Build your own "Ivy Bridge" desktop PC

Build your own "Ivy Bridge" desktop PC

Summary: An Ivy Bridge PC for under $600, built around Intel's next-generation processor.


Intel's new Ivy Bridge CPUs, built using third-generation Core architecture, are now on sale. That means it's time to look at putting together a system based around this new and exciting silicon.

"Ivy Bridge" is the codename for Intel's 22-nanometer die shrink of the earlier 32-nanometer "Sandy Bridge" architecture. It makes use of new 3D tri-gate transistors that deliver 32 percent better performance than the transistors used in Sandy Bridge processors. These new transistors have allowed Intel to get better performance from Ivy Bridge processors with half the power consumption.

Build your own "Ivy Bridge" desktop PC

Image Gallery: Build your own "Ivy Bridge" desktop PC Image Gallery: Charge Image Gallery: Charge
All Ivy Bridge processors feature a built-in Intel HD graphics GPU. These GPUs offer full DirectX 11, OpenGL 3.1, and OpenCL 1.1 support. While hardcore gamers are likely to turn their noses up at integrated graphics, these GPUs are more than adequate for general computing and even casual gaming.

Intel has developed these processors to compete directly with AMD's A-series APUs.

Let's take a look at the components you need for this system. My target price for the base hardware is $600.


A number of Ivy Bridge processors are already available for purchase. Here's a listing of Ivy Bridge parts that I've found over on NewEgg:
  • Core i5-3450 - 3.1GHz - Quad-core - HD 2500 graphics - $200
  • Core i5-3450S - 2.8GHz - Quad-core - HD 2500 graphics - $200
  • Core i5-3550 - 3.3GHz - Quad-core - HD 4000 graphics - $220
  • Core i5-3570K - 3.4GHz - Quad-core - HD 4000 graphics - $250
  • Core i7-3770S - 3.1GHz - Quad-core - HD 4000 graphics - $320
  • Core i7-3770 - 3.4GHz - Quad-core - HD 4000 graphics - $320
  • Core i7-3770K - 3.5GHz - Quad-core - HD 4000 graphics - $350

Can't decide between the Core i5 and Core i7 processors? Let me simplify things for you by pointing out the two key differences between the two lines. All Core i7 Ivy Bridge parts have an 8MB L3 cache and have Hyper-Threading enabled -- which means two threads can be run per core -- while Core i5 Ivy Bridge parts have 6MB of L3 cache and do not feature Hyper-Threading.

If you plan on making heavy use of applications that can leverage Hyper-Threading -- for example, multimedia software such as Adobe Premiere Pro or HandBrake -- then the extra cost of the Core i7 is worth it, otherwise I recommend picking a CPU from the cheaper Core i5 range. It's worth bearing in mind that games don't benefit from Hyper-Threading, so you're better off saving money on the CPU and putting what you save towards a better graphics card.

You'll also notice that some processor model numbers have K and S suffixes. Parts with the K suffix feature unlocked multipliers and are excellent for overclocking, while parts with the S suffix are "performance-optimized" low-power parts, all with a TDP below 65W.

If you want performance -- or the opportunity to overclock your system -- then I recommend that you go for either the Core i5-3570K or the Core i7-3770K. If you want a more power-efficient part -- which will have the advantage of needing less cooling, so it's better suited to situations where you don't want too much cooler noise -- then the Core i5-3450S or Core i7-3770S are the parts you want to look at.

While you are free to pick whichever part for your system you want, I'm going to go with the cheapest processor in the list, the Core i5-3450. This processor is clocked at 3.1GHz and can be pushed up to 3.5GHz when turbo-boosted.

Price: $200.


Intel's Ivy Bridge processors all feature a Socket LGA 1155, so we need to find a compatible motherboard. In theory, all LGA 1155 motherboards are compatible with Ivy Bridge CPUs, but it's likely that many of the existing motherboards will need a firmware update to support this new processor line.

The motherboard I've gone for there is the Gigabyte GA-Z77MX-D3H. This board features Intel's Z77 Express chipset and comes with everything you'd expect from a modern motherboard, including UEFI firmware, HDMI and USB 3.0.

This is a good, all-round, capable motherboard.

If you're planning to update an existing Sandy Bridge system with an Ivy Bridge processor, or want to use a different motherboard to the one I've picked here, it's wise to check with the manufacturer that it supports the new processors.

Price: $140.


I believe that fitting any less than 4GB of RAM is false economy, especially since two 2GB RAM modules will only cost you around $25. For this build I've gone for two sticks 2GB of Crucial Ballistix Sport DDR3 1333 (PC3 10600). It is good, stable RAM, and it's a decent price.

I've had nothing but good experiences with Crucial RAM over the years, and I personally recommend it. For more information on how much RAM you need, I previously wrote a how-to guide.

Price: $25.

Hard drive

Following the disastrous flooding in Thailand that caused hard drive production to slow down, the price of storage has gone through the roof, increasing by as much as 300 percent. Given this, it's vital to shop around for the best deals.

I've gone for the Western Digital Caviar Black WD1002FAEX 1TB drive. This is a 7,200 RPM drive and features 64MB of cache; a robust, reliable drive that's fast and offers generous storage space at a decent price.

When buying hard drives, it's a good idea to choose a "bare drive" option rather than the "retail kit." These retail kits come with all sorts of extras such as packages, drive rails, screws, instructions and so on that you're unlikely to need. You can pay as much as $30 extra for the privilege of your drive coming with retail packaging as opposed to being shipped in a plain anti-static bag.

Price: $140.

Power Supply Unit

Here I've gone for the Corsair Builder Series CX430 V2. This offers 430W of power, and a wide range of connectors. On top of that, it's quiet and is 80 PLUS efficient so it won't cost too much to run.

Price: $45.

Optical Drive

Don't think too much about this one. A combo DVD burner like the ASUS DRW-24B1ST will suffice, and in this day and age come at a relatively cheap price.

Price: $20.

The bottom line

Let’s do a quick rundown of the price list:

  • CPU: Intel Core i5-3450 - $200
  • Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-Z77MX-D3H - $140
  • RAM: 2 x 2GB Crucial Ballistix Sport DDR3 1333 - $25
  • Hard drive: Western Digital Caviar Black WD1002FAEX 1TB - $140
  • Power supply unit: Corsair Builder Series CX430 V2 - $45
  • Optical drive: ASUS DRW-24B1ST - $20

Total price: $570.


Topics: Hardware, Intel, Processors

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  • You left out a few things

    I guess many people will reuse case, mouse, monitor and keyboard. But cpu coolers are often not adaptable and so should be added to your basic list.
  • Video Card?

    According to the specs on that motherboard, it doesn't support onboard video. Or do you not need video cards with these CPUs?
    • you wanna at least read the article before mouthing off?

      [i]" ... All Ivy Bridge processors feature a built-in Intel HD graphics GPU. These GPUs offer full DirectX 11, OpenGL 3.1, and OpenCL 1.1 support. While hardcore gamers are likely to turn their noses up at integrated graphics, these GPUs are more than adequate for general computing and even casual gaming. "[/i]

      There you go, dumb@$$ ... happy now?
      • Excusssse me!

        You classless piece of s**t!!!
      • Actually, it has the potential for a valid point.

        Yes, many motherboards have onboard GPUs on them. And yes, the article specifically mentions that these Ivy Bridge CPUs have an integrated GPU on them.


        If the motherboard doesn't have a video-out port (DVI, HDMI, component, VGA, or some other option), then [b]it won't matter whether the CPU has a GPU on it or not[/b]. No plug for your monitor cable on the motherboard = no way to connect your monitor without a graphics card in an expansion slot.

        Now, in this case, you're lucky, because the particular motherboard in question does have video ports on it. But if you were to pick a different board or a different manufacturer, then you might run into some problems. Which is why it's always good to investigate before purchasing.
    • jc123456! is correct. Sort of.

      I noticed the same thing on an article comparing Z77 based Mobo's. I would think that the article was incorrect since the Intel HD 4000 onboard graphics are a selling point. The motherboard should support it, IMO.
  • What case?

    Or do you plan to have it all loose on the table on the antistatic packaging it comes in. Some cases come with PSU so no need to factor in...
  • i will build a gaming rig this year

    I'm building my gaming PC this year, I have been using and liking the ASUS motherboards dearly! It provides the ability to control fan speed, overclock using ASUS software from within windows desktop, I'm not sure if GIGABYTE provides such features. I have never owned one!

    I would probably go with i5, save some money and put toward a good graphic card ???nVidia??? :-)
    For RAM I would go 6GB in case I needed to run virtual machine or use some of it to load large game files ???RAM DRIVE???.

    The biggest bottleneck now is the HD, yes I know I can go SSD but they're very expensive and not sure if they're still unreliable!

    I already have 750W Power supply which I think would do the job.
    • Gaming PC Power Supply

      You can't just look at over all wattage any more. You need to look at the current draw on the each supply 5V, 12V(for the graphcis card) and then see if your power supply will source that much current.
  • Recommendations for higher end system capble of video processing

    Do you have recommendations for a system for video processing and sourcing. Currently I have an older, quad core AMD 2.1GHz with 4 TB online. I crunch thru movies and use it as a private movie server. I have been looking at just buying a high end i7 with a bunch of RAM, a big disk and migrate my current HDDs to the new system. I also have an nvidia graphcis board but don't use it much.
    • different chipset perhaps

      look into X79, might be better than the Z77.
    • High-end Ivy Bridge

      There is another line of Ivy Bridge chip that many techies don't talk about. It's for high-end machines, and uses a different chipset.

      The motherboards use a Intel 2011 socket -- not a 1155. I'm not sure that the Ivy Bridges are out now for it, but you can definitely get a Sandy Bridge E processor, and the Ivy is pin compatible if you wanted to swap out later.

      Also, if you wanted to have more than one Ivy CPU, there will be Xeon editions of the Ivy procs that are multi-CPU capable.
      • High-end Ivy Bridge


  • The Wonder of it all,,,

    I think about the raised level of technology in just the last 5 years, and Im hoping I will see it in another 5,, if I build one like this, Id call IT "Cray-z" after my nickname,,,,
  • @spdragoo@ ... these guys

    Do you guys even know what you're arguing for or about?

    Onboard graphics simply applies to the motherboard's inbuilt graphics capabilities (or not). It has nothing to do with the motherboard's ability to support a graphics card. Can you show me a major OEM that doesn't build motherboards supporting any of the latest Core i* range of CPU's [i]that don't have[/i] an external monitor adapter *and* expansion slot for a video card?

    I found these random board specs in a 2 minute search on Google:

    If you knew what you were talking about, you'd know 'onboard graphics' is a function, typically, of the system utilising system RAM to process graphics. Now, if you want a board that supports onboard graphics, it's simple, buy a freakin' board that has that capability! If you're a gamer, you're going to also want a dedicated graphics card. With the iSeries and most new AMD integrated CPU/GPUs that gives you the advantage of the CPU/GPU (processor) and the video card providing graphics processing.

    Now ..

    @spdragoo, you say:

    [i]" ... If the motherboard doesn't have a video-out port (DVI, HDMI, component, VGA, or some other option) .. "[/i]

    Care to name a major, top 10 OEM [i]that doesn't[/i] build m/b's with a graphics adapter port and expansion slots (e.g. PCI-E x16)? I mean there are bound to be boards that support all options: onboard, integrated CPU/GPU and, obviously, a dedicated PnP graphics card.

    Again, what's the big broohaha over? If you want onboard graphics, go get a board that has it in spades.

    @jc123456! .. as for you? ... In your ear.
    • Right here

      Although, to preface, perhaps you'd better let us know whether you consider Gigabyte to be a "major' OEM provider or not, LOL.

      Gigabyte GA-P7-D3 motherboard (
      -- socket 1155, CPU compatibility list [b]specifically[/b] mentions all 6 of the CPUs mentioned in the article, including the top-line i7-3770K.
      -- B75 chipset, part of the series that Gigabyte just released in April & are being pushed towards small business customers. So we're not talking about an "old" board.
      -- back panel specifically has [b]no[/b] video ports: no HDMI, DVI, RGB, not even a VGA. port. This can be verified by viewing the product images on the page.

      Note, though, that I [b]never[/b] said anything about not having expansion cards. What I said was that, if you're relying on the CPU with integrated GPU to provide graphics for your PC, [b]the board has to have a video port on it[/b]. Otherwise, yes, you [b]do[/b] have to get a separate graphics card. But the point of getting a CPU with an integrated GPU is to save on money & hardware by 1) not having to spend money on a separate graphics card and 2) hopefully saving money by using an integrated solution. Which means the next question is whether the difference in price between GPU and non-GPU i5/i7 processors is enough to save money versus using a non-GPU processor & separate video card.