My first home-built system for gaming. $600 goal.

I'm interested in building a new system designed mostly for gaming. I'm currently running with an old HP system with an AMD Athlon 64 3700+ 2.2GHZ with 4GB RAM. Yeah, I know... time to upgrade.

So instead of just buying a new computer, I was looking into building my own for the first time. I'm in no way computer savvy, but I have some novice to intermediate experience with systems to a point where I can struggle my way through a conversation. However, being that this is my first system, I want to make sure I get all the components right and am not getting more (or less) than I need for my purposes.

I mainly play WoW, and currently experience spikes between 5-15 fps during the game. My system heats up pretty fast which affects game play more. I've gone through 3 graphics cards due to over heating.

My goal is to run WoW (and future games like CoD, etc) at max or near max video settings while still achieving near 40+ fps, or enough where the quality of my game-play isn't diminished. I run with with 1680 x 1050 resolution, which is the maximum allowed with my current setup.

In about an hour, I've searched for preliminary parts for the system. Below is a list. Let me know how I did, where I can improve, where I've gone overboard, what I'm missing, and anything else you may think I need to know.

XCLIO A380BK Fully Black - $159.98 (Combo with Power Supply)

Power Supply

GIGABYTE GA-MA790XT-UD4P AM3 DDR3 AMD 790X ATX AMD Motherboard - $125.00 (Excluding $15 Mail-in Rebate)

AMD Phenom II X4 940 Deneb 3.0GHz Quad Core Black Edition - $214.99

Hard Drive
Western Digital Caviar Black WD1001FALS 1TB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - $109.99

Quantitiy:2 (8GB total) - G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) - $119.98 ($59.99 each)

LG Black 22X DVD+R 8X DVD+RW ... with Lightscribe - $22.99

All-in-all the total comes up to be $752.93. I would really like to get that price dropped down to $600.00.

In case you were wondering, I did not forget to include a graphics card. I will be swapping my current graphics card to my new system. It's an nVidia GeForce 7900 GT/GTO 256MB. I would like to upgrade to a 512MB or possibly 1GB, but I'm sure I'll see a vast improvement simply from upgrading the rest of my system while using the same graphics card, and saving that upgrade for some time later down the line.

I also would like to try and keep a quad core processor. I'm unsure if I need the 3.0+GHz speed or if I can drop down to a 2.6 GHz or less without much difference in performance, but I do wish to keep the quad core.

Any help is much appreciated. This is my first home-built system, and I want to get it as close to perfect as I can for my purposes.

Thank you in advance!
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  1. Alright, I have a few suggestions.

    For one, you only need 4gb of ram. 8 gigs is complete overkill so knock off one of the 4gb sets.

    Also, you'll save a fair bit if you go with an amd 3 core processor instead.
    The Phenom II X3 720 2.8GHz has a combo deal with the motherboard you selected, which would save even more.
    Its worth mentioning that almost all current games cannot take advantage of 4 cores.

    Its still a black edition, so very overclockable.
    If you are planning on overclocking, I'd suggest replacing the stock heatsink.
    I don't know what works well with amd processors though.

    To be quite honest, you would probably be a lot happier with the result if you also replaced your video card, since it would be a major bottleneck in the new system, and most games today rely heavily on the gpu.
    A radeon 4850 would be a huge upgrade, and would tear through WoW.

    Also, if you don't really need 1TB of storage, this is a solid 640gb drive with good performance, for $40 less
  2. That AM2 cpu will not work in that AM3 motherboard, the only quad out right now in AM3 is the 810. 8GB of memory is unnecessary, nothing more than a feel good upgrade really. The beastly case and power supply may not be so necessary either. And yes, upgrading everything except the video card will help, but future games will still be a problem.

    You could consider the Phenom II X3, probably the black edition as it is such a good overclocker. 4GB of memory instead of 8. You will not find a 7 series video card now, but ATI's first 40nm card is coming soon, and it is supposed to be the perfect budget card, you could look into that a bit later. With a card like that, you wouldn't need more than a 500 watt psu. So, with that you could shave off about $140. Possibly more with a cheaper case/psu combo. May save enough to get a better video card as well. Truth is, upgrading your video card alone would probably help your games more than upgrading the entire system without the video card.
  3. That is a pretty powerful system for WOW and you can save a bit of money going down a notch such as below

    LG 22X DVD±R DVD Burner Black SATA Model GH22NS30 - OEM
    Item #: N82E16827136152

    XCLIO Coolbox Advanced Fully Black Finish 0.5mm SECC Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - Retail
    Item #: N82E16811103021
    $79.99 -$20.00 Instant
    Cases are subject to your own preference ( look at reviews to see which ones have cooling issues - included the one you wanted but picked a better PSU )

    Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD6400AAKS 640GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - OEM
    Item #: N82E16822136218

    Do you want or need more than 640 gb HDD?

    GIGABYTE GA-MA780G-UD3H AM2+/AM2 AMD 780G HDMI ATX AMD Motherboard - Retail
    Item #: N82E16813128382
    Good overall O'Cing board with decent onboard video

    Antec earthwatts EA500 500W Continuous Power ATX12V v2.0 SLI Certified CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Power Supply - Retail
    Item #: N82E16817371007

    $89.99 -$20.00 Instant
    More than enough power from a very reputable company!

    G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model F2-8500CL5D-4GBPK - Retail
    Item #: N82E16820231166
    -$10.00 Instant
    Good O'cing ram

    AMD Phenom II X4 920 2.8GHz Socket AM2+ 125W Quad-Core Processor Model HDX920XCGIBOX - Retail
    Item #: N82E16819103472
    Return Policy: Processors (CPUs) Return Policy
    $189.99 -$20.00 Instant
    Great performance for the buck (people on newegg have had this @ 3.2ghz with very little tweaking and stock HSF)

    Subtotal: $539.93
    Calculate Shipping
    Zip Code: Shipping: $14.99

    Grand Total: $554.92
    Saves quite a little change there so you can invest $125.00 into a 4850 video card that will easily get you 40+ fps in WOW

    HIS Hightech H485FN512P Radeon HD 4850 512MB 256-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFire Supported Video Card - Retail
    Item #: N82E16814161259

    -$5.00 Instant
    -$9.99 Saving
  4. Thanks for all the replies! Some good information in there.

    What I gather mainly is that I'm overdoing this system by a bit. 8GB of RAM is definitely not needed (and I suppose if there was ever I time I needed more, I could simply just buy more). So I'll stick with the 4GB of RAM for now.

    With regard to the HDD, I figured having more drive space would mean a faster computer. So let's say I have 100GB filled on a 680GB HDD, I'm using about 14% of the space. But on a 1TB HDD, I'm only using 10%, which would mean I'll see slightly faster performance. Am I mistaken? If I am mistaken, then 680GB will be just fine. I only have WoW loaded on my current machine (along with other smaller programs, videos, etc), and I'm using about 45% of my 180GB HDD I currently have.

    As for the processor/motherboard combo, which is better for my purposes?

    GIGABYTE GA-MA790XT-UD4P AM3 DDR3 AMD 790X ATX AMD Motherboard
    AMD Phenom II X3 720 2.8GHz Socket AM3 95W Triple-Core Black Processor Model HDZ720WFGIBOX - Retail


    GIGABYTE GA-MA780G-UD3H AM2+/AM2 AMD 780G HDMI ATX AMD Motherboard
    AMD Phenom II X4 920 2.8GHz Socket AM2+ 125W Quad-Core Processor Model HDX920XCGIBOX

    Combo #1 is $254.98. Combo #2 is $259.98.

    The obvious difference is the triple core vs. the quad core.
    But the combo #1 has DDR3 with triple core and the combo #2 has DDR2 with quad core. From what I've read, at this time there really isn't much of a difference between the DDR2 and DDR3, but that may change, such as it did with DDR vs. DDR2.

    As mentioned above, no game currently demands a quad core processor, but I'm hoping to keep this system for 4-5 years. My current system has lasted me 4 years, so I'm expecting at least the same time from my new system. So at some point down the road in the next 5 years or so, is there a possibility a game or anything (program, videos, whatever) will come around that will utilize the extra speed I'll see from a quad core?

    Which combo would be best? Please explain to me why, because I'm really not sure what all the numbers, etc mean in the descriptions (specifically with the motherboards). :(

    As for the graphics card, I'm going to hold onto my 7900 GT for now. If I find it's not up to the task, I can easily swap it out for something better.

    Thank you again so much for all this information. It's very informative and helpful.
  5. try to use bundle deals should save you a bit
  6. I suppose if you're looking for something futureproof, then a quad core would be the better choice. I've read, however, that the ddr3 setups are a bit more power efficient, and ddr3 ram isnt very expensive any more. If you do really want to go AMD for your processor, you could consider waiting until a faster AM3 quad core arrives.

    4 years in the pc world is a long time. Now I would understand wanting something futureproof, but pc components simply get outdated too quickly. The most important component of a futureproof system however, is the motherboard; that is another reason to consider the AM3 setup. Either combo will get the job done though. This is just something to think about.
  7. Cadetdanny said:
    As for the processor/motherboard combo, which is better for my purposes?

    GIGABYTE GA-MA790XT-UD4P AM3 DDR3 AMD 790X ATX AMD Motherboard
    AMD Phenom II X3 720 2.8GHz Socket AM3 95W Triple-Core Black Processor Model HDZ720WFGIBOX - Retail


    GIGABYTE GA-MA780G-UD3H AM2+/AM2 AMD 780G HDMI ATX AMD Motherboard
    AMD Phenom II X4 920 2.8GHz Socket AM2+ 125W Quad-Core Processor Model HDX920XCGIBOX

    Combo #1 is $254.98. Combo #2 is $259.98.

    I think that the first combo would be better as far as futureproofing goes

    It uses ddr3 as opposed to ddr2

    More importantly, it has the AM3 socket, so if you feel like it, you can upgrade from that 3 core processor in a few years. With the AM2+ socket, you won't have as much room to upgrade.

    If it matters, the newer 3 core processor also uses much less power (95w vs 125w) so it'll run cooler.

    Edit: If you don't see yourself filling up most of the 1TB drive, the 640gb will be a better deal for you. If you're using less than half of that, you probably won't notice any hit to performance. Also, the 640gb drive is quieter.
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