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Basic Build - Basic Gaming - Some subjectivity

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March 25, 2011 9:26:25 AM

I have a near 7 year old Dimension 9150 which is still running the kind of games I like. Assassains Creed 2 running on near full graphics settings for example, despite only having a HD 4350 in it!!! Dragon Age 2 looks like it will be the same as soon as I move to Win 7 (limited to Medium Graphics due to XP64 limitations on Direct X compatibility) and the next and only other game I am likely to buy this year is Mass Effect 3.

I almost never play FPS... which reduced my need for GPU power a bit.

The rest of my usage is just internet and MS Office style things. Nothing big.

So I do not need to build a PC, but I want to, and since my requirements are relatively small I can keep it cheap. So my aim is "bang for buck" or "The best of the cheap".

I also have never used RAID or overclocked, so although I do not need either, I will be doing them for the fun of it.

In terms of overclocking and value for money it seems an i5-2500k system is the best... and reading the articles on here it seems the MSI boards are best all rounders, without being expensive, and without being "leaders" in any one field really. I have also read of many "booting" problems with the comparable ASUS boards.

In terms of GPU without getting anything TOO serious, but without going TOO cheap either the €153 PowerColor Radeon HD 6870 PCS+ seems the way to go for me. It is only 15 euro more than the 6850, and is actually 6 euro cheaper than the 6870 standard.

I also want to go the solid state route for my OS and a few other things, but I want hard disks to play with RAID and for non important storage such as old music etc.

The 875W termal take is less than 20euro more than the 775 version so I went with that. If I overclock the CPU, and then later add a second HD 6870... 875W should be ok for me I think. Correct me if I am wrong on this??

I think, but not sure, that HAF 922 and HAF 932 are too big for my needs, even if I later add a second HD6870? Again correct me if wrong. Bear in mind this build will have NO DRIVES as in the 7 years I owned my Dimension 9150 I had 2 drives and used them just once... the day I scrapped XP and installed XP64.

Finally I looked at the Copper version of the Ram, but the CL7 Diamond version is actually only 10 euro dearer, so I went with that. For some reason the CL8 is more expensive than their CL9 and CL7.

So all that said here is the build I have put together so far. Please rip it apart, critique, or ok it as you see fit.

CPU: Intel i5-2500K @ €175
Mobo: MSI P67A-GD55 (B3) @ €130
RAM: 8GB Mach Xtreme Technology Black Diamond @ €82
Power: Thermaltake ToughPower XT 875W @€113
GPU: PowerColor Radeon HD 6870 PCS+ @€153
HDD: 2x Samsung Spinpoint F3 1000GB, SATA II @€83
SS: OCZ Vertex 2 60GB @ €94
Case: Cooler Master HAF 912 PLUS black. @€67
Fan: Corsair A70 @€22
Total: €921

NOTE: I am reading with some concern that there may be some space issues with this MOBO... the CPU cooler... and access to RAM slots. Has anyone else got more information on this??? The RAM I am looking at is 4x2GB but if there is a space concern I will look at 2x4GB.
a b B Homebuilt system
March 25, 2011 1:06:31 PM

Two Things:
1. Thermaltake does not have the best reputation as a PSU maker. I would recommend something in the 750 watt range by Corsair, Seasonic, Antec, XFX Black edition for your PSU.

2. regardless of the space issues, I would recommend the 2X4GB option for ram. Two sticks are always more stable than 4 and you leave yourself an upgrade path for the future should you require more RAM.
March 25, 2011 1:08:06 PM

I have always had the funny notion that 4 sticks is slightly faster because there are more channels into it... but given I know nothing about the internal operations of a PC I may have just made that up in my head and imagined I read it somewhere?
Related resources
a b B Homebuilt system
March 25, 2011 1:14:38 PM

irishmauddib said:
I have always had the funny notion that 4 sticks is slightly faster because there are more channels into it... but given I know nothing about the internal operations of a PC I may have just made that up in my head and imagined I read it somewhere?

Actually, whenever I've installed 4 sticks I've had to change the command rate from 1T to 2T, which does slow it down. however, you would only notice it by running benchmarks. Also dual channel is dual channel whether you have 2sticks or 4. :D 
March 25, 2011 1:18:11 PM

True. I meant I thought that 4 meant that the computer could write to 4 at the same time, which is faster than having to write to 2.... if that makes any sense....

As for the PSU, given I am going with a Coolermaster case, is there any point using their PSU? One would assume that their own components are designed to fit into their own cases :) 
a b B Homebuilt system
March 25, 2011 1:24:34 PM

Fitting wouldn't be the issue. an ATX PSU will fit an ATX case, regardless of brand. Again Cooler Master PSU's are not highly recommended. Check Jonnyguru.com for reviews.
As for the RAM, the data is only in one place on the stick, data storage in RAM is not striped, like a RAID0 array.
a b B Homebuilt system
March 25, 2011 1:35:34 PM

Wow, good catch on the space issue. I looked at the motherboard manual and sure enough, they recommend always using the first slot, which even though the A70 looks like it has adequate clearance for regular height ram, will almost certainly have a problem with that exotic mach Extreme stuff. Most other boards allow you to install 2 sticks of RAM in the slots furthest away from the CPU to avoid that issue. You should go with 2X4GB sticks regardless, in case you want to upgrade to 16 GB in the future - it will be cheaper to do that without having to replace. One other consideration on the RAM: have you thought of 2X2GB sitcks? You generally can get better timing, latency and voltage with 4GB of RAM for overclocking purposes.

Overall, you have done a superb job on your research. The CPU and motherboard are just right, IMO. I like your storage selections. The Corsair A70 heatsink looks like it will do just fine for the lower wattage sandybridge proceesors.

The case you have selected has excellent features and the "Plus" version looks like it solved the problems of the original. Black interior, extra fans, nice cable management, plenty of room for long video cards and a cutout to replace the CPU/cooler. There is not a lot more you could expect from a budget case.

That leaves one other minor item: The power supply has more wattage than you need. By my claculations, even with overclocking and crossfire 6870 GPU's you should not need more than 650 watts, 700 at the outside. Suggest that you scale back on your selection there. Check for yourself if you prefer: Antec Power Supply calculator.
March 25, 2011 1:39:12 PM

Thanks eloric, I thought the Wattage might be too much, especially as I am not getting any Drives for my build even.

I was looking at the PSU 100W less than the one in my list above, but the difference only came to less than €20 which is why I went higher. Seems 100W for that was good value and I was figuring you cant really have too MUCH power, only too little in the future so why not aim high?

Are there any disadvantages in your opinion in having too MUCH power? Or is it just cost saving you have in mind?
a b B Homebuilt system
March 25, 2011 1:47:10 PM

eloric said:
One other consideration on the RAM: have you thought of 2X2GB sitcks? You generally can get better timing, latency and voltage with 4GB of RAM for overclocking purposes. .
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I always thought that it was more a function of number of sticks rather than the capacity of the each sticks. :??: 
a b B Homebuilt system
March 25, 2011 1:55:21 PM

irishmauddib said:
Thanks eloric, I thought the Wattage might be too much, especially as I am not getting any Drives for my build even.

I was looking at the PSU 100W less than the one in my list above, but the difference only came to less than €20 which is why I went higher. Seems 100W for that was good value and I was figuring you cant really have too MUCH power, only too little in the future so why not aim high?

Are there any disadvantages in your opinion in having too MUCH power? Or is it just cost saving you have in mind?


A PSU will only supply the amount of power that the PC will require(up to its max). However it is true that most PSU are most efficient when running at 50% of capacity. so if you use the calculator to determine wattage needed, then multiply by 2 you should be in the sweet spot. This is not to say that if your PC requires 500 watts, you need a 1000watt PSU. If you get one rated at 80% bronze or better, they are efficient over a broader range of loads and temperatures. My rule of thumb: I'd rather have too much power than not enough! :D 
March 25, 2011 1:58:18 PM

Yeah Id rather get a decent PSU, so I might not only get too much power but probably invest in better quality too. I have seen friends perfectly good Video cards melt because of slight instabilities in a bad PSU.
a b B Homebuilt system
March 25, 2011 3:13:20 PM

First off, the power: clarkjd is right in that you want to hit the sweet spot on the PSU, so do not go too high. The 650 watts I recommended had a 25 percent cushion built in to give you that excess capacity and allow for capacitor aging as the PSU grows old. Need to remember, that the total wattage is not what you will be running day to day, but the realistic maximum when running flat out, too.

An adequate power supply will have fail safe mechanisms to avoid meltdown, but so many of the builders here all say that you can not buy too high quality on the PSU. jonnyGuru does not review every make and model, but that might be because some manufacturers do not want jonny to review their products!

If you want to pursue further options, then Seasonic, Silverstone, Antec, XFX, Corsair and Cougar seem to top the lists most often, but just name is not enough - you chould check out the review to make sure the model makes the grade.

OK, back to clarkjd's question on RAM. 4GB of RAM kits typically have better specifications than 8GB kits. Generally you will find more selections at higher speeds, lower latency and (sometimes) lower voltage when looking at 2 X 2GB sticks. This is not usually an overly important matter, but irishmauddib was looking to overclock, and every little bit can help sometimes, espcially if you're going to compete.



March 25, 2011 3:17:23 PM

Thanks for all that eloric! I do want to overclock yes, but not significantly. I just have never done it, so I want to learn how, do it and be able to say I did. Therefore I do not need to get any shocking results out of it... just something satisfying.

I have read claims of some people getting that CPU up as high as 5GHZ with some serious cooling rigs. I do not know whether to believe that... but I do know I am not aiming for anything remotely like it.

Thanks for the advice people, I will do my best to incorporate it into changing my build. Anything else you think of... keep it coming.
a b B Homebuilt system
March 25, 2011 3:48:27 PM

Knowing that you are just exploring, I reccomend you get the 2 X 4 GB for 8GB total, and do not worry about overclocking your RAM.

Here are some current results for overclocking: HWBOT Sandy Bridge 2500K/2600K Batch and Serial Numbers Looks like the high numbers come out between 5700 and 5800 Mhz. They are tracking the serial numbers to see how much results differ by batch.

Serious cooling is probably not involved - the Sandybridge chips do not do well below 15 degrees c, so I have heard. That is not even close to extreme temperatures.

Good Luck, Irish!

edit: fixed link
a b B Homebuilt system
March 25, 2011 4:08:45 PM


One last post here for you. It seems like this might be your first build, if not, then please disregard. Here is the advice and references that others have compiled on this forum, and is some of the best IMHO that Tom's has to offer.

Step-by-Step Guide to Building a PC. Print this out, study it, then follow the steps closely and take your time.

If you get to the end, and your machine won't start, then follow these instructions: "System won't boot" and "no video output" checklist. Actually, if you study these before hand you might not make these mistakes in the first place. (I keep telling myself that. At least, since I know the list, I can correct my mistakes in just a few minutes)

You can always come back to this forum and post specific questions if you run into any trouble. Above all have fun!

March 25, 2011 8:50:06 PM

You're right it is a first build. Given the kind of games I like to play... bioware stuff, assasains creed, telltale games, I do not actually need a new PC. The Dimension 9150 I have is nearing 7 years old now but it still plays all those games fine.

The main idea for the build is just for the experience. Nothing more really. Though I am sure I will appreciate having a better gaming machine at the end of it when I get into Dragon Age 2 and later in the year Mass Effect 3.

I just like the experience and the learning. Evidenced by things like me spending the last month on a HTC HD phone sticking every Flash ROM OS on it to check them all out, getting the phone to dual boot and a host of other things... just to see how.

This will be the first time delving into hardware though, so looking forward to it. May even fork out for a second Graphics Card... not because I need it... but simply because I have never connected 2 before :) 
a b B Homebuilt system
March 26, 2011 2:19:22 PM

Welcome to Tom's Hardware, irishmauddib. This site has an incredible wealth of knowledge, and people that love to teach and share. I feel privileged to help you get started, and look forward to your contributions as you become one of us.

Maybe just one more tweak based on your last comment? How about scaling back on the video card - maybe a 5770 or 5750? That way your foray into crossfire will be a bit more affordable (and sooner!).
March 28, 2011 10:48:30 AM

Thanks for that. The price difference comes to less than 50euro so I am not sure it is worth dropping back on the GPU. What I am reading also suggests the GPU I am aiming for is a good value:p erformance ratio.

Money is not actually an issue... I am happy to pay €30 or €300 for a component, as long as I feel the component is worth the money.
a b B Homebuilt system
March 28, 2011 11:42:07 AM


The 6870 did not happen to be among the recommended in this month's Best Graphics Cards for the Money: Best PCIe Card: $175 To $300. I am not as familiar with the British market, however, and it is all about relative price.

For example, jonnyGuru gave your PSU a 6.5 rating,(Reviews - Thermaltake Toughpower XT 850W)
which is maginal indeed, but when you look more closely, the poor rank was because of the low value score. You are getting the 875 Watt model for a lot less, so that definitely puts it in the "good deal" column.

Finally, for full disclosure here, I have to admit I am a bit envious that cost is not an issue........
!