Budget Gaming Build - Inexperienced and looking for comments/advice

Hi everybody. Here is my tentative build.

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: Within a week. The sooner the better. BUDGET RANGE: ~800 Before Rebates
SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: gaming (nothing too intense, mostly Starcraft 2), watching movies, surfing the web
PARTS NOT REQUIRED: keyboard, mouse, monitor, speakers, 1 of the 2 sticks of RAM
OVERCLOCKING: No. SLI OR CROSSFIRE: Preferably not, but I’m open to it if needed
MONITOR RESOLUTION: 1280x1024 currently. Getting my brother’s old monitor which is nicer/newer and wide screen. I also have a 720p HDTV that I use on occasion.
ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: None I can think of.

CPU: AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition - $160

GPU: Radeon HD 5850 (I would prefer to not deal with Crossfire or SLI). – $280

Motherboard:MSI 785GT-E63 AM3/AM2+/AM2 AMD 785G HDMI ATX AMD Motherboard (I don’t really know how to pick a motherboard, but I think I saw an article that mentioned this one here at TH). - $80

HDD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 ST3500418AS 500GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive - $55

RAM: PNY 2GB 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400)x2 (I chose this RAM because I already own a stick and thought it would help the price). - $42

DVD/DVDRW: Going to salvage these from my old desktop. They are fast enough to get me by. - $0

Case: I’m planning on buying this in a combo deal with probably the processor. Typically ends up being $20-$30 off. – ~$50

PSU: I honestly don’t know how to choose one of these. I’m thinking I’ll need between 500W and 650W. Maybe I’ll get one in combination with a case, but I’ve read that it is important the power supply be high quality. - ~70$

HSF: Don’t think I’ll need anything more than the one that comes with the CPU.

TV-Tuner: I’m going to pick up a cheap one of these unless someone has a great recommendation. Only needed for basic cable watching. - ~$20

OS: Windows 7 Professional Upgrade (Chose this because I can get it cheap with a student discount. I have a copy of XP to upgrade from). - $65

Total: $820. It would be great if I could bring that number down a little bit.

I’m getting back into the homebuilding game and doing my research, but I’m still not knowledgeable enough to confidently order these parts without checking first. I really need something more up to date because my desktop now is a 5 year old Dell, so pretty much anything will be an upgrade. Also, does thermal compound usually come with the CPU or should I pick it up myself? I really appreciate any comments or advice anyone can give me.
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  1. How large is the monitor your brother is giving you (resolution)?
    A 5850 is way overkill for 1280x1024.
    Drop down to a 5770:

    This gives you money for a newer motherboard and ram:
    Motherboard/x4 955 combo

    Ram and PSU

    That motherboard does give you the option to crossfire in the future and the PSU will be good for 5770 crossfire as well.

    For a case do you like the look of the Antec 300?

    This comes out to a total of $720 without a $65 OS and a $20 TV tuner.
  2. $648AR
  3. Batuchka has a real nice build there. The PSU is overkill, and even the HD5770 is more than a 1280x1024 (or 1440x900) resolution requires, but for those prices he's got a lot of future-resistance built in. There are lower cost options like a $100 HD4850 and a 500W Antec Earthwatts or Seasonic PSU, but you'd be giving up a lot of cheap/easy upgrade potential.
    In any case, RAM should be bought in kits, as mismatched sticks may not perform reliably, especially as their timings are likely to be different.
  4. Thanks for the great advice everyone.

    batuchka: I like that build a lot.

    duk3: Thanks for mention the overkill on the card. I didn't even think about the resolution. I won't be able to figure out the resolution on my brother's monitor for a day or so, but I can almost guarantee that it won't exceed the 5770.

    jtt283: I like the future-resistant idea. I think I'm going to go with pretty much what batuchka posted and consider saving a little more with a different graphics card.

    Thanks again everyone.
  5. Yep happy shopping/building and u are welcomed ^^
  6. Bringing that number down will be a piece of cake. If this is for Starcraft 2, it will not need to be DirectX11 compatible and most other games you'll play won't be DX11 compatible either. I see all these people telling you to get an ATi Radeon HD 5xxx series and for what? The most you'll need for starcraft 2 is a Radeon HD 4850. Keep in mind that the minimum card needed is an old GeForce 6600GT PCI-e v1.1! The HD 4850 has about 4x the power of the 6600GT, supports full 1080p with 7-channel audio over HDMI and is more powerful than the recommended Radeon HD 3870/GeForce 8800! You'll be good with that. Secondly, the CPU is overkill. Get an Athlon II X3 and you'll see no difference at all, except that your wallet won't be as light. In addition, if this is a gaming machine, there's no reason yet to get Windows 7 when you already have a copy of XP that will work fine. Games run fantastic on XP and I'm sure that starcraft 2 will be no exception. If it comes to pass that you need Windows 7 down the road, get it then. There's no reason to spend money on it at the present time. If you're happy with XP Pro, keep using it. That's what I use on my laptop and I dual-boot XP and W7 x64 on my main rig. XP is always great to have because some programs are gimpy on W7. For the PSU, do NOT get one that comes with the case. A 500W is fine but get a name brand like Corsair, OCZ, PCP&C, Thermaltake or CoolerMaster. Don't get a generic, these days the vidcards use too much juice for them. They're fine for on-board video but not much else. As for the motherboard, you should spend as LITTLE as possible because DDR2 is already obsolete and you only need a board that has one PCI-Express v2.0 slot because you're not planning to crossfire and you need the board to support an AM3 CPU. I'd recommend the one from Foxconn. It will save you $30 and will do the job nicely.

    Let's see what the end cost is for what I recommend to you:

    Motherboard - Your choice: $80, my choice $50, savings of $30
    Video Card - Your choice: $280, my choice: $100, savings of $180
    CPU: Your choice: $160, my choice: $71, savings of $89
    Operating System: Your choice: $65, my choice: $0 (for the time being), savings of $65

    Total Savings: $364 - And you'll still be laughing for Starcraft 2. Most other games will run fine on medium settings too, even Crysis! :D

    Remember that the recommended specs for Starcraft 2 are:

    Windows XP with DirectX 9.0c
    CPU: Pentium Dual-Core 2.4GHz or Athlon x2 2.4GHz
    Video Card: nVidia GeForce 8800 GT or ATi Radeon HD 3870 w/512MB
    System RAM: 2GB

    So here we have a 2.9GHz Triple-core CPU vs the recommended 2.4GHz dual-core. That's an easy comparison. We also have a Radeon HD 4850 vs a Radeon HD 3870, also an easy comparison. For Starcraft 2, you'll still be kicking butt and taking names but you'll have an extra $364 in your pocket.

    Also keep in mind that using XP will make everything faster than W7 x32 and comparable to W7 x64. In all cases, it makes your 3.25GB of RAM do more than 4GB will do in W7 because XP isn't nearly as bloated. W7 is not as bad as Vista, not even close, but it does use more resources than XP because it's prettier and supports DX11. For gaming, in when a game just requires DirectX 9.0c like Starcraft 2, XP is a very good choice because it supports it without a bunch of stuff you won't use. Everything else in the computer world doesn't even need DX9, DVD and Blu-Ray movies sure don't!

    A word of advice though: Why pay $55 for a 500GB Hard Drive when a 1TB 7200rpm is $70?:

    Pay the extra $15, it's worth it.

    I hope my advice proves useful! :sol:
  7. Most Thermaltake and Coolermaster PSUs are overrated pieces of crap. A good PSU will have full range active PFC (no little voltage switch) and be 80+ certified for efficiency.
    While a HD5770 is stronger than needed, it can handle just about any game with decent settings up to 1920x1080; for the price I think that makes it a great choice. As nice as I agree the HD4670 is (and very budget-friendly), after studying a lot of benchmarks lately I can readily see it coming up short in the very near future.
  8. Onus said:
    Most Thermaltake and Coolermaster PSUs are overrated pieces of crap. A good PSU will have full range active PFC (no little voltage switch) and be 80+ certified for efficiency.
    While a HD5770 is stronger than needed, it can handle just about any game with decent settings up to 1920x1080; for the price I think that makes it a great choice. As nice as I agree the HD4670 is (and very budget-friendly), after studying a lot of benchmarks lately I can readily see it coming up short in the very near future.

    That's why I changed it to 4850, I realised that the 4670 probably wouldn't last long enough. And yes, you're right about the PSUs. That's why I listed them last. The trouble with the HD 5770 is that while it is DX11 compatible, nothing weaker than a 5850 will run DX11 games properly. That makes it a complete waste of money. I'd get another 4870 before a 5770. :sol:
  9. I'd start out with Windows 7. Why? If not initially, one very substantial upgrade (to any system) is to use a SSD as the boot drive. Windows 7, but not XP, supports the TRIM command, which keeps an SSD running like new. Since XP cannot be upgraded in-place to Windows 7, eliminating a wipe and reload can save a big hassle. While some people advocate doing that anyway every year or so, if one takes care to maintain his/her system to keep it reasonably clean, it can be kept running well for years without having to do that.
    A HD5770 uses 50W less than a HD4870. This isn't about "being green," but that's 1kW per day, or $40-$50 after a year. That's the full price of another game, or a handful of movies. It also means less heat, which means less fan noise.
  10. I wasn't suggesting that he never use Windows 7, I was suggesting that if he's short on cash, he can forgo it FOR NOW. He doesn't immediately need it and if he partitions his drive to have one 15GB partition for XP, one 30GB partition for W7, and one 955GB partition for everything else, he's covered. He doesn't have to wipe anything. In fact, dual-booting is better because some programs don't like Windows 7. (Like my webcam's drivers and my Walkman Phone file transfer software). On a terabyte drive, that's easy to do, believe me, it's what I do. I agree that the HD 5770 uses less juice but it's going to take him 2 years to recover the purchase price at least. I don't see that as an advantage for him. :sol:
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