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2,000 USD Gaming/Protools Machine

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September 19, 2010 6:24:03 AM

Approximate Purchase Date: Early October (Building week of Oct. 17th)
Budget Range: Roughly 2,000 USD... a bit over is okay.
System Usage: 1. Gaming 2. Music recording (Protools)
Parts Not Required: Mouse/Keyboard (Need monitor but have money outside the 2k budget for that)
Preferred Website(s) for Parts: No preferance. Linked everything to NewEgg for now, I will shop
around before actually purchasing for best deals. Shopping tips are welcomed.
Country of Origin: United States
Overclocking: In the future.
SLI or Crossfire: In the future.
Monitor Resolution: Don't know.

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How does the build below look? Any fatal errors? Bottlenecks? Compatability issues? Do you think this will be too complicated for a first-time build? This computer has to last me for several years (6-8 at least) with occassional upgrades but nothing drastic. I guess a decent upgrade path is a theme for this one.

The build is based off of MadAdmiral's post on the first page of the 'High-End Intel Gaming PC' competition thread. Many of my choices were the same or similar to his before even reading the thread (CPU, MOBO, GPU). And certain features, like PSU and SSDs, I don't know enough about to make my own decisions on. So I used this as a starting point at least.

The only changes I made were upgrading from the i7-930 to i7-950, switching to a full-tower case (my thinking is upgradability and airflow (and since I have the space), does it cause any compatibility problems with the other parts?), and added the HSF he recommended.

Building PCs is basically new to me. I have read the stickies/guides here at TH (very helpful), followed the forums for awhile, and watched a lot of Youtube on the subject. Unfortunately, I have one shot at a full-power machine with no prior experience. I do have some contacts that can help if things aren't going well.

Excited. Nervous.

:]

CPU:
Intel Core i7-950
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

MOTHERBOARD:
GIGABYTE GA-X58A-UD3R
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

GPU:
SAPPHIRE 100280SR Radeon HD 5970
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

RAM:
CORSAIR XMS 6GB (3 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 2000 (PC3 16000)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

PSU:
CORSAIR HX Series CMPSU-850HX 850W ATX12V 2.3 / EPS12V 2.91
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

SSD:
OCZ Agility 2 OCZSSD2-2AGTE120G 2.5" 120GB SATA II MLC Internal Solid State Drive
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

HDD:
SAMSUNG Spinpoint F3 HD103SJ 1TB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5"
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

CASE:
COOLER MASTER HAF X RC-942-KKN1
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...(Computer+Cases+-+ATX+Form)-_-Cooler+Master-_-11119225

HSF:
Noctua NH-D14 120mm & 140mm SSO CPU Cooler
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Total: ~2,100 USD with shipping and after MIRs

Does the PSU give me enough headroom for upgrading?

I am considering downgrading the GPU to a 5870... that handles SC2 well enough at fairly high settings according to the 'SC2 revisited' article. This would give me a bit more to spend on the monitor and leave some room for unexpected expenses. I could upgrade later when the price drops (or go crossfire according to the compatability chart on Maziar's faq). What do you think?

Thanks much.
September 19, 2010 7:49:10 AM

Nvidia offers far more bang for buck at the moment.

Get either

460gtx hawk/gtx 460
gtx460/gtx 460hawk sli
470gtx sli

For the rest the build looks good


The 5870 is also very bad bang for buck at the moment. It is rivalled by a 470gtx and 5870CF get's a beating from 470gtx sli because nvidia drivers scale much better.

Again crossfiring 5870s is a bad idea because they scale badly compared to nvidia cards.

I can't answer the GPU question yet because I don't know what GPU you're getting.

Personally though I'd forget the SSD, get 2 460s and get this http://ncix.com/products/?sku=53537&vpn=DEFINE-R3-BLACK... instead of the overly large 942 you listed. I also find the 942 hideous but maybe you don't.

That should save you 500 which is enough to get 3 of these if you add the money you had for a monitor in any case.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
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September 19, 2010 3:09:23 PM

Thanks for the reply, somebody_007. I am going to take your advice and drop the SSD, but I am still a bit torn on the GPU...

I am building this machine for Star Craft 2 specifically (which I should have said flat-out in the original post, sorry), and from what I gather SC2 isn't built to take advantage of Crossfire/SLI setups. So with that in mind, my thinking is to splurge on a single GPU (for now) and get the 5970.

If I do indeed add another GPU down the road, it won't be for 2-3 years, so I want to get a nice one now, even if the price is going to fall eventually. This pushes the budget at $650, but is doable - especially by losing the SSD.

What do you (or anyone else) think?

Thanks.
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Related resources
September 19, 2010 3:38:14 PM

5970 is a crossfire card -- two GPUs, one card. >< Strongest single-GPU is the 480, but it has nastybad price/performance. IMO get a GTX 470.

I would keep the SSD, as this is a prosumer build. I have the HAF X and it was a pleasure to build in, very roomy. It is aggressively styled and definitely not to everyone's taste.

How pro is your audio work? You may consider a Xeon over that gaming CPU. Do you use a lot of ram when working with audio?

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September 19, 2010 3:47:06 PM

if you only plan on running two video cards at most then I would consider a 1156 setup. the x58 motherboards are only really good if you plan on running more than 2 pci express slots(video cards, ssd pci-express etc)

1156 setup:
cpu: the i5 doesn't have hyperthreading the i7 does.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
or
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

motherboard:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

ram:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
or
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

ps:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
or
http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/ite...

hdd
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

ssd: (you could do without this if you wanted)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

heatsink (best heatsink out)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

video cards 2x. I like msi video cards and these two come with 2 free games(4 really). other brands i would get is evga
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

case
this is a personal choice. I would get something that has good airflow, cable management holes, lots of fans and filters and has room to work on the inside and is black inside too.

soundcard: (you could do without this if you wanted)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

os (your choice really, just a fill in)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

1700 dollars almost (without the case)
m
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September 19, 2010 3:48:28 PM

In 2-3years there will be better GPUs with newer technologies. If you aren't adding in 6months-1yearthen forget it then it's better to replace.
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September 19, 2010 4:43:06 PM

Thanks for the replies.

So now I am a bit confused on these "Crossfire ready" cards. I was thinking these are cards that are ready to be paired with another "Crossfire ready" card. But they are actually two-cards-in-one and will already be in Crossfire?

I am a bit worried about running SC2 on a crossfire setup due to this post I happened across:
http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/forum/gaming/35494-starc...
Any opinions on Crossfire/SLI causing crashes with Blizzard games?

@zucchini: I see your point on the 1156 setup. I was going the x58 to keep the most options/upgradability open in the future, but thinking more about it with your added insight, I doubt I would be going with more than two cards on this machine. Maybe it is "back to the drawing board." On the other hand, the cost difference between the going Intel Core i7-950 + GIGABYTE GA-X58A-UD3R vs. the CPU + MOBO on your 1156 setup is only $30 or so. Maybe keeping options open in the future is worth the extra $30 now? I can't decide.

I think I'll wait for any input on the crossfire/crashing with SC2 before making any more decisions. If anyone can clear up the crossfire ready cards for me, I would greatly appreciate that too. I'm going to take another look at the faq.

Thanks.

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September 19, 2010 5:00:14 PM

@sp12

The audio work is just a personal hobby, albeit a serious one. It can be quite demanding on the RAM when layering dozens of tracks. My 2002 machine just can't quite cut it. But I'm definitely focusing on the gaming aspect with this PC and hoping the massive performance upgrade over my 2002 machine should be enough to handle Protools without a problem. Getting cut off in the middle of recording a sick riff because the comp can't handle it really sucks. I am not serious enough about the audio quality to really buy certain parts for it. Though I am curious what the advantage of the CPU you listed for Music software based PCs is. If the computer will be able to handle the multiple tracks without lagging out (errors, cancels current take) then I'll be happy.

Thanks
m
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September 19, 2010 5:24:31 PM

In regard to zucchini's 1156 setup suggestion:

If I went the 1156 route is it possible/practical to still go with 6GB ram instead of the 4GB options you are suggesting? I see the motherboard has fewer slots, so my RAM setup above won't work.

Thanks.
m
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September 19, 2010 8:31:19 PM

For the 30dollars more it's worth getting an i7 950 over any 1156 CPU let alone get a better platform with it. IMO x58 is an undoubtable no-brainer.

6gb of ram will be slower on a p55 system than an x58 but IMO x58 is the way to go anyways.

As for crossfire/sli.

5970=5850 crossfire on one card.(it's not that simple but this is all you need to know really)

you can get 2 5970 and which is effectively quadfire 5850s

As I said above though nvidia is a better option.

as for starcraft not working on sli/crossfire setups. It's just a matter of time before they get the drivers sorted by the time you get your system it shouldn't be an issue.
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September 19, 2010 11:46:20 PM

Okay, thanks somebody_007, that clears things up. Now it's time to make some decisions.
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!