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~$1800 budget, advice needed!

Last response: in Systems
September 5, 2011 10:57:59 PM

Hi all, new poster here. I'm looking for some advice on a gaming PC I've been cooking up. I've got about ~$1800 to spend- I can spend more, but I'd like to avoid doing so unless it'll save me money in the future. Here's what I've got so far:

CPU: Intel i5-2500k
GPU: MSI N580GTX Lightning Xtreme Edition GeForce GTX 580 OR MSI N560GTX-TI Twin Frozr II/OC GeForce GTX 560 Ti x2
Case: Corsair Obsidian Series 650D
RAM: GSKILL Sniper Series 8GB (2x4GB)
PSU: PC Power and Cooling Silencer Mk II 950W
CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper 212
HDD:Western Digital 1TB
Keyboard: Saitek Eclipse II
Blu Ray: Samsung Blu Ray

I believe this adds up to just over $2,000 as it stands. I'd like to cut that down, but I've spent the past year of my life largely secluded from the technology scene- I'd prefer to pick the brains of those who have been keeping up with prices and industry developments. My two big questions center around using one GeForce GTX 580 or two GeForce 560 Ti in SLI. I believe both the price and performance of the 560 Ti combo is superior, but I'm trying to think for the future- I'd prefer to run two 580s in SLI than three 560 Ti's. My second question falls on how vital a role the case plays when constructing high performance computers. I've never built anything worth more than $800, and most of those I had help with. Is there anything cheaper that won't bottleneck me with heat problems or be so noisy it keeps me up? Thanks in advance!

EDIT: It wasn't clear in the original message, my apologies- I'm specifically looking for advice on ways to cut this build down to $1,800. I'm looking to play Skyrim, Battlefield 3, Diablo 3, Mass Effect 3, and whatever fun games come out in the next few years- I've never owned a premium gaming rig before, so I'm going all out on this one.
September 5, 2011 11:28:55 PM

Hi Reiginko,

I just bought a new premium gaming rig over the past couple days. I had some good help from people here on the forums. I was able to get 3x 25in monitors INCLUDED in the price for $2,100 shipped. Please see link to my build below if you're interested.

Best solution

September 6, 2011 1:06:56 AM

Try this:

  • Fractal Design Define R3 Silver Arrow ATX Mid Tower Silent PC Computer Case
    Notes: The Corsair Obsidian looks like a great case, but expensive -- it jumped out to me as something to switch out to curb your costs. The Define R3 is a wonderful case I've used twice myself (one is my personal system), and I highly recommend it. Honestly, the Corsair case (while good) doesn't have many notable differences from the Define R3 (besides a case window) and costs a full $90 more (The Define also comes in a few different colors, fyi). If you'd prefer another case, there are still many great options for less than the Corsair.
  • Western Digital Caviar Black WD1001FALS 1TB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive
  • EVGA 015-P3-1580-AR GeForce GTX 580 (Fermi) 1536MB 384-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Support Video Card
  • SeaSonic X750 Gold 750W ATX12V V2.3/EPS 12V V2.91 SLI Ready 80 PLUS GOLD Certified Modular Active PFC Power Supply
    Notes: this system (running a single GTX 580) needs around 480-500w, so this PSU will give you some room to upgrade. It's quiet, modular, very energy efficient, and has excellent build quality.
  • Saitek Eclipse II Illuminated Keyboard
  • Kingston HyperX 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model KHX1600C9D3K2/8GX
    Notes: I prefer Kingston because they seem to have the best QA/testing (based on their memory return rates which are the lowest). You're welcome to use a different brand, of course.
  • GIGABYTE GA-Z68A-D3H-B3 LGA 1155 Intel Z68 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard
    Notes: this motherboard was reviewed a little better and seemed more stable than the one you selected. The only major difference is that it isn't designed for SLI (though it may work anyway).
  • Intel Core i5-2500K Sandy Bridge 3.3GHz (3.7GHz Turbo Boost) LGA 1155 95W Quad-Core Desktop Processor BX80623I52500K
  • COOLER MASTER Hyper 212 Plus RR-B10-212P-G1 "Heatpipe Direct Contact" Long Life Sleeve 120mm CPU Cooler Compatible Intel ...
  • SAMSUNG Black Blu-ray Combo SATA Model SH-B123L/RSBP LightScribe Support
  • Intel 510 Series (Elm Crest) SSDSC2MH120A2K5 2.5" 120GB SATA III MLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)
    Bonus: I was able to throw in a great SSD (probably one of the more reliable ones you can buy) with the money saved and still come in at your preferred budget. You definitely want to install Windows and games to this. In my opinion, most builds over $800 are probably missing out if they don't include one. If you're looking for a slightly cheaper 120GB option, the Crucial M4 is solid, but you'll have to flash it to the latest firmware to get a major boost in performance and reliability.
    TOTAL: $1,833.11

    Note that this doesn't include the cost of Windows, I'm assuming you already have a retail copy?
    Related resources
    September 6, 2011 1:14:27 AM

    I don't have a copy of Windows 7, but I can get that for free through my university. This is exactly the kind of assistance I was hoping for- I can't thank you enough. I'll post a more in-depth reply later, once I have time to research those components more, but it looks brilliant so far (especially that SSD)! Many thanks, Illumina.
    September 6, 2011 1:30:28 AM

    I would save money on the case choice, first. The corsair is a great case and all, but this coolermaster case is spectacular for a much cheaper price.

    The next place I might try to save some money is the MB. IF you don't plan on running 3-4 video cards, something like this may be a better choice. It includes a built in intel SSD to speed up your hardrive with smart response.

    ...or this if you want to add an ssd later for SRT......

    a b B Homebuilt system
    September 6, 2011 3:47:31 AM

    Maybe it's just me, but I honestly don't see the need for dropping $600 on video cards right at this moment in time, unless you're doing some crazy multi-monitor setup.

    It just seems like, for the most part, the performance increases of new GPUs has outpaced the increased system demands of most games. There was a high-water mark a few years starting with Crysis and continuing with a few other games like it until about a couple years ago, where you had games that could punish even the best cards on the market. Now it seems we're in a bit of a lull where a $250 card like the HD 5870 or 6950 is going to be just dandy for any game you want to run, unless (like I said) you're trying for some super-specialized goal. Not that I'm necessarily recommending either one of those cards - I don't even think you can get a 5870 anymore for that matter - but just something to think about. The pendulum will probably swing the other way in another couple years, which is when you'll really need to think about a high-end card.

    Also, that's way more than you need to spend on a case. You can really get the same thing for half the price or less, and it's not like that one in particular wins any spectacular style points. I also try to stay away from 200mm fans when possible - in my experience, they tend to wear out fast and get noisy in the process. You tend to do much better with 120mm or 140mm in the overall cooling-noise-durability contest.
    September 6, 2011 12:27:45 PM

    Maybe it's just me, but I honestly don't see the need for dropping $600 on video cards right at this moment in time, unless you're doing some crazy multi-monitor setup.

    Roger. Thanks for the feedback- I've been out of the tech scene for awhile, so information like that is really useful. My goal for this system is to be able to add another 580 in SLI when the need arises. Does that seem like a good way to future-proof the system? I picked the case in anticipation of messing around inside it with some frequency, as well as in anticipation of having two 580s heating it up. Common criticism seems to be that the case is unnecessarily luxurious though, so that'll be my first change.

    Regarding the Fractal case posted earlier, it seems like that case has had issues fitting large graphics cards. Would it be smarter to switch to the XL model?
    September 6, 2011 4:12:07 PM

    So I made some changes! Thanks for all the advice- I tried to take it all, sit down, and sort through it to see what I could change. Here's the new design I came up with:

    Case: CORSAIR Carbide 400r
    Changes: The general consensus was that I was buying an overpriced case- after reading a bit on the cases recommended to me in this thread I stumbled across the Carbide 400r. It's very well reviewed and a bit more spacious than the cases recommended, which sealed the deal for me- and it's also $80 cheaper than the 650D in my original design.

    Mobo: ASRock P67 EXTREME4 GEN3
    Changes: Seems very stable, received excellent reviews.

    CPU: Intel Sandy Bridge i5-2500K
    CPU Cooler: COOLER MASTER Hyper 212+
    $219.99 + $27.99 = $247.98

    GPU: EVGA SuperClocked GeForce GTX 580
    Changes: After thinking on it, the $600 MSI card I had lined up seemed a bit excessive- and much too large. I had trouble finding cases to accommodate its 12.5'' length, so I decided to settle with the EVGA model linked. Running this card in SLI in the future will hopefully give me enough horsepower for a few years to come.

    PSU: CORSAIR Enthusiast 950W
    Changes: This PSU came better reviewed, and I've always trusted CORSAIR products. Switched this more on a brand familiarity. I didn't use the 750W PSU recommended because it seemed a bit weak for running 580s in SLI down the road.

    RAM: G.SKILL Sniper Series 8GB DDR3 1866

    HDD: Western Digital 1TB

    SSD: Intel 510 Series Internal 120GB SSD
    Changes: Loved the idea of adding a SSD to the rig for specific games and applications. Nothing much more to say, great suggestion.

    Blu-Ray: Blu-Ray Drive

    Monitor: Planar 27'' Widescreen HDMI

    Keyboard: Saitek Eclipse II


    I made roughly the same budget cuts as Illumina suggested, but unfortunately the cost of a monitor wasn't included in his design. It's the $280 that brings me past $1800 and into $2000 territory- but maybe that's just how much it will cost. I can't think of any way to drop the price back down except to remove the SSD, but the idea of a dedicated SSD for gaming has really taken hold. If anyone has any further suggestions, I'll be working on this for a few more days before I buckle down and make a purchase. Thanks for the help so far!
    September 7, 2011 5:23:59 AM

    I suspect the most likely way to bring down costs is to downgrade the SSD or graphics card.

    Though it's hard to estimate before the next-gen games actually come out, a "humble" GTX 460 for about $200 will *probably* be able to run newer games just fine on medium settings.

    I shy away from SLI/Crossfire personally because it adds another point of failure from a reliability standpoint, you have (potentially) extra heat and noise, plus you need to worry about a (usually more expensive) SLI/Crossfire motherboard with good firmware and make sure you have the right space requirements. It's my impression that you still get a good value buying a single upper-midrange card when you upgrade. Also, you'll want to be aware of the micro-stuttering issue (good articles here at this site and at the conclusion of this article).

    Granted, plenty of people swear by Crossfire/SLI, so take my words with a grain of salt. It's always nice to have the upgrade option in the future.

    One other note:

    I calculated your (complete) system with 2 GTX 580s in SLI, and the minimum required wattage was 630. The Corsair PSU you selected is way more wattage than you'll likely ever use and isn't modular. The modularity lets you only use the cables you need rather than deal with a huge mess of cables that you have to hide somewhere inside your case. This could improve your airflow, but really my main reason for recommending a modular PSU is less hassle to worry about when you're building! The fan on the Corsair PSU is just average (based on this review) and some users reported loudness and a high-pitched whine on Newegg. The Seasonic PSU I linked to is $5 more and modular, and has a much quieter fan. They both have all Japanese capacitors, which I like to see (higher quality), and aside from the fan the Corsair seems to have solid build quality. I'd recommend the Seasonic here personally (based on research).

    Good luck, let us know if you have any more questions!
    a b B Homebuilt system
    September 7, 2011 8:02:45 AM

    I also would say to stay away from multi-card setups when building a new system. They just complicate things unnecessarily. The high-end single cards can always handle just about anything that's out at the time, and if you crossfire two medium cards, all you're doing is locking in the fact that you can't upgrade without throwing both of them away.

    The high end of GPUs is - as always - the #1 place where you can save money on a new build. You won't get a good tradeoff of price versus performance by downgrading from a $200 video card to a $100 video card ... but when you're spending $600 on video, you can typically save about half of that and still be fine. Really, I can't think of any point in time where a $300 graphics card has not been enough to just murder any game on the market at the time, unless you're talking about an Eyefinity setup, which is a different story entirely.
    September 8, 2011 12:03:27 PM

    Best answer selected by Reiginko.
    February 23, 2012 1:30:17 AM

    This topic has been closed by Mousemonkey