Gaming/Graphics - 1st Build

eikone

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Hope no one will get too put off by this long post but I am a detailed oriented person and I figure the more details I provide now, the more detailed advice, suggestions and help I will receive.

My PC was fried this summer by a lightning surge so I'm needing a replacement. I was already making plans to "upgrade" and now I would really like to try my hand at building my own. I am a photographer so that alone requires at least a good graphics quality machine so I figure if I can put together a really good gaming PC I'll have something that will handle both.

I'm using a pretty sorry rented PC from the local shop that has my old fried one. The old one really just needs a new power supply and some upgrades and it can still be a decent PC for home use.

I would love some knowledgeable advice and suggestions for the components necessary to build a PC that will handle my needs and wants.

Thanks All!

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: As soon as possible

BUDGET RANGE: The longer I wait, the more I have to spend. Basically I've been adding about $50 every week to the original amount I had set aside. I have just over 2K now. Of course, that doesn't mean I have to spend it all, but it is available and growing, for now. The danger in waiting much longer is that I'm afraid of an "emergency" coming along that would threaten my stash!

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: I love gaming and I want a really awesome gaming machine! I am also a photographer so that alone requires at least a good graphics quality machine so I figure if I can put together a really good gaming PC I'll have something that will handle both.
Now, that said, let me clarify my gaming. I play only PC games (no consoles in this house), I rarely play online (though I may start playing co-ops), I play mostly FPS but also enjoy adventure, action, puzzle, etc. Check out my Collection and Wish List on my Gamespot profile page if you like (screen name is eikone; http://www.gamespot.com/users/eikone/?tag=userpanel;avatar

I also use my PC for other entertainment. I don't watch TV but I do watch my favorite shows online and we match movies (or used too) on my PC. This is because of my nice HDMI monitor which is better than our current TV (and we don't have cable). I'd love a Blueray player/DVD burner too.

This PC is not just for fun though. I am a Professional Photographer so I am trying to build a PC that will take care of both needs. I expect that the requirements for either do overlap so it shouldn't be too hard to meet all needs. Of course, I deal with very large digital files and work in Photoshop a lot. This is where lots of very good memory is important for smooth, fast work flow. I deal with my labs, business contacts and customers online and need to send large amounts of data over the internet. The business end is where I am more prepared to put off some "needs" now for budgeting but keeping in mind future growth and expansion as I build. Eventually I would like 4 identical hard drives in a set up for a Performance/Data Security system (RAID-0+1). Right now I have an external hard drive that I am using for my digital files. I also plan on subscribing to an online backup plan.


PARTS NOT REQUIRED: I have a 24" (520 x 320mm) HDMI monitor (HP w2408h), a gaming keyboard (Saitek Cyborg) and mouse, an external Hard Drive (My Book 640GB) and an 8x external portable super multi DVD rewriter (LG GP08 ). I have a speaker set but would like a better 5.1 set.

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: newegg.com or whoever has the best pricing and deals for what I need.

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA

PARTS PREFERENCES: Whatever offers the best quality for price ratio. I'm fairly open though I'm leaning toward Intel i7, and have used GeForce/NVIDIA cards. I do want a full tower for future expansion. I want to get as long a life as I can out of this build so I'm planning accordingly (upgrading, expanding, adding)

OVERCLOCKING: Maybe

SLI OR CROSSFIRE: Maybe

MONITOR RESOLUTION: 1920x1200

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: I am a Lady, so, I ought to be able to have a pretty case.


I do have a list made now that I've been trying to tweak. I'm leaning toward investing more on a good and large foundation system with adequate components that I can easily upgrade in the near and distant future.

I would love for someone to go over my "wish list", see if there are any obvious problems, conflicts or just better suggestions.

Here's what I'm looking at so far:

Case: Thermaltake Xaser VI ATX Full Tower Computer Case

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811133052

MOBO: ASRock X58 SuperComputer

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/x58-motherboard-i7,2252-2.html

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813157150

CPU: Intel Core i7-920 Bloomfield 2.66GHz

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819115202

CPU Cooler: Prolimatech Megahalems

http://www.tweaktown.com/reviews/2870/prolimatech_megahalems_cpu_cooler/index.html

http://www.crazypc.com/products/prolimatech-megahalem-508600.htm

2 Fans for a push/pull configuration: APEVIA 120mm Blue LED Case Fan

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811998121

Memory: CORSAIR DOMINATOR 6GB (3 x 2GB) SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Triple Channel

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820145224

Graphics Card: GeForce GTX 260 896MB (May get 2)

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814261053

Power Supply: CORSAIR 850W / 80+SILVER Certified Modular Active PFC

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817139011

Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822136284

Drive: LG Blu-ray Multi drive / Burner

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16827136175

Sound Card: Creative Sound Blaster Audigy SE 7.1 Channels 24-bit 96KHz PCI Interface Sound Card

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16829102003
 
Solution
I would keep the CPU, Motherboard, and Optic drive. The rest could use some polished work since you are looking on spending quite a bit of money. You don't have a bad setup going but for how much you are spending it could be a bit better without having to spend anymore than you originally planned.

Price: $1,608 with shipping (including CPU, Motherboard, Optic Drive)

Case: NZXT ZERO
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811146029

Heatsink Fan: Xigmatek Dark Knight (Your current one is HUGE and could be tricky to build with. But the Megahalem cools extremely well)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16835233029

RAM: OCZ Gold 6GB (Performs just as well as the Dominator and costs much less)...

jbakerlent

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Welcome to the forum. First, off if you like the looks of that case, go for it, but I do not. Also, it is enormous and on the expensive side. Just get a Asus P6T motherboard (SE if you switch to ATI). You probably could get a cheaper HSF like the Hyper 212+. Although the Megahalems is a bit better, it's also huge and expensive, which may or may not be justifiable since you said maybe to overclocking. Just get this RAM, it's equal to the Dominators in performance.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820231230
Then, consider switching to ATI for the GPU. A 5770 instead of the 260 would be a good idea. You could also easily switch to a 650/750W PSU if you switched to the Radeon and still allow for future crossfire. Next, you can drop the sound card, onboard is great. If you have any questions, feel free to ask them.
 

BohleyK

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I would keep the CPU, Motherboard, and Optic drive. The rest could use some polished work since you are looking on spending quite a bit of money. You don't have a bad setup going but for how much you are spending it could be a bit better without having to spend anymore than you originally planned.

Price: $1,608 with shipping (including CPU, Motherboard, Optic Drive)

Case: NZXT ZERO
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811146029

Heatsink Fan: Xigmatek Dark Knight (Your current one is HUGE and could be tricky to build with. But the Megahalem cools extremely well)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16835233029

RAM: OCZ Gold 6GB (Performs just as well as the Dominator and costs much less)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820227365

Video Card: Sapphire 5870 (ATi is the way to go at the moment)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814161301

Power Supply: Corsair 750W (Its all you will need with my setup)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817139006

Hard Drive: Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB (Cheaper, performs great!)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822152185&cm_re=spinpoint_f3-_-22-152-185-_-Product

Operating System: Windows 7 Home Premium 64 Bit
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16832116754

You won't need case fans or a sound card. Maybe a sound card if you are an audiophile. If you are stick with the one you have selected. As stated before, your CPU, Motherboard, and Optic Drive are keepers. Just add these into your equation and you should be good to go. [:bohleyk:2]
 
Solution

MagicPants

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I agree with the onboard sound bit. I removed an x-fi because creative labs drivers don't work with openAL, which causes certain games to freeze on boot up with no indication why (mass effect is one).

If you have the money to spend get one really good graphics card rather than two okay ones. I never liked tom's "best gfx card for the money" reviews because they rely on sli/crossfire which usually has issues. Sli causes visual artifacts in Fallout3, Crysis, and GTAIV to name a few.

Other than that:

I love my silverstone FT01 case, it's classy.
Mushkin makes great ram, never had a bad stick from them. I hear about bad ram from OCZ all the time.
If you're not going to overclock the megahelms is overkill, but it's not that expensive so why not?
Don't use the spread method when you do the thermal grease, it causes air bubbles.
Go with Asus for the mobo. Tom's never reviews the long term reliability. Asus is good for that.
 

ckim2116

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I agree with BohleyK's suggestion of an ATI Radeon HD 5870. With a budget of around 2K you should invest in a quality GPU and the 5870 sounds like it's for you (the 5970 is a little pricey and availability is not great).
 

eikone

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Thanks for the info. I will admit that I know nothing about sound, on board or not. I have heard that if you really want to enjoy all that Blu-ray has to offer, you need good sound. As I stated before, I would love to have a Blu-ray player and be able to enjoy the movie experience completely. That is the only reason that I though that it might be better to go with a sound card. I welcome any knowledgeable advice and suggestions on this matter.

I put "maybe" to overclocking only because, again, I am not very knowledgeable on that subject. I am a learner, a perpetual student, so not knowing doesn't mean that I won't know for long or that I will not want to do it. I am planning for the MAXIMUM that I could do if I decide to do it. I researched several reviews from various sources and decided that, for it's performance value, the megahelms appeared to be a good choice. Since it does not come with it's own fan(s) it seems to me that it would have a long life value and, should I choose to upgrade my CPU is the future, it would be able to handle it so that I should not have to buy again.

What method should I use for the thermal grease?

If not the ASRock mobo, exactly which Asus mobo would you recommend with similar features as the ASRock X58 SuperComputer?
 
The ASRock x58 supercomputer got pretty mediocre reviews. Some testers had some issues that make me leery of it. (check xbitlabs review).

The ASRock x58 extreme, on the other hand basically won all of the below $200 motherboard review comparisons. EVGAs E756 or E758 (the E757 is weird) are top quality gaming motherboards you should consider if you find the x58 extreme too inexpensive.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813188051
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813188046


If you are not going to get into heavy overclocking, the Xigmatek Dark Knight is probably a better choice for a CPU cooler. Its within a couple degrees in cooling and has been called "easy to install."


As stated by others, the 260 is probably not the best GPU choice. Either go with the 5770 and be ready to buy a second one (650W PSU) or go for a 5850 or 5870 and a 750W PSU.


The case you chose has alot of fans so it should be good cooling. If you want something a bit more subdued the Antec 900 or Antec 1200 might be to your liking. If you like red and more tech looking the Coolermaster HAF 932 or 922.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811129021
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811129043
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811119197

Bottom mounted PSUs help keep cables out of your airflow lanes. If you are getting that thermaltake I would recommend getting a Corsair HX series modular PSU instead of the TX series.
 

eikone

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Thanks for your suggestions. As far as the case, I looked at, researched, read oodles of reviews on bunches of cases before finally settling on the Thermaltake Xaser VI ATX Full Tower case. It is a little more expensive than some of the smaller mid-tower cases, but I want a large full tower, again, so that there is plenty of room for anything I might need or want to put in it. For it's size and features it seams to be a good value. The final reason I like it is because of it's looks. If I go with it, I plan to paint the inside black also to make it look even better. I wanted some "bling" but not too much, keeping it classy with a little edge. Remember, I am a lady, so, Red outside and Cool Blue lighting inside looks just a little more like a lady's rig to me. I wouldn't mind if it wear Blue outside or even Purple but red will do.

Your memory suggestion looks good. I really wasn't sure which brand(s) or models would be best for my needs. I actually would like to have 8GB to 12GB of RAM and eventually the max that the mobo will support (24GB). I figured that I can save some money now going with 6GB to start and add more latter. I wonder if I should go
2 x 4GB = 8GB instead of the 3 x 2GB = 6GB.

How close might I be getting to maxing out the PSU with the one better GPU and the other components and possibly some extra or larger fans and lighting? I know I can upgrade in this area too later but I am trying to figure out when it is better to spend a little more now for longer usage or save money now and change out later if I can get more worth that way.

On the sound, see my response to "Magic Pants" and feel free to add your input.
 

eikone

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I like the 2nd suggested mobo you listed. I will give it some serious consideration. This is what I wanted and expected when I decided to post here; good, honest, knowledgeable advice and suggestions.

You can see my responses here to others concerning the case, PSU, and CPU cooler. Please comment further if you will.

As for the GPU, that was probably the one component that I have been the most unsure of, so the more info in this area the better. I have heard that many of the ATI cards are running low in supply therefore increasing their prices now. BTW, I had to chuckle just a bit at your comment about the mobo being "too inexpensive". I really don't think I would have a problem with anything being too inexpensive. Eventually I would love to be able to afford double or even triple GPUs if that is what I need to get the best gaming experience. I play the big, graphic heavy, FPS games (Crysis, Far Cry, COD-MW, upcoming Splinter Cell) and would love to experience them in all their gory glory, as the developers meant it be! I'm totally open to a robust debate of the best "plan of attack" to make this happen that will fit into the scheme of my current budget and future ability to upgrade as needed.

I do not claim to know mush of the physics of PC hardware design, but, in my feeble mind, it seems that it would make more sense to have a PSU positioned above the mobo than below it for the simple reason that heat rises. Though it may not be possible, along this line, I would think it would also make more sense to have the GPUs positioned above or level with the CPU for the same reason. Anyway, I did consider the PSU's position in the case when leaning toward the case choice that I made. I would be interested in your thought on this.


 
Heat rises - so why have the PSU up where its hottest?
I much prefer cases with a bottom PSU and top vent fan to help that rising hot air get up and away from your PC. That is why I like the Antec and HAF cases so much, they come with top fans to get rid of the rising hot air.
 

eikone

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I guess it could be a matter of opinion concerning the best position to place a PSU (or anything else) in a case. I still think it makes more sense to have a large heat producing PSU at the top of the case if there is good exhaust vents and fans at the top and the Xaser has all that. The heat from a bottom positioned PSU would have to pass over and through all the other mobo components before exiting the case at the top adding to the heat in the case.

My second place choice was the HAF 932 but I didn't care that much for its "hard" looks and the PSU bottom placement.
 
PSUs dont generate much heat. They also take in case air and exhaust out the back so none of it goes up into the case. Traditionally the top PSU is used as an extra heat exhaust for the rising hot air from the CPU, chipset and GPU. Its the CPU, chipsets and GPU that generate the heat.

That Xaser looks to be a good cooling case so go for it. I recommend a modular power supply so you dont have extra cables hanging around in the way.
 

eikone

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Thanks. I do want to use a modular unit. When my PC was zapped this summer :eek: I replaced the fried PSU with a modular unit. It was soooo much easrier and cleaner. That is definitely the way to go.

I'm thinking that sometime down the road I might like to try a liquid cooling system but it looks a bit too much for me to tackle now and expensive. The Xaser is designed well for both.
 

eikone

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eikone

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1st duke of marlborough

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Just figured I'd throw this out there: for much less you could get an AMD build that performs near i7 levels on most games: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/phenom-versus-i7,2360-13.html

http://www.pureoverclock.com/review.php?id=794&page=13

Basically, the i7 and Phenom II X4 perform around the same in most games, sometimes the i7 leads, sometimes not, but the difference is negligible at best. Consequently, you could spend the saved money on a better GPU. If you use many other applications, however, then the i7 pulls ahead by a more substantial margin, as Tom's Hardware makes plain.

If you do "more than just gaming" or more than just graphics intensive applications, then the i7 is for you. If not, I would at least give AMD some consideration, as they give a comparable rig at a fraction of the cost.
 

eikone

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Here's another question. Some one suggested a set up using a SSD for the OS and a 1 - 2 TB HDD for other programs and storage. I have an external 640gb that I'm using now for image and file storage.

Opinions on this and any Hardware suggestion?
 

BohleyK

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SSD's are the way to go. Much faster than any SATA drive and SSD's have been only getting faster as time goes on. OCZ Vertex Turbos are the ones I would take a look at. The more expensive Vertex Turbos have write times of 200MB/sec. There are other brands that are either slightly larger or slightly faster but OCZ has reviewed very well on many sites for SSD.

Put your OS and all your major and most frequent applications on your SSD and use the SATAs for storage. That will make one quick setup.
 

woozyM

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As for gaming SSD will just help you load faster right? You're not playing while loading so is it really a hassle to wait a little longer, I'd rather put the money on higher graph or cpu... of course we're just strictly talking about a gaming system, otherwise I concur saying having SSD for other use is exceptionally great.
 
Kingwin would not be my choice for a power supply. Unless you saw a glowing professional review, stick with reliable manufacturers like Corsair, Antec, PC Power & Cooling, Seasonic. (I found a review at tweaknews.net and one for the 1000W model at jonnyguru. It should be fine if you like it.)


Considering you are already getting a 5870, if you have budget left a good SSD like the one you picked should make alot of things go faster outside of gaming.


The WD 1TB HDD is an older model with three ~333GB platters. Newer drives with 500GB platters are faster. The Samsung F3 seems to be the best value right now. Seagate 7200.12 is not quite as fast but still decent. WDs new 2TB drives are 500GB platter drives and are also very fast.
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/2tb-hdd-7200,2430.html
 

eikone

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Sorry I have not posted anything recently but I have been out of town for the holidays. I am still out of town visiting relative and won't be home for another week. I'll check in whenever I can get access to internet.

One question that I have is concerning HDDs. The last post by dndhatcher stated that "The WD 1TB HDD is an older model with three ~333GB platters. Newer drives with 500GB platters are faster." How can I tell the # of platters a HDD has if it is not listed in the specs or discription on store site? I chose the WD drive for its size, ratings, and 5 year warrenty but of course I would rather have a newer, faster model.
 

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