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1st time builder: ~$1800 productivity/gaming PC advice

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September 2, 2011 2:10:43 AM

Thanks in advance for any and all help.

I've been lurking on the forums here for the last couple of weeks, educating myself as best as possible to come up with the first pass at a rig that hopefully will meet my needs. Ideally I want a system that can be upgraded through addition rather than replacment for the next 3-4 years, so I'm shooting for quality up front.

Approximate Purchase Date: Within the next 3 weeks
Budget Range: ~$1,800 (though I have some flexibility)
System Usage from Most to Least Important: Work > Games. Work = statistics (using SAS, Stata) with large data sets; Games = FPS, MMOs
Parts Not Required: Building from ground up...need it all.
Preferred Website(s) for Parts: newegg, I guess
Country of Origin: US (California)
Parts Preferences: No brand preferences
Overclocking: Yes
SLI or Crossfire: Yes, but not right away
Monitor Resolution: 1920x1080
Additional Comments: Looking to create a quiet rig

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Here's what I've come up with:

Case: Silverstone Raven RV02B-EW $190
CPU: i7 2600k 3.4GHz $315
Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-Z68XP-UD3P LGA 1155 Intel Z68 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard $180
GPU: SAPPHIRE FleX 100312FLEX Radeon HD 6950 2GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.1 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support Video Card with Eyefinity $260 ($280-$20MIR)
PSU: SeaSonic X Series X-850 (SS-850KM Active PFC F3) 850W ATX12V v2.3 / EPS 12V v2.91 SLI Ready CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS GOLD Certified Modular Active PFC Power Supply $210
Memory: G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 16GB (4 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1866 (PC3 14900) Desktop Memory Model F3-14900CL9Q-16GBXL $150
Monitor: ASUS VE258Q Black 25" 2ms HDMI LED Backlight Widescreen LCD Monitor w/Display Port & Speakers 250 cd/m2 50,000,000:1 ASCR $260
Keyboard: Microsoft SIDEWINDER X4 Keyboard $50
Mouse: Logitech G400 Black 8 Buttons 1 x Wheel USB Wired Optical 3600 dpi Gaming Mouse $50
OS: Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 64-bit - OEM $100
HD & DVD: I'll price these at the time I purchase everything else

Total (minus HD & DVD): ~$1,765


Case was chosen for quietness/upgradeability, CPU and Memory for productivity, PSU for longevity/upgradeability, and Monitor for efficiency (I'm open to other suggestions). I am flexible on the GPU, but chose the 6950 because it sounds like crossfire scales better than sli (when I decide to get a second one) and this is in my price range. The motherboard was a bit of a dartboard pick...I'd love help with that. I do want to go with Z68 because I think SSD caching will help productivity. That said, obviously I didn't include an SSD in the build--that will come later.

I am looking forward to learning from your expertise!




September 2, 2011 2:34:53 AM

You've obviously given it some thought .

I would buy the SSD to start with .

and and hard drives for data storage and redundancy

Also consider Win 7 Pro for the back up features
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September 2, 2011 5:20:50 AM

Thanks for the input Outlander.

I had thought I'd get the SSD in a couple months because it would be easier on the initial cost--wouldn't want to get less than 128Gb--and because I'm not crazy about the stability issues brought up on SSD reviews...figured things may look better two or three months down the line. I may be able to mess with my budget a bit, but should I be worried about SSD stability?

Fair enough on Win 7 Pro...with everything else, there isn't much reason for me to skimp on the OS.

Any thoughts on the Motherboard and how it fits with the other components (and my needs)? Again, that's the bit that I feel least sure about.
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September 2, 2011 8:14:34 AM

The motherboard is a good choice. z68 is always recommended, and gigabyte is a reputable manufacturer.

You've chosen a very good 850w PSU - This leaves you plenty of headroom to get another 6950 and run crossfire :)  - which your motherboard will support.

16GB RAM - Seem's a little overkill, although im not sure how intensive the work applications are that your running. Unless someone else advise's otherwise, id start with 8GB RAM and if you really do find it struggling, then add more.

SSD - Z68 SSD caching feature seems "over-rated". More and more people just seem to be using their SSD as a boot drive. (60GB or bigger SSD, install the OS on there, install some regularly used applications/games, and your away).

Id recommend buying an SSD in the initial build purely to make life easier with installing the OS, especially if your buying an OS - i dont believe its "transferable" without another product key from your HDD to SSD. So adding an SSD later on and wishing to install the OS on there, would require a new product key in order to keep Genuine Windows.

HDDs - Depending on the size of storage you need, the amount you want to spend:
1) A single 1TB SpinPoint F3 for storage (SSD will hold your OS and applications)
2) x2 1TB SpinPoint F3's RAID 0 - no redundancy here
3) Possibly the best option for you if you need some data security, x3 SpinPoint F3's and RAID 5.
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September 2, 2011 10:10:28 AM

Win 7 Premium has backup functionality. The difference is the ability to do backups over a network with the Professional version. I too think that's important... there's nothing like a little NAS tucked away on a different circuit in a different part of the house/building for backups.

The Intel SSDs are very reliable and the little bug they had has been remedied:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
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September 2, 2011 10:16:28 AM

Proximon said:
Win 7 Premium has backup functionality. The difference is the ability to do backups over a network with the Professional version. I too think that's important... there's nothing like a little NAS tucked away on a different circuit in a different part of the house/building for backups.

The Intel SSDs are very reliable and the little bug they had has been remedied:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...


That's all well and good but wouldn't that require another computer/a server?

Surely the cheapest most cost effective method would be to just buy a 1TB+ external HDD and run regular backups if you would like to be able to safe keep the data in a different location to your computer.
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September 2, 2011 10:21:20 AM

On the SSD purchase: if you decide to delay the purchase I'd recommend that you set up the OS (Win 7) in a partition on the HDD that is an increment less than the planned for SSD. Say you want to purchase a 128 GB SSD in 3 months. Set up a partition on C: (or other lettered drive) of approximately 118 GB (128 GB minus slack for the OS) so you will have an easy path to clone the OS to the SSD later. I did exactly this (last March) and the migration is both smooth and easy. If you want more detail, contact me and I can recommend a tutorial at thessdreview.com.
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September 2, 2011 10:38:49 AM

chesteracorgi said:
On the SSD purchase: if you decide to delay the purchase I'd recommend that you set up the OS (Win 7) in a partition on the HDD that is an increment less than the planned for SSD. Say you want to purchase a 128 GB SSD in 3 months. Set up a partition on C: (or other lettered drive) of approximately 118 GB (128 GB minus slack for the OS) so you will have an easy path to clone the OS to the SSD later. I did exactly this (last March) and the migration is both smooth and easy. If you want more detail, contact me and I can recommend a tutorial at thessdreview.com.


Isn't Windows 7 Professional 64-bit 20GB? + SP's on top surely leaving more like 30GB of space would be smart?
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September 2, 2011 10:47:31 AM

AdrianPerry said:
That's all well and good but wouldn't that require another computer/a server?

Surely the cheapest most cost effective method would be to just buy a 1TB+ external HDD and run regular backups if you would like to be able to safe keep the data in a different location to your computer.



An NAS is not a server. It's a networked backup device. This is an example of a basic one:

D-link DNS-320
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
That has room for two drives, either in RAID or not. Pretty easy to drop a Caviar Green or two in there and you easily have a great backup.

Why? You can set it and forget it. Nightly incremental backups that you'll never notice and will just work. The advantages over a local USB drive are:
1. Multiple computers can back up to the same device.
2. A disaster such as lightning or fire is less likely to effect the remote backup.
3. With a little more work you can also configure such a device to stream media files and such.
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September 2, 2011 10:50:56 AM

AdrianPerry said:
Isn't Windows 7 Professional 64-bit 20GB? + SP's on top surely leaving more like 30GB of space would be smart?


That's not what he's saying. He's talking about a partition that can be cloned to the new SSD. OS and all. No re-installation needed.

You don't need the same sized partition with some commercial products, of course.
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September 2, 2011 10:54:18 AM

Proximon said:
An NAS is not a server. It's a networked backup device. This is an example of a basic one:

D-link DNS-320
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
That has room for two drives, either in RAID or not. Pretty easy to drop a Caviar Green or two in there and you easily have a great backup.

Why? You can set it and forget it. Nightly incremental backups that you'll never notice and will just work. The advantages over a local USB drive are:
1. Multiple computers can back up to the same device.
2. A disaster such as lightning or fire is less likely to effect the remote backup.
3. With a little more work you can also configure such a device to stream media files and such.


Thanks for the info, I'm yet to come across these stand alone devices in real world application.
I can certainly see the benefits though. As you said, set it and forget it.

Depending on how much storage space you needed for backup, by the looks of it you could even use a RAID1 set up providing some seriously reliable backup.
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September 2, 2011 1:53:12 PM

AdrianPerry said:
Isn't Windows 7 Professional 64-bit 20GB? + SP's on top surely leaving more like 30GB of space would be smart?

The idea is to make the SSD the maximum size after cloning the OS to it. Win 7 may take only 28GB (or less), but you want the maximum space on the boot drive (whether or not you want disk caching). The strategy outlined leaves the user with the maximum size SSD partition. The idea is that Floss can set up the system and muck around in it for a couple of months before buying a SSD. When Floss goes to the SSD the transition will be seamless and easy.
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September 2, 2011 4:33:09 PM

If you plan to upgrade/expand your SAS at a minimum you need Windows 7 Professional x64. I do not believe some SAS bundles and upgrades are supported in 'Home' versions of the OS.

With your budget, goals and projected usage you are teetering on, and falling into, the enterprise side. I think you need to decide which is more important to you: work or gaming.

You can game on an enterprise machine but you will be highly limited running multiple SAS sessions concurrently on the rig you have spec'ed. SAS can occasionally be a CPU-intensive application but is generally much more I/O dependent on memory and disks.

Also, hyper-threads are pretty much a bummer in SAS -- probably average 15% as compared to a real CPU core. SAS shines in an SMP environment where you may assign jobs to individual sockets where the data sets are within their own DIMM bank running off of their own HDD array.

If you are an Intel guy you should wait for s2011 - if anything it will drop prices on s1366 enterprise stuff. And you are barking straight up the AMD G34/C32 tree with Magny-Cours/Lisbon -- to a Bulldozer Interlagos/Valencia upgrade path.




edit: had to clean up the c32/g34 mess to make more sense
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September 3, 2011 3:03:33 AM

I'm still processing the various responses, but the gist of what I'm hearing about the original build I put up is this:

--Get an SSD up-front, if possible (Intel is stable). If not, carefully prepare in advance for when I do.
--Get Windows 7 Pro
--Figure out how I want to approach backup/redundancy issues (honestly, I was putting this off until I had the rest of the build pretty much set...I do like the NAS suggestion, btw).
--Everything in the proposed build is quality enough and generally works together alright (I'm assuming that because I haven't heard any complaints).

@AdrianPerry: Regarding the 16Gb memory, I imagine it would be unnecessary from the gaming side of things, but am pretty sure will be a boon for productivity. I may take your suggestion to get 8Gb first, but think it wise to budget for 16Gb anyway.

Then there's Wisecracker's reply...admittedly I spent a chunk of time on Google and Wikipedia interpreting the last paragraph:
Wisecracker said:
If you are an Intel guy you should wait for s2011 - if anything it will drop prices on s1366 enterprise stuff. And you are barking straight up the AMD G34/C32 tree with Magny-Cours/Lisbon -- to a Bulldozer Interlagos/Valencia upgrade path.

It seems to confirm my worst fear...that it might be hard to create a work/gaming hybrid given the number-crunching nature of the work. If I understand correctly, it would be a good idea to wait for next-gen processors and upgrade to a system that can handle multiple CPUs if I want to work effectively (i.e. using SAS with big data sets). Is that about right?

If I am understanding that correctly, this is a worry because I suspect it would price me out of my budget (even if I were to dump the GPU). Could you point me to a build that you think would meet SAS's specification (again, sacrificing gaming if necessary)?

I really appreciate all the help, everyone.

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September 3, 2011 3:43:02 AM

Floss said:


Then there's Wisecracker's reply...admittedly I spent a chunk of time on Google and Wikipedia interpreting the last paragraph:



Indeed, thanks Wisecracker. :)  I appreciate the chance to learn a bit.
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