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Budget Gaming PC: $500-$700 w/o GPU

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March 23, 2011 10:44:22 PM

Approximate Purchase Date: Between mid-April and Mid-May


Budget Range: $500-$700


System Usage from Most to Least Important: Gaming


Parts Not Required: Keyboard, Mouse, Monitor, Speakers, OS, GPU


Preferred Website(s) for Parts: Newegg


Country of Origin: USA


Parts Preferences: I would prefer AMD (a 955BE with an 870 or 890 mobo), but it's not a complete must.


Overclocking: Maybe


SLI or Crossfire: No


Monitor Resolution: 1280x1024, though I'll probably be upgrading to a better monitor within the next few months.


Additional Comments: My top priorities are a good quality MOBO and CPU. For the case, air flow and cost are more important than aesthetics. I'd prefer 8GB of RAM, but 4GB (2 x 2GB) is perfectly fine for now. I already have a GPU (Radeon 5770 - not the greatest, but it runs everything I need it to right now and I can always upgrade that later), so that doesn't need to factor into the $500-$700 budget. Since I don't plan on going Crossfire, the PSU doesn't have to have crazy wattage, but enough that if I upgrade to much better GPU later, I won't have to worry about replacing it (and a reliable brand, too, of course). I'm definitely looking to build something with future ability to upgrade in mind. Normally I'd wait longer and increase the budget, but my current 6-year-old PC is on its way out anytime now. Basically, the lower the cost, the sooner I can buy all of the parts, and the less amount of time I'll end up being without a PC. Thank you so much for your help!

Edit: Now pretty much looking for advice on just the Case, PSU, and RAM (see post below). Thanks to someguynamedmatt for lots of help earlier!
March 23, 2011 11:35:34 PM

The best advice I can give you is to wait a couple days for the next ~$600 TomsHardware System Builder Marathon PC. They just released the $1000 setup, and your price range is coming up next. It probably won't be an exact build, but it should give you somewhere to start at.

Other than that, I'll start pulling together a decent build for you. I have a 965BE, and I love it... shouldn't be a problem in your price range. Loads of great options out there. ;) 
EDIT:
Actually, the 965 is the exact same price as the 955 right now. :D 

EDIT2:
Alright, here we go.

CPU:
Phenom II x4 965 ...$140
Motherboard:
MSI 890FXA-GD65 ...$145
RAM:
G.Skill Sniper 8gb (2 x 4gb) ...$85
HDD:
Samsung Spinpoint F3 500Gb ...$50
Power Supply:
OCZ ModXStream Pro 600w ...$90
Optical Drive:
Asus 24x DVD Burner, OEM ...$20
Case:
Pick one. With this budget, the combined total of the parts so far is around $530, so you have quite a bit to work with. Some of my suggestions would be the CoolerMaster CM 690 II, the Cooler Master HAF series, pretty much all Lian Li cases (the LanCool in particular), and there are quite a few others that I like... I can help you out if you can give me a general idea of what you like in a case. Everyone has their own specific taste.

Other than that, everything else should be good. I haven't had a single MSI product fail on me, and I'm running their 790FX-GD70 right now... it's a beast of a motherboard. The one I picked out will allow CFX in the future (although at the cost of a LOT of your expansion capability), and supports all the modern bells and whistles like SATA and USB 3.0. I'm running a kit of G.Skill Sniper RAM in my build, too, and I can guarantee you that it will work with your build. It's some really great RAM. I too have a single 5770, and I'd say it will serve you well for quite a long time to come, even if you upgrade to a 1080p monitor. :)  That power supply is one of my favorites, and will certainly give you more than enough for a single 5770. Heck, you could probably run three or four on it without any problems. You pay a little extra for it being modular, but I feel like it's worth it. Just my opinion, though, so feel free to get something a little better value from Antec or Corsair if you don't want a modular PSI.

If you're serious about overclocking, or just have some spare cash, go ahead and buy yourself a Thermalright MUX-120. I hate to say it, but don't listen to people who say no to that and recommend a Hyper 212+ instead, because I can't really say for sure that it will fit. I mean, it probably would if you only ever plan on using 2 sticks of ram, but there's no way it would fit on my motherboard with all four slots filled. The AM3 socket is just insanely close to the RAM slots... The MUX-120 is one of the thinnest high-performance coolers I can find, and seems like it would give a little more room than the typical Hyper 212 recommendation.

And there you have it. Feel free to point out anything you don't like with that. :D 

I'll proofread that, because I feel like I skipped over something somewhere...
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March 23, 2011 11:52:09 PM

Thanks! I've been looking all over the forums for just the right builds for a few days now, but haven't come across one that's "just right." The $600 builds are too low end overall because I don't need a gpu, but the $1000 builds end up being too high. And the choice of cases end up leaving sitting looking at the seemingly 1463556 options with a blank stare. Considering I've been using an dell dimension 5100 for 6 years, I'm really excited to find just the right build for what I can afford.

Edit: Re: EDIT2: After looking up various reviews and such, I like the way that build looks. I'm really glad to see the 965 is the same price as a 955 - I don't think I would have noticed that. I really like the MSI board - the only negatives I saw were that there were some (rare) reports with it "blowing up" with x6 CPUs, but with this build that shouldn't be an issue, right? For the PSU, considering I'm a novice at this sort of thing, will the fact that its modular make building the PC any more complicated?

For a case, I don't really need anything special. Just plenty of room with really good air flow. Relatively quiet would be nice, but isn't a must. It doesn't need to be pretty or have crazy bells and whistles. Although maybe a fan control would be nice... :) 

Thank you again for your help!
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March 24, 2011 6:37:37 PM

No problem. :) 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vm_2RG61hhk
That should help explain modular power supplies to you a little. Basically put, modular power supplies allow you to plug in what you need, and put all the other cables away in a little bag. It really makes building simpler and cleaner. A (cheaper) non-modular design would have every single cable stuffed in your PC, whether you need it or not. Now, the ModXStream isn't completely modular, but you'll need everything that's built in - the motherboard ATX and CPU power cables.

I've never really heard of anyone burning out the 890FXA-GD65. I know how it's possible - someone really tries to OC a Phenom II x6, which pushes the Voltage Regulators further than they were meant to handle, blowing them out. As long as you don't push it to its limits overclocking, then you should be fine.

Hmm... Cases... I'll whip together a little list of the cases I recommend for you to look over.

EDIT:
Here's something to use as reference. That's my PC with a ModXStream 600w in a CoolerMaster CM 690 II Advanced. Should give you a little better idea of what a modular PSU can do. ;)  Actually, it's pretty similar to what you're getting right now.
http://i579.photobucket.com/albums/ss235/Mark3Website/1...
Heh, ignore the dust and the time stamp...
That board is the MSI 790FX-GD70; it's a little older and doesn't have SATA/USB 3.0, but is still really a great deal for $165. You'd be better off with the 890FXA, though - would give you a lot more future-proof system at a lower price. That was before I had a chance to install my kit of Sniper RAM, and yes, the CPU cooler is mounted backwards so it doesn't hang over the RAM slots... one of the bad things about AM3 systems.
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March 31, 2011 9:02:28 PM

Well I've gone ahead and purchased the CPU (Phenom II x4 965) and the motherboard (MSI 890xfa-gd65). By keeping an eye on newegg, I managed to get a total of $40 off on them. :) 

The three pieces I'm debating on now are as follows:

RAM:
Crucial 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10600) Desktop Memory Model CT2KIT51264BA1339
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
or
G.SKILL Sniper 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Desktop Memory Model F3-10666CL9D-8GBSR
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

I've been happy with Crucial in the past, and it's only $5 more, but is there really any difference in quality/reliability? If not, I'll just get the G.Skill.

PSU:
OCZ ModXStream Pro OCZ600MXSP 600W ATX12V V2.2 / EPS12V SLI Certified CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Modular Active PFC Power Supply compatible with core i7
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
or
Antec TruePower New TP-650 650W Continuous Power ATX12V V2.3 / EPS12V V2.91 SLI Certified CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Active PFC "compatible with Core i7/Core i5" Power Supply
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
or
XFX XXX Edition P1-650X-CAG9 650W ATX12V 2.2 / ESP12V 2.91 SLI Certified CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Modular Active PFC Power Supply
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

All three are modular, and the OCZ and Antec are the same price (I don't really care about mail-in rebates). The Antec also has an additional 50W and is 80 PLUS BRONZE certified as opposed to just 80 PLUS Certified. On the other hand, for $15 more, there's the XFX, which was highly ranked on Tom's Hardware's CPU rankling list. Right now I'm leaning toward the Antec - would there be any reason to go with the OCZ over that? Or is the XFX that much better than the Antec for the higher cost?

Case:
COOLER MASTER RC-692-KKN2 CM690 II Advanced Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
or
COOLER MASTER HAF 922 RC-922M-KKN1-GP Black Steel + Plastic and Mesh Bezel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

These seem to be the two most commonly recommended cases. They're both nice cases, and the CM690II Advanced is $10 cheaper than the HAF 922. However, the HAF922 seems to have better air flow and cable management, (though with a modular PSU, cable management shouldn't be an issue). I'm sort of leaning toward the HAF 922 today, but I've been going back and forth daily. Any opinions?

Other than that, I'm pretty set. Thanks!
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March 31, 2011 11:53:58 PM

You're situation is a lot like mine, haha. Had my Dell computer over 5 years now and am looking to build a new computer, probably without a GPU for now. My builds at $494 right now and seems pretty solid to me. Have the same CPU/Mobo combo you just bought.

Other pieces are..

PSU + HD Combo
CORSAIR Enthusiast Series CMPSU-650TX 650W
SAMSUNG Spinpoint F3 HD502HJ 500GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Antec Three Hundred Illusion Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

LITE-ON Drive
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...


Though now I am looking at the XFX PSU you linked and starting to want to change my mind.
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April 6, 2011 11:52:41 PM

Honestly, both sets of RAM should work almost equally as well, but the G.Skill Sniper should run cooler because of the low profile heat spreaders used on it. I'd personally go for it over the Crucial kit.

Out of those three power supplies, I'd easily give the advantage to the XFX unit. It just seems to be an overall better piece of hardware. You get what you pay for, though, and it certainly comes at a higher cost.

I personally like the HAF series of cases, although I own a 690 II Advanced, and like it as well. I'll give the edge to the HAF, though - as long as you like the looks of it, it's a bit wider and will give you extra space behind the motherboard panel and a little wider margin for a larger aftermarket CPU cooler. As far as I know, the airflow in both is around the same.
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