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1st build in a decade, $3000-ish gaming/multipurpose high-end rig

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December 4, 2012 11:39:59 PM

(Link to the parts list has been highlighted below, sorry about that)

Some of the other PC forums I have posted on before took all of my recommendations and suggestions..... tossed them out a window, and spent 5 minutes putting together a parts list of a PC that poster would want which contained nothing from the original and going "build this". I have since migrated to better forums like this one. I have been planning to upgrade for years and constantly updating the parts list for my system (originally started as a Pentium 4 with DDR1 ram) for a long time now, and spent several days researching all the parts. I know I am very out of the loop due to my system being so old, so I am sure there will be some better options for some of the parts I chose, which is why I am posting to get ideas, opinions, and recommendations on my build plans. I would just appreciate if you have a recommendation for a different part to see if it fits in with why I considered the original part first, I have had many people on the other forums I mentioned just completely changing everything I had listed before just because its a part they like but actually would not work for what I had in mind.

My current desktop is a Pentium 3, been stuck with it forever patching it up. Enough is enough, this thing can't even run Youtube anymore ever since I upgraded it to XP. So needless to say, there is nothing I can salvage from this thing for the new build.

As you can see though, I am very over-budget. My original intended ceiling was $2500 max, but I had completely mis-judged the price of a good 3D card (was hoping for a card that can hit 60FPS on highest settings for games like Crysis or Metro 2033, but not even the card I chose can do that, though it comes close in the benchmarks I saw). So I decided to save up some more and up my budget to $3,000. Its still just barely above that though, and I really don't want to sacrifice any of the performance or part quality for it. In all honesty, I am considering dropping the 3TB disks down to 2TB, that would pretty much put me directly at my budget, although that's quite a capacity drop, from 9TB to 6TB.

I am aware this build is pretty excessive, "Future Proofing" is a very stupid notion, especially with how fast PC technology moves. I am not building a PC that I expect to run without the need for upgrades for another decade, but after being stuck with the low-end for years (even the PCs before my P3) I have had enough, and just once want a high-end rig instead of being stuck with bottom of the barrel.

It will primarily be used for gaming, but I also intend to emulate and/or virtualize several different types of systems on it as well as encode HD video (Was originally planning to add a HD capture card too but the one I wanted appears to have issues, plus the build is overpriced enough without it). My current "throwaway" Mac Mini alone has several 500GB to 2TB drives connected to it by USB and other than the 2TB (mainly because I just got it) are full, so yes, I do need the space of that RAID5 array, especially since I have been conservative so far with the space I use on my older systems and would be capturing HD video uncompressed with this thing for the purposes of encoding later, as well as backing up my disks to images on it.

The harddrives.... I am planning to put two SSDs in RAID0 (please read what I said about my choice of Mobo and SSD before the alarm bells go off in your head) and four HDDs in RAID5. The RAID0 I am purely designing for performance and my OS/Apps/Games will be all on there, not planning to put anything important or not easily reinstallable/downloadable on it, and will back any important files to the RAID5. The RAID5 obviously will be for storage of large files and more important/unrecoverable files (Family photos/videos, images of disks, backup of anything personal from the raid0, etc). I don't want to put the user folders on the RAID5 because I want it to be possible to take the RAID5 offline if I ever need to while still keeping the system in a usable state.

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Anyway, I hope that gave a general idea of what I am trying to do, so here's the basic questions:

Approximate Purchase Date: Within the week, but absolute latest end of the month.

Budget Range: $3000 since $2500 seems impossible for what I am planning to do.

System Usage from Most to Least Important: Gaming, Vitrulization/Emulation, Video Encoding, watching HD video/movies, general internet use (IRC, surfing, etc)

Are you buying a monitor: Yes

Do you need to buy OS: Yes

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: Pretty much anything trustworthy that will ship to the US, although I prefer Newegg and Amazon, but I pledge no loyalties if someone else that isn't shady has them for less.

Location: Chicagoland Suburbs, IL.

Parts Preferences: Intel and Nvidia, though I am not a die-hard fan if the ATI is that much better for the same price. The CPU has already been purchased however due to a sale so I can't go the AMD route.

Overclocking: Maybe, initially no but I plan to down the road... once I learn how.

SLI or Crossfire: Maybe, planning to keep my options open for SLI either as a cheap future upgrade or if I have the money for a major upgrade once the card starts showing it's age.

Your Monitor Resolution: 1920x1080, 16:9 is preffered though not a dead-set requirement against 16:10

Additional Comments: It would be best to see below why I chose each part, some of them (like the motherboard) I had very very specific constraints for choosing them. So please keep these requirements in mind when suggesting a different part.

And Most Importantly, Why Are You Upgrading: ....... I have a Pentium 3 running on PC133 SDRAM, and I like to game, thats reason enough.
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And here is the parts list as well as why I am choosing the parts here.

Please keep in mind that I actually already have purchased three of these, the CPU, UPS, and RAID card, so those can't be changed, they were deals I had to act quickly to get. And that also the prices/places on pc parts picker aren't necessarily the ones I will go with as not all choices (and anything brick and mortar) was not listed:

PARTS LIST ---> http://pcpartpicker.com/p/qXPK <-----

(Can't think of a decent way to embed an excel file here which is a more accurate reflection on the prices and purchase locations so that link will have to do)

Ram:
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/llano-apu-memory-pe...
- G.Skill and Adata were two top performers, although I am not a fan of the AData brand. While some results were very close to the point of not even considering fractions of a difference in performance, the test seemed to favor the two cheapest because of this. Considering the small (compared to the rest of the system) price difference between the Ripjaw X and cheaper Corsairs, I would rather go with the Ripjaw X as they are a decent performance boost in some aspects while being a small increase in cost, rather than the rather insane higher prices of "performance" ram like the CAS7 Tirdent X model.


Motherboard Review:
My motherboard requirements are somewhat strict. On top of it obviously needing to be a LGA 1155 socket, since I plan to use two SSDs in RAID0 I needed one with an intel series 7 based chipset so I could do TRIM over RAID0. And finally, the RAID card I got is pretty picky about some of the motherboards it will work with. Apparently Gigabyte tend to cause problems but the P8 ASUS line seems to be good for the most part.

I was using this review to compare motherboards:
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/z77x-up5-th-z77a-gd...

Based on this, I was planning to go with the Sabertooth Z77. However, then the RAID card reared it's ugly head again. The Sabertooth has two PCI-E 3 slots and no PCI-E 2. If I used the RAID card in one of the PCI-E 3 slots that means I would have no slots left open for a possible SLI/Crossfire upgrade path.

The ASUS P8Z77-V Deluxe appears to have similar if not better performance than the Sabertooth Z77, but has an additional PCI-E 2x4 slot. While I do like the design of the Sabertooth more, the Deluxe would keep a SLI/Crossfire upgrade path for me open. And considering that the card is meant to handle up to 32 HDDs at once and I am only using 4, I doubt putting it on a x4 instead of an x8 slot will impact it's performance much.

... I have never in my life used a motherboard that didn't use BIOS, this UEFI thing will take some learning to get used to.

Case review:
http://www.squidoo.com/gaming-cases

What else is there to say? Other than the case being the correct size and type to fit all your components, and having the bays for all the drives you need, there is not really much in terms of "performance" you can judge them by, a large amount of it is just personal taste. I saw several in person, and was comparing the HAF 932 with the HAF X, decided to go with the X due to better cooling and the USB 3.0 ports (And I admit, I liked the look of it more personally, the price difference was only between $180 and $200). I just hope the fact that I would have to get a mounting bracket to mount the two 2.5 inch SSDs I plan to use in a RAID0 in a single 3.0 bay won't cause overheating problems, can I get any opinions on that? The case has 5 internal 3 inch bays and I am going to be using six drives (although I guess I could always mount one of them in the 5 inch bays, but i'd rather have them cooled with the fan in the 3 inch bays.) So I figured I would mount four of the 3.5 HDDs in bays #2-5 and both 2.5 inch SSDs together in bay #1.


3D Card Benchmarks:
http://benchmarkreviews.com/index.php?option=com_conten...
This one took me a while because I have been completely out of the loop in terms of where 3D card tech has gone, especially with what AMD has been doing.

Just like I wouldn't pay for an i7 extreme because I can't possibly justify the cost of the performance increase, I woulden't consider a card that costs $100 more but only gets one or two FPS more in a game which is what I was expecting the 670 to do over the 660 ti considering how close their specs are. The GTX 670 showed a fairly considerable FPS advantage over the 660 Ti, epecially on Crysis and most DX11 based games, sometimes an increase of nearly 20FPS! However, the Radeon HD 7970 used in those tests confuses me, mainly in that its completely inconsistant! Sometimes it outperforms the 670 while othertimes its outperformed by the 660 Ti, while the other card's consnstanies tend to be the same throughout the other tests. (Yes, I'm aware different games are optimized for ATI or Nvidia cards, which I assume are the reason for the inconsistencies)

In here however the 670 seems to outperform the 7970 in every turn, but the 7970 appears to bear the 670 in every overclocking test
http://www.hardocp.com/article/2012/05/14/geforce_680_6...

Plus I am worried about comments I have seen from others stating that AMD tends to cut off support for cards pretty quickly, not sure how true that is. The Radeon 9600PRO I have in my P3 sure got demoted to Legacy support quickly...


Cooler:
http://www.techspot.com/review/475-cpu-cooler-compariso...
http://www.frostytech.com/top5heatsinks.cfm

Judging by these, the Noctua NH-D14 and Spire Thermax Eclipse II are the way to go for a 1155 socket. I am personally leaning more towards the Noctua though due to many of my friends recommending it as well and it's apparent popularity with system builders. I will have to look into the Thermax but I also know for sure someone who used the same motherboard and ram as I plan to managed to get them to fit without problems, the cooler blocking RAM or PCIe ports was always a conscern when picking one, as there is very little ways to check for that. (The Indige Xtreme site also specifically had instructions for installing the Noctua NH-D14 with it).

If by any chance anyone here has this combination of motherboard, cooler, and ram. Can you tell me if there are any problems of this cooler blocking any of the ram or pci ports?

SSD:
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/240gb-256gb-ssd-rev...

I did an estimate of roughly how much space the gaming software I am most likely to play would take, and came to around 400-600GB, and even that is being conservative a bit. Two 256GB drives will cost as much if not less than a single 512GB, and will offer better performnace by being in a RAID0... plus this leaves me open to upgrades later when the prices drop and I need the space by upgrading to two 512GB SSDs in RAID0.

I have heard many people recommend the Samsung 840 to me, and after going by this review, I can see why. Although only the PRO is shown here, the 840PRO flat-out obliterates every other SSD shown. And the non-pro version of the 840 seems to be only marginally lower performance going by it's details. On top of that, its actually one of the cheaper 256GD SSDs.

Another review that also had the 840 showed that it's read speeds are pretty good, but differs when it comes to write speeds (though they epseculated it might be a firmware issue).... rather, the write speeds were somewhat very lacking:
http://www.anandtech.com/show/6337/samsung-ssd-840-250g...

Some OCZs out-perform it on some of the tests, but everyone has been telling me that OCZ drives seem to have a lot of realiability issues, I don't want to trust them. The write speeds worry me though, and the PRO, although pretty much the best SSD out of the bunch in both tests bar-none, is too expensive.

I have also heard others comment that the 830 actually outperforms the 840, but that benchmark says otherwise other than for a few write tests. Would really appreciate opinions on this.

HDD:
I know I know, RAID is not backup, I am not stupid, but just because you back up doesn't mean you should completely ignore any drive reliability. Pretty much all reviews out there would be for performance, but thats what my SSD array is for. The HDDs are for RAID5, and its pretty difficult if not near-impossible to test for realibility. Plus, I was told that yet again, the RAID card is picky with drives. Mainly Samsung, Hitachi, and WD Red drives work fine, other brands (And other types of WD drives) can have issues or I may need to adjust their detection times.....somehow. And of course, every HDD inevitably fails, and though I expect to see a lot of 1 out of 5 reviews for all of them, it almost seems like the amount of people with 1/5 reviews complaning about several of them being DOA, dying after a few months, etc seem to be growing to the point where all HDDs seem worthless. I admit, I really can't get any reliable data and kinda phoned-in my choice for the HDDs, so any advice or opinions on these would be very appreciated. Preferably looking for 3TB around the $150 range, give or take. I'm sure it probably means nothing, but the WD Red drives are designed to "work in a NAS" and "for 24/7 operation"... although I am sure that is purely marketing and not much else.

If it really pushes my budget that much however, I can opt to go for 2TB instead of 3TB, I would like to bring the price down, but that would knock my storage array down from 9TB to 6TB, going with 2TB though seems kinda a lot to spend for what basically amounts to two 3TB drives, though granted with RAID5 tolerance.

Sound Card:
http://www.hardocp.com/article/2012/05/01/sound_blaster...

Another part I just quickly chose actually, so I really would appreciate any opinions or recommendations or this. It was hard to find reviews of soundcards that weren't all over the place in pricepoints and selection. I just wanted better than the on-board sound performance that the motherboard would have, as well as better gaming effects. ATM I am going to be switching between a 2.1 setup and a sorround-sound pair of headphones, but I do plan to evnetually have a surround-sound setup in the room the PC will be in (We're not talking thousand-dollar BOSE speakers here...), and this is why I was looking for a card that supports at least 5.1 and has optical-out. The "Pro" edition which costs $20 more from my understanding is the exact same card with just added looks like LEDs and a EMI shield. The music performance on this card apparnetly wasn't that great, but it's gaming perofmrnace was apparnetly pretty good, and I coulden't find a card that wasn't in the $200+ range that people seemed to love. Seems like you have to somewhat work with the settings for differnet audio scenarios. Seems like the card is specifically designed for gaming, which admitably is what I will be doing a lot on this rig. While I can't see myself watching many movies on my PC (Well, maybe 3D ones), I probably would be listenening to music too though, and so the medicore music performance was disappointing. Any opinions on this?

Blu-Ray Drive:
Yes I do still use physical media, and actually still burn it often. However, this was another part I just chose based on drives that support all modern writable and re-writable formats on Newegg's Power Search. Coulden't really find any reviews that were of modern drives for these. So I'm leaving this one completely open to suggestions.

Keyboard:
I am well aware that most "Gaming" keyboards are the typical rubber-dome with fancy accessories added on like macro buttons, touchscreens, and leds to make them flashy and drive up the price. Reading up on mechanical keyboards, seems like Cherry Red switches will be the most useful for gaming (is double-tapping when typing that much of an issue with cherry reds?), and popular opinion seems to agree, but reds are pretty rare to find. Black seems to be the best all-purpose type of switch as well as second-best (or the best for those that do not like cherry red) gaming switch.

Both the Rosewill and RAZER BlackWidow mechanical keyboards seem to be within every top 5 or 10 list of gaming keyboards, and they thankfully are within the $100 mark give or take. I mainly though can't decide between the two, I want the Rosewill because I can actually get Red keys with it, but it has no additional macro or programmable buttons, the RAZER BlackWidow only comes with black keys, despite having the macro buttons (and in all honesty, I kinda like the backlight effect the BlackWidow has on the keys).

..... actually, is the $100 BlackWidow even still possible to find? I can only see a $140 updated version, and that's far too expensive.

Mouse:
Everybody seemed to rank the Logitech G600 as one of the best gaming mice, and its one of the cheaper ones to boot.

One thing that struck me was that this was called a "MMO Mouse", so is it really only advantageous to use for MMOs and it might as well be a normal mouse for any other genra? Because really, I am not much of a MMO player. I know a lot of mice are custom-designed for certain genras, but is there one thats good for most? And if not, I imagine the two most mouse-heavy games I would be playing on PC would probably be playing would be FPS' and WRPGs, I am not much of an RTS fan (though I do want to get into League of Legends).

I actually really liked the design and look of those Cyborg R.A.T. 3/5/7 mice..... but they seemed overly expensive, lots of reviews of them breaking down far too easy....... and to be fair I have no idea how you would even hold that thing, it looks like it would slice my thumb off if I held it the wrong way.

PSU:
http://www.hardocp.com/article/2012/05/18/xfx_proseries...
Yes yes I know its overkill, but there is a reason. Despite going with an Nvidia card, just to be safe in case I go ATI instead I added a Crossfire setup to my configuration just to calculate the load of the system if I were to eventually go down that route. It was estimated at just over 750 watts on some sites (though newegg hilariously claimed I would need over 1000m obviously completely inaccurate.... come to think about it their PSU estimator is extremely simplified now, what happened to the one that was far more detailed to the point where you could estimate capaciter aging?). So I started looking for a good quality 800 watt PSU despite my initial setup with a single GTX 670 hovering around 500-600 watts, so in case I do go crossfire I'd still have a little lee-way. Most of the high-end ones however seem to be in the 900-1000+ range (strange how there seemed to be practically no high quality ones between 800 and 1000, and 750 seems kinda risking it)... and all are around the $200 range unless you go really nuts. Of these, the XFX brand seemed to consistantly score high in Hardocp's reviews, as well as be priced around the same as the competition regardless. Its nice that this one is fully modular too (It also claims to be 80 Plus Platinum, but I know those certifications don't really mean much).

Monitor:
Was looking for a 21-23 inch screen, and honestly I was expecting the good ones to go for about $400, so I was pretty happy to see they were more in the $200 range. I actually looked up several reviews and posted the results of that here:
http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1731772

At the end I was pretty much deciding between the Asus PA238Q and Asus VG23AH but decided to go with the latter due to it costing pretty much the same and performing just as good as the PA238Q in 2D, while also having the option of 3D.
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I know I know, that was an obsessive amount of detail. I have been dying to build a new pc for several years now, so I want to make sure not to overlook anything.

Thank you for actually reading all that, I know it was needlessly excessive, and I look forward to any suggestions you may have on this.
a c 278 4 Gaming
December 5, 2012 3:07:42 AM

That's a lot of stuff to read through, here's what I would say first:

Quote:

http://benchmarkreviews.com/index. [...] &Itemid=72
This one took me a while because I have been completely out of the loop in terms of where 3D card tech has gone, especially with what AMD has been doing.

Just like I wouldn't pay for an i7 extreme because I can't possibly justify the cost of the performance increase, I woulden't consider a card that costs $100 more but only gets one or two FPS more in a game which is what I was expecting the 670 to do over the 660 ti considering how close their specs are. The GTX 670 showed a fairly considerable FPS advantage over the 660 Ti, epecially on Crysis and most DX11 based games, sometimes an increase of nearly 20FPS! However, the Radeon HD 7970 used in those tests confuses me, mainly in that its completely inconsistant! Sometimes it outperforms the 670 while othertimes its outperformed by the 660 Ti, while the other card's consnstanies tend to be the same throughout the other tests. (Yes, I'm aware different games are optimized for ATI or Nvidia cards, which I assume are the reason for the inconsistencies)

In here however the 670 seems to outperform the 7970 in every turn, but the 7970 appears to bear the 670 in every overclocking test
http://www.hardocp.com/article/201 [...] ing_perf/1


This article was written with outdated drivers for the 7970. With Catalyst 12.8 things have completely turned around: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/radeon-hd-7970-ghz-...

Quote:
What else is there to say? Other than the case being the correct size and type to fit all your components, and having the bays for all the drives you need, there is not really much in terms of "performance" you can judge them by, a large amount of it is just personal taste. I saw several in person, and was comparing the HAF 932 with the HAF X, decided to go with the X due to better cooling and the USB 3.0 ports (And I admit, I liked the look of it more personally, the price difference was only between $180 and $200). I just hope the fact that I would have to get a mounting bracket to mount the two 2.5 inch SSDs I plan to use in a RAID0 in a single 3.0 bay won't cause overheating problems, can I get any opinions on that? The case has 5 internal 3 inch bays and I am going to be using six drives (although I guess I could always mount one of them in the 5 inch bays, but i'd rather have them cooled with the fan in the 3 inch bays.) So I figured I would mount four of the 3.5 HDDs in bays #2-5 and both 2.5 inch SSDs together in bay #1.


The HAF X is decent but there's better cases you could go with. I like the Switch 810 myself but a lot of that is subjective.

Quote:
I did an estimate of roughly how much space the gaming software I am most likely to play would take, and came to around 400-600GB, and even that is being conservative a bit. Two 256GB drives will cost as much if not less than a single 512GB, and will offer better performnace by being in a RAID0... plus this leaves me open to upgrades later when the prices drop and I need the space by upgrading to two 512GB SSDs in RAID0.


SSDs do not benefit from RAID 0, and they will be more likely to fail on you. Now you could run two SSDs and then run your HDs in RAID 0 or RAID 1. The SSD I chose is the new OCZ Vector and it actually outperforms the Samsung that you picked: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/vector-ssd-review,3...

Quote:

Sound Card:
http://www.hardocp.com/article/201 [...] rd_review/

Another part I just quickly chose actually, so I really would appreciate any opinions or recommendations or this. It was hard to find reviews of soundcards that weren't all over the place in pricepoints and selection. I just wanted better than the on-board sound performance that the motherboard would have, as well as better gaming effects. ATM I am going to be switching between a 2.1 setup and a sorround-sound pair of headphones, but I do plan to evnetually have a surround-sound setup in the room the PC will be in (We're not talking thousand-dollar BOSE speakers here...), and this is why I was looking for a card that supports at least 5.1 and has optical-out. The "Pro" edition which costs $20 more from my understanding is the exact same card with just added looks like LEDs and a EMI shield. The music performance on this card apparnetly wasn't that great, but it's gaming perofmrnace was apparnetly pretty good, and I coulden't find a card that wasn't in the $200+ range that people seemed to love. Seems like you have to somewhat work with the settings for differnet audio scenarios. Seems like the card is specifically designed for gaming, which admitably is what I will be doing a lot on this rig. While I can't see myself watching many movies on my PC (Well, maybe 3D ones), I probably would be listenening to music too though, and so the medicore music performance was disappointing. Any opinions on this?


This is not needed. You can drop this as the onboard audio will handle everything you need without spending additional money.

Quote:
Yes I do still use physical media, and actually still burn it often. However, this was another part I just chose based on drives that support all modern writable and re-writable formats on Newegg's Power Search. Coulden't really find any reviews that were of modern drives for these. So I'm leaving this one completely open to suggestions.


I use mine for data backups more than watching movies - BD-R read software is very tricky to get to work right on PC as you run into resolution issues and cable conflicts, things of that nature.

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: Intel Core i5-3570K 3.4GHz Quad-Core Processor ($214.99 @ Newegg)
CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-D14 65.0 CFM CPU Cooler ($80.99 @ Newegg)
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UP4 TH ATX LGA1155 Motherboard ($192.86 @ Newegg)
Memory: G.Skill Ares Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($37.99 @ Newegg)
Storage: Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($88.98 @ Newegg)
Storage: OCZ Vector Series 256GB 2.5" Solid State Disk ($289.99 @ Newegg)
Video Card: Gigabyte GeForce GTX 670 2GB Video Card (2-Way SLI) ($366.97 @ Newegg)
Video Card: Gigabyte GeForce GTX 670 2GB Video Card (2-Way SLI) ($366.97 @ Newegg)
Case: Cooler Master HAF X ATX Full Tower Case ($189.98 @ Newegg)
Power Supply: SeaSonic X Series 1050W 80 PLUS Gold Certified ATX12V / EPS12V Power Supply ($211.82 @ Newegg)
Optical Drive: Lite-On iHAS124-04 DVD/CD Writer ($22.98 @ Newegg)
Total: $2064.52
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2012-12-05 00:07 EST-0500)

I leave monitor and peripherals up to the individual as they're entirely personal preference.
December 5, 2012 3:12:16 AM

holy post!
!