The $1400 Music Production Gaming Build with Dual Monitors (May 2016)
This is one of our reader-requested builds from our computer hardware help service. Check it out if you want us to thoroughly research and write-up a personalized build for your own specific budget and feature-needs (and if you don't want the build published on the site for whatever reason just mention that).
Reader's Build Requirements
Joe O from United States (May 2016)
Please provide details on what you'll be doing with this PC, including any specific games/applications/performance-aims etc:
For the most part I will be using this PC heavily for games, but may also use it for music production. I'd like it to be able to run newer resource-intensive games, but also have enough RAM for music production software that requires a lot of memory. If there is a way to make that work, then I trust you will know how to do it! If anything, gaming takes a priority though.
What is your maximum budget NOT including rebates/taxes/shipping? Or do you have a budget range (eg 600-700):
I am capping my budget at $1500, but would like to keep it in the $1000-1200 range if it is possible. Obviously there is some wiggle room for my music/gaming needs.
Which components and/or peripherals do you want included in your list of parts:
Tower (CPU, Motherboard, RAM, Graphics Card, Power Supply, Case)
SSD (Solid State Drive)
Operating System (Windows)
Anti-static wrist band
Any other parts/accessories/features you want included in your build?
I'd like dual monitors added into the equation. Other than that, I don't need any special accessories that aren't listed above.
Do You Have a Processor Brand Preference?
Do you have a Graphics Card Brand Preference?
Please provide any preferences for your storage, such as size of hard drive and/or size of SSD (SSDs not recommended for cheap builds):
I'd like a combo of both. A HDD storing all my files and SSD running the OS?
Will you be overclocking (only for experienced builders)? If so please provide details on which parts etc:
Any preferences for your case, such as size/color/clear-side-panel/etc?
It can be as plain and ugly as possible, preferably mid-sized. I just need everything to fit nicely, leave room for upgrades, and be well ventilated.
$1400 Music Production Gaming Build With Dual Displays
: All prices listed below were correct at the time of writing and may fluctuate day to day.
So there we go - a build powerful enough to take on the latest games very well with the powerful Geforce 960 video card, whilst also well-suited to dominate any type of demanding applications (such as music production as you mentioned) for years to come with the very capable i7-6700 3.4Ghz processor (a super-fast quad-core and 8-thread CPU which will help with demanding applications).
Getting an i7 such as this one will give you the absolute best performance, but the truth is that you don't NEED an i7 when it comes to gaming and an i5 such as the popular i5-6600 would definitely suffice and save you some money. But since you didn't specify which exact types of programs you'll be using, it's totally your call based on whether this build fits your budget or not and how demanding your programs will be (and how much heavy multitasking you'll be doing with your 2 screens).
Personally if I was building a production machine I'd definitely lean towards the i7 with its 8 threads and hyper-threading - technology which the i5 lacks (these things help with demanding applications and multitasking). Also, if you stick with the i7 I've included keep in mind it's the NON overclocking version which I assume is fine for you (if you want to overclock later on then get the "k" version). Hopefully this all makes sense if not shoot me an email and I'll clarify if need be.
You also have a massive 16GB of the latest super-fast DDR4 memory. 16GB is actually considered a little bit of overkill for gaming right now (8 is all you need for any of the latest games) and is definitely a luxury in a gaming build, however when it comes to demanding music production applications and other programs it'll come in handy. Plus, having 16GB will also further future-proof your build. But if you wish to cut costs a little, there's nothing wrong with going for 8GB now as you can always easily upgrade later and chances are you won't notice too much of a difference. Personally, if you're running demanding applications (and multiple programs at once) I'd stick with 16GB though.
For a dual-monitor setup that you mentioned you'd like I've gone with two Acer 23" G236HL monitors. You didn't mention size preference so I went with the pretty standard 23" sized screens which are a nice size and have a 5ms response rate which is good enough for gaming.
As for how dual monitors work in a nutshell - literally any dedicated graphics card on the market these days will support dual displays (your GeForce 960 supports up to 4 displays just so you know), and to set it up it's simply a matter of connecting both your displays to your graphics card from the back of the case and then selecting the dual display option in Windows under display/graphic settings.
You didn't mention including a sound card in your build so I've left it out, but if you plan on possibly doing music production as you said then I'd look into getting one for better sound quality. You can always buy one later though and easily install it into one of your motherboard's spare PCI-E ports.
That's it for your gaming and music-production-ready build. I tried my best to keep it as close to your suggested 1200 budget as I could, however with the 2 monitors, decent speakers, OS etc it was difficult to do so and still have a very nice core system for the latest games and music production. If you do want to cut costs, first things I would look at would be to get 8GB instead of 16GB and/or swapping the i7-6700 for the i5-6600 as I talked about before (nothing else would need to change if you did that as they have the same processor socket). Anyway, I hope it's along the lines of what you're looking for and it's been a pleasure to compile it for you. All the best!