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<$900 gaming PC for a first-time builder

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September 29, 2009 11:12:15 AM

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: This week BUDGET RANGE: $700-$900

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: Games, graphic arts (some 3D modeling), internet, programming, word processing, DVD movies

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: Optical drive, monitor, keyboard, mouse, speakers

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: Newegg.com

PARTS PREFERENCES: None (I've only used nVidia cards, but ATI looks great right now)

OVERCLOCKING: Maybe (most likely) SLI OR CROSSFIRE: Maybe (later)

MONITOR RESOLUTION: 1280x1024 (I'm looking into widescreen options for later, though)

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: I'm building from scratch because my current case is BTX and my options look pretty limited. Since everything in there is old anyway, I figure this way I'll be able to develop some important skills/knowledge while I'm at it. I've only ever actually upgraded my current and previous PCs before, but I'm confident I could do it from scratch. I'd just like something that'll last a while and can be expanded later.

Since I've never done this though, I'm not entirely sure what I should be buying. From doing a little bit of homework, I managed to come up with this:


AMD Phenom II X4 940 Deneb 3.0GHz Socket AM2+ 125W Quad-Core Black Edition Processor Model HDZ940XCGIBOX - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

ASUS M4A79 Deluxe AM3/AM2+/AM2 AMD 790FX ATX AMD Motherboard - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

OCZ Reaper HPC 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model OCZ2RPR10664GK - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Antec Nine Hundred Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
combo w/
Antec TruePower New TP-650 650W Continuous Power ATX12V V2.3 / EPS12V V2.91 SLI Certified CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS BRONZE ... - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

SAPPHIRE TOXIC Radeon HD 4870 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFire Supported Video Card - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Western Digital Caviar Black WD6401AALS 640GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Subtotal: $845.89


At first I had decided to go no higher than $800 unless I really needed to. I changed it to $900 just in case so I'm still technically under budget, but I'm wondering if I could do a little better. Is there anything I could downgrade while maintaining similar performance? I know there's a less expensive version of the video card, but the features on the toxic one sound like something I might not mind paying a little extra for since I like shiny things. There are probably smarter options for the motherboard, RAM, etc that are escaping me. Most importantly though, I need to know if I've made any errors anywhere.

Thank you, thank you.
September 29, 2009 12:21:33 PM

You did a good job on selection, you might want to check the newegg specials for any combos that might save you some on cpu/motherboard/ram, but I don't know what's up for grabs today yet. For hard drive, you might be able to get a bit more performance by going with a Samsung F3, or Seagate 7200.12, since the Caviar Black 640 GB doesn't have quite as high data density as those 500 GB drives. I know some people prefer the 5 yr. warranty that come with the Caviars, but you won't go wrong either way.
September 29, 2009 1:39:19 PM

Ooh, I'm liking the Samsung. $15 cheaper, too. I'll definitely be getting that one.

I'll browse today's deals for a bit to see what I can do, then order away. Thanks!
Related resources
September 29, 2009 2:36:53 PM

500GB disks often have 250GB platters, while 640GB disks have 320GB platters; hence the 640GB disks will be faster. The larger the platter capacity the higher the data density the higher the sequential performance of the drive.

And don't you want to trade in the 4870 for a 5000-series card?

September 29, 2009 5:37:43 PM

You can fit an Intel i5 build into your budget, including the OS. I didn't see the OS mentioned in the list of parts not needed.

Intel Core i5 750 Lynnfield 2.66GHz 8MB L3 Cache LGA 1156 95W Quad-Core Processor - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

GIGABYTE GA-P55-UD4P LGA 1156 Intel P55 ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite... $354.98 (CPU + motherboard combo)

G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model F3-12800CL7D-4GBRH - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

SAPPHIRE Vapor-X 100269VXLE Radeon HD 4890 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFire Supported Video Card - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite... $269.98 - $20.00 MIR (RAM + GPU combo)

SAMSUNG Spinpoint F3 HD502HJ 500GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

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

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite... $129.98 (HD + OS combo)

Antec Three Hundred Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Antec EarthWatts EA650 650W Continuous Power ATX12V Ver.2.2 / EPS12V version 2.91 SLI Certified CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Power Supply
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite... $124.94 (Case + PSU combo)

Total - $879.88 - $20 MIR
September 29, 2009 6:16:47 PM

@wathman, ah sweet. yes those new 500GB platter disks would be great, and a 500GB disk with just one platter would keep decently cool with current power saving techniques.
September 29, 2009 6:31:24 PM

deadshark said:
APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: This week BUDGET RANGE: $700-$900

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: Games, graphic arts (some 3D modeling), internet, programming, word processing, DVD movies

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: Optical drive, monitor, keyboard, mouse, speakers

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: Newegg.com

PARTS PREFERENCES: None (I've only used nVidia cards, but ATI looks great right now)

OVERCLOCKING: Maybe (most likely) SLI OR CROSSFIRE: Maybe (later)

MONITOR RESOLUTION: 1280x1024 (I'm looking into widescreen options for later, though)

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: I'm building from scratch because my current case is BTX and my options look pretty limited. Since everything in there is old anyway, I figure this way I'll be able to develop some important skills/knowledge while I'm at it. I've only ever actually upgraded my current and previous PCs before, but I'm confident I could do it from scratch. I'd just like something that'll last a while and can be expanded later.

Since I've never done this though, I'm not entirely sure what I should be buying. From doing a little bit of homework, I managed to come up with this:


AMD Phenom II X4 940 Deneb 3.0GHz Socket AM2+ 125W Quad-Core Black Edition Processor Model HDZ940XCGIBOX - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

ASUS M4A79 Deluxe AM3/AM2+/AM2 AMD 790FX ATX AMD Motherboard - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

OCZ Reaper HPC 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model OCZ2RPR10664GK - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Antec Nine Hundred Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
combo w/
Antec TruePower New TP-650 650W Continuous Power ATX12V V2.3 / EPS12V V2.91 SLI Certified CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS BRONZE ... - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

SAPPHIRE TOXIC Radeon HD 4870 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFire Supported Video Card - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Western Digital Caviar Black WD6401AALS 640GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Subtotal: $845.89


At first I had decided to go no higher than $800 unless I really needed to. I changed it to $900 just in case so I'm still technically under budget, but I'm wondering if I could do a little better. Is there anything I could downgrade while maintaining similar performance? I know there's a less expensive version of the video card, but the features on the toxic one sound like something I might not mind paying a little extra for since I like shiny things. There are probably smarter options for the motherboard, RAM, etc that are escaping me. Most importantly though, I need to know if I've made any errors anywhere.

Thank you, thank you.

keep in mind that it will be hard to oc the cpu, if you can, get a BE version, there is a 955BE in newegg for 20$ more
September 29, 2009 7:01:06 PM

sub mesa said:
@wathman, ah sweet. yes those new 500GB platter disks would be great, and a 500GB disk with just one platter would keep decently cool with current power saving techniques.


yeah, more and more reviews are pointing out that the F3's are just simply better than the older Caviar Blacks. If you look on the drive benchmarks on Tom's Charts, the F3 runs about 4-5 C cooler than the WD Caviar Black. It's true that the 5 yr warranty is still nice, and it appears that small file I/O transfers are still better with the Caviar Black, but until they make 1x 500GB platter Caviar blacks also, the Samsung F3 is just a better drive.
December 24, 2009 9:59:13 AM

If you're looking for pure gaming performance here's a nice build :D 

Mobo/CPU combo - AMD 955BE/ASUS M4A79XTD EVO - $264 -$10 MIR

Memory - G.SKill ECO series DDR3 1333 - $100

GPU- Sapphire Radeon 5850- $300

GPU/OS combo - $20 off (Wdinows 7 home Premium) $384

HDD - Samsung Spinpoint F3 500GB- $55

PSU - Corsair 750TX (If you're not going to crossfire 2 5850's you can go with the Antec earhwatts 650W PSU)- $100 Corsair 750TX

HS - CM Hyper 212 plus (If you're going to overclock)- $29

Case - Antec 300 Illusion or CM HAF 922 (If you can stretch your budget the 922 would be a great choice.) - $55 ANtec 300/ $100 HAF 922

Total - $903 with the Antec 300 Illusion Case - $10 MIR w/out OS
$987 with the windows 7 home premium combo
Shipping costs are around $20

If you want better performance in other applications, not just games the i5 750 is a no brainer. You would have to add around $60 to your budget though. Otherwise the 955BE should be all you need.
!