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$2000-2500 clean slate

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April 3, 2011 3:55:22 AM

Through various dramatic circumstances, my old computer has gone the way of the dodo. So long, Smilodon. I shall remember you fondly. You carried me bravely from Age of Conan and Crysis, chugging flawlessly along except on the most recent and newest games at the most extreme and least noticeable end of graphical performance. Now you may rest.

In other news, I want to build a new computer. I am looking to spend right around $2000-2500 dollars, after rebates and shipping. Do not include cost for an operating system or other installed software. Before I answer the stickied questions.. please consider these points of interest.

1. I tend to upgrade components right around the "70-80%" of current maximum. Once the GPU or CPU drops off the top lists, it magically reduces in price without sacrificing all that much in performance. This time around though I don't mind going big, so don't be afraid to suggest pricey components, as long as they earn it. If the difference between a $450 GPU and a $550 GPU is less than 10% of my overall performance, go $450.

2. Upgrade potential is important to me. I will usually consider replacing my GPU / GPUs every two years or so, depending on the new curve and what monster games I want to run in Videogasm mode. Please help me select a versatile motherboard, reliable PSU and a large case so that I won't get cornered down the line.

3. My knowledge of games is focused on playing them, not building machines for them. Obviously I know enough to believe I can tackle a custom built PC, I've done it before, can do it again. I've never tried overclocking. The most involved I get is installing my OS and a system monitor to make sure I don't melt something. On that point..

4. COOLING. Overheat is probably the thing that troubles me the most. I do a thorough dust / clean / visual check of my machine probably once a month. I buy custom fans. I have never attempted a mineral oil machine / liquid cooling / cyro cooling or any other nifty solution. This time around it would be nice to have a reliable cooling solution in place so I don't burn something expensive while obsessively playing a high-draw game for 8+ hours.


Approximate Purchase Date: 3-6 weeks, hopefully by May

Budget Range: $2000-2500 after rebates

System Usage from Most to Least Important: Gaming and longevity

Parts Not Required: Will need everything, but don't go budgetting $100 for some kind of fancy mouse or keyboard. I don't buy into that crap. A nice monitor, however, sure. Don't include costs for an OS.

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: I prefer Newegg.com but will consider any reliable retailer

Country of Origin: United States

Parts Preferences: Large case w/ cooling system and a 20"+ inch gaming monitor. Would like an SSD boot drive for the OS and my games, and then a decent HDD for storage.

Overclocking: Maybe

SLI or Crossfire: Maybe (if more cost-effective or powerful than single GPU)

Monitor Resolution: Whatever the above monitor ends up being best at, insert suggestion here

Additional Comments: Wouldn't mind it looking cool with glowy lights and crud, but not important. Thanks for the help guys!!!

More about : 2000 2500 clean slate

April 3, 2011 1:45:07 PM

For your budget, and I am salivating here, I strongly recommend a resolution of 5760 X 1080. That is three monitors!

Here is what I would purchase if I were buying it today:
Monitors: 3 X ASUS VW224U Black 22" 2ms for $410 after rebates and promo, ends 4/7. Good response on these monitors at 2ms. Could expand to 23 inch or 24 inch here, if you wanted to spend more.

CPU: Intel Core i5-2500K Sandy Bridge for $225 . This is the top rated gaming CPU - any more power is excessive and cost prohibitive. Note that there are AMD and Intel releases coming this quarter which may change the game. Not sure if these new products will be available at your purchase date, but you should check to make sure this recommendation is still the best for you.

Motherboard: MSI P67A-G45 (B3) LGA 1155 Intel P67 for $148 . This is a mid-priced P67 board. MSI offers a solid product with decent features at good prices. This board was selected because it crossfires a second video card at x8 speed instead of x4. Also, a mention about overclocking: You need to do it. This board has the new UEFI bios which makes things much simpler. The effort to get a mild overclock is downright simple, and only takes a few minutes. The risk is negligible, and well worth the premium (an extra $20 for the cpu and mobo each plus an aftermarket heat sink).

RAM: G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 8GB for $80 after promo code – ends 4/6. Nothing flashy here - looked for the cheapest 1333 speed RAM. You could spend a lot more on performance memory, but since overclocking memory offers little overall benefit, the expense is not worth it.

Video: 2 X HIS H695F2G2M Radeon HD 6950 2GB for $505 after rebate, including shipping. Recommended by Tom’s hardware: Best PCIe Card: $400 And Up You can spend a lot more - I think there is a GTX 590 just released, but the extra power, noise and heat do not justify the benefit IMO.

SSD: OCZ Vertex 2 OCZSSD2-2VTXE120G 2.5" 120GB for $200 . Good size, decent speed, right price: avoids the premium for the brand new release.

HDD: SAMSUNG Spinpoint F3R HE103SJ 1TB for $70 after promo code ends 4/5. Normally, I recommend the HD103SJ instead of this model of Samsung’s Spinpoint F3 series, but it is sold out at the moment. This F3R version is a few dollars more, and included here for a complete build. Western Digital Caviar Black is another good HDD alternative.

Case: COOLER MASTER HAF 922 for $90 after rebate. Cases are very personal choices. A friend of mine really can’t stand red, and he replaced every single fan in a similar model with blue and UV components. I selected this case because it has lots of features and is on sale cheap at the moment. You mentioned you like cool and glowy lights, so I would think about alternatives to this case when you are ready to buy. You may want to think about stepping up to a full size tower if you have the room. An Antec 1200 is a good looking case. Lian Li owners almost always love their cases. Cooler Master HAF have some of the best for the price in my experience. One final thought to consider about a case: you see it all the time, it will outlast all the components inside of it so you can keep from build to build and a good case makes opening it up a pleasure instead of a chore. What I am trying to say here is buy a good one that you really like.
8 Pin power extension for $7 so you can route your supplementary power behind the motherboard (for cleaner cable management). I just hate having to go to the store to buy this item, so I am starting to recommend it with bottom mounted power supplies.

Heat sink: COOLER MASTER Hyper 212 Plus for $42 shipped You will probably be able to find this for around $30. Check your local computer store. Newegg has decided to make extra money off these for some reason.
Power Supply: CORSAIR Enthusiast Series TX850 for $120 after rebate. This is a decent manufacturer, with the right capacity for two 6950 video cards in crossfire.

DVD: Sony Optiarc Black 24X DVD for $20. Buy the most inexpensive you can find here. Enough said.

OS: Windows 64 bit for $0 – mentioned here just so you don’t try to build with a 32 bit OS.

Total price, as configured here for purchase immediately: $1917. Many (if not most) of these selections would change over the next three weeks. I just wanted to give you an idea of what to look for when the time comes. You also have some room to stretch – suggest bigger monitors or more case.

Finally, need to ask the question: do you have a Micro Center near you? They have the best prices on CPUs, hands down, and often have better deals on motherboards too. It is worth a trip to shop there if a store is in your area. Frys is another good store to shop in – especially to get a feel for the best cases, plus they match competitor’s pricing (at least at my store).
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April 3, 2011 3:07:44 PM

Nope, no Microcenter or Frys around here according to Lord Google. I live in Pensacola, Florida. That's why I shop online. :sol: 

Before posting my kneejerk response I checked a few writeups and videos about 3 monitor systems on various game styles I like. WoW, Black Ops, Oblivion, etc. I am pretty reluctant just because I have always enjoyed gaming on one monitor just fine. It seems sort of nifty, but I am not yet sure if it would be worth the extra effort to install / extra cash to purchase. Gonna sit on this one.

For now, lets assume I want to go with a 24" or so single monitor HD LCD. I've read enough in these forums to understand that the i5-2500 is all a gamer needs right now which is fine. . . as long as it's all that I should reasonably need in two years, too. Don't want my bottleneck to turn out being the CPU and end up needing to replace it. Still, going with the i5 for now unless someone says otherwise.

With only one monitor to support, does your dual card recommendation still stand? On the point of longevity do you think it would be reasonable just to buy a GTX 580 at the same price range in order to leave a PCI-E slot open for another GTX 580 in two years? I see it like this

1. Buy 2 Radeon HD 6950s, current "best in slot" set up for approximately $500. Two or three years from now I decide to upgrade, and need to replace both cards, either with a new topline card or another dual card setup for right around the same mark of $500.

2. I buy one GTX 580 or 590 at $500 something. Two or three years from now, I buy another GTX 580 at a reduced price, maybe as low as $250. I'm no professional but that seems cheaper. Is this a good bead for scalability or am I presuming way too much here? Will such a setup be lightyears behind the curve?

All other component suggestions seem spot on. I will learn how to do the overclocking on CPU and GPU - not sure if I care to try RAM, but if its easy and low risk, why not. SSD and secondary hard drive is just what I was thinking. I even like the case you suggested. Looks cool.
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April 3, 2011 3:21:49 PM

I would personally jump at the build eloric posted. Three monitors is awesome (something I unfortunately do not have the desk space for right now).

As for the GTX 580, sure that would fit the bill for anything you are likely to do with your computer for the next 3-4 years, especially paired with a 2500k. I think it really comes down to "how much performance do I need right now?" Two GTX 560Ti's in SLI will outperform a GTX 580 for the same price but your upgrade path down the line will be nonexistent. Of course my single GTX 560Ti (or certainly a single 6950) runs Crysis at 1080p/max settings at or around 30-40 FPS so its not even really necessary to spend GTX 580 money if you don't want....
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April 3, 2011 3:42:53 PM

That's about what I was thinking, Eric. Not much you can do with two video cards when it comes time to upgrade. One strong video card can be paired with another, however.

Would a GTX 580-590 run a 3 monitor system as suggested? Should I go ATI to get Eyefinity? Is there some other card I'm not aware of that would be better suited?
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April 3, 2011 3:46:27 PM

The cables on the Corsair 850TXV2 will be long enough to not require an ATX12V/EPS12V extension cable in most cases.

This isn't the first time newegg has cranked up the price on the Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus, they do it because some people think that it is much better than it really is.
The Scythe Mugen 2 is a better cooler. $40 ($3 shipping)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
The only downside is that it is probably a wise decision to choose RAM without tall heatspreaders with this cooler, but RAM these days don't need heatspreaders, unless maybe you are overclocking your RAM or the case has poor airflow.

No, most Nvidia cards are not capable of powering more than two monitors, the GTX 590 is the one of the few exceptions I believe.
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April 3, 2011 4:18:00 PM

Well, considering that the GTX 590 currently has restricted availability and I am seeing things like Nvidia may not even WANT to fix that situation, I think I'll pass. Interesting reviews though. Apparently a very powerful and quiet card. Too bad it's $700 +++.

I guess at that point instead of GPU choice being the kicker it is going to be about my system setup. To go triple-monitor or not.. hmm. With triple monitors I would take Eloric's original suggestion of paired Radeon HD 6950s. If I have to upgrade later, so be it. On a single monitor though I'd probably end up grabbing a GTX 580.

Anyone have thoughts on the longevity of i5-2500 / k versus a better processor? Will I be ok down the line?
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April 3, 2011 5:40:06 PM

First off, if you really like that case, and you have the cash now, then buy it. You may not see that low of a price again for a long time. It has not gone on sale very often in the past.

As for the single vs multiple graphics card discussion, you could look at it this way: Let's say two years ago you purchased a state of the art HD 4850, and now you are ready to upgrade. You can buy one right now for $90 after rebate. Would you settle today for Direct X10? Most likely not. Instead, you would be hard pressed not spend an extra $15 for a 5770 that outperforms two of the old cards by itself. Actually, you probably would be looking very hard at a 6950, because it will play all the current games at relatively high frame rates. I can imagine we'll be doing the same in 2013 with the 7750, 7970, or whatever.

Next, I originally suggested two video cards and three monitors because that fit the budget, and is well balanced. Well, also because it is just an incredible dream to use, and I want one. Feel free, though, to take my suggestions and modify them to your heart's content. This is your machine, and you can spend whatever you want. $1200 to $1500 on a gaming PC is still a very nice machine.

If you are going to stick with a single monitor at 1920 X 1080, then a single HD Radeon 6970 or a GTX 580 would be just fine for even the most punishing settings for today's most demanding games. Note that this comparison shows an acceptable 30 fps results with anti aliasing turned on - if you check through the other pages in the article, hopefully you can find a game you are familiar with and see much higher frame rates.

Scythe Mugen 2 is a better cooler, and it is also 33 percent more than what the Cooler Master Hyper 212 plus should be. If I were purchasing today, I would get the CM 212+ from Micro Center for $28 plus tax. Actually, tall heat spreaders might interfere with the Cooler Master also, but you can usually place your RAM in the outer slots away from the heat sink. If you get the HAF 922, you will not have to worry about overheating RAM, since it has a 200 mm fan in the top.
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April 3, 2011 7:01:31 PM

I haven't been checking religiously so I fully admit I could be wrong, but hasn't the HAF 922 been $90 for quite a while now, or at least around the $100 mark. The highest price I remember on it was $120, it probably won't be at that price ever again either. So I don't think that it's a big deal getting that case soon, because the price won't fluctate much.

Maybe one thing to keep in mind is that Cooler Master might up date the 922 as they have recently done with the 932 - there is now an Advanced version of the 932, the major addition being front panel USB3 support and a black interior.

There is unlikely to be RAM compatibility issues with the Hyper 212 Plus as it is only 51mm in depth (that is probably without a fan) add a normal 120mm fan and the whole thing will be ~75mm deep. The Mugen 2 in comparison is 100mm in depth - I don't know if that measurement includes the fan or not, I think it does tho - so it is much deeper.
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April 3, 2011 7:14:29 PM

You could be right about the refresh on the HAF 922 - it needs usb3 connections. Up until this sale, it has been $109 with hefty shipping on top of that. CM just dropped the price of the scout a few days ago - it is sold out, so maybe they are just dumping these old models. They are fantastic boxes, though, even if they are old.
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April 3, 2011 7:43:11 PM

Dual factory over clocked gtx 560's in SLI

One great monitor > three so so monitors. This build will rip through any games you play atm. If you want to cut the price down I would suggest taking those speakers off this build. The sound card, headset, and mic all go together for a great sound set up. That Zalman blue LED cpu h/s is rated in the top ten @ Frosty Tech and comes with excellent thermal compound. The RAM (blue h/s ftw), should be back in stock again within the next week or two, and the monitor is the #1 gaming monitor available today. It's has a 120hz refresh rate, a low 2ms response time, LED Back Light and is 3D capable. The case is a full tower with great cooling and airflow. The two 120mm blue LED case fans in this build are the optional add on fans for that case to ensure full cooling capabilities of that case.

Now this build contains newegg, amazon, superbiiz, and fry's...but why not get the most out of your $$$$ ?

http://www.amazon.com/Antec-Gaming-Twelve-Hundred-V3/dp... $159.99 & this item ships for FREE with Super Saver Shipping
Antec ATX Full Tower Gaming Case, Twelve Hundred V3 (Black)

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $16.99
Antec 761345-75024-0 120mm Blue LED Case Fan

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $16.99
Antec 761345-75024-0 120mm Blue LED Case Fan

http://www.amazon.com/Antec-Truepower-TP-750-BLUE-Manag... $89.99 & this item ships for FREE with Super Saver Shipping
Antec Truepower 23754 TP-750 BLUE LED 750-Watt PSU NVIDIA SLI Certified 80 Plus Bronze Advanced Hybrid Cable Management Power Supply

http://www.superbiiz.com/detail.php?name=MB-P67X4B3&tit... $153.99
ASRock P67 EXTREME4 B3 LGA1155/ Intel P67 B3/ DDR3/ Quad SLI & Quad CrossFireX/ SATA3&USB3.0/ A&GbE/ ATX Motherboard

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $224.99 FREE SHIPPING
Intel Core i5-2500K Sandy Bridge 3.3GHz (3.7GHz Turbo Boost) 4 x 256KB L2 Cache 6MB L3 Cache LGA 1155 95W Quad-Core Desktop Processor

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $64.99 FREE SHIPPING
ZALMAN CNPS9900MAX-B 135mm Long life bearing CPU Cooler Blue LED

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $99.99 FREE SHIPPING
G.SKILL Sniper 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model F3-12800CL9D-8GBSR

http://www.amazon.com/Lite--LightScribe-Layer-Drive-IHA... $22.99 & eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping on orders over $25
Lite-On LightScribe 24X SATA DVD+/-RW Dual Layer Drive IHAS424-98 - Retail (Black)

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $234.99 (Before $20.00 Mail-In Rebate Card)
GIGABYTE GV-N560OC-1GI GeForce GTX 560 Ti (Fermi) 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Support Video Card

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $234.99 (Before $20.00 Mail-In Rebate Card)
GIGABYTE GV-N560OC-1GI GeForce GTX 560 Ti (Fermi) 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Support Video Card

http://www.superbiiz.com/detail.php?name=HD-HD103SJ&tit... $59.99 Free Shipping
Samsung SpinPoint F3 HD103SJ 1TB SATA2 7200rpm 32MB Hard Drive

http://www.amazon.com/Logitech-920-002232-Gaming-Keyboa... $64.99 & this item ships for FREE with Super Saver Shipping
Logitech Gaming Keyboard G110

http://www.amazon.com/Logitech-G500-Programmable-Gaming... $58.45 & this item ships for FREE with Super Saver Shipping
Logitech G500 Programmable Gaming Mouse

http://www.amazon.com/Logitech-Z-2300-THX-Certified-Spe... $164.99 & this item ships for FREE with Super Saver Shipping
Logitech Z-2300 THX-Certified 2.1 Speaker System with Subwoofer

http://www.amazon.com/Sennheiser-HD555-Professional-Hea... $78.50 & this item ships for FREE with Super Saver Shipping
Sennheiser HD555 Professional Headphones with Sound Channeling

http://www.amazon.com/Zalman-Microphone-Zm-Mic1-Sensiti... $12.21 & eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping on orders over $25
Zalman Microphone Zm-Mic1 High Sensitivity Headphone Microphone Retail

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $29.99
ASUS XONAR_DG 5.1 Channels PCI Interface Xonar DG Sound Card

http://www.frys.com/product/6417522?site=sr:SEARCH:MAIN... $399.99
BEN Q XL2410T 23.6" LED Backlit Monitor (NVIDIA 3D Ready)

Total: $2,130.01 *not including shipping, rebates, promo codes, etc..

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... <--- more pics, specs/info and customer reviews of that Antec case @ newegg

http://apcmag.com/first-look-the-benq-xl2410t-.htm <---- review of that monitor

http://www.benq.us/products/product_detail.cfm?product=... <----- BenQ XL2410T

http://www.madshrimps.be/articles/article/1000116#axzz1... <---Review on that Asrock motherboard after the latest bios update

http://www.hardwareheaven.com/reviews/1098/pg2/asrock-e... <---Review on that Asrock motherboard after the latest bios update

http://www.anandtech.com/show/4080/welcome-to-sandy-bri... <--- Review before the latest bios...and it still smoked the Asus and Gigabyte boards

http://www.asrock.com/news/events/201102ex/warranty.htm... <----- Asrock two year warranty

http://www.asrock.com/mb/overview.asp?Model=P67%20Extre... <--- ASRock P67 Extreme4
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April 3, 2011 8:05:52 PM

Base Build:

Case - $155 - Antec DF-85 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Why ... the 922 has gotten long in the tooth (i.e. no USB 3) leaving just the HAF-X and Antec DF-85 as the top two contenders. Having built with both, I like the DF-85 much better ... and it fits CPX form factor PSU's....and yes the lights shut off.

Case Fans - $8 - Antec Red 120 mm http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Recomended if using twin GFX cards

PSU - $120 - Antec CP-850 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
jonnyguru is the most generally accepted reference and jonny writes:

Quote:
It is completely unmatched by any ATX unit on the market I can think of. You'd have to spend twice as much as this thing costs to find the next best thing, performance wise.


MoBo - $260 - ASUS P8P67 WS Revolution http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Full x16 x16 GFX card performance with on board NF200 chip. Only competition is UD7 and it's no contest; the WS takes every bench, some by big numbers but the power / temperature results are what I found most impressive
http://www.tweaktown.com/reviews/3795/asus_p8p67_ws_rev...

CPU - $225 - Intel Core i5-2500K http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Best bang for the buck

Cooler - $40 - Scythe SCMG 2100 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Bets bang for the buck; beats Hyper 212 by 7C

TIM - $5 - Shin Etsu http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
All of what AS5 has to offer but w/o the 200 hour curing time req't.

RAM - $145 - (2 x 4GB) Mushkin CAS 7 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Could save $50 with CAS 9 but why bother w/ ya budget.

GFX - $265 - Asus GTX 560 Factory Overclocked http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
GFX - $265 - Same (EDIT: Gigabyte models are only $215 ..... $235 - $20 MIR)
The factory OC'd 560 Ti's perform very close to the 570's. Guru3D uses the following games in their test suite, COD-MW, Bad Company 2, Dirt 2, Far Cry 2, Metro 2033, Dawn of Discovery, Crysis Warhead. Total fps (summing fps in each game) for the various options (single card / SL or CF) are tabulated below

6850 (371/634)
6950 (479/751)
560 Ti (455/792)
6970 (526/825)
560 Ti - 900 Mhz (495/862)
570 (524/873)
580 (616/953)
6990 (762/903)
590 (881/982)

Twin 6950's = 751 fps or $0.63 per frame
Twin 6970's = 825 fps or $0.81 per frame
Twin 900 MHz 560 Ti's = 862 fps or $0.50 per frame

HD - $65 - Spinpoint F3 1TB 7200 rpm http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
If outta stock, Seagate 7200.12, Spinpoint F3 or WD Black all exceed in certain areas....pick one thaa fits ya needs based upon application performance listed in your apps here:

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

SSD - $300 - OCZ Vertex 3 2.5" 120GB http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Nothing else even comes close as yet

DVD Writer - $90 - Plextor BR Combo Drive w/ LS http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Blue Ray player / DVD writer

Monitor - $180 - ASUS VE247H 23.6" 2ms LED Monitor http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...


Cost $2,123 (Take off $100 w/ Gigabyte GFX cards) w/o any combo discounts

But .... ya still have money left :) 

GFX options:

As long as you are using a 1920 x 1200 monitor, nVidia rules the roost....at 2560 x 1600, Id get the 2Gb ATI cards. The 590, based upon the results listed above tops the 6990. But again, twin 900 Mhz 560's get 862 fps in the Guru3D tests for as low as $430 ($215 x 2). The $700 590 gets ya a measly 19 fps more for an extra $270 !

That leaves the 570 and 580 as viable options at 1920 x 1200/1080. The twin 900 Mhz 560's finish only 11 fps behind the twin 570's for $670 (2 x $335). The 560's can be overclocked to 1000 Mhz w/o issue but in all fairness, the 570's can be OC'd to.

That leaves the 580 whose 953 fps in SLI (616 as single card) remains impressive. That's a $500 investment for one card, $1,000 for two. Remember the two 560's can cost as little as $430 and that 862 fps in SLI is $70 cheaper than a single 580 and the 560's beat the single 580 in total fps of 862 to 616.

Looking at your driving selection criteria of staying 1 notch below the top, this would appear to be your best bet. perhaps one 580 now and adding one later is an option that you might consider. My build missed the dropped price on the $215 Gigabyte models so one $580 would actually reduce the build price by $30. However, you'd now need a quality 900-100 watt PSU and that would mean a price increase. In the DF-85, it's a $30 upgrade to the CP-1000 so it evens out. The Corsair HX and AX series, Antec HCP series could be considered viable alternates but they are both significantly more $.

Cooling Options:

-Best current air cooler seems to be the Thermalright Silver Arrow but the Prolimatech Genesis appear ready to give it a run for its money.
http://benchmarkreviews.com/index.php?option=com_conten...

-If ya interested in that kinda thing, the best "self contained water cooler" would be the Antec Kuhler 620
http://benchmarkreviews.com/index.php?option=com_conten...

CPU Options:

-The 2600k gives ya an extra 0.1 GHz at stock plus, from what I have seen, an extra 0.3 Ghz OC'd .... if ya doing things other than gaming, the HT can come in handy. It adds about $110

MoBo Options:

-Only step up on 1155 platform is the Maximus IV Extreme ..... it allows the SLI'd or CF'd cards to remain at x16 x16 while still adding a 3rd card at x8 for dedicated PhysX processing. If ya don't know much about PhysX ya really don't need to know how it works except that it takes the Physics processing off the CPU and other GPUs, decide if ya like the eye candy by watching the comparison video

http://www.firingsquad.com/hardware/batman_arkham_asylu...
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