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Spec'd out new $600 HTPC/mid-level gaming build. Thoughts?

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March 26, 2012 11:55:49 PM

Hey everyone!

I'm thrilled to finally have a reason to post on here. After many, many years of being laptop based, I've decided to build a new tower. That being said, I might be rusty. I've read quite a bit here on the forums, done a fair bit of research, and spec'd out what I think I'm going to go with. If you wouldn't mind, I'd appreciate some advice though to make sure I'm in the right ballpark.


Approximate Purchase Date: this week

Budget Range: $600 out the door, after tax and shipping. I'm ok with using rebates.

System Usage from Most to Least Important: First priority, HTPC/media server. Second priority, as much gaming as I can squeeze out of a $600 build (I'm realistic and know it will likely only be mid-level game performance.)

Parts Not Required: keyboard, mouse, monitor, speakers, OS

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: newegg.com; open to others. 45 minutes from a Micro Center, so that's an option too.

Country: USA

Parts Preferences: no particular preference

Overclocking: Maybe

SLI or Crossfire: Probably not

Monitor Resolution: 1920 x 1080 (using hdmi to a 52" 1080p hdtv)

Additional Comments:

1. The primary use will be HTPC. I do all my tv watching via usenet/torrent downloads. Current setup has them stored on my laptop and streamed to my ps3 via ps3 media server. New build needs to be moderately quiet.

2. I'm unfamiliar with how analog 5.1 connections work. On my all-in-one stereo, I have 2 optical inputs in-use. I believe I also have one un-used analog input (single RCA style plug). If I'm following things right, I should be able to output 5.1 from the audio jack on the mobo to the analog RCA input (with the proper cable)? I've read that this will only give me 5.1 on video things, not games which would require a dedicated sound card. 5.1 sound for gaming is not necessary for the initial build.

3. If I decide in the future to make it more of a serious gaming machine, I'll consider a beefy gfx at that time.

Here's what I've come up with:

CPU
AMD Phenom II X4 960T Zosma 3.0GHz Socket AM3 95W Quad-Core Desktop Processor HD96ZTWFGRBOX
$139 - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

GFX
ZOTAC AMP! ZT-50402-10L GeForce GTX 550 Ti (Fermi) 1GB 192-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Support Video Card
$124 - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Motherboard
ASRock N68C-S UCC AM3/AM2+/AM2 NVIDIA GeForce 7025 / nForce 630a Micro ATX AMD Motherboard
$49 - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Memory
Patriot Gamer 2 Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Desktop Memory Model PGD38G1333ELK
$29 after rebate - Already purchased

Hard Drive
Seagate Barracuda ST31000524AS 1TB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive
$109 - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Power Supply
Rosewill Stallion Series RD450-2-DB 450W ATX V2.2 Power Supply
$34 - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Case
Antec Three Hundred Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case
$39 after rebate - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Optical Drive
LITE-ON 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 Black SATA Model iHAS124-04 - OEM
$17 - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...


Estimated tax - $39
Estimated shipping - $20

Total estimated cost - $607


So, whatcha think?

Thanks!
-Sean
March 27, 2012 4:14:47 PM

Hmm, well since no one has posted to tell me how much my planned build sucks, I'll take that as good news.

-Sean
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March 27, 2012 4:37:54 PM

It looks pretty cool but I'd get a psu with more power, but only if you think of getting a better GPU in the future. I think the fans in that case are quite loud for a htpc. I'd put some noctua's in there if you are willing to pay for them (they're quite expencive).

Hope this helped!
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March 27, 2012 4:40:09 PM

The Phenom 2 and mobo combo is cheap of course but you have no upgrade possibilites: The new AMD cpus (bulldozer/pile driver) are AM3+, your mobo is only AM3. Also these days Intel CPUs are much better, socket 1155 being the king of performance and upgradability. Check out Pentiums and i3s.

450 watts might be cutting it close....
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March 27, 2012 5:02:17 PM

for an HTPC and basic gaming, I'd consider a Llano build:

A8-3870K
A75 motherboard
8 GB of DDR3-1600 or 1866 RAM
80-90GB SSD for boot drive (could drop to a 60-64 or up to 120-128GB model)
2 TB HDD for media storage
Optional a HD6670 for hybrid crossfire (in DX11 titles it approaches a 6770 and 550 performance)

corsair 430W PSU
case to your taste (I like the Rosewill R102 for this)

excellent htpc performance, great at 1600x900 gaming
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March 27, 2012 5:03:24 PM

Thanks!

vyreon, I'll definitely keep new fans in mind for a future upgrade. Figured I'd see what it's like as-is first.

MAx1s, by no upgrades, do you mean solely for the cpu? I was hoping that for my mid-level gaming needs I could just put a hefty gfx card in at a later date and that might do the trick. I don't see myself even considering to upgrade the CPU for a couple years.

As for Intel chips, I was under the impression that if it wasn't i5, it wasn't worth it. Since i5 is out of my budget, I didn't even bother looking at any Intel cpus.

I'll revisit the PSU choice. I used some wattage estimator I found online and it quoted something like 350 needed.

Thanks!
-Sean
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March 27, 2012 5:05:53 PM

Thanks ScrewySqrl, I'll take a look at those although just from a glance I think that's far out of my budget.

-Sean
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March 27, 2012 5:29:53 PM

If you're less than an hour away from a Microcenter, it will be worth your time to go there for your CPU and Motherboard.

For instance, they have the Core i5-2500k cpu for $180 that gives you $50 off most z68 motherboards when purchased. You can pick up the 2500k along with a Asrock z68 pro3-m for $54 or a Gigabyte Gaz68Ap for $35. That certainly puts you around $30 more than your current cpu/mobo combo (more if you get Newegg tax free), which is certainly worth it for the upgrade in performance.

Alternatively, you can get your AMD 960T cpu bundled with a cheap motherboard at Microcenter for $110 total, so if you're trying to cut out some more cost on your build, that would be another way to go.

http://www.microcenter.com/specials/catalogs/index.html
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March 27, 2012 5:36:12 PM

I dropped back into the thread to edit my CPU. Not sure how I missed this but there's what seems to be a better AMD for the same price. Updated my original post.

Hmm, very interesting max. Is that i5 a significant boost in performance, or marginal that I might not notice in reality?
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March 27, 2012 5:38:27 PM

Hmm, well it won't let me edit posts, perhaps because I just registered yesterday.

Before considering Max's suggestion, I was going to update the CPU to AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition Deneb 3.4GHz Socket AM3 125W Quad-Core Processor HDZ965FBGMBOX (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...)
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Best solution

March 27, 2012 5:43:29 PM

grifta67 said:
I dropped back into the thread to edit my CPU. Not sure how I missed this but there's what seems to be a better AMD for the same price. Updated my original post.

Hmm, very interesting max. Is that i5 a significant boost in performance, or marginal that I might not notice in reality?



There's a fair bit of difference in terms of performance between the two cpus. Here's Tom's CPU hierarchy chart if you'd like their view on it.

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/gaming-cpu-review-o...

For the amount you'd spend on Newegg, go to Microcenter and spend an extra $30 dollars on the i5 2500k and motherboard combo. If you're trying to get the computer in as cheaply as possible while still being usable for your needs, go to Microcenter and get the 960t and motherboard combo for around $110 and save yourself the hundred dollars.
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March 27, 2012 5:49:42 PM

Thanks MAx. The Anandtech benchmarks were a bit back and forth so I wasn't too sure. Of course the i5 led in the gaming tests but there were enough other benchmarks that the AMD won on to give me pause. That chart is helpful.

The cheaper mobo at Microcenter is sold out unfortunately, so I'd have to go with the Asrock z68 pro3-m. It puts me over budget but it might be worth it.

-Sean
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March 27, 2012 5:57:39 PM

grifta67 said:
Thanks MAx. The Anandtech benchmarks were a bit back and forth so I wasn't too sure. Of course the i5 led in the gaming tests but there were enough other benchmarks that the AMD won on to give me pause. That chart is helpful.

The cheaper mobo at Microcenter is sold out unfortunately, so I'd have to go with the Asrock z68 pro3-m. It puts me over budget but it might be worth it.

-Sean



It looks like the Anandtech benchmarks you linked to are very one sided towards the Core i5 2500k, as would be expected, with the Core i5 winning in every match. Make sure when you're reading the chart you realized that some are 'higher is better' and others are 'lower is better'.

The AsRock pro3-m for $50 from Microcenter is the same board I have and I've been happy with it, especially for the bundled price.

I think the core i5 w/ motherboard for a little over $200 is the better deal, that being said, there's nothing wrong with saving the $100 and getting the AMD bundle at Microcenter if you're trying to cut costs. But regardless of your choice, make sure to get the cpu/motherboard at Microcenter as their bundled prices are the best deals you'll be able to find.
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March 27, 2012 6:06:26 PM

What do you think of this instead. It has a better CPU IMO.

Motherboard/CPU Combo
Intel Core i3-2100 Sandy Bridge 3.1GHz LGA 1155 65W Dual-Core Desktop Processor Intel HD Graphics 2000 BX80623I32100 bundled with:
1x GIGABYTE GA-Z68XP-UD3 LGA 1155 Intel Z68 HDMI $259.98
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

GIGABYTE GV-R775OC-1GI Radeon HD 7750 1GB 128-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 3.0 x16 HDCP Ready Video Card $109.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

PSU
Rosewill Green Series RG530-S12 530W Continuous @40°C, 80 PLUS Certified, Single 12V Rail, Active PFC "Compatible with Core i7,i5" Power Supply $49.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Case
Antec Three Hundred Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case
$39 after rebate - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6811129042


Memory
Patriot Gamer 2 Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Desktop Memory Model PGD38G1333ELK
$29 after rebate - Already purchased

HDD
HITACHI Deskstar 7K1000.D HDS721010DLE630 (0F13180) 1TB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive $99.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Optical Drive
LITE-ON 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 Black SATA Model iHAS124-04 - OEM
$17 - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6827106289

$606.94 total with rebates
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March 27, 2012 6:07:22 PM

So since it looks like I'll be making the drive to Microcenter, I looked into their gfx cards too.

any thoughts on the Zotec ZT-50801-10P NVIDIA GeForce GT 545 1536MB DDR3? I don't see anything online about it and it's not listed at newegg, but it's an extra .5GB on the one I was looking at for much cheaper. That would help off-set the i5 choice.

If not that, I'm looking at the EVGA 01G-P3-1557-KR NVIDIA GeForce GTX 550 Ti Superclocked 1024MB GDDR5 which after rebate and lack of shipping is $15 less than my original choice.

-Sean
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March 27, 2012 6:10:58 PM

odwillia, thanks for the input! Curious about your choices to go to an i3 dual core vs the newly suggested i5 quad, and with the different gfx card.

Regardless, thanks for finding that hard drive that knocks $10 off my price!

-Sean
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March 27, 2012 6:15:35 PM

grifta67 said:
odwillia, thanks for the input! Curious about your choices to go to an i3 dual core vs the newly suggested i5 quad, and with the different gfx card.

Regardless, thanks for finding that hard drive that knocks $10 off my price!

-Sean


Tom's GPU hierachy is an excellent resource for quickly comparing the power of different gpus.

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/gaming-graphics-car...

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March 27, 2012 6:23:04 PM

grifta67 said:
odwillia, thanks for the input! Curious about your choices to go to an i3 dual core vs the newly suggested i5 quad, and with the different gfx card.

Regardless, thanks for finding that hard drive that knocks $10 off my price!

-Sean


No problem. I suggested the I3 in response to the AMD CPUs. The I5 is much better if you can go that route.
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March 27, 2012 6:39:45 PM

Max, thanks for the link again. I guess I've never really ventured outside of the forums here! While I was tempted by a 2GB card, I think Ill go with that EVGA 550 Ti.

Odwilla, I figured that might have been it. Very much appreciated!

It's starting to look like I can get everything from MicroCenter. This eliminates the $20 in shipping which brings things more in line with my budget. At the moment, all I have listed from Newegg still is the HD and case.

Any thoughts on a 7200rpm 32MB cache 6.0Gb/s 1TB drive versus a 5900rpm 64MB cache 6.0Gb/s 1.5TB drive? Once I'm at 1TB, the extra .5 isn't needed. My instinct is it absolutely must be 7200rpm, but maybe the doubled cache would make up the difference.
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March 27, 2012 6:48:26 PM

grifta67 said:
Max, thanks for the link again. I guess I've never really ventured outside of the forums here! While I was tempted by a 2GB card, I think Ill go with that EVGA 550 Ti.

Odwilla, I figured that might have been it. Very much appreciated!

It's starting to look like I can get everything from MicroCenter. This eliminates the $20 in shipping which brings things more in line with my budget. At the moment, all I have listed from Newegg still is the HD and case.

Any thoughts on a 7200rpm 32MB cache 6.0Gb/s 1TB drive versus a 5900rpm 64MB cache 6.0Gb/s 1.5TB drive? Once I'm at 1TB, the extra .5 isn't needed. My instinct is it absolutely must be 7200rpm, but maybe the doubled cache would make up the difference.



Microcenter has great, unbeatable even, deals on Motherboards and CPUs. I often go to Newegg for other parts as they tend to be a bit cheaper, and I don't pay tax on Newegg in Boston like I do for Microcenter.

If the 7200rpm and the 5900rpm drives have the same platter density then the 7200rpm drive should be faster. If one has a higher platter density than the other, it will most likely be the faster drive. All said, you'll most likely want to just compare reviews and data transfer speeds between whichever drives you're looking at to pick the right one for you.
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March 27, 2012 6:58:38 PM

Unfortunately being in California, I'm stuck paying tax on Newegg orders. It's not as much of a money saver as you get to enjoy!

A bit frustrating as I already ordered my RAM from Newegg and have to wait on that, but I think everything else will come from Microcenter.


So after everyone's fantastic help, I think this is where I stand. Overall, my cost increased by only $18 and I now have a better CPU. I'm quite thrilled!

Max, thanks for the link again. I guess I've never really ventured outside of the forums here! While I was tempted by a 2GB card, I think Ill go with that EVGA 550 Ti.

Odwilla, I figured that might have been it. Very much appreciated!

So after everyone's fantastic help, I think this is where I stand.

CPU
Core i5 2500K LGA 1155 Boxed Processor
$179 - http://www.microcenter.com/single_product_results.phtml...

GFX
evga 01G-P3-1557-KR NVIDIA GeForce GTX 550 Ti Superclocked 1024MB GDDR5 PCIe 2.0 x16 Video Card
$129 - http://www.microcenter.com/single_product_results.phtml...

Motherboard
ASRock Z68 Pro3-M Socket 1155 Z68 mATX Intel Motherboard
$54 - http://www.microcenter.com/single_product_results.phtml...

Memory
Patriot Gamer 2 Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Desktop Memory Model PGD38G1333ELK
$29 after rebate - Already purchased

Hard Drive
HITACHI Deskstar 7K1000.D 1TB 7,200RPM 32MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive - OEM
$109 - http://www.microcenter.com/single_product_results.phtml...

Power Supply
Antec Basiq Series VP450 450 Watt ATX Power Supply
$34 - http://www.microcenter.com/single_product_results.phtml...

Case
Thermaltake V3 Black Edition ATX Mid Tower Computer Case
$27 - http://www.microcenter.com/single_product_results.phtml...

Optical Drive
LG 22x DVD±RW Super Multi Dual Layer Burner - OEM
$15 - http://www.microcenter.com/single_product_results.phtml...


Estimated tax - $42
Estimated shipping - $0

Total estimated cost - $625


CPU
Core i5 2500K LGA 1155 Boxed Processor
$179 - http://www.microcenter.com/single_product_results.phtml...

GFX
evga 01G-P3-1557-KR NVIDIA GeForce GTX 550 Ti Superclocked 1024MB GDDR5 PCIe 2.0 x16 Video Card
$129 - http://www.microcenter.com/single_product_results.phtml...

Motherboard
ASRock Z68 Pro3-M Socket 1155 Z68 mATX Intel Motherboard
$54 - http://www.microcenter.com/single_product_results.phtml...

Memory
Patriot Gamer 2 Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Desktop Memory Model PGD38G1333ELK
$29 after rebate - Already purchased

Hard Drive
HITACHI Deskstar 7K1000.D 1TB 7,200RPM 32MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive - OEM
$109 - http://www.microcenter.com/single_product_results.phtml...

Power Supply
Antec Basiq Series VP450 450 Watt ATX Power Supply
$34 - http://www.microcenter.com/single_product_results.phtml...

Case
Thermaltake V3 Black Edition ATX Mid Tower Computer Case
$27 - http://www.microcenter.com/single_product_results.phtml...

Optical Drive
LG 22x DVD±RW Super Multi Dual Layer Burner - OEM
$15 - http://www.microcenter.com/single_product_results.phtml...


Estimated tax - $42
Estimated shipping - $0

Total estimated cost - $625

-Sean
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March 27, 2012 7:24:13 PM

thats a very solid build!

with a faster GPU that woudl b a good gaming PC.

the HD7850 will run in that Antec 450W PSU just fine, as a future upgrade
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March 27, 2012 7:31:14 PM

It will be a good computer and about as much performance as possible for around $600. The Microcenter i5 2500k/motherboard combo has been the best price/performance for the past year or so and makes for a great gaming computer.

I would say the first upgrade you should plan for in the future is $100 to $200 for the nicest SSD you can buy at the time. Beyond that an upgraded GPU is probably the only other thing you'll end up upgrading on the rig down the line.
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March 27, 2012 7:36:45 PM

Thanks guys! I'm thrilled to hear that, especially since I haven't dabbled in building a PC in probably 7 years. Looks like I hit my goal pretty well and should be able to do some decent gaming. I'll for sure be looking into buying a beast of a gfx card at some point in the future if I end up gaming on it more than I plan now. An SSD is certainly attractive as well since those ultra short boot times are mesmerizing.

Thanks so much for everyone's help, especially Max. I'll try to remember to update once I've had it for a bit and given it a good run.

-Sean
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March 27, 2012 7:42:49 PM

sean! on toms hardware?

HI, I really thought I'd never see you anywhere outside fudzilla, so you're buying something AMD?

I really recommend you get an (the) unlocker APU for cheaper, it uses less power and generally it would be quieter

maybe you could xfire it with something like a 6670, it would also be a good game performer
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March 27, 2012 7:50:53 PM

grifta67 said:
Thanks ScrewySqrl, I'll take a look at those although just from a glance I think that's far out of my budget.

-Sean

just like what I said, but it is really cheap
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March 28, 2012 8:11:16 AM

A Radeon 6790 or 6850 will outperform the 550 Ti for a similar price.
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April 4, 2012 12:16:59 AM

Best answer selected by grifta67.
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