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Budget Gaming PC build advice

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February 6, 2010 2:41:40 AM

Brand new contributor, but long time reader. If I break any rules/guidelines, please feel free to let me know.

I haven't upgraded since 2007 because I've been able to play whatever came out just fine, but those days are over. I want to be able to play the newest generation of games, starting w/ BFBC2.

I'm looking for some advice. I know the basics - been building my own for almost 10 years now - but I'm no expert. My budget is somewhat flexible, I want to keep it as low as possible but I want it to last for a couple years too. I don't need to be head of the class - I just want to play the next gen games on better than low settings.

As a frame of reference, my current system is: (I know it's bad - but it's 3 years old)
Case: Antec Nine Hundred
PS: Antec 750W TP Trio
Mobo: DFI LanParty UT NF4 SLI-DR Expert
CPU: AMD Athlon 64 4000+ @ 2.76 GHz
Mem: 3 GB Corsair DDR PC3200
GPU: Nvidia Geforce 8800 GTS 640MB
HDD: 36 GB Raptor; 250 GB Seagate 7200RPM
Monitor: HP 2009m (1600x900)
OS: Windows XP 32bit SP3

Here's where I'm at for the new rig:
APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: Within the next 2 weeks.
BUDGET RANGE: Flexible, but goal is under $1K. Not worried about rebates.
SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: Gaming, internet surfing, occasional movie.
PARTS NOT REQUIRED: Keyboard, mouse, monitor, speakers.
PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: Newegg
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
PARTS PREFERENCES: AMD, Antec, ASUS, but flexible. I admit that I am kind of "brand biased" - I will pay more for ASUS vs. ASRock, for example.
OVERCLOCKING: Maybe, but I've been buying low and OC'ing for years, and I kind of just want a solid setup from the get go.
SLI OR CROSSFIRE: Maybe
MONITOR RESOLUTION: 1600x900
ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: Much more intrested in function than form, excepting the aforementioned brand-ism.

Here's what I have so far:
Case: Antec Three Hundred Illusion (69.99)
PS: Antec CP-850 850W (109.31)
Mobo: ASUS M4A79XTD EVO AM3 AMD 790X ATX AMD Motherboard (119.99)
CPU: AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition Deneb 3.4GHz 4 x 512KB L2 Cache 6MB L3 Cache Socket AM3 125W Quad-Core (179.99)
Mem: G.SKILL 4GB DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Dual Channel Kit (104.99)
GPU: XFX Radeon HD 5770 XXX Edition 1GB 128-bit DDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support (189.99)
HDD: Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive (99.99)
OS: Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit 1-Pack for System Builders (104.99)
CD/DVD: Sony Optiarc 24X DVD/CD Rewritable Drive Black SATA Model AD-7240S-0B - OEM (24.99)

Total is $1004.23. I would like your opinions and/or critiques, and any suggestions to get it significantly under $1K w/o dramatically sacrificing quality/power. The only thing I can see to make a significant difference is if I use my existing Case/PS/Optical, that takes it down to $800.

I know reading all that is a pain, and I appreciate anyone willing to take the time and help. Thanks!
February 6, 2010 3:57:35 AM

Stepping down to 500GB HDD will save you $45... and you still have your 250GB if you have a dire need for space. The experts here recommend the Seagate 7200.12, $54.99 at NewEgg (sorry, link wouldn't work).

Now, I'm NOT a gamer, but I have to think the difference in the 5750 and 5770 is pretty nominal in terms of performance. Here is a 5750 factory OC'd Sapphire that will save you $35. You can go as low as $130 on a Sapphire 5750...

I didn't see an aftermarket cooler on your list. Cooler Master Hyper 212+ is the best value out there right now at $30.

Related resources
February 6, 2010 7:24:52 AM

the 965 is a mild factory oced 955, get the 955 and oc it instead.
cant you recycle the psu?

Duke, he has a antec 750 psu...

February 6, 2010 11:31:56 AM

The experts here recommend the Samsung Spinpoint F3 over the Seagate 7200.12, also $55 for the 500GB model.

The differences between the 5750 and 5770 are rather significant at 1600x900. At a lower res, neither would be a bottleneck; at a higher res, both would be. The 5770 provides the best perf/$ ratio at 1600x900 and 1680x1050.

Also, why are you buying a new case and PSU? You're replacing an Antec 900 with a 300 Illusion??? The 900 is a superior case all around. And the PSU you have is powerful enough for two 5770s CF'ed, no point getting an 850W in your situation. And if you have an optical drive already, there isn't much of a reason to buy a new one unless for Blu-ray.

Buy the Cooler Master 212+ that slcseas3 mentioned and the PII 955. The 965 is ~$20 more for virtually no performance gain, and even more so once you overclock.

Lastly, if you don't plan on buying a second 5770 (or 5750), you can use your 8800 GTS as a dedicated PhysX card as well. Your Antec 750W should have no problem powering both, since both cards only require one 6 pin power connector each.
February 6, 2010 12:23:13 PM
February 6, 2010 7:13:17 PM

Ares1214, I'm doing a $1000 buget too.. I like your build. Is that real viable? I might get the build you suggested.
February 6, 2010 10:08:16 PM

well as long as you dont need the parts not included (monitor speakers....) then yeah that will be perfect.
February 7, 2010 2:57:28 AM

Thanks everyone for your feedback! BTW, I discovered that I have a 650W PS, not a 750W. It's an Antec True Power Trio 650W with 3 12V rails. Will that still be sufficient?

@blackjellognor - My kids wrecked one of the USB ports on the front of my Nine Hundred, and since then the whole panel stopped working. Not that big of a deal, but it drives me nuts, and from what I could tell the Three Hundred is about the same case w/o the pretty window anyway. That said, I'm probably just going to save the $$ and stick w/ my current case.

I'm very interested in what you're saying about using my 8800 as a dedicated PhysX card. I might buy a 2nd card down the road, but for now one seems to be enough for me. How does that work? Is there a potential compatibility issues w/ running Nvidia and ATI on the same board like that?

@ares1214 - Interesting... At first blush you may have just given me a lot more comp - thank you. There are a couple things I want to understand:
1. Shouldn't I be worried about a PS w/ only 2 12V outputs? I know 700W is sufficient, but I've always been told that the best PSs have 3 12V rails.
2. The RAM you selected - I doubt I'd notice the difference between 1333 and 1600, but I did notice that the memory standard for the mobo is 2000+ - will that potentially be a concern?
3. I have to ask - why an i-core over an AMD? It seems like a good deal on the surface, but I need to understand why they are better? Triple channel? Turbo mode? AMD hasn't let me down yet, but truth be told I've never actually owned an Intel, so I'm open to feedback.
4. From what I can see, the only difference between the 5850 and 5770, other than the 5770 having significantly better clock speeds, is the 256-bit vs. 128-bit interface. Is that worth $100? It might be - I know nothing about it - I have to ask though.

For everyone -
Re: HDD - I will drop to the 500 GB. I was reading another thread and discovered that it's apparently a bad idea to load the OS on a large drive like that - load time problems, frequent reformats that take forever, etc. Right now I have my OS on my Raptor and I save most everything else on my 250GB - do I need to stick w/ a similar plan to avoid OS issues?
February 7, 2010 3:13:23 AM

@MAB1994 - thanks for the link. Funny - his $850 Gaming PC is VERY similar to what I built. Couple brand differences and a cheaper PS. I guess I'm not too far off...

Then again, his $1000 is very similar to Ares, but Ares did it cheaper. I'm really starting to lean toward that build...
February 7, 2010 6:34:37 AM

First off the Antec CP-850 won't fit your case without mods. It's only designed for the Antec 1200, P193, and P183. Though the CP-850 is supposed to be quite a nice power supply and quiet.

The Core I5 and I7's are right now better than AMD but also cost more. The best bang for your buck processor would be the Core I5 750 in my opinion. http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/best-gaming-cpu,252...

In terms of HDD, I think it depends on what you are putting on your main drive. Ideally you want your OS on a fast drive and your programs on that drive as well. Purely data stuff or movies and whatnot won't suffer much performance being on a secondary drive.

For GPU's at a monitor resolution of 1600x900, I would not recommend spending an extra $100 on the 5850 over the 5770. http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/best-graphics-card,... In fact, you probably could get by with far less of a card, though getting a 5770 with Direct X11 will future proof you more.
February 7, 2010 8:17:04 AM

mmatejka said:
Thanks everyone for your feedback! BTW, I discovered that I have a 650W PS, not a 750W. It's an Antec True Power Trio 650W with 3 12V rails. Will that still be sufficient?

@blackjellognor - My kids wrecked one of the USB ports on the front of my Nine Hundred, and since then the whole panel stopped working. Not that big of a deal, but it drives me nuts, and from what I could tell the Three Hundred is about the same case w/o the pretty window anyway. That said, I'm probably just going to save the $$ and stick w/ my current case.

I'm very interested in what you're saying about using my 8800 as a dedicated PhysX card. I might buy a 2nd card down the road, but for now one seems to be enough for me. How does that work? Is there a potential compatibility issues w/ running Nvidia and ATI on the same board like that?

@ares1214 - Interesting... At first blush you may have just given me a lot more comp - thank you. There are a couple things I want to understand:
1. Shouldn't I be worried about a PS w/ only 2 12V outputs? I know 700W is sufficient, but I've always been told that the best PSs have 3 12V rails.
2. The RAM you selected - I doubt I'd notice the difference between 1333 and 1600, but I did notice that the memory standard for the mobo is 2000+ - will that potentially be a concern?
3. I have to ask - why an i-core over an AMD? It seems like a good deal on the surface, but I need to understand why they are better? Triple channel? Turbo mode? AMD hasn't let me down yet, but truth be told I've never actually owned an Intel, so I'm open to feedback.
4. From what I can see, the only difference between the 5850 and 5770, other than the 5770 having significantly better clock speeds, is the 256-bit vs. 128-bit interface. Is that worth $100? It might be - I know nothing about it - I have to ask though.

For everyone -
Re: HDD - I will drop to the 500 GB. I was reading another thread and discovered that it's apparently a bad idea to load the OS on a large drive like that - load time problems, frequent reformats that take forever, etc. Right now I have my OS on my Raptor and I save most everything else on my 250GB - do I need to stick w/ a similar plan to avoid OS issues?


1.the ocz psu is plenty and very good, and you might be confused but i have never seen a psu with 3 rails
2. that 2000+ number means it can support up to 2000+, most/all mobos have a max, but most/all also dont have a min (aslong as its ddr3 for ddr3 boards...)
3. lol i have a 955 and i LOVE it, amd hasnt let me down yet either, but...basically the i5 is faster, wether its a combination of turbo mode, more transistors, smarter architecture, or some reason i dont know, the fact of the matter is that at stock the i5 beats the 965 in most synthetics, and ties or wins most games, but since they both oc pretty equally, think of both at 3.4 GHz, the i5 would kill.
4. hahaha if you cant notice, the 5850 is 100$ more for a reason, it is basically 2x the card...here look at these benchmarks:

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/radeon-hd-5770,2446...

look around there, and you will see that 1 5850 beats 2 5770s, so considering it fits in your budget, yeah i would get it...well i hope this helped :D 
February 9, 2010 3:20:06 AM

ares1214 said:
1.the ocz psu is plenty and very good, and you might be confused but i have never seen a psu with 3 rails
2. that 2000+ number means it can support up to 2000+, most/all mobos have a max, but most/all also dont have a min (aslong as its ddr3 for ddr3 boards...)
3. lol i have a 955 and i LOVE it, amd hasnt let me down yet either, but...basically the i5 is faster, wether its a combination of turbo mode, more transistors, smarter architecture, or some reason i dont know, the fact of the matter is that at stock the i5 beats the 965 in most synthetics, and ties or wins most games, but since they both oc pretty equally, think of both at 3.4 GHz, the i5 would kill.
4. hahaha if you cant notice, the 5850 is 100$ more for a reason, it is basically 2x the card...here look at these benchmarks:

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/radeon-hd-5770,2446...

look around there, and you will see that 1 5850 beats 2 5770s, so considering it fits in your budget, yeah i would get it...well i hope this helped :D 



OK - I'm convinced to go w/ the Intel and 5850 build. Based on your feedback I did some more research and it's hard to argue with the i5. I guess I am no longer an AMD fanboy... Thanks for your help and advice.

I am going to get a better Mobo, though, and I'm going to keep my case/PSU. I would still be interested to hear if anyone thinks I'll have an issue running w/ my current 650W.

FYI Ares - I've had a PSU w/ 3 12V rails in my last 3 builds, and you can now get them with up to 6. I'm no expert, but it's my understanding that the majority of the business a PSU does is off of the 12V rails, so the more the merrier.

Blackjellognome - I'd still be interested to get your input on the dedicated PhysX card.

Letsrahk - thanks for the heads up on the PSU - that would have REALLY ruined my day.
February 9, 2010 4:45:59 AM

Note on Power Supplies:

Wouldn't having unused large voltage rails hinder the efficiency of your power supply? It is my understanding that once the PSU rectifies the AC into DC power, that all of the black wires (unused) will be energized up to the connectors. Depending on the length and resistance of each wire you are adding unneeded stress to the PSU, considering that the electricity is going down a dead end street.

Just a thought, really, but it seems wise to get a PSU that supports only what you need now and enough room to grow for any changes in the future, but not buying something with 3 or 6x12v rails only to have them rob hours from the projected life of the PSU.

February 9, 2010 11:33:16 AM

@spks19 ive never heard that, but if he got the ocz modxstream the psu is modular and 87%+ efficiency anyway

@mmatejka, that statement is pretty much wrong :lol:  for your psu, 3 rails is a very wierd number, most have 1, 2, 4, or 6. but the thing is, say you have a psu with one rail that puts out 125 amps, and you have a 4 rail psu that puts out 25 amps per rail, then the 125 is more powerful. the rails typically help with stability and safety, but its also like raid, if they arent done properly, then there is a much greater chance of failiure, but for ones that are very good, there is a slightly less chance of failiure. also, with 1 rail psus, if the one rail gets over taxed, it will either blow up or just not work, but with multi rail psus, they can distribute the load better, sometimes leading to more efficiency as well...if that was confusing, well then sorry :lol: 
!