A couple years ago I made a fundamental change in my computer and gaming setup, and I've decided that I want to go back to a computer for my gaming needs. A bit of background and then my planned setup.
So up until a couple years ago I'd always been an avid PC gamer, used the console for racing games and the like but all my 'real' gaming was done on a PC, I always preferred the more precise controls and superior graphics a PC offered.. I spent years and lots of money constantly tweaking and upgrading...and troubleshooting, lots and lots of troubleshooting. I hit a point a couple years ago where I decided I'd had enough and wanted to simplify things, so I decided to buy products better suited for my individual needs of gaming and computing.
I bought an iMac for my computing needs (and specifically photo and media work) and bought an xbox and PS3 for my gaming 'needs'. This was a really tough decision for me because I was such an avid PC gamer and completely anti-Mac for such a long time, but I figured products that were more tailored for their purpose would serve me better, and I was half right.
The iMac has been a great machine and has exceeded all my expectations, I've never been happier with any computer than what I've been with the Mac. It also led me down the path of Apple-tizing my setup and now I have several Macs, an Airport Extreme, several Apple TVs, iPhones, iPads, Airport Express and all the accessories tied to all that stuff. It's not cheap but I love the way everything plays together, so worth it to me.
BUT, the Macs don't do gaming, not really. They CAN play games and the iMac even has the hardware to run games at decent quality, but that's not their purpose and they're really just not a substitute for a proper gaming rig. So enter the Xbos and PS3.
I've played games on both systems for several years now, but before the change I'd always much preferred the vast majority of games on a PC. But as part of this change I decided to give the consoles an honest attempt for gaming. In the last two years I've purchased quite a few games on both platforms, everything from the entire Call of Duty series to Battlefield to Skyrim and of course the racing games. I'd say two years is a pretty damn honest effort to acclimate to console gaming, and it just ain't workin' for me. I have enjoyed Skyrim on the Xbox but that's honestly about the only non-racing game I've enjoyed on either console, that and Red Dead Redemption. I just CANNOT do FPS games on the console though, I feel very disconnected from the game and it doesn't work for me.
So, I've decided to build another gaming PC, but this time I"m going to do things differently. Part of where I went wrong before was that I tried to build PCs that were all-purpose machines (general computing, media servers, photo and video editing, and of course gaming) and when you want an all-purpose machine you end up with compromises that affect the end result. This time around I"m building a dedicated gaming rig. All my other computing needs are being handled well by the Macs, so this computer is ONLY for gaming, I'm gonna install Windows, drivers, games and THAT'S IT.
Simple is the name of the game and there will be no mechanical drives of any kind, so no hard drives and no optical drives. That's going to allow me to build out a smaller form factor gaming rig, I"m thinking a small-sih itx setup.
Case - Bitfenix Prodigy
It's a mini-ITX case, but a bit larger than the other options out there so I'll have more room to work with. I'll be able to install a full size video card and watercooling for the CPU in this case. If they had it in aluminum finish like the Mac Pro I'd be thrilled, but as is I'll go with black.
Power Supply - Corsair AX750
Nothing super fancy here. Since I've got no mechanical drive and only one video card this 750 watt PSU should be plenty to run the rig, is efficient and is small enough to fit in the case.
Motherboard - Asus P8Z77-i Deluxe
The Z77 chipset is the way to go on this mini build, it has excellent performance and good overclocking ability. It's almost like the chipset was built specifically for what I'm wanting to do. There are several boards out there, but two that are really geared more towards performance, the eVGA Stinger and the Asus. The Asus is cheaper and gets better reviews, and even though I"ve had excellent results with eVGA in the past I'm going with Asus here.
CPU - Intel i5 3570K
I was debating between the i5 and i7 and every bit of evidence I could find says that for strictly gaming, the i7 doesn't really improve on the i5. The i7 is better for media editing and such, but for gaming the i5 is on par with the i7. I'm going with the 3570K because they're readily available and unlocked for overclocking.
Cooling - Corsair H100i in push-pull configuration
I'll use the fans that come in the case for overall system cooling, but am going with a liquid cooling system in the H100i for the CPU. There's room in the case for the 240" radiator, so the H100i is the perfect fit. Since the case is small cooling is going to be a key factor, and seems like the H100i is good. It's a fully self contained cooling system which is a must for me, if there are better options than the H100i let me know.
RAM - Corsair Dominator Platinum DDR3
This is one area I could use some advice, don't really know much about memory these days.
Graphics Card - eVGA GTX 670 Signature 2
This is the part of the system where there's probably the most debate and discussion. The prevailing opinion seems to be that the 670 is a better value than the 680 since it can usually be clocked to near 680 speeds. The bigger argument seems to be on these cards vs the AMD 7970. It's a tough decision, but since it's so close the tie breaker for me is eVGA, I've had excellent service with them and all other things being near equal I'll go with them over another company. If anyone has a compelling argument against the 670 I'm all ears.
This is the area where things have changed the most in the last couple years I've been out of the computer game, and where I could use some help. I need to hit up Anandtech and get my read on, but I'm probably going to start with a single 256GB drive and then when that drive reaches 70% capacity or so I'll add in a second drive. There are tons of options out there, but there seem to be a handful of chipsets, some of which are better than others and some seem to be better suited for certain things. So I've got some research to do here...
With those parts I should be able to reach a 4.5Ghz overclock fairly easily, so that's my goal. I think that covers it. If all goes well I should end up with a very capable gaming computer that's also fairly small and portable.