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First system (Ivy Bridge gaming)

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October 27, 2012 2:06:20 AM

Background, Motivation, and Modus Operandi: I have recently graduated from college, and to celebrate I have decided to build a nice gaming rig to replace my four-year-old Dell laptop. This will be my first time building a system, so the entire build is from scratch. My main criteria in component selection are quality and performance, with a secondary emphasis on aesthetics. I would like the help of veteran system builders to evaluate my proposed build and point out hardware conflicts or suggest different components, if necessary.
*Please also keep in mind that I'm new to this, and very possibly might say some stupid things or overlook some obvious things; I would appreciate it if you point this out to me if I do.

System Usage (from most to least important): Gaming, Media enjoyment (watching videos/listening to music), Office/work functions, Internet browsing

Games: I am a fan of MMOs, such as WOW, TOR and GW2. I also play LOL, and I've enjoyed playing games like the Mass Effect series, the Assassin's Creed series, Dragon Age, and other RPG-type games. I don't anticipate running any other demanding software: just Microsoft Office, Itunes, VLC, Skype...nothing incredible.

Budget Range: circa $2000; quality concerns me more than price, but if I can reduce the price without sacrificing quality or performance then I'm happy to do so.

Build: I'm dividing this into two sections: the core build and peripherals/other components. Other than using a copy of Windows 7 Ultimate that I already have, I will not mention software. I am planning to purchase the majority of the components from newegg.com, but I am willing to buy elsewhere if I can get the same parts for less money.

Core Build:

CPU: Intel Core i5-3570K Ivy Bridge 3.4GHz (3.8GHz Turbo) LGA 1155 77W Quad-Core Desktop Processor Intel HD Graphics 4000 BX80637I53570K
I debated between this and the 3770K, but the comparisons I read between the two suggested that the 3770K gave no appreciable boost to gaming, and was primarily more useful for image/video editing and other things I don't plan to do.

CPU Cooling Unit: CORSAIR Hydro Series H100 (CWCH100) Extreme Performance Liquid CPU Cooler
Aside from more complicated water-cooling solutions, this unit seemed like the most effective on the market. I'm hoping to moderately overclock the CPU, so I think good cooling is a good idea. Also, less weight on the motherboard and a quieter sound (compared to traditional air cooling) appeals to me.

Motherboard: ASUS SABERTOOTH Z77 LGA 1155 Intel Z77 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard or GIGABYTE G1.Sniper 3 LGA 1155 Intel Z77 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Extended ATX Intel Motherboard
I'm still debating between these two: the Sniper has a higher price, but more features. I think the primary advantage of the Sniper is its multiple PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots for up to four way SLI/Crossfire, but I only plan to get one GPU so this is good to me only for future-proofing/the option to pick up more GPUs later. Right now their prices are only $10 dollars different after rebates, so if the prices stay that close I think I'll go with the Sniper; otherwise, I'll go with the Sabertooth (assuming no further input).

Memory: CORSAIR Vengeance 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model CMZ8GX3M2A1600C9
From what I've read, moderate gaming won't require anything more than 8 GB, and these sticks seemed to be of good quality.

GPU: EVGA 02G-P4-2678-KR GeForce GTX 670 FTW 2GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 3.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Support Video Card or MSI N680GTX-PM2D2GD5 GeForce GTX 680 2GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 3.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Support Video Card
Both of these cards manufacturers seem to be reputable, and each card is good: I'm just not sure if the additional expense of the 680 will translate into a noticeably better gaming experience. Thoughts?

Case: Thermaltake Overseer RX-I VN700M1W2N Black Steel / Plastic ATX Full Tower Computer Case
This case got good reviews, and from what I've read as long as a case functions well the choice is mostly cosmetic. The Overseer is somewhat gaudy, but I'm attracted to the black with blue glow color-scheme, and I've attempted to match this in some of my other components.

PSU: CORSAIR Professional Series Gold AX750 (CMPSU-750AX) 750W ATX12V v2.31 / EPS12V v2.92 80 PLUS GOLD Certified Modular Active PFC Power Supply
After taking a look at the components I'm planning to run, 750W should be more than enough unless I pick up another GPU later (emphasis on later). This unit seemed to be a high-quality unit, so...

System Drive: SAMSUNG 830 Series MZ-7PC256B/WW 2.5" 256GB SATA III MLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)
I've read about the speed advantages of having an SSD system drive. However, how big a difference does it make? Also, not that many games could also be installed on the drive, and I've read that for many games having them installed on an SSD makes no noticeable difference: when is it advantageous, if ever, to have games/other programs installed on the SSD?

Storage Drive: Seagate Barracuda ST2000DM001 2TB 7200 RPM 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive
Not much here, this looked like a solid drive, and I'll need the extra space for music, movies, pictures, documents, etc.

Blu-Ray Player: ASUS Black 12X BD-ROM 16X DVD-ROM 48X CD-ROM SATA Internal Blu-ray Drive Model BC-12B1ST/BLK/B/AS - OEM
This is probably the least-essential component of the core build, making it here only because I need some manner of optical storage device. I'm not especially attached to being able to play Blu-Ray discs, but why not?

Peripherals/Other Components

Monitor: ASUS VS Series VS238H-P Black 23" 2ms HDMI LED Backlight Widescreen LCD Monitor 250 cd/m2 50,000,000:1
Ideally I'd like a larger monitor, but this seemed of good quality and for a decent price. Any thoughts on monitor sizes for gaming?

Card Reader: BYTECC U2CR-318/Hub 52-in-1 USB 2.0 Card Reader
This is completely optional, but seemed like it could be handy. I really didn't put too much into this aside from comparing prices and ratings on newegg.

Wireless: TP-LINK TL-WDN4800 Wireless N Dual Band Adapter IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n PCI Express x1 Up to 450Mbps Wireless Data Rates Support 64/128 bit WEP, WPA-PSK/WPA2-PSK, 802.1x
For the foreseeable future, I will need wireless capability on the system. This is necessary, but there are many different options, including internal and external cards. I've just assumed that internal would be better and picked what seemed like a decent one; any input on this?

Keyboard: Max Keyboard Nighthawk X8 Blue Backlit Mechanical Keyboard
This is the only component of the build I did not find on newegg, but when researching keyboards it stuck out as the best: Cherry brown switches, NKRO, good ratings, and even blue backlighting. This seemed like the best keyboard for combining gaming with more mundane purposes. The only significant downside was the lack of dedicated macro keys, but I think I could live with that.

Mouse: Logitech G500 10 Buttons Dual-mode Scroll Wheel USB Wired Laser 5700 dpi Gaming Mouse
As far as all-around mouse use went, this mouse seemed like the top pick among gamers. I was severely tempted by the Razer DeathAdder, but in the end reliability and functionality won over aesthetics. I'm not enamored with the appearance of the G500, but I think the better mouse wins this round (any other suggestions appreciated).

Beyond this, I'm picking up some Arctic Silver 5 and an anti-static wrist strap, but I didn't think these important enough to link

Location: Southwestern Connecticut, USA

Approximate Purchase Date: Flexible, but most likely between Black Friday and the end of the year, as various sales or other deals are offered on components that interest me.

Parts Preferences: I'm sticking with Intel CPUs; for no other component do I have any brand loyalty. So long as the brand has a reputation for selling quality products, it's fine by me.

Overclocking: Yes. I'm only planning on overclocking minor to moderate amounts at first, and then not until I get the system up and running for a while. My current target is overclocking to 4.0 GHz, which according to what I've read should not be a stretch. Still, please correct me if I'm wrong.

SLI or Crossfire: Maybe. I'd like to have the option available in the future if I need to improve my graphics capabilities for future games, but for the moment it seems unnecessary with a high-end card.

Monitor Resolution: The monitor I'm looking at buying (see above) has a recommended resolution of 1920 x 1080, though the graphics card can support more than that.

Additional Comments: Just a couple of audio questions. Firstly, how important is a good headset, and how likely would I be to need a soundcard if I get one? Aside from that, please let me know if you have any questions, and I look forward to your input!
October 27, 2012 2:41:35 AM

Those games aren't demanding. I suggest:
1) A 4GHz overclock will only need a Hyper 212 EVO/
2) At 1080p, SLI and Crossfire are superfluous and overkill. By the time a 670 is considered weak, you'll be due for an entire system upgrade anyway. I suggest with going with a cheaper mobo.
3) The 680 performs 5-10% better than the 670. Definitely not worth the extra $10.
4) If you decide not to get 2 or more GPU's, get a 600-650w PSU.
5) SSD's are fast. Bootup times are about 10s, and programs open instantly.
6) I would go for a WD drive.

A good headset is important if you want full game immersion. A soundcard is only for audiophiles. Onboard audio is pretty decent.
October 27, 2012 2:46:26 AM

It's clear you've done your homework, you've made some great picks already.

Definitely stick with the 3570k, you are correct that the i7 will not be an appreciable improvement for your usage. As for cooling, if you are only planning a moderate overclock, then you don't need to drop $100 on watercooling. A $20 Hyper212-EVO or Xigmatek Gaia would probably get you there just fine. I've never used an H100, but I've heard people say they can be noisy and not really superior to high end air coolers. People who advocate watercooling usually suggest a full blown custom kit and not a closed loop cooler.

Either motherboard would be fine, but there's a good chance you could spend less and still get everything you need. Take a look at the Asrock Z77 Extreme4, the GIGABYTE GA-Z77-D3H, and the ASUS P8Z77-V LK.

RAM looks fine, but get the Low Profile version of that same memory if you are willing to entertain the idea of a less expensive air cooler: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

For GPU, definitely go with the 670, the 680 performs only ~5% better on average for almost $200 more. Alternately, a 7970 performs better than a 680 and can often be had for about the same price as a 670.

Case largely comes down to preference, there are many good contenders. If you don't care much about aesthetics and just want great thermals, a good choice would be the Antec 1100. You can even add some blue LED fans to the extra mounts so it matches the other parts. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

The PSU looks great, and 750W is actually enough that you could add another card for SLI. With a single card, you could drop it down to a ~550W instead.

Drives look great, good picks there. You are correct that an SSD won't really improve your in-game framerates once the assets are loaded, but it makes a huge difference in boot and loading times and the general responsiveness of the PC.

Not much else to add to the rest of the build, seems like you've got your ducks in a row.

Most folks would agree a good headset is fairly important. I usually listen to speakers, but I also love my Sennheiser HD280 Pros. There are lots of options, and peripherals are always a subjective affair. That goes for the mouse too - you want to find one that fits YOUR hand, the reviews may not be helpful for determining that. You also almost definitely do not need to buy a discrete soundcard, the integrated motherboard audio is sufficient for all but the most discerning audiophile.
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October 27, 2012 5:32:03 AM

I like that keyboard. Rosewill has a new one out also that costs a bit less, but has fewer features.

I think either MB is not needed, and agree that you will have one GPU and at some point later when you feel the need to upgrade there will be a better single GPU upgrade available.
I have seen too many little issues with Asus boards lately and had better luck with ASRock, so I currently favor them... So I will recommend the extreme4 as the board that fits a lot of builds...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
or if you need more features try the Extreme6
http://www.amazon.com/LGA1155-CrossFireX-Motherboard-Z7...

A 256GB SSD will hold quite a bit. I use a 180GB with no problems... most of my games are in Steam these days, and I use Steam Tool, to move unused games off of the SSD while maintaining access.

Game load times are vastly improved. This does make a big difference in games. Installing games is much faster.
AV scans. OS installations and even backups are faster because of an SSD.

Yes, I would say the GTX 670.

You want a case that is fully compatible with the Corsair H100 with push/pull (4) fans. See this list:
http://www.overclock.net/t/1144409/h80-h100-case-compat...

October 27, 2012 11:52:08 PM

Thank you very much for your responses!

Motherboard: I've decided to switch to the ASRock Extreme4 per the advice you have given me: according to various reviews, it seems like a lot of bang for the buck, though a lot of users have complained about the customer service. I think I may put down a few more dollars for a better warranty/coverage. Can any of you vouch for the quality of its construction and longevity?

Graphics: I investigated the 7970, and discovered that it tends to be a loud card. I would want to spend more money on an aftermarket cooler to address this, but that would put the total cost of the card beyond what I want to pay compared with the 670; so, no change here.

CPU Cooler: I find the price difference between the H100 and the Hyper 212 very attractive. If I decided to overclock up to 4.5 GHz, however, would the H100 become worthwhile in comparison, or would the Hyper 212 continue to perform well? Also, will the weight of the cooler be a problem for the motherboard? @jrgong: The Nocturna seems to outperform the Hyper 212 on all counts except price, but the weight concerns me: it's more than twice the weight of the 212. I've yet to actually build a system, though: is this a problem?

Power Supply: I picked out the SeaSonic X Series X650 Gold ((SS-650KM Active PFC F3)) 650W ATX12V V2.3/EPS 12V V2.91 SLI Ready CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS GOLD Certified Full Modular Active PFC Power Supply, which is by all reports an excellent power supply, and definitely good for the price.

@jrgong: Thank you for your input! And no, I went to college out of state :-). I do not need an OS, I already have one. And no, everything does not need to be from newegg.com: it has been convenient to organize and compare different pieces of hardware, but when my build is finalized I'll shop around more for different retailers.

@ckholt83: Thank you for the very specific advice! I spent a good deal of time reviewing your MBO suggestions and similar ones.

@Proximon: Thank you for posting! I spent time reviewing your motherboard suggestions, and my only concern before settling on the extreme4 was ASRock's customer service. As for the SSD, I'm comfortable spending some more money to get a drive slightly too big. Also, thanks for the list of H100 compatible cases! Whether or not that would fit in the Overseer was one concern of mine that I forgot to mention.
October 28, 2012 12:29:05 AM

Saying that a particular card is loud is inaccurate. It depends on the OEM. One 670 can be louder than another 7970. Depends on the manufacturer and number of fans.
I have the Hyper 212 EVO, and it will overclock to 4-4.2GHz. At 4.5GHz, you'll need a better cooler. But you'd still be better off with the Noctua D14. It is heavy, but it's not going to damage the mobo if you install it properly. It cools just as well as the H100, but it is cheaper, and Noctua fans are amazing at cooling.
October 28, 2012 12:38:18 AM

obsama1 said:
Saying that a particular card is loud is inaccurate. It depends on the OEM. One 670 can be louder than another 7970. Depends on the manufacturer and number of fans.
I have the Hyper 212 EVO, and it will overclock to 4-4.2GHz. At 4.5GHz, you'll need a better cooler. But you'd still be better off with the Noctua D14. It is heavy, but it's not going to damage the mobo if you install it properly. It cools just as well as the H100, but it is cheaper, and Noctua fans are amazing at cooling.


You're right, I should have been more specific: the Sapphire models of the 7970 that I investigated had a lot of people complaining about noise. There were other, significantly more expensive models I did not investigate. Also, sounds like getting the Noctua is a good option then, especially since I'd have to buy quieter fans for the H100 if I want to keep the noise down.
October 28, 2012 5:04:18 AM

I've been using the Noctua NH-D14 for almost 2 years now. It is quite large, but my motherboard hasn't snapped in half yet. I think you'll be fine. ;) 
October 28, 2012 5:51:20 AM

It's always so subjective. Years ago I knew a local shop that would only recommend ECS... they had gotten 10 bad boards in a row from Asus.

I have had very good experiences with both ASRock and MSI lately. I haven't needed support though. Many years ago I had trouble with MSI, and still think their boards don't last as long as others.

If I wanted great MB support, I would have purchased from a small local shop... the kind that handles multiple business accounts and only barely has a storefront.

Some tips on getting good support every time:

- Be calm and relaxed. Sound like a pro, not a kid who won't get to play his game this week.
Have all your info handy, and demonstrate that you knew enough to do your own troubleshooting... but never be arrogant and always be willing to do whatever they need you to do, even if you already did it.

My only horror story about tech support is from Asus. I RMA'ed a board and paid them for 3-day shipment of the new board... it wasn't even mailed for 4 days and then was shipped UPS ground... arriving 12 days after the conversation. When I asked for my money back all they would do was extend my 3 year MB warranty for another 3 months.
October 28, 2012 6:19:55 PM

ckholt83 said:
I've been using the Noctua NH-D14 for almost 2 years now. It is quite large, but my motherboard hasn't snapped in half yet. I think you'll be fine. ;) 


Thank you, I feel more comfortable getting the Noctua now.

Proximon said:
If I wanted great MB support, I would have purchased from a small local shop... the kind that handles multiple business accounts and only barely has a storefront.

Some tips on getting good support every time:

- Be calm and relaxed. Sound like a pro, not a kid who won't get to play his game this week.
Have all your info handy, and demonstrate that you knew enough to do your own troubleshooting... but never be arrogant and always be willing to do whatever they need you to do, even if you already did it.


Thank you for the advice. I've always tried to be courteous and polite when dealing with people in the service industries, especially because of the crap they have to put up with some other customers. I also try to do as much as I can first, much the same way that I wouldn't run to the doctor with a hangnail. I have worked at a computer help desk as well, so I have some knowledge of what the voices on the phone are doing, and I do not fault them if they have to transfer me or make a case log for someone else to check out later.

Thank you for your help: your input has actually given me a couple more questions to ask. When doing research regarding motherboards, one of the things I learned was that your motherboard is a component on which you really don't want to skimp. Initially I had assumed that increases in motherboard price correlated more or less with increases in quality: however, according to some of the more recent research I've done, increases in price more accurately represent additional features. Aside from learning more about electronics and circuitry (which I've started doing, but there's a LOT to learn), how can I accurately judge the quality of a motherboard independent of its features?

Similarly, I'm not sure how to evaluate the quality/suitability of some of the cases I've been looking at (@ckholt83 thank you for recommending the Antec 1100). It seems like every case I look at would work for my build, and that the only really defining difference between them is appearance. In the $100-$200 range, for the build I'm putting together, is there any advice you can give me on selecting a mid or full tower case?
October 28, 2012 7:42:12 PM

Years ago we could tell a lot by the type of capacitors on the board. Now, all caps are solid.

I think you can tell a lot about the board by looking at the voltage regulation. In my Guide to Choosing Parts, I think I link an article at Hardware Secrets that discusses this in a non-technical way.

Secondary SATA controllers are a good thing to look at.
The sound chip may be a factor as well.

For cases, read actual reviews AND look at videos. I know the mega store Fry's has an entire isle dedicated to computer cases, out of the box, where you can actually put your hands on them and really see the difference.

Case needs for everyone
-Room to work in comfortably
-Adequate air flow (at least one front and one rear 120mm fan)
- front USB 3.0 ports that connect to the corresponding header on the motherboard, and not to the rear ports via a pass though cable.

Beyond that, cable management is nice. This comes down to ways to hide the cables so that they can't be seen from a side window... but also keeping cables out of the air flow helps temps slightly.

The ease of access to the case may be a thing...

Really, a lot of it is personal preference. Choose a look that you like and then find a case that has the right features.

My last case, which I had for many years through many builds:
http://icrontic.com/article/silverstone_tj09

My current case
http://www.legitreviews.com/article/1789/1/
It's made in the USA and Case Labs is probably the best of the best, but you should NOT spend so much on your first case, because you need to learn what you like and that will take some time.

There are, obviously, a few cases that get recommended a lot. NZXT has a few. Cooler Master has a few. There are also some newer companies like Bitfenix.
!