Gaming Upgrade Kit stub

$1236 DIY Haswell High-End Gaming PC Build - June, 2013

Posted on June 7, 2013

Haswell's here. We've thoroughly analyzed Haswell's viability and performance for gaming and light workload applications, and with that research backing us, we can comfortably recommend that new system builders opt for Haswell over its predecessors. Fear not, though -- if you're on Ivy Bridge, Sandy Bridge, and in some cases, even Nehalem, our conclusion was that it's not necessarily immediately beneficial to make the leap to Intel's new Tock. For new builders, though, there's absolutely no reason not to opt for the newer chip, especially given its support of emerging graphics technologies by Intel and game developers.


GRID 2 is a fine example of this: Self-shadowing smoke (adding depth and volume to the tire smoke) is only available to owners of Haswell systems, whether or not you're using the IGP or a discrete card. Similarly, OIT (order-independent transparency) and other render techniques can be 'unlocked' in the options menu only by Haswell users.

This custom ~$1000 high-end gaming PC build aims to put you in a position to play almost any game currently on the market on maxed or high settings, including the likes of Crysis 3. We've got a "cheap bastard's" build coming out shortly, for those on an ultra budget, and then a normal budget build for the in-betweeners. Buying a pre-built system can't lay a hand to the level of power, customization, and affordability gained in building your own gaming PC -- let's jump to the list.


$1236 Custom Haswell High-End Gaming PC - June, 2013

Gaming Parts ListNamePriceRebates/etc.Total
Video CardMSI GTX 770 2GB$400-$400
CPUIntel i5-4670K Quad-Core Haswell CPU$250-$20, Free Shipping$230
CPU CoolerNZXT Respire T40$40-$20$20
MemoryKingston HyperX 8GB 1600MHz$70-$10$60
MotherboardASRock Z87 Extreme4 Motherboard$160-$160
Power SupplySeaSonic M12II 620W PSU *Note Below$90Free Shipping$90
SSDOCZ Vector 128GB SSD$150-$20$130
HDDWestern Digital 1TB 7200RPM HDD$70-$10$60
Optical DriveLG 24X DVD RW Optical Drive$16-$16
CaseCorsair Carbide 500R$120-$50$70
Total $1366-$130$1236


OS & Optional Extras

Add-on Parts ListNamePriceRebates/etc.Total
Operating System
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit$92Free Shipping$92
Gaming HeadsetPlantronics GameCom 780$57-$57


Video Card 

With the official announcement of nVidia's GTX 700 line of video cards, we see a redoubled effort to deliver day-one driver updates for high-profile games, improve SLI performance, and refine the existing Kepler architecture. For those who aren't caught up to speed, nVidia's next major microarchitecture revamp (what would be the equivalent of a 'tock,' in Intel's world) is known as 'Maxwell,' but likely isn't due out until next year. Until then, we're still sitting on Kepler architecture - first introduced in the GTX 600 series - which championed its preceding Fermi architecture.

NVidia continues to optimize Kepler for more tasks that indirectly complement gaming; in the summer, we'll see the launch of ShadowPlay, a retroactive recording utility that employs the built-in H.264 encoder in Kepler chips. Unlike other programs - like Fraps, for instance - nVidia's optimization should minimize CPU load by sending complex encoding functions through the GPU, which is significantly more capable of juggling capture tasks. Any Kepler card will feature this functionality.

We're using MSI's version of the GTX 770, equipped with 2GB of 7Gbps GDDR5 memory on a 256-bit memory interface; MSI uses an in-house heatsink and cooling block (as opposed to the reference cooler, which is performance-limited), complete with nickel-plated copper heatpiping, standard fin/capillary design, and two "Twin Frozr" fans for air intake. As far as performance, well, you won't have trouble playing most games on max or near-max settings.


Up front, we're using the new i5-4670k -- effectively the successor toIvyBridge's somewhat ubiquitous i5-3570k (and the 2500k before that). This quad-core clocks in at a native external clockrate of 3.4GHz and gets boosted up near 4.0GHz under load, courtesy of Intel's TurboBoost technology. TDP is boosted over Ivy Bridge by roughly 7W, putting the i5-4670k at 84W, but its memory controller is capable of significantly higher XMP overclocks and the cores perform more efficiently for load-intensive tasks, so it's a worthwhile jump.

In terms of pure frequency, you won't be able to clock the 4670k quite as high as the 3570k on air, but because the new chip is so much more efficient and slightly more powerful, the 4670k ultimately yields higher performance.

CPU Cooler (Optional) 

We'd strongly encourage you to pick up an aftermarket heatsink at some point, but it's not immediately required. The stock cooler that ships with the 4670k will do its job, but you shouldn't really be overclocking on it; we'd advise grabbing NZXT's Respire T40 CPU cooler, which is presently half off - on sale for $20. Very good price. Adding an aftermarket cooler will allow proper overclocking and keep temperatures low, which helps prolong the life of the silicon overall.


Kingston's memory seems to be a bit of a recurring visitor for our builds, but for good reason: Second only to Corsair in terms of total quantity shipped (and even that's debatable), Kingston puts out reliable modules for their HyperX gaming line, with pricepoints spanning multiple budget ranges. With this kit, you get 8GB of Haswell/Z87-compatible memory clocked natively at 1600MHz, and easily amped higher.


The new Z87-equipped motherboards are finally shipping alongside their LGA1150 socket-inhabiting counterparts. We've got dozens of choices in the motherboard market, but at the end of the day, this build wants overclocking potential and a mid-range price-point (not cheap, but not enthusiast-class).

ASRock took the market by storm with its Z77 boards, and we suspect that'll happen again with the Z87 products. Their new Z87 Extreme4 board supports the bolstered memory controller, capable of OCing RAM up to 2933MHz if you wanted to (though you should buy different RAM for something that extreme). More importantly, since RAM frequency isn't all that impressive for gaming, the board is fitted with 3xPCI-e 3.0 x16 slots, a decent 7.1 channel sound processor, 8xSATA III ports (0/1/5/10 RAID support, of course), and 2xUSB 3.0 headers (4 port support).

ASRock's invested a huge amount of its resources into UEFI BIOS tweaking and usability, and that shows in some of their Z87 technologies. If you're new to overclocking or like the guiding hand, this board makes all of that very easy. On-board troubleshooting LEDs will also help to diagnose any future issues with DOA parts.

(Additional BIOS configuration setting note - see the "power supply" section).

Power Supply 

We try to recommend SeaSonic's power supplies whenever possible, but their prices generally make that difficult. This time, though, SeaSonic's M12II 620W PSU is available at a very reasonable $90. 620W is enough for the 770 and other internals we've selected, though if you're doing anything with SLI, you should consider another option (ask us in the comments for support).

The SeaSonic unit is 80 Plus Bronze certified, putting its power efficiency in the >87% range, and has the standard suit of overvoltage protection, active PFC, and cable modularity.

Note: The 620W version of Seasonic's M12II PSUs doesn't support the ultra-low idle power draw of Haswell. We don't see this as an issue for desktop users, since you're not concerned about saving battery life (it's more of a concern for mobile units - ie laptops). Intel has encouraged all motherboard manufacturers to disable C6 power saving features by default, so you shouldn't run into issues, but in the event your system struggles with resuming from sleep states (S3, S4), you'll need to go into BIOS and disable C6/C7 states. This means the CPU will consume slightly more power when in S3/S4, but will be able to resume from sleep properly. If for some reason you'd like to have the C6/C7 stepping options, we'd recommend something more along these lines.

Cheers to reader Bloodstripe for asking about this choice! Let us know if you have more questions about C6/C7 options on Haswell boards.


We've opted for OCZ's high-end Vector drive for this rig, which excels in high-read and sequential operations (making it ideal for rapid level loading in games and decent for render operations). Currently with a $20 MIR, you end up paying just under $1/GB for this 128GB SSD -- and at this caliber performance, that's a decent deal.

As for the HDD, a standard 1TB drive at 7200RPM will suffice. We've grown a bit comfortable with Western Digital's general reliability, so will readily recommend them for your archival storage needs.

As always, load the OS and essentials to your SSD - put the rest on the HDD.

Optical Drive

As always, we've got a generic optical drive to fill the void for your occasional disc-burning/reading needs. It's nothing special, but then again, there's not much special about disc spinning.


We need something beefy enough to adequately cool our internals, but fitting for a mid-range enclosure budget. Corsair's Carbide 500R has been on the market for a good year or two now and performs admirably, has excellent ease-of-installation and cable management features, looks good, and often goes on sale.

The case currently has a $25 off instant coupon (code EMCXPXP43 at checkout) and $25 MIR, giving a total of $50 off and bringing this case down to an incredible $70. Definitely an awesome deal to take advantage of.

That's it for this build. If you need any help at all with assembly or troubleshooting, or if you'd like us to help you customize a build, post on our forums for support!

- Steve "Lelldorianx" Burke.