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Building my first gaming computer

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April 17, 2012 7:43:26 PM

Hello fellow tomshardware.com users!

I am a college student who has always wanted to build a custom computer but never really had a chance to because of financial reasons.

Anyway, now that I have actually saved up some money I want to build a computer.

Actually, I saved up some money so that I could either 1) Build a computer and buy a monitor or 2) Buy an XBox 360 and a decent size low-tier brand TV.

I'm really not sure what I want between the two but I'm leaning towards building a computer.

I have talked to my friends who have built computers and they tell me not to spend more than $500~$600. Well, they built it a couple years ago with good deals on components such as rebates, etc. So I'm thinking it might be different now.

The thing is, I really don't play that much video games but whenever I do, I like to try different things. I'm really not a hardcore gamer and the only game I consistently play is StarCraft 2. I'm running it on my laptop with i5-2410 w/ integrated Intel HD 3000, and I really don't like the quality.

So I was thinking that if I want to build a computer, I want it to last for at least 3~4 years.

I have been looking up some CPUs on http://www.cpubenchmark.net and price on tigerdirect.com and newegg.com and I really don't know what to choose.

I was looking at i3-2120, i5-2500K, Phenom II X6 1045T, and FX-8120. The reviews and benchmark tests that have been done on AMD processors show that they are slightly inferior to Intel processors. Initially, I was thinking to go with AMD because of the price and the performance.

However, when I went to tomshardware and read the reviews on best gaming CPUs I found out that the top-notch AMD CPUs are not even as good as i3-2120, which is a lower tier processor for Intel i-series.

So I’m wondering: for an average gamer like me, who just plays StarCraft II most of the time but from time to time try other games that become released, does what processor I choose matter? If I had to choose among i3-2120, i5-2500K, Phenom II X6 1045T, and FX-8120, what should I choose?

I guess the right question should be to what extent does the CPU affect the gaming performance? My friends tell me that as long as I get a decent CPU, it doesn’t really matter because GPU is the one that has the most effect on the gaming performance.

With a $500~$600 budget, I really don’t know what to do.

One last question, should I wait until Ivy Bridge line comes out? I heard that Sandy Bridge processors will be marked down once Ivy Bridges come out.

Thank you for reading this ridiculously long question/discussion and thanks in advance for helping me!

April 17, 2012 8:21:54 PM

DO NOT LOOK AT PASSMARK!


As for your build, the i3-2100 will be the best choice that will fit in your budget.

Since you are gaming, there really is no reason to wait until ivy because games are more GPU dependent than CPU dependent.

See this build:
http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/333749-31-muffin-doll...
i3-2100
asrock z68 extreme 3 gen 3
Radeon 6870
Corsair Cx430
4gb ddr3
500gb hdd
case of choice
dvd drive.
April 17, 2012 8:36:03 PM

The thing is you can't compare processors on benchmarks and making an "average" for a specific purpose machine. Thats what passmark does is synthetic average performance. It doesn't take into consideration how the software is compiled.

Since your primary usage will be Starcraft II, you will want an Intel cpu since the game was "optimized" for Intel. http://www.intel.co.uk/content/www/uk/en/gaming/overclo...

Thats not to say you can't play the game on an AMD system, it will just run better on Intel.
Related resources
April 17, 2012 8:37:21 PM

^+1
April 17, 2012 9:42:08 PM

I can admit the i3 is a good little chip for gaming, but that's about it. When It comes to real world usage outside of gaming a comparably priced Phenom II X4/X6 will provide noticeably more performance and be more future proof as the market is moving away from dual cores (i3) If I had to recommend a well rounded future proofed platform I would say go with the 2500K on the 1155 socket. The 2500K is a very strong quad capable of most anything at stock clocks but can also hit 5Ghz on air. The 1155 platform will have atleast 2 more generations released on it giving some peace of mind for the future.

If you can spend about $600 go for the 2500K build, if you are looking more around $400-$500 go for the AMD, I just can't recommend building an all purpose machine on a dual core platform.
April 17, 2012 10:21:55 PM

noob2222 said:
The thing is you can't compare processors on benchmarks and making an "average" for a specific purpose machine. Thats what passmark does is synthetic average performance. It doesn't take into consideration how the software is compiled.

Since your primary usage will be Starcraft II, you will want an Intel cpu since the game was "optimized" for Intel. http://www.intel.co.uk/content/www/uk/en/gaming/overclo...

Thats not to say you can't play the game on an AMD system, it will just run better on Intel.

Well there are limits to this. My old Phenom II X4 940 at 3.0GHz ran Starcraft 2 PERFECTLY. I know this because my current Phenom II X4 965 3.4GHz runs it exactly the way my 940 did. Is Starcraft II optimised for Intel? Certainly it is, but at some point the game becomes "as good as it gets" and the only time you'd ever know a difference would be if you were using say, a Clarkdale i3 and a Propus Athlon II X3. The Clarkdale i3 would run it better than the Propus Athlon II. Both of them however are completely outclassed by a Deneb or Osma Phenom II X4 920 or better. All the "optimisation" means is that it will run better on Intel in situations where IT ACTUALLY MAKES A DIFFERENCE. When using a Kentsfield Core 2 Quad Q6600/Deneb Phenom II X4 920 or better, the game is as fast as it will get as long as it's not GPU-bottlenecked. You won't find a difference in gameplay between the Phenom II X4 940 and even the i7-2600K. The reason is that the game has a self-imposed limit on how fast it can go to keep it playable. Remember, too slow is unplayable but so too is too fast. Take whatever gives you the best deal on the CPU and motherboard. Whatever money you manage to save you sink into improving the GPU. Hell even a "lowly" Athlon II X4 at 2.8GHz would play that game perfectly. Let's be honest, the Starcraft game engine is not exactly (and that's putting it mildly) state-of-the-art gaming technology. :sol: 
April 17, 2012 10:53:06 PM

starcraft 2 and other RTS games are extremely cpu dependent. if thats all you play you want to go with the the i3-2120. There is no reason to get the 2100 when the 2120 is 3$ more and clocked 200 mhz higher (unless theres some kind of sale on the 2100).

i play sc2 on a phenom ii x4 980 and i average around low 40 FPS on high settings at 1080. with the 2120 you can easily average low 50's
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/gaming-fx-pentium-a...

you want to try to get as close to 60 fps as possible. loook at the difference between 30 and 60 fps
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-nU2_ERC_oE
April 17, 2012 11:52:17 PM

cmi86 said:
I can admit the i3 is a good little chip for gaming, but that's about it. When It comes to real world usage outside of gaming a comparably priced Phenom II X4/X6 will provide noticeably more performance and be more future proof as the market is moving away from dual cores (i3) If I had to recommend a well rounded future proofed platform I would say go with the 2500K on the 1155 socket. The 2500K is a very strong quad capable of most anything at stock clocks but can also hit 5Ghz on air. The 1155 platform will have atleast 2 more generations released on it giving some peace of mind for the future.

If you can spend about $600 go for the 2500K build, if you are looking more around $400-$500 go for the AMD, I just can't recommend building an all purpose machine on a dual core platform.


Alright, if I went with the 2500k build, what kind of build would your recommend?

Also, if going for AMD, is Phenom II X6 1045T any good? or which AMD processor is good?

And how do I tell which motherboard is good for each processor? Just base it off the reviews?
April 18, 2012 2:00:03 AM

on a $500-$600 budge, you probably canont do a 2500k build without cutting corners everywhere and compromising a good well balanced system. It will be more than 1/3 of your budget on the CPU alone. Amuffin has a really good build but you should switch the i3-2100 for the i3-2120.

Or if you go AMD, the phenom ii x4 980, 975, and the fx-4170 are the ones you want. For gaming, you generally want the highest clocked cpu possible. The 1045 is a 6-core cpu, but its speed is 2.7 ghz compared to the 3.6-3.7 of the others. However, you can overclock it. Here is a CPU gaming chart.
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/gaming-cpu-review-o...
April 18, 2012 2:05:09 AM

Well I need to gather more information before recommending a specific build sheet for you.

1. Other than gaming what primary uses will the computer be used for?
2. Is overclocking of any interest to you ?
3. How much storage do you need ?
4. Do you need any other components such as monitor, keyboard/mouse
5. What if any uses for your computer would you possibly pursue in the future ?

April 18, 2012 2:23:00 AM

computernewb said:
on a $500-$600 budge, you probably canont do a 2500k build without cutting corners everywhere and compromising a good well balanced system. It will be more than 1/3 of your budget on the CPU alone. Amuffin has a really good build but you should switch the i3-2100 for the i3-2120.

Or if you go AMD, the phenom ii x4 980, 975, and the fx-4170 are the ones you want. For gaming, you generally want the highest clocked cpu possible. The 1045 is a 6-core cpu, but its speed is 2.7 ghz compared to the 3.6-3.7 of the others. However, you can overclock it. Here is a CPU gaming chart.
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/gaming-cpu-review-o...

4170? No way. Its not worth 40 over the 4100 and even then id only say for an extreme low budget system, $400.

a quasi-quad is no match for a true quad cpu.

The phenom x6 is ok if you overclock it to roughly the same speed as the quad phenoms, but starcraft II actually punishes you for having more cores.
April 18, 2012 12:08:41 PM

This topic has been moved from the section CPU & Components to section Systems by Mousemonkey
April 19, 2012 2:03:34 PM

cmi86 said:
Well I need to gather more information before recommending a specific build sheet for you.

1. Other than gaming what primary uses will the computer be used for?
2. Is overclocking of any interest to you ?
3. How much storage do you need ?
4. Do you need any other components such as monitor, keyboard/mouse
5. What if any uses for your computer would you possibly pursue in the future ?


I'm going to answer your questions so that you can actually recommend me a build. I'm sorry about not being specific enough.

1. Other than gaming what primary uses will the computer be used for?
2. Is overclocking of any interest to you ?
3. How much storage do you need ?
4. Do you need any other components such as monitor, keyboard/mouse
5. What if any uses for your computer would you possibly pursue in the future ?

1. Other than gaming, I will probably just watch movies, program some stuff bc I'm a freshman in computer engineering, word processing etc. Nothing really demanding I guess.

2. I know what overclocking is but I'm not sure if I want to because I heard that it reduced the lifespan of the CPU. That's just what I heard. I don't know for sure. If it's recommended and doesn't really affect its life, then why not?

3. Storage wise, I really don't need much. 500 Gb would be really more than enough or plenty for me. 7200 rpm is desired if there isn't much price difference. Maybe I could consider an SSD but again, I'm not sure.

4. I know where to get a monitor, keyboard, and mouse. I mean, they always come and go lol. I saw a 20" monitor for just $99 the other day.

5. In the future? Probably just games. I pirate games so I like trying things. New games that come out, I don't want to spend any money so I'd pirate and play them lol. But I don't really waste my time playing a lot games. Mostly just SCII bc I'm Korean.

I hope I answered all of your questions thoroughly. Thank you very much for your time!
!