Advice on a gaming PC build
Being desirous of playing modern games and also to have a (non borrowed) working PC Iím currently researching building a new one. I would like to build it myself to learn the process but Iíd be willing to get a custom one made if it didnít cost too much more. Iíve read Jimís recommendations on the battlefield 3 PC (http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2011...hardware-post/) and noted the PC specialist website he suggested. I can decide that later anyway, for now I need advice on specs and Iím hoping you wonderful people can help me.
My budget is about £900ish. If I can get something good for less Iím happy, and I am willing to spend a bit more too.
Iíve come up with a very rough spec list but itís just a draft, subject to revision.
Processor: Intel i7 - Not sure which one exactly
Graphics card: Geforce 570 - Not sure which one exactly
RAM: 8 to 16 gb Same as above, not sure which brand (heard Corsair are good)
Hard Drive: 1 terabyte (Seagate?)
OS: Windows 7 64 bit (Home premium?)
I realise I need to pick a motherboard and a power supply too Iím jut not sure what exactly yet.
Iíll stick with my old Sony 15 inch monitor for now, I think an upgrade on that can wait provided itíll be compatible. Same with my keyboard, mouse and speakers.
Onward to questions
1. Does anyone have a rig roughly this spec? Are you happy with it? Any advice/anything youíd change with what you know now?
2. What are good websites/shops to buy components from in the UK? I know of Scan and ebuyer. Any others recommendations?
3. Do I need an i7? If so which i7? If not then what instead? Iíve read that for even fairly high end gaming it might not make much of a difference over an i5. I do want to be able to run things are pretty high settings though.
Also will it come with a heat sync and/or fan or will I need to buy them separately? Is it worth spending extra on fancy ones to keep things running nice and cool (hopefully quietly too)? Will I need (gulp) liquid cooling?
4. Similarly is it worth getting a Geoforce 570? Iíve read good things about the 560 gti. Also what brands are good for graphics cards? A technically knowledgeable friend told me to avoid third party NVIDIA stuff, but poking around I canít seem to find anything that doesnít have some other brand on it. Anyone had any good or bad experiences with GPU brands?
5.Motherboard recommendations. Iím willing to spend a decent amount on this to get something reliable that also has upgrade potential. Any brands or particular models I should look for? Something with an Ethernet port would be nice, just in case the wi fi goes out for whatever reason.
6. As with the motherboard Iím willing to spend some cash on a decent power supply too. Producing enough power and being reliable are the main features Iím afterÖ. Although actually theyíre the features anyone would be after I guess. Recommendations?
7. Iíve heard even a cheap soundcard can make a big difference in audio quality. Any recommendations? Is it worth getting a USB soundcard or something internal?
I have read the ďHelp Everyone build a PCĒ article and noticed the bit about the Xonar DG. Anyone got one? Any good?
8. How much difference is there between DDR3 and DDR4 RAM? Is it significant enough for it to be worth getting DDR4? I read that 8gb is about all youíll need for gaming, is it worth getting more for future proofing?
9. Case recommendations. Something reasonably spacious, accessible and cool (as in temperature) would be nice. Iím not after anything ostentatious, so provided its not horrifically ugly Iím happy. I know I need to match the motherboards form factor to the case.
Lastly is there anything Iíve missed?
This is all draft for now, I have no real time limit so Iíll be doing lots more research before I start buying things.
Thanks for any advice you can give.
Apologies for a not so useful reply, but I'd think 8gb would be all you'd need RAM-wise? I think my mobo has a 16gb limit which is nice for future proofing but really would be excessive right now.
Also I think HDD prices are really high right now (supply issues?), so maybe you'd be best to go a bit lower and save that money for when they've come back down in price again :)
Sony 15 inch monitor - What is this monitor's resolution? What resolution monitor are you planning to get? Usually a computer's hardware is built around the resolution it will be operating in, as that is the most demanding setting you can change. You have chosen parts that will power a 1900x1080 monitor or better. You can probably run any game at max for half the price with your current monitor.
3. Do I need an i7?
Not really. Games simply aren't coded well enough to take advantage of hyperthreading. This may change in a year or two when new gaming consoles hit the market. The The i5 2500k is the best gaming cpu out there right now. The 2600k and 2700k have a slightly better clock speed, but there won't be any noticeable difference. The exception is the upcoming Microsoft Flight Simulator which will eat i5s for breakfast. Cooling is only needed for overclocking, unless you live at the equator. One warning about water cooling... the water pumps are actually pretty noisy.
For a motherboard, choose a reputable brand like Gigabyte and Acer. Look for the motherboard that has the most useful connections. You want lots of usb 3.0 ports, hdmi and optical. And definitely an ethernet port or 2. There are some pricy "gaming" motherboards out there which are amazing for overclocking, but they don't help otherwise. I recommend the Asus P67 Pro.
6. Power Supplies
The power supply is the most important part of your computer. It is the only part that can literally fry everything else. Get a good brand such as Corsair or Seasonic. 750 Watts should be more than enough for a single graphics card and any number of hard drives. For extra convenience, get a modular power supply. Modular psus lets you uncouple cables that aren't in use, which keeps your case from from getting cluttered. Totally worth it if you hate faffing around with twist-ties.
What speakers/headphones do you have? Unless you have something really nice, the difference will be underwhelming. USB sound cards are meant for laptops, so it might be worthwhile if you want to give your laptop a boost too.
I don't think you can even buy DDR4 ram yet. 8 gb is enough for gaming. The great thing about ram is that it is dirt cheap, so if you ever need more, you can just buy a stick and jam it in. 16gb might be useful if you plan on gaming across 2 or more monitors or using a projector. At that point you will also need a video card with 2gb of ram.
You will need an ATX case for a gaming pc. I recommend getting a full or at least a mid tower. That way you have space for all of your components and good airflow.
The biggest recommendation I can give is not to get caught up in the numbers game. You get diminishing results as you go up in price.
I honestly have to question the logic behind spending money on a fancy graphics card and shedtons of RAM and only being able to enjoy the fruits of your purchase on a crappy 15" screen. I bought a good quality 24" one about 3-4 years ago at the same time I upgraded. The monitor has survived to this day and it still rocks - can't say the same for any of the actual PC parts I bought at the time though.
A good screen would be a great investment.
Thanks for the advice.
My specs have slowly started to take shape - though as before these are just an idea subject to change.
Powersupply Antec TruePower New 750W Modular PSU
Processor Intel i5 2500k - as you guys and some techie friends say there's no need for an i7
Will this come with a heat sync/fan?
Motherboard Asus p8p67 motherboard - the p67 pro is a bit pricy for me at the moment
GPU Asus Nvidia GTX 570 1.25gb OR Geforce gtx 560 ti 2gb from Palit (the one Rossingol recommended in the “help everyone build a gaming pc” article).
How much difference does graphics card memory make?
Related: I see you’re point about the monitor Furi Kuri. The plan is to make do with my old 15 inch monitor for now and then upgrade to a 24 inch later. I’ve been happy with it for years so I can wait another month or so to upgrade this.
Hard drive Seagate Barracuda Green 1tb.
I’m wondering if I need a terrabyte as I don’t watch movies or tv on my PC it’ll be games that’ll be the bulk of it. Still it’d be nice to have.
SSD can also wait since it’s so pricy
Related: Launch JC, I was told HDD prices are high at the moment as a lot of them get stored in warehouses in Thailand, many of which have suffered badly from the flooding.
RAM 8-16gb Corsair ddr3
After advice from you guys I’m leaning toward 8gb
Optical drive 24x DVD writer
Blu ray can wait for now.
Soundcard None or that cheap Xonar DG that was mentioned in the Help everyone build a gaming PC article. I don't have any fancy headphones (just my cheap logitech headset which gives surprisingly good sound quality) and some standard speakers so maybe it isn't worth it. On the other hand I may upgrade these at a later date.
OS Windows 7 home premium 64bit
One of the things I’m particularly interested in is what brands you favour. Which brand of Geforce 570/560 ti is best etc. I realise this could be a pretty subjective thing so I’m interested in what you guys have had good experiences with.
I’m still not sure about a case and cooling solution. I’m thinking liquid cooling is probably excessive for my needs. Any advice on fans and heat syncs? Oh and the case while were at it.
Thanks for taking the time to help me with this.
Last edited by Farsearcher; 10-01-2012 at 08:59 PM.
That's looking pretty good!
I've never discriminated between GPU brands as they are all just using the reference board that Nvidia/AMD provide. It might be worth comparing warranties, as some brands are supposed to offer really good service.
The cpu will come with a stock cooler which will be fine if you aren't overclocking. This is regarded as one of the best bang for your buck aftermarket coolers if you want to overclock. Overclocking is very easy with your cpu, so it might be worthwhile.
Regarding video cards, 1gb ram is all you need currently, unless you want to use resolutions above 1920x1200, which basically means investing in multiple monitors or getting one reaaally huge one.
I've heard that BF3 can take up more than 1gb ram when completely maxed, so we might be moving in the direction of needing more video card ram but it is going to take a while.
Regarding the HDD, I wouldn't go for a "green/eco" drive if it's going to be your primary drive, they run at a lower RPM so don't performa as well as a regular 7200RPM model. Prices are rather high at the moment though (or rather, they aren't as ridiculously cheap as they were previously), Western Digital had their main factory in Thailand and they also made certain parts used in Samsung drives there so the floods hit production hard. Not sure when the prices will go back down to normal though.
As for grapgics card, I'd probably stick with the 560ti, it's powerful enough to max out most games at normal resolutions, and when overclocked can perform pretty close to the 570 anyway at a much lower cost. 1GB vram is fine at normal resolutions, the reason so many cards feature more is mostly because it's an easily marketable spec that makes your card look better to the average buyer, but in practice most games won't fill-up 1GB of VRAM unless you're running at a really high res.
You really don't need a 750w power supply with that kind of system, so you can possibly save some cash there. 550-600w would be plenty for any single-GPU system while still leaving you lots of breathing space for future upgrades. Just make sure you get something good quality (check some reviews), modular is nice as it makes cable management less of a chore but it does mean you have to store the un-used cables somewhere, and if you have a case with good cable routing options it may not be an issue.
I know most of what I want now but a few questions remain.
First is it worth going for a GTX 570? I've heard great things about the GTX 560 ti both here and from tech friends. Is there any major difference in performance between the two? I'm looking into this at the moment so if anyone has any advice to give it'd be welcome.
Snargel Fargen - I doubt I'll be going about 1900 x 1200. I'll be using my old 15 inch monitor for a while then probably upgrade to a 24 inch so 1900x1200 is likely to be the max I'm looking at.
Next up the case. Any brand reccomendations or specific cases? I'm looking for a mid tower or a full tower that'll be easy to work with (decent hard drive mount where I don't need hands that are tripple jointed to reach the hard drive screws etc) and if possible something that'll help keep it cool.
Next up will I need any extra fans anyway? I'm not planning to overclock or get dual gpu's so would it be excessive? Just I've heard modern GPU's put out a lot of heat.
Lastly any reccomendations on a DVD drive? Brands? Speeds? I get the feeling blu ray isn't really for me as PC gaming seems to me to be moving towards downloads rather than blu ray disks.
Thanks again for you're help.
Last edited by Farsearcher; 14-01-2012 at 10:35 PM.
It's not unusual for a gpu to get up to 70 degrees, but they are built to operate at high temperatures. If you find that the gpu fan is too noisy (probably because the fan is running at 100% because the gpu is hot), then it might be a good idea to add another fan pointing at it. More fans turning slowly is quieter than one fan at full blast.
I usually just get whatever dvdrw drive is around 20$. They seem more prone to breaking because of the moving parts, so getting something you can replace cheaply is a plus in my experience.
The other threads in here have some good case suggestions. Personally I can only recommend that you avoid the Antec 900 and 1200.
Most gaming cases will aready come with quite a few fans/fan mounts. Make sure you get something that at least has a mount for a fan pointing at the gpu.
My recent search has been for a case that doesn't look horrific and can also keep things reasonably cool. The best I've found so far is the Fractal Define R3
Though I'm not sure what colour I'd go for. It has lots of fan mounts, some sound proofing and doors at the front and the back you can open to increase airflow (but presumably with increased noise).
Any other cases in a similar price range anyone would recommend? The Cooler master storm enforcer -
-seems ok but that big front fan comes with the red led and you can't turn it off, you have to replace the fan to get rid of it. If it had been blue I might have considered it.
I'm still looking for a good cpu cooler too. The Hypermaster Snargel recommended looks good but I'm not sure I like the idea of messing around with the backplate - even positive reviews of it say its a very difficult cooler to fit.
Again thanks for all the advice.
After much research I've come up with these as a much tweaked draft.
Can anyone spot any glaring errors, incompatabilities etc?
CPU: Intel Pentium i5 2500k
CPU Cooler: Be Quiet! Dark Rock advanced
Fans: - Sharktoon golfball thingamajigs, one or two of these
Motherboard: Asus p8p67 pro revision 3.1
GPU: Asus gtx 570 or Aust gtx 560 ti (Leaning towards the 570 after reading reviews, it'd be nice to finally be able to max out some games graphics)
RAM: 16gb corsair vengance/8gb corsair vengance ddr3 1600mhz 4x4gb or 2x 4gb
HDD: Seagate Barracuda 3.5’’ 500GB 7200rpm
Western Digital Caviar Blue 3.5’’ 500GB 7200rpm
I dropped the terrabyte as HDD's are really pricey right now and I doubt I'll use it. I don't download tv, films or music so 500gb should be plenty. I can always upgrade when HDD's are cheaper.
PSU: Corsair HS650 pro
Sound card: Xonar DG
Case: Fractal Define R3 - Black
OS: Windows 7 home premium
Monitor: My old 15 inch Sony for a month or so then a 24 inch of some kind.
Thanks for any advice you can offer.
Motherboard alternative: ASRock Z68 Extreme3 Gen3
RAM alternative: G-Skill Ripjaw-X
CPU cooler alternative: Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus
All changes would probably be mostly up to personal preference.
As for the graphics card, the best card in that range is IMHO the 6950 with 2GB VRAM; newer games start to use more than 1 GB VRAM, and the 6950 generally outperforms the 560ti and should be cheaper than the 570.
I agree with JohnnyK - for RAM, get the cheapest you can get out of your one and the G-skill. Don't get 16GB if it's only for games. Get 16 if you do heavy duty video editing etc., otherwise 8 is plenty.
Originally Posted by JohnnyK
You don't need extra fans, so you can save some money there.
The CPU cooler Johnny suggested is solid - excellent cooling and very quiet, it's universally very highly recommended - especially if it's cheaper than the one you picked, get it instead.
Motherboard - go for whichever one has the features you want (e.g. USB3, etc). It's hard to go wrong here.
Your CPU choice is ideal - don't forget to overclock it. If you're not going to, you can save some money by getting the non-K version, but I'd recommend getting it and overclocking as it's really easy.
You don't need a soundcard, onboard audio is excellent these days. I can't hear a difference on my 2 pairs of 200 quid cans (if yours are better/more expensive, you may be able to).
If you are in the UK, buy Windows 7 here, you won't find it cheaper anywhere else: www.software4students.co.uk, they're an official Microsoft reseller for the UK - you can check yourself on the MS UK Education website. You don't need to be a student to buy it.
For the video card, if you're getting a FullHD monitor, the 6950 with 2GB would probably be best with more vram.
The biggest upgrade in terms of speed for your PC will be an SSD, you don't need to spend thousands, something like an 80-120gb + a 500gb HDD is a good combination.
Finally, cases - I'm a big fan of the coolermaster 690 II. Very easy to put together/modify/add HDDs etc, spacey, but not huge.
Last edited by gimperial; 29-01-2012 at 06:01 PM.
If you get Corsair Vengeance ram, get the CML series, they have a low profile heat spreader, makes it easier to fit with the cpu heatsink. (had to remove 2 spreaders with the bigger type). Heard good things about G Skill also.
Have good experience with both Corsair and Antec PSUs.
SSD is makes a difference. Great purchase. Would recommend for your windows install and the games you play the most. Got 128GB.
I just built:
Asus P8Z68-V PRO/GEN3
16gb 1600 corsair DDR3
Noctua NH-D14 (Expensive, great if looking to overclock a bit. Lots of good $30-40 heatsinks otherwise)
128GB crucial SSD
Had a previous 750W corsair PSU. Modular cabling is a great feature if you can get it. My Antec PSU had it and miss it. End up with extra cables in your case you do not use (like 2 extra PCI-e power cables.)
Waiting on next gen AMD video cards coming in the next few weeks.
Last edited by Moraven; 29-01-2012 at 10:18 PM.
With regards to RAM: Heatspreaders are a total waste of money, it's like putting a spoiler on a Nova you bought for £500 - it's all for show. Also, there's about half a dozen OEMs that actually make RAM chips for consumer PC use, so brand loyalty is usually mis-placed. As far as I know most of the memory chips used in consumer RAM are made by Micron, Hynix, Elpida or Samsung (possibly Kingston too, although I have a feeling they've been merged into some other company). Most memory brands buy the chips and the PCBs and just stick them together (often with a silly heatspreader) in a factory they probably don't even own, then inflate the price with the aid of some "gamer" marketing. Crucial is one of the few brands that springs to mind who actually manufacture the chips & PCBs and assemble them themselves (Crucial is a brand of Micron).
Your most-recently tweaked setup looks good, but I also agree that the Hyper 212 is a great fan/heatsink combo over the Be Quiet!, not buying the extra fans, sticking with either the GTX 560 Ti or an HD 6950 (whichever is cheaper), going with 8GB instead of 16GB, and ditching the sound card. You won't need any of that stuff and can use the money you save to either buy at least a 21" full HD monitor or buy an SSD (watch this video to see the difference between an SSD and the fastest non-SSD hard drive). The monitor difference will be as dramatic as the hard drive difference, but will affect everything you do on your PC compared to just reduced load times for games and programs. So I recommend you give the new monitor higher priority than an SSD and you can probably find a good-sized one (21" or more) for less than a moderately-sized SSD anyway.
I also agree with Mitsabashi about the RAM. As long as you don't buy generic no-name RAM, you should be safe with saving money by not buying the gamer-series, heatsink-covered gimmick RAM. If you have sufficient airflow (which your case choice should provide plenty of), RAM heatsinks won't make a bit of difference. They probably don't make enough of a difference even with inadequate airflow either.
Last edited by Odeon; 30-01-2012 at 04:01 AM.
Simply a brilliant signature, so I'm stealing it like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Yoink!
Originally Posted by vecordae
Just want to add about the sound card, there most definitely is a difference between on board and dedicated sound card, even on my 50 odd quid 5.1 speakers. BF3 sounded good before, but is truly something else now that I have recently picked up a Xonar D2. Music is also massively improved, for the most part.
Having said that, it isn't an essential purchase, particular if you are mostly only using it for games. Games rarely seem to put much emphasis on the use of sound, so difference will only be noticeable on the odd exception.
Definitely recommend a 1TB hard drive, particular for games. 10GB games are not particular rare these days and unless you someone who is good at juggling game installations, the space doesn't last long. My drive is only a couple of hundred gig left and it is always a good idea to not have it completely full up.
Of all the components of the build I put together last month, I think I love the SSD the most. It's expensive, but it makes a huge difference in all applications. And playing an RPG (specifically Witcher 2) with load times of about 1 or 2 seconds each time you enter or leave a building, or die, makes the game much more playable. I didn't want to drop the coin on it at first, but a friend convinced me. No regrets.
i5 2500k + CM Hyper 212 EVO
Asus P8Z68-V LE
Gigabyte GTX 560 Ti OC
Intel320 120g SSD + Seagate 1TB
Corsair 8GB (2x4) DDR3 1600
Asus Xonar DG
Last edited by KilgoreTrout_XL; 30-01-2012 at 08:56 PM.
I finally got it built. Took me about 4 evenings, and a lot of cable management but other than a brief problem (RAM wasn't seated properly) its now running fine.
Thanks for all you're help and advice. I can't believe I got it working. Thing is I need a bit more help now.
These are my system specs
CPU: Intel i5 2500k Unlocked (not overclocked)
CPU Cooler: Dark Rock advanced
Motherboard: Asus p8z58 V pro Gen 3
RAM: 8gb (2x4 gig) Corsair vengance cml series RAM
HDD: Seagate barracuda 500gb 7200rpm
Graphics Card: Asus GTX 570 1.28gb video ram
DVD drive: 24x speed (forget the eact brand, it says lightscribe on it)
Case: Fractal Define R3. (Took the noise blocking pad off the side next to the gpu and another off one of the top vents).
Anyway its running fine but its a little hot using core temp it says its got up to about 56 C as a max (I was playing STALKER with all the graphics settings maxed) which is well within acceptable limits but from reading around the dark rock advanced should be keeping it cooler than that (the bit tech test was on an overclocked i7 and it was cooler than my max temp). Usually its running at about 34 C.
The obvious thing I've noticed is while my rear case fan is running fine my front isn't. They're the fans that came with the case and both are plugged in. I've looked in the uEFI bios but it just says N/A on the other fan slots. Do I need to plug the front case fan into one specific slot? Have I missed something else? I might re do the thermal paste (I followed the arctic silver guidelines, one line down the centre of the processor and then rubbed some onto the heat sink contact plate with an old card), a techie friend said he finds it easiet to use his fingertip to ensure an even spread - I thought you weren't supposed to do that due to oil contamination?
I can't remember which pins the front (non working fan) is plugged into, I'll take a look tomorrow - I'm too tired at the moment.
Thanks for any advice you can give.
Last edited by Farsearcher; 16-02-2012 at 07:40 PM.
When I saw this video, I knew that my next HDD would definitely be an SSD. I also need more storage space, but it's not a dire need, so that'll have to wait until prices fall again.
Originally Posted by KilgoreTrout_XL
That's still well below the ~75įC my Q6600 gets to with my cheap-o cooler, so you definitely don't have anything to worry about. But if you want it cooler still for when you start overclocking, I think re-applying thermal paste and double-checking that the FHS (fan/heatsink) is properly seated is the best first step. I agree that using a finger is not a good idea because of oils and I've always used the tube that the paste comes in to move it around as needed, however that's not normally necessary. I'm sure the recommended procedure has been updated since I was replacing CPUs and FHSs every few days (several years ago, when I worked at a PC repair shop), but Dell, HP, Toshiba, and other manufacturers always recommended starting at the middle and swirling outwards in two or three concentric circles and letting the FHS do the spreading.
Originally Posted by Farsearcher
As far as the fans, the fan connectors you use don't typically matter unless you have 4-pin fan connectors and want to be able to use the motherboard's fan controls. If you're not worried about that, you can plug 4-pin connectors into 3-pin motherboard plugs and they should just work at (I think) full speed. So basically you should be able to plug any fan connector into any motherboard plug and they should at least all run. You don't want to use the CPU fan's plug so that the FHS's fan can be controlled properly, but even if you do all fans should work. I don't think I've seen any motherboards that have a method of disabling any plugs and I can't think of any reason why you'd want to, so that shouldn't be an issue. Maybe it came with bad fans? You can always try moving them to different plugs and see if it makes any difference.
Simply a brilliant signature, so I'm stealing it like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Yoink!
Originally Posted by vecordae