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Build a Gaming PC with Slickdeals (Part 4)

All those games will need a place to live and run.
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Slickdeals PC RAM

We are almost done with our Slickdeals gaming PC! Having covered the case and power supply, CPU, motherboard and graphics card, it’s time to finish up with internal storage and memory.

Internal Storage

Since the early days of personal computing, the hard disk drive has been the default internal storage device, offering ever-growing capacity and reliability. Advancements in technology have introduced new options, specifically solid-state drives and hybrid drives, but the term “hard drive” is still used to colloquially refer to all types of internal storage devices.

Hard Disk Drive

The traditional hard disk drive (HDD) is the bread and butter of PC storage. The technology is reliable, mature and inexpensive — a 3 terabyte (TB) HDD can be had for around $85. Just for perspective, my first HDD in the early 1990s was 80 megabytes (MB) and cost around $50!

An HDD is like a magnetic record player with spinning platters and a read/write head. But because the platters have reached a peak of 7200 revolutions per minute (RPM), data transfer speeds are capped at around 200 megabytes per second (MB/s). And that's under ideal circumstances — most commercial HDDs can only hit around 150 MB/s.

Performance-wise, a HDD is the slowest option when compared to a hybrid or solid-state drive, but the appeal is in its large capacity and low price. For gaming and everyday tasks, like photo and video storage, an HDD is a good value-based choice.

Solid-State Drive

With no moving parts and data transfer speeds up to 550 MB/s, solid-state drives (SSD) are by far the quickest storage solutions to date. Using nonvolatile flash memory, SSDs can access data incredibly quick, which translates into dramatically reduced program startup and load times — the animated Windows logo doesn’t even have a chance to complete before my desktop appears.

Of course, in the PC world, faster means more expensive, and a 250 GB SSD will cost around $88 depending on the brand. But those who’ve tasted its nectar will all agree that the performance gains from an SSD are well worth the premium pricing.

Small form factor and less heat generation are also popular reasons for going the SSD route. Many new cases allow for SSDs to be mounted vertically and out of the way of incoming airflow, providing a clear path for cool air to find the biggest heat generators.

Hybrid Hard Drive

A hybrid hard drive is exactly what it sounds like: a traditional HDD paired with a small amount of flash memory that’s invisible to the operating system. The hybrid drive’s flash memory is essentially a cache, storing the most frequently accessed files to give SSD-like performance, while still maintaining large overall capacities.

Because the hybrid drive must learn which files it should cache, you won’t be getting peak performance right out of the box. Constantly installing new programs or accessing infrequently used files will also result in the hybrid drive defaulting to HDD-like performance because it’s not able to establish a pattern of which files it should be storing in the faster flash memory.

But since hybrid drives are only slightly more expensive than a traditional HDD (2 TB for around $95), it’s a good compromise between capacity and speed.

Brands You Can Trust

Storage technologies have had many years to evolve, and reliability has increased immensely, but a corrupted drive still occasionally rears its ugly head to ruin your day. Hard drive failures are becoming less common (around 1%, depending on manufacturer), but they still happen due to age, non-ideal operating conditions, overheating, etc. You can try to minimize the chances of failure by sticking with seasoned manufacturers like Seagate, Western Digital, Toshiba, Samsung, SanDisk or HGST (formerly Hitachi).

Now Loading…

Samsung SSD As gamers, we’re all too familiar with the words “now loading” — it’s something we can’t avoid as modern games get larger and larger, but the Slickdeals PC is going to combat the dreaded load time with a Samsung 850 EVO 250 GB SSD. I was able to score one of these popular drives from Newegg.com for $65.99 (down from the retail price of $99) using an instant discount code. There have been a few similar deals on this model quite recently, so be sure to keep an eye out or set up a Deal Alert if you're interested in this particular SSD.

The 850 EVO is able to load game levels about 15 to 30 seconds faster than my old 3 TB HDD — not a life-changing difference, but it can be a big advantage for online multiplayer games if I'm already capturing objectives while others are still loading in.

If you need more pure storage, you can add a large capacity HDD as a secondary drive to hold files that don't require quick access.

If you want to stick with an SSD though, here are some additional options that are recommended and budget-friendly:

SanDisk Ultra II 240 GB SSD: Currently on sale for $74.99 at Amazon.com (Retail price $119)

Mushkin Enhanced ECO3 240 GB SSD: Retails at Newegg.com for a very affordable $64.99.

Memory

Random access memory (RAM) is a crucial component that allows a PC to operate smoothly and quickly. Once a program is loaded, it runs from the RAM because, as its name indicates, the data can be accessed randomly, resulting in the fast responses we’re used to seeing from modern computing.

Having the wrong type or not enough RAM can really make a computer feel slow, especially if there are multiple resource-heavy programs running at the same time. RAM is identified by type, speed, capacity and number of channels. Your CPU choice will determine what kind of RAM should be used.

Memory Type

The current standard for system memory is double data rate type 3 (DDR3) RAM, although DDR4 RAM was recently released for use with Intel’s 6th generation CPUs. The improvements in DDR4 RAM aren't noticeable for gaming purposes, so it's safe to stick with DDR3 for the time being.

Check your CPU’s specs to find out if it supports DDR3 or DDR4 RAM.

Memory Speed

Just like the other processing components of a PC, memory speed is measured in megahertz (MHz). You can find RAM with speeds ranging from 1600 to 4133 MHz, but again, the CPU will determine which speed works most efficiently with the system.

Each CPU is designed to work optimally with one or two speeds, and it’s best to find RAM with a base speed that matches the CPU’s desired default. For example, an Intel i5-4670K processor specifies DDR3 1333 or 1600 MHz. Purchasing RAM that operates slightly faster or slower than the recommended 1333/1600 isn’t bad, but it may cause the system to default to a speed much lower than the memory’s true potential.

Unless you’re good at tinkering with memory voltage settings, do your best to match the CPU’s recommended memory speed.

Memory Capacity

Memory capacity is a popular topic of debate between PC builders, but the general consensus is that 8 GB is adequate for typical gaming needs, especially when there’s a dedicated graphics card involved.

Having more memory isn’t bad, but in most cases, it’s the equivalent of buying a 200 mph sports car and then never going over the speed limit. There are few applications that need more than 8 GB of RAM, but some newer games have started to recommend at least 16 GB of RAM. You can always start with 8 GB and add another 8 GB later on if your PC starts to feel bogged down.

Memory Channels

Depending on your processor, you may be able to take advantage of dual, or even quad, channel memory. If you're looking for 8 GB of dual channel RAM, the kit that you purchase will come with two pieces of 4 GB RAM instead of a single 8 GB piece. In this setup, efficiency is increased by about 15% because the CPU can now access the RAM via two lanes instead of one.

The Matching Game

Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4 RAM Since the CPU determines what type and speed of RAM to purchase, the only real decision after determining capacity is brand name. Popular memory manufacturers include Crucial, G.Skill, Mushkin and Corsair, to name a few. As always, it’s just a matter of preference since RAM technology is mature and reliable.

The Slickdeals PC is running an Intel i5-6500 processor that supports dual channel DDR4-1866/2133 RAM, so I’ve decided to go with the Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB (2x8GB) DDR4 2133MHz memory kit. Amazon offered this kit for $75, a steep discount from it’s $135.99 price just a few months earlier.

You could also take a look at the well-rated DDR4 options listed below, but again, check your CPU specs first:

G.Skill Ripjaws 4 16GB DDR4: Retails for $69.99 at Newegg.com.

Crucial Ballistix Sport 16GB DDR4: $74.99 at Amazon.com. (MSRP is $179, but it can typically be found for less than $100.)

Build Recap

At this point, the hardware build portion will be complete for most people. Assuming you’ve owned at least one store-bought computer in the past, peripherals like a monitor, keyboard and mouse can be reused from the old computer.

To wrap up our core build, let's take a closer look at the components that I've purchased, their upfront costs and the amount of money that was recouped via rebates or bonuses.

Upfront component costs:

$104 - NZXT Phantom 530 case
$139.99 - Corsair HX850i power supply
$175.30 - Intel Core i5-6500 processor
$139.99 - Asus Z170-A motherboard
$29.44 - Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO
$649.99 - EVGA GeForce GTX 980 Ti SC+ GAMING ACX 2.0+
$65.99 - Samsung 850 EVO 250 GB SSD
$75 - Corsair Vengeance LPX 16 GB RAM
--------------
$1,379.70 - total upfront component costs

Money recouped:

$30 - EVGA GeForce GTX 980 Ti mail-in rebate
$20 - EVGA GeForce GTX 980 Ti price protection claim
$20 - Corsair HX850i mail-in rebate
$25 - Asus Z170-A mail-in rebate
$5 - Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO mail-in rebate
$500 - Cash back from Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card
--------------
$600 - total recouped money

With the components that I've chosen and the cash recovery methods that I've employed, the net hardware cost for this high-resolution gaming PC is $779.70, which is equal to 56.5% of the total retail cost.

It's worth noting that this particular journey is specific to me and the deals available at the time of purchase. Due to fluctuating prices and offers, it's unlikely that you'd be able to totally replicate this build. But it is an example of what can be achieved with the right knowledge and resources.

Click here for Part 5 of "Build a Gaming PC with Slickdeals," where I'll be showcasing some cool gaming peripherals.

Like what I'm doing? Think my setup is overkill? Hop on over to my forum thread and give me your two cents!

Missed the previous articles? Get up to speed with the links below:"

Part 1 - Build philosophy, case and power supply
Part 2 - CPU and motherboard
Part 3 - Graphics card

 

Photos by Andrew Chen, Samsung and Corsair.

 



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About the Author
Andrew Chen Staff

Andrew Chen is a longtime PC gamer, an automotive journalist and an avid deal hunter. His first PC had an 80 megahertz processor with 4 megabytes of RAM, light years away from the powerhouse gaming rigs he builds today. You can follow Andrew's high-speed sports car adventures over at 6SpeedOnline.com. As a Slickdealer for over 10 years, nothing makes him more excited than getting a freebie!

11 Comments

1
This comment has been rated as unhelpful by Slickdeals users
#2
I just put together my budget build using slickdeals alerts/rss feeds to keep on eye out for sales.
$1115 out of pocket: https://pcpartpicker.com/user/glo...iew=CnxYcf
I don't have that credit card to recoup $500 off it sadly, I'd be exuberant about the build if I did. I do have about 10-15% in cash back/rebates on the way so there is that.

For reference, to buy the parts new estimates to about:$1335
Reply Helpful Comment? 2 0
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Our community has rated this post as helpful. If you agree, why not rep Jalaly25?
#3
Again, silly as heck to say that this is $779.70. If you add that you spent $4,000 to receive the $500 cash back from Chase, then yes. Otherwise, you actually had to spend $4,779.70

You should just stop now. We don't need a 5th
Reply Helpful Comment? 10 3
Last edited by Jalaly25 March 10, 2016 at 01:18 PM.
This comment has been rated as unhelpful by Slickdeals users
#4
No... You're gonna get a 980 Ti but not an unlocked i5? You should also consider a larger SSD if you're recommending a single drive. Not too mention 16GB is wildly unnecessary for a gaming rig but if the price is better than 8gb, I'll allow it.
Reply Helpful Comment? 3 0
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#5
Here is a build that you can buy right now for the prices listed by price searching on pcpartspicker and mainly using amazon/newegg:

Xeon E3-1250 v5 (=i7) : $250
c232 board -- not that many different ones available, I found an ASUS E3 Gaming V5 one for $125 recently
80 PLUS Gold 750 PSU FULL MODULAR -- $65 with/MIR (I got one on newegg 3/1)
Thermaltake Suppressor F31 -- $60 (or if that special is off others are available, but the Suppressor is like an brick outhouse and is great for space+cooling)
Zalman Fanless CPU Cooler -- $30 (or, honestly, even a $10 aftermarket will give you a decent temp drop)
$170 R9 380 4 GB (with MIR on newegg, but you can find them for this price most of the time..sometimes you can also find the R9 290X 3 GB which is a little better even). You can get a second one of these and Crossfire it and get 980 performance. Plenty of PSU for that, may want to add some Static Pressure fans is all (maybe $25 extra)
$130 -- PM Samsung 951 M.2 PCIe x4 -- faster than the SATA cap. You can get them for this price from a seller on Amazon but it ships from the UK which takes about 21 days to US. Not as good as the SM 951 but I doubt you'd ever notice and its still insane.
$30 -- 8 GB DDR4 2133 RAM -- c232 boards don't support faster RAM speeds unfortunately. You shouldn't even have to get value RAM.

best to pair the SSD with something like a wireless hard drive (which I don't include in the cost since it has more utility than only using it in your rig). Could also add a 256 SATA SSD for $50 or 60

$65 case
$65 PSU
$250 cpu
$125 mobo
$10-30 cpu cooler
$170 gpu
$130 ssd
$30 RAM
----------------
$840-860

You could add another r9 380 for Crossfire and be right around a grand using everyday deals.

You could also get 2 of the M.2 SSDs and RAID 0 them and basically have 512 SM951 drive for $260. The only tricky part is making sure you have enough PCIe lanes. You would need a PCIe to M.2 adapter ($25)

This build is IMO superior to the one listed in every way if you crossfire. Even if not the cpu and ssd are still major steps up and I think it is a better build overall.

You can do a i5-6500 build for cheaper than his after rebate price (including the absurd Chase card promo).
Reply Helpful Comment? 2 0
Last edited by aclog March 6, 2016 at 11:07 AM.
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Our community has rated this post as helpful.
#6
Stop counting that cc cash back into the total. That's just the same as your own money.
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#7
Quote from juneng View Post :
Stop counting that cc cash back into the total. That's just the same as your own money.
Even though cash back is one of the worst ways to use the bonus, I'd be ok with it if the required minimum spend was covered by purchasing all the parts ($1-1.5k) but it's actually $3k... so I agree with you. They've just been trying to push it so hard for that sweet referral money.
Reply Helpful Comment? 2 0
Last edited by NickMc53 March 8, 2016 at 02:35 PM.
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Our community has rated this post as helpful. If you agree, why not rep BrettB6616?
#8
Quote from Jalaly25 View Post :
Again, silly as heck to say that this is $779.70. If you add that you spent $4,000 to receive the $500 cash back from Chase, then yes. Otherwise, you actually had to spend $4,779.70

You hould just stop now. We don't need a 5th
I agree. This is absolutely preposterous.
Reply Helpful Comment? 6 0
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#9
honestly, i see the point of this post - to encourage deal finding, price tracking, part-compatibility-matching, etc. it's to show what's possible to someone less experienced/with less background on this kind of thing

but it's a bad example. you're throwing in $500 out of the $600 in saved money as something that doesn't even have to do with these parts and their temporary prices or rebates. grabbing a new credit card isn't a decision to be made lightly

stick to doing better at what's relevant:
-for everything else besides the GPU you listed, you built something that fits more with a GTX 950. just get that instead, it's another FP deal for ~$120 right now and at least one GPU bench site i checked earlier today listed it as far and away the best price:performance ratio out there at $140, never mind $120, so there's your $500 saved
-in accordance, downgrade the power supply, shouldn't be spending more than $75 on this AR and the lack of a 980 TI will allow for it heh
-you can get one, two, maybe three ticks faster DDR4 than you listed, for the price you quoted right there
-sub-$100 mobo should be doable that can still take ddr4
-grab any case for half the price, though admit i did not even look at the case you listed

that's a capable gaming rig for next to nothing, relatively speaking.

honestly, i'm not sure the ideal budget-performance build is going to have that many rebates. it's cute when you find that many for the parts you picked, but you're just going to need to be catching things at good prices in general. that does seem like a good price on the i5, though
Reply Helpful Comment? 1 0
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#10
Quote from Jalaly25 View Post :
Again, silly as heck to say that this is $779.70. If you add that you spent $4,000 to receive the $500 cash back from Chase, then yes. Otherwise, you actually had to spend $4,779.70

You should just stop now. We don't need a 5th
Thank you for pointing that out. I was kicking myself for not getting that card until you told me you need to spend 4K.
Reply Helpful Comment? 1 0
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#11
Build sucks. Ad 25.00 and get a i5 6500k. A1080 blows the 980ti out of the water.
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
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#12
SSD is just way to small for me, we still need a 3TB HDD for "side-kick" Wink
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
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