APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: Within the next two weeks
BUDGET RANGE: $1000 give or take a hundred
SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: Gaming mostly, possibly graphics design in photoshop or video editing, watching movies
PARTS NOT REQUIRED: Keyboard, monitor (I'll be using my 37" 1080p lcd tv)
PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: No idea--see explanation below
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
PARTS PREFERENCES: AMD processor, ATI gpu, not much else
OVERCLOCKING: Not anytime soon, but would like to have the option eventually
SLI OR CROSSFIRE: Crossfire, yes
MONITOR RESOLUTION: 1920 x 1080
I'm looking to get a new PC that I can start gaming on now and which will have the potential to be greatly improved if I decide to get more serious about it later. I've never put together a build from parts before, I have a background in small-scale scripting and programming on the software side but have basically zero experience with hardware. I've been reading a lot so as to avoid obnoxious questions as much as possible when I finally got around to starting a thread, so I have some idea of what I want to do, but there are still a few question marks too.
The first major question is how difficult it would be for me, as a person with no idea what he's doing to start with, to put together a build from parts that I ordered. I suppose if it proved too difficult I could always look for someone more experienced to help me. The other side of this equation is that I can get a tax exemption (probably in the 15% tax bracket) on the purchase of a new computer due to the income category of 'internet business owner', so if there's some reliable business that will put together a build for me from parts that I select, it might actually turn out to be cheaper since I essentially get a 15% discount and I don't think I can claim this exemption if I order the build as separate parts. I've looked into a few websites that seem to do this, but they're all either way overpriced or, as in the case of ibuypower.com, have enough negative reviews about faulty build organization that I hesitate to go that path. Any suggestions or advice here would be welcome.
Moving on to the build itself, I think I've decided to maximize potential for expansion later rather than maximize immediate performance. My immediate needs won't be anything more demanding than playing Starcraft 2 on max settings with a 1080p 37" lcd screen. What I have so far is this:
CPU: AMD Phenom II x4 965
GPU: ATI Radeon HD 5770
4 GB DDR3 Ram
PSU: Corsair 750TX or 850TX (there's only a $10 difference on Amazon right now so I figure may as well go 850w)
HDD: 1TB 7200RPM drive
The motherboard is a big question mark, as is the case. I know I want the ability to upgrade to crossfire GPUs, and to be able to switch from the HD 5770 (which I just chose because it's relatively cheap and should be able to max SC2) to 5870s or even 5970s eventually if I need to. I really have no idea what kind of motherboard this leaves me with as many of them seem to have pretty similar stats despite huge price differentials and a lot of letters and numbers that mean very little to me (I am aware that I need AM3 socket for the processor and 2x PCIE x16 slots for crossfired gpus but that's about the extent of my understanding). And I don't know how big of a case I need for all this or how to find out other than just asking y'all.
Some minor questions that I have include:
Is there any point in upgrading from the quad-core processor to a six-core processor? I've seen people saying that there's little or no difference for gaming, so what uses is the upgrade really intended for?
Is there a significant difference between 1333mhz, 1600mhz, 2000mhz, etc. ddr3 ram? The price differences seem to be miniscule but I don't know enough about how this works in context to know which I should buy.
What's the difference between a 3Gb/s and a 6Gb/s hard drive? Is this a significant difference for my purposes? I'm also confused about the difference between, say, a 1TB hard drive and two 500GB hard drives in RAID 0--I mean I guess I understand the basic idea but don't understand what it would mean for me in practice or whether it's anything I need to worry about. Also along hard drive lines, is upgrading from a 7200RPM to the 10000RPM or some other new technology worth the cost?
Sorry that there's so much text in this thread, and thanks in advance for any help!
First, prebuilt vs. homebuilt. Generally, it is always better to build it yourself. It's easy and there is a lot of helpful information out there about it. You get high quality parts and exactly what you need. As for the exemption, if you're using this computer for work (and exclusively for work), it's likely you can just take the expense entirely on the tax return. There isn't anything special about computers that give you special tax treatment. That said, even a 15% discount isn't likely to be worth the loss of quality and cost savings of a homebuilt.
Second, I'll post an ideal below. I'm assuming the budget is around $700.
Third, on the quad vs. hex core CPUs, there isn't a big difference. The X6 CPUs are designed to help in CPU intensive programs, but are often outclassed by the i7-930 quad core due to it's hyperthreading. However, they do stand out in video editing, so if you do a lot of that, it might be worth considering.
Fourth, RAM speed doesn't make a huge difference. Almost everything defaults to 1333 mhz, but 1600 mhz is almost required for overclocking. 2000 mhz is mostly overkill because they'll be lowerd to 1600 mhz to get tighter timings (the CAS Latency). Generally, you want to get 1600 mhz CAS Latency 7 sticks.
Fifth, SATA II vs. SATA III means nothing right now. Standard HDDs will never be affected. Eventually, SATA III drives will be massively better, but that's likely a good two years out. As for RAID 0, it's a drastic speed increase, but you double the risk of losing everything. It's typically avoided. There is no point in getting a 10K RPM drive. The newer 7200 RPM ones are just as fast.
So here's the build (assuming you want the option to add a second GPU in Crossfire later):
If I upgraded from the 790x motherboard to a 790FX board, would that mean a bigger board requiring a bigger case, or would the Coolermaster 690 still suffice?
I wouldn't go with any 700 series mobo past the $70 mark to be honest In Intel speak that would be buying outdated P35s when P45s (800 series) are out So if u really want to let rip have a look at the 890FXes
Assuming you're not overclocking, the cooling you have is just fine. If you want to overclock, you'll need an aftermarket heatsink. I recommend the Coolermaster Hyper 212 Plus (if you can get it for around $30) or the Scythe Mugen 2 Rev. B (SCMG-2100).