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.

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    Top Comments
  • kingnoobe
    Shame on you.. How dare you copyright stuff (at least that's what the video says).

    The case does look awesome, but it would be nice to see the video lol.
  • Other Comments
  • kingnoobe
    Shame on you.. How dare you copyright stuff (at least that's what the video says).

    The case does look awesome, but it would be nice to see the video lol.
  • stoogie
    iunno looks pretty lame to me, its just a couple of leds, i have 15 fans in my haf 932 and theyre all green and it glows alot more than the pc you have made here, if u want to customize, get leds/cathodes/lighting kits, and light up not only your case but the environment, or get watercooling with neon liquid of a different colour or even UV colour, make a custom glass case etc, thats how a dream 'illuminated' mod should be. for example the guy who created a glass desk which had the pc in it and was fully illuminated, THAT is what this article should be about, not about how to install a fan.
  • de5_Roy
    nice build. :)
    imo custom illuminated water cooling woulda been nice too.
    the fan controller was kick-ass.
  • abbadon_34
    reminds me of the combo beer holder & ash tray i had in my last comp's 5" bay

    edit: funny, that was thermaltake too
  • shikamaru31789
    I'm not usually a fan of lighted setups, most of them are really gaudy looking, but I actually like your setup. Maybe I'll try to make a tasteful lighted setup like this for my next build.
  • shikamaru31789
    BTW, when can we expect the Sub-$200 CPU comparison. Cleeve said we could expect it by the end of the month and it's now officially February (EST). Hope you guys post it tomorrow.
  • Rockdpm
    I have the NZXT hue and its worth every dime i paid for it
  • bit_user
    Stay away from blue lighting. It messes up your circadian rhythms. Blue light is how your brain knows that dawn is nearing. Whenever there's a blue LED on a device I use late at night, I put tape over it.
  • slomo4sho
    shikamaru31789BTW, when can we expect the Sub-$200 CPU comparison. Cleeve said we could expect it by the end of the month and it's now officially February (EST). Hope you guys post it tomorrow.

    I am looking forward to this as well... considering its been over two weeks since the best of Jan 2013 list that mentions this was posted.
  • Rockdpm
    There is a CPU cooler you can adjust the colors on.. Its called the CM V6GT...
  • amk-aka-Phantom
    Just get the NZXT Phantom 820. All-customizable RGB lighting integrated, plus that case is incredible.
  • plasmastorm
    dream build....uses air cooling.... hang your head in shame whoever thought of that instead of a custom watercooling setup with water addetives for the colour
  • The_Trutherizer
    PC's seem to be more about peripherals these days than back in the day when all you wanted was a rig (case optional) that could play Unreal Tournament. It's not a bad thing though. This will always be where PCs rule. And it's great to see the quality options that are available.
  • TheMadFapper
    I'm so happy to see this article. I haven't quite finished getting the base components in my PC yet but LED lighting is definitely down the road, so this will be very helpful. Thanks guys!
  • arkadi
    cool for kids....just think what you could do to your build instead of this useless crap..
  • Soda-88
    This video contains content from EMI, who has blocked it in your country on copyright grounds.

  • mikenygmail
    Yeah, EMI Music Publishing and other organizations claim copyright infringement and basically block anything with any type of music on youtube, even if it's a piano piece you play yourself. You have to fight for a while in order to have almost any music whatsoever remain on youtube.

    While this sounds utterly ridiculous, unfortunately it's reality.
  • mikenygmail
    I am of course referring to the video at the end of the article, here:
  • WretchedSoul44
    I wouldn't buy Mad Catz anything. I tried out the R.A.T mouse and it worked fine for a while, but then one time I came back from lunch(I used it at work) and the tiny metal piece used to tighten the mouse on the side of it discharged on my finger. Ever since then the mouse would work very poorly, would have trouble moving and I had to click multiple times just to open something. 80 bucks down the drain. That Keyboard looks like a man or woman with carpet's nightmare, too!
  • mousseng
    I can't believe I wasn't aware of the NZXT Hue before. I've been looking into getting some LED lighting for my case, and if I weren't broke I probably would've gone for single-color BitFenix Alchemies (which are horrifically over-priced) or Ozniums. But for the same price as 2 feet of 1-color Alchemies I can have 6 feet of full RGB with a controller? Color me interested.

    Anyway, great read. I always enjoy articles that are about building systems (especially fun ones like this).