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Build the ultimate Intel Haswell PC for under $1000

Marco Chiappetta | June 6, 2013
It's official: Intel's fourth-generation Core processors, code-named Haswell, are loose in the market. Like the Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge microarchitectures that preceded it, Haswell is a big step forward for Intel's Core family, simultaneously maximizing CPU and GPU performance while consuming less power.

Having selected a motherboard and a processor, I moved on to the GPU. Haswell uses Intel's most powerful and feature-rich on-processor graphics engine to date, but with a $1000 budget I had some room to spice things up a bit. If you don't plan to do any intensive gaming, you may not need a discrete GPU--Haswell's integrated graphics will probably serve you well, besides saving on power. But I wanted to be able to play the latest games with this PC, even though I'm not building it solely for gaming.  After shopping around, I chose Sapphire's $135 Radeon HD 7790 Dual-X.

The Radeon HD 7790 supports the full DirectX 11 feature set and can run any game on the market today. Playable frame rates at 1080p resolutions and below are a cakewalk for this card. Best of all, like many other Radeon HD 7000 series products, the Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 Dual-X comes bundled with a bevy of top-notch games, including Crysis 3, BioShock: Infinite, and Far Cry 3. In fact, the total value of the game bundle exceeds the cost of the card. It's a heck of deal.

For the memory and storage subsystems, I wanted maximum bang for the buck. Intel's new CPUs support a peak official memory speed of 1600MHz and work best with a dual-channel memory configuration. Higher speeds are possible with overclocking, but I planned to stay within spec for this build. I went with the most affordable dual-channel DDDR3-1600 memory kit I could find: Kingston's Hyper X Black. This $49 kit contains a pair of 4GB sticks (8GB total), with low-profile heat spreaders and official support for 1600MHz operation. More memory would have been better, of course, but 8GB is plenty and it fit my budget nicely.

Dynamic duo of solid-state and traditional storage
Pairing Intel's fastest Haswell processor to slow storage wouldn't do it justice, so I decided to use a mix of solid-state and traditional rotating media for the build. For the OS drive, I selected a 128GB AData SX900. Fast, spacious, and affordable, the $119 AData SX900 features an LSI SandForce SF-2281 controller, plus plenty of capacity for the operating system and most commonly used applications. And with read and write speeds in the vicinity of 550MBps and 520MBps, respectively, the system promises to zip along nicely.

To complement the SSD, I needed something that offered a bit more capacity without breaking the bank. So I opted for a 500GB Western Digital Caviar Blue hard disk drive. The WD Caviar Blue offers 64MB of cache and a fairly swift spindle speed of 7200 rpm, and I snapped it up for just under $60. To complete the storage puzzle, I picked up a Lite-On DVD-R optical drive. Optical drives are rapidly becoming unnecessary in this era of digital distribution, but I was willing to invest $18 to gain the ability to burn or access a disc in a pinch.

 

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