Sub $1,400 build or $2,000 iMac


Mar 19, 2009
A little background - I currently have a 20" iMac that's about a year old, wife is working off of a macbook that is hooked up to an external display.

We game a little together (WoW in OSX), but I game more independently (CoD4 and 5, etc on a windows partition). The onboard GPU in her little macbook can't keep up with WoW anymore when she's in a city or in a large-ish raid group. So I was going to give her my 20" iMac and get an upgrade myself. I've been eyeing the new 24" iMac, and with the ATI 4850 upgrade, there's a shipping delay of about another 3 weeks, so I've been thinking a bit in the mean time about best bang for buck.

OSX is my preferred environment (that's not the debate here, so please don't turn it into one of those), so I've been thinking of still using the iMac for all our pics, music and finances, but saving some money and building a mid-range gaming box, and partition it for Windows (gaming)/Linux Mint (everything else).

I used to build all my own systems up until I bought my first mac around 5 years ago, so I'm comfortable with getting my hands into a case, but I'm also 5 years behind in technology and lingo and trying to delve back in is proving to be quite difficult. With pricing out a build, I started with the current System Builder Marathon and saw the conclusion that the i7 is better to build a system around, so I went back to the December mid-range build found here:,2112.html

I went to NewEgg and tried to find parts and pricing, and I'm nearly at my cap without figuring in the cost of XP (or should I go for a 64-bit version of vista? I'm not a fan of I'd like to avoid that if possible...system7 is looking promising though, so that will probably be installed on this box in the fall). AND, I'm not sure if I'm really 100% compatible (case/mobo/cpu/power supply). Could I get a little help please?

I'd greatly appreciate suggestions on cutting back on cost (I'm open to nvidia or ati GPUs) or if there is anything I may have missed any incompatabilities.

Pricing listed is after rebates:

CPU - Intel core i7 920 - $289
Mobo - EVGA 132-BL-E758-TR LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX - $270
Case - COOLER MASTER Centurion 534 RC-534-KKN2-GP - $55
PSU - COOLER MASTER Real Power Pro RS-650-ACAA-A1 650W - $120
Memory - mushkin 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) - $120
Vid Card x 2 - SAPPHIRE 100258-1GL Radeon HD 4850 1GB 256-bit GDDR3 - $300 ($150 per)
HD1 - Western Digital Raptor WD740ADFD 74GB - $100
HD2 - Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 ST3250410AS 250GB - $55
DVD Burner - Pioneer 20X DVD±R - $25

Total - $1334

I'll still need to buy: OS (64 bit vista or XP??) and Keyboard/Mouse. I'll be using the LCD my wife currently has hooked up to her macbook. Think I'll have any driver issues with any of my hardware in Linux Mint?

Again, any suggestions/critiques are appreciated. Thank you for your time!!


Oct 13, 2008
There are several things which can be improved on your build.

Most importantly the Memory. Get a triple channel memory kit. 3x2GB (or 3x1GB to save money) with voltages no higher then 1.65v.

If you are going to get a 10k RPM drive get the velociraptors. I suggest against that and instead get a WD Caviar Black 640GB. It is larger cheaper and faster then the current raptor you have selected. Seagate drives are having firmware issues so i would avoid them for the time being.

For motherboard, the only one I suggest at that price point is Asus P6T Deluxe V2, great board perfect for your 2x 4850s as it has improved spacing between PCI-E slots.

You could also consider getting a 4870 1gb now and adding a second one later, instead of getting two 4850s right now.

I would go for 64bit Vista Home Premium. 64bit XP never really came around support wise I don't think.

As for the Linux hardware support, I have only used linux on older/underpowered machines so I can't comment on that.


Nov 24, 2008
This is probably the best GPU/Mobo combo in your price range. Gigabyte UD4P and GTX 285 $580 - $50MIR ($30 combo discount) 3x2G OCZ DDR3 1600 $110 - $20MIR
Good price given the discount, you'll want the room if you plan on SLI or xfire down the road and it looks kick ass. CM Storm Sniper with i7920 $410 ($30 combo discount)
Better PSU in the same price range: PCP&C 750W $125 - $25MIR 4x6pin


Mar 19, 2009
Dear pdeboer,
I recently had to switch from Mac to PC because of work, (I use my Mac's still just use the PC for work and gaming no web browsing, email, or extra PC activities). Yes I play WoW and Raid on my Mac's (I have 5 different macs personal/work machines ranging from mini/imac/mp to mb/mbp). I prefer OSX and Apple style...
My recent work software GPU needs in 2009 exceeded what Apple offers as solution, that said I purchased a test PC around 2k all from
-CORSAIR CMPSU-850TX 850W ATX12V 2.2 / - Retail (N82E16817139009)
-G.SKILL 6GB (3 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 - Retail (N82E16820231225)
-Vista Home Premium SP1 64-bit for System Builders - OEM (N82E16832116488)
-LG 22X DVD±R DVD Burner Black SATA Model GH22NS30 - OEM (N82E16827136152)
-Noctua NH-U12P SE1366 120mm SSO CPU Cooler - Retail (N82E16835608007)
-COOLER MASTER HAF 932 RC-932-KKN1-GP Black Steel ATX Full Tower (N82E16811119160)
-Intel Core i7 920 Nehalem 2.66GHz LGA 1366 130W - Retail (N82E16819115202)
-EVGA 132-BL-E758-A1 LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail (N82E16813188039)
-EVGA 017-P3-1291-AR GeForce GTX 295 1792MB 896 (448 x 2)-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 - Retail (N82E16814130449) *This system powers a 30"LCD 2560x1600
-Western Digital VelociRaptor WD3000GLFS 300GB 10000 RPM SATA 3
At first I even started to make a blog/photo's about the whole experience, that said after I built the machine I got lost in work and projects and have yet to actually post results...
Quick results;
I'm very pleased with to say that the 295 GPU is exactly what I was needing and can't rave about it enough for my work needs...
WoW performance has gained fps in full screen but I really didn't have a problem playing wow on my MacPro with a 8800GT. AoC looks amazing...

As far as your hardware selections you mentioned I would change;
-the ram to support the i7 preferred tri-pairing ie 3g,6g,12g...

- I prefer one GPU (I'm running SLI but I wouldn't recommend it for just WoW) and I like nvidia drivers over ati = nvidia 260 core, though ati as some very strong products out and the 4850/4870 would preform well.
I really recommend the X58 EVGA MB the support from them is some of the best I've seen.

btw I heard newegg is offering free windows 7 upgrades when you buy vista from them... I could be imagining it and I'm out of time...

Good Luck!

ps- I would choose a new iMac with the 4850 if all I did was just WoW, iLife, email, and CS4.


Mar 19, 2009
Thank you all for the input. Switched to the 3 x 2 RAM, swapped out the HDs (thanks for the info about Seagates, they used to be so reliable!) and moved to nVidia for my GPU, and as such have changed the mobo, PSU, and case. Here's what I've got now:

CPU - Same i7 920 $280 - $15 combo discount
Mobo - Gigabyte GA-EX58 $270 - $15 combo discount
Case - Cooler Master Storm Sniper $150 - $15 combo discount
PSU - PC Power & Cooling S75QB 750 Watt $125
Memory - OCZ Platinum 6GB (3 x 2gb) DDR 1600 $110
Vid Card - Gigabyte GV-N285 GeForce GTX 285 1GB $340 - $15 combo discount
HD - WD Caviar Black 640 GB 32MB cache $80
DVD Burner - Same 20x Pioneer burner $25

I've only shaven about $15 off of the cost - looking at $1,320 now, with about $95 of mail-ins (can't really count that as off of the price as half of them never come back).

Also, I should have clarified, should I opt for 32-bit XP or 64-bit Vista? I didn't mean 64-bit XP.

Any further suggestions?
For the Hard Drive I'd go with a single 1TB caviler black instead of the two HDs you originally wanted to use. The 640GB caviler black is also a good choice. The two Radeon 4850s will generally be faster than a single GeForce GTX 285. Definitely go with 64-bit Vista. As far as your OSX environment you can always Hackintosh it.


Oct 13, 2008
If you are hesitant about 64-bit Vista you could use 32-bit XP until Windows 7 comes then pick up the 64-bit of that. Although I do believe there will be a discounted if not free upgrade from Vista to W7.

Your build looks pretty strong now. Only thing that could still be added is an aftermarket cooler to do some OC with.


Mar 19, 2009
I'll stick with the 1 nvidia card for now and look to add a 2nd later for SLI, should the need arise.

thanks for the OC parts links - added those too. I think I'll go the 32-bit XP route for now, and buy an OEM of system7 in the fall.

Thanks to you all once again - I am in your debt!


Mar 19, 2009
shoot...forgot about that...ugh....I'll look for a xp/vista 64 bit license around work to get through until the fall.


I guess that as long as you're aware of the 32-bit RAM limitations you can go with 32-bit XP for now. I personally think it's silly to use a 32-bit OS on any new build since it can't even fully use 4GB of RAM. Your 6GB of RAM will be useless until you step up to a 64-bit OS. Vista is only $100 and I don't see any reason not to get it. At the very least, I'd just use 64-bit Windows 7 beta or the RC when it comes out.
4870 1gig > 4870 512mb > gts 250 1gig > 4850 $79.99
COOLER MASTER RC-690-KKN1-GP Black SECC/ ABS ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - Retail $104.99 Price After Rebate: $79.99 Free Shipping*
CORSAIR CMPSU-750TX 750W ATX12V / EPS12V SLI Ready CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Compatible with Core i7 Power Supply - Retail $209.99 ($194.99 after $15.00 Mail-In Rebate)
GIGABYTE GA-EX58-UD3R LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail $265.99
Intel Core i7 Processor i7-920 2.66GHz 8MB LGA1366 CPU, OEM $39.99
XIGMATEK Dark Knight-S1283V 120mm Long Life Bearing CPU Cooler - Retail $6.99
ARCTIC COOLING MX-2 Thermal Compound - Retail $109.99 ($89.99 after $20.00 Mail-In Rebate) Free Shipping*
OCZ Platinum 6GB (3 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Triple Channel Kit Desktop Memory - Retail $189.99
SAPPHIRE 100259-1GL Radeon HD 4870 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFire Supported Video Card - Retail $79.99 Free Shipping*
Western Digital Caviar Black WD6401AALS 640GB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - OEM $24.99 Free Shipping*
LG Black 22X (CAV) DVD+R 8X DVD+RW 16X DVD+R DL 22X (CAV) DVD-R 6X DVD-RW 12X DVD-RAM 16X DVD-ROM 48X CD-R 32X CD-RW 48X CD-ROM 2MB Cache SATA 22X DVD±R DVD Burner - OEM $99.99 Free Shipping*
Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 64-bit for System Builders - OEM

Total: $1,212.89 *(not including shipping and rebates)
$1,152.89 with w/rebates

SLI version....swap out mobo and vid cards. $209.99
GIGABYTE GA-EX58-UD3R-SLI LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail $159.99
EVGA 01G-P3-1155-TR GeForce GTS 250 1GB 256-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Supported Video Card - Retail
Free Call of Duty: World at War w/ purchase, limited offer $159.99
EVGA 01G-P3-1155-TR GeForce GTS 250 1GB 256-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Supported Video Card - Retail
Free Call of Duty: World at War w/ purchase, limited offer

Total:$1342.88 *(not including shipping and rebates)
$1,277.88 w/rebates <=== test results for the gts 250 1 gig <=== more test results <=== more test results <=== more test results <=== and one more just for fun.

As far as price, cooling / airflow go, it's hard to beat the CM 690. The CM 690 comes with 3x120mm case fans, but it's set up to run 7 x 120mm case fans.

Here's a 4 pack of 120mm case fans if you feel the need to run more than the 3 that come with that case. $12.99
COOLER MASTER R4-S2S-124K-GP 120mm Case Fan - Retail