All told the bill for the build came in around $700. So I missed the mark a little bit. I cheated a little bit by using an old monitor, DVD burner, and a SATA drive that I had on hand. This probably saved $100-$200 by not having to purchase those components immediately.
By using the Black Edition CPU and the Gigabyte board, I was able to achieve a mild Overclock from 3.2ghz to 3.72 running on the stock cooler. Normally I wouldn’t recommend doing this on the stock cooler, but I did for 2 reasons. I waiting 3 weeks reviewing baseline temps on “auto” settings at stock speeds and I tweaked the fan settings. Also, I only tweaked the unlocked multiplier, which was quick and simple to do, but with minimal heat increase. By setting my own fan speed control settings, I was able to bump the idle fan speed just enough to actually slightly reduce the temp (from an average of 41c, to an idle average of 39c while) Overlocked. The volume of the CPU fan is acceptable at 80%, it is only when the fan kicks in at 90%+ that it develops an annoying pitch. I probably won’t leave it overclocked since I just don’t need it.
I recently reviewed a Noctua CPU cooler and have left that in the machine. Saved about $60 and reduced the annoying pitch. After a month I was really disappointed in the performance of the video card, so caved and replaced with a mid-range Radeon 5770. This brought my Windows 7 Experience Factor from a 4.1 (limited by the vid card) to a 7.0 (Max is 7.9) So it was well worth the additional cost.
Any way you look at it, the machine cost did miss the mark a little bit at $850, but was well under $1000. Some sites had machines at a cost close to this, but I felt I was able to do it for a fair amount cheaper and exactly the components I wanted. A further plus is that it is a powerful rig that is on the modern upgrade path. For example, when the prices of the AMD 6-core CPU’s come down, it would be easy to drop one in since the board is of the newest AMD slot type. For minimal cost I will be able to now keep this machine as up to date as I require for far less cost.
The next and most critical item is replacing the monitor with a decent 20”+ LCD, possibly since the Radeon 5770 supports it a dual 20” LCD setup would be most cost effective. Lastly, upgrading the IDE DVD-Burner to a BluRay SATA drive and adding additional hard drive space would be nice. All told if purchased immediately would be about $400-$500 in upgrades. Watching the various sites should allow me to pick these up piecemeal when specific items I am looking for are on sale or snag them on ebay – further reducing costs and allowing for an even higher end machine.