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Need advice on building a Gaming PC for $500-$1500

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August 26, 2012 9:53:11 PM

Hey guys. Long time lurker, first time joiner and poster. I'm interested in building my own gaming PC. Since the last time I built a PC was when Windows XP was considered the new hotness, I thought I would consult the gurus here on the Tom's Hardware forums. Here are the specifics of what I will require for the PC:

Approximate Purchase Date: Within the next two weeks.

Budget Range: $500 - $1500 After Rebates / After Shipping (Why the wide range? Because I was told by my System Analyst friend that a decent $500 gaming rig that can play the latest games was a pipe dream and that if I wanted the best bang for my buck, I would need to at least invest $1000. I’m deferring to the wisdom of the community on this one.)

System Usage from Most to Least Important: Gaming, Surfing the internet, academic usage (word processing, research, etc.)

Are you buying a monitor: Yes

Parts to Upgrade: No parts to upgrade as I am migrating back from a laptop to a desktop.

Do you need to buy OS: Yes.

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: I mainly shop at newegg.com and tigerdirect.com.

Location: This is the fun part. One will be assembled in Brooklyn, NY and the other in Hopkins, MN.

Parts Preferences: I would like to use Intel for the CPU and Nvidia for the graphics card. The other parts can be from any manufacturer as long as they are good quality and reliable.

Overclocking: Yes

SLI or Crossfire: Maybe, in the future but right now a single video card is sufficient.

Your Monitor Resolution: I will probably get a monitor that has a resolution of 1600x900.

Additional Comments: I would prefer an air-cooled pc and for it to be quiet if possible. I tend to game for long periods of time so as expected I am concerned about temperatures being cool. The current games I'm playing include MMOs (Guild Wars 2, SWTOR, WOW, Rift, EVE Online, etc.), RTS and 4X strategy games (Civ 5, Shogun 2, Starcraft II, Sins of a Solar Empire series, etc.). Also my girl will play Sims 3 on the PC.

And Most Importantly, Why Are You Upgrading: The goal is to run the above games at a high texture quality, shadows on, lighting, water effects etc. without losing the frame rate. (eg. Guild Wars 2 and SWTOR on High, Civ 5 and Starcraft on High or Ultra, etc.)

These are just my general parameters. Feel free to tell me I'm crazy, deluded and/or unrealistic but also offer corrections to my requirements. I appreciate any advice you guys can give me. Thanks in advance.
a b 4 Gaming
August 26, 2012 9:56:40 PM

With a $500 build, you have only $250 to spend on the parts, since a decent monitor is $150, and the OS is $100. Get a $1K build. The Patterson Microcenter isn't too far from Brooklyn, and the parts there are inexpensive.
a b 4 Gaming
August 26, 2012 10:17:36 PM

Perhaps something like this, equipped for future Crossfire.

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: Intel Core i5-3570K 3.4GHz Quad-Core Processor ($219.99 @ NCIX US)
CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO 82.9 CFM Sleeve Bearing CPU Cooler ($28.98 @ NCIX US)
Motherboard: ASRock Z77 Extreme4 ATX LGA1155 Motherboard ($142.86 @ Newegg)
Memory: Crucial Ballistix sport 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($40.99 @ Newegg)
Storage: Seagate Barracuda 1TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($74.99 @ NCIX US)
Storage: Samsung 830 Series 128GB 2.5" Solid State Disk ($109.99 @ B&H)
Video Card: HIS Radeon HD 7850 2GB Video Card ($209.99 @ Newegg)
Case: Antec Eleven Hundred ATX Full Tower Case ($89.99 @ NCIX US)
Power Supply: Antec 750W ATX12V Power Supply ($69.99 @ NCIX US)
Optical Drive: Samsung SH-222BB/BEBE DVD/CD Writer ($16.98 @ Outlet PC)
Monitor: Asus VH236H 23.0" Monitor ($149.98 @ NCIX US)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (64-bit) ($90.90 @ Amazon)
Total: $1245.63
(Prices include shipping and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2012-08-26 18:17 EDT-0400)
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August 26, 2012 10:51:48 PM

@Finneous
The guy asked for 1600x900, so a 23" monitor is overkill. That would be for 1080p. You can get 900p with a 20" monitor.

I would replace the Video Card for another brand. Nothing personal, but I dont know how good is their warranty program/quality. I'd go with a Sapphire of the same series, because of their overall excellent cooling. Sapphire cards can be overclocked easily, achieving the performance of a 7870.

Other than that, I have no other comments on your build.

___
@William: The games you are aiming to play are really not really that taxing on hardware. The setting proposed by Finneous is pretty much capable of maxing every of those games with ease and to run BF3 (and similar power games) in mid settings at 1600x900.

Besides, I need to ask about other uses for the PC. Are you going to be editing video or transcoding music on a daily basis? Intel CPUs are really great at that nowadays.
But however, if you'll be using Photoshop and other professional software suites, an AMD is much cheaper and in general, better. Besides, If the main purpose is gaming, an FX-8120 will be more than enough to drive ANY task you throw at it (dont listen to the masses claiming for Intel in gaming machines, thats BS), including encoding (a little slower than Intel, yeah) AND will be about 50-100 USD cheaper.


Just my opinion, but I hope it helps.
Cheers!
August 28, 2012 1:08:31 AM

@obsama1: Cool, I never heard of that store. Patterson is close enough for me to drive to so I'll definitely check it out. Thanks for the suggestion.

@FinneousPJ: Thank you for the build. I may get a smaller SSD because I figured it didnt need to have a large capacity since the only thing going on it would be the OS. Unless you are suggesting otherwise. What do you think? Also by your estimate, how long would I have until I needed to upgrade anything with this build?

@azraa: Yeah, I'm not sure if I need a monitor that big so that knocks down the price a bit. As far as other uses, I won't be doing heavy graphics editing or the like. My blog is low key and I don't edit music or video so that much power is not necessary. So Intel exclusively for gaming machines is hyperbole? What about the whole Nvidia vs Radeon thing? Does it really matter or is performance on a case by case basis.

a b 4 Gaming
August 28, 2012 1:14:08 AM

You'll love it. 3.5% sales tax, and the 3570K is $190 with $50 off any Z77 board.
a b 4 Gaming
August 28, 2012 8:46:19 AM

Williamknights said:
@obsama1: Cool, I never heard of that store. Patterson is close enough for me to drive to so I'll definitely check it out. Thanks for the suggestion.

The saving should enable you to bump up to a HD7870 ;) 
Williamknights said:
@FinneousPJ: Thank you for the build. I may get a smaller SSD because I figured it didnt need to have a large capacity since the only thing going on it would be the OS. Unless you are suggesting otherwise. What do you think? Also by your estimate, how long would I have until I needed to upgrade anything with this build?

You should also install your favorite games and applications on the SSD. It should run high-ish settings for two years.
Williamknights said:
@azraa: Yeah, I'm not sure if I need a monitor that big so that knocks down the price a bit. As far as other uses, I won't be doing heavy graphics editing or the like. My blog is low key and I don't edit music or video so that much power is not necessary. So Intel exclusively for gaming machines is hyperbole? What about the whole Nvidia vs Radeon thing? Does it really matter or is performance on a case by case basis.

You won't regret getting a great screen. After all it is the most important part in your interaction. It is also a component that you can keep from system upgrade to another.

Intel exclusive would be impossible for a gaming machine since they don't make GPUs.

What about nVidia vs Radeon?
September 1, 2012 3:25:00 PM

FinneousPJ said:
The saving should enable you to bump up to a HD7870 ;) 

You should also install your favorite games and applications on the SSD. It should run high-ish settings for two years.

You won't regret getting a great screen. After all it is the most important part in your interaction. It is also a component that you can keep from system upgrade to another.

Intel exclusive would be impossible for a gaming machine since they don't make GPUs.

What about nVidia vs Radeon?


Meaning are Nvidia cards preferable to AMD? I sometimes see arguments saying one company's cards are better than another for particular games, etc. I just wanted to know if such talk was true or was it rampant fanboyism.

Also are larger capacity SSD worth investing in?
a b 4 Gaming
September 1, 2012 4:00:41 PM

It depends. In the $100-$300 range, AMD is the way to go, but above that, Nvidia is king.
!