In this post I'll describe the desktop PC that I have assembled and used for gaming since 2012.

Initial build in 2012

In April 2012, I assembled a PC primarily to play Diablo 3, which came out in May 2012. It had:

  • a Core i5-2500K processor
  • an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 560 Ti graphics card
  • 8 GB of DDR3 SDRAM
  • 256 GB of SSD (two 128 GB set up as one disk in RAID0)

Add to this the case, Windows license, peripherals and 1080p monitor and the bill amounted to $1250. Here's the detailed bill from Newegg:

Part Price
2 x Crucial M4 CT128M4SSD2CCA 2.5" 128GB SATA III $283.98
EVGA 01G-P3-1561-AR GeForce GTX 560 Ti FPB (Fermi) $224.99
Intel Core i5-2500K 95W Quad-Core Processor $219.99
ASUS VH242H 23.6" 5ms 1080P LCD Monitor 300 cd/m2 $179.99
Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium $99.99
GIGABYTE GA-H61MA-D3V Micro ATX Intel Motherboard $69.99
Rosewill RG630-S12 630W Power Supply $59.99
Mushkin 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3 SDRAM 1333 (PC3 10666) Model 996770 $42.99
Rosewill FBM-01 MicroATX Computer Case $29.99
Logitech Optical USB Mouse B100 (910-001439) $11.99
Rosewill RIKB-11001 X-Slim Keyboard $9.99
Subtotal: $1233.88
Tax: $0.00
Shipping and Handling: $14.37
Total Amount: $1248.25

2015 refresh

In Dec 2015, I bought a GTX 970 for $350. Over time, I also replaced the keyboard by a $30 Logitech keyboard and mouse.

A year later in Dec 2016, I bought a 4K monitor for $483: ASUS 28-inch 4K Freesync Gaming Monitor [MG28UQ] UHD 1ms Rapid Response Time, 60Hz.

2021 refresh

Fast forward to Sept 2021, and I upgraded the CPU from a Core i5-2500K (2nd generation) to a Core i7-11700K (11th generation). Since the socket is different, I had to buy a new motherboard and DDR4 SDRAM. I used this occasion to buy a new SSD drive:

Part Price
ASRock B560M-HDV Micro ATX Intel Motherboard $84
Intel Core i7-11700K 8-Core 125W $420
SAMSUNG 980 M.2 2280 1TB SSD MZ-V8V1T0B/AM $126
CORSAIR Vengeance RGB Pro 32GB (2 x 16GB) DDR4 SDRAM 3600 (PC4 28800) $179
Total amount $809

While assembling it, I accidentally broke a blade on the stock Core i5-2500K's fan. Because of the imbalance, the fan would make the whole desktop vibrate. So I had to buy a new heat sink and fan, which cost me $30.

I also got myself the new XBox Controller with Bluetooth adapter for $70.

A few quick observations:

  • SSD has gotten really cheap. I paid $140 for 128 GB back in 2012, and now I get 1 TB for the same price. It has gotten 8 times cheaper.
  • A Core i5-2500K cost $220 in 2012 while a Core i5-11600K costs $270 in 2021. Same range of price, while the i5-2500K had 4 cores and the i5-11600K has 6 cores. Nowadays my budget is higher, so I opted for a more expensive CPU, but it's twice the price. Let's see if it's worth it below.
  • Fans are really cheap. However, the $30 heatsink and fan is huge compared to the stock Intel fan ($10 on Amazon). It was a pain to install, and it barely fit in my mini ATX case. On the plus side, it's really quiet.

Core i7-11700K

vs Core i5-11600K

I admit I bought the new Core i7 hastily without looking at my bill from 2012, nor benchmarks. I just seemed to recall that a CPU cost about $400 and so I bought it. I misremembered.

Let's take a look after the fact: https://www.cpu-monkey.com/en/compare_cpu-intel_core_i7_11700k-1862-vs-intel_core_i5_11600k-1865. Based on Cinebench R23 and Geekbench 5 benchmarks, one can reach this conclusion:

  • single-core performance is the same.
  • multi-core performance is expectedly 30% better for the Core i7.

Since in games the graphics card is more likely the bottleneck, and since my 4 core Core i5-2500K was able to play Assassin's Creed Odyssey reasonably well, a 6 core Core i5-11600K would have done the job nicely.

See also this video benchmark on the game. With 6 core, each core runs at about 75% capacity, while with 8 core, each core runs at about 65% capacity.

I don't use this PC for anything other than gaming, since I use a Mac for coding. So let's just say that this CPU will last me longer than the Core i5. Also, over 10 years, the difference between a $400 and a $200 CPU is practically none: $20/year.

vs Core i5-2500K

Take a look at this: https://www.cpu-monkey.com/en/compare_cpu-intel_core_i5_2500k-5-vs-intel_core_i7_11700k-1862. Based on Cinebench R23 and Geekbench 5 benchmarks:

  • single-core performance has doubled.
  • multi-core performance is 6 times better.

Meanwhile a core i5-11600K multi-core performance 5 times better.

SSD performance

Samsung 980 NVMe vs Crucial M4

UserBenchmark: Crucial M4 vs Samsung 980 NVMe PCIe M.2
Based on 52,494 user benchmarks for the Crucial M4 and the Samsung 980 NVMe PCIe M.2, we rank them both on effective speed and value for money against the best 1,058 SSDs.

Based on this benchmark, it looks like the Samsung 980 NVMe SSD is 3.8 times faster than a regular M4 SSD. However, I used 2 drives in RAID0. According to this post, combining 2 Crucial M4 128GB SSD in RAID0 results in 50% increased performance. In other words, my new Samsung  980 NVMe SSD drive is 2.5 times faster than my RAID0 Crucial M4 SSDs. Here's the computation:

Where S is the Samsung 980 speed, and C is a single Crucial M4 speed, and C' = performance of two Crucial M4 in RAID0

C' = 1.5C

S = 3.8C
  = 3.8 * 1.5 / 1.5 C
  = 3.8 / 1.5 * 1.5C
  = 2.5 * 1.5C
  = 2.5C'

Another benefit is the space it takes in the desktop case. The two Crucial M4 SSDs required a rack, 2 SATA cables and 2 power cables. Instead, the Samsung 980 NVMe SSD is a small stick that's you install directly on the motherboard. The stick is twice as small as a RAM stick.

Samsung 980 Pro vs Samsung 980

UserBenchmark: Samsung 980 NVMe PCIe M.2 vs Pro
Based on 69,887 user benchmarks for the Samsung 980 NVMe PCIe M.2 and the 980 Pro NVMe PCIe M.2, we rank them both on effective speed and value for money against the best 1,058 SSDs.

The Samsung 980 Pro is 40% faster than the non-pro version. 1 TB costs $180 for the Pro version and $130 for the non-pro version. Interestingly, that's 40% more expensive. For just 40 bucks more, I wish I had bought the Pro version.

Impact on gaming

In this video, you can see the impact of a fast drive is mostly on the initial game load for Assassin's Creed Odyssey. It also prevents some frame drops for complex scenes. In their 1 minute benchmark, while the average fps was the same (47 fps vs 48 fps), the test on the HDD drive had dropped 380 frames.

Next refresh

The GTX 970 was released in 2014. It's been 7 years. I plan to buy a newer graphics card when shortages are resolved. This will cost me another $500, and I may spend another $500 on a monitor.

By the way, as I was working on my next post, I stumbled upon https://www.logicalincrements.com/. This website has a table of build suggestions at each price points. It's great! I might write a summary of what I've found out later.

Total Spent

Since 2012, I've spent nearly $3000 on hardware for that gaming PC, not counting inflation. That's about $333/yr over 9 years even though it was never top of the line. With my current GTX 970, I can still only play in high settings in Assassin's Creed Odyssey (2018) in 1080p.

If I spend another $500, I'll be able to play in 4K, on par with current gen consoles. I might also spend $500 more for a better monitor. So the total would be $4000. I expect that could last me for at least another 5 years. In other words, I'll have spent $4000 over 14 years, or $285/year.

In the next blog post, I'll compare gaming PCs, notebooks and consoles.