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Critiques needed for a $1200-$1500 Gaming Build (First time builder)

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January 21, 2012 7:49:42 PM

First off, thanks for helping me with my first PC build. I really appreciate the time you all take to help newbie (like myself) out.

Approximate Purchase Date:
- February to March 2012 (Not in a hurry. As stuff comes on sale)

Budget Range:
- $1200 to $1500

System Usage from Most to Least Important:
- Gaming (Goal: Max settings for Skyrim/SC2/Civ5. High settings for BF3)
- Media Center (Watching Blu-Rays, streaming movies/HD content)
- Video/Photo editing
- General (Surfing the web, checking email, etc.)

Parts Not Required:
- Monitor. Currently have an HP w2207h. Will upgrade to a 25-30” HDTV in the future.
- Mouse/Keyboard. Currently have a Logitech MX Performance and a Logitech G11 that I’m quite satisfied with
- CPU fan. Bought a Cooler Master Hyper 212+ on sale about a week ago.
- OS. Have an extra license for Windows 7 x64 Professional.
- HDD. I have this Seagate Momentus XT 500GB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache 2.5" SATA 3.0Gb/s with NCQ Solid State Hybrid Drive - Bare Drive as a laptop upgrade, but I can use it in the mean time until SSDs come down in price.

Preferred Website(s) for Parts:
- Newegg for reviews and price comparisons
- Amazon for reviews and price comparisons
- Micro Center (live close to one)
- Stores with good replacement policies (for RMA/DOA situations) >> I’d appreciate recommendations
- Sites with good deals (like SlickDeals or DealNews) or any sales you know of >> Also would appreciate recommendations

Country:
- United States

Parts Preferences:
- CPU: Intel (since i5-2500k is so proven and found a good deal)
- In general, good name brands. Would rather buy a more expensive, quality part than a cheaper, no-name part.

Overclocking:
- Yes (air cooled OCing). Would like to OC both CPU and RAM.

SLI or Crossfire:
- No/Maybe (if power requirements <1 kW)

Monitor Resolution:
- Current: 1680x1050
- Future (within 1 year): 1920x1080

Additional Comments:
- First ground up build I’m doing (have been meaning to for years).
- Not in a hurry to buy components. I’d rather get them on sale and spend the extra money on upgrading or higher quality parts.
- Looking for 4-5 year build longevity, with upgrades as needed.
- Want to keep the power requirement less than <1 kW when OCing w/ SLI or CF.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Here are the components I’m looking at. Tried to include questions and comments to make critiquing a little easier.
- Components that I'm leaning towards buying (in a category of multiple components).
- Components that I have already purchased.

Case ~$90-$140
- Based off of g-unit's recommendations, I'm looking for... good airflow (room for big fans), solid construction, cable management, tooless installation, bottom mounted PSU, thumbscrew or switch panel removal, removable/washable dust panels, front panel features (USB 3.0, manual fan control, hotswap bay), CPU access (for after market fans), <$150
- Really like the Arc Midi, but it's a little pricey right now
>> Fractal Design Arc Midi Black (USB 3.0, 3x Fractal 140mm fans) - $112.98
>> Corsair Carbide Series 500R Black ATX Mid Tower - $121.16 (from Amazon)
>> Polyurethane foam sheet (30-60 PPI) for DIY, washable dust filters - ~$10
>> COOLER MASTER 120mm Case Fan 4 pack ~ $20

Motherboard ~$200
- I want the ability to OC (CPU and RAM), USB 3.0, a fair number of SATA III connections
>> ASUS P8Z68 PRO/GEN3 LGA 1155 Z68 ATX Intel Motherboard - $175.08 (after Micro Centercombo deal, with taxes)
>> ASUS P8Z68 DELUXE/GEN3 LGA 1155 Z68 ATX Intel Motherboard - $240.74 (after Micro Centercombo deal, with taxes)

CPU ~$230
- Thanks to g-unit and rmiiirusty for helping me with my logevity question regarding LGA 2011 vs. LGA 1155.
>> CPU: Core i5 2500K LGA 1155 Boxed Processor - $196.96 (with taxes)
>> CPU Fan: Cooler Master Hyper 212+ - $19.99
>> Thermal: Arctic Silver 5 Thermal Compound (3.5g) - $6.95

RAM ~$45
- Gotten quite good feedback from g-unit. I change to low profile to make sure I don't block CPU fan airflow.
>> CORSAIR Vengeance 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Low Profile - $43.49 (Amazon Warehouse Deal)

GPU ~$350-$400
- I’d only do SLI/Crossfire as an upgrade in after a while, unless two GPUs today is 20 to 30% cheaper than one beastly GPU (The only thing I’ve seen like that is two 6850’s in Crossfire).
- I agree with rmiiirusty about getting one beastly GPU now and saving room to upgrade later.
- Looking at some GPUs with extra fans. Any thoughts on how this'll fit on my MB (considering possible SLI in the future)? Would also appreciate comments on Gigabyte's customer service.
>> EVGA GeForce GTX 570 (Fermi) DS Superclocked 1280MB 320-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP - $339.99 (after rebate)
>> GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 570 (Fermi) 1280MB 320-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP - $332.86
>> SAPPHIRE (100311-3SR) Radeon HD 6970 2GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.1 x16 - $337.86 (with shipping)
>> SAPPHIRE Radeon (100311-2SR) HD 6970 2GB 256-bit DDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP - ~$319.99 (after rebate)

PSU ~$160
- After watching a Newegg review and checking out Proximon's awesome PSU guide, I decided to go with the CORSAIR (great reviews on Newegg, longer warranty). I also factored in that reviews that mentioned OCZ's cables were too short/not flexible enough.
>> CORSAIR Pro Series HX850 850W, 80 PLUS SILVER, Modular, Active PFC - $165.98 (after rebate)

Storage ~$240
>> Plextor M3 Series PX-128M3 2.5" 128GB SATA III Internal SSD - $144.99 (after rebate)
>> Seagate Momentus XT 500GB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache 2.5" SATA 3.0Gb/s, NCQ Solid State Hybrid, Bare Drive - $89.99

Optical Drive ~$20
- Incorporated a good recommendation from leenoshiro, but found the part cheaper. =D Thoughts on Blu-Ray (for watching Blu-Ray discs) vs. DVD+-RW?
>> ASUS 24X DVD Burner - Bulk 24X DVD+R 8X DVD+RW 12X DVD+R DL 24X DVD-R 6X DVD-RW 16X DVD-ROM 48X CD-R 32X CD-RW 48X CD-ROM SATA Model - OEM - $19.45 (Amazon Warehouse Deal)

Peripherals ~$250?
- Already have some nice headphones. Want to get an HDTV (25 to 32”) as a future monitor so I can really enjoy 1920x1080. Any suggestions welcome.

Total Price ~$1.1k today, ~$1.4k to $1.5k once I get an SSD and a desktop HDTV/monitor.

Quote:
Going through the process of writing this post has generated more questions than answers (personally). Any critiques/advice is welcome. Thanks!


Edit: Been going through and pairing down/updating the build as I do more research and get feedback from people. And I've definitely learned a lot from this review. Thanks everyone!

And I'm still looking for critiques/advice/pointers/words of caution. Basically any wisdom you can impart so I don't horrendously botch the build with my newbieness.
January 21, 2012 8:37:29 PM

Case: Its personal preferences, so no suggestion there.

If your going to pick up the CPU from microcenter, i suggest getting the Motherboard there also, theres a bundle savings this month when you buy a cpu and motherboard, $50 off.

Ram Performance differences is fairly minimal, as most people would say, not even an fps difference. Most people would just go for a brand that has the least ram failure rate... and i believe corsair has a higher failure rate than others. (Though i'd have to look it up gain.

As for GPU, since you are not in a hurry, I suggest you to wait for the launch of the 7950. Rumors are that the price of that is going to be $400-450 and launch on the 31st of January.

For PSU
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
would assure you lots of headroom for upgrades down the road.

Unless you plan on storing lots of media/downloads, a 500gb hard drive is enough for most gamers.

For Optical Drive, it would be easier to just buy a sata drive. You may run into problems with adapters.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Not a Blu-Ray drive. You don't have to buy a blu-ray drive unless you plan on backing up a lot of data.


I've kinda just switched your prices around a bit, lol. The bundle savings would go into the PSU. Not buying another hard drive would go into your GPU.
January 21, 2012 9:23:11 PM

Only advice i can give right now is buy that i5 2500k from microcenter. It's on sale for 179.99. Boom. 50 dollar savings over newegg.
Related resources
January 21, 2012 11:26:51 PM

The asus board you mentioned is good and so would be any of the maximus series. They now have asus maximus iv gene-z\gen 3 for the 3.0 pcie slots for $179.00 newegg.As good as any of the other Asus boards and rock hard stable.

Personnally for your quandery as to wether or not to go with 2011 or 1155, I think you are better off with 1155 for the fact that there are many tested products to choose from and that deals are to be had.
There is nothing out there gamewise that an i5-2500k can't cope with and will surely last you a few years into the future giving 2011 products plenty of time to come full swing and maybe even drop in price before you are ready to build again.

Just my opinion.

I also like the idea you mentioned with just 1 Mack Daddy GPU. It makes more sence to get 1 that accomplishes your needs. Then later if your needs grow then you can sli then.

If you want to max the games you mentioned then you will have to go with a 570ti or even a 580 to accomplish your goal. A 560ti would play them nicely albeit not quite maxed out.
January 21, 2012 11:56:17 PM

Quote:


Storage
- Want to go for SATA III SSD for my main drive eventually (when prices are < $1/GB)
>> For now... Seagate Momentus XT 500GB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache 2.5" SATA 3.0Gb/s with NCQ Solid State Hybrid Drive - Bare Drive - $0 (Already own, paid $89.99)


You might want to go for a regular HD as this hard drive is made for laptops where you don't have a secondary storage option.

Quote:

Personnally for your quandery as to wether or not to go with 2011 or 1155, I think you are better off with 1155 for the fact that there are many tested products to choose from and that deals are to be had.
There is nothing out there gamewise that an i5-2500k can't cope with and will surely last you a few years into the future giving 2011 products plenty of time to come full swing and maybe even drop in price before you are ready to build again.


I completely agree... LGA2011 is pretty pointless when there's only two CPUs that currently support it and one's $600 and the other is nearly $1K+. Especially when Intel has said themselves that IB will support LGA 1155.

Quote:

Case ~$90
- Would like tooless installation as much as possible with good airflow, accessible USB 3.0 port(s), built in cable management.
>> Rosewill BLACKHAWK Gaming ATX Mid Tower Computer Case (Five Fans, window side panel, top HDD dock) - $89.99


If you want case suggestions try a couple of these:
- 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...
- http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Quote:

- Seen a lot of builds go with Vengeance and a lot of good reviews, but also heard things about Corsair's high failure rates... any recommendations pretty reliable RAM manufacturers?


The Vengeance line is good as long as you don't get the version with the gigantic heat sinks. The top tier for RAM manufacturers are G.Skill, Corsair, Kingston, PNY, Crucial, and Mushkin.

Quote:
Unless you plan on storing lots of media/downloads, a 500gb hard drive is enough for most gamers.


It is, but I'm not sure the Momentus is a good idea as it's specifically made for laptops.

Quote:
Ram Performance differences is fairly minimal, as most people would say, not even an fps difference. Most people would just go for a brand that has the least ram failure rate... and i believe corsair has a higher failure rate than others. (Though i'd have to look it up gain.


After what Proximon posted about Intel's RAM speeds and RMA department I'm really not taking any chances anymore. You for sure want to get the RAM with the least failure rate, but you also want to make sure that the speeds tested work with your motherboard and don't go over 1333 or 1600.

Quote:

GPU ~$340
- I’d only do SLI/Crossfire as an upgrade in after a while, unless two GPUs today is 20 to 30% cheaper than one beastly GPU (The only thing I’ve seen like that is two 6850’s in Crossfire).
- Picking one of these three. I’ve heard good things about EVGA, but saw good benchmark results from Zotac.. any recommendations on brand?
>>Zotac NVIDIA GeForce GTX 570 1280MB 320-bit GDDR5 PCIe 2.0 x16 - $331.64 (after rebate with taxes)
>>EVGA GeForce GTX 570 (Fermi) 1280MB 320-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready - $347.55 (with shipping)
- I don’t really understand the differences between 320-bit and 256-bit. And I’d assume 2GB of GPU RAM (6970) > 1.2 GB of GPU RAM (570), but both these cards seem to be pretty comparable in reviews...
>>SAPPHIRE 100311-3SR Radeon HD 6970 2GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.1 x16 HDCP Ready - $337.86 (with shipping)


Go with the EVGA or Sapphire easily. I haven't heard good things about Zotac. But the other two brands I know make really good cards and have good support and RMA departments.
January 22, 2012 4:44:42 AM

@leenoshiro:
- Thanks for the Optical Drive advice. I've added it to my build.
- Major thanks for letting me know about Micro Center's combo deal. It's helping shift some money to the GPU. =D
- I hadn't heard anything about the 7950. Once the benchmarks are out, I'll figure out whether I want to go for it or the GTX 570 (Ti?). Hopefully other GPUs will come down a little in price when it does come out.

@Theultimateeye:
- I wish it was the full $50 discount. With taxes, it's more like a $20 discount (better than nothing I suppose). The really nice part is the extra $50 off that leenoshiro mentioned when you combo a CPU with a MB.

@rmiiirusty:
- Thanks for the help with socket type. Between you and g-unit, I feel a lot more at ease about LGA 1155.
- I looked at the other MBs, but Micro Center didn't have them. I figured for the extra $50 off I can get a few more SATA III ports with the current MBs I have. I haven't seen a 570Ti in my searches so I wasn't sure if it exists. I'll look into that for my GPU.

@g-unit1111:
- Thanks for the help with socket type. Between you and rmiiirusty, I feel a lot more at ease about LGA 1155.
- Thanks a bunch for the brand advice when it comes to GPU manufacturers. Do you have any other recommendations on brands to consider? I've heard MSI is good when it comes to cool GPUs, ASUS/EVGA are good for customer support, etc.
- Basically all of the cases you suggested fit what I'm looking for. Any tips on finding more like that (just experience or did you search for something in particular)?
- The RAM advice is also pretty helpful. I'll check out that section of Proximon's sticky on researching components more carefully.
- I'm not sure I understand the concern about the HDD. Could you explain why you think it won't work well? For the record, this is a temporary thing until SSDs become a little more reasonably priced (or at least more sales happen on them).
January 22, 2012 6:36:24 AM

Quote:
- Basically all of the cases you suggested fit what I'm looking for. Any tips on finding more like that (just experience or did you search for something in particular)?


Main requirements that I look for in choosing a case are looks, solid construction, cable management, CPU retention hole (for installing coolers without removing motherboard), and front panel features latest technology like eSATA, USB 3.0, etc, or at least gives you option for it,

Quote:
- I'm not sure I understand the concern about the HDD. Could you explain why you think it won't work well? For the record, this is a temporary thing until SSDs become a little more reasonably priced (or at least more sales happen on them).


You'll be able to use that HD fine for now, I totally understand about HD prices - until WD and Seagate get their factories back online we won't see any drastic reductions in price and that could be for at least a year.

But the thing is the reason a lot of people are concerned about this drive is that it's an SSD hybrid drive. Most drives aren't laptop specific but for a good SSD setup to work properly you always need to have a good secondary option due to the limited capacity. The Momentus is made for laptops where you want to use an SSD but don't have an extra drive bay for a secondary storage solution.

Quote:
- Thanks a bunch for the brand advice when it comes to GPU manufacturers. Do you have any other recommendations on brands to consider? I've heard MSI is good when it comes to cool GPUs, ASUS/EVGA are good for customer support, etc.


I'm not the biggest fan of MSI as I've had way too many of their motherboards fail really easily on me. EVGA is one of the best in the business for NVIDIA cards. If you want to use a Radeon card I recommend Sapphire and XFX for quality of construction and warranties (XFX's double lifetime warranty is pretty unmatched anywhere else).
January 22, 2012 7:14:05 AM

MSI GPUs are known for their Twin Frozr line; they come factory OCed, and although I've never owned one they get good reviews. G-Unit is right about those other brands.

The only concern I'd have with your Seagate XT HDD is that it's a 2.5" form factor (SSD size); you could choose a case with built-in 2.5" slots, or you could get a 3.5"-2.5" adapter, but make sure you have some way to fit it to your case unless you're comfortable jerry-rigging something.

The 570Ti doesn't exist, but its a nice idea :p  If you can reach the $550 range for the GPU you could leap to the Radeon HD 7970 (fastest single-GPU card on the market). However, that's quite a stretch in a $1500 build.
January 22, 2012 12:41:16 PM

@g-unit1111:
- Appreciate the help g-unit. I'm going to take a closer look at the case (especially since the MB I'm looking at comes with a box for front panel USB 3.0 slots).
- Thank you for the general advice on buying components. This'll help for a long time. =D

@PurpleHayes:
- Thanks for the info first and foremost. Saved me some searching with your experience!
- I'll have to check out the MSI GPUs. They seem to have good reviews, but were like $40 more on Newegg. And I've been toying with the idea of a 7970, but I'd have to skimp on my case and lower my MB to keep it in budget... so I'm not sure about it yet. Too bad there's not 570Ti... but one less thing to look! =D
- On the HDD, I've been looking at cases that have the pin points built in to the 3.5" drive bays. I'm guessing the pin points are the same between SSD and 2.5" HDD, so I think most good cases have that covered nowadays.

January 22, 2012 2:03:49 PM

Yeah, Im sorry. That was a typo about a 570 ti , you know when you are thinking more than you are trying to type. I was thinking of a 560 ti because it works well for me but concidering your res.I wanted to suggest a larger card. I just happened to type the ti because it was in my head. Sorry.

If you are just looking for a hdd that will work for awhile you should check out ebay. They have some good deals I got a seagate barracuda 1tb 7200rpm 32mb cache for 59.00 and it was brand new.
Just make sure they have 100% feedback and that it is not from overseas.

Here is a link to an Ebay ncix outlet. I know it is Canada but I got my gpu from them and it was delivered 3 days after I ordered it.
They have some good hdd deals.
Most of the drives are recertified from manufacturer but you did say it was only to last you a while.
http://stores.ebay.com/NCIX-Outlet-Store/Hard-Drives-/_...

If you really don't want a recert. drive then there are many new drives as well on ebay.


January 22, 2012 3:07:38 PM

@rmiiirusty
Quote:
Yeah, Im sorry. That was a typo about a 570 ti...

No worries man. It happens to the best of us!

Quote:
If you are just looking for a hdd that will work for awhile you should check out ebay. They have some good deals...
Just make sure they have 100% feedback and that it is not from overseas.

Really good advice, especially the piece on feedback and seller location. I'll check out NCIX and Ebay for some better deals on the hardware I'm looking at. Thanks man!
January 22, 2012 5:36:00 PM

Quote:

- Appreciate the help g-unit. I'm going to take a closer look at the case (especially since the MB I'm looking at comes with a box for front panel USB 3.0 slots).
- Thank you for the general advice on buying components. This'll help for a long time. =D


No problem - especially when spending that much money on a PC you definitely want to ask as many questions as you can, and this is the place to do it.
!