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Building first gaming PC, suggestions welcome! *UPDATED BUILD*

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March 5, 2011 3:47:12 AM

UPDATED BUILD IN REPLY

Ok, be gentle, this is my first. :D  I've replaced components before, but never built a whole PC.

I've got an absolute budget of $2000, though less is always great so long as I'm not compromising too much. This is intended to be a serious gaming PC, graphic design, 3d rendering, etc. Basically heavily graphic intensive. I'd also like to be able to watch HD movies on it, edit HD home movies to share with the family, that sort of thing. And I need it to last several years without being so horribly out of date that it can't perform as at least a mid-range PC. I don't expect to be able to play the newest games 3 years from now, but I need to to be reasonably able to perform then.

Here's what I have so far:
  • CASE - COOLER MASTER HAF X - 175.56 (free shipping) [I chose a full tower intentionally, for air flow and the possibility of large components now and in the future.]
  • FAN - COOLER MASTER Megaflow 200 - 19.62 (free shipping) [This is to fill the second fan spot on top since it isn't provided with the case.]
  • POWER SUPPLY - Sparkle SCC-750AF Gold Series Modular - 129.99 (-30 rebate, 6.98 shipping) [Do I need more power, or is this sufficient? Are there better options? I think I'd prefer modular and multiple rails, but am open to all suggestions.]
  • MOBO - Gigabyte LGA1366 ATX - 209.99 (-10 rebate, free shipping) [This one was suggested by a few sites I've looked at. Suggestions welcome here.]
  • CPU - Intel Core i7-960 3.2Ghz - 309.99 (free shipping) [Definitely want Core i7. I think this one is a good bang for the buck, but could be wrong. Again, suggestions welcome.]
  • RAM - Patriot Viper II Sector 7 Edition 12GB (3 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM - 169.99 (free shipping) [I expect to have to double this eventually, but 12GB should get me off to a good enough start.]
  • VIDEO CARDS x2 - ASUS Radeon HD 6870 1GB - 229.99 x2 (-20 rebate each, 9.68 shipping) [I intend to Crossfire, obviously. I much prefer Radeon cards to Nvidia cards. I'd need a very compelling argument to switch this.]
  • HDD - WD 2TB Caviar Black - 152.50 (4.17 shipping) [This is actually to dump all my files and programs on. The actual boot disk will be the much smaller capacity one I have in my current desktop. I plan to keep all system files separate from my personal files as much as possible.]
  • OS - Windows 7 Ultimate (Full) - 205.99 (14.99 shipping) [I could probably get away with Home Premium, but I've compared them carefully and decided this was the one I wanted. Only thing I'm looking for here is if you know of a place to get it cheaper. ;)  ]
  • MONITOR - ASUS 23" 1080p HD Widescreen - 177.05 (10.78 shipping) [I want full HD, the speakers are just a bonus, and for a decent price.]
  • HDMI CABLE - Mediabridge Ultra Series - High Speed HDMI Cable With Ethernet - Category 2 Certified - 9.49 (free shipping w/mobo) [This was just a decently priced, short enough, cat 2 HDMI cable. If you know of something better, please share. :)  ]

    Final price: 1809.70 shipped and rebated
    a c 91 B Homebuilt system
    March 5, 2011 3:51:08 AM

    I will tell you now, Win7 Ultimate is a joke. The only thing it has is network access to your computer. That's about the only useful thing that Win7 Ult. does for you that Win7 Home doesn't. You REALLY don't need to waste an extra 100$ on that.

    You should also wait for P67 (Asrock Extreme P67) Reason being. Your platform will be dead in about two weeks. It'd be a waste to get this build now.

    i5 2500K (230$) vs i7 950 (280$)
    http://www.anandtech.com/bench/Product/288?vs=100
    March 5, 2011 4:03:22 AM

    aznshinobi said:
    I will tell you now, Win7 Ultimate is a joke. The only thing it has is network access to your computer. That's about the only useful thing that Win7 Ult. does for you that Win7 Home doesn't. You REALLY don't need to waste an extra 100$ on that.

    You should also wait for P67 (Asrock Extreme P67) Reason being. Your platform will be dead in about two weeks. It'd be a waste to get this build now.

    i5 2500K (230$) vs i7 950 (280$)
    http://www.anandtech.com/bench/Product/288?vs=100


    The network access was actually the biggest reason I wanted Ultimate. Hmm. I'll have to think on whether that alone is worth $100.

    Why would my platform be dead in two weeks? (Not snarking, honestly wondering.) I have a basic-to-intermediate grasp of the hardware and I know how to google, that's about it. LOL So any info you can give me on why the new mobo would be better than the one I linked would be appreciated.

    I went with the 960, not the 950, so I'm confused at the last line of your message... [Edited to add: I see now why you did that comparison. They don't list the 960 for some reason. I appreciate the link and I'll look over the info.]
    Related resources
    March 5, 2011 4:14:42 AM

    Thanks to the link previously provided, I find out that $20 more for the i7 2600k gets me a lot more performance. Only slightly better than the i5 2500k, though. Anybody have thoughts on the difference?
    March 5, 2011 4:37:59 AM

    If you're only using it for gaming, tom's hardware recommends the i5 2500K.. That's what I plan to get. And I highly recommend getting an SSD also. I installed one in my laptop and there's no way I can go back to a standard HDD. I plan to get the new Vertex 3 120 GB as my boot drive and use a Samsung 1 TB HDD for storage.
    a c 91 B Homebuilt system
    March 5, 2011 4:44:07 AM

    The Sandy Bridge platform is based on a 32nm type of creation process. The older X58 is based on the 45nm. That has a slight difference, but most of it comes from the fact that it is an update from X58.

    Dead = No more chips will be made for the platform, it won't be updated. It is dead.
    Sandy Bridge will allow you to upgrade to the Z68 chips as well as anymore P67 more chips that they make. Z68 will replace X58.

    Well based on your plans for this build, the 2600K will be better. The reason being, the 2500K is slightly worse than the 2600K but that is in single threaded apps. In multi-threading the 2600K kills the 2500K. Since the 2600K runs on 8 and the 2500K only on 4. In your situation, as stated, the 2600K is a better choice.

    Do you plan to overclock however? If not, you probably don't need any (K) chips. The K notates the unlocked multiplier (overclocking). However I suggest just sticking with the 2600K since it'll leave you with the option to overclock in the future.

    As for 3D rendering, that is something that you should be a getting a workstation card. Not Radeons or Fermi cards. You should be getting cards like the V3700 or Nvidia Quadro 4000 kind of cards. Unless of course you don't need the workstation card =P
    March 5, 2011 6:43:50 AM

    Quote:
    If you're only using it for gaming, tom's hardware recommends the i5 2500K.. That's what I plan to get. And I highly recommend getting an SSD also. I installed one in my laptop and there's no way I can go back to a standard HDD. I plan to get the new Vertex 3 120 GB as my boot drive and use a Samsung 1 TB HDD for storage.


    I plan to get a SSD as a boot drive eventually, but I already have the extra drive I plan to use as a boot drive. I'm doing it to keep the immediate cost down. Just like the extra RAM, it's a smaller expense (that will probably be smaller still as SSDs get more popular and widespread, just like any technology, and the price goes down) that can be addressed later. That upgrade is one of the reasons I want to keep my boot drive separate from my other files. It will make it easier on me down the road. As for the i5 2500k vs the i7 2600k, I'm seriously tempted to hedge my bets against future demands for performance. It's $100 that could get me an extra year (or more) before I have to go in and replace the processor altogether, and I don't just game. I might be wrong, but I think the extra hundred will give me a good enough return to warrant it.


    Quote:
    The Sandy Bridge platform is based on a 32nm type of creation process. The older X58 is based on the 45nm. That has a slight difference, but most of it comes from the fact that it is an update from X58.

    Dead = No more chips will be made for the platform, it won't be updated. It is dead.
    Sandy Bridge will allow you to upgrade to the Z68 chips as well as anymore P67 more chips that they make. Z68 will replace X58.

    Well based on your plans for this build, the 2600K will be better. The reason being, the 2500K is slightly worse than the 2600K but that is in single threaded apps. In multi-threading the 2600K kills the 2500K. Since the 2600K runs on 8 and the 2500K only on 4. In your situation, as stated, the 2600K is a better choice.

    Do you plan to overclock however? If not, you probably don't need any (K) chips. The K notates the unlocked multiplier (overclocking). However I suggest just sticking with the 2600K since it'll leave you with the option to overclock in the future.

    As for 3D rendering, that is something that you should be a getting a workstation card. Not Radeons or Fermi cards. You should be getting cards like the V3700 or Nvidia Quadro 4000 kind of cards. Unless of course you don't need the workstation card =P


    I will have to do more research on the Sandy Bridge platform issue. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. :)  I don't plan to OC immediately since I haven't done my homework to my satisfaction on that yet, but unless I'm completely off base, my build should support it and be pretty stable. It will happen in the near future however, so I need that option open. I can't justify the expense of a workstation card when I'm only a hobbyist 3d'er. If it were a livelihood, I'd definitely invest. But I do it because I enjoy it and I would hate to have a rig that couldn't handle it passably at least. (I hope that makes sense. I'm way overdue for sleep. :sleep:  LOL)
    a c 91 B Homebuilt system
    March 5, 2011 6:49:47 AM

    Well here's my list of suggestions.

    Get the 2600K just because you'll have the extra threads plus it'll benefit since you won't have a workstation card. Oh and the K because in the future you'll have the option to overclock if you want to.

    SSD-wise, wait for the Patriot SF-2xxx SSDs to come in, they're planned for Q2 2011. The reason I say Patriot is because they're making 60gb models, I'm not sure if OCZ is making 60gb Vertex 3 models, so far only 120gb and 200gb models have been announced.
    March 5, 2011 6:52:41 AM

    aznshinobi said:
    Well here's my list of suggestions.

    Get the 2600K just because you'll have the extra threads plus it'll benefit since you won't have a workstation card. Oh and the K because in the future you'll have the option to overclock if you want to.

    SSD-wise, wait for the Patriot SF-2xxx SSDs to come in, they're planned for Q2 2011. The reason I say Patriot is because they're making 60gb models, I'm not sure if OCZ is making 60gb Vertex 3 models, so far only 120gb and 200gb models have been announced.


    Small, stable, and cheap! Perfect for a boot drive. Thanks for the heads-up! I'll keep an eye out for it and if it's reasonably enough priced to fit into the mid-year budget, I'll probably pick one up.
    a b B Homebuilt system
    March 5, 2011 7:05:54 PM

    Case - Solid choice.....personally I prefer the DF-85 but not much to complain about with the HAF-X.

    PSU - Skip the Sparkle....XFX Black, Corsair HX, Antec CP or SG series all get 10.0 performance ratings on jonnyguru

    RAM - The only thing those big tall heat sinks do for ya is interfere w/ ya CPU cooler. Stick to a low profile set. These would be a better buy DDR3-1600 CAS 9 Mushkin low profile and are $10 cheaper

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

    MoBo - I'd grab the Sabertooth over the Gigabyte
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

    GFX - The compelling argument is that in a single card head to head, the ATI and nVidia cards run neck and neck. However since ya buying two, nVidia's better scaling gives a significant edge. You also said 3D Rendering, video editing and graphics design, areas where nVidia CUDA functionality pay big dividends.

    HD - Solid argument abpout boot files and separating data stuff, but that old small drive should be replaced with an SSD

    OS - Nothing wrong with Ultimate , if ya need what it offers. Personally I always use Pro version.

    Monitor - Get the LED version

    See builds in next 2 posts

    As others have said, give serious consideration to a Sandy Bridge build..... what's the over riding criteria ? 3D rendering, number crunching and video editing are all areas where the 1366 platform excels. But if gaming is the primary focus, Sandy Bridge is the way to go, at least until LGA 2011 arrives.


    a b B Homebuilt system
    March 5, 2011 7:09:16 PM

    1366 based build for rendering / video editing - $1982

    Case - $160 - Antec P183 V3 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
    PSU - $120 - Antec CP-850 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
    MoBo - $495 - Asus Sabertooth http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...
    CPU - inc - Intel i7-960 included in above
    Cooler - $70 - Antec Kuhler 620 http://store.antec.com/Product/cooling-cpu_cooler/kuhle...
    RAM - $155 - (2 x 4GB) Mushkin CAS 7 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
    GFX - $330 - Asus 570 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
    GFX - Later - Same
    HD - $65 - Spinpoint F3 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
    HD - Later - Same
    SSD - $245 - Crucual C300 2.5" 128GB http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
    Card Reader - later AFT XM-35U http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
    DVD Writer - $22 - Asus 24X DRW-24B3L w/ LS http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
    OS - $140 - Win 7-64 Pro OEM http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
    Monitor $180 - ASUS VW266H1920x1200 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...


    This build is based upon a rather sedate looking case designed for super quietness in a business setting. Swap it with the one in the Gaming Build if your tastes run to something snazzier. May wanna hold off a wee k or so and swap the SSD for a new Vertex 3 when they are released. Items marked later indicate upgrades you might consider such as 2nd HD in RAID for video editing, Card Reader, 2nd GFX card, etc.
    a b B Homebuilt system
    March 5, 2011 7:48:15 PM

    1155 based build w/ gaming focus $ 1,975

    Case - $160 - Antec DF-85 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
    Case Fans - $18 - Antec Red 120 mm http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
    PSU - $120 - Antec CP-850 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
    MoBo - $495 - Asus P8P67 Pro Available in few days
    CPU - inc - Intel i7-92600k included in above
    Cooler - $40 - Scythe SCMG 2100 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
    TIM - $5 - Shin Etsu http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
    RAM - $155 - (2 x 4GB) Mushkin CAS 7 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
    GFX - $330 - Asus 570 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
    GFX - Later - Same
    HD - $65 - Spinpoint F3 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
    HD - - Same
    SSD - $245 - Crucual C300 2.5" 128GB http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
    Card Reader AFT XM-35U http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
    DVD Writer - $22 - Asus 24X DRW-24B3L w/ LS http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
    OS - $140 - Win 7-64 Pro OEM http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
    Monitor $180 - ASUS VW266H1920x1200 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

    The Antec DF-85 and the HAF-X are the two "kings of the hill". From a features and builder's standpoint I gotta give it to the Antec, but aesthetics usually trumps those considerations, so buy what ya like. The fact that it fits CPX form factor PSU's like the one below, is aother reason I prefer it.

    The CP-850 is simply put the best 850 watt buy available.....cheaper than any other 1st tier PSU (It gets a 10.0 performance rating from jonnyguru.com) it also won an editor's choice award from silentpcreview.com for its quietness. Next up would be the XFX Black Edition 850 followed by the Corsair HX850.

    The Asus MoBo was THG's overclocking winner in their recent 1155 board roundup. While Asus's component quality has always been 1st tier, step up tot he Asus Sabertooth for an extra $25 for militarized components and a 5 year warranty.

    Went with the 2600 over the 2500 as budget allows ... HT wil come in handy for your stated non-gaming uses.

    As for the cooler, the Scythe is one of the best air cooling units (2nd place finish on 950) and at $40, it's a lot cheaper than other similar performing coolers that will cost ya $75ish.

    http://benchmarkreviews.com/index.php?option=com_conten...

    Frankly I'm not, as yet, sold on the self contained water coolers like the Antec I used in the 1366 build, but it's performance numbers and lack of noise can't be argued with so I threw it in as an alternative to the Scythe in one of the builds

    http://benchmarkreviews.com/index.php?option=com_conten...

    Quote:
    Priced to compete with high-end air coolers, the Kühler offers similar performance and a lower noise level. It's the first compact liquid cooler I've tested that can honestly be considered as competition for the likes of the Cooler Master V6 GT, Prolimatech Megahalems, and Thermalright Venomous X.....The performance of the Antec Kühler H20 620 was excellent, exceeding that of every other water cooler I've tested and encroaching on the performance range of the very best air coolers.


    Again, CAS 7 will come in handy for your non gaming uses, tho you might see a s much as a 2-4% improvement in games.

    It's a crapshoot between the Spinpoint F3, WD Black and Seagate 7200.12 .... each performs betetr in certain situations with no "all around" winner. Make your pick looking at this table.

    http://www.tomshardware.com/charts/2009-3.5-desktop-har...[2777]=on&prod[3016]=on&prod[2365]=on

    Following numbers are Seagate / Spinpoint / WD

    Video Editing (Spinpoint wins)
    48.80 61.40 50.30

    Surface Temp (Seagate wins)
    38.00 41.00 43.00

    Media Player (WD wins)
    8.70 12.40 12.50

    Sound Idle (Seagate wins)
    41.70 44.60 46.67

    Gaming (WD / Spinpoint tie)
    14.40 15.90 15.90

    Windows Media Center (Seagate wins)
    139.20 113.80 113.00

    Sound Level Under Load (Seagate wins)
    44.10 49.60 52.60

    Surface Temp (Seagate wins)
    100.40 106.00 109.40

    Application Loading (WD wins)
    4.80 5.60 6.30

    Windows Photo (WD wins)
    49.90 35.30 53.80

    Streaming Reads (Spinpoint Wins)
    117.60 151.00 105.99

    Streaming Writes (Spinpoint Wins)
    112.94 142.10 102.58
    March 17, 2011 2:26:20 PM

    Forgive me for the long hiatus -- my internet provider decided we hadn't paid when we had. Grrr.

    So, based on suggestions, I've rebuilt. As always, I appreciate any input you have! ;) 
  • Switched case/fan/psu. (LOVE the Antec DF-85! Thank you for bringing it to my attention! Not that the HAF X was bad at all, I just like the features on this one better. :)  )
  • Scrapped the "dead" mobo in favor of a Sandy Bridge model.
  • Went with the i7-2600K for sure.
  • Went low-profile for the RAM. Because of mobo, had to switch to dual channel, so will end up with 16GB instead of 12. Fine by me! :D 
  • Decided on GeForce GTX 500 series in SLI over the Radeons. I went one step below the previous suggestion for cost concerns, but if I read the benchmark scores correctly, these two will still out-perform in SLI vs my chosen Radeons when in Crossfire. Please correct me if I'm wrong.
  • Will go with just 1 Spinpoint F3 at the moment and add more later as needed. The case certainly has the slots for it, and after clearing out some unused stuff on another 1TB drive I have, it will be enough for the next year or so. By then, 2TB drives will be cheaper anyway.
  • Chose Home Premium over Ultimate. I discussed it with my boyfriend and we decided we didn't need the networking capabilities more than the extra graphics power for the same 100 dollars.
  • Had to go with a slightly different monitor as the one I'd previously chosen has gone out of stock. Not really an impact to the build, though.
  • Found a well-rated, cheaper HDMI cable. Again, not really impacting the build unless someone knows the company/cable is crap.
  • Added a cooler and thermal compound. Thank you, Jack, for reminding me!

    Current build:
  • CASE: Antec DF-85 139.99
  • FANS: Antec 120mm 16.98
  • POWER SUPPLY: Antec CP-850 109.99
  • MOBO: MSI P67A-GD65 (B3) 187.86
  • CPU: Intel Core i7-2600K 3.4Ghz 328.99
  • RAM (x2): G.SKILL Sniper 8GB (2x4GB) 199.98
  • VIDEO CARDS (x2): MSI GeForce GTX 560 509.96
  • HDD: Samsung Spinpoint F3 64.99
  • OS: Windows 7 Home Premium Full 181.98
  • MONITOR: ASUS VH24H 23.6" w/Speakers 178.98
  • HDMI CABLE: Rosewill 6ft HDMI 6.99
  • COOLER: Scythe SCMG-2100 42.98
  • THERMAL COMPOUND: MASSCOOL G751 Shin-Etsu 6.98

    1976.65 final
    March 17, 2011 2:52:58 PM

    This is more opinion than fact based but I never liked Sparkle Power Supplies.. I bought one and ended up with two RMA's in a row from newegg, so I've since invested into a more trusted namebrand (Cooler Master for a friend's build, and a generic yet well rated brand for my own (Con-Air.. Never heard of them but it hasn't failed me in two eyars).

    Just make sure whatever you do to get a trusted name, as cheap products may work well at first but often don't last.
    !