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Old December 26, 2011, 03:38 PM
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Default Please sanity check my gaming PC parts list

Hey, this is my first attempt at configuring a gaming computer. My first assumption is that building is cheaper and/or better value than buying prebuilt, for a given CPU/GPU/motherboard combo - if I'm wrong, please tell me so & ignore the rest of this post!

I wanted something reasonably powerful, that will give good gaming performance (i.e. most bells and whistles, high resolution, 24+ FPS) for at least 3 or 4 years.

I tend to enjoy RPG, flight-sim, auto racing and adventure-style games, e.g. Fallout 3, Bioshock, Paradise City (is that on PC? played it XBox 360), Mass Effect, Half-Life 2, Elder Scrolls Oblivion, etc. Story matters more than blood and bullets to me :)

The system details follow, but I have a few questions up front:

1. Is it worth paying NCIX $50 to build and test the system, or could I do it myself (I am fairly handy, I've installed a few hard drives, memory modules, etc. but never done something on this scale). I'm not afraid to try building my own, in fact I'd find it an enjoyable challenge, but I'm nervous about making expensive mistakes.

2. I started with the Intel Core i5 Gaming System option on ncix.com's PC Builder page, then modified it following online recommendations, particularly the link in basic answer #6 below, so my parts list is entirely from NCIX. Should I buy everything from NCIX, or now that I have a basic list, hunt around for the items on discount?

3. Given my gaming style, am I buying too much PC? What could I economize?

4. I've added an SSD + Z68 chipset to take advantage of SSD caching - is this overkill, or future-proofing?

5. How well will this system "age"? IOW, can I easily upgrade the CPU, GPU, mobo, etc. as games inevitably demand more power?

First, here's my answers to the basic questions:

1. PC Use: Moderate to high PC gaming and flight sim - e.g. Fallout New Vegas, Wings of Prey, Prototype, Portal 2

2. Budget: $1200 +/- 20% before 12% tax
The base system on the NCIX PC Builder page is $1289, and I've managed to up the cost to just over $1400 (plus a free copy of Batman Arkham from nVidia :).

3. Country: Canada

4. Brand Preference: Intel, nVidia

5. If YOU intend on using any of YOUR current parts: No, just monitor Flatron W2261VG HDMI

6. Similar threads: Based my starting choices on g-unit111's list at the bottom of http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/330741-31-time-build

7. IF YOU plan on overclocking or run the system at default speeds: Initially default speeds, may overclock if/when I have confidence to try it.

8. WHEN do you plan to build it: ASAP, but I could wait a few weeks to collect parts at a discount as they become available.

9. What resolution do you use: Monitor native resolution is 1920 x 1080.

Next, here's the list of components I've currently selected:

Processor (CPU): Intel Core i5 2500K Quad Core Unlocked Processor Overclocked to 4GHZ
-NCIXPC Vesta 5350/5450 Only
$238.99
- recommended for overclocking, but the warning "NCIXPC Vesta 5350/5450 Only" gives me pause - it looks like the CPU can be overclocked, but NCIX will only do it if you buy their Vesta system?

CPU Cooling: Coolermaster Hyper 212 Plus Direct Touch 4 Heatpipe Heatsink AM2 AM3 LGA1366 LGA1155
$29.98

Motherboard: ASUS P8Z68-M Pro Z68 LGA1155 mATX 2PCI-E16 2PCI B3 SATA3 USB3.0 HDMI Motherboard
$139.15

DDR3 Memory (RAM): Corsair XMS CMX8GX3M2A1333C9 8GB 2X4GB DDR3-1333 CL9-9-9-24 Dual Channel Memory Kit
$50.19

Video Card: GeForce GTX 560 Ti 1GB PCI-E Dual DVI Mini HDMI
$269.99

Computer Case: Lian Li PC-A05NB Black Aluminum ATX Mini Tower Case 2X5.25 1X3.5 3X3.5INT No PS USB Audio
$85.69
- I wanted a small case to fit my desk, max 18" h x 12" w. This one seems to be well built with adequate ventilation, but I'm open to suggestions. If a mid-tower is easier to work in, I'll go for that. Also, this case doesn't come with USB 3.0 ports, but the mobo does. Is it easy to replace the USB extensions later, or not worth worrying about? I suppose I'll have USB 3.0 ports on the back side of the mobo.

Power Supply: Antec Earthwatts 650W Power Supply ATX12V V2.2 EPS12V Active PFC 80PLUS 120MM Fan
$99.95
- given the components I've selected, most online power consumption calculators recommend 500W, so I've added a bit of headroom.

Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium Edition 64BIT SP1 DVD OEM
$119.98

Hard Drives: Seagate Barracuda ST31000524AS 7200.12 1TB SATA 32MB Cache 3.5IN Internal Hard Drive OEM
$149.98

Solid State Drives - SSD: Intel 320 Series GEN3 80GB 2.5IN SSD SATA2 Solid State Disk Flash Drive OEM
$154.43
- this is primarily for the SSD caching. Would I be better off saving a few bucks on a 40Gb drive in that case?

DVD Writer: LG GH22NS70 Super Multi 22X SATA DVD Writer Black OEM
$24.99

Full assembly and testing of the system:
$50.00
- is this worth the money? They assemble, test and guarantee the assembled system for 1 year.

Thanks so much for any help you can provide.

All the best,

Philip
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Old December 26, 2011, 04:10 PM
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its a very good system, i would suggest the msi 6970 and upcoming 7870 from amd, and i would also suggest that you build it yourself by buying all the parts and buying the ncix membership so you don't have to pay for RMA shipping,here is a list of changes that i would make to you system

Case: Corsair Graphite 600t
Motherboard: Asus p8z68 deluxe
Ram: any corsair vengence low profile memory
Psu: Corsair ax850 watt
SSD: Kingston ssd now v+100
That is the changes for a healthy system and a long lasting one at that.

Optional changes of course, and yes your budget is going to have to go a little bit higher but these changes will meet your demands

Last edited by vinsonnguyen; December 26, 2011 at 04:19 PM.
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Old December 26, 2011, 04:17 PM
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don't Buy a NCIX membership, if u buy a few parts do a simple review on them and get the $50 membership for free
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Old December 26, 2011, 04:21 PM
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how do you do that
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Old December 26, 2011, 04:33 PM
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i think a kingston hyperX is good to
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Old December 26, 2011, 05:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by phipster View Post
1. Is it worth paying NCIX $50 to build and test the system, or could I do it myself (I am fairly handy, I've installed a few hard drives, memory modules, etc. but never done something on this scale). I'm not afraid to try building my own, in fact I'd find it an enjoyable challenge, but I'm nervous about making expensive mistakes.
It sound like you've answered your own question. Depending on which case you had to work on, you might have gotten all the experience you needed. As an example upgrading RAM and HDD in an IBM or HP small form factor case is more frustrating than anything in a standard case
What you do want to do is remember to read the instructions, especially for your motherboard, and never, ever try to force things to fit together. These days (dry air due to Winter) you'll want to ground yourself by having your PSU plugged in but switching off and remember to poke it every so often so your don't static zap your parts.

Quote:
Originally Posted by phipster View Post
2. I started with the Intel Core i5 Gaming System option on ncix.com's PC Builder page, then modified it following online recommendations, particularly the link in basic answer #6 below, so my parts list is entirely from NCIX. Should I buy everything from NCIX, or now that I have a basic list, hunt around for the items on discount?
Hunting around is definitely a good idea because NCIX has price match. I usually check for the exact same product on DirectCanada or BestDirect and match the price to save anywhere from 5-50%.

Quote:
Originally Posted by phipster View Post
3. Given my gaming style, am I buying too much PC? What could I economize?

4. I've added an SSD + Z68 chipset to take advantage of SSD caching - is this overkill, or future-proofing?

5. How well will this system "age"? IOW, can I easily upgrade the CPU, GPU, mobo, etc. as games inevitably demand more power?
3. How much eye candy do you want? I'm fine at medium settings while a some won't game if anti-aliasing is less than 4x. Flight simulators tend to eat up all the CPU and GPU they're given at higher detail (at least MS Flight Sim does). That said, a GTX 560 Ti is 'generally' the GPU you get if you want to game at 1080p at "high" but not "extreme" quality settings.
4. Nope - the SSD cuts down loading time quite a bit. The caching feature is good if you want to deal with just one "drive". Others (like me) split everything and have OS + Apps + some games on the SSD and the rest on the hard drive. If you want to do that instead of the caching and you'll never use the integrated graphics you can drop down to a P67 chipset.
5. That system should be fine until the next Doom 3 / Crysis / Metro 2033 (if you don't know those were games with system requirements way above middle-low end gaming PCs at the time) When one of those comes around and you want to play it, then you upgrade.
Your first upgrade will 90% of the time be the GPU, and that's an easy upgrade. If you want the GPU to last "longer" you can get the expensive new Radeon card, but I personally prefer to stay at the <250 dollar price range so I can upgrade the GPU more often.
With Intel it's always iffy whether you can upgrade the CPU without changing the motherboard - you should be able to keep your motherboard for Ivy Bridge (if I remember the last rumour correctly). That said, it should be another 2 years or so until a 2500k is "slow" for gaming.

Quote:
Originally Posted by phipster View Post
Processor (CPU): Intel Core i5 2500K Quad Core Unlocked Processor Overclocked to 4GHZ
-NCIXPC Vesta 5350/5450 Only
$238.99
- recommended for overclocking, but the warning "NCIXPC Vesta 5350/5450 Only" gives me pause - it looks like the CPU can be overclocked, but NCIX will only do it if you buy their Vesta system?
Actually it sounds like you'll only be allowed to buy the 2500k CPU if you buy it with a Vesta. Otherwise you'r using this instead:
Intel Core i5 2500K Quad Core Unlocked Processor LGA1155 3.3GHZ Sandy Bridge 6MB - Intel - BX80623I52500K

For your parts selection, everything looks fine except for one nitpicking point. Any computer case has more space than the electronics bay in a robot (my other hobby) so don't ask me about enough room to build with

I notice you picked the older EarthWatts Power supply. There's nothing wrong with it (by experience as I'm folding off a 4-year old Earthwatts), but I'd use the Antec High Current Gamer for ~the same wattage and price because it's newer and slightly more efficient depending on your load. My i5 2500k + GTX 550Ti all at stock draws less than 260W, so a 600W PSU will give you a very comfy chunk of headroom.

EDIT for clarity.
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Last edited by frontier204; December 26, 2011 at 05:35 PM.
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Old December 26, 2011, 06:30 PM
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Unless space is at a real premium, I would suggest a mid tower.

But make sure that the case is big enough for 2 of your larger components first..
(long enough for the GPU before the HDD cages start, and wide enough to close the side with that cooler on)

On the SSD, while it will give you blistering load times (os and whatever other stuff you put on it / have cached) that's all it will effect.
I currently don't have an SSD in my gaming rig and have 0 problems with load times etc. (MW3 maps load within 7-8 sec)

I am a fan of the caching idea of an ssd but have not tried it in practice myself yet, as such others can better advise on this.

Ever gonna consider SLI?
if yes then possibly a 750 watt PSU, think the cost increase is minimal and will make your PSU last a few parts longer if / when you decide to upgrade
That said it's not needed in any way for what you have stated here.
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Old December 26, 2011, 08:16 PM
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Build it yourself. If you have confidence and you've messed around a bit in a computer before, you'll be good to go. Building a non-mod/watercooled rig is easier than LEGO.

As far as parts go, I'd save some money on the memory by going with the cheapest 8GB kit you can find, as there is no perceptible difference in gaming performance between any of the kits (the cheapest is usually the Mushkin Silverline).

Also, take the time to price-match all your parts. I find Canada Post's price-check site usually the best, but I also use pricematch.ca, pricebat.ca, etc. Usually, I just do a Canadian Google search with the part number and those sites almost always come up. For example, with your GTX 560 Ti (I'm assuming it's the MSI Frozr II) amazon.ca is cheaper by $26 and you'll still be able to use the MIR through NCIX after a price-match.

With all that money saved, plus the money you'd save on doing the rig yourself, I'd opt for a 128GB SSD and a data/storage/etc. drive. You may as well get full SSD performance, plus you won't hear as much hard-drive chatter. Of course, this would just be my personal preference.
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Old December 26, 2011, 09:34 PM
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Thanks all for the quick replies! Lots of great ideas to weigh up...
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Old December 27, 2011, 11:12 AM
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+1 for building it yourself. Just take as much time as you need and don't rush things. The PC I'm on now was my first build, and I was very nervous, but everything works great and I have an amazing sense of pride knowing I built it myself. Also, highly recommend the GTX 560 Ti (card you're looking at). I have one and it can max out all but the most demanding games at 1080p.
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