Background and Building an mATX rig $900

First, a little background. About two years ago I built an ATX rig around the 775 Socket/ Core 2 Quad. The system ran fine for awhile but I started getting blue screens at seemingly random times. I took it into a shop to have it looked at. They found that one of my sticks of ram was bad (I was running 4 x 2g) so they pulled it out. Took it home and it was still having the same issues so I brought it in again. They said it must be my Windows files so they did a reinstall. Turns out it is still having the same issues. I'm quite confident that it must be the motherboard at this point. It is a Gigabyte, a Newegg top seller, that the guys in the shop said probably shouldn't be giving me problems, but I think it is.

Right now I'm in China studying abroad so I don't have access to my desktop. When I get back home I'm going to have about a month and a half before I head back to college. In that time I was going to disassemble my machine and send the board back to Gigabyte since it is still under warranty. Problem is that with my mobo tied up in the RMA process I won't have a rig for what I can assume would be about a month. I was thinking about buying a new 775 mobo and just using that. However after a year at college I decided that the portability/size of a mATX board would be best. Checking out Newegg, there are very few 775 mATX boards suited for gaming, for example most only support two sticks of DDR2. Sooo I am now thinking about just selling my parts and building a new mATX rig.

So a little bit of info on what I would be doing with the rig:

1) Gaming--The use of the rig. I want to be able to play be able to play current gen games and have them look good, High settings and all. However, I'm not the kind of person who cares too much about building the absolute fastest machine possible. This doesn't mean I'm fine being able to run Crysis on medium, but means that I don't have the cash (nor do I care) about getting outrageous fps. If I won't notice the difference (or won't notice it that much), I'm fine with lower performance. I also the rig to be relatively future proofed so that it can last a couple years.

2) Watching movies--I have my dorm room set up to play movies etc on an LCD TV via the computer

3) Internet Browsing and all other things that are irrelevant when you build a gaming machine :)

Intel vs AMD

I've been doing a lot of research lately about Intel vs. AMD. At first I was thinking that an i5 750 would be best. But after more research I'm not sure I like the fact that the 1156 socket is likely to die out so soon. I know that the intel i5/7 processors are typically better for gaming, but as I said before, having the absolute fastest machine possible is not my goal in this build. I want something that will perform strongly and stay strong in the future (a couple of years I hope).

nVidia vs ATI.

Here I'm not really as sure. My initial thought was to go with nVidia because it's all I've ever used and I've never had any problems. Also, a friend of mine who knows everything about computers swears by nVidia. I was thinking a GTX 470 was in my price range. However, I have read some articles that say that there is no reason to get a 470--the 5850 is better and slightly cheaper. Right now I do not plan on running two Video cards at once since I don't have the funds.

Overclocking vs Not

I have never overclocked before. I understand that if done wrong it can destroy your system. With a new system like this, I would like to keep everything at factory settings for awhile, and overclock in the future to extend the life of the machine.

So with these thoughts in mind here is a system that I drew up:

Case: ($70) NZXT Crafted Series Vulcan Black Steel / Plastic Gaming mATX Computer Case

Power Supply: ($140) XFX Black Edition P1-750B-CAG9 750W ATX12V v2.2 / ESP12V v2.91 SLI Ready CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS SILVER Certified Modular ...

Video Card: ($415 with RAM) EVGA 012-P3-1470-AR GeForce GTX 470 (Fermi) 1280MB 320-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Support Video Card

RAM: ($415 with Video Card) OCZ AMD Black Edition 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model OCZ3BE1600C8LV4GK

Processor: ($270 with mobo) AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition Deneb 3.2GHz Socket AM3 125W Quad-Core Processor Model HDZ955FBGMBOX

Motherboard: ($270 with Processor) MSI 890GXM-G65 AM3 AMD 890GX SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 HDMI Micro ATX AMD Motherboard

Total: $894.94 with about $50 in rebate potential

I chose the NZXT Vulcan as the case with some help from some users here. It has enough space to accommodate my two hard drives that I will be recycling and large video cards, even two if I ever chose to do so.

The power supply I chose was based on wanting at least 750w, and being modular. The brands I considered were Antec, Corsair, OCZ, and XFX and I just chose the XFX for kicks, plus I think it looks pretty cool.

I chose an EVGA GTX 470 (due to EVGA's reputation) but whether the 470 or an ATI equivalent is best I'm not really sure. I need some input!
Finally, for the ram, I just picked what I did because it was in a combo deal. It is 2x2g, which is what I am looking for.

I chose the Phenom II X4 955 processor because I feel it is a good value to performance ratio. Also, using the AM3 socket I am hoping that newer AMD CPUs like the Bulldozer will be supported, although I have read several threads debating this.

The mother board I selected was the only one that had SATA 6gb/s, and two PCI e 2.0 slots. I realize that the slots will only run in 8x if I ever decide to run two video cards, but from what I've read the loss in performance is relatively low (<10%).

So, I would like to know what everyone thinks. Sorry about writing a novel, but I wanted to explain my thought process and circumstances so I could get the best advice possible. Thanks in advance for any advice!

Edit: Couldn't figure out how to insert a screen shot, was going to post a shot of my shopping cart
5 answers Last reply
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  1. 1. The HD 5850/5870 is a better buy across the board than the GTX 470/480
    2. I would be worried about heat issues with a GTX 470 in an ATX case nvm an mATX one!
    3. I would suggest single GPU set up in an SFF/mATX build
    4. Suggested config @ $885AR
  2. Thanks for the input. I have a couple questions about your suggestions.

    First, the processor. What is the difference between the Phenom II X4 945 and the 955? And then what do you think about the AMD processor vs an Intel one like the i5 750? What kind of performance can I expect from a 945 or 955? This is my biggest uncertainty right now, is my CPU going to be a bottleneck?

    Next the case and heating. I have never worked with mATX before and I wasn't aware that heating would be that much of an issue. I knew that if I wanted to do mad overclocking it would not work out well but I assumed that I could run almost anything at factory settings. I know that people like the Antec Mini P180 and I was wondering if you had any input on how it/the NZXT Vulcan handle heat. I know the 5850s run cooler than the gtx 470s but will I need to buy some additional fans to increase the airflow for either?

    Thanks again
  3. 1. TDP and in case of 955BE, unlocked multiplier
    2. Heat builds up in confined spaces if cooling solutions not decent enuff but either P180/Vulcan has viable cooling solution to support gaming system with single GPU configuration (not enuff data on CF/SLI)
  4. Also, I noticed you paired a 5870 with a 650W power supply. What kind of strain will the 5870/build put on the 650w supply? I would like the ability to overclock so is 650w enough?
  5. ATI Radeon™ HD 5870 System Requirements
    PCI Express® based PC is required with one X16 lane graphics slot available on the motherboard
    500 Watt or greater power supply with two 75W 6-pin PCI Express® power connectors recommended (600 Watt and four 6-pin connectors for ATI CrossFireX™ technology in dual mode)
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