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Finally Building A Gaming Rig (Lengthy)

Last response: in Systems
April 17, 2013 12:19:17 PM

Being a gaming enthusiast for many years, I've done myself a great disservice by forcing myself to deal with low quality settings on a laptop that easily overheats. Well, that time is finally over- And I'm looking to spend approximately $2000 to ensure that it won't again! Well, at least for the next few years.

I've spent time and money upgrading my previous computers in the past, with a limited amount of knowledge on the parts beyond what purpose they serve and how it will affect my gaming experience... Needless to say, building one from the ground up requires a great deal of additional information. So I'll try to keep this as short and to the point as possible, but my research over the past week has left many questions that will otherwise take me weeks longer to resolve (by myself, that is).

Here's the computer I had in mind:
Intel Core i5-3570K 3.4GHz Quad-Core Processor
ASRock Z77 Extreme4 ATX LGA1155 Motherboard
Corsair Vengeance 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory
Samsung 840 Pro Series 256GB 2.5" Solid State Disk
Rosewill RNX-N250PCe 802.11b/g/n PCI-Express x1 Wi-Fi Adapter
NZXT Phantom (White) ATX Full Tower Case
SeaSonic X Series 850W 80 PLUS Gold Certified ATX12V / EPS12V Power Supply
Asus BC-12B1ST/BLK/B/AS Blu-Ray Reader, DVD/CD Writer
Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (OEM) (64-bit)
Asus VH236H 23.0" Monitor

The CPU:
Where to begin? I guess that over the course of my research, I've determined that the largest (only?) difference between the i5 3570k and the i7 3770k is the hyperthreading and a larger l3 cache. Using this machine primarily to play video games (and more remedial tasks) I feel comfortable in my decision to save $50-100 in lieu of an additional 1-3 FPS. However, I've found very little information regarding the progress of video game development, and how largely hyperthreading will have an impact on games within the next 3-5 years. Is it safe to say that I shouldn't expect to make use of this technology until my next computer replacement?

More importantly, however, is the difference between the LGA 2011 and LGA 1155. I do have intentions of running two 680s in sli once I can afford to spend an additional $500 ($600 with an additional gpu waterblock). I've looked up benchmarks showing a very small margin of increased performance when running two cards on x8 versus the alternative x16. However, once you take each of these individual performance increases into account - larger l3 cache, higher clock speed, better usage of sli - it really begins to add up to a noticeable difference. Can the cost be justified when attempting to build a computer than I plan to use for several more years? Is the extra cost worth trying to "future-proof" my machine?

The Motherboard:
After spending so much money on the video card + cpu combination, will I regret purchasing such a low cost solution? Are the only major differences between this mobo and say, a z77 sabertooth, just the extra ports? Should I be concerned about heat when overclocking on this board? How does the 8/+2 power phases compare to 16/+2(4) when overclocking? Is the extra cost for this improved ability to overclock justified?

The RAM:
Understandably, 8GB of RAM will be more than sufficient for current generation gaming, but with windows taking up 2GB and background applications taking up another 1-2GB, will the remaining 4GB be enough to properly run games in the next few years? How fast does RAM lose effectiveness over years of usage? Should this be taken into account when purchasing ram, or should I expect it to last until I purchase a new computer?

The Cooling System:
I've already decided to go with water cooling, despite the cost and maintenance required. I do intend on overclocking the cpu to 4.3-4.5ghz, but even if I weren't I would still find little else that would give me as much satisfaction for the same price. Building a custom water cooled loop will not only provide me with this experience, but it will also keep my hardware cool and (presumably) increase longevity. My question is this: Much of the information out there comparing cooling systems is outdated by several years, or doesn't include all brands I'm interested in. It seems as though the XSPC parts cost slightly less than other options, but does this reduced price come with reduced effectiveness? How does the cooling efficiency of a single 360mm radiator compare to a 240mm + a 120mm radiator, if/when I decide to expand into SLI territory?

The PSU:
The difference in price between the 750w and 850w is pretty substantial. After using a wattage calculator online, I discovered that I would be running extremely close to the 750w limitation. I realize that as the capacitors age, you lose power efficiency. From the sound of it, I'll be within 10% of 750w within the first couple years. Could I reliably overclock both the gpu(s) and cpu while simultaneously running a liquid cooling system/fan controlled LCD monitor/multiple power-drawing USBs on a 750w psu?

That seems to be about it. Thank you for taking all this time to review, and hopefully answer my questions. The information provided at TH has taught me a great deal about computer performance and functionality, and that alone deserves another expression of appreciation. "Thank You."
a b 4 Gaming
April 17, 2013 12:33:40 PM

If you want to wait, then wait for Haswell. Anyway, moving on. Get the GTX 670 instead. It's cheaper and can handle anything that the GTX 680 can. The ASRock Extreme 4 is a good board. As for the RAM, I don't know what Windows you're running or what applications you run in the background, but I've never experienced Windows 7 taking up 2 GB of RAM by itself. As for the other 1-2 GB of background applications, just kill them when you're gaming. For a primarily gaming build, what background tasks will you run? Image/Video editing software? Bloated antivirus software? Think about it. As for the cooling system, it depends on how you use it. Both can be used effectively. Depends on the space of your case and how complicated you want your water tubes to be. Obviously, less is better to not obstruct air flow. As for the PSU, stick with the 850W for the SLI.
April 17, 2013 12:50:36 PM

ksham said:
As for the RAM, I don't know what Windows you're running or what applications you run in the background, but I've never experienced Windows 7 taking up 2 GB of RAM by itself. As for the other 1-2 GB of background applications, just kill them when you're gaming. For a primarily gaming build, what background tasks will you run?

Thank you for the advice, but I can assure you that my current computer idles at over 1.5gb ram usage. I'm sure that if I were to turn off extra features and windows services, this number would decrease- But not by much. I hardly have any programs starting at boot, and with a less intensive anti virus program with MSE I doubt this could get much lower. As for the background programs during gaming- It can range from skype, pandora, itunes, to web browsing, steam/origin, and even dual boxing on older games. I would hardly be surprised to see an additional 1gb-2gb of ram usage from these programs.

Your advice is certainly appreciated, but my verbose project still has many questions left unanswered.
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a b 4 Gaming
April 17, 2013 1:03:24 PM

Why not the i7 3770K you may ask? Well the i7 3770K merely adds Hyper-Threading and a higher clock speed to the equation. Though these two improvements are fantastic in CPU intensive tasks such as video encoding and 3D modeling, in gaming scenarios it doesn’t really do a whole lot. Games these days are much more graphics intensive than CPU intensive, so it’s a much better idea to invest the extra dough into the graphics card.

That said, those of you out there looking to do live streaming or other tasks which require any sort of video encoding, feel free to pick up an Intel Core i7 3770K instead. The part is 100% compatible with your build and will give you better performance for these tasks. However, with all things higher performance, expect to shell out a $100 premium for the processor.

The Z77 Extreme4 can be purchased for as little as $135. Taking a look at the current availability of Intel Z77 motherboards at popular retailers confirms that this motherboard is an absolute bargain and I would say – if you are on a tight budget then give this board some consideration, but if you aren’t, you could consider a better motherboard.

The only negative I have for this motherboard is that it slips outside of typical ATX specifications. It’s 3cm thinner than a standard ATX motherboard and as a result may lack secure mounting on the far side since this isn’t a common size, which also means you should be very careful when plugging in the 24-pin ATX motherboard power – as the motherboard may flex. I would answer your other questions but i cannot right now as i must get back to work sorry for the inconvenience and good luck!
April 17, 2013 1:14:47 PM

bigcyco1 said:
I would answer your other questions but i cannot right now as i must get back to work sorry for the inconvenience and good luck!

Thank you for not only taking the time to answer my questions, but to provide the explanations behind them. I really do wish I could select multiple users as the "Solution Provider," but yet still, there are inquiries that remain.

Edit: More specifically, information regarding water cooling.
a b 4 Gaming
April 17, 2013 1:56:57 PM

Future proof for 3-5 years? That's a long time in the technology world. I suggest you save your money now. Put it in a savings account. Buy something that works and works well. Then in a few years, upgrade components you need with the money that you saved. Heck, maybe the money you saved will be more useful in other parts of your life in a few years instead of wasting them on a computer.

My advice: don't worry about it. Both the i7 cpu and 2011 socket are costly and not worth it for you right now. But if you like them, want them, and can afford them, then no one is going to stop you from buying them.

In regards to water cooling, XSPC is a good kit. They're just parts. The effectiveness depends on how you construct it. If you have space in your case, 240mm + 120mm works well. But if not 360mm is fine. If both are viable options, buy the cheaper of the two, which should be the 360mm.
April 17, 2013 2:36:44 PM

It looks like I'll have to go make a topic in the water cooling section of the overclocking forums if I want to find quality equipment.

As per your reply, ksham, I came to these forums looking for value and efficiency for a leisurely project. Not how to invest in a 401k, nor which bank account I should deposit my funds. If I didn't choose to spend my money on the things I find enjoyable, the last thing I would do is spend $2000 on a PC, or $300+ on a water cooling system.

ksham said:
Heck, maybe the money you saved will be more useful in other parts of your life in a few years instead of wasting them on a computer.

I trust you have better use of your time. Maybe invest in learning an instrument, or studying up on upcoming technology. Heck, maybe all that time you save will be more useful in other parts of your life... instead of wasting them on a computer.
a b 4 Gaming
April 17, 2013 3:38:02 PM

JT2891 when you come to this forum and ask for help/advice you are going to get a variety of answers which you can either consider or ignore. Because Ksham has posted a response you don't agree with doesn't mean he shouldn't be allowed to post it. If you don't like it or agree with it then just ignore his response, it doesn't affect you or your build. As long as the post is not abusive in language or descriptions then the post is ok, however you may disagree with his view and direction to take so a simple no thank you to his advice is all that's needed.