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Good gaming computer for under $1000

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January 8, 2013 1:10:39 AM

I am looking to build my own computer for the first time and I can't quite figure out a configuration for my price limit. I have decided on a NZXT Phantom 410 and a 22" monitor. If some one can tell me a complete configuration with case os keyboard and mouse that will run farcry 3 on high setting it would be greatly appreciated. I would also like a website that has all these?

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a b B Homebuilt system
January 8, 2013 2:44:33 AM

You could easily get a 3570k and 7950 for that budget, you just won't be able to cfx.
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January 8, 2013 3:18:48 AM

I think i5 is best.
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a b B Homebuilt system
January 8, 2013 7:41:43 AM

PRINT ME
PRINT ME

*The following is very good advice IMO. I copied something I made previously and modified it. Please PRINT it and adjust it for your needs. If desired I can discuss why I recommend Windows 8 64-bit (plus START8) rather than W7.

First of all, Far Cry 3 is probably the MOST DEMANDING GAME around. You're not going to hit HIGH for $1000. The game will still look good though. Just make sure to tweak periodically the settings to keep your frame rate above 30FPS or the stutter will be annoying.

Far Cry 3 HIGH Benchmarks:
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/far-cry-3-performan...

That said, general specs:

1) CPU:
i5-3570

2) CPU HSF: (don't use stock)
Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus
***I forget if it's a 4-pin PWM cooler. If not, get one that is.

2a) FANS:
At least ONE front case fan (12cm) that is 4-pin PWM (i.e. 300RPM to 1000RPM)
recommended setup:
- FRONT CASE FAN (4-pin PWM)
- TOP-REAR CASE FAN (4-pin PWM, unless pre-installed case fan)
- CPU HSF FAN (4-pin PWM; make SURE)
- Graphics Card (auto)
- PSU (auto)
*Many gamers forget the FRONT case fan. Fan control in a case is optimal when the INTAKE and EXHAUST match.
**Tape cardboard over any side or top case fan mounts that aren't being used otherwise your air flow isn't optimal.

3) Motherboard:
1155/Z77 (get an ATX, not mATX, from Asrock/Asus/Gigabyte. probably Asrock).
i.e. ASRock Z77 EXTREME4 (saw on sale for $120)
*The motherboard is your PC's foundation. If you need to save $30 don't do it here. Still, for about $120 there are some great motherboards to be had.

4) Operating System:
Windows 8 64-bit OEM (add Stardock's Start8)

5) RAM (DDR3)
8GB of 1600MHz DDR3 (recommend G.Skill, 2x4GB kit)

6) DVD burner:
whatever one gets good customer reviews, AND the firmware at the support site is within ONE YEAR

7) PSU:
650W or 750W (Antec, Corsair and others. Definitely look for SALE PRICES.)

8) HDD/SDD:
On your budget, get a single Hard Drive for now unless recycling.
I recommend a 2TB drive (best value) and partition it to about 300GB for the main Windows partition (rest for Partition 2). In the future, CLONE the Windows partition to an SSD then delete the Windows partition on the HDD and recover the space.
*A few options here I guess.

9) Graphics card (the most important part for gaming performance):
Put as much money into the graphics card, however the above parts don't have much wiggle room. Recommended models:
HD7950, HD7970, GTX670, GTX680

It's very important to get a quality brand with a good cooling solution.
Examples:
$370 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

$300 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

$380 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
***This cards has a coupon for Borderlands 2 and Assassin's Creed 3***

$520 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
- Not in your price range, but I'm including it for reference
- 3-slot card (very quiet)
- same 2 free games as the 670 above
- Arguably the best single-GPU card around.

*NOTE:
There are PROS and CONS between the NVidia and AMD cards. All the above cards are great.
- the HD7970 might be the best value for raw benchmark numbers
- NVidia has PhysX, TXAA, GPU Boost (for most these aren't a big deal)
- NVidia has Adaptive VSYNC (a big deal)
- NVidia has a new portable gaming device called "SHIELD" that can play Android games but also STREAM from your PC (if a GTX660 or greater graphics card from NVidia is present. I'm buying one probably, and will sit on my porch in the summer to play AC3).

SUMMARY:
For $1000 most of a gaming PC is pretty basic (i5-3570, 1155/Z77 mobo, 8GB DDR3..). You need to spend a little time researching the choice of these parts though.

The Graphics Card will be your main gaming bottleneck.

*You will be playing on MEDIUM quality settings if you want to prevent stuttering (which at times is BELOW the FPS of this benchmark). Still, Medium looks good and your PC will run almost every other game on MAX or close to it.

**Do yourself a favour and err on the side of higher frame rates (lower quality) than vice versa. I reserve pretty slideshows for viewing chicks.

SETUP after hardware completed:
1. install Windows 8 64-bit
2. install main CHIPSET from motherboard support site
3. install OTHER relevant drivers from motherboard support site and VIDEO from the AMD or NVidia site
4. verify Microsoft Updates are completing (should be set to Auto)
5. update the motherboard BIOS if not up to date
6. Set the profile to XMP and verify the RAM/CPU settings are correct
7. Leave overclocking and other settings alone for now (do the essentials)
8. run MEMTEST ( www.memtest.org ; 5 minutes for now, two hours later)
9. other programs (especially ANTIVIRUS. Microsoft default firewall and AV should start automatically, at least for Windows 8).
10. *STEAM
*Install STEAM to your second partition or separate hard drive. If needed, the folder can be MOVED later.

11. Use ACRONIS TRUE IMAGE free version to create a BACKUP of Windows (C-drive).
a) need a Seagate or WD drive (internal or USB) for this tool (WD from WD website)
b) full compression
c) *Keep the first backup you make (in case glitches/virii sneak into later backups)
d) Make periodic backups (i.e. once per month) and keep the latest two.

12. FAN CONTROL:
a) install the motherboard software if available
b) set the BIOS and Windows software as applicable for best cooling
(cooling solution example: lowest RPM until 40degC then RAMP UP).
*Most NOISE comes from the fans. A fan without fan control can be VERY noisy. If your case has fans included, set to LOWEST SPEED. Graphics Card and PSU are left alone. Adjust fan profile for the CPU and Case Fans.

Other:
If you buy an AMD graphics card, get the free tool Radeon Pro if you need to:
a) force VSYNC in a game (i.e. Witcher #1, drag "witcher.exe" into RadeonPro... set VSYNC)
b) force AA (i.e. ME1. Most games use MSAA I believe but ME1 with all the straight lines looks far, far better using SUPERSAMPLING).
*I'm unsure if the CCC offers support for the above now.

Good luck.
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a b B Homebuilt system
January 8, 2013 8:03:20 AM

Updates:

#1: the CPU
The "K" in i5-3570K means overclockable. The non-K version is about $30 cheaper. Turbo Boost allows 3.9GHz I believe. My motherboard (Z77 Sabertooth) tweaked this to 4.1GHz whilst maintaining the power management.

Assuming the i5-3570K can reliably hit 4.5GHz with a decent cooler and the i5-3570 can only hit 3.9GHz then the "K" model is overclocking by about 15%.

However, this 15% overclock when paired with your present graphics card is unlikely to make much difference at all. Is it worth the extra $30?

#2: Xbox controller
If you don't have one, buy an XBox 360 PC game controller. Notes:
- the WIRELESS version receivers are very prone to fail
- the Logitech solutions suck badly
- the Razer model has high failure rates
- the new Razer Sabertooth is expensive and not tested yet enough ($80)
*For about $40, I strongly recommend a normal, wired XBox 360 controller. Aside from the D-Pad which isn't used much, they are the best choice.

#3: Far Cry 3 driver update
*NVidia announced a large improvement in frame rates (up to "38%") though the details are a little vague, hopefully not just for SLI configs. Anyway, between the updates and patches, Far Cry 3 should be running better than launch. Since it's selling well, hopefully it gets another performance patch because it doesn't feel optimized that well compared to similar games.

Please note that the video settings need to be carefully tweaked. Some settings cause HUGE frame rate hits with less quality improvements than other settings.

*DX9 vs DX11, is DX11 worth the performance hit? When tweaking, try DX9 as well.

#4: Virtu MVP:
A very interesting product that is not ready to use yet. Don't bother installing it. Enabling their VSYNC and Hyperformance for Far Cry 3 (if supported and working properly) would likely benefit the game. I'm a computer tech and after HOURS of testing with various games I simply uninstalled it. Investigate the product in six months (assuming your motherboard has Virtu MVP).

I've got to say, between the incredibly POOR instructions for setup and usage, coupled with the flat out LIE about performance increasing I'm just disgusted. (By "lie" I mean that the way the tech works is that it creates many PARTIAL frames.)
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