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My $2000 balanced gaming/CS5 build

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November 14, 2010 1:05:59 AM

Thanks very much for creating such a wonderful community. I've learned a ton since I started lurking here a few weeks ago; this has truly been an oasis for me as I've been researching what kind of rig to build.

I was hoping that the community would be willing to give their opinions on my setup. I'm building it to replace Dell XPS 710 H2C, whose motherboard I managed to burn out twice (probably from leaving it on 24/7...). I'll be more careful with this one...

I'm using this primarily for desktop applications (Adobe CS), but do fire up Crysis/Starcraft 2 from time to time and would like a computer that can handle reasonable gaming. I know that in terms of value for gaming I should invest more in video cards than other parts, but I'm more concerned with building a balanced system that will be good for other apps too.

I was thinking of buying a prebuilt system, but thought that as an aspiring enthusiast, there's no better way of learning than by jumping right in and building something from scratch!

Thanks for your input!

Approximate Purchase Date: this week

Budget Range: ~$2000 (pre-tax/shipping, flexible, I'm in Canada and often don't have access to the nice newegg combos)


System Usage from Most to Least Important: 1) Playable framerates SC2/Crysis (but don't need full AA/native resolution), 2) Adobe CS5 Premiere/After Effects/Photoshop


Parts Not Required: I've got 2 x 30" 2560x1600 monitors from a previous build, as well as keyboard/mouse/speakers.


Country of Origin: Canada

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: Currently shopping at canadacomputers.com because I'm in Toronto and can buy local parts, but if it's available in Canada, newegg.ca/tigerdirect.ca or any other website is fine!


Parts Preferences:
My tentative build:

Motherboard: Asus SABERTOOTH X58 ($214.99)
I was looking at the Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R too, but this post pointed me away from them.

Processor: Intel Core i7 950 ($329.99)
I've found that other processors were somewhat limited in availability. Since this is my first home build, I'm thinking of OCing 20% to start...maybe more later on.

Graphics: 2 x EVGA GeForce GTX 460 Superclocked (763Mhz) 1024MB (3800Mhz) ($219.99 x 2 = $439.98)
Not sure what the differences are, but since I'm inexperienced, I thought factory OC would be best. I just am concerned that they might run hot. I wanted to go GTX 460 because they're reasonably priced and will help me with CS5 (CUDA compatible).

Case: Cooler Master HAF X Full Tower ($169.99)
It's big and has swappable drives. Plus, hopefully with the large fans it will run cool.

RAM: 2 x Corsair XMS3 Classic 6GB (3x2GB) DDR3 1600MHz CL9 DIMM, Optimized for Core i7 Extreme Edition ($124.99 x 2 = $249.98)
I honestly don't know if 12GB will make a difference over 6GB. Also, not sure if 6x2GB is ok...

Cooling: Arctic Cooling Arctic MX-4 Thermal Compound ($9.99)
Don't know the difference between MX-3, MX-4, etc...but it probably doesn't matter.

Cooler Master Hyper 212 ($29.99)
I'm hoping that this will be good enough for a conservative (20%) OC. Should I consider liquid cooling? I do like it to run quiet, but am worried about a difficult installation. If I end up doing a heavy OC, I'd probably have to get better cooling.

PSU: Corsair HX Series CMPSU-850HX 850W ATX EPS12V Power Supply ($189.99)
I think that 850W should be enough, since I'm only using 2x460GTX, but wonder if spending more will improve reliability

ODD: Sony AD-7260S-0B DVDR ($22.99)

SDD: OCZ Agility 2 Extended SATA II 2.5" 60GB ($149.99)

HDD: Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB SATA3 7200RPM 64MB Cache ($84.99)

Total: $1,892.87

Overclocking: Yes (don't have the knowledge to do it now, but am reading about it and will OC in the near future)


SLI or Crossfire: Yes


Monitor Resolution: Two monitors at 2560x1600.


Additional Comments:
I want to try building something from the ground up, but despite weeks of reading, still feel entirely lost. I really appreciate the members on this site (this forum has taught me *so* much), and was hoping for some feedback with respect to components. I'm afraid that my first build will end up being a lemon, with incompatible hardware, bottlenecks, and would love any advice that could optimize it.

Thanks!
November 14, 2010 1:19:02 AM

1. Get a spinpoint f3 1TB hd.

2. I like the DF-85 case better. (7 fans included, lots of hotswaps, air vents)

3. I'd use a mobo with USB 3.0 & sata 3.

4. Actually for your build 850W it's overkill and you can pass with 750 or 650 watts.

5. The hyper 212 should be okay for an average overclock. The tuniq 120 extreme is a more exspensive better option + it looks badass.
November 14, 2010 2:04:07 AM

Thanks for your quick response!
1) Definitely will order the spinpoint and it them instead.
2) That was the other case I was looking at! I'm not sure which would do a better job of cooling. The DF-85 looks nice and has more fans, but each individual fan is smaller. The reviews for both are really good, and the prices are similar.
3) I thought that the one I selected had USB3 / SATA3...I'll have to do more research.
4) Once I've finalized I'll run through the calculator again and maybe I can downgrade the power.
5) Wow...that tuniq 120 extreme looks badass. Although at the price, maybe I could go to an integrated water cooling solution?
You definitely brought up a few things that I hadn't thought about. Thanks very much for your advice!
Related resources
November 14, 2010 2:11:00 AM

The mobo might have USB 3 and sata 3 I couldn't remember. And I'm on an iPod cuz my laptops keyboard died so I didn't go check haha.

Those calculator thing are always wrong.. There's no way you will ever use 850watts with sli gtx 460's. 850watts is enough for sli 470's.

You can go with water if you want but I believe the radiators are louder than air systems. + water isn't really necessary unless you want a SERIOUS overclock.
Like on an i5 750 people get to 4.1 4.2 on GOOD air. And need water for higher.
November 14, 2010 2:13:20 AM

Oh also if you get the df-85 get the antec cpx-850 psu. (850w cuz it's the lowest one made.) that psu only fits 4 antec cases. And that psu got a 9.5 on jonnuguru.com. 10 performance. It's 850watts for $120!

Best solution

November 14, 2010 2:31:19 AM
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I am not a fan of the antec dark fleet series, that is one nasty looking case. I like the look of the HAF X, but you have to realize that the HAF X is one huge case. Consider the HAF 922, its also fairly large and has swappable drives if you need it.

Motherboard: Asus Sabertooth X58 194.79
http://www.bestdirect.ca/products/230546/ASUS/SABERTOOT...

Ram: 2 x G. Skill F3-12800CL9T-6GBNQ 6GB DDR3-1600 (2 x 101.36)
http://www.bestdirect.ca/products/196506/G_SKILL/F3_128...

Processor: Intel Core i7 950 289.99
http://www.bestdirect.ca/products/216737/Intel/BX806019...

Power Supply: Corsair HX750W 144.99
http://www.memoryexpress.com/Products/PID-MX24570(ME).aspx

Case: Cooler Master HAF 922 89.68
http://www.bestdirect.ca/products/216224/COOLERMASTER/R...

Video Card: 2 x MSI GTX 460 1GB Hawk Talon Attack (2 x 199.99)
http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E1681...

Heatsink: Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus 22.58
http://www.bestdirect.ca/products/218427/COOLERMASTER/R...

Thermal Paste: Arctic Silver 5 5.30
http://www.directcanada.com/products/?sku=10460AC8077&v...

DVD Drive: Samsung SH-223L 19.79
http://www.bestdirect.ca/products/219381/Samsung/SH_S22...

Hard Drive: Samsung F3 1TB 79.99
http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E1682...

SSD: OCZ Vertex 2 60 GB 109.99
http://www.ncix.com/products/index.php?sku=53308&promoi...

OS: Windows 7 Professional 64 Bit 139.79
http://www.bestdirect.ca/products/222084/MICROSOFT/FQC_...

Total without OS: 1559.8 + taxes.
Total with OS: 1699.59 + taxes

Canada computers is freaking overpriced! If you don't mind price matching and getting items shipped to you, NCIX is a great option for people in canada. http://www.ncix.com/ I believe they have opened up a retail store in Markham, so if you are able to get to that location you can save money on shipping. They will price match all those online retailers so you will save a fair amount going with them over CC. I did not make too many changes to your original build, just things where I thought you would like to save some money. Also use www.shopbot.ca to get the lowest prices on the computer components, just type in the name of the item and it will list the lowest retailer online. You can then use that to price match at NCIX.
November 14, 2010 2:33:08 AM

You probably want to get lower latency RAM; CL8 is the minimum I'd recommend, but CL7 is the sweet spot right now.
As for the case, my vote goes to the HAF X. I'd say its cooling is actually better, and since it's fans are larger, they're quieter, too. And it has a lot more useful features, like the rotated drive bays, vibration dampeners on the drive bays, a PSU partition, rubber grommets for cabling, front eSATA port, etc. And while neither looks all that sleek IMO, the HAF X takes my vote in that respect as well. :kaola: 
November 14, 2010 2:44:13 AM

1-anh said:
I am not a fan of the antec dark fleet series, that is one nasty looking case. I like the look of the HAF X, but you have to realize that the HAF X is one huge case. Consider the HAF 922, its also fairly large and has swappable drives if you need it.

Motherboard: Asus Sabertooth X58 194.79
http://www.bestdirect.ca/products/230546/ASUS/SABERTOOT...

Ram: 2 x G. Skill F3-12800CL9T-6GBNQ 6GB DDR3-1600 (2 x 101.36)
http://www.bestdirect.ca/products/196506/G_SKILL/F3_128...

Processor: Intel Core i7 950 289.99
http://www.bestdirect.ca/products/216737/Intel/BX806019...

Power Supply: Corsair HX750W 144.99
http://www.memoryexpress.com/Products/PID-MX24570(ME).aspx

Case: Cooler Master HAF 922 89.68
http://www.bestdirect.ca/products/216224/COOLERMASTER/R...

Video Card: 2 x MSI GTX 460 1GB Hawk Talon Attack (2 x 199.99)
http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E1681...

Heatsink: Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus 22.58
http://www.bestdirect.ca/products/218427/COOLERMASTER/R...

Thermal Paste: Arctic Silver 5 5.30
http://www.directcanada.com/products/?sku=10460AC8077&v...

DVD Drive: Samsung SH-223L 19.79
http://www.bestdirect.ca/products/219381/Samsung/SH_S22...

Hard Drive: Samsung F3 1TB 79.99
http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E1682...

SSD: OCZ Vertex 2 60 GB 109.99
http://www.ncix.com/products/index.php?sku=53308&promoi...

OS: Windows 7 Professional 64 Bit 139.79
http://www.bestdirect.ca/products/222084/MICROSOFT/FQC_...

Total without OS: 1559.8 + taxes.
Total with OS: 1699.59 + taxes

Canada computers is freaking overpriced! If you don't mind price matching and getting items shipped to you, NCIX is a great option for people in canada. http://www.ncix.com/ I believe they have opened up a retail store in Markham, so if you are able to get to that location you can save money on shipping. They will price match all those online retailers so you will save a fair amount going with them over CC. I did not make too many changes to your original build, just things where I thought you would like to save some money. Also use www.shopbot.ca to get the lowest prices on the computer components, just type in the name of the item and it will list the lowest retailer online. You can then use that to price match at NCIX.
I'd recommend the XFX 750W power supply over the Corsair. It's a better PSU and it's cheaper on that site :ouch: 
November 14, 2010 2:51:12 AM

blackjellognomes said:
I'd recommend the XFX 750W power supply over the Corsair. It's a better PSU and it's cheaper on that site :ouch: 


Oh yeah, I totally forgot about the XFX branded power supplies. Read good things about them. Also for the CL8 or CL7 Ram, I have noticed they are always a fair amount more expensive so I never really bother with them.
November 15, 2010 2:54:55 AM

Best answer selected by sschnauzer.
November 15, 2010 2:56:08 AM

Amazing, thanks so much for all your help. I ended up taking basically all of the suggestions that you experts offered, and am pricematching at NCIX. You guys rock. I hope that eventually I'll have the knowledge to help others too!
November 15, 2010 2:58:15 AM

sschnauzer said:
Amazing, thanks so much for all your help. I ended up taking basically all of the suggestions that you experts offered, and am pricematching at NCIX. You guys rock. I hope that eventually I'll have the knowledge to help others too!


haha not a problem at all! I also read that NCIX has a few other stores in ontario, which I was unaware of. Check out the scarborough location if that is easier to get to. Anyway good luck with completing your build!
November 21, 2010 7:47:12 AM

I picked up the components today from the Scarborough location. Now I'm meticulously trying to put this thing together (without making any serious mistakes)...it's actually more difficult than I thought - I'm going to have to look for some guides to optimize cable management. I'm just glad I got a big case...
!