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~2500 Gaming PC (Advice/Opinions)

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July 15, 2011 7:41:05 PM

Hello, somewhat new to tom's hardware, but I have been doing research for my first gaming PC build over the past month and I have found the community here incredibly helpful. I have finally gotten a build together that I think would work well, but I would like to here from people that know much more than me before shelling out $2500. I will be ordering the parts in about a month. Any advice would be very much appreciated. Here we go:

Motherboard: ASUS Maximus IV Extreme-Z LGA 1155 Intel Z68 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Extended ATX Intel Motherboard
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
GPU: EVGA 015-P3-1580-AR GeForce GTX 580 (Fermi) 1536MB 384-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Support Video Card
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
CPU: i7 2600K
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-D14 120 & 140mm
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
SSD: OCZ Vertex 3 240GB
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
HDD: WD Caviar Black 2TB 7200 RPM HDD
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Case: Cooler Master HAF X Full Tower case
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
PSU: Corsair Professional Gold AX850 850W
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
RAM: G.SKILL Ripjaws 8GB (2x4GB) 1600 MHZ PC12800
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Optical Drive: ASUS Black 12X BD-ROM 16X DVD-ROM 48X CD-ROM SATA
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
TIM: Arctic Silver 5
Monitor: ASUS VH238H Black 23" Full HD HDMI LED Backlight LCD Monitor w/Speakers 250 cd/m2 ASCR 50,000,000:1
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Explanations: I got the HAF X because this is my first build and I wanted to extra room to make up for my horrible cable management and such. Also, I plan on upgrading to liquid cooling and SLI setups in the future.

Thanks for the help ahead of time :D :D :D :D :D :
July 15, 2011 8:02:16 PM

If you have an extra $30 in your budget, you might consider upgrading to this beast. This this has tons of room for your cable management (or lack there-of) and some of the best internal watercooling capabilities I've ever seen.
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July 15, 2011 10:08:10 PM

A few things:

For gaming you don't need the i7 as the i5-2500k would be perfectly fine. But if you insist on having the best then go for it.

Go for x2 1tb blacks instead of the 2tb.

The motherboard seems like a waste, someone correct me if I'm wrong but it only plays 16x16x8 with 3 cards but only plays 8x8 with duel? not that 16x16 over 8 x8 makes much of a difference anyways. I would probably opt for the Asus z68 V-PRO - $209.

With the money you saved there I would get atleast a 1kilowatt power supply that would allow you to SLI your GTX 580's. Something like:

Silverstone ST 1000W

Corsair HX 1050W

Other than that expect for that machine to be an absolute beast.
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July 15, 2011 10:43:19 PM

Plenty GTX580's are better than what EVGA has to offer. EVGA is really only considered when the cards first come out since they factory OC at release. You can find much better GTX580's from MSI and Asus.

The only other thing I question about your build is your motherboard selection. Are you really going to use that to its full potential? Probably not. Its your money though. If I were you, I would spend the money on a better case. Silverstone or a custom Lian Li is what you should be looking at for your budget. Not CM.
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Best solution

July 16, 2011 1:53:01 AM

1) Graphics cards:
Be aware that a GTX560Ti will run many games at full settings.

If you want better than that I would get an SLI of 2xGTX560Ti.

Be aware that most of the noise comes from graphics cards. Anything more than a 2xGTX560Ti would not only be incredibly loud, it would also be overkill as I don't think you'd find a game that could use it.

2) Monitor:
I wouldn't get a monitor with speakers. You'd never want to use them with a high-end system. I'm partial to Samsung or LG. About $200 is the right price to spend for a 23", 1920x1080 monitor.
*The monitor is very important. Look up reviews for whatever monitor you decide on. Some monitors have blurring issues etc. Make sure it has at least one HDCP compatible input if you wish to play BluRay movies on your PC.

3) Power Supply:
Whichever one you get, the most important thing to note is that the 12V rails supply enough current (Amps) to supply your graphics. It's not the total Wattage that you need to think about for gamers usually. I usually advise people have a MINIMUM of 25% more Amps than their graphics solution requires.

Example. 2xGTX570 requires 2x38A or 76A. Make sure the 12V Amps (sometimes a "combined" value of multiple rails) is at least 95Amps.

4) The SSD. For games, it's only the initial loading, and occasional level loading that is limited by the drive speed. If money is no issue, by all means get that 240GB SSD. Personally, I got a 120GB Vertex 2 and have my games installed to a WD Black hard drive. It's a matter of choice (also I have 800GB of games installed which is kind of crazy, I'd go SSD if price was no issue).

5) HSF
I have that exact same one. I like it. It did block my top PCIe slot, and if I had to do it over I'd get a SMALLER ONE. I even played games with the fans unhooked and it wasn't even close to overheating.

I believe that HSF requires "VOLTAGE" to be set in the BIOS for proper fan speed control.

6) Audio:
I love my M-Audio AV40 stereo speakers. You can get slightly better sound out of a quality 2.1 (subwoofer + stereo) setup, but the thumping carries throughout the house more.

Onboard audio is "okay" but will limit the sound quality. I wouldn't spend more than $50 on desktop speakers with onboard audio. $200 for a PCI or PCIe audio card is overkill. I haven't reviewed in a while, but roughly $80 to $120 is about right for a good audio card. Look at Creative, Auzentech, or Asus. (ignore the issue of EAX)

Example of pretty good Audio solution:
1) Asus Xonar DX 7.1
2) M-Audio AV-30 (stereo), OR Logitech Z323 (2.1)
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July 16, 2011 2:11:04 AM

About Windows:
The version you'll buy is this->
Windows 7 Premium x64 OEM (it MUST be the 64-bit version)

If you get a Western Digital drive, this allows you to use their free version of Acronis True Image so you can make backup images of your C-drive.

How to backup:
1) Install Windows + drivers + updates, then ACTIVATE Windows, then create Backup #1 (always keep this backup. Backup to your hard drive)

2) Backup #2 :
After you've updated a lot more (always keep this backup as well)

3) Backup #3:
I update my third backup every two weeks then delete the original.

Other:
Driver installation order:
1. Install Windows
2. Install the MAIN CHIPSET driver (from manufacturer website)
3. Install remaining motherboard drivers that apply to you (not all do, especially if no RAID)
4. Video Drivers
5. Remaining drivers (mouse, keyboard, printer, monitor, audio card, etc)

How do I know if my monitor driver has been installed?
It may install automatically (mine did not). Right-click your desktop, choose "resolution" and see what it says under "Display"; if it only says "Generic monitor" you need to find and install the drivers for your monitor otherwise it may not apply the correct colour settings etc.

Other monitor stuff:
1) Find and enable "Enable GPU Scaling" in your AMD or NVidia Control Panel
2) Enable "EDID" in your Video Control Panel or else the colours will be incorrect
3) changing the Contrast or Brightness can sometimes screw up the colour. It took me forever to discover changing one of these by 5% only causes a pinkish hue instead of light grey.

Summary:
1) Create Backups using WD's Acronis True Image software, to RESTORE in case of main drive failure, or software corruption (i.e. virus).

2) Make sure the monitor and graphics cards are configured as I mentioned or the colours may not look correct.

3) If you RESTORE a backup made of a non-Activated version of Windows you will lose an Activation. OEM Windows has a limited number of Activations. So, do NOT restore Windows from scratch. Do NOT make a backup of an un-Activated Windows installation.

DO only restore Windows, if needed, from a backup made from an Activated copy of Windows. Doing so will not reduce the number of Activations you are allowed (I think it's three).
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July 16, 2011 2:28:51 AM

photonboy said:
About Windows:
The version you'll buy is this->
Windows 7 Premium x64 OEM (it MUST be the 64-bit version)

If you get a Western Digital drive, this allows you to use their free version of Acronis True Image so you can make backup images of your C-drive.

How to backup:
1) Install Windows + drivers + updates, then ACTIVATE Windows, then create Backup #1 (always keep this backup. Backup to your hard drive)

2) Backup #2 :
After you've updated a lot more (always keep this backup as well)

3) Backup #3:
I update my third backup every two weeks then delete the original.

Other:
Driver installation order:
1. Install Windows
2. Install the MAIN CHIPSET driver (from manufacturer website)
3. Install remaining motherboard drivers that apply to you (not all do, especially if no RAID)
4. Video Drivers
5. Remaining drivers (mouse, keyboard, printer, monitor, audio card, etc)

How do I know if my monitor driver has been installed?
It may install automatically (mine did not). Right-click your desktop, choose "resolution" and see what it says under "Display"; if it only says "Generic monitor" you need to find and install the drivers for your monitor otherwise it may not apply the correct colour settings etc.

Other monitor stuff:
1) Find and enable "Enable GPU Scaling" in your AMD or NVidia Control Panel
2) Enable "EDID" in your Video Control Panel or else the colours will be incorrect
3) changing the Contrast or Brightness can sometimes screw up the colour. It took me forever to discover changing one of these by 5% only causes a pinkish hue instead of light grey.

Summary:
1) Create Backups using WD's Acronis True Image software, to RESTORE in case of main drive failure, or software corruption (i.e. virus).

2) Make sure the monitor and graphics cards are configured as I mentioned or the colours may not look correct.

3) If you RESTORE a backup made of a non-Activated version of Windows you will lose an Activation. OEM Windows has a limited number of Activations. So, do NOT restore Windows from scratch. Do NOT make a backup of an un-Activated Windows installation.

DO only restore Windows, if needed, from a backup made from an Activated copy of Windows. Doing so will not reduce the number of Activations you are allowed (I think it's three).


Wow, thanks a lot. I had never even thought about driver install order. Definitely good to know :D 
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July 16, 2011 5:29:48 AM

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/p67-gaming-3-way-sl... <----- That NF200 Asus board is a total waste of $$$ unless you plan on going with more than dual vid cards. Check that review/benchmarks out in the link.

Also you want a beefier psu if you plan on running dual 580's.

Here's a few ideas for you to ponder.

This combo makes that case fan free so that you can add it up top for an additional 200mm fan.

http://www.coolermaster-usa.com/product.php?product_id=... <---- that link

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite... $189.99 save: $21.99 $10.00 Mail In Rebates
COOLER MASTER Megaflow 200 R4-LUS-07AR-GP 200mm Red LED Case Fan
COOLER MASTER HAF X RC-942-KKN1 Black Steel/ Plastic ATX Full Tower Computer Case

Here's a 16 phase board that will let you get that high o/c without breaking the bank. It combo's with low voltage DDR3 1866 (PC3 14900) RAM.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite... $244.98 save: $30.00
GIGABYTE GA-Z68X-UD4-B3 LGA 1155 Intel Z68 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard
G.SKILL Sniper Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1866 (PC3 14900) Desktop Memory Model F3-14900CL9D-8GBSR

This psu down below is manufactured by Seasonic and it has more than enough juice to power two of those cards and leave you plenty of juice for o/c, drives, fans, etc..

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite... $424.98 save: $30.00 $20.00 Mail In Rebates FREE SHIPPING
PC Power and Cooling Silencer Mk II 950W High Performance 80PLUS Silver SLI CrossFire ready Power Supply
Intel Core i7-2600K Sandy Bridge 3.4GHz (3.8GHz Turbo Boost) LGA 1155 95W Quad-Core Desktop Processor BX80623I72600K

Solid SSD for decent price and has gotten some good reviews.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $414.99 FREE SHIPPING
Crucial M4 CT256M4SSD2 2.5" 256GB SATA III MLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)

And for a vid card with great cooling...

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $499.99 FREE SHIPPING $20 off w/ promo code MSI7XA, ends 7/15
MSI N580GTX Twin Frozr II/OC GeForce GTX 580 (Fermi) 1536MB 384-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Support Video Card
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July 18, 2011 3:51:25 AM

Best answer selected by keenanw.
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