Small Form Factor Gaming PC (~$700 Shipped)

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: Summer 2010, but let’s pretend a week from now.
BUDGET RANGE: ~$700 Shipped After Rebates

So I want to buy a gaming PC, but I want a system that is a bit more portable than the average ATX Mid-Tower case. I live at college right now, and to me, it’s just not really feasible to carry around a Mid-Tower or bigger case around. The thing is, though, I’m looking at buying this computer next summer, as opposed to in the next week, so I realize that the build advice I get now may not be as valuable in 6 months. Nevertheless:

My main goal for this thread is to post a what-if system; i.e., if I were to drop the cash right now for a system of this budget, what should I get for the best bang for buck? Other than that, I would also like any advice about what to look for in the next 6 months before I really consider buying parts. (some ideas right now that I would love to see by summer are falling DDR3 prices and a lower price for an HD 5770.)

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: Gaming, gaming, and more gaming. Steam games mainly, though I would throw in a DVD drive so I can play older games too.

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: OS, Monitor, Headset, Mouse, Keyboard (I don’t have a PC keyboard yet, but that’s outside of the PC budget. I’m looking for one under $40. Suggestions welcome!)


PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: Preferably Newegg and Amazon. If you have anything good to say about other vendors, I’d appreciate it.


PARTS PREFERENCES: MicroATX Case, mATX mobo. Sticking to one video card, will not be buying a CF/SLI capable mobo.
Power supply MUST be modular.

OVERCLOCKING: AMD Black Edition Processor OCing sounds easy enough.


ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: Below I will post a list of the different parts I am looking at for a “right-now” build.

Case: Thermaltake LANBOX Lite VF6000BWS Black SECC Japanese steel Gaming Cube Computer Case - Retail
($98.48 shipped)
I really like this case’s looks and design. The side window is really nice too. I’ve heard there are some issues though, especially with cooling. Reviews say that buying different 60mm fans help with getting the hot air out, so I’m considering that.
I’m pretty sure a 5770 will fit in the case, but could anyone help verify that?
This is pretty much the only item I’m not entirely sure about, but I can’t say I’ve found a better case for the money yet.

Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar Blue WD5000AAKS 500GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive
($55.99 shipped)
I’m looking for a large hard drive, but it doesn’t need to be too big, so I figure this should suit me well for awhile.

CPU: AMD Phenom II X3 720 2.8GHz Socket AM3 95W Triple-Core Black Processor Model HDZ720WFGIBOX - Retail
($124.99 shipped)
Originally, I was looking at getting a Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition for $99 instead, but getting an extra core and easily overclocking to the speed of the 550 for only $25 doesn’t sound like a bad deal.

One question, does anyone know if the stock Phenom II heatsinks are shorter than 100mm? I believe that is the clearance for heatsinks in the Lanbox case.

Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-MA785GMT-UD2H AM3 AMD 785G HDMI Micro ATX AMD Motherboard - Retail
($97.55 shipped)
A lot of people seem to be buying this motherboard, it looks like the best single-GPU microATX mobo available for AM3 at the moment.

Video Card: SAPPHIRE 100283-2L Radeon HD 5770 1GB 128-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support Video Card - Retail
($154.99 shipped, this is the cheapest one I found on Newegg, brand suggestions are welcome. I would love to go with XFX, but at the moment they’re more expensive. hopefully they’ll go down in price by next summer.)
This item is the most expensive on my list. I’ve heard it’s a way better deal than the 5750, and I’m sure it’ll last me awhile.

Optical Disk Drive: LITE-ON Black SATA DVD-ROM Drive Model iHDS118-04 - OEM
($19.99 shipped)
Cheap. SATA. Don’t need to burn disks, I can use another computer for that task.

PSU: OCZ Fatal1ty OCZ550FTY 550W ATX12V / EPS12V SLI Ready CrossFire Ready Modular Active PFC Power Supply - Retail
($79.64 shipped, $54.64 after $25 MIR)
Looks good for the money I’m paying for it, and 550w sounds good for the hardware I have. Please advise if I’m wrong.

RAM: G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model F3-12800CL7D-4GBRM - Retail
Looks really really good for the price. My mobo accepts 1600mhz RAM without overclocking, and this has a CAS latency of 7. Might take some messing around with BIOS settings to get it right (says optimized for P55 but there’s a review of it working well on someone’s AM3 board), but I’m willing to do that.

Total PC Cost comes to $706.87 shipped after MIR and some odd small shipping discount Newegg gives (the shipping costs for the non-free shipping items don’t add up to what Newegg quotes for shipping)

Questions/issues on my mind:
-cooling/airflow with the case (even with modular cabling)
-Does this system have a good upgrade path?
-I know it’s not in my price range, but what kind of performance does RAID striping give you if I were to purchase two of the hard drives in my list?
-Is the video card adequate for 1680x1050?
-Is the RAM overkill? Or should I watch for it to lower in price?

Thanks in advance for all your help!
9 answers Last reply
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  1. Quote:
    APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: Summer 2010, but let’s pretend a week from now.

    The tech arena will be a LOT different in Summer 2010 due to release of i3, Fermi,etc. So any advice/recommendations we give now would be pointless by then.
  2. In that case, any advice for this current build?
  3. Well in that case, it looks good.

    As for cooling, yes, you should probably get some high CFM, low noise fans like the Scythe Slipstreams.

    As for RAID 0, it will give you a pretty decent read/write performance boost.

    Originally, I was looking at getting a Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition for $99 instead, but getting an extra core and easily overclocking to the speed of the 550 for only $25 doesn’t sound like a bad deal.

    Be aware that you may be able to unlock the 4th core.

    4GB RAM is the minimum now. The GPU is fine for 1680*1150.

    Also, why not just get a DVD burner? It's not that much more $.
  4. Checked out some articles on RAID 0, looks pretty nice.

    As for unlocking the 4th core, don't you need specific hardware to do it? I'm not sure if my motherboard will support that.

    Good to know the GPU will do well.

    Took your advice on DVD burners, didn't really realize they were only $10 more. :P

    I don't know if the Slipstreams are going to work, they're 120mm fans and the Lanbox has room for 3 60mm fans on the back, 1 80mm on the front. Any suggestions for 60mm fans?
  5. Hmm... I just took a look at the specs, and what do I see? NO 120mm fans!?!?!

    You may want to consider these cases:

    More cube cases:
    60mm fans are quite loud and don't provide good airflow.

    Or, why not get a decent sized Mid Tower and add handles?

    One of my friends have added some handles to an Antec 300 and he brings it to LANs quite easily.
  6. I think I found the solution. It's an older case (as evidenced by it being discontinued on Newegg), and it's a little more expensive (~$120-130) and about 5" larger in one dimension, but it has 5 120mm fans and just as much capability as the Lanbox. Plus it looks mega-cool too.
  7. Excellent case! I remember seeing this moded at bit tech a few times. Great case. Good luck finding it. Check Amazon,ebay,etc.
  8. On second thought, I think I'm going to take the fact that it's discontinued on Newegg and unbelievably expensive everywhere else as a sign that that case isn't right for me. I fell in love with its looks, but after reading reviews on Newegg, I don't feel so sure about it. For example, why bother putting in a clear window if the PSU fills up half of it? Hopefully NZXT or some other vendor that makes great looking cases will come out with something else that's more awesome.
  9. Well, good luck on your case hunt.
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