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  1. #1
    Activated Node CuervoJoe's Avatar
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    Building a PC, or buying one ready-made, and further conundrums

    Hey all, I've got a conundrum. I've recently returned to PC Gaming after playing consoles for a while, and am certainly very glad that I've come back. However, my laptop is no where near good enough to play new games on. I can play recent games ok, like L4D 2 and TF2, but not games like Dragon Age, New Vegas, or Mass Effect 2.

    However, should I buy a ready-made PC, or build my own? I've built and maintained PCs in the past, and like to think I have quite a good knowledge of PCs and their internals. However, I think the cost of building a good gaming PC, with specs such as an i7 Processor, a 2GB Graphics card and 8GB of RAM would cost around 1000 pounds, obviously including things such as the case, mobo, and a 750W PSU. However, I've recently found myself drawn to the Yoyotech Fi7epower 4.8, which costs 1,199 pounds including VAT. A link to this can be found here. The stats of this PC are astonishing, with an overclocked i7, overclocked to 4.8GHz processor, 8GB RAM and a 2 gig graphics card. However, would the saving be dramatic if I built my own? Also, another option is to buy a machine like the Palicomp Phoenix i5 Destiny, with a 4.5GHz i5 processor, 1GB Graphics, and 4GB RAM, and upgrading some of the components.

    Which option is best, do you think? Building a machine from scratch, upgrading a lesser machine, or just buying a futureproof gaming PC?
    "It's not just a fact, it's cold, hard speculation."

  2. #2
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    Generally I'd go with building your own PC, as you can make sure all the components (and I mean all) are good quality and to your personal requirements. However, it's always worth doing a price comparison - it could be that system builders, enjoying the economies of scale can do a cheaper job that you.

    Also, the specs you suggest there are really beyond any reason. See this thread and this thread. You'd do much better spending 500-750 and using the saved money to buy a better graphics card, maybe some more ram in 18-36 months time. Sensible future-proofing is about making sure your system can be improved sensibly - not about spending a fortune now, for a machine that will be not noticeably any different in 2 years time to one bought for half the price at the same time.

  3. #3
    Network Hub slick_101's Avatar
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    Yeah my suggestion would be to look at building a computer from scratch yourself, Its much easier to get the components you want and if you don't want to build it yourself you could go to a computer shop and I'm sure that they would happily build it for you at a price of 20-30 which isn't to bad if they go a good job with cable management.
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  4. #4
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    Shouldn't cost a grand for a machine like that, doesn't need a 750W PSU either unless you want to overclock or run SLI. Maybe if you also throw in a monitor and an SSD you might start to approach that number. But the base components (RAM, GFX, CPU, MOBO) shouldn't set you back more than around 600 at most, unless you get into silly territory.

  5. #5
    Network Hub corbain's Avatar
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    I'm going to play devils advocate here and suggest you buy ready made.

    I have built my last three PCs from scratch (cobbling together bits of old and new) and each time swore it would be my last. After my last experience I am finally convinced I will never build my own from scratch again. The main reason for my turnaround is simply the agony I went through trying to troubleshoot a failed PC. If your assembled machine does not boot, or as happened to me, dies every 3-4 minutes, you then have to go through what can be a very long and tiresome troubleshooting exercise. My last PC took me 3 days and several trips to Novatech to get sorted.

    If you do go down the route of building your own, I would reccomend buying all your components from one vendor, and ideally making sure you have reserves for EVERY SINGLE ONE so you can easily swap bits out one by one to try to find what is not working in the case of a faulty machine. Also, if you can buy locally it may be more expensive initially but saves a lot of hassle if you have to return something, plus you can go and shout at somone and not get frustrated on useless customer services phone lines.

    This exact scenario happened to me on the last two PCs I built - one had a faulty motherboard, the other a faulty PSU. Returning the motherboard to Overclockers was an utter nightmare, they said they tested it ok and sent it straight back, only after I reassembled the PC and tested again faulty, sent it back a second time did they send me a brand new one. For my next PC I bought from Scan who were much better, but I had purchased their optional component insurance damage protection scheme. I still ended up buying replacement parts from the local Novatech rather than wait for shipping on new parts.

    So in short, build at your own risk. If everything goes well, it's a wonderful feeling, but if you have problems it can turn into a nightmare.

  6. #6
    Activated Node CuervoJoe's Avatar
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    I think I'll try and build my own, unless one of the PC manufacturers has a big sale and I can buy the same rig ready-made for the same price, or unless the price edges too close to 959 pounds, which could buy me a Palicomp Phoenix i5 Sniper. I'm looking at being able to play games like Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield 3, Dragon Age 2, and Skyrim at high graphics quality, and at a good res. I'll probably be building this machine around October-November, when I've managed to scrimp and save enough to afford all the components.

    I gather that the best processor would be an i5 2500k, but what Graphics Card would you recommend for the above? I think 8GB of RAM would be good, but is that overkill? Also, what case would you recommend? I'll also be needing a monitor, I'd like a 22 inch widescreen one, if I could afford it.

    I'm building entirely from scratch, as my current system is a laptop, and I'll still be needing that, so can't salvage any of the components.

    The Specs that are the best for me are:
    An i5 2500k
    A Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB HDD
    Nvidia Geforce GTX 570 (1.25GB VRAM, 732MHZ)?
    A BenQ G2222HDL (22 Inch, 1000:1 contrast) for 100 pounds, seems a bargain, but is it good enough?
    Not sure about the Mobo, needs to be able to support Sandy Bridge.
    "It's not just a fact, it's cold, hard speculation."

  7. #7
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    Specs look good. Unless you would be needing multithreading for a particular application (main video encoding software) an i5 2500k is perfect for gaming and overclocks brilliantly if you want to go that route.

    One thing to make absolutely sure is your motherboard is a 1155 B3 revision as there were some problem with the earlier modes and the sata sockets that have now been fixed. Most of the socket 1155 P67 boards are fine but you'll want to think if you'll be overclocking your cpu or if you would want to go SLI in the future. Asus and MSI do some great motherboards at around 150.

    I've got to two F3's in Raid 0 and they're bloody quick, though you might want to consider an SSD for your boot drive and key applications (though not as pricey as they once were, still might be extra cost).

    You cant go wrong with a GTX 570 at the moment as they give the best bang for buck (2 months ago it would have been a GTX 480 but for some reason they have shot up in price by about 150 making them almost as much as a GTX 580).

    Ram wise it really depends on what you'll be using. I have not seen a modern game that has used much over 2 gig of ram as of yet (although Crysis 2 and a certain alpha trail of a certain game state you need 4gb minimum works fine for me at 2gb).

    Hope the above has helped in some way.

  8. #8
    Activated Node CuervoJoe's Avatar
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    Thanks for everyone's advice. I priced up how much it would cost me to build, and including monitor and speakers, it was close to 920 pounds. I think that in consideration, I've decided to go for the Palicomp Phoenix i5 Sniper.

    This comes with a 2GB Graphics, and a good 24 inch monitor. Plus an overclocked i5, to 4.8GHz, only problem is, it only has 4GB RAM, but I could upgrade that, if necessary.
    "It's not just a fact, it's cold, hard speculation."

  9. #9
    Network Hub corbain's Avatar
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    Get the SSD upgrade, honestly in the last 5 years the upgrade which has made the most difference for me has been going from hard disk to SSD. The boot up times and overall responsiveness is just astonishing.

    Check out what Alec had to say

    http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2011...s-year…/

  10. #10
    Activated Node CuervoJoe's Avatar
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    Okay, I'm undecided, mainly since when adding peripherals and water cooling to that PC, it's up to 1,199 pounds, so I'm looking at building my own again.

    Amazon are doing a good deal, an Intel Sandybridge i5-2500k + 8GB Corsair 1600MHz DDR3 RAM + Arctic Silver thermal paste for 214 pounds.

    Would it be better to run 2 Radeon HD 6850s (1GB, 1000MHz) in crossfire or 1 GeForce GTX 570 (1.25GB, 3800MHz)? What makes the most difference in a card, speed or memory? And thanks corbain, I'll buy an SSD for the boot drive, since I can get this one for 90 pounds. Seems worth it.

    EDIT: Wow, seems I can make a cracking system, with an i5 2500k, 8GB Corsair RAM, 2 Radeons in crossfire (or one GTX 570), an ASUS Motherboard and a 750W PSU for 850 pounds. Awesome.
    Last edited by CuervoJoe; 05-08-2011 at 03:21 PM.
    "It's not just a fact, it's cold, hard speculation."

  11. #11
    Okay a quick few questions to help the advice here. Is this going to be used for anything other than gaming? And what is your budget, is it 1200? Just helps us work out where you'd be best spending your money for what you want.

    On to your questions. Sadly graphics cards are very hard to compare based on specs as its not just the processor speed and memory but also things like ROPs, shaders etc. It gets even worse when you try an compare AMD and nVidia as they use very different architectures so the numbers are not comparable. Help is at hand however. Tom's Hardware has a handy ranking of a load of GPUs which lets you better understand what is comparable.

    Another great tool is AnandTech's bench feature which will let you compare the framerates you'll be getting with a bunch of cards. Here's the comparison of 2x6850s and a 570. As you can see the 6850s will be faster however to remember that CF can be a right pain the backside. You will almost inevitably have more driver issues in particular when games come out.

    Finally, given how cool Sandybridge runs I'm not sure water cooling should be a huge priority. You'll only get a mildly better overclock versus a good air cooler and you'll need a much bigger case. I'd have thought getting a bigger SSD so you could get all your games on it might prove better bang for buck.

    Hope some of that helps.

    EDIT: Oh forgot to mention, if you're planning on gaming at 1920x1080 anything over 1gb of memory won't help you a huge amount at the minute. More may be useful in the future.
    Last edited by ComradePenguin; 05-08-2011 at 05:16 PM.

  12. #12
    Activated Node CuervoJoe's Avatar
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    Thanks for your advice. My budget is around 1000 pounds, give or take 100 pounds.

    I'm not so sure about getting an SSD, since I've heard that they don't last as long as a standard HDD, due to the fact that flash memory can only be re-written a limited number of times, they're pretty pricey too. Thanks for the advice on the cooling, should I stick with the stock heatsink, or buy a better one? I've never ran two graphics cards before, so I have no idea about the drivers, etc. I'll have to read about that, does anyone on here run SLI or Crossfire?

    The full specs for the cards are *Deep Breath*:
    The Radeon HD 6850: 40NM DIE, 960 Stream Processors, 775MHZ Core Clock, 1.7 Billion transistors, 1GB 1,000MHz GDDR5 RAM, 256-bit Memory Bus.
    Geforce GTX 570: 40NM DIE, 480 Stream Processors, 732MHZ Core Clock, 3 Billion Transistors, 1.25GB 3,800MHz GDDR5 RAM, 320-bit Memory Bus.
    "It's not just a fact, it's cold, hard speculation."

  13. #13
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Kadayi's Avatar
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    I have a 16:10 24" monitor and I run a 460 GTX 1 GB and that will give me full screen 1900x1200 on most games with only a few sliders turned off (the witcher 2 is about the most demanding recent title I can think of at the moment, and that still looks amazing). You might be going overkill a bit on that side of things going straight into Sli/crossfire. I'd say get one card and see how you go and then if you think you definitely need another then buy it in later on. However saying that though, the big problem with having SLI/crossfire is that it's going to ramp up your power consumption and your cooling. You're almost better off just buying a better GPU everytime rather than going SLI with lesser cards in terms of energy consumption (and heat generation). I always buy an SLI capable Mobo, but I've never yet felt the necessity to go SLI tbh, Vs just buying a better GPU.

    Also your 750w PSU might be a tad overkill: Try using the site at the link to determine your systems energy needs. You might find you only need something like a 650w instead. Make sure you get a good make of PSU though. I bought a Corsair HX 650w recently which has great cable management and more importantly a 7 year warranty. Once you've decided on components it might be worth listing them here for people to give you advice on them.



    http://extreme.outervision.com/psucalculatorlite.jsp

    Also it's worth checking out the latest steam survey to see how your system specs compare to most: -

    http://store.steampowered.com/hwsurvey
    Last edited by Kadayi; 05-08-2011 at 11:46 PM.
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  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by CuervoJoe View Post
    I'm not so sure about getting an SSD, since I've heard that they don't last as long as a standard HDD, due to the fact that flash memory can only be re-written a limited number of times, they're pretty pricey too. Thanks for the advice on the cooling, should I stick with the stock heatsink, or buy a better one?
    SSDs do have a limited amount of cycles, at worst this could be as little as 3000. This may sound little and this is where much of the concern on the net comes from. However this excellent AnandTech article shows that with a good modern ssd controller there is little issue both theoretically and in reality. Their heaviest user used up around 10 of his 3000 cycles in 8 months which if my maths holds up gives a life expectancy of 200 years for the Nand. So essentially other parts of the drive will fail long before the storage does.

    As for coolers don't stick with stock simply because they're noisy and ineffective. Have a read of a few reviews and get the one that matches what you want in terms of noise and performance. Some good one to look at are the Gelid Tranquillo, Titan Fenrir and the Thermaltake Frio.

  15. #15
    It is worth keeping an eye on the Dell Outlet.

    Some of the Alienware or Studio XPS desktops there might be suitable for your needs, and whilst the list prices of them are obscene compared to building your own, they are sometimes heavily discounted in the outlet section.

    For 1,303.45 there is:
    Alienware Aurora R3
    Genuine Windows 7 Home Premium (64 BIT)
    Processor : Intel Core I7-2600 (3.4GHz, 8MB)
    256 GB Solid State Drive Ultra Performance
    6GB (2x2GB + 2x1GB) 1333MHz Dual Channel Memory
    8x Blu-ray Disc
    Nvidia GeForce GTX580

    That comes with water cooling and other such nice things.

    Of course, their stock turnover is pretty fast, and they have a wide mix of systems in there. That one is a little higher than you said your budget is, but if you check back there regularly, you might find one that is more suitable.

    The downside of the outlet section is that you can't change any of the components at all, but the prices are pretty great.

    Edit: The prices on their stock listing don't include VAT or delivery.

  16. #16
    Network Hub Chaz's Avatar
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    Funnily enough I've just had a bit of a break for a few years from PC gaming myself, having gone over to gaming on my 360 after my previous PC became too much of an old dog. Just this week though I have now been able to afford to order the parts for a new games PC, although my budget of 500 is quite a bit smaller than the OP's, however I still feel I have been able to cobble together quite a decent rig for that price. The total cost for mine including a copy of Win7 64Bit and all inc VAT and P&P came to about 533, so only a little bit over budget. For that I got all this:

    Intel Core i5 2400 3.1GHz - 140 http://www.scan.co.uk/products/intel...che-95w-retail
    8GB RAM - 48 http://www.ebuyer.com/264750-g-skill...2800cl9d-8gbxl
    Gigabyte GA-Z68A-D3-B3 Motherboard - 72 http://www.scan.co.uk/products/gigab...6gb-s-raid-atx
    Case with 500w PSU - 57 http://www.ebuyer.com/220863-coolerm...rc-330-kkpl-gp
    1TB SATA3 HDD - 42 http://www.scan.co.uk/products/1tb-w...ache-8ms-quiet
    DVD Writer - 13 http://www.ebuyer.com/251743-liteon-...oem-ihas122-18
    Geforce GTX 460 OC graphics card 110 http://www.scan.co.uk/products/1gb-m...-x-dl-dvi-hdmi
    Copy of Win7 40 http://www.software4students.co.uk/M...n-details.aspx

    So an i5 PC with 8Gb DDR3 ram and a 1TB SATA3 drive and what not for 500 squids, can't complain at that. All the pre-built systems for that kind of money were generally dual core Athlons with 2gb ram 500gb SATA2 HDD's etc. OK I know it's not top of the range but it's more than enough to handle anything the current crop of PC games can throw at it. Maybe need a vid card upgrade in a couple of years time, but for now it should be pretty rock solid. To be honest I'm not sure what good throwing another 250-300 would do for it anyway. A better video card and slightly faster processor perhaps but probably not anything that would make too much of an appreciable difference, unless you like staring at bench mark figures.

  17. #17
    @Chaz,

    I'd suggest you take a poke at Dell Outlet too, if you'd like to look at a decent priced prebuild, Dell Outlet has this one:

    Studio XPS 7100
    Genuine Windows 7 Home Premium (64 BIT)
    Processor : AMD Phenom II X6 1045T(2.70GHz,512kx6)
    1 TB SATA Hard Drive (7200 RPM)
    8 GB DDR3 SDRAM 1333MHz (4 DIMMs)
    16X DVD +/- RW Drive
    1024MB ATI Radeon HD 5770 GDDR5 Graphics card

    For 461.56

  18. #18
    Activated Node CuervoJoe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lewie Procter View Post
    @Chaz,

    I'd suggest you take a poke at Dell Outlet too, if you'd like to look at a decent priced prebuild, Dell Outlet has this one:

    Studio XPS 7100
    Genuine Windows 7 Home Premium (64 BIT)
    Processor : AMD Phenom II X6 1045T(2.70GHz,512kx6)
    1 TB SATA Hard Drive (7200 RPM)
    8 GB DDR3 SDRAM 1333MHz (4 DIMMs)
    16X DVD +/- RW Drive
    1024MB ATI Radeon HD 5770 GDDR5 Graphics card

    For 461.56
    Oh Wow. I might just buy something like that, and use the money saved to upgrade when necessary. How would that run games like Skyrim, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and BF 3?

    Is that AMD a Triple Core, or Quad Core?
    "It's not just a fact, it's cold, hard speculation."

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by CuervoJoe View Post
    Oh Wow. I might just buy something like that, and use the money saved to upgrade when necessary. How would that run games like Skyrim, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and BF 3?

    Is that AMD a Triple Core, or Quad Core?
    It's a X6 so a hexacore. That setup should run most of those games on mid/high settings, depends on the resolution you want to run them at.

  20. #20
    I think that will run pretty much anything you throw at it, as long as you're not at a really high resolution, and are willing to turn down some of the settings on more intensive games.

    It's a 6 core I believe, I'm not too hot on AMD cpus these days.

    Edit: What Jorvikan said.

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