Building $1200-1500 computational computer, would love some advice


I'm an economics grad student, looking to build a computer to do some heavy computational work, mainly in MATLAB, but also some work in STATA, R and FORTRAN. My work runs the gamut from statistical analysis to function optimization to simulation.

I'm not an expert in computer hardware by any stretch, so I was hoping to get some advice from some people who know what they're doing.

Here we go.


Approximate Purchase Date: Within the next week or two ideally.

Budget Range: $1200-1500 (CDN)

System Usage from Most to Least Important: Computational work, internet, watching the odd movie

Parts Not Required: Discrete graphics card (right now, though I would appreciate the ability to add one in the future), speakers, mouse.

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: would be easiest since I can pick up the parts rather than having them shipped, but ultimately price is the most important thing.

Country: Canada

Parts Preferences: None in particular.

Overclocking: No.

SLI or Crossfire: No

Monitor Resolution: 1920x1080

Additional Comments: This will be a Windows 7 (64-bit) box.


Here's a list of what I've put together so far. I would greatly appreciate any advice/suggestions.

CPU: Intel Core i7 2600

Heatsink: Coolermaster Hyper 212 Plus


PSU: Corsair Enthusiast Series TX550M 550W

RAM: G.SKILL F3-10666CL7D-8GBRH Ripjaws PC3-10666 8GB 2X4GB DDR3-1333 CL7-7-7-21

Case: Thermaltake V9

HDD: Seagate Barracuda 1TB 7200RPM

Monitor: ASUS VH236H 23" Widescreen LCD


Any advice would be welcome. A few things I would specifically like to know:

1) Are the above parts all compatible with each other?

2) As mentioned before, I don't think I need a discrete graphics unit right now, but it would be nice to have the option to updgrade. Will this be possible with the above build (e.g., with the 550W PSU I have listed)?

3) The bevy of RAM options is bewildering to me. Is the one I've listed decent? Is it worth upgrading to 1600MHz instead of 1333MHz?

Thanks in advance for any help!
7 answers Last reply
More about building 1200 1500 computational computer love advice
  1. Yes, NCIX will be good. They also do price-matching so check out these websites if they are available for cheaper:, and

    Here is what I would do:

    i7 - 3770 (newer generation of i7, faster clock for clock than the comparable Sandy Bridge model)

    Asus p8H77-V LE (Since you're not overclocking, you don't need the z77. Also, with this CPU + MoBo, ypu can take advantage of PCI Express 3.0 when you do decide to add a disgrete GPU.)

    Corsair TX 550 (This would be fine even with a single GPU added in. XFX Core Edition 550W is also good.)

    Corsair CML16GX3M4A1600C9B Vengeance Low Profile Blue 16GB 4X4GB (I'm not sure if the programs you chose will benefit from more RAM. Maybe someone else can comment on that. If not, then just get 8 Gb. Also, yes, the difference between 1600 and 1333 would be noticeable.)

    Thermaltake v9 (Case, in my opinion, is a matter of taste. Yours would be fine. I like the Corsair Carbide Series because I like how it looks, great cooling, and very nice cable management features.)

    Seagate Barracuda 1 TB

    Crucial M4 128 Gb (This is a good and reliable SSD. Use it as a boot drive and as a drive for your most important programs. They would run faster. Not a necessity though. )

    ASUS VH236H 23" Widescreen LCD
  2. While not noticeable in most workflows or games, there will be a pretty big difference moving from 1333 and 1600 for the Ram in your case. You do want 1.5V ram though, which is what you had picked out. Other than that you ought to stick with Corsair or gSkill, not so much because they have a better product, but because they have better return policys if you end up with a bad stick of ram.

    Ivy bridge is the way to go for this build. It may only be a 7% increase, but they are increases specifically in areas that affect what you are doing, and it is still within budget so you should do it.

    You can put in a MUCH cheaper motherboard without a speed penalty. If you go with an Ivy bridge CPU then stick with a good quality H77 motherboard (ASUS). If you are not overclocking, do not need an abundance of USB3 ports, and are only using a single HDD, and planning on a single GPU in the future, then there is little reason to spend more than $120usd on a motherboard. The more expensive boards add features, not speed.

    8GB of ram *should* be enough, but if you can fit it in your budget then I would pick up 16GB. If you run out of ram then the system will use the HDD to make up the difference... which simply kills performance. Ram is cheap, so it is much better to be safe than sorry.

    Do you need such a large HDD in there? I think you would benefit a lot from an SSD if the cost is roughly the same, and the SSD will fit your storage space needs. Windows takes ~20GB plus the size of your ram in drive space. Most programs are relatively small, and you should be able to fit office and some productivity software within an extra 10GB, which brings you to ~35-40GB of used space. You can (state side at least) get a 120-128GB SSD for the same price as a 1TB HDD. If your project files can fit within that remaining 80GB of the SSD, then I would jump on an SSD in a heartbeat. I think that the HDD will just have a ton of empty space, and be extremely slow for this type of application.

    Case and power supply look fine.

    Be sure to include $100 (usd) for Windows

    The build you posted looks great, and would work fine. Moving to an SSD would be the biggest improvement, and extra ram as well as moving up to an Ivy bridge CPU and motherboard would help a bit as well, while staying in budget.

    Best of luck!
  3. almost forgot, the Hyper 212 cooler is great in that it is pretty quiet, but the stock CPU cooler is also very quiet, and more than adequate for a fully loaded CPU at stock speeds.

    If you intend to overclock the CPU beyond 4GHz then you should look into a K series CPU which can be overclocked. The 2600 and 3770 are locked processors where you can overclock the BLCK a little, and change the turbo multiplier up to 42x, but due to thermal throteling you will never/rarely see north of 4GHz unless you get a 2600k, or 3770k.
    On a point of experience; my own 2600 (not K) reaches ~4.3GHz on a single core load, and consistently at 3.9GHz on a full CPU load. I have it set at a 42x turbo, and a BLCK of 103. Fully loaded I hit a max of 52*c, and normal load (web browsing/music) is at 25*c. I am using a Hyper 212 Evo, which is the same as the + but with a slightly quieter fan.
  4. Thanks l0v3rboi and caedenv for the replies, this is very helpful!

    l0v3rboi, thanks for reminding me of the price-matching, I'll definitely look at those other sites, see if I can't get some better deals.

    I'll upgrade to 16GB of 1600MHz RAM.

    I'll also go with the Ivy Bridge/P8H77V-LE combo and drop the Hyper 212.

    caedenv, you're right, the 1TB is probably more than I need, at least for the forseeable future, especially since I have an external with plenty of extra space on it that I can use for overflow if need be. I'll look at getting a smaller SSD instead.

    Can you just confirm, though, that the P8H77V-LE would allow me to add a second HDD in the future if I decide I want the extra space?

    I also forgot to mention before that I'll need a wireless card. Looking at the ASUS PCE-N15, though I'm not too concerned about the card itself (not planning on doing any super-intense internetting, just need basic access to the home wi-fi). Just want to make sure it won't conflict with anything else I have going on.

  5. To answer your questions:
    1) The parts are compatible.
    2) Every motherboard will have at least one pci-e X16 slot used for the addition of a discrete graphics card.
    A quality 550w psu will support a graphics card as strong as a $400 GTX670.
    3) The ram you picked is fine. There is a marginal benefit in app performance with faster ram.
    Read this:
    The bottom line is not much improvement, but the cost delta for 1600 ram is so small that I would buy 1600 anyway.

    Other suggestions:

    1) For a computational pc, I would use the newer ivy bridge version of the 2600, the 3770K. It will be about 5% faster, clock for clock, and it starts at a slightly higher clock rate to begin with. I would buy the 3770K, it is not that much more expensive than the 2600. The big advantage is the "K" suffic which lets you set the multiplier higher if you have a decent cpu cooler.
    It easily changes the cpu from a 3.5 ghz chip to a 4.4ghz chip.

    2) If your apps are 64 bit enabled, and can use lots of ram, then get a 16gb kit of 2 x 8gb up front.
    Ram is cheap, I might do it anyway.

    3) For a higher budget build, I would insist on a SSD. Look for a 120gb ssd from Samsung or Intel. They control their own nand chips and can do a more thorough job of testing and development. I think they are considered the most reliable today. Your pc will be much more responsive. If you need more than 120gb, you can add a hard drive for storage, either now, or later.
  6. Addendum:

    I would suggest a Z77 based motherboard. Any will serve you. All will alllow attachment of at least 4 sata devices, and most will attach 6/8 or more. Check the spec details.

    Add a sata dvd burner, about $20.

    The cm hyyper212 is an excellent value cooler. The 120mm fan will keep your cpu cooler, and will run quieter than the stock intel fan.

    The add in wireless card is good. The usb based adapters can be weak.

    Do you value quiet? If so, there are some nice quiet cases out there. The Antec SOLO II comes to mind.
  7. CornerSolution said:

    Can you just confirm, though, that the P8H77V-LE would allow me to add a second HDD in the future if I decide I want the extra space?

    I also forgot to mention before that I'll need a wireless card. Looking at the ASUS PCE-N15, though I'm not too concerned about the card itself (not planning on doing any super-intense internetting, just need basic access to the home wi-fi). Just want to make sure it won't conflict with anything else I have going on.


    Yes, the P8h77-v LE has 6 SATA ports where you can connect HDD's (you will only connect 2: SSD and 1 x HDD)

    The wireless card you chose is good. I was thinking of getting it but decided not to because I found a way to connect directly to the modem. If you could similarly find a way, I would do the same.
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