Advice for building a new i7 system ($2k budget)


This is my first post on this site, so forgive me if I'm not aware of some of the local etiquette. The last system I built for myself was YEARS ago, and none of the relatively limited knowledge I had back then applies to today. I've searched Google for information on what some of the latest trends are but there's a TON of information available out there so I was hoping the users here could provide me with some information to start with and then I can use that to do a more refined search.

Sorry if some of these are basic questions to everyone here, I'm just getting back into the hardware scene and have NO idea what's current. :)

Basically what I want to do is build a high end system for use in computer programming, light video processing and moderate gaming. I tend to have LOTS of programs running during programming tasks (Visual Studio, SQL Server, various virtual machines, etc). I don't want BLEEDING edge technology but I would like to get current, high end products. My budget is around $2k for the system not including peripherals. The only components I know I want are the Coolermaster HAF-X case, an i7 processor and some sort of SSD drive for my C: drive.

So my questions are (these are open-ended, feel free to comment on other thoughts you might have):

1. What's the best i7 processor to get? The 2600? I'm still not sure which ones are older than which, what is going to be replaced soon with newer technology, etc?

2. Based on #1, what are the popular motherboards these days?

3. I have a triple monitor setup for office productivity. My current system only allows me to have 1 video card (powers 2 monitors). The third monitor is currently powered by a USB video adapter. Ugh. In the new system, I'd like to have 2 video cards so I get native support for the third monitor and don't have to rely on a USB adapter. What are some good mid range cards? I'd like something that does the job well for gaming, but this is primarily an office workstation.

4. I've started to read a lot about DDR2 vs DDR3 memory. Would DDR3 be the way to go or is it marketing hype (don't mean to start a big conversation on this, I'd just like to know if DDR3 is worth the money).

5. I've never built a liquid cooled system before but I'm thinking I might with this one. What kits would you recommend? I'm probably going to go with an external radiator for better internal cooling.

Sorry for all the questions. Don't feel like you need to answer them all. Again, I'm just trying to get a feel for what I'd start looking for in a higher-end current build. A lot of the info I'm finding online is dated by at least a year.

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  1. 1. You don't need i7 2600K..For your Job i5 2500K Will do the job. The only difference would be in video editing or in multi thread programs but the perfomance gain isn't worth 100$ More

    2.I would go with a Z68 Chipset Motherboard

    3. You don't need Dual Card Setup for this..Get a 6950 with Eyenfinity Support and you 'll be OK. Give us more information about your monitor. Do they have HDMI or DVI-D? Resolution?

    4. DDR3 is the way to go.. Don't even look at DDR2.

    5. If you don't do any crazy O/C on CPU You don't need liquid cooling..A good air cooler like Corsair A70 will do the job

    Maybe you can get what you want for less money..Answer my question about monitor and I'll suggest you a build!
  2. Thanks for the reply. You bring up a good point. I don't necessarily want to spend money on hardware I don't need. I just want to make sure I can have Visual Studio 2010, SQL Server 2008, Photoshop CS5, Outlook, Excel, Word and some background programs running FAST all while VS2010 might be compiling in the background. I'm tired of having my system slow down under normal workload so I figured I'd just go for the higher end stuff out of the gate but if I'm not going to see any benefit from it, I don't want to throw money out the window.

    The monitors all have HDMI and are operating at 1680x1050.
  3. Using Eyenfinity will make the 3 monitors show 1 image..Is this what you want?
  4. Here's a "base build" I use for a lot of gamers and office workstations that also must double as gaming boxes or simply to do video editing, photo work .... $1930

    Case - $170 - Antec DF-85
    Case Fans - $15 - Antec Red 120 mm
    PSU - $120 - Antec CP-850
    MoBo - $465 - ASUS P8P67 WS Revolution
    CPU - incl - Intel Core i5-2500K included in above
    Cooler - $40 - Scythe SCMG 2100
    TIM - $5 - Shin Etsu
    RAM - $125 - (2 x 4GB) Mushkin CAS 7
    GFX - $220 - EVGA GTX 560 (900MHz)
    GFX - $220 - Same
    HD - $160 - Seagate Barracuda XT 2TB
    SSD - $270 - OCZ Vertex 3 2.5" 120GB
    DVD Writer - $70 - Asus 24X DRW-24B3L w/ LS
    Card Reader $50 55 in 1 Card Reader

    The DF-85 is very close to the HAF-X in features....two things it's got that the HAF doesn't are the ability to handle CPX form factor PSU's and the 2.5" hot swap bay that is extremely useful for transporting large amounts of data in a flash .... or to provide convenient offsite backup. I find the styling of both the DF-85 and HAF-X a bit aggressive for an office setting so you may want to look at the Antec 1200.

    The PSU is a 10.0 jonnyguru rated 1st tier unit .... others to consider would be Corsair HAX / AX series, Seasonic X Series and XFX Black Edition.

    The MoBo / CPU combo above is based upon hi performance in gaming and video editing. If that's not a concern, I'd drop to this combo if you application vendors tell you that you will benefit from hyperthreading.

    Asus P8P67 Pro w/ i7-2600k - This will knock off $20 from the above

    If you won't benefit from HT, then Asus P8P67 Pro w/ i5-2500k - This will knock off $110 from the above

    Knock out the cooler / TIM if you are not going to overclock. Water cooling on Sandy Bridge is frankly not worth the effort unless you are a benchmarks maven looking to get your OC's posted on some leader board.

    Forget about the advantages of one memory versus another and just think about what will work in your MoBo, that's DDR3. The above memory is low CAS memory which has a big benefit in demanding applications such as CS5, big databases / spreadsheets etc. If ya don't need that spend $75 on these Corsairs:

    The GFX subsystem above is prolly way more than you need ..... unless again, you enjoy some time gaming or in video editing where the CUDA capability will be of great use. If not, I'd suggest that you get a single 2 GB 6950

    The HD and SSD are top performers atm.

    Skip the Blue Ray play capability if you aren't going to have to watch a Blue Ray training video or movie and geta $24 optical drive w/ DVD write capability.
  5. michxymi said:
    Using Eyenfinity will make the 3 monitors show 1 image..Is this what you want?

    No, I need three independent screens.
    I suggest you look in this thread and check out some of the builds as they would all fit in your budget. I have a build in there I would recommend to you, I am just to lazy to copy it over and make all the links work.
  7. JackNaylorPE said:
    Here's a "base build" I use for a lot of gamers and office workstations that also must double as gaming boxes or simply to do video editing, photo work .... $1930

    Thank you for the detailed reply. This is giving me a lot of good information to get going with. I plan on doing a lot of my own research but I was having a hard time finding some good starting points.

    Sounds like I'm also overdoing it a little with what I was looking for performance-wise based on the couple of replies so far. I'll take a look at some of the recommended alternatives and see if I can't keep a few dollars in my pocket.

    Thanks again, I may post some follow up questions after I have a chance to evaluate all of this.
  8. Antec One Hundred Black ATX Mid Tower Computer Case

    CORSAIR Enthusiast Series TX650 V2 650W ATX12V v2.31/ EPS12V v2.92 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Active PFC High Performance Power Supply

    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 BX80623I52500K

    CORSAIR CAFA70 120mm Dual-Fan CPU Cooler

    GIGABYTE GA-Z68X-UD3P-B3 LGA 1155 Intel Z68 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard

    CORSAIR Vengeance 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model CMZ8GX3M2A1600C9

    XFX HD-695X-CNFC Radeon HD 6950 2GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.1 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support Video Card with Eyefinity

    Intel 320 Series SSDSA2CW080G3K5 2.5" 80GB SATA II MLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)

    SAMSUNG Spinpoint F3 HD103SJ 1TB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive

    SUM 1135,66$ with MIR!
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