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May finally be getting around to building my first pc, need advice

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September 30, 2012 6:51:47 PM

I've been intending to build this for about a year now, but I might finally be able to do it around Christmastime this year, so I'd like someone to look over my build and give advice.

There are a few things I expect out of this computer:

-I want it to be able to play new games (e.g. Borderlands 2) with decent graphics
-I want it to be able to handle multitasking (I always run Teamspeak while gaming and I have a tendency to keep lots of tabs open in Chromium)
-I want it to be upgradable (my family has owned too many Dell desktops with absolutely no upgradability)
-I'd like it to last through college (I'm a high school junior at the moment. Obviously it won't be able to play new games six years from now, but I'll still need it to do basic tasks.)

My budget is fairly low, around $700. That price needs to include everything from the motherboard to the keyboard, minus the speakers, which I already have.

My current build is pushed over my budget by the two monitors. I currently use a 1024x768 19" monitor from an old Dell Dimension computer as a second monitor with my laptop. The monitor gives off a lot of heat, though, and I'm a bit tired of dealing with two monitors of different resolutions, so I decided to go with two new identical monitors. If I can ask for the monitors as my one big Christmas gift, though, the build should be within my budget.

I'm looking for confirmation that everything I've chosen should work together and any other advice (such as a part that might be overkill for a build of this price, a particular component you think should be upgraded, personal experiences with any of the chosen parts, etc.). Any advice is appreciated, this will be my first attempt at building a computer myself.

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: AMD Athlon II X4 640 3.0GHz Quad-Core Processor ($89.99 @ Newegg)
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-970A-D3 ATX AM3+ Motherboard ($79.99 @ Newegg)
Memory: Corsair Vengeance 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($43.99 @ Newegg)
Storage: Western Digital Caviar Blue 1TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($74.99 @ Newegg)
Video Card: Sapphire Radeon HD 6850 1GB Video Card ($119.99 @ Newegg)
Case: Cooler Master HAF 912 ATX Mid Tower Case ($63.98 @ Newegg)
Power Supply: Corsair Builder 500W 80 PLUS Certified ATX12V Power Supply ($39.99 @ Newegg)
Optical Drive: Asus DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS DVD/CD Writer ($19.99 @ Newegg)
Monitor: Asus VS208N-P 20.0" Monitor ($128.98 @ Newegg)
Monitor: Asus VS208N-P 20.0" Monitor ($128.98 @ Newegg)
Keyboard: Logitech MK520 Wireless Ergonomic Keyboard w/Laser Mouse ($39.99 @ Amazon)
Other: Koutech IO-RCM621 All-in-one USB 2.0 3.5" Multi-format Card Reader ($15.88)
Total: $846.74
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
September 30, 2012 7:43:33 PM

I don't see the operating system in there, do you have copy that's usable?

It's hard to shave anything more off what you have listed, you've done a pretty good job.
You could cut a little off the case, but it would only be $20 really.
If you don't really need the card reader you could drop that.
If you already have a keyboard and mouse you could drop that for now.

If you live near a Microcenter I recommend checking out their pricing on CPUs. They often have combo deals on CPUs and Mobos that cut alot off the price. You have to look in their online catalog to find the deals.

edit: I should add, given the emphasis on gaming, an intel I3 would be preferable and an I5 would be ideal. More expensive though
October 1, 2012 12:20:38 AM

Oops, forgot to say what I was doing for the OS. I plan on dual-booting Linux Mint and Windows Server 2008 R2 (free through Microsoft Dreamspark), so I have that covered.

I'm not sure the trade in case quality for those $20 is worth it, so I think I'll stick to the case I picked.

The card reader really isn't absolutely essential to begin with, I may hold off on that in the beginning and add that later. I can make do with a USB SD card reader at first.

I do have a keyboard, but it's a really old wireless keyboard with a weak wireless receiver so I'll probably go ahead and replace it.

The nearest Microcenter is in Chicago, I believe, and I live in southern Indiana, so that isn't an option.

Is there that big of a difference between the Intel i5 2500 and the AMD Athlon II X4 640? That's quite a price difference. The first builds I planned I actually used the i5, but realized the processor was pushing me way over budget.

Thanks for all of the advice, I figured I'd trimmed it down about as far as possible while still making the build fit my expectations.
Related resources
October 1, 2012 12:52:30 AM

To get an idea of the performance difference of the processors, you can check out benchmarks. There's some here:
http://www.tomshardware.com/charts/processors,6.html

This site is pretty easy to use also:
http://www.anandtech.com/bench/CPU/2

The results aren't going to be 100% comparable for various reasons, but will give you a good idea of the difference.

for gaming, modern intel processors are the best. Even an I3 would be a good choice. For budget builds I usually go with AMD due to pricing, but for a gaming rig Intel really pulls ahead.
October 1, 2012 10:30:42 PM

I see what you mean.

I'm thinking I might cut back the build, minus the monitors (which would hopefully be taken care of), to the bare minimum - make do with the keyboard/mouse I have and hold off on the card reader for now, and try to work in a better CPU. I don't want to go with an i3, I definitely want a quad-core, but if I were to upgrade to an i5 my GPU would really be holding the build back.

Eh, more thinking to do, I suppose.

I have a difficult time choosing parts because I don't know whether to shoot for a very budget-friendly build knowing I'll still be very impressed with the performance, or get whatever I can possibly afford so I'm not disappointed. That sounds contradictory, but I'm currently doing all of my gaming on my Dell Inspiron 1545 laptop (2.13 Ghz dual-core processor, 4 GB RAM), which actually handles games surprisingly well, considering the specs. I'm torn between thinking I'll be blown away by any gaming desktop I spend $600-700 on, and knowing if it doesn't blow this laptop out of the water in game performance I'm going to be very disappointed.
a b B Homebuilt system
October 1, 2012 10:44:30 PM

yeah Intel is good... I use a FX-8120 and it is performing good for me so i think that the AMD you would be getting is good too(for the price) and also the 6850 is good i can play bf3 at high settings(no mxaa) at 30+ frames
October 2, 2012 1:39:42 AM

Keep in mind that you can add another GPU in the future and crossfire, or just replace the original. I know you don't really want to be thinking about that at this point, but you mentioned that you'll be using this long term. You have a while before you're buying, so hopefully there will be some good sales around the holidays. There will probably be some good deals on 7000 series GPUs. Check out combo deals periodically, they can save you a bunch.
a b B Homebuilt system
October 2, 2012 1:50:14 AM

yeah... im getting a 7970 ghz soon :D 
!