First-time builder needing a reality check

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musashi1600
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First-time builder needing a reality check

Postby musashi1600 » Mon Apr 23, 2012 9:49 am UTC

Iʻm looking to build a new $2,000 gaming rig, and hereʻs what Iʻve specʻd out through Newegg:


The only limiting factors in this build are the price tag and the need for wireless connectivity, although I would like to replace the graphics card listed above with a GTX 680 (such as this), if I can get my hands on one in the next couple months or so.
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Endless Mike
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Re: First-time builder needing a reality check

Postby Endless Mike » Mon Apr 23, 2012 2:07 pm UTC

My thoughts:

- You might want to wait a month. Intel's Ivy Bridge parts are due out any time now (I think the 25th?), which will both drive down Sandy Bridge part costs and offer better performance for the same price. (And if you're spending $2k on a machine, I would think you'd want the best parts possible.)

- If you do that, you might want to switch to a Z77 motherboard, though I'm pretty sure Z68 will also work (with a BIOS update at the most).

- You probably want to double the RAM to 8 GB.

- A sound card is pretty much unnecessary.

- The power supply is overkill. Nvidia suggests a minimum of 600W for that video card and this site gives me 484W recommended.

- Don't get a Caviar Green for your main drive. Their main function is to be low power, which means they can be slow.

- Do you really need a BD-ROM burner? If you want to play Blu-Rays, you can save an easy $30 getting a BD-ROM/DVD-RW drive instead.

- You can find a cheaper case without much effort, but I suppose that depends on your taste. The big fans are nice, though it's otherwise nothing I'd buy.

- Do you already have a copy of Windows?

-You can find a better monitor for that price unless you're really set on getting something 3D ready. For instance, you can get a 24" IPS Dell Ultrasharp monitor for $279 from their refurbished store.

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ElWanderer
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Re: First-time builder needing a reality check

Postby ElWanderer » Mon Apr 23, 2012 3:47 pm UTC

Do you already have a system from which you can cannibalise/re-use parts?

Endless Mike wrote:- You might want to wait a month. Intel's Ivy Bridge parts are due out any time now (I think the 25th?), which will both drive down Sandy Bridge part costs and offer better performance for the same price. (And if you're spending $2k on a machine, I would think you'd want the best parts possible.)

They were announced today, according to the BBC. This may be one of the cases where a short wait is a good idea (in general, if you wait, prices will go down, but there will also be faster, better, shinier, more expensive things to buy instead, so waiting doesn't actually help).

The stock heatsink and fan boxed with the processor should be fine unless you intend to overclock (which is the benefit of buying the K model, right? I'll admit I bought a 2600K rather than a 2600 "just in case", but chances are I'll never overclock it...) in which case you'd probably want to buy some 3rd party cooling.

Endless Mike wrote:- A sound card is pretty much unnecessary.

Very much agreed. There must be a reason they still make cheap sound cards when pretty much every motherboard has sound built-in, but I don't know what it is. Expensive cards for people who really care, I can understand.

musashi1600 wrote:RAM: Kingston 4GB 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10600) Desktop Memory Model KVR1333D3N9/4G
HD: Western Digital Caviar Green WD20EARS 2TB 64MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive

Are you going for one of each, or multiple? I'd agree with Mike that 4GB RAM is rather light but perhaps you intended to buy two, three or even four sticks... (I went for three 4GB sticks even though it's an odd number - leaves a slot free for another 4 or 8GB). At least RAM is easily upped in future if necessary. You have or will buy a 64-bit operating system, right? If you're using 32-bit, it won't be able to use more than 4GB of RAM very well, so that would be very, very limiting.

On drives, I'd always go for multiple, matching hard drives myself, so one disk can act as a backup. There's also the possibility of having an SSD for the "windows" drive, with hard drives for "data" and "backup", though I've not kept up to date with prices/sizes. I wanted to go the SSD route last year, but didn't due to the high cost of drives that were comfortably large enough to avoid being filled by Windows cruft. I seem to be using Windows 7's built-in utility to keep disk1 backed-up on disk2, though I keep worrying that I've no idea what it actually does or how I'd recover if disk1 failed.
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Endless Mike
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Re: First-time builder needing a reality check

Postby Endless Mike » Mon Apr 23, 2012 4:05 pm UTC

Aftermarket CPU coolers do have a minor advantage in that you can pick one that cools better the stock one and will therefore keep the fan running a lot slower (and even potentially having a bigger fan), making for a quieter overall machine. But yeah, the stock one should be adequate at stock speeds (though if you have even an inkling of overclocking in the future, it's better to get the cooler now).

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Re: First-time builder needing a reality check

Postby EvanED » Mon Apr 23, 2012 4:36 pm UTC

Endless Mike wrote:You can find a better monitor for that price unless you're really set on getting something 3D ready. For instance, you can get a 24" IPS Dell Ultrasharp monitor for $279 from their refurbished store.

Totally agreed. Or a 23" new 23" for $240. Then again, I value not seeing color shift if I move my head around more than super low refresh rates that I'll never be able to see, or 3D. (The linked monitor is what I have, and it's pretty spiffy.)

ElWanderer wrote:The stock heatsink and fan boxed with the processor should be fine unless you intend to overclock (which is the benefit of buying the K model, right? I'll admit I bought a 2600K rather than a 2600 "just in case", but chances are I'll never overclock it...) in which case you'd probably want to buy some 3rd party cooling.

Or if you're wanting to build a system focused around noise, as Endless Mike mentioned. I got a better cooler with a 120mm fan for my current system, and that's why. When my system is idle it's very very quiet.

I'd agree with Mike that 4GB RAM is rather light

Thirded. IMO, 4GB is insanely low, especially if you're spending that much on a system.

On drives, I'd always go for multiple, matching hard drives myself, so one disk can act as a backup. ... I seem to be using Windows 7's built-in utility to keep disk1 backed-up on disk2, though I keep worrying that I've no idea what it actually does or how I'd recover if disk1 failed.

That sounds a little like software RAID 1, which is not a backup solution. It protects against drive failure, but not against accidental deletion, viruses, data corruption, etc.

If you're interested in backup, get an external drive or an external enclosure, and every couple weeks or so plug it in, do the backup, and unplug it. Even take it off-site if you want.

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ElWanderer
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Re: First-time builder needing a reality check

Postby ElWanderer » Mon Apr 23, 2012 8:24 pm UTC

Yeah, I also have an external hard drive for "proper" backups, though the trick is remembering to fetch it out and plug it in. I've had 2-3 hard drive failures... only lost some data I couldn't replace the first time.
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musashi1600
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Re: First-time builder needing a reality check

Postby musashi1600 » Tue Apr 24, 2012 8:48 am UTC

Thanks for the advice. I will wait another month or so before buying since Intel just launched their new processors today; Iʻll probably bump this thread with a new part list when Iʻm ready.

Endless Mike wrote:- You probably want to double the RAM to 8 GB.


Yeah, I meant to mention that I was buying two 4 GB sticks in the first post.

Endless Mike wrote:- Do you really need a BD-ROM burner? If you want to play Blu-Rays, you can save an easy $30 getting a BD-ROM/DVD-RW drive instead.


I have a large photo archive from my hobby, and the BD burner there in case I need to move more than 4.7 GB at once (such as burning multiple days of pictures from a Mainland trip.) Granted, BD-ROM drives arenʻt nearly as ubiquitous as DVD-ROM drives, but I figure itʻll probably be helpful at some point.

Endless Mike wrote:- Do you already have a copy of Windows?


No, Iʻd have to fit a new license into the budget (something I overlooked when I was specifying parts.)

ElWanderer wrote:Do you already have a system from which you can cannibalise/re-use parts?


No, this build is completely from scratch.

ElWanderer wrote:The stock heatsink and fan boxed with the processor should be fine unless you intend to overclock (which is the benefit of buying the K model, right? I'll admit I bought a 2600K rather than a 2600 "just in case", but chances are I'll never overclock it...) in which case you'd probably want to buy some 3rd party cooling.


How difficult would it be to retrofit a new cooling system if I decide later on to try overclocking? I donʻt plan on doing it in the near future (even though I am buying a K processor), but I might be inclined to do so once Iʻve spent some quality time with the machine.

ElWanderer wrote:I wanted to go the SSD route last year, but didn't due to the high cost of drives that were comfortably large enough to avoid being filled by Windows cruft.


I did consider using an SSD as a boot drive, but Iʻm debating if itʻs worth it since a 128 GB SSD would cost about as much as the 2 TB HD I listed.

EvanED wrote:If you're interested in backup, get an external drive or an external enclosure, and every couple weeks or so plug it in, do the backup, and unplug it. Even take it off-site if you want.


Incidentally, thatʻs exactly what I do with my laptop (which is what I normally use when Iʻm not gaming), right down to using two separate externals.
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Endless Mike
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Re: First-time builder needing a reality check

Postby Endless Mike » Tue Apr 24, 2012 11:16 am UTC

Ease of replacing a CPU cooler can vary. I've seen (and owned!) motherboards with weird mounting solutions that work with stock parts, but might require a bracket for aftermarket ones, and some of the bigger coolers come with brackets that go on the underside of the board for added support, so there's potential you'd have to remove the whole thing to put a new cooler on. Another concern is that the thermal paste hardens and becomes like glue, sometimes making it difficult to remove a cooler.

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ElWanderer
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Re: First-time builder needing a reality check

Postby ElWanderer » Tue Apr 24, 2012 11:52 am UTC

musashi1600 wrote:
Endless Mike wrote:- Do you already have a copy of Windows?

No, Iʻd have to fit a new license into the budget (something I overlooked when I was specifying parts.)

Yay, Windows tax. I presume you already know to go for an OEM disk rather than the "complete" retail boxed product if you're looking to save money. Though if you don't know the difference, see below:
Spoiler:
> Is there any differences between Windows 7 OEM and the full retail
> version?

Although if you get a complete generic OEM version, it contains the
same software, it has the following disadvantages as compared with the
retail version:

1. Its license ties it permanently to the first computer it's
installed on. It can never legally be moved to another computer, sold,
or given away (except with the original computer).

2. It can only do a clean installation, not an upgrade.

3. Microsoft provides no support for OEM versions. You can't call them
with a problem, but instead have to get any needed support from your
OEM; that support may range anywhere between good and non-existent. Or
you can get support elsewhere, such as in these forums.

--
Ken Blake, Microsoft MVP (Windows Desktop Experience) since 2003


Note that if you build your own computer for yourself, you are your own OEM (original equipment manufacturer, normally refers to someone like Dell) - so you'd need to call yourself if you have any problems :wink:
It's suggested the main gotcha is item 1, that if you replace too many bits of hardware and reinstall, the software may refuse to activate. Though a call to Microsoft will probably get it sorted there's no guarantee they'll give you an activation code


musashi1600 wrote:
ElWanderer wrote:The stock heatsink and fan boxed with the processor should be fine unless you intend to overclock (which is the benefit of buying the K model, right? I'll admit I bought a 2600K rather than a 2600 "just in case", but chances are I'll never overclock it...) in which case you'd probably want to buy some 3rd party cooling.

How difficult would it be to retrofit a new cooling system if I decide later on to try overclocking? I donʻt plan on doing it in the near future (even though I am buying a K processor), but I might be inclined to do so once Iʻve spent some quality time with the machine.

For me it's always been the CPU and cooler installation that is the scariest part, as it's the most expensive bit you can screw up. Replacing the cooler means going through most of the process again. But it's not that tricky.

I'm not sure whether replacing the cooler will require removing the motherboard from the case first, but it might. I have bad memories of the force with which I had to use a flat screwdriver as a lever with certain old AMD processor heatsinks, but installing the Intel i7 stock cooler was awkward in a different way - each corner was easy to pop in on its own, but getting one in place would cause another to pop out... basically even if you can physically mount the new cooler with the motherboard still in the case, if you're having to apply a lot of pressure, it is safer to have the motherboard out on a flat surface instead.

The standard cooler will almost certainly come with a layer of thermal paste/compound applied - when changing the cooler, you will need to remove the old paste/compound and apply a new layer if your new cooler doesn't have it pre-applied. That's not too hard, but it is possible to make expensive errors if you don't check what you're doing first. There are tons of guides online.
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Re: First-time builder needing a reality check

Postby psykx » Tue Apr 24, 2012 5:07 pm UTC

The HD has been the bottel neck of a pc for a long time, it's well worth getting an SSD for you main drive. Or you could consider a RAID 0 setup (or 10) with larger slower (non western digital*) drives.


* western digitals error recovery breaks RAID
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Re: First-time builder needing a reality check

Postby ajd007 » Thu Apr 26, 2012 3:10 am UTC

If you're spending $2000 on a build, an SSD is a no-brainer. It would be very disappointing to have all this powerful hardware and still have the computer feel slow because of a slow hard drive. I got an OCZ Agility 3 128GB a few months back for ~$110, and it's worth every penny.
Spend 130 or so on a good 128GB boot disk and then get a 2TB disk for data storage.
An added bonus is that if you install a game onto the SSD, then it loads super quick. No more waiting for minutes in between levels (I'm looking at you half-life 2!)

Using Blu-ray to transfer files would be horribly inefficient. It would be much cheaper and faster to buy a portable hard drive.
I can't really think of any reason to have a Blu-ray burner other than burning movies to play on your blu-ray player hooked up to your tv. Even for that, there are better alternatives (roku, boxee, etc.)
My recommendation would be to ditch the blu-ray burner and go with a simple cd/dvd drive (~$20)

Also NVidia is launching its next generation of GPUs in May (codenamed Kepler). If you wait til these are out, you can either get the newest and greatest graphics cards, or you can get the current generation for cheaper. It might be better to get a couple of 560ti's in SLI rather than a single 580, but I'm not sure about this. It would be wise to look at some hardware reviews on the games you are looking to play. This will help you get a better idea of what setup works best.

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Re: First-time builder needing a reality check

Postby EvanED » Thu Apr 26, 2012 4:36 am UTC

ajd007 wrote:My recommendation would be to ditch the blu-ray burner and go with a simple cd/dvd drive (~$20)

Eh, at this point I'd recommend a Blu-ray reader unless you're positive you'll not want to watch movies on it. (Heck, it might not be too long until games start coming on blu-ray.) They're a bit more expensive, but they're not so expensive (especially for a build your size) that it should cause much consternation. Then again, I may be biased by not having a separate TV or anything else to watch movies on. And yet again... the burner is only a bit more than the reader.

So maybe it's not such an unreasonable choice to get a Blu-ray burner (at least in the situation where you think you may want sometime to watch blu-ray on your PC).

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Re: First-time builder needing a reality check

Postby ajd007 » Thu Apr 26, 2012 5:26 am UTC

EvanED wrote:
ajd007 wrote:My recommendation would be to ditch the blu-ray burner and go with a simple cd/dvd drive (~$20)

Eh, at this point I'd recommend a Blu-ray reader unless you're positive you'll not want to watch movies on it. (Heck, it might not be too long until games start coming on blu-ray.) They're a bit more expensive, but they're not so expensive (especially for a build your size) that it should cause much consternation. Then again, I may be biased by not having a separate TV or anything else to watch movies on. And yet again... the burner is only a bit more than the reader.

So maybe it's not such an unreasonable choice to get a Blu-ray burner (at least in the situation where you think you may want sometime to watch blu-ray on your PC).


You bring up some fair points, but in all honesty, I see Blu-ray (and indeed all optical disks in general) as becoming obsolete very soon. I haven't used my optical drive in more than a year. Almost all software is available online nowadays including games, you can even boot windows from a usb stick, and you can download movies/music from netflix, hulu, amazon or other internet services. CDs and DVDs are absurdly slow for data transfers (Blu-ray less so, but once burned, they're not reusable).
I honestly don't think games or software will ever come on Blu-ray; at 2 bucks a pop, it's too large a cost for a small benefit.
If you don't have a decent internet connection, then I can see how the streaming/download options might not be viable, but for me at least, I could find better ways to spend that $80.

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Re: First-time builder needing a reality check

Postby Endless Mike » Thu Apr 26, 2012 2:16 pm UTC

Yeah, about the only thing I use my optical drive for anymore is ripping CDs. So of course I recently bought BD-ROM/DVD+-RW/CD-RW drive. (Though, in my defense, it was to get rid of the last remaining IDE device in my computer since I'm going to have to do that anyway when I build my next one in the near future.)

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Re: First-time builder needing a reality check

Postby EvanED » Thu Apr 26, 2012 3:38 pm UTC

ajd007 wrote:You bring up some fair points, but in all honesty, I see Blu-ray (and indeed all optical disks in general) as becoming obsolete very soon. I haven't used my optical drive in more than a year. Almost all software is available online nowadays including games, you can even boot windows from a usb stick, and you can download movies/music from netflix, hulu, amazon or other internet services. CDs and DVDs are absurdly slow for data transfers (Blu-ray less so, but once burned, they're not reusable).
I honestly don't think games or software will ever come on Blu-ray; at 2 bucks a pop, it's too large a cost for a small benefit.
If you don't have a decent internet connection, then I can see how the streaming/download options might not be viable, but for me at least, I could find better ways to spend that $80.

There are definitely good points there too, and everyone's mileage will vary.

However, for me, I don't like being dependent on either my internet working at a good speed (especially because I get the cheapest, slowest internet -- and I'll just point out I've saved far more on that than I have spent on a Blu-ray player :-)) or on the availability of what I want to see on the whims of Netflix or whatever. These go away a bit if you can find some download-to-own thing, but I suspect that'd just come with DRM that's even more obtrusive than Blu-ray. (To be honest, I haven't looked into it much.) I mean, I realize I'm an outlier here, but I don't even like Steam -- when I bought Mass Effect 2, I got the DVD version because the only "DRM" it comes with is a disc check, and to me that's preferable.

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Re: First-time builder needing a reality check

Postby Endless Mike » Mon Apr 30, 2012 1:09 pm UTC

Just FYI, the Ivy Bridge parts are out now. Newegg has the i7-3770K for $350 (though they're sold out). You can probably do a little better than that as Micro Center was selling them for $280.


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