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Advice on Building Gaming PC for $2000?

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Last response: in Systems
September 2, 2008 8:15:57 PM

Hi, I just registered and this is my first post. I have this ridiculous idea that I can actually build my own gaming computer. I've never done it; never seen it done. And, quite frankly, I am an idiot...The extent of my knowledge comes from these forums, wikipedia, and a book I bought at a local bookstore.

Every time I sit down to pick component parts, my head spins. I've read several thread topics similar to this and have gotten a lot of great ideas I think. I have 7 different partial wish list builds on newegg. I still need help. Lots of help. I'm not sure if any of the builds I've created or read about can meet my priorities and I'm worried about compatability issues and, well, the "great unkown."

I have $2000.00 to spend on component parts and a new monitor. I would like to build a gaming computer that is powerful enough to play all current games but can be upgraded in a year or two if necessary. I'd like a 22" monitor at least because this is what impresses my wife.

Oh, and because I'm married, I can't screw this up. If I spend this amount of money and things go poorly, I'll never have #@!$% again...well at least for the foreseeable future. I fear this, and can't bring myself to pull the trigger. I'm hoping if I start my own topic, I'll get enough good advice to give me a little courage.

So, my questions are: Am I in over my head? Are there any common traps or pitfalls I should be aware about? Does anyone have ideas on a suggested build?

More about : advice building gaming 2000

September 2, 2008 8:38:00 PM

First: Congrats on deciding to build! It's a great experience and easier than you think.
Basically, it's very hard to mess things up unless you force something into a slot. For 2k, you can build a very high end gaming rig and get a large monitor (you can probably get something bigger than a 22") back in 2006 when i built my rig, I spent about 1.2k on my desktop pc alone, and that bought me some very good parts.
now, prices on hardware are dropping by the month and technology is still quite decent and managable after a few years under your desk.

Now that the builders here have a price tag on your rig, you need to tell us more if you want us to help you setup a system. We need to know what your purpose for it is, what case you like, and any software you have to buy.
At the moment with that budget, going with an AMD based system would be sorta pointless since the intel hardware is still very strong. So right now we know (more than likely) it'll be an Intel based Quad. Amd's performance in comparison to intel isn't as good as it was 3+ years ago :( 

Anyways, let us know what your other decisions are and the forum members will be glad to help ::) 

September 2, 2008 8:42:00 PM

I was thinking about your situation and forgot to add that you also need to mention where you will be planning to buy the parts. Personally, if you live in the usa, i'd recommend i've never tried Fry's or Tigerdirect since their menus are pretty much junk, but sometimes they have better deals than newegg.

Related resources
a b 4 Gaming
September 2, 2008 9:00:35 PM

Wow, that's a funny post.

I would recommend finding a friend or coworker who has built PCs before and convincing him/her to watch as you build.

Most importantly, handle parts by the edges, don't touch the integrated circuits. Discharge static electricity first by touching something metallic and big.

There are some good tutorials on the Web. Google will find them for you if you ask nicely. Here's an example:

I'm assuming a few things here. Please correct me if I got some wrong:
1. you live in the USA (i.e. you can order parts from Newegg)
2. you are willing to get a 24" monitor because the more impressed the wife is the better life is
3. you play shooting games like CoD4 or Crysis, among other things, so good fps are necessary
4. you don't have any strong preference between ATI/nVidia or Asus/Gigabyte or AMD/Intel
5. You're not really that interested in learning about memory timings and latencies and voltages and BIOS settings and stability tests and temperature monitoring and overclocking. Maybe next year :) 

If all that is correct, I'd start with something like this: Samsung 245BW, 1920x1200, $418 (after rebate and shipping) Q9550, $325, includes a cooler. You don't need a special after-market cooler since you won't overclock 2x2GB DDR-800 OCZ Reaper 4-4-4-15, $76 GA-X48-DS4, $235 Visiontek HD 4870, $285 Corsair 750TX, $110, $85 Vista Home Premium 64-bit OEM, $110

Total $1644. Add something for a DVD burner, mouse, keyboard, speakers. Add a second HD 4870 if there's enough left in the budget, or add it later.

BTW, I don't believe that you're an idiot. First, you have somehow managed to earn $2000 more than needed to pay the bills. Second, you found this forum. Third, you convinced somebody to marry you. I think there's hope for you still. Just don't rush it, read that book first, OK?

Edit: oops, I forgot to add a case to the list. RC-690, $104

and a burner: SH-S223F$32
September 2, 2008 9:15:06 PM

don't sweat it man, you came to the right place

only if i was as smart as you when i made my first build... i ended up with two 2900xt's in crossfire... >=[

anywhooo... you every played with legos? building a computer is like playing with legos

except with more cuts. and screws.

aevm's build is NOICE... especially if you won't OC..and you forgot the harddrive


if i was you, maybe you could or should wait for the 4870 1gb edition if its slated for release soon... might bring up your fps on that monitor aevm picked
September 2, 2008 9:18:55 PM

very good recommendations above. only things i would add or change:

1. ram - i would get stock ram at 1.8v. the above ram the voltage was increased to drop the cl. not a big deal if you aren't going to touch it but you are paying for that. mushkin has cl 5 5-4-4-12 for $69 after rebate:

2. if you have enough left over i would recommend 4870x2 before 2x4870. performance is better, around same price, and only takes one spot so you could add another later if you wanted. at 24" resolution you probably won't need to and x2 will allow you to really pimp the settings on that monitor. (if no room that is cool 4870 will still work very good). however that psu is plenty for 2x hd4870 or 1 x 4870x2 but if at a later date you added another x2 you would probably want 1000w or so.

all of this is based on same assumptions as above.
September 2, 2008 9:22:08 PM

oops nvm you didn't, YOU PUT $85 INSTEAD OF HARDDRIVE FOOL

kind of a pity if you bought some high end equipment like that and didn't learn how to OC... you can do some magical things with a good heatsink dbrinker
September 2, 2008 11:47:49 PM

Thanks for the words of encouragement and the thoughtful responses. I appreciate not being laughed at. I knew I came to right place. If I didn't find Tom's, I probably would have purchased another overpriced, underperforming computer from the Company With The Four Letter Name.

Anyway, here's some additional information in response to some questions. The primary purpose of this computer will be for gaming; including online gaming…though my wife thinks it'll be for internet shopping, downloading music, and for sending e cards and e vites to all her friends. We currently have a dsl connection through an Ethernet cable. We also do a lot of work at home and use Microsoft Word a lot. Oh, and we'll also be transferring a billion vacation photos from our digital camera.

I'd like to get everything at Newegg because I received a $100 gift certificate for Christmas last year (which I haven't seen since the day after Christmas but I'm sure it's around here somewhere.) Also, I do live in the U.S.; I am willing to splurge for a 24" monitor because size does matter (unfortunately); CoD4 and good FPS is a priority; I don't have a strong preference between ATI/nVidia or Asus/Gigabyte or AMD/Intel; and while I am interested in learning about memory timings and latencies and voltages and BIOS settings and stability tests and temperature monitoring and overclocking, I'm waiting for the movie to come out. : ) Actually, I would like to learn how to overclock but I'm just taking baby steps right now.

Of all the cases I've reviewed I liked this one the best---Antec Twelve Hundred Black ATX Full Tower Computer Case ($179.99)

Several of the reviews said it was "big" and many others said it was "easy" to install component parts. I figured those were important qualities for me. The case recommended by aevm looks just as good and is a lot cheaper though.

I really appreciate everyone's recommendations. I'm putting together a build based on them and will post it if noone minds. Any other suggestions are welcome, that's for certain.
September 3, 2008 12:39:17 AM

yes post your components once you decide on them. the antec 1200 is an awesom case and has a load of fans so keeps the inside pretty cool but it is expensive. compared to AEVM's recommendation. That rec and the antec 900 are two very good alternatives if the 1200 doesn't fit in your price range.

post your actual list and then we can see if any tweaking is necessary but it sounds like you are on the right track.

a b 4 Gaming
September 3, 2008 1:05:08 AM

bdollar said:

2. if you have enough left over i would recommend 4870x2 before 2x4870. performance is better, around same price, and only takes one spot so you could add another later if you wanted. at 24" resolution you probably won't need to and x2 will allow you to really pimp the settings on that monitor. (if no room that is cool 4870 will still work very good). however that psu is plenty for 2x hd4870 or 1 x 4870x2 but if at a later date you added another x2 you would probably want 1000w or so.

Excellent point. For a 24" monitor, an HD 4870X2 (2GB RAM) will in fact be a little better than two HD 4870 512MB cards. It also allows you to get a cheaper motherboard (say, Asus P5Q Pro or GA-EP45-DS3R), which saves almost $100 compared to an X48 like GA-X48-DS4. With two HD 4870 you need an X48 motherboard. They would work on a P45 (say, P5Q Pro), but not at their best. In total, the price for video+MB in both scenarios is close. That is, HD 4870X2 + P5Q Pro = around $700, while 2*HD 4870 + GA-X48-DS4 is almost 800. The only drawback with the X2 is that you have to pay for all of it up front - you can't just add the second half later.

If you're going for HD 4870X2 + HD 4870 or HD 4870X2 + HD 4870X2, then the motherboard must be an X48 to avoid bottlenecks. Also, the PSUs for this sort of thing are awfully expensive IMO - something around $300. (Corsair 1000HX, Toughpower 1000W, Enermax Galaxy 1000W, etc.). It's doable, but I think your wife would not be pleased.

September 3, 2008 1:38:24 AM

Okay, here's what I have so far. The build is based on AEVM's and bdollar's recommendations. I went with the Acer 24" monitor because it was cheaper and had good reviews. I went with the 4870 X2 because of bdollar's comments and I had a little extra $ to play with.

Total$ for this build: $2,110.89, $2,030.89 after mail in rebates, right at my cap!

Will this rig run hot? Any other thoughts?

Monitor ($359.99): Acer X243Wbd Black 24" 5ms Widescreen LCD Monitor

Processor ($324.99): Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550 Yorkfield 2.83GHz LGA 775 95W Quad-Core

RAM ($95.99): OCZ Reaper HPC Edition 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400)

Motherboard ($224.99): GIGABYTE GA-X48-DS4 LGA 775 Intel X48 ATX Intel

PSU ($129.99): CORSAIR CMPSU-750TX 750W ATX12V / EPS12V SLI Ready CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Power Supply

HD ($84.99): Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD6400AAKS 640GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - OEM

OS ($109.99): Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 64-bit English for System Builders 1pk DSP OEI DVD - OEM

Case ($84.99): COOLER MASTER RC-690-KKN1-GP Black SECC/ ABS ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - Retail

Video Card ($559.99): ASUS EAH4870X2/HTDI/2G Radeon HD 4870 X2 2GB 512-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFire Supported Video Card - Retail

Burner ($24.99): SAMSUNG 22X DVD Burner Black SATA Model SH-S223F - OEM

Speaker ($109.99): Logitech G51 155 watts RMS 5.1 Surround Sound Speakers - Retail
September 3, 2008 3:16:27 AM

Okay, your build looks very good, however if you plan on using that rig, you'll need a keyboard and mouse.

Another thing to consider is dropping the motherboard you have. it's veeery nice, however I think it's a bit overpriced for what you're trying to get out of this rig. I do not have a good reccomendation at the moment, but I think something with a cheaper price tag is a better option. I would something else from gigabyte or asus.

Other than those two things, it looks pretty good!

Good luck!

September 3, 2008 3:19:15 AM

Unless you're gonna add another 4870x2 then get a P5Q pro motherboard or something similar.

If you ARE going to add another graphics card then you'll need a bigger PSU.
September 3, 2008 3:34:29 AM

ok you need to make a decision. you have a mobo that allows for another gpu at full x16/x16 but a power supply that can't handle it. you are at the top of your budget so getting a bigger power supply doesn't seem like really an option right now. so you have two choices:

1. get a p45 mobo and save money right now ($80 or so saved with P5Q). this will last you quite awhile especially at 24" monitor but don't plan to add another gpu.

2. keep your current set up but realize that when you are ready to add another gpu you will also have a better power supply. and at that point that you are ready to do that it would have to be soon enough in the future that a newer better single gpu (which would run on your power supply) isn't better than adding a second gpu and getting more power.

not sure if that made any sense. but basically it seems to me this setup should last you awhile. and if/when you do need more gpu power there is probably going to be something better out there that won't cost more than what it would cost you to get another 4870x2 and a 1000w power supply. because that newer single gpu will run on 750w.

so my .02 is to get the p45 board, save some money, will put you under budget. your system will rock. and when the 4870x2 isn't enough get a better card that is out there and it will be cheaper then another x2 + expensive psu. also keep in mind the p45 can do nvidia or ati so you upgrade to the best card available not the best brand specific card.

your ram. it is lower cl (4 vs 5). but the reason it is lower is because the voltage was increased from the standard 1.8v to 2.1. so basically they overclocked you ram. it isn't any better than standard ram and isn't going to get you a noticeable difference. but that is a good deal on it. you could save $8 by going with the Mushkin (very good ram as well) 1.8v which is $69 after rebate but that isn't a ton of savings so your call:

ok last thing because i know you are trying to keep $ down. Do you need 5.1 surround? are you doing movies and stuff on this as well? You could save money by getting a good 2.1 set. but again, your call. that will be fine and logitech makes good speaks but if you are trying to save a little that is one way to do it. could even 2.1 it for now for cheaper so the build is less and then for christmas or birthday or something spend some good $ on the very good logitech z-550 which at $233 is a steal. over 500watts of power and just awesome.
September 3, 2008 6:30:09 AM

Thanks for the terrific help. Based on the advice, I decided to go with the following instead of what I had:

Keyboard ($24.99): Logitech 920-000021 Black USB Standard Access Keyboard 600 - Retail

Mouse ($35.99): Logitech MX518 2-Tone 8 Buttons 1 x Wheel USB + PS/2 Wired Optical Gaming-Grade Mouse - Retail

RAM ($88.99): mushkin 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model 996587 - Retail

Speakers ($22.99): Logitech LS21 7 watts RMS 2.1 Stereo Speaker System - Retail
Model #:980-000058
Item #:N82E16836121019

Motherboard ($139.99): ASUS P5Q Pro LGA 775 Intel P45 ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail

I went with the P45 in order to stay under budget and will just upgrade the video card when I need to.

These changes and additions put me at budget and bring the total price to $ $1,992.87 ($1,952.87 with mail in rebates)!

My only question is whether I should buy any additional fans or coolers. I'd hate to fry this rig and would rather err on the safe side. Thanks again, all.
September 3, 2008 12:10:21 PM

You are unlikely to fry it. The GPU should exhaust out the back of the case. The CPU will be warm, but not horrific.

You could add some extra fans. Try for some good guidance.

Otherwise looks like a nice build. I agree with the P45 choice and also the drop to 2.1 speakers - 5.1 is annoying because you have the little additional ones on stands and are forever knocking them over.

September 3, 2008 1:42:49 PM

with the 3 fans in the case and the gpu exhausting out the back you should be good. but if you want to safe and give yourself the opportunity to overclock in the future then get this:

it is about the best value cpu cooler you can find. works great and isn't too expensive. but if you do get it i highly recommend the $7 retention bracket which makes it much much easier to install vs. push pins.

That would put you slightly over 2k prior to rebates and then just under after rebates. :) 

Your build is looking awesome. think you will be very happy.
a b 4 Gaming
September 3, 2008 1:56:52 PM

Awesome build indeed :) 

I wouldn't worry about extra fans yet. Download GPU-Z and CoreTemp and maybe other programs like that and see what kind of temperatures you get first.

If you do decide to add more fans, Scythe SFF21E or SFF21F would be good choices. (SFF21F moves more air than SFF21E but makes more noise.) The RC-690 comes with 3 fans and lets you add 4 more. OK, only 3 more with the Xigmatek HDT-S1283, but that's still plenty. You don't have to add all the possible fans, of course.
September 3, 2008 6:52:06 PM

if you do get an afterstock heatsink, I would recommend the xigmatek s-128. I have it and you can include it's cooling power as a case fan since it's very good. At least in my case, I've got it shooting air off the cpu and other components right to another 120mm fan in the back. So it basically dropped my case temps about 5C regardless of what i'm using for a computer load.

But, you can always get that and more case fans later (I did) cuz your system won't overheat unless something's hooked up wrong.
Other than that, your system looks very solid.

Good luck!
September 4, 2008 6:42:17 PM

okay i am alos going for the same budget computer but i recommend getting experience by salvaging parts first just so you know your way around the parts a little better.

this is the same list i am making for myself with links. i highly recommend if u want i can email it to you the full excel spread sheet.

Part Price Link
Case: XCLIO Windtunnel Fully Black Finish 1.0 mm SECC Chassis ATX Full Tower Computer Case $100
Motherboard: ASUS MAXIMUS EXTREME LGA 775 Intel X38 ATX Intel Motherboard $350
CPU: Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550 Yorkfield 2.83GHz 12MB L2 Cache LGA 775 95W Quad-Core Processor $330
RAM: OCZ Reaper HPC 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory $170
GPU: HIS Hightech H487F512P Radeon HD 4870 512MB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFire Supported Video Card $290
Sound: Included $0
Power: ABS Tagan BZ Series BZ700 700W ATX12V / EPS12V SLI Ready CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Modular Active PFC Patent Piperock Modular Power Supply $150
HD: Western Digital Caviar Black WD7501AALS 750GB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive $140
CD/DVD: ASUS Black 20X DVD+R 8X DVD+RW 8X DVD+R DL 20X DVD-R 6X DVD-RW 14X DVD-RAM 16X DVD-ROM 48X CD-R 32X CD-RW 48X CD-ROM 2MB Cache SATA 20X DVD±R DVD Burner with LightScribe $40
Monitor: LG L226WTQ-BF Black 22" 2ms GTG Widescreen LCD Monitor 300 cd/m2 3000:1 DCR with HDCP Support $260

Total: $1,830

sorry if its jumbled up i copied and pasted off a excel spreadsheet. its a very good build in my opinion because it is future proof. you might want to add a better heatsink and fan for your cpu to over clock it so it lasts longer. remember the beauty of pc's is you dont throw it away when its junk you just put in new parts. i already have ddr3 in there so that shuld last u some time. the mobo handles 8 gigs of it so u are set for id say 5 yrs and up. as for the processor it handles a variety of chips so you can get the quad cores of the future. also it is sli capable and the video card shuld blast thru todays games with ease using GDDR5 ram. have fun!
a b 4 Gaming
September 4, 2008 7:13:25 PM

LOL at the $350 MB + $330 CPU + $290 video card. If you're a gamer you're MUCH better off with a $140 P5Q Pro + $180 Q6600 + $600 HD 4870X2, and it's cheaper too. If you're not a gamer why the heck would you spend $290 on a video card, when a $60 HD 3650 is enough?
September 4, 2008 7:55:58 PM

+1 to lol. :)  :)  no offense but those combinations just don't seem to go so well. that is a lot of money spent on mobo and cpu. 1 4870x2 performs better than 2 x 4870 which i assume you got the x48 to add another. gpu is what really drives gaming more than anything else.

also one of the more expensive x48 boards so that you could spend $170 on ddr3 ram which won't improve your performance either.

you spent $140 on your hard drive. $85 640gb wd is going to perform about as well and you could raid0 two of them for only $30 more than what you spent and have 1.28tb of space.

power supply is $150. Corsair much better brand has 750w for I think around $120. so more power, better brand and cheaper.

as far as $1830 builds I would say that isn't a very good one. sorry.
September 4, 2008 9:14:36 PM

aevm said:
LOL at the $350 MB + $330 CPU + $290 video card. If you're a gamer you're MUCH better off with a $140 P5Q Pro + $180 Q6600 + $600 HD 4870X2, and it's cheaper too. If you're not a gamer why the heck would you spend $290 on a video card, when a $60 HD 3650 is enough?

+1 to that. Usually for gaming, the gpu should be the most expensive part since the cpu doesn't matter as much as the gpu. you can always upgrade either one later on when you have more money.