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First Time build $800 gaming/multi-tasking, need advice

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May 12, 2012 8:18:13 PM

Thanks in advance to any insight you guys can offer. I haven't had a desktop for awhile now (retired my laptop a few months ago and just using a work laptop for now). I would like to stay within $800 for the build. My gaming interests are more into RTS and Online games like D3/SC2/EVE. I don't have an interest in running Cyrsis or anything similarly taxing on graphics. Additionally, I would like to multi-task this box and run dual SynchMaster screens at 1920 x 1080. Lastly, I would like to build this with the intentions of upgrading in the future, I don't expect my CPU and GPU to last 5 years but I would like the tower and Mobo to have the capability of upgrading so that those last a good while. Let me know if $800 is realistic or not for what I want. I can save for another month and put more money into this but I'm not looking for a real hi end system, just something I can enjoy with the few hours a week I get to play games.

Also, I have done some research for guides on how to build PC's but any advice from people with experience is more than welcome.

Approximate Purchase Date: (whenever I am comfortable with my information, today or next month)

Budget Range: ($800) Wiggle room if necessary and I'm convinced

System Usage from Most to Least Important: gaming, multi-task (emulations), some editing/rendering, surfing the internet, watching movies

Parts Not Required: keyboard, mouse, monitor, speakers

Preferred Websites for Parts: newegg.com, amazon.com, tigerdirect.com

Country: U.S.A

Parts Preferences: Leaning towards intel because I have experience with them and feel they multi-task better. I am open to suggestions however.

Overclocking: Possibly with upgrade later but not as of the initial build

SLI or Crossfire: Maybe - Would like ability to later

Monitor Resolution: Using dual 1920x1080 SynchMasters

Additional Comments: Upgrade ability, multi-tasking, good graphics for gaming but not top tier

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From my research I am leaning towards the following:

CPU: i5-2500 (non "k", will upgrade to an Ivy later on if I decide to overclock)

GPU: SAPPHIRE AMD Radeon HD 6870 1GB GDDR5 PCIE - Seems like a lot of people rave about this card for my price range

MOBO: z68 or z77? Unsure of what the z77 really offers over a z68 and from what I've read they both allow for upgradeablility with dual GPU's and OC. I feel the z77 offer more upgrade paths, I'm just not sure how exactly.

Tower: Mid size tower, room for upgrade with good cooling. Prefer some detail but I don't like the full LED light my room look.

I do need an OS, seems like the general consensus is Windows 7 Premium Home 64 bit (fine with this).

Again, any advice is greatly appreciated and thank you in advance.
a b 4 Gaming
May 13, 2012 12:18:16 AM

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: Intel Core i5-3550 3.3GHz ($209.99 @ Amazon)
Motherboard: ASRock Z77 Extreme4 ($129.99 @ Newegg)
Memory: Crucial Ballistix sport 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 CAS9 1.5V BLS2KIT4G3D1609DS1S00 ($44.99 @ B&H)
Hard Drive: Samsung Spinpoint F3 500GB 3.5" 7200RPM HD502HJ ($69.99 @ Newegg)
Video Card: Sapphire Radeon HD 6870 1GB 100314-3L ($149.99 @ Newegg)
Case: Antec Three Hundred Two ($58.99 @ NCIX US)
Power Supply: OCZ ZS Series 550W ($42.99 @ NCIX US)
Optical Drive: Asus DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS DVD/CD Writer ($24.97 @ Newegg)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (64-bit) ($99.99 @ Newegg)
Total: $831.89
(Prices include shipping and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2012-05-12 20:06 EDT-0400)

I have chosen the i5-3550 because it looked like it was only ~$2 more expensive than the i5-2500.
The motherboard will allow for future OCing and CF.
Z77 motherboards are more 'future proof' mostly because they all natively support Ivy Bridge processors. 6 series chipsets (e.g. Z68, P67) will only support Ivy Bridge with a BIOS update, which might not be included with the board when shipped. Plus I think it is more likely that if future processors come out on the 1155 socket you are more likely to be able to do a BIOS update to support those hypothetical new processors, compared to 6 series.
Native USB3 is another 'advantage' the 7 series chipsets have over 6 series chipsets.

The Antec Three Hundred Two is one of my two de facto budget case recommendations. The other is the HAF 912 but the front fan has a red LED, which you might not like, but could easily be replaced if you prefer the look of the HAF.
If you don't like the Antec Three Hundred Two either then feel free to change it.
I would suggest looking at (amongst others) the Zalman Z9/Z11 (Plus).
Silverstone Precision PS05. PS06.
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a b 4 Gaming
May 13, 2012 1:24:20 PM

try this build out. this build might not have a i5 quad core but most games only use 2 cores anyways. also, this system could run BF3 (or anything graphically demanding) at high to ultra settings.

http://pcpartpicker.com/p/88Uz

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Related resources
May 13, 2012 1:40:31 PM

TheBigTroll said:
try this build out. this build might not have a i5 quad core but most games only use 2 cores anyways. also, this system could run BF3 (or anything graphically demanding) at high to ultra settings.

http://pcpartpicker.com/p/88Uz



Don't you DARE buy that.
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May 13, 2012 4:39:08 PM

Silvune said:
PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: Intel Core i5-3550 3.3GHz ($209.99 @ Amazon)
Motherboard: ASRock Z77 Extreme4 ($129.99 @ Newegg)
Memory: Crucial Ballistix sport 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 CAS9 1.5V BLS2KIT4G3D1609DS1S00 ($44.99 @ B&H)
Hard Drive: Samsung Spinpoint F3 500GB 3.5" 7200RPM HD502HJ ($69.99 @ Newegg)
Video Card: Sapphire Radeon HD 6870 1GB 100314-3L ($149.99 @ Newegg)
Case: Antec Three Hundred Two ($58.99 @ NCIX US)
Power Supply: OCZ ZS Series 550W ($42.99 @ NCIX US)
Optical Drive: Asus DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS DVD/CD Writer ($24.97 @ Newegg)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (64-bit) ($99.99 @ Newegg)
Total: $831.89
(Prices include shipping and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2012-05-12 20:06 EDT-0400)

I have chosen the i5-3550 because it looked like it was only ~$2 more expensive than the i5-2500.
The motherboard will allow for future OCing and CF.
Z77 motherboards are more 'future proof' mostly because they all natively support Ivy Bridge processors. 6 series chipsets (e.g. Z68, P67) will only support Ivy Bridge with a BIOS update, which might not be included with the board when shipped. Plus I think it is more likely that if future processors come out on the 1155 socket you are more likely to be able to do a BIOS update to support those hypothetical new processors, compared to 6 series.
Native USB3 is another 'advantage' the 7 series chipsets have over 6 series chipsets.

The Antec Three Hundred Two is one of my two de facto budget case recommendations. The other is the HAF 912 but the front fan has a red LED, which you might not like, but could easily be replaced if you prefer the look of the HAF.
If you don't like the Antec Three Hundred Two either then feel free to change it.
I would suggest looking at (amongst others) the Zalman Z9/Z11 (Plus).
Silverstone Precision PS05. PS06.



Thanks Silvune, it is very similar to what I have been looking into. I did some research on the i5-3550 and it looks like that is a better option for my multi-tasking needs. Seems like people still love the i5-2500k for OC reasons but I don't want to since it can get pretty hot here and I just don't see the need for it. The other reply looked too gaming oriented and not enough process oriented for me.

Now I just have a couple of questions:

1. Down the road do you recommend a SLI/Crossfire setup with a second Sapphire or is it better to just upgrade the card? (Does this help for graphics rendering or is that when the quad core CPU kicks in?)
2. How do I know when my CPU is bottle necking my GPU? (IE. the time to upgrade CPU over GPU)
3. Does a SSD help when running OS on SSD but emulators and other process off a standard second drive or does the SSD only help when all programs are being ran are off that single drive?
4. Does this setup need any additional cooling or do I only need to worry about that and the PSU if I were to run dual GPU's?

Thanks again for the advice on the build, it looks to be what I was looking for and with a little more research I think I'll start ordering the parts over the next couple of weeks and hope to be playing D3 by early next month.

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May 13, 2012 5:20:56 PM

Quick question concerning cases. Looking into the one you recommended I saw it only came with 2 cooling fans and no e-Sata input in the front. It also looks like it will require an adapter for installing some of the components. After some looking around I found a case that had more features for cheaper with a similar size and it is a good amount lighter as well. The LED lights can be turned on or off so I'm not worried about that:


Rosewill CHALLENGER Black Gaming ATX Mid Tower
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Typically when something looks better for cheaper there is a reason why. Does anyone see a reason why not to go with this case over the one previously mentioned?
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a b 4 Gaming
May 13, 2012 5:26:43 PM

1. Yes, but availability of the 6870 will be spotty at best. The "kick" from the GPU to help out rendering was kind of bad on the 6xxx series. Though improved from the 5xxx, obviously, the 7xxx with GNC performs much better in rendering etc.
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/radeon-hd-7870-revi...
2. It won't, though all systems have a slight bottleneck (VERY TINY, unnoticeable pretty much), the Ivy Bridge/Sandy Bridge chips in general have done well against bottlenecks.
3. Only progs that are on the SSD will be sped up with the SSD speed. You can get a SSD cache drive, that would be like having a Momentus XT essentially but better. It's a bit of a hassle but it'll give you the performance boost on your main hard drive.
4. No it's fine. Perhaps one more fan couldn't hurt if you were to run CF on 6870.

Also. Z77 will not support the next chips (Haswell) since Haswell will be an entirely new chipset and socket. It's not going to be like AM3 and AM3+.
Z68 is just as good too be honest. With Gen3 the Z68 boards are just as good as Z77 boards. Though they don't have "native USB" and a native PCIe 3.0 controller. Gen3 performs pretty much on par, MAYBE a .1% to 1% difference. Native USB only gives you more USB 3.0 slots but no performance improvement.
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a b 4 Gaming
May 13, 2012 6:27:42 PM

4. Depends how hot it gets.
Although now that you've mentioned this I've thought again about the PSU. The OCZ ZS 550W did well in JG's testing, but the maximum input temperature was only about 29C.
The temperature rating of the OC ZS 550W is 40C and the maximum speed of it's fan is 1500RPM. So if you think the ambient temps the PSU will have to deal with are in excess of 40C I would suggest changing to this:
Antec HCG-620M $65 @ NCIX US
http://pcpartpicker.com/part/antec-power-supply-hcg620m
Which has a higher maximum temperature rating of 50C and faster fan. It's at a pretty good price on NCIX US, plus it's modular, which is a nice bonus.

The Rosewill CHALLENGER is a popular budget case on these boards, so no, no reason not to go with that.
There is also the CHALLENGER-U3, which comes with front panel USB3 ports as well as eSATA.
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May 13, 2012 7:36:02 PM

Thanks again for the responses. Now I am running into the issue do I want more...

It looks like even with the z77 series of MOBO I won't be able to upgrade my CPU to the next gen above Ivy without a new MOBO. If that is the case then it might make sense to step down to one of the ASRock z68 Extreme3 boards. I see that the 7 series graphics cards are better but they also go for a good $100 more than the current one I have picked. Would a crossfire of two 6870 beat a 7850? Due to the cooling issues needed for an OC system I'm still not sure if I will want to go for the OC GPU/CPU combo or not. To me it seems like I wouldn't need that much horsepower. I can spend a good amount more but its at the principle of why double the budget when I won't really be able to notice the difference.

I will definitely look into the SSD as a cache after the system is built as I integrate software systems for a living so I'd have some fun with that. As for the GPU I think I'm fine with the power of that card for what I want. I could always CF or upgrade the GPU in the future anyways if I find it lacking. My primary concern then is the MOBO/CPU combo now. Since it looks like I can't upgrade the CPU further than that card do you think the i5-3550 and z68 combo will last me 3-5 years or would I need to do a complete rebuild before then?

From my understanding the eSATA will help me with external HD speeds, the USB 3.0 doesn't do much speed wise. I see more reviews for the plain CHALLENGER over the CHALLENGER-U3 so I may stick with the standard. Additionally I might just go with a 650W PSU in anticipation of the CF load. Remember my dads PSU going on him because he forgot to upgrade it... cost a fair bit of money for that little oops.

So here are my last couple questions before I go and try to settle on a build:

1. Is the 6870 GPU now and then in CF mode going to pull its weight for a couple of years if I am only doing amateur web development and not going for ultra settings on the newer games?

2. If I were to CF the 6870's should I use all my fan slots or is that not needed?

3. Upgraded PSU, how is this one in anticipation of the CF mode?
Antec EarthWatts EA-650D Green 650 Watt 80 PLUS BRONZE Power Supply

4. If I were to use a z68 card with the Ivy i5-3550 would there be any issue or should I stick with the z77 knowing I need a new MOBO for the generation after Ivy?
a. If it doesn't make sense to have the z77 what z68 do you recommend? I see the (Gigabyte Intel Z68 ATX DDR3 2133 LGA 1155 Motherboard GA-Z68A-D3H-B3) being a good one to use

Thanks again for the advice, first time posting on the forums and its a really beneficial first experience so far. When I get to know my stuff someday I'll have to give out some advice myself hopefully. I know software very well but other than servers I don't know much about hardware yet.
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Best solution

a b 4 Gaming
May 13, 2012 8:10:54 PM

Z68 would be fine. Z77 and Z68's prices are fairly similar so it's just based on the board you want. The Extreme3 Gen3 Z68 is solid or the Z77 Extreme4 is also another good buy. Both great boards for the price. For the 650w power supply I'd go with this one. Cheap on Amazon plus great reviews.
http://www.amazon.com/Antec-EarthWatts-EA-650D-Green-BR...
Reviews: http://www.kitguru.net/components/power-supplies/zardon...

As for the questions:
1. The 6870 would be solid. I'd honestly try and go 7850 though. The 6870 is a great card, don't get me wrong. But even a 6870 max OC'd can only reach the 560 Ti. WHILE the 7850 maintains a low power consumption but still even with the manufacturer overclock gets to the performance of a GTX 580. Proof:
http://www.kitguru.net/components/graphic-cards/zardon/...
2. You don't need to do it, the Rosewill Challenger is solid enough in Airflow.
3. Lol refer to my #1 up there.
4. No issues, you'll just have to do a BIOS update.
a. Go with the Asrock Extreme3 Gen3 Z68 or Asrock Extreme4 Z77 as recommended above.
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May 13, 2012 9:31:31 PM

So I think I have my mind made up on everything but the GPU now. Would getting a 6870 now and then a 7850 a bit later down the road work if I Crossfire them or do you need the exact same GPU for that to work? If I can upgrade to 7850 later and still use the 6870 in tandem I will do that but if not I might spring for the 7850 now so I don't need to worry about it for awhile.
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a b 4 Gaming
May 13, 2012 9:33:09 PM

Can't Hybrid Crossfire except with the AMD APU's and lower end cards. In otherwards, no you won't be able to do a 6870+7850 combo.

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May 13, 2012 9:49:48 PM

If you get a 6870 now it'll do you good for a good while then you'll probably want to go for a 660 or 670 down the road. Kepler is just totally plowing over AMD's 7xxx series right now...
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May 13, 2012 9:50:22 PM

So this is what I am going for then:

PCPartPicker part list: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/8bWh
Price breakdown by merchant: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/8bWh/by_merchant/
Benchmarks: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/8bWh/benchmarks/

CPU: Intel Core i5-3550 3.3GHz Quad-Core Processor ($209.99 @ Amazon)
Motherboard: ASRock Z77 Extreme4 ATX LGA1155 Motherboard ($129.99 @ Newegg)
Memory: Crucial Ballistix sport 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($44.99 @ B&H)
Hard Drive: Samsung Spinpoint F3 500GB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($69.99 @ Newegg)
Video Card: Sapphire Radeon HD 7850 2GB Video Card ($256.97 @ Newegg)
Case: Rosewill CHALLENGER ATX Mid Tower Case ($49.99 @ Newegg)
Power Supply: Antec 650W ATX12V Power Supply ($67.99 @ Amazon)
Optical Drive: Asus DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS DVD/CD Writer ($24.97 @ Newegg)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (64-bit) ($99.99 @ Newegg)
Total: $954.87
(Prices include shipping and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2012-05-13 17:45 EDT-0400)

Future purchases will be:
120GB SSD for OS/Games and attempting the cache method you had mentioned
Another 7850 card when it looks like I might be hitting my limit and try out the Crossfire mode

Overall I'm happy with it. I secretly was looking for an under $1000 build but if you say that right off the bat then you will go over that $1000 mark... somehow it always seems to happen. Do you have any insight into if any parts will be going on sale or would waiting a month not benefit me anything?

If you see any mistakes with the updated build I have posted let me know, aside from any mistakes thanks for the help, it is greatly appreciated.
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a b 4 Gaming
May 13, 2012 9:54:54 PM

Wait... Just make sure you buy this 650w Antec
http://www.amazon.com/Antec-EarthWatts-EA-650D-Green-BR...

As for the choices, solid. The statement of plowing 7xxx is debateable. The GTX 680 loses to the 7970 when both are overclocked to the limit. So... That's one thing. The GTX 670 is the solid one though.
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May 13, 2012 10:01:09 PM

The GTX 6xx cards do look better but they are also a fair deal more expensive. It then rends the topic of, go for 6870 now and within a year upgrade to the new Nvidia cards? I have a feeling the 6870 can push the graphics I need out of it today without an issue. Then from there in another year or two I could run two of the nVidia cards in SLI to push the system to the 3+ year mark.
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May 13, 2012 10:04:49 PM

KenO30 said:
The GTX 6xx cards do look better but they are also a fair deal more expensive. It then rends the topic of, go for 6870 now and within a year upgrade to the new Nvidia cards? I have a feeling the 6870 can push the graphics I need out of it today without an issue. Then from there in another year or two I could run two of the nVidia cards in SLI to push the system to the 3+ year mark.

That's what I was thinking. Get a 6870 now and upgrade to a 660 or 670 later.
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a b 4 Gaming
May 13, 2012 10:05:25 PM

Sounds good. But with your dual-monitor 1080P. I'd try and use the 7850 at least. Mainly because the 7850 after overclocking (even a stock GPU overclock) performs at the level of a GTX 580.
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May 13, 2012 10:06:20 PM

Thanks guys for your advice i did some more research and this is the build i got so far.

Intel gaming build

-CPU: intel core i5 3550 - $209.99
-Motherboard: Gigabyte Intel Z77 LGA 1155 GA-Z77-D3H - $114.99
-Ram: corsair vengeance blue 8GB-$48.99
 -Case: Cooler Master Elite 430  -  $43.72
-Power supply: Cooler Master eXtreme Power Plus 500W - $35.67
-HDD: Seagate Barracuda 1TB- $99.99
-Optical drive: Lite-on LightScribe 24x - $24.99
-SAPPHIRE AMD Radeon HD 6870 1GB - $169.99
-Wireless: Medialink Wireless N USB adapter - $19.99
-Monitor: ASUS VS228H-P 21.5-Inch Full HD LED - $129.99
-Case Fan: Cooler Master 120mm Case Fan 4-in-1 - 13.99

Total: $912.3
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May 13, 2012 10:07:52 PM

jcec92 said:
Thanks guys for your advice i did some more research and this is the build i got so far.

Intel gaming build

-CPU: intel core i5 3550 - $209.99
-Motherboard: Gigabyte Intel Z77 LGA 1155 GA-Z77-D3H - $114.99
-Ram: corsair vengeance blue 8GB-$48.99
 -Case: Cooler Master Elite 430  -  $43.72
-Power supply: Cooler Master eXtreme Power Plus 500W - $35.67
-HDD: Seagate Barracuda 1TB- $99.99
-Optical drive: Lite-on LightScribe 24x - $24.99
-SAPPHIRE AMD Radeon HD 6870 1GB - $169.99
-Wireless: Medialink Wireless N USB adapter - $19.99
-Monitor: ASUS VS228H-P 21.5-Inch Full HD LED - $129.99
-Case Fan: Cooler Master 120mm Case Fan 4-in-1 - 13.99

Total: $912.3

umm... wrong thread?
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a b 4 Gaming
May 13, 2012 10:09:46 PM

Yeah wrong thread and that's a pretty bad PSU.
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May 13, 2012 10:28:38 PM

Ok, thanks for the clarification on the PSU. Not seeing it on the pcparts website so I'll just note to get that separately off of Amazon. The 6870 today, GTX 6xx in the future route is what I am going to go for. Give me some practice with building and comparing hardware which is what I really wanted to get out of this (ontop of a nice desktop for my needs). Again, thanks for all the help.
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May 13, 2012 10:32:01 PM

Missed one of your posts. Might be that I want the 7850 due to the dual monitor at hi resolution before i get the GTX cards in the future. Either way I know what I am dealing with now. I'll have to weight the pros and cons but the extra $$ for that GPU now isn't a big issue so that might win out for me when it does come time to buy the component.
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a b 4 Gaming
May 13, 2012 10:32:22 PM

Alright sounds good. Good luck! Remember the best answer to close the threads.
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May 13, 2012 10:37:10 PM

Best answer selected by KenO30.
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May 13, 2012 10:39:54 PM

Thanks again everyone, best answer chosen. Feeling pretty well informed on my choices for this build.

(Wish I could mark 2 answers to give notice to Silvune as well for the initial build and highlighting the i5-3550 CPU for me)
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a b 4 Gaming
May 13, 2012 10:40:45 PM

Good luck though! :D 
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a b 4 Gaming
May 14, 2012 11:34:30 AM

http://www.anandtech.com/show/4329/intel-z68-chipset-sm...
Quote:
you can choose to use up to 64GB of the SSD as a cache... Any space above 64GB is left untouched for you to use as a separate drive letter.

USB 3.0 is actually about as fast as SATA/eSATA 3Gb/s.
Most of Asrock's cheaper Z68 motherboards don't have internal USB3 headers (which are required to connect up to front panel USB 3.0 ports). So if you go for one of those then you might as well just get the non-U3 version of the CHALLENGER.

I don't see the need for aznshinobi to point out to get that particular Antec Earthwatts EA-650 Green when there is only one such unit available from Antec. I suspect the reason there is confusion is because Amazon and PCPartPicker is using pictures from the Earthwatts EA-500D Green to advertise the Earthwatts EA-650 Green.
Another issue to point out is that to crossfire 6870s you need a PSU with four PCIe connectors, which the Earthwatts EA-650 Green does not have. However you can use 4pin peripheral (molex) to PCIe adapters, which often get supplied with graphics cards.
However with CF 7850s you only need two PCIe connectors, which the Earthwatts EA-650 Green does have.

As for replacing a 6870/7850 with a GTX 660 or 670, I'd say that by the time you need to replace either the 6870 or 7850 there'd be something better out than the GTX 660 or 670, although maybe those cards will be cheap enough that they are still worthwhile.
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