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Another first time build, $1400 budget

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January 15, 2013 3:07:42 PM

Hi all, thanks for reading. Building a PC is something I've always wanted to do but have never gotten around to until now. Right now I'm in the process of moving and starting a new job that will afford me the time and money I need to finally do it. Once I get settled in I'll take the leap and I'd like to have everything well planned out before that time arrives. Your ideas and insights are much appreciated.

Approximate Purchase Date: Feb 1

Budget Range: $1200-$1400

System Usage from Most to Least Important: Heavy gaming, multimedia and any other fun trouble I can get into

Are you buying a monitor: Not right now*

Parts to Upgrade: Everything except mouse, keyboard, and monitor

Do you need to buy OS: Yes, 7 or 8?

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: Whatever is cheapest

Location: Daytona Beach, FL, USA (no microcenters )=

Parts Preferences: Firm commitment to intel and nvidia

Overclocking: Not right now*

SLI or Crossfire: Not right now*

Your Monitor Resolution: 1920x1080 for now*

Why Are You Upgrading: Requiring portability and lacking the time or money to build my own box, I've been an exclusive laptop owner for the past 10 years. Until recently though, I've always purchased laptops with dedicated GPUs so I could at least play my favorite titles on the lowest settings and it worked well enough. But when my last laptop died 6 months ago (Dell XPS 1530) I decided, for productivity reasons, to try a Mac for the first time. My 13" Macbook Pro is an amazing little unit and I'm glad I got it because now I HAVE to build myself a dedicated windows gaming machine.

Additional Comments: A few things to take into consideration:

First off, I have no idea what I'm doing. A week ago I knew literally nothing about building a PC. In the past week I've done a ton of reading and now I feel like I have a decent grasp on the essentials but, I know reading is no replacement for experience. I'll share my thought process with you and don't be afraid to tell me I'm crazy if you think so. Just do me a favor and tell me why, this is as much about the learning experience for me as it is the final product!

Ok, with that being said, I've been stuck on a 13" Macbook Pro with integrated graphics for 6 months and while its great for many things, I want a gaming machine asap. Typically, I would put a much higher focus on the quality of components over their value, but due to my current situation, value is more of a concern.

My #1 priority in this build is to create a machine that will easily run most current games at full settings with 1920x1080. In the past I've limited myself to titles with low graphics requirements (Blizzard games, HL2, CS:Source, Civ IV), but I'm excited by the possibility of branching out a little once I have this machine up and running. Still though, I'm definitely a huge Blizzard fan and being able to play all of their current and near future releases extremely well is my top priority (which shouldn't be difficult). They've always had superior support for nvidia cards and for that reason I'm willing to pay more for one, though I'd like to do it in a way that makes sense (i.e. not get ripped off).

My #2 priority in this build is stability. My last few laptops have been very reliable and extremely stable. I want a machine that is likely to give me as few headaches as possible and I'm willing to pay a little extra for that peace of mind.

*Regarding all those asterisks... I'm planning to upgrade to a 4 monitor setup (3 nvidia surround + 1) in the coming months. My goal is to build an affordable system with 1 video card now, for immediate use, that I'll be able to expand with an additional video card for 5760x1080 gaming in the near future.

Regarding overclocking, I've never had an opportunity to do it so, although I know very little about it, it is something I would like to learn about and experiment with in the future.

This is what I've come up with so far. In case you're interested, I'll put a brief explanation of why I made my more questionable choices below:

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: Intel Core i5-3570K 3.4GHz Quad-Core Processor ($189.99 @ Microcenter)
CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO 82.9 CFM Sleeve Bearing CPU Cooler ($29.98 @ Amazon)
Motherboard: Asus P8Z77-V PRO ATX LGA1155 Motherboard ($199.99 @ Amazon)
Memory: G.Skill Ares Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($46.99 @ Newegg)
Storage: Intel 520 Series Cherryville 240GB 2.5" Solid State Disk ($231.00 @ NCIX US)
Video Card: MSI GeForce GTX 660 Ti 3GB Video Card ($294.98 @ SuperBiiz)
Case: Corsair 550D ATX Mid Tower Case ($123.32 @ Mac Connection)
Power Supply: Corsair Professional Gold 750W 80 PLUS Gold Certified ATX12V / EPS12V Power Supply ($135.99 @ Amazon)
Optical Drive: Asus DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS DVD/CD Writer ($24.98 @ Newegg)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (OEM) (64-bit) ($89.98 @ Outlet PC)
Total: $1367.20
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2013-01-15 10:28 EST-0500)

Questionable choice #1: Motherboard
I'm not sure if I need to spend this much money on my motherboard. Asus seems to have the best reputation for stability and support though and people seem to like this board. It also seems to have everything I need without a lot of the things I don't (i.e. firewire, thunderbolt, dual ethernet). I'm open to suggestions for more affordable cards of equal or better quality, but I'd rather not sacrifice quality with this part even if it means getting a better value.

Questionable choice #2: Storage
I chose the higher end intel 520 for its moderately higher speed (550r/520w) and 5 year warranty. I'll be using this as a primary drive with plans off adding a pair of 2tb HDDs down the road for storage and backup.

Questionable choice #3: GPU
I realize the GeForce GTX 660 TI isn't the best value compared to the 7950, but as a Blizzard gamer and nvidia fan it would take a lot of convincing for me to go red. Other than my blind commitment to nvidia, I chose this card because I think it's a happy median between the affordable 660 and the somewhat unreasonable 670. Remember, I'll be using a single card for a while with a single monitor and plan to add a second card in SLI later for 3+1 nvidia surround. I chose the 3gb model because it's my understanding that more ram helps with higher resolutions so while it might be overkill with 1 display, it should help when I have 4. A single GTX 670 is probably not enough to support 4 displays and ~$800 for two 670's, even if purchased separately, is a lot of money for me. While the 660 may be able to cut it for me, I think the 660ti is a nice, reasonably priced upgrade. Does anyone run 660ti on 5760x1080? I'd love to hear how it holds up.

Questionable choice #4: Case
I was thinking about getting a cheaper case, but a few factors drove me toward this one. First is dust. Cheaper cases are too open to dust without adequate filters. This case has a lot of dust filters that are easily removable for cleaning. Also, though not a huge deal, I really like the idea that this case is on the quieter side. I love the looks, the size, the USB 3.0, the removable drive bays, the room for extra fans, and the open/closable chimney. It seems like almost the full package. The review at http://www.silentpcreview.com/Corsair_Obsidian_550D really got me liking this thing.

Questionable choice #5: PSU
Good brand, modular, active, gold, seems good to me. I know 750W is way overkill for my first iteration of this build but add another video card, a couple HDDs, and a few fans in the coming months, then who knows what down the road and I think it's a good fit. I guess my main feeling is that I have big aspirations for this machine so I'd rather go big than small. Typical noob builder mistake, I know...

Sorry this got so long, I'll wrap it up, but does anyone have any thoughts on RAM disks? I read a little about them and was wondering if it would it be worth spending an extra $50 for an 8GB RAM drive to run certain games off of. That's all for now, thank you for reading and thanks in advance for your thoughts and suggestions.

More about : time build 1400 budget

January 15, 2013 3:19:46 PM

PCPartPicker part list: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/xJQL
Price breakdown by merchant: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/xJQL/by_merchant/
Benchmarks: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/xJQL/benchmarks/

CPU: Intel Core i5-3570K 3.4GHz Quad-Core Processor ($189.99 @ Microcenter)
CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO 82.9 CFM Sleeve Bearing CPU Cooler ($29.98 @ Amazon)
Motherboard: ASRock Z77 Extreme3 ATX LGA1155 Motherboard ($122.86 @ Newegg)
Memory: Corsair XMS3 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($73.15 @ NCIX US)
Storage: Samsung 840 Pro Series 256GB 2.5" Solid State Disk ($228.99 @ Mac Mall)
Video Card: PNY GeForce GTX 670 2GB Video Card ($299.99 @ Newegg)
Case: NZXT Phantom (Black/Orange) ATX Full Tower Case ($99.99 @ Newegg)
Power Supply: Rosewill Capstone 750W 80 PLUS Gold Certified ATX12V / EPS12V Power Supply ($119.99 @ Newegg)
Optical Drive: Asus DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS DVD/CD Writer ($24.98 @ Newegg)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (OEM) (64-bit) ($89.98 @ Outlet PC)
Total: $1279.90
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2013-01-15 12:17 EST-0500)


750watts isnt overkill for more upgrade room, 16gigs isnt that much more and futureproofs u alot more.

the intel ssd is nice but id recommand the samsung 840pro as its very fast and just as reliable.

http://www.guru3d.com/articles_pages/samsung_840_pro_ss...

the motherboard i chose has sli-crossfire and is very good forthe price.

the case i took is very good as well and has alot of space.

its on sale at 99$ instead of the regular 150$.

http://benchmarkreviews.com/index.php?option=com_conten...

:) 

January 15, 2013 3:31:58 PM

hello there and welcome to tom's hardware!
I'm happy to hear you will be building your first gaming pc soon! :) 
The parts you have picked are good, but there is room for improvement.
Ill start by answering you questions first:
#1 Motherboard prices vary on features they have. Yes $200 is pricey for a motherboard. I think you will be fine with this motherboard :
ASRock Z77 Extreme4 LGA 1155 Intel Z77 @ $130
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

#2 Good pick for the SSD. You can also look at Seagate Momentus XT drives...they are hybrid drives meaning they use spinning magnetic platters with a small ssd on them. The momentus xt will learn which files you access the most and store them on the SSD portion for faster speeds and put the less frequently accessed data on the platters. Its a good pick if you are trying to save some money or put that saved money for a top end graphics since it will be a gaming rig yayy eyecandy to the max


#3 660 Ti is OK..yes as you said above its not the fastest. I don't think the extra video memory is worth it (please nVidia owner correct me if I'm wrong) as the chip is not fast enough to utilize all of that ram...its more of a marketing gimmick. there will be new video cards coming out in the next six months so if I were you I would game on the 660 TI for now and upgrade to some beefy graphics and multiple monitors once the new graphics are avaliable

#4 This case is nice. If you want something quiet you can also look at Antec P182...they include some case padding for noise cancelation

#5 good psu. its better to have an overkill one and not have to upgrade it in the future for faster graphics


I have only read about ram disks but I have never used them so I cant comment on that

Related resources
January 15, 2013 3:33:43 PM

ramdisks?

and thanks for the backing up with my recommandations.

January 15, 2013 3:35:05 PM

I think your choices are solid. I would get the additional 8GB kit of RAM and go to 16GB since its so cheap.
Your GPU choice is fine
I like the case you have selected.
Good solid build and you have should have alot of fun with it
January 15, 2013 3:48:32 PM

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAM_disk

A RAM drive (incorrectly referred to as RAM disk) is a block of RAM (primary storage or volatile memory) that a computer's software is treating as if the memory were a disk drive (secondary storage). It is sometimes referred to as a "virtual RAM drive" or "software RAM drive" to distinguish it from a "hardware RAM drive" that uses separate hardware containing RAM, which is a type of solid-state drive.
The performance of a RAM drive is in general orders of magnitude faster than other forms of storage media, such as an SSD, hard drive, tape drive, or optical drive.[1] This performance gain is due to multiple factors, including access time, maximum throughput and type of file system, as well as others.

File access time is greatly decreased since a RAM drive is solid state (no mechanical parts). A physical hard drive or optical media, such as CD-ROM, DVD, and Blu-ray must move a head or optical eye into position and tape drives must wind or rewind to a particular position on the media before reading or writing can occur. RAM drives can access data with only the memory address of a given file, with no movement, alignment or positioning necessary.

Second, the maximum throughput of a RAM drive is limited by the speed of the RAM, the data bus, and the CPU of the computer. Other forms of storage media are further limited by the speed of the storage bus, such as IDE (PATA), SATA, USB or Firewire. Compounding this limitation is the speed of the actual mechanics of the drive motors, heads and/or eyes.
January 15, 2013 4:40:53 PM

u got a link to this ramdrive im intrigued
January 15, 2013 5:02:27 PM

Wow, thanks for the quick replies, you guys are on top of things around here.

RAM Disk Info:
http://www.pcworld.com/article/260918/how_to_supercharg...
http://lifehacker.com/5969767/add-a-ram-disk-to-your-co...
That's just from googling "ram disk", I still need to do more research myself, would be nice to read a review from someone who's tried it.

I've noticed that the ASRock mobo's seem to be very popular here. I'd like to hear from someone who has one as to the quality of their drivers and support, especially compared to ASUS. Has anyone had both? How do they compare? I definitely like the price and they do look good on paper, but I'm curious about the user experience.

The Samsung 840 Pro does look nice, thank you iceclock, I'll add that to my favorite parts list and buy whichever is cheaper when the time comes.

Alvine, I'm glad you suggested the hybrid drive, I heard about Apple using them in the new iMacs and thought they sounded interesting. I'll definitely do some research on them. I'm curious how effective their data management is and whether it's better to go that route or to just keep programs and storage on separate drives.

You both have great points on the GPU, maybe I will spring for the 670. Alvine is right, by the time I get around to buying my monitors there may be a new generation of cards out. I'm still curious though, how much extra ram helps triple monitor gaming, I'll have to do some more research. I can't imagine going wrong with the 670 though if I can get that PNY version for basically the same price as the 660ti I was looking at. I don't know anything about PNY and I've heard great things about MSI's Twin Frozr line, but I know ultimately the actual card makes a far bigger difference than any aftermarket add ons.

That is a great price for the NZXT Phantom. It's a bit flashy for my taste but the cooling looks better so I'll definitely do some research... form follows function. The Antec P182 is discontinued but the P183 seems to be its successor. I know I looked at it and I chose the 550D over it for some reason, but I can't remember why, I'll have to give it another look.

And of course, 16GB RAM is a no brainer, definitely doing that, thanks for pointing it out.

I'll post anything I find about the hybrid drives, GPUs, and cases. If anyone has any good info on them, the mobo's or anything else, I'd love to read it. Thanks again!
January 15, 2013 5:08:18 PM

pny is great for videocards, theyve been making graphic cards forever.


PCPartPicker part list: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/xKNc
Price breakdown by merchant: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/xKNc/by_merchant/
Benchmarks: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/xKNc/benchmarks/

CPU: Intel Core i5-3570K 3.4GHz Quad-Core Processor ($189.99 @ Microcenter)
CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO 82.9 CFM Sleeve Bearing CPU Cooler ($29.98 @ Amazon)
Motherboard: ASRock Z77 Extreme4 ATX LGA1155 Motherboard ($127.99 @ Amazon)
Memory: Corsair XMS3 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($73.15 @ NCIX US)
Storage: Samsung 840 Pro Series 256GB 2.5" Solid State Disk ($228.99 @ Mac Mall)
Video Card: PNY GeForce GTX 670 2GB Video Card ($299.99 @ Newegg)
Case: Corsair 550D ATX Mid Tower Case ($123.32 @ Mac Connection)
Power Supply: Rosewill Capstone 750W 80 PLUS Gold Certified ATX12V / EPS12V Power Supply ($119.99 @ Newegg)
Optical Drive: Asus DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS DVD/CD Writer ($24.98 @ Newegg)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (OEM) (64-bit) ($89.98 @ Outlet PC)
Total: $1308.36
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2013-01-15 14:06 EST-0500)



ive owned 1 asrock board and is pretty solid, theyre owned by asus and asus is pretty good quality wise.

:) 

http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/ASRock-Z77-Extre...

and pny 670:

http://www.bjorn3d.com/2012/07/pny-geforce-gtx-670/#.UP...

and samsung 840pro

http://www.guru3d.com/articles_pages/samsung_840_pro_ss...

:) 


March 13, 2013 12:50:10 AM

If you are looking for top budget graphics cards for the money you have, then i could suggest you try to check the Saphire Radeon HD 7770. It has a core clock speed of 1ghz and contains 1gb of DDR5 memory.
!