$500 Gaming Desktop

Approximate Purchase Date: e.g.: On or about Sep. 6 (payday!)

Budget Range: $500 after rebates, including shipping

System Usage from Most to Least Important: gaming, internet, general home use

Are you buying a monitor: No

Parts Not Required: HDD and optical drive... Recycling these from my previous and now defunct desktop (an hp pavilion a6750f).

Do you need to buy OS: Yes

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: Plan to get most parts from MicroCenter, and fill in from internet as necessary... Amazon is ideal for free Amazon Prime shipping.

Location: Massachusetts, U.S.A.

Parts Preferences: anything reliable with good value.

Overclocking: No

SLI or Crossfire: No

Your Monitor Resolution: something pretty (I have no plans for multiple monitors)

Specific games I'm playing: Everything in the Total War Series, Skyrim, Dragon Age (1 & 2), StarCraft 2.

Additional Comments: I'd say I'm a "medium core" (as opposed to hard core) gamer. I don't plan on playing any MMORPGs, or anything online really, and I just want to run things on medium to high settings. I don't need ultra high settings in high def on three monitors. But I've been scraping by with integrated graphics or low end discrete graphics for over a decade, so I figure I owe it to myself to upgrade my gaming experience some with my first homebuilt pc. :)

And Most Importantly, Why Are You Upgrading: Previous desktop (an hp pavilion) died, probably due to heat problems caused by overtaxing the system for too many years in a hot and dusty room. (Along those lines, something quiet and cool for this build would be nice!). I've always managed to play all the games I've wanted, but usually on lowest settings and barely scraping by in terms of playability. I'd like to have an actual gaming machine for once!

Here's what I've put together so far, based on research around the forums here and reading lots of reviews and articles over the past several weeks:

CPU: Intel Core i3 2120 LGA1155 3.30 GHz $99.99

Mobo: H61M-HVS H61 1155 mATX Intel Motherboard $49.99

RAM: 4GB DDR3-1333 (PC3-10600) Desktop Memory Module $18.99

GPU: SAPPHIRE Radeon HD 6850 134.99

PSU: Thermaltake TR2 Series 500 Watt ATX Power Supply 39.99

HDD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 750 gb $0 (recycled)

Optical Drive: LightScribe DVD SuperMulti Drive / CD-Write $0 (recycled)

Case: Diablotek EVO Mid Tower ATX Computer Case $33.68

OS: Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 64-bit OEM 99.99

TOTAL: 477.62

As you can see, that brings me in under budget. If I were to spend a little more to reach my $500 budget or a touch over, where would my money be best spent? I'm thinking about adding another 4 gig of ram to bring me up to 8gig. Or would the money be better spent elsewhere? Or better saved? You should know that I'm generally befuddled by the panoply of graphics cards out there, so any feedback there is welcome. (I basically just went with Tom's Recommendation for best card around $150... I also considered the 7750 and the 7770, but they seemed a bit weaker than the 6850).

I'm also looking for places where I might have goofed on compatible parts, or any recommendations on better parts than what I've selected. I'm also worried about any bottlenecks I may have inadvertently created. Does this look like a balanced build? And for that matter, will it last me at least a few years and then some with upgrades (processor, ram, gpu)?

Any feedback is welcome! This is my first crack at a home build, so I have no pride to damage. :)

Many thanks! From what I've seen on these forums, you folks are great.
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  1. Pretty reasonable build for the money. You didn't state your monitor resolution, so difficult to say how well HD 6850 will perform, but it's a decent card, at the price. If you can get it at the same price, a GTX 560 MAY be better, but not worth spending much more. I am not familiar with your case. Given its price, I SUSPECT that's where, if at all, you could usefully spend a bit more. A case with decent build, and good vent can last for years. A bad one will get hot, and have bits dropping of, in six months. Like I said, I don't KNOW that one, so MAY be OK.
    As for upgrades, any budget build is going to be limited. Haswell processors are out next year, and they require a different mobo, for everybody. There's no reason rig won't last you a while, and you can always put a better graphics card in. Then, in couple of years, upgrade to Haswell. As I said, there's nothing you can do extra now, to "prepare" for Haswell.
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