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First-time build, moderate gaming, sub-$700

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June 13, 2012 11:35:38 AM

I'm gearing up for my first ever build, but I have a few concerns. First of all, I'm plenty satisfied with my laptop and most likely will continue using it - I don't want to build a cheapo rig because I'd never use that at all, but I also don't want to spend too much because even if the build is great I won't use it too often. The only thing I'm particularly likely to use it for is gaming, so I've settled on the $600-700 range as the sweet spot for (hopefully) reasonable performance without too much expense.

For reference, my laptop is a mid-2010 Macbook Pro (Windows bootcamped) with dual-core 2.4GHz i5 520M, 4GB ram, GeForce GT 330M (256MB DDR3), and a 5400rpm HDD. Please keep this in mind, because when I say "reasonable performance" I'm comparing it to these relatively low-end specs, and not a GTX 690.

Below are the components I've settled on so far. I'm still VERY MUCH open to suggestions. Also, PLEASE let me know if you notice any compatibility issues. I'm not particularly worried about the optical drive, display, or mouse/keyboard, so I've left those off.

CPU: Intel Core i5 3570K ($189.99 bundled with mobo)

Mobo: ASRock Z77 Pro4 ($69.99 bundled with cpu)

GPU: EVGA 01G-P3-1361-KR GeForce GTX 460 ($114.99 after rebate)
My understanding is that the Radeon HD6850's performance is about the same, so I've gone with the GTX 460 because it's cheaper at the moment. I might also consider EVGA's SuperClocked variant as it's only $10 more. The HD6870 and GTX 560 are still in the running, but they're stretching the budget a bit.
Alternative GPUs here

RAM: Looking at G.SKILL Value Series 8GB DDR3 1333 9-9-9-24 ($39.99) and Crucial Ballistix Tactical Tracer 8GB DDR3 1600 8-8-8-24 ($49.99 with promo code)
Does 1600MHz make a noticeable difference over 1333? What about the shorter latency?

Storage: OCZ Agility 3 120GB SATA III SSD ($89.99 after rebate)
This should be enough space for me for now. I'll likely add a larger HDD down the line.

PSU: OCZ ZS Series 550W, 80 Plus Bronze ($49.99 after rebate)
Please tell me if you don't think 550W (456W on the +12V rail) is enough. For now I don't plan on overclocking or using SLI/Crossfire.

Case: COOLER MASTER RC-692A-KKN5 Mid Tower ($69.99 with rebate and promo code)
I'm not super concerned about the case. This one seems like a fantastic deal, but I haven't found any reviews of it yet.

Total cost: $624.93

I'm pretty happy with that number, but there's still some wiggle room.

Like I said above, I'm VERY OPEN to suggestions. If you know of any comparable parts for less money, or any specials/deals going on, please let me know! If you know of any better parts for a little bit more, let me know that too! (But please don't be offended if I don't choose them; I'm really trying to treat $700 as a hard cap). And if you really don't think the above parts are a good fit for each other, or ESPECIALLY if they aren't compatible, DEFINITELY LET ME KNOW THAT! I am not very knowledgeable or experienced AT ALL, so I'd love any input you could provide.
June 13, 2012 12:06:41 PM

Newegg has a Samsung 830 series 128GB SSD for $90. That's a very good price for a very fast SSD. Just a consideration. Samsung830link
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June 13, 2012 12:15:01 PM

Oh, and if there is wiggle room in your budget, Newegg also has an XFX Radeon HD 6870 which is $140 after MiR. It's probably about 15% faster than the 460, and more importantly it comes with two free games, Dirt 3 and Deux Ex, if you're interested in either, it's a great bargain.

edit: oops, sorry, i see you already had the 6870 as an alternative in your shopping cart.
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June 13, 2012 12:27:06 PM

Thanks! Hard to say no to the Samsung as it's the same price as the Agility 3, though I believe that particular deal is one-day-only. Guess I'm gonna have to make up my mind pretty quickly. The XFX 6870 is pretty attractive too, especially with Deus Ex bundled in...
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June 13, 2012 12:56:22 PM

The ram speed (as long as they are both DDR3) isn't game changing because most games are more HDD bound than ram speed / latency bound.
Latency wise, the difference in CL9~CL11 would be some where between 10ns (not ms). I am pretty sure humans are incapable of distinguishing. ^_^
Overall a very solid build but I would suggest not to purchase a SSD, in favor of high capacity HDD(s). Reason being "money better spent else where", like more budget on the graphics card, also, the only benefit is loading speed... No actual FPS gain.
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June 13, 2012 1:53:32 PM

Thanks for the input on RAM; seems like a good place to save 10 bucks. As far as SDD vs. HDD, it's something I'll likely have to put more thought into. Am I right in thinking that games like Skyrim load from disk relatively frequently?
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June 13, 2012 2:17:31 PM

If i were you i would get an HDD and later down the road buy a SSD.SSD's do drasticly improve loading times but you do lose a lot of storage space which at least for me is an important thing.Why dont you just buy a high-end HDD instead?Maybe something like that.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
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June 14, 2012 1:37:34 AM

Well, looks like I missed my chance at the Samsung SDD. I'm not sure about a hybrid drive - eventually I'd like to move all my junk over to the new build, so 500 gigs wouldn't quite be enough (and the newer 750GB Momentus XT's a little too pricy). If I'm going to get a regular HDD eventually, I think I'm probably better off either getting a full SDD to start or just starting with a regular 750GB/1TB HDD.

A couple more thoughts, if anyone feels up to answering:
- I've seen the 2500k vs. 3570k argument a few different places, and my takeaway is that the Ivy Bridge's lower power consumption and better performance/clock frequency ratio is enough to merit the extra $20, but not if it were an extra $30. Is this in line with most people's feelings?
- On the motherboard side of things, is there any reason I might want to consider an extra $20 for the Asrock Z77 Extreme4? As far as I can tell, the major differences are that in the Extreme the secondary x16 slot is also PCIe3 while on the Pro it's down to PCIe2, and there are more USB 3.0 slots on the Extreme. I don't know how much of a difference the gold caps make, and beyond that I don't see much different about the two boards. Am I missing something, or should I stick with the Pro4?
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June 14, 2012 12:32:27 PM

Also, would I be better served backing off the CPU some and upgrading the GPU? Would I get better gaming performance if I dropped to an i3 2100 but got a Radeon HD 7850 to go with it? And would I notice any loss in non-gaming performance?

I'm more likely to play LoL/Skyrim/Witcher than BF3/Metro/Crysis, so top of the line FPS isn't so crucial. But at the same time, if I could reach higher settings for the same price it might be worth it. I've just never been clear on how much of the bottlenecking comes from the cpu and how much from the gpu.
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June 15, 2012 6:34:47 AM

Still looking for answers re:

- Is 550W enough for this system? What if I overclock or crossfire down the line?
- Am I better off getting a lesser CPU and upgrading the GPU?
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June 15, 2012 1:57:49 PM

Bearget said:
Also, would I be better served backing off the CPU some and upgrading the GPU? Would I get better gaming performance if I dropped to an i3 2100 but got a Radeon HD 7850 to go with it? And would I notice any loss in non-gaming performance?

I'm more likely to play LoL/Skyrim/Witcher than BF3/Metro/Crysis, so top of the line FPS isn't so crucial. But at the same time, if I could reach higher settings for the same price it might be worth it. I've just never been clear on how much of the bottlenecking comes from the cpu and how much from the gpu.

You'll be hard-pressed to find a game that is truly bottlenecked by an i3-2100/2120. You'll be waiting a bit longer to complete video encoding and other heavily-threaded applications, but the i3 flies in most tasks. Jumping to an HD 7850 would be a great idea - you'll be able to play new games maxed out. And your selected PSU will be plenty.
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June 15, 2012 3:28:51 PM

Thanks!
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June 22, 2012 2:21:44 AM

Best answer selected by Bearget.
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