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Engineering/CAD/Matlab/light gaming upgrade, review before buy!

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August 3, 2012 8:29:03 AM

Elec engineering major going in with a computer intended for use with a variety of independent and assignment based engineering/programming applications, most of them heavy. Some light gaming on the side, e.g. minecraft or tf2 with some amigos.

Main Build
CPU - 190$ - Intel Core i5-3570K 3.4GHz Quad-Core Processor
Cooling - 15$ - Corsair Hydro (CPU), thermal paste and thermal paste remover. (if temps = bad, then cooler master hyper 212 plus)
GPU - 0$ - PNY VCG98GTXPXPB GeForce 9800 GTX+ 512MB 256-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16
PSU - 70$ - Silencer Mk II 750 Watt ATX Power Supply
MOBO - 70$ - ASRock H77M LGA 1155 Intel H77 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Micro ATX Intel Motherboard
RAM - 105$ - G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 16GB (2 x 8GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600
Case - 40$ - COOLER MASTER Elite 430 RC-430-KWN1 Black Steel / Plastic Computer Case
HDD - 0$ - Western Digital Caviar GP WD7500AACS 750GB 5400 to 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive
OS - 0$ - Windows 7 64-bit Home Premium
Optical - 0$ - loldunno
Monitor - 0$ - hp 2159m

Total Cost: ~475$

Explanation
CPU - Went with a quad core for engineering applications. Intel is sound for longevity; plan to OC in the future. Nice price on a store near me.
GPU - I am very impressed by my current card and will run/OC it to death and possibly grab another used (20$; cheap!) for SLI and see if it runs CAD roughly (or at all) for my uses. If my CAD applications run slow I'll probably upgrade to either a good gaming GPU (e.g. GTX 560Ti, perhaps better) or workstation GPU. From my research, I'll prob go with gaming GPUs because ironically enough they offer better comparable performance at lower prices.
PSU - overkill, but I've got a great deal (10$/100W + 80 PLUS Silver) + 7 years warranty + potential SLI in the future. Only real con is that it's not modular.
MOBO - I wanted the Asrock Z77 Extreme4 really bad. Like really, really bad. But it's double the cost of the present MOBO and I wouldn't use any more features than the H77M (I have no idea if performance would even be affected either). IME Good MOBOs only last 5 years max anyway, so I'll run this one to death and then upgrade to something like the extreme4 + 16gb more ram and possibly more HDDs/SSDs.
-On another note, to increase cheap MOBO lifetime, I intend to replace the thermal paste on the heatsink with the better stuff listed above.
RAM - seems overkill, but engineering programs are RAM intensive. 2x8gb for now, 4x8gb in the far future (same sticks). G.Skill because they're awesome and have lifetime warranty, as I will definitely be using these sticks for a very long time.
Case - I don't care for a case over 50$ so long as I've got good air flow, dust filters, size for upgrades etc., which I believe I do.
Monitor - it's what I've got sitting around atm. In about a year I plan on scrounging one or two extras for a dual/triple monitor setup.
The other stuff I just scrounged from some existing cases I've got lying around.

Tell me what you think! Everything seem to check out nicely? If so, I think I'll buy soon; that store only has 1 PSU in stock! :D 
August 3, 2012 8:42:38 AM

If you plan to OC in the future, you will need the Z77 not the H77 motherboard. If you want to stick with the H77 then just get a i5 3450.
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August 3, 2012 9:25:40 AM

I'm in electrical engineering too ;) 

I might save up for an i7, I haven't regretted buying mine. And indeed, you won't be overclocking on the H77.
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Related resources
August 3, 2012 9:40:28 AM

If you want 32GB of RAM, you need a low profile kit so it wont conflict with whatever heatsink you get. This kit is equivalent to the one you posted, and will look better on the mobo as well.
G.Skill Ares red 16GB (2x8GB) 1600Mhz CL9 1.5v. $104
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

About the RAM again, if you want to feel the benefits of 16+ Gigs of it, you need Windows Professional or above. Home Premium (even the 64bit) will only support up to 16GB.

And like the others said, you need a Z77 board to overclock. This is the cheapest Z77 on Newegg (fortunately it is of decent
quality).
AsRock Z77 Pro3. $95
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

If changing the mobo might happen in the future, it may be worth getting the retail, not OEM, Windows. As then you can use the product key on multiple builds.
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August 3, 2012 8:32:39 PM

Thanks for the replies everyone! For some mad reason, I thought the H77M would suit my overclocking desires. Guess not. You have helped shape what I believe to be the most ideal build/plan for me. Here's my update, let me know if you think it checks out! Changes italicized.

Revised Build
CPU - 190$ - Intel Core i5-3570K 3.4GHz Quad-Core Processor
Cooling - 15$ - Corsair Hydro (CPU), thermal paste and thermal paste remover. (if temps = bad, then cooler master hyper 212 plus)
GPU - 0$ - PNY VCG98GTXPXPB GeForce 9800 GTX+ 512MB 256-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16
PSU - 70$ - Silencer Mk II 750 Watt ATX Power Supply
MOBO - 135$ - ASRock Z77 Extreme4 LGA 1155 Intel
RAM - 105$ - G.SKILL Ares Series 16GB (2 x 8GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRA 1600
Case - Antec Nine Hundred (120$) OR Rosewill Challenger (50$)
HDD - 0$ - Western Digital Caviar GP WD7500AACS 750GB 5400 to 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive
OS - 0$ - Windows 7 64-bit Home Premium
Optical - 0$ - loldunno
Monitor - 0$ - hp 2159m

Total Cost: ~550-620$

Explanation
@FinneousPJ: Thanks for reviewing, fellow elec engi :D  ! I kept the i5 because CPUs will last long before they're dead, so I intend to OC the i5 if I need i7 performance in my engineering platforms. Granted this saves me ~140$, I'd say it's a budget minded decision (I would feel giddier with an i7 :)  ).

@manofchalk: Thanks for the tips! I picked up low profile ares 2x8gb RAM you suggested and I think I'll go with the extreme4 after all, granted it suits me well and it's close in price to your suggestion. I'll pick up an identical 2x8gb set in the future, hopefully prices drop as my need increases. As for Home Premium vs Professional max RAM, I didn't know that. However, since I'm going with 16gb for now and home premium is basically free for me (transfer HDD), I'm going to stick with it for now. When I upgrade ram/HDD, I'll grab a new retail copy of professional off ebay for ~100$. Who knows, perhaps by the time windows 8 comes out they'll be going for less.

@thebigtroll: SSDs and HDDs seem overpriced to me atm, so I'm going to wait for my existing ones to peter out to buy new ones, and then they'll probably be from WD (that caviar black looks delicious, 5 year warranty to boot), though I agree with the crucial m4 as an SSD.

It's possible my old HDD and OS I salvaged from an older build aren't in working condition anymore, and in that case I'll have to grab a WD 1TB caviar black (110$) and a Professional 64-bit Windows (100$) increasing my total to 750$, but also my longevity. Eventually I'll complete this build and grab another caviar black for RAID 1, a 128gb crucial m4 SSD, a couple monitors, replacement mobo and a good gpu, bringing the total to somewhere around ~1500$, but hopefully prices will drop enough to save me a couple hundred. That's my bet, anyway :D 


Now I have one last question that I hope you guys can help me out with. I have rethought the case, and I believe the rosewill challenger is the best on my earlier budget, but unfortunately it is of flimsy construction. The Antec Nine Hundred is by far the most reviewed and revered product, reviewers citing many years of use with its make, but it runs me ~70$ more. I'm torn between the two and want my case to be suitable for long term use and quality performance (dust, space, air flow, upgrades, etc.).
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August 4, 2012 12:08:10 AM

you need to install the OS into the SSD and not the HDD to get the full benefit

you can get a gigabyte z77x-ud3h for 149.99. the asrock board isnt worth it unless its 124.99 or lower

for the case, a antec 302 is more than enough for most people. very good build quality and tons of room in the back for cables
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