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My homebuilt system (Core i5, ~1200 $)

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August 27, 2011 1:31:07 PM

Hi,
my last build was three years ago, so right now I'm trying to build a new gaming PC that will run all games in the next three years reasonably well. I'm not trying to build a system that's prepared for the 2012 equivalent of the original Crysis, but I might want to play e.g. Skyrim some time in the future.
I'm also somewhat interested in overclocking a system for the first time.

My current compilation of hardware can be found here, on Google Docs.
In short, it's a system with a Intel Core i5, a P67 or more likely a Z68 motherboard, a MSI N560GTX-Ti Twin Frozr II/OC or a equivalent Radeon HD 6950 1 GB, ~4 GB of RAM (I might upgrade this later), a SSD with 128 GB, lots of external storage capacity and so on.

(There is also a section of optional peripherals at the bottom, but those don't really matter much right now - I'd rather finish the PC itself, first.)

I hope it's obvious that a lot of thought has already gone into all this (i.e. there are links to some of the articles I read when I narrowed my choices down as much as I've done so far), but now I'm more or less stuck. I've already asked somewhere else in a general gaming forum, but I think I actually do need somewhat more technical advice, so I thought the tom's hardware forum would be my best bet.

If possible, I want this system to be quite silent. Low power consumption would also be nice, but it's not my highest priority.
I don't have a budget per se, but I'd rather not pay a lot more than 1200 $. In fact, if you think there is hardware to be had for a lot less money that would do the job just as well, I'd be very interested. Basically, I've chosen the most expensive components I'd accept right now, but downgrades are very much still an option.

On to my questions, then:

Do you see any inconsistency, sub-par choice, any mistakes? Would you change anything? (The CPU is most likely the final choice, however.)
Do you have any specific recommendations for the ~128 GB SSD and for the ~600 W (modular, if possible) PSU?
Can you help me narrow down my choices of motherboards and graphics cards to one specific model?

Thanks a lot for your help!
August 27, 2011 4:47:00 PM

OK I'm just going to jump into this one.

Case : The case seems fine, it remains your decision. To be honest i would suggest a gaming case from Coolermaster or Antec. They have the best cooling and noise control.

Power supply : The minimum needed for your 2 Graphics card choices is much more than 600w. I would suggest a 750w or more. Unfortunately modular PSU pricing is rediculous. Look at Coolermasters, Antec or Corsair site for good modular PSU's.

Cooling : Closed loop watercooling from corsair is great! Very little maintenance and silent as the grave.

http://www.corsair.com/cooling/hydro-series/hydro-serie...

Motherboard : The board you chose is great but you can save alot by going for a simpler board, i don't think you will be using all of its functions. Maybe an ASUS P8P67, the ASUS boards have a neat new BIOS. You definitely won't be using the Z68 Chipset.

Graphics Card : In my opinion take the Sapphire Radeon HD6950(although you could consider saving some cash here too, Sapphire HD6870 is sufficient in my opinion) . Price for spec/performance its abit better. But they are both pretty good with few technical issues.

RAM : Yes the memory controller on Sandy Bridge CPU's is only 1333mhz, so no point in getting anything higher at this stage.
The 1.5Volt doesn't mean much to us. In some countries they use lower or higher voltages.

I would suggest Corsair XMS 3 heatsinked 2x2GB kit.

http://www.corsair.com/memory/xms-classic/xms3-ddr3-mem...

SSD/HDD : When buying SSD's you really need to look at the read/write speeds, some of them don't even seem to be solid state speeds. I like the Corsair SSD's.

http://www.corsair.com/ssd/force-series-3/force-series-...

Optical Drive : Yes any SATA drive will do, but consider a bluray drive.

As I don't use your currency I cant really compare the prices that easily but feel free to tell it falls far beneith or above your budget.
August 27, 2011 5:40:15 PM

I built my computer in late June with an msi twin froze ii oc ti 560 ti and it's been running perfectly fine with an antec 550w power supply. A 600 to 650w power supply should be fine...
Related resources
August 27, 2011 6:13:54 PM

There is a sale, rebate and CC currently on Corsair HX850 (80+ Silver rated (almost gold), 7 year warranty) at newegg. $164 ( before $20 rebate and 10% off CC, final price about $130 or so ) So it costs a bit but lets you easilly SLI up to 6970's or 570. I have two of these, you won't be sorry. For silence another good option i can recommend is the Seasonic X series. Expensive yes, but 80+ gold rated and <20 or 25% load the fan doesn't even spin.

Cooling: I can say that I am happy with my Scythe Mugen 3, which at $50 is not overly expensive. And it accomodates pretty high heatsinks such as Gskill Snipers.
For overclocking definitely need a heat sink, not sure that you can even get OEM versions of i5 2500k.

SSD: Adata 511 Sata3, OCZ Vertex 3, Corsair Force3 (GT) is not bad either for 120GB models around $199, i have the vertex3 it is nice.

Memory: Corsair/Gskill/Kinston/Mushkin 2x4GB CAS9 1.5V 1600Mhz Generally they are $50 on sale, $60 normally so no point in going for less.

Case: $100 is a good price point for cases lots of options. Fractal design one is really quiet, so it will most likely be great for you.

MB: Out of those i would probably go with the gigabyte, as i believe that is the one that got toms hw recommendation.

GPU: If you want quiet and good: Asus DirectCUII GTX560 TOP, clocked at 900Mhz great reviews most recent i have seen from hardocp.com
Same pricerange as you have listed.

DVD: yeah pretty much any DVD drive will work fine, bluray is not that much needed. Generally for movies and it's easier to just get a separate player or PS3.



August 27, 2011 11:44:19 PM

Thanks for all the replies so far!
After I saw the ask-for-build-advice template, I tried to edit it into my first post. That failed, my edit was eaten, and so I didn't post it until now:

Approximate Purchase Date: as soon as possible, but there's no specific cut-off date

Budget Range: X-1200, no rebates

System Usage from Most to Least Important: gaming, then everything else; but not necessarily AAA gaming in e.g. 2013 on the highest settings

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

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: newegg.com for comparisons, but I won't be able to buy from there

Country of Origin: Germany. I will also buy my hardware from there.

Parts Preferences: None, really.

Overclocking: A bit. It's not the main focus, so if it costs me a lot more, I won't do it.

SLI or Crossfire: No.

Monitor Resolution: 1680x1050, 1920x1080 (at the latter resolution, I will also need a new monitor)

Additional Comments: If possible, I'd like a rather quiet PC. But I won't sacrifice much for this goal.


Onto the comments:

@ Novuake
  • I'll look at the case manufacturers you've recommended, thanks.
  • How did you arrive at this high PSU wattage? I used the extreme power supply calculator thing, and that gave me a number below 500 W, so I figured I'd be pretty safe with 600+ W.
  • I don't really want to bother with watercooling.
  • I guess using a P67 board would save me some money. The one real justification I've found for the Z68 boards is the fact that as I understand it, the P67 boards cannot use the internal GPU on the Core i5 at all. So if I e.g. ever have a problem with my graphics card and need to get it replaced/looked at/repaired, I'll not be able to use my PC at all. With the Z68, I could at least use the internal GPU during such a time period. But yeah, that's a pretty unimportant worry, so I might use a cheaper P67 board.
  • I guess I'll need to read some more SSD reviews before deciding on this component...
  • I really don't think I'll bother with a blueray drive if it costs me even 1 $ more than a regular optical drive. Basically, I don't actually use CDs or DVDs anymore, so why would I use bluerays?

    In general, that watercooling solution seemed a bit over-budget for me, but otherwise your recommendations were good, thanks.

    @ Jmassault
    Thanks, I was a bit surprised about that, too.

    @ rvilkman
  • I think those PSU are somewhat above my budget. But I guess modular PSUs seem too expensive, in general.
  • I don't fully understand your comment that "overclocking definitely needs a heat sink". Do you mean that I'll need yet another hardware component in addition to the Core i5-2500K CPU and the Be Quiet! CPU cooler?
  • Thanks, I'll look at the SSDs and the memory kits you've recommended.

    I've looked at the Seasonic X series, and at least at current prices, the SeaSonic M12II 620 Bronze sounds interesting: a modular PSU for 100 $ with excellent reviews on Newegg. What do you think? And on the other end of the spectrum, the Antec EarthWatts EA-650 is only 60$ on Newegg right now. But it's not modular and it's...green.
    August 27, 2011 11:54:17 PM

    Corsair TX series is quite good as well, at a much better price point but obviously not modular.

    The i5 2500k comes with a HSF, but it's not really up to par for much of an OC, the usual 4.5GHz you can get needs a good cooler, but then you had something picked out which I am sure will be enough to handle that. Just suggested another option for a CPU cooler. Not sure how quiet the one you had listed is, I just know that the Scythe Mugen 3 is very quiet, I can barely hear it at 4GHz on i5 2500k.
    August 28, 2011 10:03:03 AM

    Reason 1: PSU's lose wattage over time.
    Reason 2: A lower wattage will work, but the GPU won't run at its best if the PSU is constantly under strain. (PSU's last even shorter when under strain)
    Reason 3 : Larger PSU = easier and cheaper to upgrade later on.
    Reason 4 : I've built many a pc with near-the-margin PSU's that dont last more than 9 months.
    August 28, 2011 2:16:51 PM

    Capacitor aging only occurs to any significant extent if the capacitors within the unit are not ventilated adequately or are of poor quality. In a high quality unit neither of these things will occur unless the fan breaks.
    A 600W PSU will power a build with any single card.
    August 28, 2011 3:48:19 PM

    Here is a good reference for the quality of PSU's.

    Tiers 1 and 2 obviously cost a bit more, but are well worth the money.

    You put expensive stuff in your computer, make sure you have a quality PSU that won't blow up and take your other components as it goes.
    August 28, 2011 3:57:12 PM

    Silvune said:
    Capacitor aging only occurs to any significant extent if the capacitors within the unit are not ventilated adequately or are of poor quality. In a high quality unit neither of these things will occur unless the fan breaks.
    A 600W PSU will power a build with any single card.



    Granted, but redundancy is never a bad thing.
    September 2, 2011 11:33:38 PM

    MondSemmel said:
  • Do I need extra thermal paste in addition to an extra CPU cooler? Or is the thermal paste bundled with those usually enough?
  • Would extra dust filters for this case/for cases in general make sense? Are they worth it?
  • Will my chosen CPU cooler fit into my chosen case? Apparently, its height is 158 mm high, versus ~160 supported by the case, so it will probably fit?
  • My case doesn't seem to have 2.5'' drive bays. So what will I need to fit my SSD inside?

  • Is there anything I could get rid of/downgrade without sacrificing a lot of performance?
  • Is there any better modular PSU at that price point?
  • Same for the CPU cooler. But it apparently needs to be smaller than 160 mm to fit inside my case.
  • The graphics card I've chosen is needlessly expensive in Germany. If you do recommend a different graphics card type, i.e. Radeon 6950 HD, what specific model would you recommend? The graphics card I've chosen has custom coolers and is factory-overclocked. According to the bit-tech review, it's quite nice, so it might be hard to top without going into higher price brackets. Also, the review of my case mentioned that:
    Quote:
    [W]e’d recommend anyone thinking of housing their PC in a R3 make sure their graphics card cooler exhausts air out the back of the case rather than into the case.

    The graphics card I've currently chosen doesn't fulfill that requirement. Is this a serious enough consideration to choose a different card/case?

  • If the Mugen 3 is like the Mugen 2 then it will come with a pack of 'Silmore thermal paste', which isn't a tube, which is what I think I would prefer. Up to you. You can probably get better performing tubes of thermal paste compared to the Silmore stuff tho.
    Some suggestions for thermal compound:
    Gelid GC Extreme €6.49
    http://geizhals.at/deutschland/559948
    Zalman ZM-STG2 €3.55
    http://geizhals.at/deutschland/456550
    Arctic Silver 5 €4.49
    http://geizhals.at/deutschland/71384
    Has the disadvantage of 200hrs curing time, plus electrical conductivity, so you definitely don't want this stuff overflowing.

    I had a quick check on geizhals.at, but couldn't see anything obviously better than the Scythe Mugen 3 for a lower price.

    The figure I have for the R3 is 165mm. Either way the Mugen 3 will fit.
    All the internal 3.5" trays support 2.5" drives as well.

    A cheaper case that is designed to be quiet is the Nexus Prominent 5 @ ~€80
    http://geizhals.at/deutschland/610998
    Basically a modified CM 690.

    Cooler Master Silencio 550 €67
    http://geizhals.at/deutschland/639628

    You could try out your GPU in the R3 and monitor temps under load, if they get too high then you can open up one or more of the ModuVents to aid in cooling. If you were to do that and were worried about dust it would be possible/a good idea to add dust filters to those extra fan holes.
    The R3 comes with dust filters on it's stock intake fans and underneath the PSU and extra fan hole, so no I don't think any extra dust filters would be necessary, unless you decided to install more fans.

    Why don't you get the non-OC version and OC it yourself?
    http://geizhals.at/deutschland/610910

    If you are concerned about power consumption then it's hard to argue with AMD as AMD cards generally consume less than their Nvidia counterparts/equivalents/competitors. For instance techreport tested a 1GB 6950 against a GTX 560 Ti. They were fairly even in performance but the 6950 was, IIRC, ~40W less power hungry. This is inspite of the fact that the official TDP of those two cards is 200W for the 6950 and 170W for the GTX 560 Ti.
    http://techreport.com/articles.x/20777/11

    I think I would choose this, as Techpowerup reviewed it and showed it to be pretty quiet on load:
    PowerColor HD 6950 1GB €180
    http://geizhals.at/deutschland/619993

    http://www.techpowerup.com/reviews/Powercolor/HD_6950_P...
    It's not exactly the same graphics card, but it uses the same heatsink and fan.

    Not necessarily a better PSU, but cheaper and very quiet:
    Nexus RX-6000 R3 630W Modular €80
    http://geizhals.at/deutschland/474778

    http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/Nexus-RX-6300-63...
    http://www.hardocp.com/article/2009/12/13/nexus_rx6300_...

    Seasonic M12II Bronze 620W 80Plus Bronze Modular $86
    http://geizhals.at/deutschland/497474
    September 3, 2011 2:51:07 PM

    Silvune said:
    If the Mugen 3 is like the Mugen 2 then it will come with a pack of 'Silmore thermal paste', which isn't a tube, which is what I think I would prefer. Up to you. You can probably get better performing tubes of thermal paste compared to the Silmore stuff tho.
    Some suggestions for thermal compound:
    [...]

    I had a quick check on geizhals.at, but couldn't see anything obviously better than the Scythe Mugen 3 for a lower price.

    The figure I have for the R3 is 165mm. Either way the Mugen 3 will fit.
    All the internal 3.5" trays support 2.5" drives as well.


    First of all, thanks a lot for the long and thoughtful reply!
    I'm already relieved that cpu coolers are packaged with some kind of thermal compound.
    Concerning the thermal compounds, I did some googling and found this site that compared tons of them. I would have chosen the Prolimatech PK-1, but that was very expensive here, so I choose the Arctic Cooling MX-4 instead. It's apparently non-electrically conductive, so it will be somewhat harder for me to screw up and destroy my new system :) .
    I'm also glad the CPU cooler will fit. I wasn't 100% sure, and it would be incredibly embarrassing to start building a PC and then find out that some components won't work together at all...

    Quote:
    You could try out your GPU in the R3 and monitor temps under load, if they get too high then you can open up one or more of the ModuVents to aid in cooling. If you were to do that and were worried about dust it would be possible/a good idea to add dust filters to those extra fan holes.

    Thanks for the advice, I think I'll do that. Will I need a seperate precise thermometer, or do the hardware components have some kinds of integrated thermometers that can be easily checked in the OS?

    Quote:
    Why don't you get the non-OC version and OC it yourself?
    http://geizhals.at/deutschland/610910

    I didn't think of that, but that sounds like an easy way to save ~20 €. Thanks a lot! I think I'm satisfied with that price, so I'll stick to the Nvidia graphics card.

    Quote:
    Seasonic M12II Bronze 620W 80Plus Bronze Modular $86
    http://geizhals.at/deutschland/497474

    Thanks for that PSU recommendation. It's a bit cheaper than the one I've chosen, and depending on where I buy most of my hardware components, it might be worth it to choose this PSU instead of the Corsair one. Thanks! (It's 86 € though :) . 86 $ for a good modular PSU would be amazing!)



    Incidentally, I switched to the ASRock Z68 PRO3 (B3) mainboard at the recommendation of a poster in the other thread. It doesn't seem to have any huge drawbacks, and it costs ~35 € less than the Gigabyte board. It has less features, e.g. not supporting SLI, but I can live without that. Do you have any comments on that?
    September 5, 2011 12:29:52 PM

    MondSemmel said:
    Thanks for the advice, I think I'll do that. Will I need a seperate precise thermometer, or do the hardware components have some kinds of integrated thermometers that can be easily checked in the OS?

    Most hardware components have integrated thermometers which can be accessed through programs like Speedfan, HWmonitor, GPUz, etc.

    MondSemmel said:

    Thanks for that PSU recommendation. It's a bit cheaper than the one I've chosen, and depending on where I buy most of my hardware components, it might be worth it to choose this PSU instead of the Corsair one. Thanks! (It's 86 € though :) . 86 $ for a good modular PSU would be amazing!)

    I think it did actually used to be around the ~$90 mark in the US, but that was a typo as the keyboard shortcut for the euro sign is quite complicated and one my fingers must have slipped.

    MondSemmel said:

    Incidentally, I switched to the ASRock Z68 PRO3 (B3) mainboard at the recommendation of a poster in the other thread. It doesn't seem to have any huge drawbacks, and it costs ~35 € less than the Gigabyte board. It has less features, e.g. not supporting SLI, but I can live without that. Do you have any comments on that?

    I can't see/think of any reasons not to get that Asrock board.
    September 5, 2011 1:32:45 PM

    And one last time, thanks for all the help :) .
    I ordered my hardware tonight. Most via a German online vendor with a great reputation and free shipping, the rest by reserving it at a (somewhat) local hardware store. The online vendor hasn't actually shipped them yet, so I guess now I'm done with weeks spent doing hardware research and obsessing over miniscule differences in specifications which nobody actually cares about... Instead, I'm now going to twiddle my thumbs apprehensively until the system arrives, and then, until it's set up and working :) .

    My final components can be found here, i.e. it's the second tab/spreadsheet of that Google Docs link from before.
    Several of the components have changed a bit based on availability - for example, my chosen MSI Geforce GTX 560 Ti was only available from a vendor I wasn't sure was trustable. Similarly, the HX650 PSU wasn't actually in stock anywhere close, so I chose the more expensive HX 750. I chose some random RAM modules in the first place, and when those weren't available, I switched to some other random modules...

    In case you don't want to bother clicking on that link above, here is my final build, too:

  • Fractal Design Define R3 (black)
  • Corsair Professional Series HX750 750W
  • Intel Core i5-2500K
  • Scythe SCMG-3000
  • Arctic Cooling MX-4 (thermal compound)
  • ASRock Z68 Extreme3 Gen3
  • ASUS ENGTX560 Ti DCII/2DI, GeForce GTX 560 Ti, 1GB GDDR5
  • Kingston ValueRAM DIMM Kit 8GB PC3-10667U CL9 (DDR3-1333)
  • Crucial CT128M4SSD2 128GB
  • 1.5 TB in extra storage HDDs from my current PC
  • DVD/RW drive from my current PC (I'll put it back once I've installed Win7, drivers etc. on my new system).

    EDIT: Final price: ~885 € = ~1250 $.
    !