming rig to have a good experience. Just be smart, check out in detail what you plan to get, what you’re going to use it for and how easy will it be for you to buy and build it. I plan to use this PC to play on as well as to produce digital art on photoshop and write countless essays when I go to university. Its sheer size may be a burden but at least it will be hard to steal (if anyone tries it,) due to its…well…size and weight (But I have the power supply to thank for that.).

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