$600-$800 gaming PC - Everything bought! Thanks!

Build in progress: Current before-tax price: $649.95 out of $600-$800 budget

- Processor Intel Core i5-2500K Sandy Bridge 3.3GHz (3.7GHz Turbo Boost) LGA 1155 95W Quad-Core Desktop Processor Intel HD Graphics 3000 BX80623I52500K - $179.99 at MicroCenter

- Motherboard ASUS P8Z68-V LGA 1155 Intel Z68 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard - $119.99 after $60 instant savings by purchasing with i5 2500k at MicroCenter

- RAM G.SKILL Sniper 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Desktop Memory Model F3-10666CL9D-8GBSR - $29.99 after promo code from Newegg.com

- Case Antec Three Hundred Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - $59.99 from Newegg.com

- GPU HIS IceQ X Turbo H695QNT2G2M Radeon HD 6950 2GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.1 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support Video Card with Eyefinity - $259.99 from Newegg.com


Parts I may reuse for now:

- Power Supply OCZ ModXStream Pro 500W Modular High Performance Power Supply
If this is good enough, I'll keep it. It's worked fine so far.

- Optical (CD/DVD/BD-R) I've got what came with my current desktop. It works fine, so if I can reuse it, I will.

- HDD Probably reusing my current drive from on old HP desktop, unless that's not advised.


I need:

- Operating System I might be able to squeeze a copy of Windows 7 Professional from my sister through her college, but it might only be an upgrade version and I'm not sure if it will work on a new build (advice appreciated!). I need at least Windows 7 Home Premium.

-----------------------------------Original post information-----------------------------------

Howdy! I've never built a computer, but I've upgraded and tinkered around enough to sort of know my way around them. I'm looking for a no-frills build that will last me as long as possible. I'm super into value over "newness." I don't need a screaming video card for $900, but I don't want to buy something very cheap that will be garbage within a year or two. I want this to be as future-proof and upgradeable as it can be. I won't be buying a whole new rig for five years or more.

Approximate Purchase Date: Now, unless the deals will be better in the next few weeks if I wait

Budget Range
: $600-$800 (This should include the cost of Windows 7, unless I can get a copy through my sister's college)

System Usage from Most to Least Important: Gaming, other general usage

Preferred Website/Store for Parts: Newegg.com, Amazon.com, and the Cincinnati/Sharonville Ohio MicroCenter, though I'm open to whatever else is cheapest

Country: USA

Parts Preferences: Intel processor, AMD GPU

Overclocking: Maybe, if my build can take it

SLI or Crossfire: Maybe in a couple of years as an upgrade, but not right now

Monitor Resolution: 1920x1200. Currently one monitor, may eventually use three with the additional two using lower 4:3 resolutions. The other two are different sizes, and it would be for multitasking, not gaming.

Additional Comments: Just need something cheap and reliable that will last me at least a few years without upgrading. I don't plan on playing the most taxing new games on max settings. I don't care for AA and the like. Just give me the core game play at a high frame rate on at least medium or high without all the glitzy graphics card options. The most intensive games I have are Oblivion and Team Fortress 2. May eventually get Skyrim or Battlefield 3.

Thanks in advance you all for your help!
44 answers Last reply
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  1. I included a case, because if you can squeeze it into your budget, you'll have a much better build experience, better airflow, and better organization. If you can't fit it, that's fine, but you'll like it better if you can.

    Also, I did not include an aftermarket cooler, which you will want if you attempt overclocking. I was getting close to your max budget and didn't want to stretch it. Figure $30 for something like the Cooler Master Hyper 212.

    If you have a SATA hard drive you can reuse, do it. HDD prices are very high right now due to supply problems from flooding in Thailand. If you have to buy one, bite the bullet, but if you can avoid it, do so. If you do have one to reuse (thus saving $90), think about upgrading the GPU to a 6950. You'll notice.

    Also, it is good plan to reuse your CD/DVD drive, but make sure it is SATA, or if it is IDE that the motherboard I choose will support IDE (I looked quickly but wasn't sure). Alternatively if the one you have is IDE you could just buy a new one for $20 or less.

    Anyway, here is what I was able to put together. If you need to cut costs further, and have to keep the hard drive, reuse your case and drop the GPU down to a 6850. Hope this helps, and good luck.

    Oh, I didn't see any motherboard/2500K CPU combos on the MicroCenter site, using the Boston store, Dallas store, Chicago store, and Atlanta store to check, since I don't know which is your closest one....

    Rosewill CHALLENGER Black Gaming ATX Mid Tower Computer Case, comes with Three Fans-1x Front Blue LED 120mm Fan, 1x Top 140mm ...
    Item #: N82E16811147153
    Return Policy: Iron Egg Standard Return Policy

    HITACHI HDS721050CLA362 (0F10381) 500GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive
    Item #: N82E16822145299
    Return Policy: Standard Return Policy

    XFX HD-687A-ZHFC Radeon HD 6870 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.1 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support Video Card
    Item #: N82E16814150561
    Return Policy: VGA Standard Return Policy
    $20.00 Mail-in Rebate Card (not incl. in price)

    Mushkin Enhanced Silverline 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Desktop Memory Model 996770
    Item #: N82E16820226095
    Return Policy: Memory Standard Return Policy

    ASRock Z68 Extreme3 Gen3 LGA 1155 Intel Z68 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard
    Item #: N82E16813157271
    Return Policy: Iron Egg Standard Return Policy
    $10.00 Mail-in Rebate (not incl. in price)

    Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 64-bit - OEM
    Item #: N82E16832116986
    Return Policy: Software Standard Return Policy

    Intel Core i5 2500K from Microcenter

    Subtotal: $752.94
  2. I'm near the Cincinnati/Sharonville location. I edited the first post just now to make that clearer.

    Thanks for the help so far!

    EDIT: It looks like the Windows 7 download my sister can get should work alright. It's through msdn academic alliance, so if anyone has experience with their software, let me know if it will work on a new build. My friend says it should as he did the same thing through his school, but I'm skeptical since it's technically the "upgrade" version.

    I checked for combos using the closest MicroCenter location and didn't find anything. Maybe they are only listed in store?
  3. I don't have a Microcenter near me, and haven't used the academic software download for Windows, so I don't think I can be much help there unfortunately...

    Hopefully the Win7 academic will work for you and save some cash.
  4. Thanks, that's what I'm hoping for!

    While I'm okay reusing the HDD I have now, I'm not sure how reliable it will be. This desktop has been shutting off and BSOD-ing so frequently that I have a latent fear of disk failure.
  5. Well if you think it can last the 4-6 months for hard drive prices to settling down, then its probably fine. also, those problems are hard to diagnose. Not that this would necessarily apply to you, but I thought similar problems on my dad's computer I built for him was the hard drive, we replaced it and it turned out to be the memory. It's just hard to tell.
  6. Sorry, let me clarify. The overall problem is the motherboard is not working properly, and technically the RAM I upgraded with is the problem. It's compatible RAM in all regards and it's not bad (believe me, I spent about a week running MemTest), but the combination of it with the 5570 is just too much for the mobo to handle sometimes and it's very unstable. I'm worried that the BSODs and such may be damaging the hard disks. No disk problems so far, and I actually just ran a scan disk yesterday, but I'm still worried all of this crashing may be causing harm to the HDD.

    Anyway, thanks again!
  7. I could be wrong, and others on the forums may know better, but I don't think BSODs by themselves would harm the HDD. In any case, that problem will be gone with this new build.
  8. That sounds right.

    Anyway, back on topic! Could you recommend a specific 6950? I've looked at some of them on Newegg, but can't really figure out which is the best and at what price.
  9. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814125385

    This Gigabyte one not only has great user reviews, Tom's Hardware reviewed it and gave it their vote of confidence. Both are great signs.

    Plus its one of the least expensive ones. Winner all around, it seems. Make sure whatever case you use has room for it, as it is LONG.
  10. I'm definitely going to get a new case, probably the one you mentioned unless there's something better or a I get a different recommendation, so will that be okay?

    I looked into the 6950, and I found that some of them are unlockable and can be flashed/switched to a 6970. I also found out that apparently there aren't many around still that can do this (i.e. sold out or taken off the market). Considering the price jump to the 6970, is it worth it to find an unlockable 6950, and if so, any pointers for finding one?

    I'm also considering getting a small-ish SSD after reading about the benefits of it. It would need to be big enough to hold my Steam folder (maybe 80-100GB?). Any recommendations there? And is it worth it?
  11. I think its probably a personal preference and budget consideration on the case. You'll have to remove the top HDD cage on the Challenger, in all likelihood, to get a 6950 to fit, but thats just a matter of some screws.

    For a $10 more, and less prep work, I also like the NZXT Source 220, but I tend to like understated cases. (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811146083) There are other options, but you'd be spending more money.

    As for unlocking a 6950 to a 6970, it can be done but needs pretty much a reference design, and I haven't seen a reference design on Newegg in a while. Didn't see one when I just looked either. Maybe retail stores (maybe even Microcenter) will still carry reference designs. I just looked at Tiger Direct, and they have this reference Diamond 6950 2GB for $260 that a reviewer stated he unlocked (they also carry anohter buts is $300). (http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=1387558&CatId=7005) Whether you want to try or not is your call, i've never done it, so I don't really know the process, just that it can be possible.

    As for SSDs, check out the Tom's guide to SSDs (http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/best-price-ssd,3070.html). It will drive your price up for one that large, so if you have a hard budget limit, you'll have to make cuts elsewhere to keep the SSD.

    Hope this helps.
  12. The MicroCenter deal is buy an i5 2500k, get a Z68 or P67 for $60 off. Looks like I'll need recommendations from what they have in stock at this location.
  13. That's a good deal, I would look into this board. (but the Cinci store only has 1 in stock)

    Here are the Newegg reviews on it: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131729
  14. I'm not seeing that one (I'm there right now). Plenty of LX, gen3, pro/gen3, pro, and deluxe/gen3. No idea which would be better.

    Just found out the deal ends Sunday, so I've got until then.
  15. That one I sent is still showing in stock, maybe you could ask.

    If not, this gigabyte is a good one according to Newegg reviews and recommended by Tom's Hardware: Gigabyte GA-Z68XP-UD3 (http://www.microcenter.com/single_product_results.phtml?product_id=0366193)

    The Asus LX will not support full bandwidth for xfire, so stay away from that one.... (you need at least x8 on the pci-e lanes, and it only has x16/x4)

    If you cannot get either of the ones I listed, its probably better to get the Asrock one I listed in my earlier posting on Newegg for $125, but your call
  16. Found the gigabyte. If I can find the Asus you recommended, which should I get?
  17. The Asus
  18. They had one in back. Got both for $320. Thanks again!
  19. Great deal! Glad to be able to help.
  20. I'm giving up on SSD. While it seems good, I can't justify it within my budget. I'll also try to reuse my current HDD.

    Is this a better deal for RAM? It's faster, cheaper, and looks about the same otherwise.

    G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model F3-12800CL9D-8GBXL - $29.99

    I've also looked at MicroCenter's case selection, and some of them might be better/cheaper than what you've suggested. Then again, I have no idea. I'm just looking at the prices and Newegg.com reviews. Here are two that stood out:

    COOLER MASTER Elite 430 RC-430-KWN1 Black Steel / Plastic Computer Case - $39.99 MicroCenter / $49.99 Newegg.com

    Antec Three Hundred Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - $34.99 after rebate MicroCenter (ends 12/05) / $59.99 Newegg.com

    Would either of these be a better pick?

    I'm also still trying to decide between the video cards. The two you suggested (6870 and 6950) are $100 apart. Is the 6950 worth $100 more?

    And with all of this, will my 500W PSU hold up, or should I look to get something else?
  21. The Antec 300 is a great case, I have used it in two builds I have done for a friend and my dad. If you can get it for $39, that's awesome. It also appears to fit a 6950 with room to spare according to user reviews. Don't bother with the other one.

    As for a difference between the cards, here is a comparison that includes the 2GB version of the 6950 and the 6870. http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/radeon-hd-6870-radeon-hd-6850-barts,2776.html

    It may make more sense to grab another 6870 and a new PSU down the line (6 months or so), which will WAY out perfom a single 6950. However, if you do not want to worry about upgrades in the near to medium future, the 6950 will be worth the $100.
  22. Totally forgot to mention the ram. It looks great, and that price cannot be beat. Only concern may be slight interference with larger aftermarket heatsinks, but since you aren't planning on one right now, and users have reported cooler master hyper 212s fitting (and they are fairly large), I think it is a safe buy. At that price, I say go for it with no regret.
  23. Would there be any reason to purchase two sets and jump up to 16GB? I know everyone says 16GB is excessive and 8GB is plenty, but I figure if 16GB becomes the standard in a few years, I should probably just drop the extra $30 now instead of hunting down this exact model at whatever price they happen to be then.

    I believe 16GB is the cap for Windows 7 Home Premium, and I don't think it's going to get any cheaper than $30 in a couple years. If anything, it'll go up as it's eventually replaced by DDR4 or whatever.

    Is there any reason I shouldn't get 16GB now (room in the case for upgrades, power consumption, stability, speed, etc.)?

    You have been a tremendous help. Thanks a ton for everything!
  24. Honestly, moving to 16GB probably isn't worth the cost. I doubt you'd ever realize the full benefits of 16GB, as even gaming doesn't really benefit from more than 4-6. If you do extremely heaving multitaksing then it might be worth it, but I think a better use of $30 would be an aftermarket cooler.

    Overclocking the 2500k to 4.3-4.5Ghz would give much better improvements in performance than upping it to 16GB of system ram, and be much more noticeable in gaming and everyday usage.

    Its just my 2 cents, but I think the "rate of return" so to speak, just isn't that good compared to either saving the $30 or getting a cooler.
  25. !!! The RAM sold out! I was just going to get it! Crap! Googling, I found out this deal was posted on SlickDeals. No wonder it's gone.

    Does RAM come back in stock quickly? Or am I out of luck this time?
  26. This is 1333 rather than 1600, but its still great ram, and the same price with its promo code. you can always attempt to OC it to 1600 too (some users were able to do so). The loss of speed really won't be huge if you keep it at 1333.


    Besides, these will look better in your motherboard than the bright red ones ;-)
  27. Is there a measurable/noticeable speed difference? And is OCing easy for RAM? I think it's done through the BIOS, right?
  28. I would say while the difference is measurable, it in most cases is not noticeable. For OCing the ram, you use the BIOS/UEFI to set the timings and speed of the memory (speed is the tougher one because of how it is represented, which isn't just 1066/1333/1600 etc). I bet there is a guide to it in the Tom's forums. Never done it myself, so I would start there, and if you are really interested, its probably worth another post to get someone who knows a bit more.

    Its not too difficult, but if you don't want to mess with it, I don't think you would notice.
  29. Okay, I'll probably bite on the RAM tomorrow. Might also be running to MicroCenter for the case.

    Once I get the RAM and Windows, I should be ready to go. Still need to decide on the video card, though.

    Thanks again! You are a fantastic person.
  30. They were sold out of the 300. Which case should I fall back to?
  31. If still thinking about the 6950, any case you get HAS to fit that. All of the ones below will, either natively, or by removing a HDD cage or part of one (take out some screws, that's all)

    The Rosewill Challenger ($50) ( http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811147153 ) I mentioned above is a great case, as is the NZXT Source 220 ($60) ( http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811146083 ). The Source 210 ($40) is a great lower cost alternative to either and probably the lowest I'd go. ( http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811146075 )

    If you really liked the Antec, you could just get that for $60 on Newegg, but if trying to save, these other ones are great options.

    Further excellent alternatives:

    Lian-Li K57 ($60): http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811112318&Tpk=lian-li%20k57

    Cooler Master HAF 912 ($49 after MIR, $59 out of pocket): http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811119233
  32. I'm still not sure what I'm doing for the video card. Thanks for the suggestions. Of those, which ones would not require removing parts to fit a 6950?
  33. Either of the NZXT's, the Lian-Li, the Antec 300. THAF doesn't require a cage to be removed, but it would help with cable management. It's possible with the Challenger, but a tighter fit. Many users have done it tho.
  34. Picked up the gskills RAM and the Antec case.
    I'm looking at about $390 spent so far. Just gotta make a decision on a video card.

    I'm concerned my PSU may be just shy of what the system could need. Newegg's calculator said I should get somewhere above 550W. Does that sound right, and if so, what PSU should I be looking at? If I do upgrade from the 500W OCZ, I'll probably get something I can Crossfire with.
  35. Try using this calculator, most people on Tom's recommend it over the newegg one.


    That will give you an idea of the wattage, but once you get that, divide the wattage by 12 to give you an idea of the amps it will draw. That is important, because if the system cannot draw enough amps, it won't work. Your PSU says it can do 18 amps on EACH of the 12v rails, and its seems from some quick research I've done, that the PSU delivers pretty close to 36 amps for combined 12s wattage. GPUS, CPU, and most accessories run off the 12v rails, so dividing that final wattage number by 12 will give you a good idea. (remember that the default settings for the PSU calc I linked is with everything running at 90% load, and gaming doesn't usually push the system to 90%, so thats something to keep in mind too)

    If you think that whatever you get is too close to the rated power of your PSU, look for a good 650W-700W PSU, which should be able to handle 6950s xfired. Seasonic, Antec, Corsair, XFX, NZXT, PC Power and Cooling, OCZ all are good brands. Jonnyguru, Hardware Secrets, and other places have reviews on PSUs, so they are good places to see if particular ones are good or not. Also keep in mind that you'll need 4x6pin pci-e power plugs to power 2 6950s. However, if the PSU you want only has two, Molex to Pci-e adapters work just fine.

    OCZ ZT 650: Decent price for a fully modular, good review by Jonnyguru

    XFX Core Pro 650: Jonnyguru well reviewed, very good price for its capability (especially if you get the rebate), but not modular, but it does have 4x6pin pcie plugs

    Corsiar TX650M: Corsair has a great reputation, and this is modular. Also 10% promo code right now, which helps with the slightly higher price. I've used two Corsairs in builds for other people without any issues at all.

    NZXT HALE82: just released on the market to excellent reviews. Non-modular, but also has 4x6 pcie power plugs.

    EDIT: This PC P&C unit is slightly pricier, but has a rebate to make it competitive with some of those listed above, but you may think its worth it considering the extra power an amps (62A single rail). 4 pcie power plugs. Just a possible alternative.
  36. can you please list the parts left and budget
  37. aebome, the calculator says 396W, so divided by 12 I get 33 amps, correct? If I understand, I should be okay with what I have now.

    madchemist83, I just need a video card, assuming the PSU will hold up. I've spent roughly $400 so far. My initial budget was anywhere between $600 and $800, and I'm down to this GPU decision.

    I'm trying to decide between the AMD Radeon 6870 and 6950. My concern is whether or not the performance increase is worth the higher price. I don't want to spend $100 extra for the 6950 if it's performance over the 6870 does not justify it. With both, I might try Crossfire in a couple years or so if just one isn't cutting it and the prices have fallen enough.

    Thanks again for all the help! The finish line is in sight.
  38. Yes, I think that your PSU should able to handle that, especially since your computer won't be at full load often, perhaps ever. I assume that is with the 6950, so the 6870 won't even be close to a problem if you do go that route. You certainly won't be able to crossfire, but you can cross that bridge when you come to it.
  39. Yes, that was with the 6950. I assumed the highest power consumption scenario, just in case. I also put in two cards and Crossfire into the calculator as well, and I believe it was close to 550W, so when/if I do get two, I will need to upgrade the PSU.
  40. Z-Saber said:
    I'm near the Cincinnati/Sharonville location. I edited the first post just now to make that clearer.

    Thanks for the help so far!

    EDIT: It looks like the Windows 7 download my sister can get should work alright. It's through msdn academic alliance, so if anyone has experience with their software, let me know if it will work on a new build. My friend says it should as he did the same thing through his school, but I'm skeptical since it's technically the "upgrade" version.

    I checked for combos using the closest MicroCenter location and didn't find anything. Maybe they are only listed in store?

    i have used it, my brother has it. I originally had the 32 win 7 but upgraded to the 64 bit both have worked..
    You can email them and they gave us another code so we were able to put it on several computers. Hope this helps
  41. Thanks for the tip!

    Looking into the cards, it seems I may be jumping up to the 6950. However, I'm not sure about 1GB versus 2GB. From what I've read, 2GB is recommended for resolutions beyond 1080p. I run 1920x1200.

    So, I guess I need recommendations for a 2GB AMD Radeon HD 6950.


    HIS IceQ X Turbo H695QNT2G2M Radeon HD 6950 2GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.1 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support Video Card with Eyefinity - $259.99 at Newegg.com

    Is this okay, or are there better ones? It's a weekend-only special. Of the 2GB models, it has the most and best reviews on Newegg. At $259.99, it's $10 more than the 1GB I was recommended.
  42. That looks like an excellent one, especially with all those reviews, though since its a non reference design , you probably cannot unlock it (personally I would be ok with that, since this one is so well rated. You know what you are buying, rather than risking something, and the chance that unlocking might not work with the other one)

    If you want to try to unlock one to a 6970, try this one, but there is just a single review of it (successful unlocking) and its the same price. Looks significantly longer than the HIS card however.
  43. I ordered the HIS. Reading Newegg's page for the Diamond reference card, it seems it was a crapshoot with some of them unlocking fine and others not.

    Thanks again! I should have everything here this week.
  44. Good luck. Let us know how it all goes
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