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Old June 4, 2010, 07:12 AM
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Post Gaming PC -- Advice on Parts

Hi all.

I've been messing around with the idea of putting together my own PC for quite a while now -- bought a couple of books, been all over the web looking at parts reviews, trying to educate myself on what kind of parts fit with what and which would be good value for money, that sort of thing -- but I've always held off for two reasons. First, I've been terribly, terribly broke, and second, I've been inordinately nervous about dropping a huge amount of money on parts, putting them together, and then discovering that one was damaged in shipping or otherwise isn't functioning, and being left without any sort of PC builder tech support to scream at if such a thing should occur. Still, I'm getting very tired of trying to coax second- and third-hand buckets into functionality -- for once I just want a nice screamer of a machine that'll run whatever I want without trouble.

So, let's get to the questions, shall we?

1. What YOUR PC will be used for. That means what types of tasks you'll be performing.

I foresee this machine to be used mostly for gaming -- I rely on consoles right now because I've never really had access to a decent computer that wouldn't chug horribly trying to render graphics. I don't really do any video or photo editing, and I'm certainly not interested in using it as a media centre -- as far as I'm concerned that's what a DVD player's for, until and unless they're supplanted by Netflix. So, a gaming machine with secondary mundane purposes like web surfing and word processing and all that boring stuff. Note that I'm not a hardcore FPS nut -- RPGs are more my speed.

2. What YOUR budget is. A price range is acceptable as long as it's not more than a 20% spread.

Hmm, well, every time I try to come up with a parts list, whether from a PC builder or from computer parts vendors, it seems to average out around three grand. It'll take a few months for me to put that together, but I'm willing to pay the expense if it means having a machine that's relatively bulletproof in terms of future expandability and not having problems running anything I toss its way.

3. What country YOU will be buying YOUR parts from.

Canada preferably. The U.S. only if it's an irresistible deal and there won't be any problems with moving the parts in question across the border -- any suggestions on where the best deals are to be found will be most welcome.

4. IF YOU have a brand preference. That means, are you an Intel-Fanboy, AMD-Fanboy, ATI-Fanboy, nVidia-Fanboy, Seagate-Fanboy, WD-Fanboy, etc, etc, etc, you get the picture.

I'm more concerned with capabilities, quality and ease of use, not logos.

5. If YOU intend on using any of YOUR current parts, and if so, what those parts are.

No parts, starting from scratch. That includes monitor, keyboard, mouse, everything.

6. IF YOU have searched and/or read similar threads.

I have, although I don't peruse forums all that much. Mostly I just want some informed opinions on the parts list I have swirling around my head right now.

7. IF YOU plan on overclocking or run the system at default speeds.

I don't think I'm experienced enough to mess around with overclocking, although having the option after I have everything working wouldn't go amiss.

8. WHEN do you plan to build it?

Whenever I can get the money together. Hopefully within the next six months.

9. What resolution do you use?

Again, the monitor's part of the build -- I'd like a nice one, but nothing ridiculously huge. I'm thinking 1900x1028, but I'm not married to that.

Okay, now off to the parts list.

Case: I go back and forth on this daily, sometimes hourly, but right now I'm thinking seriously of a Silverstone Fortress FT02. I'm definitely not planning on mucking around with water cooling, and it seems to have an excellent setup for airflow management without requiring a whole bunch of extra fans to be purchased, installed and wired (Cooler Master cases make me nervous there -- for now I prefer simplicity).

Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD5 -- it seems to have a good load of features and a lot of expandability, plus it has that little LED error screen, which I find reassuring. Also it doesn't have all that excess watercooling tomfoolery of the UD7. I could probably step down to the UD3 without problems, though, so any opinions on that, fire away. As for the choice of a 1366 socket, well, I figure that gives me a lot of room to use new processors later, but if anyone thinks an 1156 is more my speed, hey, like I said, I'm flexible.

Processor: Well, definitely an Intel, given my motherboard choice, but I'm a little flexible here. Remember, I'm not overclocking, at least not right at first (I want the damned thing to work before I set about trying to break it!), so buying a bargain bin CPU and running it at a thousand degrees isn't part of the picture. By the same token, I am absolutely not shelling out a thousand dollars for an "Extreme Edition" anything, especially when I probably won't be able to use half its capabilities. I'd love an i7-950 or 960, but they're pretty darned expensive. Maybe an i7-930? What does everyone think?

Cooler: No water cooling, obviously -- we'll leave that for my sophomore build. So, a nice air cooler, maybe with some overclocking potential, but nothing insane. After reading around, I'm thinking a ZeroTherm Nirvana 120 -- looks nice, apparently cools pretty well, and is quiet.

PSU: After looking over some of the reviews here, I think I've settled on a Silverstone Strider ST85F-P 850W. Pretty heavy duty, but it seems like it's fairly efficient and reliable, plus it gives me the option to upgrade stuff in the future (like adding another graphics card) without worrying about power -- I figure this will give me loads of elbow room.

GPU: Having some problems with this one. Much like the case, I change my mind daily. Right now I'm more-or-less settled on an ATI -- the new nVidia offerings sound like they chew power and spit out volcanic amounts of heat. If I were experienced and wanted to water cool everything, maybe, but for now, air cooling it is, so ATI sounds like a better bet, both for power and heat concerns. I'm not a hardcore benchmarker here -- I just want something I can crank all my graphics settings up to max and not have it scream for mercy for many years. All that said, I can't decide between the Radeon HD 5850 or 5870 (although I think I'll get a Sapphire Vapor-X version of either -- they seem to run quite cool, which reassures me). I'd love a 5870, but I don't know that the extra cost is justified by how much use I can make of it, and later on it'll probably be cheaper yet to just stuff in another 5850 when I'm ready to start looking at Crossfire. For now, though, we're talking one monitor, so a multi-GPU setup is probably unnecessary.

RAM: I carefully looked up all the manufacturer supported memory for the UD5 motherboard and settled on a 6 GB set of OCZ Platinum DIMMs. I figure that's plenty of memory for a good while, and since I'm not planning to mess around with overclocking, being plug-and-play with low latencies is my best bet.

Sound Card: Well, I've seen some questionable stuff about Creative Labs' cards, so I'm thinking ASUS Xonar D1 here.

Primary HD: I'm not messing around with RAID for my first build, but I want something quick, so for my OS drive I thought I'd try an 80 GB Intel X-25M SSD. It's an SSD, but it's not huge and not brain-searingly expensive (although it's damned well costly enough).

Data HD: Now, I use hardly any HD space at all, currently, but I absolutely want a good deal of space to grow on a new system, so I'm think of a Western Digital Caviar Black for my data drive, probably in the 1 TB range depending on price.

Monitor: I've heard good stuff about Viewsonic's 22-inch monitors -- any thoughts?

Speakers: Nothing special, just a 2.0 or 2.1 setup -- for gaming I tend to use headphones to avoid disturbing the whole neighbourhood, but I do like quality sound for games and music alike (hence the X-Fi sound card). Oh, and any speaker and/or headphone or headset suggestions would be great -- my current headphones are getting a little beat up.

Various bits and bobs: Razer Lycosa keyboard, Razer Deathadder mouse, a USB Wifi connector, an all-in-one card reader, and obviously an optical drive -- any suggestions concerning make-and-model of any of this stuff are completely welcome.

Whew, I think that's everything. So, my first planned build -- which scares me to death, especially since I know it's not exactly a budget model I'm looking at here, so I badly don't want to screw it up. Thoughts, suggestions, and even ridicule are welcome.

Well, maybe not ridicule.

Thanks, all.

Last edited by Arcnor; June 4, 2010 at 05:11 PM.
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Old June 4, 2010, 07:19 AM
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3 grand is kinda on the mid to upper range in gaming pcs,usually.

youre probably looking at a 27 incher lcd wise to drop in that setup. worth it right now? not so sure. stick with 24 inch i say


within six months things change

because of ample budget, go 1156 and xeon 3440. 6 gigs of 1600 ram of your choice.

if you were to order now, maybe one 5870 or a gtx 480. things will change a bit on the gpu front in 6 months ;)
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Old June 4, 2010, 08:03 AM
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I don't really see the point in getting an i7 platform for gaming. The i7 platform will be phased out soon whereas the AM3 **might/should** support AMD's next gen bulldozer CPUs.

And as you said, you don't really have enough money right now. An AMD build is ~80% of i7's performance while it is ~60% of the price.

For an AM3 build, i would suggest:
Phenom X6 1055T @ ~200

Gigabyte 890GPA-UD3H w/ USB3.0 & SATA 3.0
NCIX.com - Buy Gigabyte 890GPA-UD3H 890GX AM3 ATX DDR3 2PCI-E 2PCI SATA3 USB3.0 HDMI GBLAN CrossFireX Motherboard - GA-890GPA-UD3H In Canada. @ ~150

G.Skill RipJaws 4GB ram
NCIX.com - Buy G.SKILL F3-12800CL9D-4GBRL Ripjaws PC3-12800 4GB 2X2GB DDR3-1600 CL9-9-9-24 Core i5 1.5V Memory Kit - F3-12800CL9D-4GBRL In Canada. @ ~120
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Old June 4, 2010, 09:54 AM
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Smile New Builds

I don't know about anyone else but for the psu, consider getting a Corsair modular. Have a look at G Skill memory.I've never used them, yet they're recommended on this site regularly, their pricing is pretty good as well. Myself, I like Mushkin, have used Patriot and Corsair as well. Lifetime warranty and good customer support is key for me. As for the case, it really is a matter of likes/dislikes, but new Cooler Master cases are designed with high air flow: the HAF series is pretty good. There are many different makes and manufacturers.

I like the new Alienware Area 51 series with the louvered roof fins, with their coloured light setup. Yeah, a bit of flash, but I like it none the less. But I digres. Enjoy the build and post some pics!

Last edited by fishingfanatic; June 4, 2010 at 10:11 AM.
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Old June 4, 2010, 05:09 PM
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Default Another Look at AM3

Hmm, I'll admit I hadn't looked much at AMD's stuff -- probably unwise, given the prices I'm seeing. Basically, I figured triple channel memory would trump dual channel, or at the very least give me more options as to how I could configure my memory amounts (more slots means one can buy several smaller modules rather than a couple large ones for less money, usually), and though AMD has a couple of hexa-core CPUs out for completely reasonable prices, I don't know that I really need six cores. Then again, those Phenom chips are priced very reasonably -- guess I'd better take another look. Thanks for the tip, jcmaz.

As for memory, that basically comes down to the modules listed as supported by the motherboard manufacturer in question -- I'm sure other types would work fine, but for a first build I don't want to muck around with "probably." I do know that a couple of G. Skill memory sets are listed for the UD5 mobo, so I'll take another look at the prices. I'm sure the same is true for any AM3 board I might choose to use. Mostly it just comes down to fast memory at a reasonable price with relatively low latencies -- I'm not too worried about overclocking potential, after all.

Oh, and I took a look at that Corsair PSU -- very tempting, between that and the Silverstone it'd probably come down to price, really.

Last edited by Arcnor; June 4, 2010 at 05:19 PM.
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Old June 6, 2010, 08:21 AM
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Post Updated Parts List And Cooler Question

Okay, I've mucked around with my list a bit, and I also included an alternate AMD build. It's a little cheaper, but not too much. The CPU is certainly a higher end one than I could afford with an equivalent Intel-based build, but there's less memory available -- I'd imagine it'd even out somewhere. Also, the total price, at least according to pricecanada.ca, has dropped to approximately $2500, which is at least a thousand less than anything close from a boutique builder, so yay for that. Of course, that figure doesn't include a monitor (any suggestions? I'm thinking in the 22 to 24 inch range), shipping, or taxes -- or any disastrous parts screw-ups, either on my part or at some point along the supply chain, but I'll worry about that later. So, here we go.

Intel LGA 1366 Build

Case: Silverstone Fortress FT02B-W ($248.31, NCIX.com)
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD5 ($279.99, Newegg.ca)
CPU: Intel Core i7-930 2.80 GHz ($298.99, Newegg.ca)
GPU: Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 Vapor-X 2 GB ($508.99, Newegg.ca)
RAM: OCZ Platinum 6 GB OCZ3P1600LV6GK ($199.99, Newegg.ca)
CPU Cooler: ZEROTherm Nirvana NV120 ($59.99, Newegg.ca)
Add. Cooler Part: ZEROTherm ZC-1366 Mounting Clip ($3.99, Newegg.ca)
Alt. Cooler: Prolimatech Megahalems Rev. B ($59.99, Newegg.ca)
Add. Cooler Fan: Cooler Master 120mm Blue LED Fan ($8.99, Newegg.ca)
Alt. Cooler Fan: Scythe GentleTyphoon D1225C12B4AP ($15.99, Newegg.ca)
PSU: Corsair HX Series 850W CMPSU-850HX ($180.49, Newegg.ca)
Alt. PSU: Silverstone Strider 850W ST85F-P ($142.97, NCIX.com)
Boot HD: OCZ Vertex 2 60 GB SSD ($204.00, Newegg.ca)
Data HD: Western Digital Caviar Black 1 TB (OEM) ($93.99, NCIX.com)
Alt. Data HD: Western Digital Caviar Black 640 GB (OEM) ($63.99, NCIX.com)
Optical Drive: Sony Optiarc with Lightscribe AD-7261S-0B ($28.49, Newegg.ca)
Sound Card: ASUS Xonar D1 7.1 PCI ($79.99, NCIX.com)
Keyboard: RAZER Lycosa Black ($85.99, Newegg.ca)
Mouse: RAZER Deathadder ($59.99, NCIX.com)
Additional: Arctic Silver 5 Thermal Compound (OEM) ($9.99, Newegg.ca)

AMD AM3 Build

(Only parts differing from previous build listed)
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-890FXA-UD5 ($189.99, Newegg.ca)
CPU: AMD Phenom II X6 1090T Black Edition 3.2 GHz ($315.99, Newegg.ca)
RAM: G. Skill ECO Series 4 GB F3-12800CL7D-4GBECO ($122.99, Newegg.ca)
Alt. RAM: Corsair Dominator 4 GB CMD4GX3M2B1600C8 ($174.99, Newegg.ca)
CPU Cooler: Zalman CNPS10X Flex ($39.99, Newegg.ca)
Add. Cooler Fan: Cooler Master 120mm Blue LED Fan ($8.99, Newegg.ca)
Alt. Cooler Fan: Scythe GentleTyphoon D1225C12B4AP ($15.99, Newegg.ca)

Price Total for Intel Build (most expensive parts only): $2355.18
Price Total for AMD Build (most expensive parts only): $2237.18

"Most expensive parts only" basically means that where I left myself a choice between two, I only totalled the build with the most expensive one, so depending on which way I decide to go (and what's available), the prices could be a little less. The vendors I looked at mostly were Newegg and NCIX because they seem to have the best prices and aren't given a failing rating by the BBB. Tigerdirect has a decent rating there as well, but their prices always seem to be way higher than everyone else. If anyone has any suggestions or thoughts on where the best places to buy parts are, fire away.

I figure I'll buy what I can afford every month or two and leave the CPU and GPU until last, so I can take advantage of any drops in cost.

And yes, for the coolers that need one, I chose a blue LED fan. What can I say, it appeals to the four year-old in me who still appreciates shiny things. Still, any opinions on good 120mm fans are welcome.

Actually, finding a cooler that specifically states compatibility with the AM3 socket was one of my biggest headaches -- I don't know if AM2 and 2+ coolers will work, and I really didn't want to discover anything to the contrary after buying one. Even with all that, if I choose to go the AMD route, I'll have to cross my fingers that the one I picked (from Zalman) won't block off the DIMM slots unduly -- I really don't like that aspect of AMD motherboards. Oh well.

Thoughts?
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Old June 6, 2010, 09:28 AM
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No point getting 2PCIE slot motherboards if you will not Xfire/SLI/Fold in the future.

COolermaster 212+ is the best bang per dollar. Just stick with the CM R4 fans as they are cheap and have good air flow.

And don't buy stuff every month as you will regret it (price difference). Just buy all the parts at once and start using the computer.
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Old June 6, 2010, 11:40 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jcmaz View Post
No point getting 2PCIE slot motherboards if you will not Xfire/SLI/Fold in the future.

COolermaster 212+ is the best bang per dollar. Just stick with the CM R4 fans as they are cheap and have good air flow.

And don't buy stuff every month as you will regret it (price difference). Just buy all the parts at once and start using the computer.

Fully agreed, as well for RPG's, i've never seen any games so far that even a 9600GSO can't destroy ..... JMO .

However it's nice to have that extra juice.
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Old June 6, 2010, 12:40 PM
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Default Waiting's the Tough Part

Hmm, I suppose I ought to wait -- it'd probably be really frustrating to have half a computer sitting around pining away for parts for months on end anyway.

As for the dual GPU slot, I do want the ability to go SLI/Crossfire at some point -- I want this machine to last for a good while, after all. And though I don't do the FPS thing too much, I'd definitely like some oomph to the graphics capabilities -- being tied to what amounts to a glorified netbook gets old quick. Maybe if I have a machine that can run some different game types, I might actually be able to give them more than wistful glances, right?
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Old June 6, 2010, 01:39 PM
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well, the fact that you can in the future add a second gpu(nv or ati or something else?) is a great asset to have. at first in principle, then perhaps in practice.

i wouldnt be caught dead without a second pci-e 8x/16x on me mains.
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