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First Build Advice

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February 28, 2011 11:27:31 PM

Hey all, life-long Mac user doing the reverse and considering the switch to PC! I'd been pondering building my own gaming PC for several months now for myself and my fiance, and I've done enough research to know what I want and how to go about assembling the final build. I love my MacBook Pro and all, but the #1 priority I had coming into this was upgradability... and after reading about Sandy Bridge, I decided the time had come to jump ship and order the parts...

... and not an hour later, news of the P67 mobo recall hit the web, so now we're waiting until the fixed P67 mobos start returning... but I digress.

Considering Newegg's return policy and the remote possibility that some parts will be DOA, what are the safest components to buy right now? I figured it might be the case itself and possibly the PSU... but that's the question I pose to you guys. Although it seems like it'd be kind of foolish to buy a case with no components to play with... if a case that I'm considering goes on some epic sale between now and April, I'd like to be able to get it right then.

Same goes with the PSU, but that's another component I feel like it should be okay to order before the rest of the system should an opportune deal crop up. This might be a stupid question, so forgive me, but is there a way to test and see if it will turn on so I can do any returns/exchanges if necessary?

Truly appreciate any input, thanks!

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a b B Homebuilt system
March 1, 2011 12:00:52 AM

I'd save your MacBook Pro; it's always worthwhile to keep a good laptop around, and the Pros age pretty well, even in spite of the new CPUs that have come out in the last 2 years.

What's your approximate budget? Is gaming going to be the only hardware-demanding use of the system?

I would recommend just waiting until the P67 boards come back out again, so you don't have expiring warranties before you get to assemble the computer. Asus posted on their facebook page that it could be as soon as this week when they start shipping P67 boards again.

Newegg has some random sales every once in a while, and components are always popping up on sale with their shell-shocker daily deals (3-4 per day). Cases are usually cheaper on Amazon because Newegg likes to charge shipping on them, which usually runs $20-30.
March 1, 2011 1:49:33 AM

Gaming would be the primary use. I acquired a copy of Windows 7 from a friend and since then, I've been spending most of my time Windows side on my MBP. I also forgot to note that my fiancée has a MBP as well, although her laptop lacks the 9600M GT that mine has.

My budget has fluctuated as I've adjusted my Newegg wishlist, but it seems I've settled on somewhere around $1100 for the whole unit, as that seems to be the average price my laptop could be sold for on eBay. I already have a monitor, keyboard, mouse, speakers, and obviously the OS, so it allows me a little more freedom when creating a build.

I've also considered just keeping my laptop, because you're right, it's nice to have a good laptop to use every now and then. I plan to go back to school at some point after the wedding later this year, and a laptop would come in handy.

So far, I figure an i5-2500k + Motherboard combo will run about $400-440 total, perhaps a GTX 470 for $259 (from EVGA), and then the rest is a little hazier... like, I'm not sure what RAM I should be aiming for, what hard drive to get, what cooling (if any) to get if I want to overclock out of the box.

I've read suggestions that the case and power supply be the most important components you can buy, because they're the ones that, chosen correctly, will last you through several upgrades. Corsair has some cases I really like on Newegg, but I will definitely have to do some searching through other sites.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... -- Expensive but looks like it's built to last. Free shipping.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... -- Cheaper and more compact. $20 shipping. Bleh.

The power supply I'd be willing to pay a little more for Silver or Gold certification -- if it even matters?
Related resources
a c 91 B Homebuilt system
March 1, 2011 2:05:32 AM

Defiantly do not get the 470. It's old, and the 560 Ti has replaced it. The 560 runs a bit cooler, lower power consumption better performance and is just the same price. Plus the 560 overclocks WAY better.

At the beginning you see a few inconsistencies. But towards the end, you see the 560 Ti comes out on top in every way.
http://www.anandtech.com/bench/Product/311?vs=330

Silver to Gold, no difference at all to the average user. Get a XFX 750. It'll last you plus power two 560 Ti's.

You should probably take a look at my guide if you wanted :D  It's in my siggy. Gots lots of info you can take.

i5 2500K (230$)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Asrock Extreme4 P67 (152$ off Newegg)
http://www.asrock.com/mb/overview.asp?Model=P67%20Extre...

Patriot 8gb (2x4gb) DDR3 1333 (85$, 65$ AR)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

MSI 560 Ti Twin Frozr OC'd (250$)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

XFX 750w 80+ Silver (130$, 100$ AR)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Samsung F3 1TB (62$)
http://www.amazon.com/Samsung-Spinpoint-Cache-Desktop-H...

NZXT Phantom (140$)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Total: AR 1000$

a b B Homebuilt system
March 1, 2011 2:17:42 AM

Corsair's cases would be tad bit out of your budget ;)  They're built a bit more for enthusiasts, and the more expensive ones (like the Obsidian series) have a bunch of extra watercooling features that just aren't necessary for somebody like you.

If you want a simple mid-tower, the Antec 300 is an awesome case. Like most mid-towers, it's a little cramped, but even the big video cards will fit. If you want something a little bit flashier and that has more room and other features like cable routing behidn the motherboard, look at the Coolermaster 912 and 922.

I would recommend the i5-2500K, and the ASRock Extreme4 is a low-cost motherboard that others vouch for here on Tom's. Your CPU/Mobo combo would then be about $350.
Link: http://www.asrock.com/mb/overview.asp?Model=P67%20Extre...

Don't bother with the GTX 470 - the GTX 560 beats it with less memory at the GTX 470 clock speeds by about 10%. At stock, the performance gain is about 25%.

As far as RAM goes, look for either a 2x2GB or 2x4GB kit with a low Cas Latency (7 or 8 - lower = better) and either 1333 or 1600 MHz speeds (CL 7 + 1333 is better than CL 8 + 1600 MHz).

The most recommended hard drive out here is the Samsung F3 1TB. It's the fastest platter drive out there right now. Don't waste money on a SATA III hard drive; go with a solid state if you want to take advantage of SATA III.

A great and inexpensive cooler is the Cooler Master Hyper 212+ (usually $30). I have one and love it, and those who overclock get around 4.5-.6 GHz on air cooling. Water cooling is going to be too pricey and takes a LOT of reading to understand what you're doing.

In terms of PSUs, look for Corsair's HX series, Antec's TruePower and EarthWatts lines, and even XFX's Black Edition power supplies. The certification isn't *that* important, but generally the higher the rating, the better the quality. If you're sticking with 1 GPU and planning to OC, you shouldn't need more than 650W. My EarthWatts 650W is chugging along well with my OCed GTX 470s.
a b B Homebuilt system
March 1, 2011 2:18:32 AM

aznshinobi said:
Defiantly do not get the 470. It's old, and the 560 Ti has replaced it. The 560 runs a bit cooler, lower power consumption better performance and is just the same price. Plus the 560 overclocks WAY better.

At the beginning you see a few inconsistencies. But towards the end, you see the 560 Ti comes out on top in every way.
http://www.anandtech.com/bench/Product/311?vs=330

Silver to Gold, no difference at all to the average user. Get a XFX 750. It'll last you plus power two 560 Ti's.

You should probably take a look at my guide if you wanted :D  It's in my siggy. Gots lots of info you can take.

i5 2500K (230$)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Asrock Extreme4 P67 (152$ off Newegg)
http://www.asrock.com/mb/overview.asp?Model=P67%20Extre...

Patriot 8gb (2x4gb) DDR3 1333 (85$, 65$ AR)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

MSI 560 Ti Twin Frozr OC'd (250$)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

XFX 750w 80+ Silver (130$, 100$ AR)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Samsung F3 1TB (62$)
http://www.amazon.com/Samsung-Spinpoint-Cache-Desktop-H...

NZXT Phantom (140$)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Total: AR 1000$



Pretty much took the words right out of my mouth ;) 
March 1, 2011 2:19:55 AM

I had no idea about the 470! 560 Ti it is.

Maybe I just hadn't taken a closer look at all the PSUs available, seemed like all the ones I wanted around $100 weren't modular. Glad there's actually one out there, it'll make wiring so much easier.

The price is right for the Asrock mobo, hopefully those manufacturer's can get those boards cranked out soon so I have a wider pool to choose from. :) 
a c 91 B Homebuilt system
March 1, 2011 2:23:14 AM

Haha Boiler, you got the explanation for the parts and I give him the build.

Yeah the XFX one is a real good deal. Plus they got a 10% off promo right now.

As of the asrock mobo, they're really sweet for the price.
March 8, 2011 1:43:21 AM

Just wanted to follow up and thank both of you for the advice.

Pretty much followed your advice, but went with the MSI P67 motherboard once it was available on Newegg. A friend from work built a Sandy Bridge system back in January and suggested getting it, even though he has to get his replaced because of the defect. Got some different RAM than was suggested, 8 GB G.Skill RAM with 7-7-7-21 timings.

Also got a boost by my fiancée, my birthday is coming up in a few weeks, and she said she'd pay for a GTX 580 as a birthday gift. (A huge cost to be sure, but offset by the fact that she'll get to play her Sims 3 in super high detail. ;) )

Should be arriving from Newegg in a few days, can't wait to assemble it!
a c 91 B Homebuilt system
March 8, 2011 1:59:01 AM

The MSI is an alright board, it's a bit more pricey than the Asrock, but meh. What ever.
!