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Build Your Own: The Customizable, Illuminated Dream Machine

Graphics, Motherboard, And Cooling

Some components simply aren't available with customizable lighting. Whenever this happened, we chose products that distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack visually, while at the same time providing excellent performance.

Graphics Card: MSI N680GTX Lightning

MSI's GeForce GTX 680 Lightning boasts one of the highest factory core overclocks available on a GK104-based card at 1110 MHz (GPU Boost takes it to 1176 MHz on average). It features adjustable GPU, memory, and PLL voltages via MSI’s famous Afterburner overclocking utility, and the board's Twin Frozr IV cooler does a great job of keeping the graphics processor operating at low-enough temperatures so that frequencies stay nice and high.

While the card does not include adjustable lighting options, the back of MSI's Lightning board features a snazzy blue orb emblazoned with MSI's logo. The orb covers a removable component that MSI calls the GPU Reactor, which the company claims provides higher power capacity and lower noise.

Even if it doesn't have customizable lighting, this powerful high-end graphics card suits our dream build quite nicely. The MSI N680GTX Lightning sells on Newegg for $500.

Motherboard: Gigabyte Z77X-UP7

Since we can't find a motherboard with color-adjustable LED lighting, we can at least pick an exceptional specimen worthy of our special build. Enter Gigabyte's Z77X-UP7, the company's flagship LGA 1155-based offering. This motherboard boasts a 32+3+2 power phase design, 14 USB ports, and 10 SATA connectors. There are four PCIe x16 slots wired for eight-lane operation when you want to run in CrossFire or SLI, along with a fifth slot capable of 16-lane bandwidth in single-card configurations.

Gigabyte claims that the Z77X-UP7’s voltage regulator is the best in the industry. Moreover, the company includes its OC-Touch buttons soldered right onto the motherboard for making real-time adjustments to the multiplier ratio and BCLK without the need for rebooting. The platform sports on-board voltage measurement points and an LN2 mode switch that drops the CPU multiplier to x16 for extreme overclocking duty.

Gigabyte’s high-end Z77X-UP7 sells for $400 on Newegg.

CPU Cooler : Cooler Master TPC-812

We couldn't find any coolers with adjustable LED lighting [edit: NZXT's Kraken X60 was released after this build was spec'd out, and we discovered that Cooler Master's V6 offers three color adjustable lighting after publication], so we picked one with a mirror finish to reflect the build's other light sources. Yes, we realize that sounds incredibly superficial to enthusiasts who prioritize function over form.

Nevertheless, we gave Cooler Master's TPC-812 a try. The company claims that its TPC-812 is the first heat sink to combine vertical vapor chamber cooling with heat pipe technology.

This cooler features a polished copper base, an easy-to-use mounting system for its included 120 mm fan, two vapor chambers, six heat pipes, and aluminum fins. You can find the TPC-812 for $60 on Newegg.