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Building a new gaming system $600 budget

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September 5, 2012 2:03:31 PM

Hello there Tom's Hardware. This is my first post and I'd like to say I'm excited at building my own system.

Here are the core parts I'm going to purchase and I'd like your opinion on them:

NVIDIA 660 ti
Intel Core i5 - 3550
ASUS P8Z77 - M PRO (microATX) or an ASRock Z77 Extreme4 (ATX)

Overclocking: No

SLI: No

Reason for upgrading:

-My processor is an Intel Core 2 Duo E6700 (released in 2006), so I think it's time for a nice upgrade.
-My GPU is a Palit 550 ti Jetstream and while it's good at my current resolution at 1440 x 900 (the max resolution of my current monitor), I want to experience solid 1080p gameplay, which I can't get out of the 550 ti (I don't need to buy a 1080p monitor, as I have one, but it's impractical with my current hardware).
-I want to play games on Ultra if possible! lol (Skyrim, Battlefield 3, etc.)

Other notes:
- I have a 620 watt PSU, and from past research, it's adequate for the 660 ti. If ever I go SLI, I'll just buy a new one. No biggie for me.
- I currently have 8 GB of RAM on two sticks, which I'll just transfer to the ASUS motherboard. My current motherboard is a Gigabyte, which I have no idea about (my father just built this CPU for me lol). If they're not compatible with the ASUS mobo, I'll just purchase ones that do.

All in all, I think I got the core parts covered. I guess you can say that I'm an enthusiast gamer that wants solid graphics without going overboard on the budget and without any overclocking and cooling systems. I'll salvage what I can from my current computer (such as DVD drive and other things like that) to put into the new parts. My case is a Cooler Master Centurion 590. Cooling is adequate, as the case already has several fans.

I don't need i7 because I don't do any video rendering or anything taxing like that. I just want to play nice games. For storage, I guess I'll buy an SSD, but my current HDD's work fine for me.

Lastly, I'm not too picky about frame rates. If it goes above 30, I'm fine with that. I'm not into benchmarking. If it's smooth, then I'm good with it! The reason I'm buying the 660 ti is that I don't have to worry about those things anymore. lol

My question:

Will I run into any compatibility problems with the hardware? Which is the better motherboard in your opinion?

With regards to the 660 ti, which is one is the best? I live in the Philippines, and there are four brands available - ASUS, MSI, Zotac and Palit. I've checked out each of the reviews, but I want to get your opinion on each brand's reliability.

If I left out any detail, let me know. Thanks TH! :) 
September 5, 2012 2:39:24 PM

Your plan looks reasonable and appropriate to me.

Do check that your ram is 1.5v DDR3. If so, it should work.

All GTX660ti cards are built on the same chips, differing only by the type of cooler that is attached.
From a reliability point of view, I would expect no difference.

If there might be a difference in support where you live, then that might influense your choice.

650w is fine, the GTX660ti only needs 450w. If you ever want to upgrade your graphics, just sell the GTX660ti and replace it with a stronger single card. A good 650w psu can power a card as strong as a $1000 GTX690.

Both asus and asrock are good brands.
I happen to like smaller M-atx motherboards because they will fit into some nice compact cases, and they are usually a bit cheaper.
September 5, 2012 3:02:48 PM

Well i think your pretty much covered all i would say from what i read is the memory as long as it's DDR3 SDRAM it will be compatible as for your mobo the Asus is quality assurance however between those two the Asrock is better so it would be a hard choice for me if i was in your shoes as for the 660 TI's i would recommend the ASUS GTX 660 Ti DirectCU II TOP or the MSI GTX 660 Ti Power Edition.
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September 12, 2012 1:51:49 PM

hello there. thanks for the reply.

I've decided on the motherboard. It's a Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H. It's an ATX board and it has SLI, which I want to take advantage of in the future and it has more features than the Asus mATX mobo. I'm going to pair it with the 3550/3570.

What do you suggest I go after first? Should I purchase the mobo/processor first or upgrade the GPU first?

I can't buy everything at once since I don't have the budget to do that. What will happen if I buy the mobo/processor first? Will overall performance improve?

Of course, if I buy the 660 ti, I'll get better graphics performance, but the processor might bottleneck the GPU. Did I get it right?

Regarding the SSD, would it matter which brand I choose? All I know is sata 3 has better performance. I'm not really into benchmarking, but I have heard that boot times are better with an SSD. I just want to improve on that aspect.

Oh and by the way, I've found another mobo I like, the ASUS P8Z77-V LK. It's comparable to the Gigabyte. I'm kind of leaning towards the Gigabyte more, since I already own one, but what's the advantage of the ASUS board? I'm kind of a noob when it comes to these things, but I do know they're quite similar when it comes to expansion slots.

Thanks. :D 
September 12, 2012 2:21:00 PM

I am not much for planning for CF/SLI when a good single grraphics card can do the job.
Here is my canned rant on that:
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Dual graphics cards vs. a good single card.

a) How good do you really need to be?
A single GTX560 or 6870 can give you great performance at 1920 x 1200 in most games.

A single GTX560ti or 6950 will give you excellent performance at 1920 x 1200 in most games.
Even 2560 x 1600 will be good with lowered detail.
A single 7970 or GTX680 is about as good as it gets.

Only if you are looking at triple monitor gaming, then sli/cf will be needed.
Even that is now changing with triple monitor support on top end cards.

b) The costs for a single card are lower.
You require a less expensive motherboard; no need for sli/cf or multiple pci-e slots.
Even a ITX motherboard will do.

Your psu costs are less.
A GTX560ti needs a 450w psu, even a GTX580 only needs a 600w psu.
When you add another card to the mix, plan on adding 150-200w to your psu requirements.
A single more modern 28nm card like a 7970 or GTX680 needs only 550W.
Even the strongest GTX690 only needs 650w.

Case cooling becomes more of an issue with dual cards.
That means a more expensive case with more and stronger fans.
You will also look at more noise.

c) Dual cards do not always render their half of the display in sync, causing microstuttering. It is an annoying effect.
The benefit of higher benchmark fps can be offset, particularly with lower tier cards.
Read this: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/radeon-geforce-stut...

d) dual card support is dependent on the driver. Not all games can benefit from dual cards.

e) cf/sli up front reduces your option to get another card for an upgrade. Not that I suggest you plan for that.
It will often be the case that replacing your current card with a newer gen card will offer a better upgrade path.
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As to what to upgrade first, I suspect that a graphics card upgrade will do you more good than a cpu upgrade.
To help clarify your options, run these two tests:

a) Run your games, but lower your resolution and eye candy.
If your FPS increases, it indicates that your cpu is strong enough to drive a better graphics configuration.
If your FPS stays the same, you are likely cpu limited.

b) Limit your cpu, either by reducing the OC, or, in windows power management, limit the maximum cpu% to something like 50%.
This will simulate what a lack of cpu power will do.


Go to control panel/power options/change plan settings/change advanced power settings/processor power management/maximum processor state/
set to 50% and see how you do.


If your FPS drops significantly, it is an indicator that your cpu is the limiting factor, and a cpu upgrade is in order.

It is possible that both tests are positive, indicating that you have a well balanced system, and both cpu and gpu need to be upgraded to get better gaming FPS.

Regarding a SSD, I love them. They make everything feel so much quicker.
Disregard benchmarks, in actual usage, all modern SSD's perform about the same... Fast.
Sata2/3 is largely unimportant.
What does matter is the size of the ssd, and who makes it. As a ssd gets filled up, it can drastically slow down. So get one big enough that it will not go past 80% full.
As to Brands, Intel and Samsung are the safe bets. Others may have issues because of incomplete validation.
!