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Noob building $1200 USD Ubuntu gaming rig

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December 29, 2010 8:02:57 AM

Hi guys, thanks in advance for any comments/suggestions/criticisms:


Approximate Purchase Date: Dec 30

Budget Range: ~$1200 USD After Rebates

System Usage from Most to Least Important: gaming (WoW, AA, MW2, Civ V, Fallout, StarCraft II, Diablo III), photo editing, video editing, surfing the interwebs. Also, this system will provide a lot of experimenting for me -- I have not used Linux or done any overclocking before, so I will have a lot to learn!

Parts Not Required: case, monitor, keyboard, mouse, speakers

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: newegg.com, tigerdirect.com

Country of Origin: USA

Parts Preferences: I put together an AMD build because I have the (mistaken?) idea that I can get more "bang for the buck" -- not looking to have the absolute fastest, which I understand to be Intel. My first try with Linux, it would be better if my parts have drivers for Ubuntu!

Overclocking: Yes - light (wasn't going to, but Proximon says I should :wahoo:  ) I never have OC before, so this will be part of my interesting experiment.

SLI or Crossfire: Possibly later

Monitor Resolution: 2x 24" LCD: 1920x1200

Additional Comments: I don't get a new computer often, so I would like it to be "new" enough to last several years. For the same reason, I want to choose better quality parts (to the extent they are affordable ;)  ). Also, prefer a quiet PC.

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Parts list with links to newegg. Prices are after MIR, and before shipping and tax, but I also get a few combo discounts.

AMD Phenom II x6 1090T BE Thuban 3.2Ghz socket AM3 -- $229
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
I know that Tom's recent article on gaming shows that there is not much to be gained from all these cores, but I usually am running a game along with multiple tabs in my browser plus playing music or youtube videos, and one or two IM (plus Vent, of course). Plus, I thought a six-core would be more "future proof" -- I usually keep my comp for five years or more. Also, if running Ubuntu, I will need to run the Wine emulator for many games -- perhaps extra cores will help with that? I would have chosen a slower (cheaper) version of the x6 CPU, but this is the lowest Black Edition, and I believe the BE is easier to OC since it has unlocked multiplier? Not really sure what I'm talking about here. I was thinking about an AMD PII x4 955 BE might be something I could get for ~$100 less, and it has the possibility of unlocking two more cores? But I'm way over my head here! :o 

Asus M4A89GTD Pro mobo - AM3, USB3, SATA 6Gb/s, 890gx ATX -- $150
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
I like Asus; they seem to be good quality with reasonable support. Picked the board with integrated graphics (4290) even though I will specify a separate vid card. Not necessary, but I think I could run a separate monitor with the integrated graphics, or maybe do a "hybrid" crossfire using the two "cards." Not even sure what hybrid xfire is, though, hehe. Oh, this mobo will let me crossfire later, probably not as fast as a 890fx card, but still will be able to crossfire.

Corsair AX850 PSU, ATX12V v2.31 80 Plus Gold Certified -- $170
top brand, efficient psu with 7-yr warranty. More (probably much more) power than I need, but price was almost same as AX750, and I suspect under low loads this psu will be very quiet and more efficient. Besides, if I want to crossfire later, perhaps I will need this power for a couple of gtx 590s! I know bad power can cause lots of other problems, so I prefer to overspend a little here. Who knew ~200W could be considered a "low" load?

G.Skill Ripjaws 2x4GB DDR3 1333 7-7-7-21 memory -- $110
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Price seems pretty good, and 8GB should be plenty of memory for now, with two more slots for later expansion. I thought about the 1600 9-9-9-24 memory at the same price, but after reading the forums, decided on the lower speed memory -- what do you guys think? lifetime warranty. Since it is 1.5v, maybe can be overclocked, too. Plus, the specs on the mobo imply that 1333 is the fastest speed it handles without overclocking anyways. Of course, a drawback of this part is the black heat spreader instead of the red one, but what are you going to do?

Sapphire HD 6870 video card, 1 GB DDR5 PCI ex 2.1 x16 -- $225
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
I was going to go with the XFX HD 5850 1GB card which is ~$65 cheaper, and which has lifetime warranty. The most recent Tom's graphics guide shows the two cards on par, but I think the 6870 will improve as its drivers mature, and as DX11 gets used in more apps. So I chose the Sapphire card, despite their crappy two-year warranty. I figured I had to go with an AMD card in case I want to crossfire later; the mobo supports only crossfire. Plus, there may be a hybrid crossfire opportunity.

Corsair Force 120GB SSD -- $215
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
uses the SandForce controller, which Tom's says we want, and scores well on all tests. This drive will help me run quiet, low power, and hopefully will speed up boot as well as games. I was wondering if I could get away without a hard disk, but probably should have one for safety's sake.

Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB hard drive, 7200 rpm, SATA 6Gb/s, 64MB cache -- $90
I know everyone seems to be touting the Samsung Spinpoint on this forum, but I figured WD is a pretty good name, the Caviar Black have a five-yr warranty, and the price is right. This one has SATA 6Gb/s, which I'm not sure how useful it is on a 7200 rpm drive, but it was only a dollar or two more than the same disk with SATA 3Gb/s, and this one has a bigger cache.

OK, that's all I have so far. I probably want to pick up a cpu cooler, and I need to get a some more fans for my case. And a new headset, so let me know what you think.

I appreciate all suggestions and criticisms, so go ahead. Thanks and Happy New Year! :hello: 
Too many smilies? Sorry bout that!
December 29, 2010 8:14:21 AM

you might want to use a windows system if you want to play games. like aa/starcraft 2 etc.
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December 29, 2010 8:21:30 AM

Thanks for your quick reply.
Yes, you are right! It probably would be easier to use Windows.
But part of the point is learn about some new things, not necessarily take the easier route.
Of course, if I can't learn how to do it, I suppose I can get another disk and boot from Win 7 ;) 
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December 29, 2010 8:38:34 AM

I would say get the Ripjaw 1600 set, but I don't think your mobo supports 1600 as a standard. Here is the RAM I was talking about, anyway. Same price.


You could probably go with a x4 and not notice much of a difference. 6-cores is a bit of an overkill right now, even within the next few years. I could be more than wrong, though.



I am going with the same graphics card with my build.

In my opinion, and from what I've heard, you could cut down to a OCZ SSD, with 60GB for $20 and not notice any real-world difference, besides a bit smaller room.

I'm not sure what you would do with the money you would have left over after cutting down, though. You could just keep it for other things, or if can find places to cut down and find a little bit more money, you could probably go to SLI/Crossfire from the start.
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December 29, 2010 2:30:23 PM

A budget of $1200 without needing a case easily lofts you into i5 range. That's nice, because some of the specific games you listed benefit from a stronger CPU. I'm at work, but should be able to post a build shortly.
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Best solution

December 29, 2010 3:08:41 PM

Ok. Here's a potential build. I wasn't trying to scrimp, but wasn't just flinging money into it for no reason.

Seasonic SS-560KM Active PFC F3, 560W ATX12V V2.3/EPS 12V V2.91, 80Plus Gold Certified, Modular Power Supply
Model #:X-560
Item #:N82E16817151098
$120.99 $120.99
Probably one of the best consumer PSUs available; quality confirmed by jonnyguru and hardwaresecrets.

Intel Core i5-760 Lynnfield 2.8GHz LGA 1156 95W Quad-Core Desktop Processor BX80605I5760
Model #:BX80605I5760
Item #:N82E16819115067
$208.99 -$4.00 Instant $204.99
Should outperform any AMD offering, and probably use less power doing it.

ASRock P55 PRO/USB3 LGA 1156 Intel P55 USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard
Model #: P55 PRO/USB3
Item #:N82E16813157203
$134.99 -$30.00 Instant $104.99
I've never had a problem with ASRock boards. With USB 3.0, this one should be reasonably future-resistant. I chose a full ATX because your original choice was full ATX, suggesting your case is big enough. If it isn't, there are decent micro-ATX boards available too.

G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Desktop Memory Model F3-10666CL9D-8GBRL
Model #:F3-10666CL9D-8GBRL
Item #:N82E16820231311
$89.99 $89.99
Although 8GB may be a little extravagant, a recent article here at Tom's suggests that 8GB can be used in a busy system.

Corsair Force CSSD-F90GB2-BRKT 2.5" 90GB SATA II MLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)
Model #:CSSD-F90GB2-BRKT
Item #:N82E16820233149
$189.99 $189.99
Not quite the cheapest in this size, but includes a bracket to mount in a 3.5" space. I don't think I'll ever build a system for myself that doesn't use a SSD as the boot drive.

Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 ST3500418AS 500GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive
Model #:ST3500418AS
Item #:N82E16822148395
$49.99 $49.99
If 500GB is not enough, larger drives are available for not much more. The 7200.12 drives are fast and I've not read of any reliability issues such as the ones that plagued earlier models. I think I have three of them.

HIS H687F1G2M Radeon HD 6870 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.1 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support Video Card with Eyefinity
Model #:H687F1G2M
Item #:N82E16814161349
$239.99 -$15.00 Instant $224.99
I've bought a few HIS cards, and didn't have any grief from any of them. If any of your apps / games use CUDA / PhysX, consider a 1GB GTX460 instead for around the same price, maybe a little less.

Subtotal: $985.93
Add $100 if you need Windows 7.

Hmmm, and $22-$25 if you need an optical drive...

I did not add a CPU cooler. For only "light" overclocking, the stock cooler will be sufficient.
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December 29, 2010 3:17:37 PM

For the cpu,I'd go with the phenom 2 x6 1075t.It is more bang for buck atm and you csn experiment overclocking by taking it to the 1090t's clock speed.
The PSU is also REALLY overkill.Unless you're going to be sli'ing gtx 580s,an Antec True Power 750w psu will be more than enough.
Now for the cooler,I suggest the Hyper 212 Plus.It should fit most cases and I can personally recommend it.If you mind noise,two Noiseblocker XL1 fans or two Noctua NF P12s are excellent.
Keep both the ssd and hdd.When I was building my pc,I was thinking:"I won't need more than 100gb for everything.Heck my old hdd has only 80gb full".My current hdd doesn't have any movies or other multimedia in it.Just games and apps.It is more than 300gb full.
Finally,spent a bit more and get the 6950.With an easy BIOS flash you can have the 6970 and their cf scaling is just stellar.I think they are worth the extra.
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December 29, 2010 5:32:36 PM

Thanks, guys! Lots to think about and research.

apoca, that ram is the one i mentioned in my post as my alternate choice, but from what i read, a 1333 @ CL7 is faster than 1600 @ CL9. Do you not agree?
I was VERY excited when I read your post about 60GB SSD for $20, but I can't find it -- maybe you meant $120? I want more space than 60GB, but for $20, I would buy 4 ;) 
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December 29, 2010 6:32:16 PM

OK, jtt, now I have to go back and rethink my AMD choice - :lol: 
Thanks for a detailed and thoughtful (and thought-provoking) post.

On the memory, I was thinking to pay a little extra and get the same as you suggest, but with CL7. Agree with you that 8GB is better than 4GB, and 6GB doesnt make sense to me. But dont want to fill all the slots. Anyway, 2x4GB is about same price as 4x2GB.

For the gpu, the Sapphire card has the same specs and price as the HIS -- any reason you prefer HIS to Sapphire?

I haven't ever used an SSD, but from what I'm reading, I agree that all builds from this point must use SSD!
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December 29, 2010 6:42:53 PM

I don't think I've ever owned a Sapphire card. I have owned or bought at least 4 different HIS cards (HD2600 Pro, HD4850, HD4670, HD4650) and none of them had any problems. The IceQ Coolers on the first three were near silent, and temps stayed down. Sapphire could be just as good, but I wouldn't know.

Here's the i5-760 vs. the 1090T: http://www.anandtech.com/bench/Product/191?vs=146
In games, the i5 is much better. The 1090T only has consistent wins in threaded media-apps.
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December 29, 2010 8:26:34 PM

definitely go the intel route no reason to use AMD at a 1200 gaming budget
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December 29, 2010 9:17:48 PM

joelmartinez said:
definitely go the intel route no reason to use AMD at a 1200 gaming budget

Easy answer is that he doesn't want to build on a dying slot.
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December 29, 2010 9:22:42 PM

If he builds now (instead of waiting for SB / BD), it will be on a "dying slot," as AM3 is also being replaced with AM3+. And, in either case, he'll likely get a system fast enough for years to come; I think it is most likely a non-issue. There are S775 CPUs that are still on high tiers of the gaming CPU chart.
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December 29, 2010 9:26:41 PM

Onus said:
If he builds now (instead of waiting for SB / BD), it will be on a "dying slot," as AM3 is also being replaced with AM3+. And, in either case, he'll likely get a system fast enough for years to come; I think it is most likely a non-issue. There are S775 CPUs that are still on high tiers of the gaming CPU chart.


stole the words out of my mouth, you have to pull the trigger some time
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January 6, 2011 12:17:57 AM

Best answer selected by steveb.
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January 7, 2011 12:04:26 AM

Thanks; have fun with your build.
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