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Evaluate Core i7 build for college - case and cooling important

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July 28, 2009 7:49:23 AM

Okay, after doing research and getting the opinions of other college students, I think I've tentatively decided to get a $1000 - $1300 desktop in conjunction with a $600 - $800 laptop for the same cost as a laptop fitting my initial budget of $2000 for a single computer. While I have a good idea which laptop I will be getting (Lenovo R500, which is on sale and in that range), I have less idea about the desktop. I've put together a prospective system centered around a Core i7 processor, one which will ideally play upcoming games easily (OFP2/BF3/CnC4/MW2 are the only ones I'm interested in), and last three or four years with comfortable performance for casual gaming and other typical uses. The only catch is that I'll need to take it home for at least one summer. As I live in Oregon and my college is in Connecticut, transporting it is a bit more difficult than throwing it in the back of a car and taking it home. I'll address this concern below when elaborating on my case selection.

The parts are as follows:

Gigabyte GA-EX58 UD3R
Intel Core i7 920
3GB Patriot DDR3 1066 tri-channel
Evga GTX 260 Core 216
Seasonic S12 SS-550HT
Samsung SpinPoint F1 500GB
Samsung DVD Burner
ThermalTake Tsunami
Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit (with Windows 7 upgrade coupon)
Asus VK246H

The monitor was appealing for the speakers, although I'm sure I'll use headphones as well. I do not need to include a key board and mouse in the total cost; at any rate, I know which ones I'll get (MX518/G5 and a random, cheap, USB keyboard).

At the moment, the system is $1370 including shipping, the monitor, and Vista, and before any rebates. I might be able to get Vista for cheap through my college, and the rebates total $60. In other words, it is perched near the top of my budget.

My comments and questions about certain parts are below. I did not include them as parentheticals next to the part for visual ease - that is, so you could easily discern what parts I chose for the build.

Motherboard: Very open to suggestions here. I chose the Gigabyte because I had a good experience building with the GA-P35 DSR in my Core 2 Duo build in September 2007, and it was one of the cheapest models in a motherboard market segment which is annoyingly expensive.

Processor: I am pretty set on the Core i7 920, since it is the cheapest model which provides the superior Nehalem architecture. Cooling, though, is a different issue. I have heard the LGA1366 stock coolers are as terrible as the E6x5x cooler's were, so I want an aftermarket cooler to preserve the CPU and overclock, since I've also been told that not OC'ing a Core i7 is a travesty. What is a good aftermarket cooler for LGA1366 at the price point of a Freezer 7 Pro?

Memory: Does DDR3 speed matter, and should I move up to 6GB if I can find a kit with good ratings for not much more in price?

Graphics Processor: The Evga selection is non-negotiable, as I will only buy Evga cards after they gifted me my 8800GTS 512. The GTX 260 Core 216 seems like the ideal upper-midrange card; if there is a better one, I would be open to it.

Case: As noted above, this is an issue. I only selected the Tsunami because it was highly rated on Newegg and I wanted to get a complete build; in actuality, I have no idea which case I should get. As I will be traveling across the country, I would prefer one which is conducive to traveling with as a carry-on - that is, not too bulky or large. I don't trust baggage handlers enough to put it in regular luggage, even if it is well padded, nor do I wish to pay Fed Ex $40 to transport it, so carry on is preferable. Obviously, I want a mid tower ATX, but I know that not all mid tower cases are the same size, which is why I need suggestions on which to get. In essence, I am asking "What is a good ATX mid tower case that tends towards being small and easily carried?" (As a note, if you wish to dispel any myths about entrusting computers to baggage carriers, or share tips on how to put them in regular luggage and situate them to avoid harm, that would also be welcomed.)

My apologies for the length; any help is appreciated.
July 28, 2009 2:21:49 PM

CPU + Mobo: i7 920 & ASUS P6T SE
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

Case + PSU: Antec 300 + Antec Trupower 750w
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

HDD + Memory: OCZ Gold 6GB(3x2GB) DDR3-1600 Low Voltage + WD Black 640GB
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

GPU: XFX Radeon 4870 1GB
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

ODD: Lite-On CD/DVD Burner
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Asus: ASUS VK246H
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

OS: Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 64-bit for System Builders w/ Tech Guarantee
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

About $1300 after shipping

i know you said the EVGA was non negotiable, but XFX is a great brand as well giving double lifetime (meaning if you sell it to somebody, they get a lifetime as well)

the 4870 is as powerful as the GTX260
July 28, 2009 2:27:23 PM

CPU Cooler: Sunbeam CR-CCTF 120 mm
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Bracket: Sunbeam CR-LGA1366
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

as for moving the computer, the best way would be to take it apart and put everything in its box
if you fly, get a big suitcase put some packing peanuts in (about 2 inches) put the computer in, put more peanuts in around it and on top tightly on the sides and about 2 inches on top, then close the suitcase, my friend did this when he went to Iraq
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July 28, 2009 4:56:35 PM

There are some really capable gaming laptops.
Especially for someone still in college, seems hard to justify 2 'puters, why hassle with it? The rate of loss at college, from theft/accident is rather high even without the additional cross-country shipping charges/risk.

Just get a nice Asus laptop with the GTX260 in it, the G51 or G71 series (15 and 17"). With HDMI out you can plug into a big screen and play any game you like. And with the budget, when middle of spring semester your roomate steals/breaks it, you have the money to replace.

Otherwise I like the gear suggested fine. It just feels like spending to fill a budget, rather than to fill a need.
July 28, 2009 6:12:58 PM

Dear god, do not get the Thermaltake Tsunami...
I had that case for roughly the past 5-6 years, and I could say a lot about it. I'm pretty sure that a few things have changed since I bought mine, but generally speaking, they look the same.
I had a ton of problems after a couple of years with that case. Primarily was the noise/vibration factor. The thing would shake my entire desk like a train was tearing through my room, and the fans were all fairly loud as well (2 120mm and 1 80mm). The cheap plastic bolts (yes... plastic bolts) that held the window to the side are almost all broken, the side panel itself has become warped, the front door doesn't stay shut with a magnet like a good case and instead it's got some kind of metal flap that holds it shut, but it's noisy, unnecessary and a pain to open/close sometimes. All this being said, there were a few things I liked about the case, but most of those things are also present in every other gaming case, and usually better. Thermaltake lost my business permanently as a result.
You may be thinking that I mistreated the case and abused my computer, or even just transported it too much, but I promise that thing rarely left my desk in those 5 years, and I certainly never did anything to harm the case. I've gone on far too long about this, but just know that I can't overstate how dissatisfied I was with that case.

I've since bought an Antec P182 and it nearly brought me tears of joy with how much better it was in every conceivable way. Antec makes great cases... Two thumbs up.


Anyway...
At 1920x1080 resolution, I'd recommend a GTX 275 over the 260. You'll get noticeably better performance for not a whole lot of extra cash. I also know that EVGA offers a lifetime warranty on that card. I don't know if the same is true about the 260.

I'd also get 6GB of RAM.
July 29, 2009 2:51:27 AM

Thanks for all the suggestions, mindless, especially the moving suggestions. As long as I can handle the small issue of getting the heatsink off of the CPU, it sounds like a viable option.

With that said, I'm not sure I want to go ATi at the moment, considering an Evga card will permit a step-up to GT 300. Additionally, the motherboard is too expensive for my tastes, even after the combo savings. I'm not going to buy until late-September, though, so I'll have more time to decide.

Squirtle, I've talked to my suitemates and probable roommate, and to be honest, they really don't seem like the kind of people who would steal or accidentally break a computer. Naturally, I'm aware of theft, and will be taking the necessary measures to protect my laptop, but I don't see that issue at all with my desktop. I will not be going to a large state university - my college has approximately 5200 undergrads in relatively spacious housing, so it shouldn't be as prone to harm regardless.

I would like to just have one computer if possible, but I'm not really sure a gaming laptop for $1100 would satisfy my desire for performance or longevity. Additionally, based on what I could tell from the Asus gaming laptops I've seen at Best Buy, they compromise CPU performance for the GPU. Ultimately, considering the difficulty of OC'ing a laptop, I think that is more important. With that said, I am certainly not closed to the option, so if you can elucidate more and perhaps convince me to change my mind, it would be greatly appreciated.

Kufan, thanks for the input. Although yours is probably an isolated incident, I wouldn't want to deal with that possibility in college. Someone on another forums suggested the Cooler Master Elite, and after looking at its simplicity and relatively small size, I think I've settled on that case as the cover for any future build. Additionally, I have settled on 6GB for the RAM quantity.
July 29, 2009 11:09:43 AM

Update; I do get a free access to Vista Business as a result of my affiliation, which means I'll save at least $100 on anything I get.
July 29, 2009 8:48:48 PM

hey just some input on the desktop and laptop. If you want to put more money into a nicer desktop get a netbook to replace the laptop. It would serve your college needs great. (internet surfing, taking notes and writing papers, good battery life, portability) That way you have a couple hundred dollars more to put into your desktop if you want to!

Hope I could help!
July 29, 2009 9:41:55 PM

^That's a great idea if you're really only going to be using the laptop for minimal work on the go. Netbooks aren't much for doing scientfic calculations or playing Crysis, :sarcastic:  but it would certainly work great for what waynec121 said. If you don't want to go with a netbook, there are also notebooks for well under $400 that perform great. I just bought THIS LAPTOP for work for under $400 (after MIR) a couple of weeks ago, and it's fantastic.
July 30, 2009 12:01:12 AM

On the other hand, this is already a decent budget for a i7 and I doubt that splurging a couple hundred more is really going to affect it that much.

I would recommend what the OP is doing, since I am in the exact same situation.
I attend college as well, and can enjoy the portability of a laptop while still having the nice gaming power and speed of a desktop.

Maybe you should check out the CM storm scout? This is my preferred case, and the handles are definitely not bad for transportation.

Id also say definitely go with 6 gigs of ram.
July 30, 2009 12:43:40 AM

Well, for ultimate portability you could get a cube case. You would have to switch to a micro motherboard, which would increase cost, and deal with less heat ventilation reducing maximum overclocks, but transportation would be much easier.
July 30, 2009 8:45:14 AM

I think the Storm Scout is too large to be used as a carry on, based on the dimensions I've read. I dislike the idea of a cube case due to space considerations in my room, but this SFF case sounds interesting. I just dislike how much more expensive the motherboard will end up being as a result of going micro-ATX. It seems I will have to decide between ease of transportation and cost or convenience. Since I won't be building until October, though, there is time to properly decide.

Jonsy, thanks for the input on the whole plan. I'm pretty close to settling on it. What college do you go to, and what year are you? I'm not asking just for the knowledge, but to help decide my final course. If you want to PM me, that is fine.

Also, which mouse should I get -- the MX518 or the G5? I'll be using it with the laptop, so performance off of a mousepad would be lovely. If that is not an issue, though, please inform me. I have little idea about mousing requirements for laptop usage.
July 31, 2009 6:16:55 AM

I actually have a pretty good suggestion. Here me out on this. Get the Antec p180 mini case. (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...)
Thats a great case that could be good for portability.

Then get the Evga micro atx board or the Asus Rampage II Gene. Plus the EVGA mobo is only $210 on newegg.

Everything else should be the same.
July 31, 2009 11:26:13 AM

Okay, I'll consider it. I was referred to carrying bags on another forum, so size isn't as important as before, but I definitely do not want to strain if I don't have to.

Also, if anyone can answer the questions in my post above, I would appreciate it tremendously.
July 31, 2009 7:10:38 PM

Wow that's a though choice between the G5 and the MX518... both are fantastic and you won't be disappointed regardless of which one you decide on.

Personally speaking, I like the look of the MX518 better, but the design and layout of the G5 better. The G5 about $10 more expensive, and you lose a button, but it's got 200 higher dpi.

The only way you're going to be able to decide is to go to a local electronics store and compare them side by side. See how each of them feels in your hands and if your lucky enough, actually try them both out on a test computer before you buy one.

Keyboards and mice are a very personal thing (like computer cases). There are obvously some that are superior to others, but when you start getting into the more expensive gaming models, it all comes down to personal preference. Find one that just feels right in your hand.


One last thing:

I've always been curious about mice like this. You probably couldn't use it for too long without your arm getting tired from that position and it wouldn't be practical outside of FPS games, but it sure does look freaking awesome lol. It'll definetly make everyone who sees it say "I have to try that out!"
August 2, 2009 9:16:20 AM

Yeah, the problem is I love the MX518 as well. The design is aesthetically pleasing, and comfortable. Essentially, my only concern was about use without a mousepad. I guess I'll go with what is familiar and get the MX518.

And yeah, that looks cool, and probably fun for a FPS. I'm not sure it would fit in with the political culture at my college, though.
August 2, 2009 10:31:25 AM

Just wanted to throw in that I'm in about the same position as the OP and a couple of others who have commented here-- College student looking at two machines.
Last year I bought a decent laptop with midrange dedicated graphics for ~$1200, and it's served me well... but it's starting to show its age already. If you're going to be toting something around every day, better that it be a netbook or a very small and sturdy laptop. Heavier gaming laptops, no matter the apparent build quality, will not hold up as well to daily abuse. Plus, you can't buy a practical notebook built on new technology right now.
You'll get far far more for your 1200 in a desktop than in a notebook. And don't get me started on the performance gap between laptop and desktop GPUs. Nvidia's notebook parts are not even close to their desktop parts, and some being sold as new technology are really rebranded G92 chips that have been in service for years.

*cough* anyway. My solution to this problem was to build a new i7 rig and an HP dv2, which is cheap, portable, and powerful enough for TF2/L4D etc.
August 3, 2009 7:11:33 AM

I'm glad to see I am definitely not the only person in this situation. I ended up getting a Lenovo R500, which, while not small, is definitely well-built and able to withstand the abuse of college. I don't think it'll play TF2, but the only gaming I'd want on it are single player games appropriate for travel, such as Rise of Nations. It should be fine for that. I looked at gaming laptops, and yeah, it seems current technology is difficult to find, and if found, overly expensive and impractical. The laptop GPUs are a joke, as well. I understand why, but they don't really compare to their desktop cousins in any way beyond their nomenclature.

I'm surprised your machine is already slowing down, though. What specs does it have?
!