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High End Gaming PC Guide: $5000 Dollars Of Gaming Glory

written by: M.S. Smith•edited by: J. F. Amprimoz•updated: 5/30/2009

It is amazing what $5000 dollars will buy you. These days, this wad of cash will purchase you what seems to be a super computer. This high-end gaming PC build will slay any game you can purchase today, even with high detail settings on a 30" monitor.

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    Welcome To High End

    This is it! The fastest gaming computer money can by. While most PC enthusiasts talk day and night about value and bang for your buck, there are always some who want the fastest that money can buy. If that sounds like you, and you have about $5000 dollars to lay down on a new PC build, then this is the guide for you. Make no mistake. This is an expensive, high-end build. But once you've put it together this PC will rival pre-built gaming computers costing over ten thousand dollars.

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    The Run Down

    Here is a simple list of the components in this PC.

    Case: Cooler Master Stacker 830 Evolution ~$220

    Motherboard: ASUS P6T6 Revolution ~$350

    Processor: Intel Core i7 Extreme Edition 3.2 Ghz ~$1000

    Video Cards: 2x Nvidia Geforce GTX 295 ~$1200

    RAM: 12GB (6x2GB) Corsair DDR3 1600 ~$230

    Storage Hard Drives: 4x Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB ~$400

    Primary Hard Drive: Intel X25-M SSD ~$320

    Sound Card: ASUS Xonar Essence 7.1 ~$200

    Power Supply: Corsair 1000W PSU ~$250

    Case Fans: 6x Noctua 120mm ~$150

    CPU Fan: Noctuca 120mm NH-U12P ~$70

    Media Drives: 2x Pioneer Blu-Ray RW ~$500

    Operating System: Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit OEM ~$99

    Total System Price: ~$5000

    This build really cuts it close. Depending on where you buy, you may not be able to get it into budget. These prices were taken from Newegg, which is generally the most competitive online retailer. Shipping costs are not included. Each part was picked for its high quality. For further information about each component, read on.

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    Case: Cooler Master Stacker 830 Evolution ~$220

    The Coolermaster Stacker Makes A Return To The High End Guide The Cooler Master Stacker 830 is far from the most expensive case you can buy. But why spend more? While Cooler Master, Silverstone, and Lian-Li offer several cases which are quite good and which cost hundreds of dollars more, it is unclear what those cases offer that the Cooler Master Stacker 830 cannot. In fact, its hard to imagine anything another case might do better. This Stacker has its all. It is extremely large, with plenty of space for big video cards and multiple hard drives. When fully loaded with fans, it generates more airflow than a helicopter. Its well built, too, and not bad to look at.

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    Motherboard: ASUS P6T6 Revolution ~$350

    The ASUS P6T6 Revolution received a nod as one of the best Core i7 motherboards available at the time of its release, and this hasn't changed. There is now a huge array of motherboards available for the LGA1366 socket, and many of those from companies like Gigabyte and ASUS are respectable entries. But ASUS P6T6 Revolution hits a sweet spot for price, features, and performance. It offers a great layout which provides the real-estate needed to mount such large video cards and six sticks of RAM, and the overclocking potential should help you get the most out of your Core i7 processor.

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    Processor: Intel Core i7 Extreme Edition 3.2 Ghz ~$1000

    The Core i7 Extreme Edition Is The Best You Can Buy Well, this is it - the fastest single consumer processor that money can buy. It was tempting to instead use the far cheaper Core i7 940 or even the 920, as the performance difference does not support the major premium paid for the Extreme Edition processor. But this system is not about logic, its about going all-out and building a computer with the best of everything. That being the case, I decided that the Extreme Edition processor was worth the price. It is nice to buy something and know that you have, without a doubt, received the highest quality product possible. The Extreme Edition Core i7 may be eclipsed by newer Nehalems during the next few years, but it likely remain among the fastest processor money can buy until the debut of Intel's next new architecture.

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    Building a high end gaming PC means including the best gaming processors and video cards. This is why the $5000 dollar PC gaming build includes the Nvidia GTX295, which crams two GT200 GPUs into a single video card, and the Intel Extreme Edition Core i7, which is the fastest single processor that money can buy. If you want a true high-end gaming computer, this is where it's at.
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    Video Cards: 2x Nvidia Geforce GTX 295 ~$1200

    The GTX 295 Crams Two GPUs Per Card With a budget this high, there is no reason to shoot for anything except the fastest. Nvidia may be trading blows with ATI in the low and mid-range markets, but it has continued to land solid knock-outs against ATI in high-range solutions. There are two reasons for this. One is that the GT200 series chip used by the GTX2xx series products is more powerful in absolute terms then anything ATI currently produces. The second is that Nvidia's SLI currently offers much better scaling than ATI's CrossfireX. A rig running two of these GTX295s is seriously set for years - just one of the GPUs in a GTX 295 is sufficient for any game, this setup gives you four of them.

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    RAM: 12GB (6x2GB) Corsair DDR3 1600 ~$230

    Performance of RAM is not a big deal. The amount of RAM is, which is why we've gone with six sticks of 2GB Corsair DDR3 1600 RAM. Corsair's good name is founded on its RAM products, and while there are some products, like DDR3 1800 RAM, which are faster, the most extreme RAM solutions provide a price/performance ratio so poor that they're not even suitable for a system as expensive as this. This setup of six Corsair RAM sticks will provide your computer will more memory than you'll ever need.

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    Storage Hard Drives: 4x Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB ~$400

    Western Digital Drives Are Reliable And Quick Western Digital is on top of the mechanical storage world. Its drives are quicker than the competition, affordable, and have a good reputation for reliability. The Western Digital Caviar Black drives are the company's flagship line, and they're as well suited for an extreme performance computer as an affordable desktop. Thanks to their low price, this build is able to fit in four drives for a total of four terabytes of storage capacity. With this much storage capacity on hand, a number of RAID configurations are within reach.

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    Primary Hard Drive: Intel X25-M SSD ~$320

    Solid state drives may not be large enough to act as primary long-term storage, but they are more than large enough to hold an operating system and commonly used programs. This is why the Intel X25-M is listed as the primary hard drive for this system - while the larger Western Digital drives can handle mass data storage, the lone SSD can be used for the operating system. Doing this will dramatically increase boot times and general system responsiveness , as the ultra-fast Intel X25-M eliminates scenarios where you have to wait for the drive to spin up and move to the location of the desired data. The reliability of the drive also helps ensure that you won't be surprised by a computer which has suddenly had its primary OS drive crash.

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    Sound Card: ASUS Xonar Essence 7.1 ~$200

    Picking a good sound card has become difficult. Since on-board sound has become sufficient for the needs of most users, the number of reviews of sound cards, and indeed the number of sound cards, has dropped considerably. In addition, they're just plain hard to review - sound is extremely subjective, and only hardcore audiophiles can tell the difference between a cheap sound card and one of high quality. That being the case, its important to recommend on features. That is why the ASUS Xonar is a great choice. Loaded with outputs and 7.1 digital surround sound, the Xonar has everything you could want, and some things you might not expect. It's "Magic Voice" feature, for example, can help make your voice clearer when speaking to other players in online games.

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    Building a high end gaming computer isn't all about the processor or video card. The case fans and CPU fan included in your high end computer also matter, and there are some products in the case fan market which stand out above the rest. This includes Noctua's case and CPU fans, which provide all the cooling a high-end gaming PC build will need. But they're also quiet and easy to live with.
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    Power Supply: Corsair 1000W PSU ~$250

    A computer as powerful as this requires a lot of power. The GTX 295 graphics cards are hogs, and the high-clock Extreme Edition processor doesn't sip the watts, either. The Corsair 1000W PSU fulfills these demands with room to spare. 1000W is a lot of power - at least 5 times what a normal system would consume under load - and a PSU which is cheap would likely not be able to provide the power this system needs. Corsair, however, is an extremely well respected brand with a reputation of quality control and customer service. There are few other PSUs I would trust to provide this kind of juice.

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    Case Fans: 6x Noctua 120mm ~$150

    With a computer this expensive, there is no reason to buy loud, gaudy fans that cost only a few bucks each. The Noctua 120mm case fans, painted in dull colors of beige and brown, are not the best looking in the world. But they are some of the most well produced. They are extremely quiet and provide excellent airflow even at low speeds. Think of it this way - if the color scheme isn't doing it for you, then you'll have a reason to dig out your old set of model paints.

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    CPU Fan: Noctuca 120mm NH-U12P ~$70

    The Noctua CPU Fan Isn't Pretty, But It Works Noctua again! Having just lavished praise on the Noctua case fans, I won't spend much time on this. Basically, it is a tower-style heatsink with a Noctua 120mm fan strapped to it. It is expensive for a CPU cooler, but it is arguably the absolute best CPU cooler money can buy. There are few which cool (slightly) better than the Noctua, but the Noctua sets itself apart due to its extremely quiet operation.

    The fans are quiet and effective to the extent that we can avoid the cost and complexity of liquid cooling.

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    Media Drives: 2x Pioneer Blu-Ray RW ~$500

    Blu-Ray is the media storage format of tomorrow, so naturally a system this overboard would demand the use of two of them today. Obviously, these Pioneer Blu-Ray drives will allow you to read Blu-Ray movies, letting you display them at high resolutions on your favorite monitor. They also can write to Blu-Ray disk, which is useful both as a form of data backup and to those who enjoy producing high-quality home films. Besides their Blu-Ray capabilities, these drives act as fully functional DVD and CD drives.

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    Operating System: Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit OEM ~$99

    Its a shame that Windows 7 is not out yet. Certainly, buying Vista at the end of its short run as Microsoft's flagship operating system feels like a waste. But there is no other choice right now that is comparable to 64-bit Vista - buying Windows XP for a system with this much power would be insane. The fact that Windows 7 is just around the corner has caused the recommendation to be downgraded to Home Premium, however, as there seems to be little need to buy Ultimate with an upgrade so soon to debut. In addition, there is little reason to buy anything except the OEM edition, as it is unlikely you'll make any major changes to your PC before Windows 7 arrives.