I rarely have the chance to do an enthusiast build as I'm normally tasked with doing the cheaper PC builds, like the $475 Cheap Bastard's Gaming PC that we recently published. It's been a while since we've done an enthusiast build -- in fact, this is the first of its type this year. We decided it'd be a great time to see what we could do with a higher budget while retaining a small and versatile form factor. The goal was to build a small form factor PC that could do just about anything you typically required from a gaming or video editing rig; this could double as an HTPC for those who'd like a living room gaming machine.
I was able to fit a core i5-4670k, MSI Z87i motherboard, and GTX 770 all inside the extremely versatile Corsair Obsidian 250D mini-ITX case that we saw at CES. This $1100 gaming HTPC build can handle just about anything you throw at it, including gaming at max settings and video editing / game streaming tasks.
$1169 DIY High-End Streaming & Gaming PC Build - May, 2014
OS & Recommended Extras
How to Build a Gaming Computer - Step-by-Step Tutorial
Intel Core i5-4670K ($240): Since this is an enthusiast build with an editing slant, going with Intel's flagship gaming processor was a no-brainer. So we included Intel's i5-4670k 4th-Gen Haswell processor; at this budget, there's nothing that AMD has that competes here while still retaining access to native USB3 and PCI-e 3.0 support. The i5-4670k is a quad-core CPU with a 3.4 GHz operating speed, 6MB L3 cache, and Intel's HD 4600 integrated graphics. Since it is a K-SKU, the CPU has moderate overclocking capabilities as well. This CPU will handle any gaming task thrown at it, but will also perform reasonably well in hobbyist render rig and streaming setups.
Overclocking? If you do plan on overclocking or just want to ensure that your processor keeps cool, you may want to pick up an aftermarket CPU cooler. The Corsair H100i is a great closed-loop liquid cooling option that fits in the SFF case we're using in this build. You may also want to purchase some Artic Silver 5 thermal paste for better heat dissipation, though the stock stuff isn't too bad.
Have $100 more? If you have a little more to spend, you could pick up the Intel Core i7-4770k for $100 more. The i7-4770k is a quad-core CPU with eight threads (using hyper-threading) with a hefty 8MB L3 cache, 3.5 GHz operating speed, and it also features Intel's HD 4600 integrated graphics. You won't gain any noteworthy performance for gaming out of this CPU at all, but for those doing rendering with any regularity, it's a worthwhile consideration. Software like Premiere and Vegas will use all the threads they have available.
G.Skill Ares 8GB DDR3 2400MHz RAM ($79): Here we include some high-speed memory from G.Skill that goes well with this smaller build. The low profile Ares units are great for small form factor builds since it doesn't include a large heat spreader, and 8GB is ample in a gaming rig. If you do plan on video editing or rendering in any sort of professional capacity, it's worthwhile considering 16GB G Skill Ares RAM (must be 2x8GB due to the motherboard) for $155. This will primarily be beneficial for users falling back on After Effects' live RAM preview.
MSI Z87I AC Motherboard ($130): First of all, the new round of Z97 motherboards were just announced -- find out more about those here. Any time you decide to go with a small form factor motherboard, you'll end up compromising other features (like PCI-e slots and RAM slots). This MSI Z87 motherboard includes some features that helps alleviate this, like a Bluetooth 4.0 radio and on-board wireless receiver. You're limited to only two RAM slots, and one PCIe 3.0 slot, four SATA 6Gb/s connections, and support for DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort output using on-board options. For an mITX motherboard, you end up getting many of the features sought after in a gaming motherboard.
EVGA SuperNova 750w PSU ($115): I was looking for a power supply that was 80 plus Gold Certified and fully modular, and what I found was this EVGA PSU. We never suggest "cheaping out" when it comes to any component, but that rule applies doubly so when it comes to the power supply. A PSU that goes bad can do some real damage to other components, so purchasing a quality PSU is paramount in ensuring you get the power you need delivered to your components safely. Being 80-Plus Gold Certified means less energy is wasted in the conversion and thermals, lending itself to greater reliability and simultaneously helping with the power bill. Since this is going into a small form factor case, being fully modular means you get more flexibility in cable management, using only the cables you need to use.
Crucial M500 240GB SSD ($120): Solid-state drives have become a mainstay in most of our builds, with the faster read/write speeds driving better overall PC performance. This Crucial M500 gets great reviews for its reliability and performance and blows-away the nearby V300. The price has come down to around 50 cents per GB -- a long way from the high prices once paid for this type of drive. 240GB should be adequate in this build for your operating system, core applications, and favorite games, but if you desire more room to grow, consider picking up the 480GB Crucial SSD for $237.
1TB WD Blue 7200RPM HDD ($60): Because 240GB probably isn't enough storage for most people, we'd recommend throwing-in this 1TB WD Blue HDD at 7200RPM. The RPM is high enough that hosting games and other frequently-accessed files locally won't hinder overall performance too much, but will free up space on the more limited SSD.
MSI Gaming GTX 770 GPU ($320): We're featuring another MSI video card in one of our builds given their current dominance in the price-to-performance scale of things. The GTX 770 has a whopping 1536 CUDA cores, 1137MHz Core Clock, 1198MHz Boost Clock, and 2GB of GDDR5 RAM on a 256-bit interface that will play most, if not all, games at the highest settings without breaking a sweat on a single monitor. MSI includes a factory overclock application that overclocks to predefined clocks with the push of a button, without the worry of damaging the GPU. You also get the Twin Frozr IV thermal tech that includes a dual-fan cooling setup for optimal airflow and SuperPipes (which are really just beefed-up copper heatpipes) that transfer heat better than the standard heatpipes. The GTX 770 will be put to work in rendering applications as well -- Premiere can make use of the CUDA cores on Kepler architecture to significantly increase the speed of encoding passes.
Samsung DVD Burner ($15): If you want to put an optical drive in this build, this one from Samsung is only $15 after promo code "EMCPFHA24" at checkout. If you're comfortable installing the OS from a USB device and don't use physical media anymore, this can be cut out to save $15 pretty easily.
Corsair Obsidian 250D Case ($90): I was looking for a small form factor case that not only looked good, but offered all of the extras that we like in a gaming case, like cable management and air flow. The Obsidian 250D provides that, support for full-length GPUs, and an overall high build quality. This case can fit a 200mm/140mm or 120mm fan in the front along side the included 1x140mm fan and dust filter. The 250D has room for 2x120mm side fans and room for 2x80mm fans in the rear, though we'd advise against using those unless you like the sound of a helicopter in your room. You also get dust filters on the sides and under the bottom-mounted PSU. This should allow for great cooling in this small case. Another key feature is the ability to install larger liquid cooling units with 240mm radiators.
The top window panel is a unique selling feature that allows you to see your components from the top-down, hopefully without too many cables in the way given some patience. The Obsidian 250D has support for full-length video cards, 5.25" optical drives (over slim drives in other small cases), two internal 3.5" drives, two internal 2.5" drive bays, and full-size ATX power supplies. The way this case is designed also gives plenty of room for cable management, with the PSU and drive bays on the bottom and motherboard above. There's also a $20 promotional gift card from Newegg, for what it's worth. It's probably worth putting toward another fan or two.
When we first decided to put together another small form factor (SFF) PC, we didn't know we'd end up with a do-everything PC. This $1100 build is small, but powerful enough to handle just about any task you throw at it You'll be able to play any game out today at highest settings and can also do video rendering/editing for YouTube channels or streams; HTPC capabilities are also present, if fleshed-out on the software side. Once thing is for sure, this little PC really packs a punch.
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- Michael "Mikagmann2" Mann.