Homebuilt system for internet marketing, audio recording, & gaming

Hello all!

I'm interested in building my own system with three specific purposes:
1) Simultaneously running Internet Marketing(IM)/SEO software (requiring high internet bandwidth and proxy usage, another topic entirely)
2) Live recording of digital audio through an external audio interface & software associated with this (i.e. Pro Tools & other DAWs)
3) Limited Gaming - exclusively Diablo 3 (the significance being that this game doesn't require massive graphics power, but does require fast, or at least consistent, internet speeds while IM/SEO software may be running - again, a separate topic for discussion)

With these purposes in mind, I see the following as important factors to consider in the power/capabilities of the system I need:
1) RAM - a pretty high amount of it, let's say starting at 16GB (2x 8GB sticks, maybe fit for a future upgrade to 2x 16GB sticks)
2) CPU - with many programs running simultaneously (IM/SEO) and the occasional (or maybe frequent) need to keep the computer on for 48+ hours, the CPU should be suited to heavy lifting
3) Internet Speed/Bandwidth - I'm not too sure about how to handle this, since the system will be located in my home, which isn't currently set up with a super-fast Broadband/WiFi setup - this is something I need advice for, but maybe I'll ask about this specifically in the Networking section
4) Sound Card - I don't know much about this, but I am definitely willing to throw a good amount of money at something that will stand up to live audio recording (let's say 16 simultaneous channels), as well as audio editing, general music listening, and gaming
5) Video Card - just whatever's necessary to run Diablo 3 smoothly and maybe a little extra just for fun :)

Other hardware:
- Hard Drive - Ideally solid state, about 1-2TB, but I have no problem using an external hard drive to hold backup and/or all my space-consuming media like music and video
- Ethernet/WiFi - Whatever will get the job done and done right. No bells and whistles needed here unless I'm missing something about improving my internet speeds dramatically by going with a high-end ethernet card
- Motherboard - I don't know much of anything about motherboards, other than what they do (in a very basic sense)
- Power Supply - I suppose I will know what I need for the power last, but this is another thing I know almost nothing about... Obviously I want to avoid very high temps and especially electricity usage (I understand this is an occupational hazard - A powerful PC will require lots of electricity, but I'd like to use as little as possible beyond what's needed)
- Case - I don't know anything about cases, but I don't care about aesthetics
- Cooling - Don't know much about this either, but again I don't care about aesthetics - I DO, however, care very much about keeping my computer cooled while it's doing the heavy lifting (i.e. simultaneously running software / live audio recording and later editing)

Now, with all this in mind, I think it's safe to say that I'm off to a good start, knowing exactly what I want to use this system for and what the generally most important pieces of hardware will be. Beyond that, however, I'm pretty much lost. I've never built my own system before but I have opened up a tower and added/replaced some cards, RAM, etc. in the past.

I've been searching for a really solid guide to building your own system for beginners, but a lot of what I'm finding doesn't seem to be very credible, or doesn't include useful media like video and charts/diagrams. That sort of stuff would come in handy, no doubt. So I apologize if there is a complete, well-reputed guide for beginners already on this forum - I tried searching but came up empty handed.

Last but not least, the OS - Windows 7 Home 64-bit is what I had in mind. Not sure what other software I'd like built-in, but Microsoft Word & Excel would be useful - most everything else I can get from the web

I have a goal in mind of getting this thing built and ready to go within 2 months. I don't know if that's optimistic or conservative, but it would be great to have everything ready before May 15, 2012 (Diablo 3's release date :D)

Any help at all would be truly, greatly appreciated - I'm new at this but I know from experience that message boards & forums can be the best possible resource in times like this. Thanks in advance for anyone who responds!

EDIT | I forgot to mention, the rough budget for this project is < $2000. I will go up to ~$2500, but only if it's truly necessary for my needs.
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  1. Personally I would go with something like this for your usage:

    Intel Core i5-2500k - $219.99
    16GB (2x8GB) Mushkin Silverline - $107.99
    ASRock Z68 Extreme3 Gen3 - $121.99
    HD 7850 (When its released.) - ~$250
    Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB - $129.99
    Samsung 830 Series 256GB - $379.99
    Seasonic X-560 560W - $124.99
    Fractal Design Define R3 - $109.99
    Prolimatech PRO-MGH-C - $69.99
    Noctua NF-F12 PWM 120mm - ~$25 (Not on Newegg but is a fantastic fan)
    LG DVD Burner - $16.99

    Total - $1281.91

    After your OS and Office software you're looking at around $1400.

    This should be more than powerful enough for your usage, but the best part is the low power consumption. This translates to less heat which then means less noise. The peak power draw should be around 250W, there are graphics cards that pull more than that on their own. This system in general should be extremely quiet assuming you get a quiet GPU.

    With the sound card, your audio interface is a sound card. You don't require another one to 'handle' it.

    Now you could spend the rest of the cash building a nice socket 2011 setup instead but I don't think it's really necessary. If you were to spend any more cash I would go for a really nice monitor like this:

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16824260038
  2. Thanks for the response,

    I'd like to address your hardware recommendations individually:

    Intel Core i5-2500k - $219.99 - I was looking at the i7 2600K, actually. I thought going with that model would save me the need to upgrade in the future, and if I found myself in need of more processing power I wouldn't have to OC the i5. What do you think?

    16GB (2x8GB) Mushkin Silverline - $107.99

    ASRock Z68 Extreme3 Gen3 - $121.99

    HD 7850 (When its released.) - ~$250 - I think the AMD Radeon HD 6870 will be far more than enough to run Diablo 3, given the recommended system requirements. Far cheaper, too.

    Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB - $129.99 - Like the CPU, I think investing a little more for a long term option is a good idea in this case. I would like something with more than 7200RPM, in case I find myself with a need for it in the future. How important would you say this is for my particular needs?

    Samsung 830 Series 256GB - $379.99 - This might be what I need to boot and run native programs quickly and efficiently because I will have at least 10 programs that I would like to be able to run at any given time, but the price tag is quite hefty. A friend of mine just picked up a solid state boot drive that's 60GB. Not sure what his purposes are, but I wonder if there is a more appropriate middle ground that I could purchase that would both suit my needs and save me some money.

    Seasonic X-560 560W - $124.99

    Fractal Design Define R3 - $109.99 - I'm not sure what to expect with cases. I seem to see a lot with ample space for additional HDs, which is probably best practice for backup. But I wonder about space for cards (i.e. Ethernet, video, audio, etc.). Is 7 enough? Again, in case I have a need to add something in the future but have already filled up the available space.

    Prolimatech PRO-MGH-C - $69.99

    Noctua NF-F12 PWM 120mm - ~$25 (Not on Newegg but is a fantastic fan)
    - For both of these cooling components, how many fans is necessary to effectively keep the computer cool without being an unnecessary tax on power, and is a CPU cooler like the Prolimatech also really necessary? Obviously I do want to keep my computer very cool to avoid the worst, so considering how much power is used is a secondary thought.

    LG DVD Burner - $16.99

    ...
    You also mentioned power consumption - yes, quiet is good, and definitely something I want from my system, but I'm curious about how you know that this rig will not require too much juice... This is just not something I know how to predict.

    As for a sound card, my audio interface is a portable Avid Mbox, but I intend on upgrading this to an interface with far more inputs, and perhaps a built-in mixer. This may suffice as a working "sound card" for my PC, but what if I want to edit music that already exists in my files or just play some music or watch a movie? Won't I need an internal sound card to handle those tasks unless I want my Mbox plugged in all the time?

    ...
    When the time comes to install my OS/core operating files, what exactly should I expect to go through? I have no experience installing an operating system from scratch, but I imagine it involves a hearty amount of patience and frustration. Finding out as much as I can now would be a good start. Also, I should expect to do this using my optical drive and an install DVD, correct?

    ...
    I have been thinking about getting a monitor that would serve as both my television and my PC monitor. I don't need to use both at the same time, and this would allow me to have a really large HD screen that could be wall mounted and adjustable for wherever I am in the room. Obviously I would want a wireless mouse and keyboard, too. The video card I'm looking at has 1x HMDI output, 1x DisplayPort, 2 x DVI (1 Single Link, 1 Dual Link) - I have no idea what any of that means, if I'm honest. I assume it would hook up to the monitor (or TV) via the HDMI connection, but I'm not sure. Also, what if I wanted to include a second monitor for large sections of code/background program monitoring? Would that require two or more direct outputs from the video card, or can they be connected in sort of a daisy chain, with one satellite monitor connected to the primary monitor?

    I know that's a lot to ask, but I appreciate the help!
  3. No problem, happy to help. I'm happy to explain all of my recommendations:

    CPU - The reason I suggested the i5 is because the only real benefit the i7 has over it is Hyperthreading. This means that each core has 2 threads so it's almost like having 8 cores in very specific scenarios. Personally I don't think you would benefit much from it, it would be wiser to put that cash toward cooling and overclock the i5.

    RAM - Personally I don't think you will need 16GB but RAM is quite cheap at the moment and it certainly won't do any harm to buy more than you need. The reason I chose this RAM in particular is because Intel recommend 1333Mhz and it doesn't have the silly tall heat sinks which often get in the way of things like CPU coolers. Also, Mushkin seem to offer good quality and value.

    MOBO - This is a popular board because it offers tons of features for the price. Sometimes ASRock are seen as more of a budget brand but they are my first choice personally and this board has some great reviews.

    GPU - The main reason I suggested a HD 7000 series card was because they have extremely good performance per watt ie. low power consumption. Normally this will mean a much cooler and quieter system. The HD 7850 should give performance similar to the GTX 570 or HD 6970 while consuming almost half the power. The next step down in this series of cards would be the HD 7770, this also offers excellent performance per watt. It is similar to the GTX 460 1GB and HD 6850 in performance but again, consumes far less power. This card should also be fine for Diablo 3.

    HDD - The reason I recommended this drive is because it offers great performance, it is probably the fastest 7200rpm drive on the market while maintaining a reasonable price tag. I would stay away from higher RPM drives personally because they can be very noisy and expensive and their performance won't get close to even the lowest end SSD's. If you are looking for more storage you could either do it externally, buy a 7200rpm 2TB drive or a second F3 drive.

    SSD - This drive is one of the most reliable ones around and is also one of the fastest, it's not cheap but it will make the whole system feel a lot faster when booting, loading programs, bouncing audio etc. I chose a large drive because a) They offer better performance than the smaller ones and b) you mentioned ''Ideally solid state (storage), about 1-2TB'' and the 512GB+ models are far too expensive for most people. If you think 128GB would be enough, you could get that drive instead. I have that one myself, it is still excellent.

    PSU - This PSU may seem very expensive but it is one of the best on the market. Again, you may notice that I have the same PSU. It is because I wanted something very reliable and very quiet and it delivers. It actually has a feature where the fan won't even spin unless it needs to ie. when it gets hot or is pulling a lot of power. It also has 80 plus gold efficiency, this means that less power is wasted. It won't actually save a massive amount of money but any wasted power is turned to heat. So in theory, this should get half as hot as a standard 80 plus PSU. (~80% efficiency = ~20% wasted, ~90% efficiency = ~10% wasted).

    CASE - The reason I chose this case for your build (and mine) is because is has mostly good build quality for the price and is ideal for quiet computing. The closed style of the case and the sound dampening foam on the side panels (among other things) help to reduce noise. The fans are also pretty quiet on their low setting. I would be very surprised if you needed more than 7 expansion slots for this build, the motherboard has things like ethernet, audio and RAID 'cards' built in. The onboard audio will be completely fine for music/movies/gaming when your interface is not plugged in. I imagine this case should provide plenty of space, it is fairly large.

    HEATSINK - The reason I suggested an aftermarket heatsink is to help reduce noise (see below) and provide some headroom for any overclocking you may or may not want to do. It may seem expensive but even when you include the premium fan, it is still cheaper than the upgrade to the i7 and should provide more performance (when overclocked) as well as make the system cooler and quieter.

    FAN - I chose this fan because it is top notch quality and is PWM. PWM stands for pulse width modulation and is almost always used for CPU fans because it will automatically speed up or slow down depending on what the system needs. This means it will be basically inaudible when surfing etc. but when under heavy load it will speed up and provide excellent cooling. (You will probably need to set the fan profile in the BIOS first, it may be at constant full speed by default)

    OPT DRIVE - This is a standard DVD burner just to install your OS and read/write any discs as necessary.


    A few notes on power consumption and noise:

    You can get a rough idea on power consumption by looking at the TDP (Thermal Design Power) of each component. The TDP is a rough idea of the individual component's peak power draw at factory settings. The i5-2500k is 95W, most motherboards will be around 10-20W, fans tend to be around 5W each, your RAM should be roughly 20W, HDD's will be roughly 10W each (SSD's usually a lot less). GPU's vary a lot, the HD 7770 will be roughly 80W and the HD 7850 around 120W while the HD 6870 is around 160-170W.

    The heat in a system is created through inefficiency. In general, the higher the power consumption, the more heat is created. That heat will then be translated to noise because the fans have to work harder to cool the system.

    If you care about low noise, the best way to cool a system is to start with low power consumption. As mentioned earlier, this reduces the amount of heat created in the first place. The next step is to have decent heatsinks. They can sometimes get expensive but they can effectively cool a system while creating no noise whatsoever. After taking these 2 steps, you won't need a lot of airflow to keep the system cool. One or two low RPM 120mm fans on the case and one on each major component (CPU, GPU and PSU) should be fine.


    Formatting your hard drive and installing your operating system isn't a difficult process, just look at a guide on youtube and make a few notes and I'm sure you will be fine. It's not much more difficult than installing standard software. Correct, you just need to use the install DVD and your DVD drive.


    The cheapest way to have a monitor which acts as both a TV and a monitor would be to simply buy a TV and connect it to your PC via HDMI or VGA and to your TV antenna. Although this is the cheapest way, TV's don't tend to look all that great as computer monitors. A better (but more expensive) way would be to buy a nice monitor and install a TV card in your PC. You could then connect your PC via the DVI connector and anything else you need via HDMI etc. Monitors tend to have better colours and response times as well as looking nicer externally. It also means you won't be using terrible sounding TV speakers, you can use your PC speakers for TV and movies. Connecting a second monitor is a relatively painless process also, simply connect it via the other DVI socket (or HDMI/Displayport/VGA) and you should be ready to go. I should mention however should you plan to add another one, a third monitor isn't as simple as that.


    I hope this helps.


    EDIT: That build with the ASUS HD 7770 1GB (apparently the quietest HD 7770) and the 128GB SSD comes to around $1250. It should be excellent for the audio stuff and when it comes to gaming it should be slightly better than my PC and I'm still able to run anything at ultra high settings @ 1920x1200. I tend to turn down the AA and AF on things like BF3 and Skyrim to make things a bit smoother though.
  4. Wow, I can't begin to thank you enough for that valuable information, jmsellars! I think I'm beginning to get a really good understanding of what I want and the likely cost when all is said and done. Some more comments/questions, though:

    Quote:
    CPU - The reason I suggested the i5 is because the only real benefit the i7 has over it is Hyperthreading. This means that each core has 2 threads so it's almost like having 8 cores in very specific scenarios. Personally I don't think you would benefit much from it, it would be wiser to put that cash toward cooling and overclock the i5.


    I like to follow a personal gear-purchasing policy of pay more now to CYA (cover your ass) later. I've used that guideline to make lots of purchases for audio gear and software, and it's worked out well in the long run. I like to treat my gear purchases as legitimate investments, so sometimes spending a little more for better stuff means I can avoid nominal upgrades in the future (to meet the reqs. of other gear that may require more performance from a CPU, for example) and I can generally sell them back to enthusiasts/resellers further into the future when it really is time for a significant upgrade. As far as resale value, I would imagine a used guitar pedal retains its value much more than a used CPU, so this may be a moot point in that people generally wouldn't be interested in used PC parts. Still, I will probably end up going with the i7 for other reasons (see comments about cooling below).

    Quote:
    RAM - Personally I don't think you will need 16GB but RAM is quite cheap at the moment and it certainly won't do any harm to buy more than you need. The reason I chose this RAM in particular is because Intel recommend 1333Mhz and it doesn't have the silly tall heat sinks which often get in the way of things like CPU coolers. Also, Mushkin seem to offer good quality and value.


    Right, it seems that Intel recommends 1066 and 1333. Not sure what that means, but compatibility is obviously necessary to consider. When you say silly tall heat sinks, are you referring to unnecessarily large top-halves to the RAM cards? For example, here is a deal I saw recently but thought the appearance of these RAM cards was kind of gimmicky: <a href="http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820231489&nm_mc=AFC-C8JUNCTION&cm_mmc=AFC-C8JUNCTION-_-EMC-032012-Latest-_-DesktopMemory-_-20231489-L07A&PID=4176827&SID=fvlxssg0ft03&AID=10521304">G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 16GB (2 x 8GB)</a> If I'm correct in what you're saying, I was not aware that the extra space on the top served as a built-in heat reducing mechanism. I can see how this might interfere with the space needed to install additional elements near the MOBO, and I'm not sure the built-in heat sinks would be necessary if care was taken to properly cool the entire system/near the MOBO.

    Quote:
    GPU - The main reason I suggested a HD 7000 series card was because they have extremely good performance per watt ie. low power consumption. Normally this will mean a much cooler and quieter system. The HD 7850 should give performance similar to the GTX 570 or HD 6970 while consuming almost half the power. The next step down in this series of cards would be the HD 7770, this also offers excellent performance per watt. It is similar to the GTX 460 1GB and HD 6850 in performance but again, consumes far less power. This card should also be fine for Diablo 3.


    Noting what you also said about power consumption for these GPUs later in your post - Wow! The Radeon HD 6870 really does consume far more power than the alternatives you offered. The exact model of HD 6870 I was considering is <a href="http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814102948&Tpk=6870">here</a>. You'll notice it has a built in fan (which I've noticed is common, if not ubiquitous) so, like the CPU issue, I wonder if I can find a balance with the system's cooling components (see comments on cooling below).

    Quote:
    HDD - The reason I recommended this drive is because it offers great performance, it is probably the fastest 7200rpm drive on the market while maintaining a reasonable price tag. I would stay away from higher RPM drives personally because they can be very noisy and expensive and their performance won't get close to even the lowest end SSD's. If you are looking for more storage you could either do it externally, buy a 7200rpm 2TB drive or a second F3 drive.


    I'm unsure whether 10K RPM is really necessary for my needs or not, but I often find myself compiling and editing text documents in excess of tens of thousands of lines of code (as well as using programs like Excel to apply formulas to those lines of text/code) and I frequently have data of this size on my clipboard for convenient swapping in and out of different programs/files. I'd hate to interrupt my work flow by having to wait for data this large to load from the clipboard in more than a few seconds. My other concern would be saving/editing audio in a DAW. These may issues that require RAM rather than HDD speeds, however. If you think 7200 RPM is enough to handle this, then I'm sure I won't need anything more. I have an external hard drive with 1TB of space, but it connects via USB, so I will only use it for backup and unused media storage (music and movies).

    SSD & PSU seem like very solid recommendations, although I may go with the 128GB SSD to save a little dough.

    EDIT | I'm seeing some identical SSDs listed on one page as the SSD and other pages as the SSD desktop upgrade kit. What's the difference/which one do I need?

    Quote:
    CASE - The reason I chose this case for your build (and mine) is because is has mostly good build quality for the price and is ideal for quiet computing. The closed style of the case and the sound dampening foam on the side panels (among other things) help to reduce noise. The fans are also pretty quiet on their low setting. I would be very surprised if you needed more than 7 expansion slots for this build, the motherboard has things like ethernet, audio and RAID 'cards' built in. The onboard audio will be completely fine for music/movies/gaming when your interface is not plugged in. I imagine this case should provide plenty of space, it is fairly large.


    About the sound dampening foam on the sides of the panels - won't this contribute to a build-up of heat? After all the sound-dampening qualities of foam come from the presence of air in the foam's "bubbles" but we know air to be a great insulator (it's why winter jackets are so puffy). I would also hate to realize that I only need one more PCI input to install, say, the TV card, but I'm pretty sure that I won't be using 6 backup harddrives or any more than 2 optical drives, so I was thinking a case with less space here but more space for PCI would best suit my needs. A friend of mine just bought a case larger than what he expects to need, and his reasoning was that the extra space would keep the individual components from overheating within a tight space, and that he would have the extra room in case he felt like making additions in the future. I thought that was a pretty good idea.

    Quote:
    HEATSINK - The reason I suggested an aftermarket heatsink is to help reduce noise (see below) and provide some headroom for any overclocking you may or may not want to do. It may seem expensive but even when you include the premium fan, it is still cheaper than the upgrade to the i7 and should provide more performance (when overclocked) as well as make the system cooler and quieter.


    COOLING COMMENTS:
    Does overclocking a CPU void its warranty/other support privileges from the manufacturer? Also, does it shorten the lifespan of the CPU or otherwise impact its value/longevity? Either way, like I said before, I don't intend to overclock an i5 and instead plan to purchase an i7 (just personal preference). Would this mean that a cooling component other than fans is no longer necessary, or would it be a good idea to have one installed just in case (or to reduce the amount of fans that are required)? And if I plan to go with a GPU that uses more wattage, would using a heatsink like this be necessary to keep the system consistently cool and still quiet?

    Fans: Thanks for the recommendation, these sound great.

    Monitor: Sounds like my best bet is to use a monitor as both the PC screen and an HDTV via the TV card. Eventually I would like to have a smaller, additional monitor for editing large text documents/code and viewing performance info like running temperature, resource monitor, and checking on programs running in the background.
  5. SSD - The desktop upgrade kit is the same SSD but comes with a few bits and pieces to help when installing in a desktop. That's the one I bought myself actually, you get a 3.5'' to 2.5'' bracket and some OS migration software. Since you're installing a new OS rather than moving an old one, you won't need the software. With that case in particular you don't need the bracket either.


    CPU - Overclocking will void the warranty, if this is something that bothers you perhaps take a look at this:

    http://click.intel.com/tuningplan/

    Intel offer a warranty for overclockers, pay $20 (for the i5) or $25 (for the i7) and that buys you a single replacement should something go wrong.

    Overclocking will make the chip run hotter which in turn could reduce the lifespan, yes. In general though, CPU chips are almost always replaced long before the end of their lifespan. In my experience they can last a good 15-20 years, even if you were unlucky and severely reduced that to 8-10 years I imagine it wouldn't matter since you would surely replace it within 5. I should mention also, it is usually very heavy overclocking that gives this problem. I think you could probably get either of those chips to around 4 - 4.2Ghz while only going a few degrees hotter. Those few degrees won't matter if you have a quality heatsink and fan.

    RAM - Yes, the very tall top halves of the RAM are heat spreaders. They are only there for show though, DDR3 RAM just doesn't require heat spreaders, it doesn't get hot enough.

    GPU - Virtually all graphics cards over 50W or so will have their own fan(s) built in. It is very hard to tell which ones will be quiet though but I tend to prefer the ones with larger heatsinks and a fewer, large fans instead of multiple smaller ones. In my experience, ASUS tend to make some very quiet cards. The DirectCU cards in particular. In terms of performance, I would call the HD 7770 adequate for your usage. If you are not too anal about ultra high framerates and the highest possible settings then I would go for it. If it all does have to be perfect though, the HD 7850 would be the better option.

    HDD - The SSD will be taking the place of the 10K RPM hard drive and will be much faster while being a lot cooler, quieter and will consume a lot less power. If you think it's not big enough, perhaps go for the larger model. Personally I wouldn't consider the 10K drive as an option.

    CASE - Both the closed style of the case and the sound dampening foam will contribute to a build-up of heat, yes. This shouldn't be a problem though with a <120W graphics card and a CPU with an aftermarket heatsink. So long as you have a 120mm fan pulling air out the rear of the case I think you should be fine. The problem with a quiet PC is that you do have to make a few sacrifices. Yes it will keep the heat from escaping, but also keeps the noise from escaping.

    If you went with a larger case (an ATX full tower), you wouldn't be able to utilise the extra expansion slots without buying a larger motherboard (eATX) anyway. These can get quite expensive and I really don't see how you could manage to fill up so many slots. The TV card will take one and the GPU will take 2, you would still have over half of them left. By all means go for a different case but keep this in mind.

    HSF - Even if not overclocking, I would definitely still buy a decent heatsink to reduce the airflow needed as you mentioned. You could buy a cheaper one if not overclocking though, the Coolermaster Hyper 212 Evo is a good one and is very quiet on it's lowest setting. EDIT: You also won't need any extra fan(s) for this one.
  6. Thanks again for the info, here's a near finished list of gear I'm considering:

    CPU - i7 2600k
    Mobo - ASRock Z68 Ext3 Gen3
    GPU - Sapphire HD 6850 (currently $120 deal going on, but ends shortly)
    SSD Boot - Corsair Force GT 180GB SATA III (currently $210 deal that also ends shortly)
    HDD Work - Any 1-2TB 7200RPM SATA 6.0 Gb/s (waiting for a good deal on one)
    Case - Fractal Design Define R3 or similarly spec'd sound-dampening case
    RAM - 16GB (2x 8GB) any moderately sized cards (waiting for a deal close to/under $100)
    PSU - Seasonic Active PFC F3 - This purchase is contingent on the power requirements for all other components, and will necessarily be purchased last (or close to it). What I really like about your recommendation is the 80+ Gold rating and fan control options. I will definitely look for 80+ Gold in other models, if needed.
    Fans - As many that fit the case I go with and whatever's required to maintain proper air flow (I like the idea of PWM, though)

    I'm still at a loss regarding the monitor and TV tuner, however. I have started a thread asking more about that, and have narrowed down my needs (a little) to the following:
    27"-30"
    1920x1080 resolution

    I would like to pay no more than $500 for a monitor, but that may not be possible if I want the following requirements to apply, as well:
    Accurate color representation
    Low power consumption
    Large viewing angles in terms of both color and contrast

    I suppose I'll just wait and see what sales are made available for monitors fitting those criteria in the upcoming days and maybe weeks :-/

    For a TV tuner, it looks like I am faced with either a PCIe, PCI, or USB-connected tuner. I should definitely mention that I don't have HDTV service (or an HDTV in my home for that matter) so I don't need a tuner that will maintain that quality (which makes me think a USB-connected tuner may suffice). I also have no desire to record any TV, although being able to do so without having to pay much extra would be a huge plus. Finally, I may not have access to all the available channels (ClearQAM only) because I will probably not purchase an additional cable box for this room. I'm fine with the limited ClearQAM options available simply using a coaxial connection from the wall.

    Lastly, I'd like to be able to wall-mount the monitor with the ability to change its height depending on whether I'm working at my desk (monitor would be ~4ft. off the ground) or sitting across the room (monitor would be ~6ft. off the floor). It's not a large room - I would be sitting 10-12ft. away at most. I have yet to find a wall mount that offers more than tilt and swivel.

    So what do you think? You've been a big help so far and I'm really excited to start making purchases. Anyone else who would like to contribute is also welcome!
  7. If you want a PSU with the hybrid fan and the 80 plus gold rating, I'd look at anything in the Seasonic X series or Corsair AX series. As far as I'm aware, the lowest wattage with the Seasonics is 560W (there are 400W and 460W models but they are completely fanless) and the lowest with the Corsairs is 650W. You only really need about 450W so I'd get the X-560.

    For the monitor, it sounds like you are definitely looking for an IPS panel instead of a standard TN one. An IPS panel will give massively better viewing angles and the colours should be a lot better as well, they can get expensive though.

    The fans included with the case should be fine but I would buy an aftermarket heatsink to be sure, the Coolermaster Hyper 212 Evo is quite cheap and would do the job.

    Some similar cases to the R3 are the NZXT H2, Coolermaster Silencio, Antec P180. Lian Li make some similar cases too and although more expensive, they are usually made from aluminium and look fantastic.

    Although you have found some good deals on the SSD and GPU, I would still go with a more reliable drive and a less power hungry GPU. (This is just personal preference, there is nothing wrong with those choices.) The reason being, the HD 7770 gives similar performance to the HD 6850 while consuming almost half the power and it only costs a bit more than the one on the deal you pointed out. With the SSD, most seem to find that Crucial, Samsung and Intel make the most reliable SSD's around at the moment so I tend to stick with them. Again though, there's nothing wrong with that drive, this is just preference really.
  8. It's been a while since I've posted any new information on this thread, but I'm happy to say that I am really close to being done making purchases for this build. So far, I have the following components in my possession:

    Case - Fractal Design Define R3 (recently got a great deal on this! couldn't be happier)
    CPU - Intel Core i7 2600K
    Mobo - ASRock Z68 Extreme3 Gen3
    RAM - 16GB (2x 8GB) Mushkin Silverline cards
    GPU - Sapphire HD 7770
    SSD - Corsair Force Series 3 180GB SATA III

    Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit OEM

    I still need: HDD + PSU + DVD Drive + Heatsink/Fans ( + Monitor, but I will save that for another discussion)


    I pretty much know what kind of HDD I'm interested in - 1-2TB, 7200RPM, SATA 6.0GB/s Internal Drive from a trusted brand like WD / Seagate. ($100-$200)
    The DVD Drive is a no-brainer (~$20)
    The case came with a front and rear fan, but has room for 2x top, 1x side, and 1x bottom additional fans. With the relatively low power consumption of this rig, I won't worry about purchasing extras for now.

    ***
    CPU Heatsink - Not sure what I really need here. Because the i7 won't be OC'd, I suppose I only need a metal heatsink (not necessarily an attached PWM fan). I know very little about heatsinks and CPU cooling components in general, but the purpose here would be to do only what's necessary to keep the system cool with only the factory installed fans (front, back, CPU, GPU, PSU) even when heavy lifting / being on for 24+ hours. So far I have had the following recommended to me: COOLER MASTER Hyper 212 EVO & Prolimatech PRO-MGH-C. What best suits my needs? Any other suggestions?

    PSU - After calculating my expected power needs, I've found that I am recommended to have ~300W at an absolute minimum and perhaps ~400W with some extra components that I may purchase in the future. These additional components include: 4 more 120mm fans, TV tuner card for cable, PCI NIC card for wireless, SoundBlaster card for a better audio interface, and an overclocked CPU. I'm not 100% sure I accurately filled out the information in that calculator, however, and I've heard to take their calculated power recommendations with a grain of salt. I'm unsure of the TDP of the components I have and intend on buying for this rig, so if anyone could offer their expectations for my power needs with those parts, I would really appreciate it. That being said, it seems like the PSU that was recommended in this thread is still a great one to go with. I'm particularly interested in the 80+ Gold rating in order to waste as little wattage as possible. Does anyone have any further recommendations or explanations for this component before I move forward in purchasing it?
    ***

    And that's all the new info I have right now. I'm still looking into a good 27" LED monitor that is wall mountable. I find this combination is hard to find, at least for an acceptable price, but I'll keep looking. Anyone got any good recommendations for online stores or even actual stores that have better prices for monitors? I do live near a Microcenter :)

    In the future, I may also purchase a TV tuner, wireless network PCI card, more fans, and anything needed for OC'ing the i7 2600K (such as a better CPU cooling setup). For now, though, I'm really looking forward to pulling my hair out trying to troubleshoot BIOS and OS issues :D Only half kidding, but knowing me I'll run into a problem at some point. That's half the fun though.
  9. Heatsink - I certainly wouldn't go with a passive heatsink for this, I would go with one with a fan. It doesn't necessarily have to be a separate one as most will come with one. The stock may may be OK but when spending over $1000 on a build (especially with a silence-oriented case) I would always go with a better one for the sake of $40 or so. It will mean quieter operation and more peace of mind as these quieter cases with the foam can get a bit warm. That Coolermaster one is fantastic value for money and should be fine even when overclocking. I originally suggested the other one because of your high budget but the Coolermaster one is still great. (Probably the most popular heatsink on the market)

    PSU - 300W bare minimum, 400W+ recommended sounds about right to me. That Seasonic is top notch but if you're not happy with spending that much on a PSU, there are cheaper options.

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817104097

    That is still 80 Plus Gold but won't have quite the same quality of the Seasonic. You also miss out on the hybrid fan and modular cables.

    A few notes on PSU's:

    A PSU will only pull as much power as it needs so don't worry about going with one with a higher wattage than what you need. However if you go with one too high, it won't be very efficient because PSU's run most efficient at around 40-80% load. For example, if you were only pulling 100W from a 1000W PSU it would be extremely inefficient and create a lot of unnecessary heat and noise. (This is less of a problem with 80 PLUS Gold PSU's but still an issue.)


    The fan speed and noise on graphics cards is rarely advertised so as a silence enthusiast, I try to research into it when people buy different graphics cards. If when you are set up, you are able to install something like MSI afterburner (GPU overclocking tool) and let me know what your minimum fan speed is in % and how quiet it is I would be very appreciative. :)

    GPU fan speeds tend to vary a lot, my minimum is 40% but I have seen as low as 10% on certain cards. Mine is a bit noisy but 10% on my friend's ASUS GTX 560Ti was almost inaudible.
  10. My friend, your continued help is extremely appreciated. Can't thank you enough!

    My CPU comes with a fan, so I'm just curious about why it's necessary to buy a heatsink with a fan if I already have this. Perhaps it's simply a matter of being able to fit.

    I am still considering the original PSU you recommended, as it's certainly a component worth spending the extra money for. The last thing I would ever want is to sacrifice the stability and safety of my other components by purchasing a low quality PSU. The price point does seem a bit high, however. I am therefore also considering the 600W model of the FSP PSU (it's available at my local Microcenter, while the 500W version is not, so I can save a little money that way and not have to deal with restocking fees in case I need to return it).

    I would be more than happy to provide you with that information for the video card. You've certainly earned it! :)
  11. After brushing up on my knowledge of PSUs in general, and reading through several reviews for the Seasonic 560W, I'm pretty sure that I'll end up getting that model. Although it's relatively expensive, its superior performance and reliability (not to mention a 5-year warranty) make it a very good investment. I'm all about good investments :)
  12. The CPU does include a heatsink/fan but it isn't a particularly great one. The fan will have to work a lot harder than it would with the Coolermaster one, so it would be quite noisy (especially under load.)

    Many people do stick with the stock cooler if not overclocking so I'm not suggesting that it's unsafe but I wouldn't recommend it if you care about low noise.
  13. Any reason you recommended the COOLER MASTER Hyper 212 EVO over these other similar models?

    The ever popular and industry standard COOLER MASTER Hyper 212 Plus

    The dual-fan, long life-span COOLER MASTER Hyper N 520

    There is currently a Microcenter promotion that has lowered the price of the 212 Plus to only $20, so that's appealing. But this is an older model. I'm sure it would do the trick just fine, but maybe you have some insight as to why one of the other two models would be a better investment.

    The Hyper N 520 has a longer fan life-span (70,000 hours to the 212 Plus & 212 EVO's 40,000) and produces significantly increased air flow through the aluminum fins. It's priced exactly the same ($34.99) as the 212 EVO on Newegg. I suppose the added airflow may only be a significant benefit if overclocking the CPU.

    At the lowest RPM, it seems the 212 EVO (8dB) is the quietest, followed by the 212 Plus (13dB), and significantly louder (although I don't know if it was rated at the lowest RPM or an average dB rating) is the Hyper N (19dB). The 212 EVO also offers 'continuous direct contact heat pipes' which appear to improve the transfer of heat away from the CPU, and probably also make it easier to properly apply thermal paste.

    Now, I may have answered my own question by pointing out the differences in these models, leading to the conclusion that this is simply a matter of preference. But I wanted to ask you personally why you would go with the 212 EVO over these other two models. Perhaps there is some aspect that I haven't consider that would lead to a clear distinction between the 212 EVO and the other models for my specific purposes.

    One last note: Any tips for properly applying thermal paste? This seems to be a very important step, and I've heard contrasting opinions on how to do this correctly (one example recommended only applying a thin line of paste "about the size of a grain of rice or two" along the center - the other example dotted the paste on all 4 corners and in the middle, and proceeded to liberally spread the drops evenly over the processor face)
  14. I recommended the Hyper 212 Evo because it is the quietest and has the best heatsink of those 3 and of most other coolers at this price point. It has more surface area than the Hyper N because it is a larger heatsink and it makes better contact than the Hyper 212 Plus. It also comes with the quietest fan of these 3 coolers. In terms of cooling it's hard to say but I think the Hyper N and Hyper 212 Evo would probably slightly better than the 212 Plus but I don't think there will be a massive difference.

    The way I apply the paste is to put a pea sized dot in the middle of the chip and mount the heatsink on top of it.
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