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Advice/Recommendations for my first PC build? Gaming spec for £1000

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June 25, 2010 6:54:24 PM

Hey everyone,

I'm planning to build a PC for the first time on my birthday, just under two months away. I've never actually built a PC from scratch; just replaced/upgraded a few components from the prebuilt systems I've always purchased. I'd like to put together a fairly powerful gaming system with quality components that I can purchase with a budget of around £1000-£1100; thought I'd go pretty high end with my first build, seeing how you always remember your first...

Since this is my first build, I'm not 100% confident with the the choices I've made so far and the compatibility of the various parts. I've tried to get up to date with reviews, comparisons and the latest tech on various sites but there's just too much to try and take in within a short period of time, resulting in headaches... :pt1cable: 

After reading around, however, I've put together a list going by what I think would benefit me with the intended purpose of the build, as well as certain parts that seem to be most recommended to fellow first time builders.

I'd like the build to be fairly future proof though, hopefully lasting a few years, allowing me to upgrade main components and attempt to overclock when I'm a bit more clued up on the process.

I already have a retail copy of Windows 7 Home Premium and speakers for the new build so no need for those. I do need to purchase a new monitor (want to upgrade my current 20" to a 24") as well as a new keyboard, mouse and ODD but I'll buy these separately.

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: Anytime between now and mid August 2010
BUDGET RANGE: ~£1000 (An extra £100 is available if needed, but obviously I'd prefer to save money rather than spend more)
SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: Gaming, watching movies (Blu-ray), surfing the internet, Office 2010. Basically this'll be my main, everyday system.
PARTS NOT REQUIRED: Keyboard, mouse, monitor, speakers, OS, ODD
PREFERRED WEBSITES FOR PARTS: Ebuyer, SCAN, Amazon UK, Aria PC
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: England, UK
PARTS PREFERENCES: An Intel i5 build, hopefully. I'd like a 5870 as this appears to be the best single GPU I can fit into the budget without skimping on other components. The best card I've ever had, and currently have, is an ATI 3650 (:D ), which can hardly be described as a gaming card, so I'm quite looking forward to a high end graphics solution.
OVERCLOCKING: Not yet but definitely in the future when I'm confident in doing so as it's something I'd like to learn about. I would however like to purchase a quality cooler now so I'm ready for when I do attempt to overclock.
SLI OR CROSSFIRE: Maybe, if possible and actually worth it over purchasing a single future gen card.
MONITOR RESOLUTION: 1920x1080, 1920x1200 (I'd like to hook up to a 24" monitor as well as a HDTV)
ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: I want to make the most of this building experience by learning as much as I can along the way.

So, here's what my proposed build is looking like at the moment:

- Intel Core i5 750 2.66GHz Socket LGA1156 8MB L3 Cache Retail Boxed Processor - £163.68

- Corsair 750W TX PSU - 120mm Fan, 80+% Efficiency, Single +12V Rail - £99.96

- Samsung HD103SJ Spinpoint F3 1TB Hard Drive SATAII 7200rpm 32MB Cache - OEM - £55.03

- Arctic Silver 5 High-Density Polysynthetic Silver Thermal Compound Thermal paste 3.5gram - £5.69

---------- MOTHERBOARD ----------
- ASUS P7P55D-E PRO iP55 Socket 1156 8 Channel Audio USB3 ATX Motherboard - £175.89
OR
- MSI P55-GD65, Intel P55 Express, S1156, PCI-E 2.0(x16), DDR3 1600/2000/2133, SATA 3Gb/s RAID, ATX - £124.02

---------- RAM ----------
- G-Skill 4GB (2x2GB) DDR3 1600MHz/PC3-12800 Ripjaw Memory Kit CL7(7-8-7-24) 1.65V - £100.90
OR
- Crucial 4GB (2x2GB) DDR3 1333MHz/PC3-10600 Ballistix Memory Kit CL7 (7-7-7-24) 1.65V - £87.32
OR
- G.Skill ECO OC 4GB (2x2GB) DDR3 PC3-12800C8 1600MHz - CAS 8-8-8-24 Timings, 1.30-1.60v - £105.74
OR
- Crucial 4GB kit (2GBx2), Ballistix Tracer 240-pin DIMM (with LEDs), DDR3 PC3-12800 8-8-8-24 memory module - £125.71

---------- GPU ----------
- XFX HD 5870 1GB DDR5 Dual DVI HDMI Display Port Out PCI-E Graphics Card - £323.00
OR
- Sapphire HD 5870 1GB GDDR5 Dual DVI HDMI Display Port PCI-E Graphics Card - £319.98

---------- CASE ----------
- Fractal Design Titanium Grey Define R2 Case - £82.18
OR
- Coolermaster CM690 II Advanced Mid Tower Case - £78.69
OR
- Coolermaster HAF 922 Mid Tower Case - No PSU - £80.86
OR
- Coolermaster HAF 932 Full Tower Case - High Air Flow Design - No PSU - £103.66

---------- COOLER ----------
- Coolermaster Hyper 212 Plus, 4 Heat Pipes - £19.95
OR
- Titan Fenrir Special Edition TTC-NK85TZ/CS 120mm PWM Fan "HDT" CPU Cooler 775/1156/1366/K8/AM2/AM3 - £36.30
OR
- Titan Fenrir V2 TTC-NK85TZ 120mm PWM 17dBA+ "HDT" CPU Cooler - £29.95

- Extra case fans once I've decided on a case

QUESTIONS:

1. To confirm, are all parts I've chosen for this build fully compatible with each other?

2. Is there anything I can change in this build to lower the total cost, whilst not losing any important funtionality, features or speed provided by the above parts? I realise I've chosen some pretty high end components and have probably gone overboard on some that are likely not going to give me any real beneifts over cheaper (and more sensible) alternatives.

3. I do like the look of the Fractal R2 but would it be better to go for the HAF 932 full tower for increased internal space and better airflow, taking into account potential future upgrades? Maybe I could save around £20 and go for the HAF 922 as this also seems to be quite spacious for a mid tower, going by user reviews. This guy has a 5870 CrossFire setup in a Fractal R2 so maybe there won't be an issue with cooling, provided I install extra case fans: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Diyy3H_UdG0

4. Is the CM Hyper 212 Plus good enough for potential overclocking? I've come across someone mention that it's best to avoid this cooler if overclocking higher than around 3.5GHz although I don't know how much truth there is in that statement. Would it be wise to fork out the extra for the Titan Fenrir, or will the 212 suffice?

5. I've come across posts where a number people have been experiencing cold boot problems with G-SKill memory and ASUS motherboards, as seen here:
http://gskill.us/forum/showthread.php?t=4059 / http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y0AXU4kOVj0
Is it best to avoid G-Skill memory with the P7P55D-E PRO motherboard altogether?

6. I could live without USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gbps as I don't think I have a real need for them, to be honest. In that case, will the MSI P55-GD65 be the most sensible choice, especially as it'll save me around £50? The OC Genie feature of this motherboard seems great for someone like me with very basic knowledge.

7. From what I understand, I can CrossFire a 5870 setup with these two motherboards so if I did install another 5870 in the future or upgrade to a high end next gen card, as well as overclock the i5, would the 750W TX still be considered a smart buy or would 850W be more appropriate?

8. Are there any significant advantages of going for the XFX card over the Sapphire, or vice versa?

This is just a build I've put together with limited knowledge on building a PC, although I'm trying to build on this by reading more. Any help or advice from you guys, however, would be nice and greatly appreciated. :) 
a b 4 Gaming
June 25, 2010 8:49:38 PM

Nice choices!

Few points to consider:

1. Take a look at the Corsair HX-750 Modular PSU - this will give you better cable management.
2. The RAM you selected has tall heat spreders. Might interfere with the push fan on the CM Hyper 21 which is a great cooler for OC.
3. The HAF 932 will provide lots of room for plenty of air flow. Good choice.
4. I have heard that a high performance video card will work well, negating the marginal benefits of Crossfire/SLI

And last but not least, I commend you on your decision to build. Great learning experience, and you are absolutely right on remembering one's first -----

Good luck!
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June 25, 2010 11:04:29 PM

Hi Ubrales!

Thanks for replying.

1. I've had a look at prices for the HX-750; only around £12 more than the TX on Amazon. I thought it'd cost quite a bit more than that but I'm happy to pay that extra amount for a modular PSU.
2. Ah, I don't know much about heat spreaders and their ability to interfere with fans on coolers. Is there anything that can be done to combat this other than choose different RAM?
3. Yeah, I was thinking this would be a good case to go for as it seems to have a rep for how well it handles airflow. The HAF 922, although being a mid tower, is also being reviewed as a pretty spacious case; almost as spacious as a full tower case according to a user review on Ebuyer. Would it be okay to go with the HAF 922 over the 932 as it'll save me £20-£25?
4. Oh okay - I was thinking maybe sometime in the future when the 5870 needs upgrading, I could just add another 5870 rather than fork out for a brand new card to improve performance. Would a single high end, next gen card outperform two high end cards in Crossfire/SLI from current gen?

Thanks for the encouragement. :)  I've wanted to build my own for some time now but the lack of finances and support hasn't helped. I've purchased a couple of recently revised books explaining how to put everything together so I should be sorted in that area. I see why they say the hardest part is choosing what to buy! :D 
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a b 4 Gaming
June 26, 2010 5:02:31 AM

Stay with the RAM you have chosen - - G-Skill 4GB (2x2GB) DDR3 1600MHz/PC3-12800 Ripjaw Memory Kit CL7(7-8-7-24) 1.65V - £100.90 - good choice.

Regarding the possible clearance problem - make some measurements of your motherboard, RAM slots, and cooler, and check for clearance. About 1.0 mm may have to be cut in a milling machine in order to provide the necessary clearance. This is totally dependent on the motherboard dimensions. Milling is a task for a machinist, and I am not suggesting this.

From the Hyper 212 cooler specs, I have calculated a requirement of 66 mm from the centerline of the CPU to the edge of the RAM sticks.

One option to consider is to install only the "pull" fan (not push-pull), or consider a North-South cooler installation - this will provide enuf clearance.

Only actual measurements will confirm this. PM me if you need further info.
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a b 4 Gaming
June 26, 2010 5:46:42 AM

The Antec Truepower New 750 will be around the same price as the 750TX is as high quality as the HX and modular and as efficient. And yes 750W is plenty for two 5870s.

The HAF 922 and 932 are virtually identical in size I see no good reason to get the 932 over the 922.

It is entirely possible that when a single 5870 is not powerful enough for you that a single high graphics card would beat two of them in crossfire. Two of them in crossfire might be perfectly adequate for you however, so you will have to make the call at that time.

The Hyper 212 Plus is a good cooler, and will be able to deal with a 3.5Ghz+ OC, but it is not one of my favourite coolers as it is not the best at being quiet compared to other coolers that you can get for not too much more. For 1156 the Thermalright MUX-120 will get similiar temps and be quieter and possibly even have less clearance issues. Check it out in the 1156 cooler roundup: http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/lga-1156-heatsink,review-...

If you don't want to worry about RAM clearance by buying 'low-profile' RAM then there's nothing wrong with getting the Crucial £87 set. But with the MUX-120 I sincerely doubt you would need to worry.

8. No.
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June 26, 2010 1:42:24 PM

Thanks for the advice Ubrales and Silvune, much appreciated.

I've updated the build according to your recommendations:

- Intel Core i5 750 2.66GHz Socket LGA1156 8MB L3 Cache Retail Boxed Processor - £163.68

- Corsair CMPSU-750HXUK Power Supply - £112.38

- Coolermaster HAF 922 Mid Tower Case - No PSU - £80.86

- Thermalright MUX-120 i5 (Socket 1156) inc 4x6mm Heatpipe, 48 Alum Fins cooled via X-Silent 120mm Fan - £33.24

- 120mm Scythe Gentle Typhoon 1450 rpm Cooling Fan x 2 - £23.24

- XFX HD 5870 1GB DDR5 Dual DVI HDMI Display Port Out PCI-E Graphics Card - £323.00

- Samsung HD103SJ Spinpoint F3 1TB Hard Drive SATAII 7200rpm 32MB Cache - OEM - £49.99

- Arctic Silver 5 High-Density Polysynthetic Silver Thermal Compound Thermal paste 3.5gram - £5.69

Which motherboard and RAM would you guys recommend to complete this build? The ASUS P7P55D-E PRO is pretty expensive and I don't think I'd need everything the motherboard offers over a cheaper one. Maybe the ASUS P7P55D PRO or MSI P55-GD65? Regarding the RAM - if I do stick with G-Skill, is the compatibilty issue with G-Skill memory and the ASUS motherboard of any concern?

The Scythe Gentle Typhoon cooling fans are to attach to the Thermalright MUX-120 as they seem to be one of, if not the best 120mm cooling fans. I also couldn't find another X-Silent 120mm fan sold in the UK so thought it may a good idea to just go with two Scythe Gentle Typhoons. Is this a good decision or could I purchase just one Typhoon fan and combine the two without any consequences?

Apologies for the newbish nature of these questions...
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a b 4 Gaming
June 26, 2010 3:16:14 PM

The ASUS P7P55D PRO is a great board! As far as compatible memory, the RAM you have selected is DDR3 (240-pin) and the board accepts DDR3 (240-pin) - no problem. This board has one (not two) retaining tab for the RAM, and therefore during RAM insertion, after you hear one click, make sure that the other end is also firmly seated.

Thoroughly familiarize yourself with "New Computer Build" guides in this site, and also checkout some videos on Youtube. This will give you all the confidence you need (I was in your shoes in October 2009, and by December 2009 I had my new i7 computer - by January 2010, I was overclocking - now 2.66GHz i7-920 CPU is running at 3.82GHz - very stable, low temps)

This board aids overclocking. Do OC in steps AFTER you have thoroughly read the fine guides here.

The cooler fan/fans are generally installed in "push" or "push-pull" configuration.
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June 26, 2010 5:04:14 PM

Hey Ubrales,

Regarding the compatible memory - I realise the RAM type (DDR3, 240-pin) is compatible with the P7P55D PRO; the thing that's made me mention compatibilty are some issues documented by owners, specifically of G-Skill branded memory, and certain motherboards including ASUS. Here are some examples: http://gskill.us/forum/showthread.php?t=4059 / http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y0AXU4kOVj0

To set up a typical push-pull config, I believe I'd need two fans on the heatsink; one on each side. This made me question if two 120mm fans of different makes would be safe to use or if they had to be the same, e.g. two Scythe Gentle Typhoons or two X-Silent fans.

I think I'm going to concentrate purely on putting the parts together, test everything is running fine, have a break and just enjoy the build before I venture into overclocking, lol. I will read a lot before I attempt to though, since I'm currently nowhere near that level.

Thanks for all your help today. ;) 
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a b 4 Gaming
June 26, 2010 8:46:31 PM

nandz, I looked at both the links - this is scary! On a new build, you certainly don't want these types of problems that will leave a bitter taste in your mouth. Reading this, I would not go with this board with this RAM combination.

If you want to stay with the P55 chipset, then take a look at these boards: http://www.evga.com/products/prodlist.asp?switch=5

I started out with an EVGA X58 board - 132-BL-E758-A1 - and Corsair Dominator DDR3 RAM - CMD12GX3M6A1600C8. The system ran flawlessly. Then after 2 months I decided to upgrade the motherboard under EVGA's 90-day Step-up program.

Under the Step-up program, I received EVGA's X58 Classified board - 141-BL-E760-A1 - the system is running flawlessly. http://www.evga.com/products/prodlist.asp?switch=5

In light of what you stated via the 2 links, maybe it's time to re-think your board/RAM combination. Definitely do not start out with a bag full of problems.

Now coming to the push-pull fans - they do not have to be the same make or model. But make sure that the Pull fan has 3% to 6% more CFM than the push fan at the same RPMs.
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a b 4 Gaming
June 26, 2010 9:11:01 PM

Yea the MSI P55-GD65 is a solid board, so if you don't want to change the memory, then change to that no problem.

Yea if one of the fans is going to be faster/have more airflow then it should be the one pushing air away from the heatsink.
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