If skora had...To build a cheap i7 gaming rig

Hopefully, this can be used to help those that really want an i7 system that have no clue what it really cost to put one together. The i7 platform is more expensive and more powerful than most gamers need and therefore should carefully consider buying one. But, look at this as base line system that would under perform an AMD quad system in gaming if you spent the same amount.

I'm going to start with a waterfall chart of cost then get into the actual parts, so look at what you need and then see just how much an entry level system will cost you. Prices current as of 8-6-09 (maybe updated)

CPU/Mobo/Ram/HSF/GPU - $705
+ PSU/Case - $870
+ HDD/Optical - $975
+ OS - $1070
+ Monitor w/built in speakers - $1220
+ Keyboard/Mouse - $1285

So if you have nothing, expect to spend around $1300 for a weak i7 system. Now for the parts I've chosen, why, and what you're sacrificing just to get that i7 in there. I'll also suggest minimum upgrades I think are required and spec out an AMD system for both prices too (that will have to be an update later, won't have time tonight.)

CPU $279
i7 920 - This one is a no brainer
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819115202
Upgrade: None

HSF $45
Xigmatek Dark Knight 1283 This is combo'd with the CPU for a $10 discount right now.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16835233029
Upgrade: None

Motherboard $190-$15mir
Gigabyte GA-EX58-UD3R. This is an interesting board and even more interesting with my ram choice. There are 4 X DDR3 ram slots on this board. 3 will operate in triple channel. But if you add a 4th dimm to the odd colored slot, the ram will run in dual channel mode. This makes upgrading ram difficult, because to get more capacity, you sacrifice performance.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813128375
Upgrade: Any board with 6x ram slots. Looking for quality, expect to spend $225-rebates=$195 for Asus P6T SE right now.

RAM $49
Cruicial 3gb 3x1gb DDR3 1066 ram kit.
This immediately will draw 2 questions.
1) Why 3 gigs? Price to start. This is the minimum to get an i7 system built. Spending another $50 on a 6 gig kit didn't fit with the goal of this article. My belief is that 3 gigs is enough for gaming though. While windows vista has a memory footprint of 1.5 gigs or so, that still leaves 1.5 for programs to run. The most demanding game I've been able to find on system resources is the poorly optimized GTA IV. Unconfirmed, but reported it had a 1.5 gig memory footprint. That's enough. Especially when Windows 7 will have a smaller footprint more like XP does. Not quite that low, but it will still free up space for other stuff. Until windows 7 hits, you'd just have to manage your programs if playing GTA IV. For reference, Fallout 3 only ate 500megs on my system when checked.

2) Why 1066? That answer can be found here. This ram is Cas 7, which is more important than speed.
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/memory-scaling-i7,2325.html
Upgrade: 6 gig kit Just to be safe. Cas 7 DDR 1600 = $115. This can be downclocked and timings tightened.

Case $75
I didn't pick one out specifically. Cases are a very personal choice and once you get to this price point, most have adequate airflow and quality of construction.
Upgrade: $100 case?

Power Supply $120 - $20mir = $100
Corsair 750TX Combo with mobo saves another $10
This will be the minimum to do a multi GPU setup later. I could spec out a much less expensive power PSU, but the GPU will already be the bottleneck. Leaving the option for multi card solutions later is part of why people want the i7 system. Because of the combo discount, the 750w is only $10 more than the 650w and will power dual cards for both the 4890 or GTX275. Unlike the ram, this extra cost can be justified.
Upgrade: While the 750w is enough for 4890s in CF, I'd want a little more room for GTX275 SLI. A good 850w PSU runs $120 amir.

Optical $30
Pick one
Upgrades: None

HDD $75
WD Caviar Black 640. Great HDD for the cost. Anything less would really effect performance.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822136319
Upgrades: None unless you want to get into SSDs, but if you think you're getting a $200+ drive, then you're not reading this anyway.

OS $110
Windows Vista Home Premium with Win 7 upgrade. This can be combo'd with a number of items for another $15 off.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16832116677
Upgrade: None

Keyboard/Mouse $65
Pick a set, gaming mouse, entry level keyboard
Mouse $40
Keyboard $25
Upgrade: None, you can spend as much as you want here.

Monitor $160-$10mir = $150
ASUS VH226H Black 21.5" 1920x1080 2ms(GTG) HDMI Widescreen
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16824236051
This was the same price as any good 1680x1050 monitor I found and really can't justify spending this much for that small of a monitor.
Upgrade: $50 for speakers
For the monitor, none. For the price, this is a solid monitor. 1900x1200 would be nice, but hard to justify the extra $150+.

GPU $197-$30mir=$167
HD 4890
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814127427
This was a toss up between the GTX 275 for $195amir ( http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814133268 ) and the 4890. The 4890 being cheaper and performing similarly edged out the GTX for this.
Upgrade: The GTX275 is my first choice, but in SLI would be rocking.

Cost of base system: $1395-75mir-35combo discounts = $1285 plus shipping
Cost with upgrades: $1445 for single GPU. This is the minimum system I'd consider balanced. So if the parts you have can't bring the price down to match your budget from this, you'll have to look for something else or wait for different sales.

Please submit feedback as and point out what you see. As always, just keep it respectful. I will try in the next day or two to build an AMD system with the same budgets.
20 answers Last reply
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  1. Well, without doing any hard core deal searching and very limited combos available from newegg, here's what I threw together. It works out to be the same price as the balanced i7 system, but you get dual 4890s instead of one. Use this for comparision vs the i7 system and figure which will be the better gamer.

    Monitor
    Same as the i7 $150 amir
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16824236051

    GPU
    4890 combo'd with AMD 945 (955 was out of stock) $350
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?ItemList=Combo.237072

    4890 combo'd with Win Vista Home Premium 64bit w/ win 7 upgrade
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?ItemList=Combo.235893.14-150-359

    Mobo
    Gigabyte 790FX $175
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813128377

    Ram
    Crucial Balistix DDR3 1333 Cas 6 4gig kit $67
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820148227

    PSU
    Corsair 750TX $100 amir
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817139006

    Case
    Cooler Master HAF $100 w/ free shipping
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811119197

    TIM
    OCZ Freeze $6

    Optical
    Sata DVD Burner $29
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16827151188

    HDD
    WD Caviar Black 1tb $95
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822136284

    Total $1425 delivered amir
  2. RESERVED FOR EDIT.

    Post below.
  3. Lets see what we come up with.

    Mobo/CPU/Ram Combo
    1. ASUS P6T: $239.99
    2. Intel BX80601920: $279.99
    3. OCZ Technology, Inc. OCZ3G1600LV6GK: $99.99
    4. Intel Intel BunnyPeople: $19.99

    Combo Discount: -$81.99
    Combo Price: $557.97 Free Shipping*
    $10.00 Mail-In Rebate
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?ItemList=Combo.216527

    Two other Case choices
    COOLER MASTER HAF 922 RC-922M-KKN1-GP Black $99.99 Free Shipping*
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811119197

    COOLER MASTER Storm Scout SGC-2000-KKN1-GP $89.99 Free Shipping*
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811119196

    PSU need if you wish to SLI or Crossfire
    CORSAIR CMPSU-750TX 750W Power Supply $119.99 ($99.99 after $20.00 Mail-In Rebate) Free Shipping*
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817139006

    CPU HSF Cooler
    XIGMATEK Dark Knight-S1283V 120mm Long Life Bearing CPU Cooler - Retail $44.98 Free Shipping*
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16835233029

    Noctua NT-H1 Thermal Compound - Retail $9.99
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16835608008

    Would go with this HDD.
    Western Digital Caviar Black WD6401AALS 640GB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache $74.99 Free Shipping
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822136319

    Here is a Monitor that might work for you.
    ASUS VH222H Black 21.5" 5ms HDMI Widescreen 16:9 Full HD 1080P LCD Monitor Built in Speakers $169.99
    ($159.99 after $10.00 Mail-In Rebate) Free Shipping*
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16824236053

    ATI
    XFX HD-489A-ZDFC Radeon HD 4890 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFire Supported Video Card - Retail $199.99 (Double Lifetime warranty)
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814150359

    Couple of nVidia card options, when in SLI they are faster then the GTX 295
    ASUS ENGTX260 MATRIX/HTDI/896MD3 GeForce GTX 260 896MB $199.99 ($179.99 after $20.00 Mail-In Rebate)
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814121321

    EVGA 896-P3-1257-AR GeForce GTX 260 Core 216 Superclocked Edition $189.99 ($159.99 after $30.00 Mail-In Rebate) Free Shipping*
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814130433

    You will need this Cable extension for bottom mounted PSU.
    1ST PC CORP. 12" 8-pin EPS extension cable Model CB-8M-8F - Retail $8.99
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16812706004

    Check out this Keyboard and Mouse
    ABS M1 Heavy Duty Professional Gaming Mechanical Keyboard - Retail $44.99
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16823224001

    Logitech MX518 8 Buttons 1 x Wheel USB Wired Optical 1800 dpi Gaming-Grade Mouse - Retail $39.99 Free Shipping*
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16826104178

    Now to the Operating System. My suggestion would be to download Windows 7RC and then buy the full version when it comes out. You should get the 64-bit version, but if that is too much of a chore, then go with Vista Prem. 64-bit.

    Download Link for Windows 7 RC
    http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-7/get/download.aspx

    Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 64-bit for System Builders w/ Tech Guarantee $109.99 Free Shipping*
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16832116677

    Microsoft Windows 7 Professional Full - Retail $299.99 Free Shipping* (Release Date:10/22/2009)
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16832116717

    Price Breakdowns'
    Price with Haf 922, Win7 RC 64-bit and w/o OS and Graphic Card : $1051.93
    Price with Haf 922, Vista Prem. 64-bit OS but without Graphic Card : $1161.92

    MIR's Total is $40.00
    (Prices above do not figure Shipping Cost and MIR's.)

    ps : Did not figure in Graphic Cards MIR's.

    Hope this helps you out some. :sol:
  4. Interesting, skora.
    What's funny, is before too long, someone's going to come along and call you an AMD fanboy. I'm not. There's "fastest," which no doubt i7 IS (and you are not suggesting otherwise), and there is "fast enough," (I believe to be your point, and agree) which for some people may even be an AMD Kuma, or an Intel e5200 (no, an AMD 4850e isn't quite it though...).
    Good job too to Yoosty finding good deals, even though I don't think that was the point. The more eyes out for bargains, the more that will be found, which is a big reason I ask about my own builds, and make suggestions to others, even if we're all capable of physically assembling a decent PC.
    The same thing applies to other components as well. "Cheap" need not mean "low quality" just because the price is low, it may mean "low capacity," which may be perfectly ok, especially with more people trying to be frugal.
    Anyway, good post.
  5. wouldn't it be cheaper to get that Gateway refurb of tigerdirect?
  6. Onus said:
    Interesting, skora.
    What's funny, is before too long, someone's going to come along and call you an AMD fanboy. I'm not. There's "fastest," which no doubt i7 IS (and you are not suggesting otherwise), and there is "fast enough," (I believe to be your point, and agree) which for some people may even be an AMD Kuma, or an Intel e5200 (no, an AMD 4850e isn't quite it though...).
    Good job too to Yoosty finding good deals, even though I don't think that was the point. The more eyes out for bargains, the more that will be found, which is a big reason I ask about my own builds, and make suggestions to others, even if we're all capable of physically assembling a decent PC.
    The same thing applies to other components as well. "Cheap" need not mean "low quality" just because the price is low, it may mean "low capacity," which may be perfectly ok, especially with more people trying to be frugal.
    Anyway, good post.


    Being called a fanboy, I'm amused! :na: The only fanboy I am is value.
    I'm expecting the field to be leveled when the i5s hit. Should have stellar overclocking and if the platforms run around the same as the AMD 790 AM3 boards, we'll have a good fight on our hands. Intel though will have the advantage of SLI and my guess is, will be the prefered platform for a lot of upgraders that already have a nvidia GPU.

    Yoosty, thanks for the build. What I was trying to do is provide a build that can be pointed to and say, if you don't have anything and only $1000, you can't do an i7 build. You did a good job with the balance build and when I have time to go back and edit the original build, I'll show some of that stuff in there.

    I think I will be lowering the minimum CPU to the 4870 1gb also, just to show how much sacrifice can be made to get an i7.

    helloworld_98, I already said my peace about that refurb in the tread you posted it last time. But as I noted above, if you're not going to OC, then the i7 platform is a huge waste of money for gaming.
    http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/forum2.php?config=tomshardwareus.inc&cat=31&post=269221&page=1&p=1&sondage=0&owntopic=1&trash=0&trash_post=0&print=0&numreponse=0&quote_only=0&new=0&nojs=0#t1969907
  7. No no no, I was NOT calling you a fanboy, I thought it funny that some other(s) probably would. I agree with you about seeking value.
  8. Onus said:
    No no no, I was NOT calling you a fanboy, I thought it funny that some other(s) probably would. I agree with you about seeking value.

    Never read it that you were. The thought of me being accused of one made me chuckle though.

    UPDATED with AMD comparision build. (Not my best work, short on time.)
  9. skora said:
    Never read it that you were. The thought of me being accused of one made me chuckle though.

    UPDATED with AMD comparision build. (Not my best work, short on time.)

    Very good builds skora... :D I like where we both are going with our threads... [:thegreatgrapeape]
  10. Yeah, I think they look pretty decent too. I'd keep my Signature in a new build though... :)
  11. Onus said:
    Yeah, I think they look pretty decent too. I'd keep my Signature in a new build though... :)


    Thanks for the encouragement.

    I was thinking after I had a few more, I'd start another thread that was just an index of the series and have the link to the index as my sig. Think 2 post is enough to justify and index? I'll also put relavent links and a bit of my own philosophies on building in there. But theres already enough info on Proximons page that I probably don't need to. Especially with Tecmo34 developing his guide also. Don't want to overload noobs.
  12. Well, part of the problem is that noobs DON'T read the guide threads before they post. It has nothing to do with how agreeable or disagreeable the forum community finds them, the noobs just don't read. We can create a thousand guide threads, sticky them all, and the noobs are still going to post first. I'm thinking of starting to answer a lot of build threads with "Read {Proximon's | Shortstuff's | skora's | Eeenie's | Meenie's | Mynie's | Mo's } guide, post what you think looks good and why, and we'll tell you what we think." A few of them are simply lazy, but I think a lot more of them are looking for some reassurance, and you get that from a person, not from a sticky.
  13. Onus said:
    and there is "fast enough,"


    fast enough never is............
  14. Onus said:
    Well, part of the problem is that noobs DON'T read the guide threads before they post. It has nothing to do with how agreeable or disagreeable the forum community finds them, the noobs just don't read. We can create a thousand guide threads, sticky them all, and the noobs are still going to post first. I'm thinking of starting to answer a lot of build threads with "Read {Proximon's | Shortstuff's | skora's | Eeenie's | Meenie's | Mynie's | Mo's } guide, post what you think looks good and why, and we'll tell you what we think." A few of them are simply lazy, but I think a lot more of them are looking for some reassurance, and you get that from a person, not from a sticky.

    ^+1.... very well said and so true. I do think the sticky's we have are important to read first but how to get the masses to follow the program. I personnelly love the boot up post where you get the OP just saying "help PC won't boot up after build" and no more details. Are we suppose to guess at what they tried, their system or what is happening. I tried to help a OP and through a group of questions, found the problem was they never installed a HSF on the CPU. They thought the case fans would be enough.

    I just wish noobies would at least Google for info before posting. Get a little educated before hand so our recommendations make a little sense to them... but that is wishful thinking...
  15. Lately when some noob has provided no specs at all on a hapless "Help me!!!!!" type-thread, I will ask troubleshooting questions that would apply to an Apple ][+, or maybe an old DOS machine, or a 286, or whatever.
    Like my tagline says, There's always a drone...
  16. Onus said:
    Lately when some noob has provided no specs at all on a hapless "Help me!!!!!" type-thread, I will ask troubleshooting questions that would apply to an Apple ][+, or maybe an old DOS machine, or a 286, or whatever.
    Like my tagline says, There's always a drone...

    LMAO.... now that is funny! :pt1cable: You would have the OP so lost they won't know which way is up or down. :D
  17. Onus said:
    Lately when some noob has provided no specs at all on a hapless "Help me!!!!!" type-thread, I will ask troubleshooting questions that would apply to an Apple ][+, or maybe an old DOS machine, or a 286, or whatever.
    Like my tagline says, There's always a drone...


    I followed Proximon's lead and Tecmo34 did the same by adding the sticky link as my signature. Makes it easy to say, click this instead of backing out of the thread, copying the link, then going back in. Maybe if all of us parked here did that, some of the clutter would be cut down.

    But as for noobs not reading the stickies, actually seems discouraging when trying to make a useful tool to help them. Maybe after it gets developed and organized, it will take a nudge to get the noobs to read them, but will in fact help them. So far, it seems more as a reference for the regulars around here to point them too.
  18. For myself, when I'm looking for build advice, the problem is I may already have a very good idea what I want, OR WOULD ACCEPT, depending on what deals may be available. A sticky, no matter how well-written, will never have that information. I don't expect someone else to do my surfing for me, but this community is large enough that at least one or two have checked out any given site (just as most of us regularly check Newegg for combos and deals).
  19. Onus said:
    For myself, when I'm looking for build advice, the problem is I may already have a very good idea what I want, OR WOULD ACCEPT, depending on what deals may be available. A sticky, no matter how well-written, will never have that information. I don't expect someone else to do my surfing for me, but this community is large enough that at least one or two have checked out any given site (just as most of us regularly check Newegg for combos and deals).

    That's why I'm not trying go do another guide, but more of a SBM post with a different theme more often than the actual THG staff. Granted, I don't have the luxury of benching the build to compare to each other, but at least, its a balanced build with a purpose and uses prices current to the day its posted. Prices will change and I don't plan on updating the same threads over and over, so the same theme will be revisited every so often. If anything on this project gets stickied, it'd be the index, but as prices do change, the value of the older post will virtually expire. We'll see if this has long term value or not.
  20. I take it getting that MSI250GTS 512 for $114 was a waste of money...
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