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Budget Intel-Gaming Computer, help!

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September 23, 2010 8:46:25 PM

Hi everyone, this is my first post on Tom's Hardware and my first time building a computer from scratch.
I'm obviously a pretty big noob at it, but I have a ton of friends who are 3 or 4 computers deep building from scratch, so I think it's time I get in on it.

To begin with, my budget is about 850-1000 dollars. I'd like to not go over that if at all possible, but if completely necessary or really worth it I'll bite.

I'm a gamer, a 3D/2D animator, and a graphic designer.

So far I've done some research and have found some pretty good deals, but I'd like some opinions or suggestions.

CPU - Core i7 920
http://www.microcenter.com/single_product_results.phtml....

My buddy has this same processor and has raved about it. Plus that seems like a pretty great price for an i7 9 series.
He's also said it has good overclocking capabilities.

Motherboard - GIGABYTE GA-X58A-UD3R LGA 1366 Intel X58
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Hey, I trust this site. Again, my buddy has this motherboard and it does everything he's needed it to do. It's a good price, recommended by ya'll, and it has
some good reviews.

Video Card - ????

I need some help here. I'd like to get a 400 series Fermi, however I've heard some bad things about them overheating. The 460s seem to be in my price range,
but I'm willing to spring for a 470-480 if the price is right since this I'm told is the most important part of a computer, especially for a gamer/animator.

So suggestions would be great. I'd also like it to be a named brand, because I'd like something build for gamers and have good warranties and what not. EVGA, GIGABYTE, something like that.

And nVidia please. I've always used nVidia, so I'll stick with it.

Currently I'm looking at this card:
http://www.amazon.com/EVGA-896-P3-1171-AR-Superclocked-...

But I'm sure I can go a step up from that. I did test this card however with the games I play and it runs them all flawlessly at max settings, but I just don't know how much shelf life I'd get outta it with games becoming more and more demanding.

RAM - ????

All I know is I want 6-8gigs of DDR3 240-pin stuff. I know Corsair is a pretty reliable brand but I can't decide on really what to go with. The reviews for a lot of RAM on Newegg are either really good, where everything works as it should...or they are really bad, where only 2 of 3 sticks work (for 6 gig stuff) and they can't get it to run at 1600; or there are even problems with Windows 7 64-bit, and all that.

So again, suggestions would be nice on RAM that has worked well for you guys.

Heatsync/Fans - ????

All my friends say that "the stock cooling on video cards is bad", to paraphrase. So they suggest getting a replacement. Again, no idea what I should be looking for here beyond what my friends prefer for brands. My one buddy says go with ZALMAN, but again suggestions would be great!

Power Supply - ????

I don't know what kind of power I'll need, but I've read that you shouldn't need anymore then 650watt.

Hard-Drive/Optical Drives

I'm just grabbing these from my current computer. I've got two of the Western Digital Caviar Black 640gigs, and my optical drive is some Samsung thing that does everything. Nothing to worry about here haha. I also have a two monitors, so yadda yadda, don't need that.

Case

Apparently this is a big deal! A Full-Size is probably a must to keep it well cooled and to fit such big video cards and all that.
My friends recommend ANTEC steel cases, but I'm super indecisive so I'll need help here too.

-----

So I guess that's it.
Again, I want a computer that can game great, can handle 3d programs well (lowering rendering times would be great!), and is very stable.
Also some information on things I need to FRAPS and Stream at good FPS would be cool too, because that's something I like to do as well (but least important).

Thanks!
-Mike


September 24, 2010 9:30:25 PM

Dont get an old GTX200 series. They are hotter and more power hungry than the 400 series that you hear the complaints about. The ATI 5000 series was a big step down in power usage so people are spoiled about GPU power/heat. Get a 460 (1GB) for your price range, its not a hot power hog like the 465,470 and especially 480 are.

The stock cooling on a high end GTX200 series may have been insufficient, but the 460 is a lower power, cooler card. No need to waste money on an aftermarket GPU cooler if your case has good airflow. <see below>

Its going to be hard to meet your budget with an i7 900 series CPU. You are probably going to have to skimp on the motherboard to make it work. The 920 has been replaced by the 930 and now the 950. You might check prices as the newer, faster CPUs could be about the same as the 920.

Let me go back to the budget and CPU comment and explain. For an animator, an i7 9XX CPU (top notch) and an nvidia 460-1GB graphics card (upper mid range) makes sense. For pure gaming performance build you would get better performance spending less on the CPU and more on the graphics card.

Zalman only has one cooler that isnt outdated (the CPNS10X), but its overpriced. Here is a list of air coolers priced from $25 to $45 that will give good cooling and are reasonably quiet.
Kingwin 1264
Coolermaster Hyper 212+
Scythe Mugen 2 (SCMG-2100)
Sunbeam Core Contact Freezer
Xigmatek Balder
Xigmatek Dark Knight

This combo deal on an Antec 300 illusion and EA750 PSU will do everything you need, including handing a second GTX 460 if you want to do that as an upgrade.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

You dont need a huge case unless you will put lots more than the 2 HDD, 1 Optical, and up to 2 graphics cards already mentioned.

Dont skimp on the PSU in size or quality. The price difference for a good PSU is less than $20, the cost of not spending that extra is often freezups, unexplained blue screens, unexplained shutdowns, etc.

As far as RAM goes, if you want less headaches, get 1.5V or less RAM. Dont get 1.65V that says its "i7 compatible". You will have to go in and override bios setting to make 1.65V RAM work properly, 1.5V is the default. Get any DDR3-1600 (or even DDR3-1333) 6GB (3x2GB) kit from Gskill, Geil, Mushkin, Corsair (cas6 or cas7 preferred, but not necessary).
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September 25, 2010 2:13:34 AM

thanks a lot for the information dndhatcher.

I've put together a setup in which I'm under my budget and have room for upgrades.
I was thinking either the ASUS Sabertooth X58 or the GIGABYTE GA-X58A-UD3R. There isn't much information on the ASUS board so I'm leaning towards the GIGABYTE as it's gotten some rave reviews and feedback.

As far as processor goes, if I can find a 930 or above i7 for roughly 200.00 (only 30 more then I'd pay currenlty for a 920) then I'll definitely jump all over that.

I don't plan on putting anymore then you said inside the computer case, however I'd like for optimal cooling and some of the ANTEC steel cases are very nice when it comes to that. I suppose that's just personal preference, but knowing that I don't absolutely need a full tower is good to know if I do change my mind.

Also, thank you for the info on the PSU. I was going to take my old PSU from my current computer (non-named brand, kind of shitty) and just use that thinking that it really wasn't a big deal. I'm looking at a Corsair PSU right now that's about 50 bones on newegg ( http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... ), but I'm not sure that'll be sufficient.

Ahh, very good to know as well that the 1.65V RAM will require some BIOS tomfoolery to get it what I want it to do. I'm not familiar with tweaking or any of that as this is my first truely from scratch build, so not having to dive into that head first is great. I was also thinking either GSKILL or Corsair.

As far as what I want out of the computer, I will be doing a ton of gaming on it. However, I'll also be doing a fair amount of artwork on it as well. So I'm really looking for a machine that can hybrid as both and do well above average while doing either. If it was purely a gaming computer I'd more then likely up my budget knowing I'd want some more power.

But I do have a bit of money to throw around as far as upgrading my current setup, and video card being where I would more then likely toss most if not all of it. My buddy also said that the video card is without a doubt where you should spend most your money if you are a big PC gamer (which I am).

And this really is just the beginning. I just want an affordable upgrade to what I'm currently operating on, and slowly upgrade to my liking.

Again thank you so much for responding, you've been a great help.
Cheers,
-Mike.
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September 25, 2010 2:37:59 AM

For your budget, the i5-750/60 is a great deal, $170 at Microcenter, save you more in terms of cheaper Mobos. A bit slower in purely 3D rendering due to the 4 missing threads, but gaming wise its actually a bit better than the 920.


Heres a sample Intel build you could think about:
i5 750 + EVGA P55 SLI board: $325
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

Sparkle GTX460 768MB: $170 *(Might want to go 1GB depending on the games you play and your monitor, theres also an EVGA for the same price, but the warranty's only 2 years compared to Lifetime on this)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

G-Skill 8GB DDR3 1066 RAM $150 *(Bit slow, but timings are great and is cheap. RIpjaws were almost designed for P55 so no problems. Got 8GB due to Rendering/Editing can be very RAM consuming, feel free for 4GB if you want though.)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Corsair TX650: $80 *(Could go for even the VX series, but headroom is always good and the price is nice)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Coolermaster 690II Basic: $70 *(Classy elegant case, quality construction and has 2 fans for cooling. The i5 and GTX460 are both very cool running parts.)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Total: $795 ($725AR)


Though really consider the X6, almost perfect for your usage: $270
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...
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September 27, 2010 5:14:56 PM

Timop said:
For your budget, the i5-750/60 is a great deal, $170 at Microcenter, save you more in terms of cheaper Mobos. A bit slower in purely 3D rendering due to the 4 missing threads, but gaming wise its actually a bit better than the 920.


Heres a sample Intel build you could think about:
i5 750 + EVGA P55 SLI board: $325
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

Sparkle GTX460 768MB: $170 *(Might want to go 1GB depending on the games you play and your monitor, theres also an EVGA for the same price, but the warranty's only 2 years compared to Lifetime on this)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

G-Skill 8GB DDR3 1066 RAM $150 *(Bit slow, but timings are great and is cheap. RIpjaws were almost designed for P55 so no problems. Got 8GB due to Rendering/Editing can be very RAM consuming, feel free for 4GB if you want though.)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Corsair TX650: $80 *(Could go for even the VX series, but headroom is always good and the price is nice)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Coolermaster 690II Basic: $70 *(Classy elegant case, quality construction and has 2 fans for cooling. The i5 and GTX460 are both very cool running parts.)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Total: $795 ($725AR)


Though really consider the X6, almost perfect for your usage: $270
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...


I agree with this reply, for your budget- I really think the P55/1156 platform will deliver more for your money than the x58 platform will. Now, if you plan to spend 500-600 more on your build in the next few months- fine, go x58- but with a $1000 ish budget you will get more performance per dollar on P55.

I recently built the following for $808 AR:

Case: Cooler Master Storm Sniper Black Edition
Board: EVGA P55 SLI
Processor: Intel Core i5 750
GPU: GIGABYTE GTX 460 1GB
PSU: XFX 750W 80 PLUS SILVER
HDD: SAMSUNG Spinpoint F3 HD502HJ 500GB 7200 RPM SATA
RAM: Patriot Viper II Sector 5 PC1600 12800 DDR3
CD/RW: LG 24X Black SATA
CPU Cooler: Coolermaster V6 GT

(Granted, I cheated by getting the case off ebay for ~$65 shipped- but all in all it sounds like you could aim for something like this or very similar, throw in a 16:10 monitor, and still meet your budget. Or, if you don't need a monitor, get another 1GB GTX 460 and run SLI... I doubt there is a better performing system that can be made for $1000.) Note that the x58 choice would offer 4-8% better performance in the long run if you intend to sink an extra $300+ into it in the coming months, but I would consider P55 if your budget is accurate. x58 is usually for higher budgets (else you won't be able to complete it with a respectable heatsink, case, PSU, etc.) I would add that my spending is very top heavy into those items, and that my case, PSU, and cooler are all nicer than the rest of the build needs- but these unsung components will retain some value should I decide to upgrade to P56, or another setup in the future... you can easily shave $100 off my prices by getting an Antec 900 case, Corsair 650TX power, and CM Hyper 212+ heatsink, all still nice components.
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September 27, 2010 6:23:59 PM

obsidian86 said:
cwt can build great quality they made the hx750/850/1kw and current TT toughpower grands

Seeing the first two complaints Ive ever seen about Corsair 650s soon after the change is too much coincidence for my comfort recommending them. One was an unplugged molex connector smoldering, the other was a DoA. of course it could be coincidence. Corsair is a good company so I doubt they will let there be any serious issues, but I'm being cautious about that model right now, especially since its easy with a competing Seasonic model at the same price.
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