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New Build $1500-ish: Seeking Spec. Evaluation & Suggestions

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August 1, 2012 11:58:41 PM

Within the next 2-3 weeks I plan to purchase a new build. I’ve carefully considered my selections and think I am satisfied with it, but any feedback would be appreciated if there are any glaring compatibility issues I am missing or simply better product choices I should consider before pulling the trigger on it.

I don’t regularly build complete new systems so my goal is to build one that will stand up to most of what I throw at it for the next several years, and which I can keep relatively current through minor upgrades/add-ons every 2-3 years (ie: new gpu/mobo & cpu/etc.). The most taxing things I do include database design work (mostly Microsoft Access), and some gaming. Although I don’t game heavily, I love the Total War series and would like a system that can have a fighting chance of handling them on Ultra settings…(we’ll see with Rome II coming out), my last system slowed down considerably at certain points with Empire. I want to list the system specs then detail my reasoning for the selections, so I apologize for the post length, but feel free to comment on just the specs list if you don’t wish to read the entire post. That said, here are the specs, priced out on Newegg for under $1500 (not including monitor and OS)

OS: Microsoft Windows 7 64-bit
Case: Corsair Obsidian Series 550D
PSU: Corsair Enthusiast Series TX750 V2 750W
Cooling: Corsair Air Series AF140 Quiet Edition 140mm case fans x2
HD: Western Digital Caviar Blue WD3200AAKX 320GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive
Disc Drive: SAMSUNG Internal DVD Writer Black SATA Model SH-222BB/RSBS
MoBo: ASUS Sabertooth Z77 LGA1155 ATX Intel Motherboard
CPU: Intel Core i7-3770S 3.1 Ghz (3.9 Turbo) LGA1155 65W Quad-Core Processor
Mem: Corsair Vengeance 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3 1600 SDRAM
GPU: EVGA 02G-P4-2678-KR GeForce GTX 670 FTW 2GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 3.0 x16 SLI Support Video Card
Monitor: Dell UltraSharp U2412M Black IPS Panel 24" 8ms LED Backlight Widescreen LCD Monitor

Case & Cooling:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

This is where I usually save money on my builds (budget case and psu combo) as I tend to prioritize my budget towards performance rather than aesthetics. But I figure if I buy a quality case now it should last me through my next complete build and provide more system upgrade potential. I chose the Corsair Obsidian Series 550D as it seemed well laid out, good cable management, sleek look, and most importantly a very good balance between cooling and noise dampening. The 650DW seemed to have better cooling without the noise dampening aspects and I thought between the three preinstalled 120mm intake/exhaust fans and the two additional 140mm case fans I expect ample cooling within the case to better preserve the lifespan of the components. I chose the two additional case fans for their low noise attributes as they are only providing additional (but probably unnecessary) airflow, and although the case can accommodate more fans, I believe the motherboard cannot.

PSU:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Originally I chose the Corsair Enthusiast Series 650W PSU, but the upgrade to 750W was only an additional $30, and with 4 rather than 2 PCI-E connectors I thought it better to spend $30 more now rather than buy an entirely new PSU if I want to SLI an additional GPU in a couple of years. From what I’ve read the Corsair PSU’s are solid quality, my only concern would be if the 750W would be adequate for SLI in a couple of years and an upgraded MoBo/CPU/RAM a few years after that. Not to mention addition of more drives and other unforeseen upgrades.

Hard Drive:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

I admit, this is one of the areas where I budgeted a bit. But, I don’t download movies or music or anything for that matter any more, plus the last time I built a system 120GB drives were huge. I’ll admit I like the novelty of owning a TB drive, but for me it’s quite unnecessary. I wanted to focus on quality and speed rather than capacity, and did look at a 32MB Cache 10000 RPM 320GB Velociraptor, but it was twice the price of this one and I couldn’t justify it. So keeping quality, reliability and moderate speed in mind, this drive seemed like a reasonable choice for the price. Plus, I can always buy another hard drive, but let me know if there are any others to consider.

Disc Drive:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Once again, budgeted here. I don’t watch movies on my computer and I’ll hardly ever use the thing since I exclusively use Flash drives now, but you kind of have to have one on occasion...such as OS installation. Chose this one over a Lite-On Drive simply because it was the cheapest I found and unlike the Lite-On drive this one listed Windows 7 Compatible. (Although I can’t imagine the Lite-On drive is not compatible at this point.)

CPU:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

I wish I could wait for Haswell, but I’ve been computerless for 2 months now and I’m not waiting another 8. I’ve been back and forth between the i7-3770S and i7-3770K, but I don’t know that I’ll overclock and I’ve read Ivy Bridge is worse at heat dissipation than Sandy Bridge and not as suited for overclocking anyway. Also, if I do overclock I would need aftermarket cooling (which I considered even for the 3770S with the heat issues), but I read that voids the Intel 3-year warranty. So I figure I’ll use the stock heatsink and fan, and if it comes to that I’ll burn up the processor and let Intel replace it.

Additionally I read with the Turbo the 3770S rarely operates at baseclock speed providing comparable performance to a 3770K that isn’t overclocked. And at 65W rather than 77W, the 3770S should stay at least a little cooler. I’ve also read (and I’m sure this will be a point of contention among some enthusiasts so feel free to correct me if I’m wrong) that overclocking does provide a slight bump in performance on benchmarks, but not enough to make a significant difference in system taxing processes like new games performing sluggishly. Rather, that is remedied by CPU generational gaps, and I’d be better off just upgrading the CPU and MoBo when that becomes an issue. I’m currently favoring Ivy Bridge over Sandy Bridge because first off, it is newer, and secondly some of the new features such as PCI-E 3.0 compatibility seem very worthwhile.

And I’m favoring the i7’s over the i5’s for the Hyperthreading capabilities. I read that has very little effect on gaming overall, but games such as Total War will take advantage of it…so I was sold.

So, 3770S or 3770K? Or, what is the possibility Intel will release another Ivy Bridge Series of i7 cpu’s? I would possibly wait another month for that.

Motherboard:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Although a bit pricey, quality and functionality led me to choose the Asus Sabertooth Z77 Motherboard. I was going to go with an Intel board, but the only one’s I saw on Newegg only had the Z68 chipset and PCI-E 2.0 slots. As mentioned before, I don’t plan to overclock so I don’t need the board for those features, but the addition of PCI-E 3.0 and USB 3.0 made the $30 increase seem worthwhile. Also, the design seems solid. I’m not ashamed to say I appreciate the look of the Thermal Armor across the board and the dual 35mm cooling fans seem very practical and functional. It also allows DDR3 1833 which I don’t expect to use since the Ivy Bridge cpu’s support a max of 1600, but it at least allows for the possibility down the road. I’ve owned Asus boards in the past and never had any problems, but let me know if there are any better options.

Memory:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

For memory I chose Corsair Vengeance 8GB (2x4GB) Dual Channel DDR3 1600. For now I expect 8 GB should be more than sufficient, and I can always upgrade memory at a later point relatively cheaply. I chose Corsair because I know they make quality chips and the last thing I want to do is be set back another week having to RMA a bad RAM chip. It seemed to have good latency and timings- CAS latency of 7, timings 7-8-8-24. There was a Mushkin chip with latency of 7, timings 7-7-7-24, but I honestly don’t know how significantly that would affect performance and I know I feel confident in Corsair’s quality. Should I consider more memory or a different chip?

Graphics Card:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

This is territory where I’ve rarely ventured and admit I know very little about. I chose the EVGA GeForce GTX 670 FTW because I’ve heard very good things about EVGA in terms of warranty, service, quality and I like the option of their Step-up program. I want to buy a card that will chew up anything I throw at it…hopefully for a while, and then when it starts to become outdated I can boost my gpu performance life by trying out an SLI configuration. I’m looking for a reasonable balance between price and performance (I just can’t justify $1000 for a gpu), and this one seemed to provide the best bang for the buck. From what I’ve read, performance-wise, the 670 series seemed to benchmark slightly below the 680’s, but they retail $100 less. And their performance seems to be leaps and bounds above any of the lesser series. So, like I said, this is foreign territory for me. This card seemed to be the best EVGA 670 available, but please let me know if I should consider another brand or EVGA card and what would make their performance and quality a more reasonable buy.

Monitor:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

I wanted to make the jump to a 27” monitor, and many are within my price range, but keeping sheer quality in mind I really don’t think I can beat this deal. I probably wouldn’t buy a TN panel, and the 27” MPV’s are more expensive many of which are around $400. But to get a 24” Dell IPS for $300, I really think the sacrifice of size is worth the benefit of quality and price. I also liked that this one had a 16:10 aspect ratio rather than 16:9. I expect this one will last me until the price of high quality 27” or 30” monitors comes down.

There it is! Thank you for taking a look at the specs and any constructive feedback would be greatly appreciated. And I just wanted to express that previous technical and comparative posts on this site have been very helpful to me while making my selections, so thank you for that as well.
August 2, 2012 12:22:07 AM

my comments:

Storage) You should have an SSD in your build. Anybody spending on a new build in this price range should have at least a 128gb SSD for os/apps. Samsung 830 and crucial m4 are the popular choices
Then you can choose any 1tb or larger 2nd HDD drive usually at a cheaper price, since you don't need to super expensive speediest option.



CPU)
You should get the highest speed you want to afford-but not pay extra for speeds that you aren't going to be using.
I have a 3450s, so i'm speaking with some research under my belt on the S versus non-S and k versus non-k stuff.

Given a particular task, the faster processor will actually complete the job faster and actually use less total power and create less heat (because of overhead). So in the real-world the S ends up not saving power.

Also, the stuff about basespeed and turbospeed is mumbojumbo with Windows because Intel Speedstep is in play.
In reality, when at idle, ALL the processors are going to clock down to multiplier 16 so they will be the same. When at load, it'll go up to the highest turbo setting. The basespeed is an arbitrary marking between 16 and the turbo speed or if you got a weird requirement when you're not using speedstep. S basically limits the TDP by limiting the max turbo speed multiplier. You could do the same on your own processor with any non-crap Mobo.

So again, the S doesn't really save you anything in Windows usage ( if you save money that's a different story).

If you just want a mild overclock, you should be aware that non-k CPUs still have so called "limited unlocked" overclocking ability to add perhaps +4bins (400mhz) so that is a bonus..
For most non-extreme enthusiasts this is enough- especially if you are doing real work, and not just trying to win benchmark awards.
You get a minor boost over what you paid for, but don't have to go through the hassle of finding the sweet stable spot.

Again since Speedstep is active, you only use the extra speed when you have a task that needs it, so there is no downside.




Memory:
In all these new ivy/sandy chipsets you do not need to pay extra to get lower timing memory. The settings for the CPU and the memory are now separated. In the past, OCers had to get fast memory so you could increase the speed of your CPU and the memory could keep up.
Now, you can leave your bclk (clock) at 100, so memory putzes along at it's regular rated speed, and independently adjust the cpu multiplier.

So most people will just get ddr1600 memory with like 8-8-8-24 or whatever. It's not that the other memory is worse, but more that you can take that savings to spend elsewhere to get much bigger gains for your $. Look on newegg for the popular ram, you will see it costs $50 or so for 8gb, or get 16gb for $100 or so. If you REALLY are doing stuff other than games, just get at least 16gb now (it's not like it's going to break your budget nor will you save that much money in the future by waiting).



cpu cooler)
you didn't specify cpu cooler, but if you plan to overclock (which is why you got k cooler) 212evo is popular choice.


mobo) you picked an expensive choice. If you really don't need those advanced features you can save a lot by downgrading to like the asus z77 -V or even their even cheaper models.


Monitor)
a lot of people treat the monitor as an afterthought, but it is actually a better investment then the parts they spend hours researching.
It will not go obsolete as fast as your other components, so you will get full value out of it. Myself and all my friends have (multiple) dell U-series monitors.




Anyhoo, did you look at some of the other build posts here? maybe you should start with one of those as a starting point.
August 2, 2012 3:49:28 AM

Thanks for the response, definitely gives me a bit more to consider. The problem with building a computer once every 5 years or so is that it's very easy to fall behind the times. It makes me all the more glad I threw a post on the site.

The SSD is a great suggestion that I hadn't even considered or realized was an option. I'm more leaning towards quality, reliability/durability and speed over capacity with a HD, and I have no doubt mechanical drives are more prone to failure and wearing out than SSD's. I'll definitely be swapping that out in the build for an SSD, but I need to do some research on them first. It seems SSD's are still relatively in their infancy at this point, so I want to make sure I get one that isn't prone to quirky issues. I'll keep your two suggestions in mind.

I think I'm still satisfied with the 3770S. The K was $20 more, but that's $20 I can save as I don't really intend to overclock. I may consider a mild overclock on the S in time, but I wanted to use the stock heatsink and fan initially simply because I didn't want to void the intel warranty. I figured I would compensate with extra case fan cooling especially since I do intend to overclock the gpu a bit.

For the memory you suggest sticking with 1600 but don't worry as much about latencies and timings since I won't be overclocking, but jump up to 16GB. I do a bit outside of gaming, but I don't know that the level of work I do would require more than 8GB currently. I don't really program and the database queries I run are likely relatively elementary...but that's not to say those aren't areas I'd like to personally expand in the future. I'll keep it in mind, I just need to decide whether I want to jump up to 16GB for $100 and spend a little more...or stick to 8GB and actually save myself some money.

I'll also keep the MoBo options in mind and look around a little more. I looked at some of the Z77-V's and it still seemed for some of the options I'd like for future upgrades I would need the more expensive end of that line. However, they still seemed $50 cheaper than the Sabertooth, and if I'm not overclocking that may be $50 worth putting elsewhere. It's a give and take, but I'll admit there is alot of Sabertooth functionality that I'll probably never use so it may be foolish to spend that kind of money on it. And it's not as though I'll be able to slap another generation intel cpu in it a few years down the road as an upgrade, it sounds like LGA1155 is becoming extinct with Ivy Bridge.

And I feel much the same way about you with the monitor...I'd rather go quality than size in this case. Besides, 24" is nothing to scoff at. I'll take it in your experience the Dell 24" U-Series would be a good choice.

Thanks again! In the next day or two I may submit a revised spec list with the changes and see if I get further suggestions from there.
Related resources
August 3, 2012 3:47:55 AM

Alright, I've looked over the suggestions and here are my revisions.

SSD: Samsung 830 128GB SSD Newegg $99.00

Thanks for the suggestions, both the Crucial M4 and Samsung 830 seemed like the most reliable and reasonably priced models. I'm sure the firmware issues with the M4 have been sorted out, but I was a little put off by those negative reviews. Most of the negative reviews on Newegg for the 830 were in regards to coupon code issues with a game download, so I felt more at ease with that. Definitely seems like a solid product and since my case drive bays accomodate 2.5", I can save $20 on the 2.5" to 3.5" conversion kit and get it for $99 right now, so it's actually cheaper than the M4.

Memory: Corsair Vengeance 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3 1600 (latency 8 rather than 7) Newegg $59.99 rather than $84.99

I really don't know much about latency and performance except lower is better, and I do want to keep that in mind. But with timings of 8-8-8-24 and 7-8-8-24, I'm not sure the latency 7 version is worth the extra $25. The jump from 9 to 8 was only around $10, so I'm alright with that. And I do appreciate the suggestion to jump up to 16GB, but I honestly think for my purposes 8GB should be sufficient right now, and if I'm proven wrong I will buy a couple more DIMMs a year down the road for another $50...that kind of upgrade doesn't worry me.

Motherboard: ASUS P8Z77-V LGA 1155 Intel Z77 vs ASUS Sabertooth Z77 Newegg $189.99 rather than 239.99

Still kind of on the fence here and open to suggestions and advice. Still a rather pricey board, but $50 cheaper and this one would probably be more than sufficient for my needs. The only real difference I noticed for the features I'm keeping in consideration was that I'd lose a case fan, but on the up-side, that would save me an additional $20 and I wouldn't be removing a second case noise dampening panel. I also don't know that it has any e-Sata ports, not sure I'd use them but might be nice. So if anyone has more suggestions (any quality brand) that would have 2 PCI-e 3.0 slots, 4 Onboard Sata 6Gb/s, 2 Onboard USB 3.0, reasonable rear panel ports and connectors for at least 3 (but preferably more) case fans, please let me know.
August 3, 2012 3:52:12 AM

i don't know why you need to spend extra on case fans, because the case you've chosen already comes with 3 very quiet fans (if the case has silence in mind).

Spending $20/fan seems extremely expensive. If you feel you need it, just take that $20 to put into getting a better case that comes with better fans to begin with?

Just go with that first. Then add on more fans in the future if you're running hot.
August 3, 2012 4:00:28 AM

Revised Build Specs. Any further thoughts or suggestions?


OS: Microsoft Windows 7 64-bit

Case: Corsair Obsidian Series 550D

PSU: Corsair Enthusiast Series TX750 V2 750W

Cooling: Corsair Air Series AF140 Quiet Edition 140mm case fans

HD: SAMSUNG 830 Series MZ-7PC128B/WW 2.5" 128GB SATA III MLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive

Disc Drive: SAMSUNG Internal DVD Writer Black SATA Model SH-222BB/RSBS

MoBo: ASUS P8Z77-V LGA 1155 Intel Z77 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard

CPU: Intel Core i7-3770S 3.1 Ghz (3.9 Turbo) LGA1155 65W Quad-Core Processor

Mem: CORSAIR Vengeance 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model CMZ8GX3M2A1600C8

GPU: EVGA 02G-P4-2678-KR GeForce GTX 670 FTW 2GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 3.0 x16 SLI Support Video Card

Monitor: Dell UltraSharp U2412M Black IPS Panel 24" 8ms LED Backlight Widescreen LCD Monitor

Under $1400, not including OS and Monitor.
August 3, 2012 4:06:16 AM

That's a good suggestion, and you're right, I probably don't need them. I just figured I should take advantage of some of the additional cooling potential the case offers and expected that wouldn't hurt to increase the lifespan of the components. I thought at least an additional fan on the graphics card would be worthwhile. I could certainly leave them out to start though...I at least want to make sure my MoBo has 1 or 2 extra connectors for the potential to use them later.
August 5, 2012 3:55:40 PM

Thanks again for all your help. I spoke with a friend who expressed many of the same thoughts as you for trimming down the unnecessaries. Unlike any build I've done in the past, this one is an insurance job and money is less of an option so I was going all out, but there is no reason for me to be stupid about it if it is features I'm not going to use. Picked out a couple more MoBo's that could trim the system down to around $1300 or below. I think I'm going to repost the revised system spec list on a thread in the new build section following the form posted to get some final thoughts and perhaps renewed discussion from more members.

I'm not sure if you get anything for having the best answer on a thread, but I'm happy to give you that I just can't seem to figure out how. Walk me through it and it's yours. Thanks again for the thoughts, it's been very helpful.
!