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Build a Powerful Windows 8 i7-3770/3770K Computer for $850

Posted on Monday, November 12, 2012 @ 03:37:09 PM CST by David Yee [] [read 5899 times]

Tips: Windows-world
Windows 8 is out, and since it's been about 4 years since I've built my main desktop PC (Core 2 Quad Q6600, 8 GB RAM), I figured it's time to upgrade and get a clean start with Windows 8. After doing some research, I found that you can build a very powerful system, Windows 8 Pro included, for less than $1000. Here are the components I ended up with and their cost and my rationale for picking them. This is a computer workstation that I plan on using for 2013 and well beyond for many years.

1)Processor/CPU: Intel Core i7-3770 or Intel Core i7-3770K

The i7-3770 is a take-no-prisoner, no-compromise CPU. Fitted with 4 cores with 8 logical threads, the "Ivy-Bridge" chip will run advantage of games and multi-threaded and single-threaded applications extremely quickly. I also considered the AMD FX-8350 which has 8 physical cores, but benchmarks show that the i7-3770 completely outclasses the FX-8350 by an average of 15% to 30% in most tests. And when it comes to power usage, I was extremely impressed with the 22 nm i7-3770 to around 100 watts in a typical system total versus the 150+ watts by a similarly equipped system running the 32nm FX-8350.

The i7-3770K actually could be a better choice as it runs 100 MHz higher than the i7-3770, but it does lack some business oriented features such as vPro, VT-d, TXT, and SIPP.

Price: $285

2)Motherboard: Asrock Z77 Pro4 Intel Z77 LGA 1155

I didn't want to stretch the budget but yet wanted a Z77 motherboard with solid features, and decided upon the Asrock Z77 Pro4. It has 4 SATA3 ports (2 by Intel, 2 courtesy of ASMedia ASM1061), 2 front USB3 + 2 back panel USB3, along with an optical SPDIF connector that the cheapest Z77 boards don't offer. You also get the regular VGA connector, as well as a DVI + an HDMI out. The Asrock manual states that you can dual monitor. If you want to do NVDIA SLI, however, the Asrock Z77 Pro4 will not work for you, but it will work fine in an AMD Crossfire configuration, despite one of the PCIe 16 slots running at x4 speed. I already own a AMD Radeon 6950, so this board will work just fine for my purposes, and I don't plan on doing any crossfire.

Another pro (pun intended) for the Asrock Z77 Pro4 is that it uses less power than the competition in the same class and versus the higher end motherboards. I do leave my PC on most of the time, so this was another positive for going with the Pro4.

Price: $100

3)Memory: 32 GB GSkill Sniper F3-1600C9D DDR-3 SDRAM (4 X 8GB Sticks)

The Z77 motherboard supports 32 gigs of memory, so why not max it out? With memory costs so low nowadays, two of these 16 gig kits will only cost around $140. The 32GB of physical memory will give you plenty of RAM to run virtual machines. This is especially important in Windows 8 since there are legacy apps that used to work with Windows XP and Windows 7 that no longer work with Windows 8. For instance Microsoft Office Accounting 2009 was listed as incompatible with Windows 8 when I ran the Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant.

You should also allocate some of that extra memory in the form of a RAM Drive/RAM Disk for Windows. This will allow you to reduce the amount of writes/wear on the SSD as you can allocate Internet Explorer/Chrome/Firefox cache files to the RAM drive, as well as the system pagefile/temporary files. Asrock actually includes a Ram disk feature that can be activated via the AXTU (ASrock Extreme Tuning Utility) tool, but I opted for RAMDisk by Dataram since it is much more configurable. RAMDisk by Dataram is FREE though you are limited to 4GB. I've also used it before in Windows 7 and it was rock solid.

The GSkill Sniper F3-1600C9D supports XMP and the Asrock Z77 Pro4 automatically configured it at the proper DDR3-1600 speed running at CL9-9-9-24 and 1.5V.

Price: $140

4)Storage: 2x Samsung 830 128GB SSD

I've been waiting for word that Intel will support TRIM for SSD drives in RAID 0 configuration, and they added that support in their latest Intel Rapid Storage Technology software as of September, 2012. The Samsung 830 series of SSDs have garnered high acclaim ever since its debut with lightining quick synthetic and real-world test results. Pairing the Samsung 830 SSDS in RAID makes a heck of a Windows 8 boot drive and for applications/games. Another plus? You can often get one of the Samsung 830 SSDs for $80 or even less for the 128GB version. It seems that Samsung has been cutting prices on the 830 as their new 840 series of SSDs are now on sale.

Price: $160

5)Case/Chasis: Rosewill Challenger USB 3 Mid-Tower

After looking at numerous reviews for cases, I decided upon on the budget-friendly but yet acclaimed Rosewill Challenger USB 3 Mid-Tower. It's a great value- comes with 3 120mm fans, tool-less drive installations, and cable management features. You can often get this case for $40 shipped via promotions.

Price: $40

6)CPU Cooler: COOLER MASTER Hyper 212 Plus

The Cooler Master Hyper 212+ is a great, proven CPU cooler. Even though I'm not going to be doing much if any overclocking, the $30 cooler is a great value. The stock Intel cooler can serve as a backup just in case. Sometimes you can even get the 212+ for $20 after rebate.

The Hyper 212 is HUGE, however. I did have to move the cooler fan up a bit on my Asrock Z77 Pro4/Gskill Sniper setup in order for the fan to not be touching the memory and yet fit snugly onto the heatsink. You could avoid this minor issue if you are just running 2 memory modules, and leave the 2 banks closest to the CPU empty.

Price: $30

7)Power Supply: Antec EA-650 650W Earth Watts Power Supply

The 650 Watt power supply is a bit of an overkill I must admit, especially since the i7-3770 sips relatively low amount of watts. But the 80+, high quality power supply was on sale, so that was what I went with. I have had great experience with Antec EarthWatt power supplies (i.e. no problem whatsoever). A 450 Watt or a 520 Watt Antec Earthwatts would be my recommendation if you wanted to save some money.

Price $55

8)Operating System: Windows 8 Pro

I've used Windows 8 Pro for a week now and while it's different and takes a bit to get used to, it certainly offers exciting new possibilities with support for Windows Store Apps. Main thing to get comfortable with it on a traditional PC is to use the hotkeys. Right now until end of January 2013, you can get the Windows 8 Pro upgrade for $40. Windows Media Center can be had for free too for a limited time.

Price: $40

The total here for the New Windows 8 Power user i7-3770 computer came out to be $850. You probably want to add at least one traditional hard drive to the system to hold more data such as your photos, and to backup your boot drive. And if you are a gamer, you want to go for at least one of the AMD Radeon 7850/7890 cards or the NVIDIA GTX650Ti.

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