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First Build for as close to $1500 as I can get

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January 12, 2012 5:16:09 PM

Approximate Purchase Date: Within a month (no later than Feb 15th).



Budget Range: approx. $1500 After Rebates



System Usage from Most to Least Important: GAMES!!!! Umm, also some lower level production so I can afford to play GAMES!!! (ArtRage, Comic Life, and Jarte Plus, specifically), web browsing, and streaming video (ala Netflix). And GAMES!!!!! 



Parts Not Required: Keyboard, mouse, monitor, speaker, graphics tablet, Windows 7.


Preferred Website(s) for Parts: Newegg.com


Country: US



Parts Preferences:
INTEL CORE i5-2500K 3.3 GHZ CPU
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

ASUS P8Z68-V PRO/GEN 3 MOTHERBOARD
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

KINGSTON HYPERX DDR3 1600 16GB (4x4) RAM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

EVGA GEFORCE GTX 560 Ti 2GB GPU
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

SPARKLE GOLD CLASS 850W MODULAR PSU
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

ADATA 256GB SATA II SSD (for OS and often-used files aka GAMES!!!)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

SEAGATE BARRACUDA 1TB 7200 RPM HDD (for general storage)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

ASUS SATA 24X DVD BURNER
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

COOLER MASTER HAF 922 BLACK ATX MID TOWER CASE
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

ARCTIC COOLING ACFZ13 CPU COOLER
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

COUGAR CF-V12HP 120MM FANS ( x 3, to replace stock 2 and add 1 on top)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

BIOSTAR USB 3.0 CABLE BRACKET
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

SILVERSTONE CLEARCMOS CASE ACCESSORY
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

SILVERSTONE AEROSLOTS VENTILATED PCI SLOT COVERS ( 2 sets)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Overclocking: Yes. Oh my, yes. Please.



SLI or Crossfire: Not right away, but probably in the next year or so. 



Monitor Resolution: 1360 x 768



Additional Comments:

Hello, all. First I want to say thanks to the members of the Tom's Hardware community. Between the excellent articles and forum posts here, and the videos on Newegg, I've managed to go from having a rudimentary understanding of the parts of a computer to having the confidence to actually build one in just a couple of weeks. This is something I've wanted to do since I was 16, which was… ahem… longer ago than I care to admit. :o  I'm pretty excited to be actually doing it.

The idea with the fans is to have good airflow while retaining some negative air pressure, which I understand cools more efficiently. My proposed hookup for the case fans is the rear fan directly to the PSU, the top to the 4-pin on the mobo, and the front to the mobo's 3-pin. I'm hoping that these, plus the case design, will keep everything running cool and smooth. If it turns out I need more down the road, I can reportedly replace the front with a 140mm or 200mm, and the top with a 140mm or 200mm (or just add a second 120mm). I should add that, having burnt up a GPU many moons ago, I'm probably a little paranoid about heat.

I'm hoping that this rig will run both CPU- (Skyrim) and GPU- (Battlefield 3) intensive games, current and near future, at max on my (happily-antiquated) preferred resolution of 1360x768.

My proposed upgrade path for this would be a second 560 Ti in SLI whenever it seems like the games are demanding it (or I change my mind on the whole bigger-monitors thing), an Ivy Bridge CPU when system performance dictates (which I understand will also improve GPU performance when it kicks in the PCI 3.0 slots on the mobo), and a second, smaller SSD or HDD to experiment with a Linux distro or two (hence the power supply, which is way more than I need right now, but should be about right to power 2 GPUs and 3 drives).

So, what I was hoping to get was general opinions on this proposed setup. Have I overlooked anything, or are any of these components no good? Do you think they'll work well together? Do you think it will perform like I want it to? Does the upgrade path seem sound?

Also, the actual price of all this, at least from Newegg, is a lot more like $1700 than $1500. I can weather that if I have to, but maybe there are better values that offer the same performance? Or, heating paranoia aside, is my cooling solution total overkill (between the CPU cooler, the replacement fans, and the PCI thingees, that's close to $100)?

As I said above, this is my first build and I am excited, but also a little nervous. This represents a very substantial chunk of cash for me, and I REALLY don't want to screw it up. :) 

Apologies for the lengthy post, and thanks again for your time and input.

More about : build close 1500

January 12, 2012 5:49:51 PM

Quote:

COUGAR CF-V12HP 120MM FANS ( x 3, to replace stock 2 and add 1 on top)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6835553002

BIOSTAR USB 3.0 CABLE BRACKET
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6811996037

SILVERSTONE CLEARCMOS CASE ACCESSORY
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6811999196

SILVERSTONE AEROSLOTS VENTILATED PCI SLOT COVERS ( 2 sets)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6811999181


Quote:
The idea with the fans is to have good airflow while retaining some negative air pressure, which I understand cools more efficiently. My proposed hookup for the case fans is the rear fan directly to the PSU, the top to the 4-pin on the mobo, and the front to the mobo's 3-pin. I'm hoping that these, plus the case design, will keep everything running cool and smooth. If it turns out I need more down the road, I can reportedly replace the front with a 140mm or 200mm, and the top with a 140mm or 200mm (or just add a second 120mm). I should add that, having burnt up a GPU many moons ago, I'm probably a little paranoid about heat.


You really don't need any of the extra fans or the case accessories to start with. Most case manufacturers are getting way better about air flow and making cases that will suit it better. Most of this stuff is pretty worthless - and you especially don't need the ventilated slot covers as most manufacturers have been including those with new cases since 2009. I understand about heat issues totally - I've definitely fried more than a couple of motherboards and other various parts. But most part manufacturers and especially video card makers are getting really wise to this now and they're far more efficient at cooling than they used to be.

Quote:
My proposed upgrade path for this would be a second 560 Ti in SLI whenever it seems like the games are demanding it (or I change my mind on the whole bigger-monitors thing), an Ivy Bridge CPU when system performance dictates (which I understand will also improve GPU performance when it kicks in the PCI 3.0 slots on the mobo), and a second, smaller SSD or HDD to experiment with a Linux distro or two (hence the power supply, which is way more than I need right now, but should be about right to power 2 GPUs and 3 drives).


Building a PC when you already have an upgrade path in mind is pretty pointless. The only advantage Ivy Bridge has is that it will enable PCI-e 3.0, but unless you're using an incredibly high-powered GPU like the Radeon 7970, you don't need it, and you certainly don't need it if you're running dual 560TIs. But if you're going to spend that kind of money on a GPU, it'd be better to run a single 7970 than dual 560's. Ivy Bridge is really just going to be a few CPUs with higher clock speeds and won't really have a ton of new features that SB doesn't already have.

Quote:
So, what I was hoping to get was general opinions on this proposed setup. Have I overlooked anything, or are any of these components no good? Do you think they'll work well together? Do you think it will perform like I want it to? Does the upgrade path seem sound?


Most of what you have picked out is pretty good but there's a couple of things I'd really question. The first is the 256GB SSD - you're looking at a $300 - $450 drive. A better idea would be to drop this entirely and go with a small SSD (64GB - 80GB) and use that as your primary, then get a second 1TB hard drive to use as your secondary. SSDs, unlike mechanical drives, have very limited lifespans and the read-write times drop drastically after the first year or so of use, and that also goes down each time you format. So you never want to load it beyond 80% capacity, and that has the potential to happen with a drive that large. You're better off going with the smaller drive and storing everything else on the secondary.

edit: I see you already have a 1TB picked out, so invest the money that you'd be saving on getting a PCI-e 3.0 motherboard and a better GPU like the 7970.

Quote:
Also, the actual price of all this, at least from Newegg, is a lot more like $1700 than $1500. I can weather that if I have to, but maybe there are better values that offer the same performance? Or, heating paranoia aside, is my cooling solution total overkill (between the CPU cooler, the replacement fans, and the PCI thingees, that's close to $100)?


Your cooling solution is total overkill. I'd get a different case that comes with more fans and allows for better air flow. I'd heavily suggest reading this article from the main page of Tom's about air cooling:
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/cooling-airflow-hea...
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/cooling-air-pressur...

The thing is case makers have become really wise to users' concerns about air cooling and have designed cases that are far better ventilated than they used to be, and include more fans and better ventilation to accommodate such. Maybe try something like this for your case since it includes 1 x 200mm front fan, 2 x 120mm side fans and 1 x 120 mm rear fan, and allows for a block like the H80 or H100 to be installed: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

The other thing I'd question is your choice of cooler. I wouldn't go with that particular cooler just because it isn't a 5-star item (although sometimes I really question the legitimacy of those ratings... :lol:  ) on Newegg and it hasn't tested very well in benchmarks elsewhere. You'd be better off going with something from Noctua, EVGA, Cooler Master (if you're that concerned about cooling, it'd be very wise to avoid Xigmatek) or even a closed block radiator like the Corsair H80 or H100. Those will run a bit more but even Intel and AMD are going to be bundling these with their newer high-end CPUs in the future.

Quote:

SPARKLE GOLD CLASS 850W MODULAR PSU
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6817103054


Finally I don't think I would pick that PSU - I have not heard very good things about this company and some of their products (GPUs don't test very well). PSU is very important and you don't want to get the wrong one. These would be better choices:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
January 14, 2012 4:57:28 PM

g-unit,


Thanks for your reply and help. I'm still sorting out the info you gave me, but I wanted to post something before too much time went by and you got the idea I was ignoring your input. :D 

First, I can't thank you enough for the tip on the SSD. This technology was not something I knew much about until very recently, and it seemed like such a phenomenal speed boost; I managed to miss the limited lifespan. Definitely not for me. I'm sure the speed is impressive, but like you said that's a lot of money, and for me it needs to be a longer-term investment (like a standard HDD). I don't think I would have been happy needing to replace the SSD in a few years.

I'm going to take your advice regarding the PSU and cooler. I'm weighing the pros and cons of a Seasonic vs. Corsair PSU, and I'm in love with the gloriously-ugly Noctua (still debating particular model, case clearance allowing).

I'm unsure about the case, though. I'm finding a lot of reviews online praising the Corsair's build quality and amenities, but saying it doesn't cool as well as it should. It also seems like the Cooler Master 922 may have originally shipped with 140mm fans, but they've now upped them to 200mm. I know the Cooler Master is definitely more appealing to me, both aesthetically and financially, and with that one you can actually turn the LEDs off! (I was hoping to find a good, cool-running case without LEDs in my price range, but those seem to be rarer than bigfoot). Could you provide more on your experience with either or both of these?

As far as the upgrade path thing goes, yeah, I see what you mean, and I think I should have made clear I'm talking long term. Maybe SLI in a few years or more, maybe replace the CPU (assuming the socket actually turns out to be Ivy Bridge compatible) in maybe 5-8 years. Of course, as fun as this one has been to plan out, I'll most likely want to build something entirely new before then, so it's probably not as important a consideration for me as I originally thought it was.

So to sum up, I'm sticking with the CPU, HDD, and DVD drive, I'm now shopping for a better mobo (probably different RAM to go with it), PSU, and CPU Cooler (Noctua!), I'm ditching all the extra fans for now (assuming the case I settle on comes with adequate ones), trying to decide on a case, and I'm rethinking my GPU.

I noticed you recommended an AMD GPU. I know things can get kind of heated with the whole NVIDIA-vs-AMD thing, but I honestly don't have a preference either way when it comes to hardware. It's just that out of the 6 or 7 GPUs I've owned, they've been split about 50 / 50, and I just can't seem to get along well with AMD's Catalyst. Of course, I'm running an NVIDIA now and have been for almost 4 years, so I don't have any hands-on time with AMD's current software (and the prices are better...). I'd sure like to hear your opinions on the subject.

I'm now leaning toward EVGA's 2GB 570. My hope is that that will be complete and total overkill at my resolution, but will help me game at pretty high settings for many years to come, and even allow a relatively painless transition to a bigger monitor and resolution if I decide to go that route. Of course, then I could SLI two of them, but some of the (admittedly dubious) reports online seem to indicate that doing that requires liquid nitrogen or moving to Antarctica or something.

I think building this thing, and having some actual experience (as opposed to theoretical knowledge) with cooling, will go a long way toward helping me know what I really need and what I can safely leave on the store shelves.

Anyway, thanks again for your help. Seriously, when I think of how expensive that SSD would have been for me... well, if this conversation were face-to-face, you'd be fending off a hug. There might be tears. I'm only about 1/3 joking here. Really, REALLY appreciate the heads up. :D 

I'm still processing the info you gave me (especially the AWESOME cooling articles which, in addition to helping me with airflow decisions, answered several nagging fan hookup questions I had but couldn't seem to find definitive answers to), but when I'v settled on a new plan, I'll post it. Please do let me know your opinions on that one if you get a chance. The help is much appreciated.

Mike
Related resources
January 14, 2012 5:28:24 PM

Quote:
First, I can't thank you enough for the tip on the SSD. This technology was not something I knew much about until very recently, and it seemed like such a phenomenal speed boost; I managed to miss the limited lifespan. Definitely not for me. I'm sure the speed is impressive, but like you said that's a lot of money, and for me it needs to be a longer-term investment (like a standard HDD). I don't think I would have been happy needing to replace the SSD in a few years.


The thing is mechanical HDs are still better in that you can load a lot more on the drive and it will have a tendency for less failure. If you get a 256GB SSD you're looking at a $400 drive, which would be easily 1/3 of your budget on one part alone. You're better off splitting this and using your SSD for your boot drive, and running everything else on the secondary.

Quote:
I'm unsure about the case, though. I'm finding a lot of reviews online praising the Corsair's build quality and amenities, but saying it doesn't cool as well as it should. It also seems like the Cooler Master 922 may have originally shipped with 140mm fans, but they've now upped them to 200mm. I know the Cooler Master is definitely more appealing to me, both aesthetically and financially, and with that one you can actually turn the LEDs off! (I was hoping to find a good, cool-running case without LEDs in my price range, but those seem to be rarer than bigfoot). Could you provide more on your experience with either or both of these?


I actually have two systems. One runs on a Cooler Master HAF 912 which I've found cools extremely well. I've had some heating issues with my Graphite 600T but I think that's more due to the size of my gigantic heat sink which I'm planning on swapping out shortly.

Quote:
I noticed you recommended an AMD GPU. I know things can get kind of heated with the whole NVIDIA-vs-AMD thing, but I honestly don't have a preference either way when it comes to hardware. It's just that out of the 6 or 7 GPUs I've owned, they've been split about 50 / 50, and I just can't seem to get along well with AMD's Catalyst. Of course, I'm running an NVIDIA now and have been for almost 4 years, so I don't have any hands-on time with AMD's current software (and the prices are better...). I'd sure like to hear your opinions on the subject.


I've used both actually. A lot of more comes down to brand preference. NVIDIA has one of the best GPU makers on the market and that's EVGA. Where Radeon has a couple of really great vendors that make quality cards like Sapphire and XFX.

Where the Radeon's biggest strengths lie over NVIDIA is setting them up in a multiple monitor setup. Eyefinity is excellent for that, where NVIDIA doesn't have anything remotely close. So if you want to run multiple displays use Eyefinity. If you want to run a single display, use NVIDIA.

Quote:
As far as the upgrade path thing goes, yeah, I see what you mean, and I think I should have made clear I'm talking long term. Maybe SLI in a few years or more, maybe replace the CPU (assuming the socket actually turns out to be Ivy Bridge compatible) in maybe 5-8 years. Of course, as fun as this one has been to plan out, I'll most likely want to build something entirely new before then, so it's probably not as important a consideration for me as I originally thought it was.


Yeah Ivy Bridge isn't going to be the deal-breaker everyone thinks it is. It will be more like P55 was to X58 when it first came out. It'll be an improvement over what's out there now but it's certainly not going to be a drastic improvement. Hell, SB-E already proved that. :lol: 

It certainly helps to plan for long term but you can't really predict what's going to be out like 5 - 6 years from now.

Quote:
I'm still processing the info you gave me (especially the AWESOME cooling articles which, in addition to helping me with airflow decisions, answered several nagging fan hookup questions I had but couldn't seem to find definitive answers to), but when I'v settled on a new plan, I'll post it. Please do let me know your opinions on that one if you get a chance. The help is much appreciated.


Yeah those articles have been extremely helpful. I thought the one posted on PSUs the other day was as well.

Quote:
Anyway, thanks again for your help. Seriously, when I think of how expensive that SSD would have been for me... well, if this conversation were face-to-face, you'd be fending off a hug. There might be tears. I'm only about 1/3 joking here. Really, REALLY appreciate the heads up. :D 


No problem. :lol: 

Some of that stuff is meant for really high-end users who have serious money to blow. I generally try to play it safe with my builds as I don't have the money to replace something if it goes wrong or fails. I try not to buy experimental hardware (liquid cooled GPUs for instance), I don't really overclock, and I really try not to promote crap brands like Raidmax or Diablotek. So that's generally why I recommend what I recommend.
January 14, 2012 6:12:05 PM

FYI the Sparkle Gold Class 850W uses the same internal design as the OCZ ZX series 850W. Performance wise they are very good, but the OEM (Great Wall) hasn't earnt a good reputation yet as far as build quality.
So it is a good choice, but I can understand why someone would not want to go for one. Maybe if the quality of Sparkle's customer service was extremely good then it would be worth while. Or if there were no other competing units.
January 14, 2012 6:28:55 PM

Silvune said:
FYI the Sparkle Gold Class 850W uses the same internal design as the OCZ ZX series 850W. Performance wise they are very good, but the OEM (Great Wall) hasn't earnt a good reputation yet as far as build quality.
So it is a good choice, but I can understand why someone would not want to go for one. Maybe if the quality of Sparkle's customer service was extremely good then it would be worth while. Or if there were no other competing units.


It really has more to do with the OEM than anything else. Build quality is extremely important when choosing a PSU and on a high end rig you certainly don't want to skimp. I don't know much about Sparkle - they seem to be a GPU vendor like Zotac but their cards haven't earned very good marks on anything.
January 14, 2012 6:48:36 PM

BTW, I believe I finally have a handle on the differing reviews about the 600T's cooling performance. I somehow missed that it originally (as of early last year) had two solid sides, not the mesh portion on one side it currently has. It looks like the reviews of the mesh-sided version are pretty positive, cooling-wise, so I'm currently leaning toward the Corsair.

Might replace the #$%@ LED fans, though. :D 
January 14, 2012 10:37:41 PM

scribemike said:
BTW, I believe I finally have a handle on the differing reviews about the 600T's cooling performance. I somehow missed that it originally (as of early last year) had two solid sides, not the mesh portion on one side it currently has. It looks like the reviews of the mesh-sided version are pretty positive, cooling-wise, so I'm currently leaning toward the Corsair.

Might replace the #$%@ LED fans, though. :D 


I think the case I recommended was the 500R. The 600T is the same one I have and it's been great but it's huge and heavy. Corsair actually gives you the option of replacing the clear window with a mesh panel on that case to improve airflow.
January 15, 2012 5:09:30 PM

lol. I forgot the question that was supposed to be at the end of my 600T observation. You had mentioned that your case ran a little hot, and I meant to ask if you had the solid- or mesh-sided version.

g-unit1111 said:
I think the case I recommended was the 500R. The 600T is the same one I have and it's been great but it's huge and heavy. Corsair actually gives you the option of replacing the clear window with a mesh panel on that case to improve airflow.


Oops. :D 

Yes. Yes, you did.

The 500's a pretty cool case, especially considering what Newegg's asking for it. Thanks.

!