Best Custom Gaming Computer Build Under $1,200 [March 2012]

Posted March 7, 2012 by Sam Chen in Computer Builds

Since it’s been a couple weeks since our last best gaming build, I’m going to do the most requested build, which is a gaming build around the $1,000 to $1,200. It seems like a lot of you are interested in custom gaming builds, so here it is. The concept of this gaming build is pretty much to be able to play most games on the market at high to ultra settings at 4x, 2x or lower AA. This means games like Battlefield 3, Skyrim, Crysis, Call of Duty, and of course Mass Effect 3 which was just launched today.

If you’d like to give some input on what I type of computer build you’d like to see in the future, or just request a PC build for yourself on something you want to build today or in the near future, please feel free to head over to our forums. Either myself or the very friendly, very helpful community here at Custom PC Review will help you out!

Enough of that, let’s get started!

Budget: $1,000 – $1,200

CPU – Intel Core i5 2500K

If you’ve been following my builds lately, you probably saw this one coming so it isn’t even a surprise anymore.  If you haven’t, well the Intel Core i5 2500K is probably the best processor in terms of price to performance out there these days. The processor is capable of some very serious overclocking and will handle any game you throw at it just fine.

Q. Why not the Intel Core i7 2600K? 
A. Watch this video. It will explain everything you need to know. Also, take a look at these benchmarks. There really isn’t the necessity to spend the extra money.

Motherboard – MSI Z68A-GD55 (G3)

Now typically I’d recommend the MSI Z68A-GD65 (G3), but lately that board’s price has gone through the roof, so today we’re going to go with the MSI Z68A-GD55 (G3). Honestly, there isn’t much of a difference between the two boards. The only difference is really the amount of SATA 3 6Gb/s ports. Whereas the GD65 has 4, the GD55 only has 2. Of course, unless you’re planning to drop in more than 2 SATA 3 6Gb/s SSDs, you’ll be fine since the GD55 still has another 4 SATA 2 ports for your hard drives.

Otherwise, the board is an excellent board with plenty of expandability. It features the G3 stepping which means you’ll be getting MSI’s new ClickBios II and you will also be getting PCIe 3.0 ports as well. Additionally, the board is also rock solid featuring MSI’s Military Class components and will overclock very well. Feel free to browse the ClickBios II overclocking tutorial if you’re interested. What’s really great about this board is that it currently has a $30 rebate attached, which means you’ll be getting this board for a measly $134.99 making it one helluva good deal.

Memory - 8GB Corsair Vengeance 1600MHz DDR3 Low Profile 1.5v Memory

As usual I’m going to recommend the 8GB of Corsair Vengeance Memory for this build. It’s very excellent very stable memory that I currently use in my personal system. The recommended memory is also low profile, which means you won’t have any issues with the larger CPU coolers either. If you are planning on purchasing memory other than the one I recommended, please make sure it’s 1.5v or lower. 1.65v memory isn’t officially compatible with Sandy Bridge processors and may damage them.

Video Card – MSI GTX 560 Ti 448 Core Twin Frozr III

Granted the crazy fast, next generation AMD Radeon HD7950 and 7970 is already out, there currently isn’t a next generation mid range card out there which is quite unfortunate. That being said, if you can’t afford a HD 7950 at nearly $500, it might be a good idea to just purchase a last generation GTX 560 Ti 448 Core. This card can still run all of today’s games at high to ultra settings at 1080p and will still last you for some time to come. Additionally, this specific card is based of MSI’s Twin Frozr III design, which means it’ll run cool, quiet, and will come from the factory overclocked. The icing on the cake here is that the card currently also carries a rebate of $30 which brings the price down to $279.99 making it an excellent deal as well.

Boot Drive – Crucial m4 128GB SSD

Lately it seems like Crucial is giving everyone a run for their money with the speedy m4 going for cheap. Current price on Amazon is only $162.14 possibly making this the cheapest SSD with ultra fast synchronous NAND. If you’re interested, you can take a look at our full review of the Crucial m4 128GB SSD. In short, we loved it!

Now, I didn’t recommend a boot drive because I really wanted to fit into a budget of $1,200, but if you’d like to have a bit more storage, feel free to add a Seagate Barracuda 7200RPM 1TB Hard Drive or any drive of your choosing.

Optical Drive - OEM DVD Drive or OEM Blu Ray Drive (Any Manufacturer)

If you watch Blu-Rays, grab the Blu Ray drive. Otherwise, the DVD drive will be fine. Or… even better just don’t buy one at all and borrow a friend’s!

PSU – Corsair TX650 V2

As usual, I’m going to recommend the TX650. It’s unbeatable when it comes to price and quality. If you want a little extra for that future SLI setup of yours, step up to a Corsair AX850. I typically just recommend Corsair PSUs these days since they’re so reliable and come with industry leading warranties.

Case – Cooler Master Storm Scout

You know, this was such a cool case when it came out. It was priced right, and it was the perfect size for those interested in carrying the case around. I’m going to opt for this one. Once a classic, always a classic.

If you got a couple more bucks, a CM Storm Trooper is pretty nice as well. It’s also $30 off in celebration of Cooler Master’s 20 years. Oh and feel free to grab some Corsair cases as well. Personally, I love the Graphite 600T. It’s expensive, but trust me… it’s worth it.

CPU Cooler – Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus

Just can’t stop putting this CPU cooler in builds. It’s just so awesome. Affordable, and a great performer. It’s not that I don’t want to recommend anything else, I just can’t think of anything else to recommend at this price point. Please suggest something in the comments below!

Operating System – Windows 7 64 bit

 

Total price on Amazon (For most people free shipping + no tax) for this build is $1,216 – $60 rebates, so it’ll be around $1156 or so.  If you don’t need an operating system, you can always drop it to drop the price another $100.

Finally, remember that if you have any questions, need some help, or need to fit the build into your budget feel free to visit the forums at http://forums.custompcreview.com. Myself, or the community here will be more than happy to help you out with your own custom build or answer any computer questions you may have. If this build doesn’t fit your needs, feel free to drop by our Computer Builds section to find more computer builds.

Also, be sure to join us on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, or YouTube. Be updated on the latest news, reviews, tutorials, custom computer builds, and more!

 

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About the Author

Sam Chen

Editor-in-Chief

  • iceman

    if your monitor only have 1080p maximum resolution, what GPU would you recommend? i like the 7950 but thats way to overkill with my monitor. its like putting a v8 engine on a motorcyle.

    • http://www.custompcreview.com/ Sam Chen

      Nah, it’s not overkill for 1080p. Just crank up the settings to 16x AF and 4X MSAA. Otherwise, the GTX 560 Ti 448 Core I posted in this article is pretty sweet… and at a great price too.

  • Darren

    CPU: AMD FX4100 3.6 Quad Core          
    Motherboard: MSI 970A-G46 
    RAM:  ADATA DDR3 1333 MHZ  8 GB 
    Power Supply: 750 NZXT Hale 80 Plus 
    Case: Cooler Master Elite 431 Plus 
    Blu Ray: Asus Blu Ray Reader 
    Video Card: HIS HD 5870 1 GB
    Hard Drive: WD Caviar Black 500 GB SATA 2 
    I want to get a PC to play Diablo 3 and a friend’s friend said he could build one with those specs. Is that crappy?

    • http://www.custompcreview.com/ Sam Chen

      It’s alright, but you can do much better. The 5870 is like 2 generations old now… Post your budget in the forums and I’ll see if I can put something together for you.

  • http://twitter.com/Renderen Richard Reyes

    im building a new pc for 1000-1300.. i do 3d work. (rendering, high poly count, etc.) is 2600k worth the extra $$ ? and how about 580 instead of the 560ti with this build?

    • http://www.custompcreview.com/ Sam Chen

      It’ll depend on the software you use, but most likely rendering will benefit from the i7 2600K. As for the graphics card, the GTX 580 would definitely be a good choice, but only if your budget allows for it. Feel free to hit up the forums with links to the parts you’re planning to get for more help.

  • huynh

    is this build still viable? or are there any parts i should replace. Thanks

    • http://www.custompcreview.com/ Sam Chen

      Yup. The build is still viable. Ivy Bridge will be coming out sometime though, but CPU performance improvements are only ~10% or so if you urgently need a computer this one is good. Otherwise, Ivy should be ready soon. 

      • huynh

         Thanks for the quick response!

  • guy

    Are you going to be releasing an April version of this soon?

    • http://www.custompcreview.com/ Sam Chen

      At the moment, I’m going to wait for Ivy Bridge to be released before announcing another version of this. As of right now, the build is still viable. Feel free to post on the forums if you need something a bit more custom though.

  • http://twitter.com/bdrazic Branislav Drazic

    Nice pick of components, but I suggest to consider few changes as are: 1. Case Fractal Design Core 3000 for me better than Scout , 2. CPU cooler Xigmatec Gaia, cheaper, more silent and same or better cooling performance 3 Power supply:  SeaSonic M12II 650AM 650W

  • thai

    If i wanted to do surround or eyefinity in the future will i be able to? or would i need to swap some parts?

    • http://www.custompcreview.com/ Sam Chen

      You’d have to swap out for an AMD based graphics card. Make a thread on the forums and I’ll help you out.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002278216398 André Mariano

    Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus 120mm Sleeve CPU Cooler, RR-B10-212P-G1
    Corsair Vengeance Low Profile 8 GB PC3-12800 1600mhz 240-Pin DDR3 Dual Channel Memory Kit SDRAM CML8GX3M2A1600C9
    Crucial 128 GB m4 2.5-Inch Solid State Drive SATA 6Gb/s with Data Transfer Kit CT128M4SSD2CCA
    MSI Z68A-GD55 (G3) – LGA1155 Intel Z68 Express Chipset ATX Desktop
    Motherboard Core i7/i5/i3 DDR3 SATA300/600 USB3.0 PCI-E SLI CrossFireX
    7.1CH Audio
    they dont ship those 4 things to (PORTUGAL) what should i get insted?

    • http://www.custompcreview.com/ Sam Chen

      Hmm… not quite sure… what website do you buy computer products from?

  • Marc

    I built this computer, but I have a problem. I can turn on the computer with the motherboard, but I cannot turn it on with the main power button on the front. Do you know what could be causing the issue with this case? The LCD light button works on the front and all the fans function, but I can’t get a response from the power button.

    • http://www.custompcreview.com/ Sam Chen

      You have the positive and negative leads on the front panel power header backwards. Just flip the header and you should be good.

  • seamus

    would this case work?
    CM Storm Stryker

    http://www.amazon.com/CM-Storm-Stryker-Computer-SGC-5000W-KWN1/dp/B008O2HOI2/ref=sr_1_28?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1357266651&sr=1-28

    • http://www.custompcreview.com/ Sam Chen

      Certainly. However, this build is from March 2012, which makes it a bit outdated. I would recommend you follow a more recent build such as the $1,000 gaming PC from December 2012.

      http://www.custompcreview.com/category/computer-builds/gaming-computer-builds/