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First Build $500-700 Gaming Computer

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September 23, 2011 7:05:56 AM

I've never built a computer before. I have changed out individual components in my current desktop (graphics card, harddrive, power supply) so I'm not a complete novice in that respect. I've done a lot research this summer and have a build I'm considering but I don't know that much about current components. I appreciate any adive and suggestions you have for me.

Approximate Purchase Date: next 1-3 months

Budget Range: $500-700, I have at most $550 to spend in the next month and will have more in couple months. Originally I was going to save another year up to $800-1000 budget but a dying current computer forced some acceleration in this plan. If I can't build a good computer to meet my needs now I'll delay and keep saving.

System Usage from Most to Least Important: schoolwork, gaming, internet

Parts Not Required: keyboard, mouse, monitor, speakers

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: I'm only familar with newegg but anywhere cheap and dependable is fine with me

Country of Origin: US

Parts Preferences: AMD cpu for price/value

Overclocking: Maybe, I've never overclocked before. I'm concerned about overclocking reducing the lifespan of the computer. If this isn't a concern then I would consider overclocking.

SLI or Crossfire: Maybe, in the future.

Monitor Resolution: I currently possess a 17" 1280x1024 (dvi-capable, but has vga cable) and 15" 1024x768 (vga-only). I'm planning to run a dual monitor setup eventually. I may upgrade to a new monitor in a couple years, if so it would be at least 1920x1080.

Additional Comments: I am replacing my current desktop, which is 8 years old. I don't have a lot of money right now as I'm in grad school but the computer is starting to die, takes multiple startup up attempts, turns itself off, screen goes black, etc. Its not worth trying to repair again and I can't trust it for schoolwork anymore. The big consideration is that I'd like to have a reliable desktop ASAP and a good gaming computer eventually. I want to buy a good base computer with the idea that 3-5 years down the road I can upgrade components. I do plan to keep this computer for as long as possible.

I game a lot, but several years behind the current games to save money. I also play free online games with friends such as League of Legends and may pick up more demanding games that are free. I don't care so much about having all setting to max so long as the game runs smooth. I will, however, choke my computer with every sims expansion and all the custom content I can find (sorry old computer) and look forward to playing some "newer" games (I just got a free second hand card to upgrade the old computer to directx 9.0c a year ago so new is relative).

I'd also like the computer to be quiet if possible. I'll have it on all day in small apartment so it would be great if wasn't loud. The noise from current desktop has bothered me from day one.

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Onward to my preliminary build thoughts:

Case raidmax blackstorm (white) - $80
I love the look of this case, it looks like good ventilation and I like how easy it looks to install and fiddle with the components. For the amount of time I will keep the computer I imagine I'll be upgrading and fiddling a lot. I really hate my current case because its hard to open (and ugly, but mostly because it fights back whenever I try pry it open).

Motherboard - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813157243 - $97 (with shipping)
I like this motherboard for several reasons. First, the AM3+ socket so I can upgrade processor in the future. Second it has more slots than I need right now so I can expand. My current computer has 6 usb ports and I use all of them and sometimes wish for more. I do want the integrated graphics to have something to fall back should the graphics card go wrong and also so I can delay buying the graphics card. The only pci card I possess is a wireless card. I don't use it in my current apartment but want to keep the option should I move as I've need it before.

CPU - AMD Phenom II x4 3.4 ghz - $130
This seems like a good value with good longevity, but maybe quad-core it is more than I need for the next 3 years. I'm not sure.

Cooler - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16835186035&Tpk=ARCTIC%20COOLING%20ACALP64%20Pro%2092mm%20CPU%20Cooler - 20
My primary thought in even including a non-stock cooler was that I don't want the cpu fan to whine like a jet engine (my current cpu fan does and it really annoys me). Maybe this wouldn't be a problem with the chosen cpu, you tell me please.

RAM - 8gb DDR3 1333 (2x4)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820231424 - $41
Does brand even matter? RAM is so cheap I see no reason to get less than 8gb. The board can take a lot more. Buying it as 2 sticks now will let me add another 8gb later without replacing.

cd/dvd drive - $30
I need one that has a SATA connection but nothing special. Everything I currently own is IDE so won't work with new board.

harddrive -http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822148701 - $44
500 gb will be plenty of storage for now (I haven't used the 120 on the old harddrive) and I can always buy a second drive in the future if I need to.

psu - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817139028 - $70
This is pretty much entirely guesswork on my part. I have no idea how much power I need or what a good power supply will be. I went by reviews for quality and noise and watts that seems like more than I would need.

windows 7 Student 64-bit - $45

Bare Minimum Total: $557

So I think the above is the absolute minimum I can buy and have a functional computer (Am I missing anything?). Later I would pick up:

Radeon HD 6770 - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814102941 - $109
I am so out of touch with graphics cards. I did some research and this seemed more than sufficient and not too expensive, but maybe something much cheaper would also work for what I do. The graphics card is something I would be thinking to upgrade in 3-5 years if warrented or add a second and crossfire. Though, my understanding is that usually its not worth crossfiring after so long because a single newer card will be better. I think I can delay buying the card for now because even the integrated graphics will be better than the nvidia 5700 LE I'm currently using and at least I can have a desktop again for schoolwork.

DVI cable - $10, so I currently have a vga cable with the 19" dvi-capable monitor. I think I will need this to dual monitor with that card (using adapter with vga-only monitor and new cable with the 19")?

Final Total: $676
September 23, 2011 8:19:39 AM

If you can scrounge up about $50 bucks, there is no reason why you couldn't go with Intel.

CPU: i5 2500 or i5 2400- $194.99 there is a $15 CC for the 2500 atm, so including that
Mobo: Asrock Z68 Extreme 3 - $129.99
Ram: Gskill RipjawsX 2x4GB 1.5V CAS9 1600Mhz $51.99
GPU: built in for now
DVD: Asus/Liteon/Samsung/Sony $18.99
HDD: WD blue 500GB $39.99 with CC
Case: Antec 300 Illusion $44.99 with CC - great cooling, a solid case and an absolute steal at this price
PSU: PC Power & Cooling Silencer MarkII 650W $69.99 with CC ( before $20 MIR )

$554.53

So would be short the OS. The performance of the built in graphics is quite decent so getting the GPU later shouldn't be a major concern.

Out of the above the PSU and Case are amazing deals at the moment, and regardless of which way you go with the computer otherwise, you might want to pull the trigger on them. The PSU will run any single GPU card available atm and the rest of the stuff in your system or any Crossfire/SLI solution within your limited budget. And it is 80+ Silver certified so it has great efficiency.

Edit:
And the PSU comes with a 7 year warranty, considering the length of your replacement cycle that might be a nice bonus as well :) 


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September 23, 2011 7:49:57 PM

Definitely I will jump on that PSU. For the case, I probably should take your advice and get that too, but aesthetically I love the other so much more.

I will ponder this Intel or AMD question. Is the difference so big? I don't understand how to compare CPUs anymore if the 3.4ghz quad-core Phenom is not as a good as 3.3ghz quad-core i5.

Thanks for the suggestions.
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September 23, 2011 10:54:02 PM

The difference atm is quite big, generally attributed to the memory controller on the intel chips and the overall architecture.
However the bulldozer chips are coming soon so you can check then how the situation is.
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September 23, 2011 11:18:22 PM

i5 2500/2400: 195$ for the i5 2500, 190 for the 2400. Get the i5 2500.
AsRock extreme 3 gen 3 125$
ram: 8 gigs ripjaws 1333 mhz 45$
500 gb seagate harddrive 7200 rpm 40$
asus 24x cd/dvd burner 20$
psu:cooler master 460w psu 25$ after rebate
case: rosewill challenger 55$
OS: Your student win7 deal 45$
Total: 550$

150$ left for Graphics.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

150$. This will run pretty much anything on maximum
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September 23, 2011 11:32:13 PM

I wouldn't make that compromise with the PSU, especially by using a poor quality cooler master unit.
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September 23, 2011 11:46:58 PM

Here you go, all you need to maxx out a few games at 1080p.

Processor : Intel Core i3 2100 - $125
Motherboard : ASRock H61M-U3S3 - $70
RAM : 2x4GB Gskill Value Series DDR3 1333 - $40
Graphics : Galaxy 56NGH6HS4IXZ GeForce GTX 560 Ti (Fermi) 1GB - $230
Storage : 500GB Seagate Barracuda SATA III - $40
PSU : Corsair CX500 V2 - $55
Case : Xigmatek ASGard II - $30

Total : $590 before rebates
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September 25, 2011 2:30:44 PM

That won't do since GTX 560 Ti requires two PCIe power cables and the Corsair CX430 has only one.
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September 25, 2011 11:43:41 PM

If you're patient enough, you could go with the build below, relying on the IGP until the next generation of graphics cards comes out. The motherboard has PCIe 3.0 and will support CrossFire or SLI down the road.

Antec Three Hundred Illusion: $44.99

SeaSonic X650 Gold: $109.99

ASRock Z68 Extreme3 Gen3: $124.99

Intel Core i5-2500K: $219.99

Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus: $27.99 (but you might wait for the 612 to come out)

Kingston Value 4GB: $23.99

Samsung SpinPoint F3 1TB: $59.99

Total: $611.93
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October 4, 2011 2:02:37 AM

add a cheap gfx card to that for now, and your set. just save for abetter one.
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