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Planning a mid-range build; advice sorely needed.

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May 30, 2013 11:18:35 PM

So, I use my computer as a sort of jack-of-all-trades device. I do a lot of photo-editing/digital work using the Cintiq 12WX, which was my last expensive toy many years ago and - when in use - functions as a second monitor. I also use my computer frequently for casual to moderate gaming, and have been known to host small servers (and by small I mean less than 10 people. Tiny.) Now, I also have a penchant for older and retro games (playing and patching) but I'm willing to give up their compatibility for a high functioning PC. I'm not looking for Crysis 3 on ultra, but medium-high is my goal. I do not plan on overclocking my computer as far as I know, if that helps.

My question now is, with a theoretical budget of $800-$900, how much awesome would I be able to wring out? I've found the number of options to be highly overwhelming, but I have an idea of what I need. I'd say that I'd need no more that a 500 GB HDD. If I ended up needing more space it wouldn't be hard to buy an external drive. I would prefer 6-8 GB of RAM (because of the server-hosting and other multitasking). And as far as CPU goes I believe I'm going for an i5 setup.

I'll be happy to answer specific questions if I left something out. :)  Thank you in advance.
May 30, 2013 11:38:41 PM

Emily Weis said:
So, I use my computer as a sort of jack-of-all-trades device. I do a lot of photo-editing/digital work using the Cintiq 12WX, which was my last expensive toy many years ago and - when in use - functions as a second monitor. I also use my computer frequently for casual to moderate gaming, and have been known to host small servers (and by small I mean less than 10 people. Tiny.) Now, I also have a penchant for older and retro games (playing and patching) but I'm willing to give up their compatibility for a high functioning PC. I'm not looking for Crysis 3 on ultra, but medium-high is my goal. I do not plan on overclocking my computer as far as I know, if that helps.

My question now is, with a theoretical budget of $800-$900, how much awesome would I be able to wring out? I've found the number of options to be highly overwhelming, but I have an idea of what I need. I'd say that I'd need no more that a 500 GB HDD. If I ended up needing more space it wouldn't be hard to buy an external drive. I would prefer 6-8 GB of RAM (because of the server-hosting and other multitasking). And as far as CPU goes I believe I'm going for an i5 setup.

I'll be happy to answer specific questions if I left something out. :)  Thank you in advance.


Loathe though I am to guide people away from i5s (and believe me, I really love Intel), AMD makes more price-efficient generalist CPUs at the moment. The FX 8350 is good for editing, good for gaming, and generally functional, for less than the i5-3570k. The i7-3770k kicks its arse, but it also costs just shy of twice as much. Would you be willing to consider AMD?

Edit: Worthy of note, the i5-3570k (and its successor, the 4670k) are both better gaming CPUs. They aren't as good for editing, however.
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May 31, 2013 12:05:55 AM

Interesting. Just how much gaming efficiency would I be losing with the AMD option? It's indeed much cheaper than the i5's you mentioned, but I have the tablet currently installed on the family's rather souped-up computer, which runs it perfectly with an i5-2300, an ATI Radeon HD 5570 and 4 GB of RAM.

It might be smart for me to add at this point that I may simply match the aforementioned build if I can't think of a more optimized one.
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Related resources
May 31, 2013 12:09:57 AM

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: AMD FX-6350 3.9GHz 6-Core Processor ($129.99 @ Newegg)
Motherboard: MSI 970A-G43 ATX AM3+ Motherboard ($59.99 @ Newegg)
Memory: Crucial Ballistix 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($55.25 @ Newegg)
Storage: Seagate Barracuda 1TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($65.99 @ NCIX US)
Video Card: PowerColor Radeon HD 7870 XT 2GB Video Card ($219.99 @ Newegg)
Case: Rosewill Challenger-U3 ATX Mid Tower Case ($59.99 @ Amazon)
Power Supply: XFX 550W 80 PLUS Bronze Certified ATX12V / EPS12V Power Supply ($54.99 @ NCIX US)
Optical Drive: Lite-On iHAS124-04 DVD/CD Writer ($14.99 @ Newegg)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (OEM) (64-bit) ($89.94 @ Outlet PC)
Total: $751.12
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2013-05-31 03:04 EDT-0400)

Bang for your buck build.

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: AMD FX-8350 4.0GHz 8-Core Processor ($179.99 @ Amazon)
Motherboard: MSI 970A-G43 ATX AM3+ Motherboard ($59.99 @ Newegg)
Memory: Crucial Ballistix 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($55.25 @ Newegg)
Storage: Seagate Barracuda 1TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($65.99 @ NCIX US)
Video Card: Sapphire Radeon HD 7950 3GB Video Card ($269.99 @ Newegg)
Case: Rosewill Challenger-U3 ATX Mid Tower Case ($59.99 @ Amazon)
Power Supply: XFX 550W 80 PLUS Bronze Certified ATX12V / EPS12V Power Supply ($54.99 @ NCIX US)
Optical Drive: Lite-On iHAS124-04 DVD/CD Writer ($14.99 @ Newegg)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (OEM) (64-bit) ($89.94 @ Outlet PC)
Total: $851.12
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2013-05-31 03:08 EDT-0400)

Slightly higher end, main thing is I don't know how CPU intensive photo editing is. If it is cpu intensive get the 8350 slightly higher clock speed and 2 extra cores.

Oh and you mention crysis 3, the GPU's in the builds above include that game for free.

I would rate the 6350 and 8350 as being on par or superior to the i5-2300 overall. It really depends on what your doing for single threaded tasks clock for clock sandy bridge and ivy are better than amd FX but for multi threaded the 8350 can keep up with a i7 3770
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May 31, 2013 12:10:55 AM

Emily Weis said:
Interesting. Just how much gaming efficiency would I be losing with the AMD option? It's indeed much cheaper than the i5's you mentioned, but I have the tablet currently installed on the family's rather souped-up computer, which runs it perfectly with an i5-2300, an ATI Radeon HD 5570 and 4 GB of RAM.

It might be smart for me to add at this point that I may simply match the aforementioned build if I can't think of a more optimized one.


Hard to say how much you'd lose. CPU isn't a very major factor in gaming, so long as it doesn't bottleneck the GPU, so I wouldn't expect major losses, unless you play to upgrade to an extremely powerful graphics arrangement before you upgrade your CPU, in which case the 8350 would be more likely to bottleneck than the i5.

Match as in copy? Or equal? In either case, you can do far, far better on that budget.

By the way, do you need an OS, peripherals, and/or a monitor? $900 goes a lot further in pure components than it does for an entire computer setup.

Edit: Having reread the OP, I note that you don't plan to overclock. This would reduce the price of an i5, as you could get the 3470 rather than the 3570k, which would leave you with no price gains from picking AMD.
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May 31, 2013 12:18:47 AM

That was beautiful. Additionally, yes: photo-editing is CPU intensive so it all hinges heavily on your RAM. One of the reasons why I don't run anything else when using Photoshop.
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May 31, 2013 12:21:09 AM

Jack Revenant said:
Emily Weis said:
Interesting. Just how much gaming efficiency would I be losing with the AMD option? It's indeed much cheaper than the i5's you mentioned, but I have the tablet currently installed on the family's rather souped-up computer, which runs it perfectly with an i5-2300, an ATI Radeon HD 5570 and 4 GB of RAM.

It might be smart for me to add at this point that I may simply match the aforementioned build if I can't think of a more optimized one.


Hard to say how much you'd lose. CPU isn't a very major factor in gaming, so long as it doesn't bottleneck the GPU, so I wouldn't expect major losses, unless you play to upgrade to an extremely powerful graphics arrangement before you upgrade your CPU, in which case the 8350 would be more likely to bottleneck than the i5.

Match as in copy? Or equal? In either case, you can do far, far better on that budget.

By the way, do you need an OS, peripherals, and/or a monitor? $900 goes a lot further in pure components than it does for an entire computer setup.

Edit: Having reread the OP, I note that you don't plan to overclock. This would reduce the price of an i5, as you could get the 3470 rather than the 3570k, which would leave you with no price gains from picking AMD.


I have the monitor covered with a choice between using the old monitor or the TV, both of which are in short reach. The only thing I'd need to buy outside of computer parts is Win7.
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May 31, 2013 12:28:47 AM

Emily Weis said:
Jack Revenant said:
Emily Weis said:
Interesting. Just how much gaming efficiency would I be losing with the AMD option? It's indeed much cheaper than the i5's you mentioned, but I have the tablet currently installed on the family's rather souped-up computer, which runs it perfectly with an i5-2300, an ATI Radeon HD 5570 and 4 GB of RAM.

It might be smart for me to add at this point that I may simply match the aforementioned build if I can't think of a more optimized one.


Hard to say how much you'd lose. CPU isn't a very major factor in gaming, so long as it doesn't bottleneck the GPU, so I wouldn't expect major losses, unless you play to upgrade to an extremely powerful graphics arrangement before you upgrade your CPU, in which case the 8350 would be more likely to bottleneck than the i5.

Match as in copy? Or equal? In either case, you can do far, far better on that budget.

By the way, do you need an OS, peripherals, and/or a monitor? $900 goes a lot further in pure components than it does for an entire computer setup.

Edit: Having reread the OP, I note that you don't plan to overclock. This would reduce the price of an i5, as you could get the 3470 rather than the 3570k, which would leave you with no price gains from picking AMD.


I have the monitor covered with a choice between using the old monitor or the TV, both of which are in short reach. The only thing I'd need to buy outside of computer parts is Win7.


What do you think of this?
PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: AMD FX-8350 4.0GHz 8-Core Processor ($179.99 @ Amazon)
Motherboard: MSI 970A-G43 ATX AM3+ Motherboard ($59.99 @ Newegg)
Memory: Crucial Ballistix Sport 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($56.98 @ Newegg)
Storage: Samsung 840 Series 120GB 2.5" Solid State Disk ($93.99 @ Adorama)
Storage: Western Digital Caviar Blue 1TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($58.99 @ NCIX US)
Video Card: Sapphire Radeon HD 7950 3GB Video Card ($269.99 @ Newegg)
Case: NZXT Source 210 (Black) ATX Mid Tower Case ($39.99 @ Amazon)
Power Supply: XFX 550W 80 PLUS Bronze Certified ATX12V / EPS12V Power Supply ($54.99 @ NCIX US)
Optical Drive: Lite-On iHAS124-04 DVD/CD Writer ($14.99 @ Newegg)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (OEM) (64-bit) ($89.94 @ Outlet PC)
Total: $912.84
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2013-05-31 03:26 EDT-0400)

Sorry it's a bit over budget. I was struggling to fit an SSD and the 7950 in there. If you need to cut a bit, you could drop the SSD, or cut the 7950 down to a 7870 XT (which is nearly as powerful). If you can scape a tiny bit more together, you would be best advised to upgrade the case to a Corsair 200R, which is about $10 more expensive.
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May 31, 2013 12:42:46 AM

That's pretty darn excellent. I believe I got some really good feedback, and boy do I wish I could afford the SSD. This was mostly an idea for whether or not it was possible to manage a build in the constraints that I set myself (though I stated a budget even a bit higher than I would aim for, just in case).

I think I have a final decision if a few money-gathering factors fall into place for me. Thank you very much. :) 
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May 31, 2013 12:46:13 AM

Emily Weis said:
That's pretty darn excellent. I believe I got some really good feedback, and boy do I wish I could afford the SSD. This was mostly an idea for whether or not it was possible to manage a build in the constraints that I set myself (though I stated a budget even a bit higher than I would aim for, just in case).

I think I have a final decision if a few money-gathering factors fall into place for me. Thank you very much. :) 


Our pleasure. For reference, I can build comfortably down to around $500 (below that, the compromises start to cause me physical pain) for gaming machines, so if your budget is lower, we can make lower-priced builds.

Edit: So distracted by other threads that I forget the most important bit of advice I had for you: Happy gaming!
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May 31, 2013 12:58:31 AM

Jack Revenant said:
Emily Weis said:
That's pretty darn excellent. I believe I got some really good feedback, and boy do I wish I could afford the SSD. This was mostly an idea for whether or not it was possible to manage a build in the constraints that I set myself (though I stated a budget even a bit higher than I would aim for, just in case).

I think I have a final decision if a few money-gathering factors fall into place for me. Thank you very much. :) 


Our pleasure. For reference, I can build comfortably down to around $500 (below that, the compromises start to cause me physical pain) for gaming machines, so if your budget is lower, we can make lower-priced builds.


Oh? Out of curiosity, what would be an example of a lower-priced build? I'm willing to make a few small compromises to get off of this WinXP.
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May 31, 2013 1:05:56 AM

Emily Weis said:
Jack Revenant said:
Emily Weis said:
That's pretty darn excellent. I believe I got some really good feedback, and boy do I wish I could afford the SSD. This was mostly an idea for whether or not it was possible to manage a build in the constraints that I set myself (though I stated a budget even a bit higher than I would aim for, just in case).

I think I have a final decision if a few money-gathering factors fall into place for me. Thank you very much. :) 


Our pleasure. For reference, I can build comfortably down to around $500 (below that, the compromises start to cause me physical pain) for gaming machines, so if your budget is lower, we can make lower-priced builds.


Oh? Out of curiosity, what would be an example of a lower-priced build? I'm willing to make a few small compromises to get off of this WinXP.


There's a lot of room for cuts in that build. You could cut down to a 7870 XT ($20 saved), or a GTX 660 ($90 saved), drop the CPU to a FX 6300 ($60 saved), drop the SSD ($90 saved), or even cut the PSU (though I don't recommend this) to a Corsair Builder 500w ($25 saved), and that's before you start taking serious performance hits (the 7950 to the 660 would be the most noticeable drop, unless the Corsair PSU exploded. There's a reason you don't save on PSUs).
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May 31, 2013 1:16:30 AM

I've messed around a bit and ended up with this:

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: AMD FX-6300 3.5GHz 6-Core Processor ($114.99 @ NCIX US)
Motherboard: MSI 970A-G43 ATX AM3+ Motherboard ($59.99 @ Newegg)
Memory: Crucial Ballistix 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($55.25 @ Newegg)
Storage: Seagate Barracuda 1TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($65.99 @ NCIX US)
Video Card: PowerColor Radeon HD 7870 XT 2GB Video Card ($219.99 @ Newegg)
Case: Logisys CS1202BK (Black) ATX Mid Tower Case ($45.98 @ Newegg)
Power Supply: XFX 550W 80 PLUS Bronze Certified ATX12V / EPS12V Power Supply ($54.99 @ NCIX US)
Optical Drive: Lite-On iHAS124-04 DVD/CD Writer ($14.98 @ Outlet PC)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (OEM) (64-bit) ($89.94 @ Outlet PC)
Total: $722.10
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2013-05-31 04:16 EDT-0400)

Qualms?
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May 31, 2013 1:20:53 AM

Emily Weis said:
I've messed around a bit and ended up with this:

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: AMD FX-6300 3.5GHz 6-Core Processor ($114.99 @ NCIX US)
Motherboard: MSI 970A-G43 ATX AM3+ Motherboard ($59.99 @ Newegg)
Memory: Crucial Ballistix 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($55.25 @ Newegg)
Storage: Seagate Barracuda 1TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($65.99 @ NCIX US)
Video Card: PowerColor Radeon HD 7870 XT 2GB Video Card ($219.99 @ Newegg)
Case: Logisys CS1202BK (Black) ATX Mid Tower Case ($45.98 @ Newegg)
Power Supply: XFX 550W 80 PLUS Bronze Certified ATX12V / EPS12V Power Supply ($54.99 @ NCIX US)
Optical Drive: Lite-On iHAS124-04 DVD/CD Writer ($14.98 @ Outlet PC)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (OEM) (64-bit) ($89.94 @ Outlet PC)
Total: $722.10
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2013-05-31 04:16 EDT-0400)

Qualms?


Viable in all regards (except for the case. Not a fan of the case), but also weaker in almost every area than the present build. You're getting good value for money, but also getting what you pay for. That is, less.

Edit: Also, you want to avoid PowerColor products. They have poor cooling and bad reliability. The Sapphire XT is definitely worth the extra $20.
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