One thing I'm not sure on is to wait for the AMD 8870 to arrive and swap out the 7870 in this. Also I might in the future dump another GFX card in for Crossfire, do you think that PSU will handle it? I've tried it on a PSU calculator with the two cards and it's come out as ~430W
1. I do not find the Gigabyte GA-Z77MX-DS3 on their web site. But, from the name, It looks to be a M-ATX motherboard with a Z77 chipset. Good.
2. Nothing wrong with a 3570. But for perhaps 5% more for a 3570K, you have a potential for 25% better performance. I would put the 3570K as a 4 year cpu chip.
You need not OC initially, but it is really easy and safe up to about 4.3. And... at eventual resale time, the "K" will fetch more.
3. No game uses more than 2-3gb by itself. 8gb(2 x 4gb) is the usual recommendation. Ram is cheap, I would have no problem with a 16gb(2 x 8gb) kit.
Past that, you need more than windows 7 home premium to access >16gb. I would also look at low profile ram, and DDR3 1600 is as fast as you need.
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.
The GTX780 and amd 8000 series are not that far off.
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I would plan on upgrading via the stronger single card route.
Even a GTX690 only needs a 620w. psu. I think I would look for a 650w psu to be able to handle any single card that might show up. An overprovisioned psu will only use the wattage demanded of it, and will run cooler and quieter.
Corsair is a good brand. Pick a tier 1 or 2 unit from this list: http://www.eggxpert.com/forums/thread/323050.aspx
6. I would buy a oem cpu cooler up front. An inexpensive cm hyper212 will do the job. It will run cooler and quieter. And... the backplate mount is easier than the stock intel pushpins.
7. What do you want out of your case?
Size, quiet?, cooling? looks?
There might be some better options out there.
Thanks very much for your reply, and actually after reading what you have said about crossfire/sli (I've also looked into the micro stuttering which was a concern) I think I will leave the Crossfire option!
What I was then thinking is changing the motherboard to the cheaper option GA-Z77M-D3H (you are correct Micro ATX)
The reason I went for the MX version was the extra bandwidth on the second PCI Express channel (which won't be need if I go for a single card)
I will add a CPU Cooler like you suggest, probably not a bad idea and will help if in the future I do overclock the processor. You make a good point about the resale value of the K chip so i think I'll go for that option too.
The reason I went for the Define mini was a combination of Size Sound and looks to be honest, I've read reviews that it does well acoustically.
The box will be running quite a few VM's for my work, I do a lot of SharePoint and FAST Search stuff which needs a lot of RAM with separate SQL + Exchange boxes bolted on too. (OS is all sorted)