It is customary to share the hardware, specifications and considerations when building a new computer. So allow me to introduce you to Argon. Here I will explain my thoughts while I was building with this specific set of hardware. A later review will fill in the holes upon long term use.
Everyone wants to know why my new computer is called Argon. I name my computers after their stability and their metaphorical completely filled electron shell in the sense that their hardware is complete and they lack no deficiency in their class. Helium is my server now and I used Neon daily for programming and podcasting since the release of Windows 7 in late 2009. Conveniently too that Argon is the third Noble gas and is also the third most prevalent gas in the atmosphere.
- Intel i7-3770K: $359.99 – $70 instant rebate = $289.99 (via Microcenter)
- Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD3H: $184.99 – $85.99 instant rebate = $99.99 (via Microcenter)
- EVGA GTX 670: 379.99 – $10 rebate – $20 gift card (via Newegg)
- Crucial M4 256GB: $199.99 – $40 instant rebate = $159.99 (via Newegg)
- HDD coming soon
- Corsair Vengeance 16GB (2×8): $94.99 (via Newegg)
- Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo CPU Fan: $34.99 (via Newegg)
- Antec TruePower New TP-750: $89.99 (via Newegg)
- Antec Three Hundred ATX Mid Tower: $39.99 (via Newegg)
This build was constructed for grand total of approximately $1160.
In addition to these items, which I purchased for this build specifically, there were a few components not included in the price. My dad donated these:
- LG Blu-ray Burner: $69.99 – $10 instant rebate = $59.99 (via Newegg)
- Cooler Master 120mm Case Fans – 4 Pack: $13.99 (via Newegg)
Originally, the plan was to buy an AMD FX-8150 but unfortunately after reading many reviews, sorting through hundreds of benchmarks and even being surprised with Piledriver news, it was not to be. Bulldozer was a lackluster product to begin and Piledriver only promised a 10-15% improvement over the already weak Bulldozer.
I began looking at an i5-3570 after my friend built into his machine in September. The 3570K is a great processor that competes easily with the 8150 in not only multi-threaded tasks, but also completely beats it in single threaded applications.
After immense deliberation though, I changed my mind yet again. While the 3570K was fantastic, it was only on par and just a little better than the 8150 in most general cases. Since this was going to be the next computer and future Intel releases like Haswell and Broadwell will be on an entirely new platform leaving no room for future upgrades, I figured it would be better to invest in a more powerful processor. So I switched to the next step up, the i7-3770K. Yes, it was more expensive, but it’s much faster and it shows. Combined with the extra performance and the incredible Microcenter discount, it made this build turn from good to great. The i7-3770 will definitely scale with the tasks I have now and those that I have in the future.
With the original choice of getting an AMD FX-8150, it was still going to be a Gigabyte board. It’s always Gigabyte. With that said, I had the choice between the higher end GA-Z77X-UP4-TH or the one I ended up choosing, the GA-Z77X-UD3H. The difference there was thunderbolt or not paying through the roof for features I probably wouldn’t need. Thunderbolt might be great, but it is definitely this generation’s Firewire. It’s too expensive for normal use right now, but in time, that might change.
The GA-Z77X-UD3H implements Ultra Durable 4, which is a step up from the Ultra Durable 3 that Neon has. It also has UEFI and a fancy interactive BIOS which isn’t really that great. Finally, one neat feature is that the board can transparently switch between on-chip graphics and discrete graphics. The rumor is that while the video card is busy serving my graphical needs,the on-chip graphics can do some more demanding work like encoding.
The graphics built into the i7-3770K is actually decent. It can drive up to three monitors without any major issues. In the days before I actually had my GTX 670, the on-chip graphics did a great job. Nevertheless, the EVGA GTX 670. Wow. This video card makes this computer shine. Regardless of the processor, the video card seriously makes the difference between a fast computer and an blazing computer.
I was originally in the market for the newly released GTX 660ti (which may or may not have spurred this entire building process in the first place), but after researching the video cards in the market, the 670 was a better choice. It was marginally more expensive, only $80, but for the benefit of increased bandwidth, it seemed better to future proof now. In addition, it was from my favorite video card company, EVGA and a clear successor to my previous GTS 250.
There are few notes though. It’s not quiet. I hear it when it’s running ambient loads and more so when I’m stressing it. It doesn’t get particularly hot, but it isn’t as cool as other open air cards — this is a shroud style card after all (my preference).
Though I mentioned off-loading some tasks to on-chip graphics, after reading about it further, it seems to be too troublesome to work with right now. It’s neat to have your computer switch between on-chip and discrete graphics, but this is a high end desktop, so it’s unnecessary.
SSD & HDD
Originally, I was looking at a OCZ Vertex 4, but after I learned about the way it handles speeds after half the space on the disk is full, I changed my mind back to Crucial. While 128gb was good – it matches space with the MacBook Air, it wouldn’t have been enough. I decided that another $60 was worth having double space and Newegg decided to have a deal on just the right day. It was perfect.
The Crucial M4 is fast. It loads Windows 8 in about three seconds. It opens programs, Chrome, Audacity and Guild Wars essentially instantly. But most importantly, it opens Explorer with absolutely no lag. None. Ever.
In effort to be cheap, I simply reusing a previous storage drive for now. By waiting for flood pricing to come down or densities to go up on spinning drives, I can save money for now and get those benefits later. Besides, a Caviar Black is probably overkill.
The memory in Argon is a clone of the newer memory I put into Neon earlier in 2012. While Neon was given (4×4) 16GB, Argon was graced with (2×8) which was definitely the right thing to do. Why? Because the CPU fan was insanely large and covers slot #4, which is unfortunate. There might be a way to squeeze it in there, but I think 16GB will work quiet well for now.
I had two 120mm fans previously and I added them both as intake fans to the front of the case. Cooling is important and Neon never had front mounted fans. While this computer will have an SSD and those remain relatively cool, it will eventually have an HDD too. Plus, these fans will allow some air to actually cool the graphics card once it is in.
The bigger of the additional fans though is the Cooler Master 212 EVO. It is huge. Simply massive. It just barely fits with the case side panel closed — we’re talking half an inch here.
Anyway, the CPU cooler is fantastic. Despite being the most complicated component to add to the build, with its bottom-side bracket and flexible-x grip, it definitely cools the processor well with a relatively quiet fan. Without strenuous and thorough testing, the fan keeps the processor cool at idle around 28C while when running OCCT or Prime95 to max out the processor, it cools around 47C.
To put this into perspective: Neon runs idle around 34C.
Power Supply & Case
There is definitely some overkill going on with this power supply. Newegg rated my build with the power supply calculator as only needing a 650 watt, but I picked this because I like the TruePower brand better than the lower wattage EarthWatt power supply I was looking at previously. The TruePower New will definitely be able to grow with me as my computer powers more USB externals or perhaps, although unlikely, someday, another graphics card.
The case is my old favorite, the Antec Three Hundred. In fact, it’s so much my favorite (and my dad’s too), that we have had maybe four of them by now. I could have opted for the Three Hundred Two but without seeing it up close (and verifying it had a soft filter in the front-intakes), I didn’t want to spend too much more for just another vent and USB3-front ports. The case is sturdy but vents well, and because it’s solid, it’s relatively quiet.
Update — January 19th, 2013
Argon scores a 26 on my WarGame 2 testing. Check it out.