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Budget gaming build (~$750)

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May 27, 2010 7:54:26 AM

Hi all, I am currently planning on building a new gaming / general purpose machine over the next month or so and am hoping I can get some solid feedback from you guys. This will be my first complete build and I am trying to shoot for a solid budget gaming machine that I can grow easily.

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: Over the next few of weeks, want to have it done by summer (~late June).

BUDGET RANGE: Looking at a ~$750 budget before rebates, might add more depending on what happens.

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT:
Primarily for gaming but will be steaming movies, watching DVD's, Photoshop, internet surfing and other general purpose activities.

Most demanding games I'm looking at include Dragon Age Origins, Metro 2033, Battlefield Bad Company 2 and obviously Crysis and Crysis 2 once it's released. I am also a big RTS fan and most of those seem to be more CPU dependent.

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: Will be reusing my current HDD, monitor and GPU for now.

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: Newegg or Tigerdirect if something turns out to be cheaper there. Might shop locally too if I can find it equally priced but I sadly don't live near specialty electronic retail stores.

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: United States

OVERCLOCKING: Maybe
SLI OR CROSSFIRE: Maybe

MONITOR RESOLUTION: Currently using 1280x1024, plans to purchase new monitor around Christmas @ 1680x1050 or 1920x1080.


This is what I currently have laid out so far;

PC Case: Cooler Master Storm Scout ($90) – Out of all the cases I've looked at this one seems to fit me best even if it's not ideal for a budget system. Good airflow, plenty of room for cable management and installation, a lot of room to grow for a mid-tower and most importantly very aesthetically pleasing =) .

CPU: I'm currently divided on the following two but leaning towards the X4.

AMD Athlon II X3 440 Rana 3.0GHz ($75) – From all I've read this seems to be one of the best budget CPUs for its $75 asking price with superb performance.

AMD Athlon II X4 635 2.9GHz ($100) – Just for $25 more however this quad-core feels like a steal to me.

I have also looked at the Phenom II X2 555 BE retail and OEM versions as well as the Phenom II X3 720 BE.

CPU Cooler: I live in the desert and it gets pretty hot here at times. I unfortunately cannot always have my refrigerated A/C running which in turn leaves my place above normal (85F ~ 30C) most of the time. Because of this I am looking for a good but not too pricey aftermarket cooler, one that I can also use to OC if need be. I looked around a bit but could definitely use some input here. Or will a stock cooler be enough to keep my CPU cool?

Motherboard (~$100-125): I've looked at a few and would appreciate some feedback. I definitely want a motherboard that is somewhat future-proof and depending on my GPU direction that can handle crossfire.

Gigabyte - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Asus - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Asus - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

RAM ($110): These are the three I'm divided on, is there a major difference between them? Also will it matter that they are 1600, or will it simply be read at 1333 by my motherboard?

G.SKILL - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
G.SKILL RIPJAWS - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
A-Data gaming series - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

HDD: I have a WD Caviar Black 500gb that I've been using to store some files, figured I'd just move them elsewhere and use it for my new build.

GPU: I currently have a 4770, while not the best card especially for newer gamers it gets the job done and should serve me well on my 1280 x 1024 resolution. My plan is to either use it till I can afford a better GPU & monitor or buy another 4770 and crossfire it once I get a new monitor. From reading through benchmarks the 4770 in crossfire looks solid performing around the levels of a 4890/5830.

What would you guys recommend? Stick with a 4770 and then replace it with a single GPU down the road or go with a cheaper 4770 later on for crossfire? Nvidia is coming out with new mid-range cards that might bring some good competition vs ATI's lineup which I'm keeping an eye on. Also DX 11 at the moment isn't a huge concern for me so not having it isn't a deal breaker.

PSU: I plan on using this Antec 620W PSU that I just purchased during one of Neweggs sales. I would have personally preferred the Corsair 650W but the price for the Antec was just too good. I also wanted a more powerful PSU that can cover any future growth without me having to worry.

Optical Driver ($30):

LITE-ON - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Multi-Card Reader: I'm not sure if I want to add one now or down the road, but I definitely would like one at some point as they are quite handy. The ones I've found so far however seem to have mixed reviews so if anyone knows of a pretty good one, please share.

OS: I sadly do not have an OS already lined up and will have to purchase Windows 7 likely eating some of that money set aside. My only question is which version should I with my needs get? Home seems to be the obvious choice with it having all the essentials I need. I'm just concerned that I might have something that would work better with Pro, but not sure if it's worth the extra $100. Also the best price I found for Windows 7 Home Retail version is $150. Any place cheaper you guys might know of?

Current Total ~$600

If I do end up going below my intended budget where should I spend it? Save up for a new monitor/gpu combo or maybe go for a more powerful CPU like Phenom II X4 955? Thanks for any assistance =).
May 27, 2010 8:31:38 AM

If you don't need a GPU yet then I would buy a better proccessor. 4770 should survive a good while longer at your resolution. Obviously you will want a better GPU and monitor but you wont be able to get both yet so may aswell save up and at least know the rest of your build will survive another 3 or so years. Also, at lower resolution pressure is put on the CPU, so while using an old monitor it is another reason to have a good one

AMD Phenom II X4 955 3.0GHz - $159.99 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Gigabyte 870A-UD3 - $99.99 (As per Batuchka's suggestion below)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

G Skill 4GB 2x2GB RAM - $119.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

COOLER MASTER Centurion 5 - $49.99 $9.99 shipping
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Sony DVD drive - $26.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Hyper212+ (Great CPU cooler) - $39.99 + $2.99 shipping

Windows 7 Home Premium OEM: $99.99

Total: $609.91


You could get an Optical Drive for about $20 to save a couple $, they are all pretty much the same.

You can get a more expensive case like the one you have picked if you want. Though if you go with a expensive case I personally would prefer the HAF 922

If you do buy the more expensive case it will bring the total to about $639.91, so you are still under your budget and have a headstart saving for a new GPU and monitor.

When you decide to get a monitor I would suggest not going for less than full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution, ideally no one should be gaming on anything less - so no point in buying a new monitor that will have less than HD resolution in my opinion, especially as you can get them for around $200 (which you are already halfway there by coming under budget

Then hopefuly save up for the ATI 5850 which will with luck be cheaper by Christmas time

I have not checked for combo deals which may save you even more money
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a b 4 Gaming
May 27, 2010 8:47:16 AM

Err for just 1280 x 1024 HD 4770 is awesome so stick to it and upgrade as per more $$/bigger res display so maybe

630 Propus
MSI 870A-G54 or Gigabyte 870A-UD3
Native SATA 6GB/s, USB 3.0 via NEC Chip for both
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May 28, 2010 4:55:34 AM

Thanks for the advice guys, I think I'll definitely go for the Phenom II X4 955 as I have a decent amount of wiggle room. Also I like the choice of motherboards Gigabyte 870A-UD3 & MSI 870A-G54, it just seems hard to find reviews on them as they seem relatively new. I'm a little confused regarding the RAM selection asteldian. Were the choices I selected not up to it? Should I maybe stick to 1333 instead?

I did look at the HAF 922 asteldian during preparation, I just personally liked the Scout much better :)  . So I think I'll stick with that and add another 120 Cooler Master fan. Cooling this system is a serious concern for me as it really gets hot in my place. Good example is when I came home from work today, it was 100F in my PC room :ouch:  . While I won't be gaming or stressing the system when its that hot, I still want to have adequate cooling. I looked at the CPU cooler you suggested and it ran for $45, would maybe the Hyper N 520 be a better alternative with two fans and a lower price?

And you are right regarding the monitor, it'd be pretty dumb of me not to buy an 1920 x 1080 when I get around to it. I'm not sure what would be better though for GPU direction. Crossfire 4770 or just get a stronger single GPU. And it doesn't have to be around Christmas time, I just chose that as an arbitrary date. I guess I could go all out and use my entire paycheck to build dream machine :sol: . But that probably isn't such a good idea, so hopefully later this year I can get a new Monitor/GPU as well as an SSD and Blu-ray drive.

Thanks again for the help you two.
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May 28, 2010 3:08:29 PM

There is nothing really wrong with the RAM you selected, but there are two things you ned to considder with RAM:
1) Speed - higher the better, so 1600mhz is a beter choice than 1333mhz, so in that way what you chose is fine.

2) Latency: The lower the numbers the better. While the RAM you picked had a good speed of 1600mhz, their latency was 9-9-9-24 which is a little high so perfermance wise not as good as the RAM I picked which was 7-8-7-24. With a $10 difference you may as well grab the slightly better RAM.

When you do get a new GPU, get the 5850. I always believe 1 strong card is better than two weaker ones. The only reason I would get a second 4770 is if your games were unplayable now and you can't afford the new GPU so buying the second cheap GPU would be useful.

The other big reasons for getting a 5850 is: New technology - they run more energy efficient, and they run cooler than old cards (a great bonus for you as you are in a hot place, even more importantly, not only does the new card run cooler than your current card, but that means it runs MUCH cooler than an XFire setup of 4770s and gives mroe gaming power). Of course the biggest reason is Direct X 11 - it is the future, by the time you buy the new card Direct X 11 games will be more common, and a 5850 has a lot of power so can play the games and play them well at 1920 x 1080 resolution.
Another bonus of the new card is that it still leaves room for you to XFire at a later date if needs be - unlike this time, come the time you want the extra power from your computer, the cards should still be compatible with the latest Direct X.

I wouldn't worry that much about an SSD, they aren't that big a performance jump for gaming, personally I would rather spend the extra money on the GPU and get a 5870 instead of the 5850 with an SSD
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