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First Build Advice: Quiet, Future-Proof, Gaming PC

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October 29, 2011 8:19:27 PM

My current PC is in it's death throes after nearly a decade of service. After being stranded for that entire period with AGP graphics (I know, right?), I'm trying to build something that is *relatively* future-proof. I want power now, but I also want to know I have some upgrade paths. I've been reading forums and system builds for the last week, and this is what I came up with.

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Approximate Purchase Date: ASAP

Budget Range: As spec'ed, this system costs 1785 on Newegg. I can go a couple of hundred dollars in either direction.

System Usage from Most to Least Important: Gaming, Multimedia & Photo Editing, Home/Office Use

Parts Not Required: keyboard, mouse, speakers, OS

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: None! Once component selection is finalized, I'll shop for best price

Country of Origin: US

Overclocking: Yes

SLI or Crossfire: Crossfire now, with possible Crossfire or SLI upgrades in the future

Monitor Resolution: Not yet determined!

Additional Comments: I'm looking for a quiet gaming PC with lots of upgrades. I don't care about looks, it'll be sitting under a desk. I won't be going multi-monitor any time in the near future (though I can't rule it out permanently, but I'd like to max out a good-sized single monitor.
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MOBO: ASRock Z68 Extreme7 Gen3 LGA 1155 Intel Z68 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard

CPU: Intel Core i5-2500K Sandy Bridge 3.3GHz (3.7GHz Turbo Boost) LGA 1155 95W Quad-Core Desktop Processor BX80623I52500K

COOLER: Scythe SCMG-3000 120mm Heat Pipe CPU Cooler

GRAPHICS: 2x SAPPHIRE Toxic 100312TXSR Radeon HD 6950 2GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.1 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support Video Card

RAM: G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model F3-12800CL8D-8GBXM

CASE: Antec Performance One Series P183 V3 Black Aluminum / Steel / Plastic ATX Mid Tower Computer Case

POWER: Antec CP-850 850W Continuous Power CPX SLI Certified CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Modular Active PFC

SSD: ADATA S511 Series AS511S3-120GM-C 2.5" 120GB SATA III MLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)

STORAGE: HITACHI Deskstar 7K3000 HDS723020BLA642 (0f12115) 2TB 7200 RPM SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive

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Concerns:

1. I'm looking at the ASRock Z68 Extreme7 Gen3 for a few reasons:
--a: I'll be able to upgrade to the Ivy Bridge CPU at some point (more future proofing)
--b: It seems like the 2 PCIe2.0 x16 lanes now should provide a few opportunities in the short/medium term for graphics upgrades, and the PCIe3.0 x16 lane should provide a longer term graphics upgrade. Anyone disagree? Am I overestimating my "future proofing" with this system?

2. Is that the right RAM for this MOBO?

3. 6950 Toxics seem to be the "quietest" of the 6950s. Sound (get it?) like the right choice?

4. I've never done dual GPU: do I need to purchase an extra cable to do Crossfire?

5. Any incompatibilities? I've got enough knowledge in this area to make myself dangerous, so I'd really appreciate anyone pointing out any mistakes.

I have the budget to upgrade certain components if anyone sees a serious defect, or can recommend a vastly superior part, but if I'm overshooting for no apparent short or long-term gain (e.g. MOBO), please let me know.

Thanks in advance for your expert advice!

More about : build advice quiet future proof gaming

October 29, 2011 9:00:04 PM

Can't really make final comments without a screen resolution - that's the driving force. If you're gaming at 1920, your proposed rig needs no upgrading.

OTOH, you've got top quality parts. You could save $100 on the mobo going with an x8-x8 solution. You would gain more fps putting that money into the graphics cards, eg., though $100 is not enough to go to 2x6970. Or in your pocket at 1920. Up to you.

You got 1600 cl9 memory which is nice, and though you won't notice the difference, its only $20 more than 1333 CL9.

Enjoy the build!
October 29, 2011 9:05:11 PM

Crossfire isn't the way to go for a quiet system, it's not needed on a single monitor setup anyway. Get a single HD 6970, GTX 570 or GTX 580.

That motherboard is a bit expensive, designed for 3 x Crossfire really. I would go with an ASRock Z68 Extreme3 Gen3.

If you don't Crossfire the Seasonic X-560 is worth considering. One of the best PSU's around, the fan doesn't even spin unless you pull at least 200W.

Looks good other than that.

If you are really enthusiastic about a quiet PC you should consider:

- Replacing fans with something like the Noctua NF-S12B ULN, expensive but 2 on the case and one on the CPU cooler should provide decent enough airflow for any single card system. best of all it's only 5db, most 'quiet' fans are 15-20db

- Modifying the BIOS of your graphics card to allow you to set a lower minimum fan speed. This can be incredibly useful for a quiet system since the GPU is usually the noisiest thing. This can be dangerous however because if you change the wrong thing in the GPU BIOS you can have a dead card.

If you had a hybrid PSU such as the X-560 and used all of these techniques you could have a system running below 10db, that would be quieter than someone breathing.

I do understand that some of this is overkill to a lot of people but useful if you are very serious about low noise.
Related resources
October 29, 2011 9:10:12 PM

right!
1:mobo is very good at all.do not change your mind.
2: of course g.skill are the best brand and perform very well.
3:why not to buy an gtx 570 instead 6950,570 gves you more fps than 6950 and at maxed out setting.and many people having issue's with cf 6950 or 6970 especially in bf3.
4:yes it is neccessary to buy an connector.
October 30, 2011 12:01:43 AM

@Twoboxer: Looks like I'm headed for 1920x1080. The space I'm trying to fill is width-constrained at 24.75 inches, so 25 inch monitor seems to be about the best I can do. I'm comparing the ASUS VE258Q and the HP 2511x as we speak. I know that I'm going a little overboard on parts, but I'm shooting for both a) a system I won't need to upgrade for a while and b) a system that I will be able to upgrade when I need it.

@jmsellars: I'll take a look at those options. As far as the mobo, I know I'm not using all of its capabilities now (3x), but it seems to offer the best potential for growth in the long run. I've got no idea what games are going to be requiring 5 years from now, but my (shallow and uninformed guess) is that this motherboard might have the best ability to grow with me. As I said in the original post, I got bit on AGP 9 years ago, I'm hoping to not get screwed this time around. What do you think?

@pro-gamer: Thanks for the confirmations. I guess I had understood that 2x 6950 would be better than a single GTX 570 or GTX 580, but if they are comparable, then a single 580 would probably be better, as I could buy another one for 2x SLI later on? Any suggestions on which GTX 580?

Thanks for your comments!
October 30, 2011 12:29:56 AM

You aren't really losing a lot with the cheaper board, it's still gen3 which means PCI-e 3.0 as far as i know. It is backwards compatible too, you don't need 2.1 AND 3.0.
October 30, 2011 12:42:07 AM

jmsellars1 said:
You aren't really losing a lot with the cheaper board, it's still gen3 which means PCI-e 3.0 as far as i know. It is backwards compatible too, you don't need 2.1 AND 3.0.


It's less about the PCI-e 3.0 (though that does matter), and more about the 2 x16 lanes. It seems x16 lanes aren't being used now, but I wonder how long until they are? As reference, this is in the comments from the Whose Enthusiast-Class Z68 Board Is Best? review

Crashman... Because MSI argues that TWO X8 SLOTS IN 3.0 are better than TWO X16 SLOTS IN 2.0. But that's 100% UNTRUE.Do the math, 3.0 adds twice the bandwith so (8+8) x2 = 32. But 16+16 = 32 as well. So it looks like the same bandwidth right? But adding the repeater hub (bridge) adds latency to the Extreme7's loss. But most cards will continue to be PCIe 2.0 to the Extreme7's win.Do the math another way, with PCIe 2.0 cards the Extreme7 has TWICE the bandwidth. With PCIe 2.0 it only has the SAME bandwidth as two 3.0 x8 slots. So it continues to win at least most of the time.Then you add 3-way SLI capability and that "most of the time" part goes away, Extreme7's slot configuration wins all of the time against two eight-lane PCIe 3.0 slots.
October 30, 2011 1:21:19 AM

Jim and I are making the same point - let me try a different way. What you are primarily getting for the extra $100 invested in the mobo is (1) x16-x16 when using 2xVidcard, and (2) the ability to use 3xVidcard. An x8-x8 Z68 mobo will be as "future-proof" (geez I hate that term) because it supports PCIE 3.0, USB 3.0, SATA 3.0. Replacements for those techs are not on the horizon.

So its fair to ask is the $100 "wasted", ie a poor value?

We're saying it probably *is* wasted. You might lose a few percent fps vs using x8-x8. When you are running at 100 fps, would you have noticed if it were 97? If 30 FPS, 28.5? The answer is no.

3xVidcard is somewhat practical, but scaling for the third card might be 40%. But the noise, heat, and energy scale at 100%. Its not a good value. Besides, by the time you need it there will be two more rounds of new vidcards, and you may have trouble finding a new match for the two you own.

You don't *need* 2x6950 to game well at 1920, but there's no arguing its faster than a 570 or 580 or the equivalent AMD units. It will also run hotter and noisier than a 570 or 580 as well.

Many of us like going with a single card with a budget like yours because it leaves open the possibility of adding a second card, with good scaling (>80%), if you need more. If you start with 2xVidcards the upgrade path is less than clear. It also avoids problems with newly issued games when the drivers aren't right yet (like AMD has now in BF3), and it avoids micro-stuttering and other lesser seen issues of multiple cards.

For reference you might read through this page,

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/best-graphics-card-...

Going with a single 570 is quite likely to satisfy you and of course cause no sli/cf issues. A 580 is better, but the improvement vs 570 is costly per fps. The 570 will save you another >$100 vs 2x6950. With a lessr mobo, you pocket over $200. If we are wrong, and you need to opt for a second 570, our advice will have cost you another $100 above your current config. But you will also have a great deal more video power.

There is no bad choice in this range. It's only a matter of (your) choice.


October 30, 2011 1:54:51 AM

Twoboxer said:
Jim and I are making the same point - let me try a different way. What you are primarily getting for the extra $100 invested in the mobo is (1) x16-x16 when using 2xVidcard, and (2) the ability to use 3xVidcard. An x8-x8 Z68 mobo will be as "future-proof" (geez I hate that term) because it supports PCIE 3.0, USB 3.0, SATA 3.0. Replacements for those techs are not on the horizon.

So its fair to ask is the $100 "wasted", ie a poor value?

We're saying it probably *is* wasted. You might lose a few percent fps vs using x8-x8. When you are running at 100 fps, would you have noticed if it were 97? If 30 FPS, 28.5? The answer is no.

<snip>

You don't *need* 2x6950 to game well at 1920, but there's no arguing its faster than a 570 or 580 or the equivalent AMD units. It will also run hotter and noisier than a 570 or 580 as well.

Many of us like going with a single card with a budget like yours because it leaves open the possibility of adding a second card, with good scaling (>80%), if you need more. If you start with 2xVidcards the upgrade path is less than clear. It also avoids problems with newly issued games when the drivers aren't right yet (like AMD has now in BF3), and it avoids micro-stuttering and other lesser seen issues of multiple cards.

<snip>

Going with a single 570 is quite likely to satisfy you and of course cause no sli/cf issues. A 580 is better, but the improvement vs 570 is costly per fps. The 570 will save you another >$100 vs 2x6950. With a lessr mobo, you pocket over $200. If we are wrong, and you need to opt for a second 570, our advice will have cost you another $100 above your current config. But you will also have a great deal more video power.

There is no bad choice in this range. It's only a matter of (your) choice.


I'm with you on the term "future-proof". In it's defense, though, you know exactly what I (or anyone else) mean when I say it. But, yah, as a term, it has all kinds of icky connotations.

Progress so far: I'm convinced to go with a single 570 or 580. Really, 2x 6950 was overkill for the resolution I'm really looking at (probably where I should have started). Dual 570 or 580 was the upgrade path I imagined in the future, so "making do" (talk about first world problems!) with a single 570 or 580 now is probably better. Now, though, I've got a whole new round of research to do as I try to figure out *which* card to go after. I'm on the fence, still, about the motherboard. I absolutely agree that the dual x16's are overkill for now, but my experience last time (AGP! Egad, the last 5 years of upgrades has been a nightmare!) is making me once-bitten, twice-shy about what the future holds. Basically, my head agrees but my heart is still saying, "What if?!?"

Got recommendations on a high-end 570? My preferences, in order, are: Power, quiet.

Also, a good 23/24/25 inch monitor?

Thanks again.
October 30, 2011 4:25:40 AM

Like I said, from our point of view you can't make a wrong decision. Don't agonize. Only you know how much $100 means, and whether it can be better spent somewhere else.
October 30, 2011 6:37:19 AM

if you are agree with me go with gtx580 and later do sli your performance will be more outstanding with every games and every apps.
October 30, 2011 8:22:17 AM

You should do fine with a single 6950 at Full HD.
October 30, 2011 10:18:44 AM

I think by the time graphics cards are fully utilising a x16 lane you won't want to SLI HD 6950's or indeed any current graphics card. It really is up to you but personally I'd go with the Extreme3 over the Extreme7.

As for recommendations on the GTX 570, You can't really go wrong on any of them. Generally I tend to avoid Zotac and Palit now because I have had experiences with them in the past and they seem a bit cheap but MSI, EVGA, ASUS, Gainward and Gigabyte all seem very good.

With monitors the brands that seem to be good to me are ASUS, Samsung, LG and probably Viewsonic. This one looks nice.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
October 31, 2011 3:01:00 PM

I didn't realize that the Extreme3 didn't support dual video cards. While I've backed off from running 2x right now, I'd still like to leave the option open for the future. How is the Extreme4? It'd still save me a little bit of money from the Extreme7.

jmsellars1: I picked the Antec CP-850 *because* it was supposed to be quiet/cool in conjunction with the Antec case. Are you saying the Seasonic X-650 is a better choice? Of course, I guess I'd have to upgrade if I ever did decide to run Crossfire or SLI.
October 31, 2011 5:54:01 PM

In the end, I went with the Extreme7. Once I ruled out the Extreme3, the savings for the other Crossfire/SLI capable cards didn't quite add up to the peace of mind I was getting from the Extreme7. Maybe on my next build I'll be able to keep it in check a little more.
October 31, 2011 7:16:24 PM

You made the right call . . . for you. Only you know what the $savings is worth to you - and I understand all to well how "peace of mind" can trump the savings lol.

Enjoy the build!
November 1, 2011 8:16:12 PM

Yeah fair enough dude. With the PSU though, with the exception of wattage yeah the Seasonic should be better in pretty much every way but the price does reflect that. The Antec is still an excellent PSU.
!