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First system (~£600) and UK buying advice

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Last response: in Systems
April 30, 2010 7:29:31 PM

Looking for advice on first time system building, and where to buy from in the UK.

BUDGET RANGE: Around £600
PARTS NOT REQUIRED: Keyboard, Mouse, Monitor, Speakers, DVDRW, possibly Soundcard
OVERCLOCKING: Maybe, but not initially.
MONITOR RESOLUTION: 1280x960 to start, higher when I can afford a new monitor.

My intention is to build a decent gaming computer for around £600, ideally one which will be long lasting and upgradeable - for example the computer it will be replacing is an old Pentium IV 3.2GHz Dell with only 1GB of memory, so I clearly don't mind running games with dialed down graphics towards the end of the computers shelf life, but would like to be able to run current generation games well at the time of buying.

I would also appreciate advice on buying components in the UK as most of the recommendations here seem to focus on NewEgg, which doesn't ship abroad. I've seen Scan, Overclockers, Ebuyer, Aria, Dabs and Tekheads mentioned - are these generally regarded as the best and is there an outright leader?

The only part I'm intent on using is:

CPU: Intel Core i5 750, Quad Core, 2.66GHz, 8MB L3 Cache, 95W which I've seen is around £160 at most retailers.

From what I've read this would mean using a

Motherboard: Socket 1156 Motherboard, although I'm uncertain beyond that point. ASRock P55DE3 perhaps? I would like one with onboard audio as sound won't be a major priority and I've read onboard audio is pretty much indistinguishable with only a stereo speaker setup. I do have an old Audigy 2 from my current PC available as well if that's a better option?

Memory: Will have to be compatible with the motherboard and I was thinking 4GB total, but again I'm not too sure beyond that, except I've read it would have to be <= 1.65V. Is it worth spending a lot if I'm probably not going to overclock?

GPU: Radeon HD 5770 1GB or Radeon HD 4850 1GB. I would like a decent but not top of the line GPU, I'd much rather spend £100 now and another £100 in 3 or so years time than £200 now, given the rate of advancement, and as stated I can put up with dated graphics, as long as gameplay remains smooth. I'm leaning towards the 5770 for DX11 support as I'm planning on relying on the card for a long time, but I'm not sure if that's sensible.

HDD: Seagate ST31000528AS 1TB Hard Drive SATAII 7200rpm 32MB Cache - OEM? Any reliable 1TB drive will do really.

PSU: I'm pretty clueless here, and I've heard this one of the more tricky areas so any advice would be appreciated. I'd rather have too much than too little, so as to have the option of upgrading later on.

Case: Again I'm pretty clueless, if I'm not particularly bothered about aesthetics is there anything I need to be concerned with other than size and available room, and any way to check that components will fit before buying?

OS: Looking at getting 64bit Windows 7, the most basic version, unless there's any reason not to. Anything I should know when upgrading from XP?

Monitor: Will be using my old CRT in the beginning and upgrading to an LCD when I can afford it.

Also having never built a computer from scratch before is there anything else I need to be aware of? Will additional fans, cabling, paste etc be required? Or will most components arrive with everything they need? Thanks for reading this far - all advice and criticism appreciated.

More about : system 600 buying advice

April 30, 2010 9:50:20 PM

I don't really think you're going to do be able to do a quality i5-750 build for £600. You're around £550 before even thinking about a case and power supply.

This is what I would suggest for a £600 build:
AMD Athlon II X3 440 £67
Crucial 4GB (2x2GB) DDR3 1333MHz/PC3-10600 Ballistix Memory Kit CL7 (7-7-7-24) 1.65V £95 - The good set of 1600mhz G.Skill is getting very expensive.
HIS HD 5770 1GB £123
Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB £62 This is another good terabyte drive.
OCZ Z Series 650W 80plus Silver £68 Has at least 600W on the 12V rail, so should be able to take a card with a TDP of up to 200W.
Antec 300 £43 The de facto budget case suggestion. It has space for three more fans. I would suggest waiting to see what you're temps are before buying them as you might not need them.
Windows 7 64-bit Home Premium £76

Total: £617

To answer some of your specific questions. No, no sites are really clear leader. Last time I checked properly Ebuyer was slightly cheap across a whole build, but it wasn't significant. So far I haven't had a bad experience with Ebuyer (used 5 times), novatech nor Scan. OCUK sometimes have good deals, like bundled games with processors or a price cut. Scan do not have a good choice of RAM as they only stock overpriced Corsair stuff.

You can double check on this forum or this thread if you are doubtful about something fitting in a case.

The motherboard should come with at least two SATA cables so that you can connect up your SATA devices. PSUs and sometimes cases come with cable zipties. A retail CPU will come with a stock cooler, which will have thermal paste preapplied and is fine unless you want to overclock a lot or want your system to be as quiet as possible.
April 30, 2010 11:22:52 PM

Thanks for the prompt reply, and especially for taking the time to suggest and find suitable components as well as answer my questions. Were I willing to increase my budget to ~£700-750 would it be possible to use the majority of your suggestions and the Core i5 750, giving me:

Intel Core i5 750 2.66GHz Socket LGA1156 8MB L3 Cache Retail Boxed Processor £150
Crucial 4GB (2x2GB) DDR3 1333MHz/PC3-10600 Ballistix Memory Kit CL7 (7-7-7-24) 1.65V £95
HIS HD 5770 1GB £123
Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB £62
OCZ Z Series 650W 80plus Silver £68
Antec 300 £43
Windows 7 64-bit Home Premium £76

Total: £617

Leaving me with £85-135 to spare for a motherboard? And if so which motherboard would you recommend? Would something like the Gigabyte GA-P55-US3L P55 Socket 1156 8 Channel Audio ATX Motherboard £80 be suitable, or would it be worth leaning towards the top of the budget with say the ASUS P7P55D PRO iP55 Socket LGA 1156 8 channel audio ATX Motherboard £140?

Are there any particular features in a motherboard I should be looking for other than onboard audio and at least x16 or x8/x8 PCI-E? The feature list for the more expensive models such as the ASUS above seem to be geared towards serious overclockers, I imagine. Also am I right in assuming that none of the 1156 boards have USB 3.0 or SATA 6GBps support? It's not a serious consideration, just something to take into account looking into the future.

Of course if at this budget it still makes sense to go for the Athlon build I'm willing to reconsider, it's just that I'm not very familiar with AMD processors, and I'm willing to spend a bit more to get the system I originally wanted. Better that than spend the next 5 or so years wishing I'd spent the extra 10-20% at the time.

Again, thanks for all advice!

PS. I'm assuming the RAM would still be fine on an 1156 Motherboard as it's Dual Channel, DDR3, 1333MHz, and 1.65V or is there more to it than that?
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May 1, 2010 12:47:47 AM

The Gigabyte GA-P55-US3L would be fine if you don't want the extra PCI-E slot and/or the faster storage interfaces. Altho that one will have a foxconn socket, which has been a problem for quite a few people when overclocking.
This looks like the cheapest with a second fast PCI-E slot: MSI P55-GD65 £117. And this is the cheapest with SATA 6Gbps and USB3: Asus P7P55D-E £120

I think you are right that a lot of the extra features on the more expensive boards are geared towards the overclocking/enthusiast crowd. I can't think of any other features that you'd need to look out for.

You could definitely make a much nicer AMD build with £700, such as getting one of their leading ones (Phenom II X4 955) this would make it a bit more futureproof and you'd still have the good upgrade options for GPU, storage and CPU as AMD keep their sockets for much longer than Intel. With an Intel i5-750 you'd get a slightly superior level of futureproofing from the CPU, but less likelihood of being able to replace it with a more relevant processor. And it's still possible to get good upgrade options in the other aspects as well.

"I'm assuming the RAM would still be fine on an 1156 Motherboard as it's Dual Channel, DDR3 and 1.65V" Yea that's right.
May 1, 2010 2:44:22 PM

Thanks for the help,

Having read up a bit more on motherboards I'm now leaning towards getting the Gigabyte GA-P55-USB3 P55 Socket 1156 8 Channel Audio ATX Motherboard £103. The few reviews I've found seem positive, and I think I'm more likely to use the USB 3.0 support in the future than an additional GPU which would seem to make it preferable to the MSI P55-GD65.

The TomsHardware article on USB 3.0 AND SATA 6Gbps implementation on P55 boards also seems to indicate that you can only have one of GPU, USB3 and SATA6 running at full speed at a time - and considering the fact I'm unlikely to even consider bothering to upgrade to a 6Gbps HDD unless the 3Gbps one dies at some point - it doesn't seem worth getting the Asus P7P55D-E.

I haven't been able to find any information as to whether there's a similar problem with the GA-P55-USB3, but even if there were I'd imagine it to be less of a problem as I'd imagine I'm unlikely to be using the GPU and USB3 heavily at the same time, whereas using the SATA6 and USB3 or SATA6 and GPU at the same time seem far more common. Thoughts?

Finally, for someone unfamiliar with memory timing, latencies etc. could you (or someone else) explain why you chose Crucial 4GB (2x2GB) DDR3 1333MHz/PC3-10600 Ballistix Memory Kit CL7 (7-7-7-24) 1.65V £95 in particular over any of the other 4GB, Dual Channel, DDR3 and <= 1.65V options on this page. Or this page assuming a large part of it is CAS Latency? I'm more than happy to use the recommended one - I'm just interested in learning why.

Thanks again!
May 1, 2010 3:09:35 PM

It is Gigabyte's implementation of SATA 6Gbps on 1156 that is inadequate, USB3 is provided for through an NEC device which is pretty standard across all motherboards with USB3. So you will have no problems having both your graphics card (only one as the second slot is x4) and USB3 ports running at full speed.

I chose that Crucial set as it is the best price I've found for a good set of RAM with good specs. Yea the Latency is the main reason why I consider it to be ahead of other sets around the same price. If you were prepared to overclock the RAM then one of the 1.5V sets would probably be a better choice. This would be the other set ( I'd recommend but it recently went from £100 to £105 and now it's at £110 and I don't think it's worth £15 more than the Crucial.
May 3, 2010 3:27:38 PM

Thanks again,

Right then - unless anyone else finds a problem/has a suggestion, and bearing in mind I'm aware I could have a better system if I went AMD but am disinclined to, this is the system I'll be buying tomorrow:

Intel Core i5 750 2.66GHz Socket LGA1156 8MB L3 Cache Retail Boxed Processor £150
Crucial 4GB (2x2GB) DDR3 1333MHz/PC3-10600 Ballistix Memory Kit CL7 (7-7-7-24) 1.65V £95
HIS HD 5770 1GB £123
Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB £62
OCZ Z Series 650W 80plus Silver £68
Antec 300 £43
Windows 7 64-bit Home Premium £76
Gigabyte GA-P55-USB3 P55 Socket 1156 8 Channel Audio ATX Motherboard £103

For a total of £720.