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Building a Midrange gaming computer, need advice.

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July 25, 2012 4:18:07 AM

I am looking to piece together an upgrade or buy a barebones computer. Mine is 5 years old, cobbled together by myself and friends. I work on servers, but I love to game at home. I've heard plenty about how gaming computers can't be anything less than probably twice what I offer as a budget. I've made systems run far longer than they should have, using outdated hardware and enjoyably playing games on them since making my old x386 run pentium class games back in the day. Here only in my 30s, I'm starting to feel a bit fossilized around all these young'ins blaring Pandora on their I-pads. All I'm asking here is for kind suggestions and a bit of help for my needs:

- A powerful enough computer to play the games I want to play now and a few years from now.
- A graphics card not over $300. As much as I prefer the high end cards, I am a man of humble means. :) 
- I prefer Planetside or Guild Wars over the BF3 crowd, but I'd like the ability to know that at least I could give it a try.
- I'd prefer to not trip over high definition blades of grass going 4 fps, but I don't require fully realistic cinematic quality.
- I would like to purchase either the full system, or the parts I need to fill out my case to upgrade what I have... under $800.

This is what I'm looking at right now (so, you can tell me if I'm wasting my time).

- Intel Core i5-3450 Ivy Bridge 3.1GHz and a basic motherboard.

I've heard of the shiny i7s, but I'm also balancing the graphics card in this budget and would prefer to even out the bottlenecks I can afford to. The basic mb comes from my terrible habit of running my systems into the ground before upgrading. By the time I've come to the point of upgrading, everything new wouldn't work with what I have. Case in point, my current dilemma.

- GeForce GTX 550 ti

I'm told this is "good enough" by a few people. I've seen the benchmarks and frankly, they all seem to blend together in the $200-300 range in terms of performance. I also somewhat struggle with all the many variations of the same card in different models and modes. Smoke and mirrors. Just give me mark 1, 2 and 3 so I can pick the 2 and be done with it.

Memory doesn't seem to be very expensive nowadays and I'm curious if it matters anymore what kind I get so long as its compatible and matches. I could say the same for power supplies, though there's always the warning of "you get as good as you pay" in that category. I'm thinking in the ballpark of 8Gb mem (two 4s) and a 650W around $70.

I will probably also be snagging a copy of Windows 7 for this as I'm sure my copy of Windows XP won't remotely handle this level of tech. Also heard Window 8 pops out this year, though so I'm wondering whether its worth waiting for (or paying for). I honestly wish we could get back to a time when the Operating system actually operated the system and I wasn't wasting resources left and right on so many built-in features. /shrug.

If more information or clarification is necessary, just ask. Your recommendations and educated experience will be graciously appreciated. :D 
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July 25, 2012 1:35:07 PM

Surely, and thank you for the format.

Approximate Purchase Date: Next month or so
Budget Range: $700-800
System Usage from Most to Least Important: Gaming (I'd love to play GW2 well)
Parts Not Required: Monitor, dvd drive, HDD, wireless.
Preferred Website(s) for Parts: Newegg, amazon
Country: US
Parts Preferences: Good quality, midrange price parts. Just not "Bob's discount CPUs.
Overclocking: an afterthought.
SLI or Crossfire: upgrading is less important.
Monitor Resolution: 1680 x 1050
Additional Comments: Downright the most gaming machine I can get for my budget.

Going to follow a few leads. The proc I mentioned is on sale for about $150 right now. Might leave the graphics for last. I'll update as I get stuff.
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a b B Homebuilt system
July 25, 2012 3:36:10 PM

Hi im going to make two builds for you the first one will be highly upgradable and overclockable while the second one won't have such big overclocking potential but will perform better @ stock and the third that will be slightly imbalanced but will outperform the other two.

First build :

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: AMD FX-8120 3.1GHz 8-Core Processor ($159.99 @ CompUSA)
CPU Cooler: Zalman CNPS10X Performa CPU Cooler ($27.99 @ Newegg)
Motherboard: MSI 990XA-GD55 ATX AM3+/AM3 Motherboard ($112.55 @ Newegg)
Memory: G.Skill Ares Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($43.99 @ Newegg)
Video Card: MSI Radeon HD 7950 3GB Video Card ($309.99 @ Newegg)
Case: Antec One Illusion ATX Mid Tower Case ($54.99 @ Newegg)
Power Supply: OCZ 850W ATX12V / EPS12V Power Supply ($89.98 @ NCIX US)
Total: $799.48
(Prices include shipping and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2012-07-25 11:02 EDT-0400)


The Second PC

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: Intel Core i5-2310 2.9GHz Quad-Core Processor ($179.98 @ Outlet PC)
Motherboard: ASRock Z75 Pro3 ATX LGA1155 Motherboard ($84.99 @ Newegg)
Memory: G.Skill Ares Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($43.99 @ Newegg)
Video Card: Galaxy GeForce GTX 670 2GB Video Card ($399.89 @ Amazon)
Case: NZXT Gamma Classic (Black) ATX Mid Tower Case ($39.98 @ Outlet PC)
Power Supply: NZXT 650W ATX12V / EPS12V Power Supply ($49.99 @ Newegg)
Total: $798.82
(Prices include shipping and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2012-07-25 11:17 EDT-0400)

This PC is good at stock but is a pretty dead if you want to squeeze more performance out of it.You cant add a second graphics card you cant upgrade to a next generation CPU and... yeah thats about it.

I also made you a third PC.It will outperform both of the PC's at stock and when overclocked.Unless you use a 120Hz monitor in which case its going to perform on par with the second PC.
With this PC you cant plug in another card to use crossfire because the motherboard isnt made for that.Not that it cant be done it just won't work at full speed.The only thing you can upgrade is the CPU.
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a b B Homebuilt system
July 25, 2012 3:36:56 PM

Ugh i forgot to link the third PC.

Here you go

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: AMD Phenom II X4 955 3.2GHz Quad-Core Processor ($89.99 @ Newegg)
CPU Cooler: Zalman CNPS10X Performa CPU Cooler ($27.99 @ Newegg)
Motherboard: Asus M5A97 EVO ATX AM3+ Motherboard ($90.98 @ NCIX US)
Memory: G.Skill Ares Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($43.99 @ Newegg)
Video Card: PowerColor Radeon HD 7970 3GB Video Card ($447.86 @ Newegg)
Case: Antec One Illusion ATX Mid Tower Case ($54.99 @ Newegg)
Power Supply: NZXT 650W ATX12V / EPS12V Power Supply ($49.99 @ Newegg)
Total: $805.79
(Prices include shipping and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2012-07-25 11:36 EDT-0400)
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July 25, 2012 11:09:11 PM

Kamen_BG said:
Hi im going to make two builds for you the first one will be highly upgradable and overclockable while the second one won't have such big overclocking potential but will perform better @ stock and the third that will be slightly imbalanced but will outperform the other two.

First build :

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: AMD FX-8120 3.1GHz 8-Core Processor ($159.99 @ CompUSA)
CPU Cooler: Zalman CNPS10X Performa CPU Cooler ($27.99 @ Newegg)
Motherboard: MSI 990XA-GD55 ATX AM3+/AM3 Motherboard ($112.55 @ Newegg)
Memory: G.Skill Ares Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($43.99 @ Newegg)
Video Card: MSI Radeon HD 7950 3GB Video Card ($309.99 @ Newegg)
Case: Antec One Illusion ATX Mid Tower Case ($54.99 @ Newegg)
Power Supply: OCZ 850W ATX12V / EPS12V Power Supply ($89.98 @ NCIX US)
Total: $799.48
(Prices include shipping and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2012-07-25 11:02 EDT-0400)


The Second PC

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: Intel Core i5-2310 2.9GHz Quad-Core Processor ($179.98 @ Outlet PC)
Motherboard: ASRock Z75 Pro3 ATX LGA1155 Motherboard ($84.99 @ Newegg)
Memory: G.Skill Ares Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($43.99 @ Newegg)
Video Card: Galaxy GeForce GTX 670 2GB Video Card ($399.89 @ Amazon)
Case: NZXT Gamma Classic (Black) ATX Mid Tower Case ($39.98 @ Outlet PC)
Power Supply: NZXT 650W ATX12V / EPS12V Power Supply ($49.99 @ Newegg)
Total: $798.82
(Prices include shipping and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2012-07-25 11:17 EDT-0400)

This PC is good at stock but is a pretty dead if you want to squeeze more performance out of it.You cant add a second graphics card you cant upgrade to a next generation CPU and... yeah thats about it.

I also made you a third PC.It will outperform both of the PC's at stock and when overclocked.Unless you use a 120Hz monitor in which case its going to perform on par with the second PC.
With this PC you cant plug in another card to use crossfire because the motherboard isnt made for that.Not that it cant be done it just won't work at full speed.The only thing you can upgrade is the CPU.



Thanks for all the time and effort putting that together! I like the second PC. Have a few questions about filling in a few parts I can get cheaper on deals now or soon.

CPU: OK. I'm pretty much sold from reviews, impressions, benchmarks that the Intel 3450 and the Z77 mobo. Microcenter's got a deal on those right now in store. I'm curious why you stick with AMD.

CPU Cooler: whats the deal with this exactly? Straight regular cooling fans not enough for this proc/board? I notice the second PC doesn't have one.

Mobo: see CPU.

Memory: perfect, though I'm curious about brand differences (if they matter). I'm kinda using newegg reviews more than anything to avoid the lemons)

Video card: I've been looking at deals for a Radeon HD 7870 card to get good performance at less money than that pretty 7970. . I am curious why you would choose the Nvidia 600 series with the intel and choose the Radeon with the AMD cpu. Is there some cross-mojonation I should be worried about?

Case: awesome.

Power Supply: I think I'm sticking with a 650W max. If I'm trying to stay lower and not really overclock it or use crossfire, is there a need for an 850w? I'm told to stay with 80+ Bronze rating.

Again, Thanks to everyone who has posted. Your input is greatly appreciated!
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July 26, 2012 12:05:45 AM

as far as the cpu goes,
I have a 3450s and a coolermaster 212evo.

Would like to give you the tip that despite articles saying differently you can overclock the 3450 by 4bins (400mhz) really easily to get you to 3.9Ghz. Then it's locked at that point. Pretty much every chip can handle that overclock, since Intel sells the same chip running at that speed just with a different stamp on it. So there's no trial and error running "outside" the intended usage giving up stability, it is just free cpu cycles.

The stock fan probably can keep up since it's probably the same stock cooler bundled with CPUs set to 3.9ghz out of the box-but I am not sure if it will sound like a hairdryer doing so.

The evo runs nice and quiet even when the cpu is at 100% with this mild overclock and is able to keep up (depends of course on your fan settings).

$30 it's not a big deal, and for good reason it's a top seller.



More tips:
If you're doing a new build you should consider SSD.

A 24" 1920x1080 monitor should also be considered. Monitors are very slow to go obsolete, so this is a good investment.

I think you should just go with windows7 it is out and stable. The wait-and-see group always waits until at least SP1 before getting on the bandwagon.
If you buy win7, win8 upgrade in jan will only be $15, but you will have to resetup your computer. So the decision to wait part is more a factor of you don't want to setup a new OS again rather than cost of the upgrade.
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a b B Homebuilt system
July 26, 2012 11:17:20 AM

+1 never under estimate the sheer joy of a big juicy display in the whole PC experience :p 
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July 26, 2012 12:18:19 PM

Sooo true. I've had my I5/GTX670/SSD build (with a 24" monitor) for over a month now without a single hiccup and still get excited everytime I turn it on and it boots in less than 10 seconds to a big bright beautiful screen! One of these days maybe I'll find a game that will make it break a sweat.....
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