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Strato February 6, 2013 04:42 PM

Gaming / Work Build - ~$2000 Budget
Hi everyone,

It is time for me to replace my existing PC (and do a hand-me-down of my trusty current system -- my daughter will be pleased! LOL).

When I bought my last system a few years ago, the feedback I received from this forum was hugely helpful. I thought I'd run my plans by everyone this time too... :-) I'd be grateful for any feedback on my proposed build. In particular, does everything I've selected work *together* nicely? Am I missing anything or are there ways to improve the overall build?

I'm flexible on the budget, but have assumed somewhere between $2,000 and $2,500 - though obviously lower is better. Bang-for-the-buck is my main consideration.

Intended usage: This will be my day-to-day work system (Excel, Word, software development, etc.) as well as a gaming system. I'll also do some video editing, CS3, etc., although only periodically (hobbyist only). I tend to pretty well live on my computer and I do push it hard -- way too many apps running at once, etc. It is important that my system boots quickly and is very responsive. I won't be water-cooling, so air-flow is important.

I still love gaming, but don't play anywhere near as much as I used to (pushing fifty... soon I'll be practicing my "get off my lawn you damned kids" snarl...). When I do play, it's mostly Oblivion / Fallout-type RPGs. That said, I do like the eye-candy when I play so want a good video card.

Note - the pricing I've shown below does not account for any price-matching or discounting. I'll look for deals once I've finalized the component list.

Proposed System:

CPU: Intel Core i7-3770K 3.5GHz Quad-Core Processor ($319.99 @ Amazon Canada)
I've opted for the i7 over the i5 mainly for the greater processing speed on non-gaming apps. Any thoughts on whether the performance improvement on programming, video editing, etc., is enough to justify the extra $100 cost? I've opted for the 'k' version so that I can do some light overclocking.

CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-D14 65.0 CFM CPU Cooler ($84.99 @ Memory Express)
I'll be doing a bit of overclocking, but nothing aggressive. This unit is supposed to be quiet, which is a bonus. That said, this isn't a cheap unit. Is it overkill for my purposes? Alternatives???

MSI Z77 MPOWER ATX LGA1155 Motherboard ($194.99 @ Canada Computers)


ASUS Maximus V FORMULA/ASSASSINS Creed III E-ATX LGA1155 Z77 DDR3 SLI 3PCI-E16 SATA3 Motherboard [NCIX: $279.99]

I've used Asus before and quite liked them, but the reviews I've read have spoken highly of the MPower, especially for the price. Any feedback / thoughts? I overclock a bit, but I don't push the boards much at all. Mostly, I'll likely just use 'safe' oc recommendations for the board. More important to me is overall stability / reliability, lots of USB 3.0 and 2.0 ports, lots of fast SATA connections, good BIOS, etc. Any suggestions on alternative boards to the two above?

G.Skill Ripjaws X Series 32GB (4 x 8GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($196.99 @ Memory Express)

Need recommendations on good RAM for this build. Am probably going to get 32gb (4x8), but have no idea what is the best bang-for-the-buck RAM that suits one of the mobos listed above. Any help in this area would be greatly appreciated. I know that 32gb RAM is overkill. However, I want it partly for a RAMDrive and partly for helping with video editing. I may end up only getting 16 gb, though, so if anyone has any recommendations it would be appreciated.

Any suggestions on ideal timings for the memory sticks? Any better sticks to get for the proposed mobos?

Video Card: EVGA GeForce GTX 670 2GB Video Card ($374.99 @ Canada Computers)
I don't think I need to pay the premium for a 680, though it is tempting. Any suggestions on a better-value high-end GPU than this one?

Haven't decided on a case yet. I'm thinking of the Phantom 630, based on the reviews I've seen. However, so far I cannot find it available online anywhere in Canada. Neither NCIX or Amazon has it yet. Alternatives I'm looking at are the Corsair 650D, the NZXT Switch 810, or the Phantom 820. I also like the HAF full towers (I have a HAF 832 already, actually) -- I'm indifferent on the look, but really like the air flow, drive bays, cord management, and general build quality of of the HAF). I'm partial to a full tower or large mid-tower with lots of room to work (big clumsy hands with pathetic dexterity...). Any suggestions / recommendations?

Corsair Professional 850W 80 PLUS Silver Certified ATX12V / EPS12V Power Supply ($144.88 @ Canada Computers)


Corsair Professional HX850W 850W ATX 12V 70A 24PIN ATX Modular Power Supply Active PFC 140mm Fan [NCIX: $174.99]

I plan to have a fairly heavy duty collection of hard drives in the unit (most of which I already have), so I want plenty of power available. Also, I like a solid, reliable PSU. Any thoughts on these units? Any alternative recommendations?

One key question - are the cords (ie the 8-pin connector) long enough on these PSUs given my preference for over-sized cases???

Samsung 840 Pro Series 256GB 2.5IN SATA3 Mdx Solid State Disk Flash Drive SSD [NCIX: $289.99]


Western Digital Caviar Black 2TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($149.79 @ DirectCanada) (qty = 2)

The SSD will be the boot drive, of course. The Black would be my main storage drive. I'll install additional drives I already have for storage of raw video files, etc.

Any suggestions on alternate SSD options?

Any suggestions on a good DVD burner? I don't use BR, so just need solid, reliable CD / DVD.

I'm almost tempted to simply omit the optical drive, since I have a USB burner available (laptop doesn't have an optical drive). However, having it always in the system is simply more convenient.

ASUS Xonar Essence STX PCI-E1 SPDIF Sound Card 124DB SNR W/ Headphone AMP [NCIX: $199.99]

I'm not really an audiophile, but I do like decent sound. This is pretty well the max I'm willing to spend for an audio card. Any suggestions on something good, but a bit cheaper?

Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit

I hate Microsoft. Gnaws at me to send them my money...

The above items roughly total $2,500 before price-matching or looking for better deals. Ideally, I'd like to bring the total down at least a few hundred bucks since the price does not yet include taxes or shipping. Suggestions welcomed!

Thanks in advance for any and all feedback!

Terren February 6, 2013 05:46 PM

I'm from Corsair so I have some biases but my suggestions would be as follows -

Noctua makes some great products but I'm not really down with giant air coolers. They're way heavy so they put a lot of stress around the CPU socket area. Recommend an all in one liquid cooling system which is maintenance free and will give you better performance (in terms of temperature) under load. Check out something like the H80i for something in a similar price range or the H100i if you want to splurge a bit more. NCIX should have some pretty aggressive deals on the older H100 and is pretty much the only Canadian retailer left with stock

I've never worked on a NZXT but I have built many systems with chassis from other manufacturers and my feedback would be that tolerances tend to be much tighter on Corsair product and our cases are probably the easiest to work in.

If you're budgeting around $175 on a PSU, might as well step up to the AX860 which is one of our best powersupplies on the market today. Our cords tend to be very long. I've got a AX1200 in a 650D right now and I've got length to spare.

Depending on what kind of speakers / headphones you have, I'd be inclined to tone down the budget on the soundcard a bit as well

Caldezar February 6, 2013 06:07 PM

Here's a tool to use that will do your price matching for you: Pick Parts, Build Your PC, Compare and Share - PCPartPicker Canada

The i7 is worth it if you're going to do a lot of video editing due to the extra cache. If your video work is only going to be light, then I would save the cash and go with a 3570k.

I like the MB choice, although I'm a Gigabyte guy myself. (Best bang for the buck usually)

The PSU's you listed are nice, but you would likely be fine with a 750. (Unless you plan on going SLI)

I can't say enough good things about my 670, but I hear that a 660ti is a better dollar buy these days and gives almost the same performance

I'd highly recommend revisiting your choice of SSD's. That price is absolutely crazy, and there are much better options for good prices. (Crucial M4 and Patriot Pyro both come to mind)

Check out the Xonar DX sound card. It's still a HUGE jump over on-board, and an EXCELLENT value. Goes on sale regularly for $50

*EDIT* If you're looking for a nice case that is EXTREMELY easy to work on, check out the Corsair 600t.

Dzzope February 6, 2013 06:16 PM

Firstly can I ask what your current system is and what resolution you play games at?

Seems to me your spending WAY more than you need and a simple re-fresh may be all thats needed for your current system.
The heaviest load your doing at the moment is the video editing and compiling of the software. Neither of which need huge processor / ram unless your doing some high end stuff.
(monitor your usage now to see what your using/how long it takes to render)

You could go for a 3570k, 16GB ram, 670 (actually a 7950 is much better value and will easily match the 670) and a much cheaper board and you will notice no difference
(apart from rendering, the 3770k will be noticeably faster, only you can say if it's justified.. Look at as many reviews as you can)

I'll also echo the above on the cooler / PSU and soundcard.

On the SSD, there are a few options for the high end ones... Intel 520 is hard to look past but there are also the Samsung you mentioned along with some of the newer drives from OCZ and Corsair that are pretty sweet too
(Intel would be my pick, though I think they will be releasing a new drive based on their new controller soonish and it will be worth watching out for, anyone "in the know" could guestimate a time-frame?)

I'm guessing you'll be mirroring the WD blacks for data security?

I wouldn't touch the EVGA 670.. very poor cooler.. MSI power edition would be my pick
(actually a 7950 would be my pick.. same performance, cheaper price, crysis3 and Bioshock Infinity for free too.. The HIS that was recently reviewed here looks sweet and this is from someone who has a 670 and a 560ti before that)

CL9 for the ram (I believe the ripjaws are anyway but may be wrong)

I would slash a fair amount of budget off the motherboard.. MSI have some other very nice boards at a significantly lower price. You'll see no difference unless there is a specific feature you want from that one.

Case is sheer personal preference, any of those cases will have good air-flow.. More than enough for that build and then some.
I would invest in some good quiet fans though and a controller for them

Agree with the dvd drive, leave it out unless you use it allot.. Think I've used mine all of 7 times in 3 years.. No new build I do any more has one unless it's really needed.

Soundcard is HUGELY overkill... I suggest using the on-board and see if your happy... if not then get something a bit better (unless you really have an ear for good sound and a very decent set of speakers/headphones)
Even then the STX is very high-end.. really want top notch speakers/cans to justify it.

All in all I think you would be hard pressed to notice the difference between this build and a 1500 - 1800 build..
Use PcPartPicker, make a build and post it here... only way to see if your getting good value.
Really need to know what your running on at the moment, resolution you play games on and how long your renders etc are taking to give more definitive advice.

Strato February 6, 2013 06:51 PM

Thanks for the replies thus far.

I admit I'm waffling a bit on the i7 - it doesn't seem like I'm giving up all that much to drop to the i5. As noted, video editing is strictly a hobby and isn't a big deal.

Terren - how does the H80i compare to the Noctura in terms of installation? Is it a simple process? That's a new type of cooler for me.

Caldezar - thanks for the suggestion on the Xonar DX. I definitely want something better than the on-board sound (never found motherboard audio to be very good), but as everyone seems to note, the audio board in my proposed system is definitely overkill (my speakers and headset are both better than average, but they are still far from top-of-the-line). I'll look into the Xonar DX.

Caldezar - you would rank the Corsair 600t over the 650D?

Dzoppe - current system is an i7-950 from 3 or 4 years ago that I've been tweaking every year or so. Resolution is 1920 x 1200, with two monitors. I don't want to refresh my current system (my teenage daughter needs a desktop to go with her laptop, so I'm going to slightly upgrade this one and then pass it along to her). I agree my proposed new system is probably more than I actually need... But I do like my toys... <shameface>. That said, I still don't want to *waste* money, so your comments are valid and appreciated! Yes, planning on doing the Blacks as RAID (will be a first - meant to, but never got around to doing it on my current system).

What specific GPUs would you suggest? There seems to be such a massive range of models that it is hard to keep up with what is giving the best value. I'm not wedded to NVidia, though I've had good experiences with them in the past.

On motherboards, any specific recommendations? Again, like GPUs, there seems to be an infinite supply of boards! LOL

Thanks again for the feedback - much appreciated! Lots of research for me to keep doing... :-)

Terren February 6, 2013 09:18 PM

Installation is pretty straight forward - the radiator mounts into an 120mm fan slot. The CPU mounting I would say is similar to most aftermarket coolers. There's a few bits you have to choose from depending on the socket type but that's about it.

600T / 650D - I had the same debate when I was building my rig and I went with the 650D because personally I like the look a bit more than the 600T.

660Ti's I believe are about the same level of performance as the old 580's on the NVIDIA side so unless you're doing 3D or you're running Eyefinity (multiple monitors for gaming - I don't remember the NVIDIA marketing term for it) is probably going to be pretty good for most things.

AMD / ATI is running some hot bundles on the 7800 / 7900 series right now with free copies of Tomb Raider, Crysis 3 and Bioshock. Some of the "entry" level 7850's I believe were going for a bit over $200 so those would be another couple of cards to possibly consider.

Dzzope February 7, 2013 02:49 AM

I think you'll notice very little difference from a 950, I didn't between mine and my brothers 3570k for normal day-to day usage/games(though the 3570k was much quieter due to being a cooler chip).
If you'd rather the cash in your pocket than a new shiny rig, build something for her from scratch and spend a fraction of either your current or proposed rig?
But as you say your daughter needs a machine and you likes the new shiny so I'll say no more on that unless you want me to. :P

For 2 1920x1200, get a 7950, 7970 if you just want it... The HIS IceQ2 recently reviewed is very very nice and priced to sell and it should be able to max out your games for quite some time without issue.
HIS Radeon HD 7950 IceQ X2 Boost Clock 3GB PCI-E w/ DVI, HDMI, Dual DP at Memory Express
Newegg.ca - HIS IceQ X H797QM3G2M Radeon HD 7970 3GB 384-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 3.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support Video Card
For the price of a 670 you can have a 7970 with crysis and bioshock.. and the card will be faster in most things. Again look up reviews for yourself.
The 670 is far from bad, It's just with the price of the AMD's with that bundle they aren't the best value / Bang for buck.
In-fact to get the cheapest non-reference cooled version you have to pay $10 more than the 7970 above and thats the DCII with no factory OC from Asus with a $20 MIR, I think you get my point.

On the motherboards, I would look at the spec of each board and see what features they bring to the table. once they stop introducing things you want / need then you have found your board.
Nearly every z77 board will allow you to get a good OC so going for something that is aimed at overclockers is not really needed (see voltage read point etc etc)
I also suggest staying with an MSI as they are better value than Asus and unlike many other Manufacturers they have an RMA centre in Canada (and good customer service from what I've seen)

Sound-card, the D1 or DX are the same bar the interface. 1 is PCI the other PCI express x1.. check the positioning of your slots and chose either.

The 600t (limited ed white) is one of my favorite cases for looks, features, size and price. Main thing is, like the motherboard, find the features you want at a price your happy with, that looks nice to you and you'll be set.
There is no 1 correct answer. I'm tempted mainly by the CM Storm Stryker, 600t LE white, Cosmos II, 650D, and some of the bitfinx, nzxt and Fractal cases. Some good reviews on some good cases right here too..

Remember to look into the quality (sound vs airflow) of the installed fans and the possibility of adding to / replacing them with more / better fans (depending on the case of course)

There is a review of the H80i and H100i in the reviews section.. go check them out.

Strato February 7, 2013 08:59 AM

Thanks, Dzoppe - excellent feedback and lots to think about! :-)

I've been doing a lot of research based on the feedback so far and have already significantly tweaked my component list. I will post an update once I've worked through everything.

Thanks again to everyone for the assistance.

great_big_abyss February 7, 2013 09:36 AM

I put together the build based on people's suggestions (and a couple of my own) on pcpartpicker.com

Intel Core i5-3570K, MSI GeForce GTX 670, Corsair 650D - System Build - PCPartPicker Canada

Dzzope February 7, 2013 12:04 PM

Looks like the 7970 I linked to was a sale price and is now out of stock.. a pitty as the price was stellar.

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