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(possibly) building first computer ever -- for gaming

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January 27, 2010 5:00:43 PM

My deal: I've been gaming here and there on a laptop for a few years now and I want to graduate to an actual desktop (my last one is from the 90s). My computer needs are primary the simple stuff, a website, some mild media stuff, and writing (which I do for a living), plus games at modest resolutions and settings. But one day I went to a buddies house who just got a new rig and I saw Crysis in action and the bug bit me: I wanna be able to do that too.

So plunging into the world of e-research I find pretty much every community torn about constitutes a reasonable pre-built computer and most people just saying build it yourself. Me? I'm in no way handy: even my Ikea creations tend to come out wrong. But I am still intrigued by the idea that I can get a better machine, for less. And, as I said, I'd like to play Crysis (as well as Fallout 3, Starcraft 2 -- whenever that is -- LFD2, and so forth. And oh yeah, Crysis 2!).

Some gamer friends have suggested for a first computer just buying a pre-built, like a Dell Studio XPS, and upgrading over time. I've looked at Alienware, Falcon NW, and iBuypower, and after a while I just start getting dizzy: who's selling the quality product? What's a ripoff? Ahhhh!

As I stated, I am a TOTAL NOOB. I have been reading here and there about how to build a computer, and some people say it's as simple as Legos, and other times it looks, literally, like rocket science to me. Hey, I'm being honest here.

That said, my budget is roughly 2000. I'd like to go under that, and I could go up to probably 2200 if I had to. The purchase could be today or in the next few months (if, say, there's something uber-new like a next-gen card that I should wait for, I can wait.) As for space, I'd like to make it my primary storage computer but I don't think I'd need terrabytes, just a reasonable size for media and a ton of games and files, plus Photoshop. I'm starting with nothing, so I'd need a monitor and a keyboard -- I have an OK older mouse that I use with my laptop. I'd need a wireless card. Monitor: something modest, doesn't have to be huge or fancy, I have a small desk and I'd be sitting close to it. Speakers: I'd need em, but again just something servicable that sound good, but generally I'd play with headphones so my GF doesn't toss me out. I guess it'd need an input mic too, for online games (TF2, baby!). Also I'd need Windows 7.

If you think there's a prebuilt system out there that I should start with, let me know -- as a college employee, I tend to get discounts (not much, just a hundred or two generally). If you think that's stooopid (and you probably do) and you can suggest a build, by all means suggest one. Oh, and I guess one more thing: I prefer modest looking cases (those iBuypower ones are just silly looking).

Another option I've thought of is, if the assembly is too complicated I can always get a local shop in town to do it for a fee....

Well, thanks for your time, looking forward to suggestions!
January 27, 2010 5:09:17 PM



In my opinion, you're best off building yourself. If you shop carefully, you *will* save money - potentially quite a bit - over having someone else do it. It's also an extremely fun process. You'll find that you learn a huge amount, and it's rewarding when you boot up for the first time and realize that you've just taken a pile of parts and turned it into a functional PC. There are lots of resources out there to help you through the process, and it really isn't a tough process. Places like CyberPowerPC, iBuyPower, etc., seem appealing, but you'll end up jacked on the price (especially if you want a high-end video card). If you're comfortable trying it, I highly recommend doing your own build.

An important question before trying to suggest parts: you mentioned that you want to do a lot of gaming, but that you also plan to use the machine for Photoshop. How much image editing do you plan to be doing? If you're only going to be doing minimal image editing/processing, then you can build purely around gaming, and go with an intel i5 processor (perhaps the i5-750, one of the best gaming CPUs available right now). However, if Photoshop (and other applications like it) are going to be an important part of your usage, your system will be stronger all-around with a processor like the i7-920 (or the i7-930, which is replacing it next month). For purely gaming purposes, the i5 is the current king, but once you start adding in other uses, the i7 chips really start to shine. Your budget will allow you to put together a great system either way.

E: I completely agree with MadAdmiral's suggestions, below. If you want to keep your price under $2k, you can use his exact build, but drop your GPU down from the HD 5970 to a HD 5870, which will run you about $400 instead. The 80GB SSD is good for a boot drive - it'll allow you to install windows and Photoshop (and whatever applications you use the most frequently), which will get you amazing boot/load times.

I believe the current student deal on Windows 7 is Windows 7 Professional (32 or 64) for $65.

May also be worth keeping in mind that (as I mentioned originally) the i7-930 is scheduled to release in Q1 2010 (current projection is Feb. 27). It is almost identical to the i7-920, so you won't sacrifice much if you go with the 920 today instead of waiting. If you're the "cutting-edge" type, you may want to wait. Also worth considering that nVidia is slated to launch their new "Fermi" GPUs in March-April. They claim it's going to be an ATI-killer, but they won't release benchmarks. It may be amazing, it may not - chances are, it will be expensive, if nothing else. Honestly, I don't think you would regret buying an HD 5870 or HD 5970 today instead of waiting, but it's up to you.

Hope this gives you something to think about. Cheers!
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a b 4 Gaming
January 27, 2010 5:09:23 PM

Might want to put what you need in the form from the link in my signature. It's helpful.

With you're budget, you shouldn't be looking at prebuilts. You'll be paying an arm and a leg for almost nothing. I would say it's easier than putting together Legos. After all, Legos parts can fit in anyway, computer parts can only fit one way.

So for $2,000, here's what I would get:

CPU: i7-920 $289
Mobo: Asus P6X58D Premium $310
RAM: Mushkin Enhanced Redline 3x2 GB DDR3 1600 mhz CAS Latency 6 $230
HDD: Samsung Spinpoint F3 1 TB $90
SSD: Intel X25-M 80GB SSD $290
Case: HAF 922 $90 (free shipping with a promo code)
PSU: SeaSonic 850W 80 Plus Silver $110
Optical: Cheapest SATA DVD burner $20
GPU: HD 5970 $650
OS: Windows 7 (student discount, price not included)

Total: $2,079
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January 27, 2010 5:41:45 PM

It'll still need a monitor and a wireless setup, but it looks solid enough. What kind of performance could I expect?
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a b 4 Gaming
January 27, 2010 5:48:31 PM

That's about as high-end as you can get. It will destroy whatever you can throw at it. Just make sure to get a monitor with at least 1900x resolution. Anything less would make the GPU complete overkill.

If you need it to be a little cheaper, you can switch the following without affecting performance:

CPU: i5-750 $200
Mobo: Asus P7P55D-E Pro $190
RAM: Corsair XMS3 2x2 GB 1600 mhz CAS Latency 7 $110

New total: $1,750. The i5 is just as good for gaming as the i7, but isn't as good for other CPU intensive tasks. In addition, there isn't much of an upgrade path for the i5.
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January 27, 2010 6:33:08 PM

Thanks guys. I'm currently taking another long, hard look at my budget and seeing what I can pull off (for example, the added shipping costs might stall me). If I can't swing it, that means I may wind up waiting for that Feb. i7 and that video card, but if not I may just go with this build.

If you don't mind, suggest a monitor? I'd hate to pay more than 200 for one...

I really appreciate all the input...wish me luck!
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January 27, 2010 6:58:56 PM

Newegg's shipping is pretty solid - they frequently offer free shipping on a lot of stuff, and so if you order things individually or in bunches, you can often pay almost nothing to have the entire thing shipped.

For monitors, spend some time reading Anandtech's LCD Thread. It's a great resource. Hanns-G gets mixed reviews - some people swear by them, others hate them. Bottom line is that for around $200, you can get a good 23-24" LCD (such as ASUS VW246H Glossy Black 24" 2ms(GTG) HDMI Widescreen LCD Monitor 300 cd/m2 ASCR 20000:1 (1000:1) - $229 ATM, but you can sometimes find better discounts on it. That's the monitor I'm ordering this week), or if you don't need that much screen size, you could drop down to 21-22", and you might find slightly higher quality. The thread I linked has a good explanation of monitor specs and types, and has lists of recommended LCDs for various uses.

Hope that helps a bit. Cheers!

E: Fixed link.
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January 27, 2010 11:18:17 PM

Looks like the finances are all good, so I'm really close to pulling the trigger on this. Let me as a VERY noobish question though: what do I need for wireless internet on this guy? There's no cable in the office where it'll be, so it'll be using wireless.
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January 27, 2010 11:28:44 PM

gorgot said:
Looks like the finances are all good, so I'm really close to pulling the trigger on this. Let me as a VERY noobish question though: what do I need for wireless internet on this guy? There's no cable in the office where it'll be, so it'll be using wireless.


I'm trying to sort that out myself. You'll need an adapter of some sort - either an internal wireless card, or a USB dongle (like AZiO AWU101N IEEE 802.11b/g, IEEE 802.11n Draft 2.0 USB 2.0 Wireless Adapter for $25. You may only need wireless G rather than wireless N, though). I haven't had a USB adapter before, but I'm considering trying one (specifically, the one I linked). In all honesty I'd prefer to run ethernet cable directly to my rig, but it's not in the cards right now.
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January 27, 2010 11:48:38 PM
January 27, 2010 11:54:07 PM

oh, and as far as monitors go, the only brand I would ever recommend is samsung. they're lcd panels are second to none. I'd stick with the xx43 series, I think they look the best.
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January 28, 2010 4:05:56 AM

Everyone I showed Mad's build too said it's awesome, although maybe TOO powerful -- but how can that be a bad thing? The one suggestion I got was possibly going with the i7 860 instead of the 920.

Is there anything else I'd need? Besides the wireless card and the monitor...just ordered the W7 with the student discount and it's on its way.
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a b 4 Gaming
January 28, 2010 10:22:13 AM

If you want the i7-860, go with the changes in my second post and switch the i5 for an i7. Keep in mind that the 860 is on the LGA1156 socket, which will not have any upgrade path. So in a few years when the bigger CPUs are reasonably priced, you won't be able to just drop one into your build.

Any way you go, you will have a monster computer.
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January 28, 2010 4:34:12 PM

I'll go with the initial setup. Just about to price it all out and see if I can handle it -- so some final details: will I need a sound card? Or is the sound in the mobo good enough? Also while we're at it, a good pair of affordable speakers would be good, if anyone has a suggestion. I generally use headphones as not to aggro my significant other but speakers are always nice when no one is home.

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a b 4 Gaming
January 28, 2010 4:42:59 PM

You don't need a sound card. As to if integrated's good enough, it is for most people. Leave off a sound card at first, and if it doesn't sound good to you, add a one later.
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January 28, 2010 4:47:02 PM

That's what I figured, just checking -- some of my concepts of this stuff is still stuck in the 90s. Next noob question: what about a headphone jack?
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a b 4 Gaming
January 28, 2010 4:58:16 PM

The case has a front side jack. The motherboard has one in the back.
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January 28, 2010 6:30:14 PM

you're spending too much in my opinion.

you can run everything full blast with just a $1400-1500 build.

core i5 750
5850 graphics
etc. etc.
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January 28, 2010 6:36:24 PM

Suggest a 1500 build then? My benchmark goal -- shallow as it may be -- is still to run Crysis cranked. And obviously the rest of the top-tier games that come out in the next few years.
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a b 4 Gaming
January 28, 2010 6:45:25 PM

To run Crysis at max settings on 1900x, you need at least an HD 5870. That decreases the price to $1,829.

After that, eliminate the SSD. That's $1,529.

You could also get CAS Latency 7 RAM, which would be $50 less.

The SSD is probably the most unnecessary part, but it's one of the most noticed improvements in any build. It's something that you see the effect in everything that you do.

Yes, you could get a cheaper build that games well. The additions will ensure that you don't have to upgrade for a long, long time.
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January 28, 2010 8:51:10 PM

MY PERSONAL IDEA for future purchase next week:
(all feedback encouraged)


LITE-ON Black 24X DVD+R 24X DVD-R SATA Black 24X DVD Writer LightScribe Support (won an award) - Retail $29

SAMSUNG Spinpoint F3 HD103SJ 1TB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive $90

CORSAIR XMS3 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model CMX4GX3M2A1600C7
(new top-of-the-line product)- Retail $110

MSI P55-GD65 LGA 1156 Intel P55 ATX Intel Motherboard
(one button overclocking?)- Retail $160

Thermaltake Element G VL10001W2Z Black ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - (flashy as @#$%) Retail $130

Thermaltake EVO_Blue W0308RU 750W ATX 12V 2.3 / EPS 12V 2.91 SLI Ready CrossFire Certified Modular Active PFC Power Supply
(flashy)- Retail $140

/\ combo deal thermaltakes: http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...


Intel Core i5-750 Lynnfield 2.66GHz 8MB L3 Cache LGA 1156 95W
Quad-Core Processor (best gaming pcu)- Retail $200

COOLER MASTER Hyper 212 Plus Intel Core i5 & Intel Core i7 compatible RR-B10-212P-G1 120mm "heatpipe direct contact" Long life sleeve CPU Cooler (a pain to put on, but worth it)- Retail $30

/\ combo deal i5 + 212 plus: http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...


SAPPHIRE 100282SR Radeon HD 5850 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFire Supported Video Card w/ATI Eyefinity (best bang for your buck)- Retail $300

Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit 1-Pack for System Builders - OEM $105

/\ combo deal 5850 + win.7 : http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...


----

im personally considering this build, as it is under 1300 with shipping, and meets all my gaming needs. this will still blast crysis warhead max settings at 1680x1050, which is my monitor's max, and it's a 20'' samsung widescreen lcd. nothing too fancy, but it will look great.

that case is as sexy as they come; when you want to impress your friends, the case has a hot light show. just youtube it. the power supply can even light-show out the back side.

that mobo has the ability to overclock yourself with one button-press on it... so you can mess with that while the case side is off, and the fan on the side-case has no wiring to get in the way with that. overclocking for noobs, fancy lighting, great graphics to handle today's and tomorrow's games (who needs to drop another 100 dollars on a graphics card that will boost your already awesome fps by around 10-20%?)

the 5850 gives most bang for your buck, and, down the line when they're cheaper, just slap in a crossfired additional 5850 to make it near-top-of-the-line again.

either way, in my opinion, computers always go bad or 'unworthy' within 2-3 years, and luckily, i feel the world is barely going to make it that far before it all goes downhill! win-win situation?!

$1271.40

and you're ready to roll.

what would you change? case, psu, mobo?
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January 28, 2010 8:51:24 PM

Is there anything else I'll need? I picked a monitor, got Windows. I still need to find a wireless card. Do I need thermal paste? Any other tool-type stuff? Like I said, this is my first build!
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January 28, 2010 8:57:32 PM

just a screwdriver, touch metal part of case before grabbin up the pieces. this is to ground yourself and prevent static. thermal paste is included with the hyper 212 plus. watch hyper 212 plus installation video on youtube first. watch haf 922 tutorial video on youtube first, need links?
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January 29, 2010 5:59:27 AM

Also, if I go with Mad's SSD option, that means I install the OS on the SSD? I'm still kind of learning about the whole SSD thing, but I understand that it's the final perfect piece to a well-running puzzle.
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a b 4 Gaming
January 29, 2010 11:15:48 AM

Yes. SSDs are small, so you'd only want to install the OS and programs you use a lot on it. Typically, you don't want to get smaller than a 60 GB SSD, as they also don't like to be very full.

@babbablazin: I don't care if that PSU is in a combo or not, it's complete crap. You'd do very well to spend the little extra and get a quality unit. The SeaSonic I recommended is one of the very best, and I've never seen it with such a low price.
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January 30, 2010 2:31:27 PM

Looks like financially I'm gonna have to wait at least few weeks, maybe a month, before pulling the trigger on the new machine. I had everything in a newegg shopping cart, including a modest monitor, and it was just too much consider this months paycheck. MadAdmiral, you've been super helpful. I'm gonna find you on here when I'm ready to buy and get another opinion from ya!
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!