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New build £1100 gaming system - advice sought over mobo, PSU and memory.

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March 18, 2013 12:14:08 PM

Updated to reflect some of the excellent advice doled out below

Hello! Have been meaning to build a gaming rig for a while and finally have the cash to do so; I've been doing a huge amount of research (much of it on this site; thanks, Tom's Hardware) and come up with the parts below. Here's the vitals:

- Will be ordering and hopefully building within the next couple of weeks.

- Rough budget is about £1100 and, though I'd like to spend less, I'm also willing to go a little over if there's a good enough reason.

- Priority is gaming, but I'm a web designer / developer and would like to run some Adobe programs on this build.

- I'm buying a monitor and an OS - my proposals for these are below.

- I'm in London, and have no major website preference; although if I can avoid giving any money to Amazon, or better yet buy locally, that'd be a bonus.

- Not interested in SLI / Crossfire, but it'd be good to have the option to overclock in the future.

- Internal aesthetics are vastly less important to me than performance / value for money.

Here are the parts I'm currently looking at, from Partpicker - the fruits of many frowny afternoons reading barcharts and trying to remember part numbers. I'm not, however, absolutely tied to these if better options are suggested. I'm also missing a motherboard, a PSU and some memory; have some thoughts on what might go well (below) but would love some advice here.

PCPartPicker list:

CPU: Intel Core i5-3570K 3.4GHz Quad-Core Processor (£161.94 @ Aria PC)

CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-U12P SE2 54.4 CFM CPU Cooler (£46.66 @ Scan.co.uk)

Video Card: Gigabyte Radeon HD 7870 2GB Video Card (£191.90 @ Amazon UK) Changed - see below

SSD: Mushkin Chronos 120GB 2.5" Solid State Disk (£83.94 @ Aria PC)

HDD: Western Digital Caviar Green 2TB 3.5" 5400RPM Internal Hard Drive (£70.79 @ Amazon UK)

Case: Fractal Design Define R4 (Titanium Grey) ATX Mid Tower Case (£79.19 @ Aria PC)

Optical Drive: Samsung SH-222BB/BEBE DVD/CD Writer (£12.22 @ Dabs)

Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Professional SP1 (OEM) (64-bit) (£99.99 @ Ebuyer)

Monitor: AOC i2367Fh 60Hz 23.0" Monitor (£144.47 @ CCL Computers)

Parts added / modified thanks to advice:

Motherboard: ASRock Z77 Extreme4 ATX LGA1155 Motherboard (£103.25 @ Amazon UK)

Memory: Corsair Vengeance LP 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1866 Memory (£52.93 @ Amazon UK)

Power Supply: Corsair Professional Series AX 760 Watt ATX/EPS Fully Modular 80 PLUS Platinum Power Supply Unit (£138.77 - Amazon)

Video Card: Sapphire Radeon HD 7870 XT 2GB Video Card (£177.60 @ Amazon UK)

Total: £1172.51

PARTS I'M CURRENTLY MISSING: (this section from original post, for reference)
Motherboard: I've been interested in computers, and fiddling around with them, for a while now, but this is the first one I've actually built. Choosing a motherboard seems to be the most complex and nerve-racking area so far.

I'm tempted to go with a full-size ATX, and am also looking for something fairly sturdy, since I've read on this site that large CPU coolers can completely wreck a system. (This is my main reason for not going for an NH-D14 cooler.) The one I'm looking at is 990g. Does anyone have any experience with Noctua fans damaging boards, due to high mounting pressures?

Memory: I'm looking for a good quality, 8GB set; if this could be less than 40mm high to avoid the NH-U12P so much the better. I'd also like the option to overclock it, if that's not going to add too much to the price.

PSU: This is another area in which I'm somewhat lost. PCPartPickup(aPenguin) is estimating 245W for the build i have so far, but this is without a motherboard and memory so may be useless. I do know that in the R4 I've got 170mm of depth to play with, or 270mm If I mount it at the top of the case. (Is this a good idea?)

I think that's about it. If you've read this far, thank you! I'd really appreciate any help, advice, or strident opinions you can offer.

More about : build 1100 gaming system advice sought mobo psu memory

March 18, 2013 12:49:20 PM

Hi there,

Unfortunately in London there aren't really any great local places to buy stuff to my knowledge. Despite your reservations though, I'm a strong believer in Amazon. It has by far the best return policy and will never quibble over whether an item you return is broken or not (which is unlike basically every other vendor). They don't only offer to replace an item if it is broken but also refund you for the full amount (normally merchants only do this if it's returned within the first 7 days). Aria.co.uk is also a good option though, and I have gotten parts from them too as well (though nothing beats Amazon's customer service for me).

Looks like you've picked out pretty good stuff so far. The one thing I would change is the 7870 to the 7870 XT (there's one on Amazon for £175) as the performance is much more in line with a 7950, for the price of a 7870. If you look at the reviews they are all very positive, due to the tons of performance you get for the price.

Motherboard: The ASRock Extreme4 (as recommended above) is an always solid choice. I have one at the moment, having used it with both the Noctua NH-U9B and now the NH-D14, having had no problems so far. I haven't experienced any motherboard bending issues at all, as the Noctua mounting bracket is almost certainly the best one out there.

RAM: Try the Corsair LP RAM. It looks nice, has solid performance and because it is low profile you'll never have an issue with clearance (esp. on a board like the ASRock Extreme4 where the DIMM slots are very close to the CPU socket). In terms of pure performance, I feel like Patriot sell some of the best value fast kits of RAM (for example the 16gb 2133 kit I have was merely £75). I wouldn't worry too much about overclocking memory, it gives you somewhere in the region of a 0.5% performance gain.

PSU: The one linked above is indeed a very solid unit. If you want to go with a 750w one though (for the possibility of Crossfire further on down the road) this: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Corsair-Professional-Series-Mod... is much better value for money in the 750w range. It's produced by Seasonic, so just as reliable and has Platinum rated efficiency vs Gold.

All the best,

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March 18, 2013 12:51:48 PM

Saying as you use adobe go i7 3770k Try ebuyer and have a look on ebay you can grab some insane bargains and save quite a bit too... Go for a decent PSU brand about 750 -900w as you may sli/cfx int eh future (i havent gone with a major brand and its fine for me but ill get hate otherwise i got a xenta 750w for £30 and its going strong!) anyways get 8-16gb of ram for adobe stuff because it loves your ram and that should be it really your parts are nice but i have a 7870 and if you can go a bit further get a 7970 or 7950 both are really good.... AMD FTW! also you can get windows other ways ;)  ;)  not saying anything but there is other ways and save $100 and put that towards a upgraded gpu and max out dat crysis mon anyways main point>>>
CPU- get i7 for Adobe stuff but i5 if mainly gaming
Ram- 8-16gb 1600mhz is good for gaming as it mainly requires 4 but then for adobe things more is better!
PSU- around 800w and get a decent brand to avoid the haters aha just to be safe too because it is £1000 after all
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March 18, 2013 12:52:01 PM

7870 XT < I agree i'm currently running this card and it's sweet.
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March 18, 2013 12:53:02 PM

also you can get windows other ways ;)  ;)  < Don't promote piracy in the forum or you will be banned.
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March 18, 2013 1:08:04 PM

I second the ASRock Extreme4, 7870XT, and corsair low profile RAM (1600MHz, 9-9-9-24, 1.5V) - don't bother overclocking it. Only measurable in benches and higher voltages can damage the on-die memory controller of the 3570K.

By all means, OC the CPU :) 
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March 18, 2013 1:13:10 PM

I'm at 4.5 ghz.\1.23 volts\Noctua NH-D14
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March 18, 2013 2:24:37 PM

Hello; many thanks for the considered advice. I've made a few changes to my original post, namely:

Motherboard: ASRock Extreme4
Ha, that's a lot of recommendations :)  This looks perfect for my needs; cheers, Blackbird.

Memory: Corsair Vengeance LP 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1866
Marshall - many thanks for a measured, helpful response. I really do like the low profile design on these, and they're not going to break the bank. Aterix - you raise a good point but I figure that if I find I need to upgrade to 16GB / an i7 in the future, getting these gives me that option - I can always get another pair. With that in mind I figured I'd go for slightly faster memory, since 1866 doesn't represent that much of a price jump from 1600.

PSU: Corsair AX 760 Platinum
As said, I don't intend to crossfire, since it sounds like a fairly stressful undertaking, but it seemed like the boost from 650 might pay off in the higher efficiency and greater flexibility - plus, I'd hate for the system to struggle for any reason due to insufficient power draw. As far as I understand it, running this below it's upper limit for a while won't do it any damage / draw too much unnecessary power, right?

Graphics: 7870XT
Again, research has agreed with your recommendations here; it's better AND cheaper than the 7870 I was looking at, which is fantastic. Unless someone can think of a better vendor than Sapphire to go with this looks like the card for me. Thanks again - this kind of outcome was precisely why I came to these forums in the first place.

Since there's been a range of help here, I'm loathe to pick one reply as a solution; is there another way I can rep multiple people?
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March 18, 2013 3:34:01 PM

Real quick on the PSU. Unless electricity is very expensive where you are or you plan to run the system under load for the majority of the day, you will not make back your money on the Platinum PSU vs a Bronze (unless you find it on a sale where the cost is very close together), unless you keep the system 5-8 years then you'll break even (assuming "normal" usage).
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March 18, 2013 4:11:34 PM

Jed - thanks, this sent me into another round of research; now feel a notch more informed and will definitely bear it in mind. Currently the 760 is only about £20 more than the other supplies I've been looking at, and is one of the only PSUs I could find with a 7 year warranty, so I'm leaning towards it. I do plan to keep this build going for a good while; plus I like the sound of the environmental benefits of a more efficient system. If I find I need to shave some price off, however, this is where I'll do it.
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March 18, 2013 4:29:36 PM

Josh - Just to clarify, using a higher wattage PSU than necessary won't use up any extra power at all, or cause any damage or anything like that.

The AX series is really nice. One of the advantages is having a button for fan modes. You can either have it in standard mode (fan always on) or hybrid mode (fan comes on once the PSU reaches 50% or so load), which it's able to do due to it's very high efficiency and makes it very, very quiet. The cables are pre-sleeved an in all black so it looks good (no weird coloured cables ruining the look) and are of a good length. The final thing is that Corsair's 7 years (super long for one) warranty is really solid on these. There's a guy over in the TH Member System Gallery who's computer literally melted (don't worry I'm sure it's very unlikely and more due to his insane 5.something Ghz overclock) and Corsair replaced the whole rig with new components of his choosing since it was an AX unit. All in all I think it's definitely worth the extra £20.

I made the mistake of going too cheap on my first PSU, so I really think it's worth getting something high quality off the bat. The price difference between the medium and high spec PSUs really isn't that much (like you said only about £20) when compared to say the difference between medium and high spec graphics cards. Things like modular cabling and a slightly higher wattage go a long way to increasing flexibility and keeping your options open (for example when I decided I wanted to custom sleeve my stuff) esp. since it's likely to be one of the components that lasts you the longest.

All the best,

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