A good motherboard and CPU demand good memory, but I also wanted efficient memory. Kingston supplied us with a pair of 8GB HyperX LoVo memory kits. They're capable of running at 1600MHz while sipping just 1.5V (instead of the usual 1.65V), but I kept them at the default 1333MHz. After all, with four memory channels available, there's no lack of memory bandwidth.
I used Corsair's H60 sealed liquid CPU cooling system, which you can see in the open-case photo above. A sealed liquid cooler offers a lower profile than big air coolers do, so it improves overall airflow while maintaining a sub-40 degrees Celsius idle CPU temperature.
Want fast storage or lots of storage? How about both? The boot drive on this system is a 250GB Intel 510 Series solid-state drive.
The secondary drive is a two-platter, WD1002 FAEX hard drive, which offers enough storage for user data folders.
Note that the optical drive I used in this ultra-quiet and energy-efficient gaming PC is Asus's latest Blu-ray combo drive, the BC-12B1ST. At under $60, it's not much pricier than standard DVD drives.
For the operating system, I'm using Windows 7 Ultimate (64-bit), but Windows 7 Professional would do just as well. These days I avoid Windows 7 Home Premium due to its 16GB memory limit.
Cost and Alternatives
This system is efficient and relatively quiet, and it offers good potential for future expansion--but it is a high-end system. Let's see how it prices out.
In the end, what we have is a high-end gaming rig with lots of RAM, a superb graphics card, an SSD boot drive, and plenty of secondary storage. If I wanted a lower-cost system, I might go with one of the new Ivy Bridge CPUs, although I'd have to wait a few weeks until they became more widely available. The Core i7-3770K will likely cost a few dollars more, but a motherboard based on the Z77 chipset will cost less than an X79 motherboard.
If you're using Ivy Bridge, you could buy just 8GB of RAM, which would cut memory costs in half. I'd keep the 1TB Western Digital hard drive, but replace the Intel 510 with a much smaller, lower-cost SSD that could act as a very fast hard-drive cache using Intel's SmartResponse technology. Storage costs would probably be more like $270 instead of $660. The total cost of the hypothetical Ivy Bridge system would drop down below the $2K mark.