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Is this a good mATX gaming build?

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July 1, 2012 9:48:11 AM

Hey all,

I'm due for a PC upgrade and - having just moved to a small apartment - I'm thinking it might be time to retire my gigantic P180B and look into a smaller machine. Last time I had this idea gaming and mATX didn't really work in the same sentence, but I've had a look around and it seems pretty achievable now. Taking my cues from the Alienware X51.

Questions:

Approximate Purchase Date: Somewhere in the next month

Budget Range: AUD$1000-$2000

System Usage from Most to Least Important: Gaming, fairly low intensity programming

Parts Not Required: input peripherals, monitor etc - replacing everything in the tower

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: I can source myself, lots of local providers. If you ever want to work out how much something costs in AU, http://staticice.com.au is really handy.

Country: AU

I'm a bit of a dunce with hardware, so I'm wondering if I could get some expert opinions on the below in terms of:

a) Bottlenecks - should I downgrade / upgrade on any of these components? Should I be switching manufacturer on anything? (For example, the Asrock board scares me a tiny bit). I have budget to spend more if it makes sense to - if I should be heading in the direction of a different socket, case, anything.

b) Thermals - I'll only be doing very light overclocking, so I'm primarily concerned about just keeping it quiet and reliable. If I could liquid cool it I would be absolutely all over it as it would also address my recurring dust issues, but I think going for that *and* mATX might be a touch greedy.

So without further ado - here's what I've got planned:

Case: Silverstone FT03T, although this might change once I've read a few more reviews. Obviously not a key part of the build.

Mobo: Asrock X79 Extreme4-M

CPU: Intel i7-3820 or the 3930K.

GFX: GV-R795WF3-3GD Case supports up to 13" so this should fit easy.

RAM: Not sure what I'll do here. 2 * 8gb DDR3 quad channel, GSkill or Corsair. Would appreciate recs.

Other: Primary HDD will be an Intel 120GB 330 Series SSD, going to use my existing drives for data (case fits up to 3 * 3.5"). Don't need or want wifi.

PSU: ST1200-G - just going this because it's more than enough voltage, sufficient rails and it's modular. Open to other options.

Cooling: Any thoughts? At the moment I'm just thinking "stock" or "whatever fits and isn't horrendously loud". Like I said, primary concerns are just balancing "nice and cool" and "nice and quiet".

Happy to answer any questions. Would be nice to get somewhere near whatever you guys would call best practice in terms of my hardware selection.

Thanks for reading!

Sam

More about : good matx gaming build

a b B Homebuilt system
a b 4 Gaming
July 1, 2012 10:10:39 AM

Those links aren't working, I would recommend an i5 over an i7 though. Far cheaper and will give pretty similar gaming performance.

I have almost always used ASRock boards and had no major issues. When I build a PC for a friend of mine, I went for an ASUS board because they have a better reputation and I wanted to get something reliable for him but we had nothing but issues with it. Swapped it out for an old ASRock board and it worked fine. Personally I choose ASRock over any other motherboard brand.

1200W is also so far beyond overkill, 500W would be OK. Maybe 550W if you want a bit of overclocking headroom. The lower wattage PSU's might be quieter as well because the fan is designed to cope with a much lower load than a 1200W unit.

I would go for something like this:

i5-3570K
2x4GB 1600Mhz Dual Channel DDR3 (Be sure to get low profile stuff)
ASRock Z77 Extreme4-M
ASUS GTX 670 2GB (The DirectCU cards tend to be pretty quiet)
Intel 520 Series 120GB
Seasonic X-560 (Corsair AX-650 if you can't find the Seasonic)
Silverstone FT03T
Coolermaster Hyper 212 Evo (Just for the sake of quietness)

That should give similar (if not better) gaming performance but be a lot quieter and cheaper.
July 1, 2012 10:41:26 AM

jmsellars1 said:
Those links aren't working, I would recommend an i5 over an i7 though. Far cheaper and will give pretty similar (if not better) gaming performance.

I have almost always used ASRock boards and had no major issues. When I build a PC for a friend of mine, I went for an ASUS board because they have a better reputation and I wanted to get something reliable for him but we had nothing but issues with it. Swapped it out for an old ASRock board and it worked fine. Personally I choose ASRock over any other motherboard brand.

1200W is also so far beyond overkill, 500W would be OK. Maybe 550W if you want a bit of overclocking headroom. The lower wattage PSU's might be quieter as well because the fan is designed to cope with a much lower load than a 1200W unit.

I would go for something like this:

i5-3570K
2x4GB 1600Mhz Dual Channel DDR3 (Be sure to get low profile stuff)
ASRock Z77 Extreme4-M
ASUS GTX 670 2GB (The DirectCU cards tend to be pretty quiet)
Intel 520 Series 120GB
Seasonic X-560 (Corsair AX-650 if you can't find the Seasonic)
Silverstone FT03T
Coolermaster Hyper 212 Evo (Just for the sake of quietness)

That should give similar gaming performance but be a lot quieter and cheaper.


Perfect. I'll review these parts and see if I have more questions.

Can also fix the URLs, I think mine are just still double quote encapsulated from vBulletin. Should be fixed in ~30s.

Thanks for the reply!
Related resources
a b B Homebuilt system
a b 4 Gaming
July 1, 2012 11:40:03 AM

Oh wow I made a bit of a mistake, meant to say the build as a whole would give similar if not better gaming performance. The i7 would be very slightly better than the i5 in games by maybe 5% and costs at least 50% more.

EDIT: I should mention too that the reason I recommended those PSU's was that they are 80 plus gold, have a hybrid fan that won't spin unless it needs to and they are fully modular.
a b B Homebuilt system
a b 4 Gaming
July 1, 2012 11:46:35 AM

In tight confined spaces, i wouldn't place OCing high on the list and as a result high end boards are not needed so i would really tone down to a i5 3450, a Z77/H77 mATX board but make a GTX 670 priority :p  It is 2012 and quads are still considered overkill in a lot of gaming titles yet @ higher resolution the bottleneck passes on to the GPU so for the same budget hit the best one within your means :D 
a b B Homebuilt system
a b 4 Gaming
July 1, 2012 12:00:32 PM

If it was a mini ITX build I'd agree but mATX isn't actually all that confined, especially in that particular case.
a b B Homebuilt system
a b 4 Gaming
July 1, 2012 12:02:24 PM

Am referring to dissipation of heat/airflow w.r.t high end hardware (chip and gpu) @ load :p 
a b B Homebuilt system
a b 4 Gaming
July 1, 2012 12:04:20 PM

Yeah I realise that but that case has plenty of space inside with 2 120mm intakes and 2 120mm exhausts if you count the PSU as an exhaust. That's a lot more airflow than my mid tower haha.
July 1, 2012 1:13:09 PM

Hey guys,

All looking pretty sweet so far - old plan on the left, new plan on the right. Can you cast an eye over it and let me know if there's any room for improvement? $1500 is pretty much perfect for my budget - massive leap up from my Q9550 system, looks like it will run SC2 on ultra, will handle my extremely strenuous work coding (which could actually run on my phone...) so it ticks all the boxes.



Thanks so much for all the tips so far!

Sam
July 1, 2012 1:52:27 PM

Looks like an excellent system, go for it.
July 1, 2012 1:54:17 PM

Both of them, I mean. Though, the i7, if you want a top-notch gaming system, dont skimp at all on processor :p . If you have the budget, don't settle for close, go all the way.
a b B Homebuilt system
a b 4 Gaming
July 1, 2012 2:35:28 PM

I wouldn't call an i5 'skimping' on the CPU. The i7 would give like 5% more gaming performance for well over double the price. That's just throwing money away in my opinion. To be honest, a Pentium G620 is fine for ultra high settings on almost any game. The CPU isn't as important as it used to be in a gaming system. The i5 is good value though.

I'd be sure to get G.Skill Ares if you want to go with G.Skill RAM. Just to make sure it fits under the CPU cooler.

Now that I look at it as well, that SSD looks a bit pricey. You could probably get a 256GB Crucial M4 or Samsung 830 series for not much more. That's something to consider if you think you might use the space.
July 2, 2012 7:43:09 AM

jmsellars1 said:
I wouldn't call an i5 'skimping' on the CPU. The i7 would give like 5% more gaming performance for well over double the price. That's just throwing money away in my opinion. To be honest, a Pentium G620 is fine for ultra high settings on almost any game. The CPU isn't as important as it used to be in a gaming system. The i5 is good value though.

I'd be sure to get G.Skill Ares if you want to go with G.Skill RAM. Just to make sure it fits under the CPU cooler.

Now that I look at it as well, that SSD looks a bit pricey. You could probably get a 256GB Crucial M4 or Samsung 830 series for not much more. That's something to consider if you think you might use the space.


Great advice - I'm with you all the way, I can spend more but I don't think that means I should. Spending an extra half a thousand dollars to get a few hundred mhz of additional processing power which I likely won't even use seems uneconomical.

1. I will look into the Crucial / Samsung SSD options - is there much of a difference in terms of specs / quality? My biggest concern (even more than capacity) is reliability, because the controller in my last SSD died in under 12 months.

2. Would you avoid G.Skill? I just picked a random entry in the search results. Would like to get RAM that matches well with the rest of the system if this was a bad pick.

3. Someone else has mentioned the "gaming mATX" Asus Maximus Gene V. In your opinion, is there any merit in a board like this? If there's not really any perceptible difference then I'll definitely go with your original suggestion.

4. Fourth and final thought (sorry for so many questions!) I am reading a lot about dust / sound issues with the FT03. Is the TJ08-E thermally / spatially compatible with all of the above? I hear it's a little quieter, it's cheaper, and it still fits within my very limited physical footprint.

I will probably swap in the larger SSD and whatever RAM you recommend - otherwise I think I'm ready to start buying parts. Love all of the advice and all your help!

Sam
a c 136 B Homebuilt system
a b 4 Gaming
July 2, 2012 8:49:57 AM

jmsellars1 said:
Those links aren't working, I would recommend an i5 over an i7 though. Far cheaper and will give pretty similar gaming performance.

I have almost always used ASRock boards and had no major issues. When I build a PC for a friend of mine, I went for an ASUS board because they have a better reputation and I wanted to get something reliable for him but we had nothing but issues with it. Swapped it out for an old ASRock board and it worked fine. Personally I choose ASRock over any other motherboard brand.

1200W is also so far beyond overkill, 500W would be OK. Maybe 550W if you want a bit of overclocking headroom. The lower wattage PSU's might be quieter as well because the fan is designed to cope with a much lower load than a 1200W unit.

I would go for something like this:

i5-3570K
2x4GB 1600Mhz Dual Channel DDR3 (Be sure to get low profile stuff)
ASRock Z77 Extreme4-M
ASUS GTX 670 2GB (The DirectCU cards tend to be pretty quiet)
Intel 520 Series 120GB
Seasonic X-560 (Corsair AX-650 if you can't find the Seasonic)
Silverstone FT03T
Coolermaster Hyper 212 Evo (Just for the sake of quietness)

That should give similar (if not better) gaming performance but be a lot quieter and cheaper.


This build but change the case to the silverstone TJ 08e, and OC as much as you like
July 2, 2012 2:37:24 PM

kthnx47 said:
Great advice - I'm with you all the way, I can spend more but I don't think that means I should. Spending an extra half a thousand dollars to get a few hundred mhz of additional processing power which I likely won't even use seems uneconomical.

1. I will look into the Crucial / Samsung SSD options - is there much of a difference in terms of specs / quality? My biggest concern (even more than capacity) is reliability, because the controller in my last SSD died in under 12 months.

2. Would you avoid G.Skill? I just picked a random entry in the search results. Would like to get RAM that matches well with the rest of the system if this was a bad pick.

3. Someone else has mentioned the "gaming mATX" Asus Maximus Gene V. In your opinion, is there any merit in a board like this? If there's not really any perceptible difference then I'll definitely go with your original suggestion.

4. Fourth and final thought (sorry for so many questions!) I am reading a lot about dust / sound issues with the FT03. Is the TJ08-E thermally / spatially compatible with all of the above? I hear it's a little quieter, it's cheaper, and it still fits within my very limited physical footprint.

I will probably swap in the larger SSD and whatever RAM you recommend - otherwise I think I'm ready to start buying parts. Love all of the advice and all your help!

Sam


1. I use both Crucial M4 SSDs and Plextor M3 SSDs. Samsung I believe is the only manufacturer that builds all of the components of an SSD in-house, so in theory there shouldn't be a supply chain issue and reliability should be extremely high. That being said, I would read as many reviews as I could and make a choice.

2. I have been using G.Skill Ripjaws and Ares for my builds and they have been just fine, so no worries there. I went stupid and maxed out the RAM for my machine, so I have 32 GB of the Ripjaws.

3. I have used Asus ROG Boards (the Rampage III Gene and Maximus V Gene), both of them are mATX. Both are awesome. For the M5G, I have my 3770K overclocked to 4.3 GHz @ 1.17 V. It can go higher, but I can't dissipate the heat fast enough to keep it cool, even with the H80 I have on it. Oh well. Still, it's a great board.

4. I personally love the garbage can case and now have built 3 different computers with the case, but the one thing I don't like are the panels. They come off very easily. Sure, they are also pretty easy to attach (just slide it in), but because of that, they also come off just as easily. A fully modular power supply is incredibly helpful in building this rig. I would also say that since you can only do two GFX cards maximum anyway, 1200 W is overkill. My M5G is plugged into a UPS, and with the 670 running at full tilt, only about 275 W is being pulled from the wall, that measurement includes EVERYTHING else plugged into the UPS at the same time, and at idle, the system (plus everything else plugged into the UPS) is around 110 W. It's kinda sick how little power it uses compared to my previous machine, an E8400 with a GTX 275. All that said, I'm happy with my Corsair AX 850 running this rig.

Oh yeah, really important point I should make...
The FT03 works best if the GFX cards exhaust heat out the back, and not in the case itself. Therefore, the best cards to get are the reference designed cards with the impeller fan. People seem to prefer other designs for the fans, and they probably do cool the GPU better, BUT the rest of the case components will get hotter, since the heat is exhausted into the case and not out the back (in the case of the FT03, out the top).
a b B Homebuilt system
a b 4 Gaming
July 2, 2012 9:32:33 PM

SSD - Intel seem to have the best reputation in terms of reliability but Crucial and Samsung drives seem very reliable too. My Samsung 830 drive has had a couple of minor hiccups but nothing restarting the system didn't solve. I've heard far worse from the cheaper Sandforce drives like the OCZ Agility range.

RAM - I think most RAM is going to be exactly the same, just with a different heat spreader. It is mostly made by 2-3 different companies and just rebranded. The heat speader is totally unnecessary too, they're just there to look cool really. It tends to be a difference of <$5 though so why not? :p  Basically, so long as you go with a major brand you should be fine. ie. G.Skill, Corsair, Crucial, Kingston, Patriot, Samsung.

MOBO - Generally, the higher end ones are just going to be better for extreme overclocking. There are other features too but I would just look through the specs and see if anything there is important to you.

Case - That case looks great, probably slightly less airflow than the other case but nothing major.

A note on those 'impeller' graphics card fans, although they exhaust the hot air outside the case, they tend to be a lot louder than designs like that ASUS card.
July 3, 2012 11:38:14 AM

jmsellars1 said:
SSD - Intel seem to have the best reputation in terms of reliability but Crucial and Samsung drives seem very reliable too. My Samsung 830 drive has had a couple of minor hiccups but nothing restarting the system didn't solve. I've heard far worse from the cheaper Sandforce drives like the OCZ Agility range.

RAM - I think most RAM is going to be exactly the same, just with a different heat spreader. It is mostly made by 2-3 different companies and just rebranded. The heat speader is totally unnecessary too, they're just there to look cool really. It tends to be a difference of <$5 though so why not? :p  Basically, so long as you go with a major brand you should be fine. ie. G.Skill, Corsair, Crucial, Kingston, Patriot, Samsung.

MOBO - Generally, the higher end ones are just going to be better for extreme overclocking. There are other features too but I would just look through the specs and see if anything there is important to you.

Case - That case looks great, probably slightly less airflow than the other case but nothing major.

A note on those 'impeller' graphics card fans, although they exhaust the hot air outside the case, they tend to be a lot louder than designs like that ASUS card.


Excellent. I'll go with the Crucial SSD for that extra capacity, all the reviews I've seen look reasonable.

Is this the right speed / latency for my setup to use instead of the Ares units? Nowhere stocks them locally and this stuff is low profile:

http://arc.com.au/pub.php?gid=24153&pid=40839&p=product

I noticed you said Corsair is an okay brand, just wondering about this specific module. Plus I know nothing about RAM speeds / latency so for all I know this wouldn't even work with the Z77 mobo ;)  if the Ares sticks will do a better job I will track them down instead.
a b B Homebuilt system
a b 4 Gaming
July 7, 2012 7:42:34 PM

That RAM looks great, it's the same stuff I have.
!