Gaming on a $500-$600 budget

Hey guys! Just looking for some help (since I'm relatively clueless with hardware) on a budget build that I intend to upgrade over time.

Approximate Purchase Date: As soon as I have a solid build.

Budget Range: This is difficult. I am trying to keep it at $500, but if for $600 I can see a significant performance enhancement then it might be worth it. $600 max, though. I am purchasing Win7 for $30, so add that to your total please!

System Usage from Most to Least Important: Gaming. I'd also like to do some game RECORDING and video editing, but high performance on games is what I'm after. I care if my games lag, I don't care if my other software does. CoD Black Ops, TF2, Half Life 2 stuff, Rift, Left 4 Dead 2, etc. Big on FPS/RTS with some MMO thrown in.

Parts Not Required: keyboard, mouse, monitor, speakers.

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: I will order from whatever website gives me the best deal. If you guys recommend it, then I will trust you. There is a microcenter about an hour from here which I could drive to for a MAJOR discount/bundle.

Country of Origin: USA

Parts Preferences: I don't care. Whatever works best and can be upgraded more easily.

Overclocking: I WANT to overclock, so as long as it won't overheat, yes. My intention is to gradually turn this machine into a beast, and at that point I will definitely be OC'ing, so whatever you guys think is best.

SLI or Crossfire: In the future, yes.

Monitor Resolution: I have a 23" WS monitor, so I'd like the highest resolution possible with my budget.

Additional Comments: Like I said, I'm pretty clueless with hardware. I was doing research on the processor before I got a little overwhelmed and decided I should probably ask for help alongside it. I've read that some games won't perform well at all with 2 cores, yet also that the Core i3 2100 is better than the Phenom II x4 955 BE. Is this because of its HT or what?

Also, since I'm planning to upgrade this, would it make sense to plan in advance for that? Video card would come first, no? Intel seems like the best bet for high-performance processors, but isn't a new socket on the way this year? If so, wouldn't I have to purchase a new mobo too when I decide to upgrade? Or am I truly revealing my ignorance on the subject?

Thanks in advance for any help I receive! I really appreciate it.
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  1. Thank you for the input!

    Unfortunately, the total comes out above $600 when you include the OS/processor. How can I make it fit into my price range?
  2. COOLER MASTER Elite 430
    Seagate Barracuda 1TB 3.5" SATA 6.0Gb/s Internal Hard Drive
    Kingston 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3
    SAPPHIRE Radeon HD 5830 100297L Video Card w/ ATI Eyefinity Technology
    MSI 870A-G54 ATX AMD Motherboard
    AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition 3.2GHz Socket AM3 125W

    Total: $487.94!
  3. johnpaul182 said:
    COOLER MASTER Elite 430
    Seagate Barracuda 1TB 3.5" SATA 6.0Gb/s Internal Hard Drive
    Kingston 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3
    SAPPHIRE Radeon HD 5830 100297L Video Card w/ ATI Eyefinity Technology
    MSI 870A-G54 ATX AMD Motherboard
    AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition 3.2GHz Socket AM3 125W

    Total: $487.94!

    Awesome! Thanks again guys.

    Just curious, I was also looking at this mobo:

    Is it better/worse than the MSI, or simply a matter of preference?

    Also, does it matter whether or not the board I get is AM3+ vs AM3? I'm ASSUMING not, but just curious.
  4. Check my build guide here for a $600 build. Drop the 5850 and instead get the 5830, it'll lose quite a bit of performance but it's still good.

    That'll save you $40 that you can put towards the i5 2400 which would kill the 955 and any AM3 chip currently.
    2500K vs 970
    The 2500K is basically the 2400 but with a high clockrate, so in benches they'd perform quite similarly with the same architecture. As you see, the 970 is beaten bad.

    I strongly suggest waiting next month for Bulldozer, Possible Llano or maybe Bulldozer will have better cheaper offerings.
  5. I'm in the process of assembling my own gaming rig for the first time. Just my advice from a lot of stuff I've read, Intel processors can't be beat, except by your wallet. If you're running a tight budget (and I thought $800 was tight lol), AMD is the way to go. It might not be designed quite as well, but it's worth it for the shear horsepower you get for the money you spend.

    Also, when it comes down to it. Screw everything else and get the best damn video card you can afford and that your build can handle. CPUs and quality RAM are great, but in the end the bulk of your gaming power comes from the video card. If you had to push your budget for one piece of hardware. Thats it.

    Good luck!
  6. Thanks AznShinobi. : )

    Apparently the Bulldozer has been postponed until later Q3, early Q4, so that's not really an option for me.

    That leaves Llano. What would be the advantages of waiting for its release? I'd honestly like to get this comp ASAP, so unless it's serious value, I'm fine with what I've been presented here. I don't know much about it, though, so I'm probably missing something. : P

    Would the 2400 confer a significant advantage in performance over either the 955 BE or the i3 2100 + a better video card? Seems like a balancing act between the GPU and CPU. xD

    I'm having difficulty choosing between the two (Phenom II and Core i3), so maybe that upgrade is advisable?
  7. i agree with oxycontin, you should spend the higher amount of money you can on the GPU
  8. This is what i am planning on building






    Extra Fans-


    I am also building on a budget and came here for help the reason i am using amazon is because i have some money on gift cards there and if you have some college books laying around you could possible get some money from there to spend on some computer parts. You could easily change the HDD out for a cheaper. Hope this helps and can add some suggestions to this it would be greatly appreciated seeing as this is my first computer build as well

    Total: $565.45
  9. Best answer
    Both are good, the i3 2100 is defiantly favored. Although only having two cores, the i3 2100, in benches (which would most likely translate to same performance in gaming), performs better than the 955. The 955 although a great chip I agree, just can't compete with 32nm.

    I don't know what you're hearing about "Pushed back" but it's still slated for June. That's why Tom's has put out a review for the 990FX chipset already.

    Though if you'd link it, I'd be happy to admit that I'm wrong. But I doubt the leak was false as the leak came from Gigabyte, they said that AMD would release around the time of Computex (I believe that is the name of the convention).
  10. Do you think I should wait for the Bulldozer? Here is the build I am considering. I'd like to ensure the parts will all function with one another, and whether or not you all think it's a good build for the price, or if I have better options available:

    Intel Core i3-2100 Sandy Bridge 3.1GHz LGA 1155 65W Dual-Core Desktop Processor BX80623I32100

    ASRock Z68 PRO3 LGA 1155 Intel Z68 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard

    SAPPHIRE 100297L Radeon HD 5830 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.1 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support Video Card w/ ATI Eyefinity

    G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model F3-12800CL9D-4GBRL

    Seagate Barracuda ST31000524AS 1TB 7200 RPM SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive

    COOLER MASTER HAF 912 RC-912-KKN1 Black SECC/ ABS Plastic ATX Mid Tower Computer Case


    COOLER MASTER GX Series RS650-ACAAE3-US 650W ATX12V v2.31 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Power Supply

    ASUS DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS Black SATA 24X DVD Burner - Bulk - OEM

    I wasn't sure if I should try to get a lower CAS latency on the RAM or not, and if it would be worth downgrading to 1333 for lower intervals.

    I also couldn't tell why a few different harddrives with seemingly identical specifications have different prices (same brand.)

    The stock heatsink/fans should be sufficient, right? I also want to leave some room for upgrades in the future. Please let me know if I've made any mistakes or can improve upon it, because if not I will probably order it. It exceeds my $600 quote by a smidgen, but I've found that I can afford it despite that.

    Thanks again for the help, guys! : )
  11. ^ That Z68 is a great value but you're not needing the Quick Sync so meh, plus you're not getting an SSD. So meh again. I think this would be better for you in terms of future proofing.

    Saves $10, allows future Crossfire/OCing if you get the 2500K or 2600K

    Take advantage of this combo to get a DVD drive cheaper.

    Although that case and PSU combo is great, the PSU is not that reliable. JohnnyGuru reviewed it and although everything performs well at first. The CM cheapened out on their capacitors and they aren't very good. So the PSU runs hot and reliability isn't very good, as in it doesn't last very long. So although it maybe 80+ at first, slowly it grows old and dies on you fast. The GX and Extreme series were not good series for CM, the silent pro is an exception, but out of the budget. I recommend this PSU.

    It'll allow for future CF.
  12. Thanks so much for all the help, man.

    I'm really torn between the Core i3 2100 and the Phenom II 955 BE, but seeing the benchmarks makes me lean toward the i3. Plus, as you said, I would eventually like to upgrade to a 2500K.

    I changed the mobo/PSU/DVD/HDD and it comes out to around $660. I'm already pushing it, so I'm wondering if there is any way at all I can make this build a little cheaper without compromising any of the components we've selected. Are there ever any promo codes/coupons?

    Barring that bit, considering your suggestions, do you think I'm ready to order?
    Could save $30 on the processor by driving to Micro Center. Could possibly find other deals there too.
  14. ^+1
  15. Sweet! Yeah, I will definitely look for more bundles on newegg/microcenter after seeing that.

    Curious though, with the setup I've given, do I really need the 650w power supply? Couldn't I go to the 520w listed in your $600 budget build, AznShinobi? By the time I can afford an upgrade on the video card, I will probably also be able to afford a better PSU.
  16. If your going to get the Radeon HD 5830 then according to AMD itself you only need a 500w psu for a single card or a 600w psu for crossfire.
  17. Go with a i3-2100 and have the option of upgrading to an i5 later. The i3 is no slouch but you have a much better upgrade path. With the Phenom you're stuck with more Phenoms which are getting old fast.

    Don't buy an AM3+ motherboard in hopes of upgrading to bulldozer down the line. There's are obvious reasons people don't use their Phenom IIs in AM2/+ motherboards (northbridge/HT) even though they can.
  18. Yeah, and according to the PSU calculator I used, I should only need around ~400 watts, including significant aging. I think I'll downgrade the PSU then, as it should save me a bit of much needed money.

    EDIT: Yeah, ignoranceabound, I think you're right. Sandy Bridge is looking like a mighty fine choice. : )
  19. Well I think you should just get the 650w now and save money down the line since you'd end up needing to spend more if you got another psu later. But if you can't spend that extra bit, then I guess just downgrade like in my 600$ build to the Neo Eco or BP550.
  20. Yeah, actually I probably will for that reason, I just want to make sure that if things are going to be tight that I can cut the expenses a little bit so I can squeeze by.

    Unfortunately, a new development is that the HD 5830 is out of stock at newegg and apparently deactivated. If someone can help me find an alternative GPU with a similar cost and performance, I think I will be all set to order tonight. All of the ones that were between $90-$120 (the HD 5830 was $109) also seemed to be 128 bit, whereas I was told to seek 256 bit. Does it really matter all that much?

    How about a Sapphire HD Radeon 5770?

    Thanks again to all that have helped, I really appreciate the guidance.
  21. Watch out for the DVD drive you are getting, if you plan on installing Windows 7, you are not able to, as according to one review, the drivers are not compatible.
  22. The 5770 is decent.
    Free game, cheaper after rebate. Same price.
  23. Are there any cards that aren't a downgrade, but in fact an upgrade over the 5830 for maybe a little more $$?

    EDIT: Okay, how about this. Close to/final?:

    Intel Core i3-2100 Sandy Bridge 3.1GHz LGA 1155 65W Dual-Core Desktop Processor BX80623I32100

    ASRock P67 PRO3 SE LGA 1155 Intel P67 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard

    G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model F3-12800CL9D-4GBRL

    SAPPHIRE 100315L Radeon HD 6850 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.1 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support Video Card with Eyefinity

    COOLER MASTER HAF 912 RC-912-KKN1 Black SECC/ ABS Plastic ATX Mid Tower Computer Case

    Seagate Barracuda ST31000524AS 1TB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive

    Antec EarthWatts EA-650 GREEN 650W ATX12V v2.3 SLI Ready CrossFire Certified 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Active PFC Power Supply
  24. Some quick recommendations:
    This power supply as it has 4 6pin connectors and cost just slightly more.
    Then to save money this graphics card as it perofrms the same as the 6850.
    Then this mobo as it supports SLi for future upgrade in graphics performance.
    Overall its the same price and I feel you'll be more "future proof". just my .02
  25. ^ 460 1GB < 6850
    Your bench thing shows that, it's minute but is 5-10% I believe.

    As for PSU concerns I like the EA650 more but that's just me. Cheaper and more watts and better efficiency.
  26. Yes but you can overclock the 460 beyond what it comes at stock. And that psu would be better compatible with SLi.
  27. Same can be said for the 6850, in which it'll have more headroom to do so.
  28. Best answer selected by nwkegan.
    nThanks guys. In the end, I went with a smaller HDD (500 gb, still Seagate), grabbed the motherboard MGF suggested for later Crossfire stuff, and kept the HD 6850 since the regular GTX 460, especially the Zotac, is slower than the 6850 from what I've seen. Throw on an anti-static wristband and I'm ready to go. : ) Really appreciate the continued suggestions AznShinobi & MGF, but I appreciate EVERYONE'S contributions.
  29. Your welcome,Also good luck with the build. And Anti Static bands are nice.
  30. Alrighty your welcome! Good luck with your build. Hope it's a good one, felt good to build my first.
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