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[Solved] Gaming rig - first-time buyer/builder

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October 29, 2011 1:59:01 PM

Howdy, folks. I found this forum after my internet research brought some tom's hardware articles to my attention. The articles were fantastic, and the population of this forum seem intelligent and helpful, so I thought I would ask for some advice here before I start ordering components.

To preface this, let me say that I am not computer savvy. My experience with computers is limited to playing games, surfing the web and writing simple programs in Java/VB/M. I have never actually laid a finger on a motherboard, processor or GPU, and I have never worked directly with a BIOS. In spite of this, I intend to put this machine together myself. Ideally, I would learn a lot, have some fun, and spend less money. I'll need help, however, and that's where I'm hoping this forum will come in. You give me a hand now, and hopefully, one or two builds down the road, I'll have learned enough to be give back and assist future first-time builders. I want a learning experience. Ideally, I'll come out of it with a sweet gaming rig.

Purchase date: Next few weeks

Budget range: 1200 - 1500 USD

System usage: Gaming. (BF3 on high with 45+FPS, and thus every other modern game) Occasional internet surfing.

Parts not required: I require all parts.

Preferred website: newegg

Country of origin: N/A

Parts preference: Intel processor, nvidia card. Everything else is up in the air.

Overclocking: No. (Not until I've learned a lot. Maybe my next build.)

SLI or Crossfire Not yet. I might be interested in upgrading eventually.

Monitor resolution 1680 x 1200, or something similar

Other comments: Doesn't need to be pretty. Quiet is a big plus.

I've spent quite a few hours over the last week poring over newegg reviews, reading articles and swimming through wikipedia. Last night, I put together a preliminary shopping cart full of hardware. Would you kindly take a look at this:

Intel Core i7-2600 LGA 1155
ASRock P67 EXTREME6 (B3) LGA 1155 Intel P67 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard
G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600
Rosewill LIGHTNING Series LIGHTNING-800 800W ATX12V/EPS12V 80 PLUS GOLD Certified Modular Active-PFC Power Supply
EVGA 015-P3-1580-AR GeForce GTX 580 (Fermi) 1536MB 384-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Support Video
Western Digital Caviar Blue WD5000AAKX 500GB 7200 RPM SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive
COOLER MASTER HAF 912 RC-912-KKN1 Black SECC/ ABS Plastic ATX Mid Tower Computer Case
COOLER MASTER SAF-B83-E1 80mm Case Fan *2
~$1300


[edit]
Updated build
Case: COOLER MASTER HAF 912 RC-912-KKN1 Black SECC/ ABS Plastic ATX Mid Tower

Processor: Intel i5 2500k LGA 1155

Motherboard: ASRock Z68 Extreme3 Gen3 LGA 1155

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

SDD: Intel 320 Series SSDSA2CW120G3K5 2.5" 120GB SATA II MLC Internal Solid State Drive

HDD: none (buy one when the SDD fills up)

PSU: PC Power and Cooling Silencer Mk II 750W

RAM: G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600

Cooling system: XIGMATEK Gaia SD1283 120mm

Optical drive: LITE-ON Black SATA DVD-ROM Drive Model iHDS118-04 - OEM

[/edit]

I'm relatively sure about my processor and GPU. The rest of this is a lot of educated guesswork. I made sure that the motherboard was compatible with the CPU, it has some of the best reviews on newegg, and it's currently discounted 25%. The case/fans/PSU in particular were shots in the dark. I'm thinking about a monitor in the 19-20 inch range, 1600x1200.

How does this look? Will these components play nice together? Is any particular component holding everything else back? Will this all fit in the case? Should I consider a liquid cooling system? Are the fans going to be terribly loud? Will it be possible to upgrade this machine in a few years (add a second GPU)? I'm already getting close to the top of my price range, and I haven't looked at monitors or cd/dvd drives yet - am I spending too much on anything?

Input is greatly appreciated. Thanks!

-Gonz
October 29, 2011 2:56:25 PM

That build would play BF3 OK but I think we can improve it a lot.

CPU - i7's aren't really designed for gaming, an i5 would do the same job for $100 less. For the sake of $20 or something I would recommend getting the overclockable 'K' model. With the right cooling you can get huge performance boosts in future. I would recommend the i5-2500k.

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

MOBO - That does look like a good motherboard but I think it's a bit overkill to be honest. Also I would go for Z68 over P67 anyway. The ASRock Z68 Extreme3 would be great for overclocking and fit all of your components easily.

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

RAM - The RAM you have there looks good.

PSU - I'm sure that one would do fine but you could do better, since you want quietness I wouldn't bother with SLI/Crossfire so 550-600W should be fine. This PSU is expensive but super reliable/efficient and 0DB silent at low loads.

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

GPU - The GTX 580 is good, I would stick with it. If you are happy to stick with a single card I would get the ASUS one, the huge heatsink should mean you can turn the fans down a bit at least when idle. Should be pretty quiet as far as GPU's go.

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

HDD - Since HDD prices are so ridiculous at the moment I would just get a 120GB SSD, wait for HDD prices to drop and get a Spinpoint F4 2TB or something.

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

CASE - This is personal preference really but if you want something quiet I would go for something like this:

http://www.amazon.com/Coolermaster-Silencio-550-Catalog...

OR

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

FANS - I wouldn't bother buying any additional fans, I imagine the GPU should be ok if you just tell it to ramp the fans up in games so i'd just buy a cheap cooler for the CPU and youre set.

http://www.newegg.com/Shopping/ShoppingItem.aspx?ItemLi...

Total is around $1350 on Newegg, doesn't leave much for peripherals but you should have a super fast, super silent build with that.
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October 29, 2011 3:12:06 PM

1) Games will use two or three cores, so the extra hyperthreads on a 2600 will mostly go unused. Also, the $100 or so difference from a 2500K buys you only one extra multiplier. Also not worth much. The 2500k will be fine, out of the box, and it preserves your option to overclock to 4.0 or better very conservatively. That is what a "K" is designed for.

2) I like the GTX580 you picked. The AR suffix gives you lifetime warranty.

3) A GTX580 needs 600w with 42a on the 12v rails plus one 6-pin and one 8-pin PCI-E power lead.
Even a GTX590 only needs a good 700w psu. I think I would look at a PC Power and Cooling Silencer Mk II 750W unit for half the price.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
It has no "bling", is "only" silver certified and not modular. All factors that are unimportant, at least to me.

4) Caviar blue is OK, I like WD for hard drives. But the WD black is a better performer, and get a 1tb unit even if you do not need the capacity. The denser platters transfer data faster.

5) For a build with this budget, try to include a SSD for the os and apps. A 60-120gb drive is fine, use the hard drive for backup and overflow.
Prices are coming down, to perhaps $1.50 per gb.
Today, Intel and perhaps samsung seem to be the best.
http://www.behardware.com/articles/831-7/components-ret...

6) Why the 80mm fans? The case takes optional 120mm fans. I would only get one extra for the front intake.

7) Add an aftermarket cooler. It need not be expensive. It will keep your pc cooler and quieter.
Look at the Xigmatek gaia or cm hyper212 which go for about $30.

8) Take the time now to download and read the motherboard and case manuals, cover to cover. Many issues will be answered.

--------good luck-----------
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October 29, 2011 3:59:57 PM

Thanks for the quick input, folks.

I like the i5 2500k. $100 cheaper, and it seems like it'll do the job just fine. I should've payed more attention to the i5 series in the first place!

jmsellars, thanks for the input on the motherboard. Browsing motherboards was confounding and frustrating to me, and I was probably going to overspend in fear of getting something that would hold the rest of the system back. The ASRock Z68 looks good to me.

I think I might forgo the HDD completely for now, and buy an 120GB SDD like this:

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

By the time I end up needing more space, I can buy a (by then, cheaper) terabyte or two HDD.

geofelt, thanks for the power supply recommendation. That was another part of my build that I was really unsure about. That beast looks pretty fine to me. As for case/mobo manuals: I definitely intend to hunt those down and study them pretty thoroughly before I commit to anything.

Fans: I'm definitely more concerned with overheating than I am with silence. Ideally, I would like both, of course. Would that Xigmatek gaia + two 120mm fans be sufficient for keeping the CPU/GPU cool under stress? (Dumb question: I do need to buy the fans separately, right? Or are there fans included with the case?)

Updated build: (going to stick with the same case, GPU and RAM)

PC Power and Cooling Silencer Mk II 750W
ASRock Z68 Extreme3 Gen3 LGA 1155 Intel Z68 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX
Intel Core i5-2500K LGA 1155
XIGMATEK Gaia
Intel 320 Series SSDSA2CW120G3K5 2.5" 120GB SATA II MLC Internal SSD
Couple of 120mm fans?

Dropping the HDD and switching the CPU and MOBO makes this $50 cheaper, even with the SSD. (120GB ought to last for a while. I won't be keeping music or movies on this machine, and games are uninstallable.) I can definitely add on a monitor and CD/DVD drive without hitting the $1500 mark.

Thanks again!

- Gonz
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October 29, 2011 4:09:31 PM

You don't need to worry about overheating if you are buying a decent case and not overclocking or SLI yet. Remember that CPU/GPU fans can go faster when they get hotter. I don't think you are going to need additional fans. They won't hurt sure but you want quietness.
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October 29, 2011 4:27:27 PM

I am adopting the same ssd strategy as you. I have a 120gb ssd which has about 80gb on it. Windows, some photos, 6-8 games(FSX is big).
My plan is to move the ssd to my laptop when it gets full, and replace it with a 160-240gb drive.

Here is another thought, why not consider a M-ATX motherboard and case. 4(vs.7) expansion slots should be sufficient, and those motherboards are cheaper.
The only negative with m-atx is that sli becomes an issue because the two graphics cards will be next to each other, making the top card hotter.
My solution, if needed, is to either get one of the 28nm cards due out next year, or use a GTX590. I really don't see the need since the GTX580 seems to do very well, even on a 2560 x1600 monitor.

I have a m-atx mobo in a Silverstone TJ07-E case.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
The case has a 180mm intake 2 speed fan . I have undervolted it on low, with no 120mm exhaust, and still my GTX580 and 2600K stay plenty cool. Quiet too.
Unlike most M-atx cases, it will hold a full height cpu cooler. You really will have no need for additional fans. The case is popular and seems to go out of stock quickly, so shop around.

You could use this ASRock Z68M/USB3 motherboard for $95
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

A slightly more expensive variant would give you 4 ram slots if you think you would ever need 16gb.

As to cooling, I do not worry much about it. A cpu can go to 70c. and a gpu can go to 100c. without damage. If heat gets too high, they downclock to protect themselves. I get nowhere near that high.
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October 29, 2011 4:39:54 PM

Yeah I am running my setup with the Noctua fans removed and replaced with a single low rpm fan and my case fans are the Fractal design fans on the lowest setting (1 intake, 1 Exhaust.) I then have a cheap Palit cooler with a single small fan on my GTX 460. If I run a stress test I max out at 90c on the GPU even kept on minimum fan speed. The CPU maxes at about 60c also on minimum fan speed with the single low rpm fan.

EDIT: These are also stress test scenarios, in games its more like 80c and 55c

If you are not overclocking or SLI yet you really don't need to go too overkill on the cooling.
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October 29, 2011 5:26:29 PM

Awesome, it's good to hear that my cooling fears weren't based in reality.

geofelt, I am intrigued by that m-ATX setup. Sounds like a fantastic case. Even with the cheaper mobo, though, it'll raise the cost a little bit, and I'd like to stick with my GTX580 and leave open the possibility of getting a second one in a year or two when the price drops.

New build edited into OP. The price has dropped from $1350 down to $1317, I've got an SDD now, and I threw in an optical drive. I still need a monitor/mouse/keyboard/headset/joystick, but those purchases I can handle on my own. I like to shop for that kind of stuff in store, so I can get my eyes/eyers/fingers on it, anyways.

Feeling pretty solid about this now. I'm going to read some manuals before I buy (and while I wait for my paycheck) to make sure I know what I'm getting into with my case and motherboard.

Thanks for your help - you guys are great. I'll probably be back for more advice when I'm putting things together.

- Gonz
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October 29, 2011 5:41:39 PM

I am not much in favor of dual cards when one good card will do the job.
Here's why:
1) Your up front costs will be higher.

a. You need a more expensive sli capable motherboard, and one with two separated pci-e slots for cooling.
b. You need a stronger psu; instead of a 650w unit, you are looking at a 900w unit up front to plan for sli GTX580..
c. You need better case cooling; the top card gets hotter.
d. SLI never scales to 2x. It depends on the game and drivers how close you come.
e. There might be a microstuttering issue with two gpu's. Particularly with lowernend cards, not on GTX580 class cards though.

If you anticipate triple monitor gaming, then sli will be appropriate.

2) History shows that after new generation cards are introduced, the previous cards do not drop in price as much at the retail level as you might expect. Prices stay high to service the needs of those looking for a sli upgrade. On the used market, prices do drop to the price performance level of the new gen cards. But then, why would one want to buy an old technology card when something stronger cooler etc are available? Better to sell the old card and replace it with the new.
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October 29, 2011 6:37:23 PM

Hmm. You make good points. I didn't take into account PSU/mobo considerations. You think it would be more bang for my buck to go with the m-ATX case and motherboard that you listed, and just upgrade to a new single card in a few years, if necessary?

Triple monitor gaming sounds absurd, I'll be sticking with just one monitor.
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October 29, 2011 8:37:42 PM

Oh if you stay on a single 1080P monitor SLI would be overkill, it's noisy and hot anyway.
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October 29, 2011 11:37:29 PM

Gonzales said:
Hmm. You make good points. I didn't take into account PSU/mobo considerations. You think it would be more bang for my buck to go with the m-ATX case and motherboard that you listed, and just upgrade to a new single card in a few years, if necessary?

Triple monitor gaming sounds absurd, I'll be sticking with just one monitor.


That is my plan, at least today.
So far, I see no need for better than a GTX580.
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October 30, 2011 1:23:38 AM

Sounds like a reasonable plan to me. Thanks again for all your help - I'm going to start ordering parts in a few days. Exciting!
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October 30, 2011 10:23:53 AM

So what is the final build?
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October 30, 2011 12:05:25 PM

Case: COOLER MASTER HAF 912 RC-912-KKN1 Black SECC/ ABS Plastic ATX Mid Tower

Processor: Intel i5 2500k LGA 1155

Motherboard: ASRock Z68 Extreme3 Gen3 LGA 1155

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

SDD: Intel 320 Series SSDSA2CW120G3K5 2.5" 120GB SATA II MLC Internal Solid State Drive

HDD: none (buy one when the SDD fills up)

PSU: PC Power and Cooling Silencer Mk II 750W

RAM: G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600

Cooling system: XIGMATEK Gaia SD1283 120mm

Optical drive: LITE-ON Black SATA DVD-ROM Drive Model iHDS118-04 - OEM

ASUS VW193DR Black 19" 5ms Widescreen LCD Monitor

Windows 7 Home Premium

Added in a monitor (which I have not completely decided on yet) and windows 7. I'm pushing the top end of my price range now (mostly thanks to the SSD), but I'm cool with that.

I am considering switching to the Silverstone m-atx case (and a corresponding mobo) that geofelt recommended if I can actually find the case anywhere. It's a bit pricier, and I have the room for a full ATX (which might make future tinkering easier), so I'll probably just stick with the coolermaster.
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October 30, 2011 12:15:47 PM

Looks good to me, I wouldn't go mATX if you plan to SLI though.
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October 30, 2011 12:29:42 PM

Duly noted. I think I've given up on the SLI idea. It seems like the 580 alone will hold me for quite a while, and I'll probably be better off just upgrading to a new card in a few years, if the need arises.
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October 30, 2011 12:51:20 PM

In that case I think 550-600W should be plenty on the PSU.
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October 30, 2011 1:14:23 PM

Hmm... I've heard that it's better to err on the side of too much power. You think that'll be enough? Any detrimental side effects of having too much (other than the cost)?

Any particular PSU/brand that you would recommend? (I know next to nothing about power supplies)
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October 30, 2011 2:49:40 PM

I think in the worst case (virtually impossible) scenario where everything is at 100% load that system will pull ~500W from the PSU. I think 500W would be your bare minimum, it would have to be a very good 500W PSU and you would be putting it under some stress at times. Having another 50-100W headroom should be plenty. Some high end PSU's (Seasonic in particular) are even rated at say 560W but are actually capable of 750W or so.

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

As for brands, Seasonic are probably the best but they can be expensive. They do make PSU's for Corsair, Antec and XFX too though so they are good choices.

I would personally go with that X-560, same price as the PSU you were going to go with but it is literally one of the best PSU's on the market. 0db at low loads, fully modular and gold efficiency. If you want though you could easily get by with something like this:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
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October 30, 2011 5:46:42 PM

Gonzales said:
Hmm... I've heard that it's better to err on the side of too much power. You think that'll be enough? Any detrimental side effects of having too much (other than the cost)?

Any particular PSU/brand that you would recommend? (I know next to nothing about power supplies)


It is not wrong to overprovision the psu a bit. It will only use what it needs, regardless of it's max power.
If there is a negative, a too strong psu will loaf and run at less than it's optimal efficiency( about 50%).
On the other hand, a loafing psu will not get hot and spin up the cooling fan.
EVGA recommends a psu with 600w and 42a on the 12v rails plus one 6-pin and one 8-pin PCI-E power lead for a GTX580.

My short list of quality psu's would include PC P&C, Seasonic, Corsair, Antec , and XFX. You can safely buy from any one of them.

I see no problem with the silencer 750w.
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October 30, 2011 5:47:43 PM

Ooooh, that SeaSonic PSU sounds fantastic. Similar cost to the other one I'm considering, and if it really is capable of putting out as much as you say it is, I'm sold.
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October 30, 2011 6:04:17 PM

I'm trying to find the review that said it is capable of much higher wattage but I can't find it. Read any review for it though, they are all awesome.

Anyway I just put your build into a PSU estimator including the HDD and heavy overclocks and it came out at 470W minimum, 520W recommended. That Seasonic PSU is certainly capable of more than 560W.
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October 30, 2011 6:36:56 PM

Righteous. I'll go with that one, then.

Why the hell does Newegg charge $35 to ship all this UPS, and $169 for FedEx? Are the UPS folks going to take a dump in my case before they deliver it, or something?
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