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Old 03-05-2010, 08:33 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Seeking guidance on a budget gaming PC

Where to begin? I'm trying to build a gaming computer for around $500. I've never built my own computer before, and I have a fairly weak understanding of how computers work. I know what the key components do, like RAM, the CPU and so on, and I know the difference between an AGP slot versus a PCI slot, or a SATA and an IDE cable, but I'm pushing myself trying to get a build together that not only works, but works well.

I've spent the last ten hours researching the process and creating an idea for the machine, looking up all sorts of tech crap along the way like memory latency and volt rails (or something like that) that I never wanted to know about. I've also read some of the stickied guides on this forum which were of some help, but I need a little more.

So I suppose I'll lay out what I've come up with thus far, voice my questions and concerns, and hopefully someone can aid me. As is specified in the title, I use my computer primarily for gaming. This rig doesn't need to be top of the line (and it won't be for $500), but I'd like to be able to play something more graphically intensive than my old GeForce4 Ti 4200 and single stick of 256 RAM can handle. And a word of warning, I can see this post is going to turn out kind of long, but I want to try and be comprehensive, and not come off as some noob begging the veterans to build him a PC. Anyway, on with the show...

CPU -- Newegg.com - Intel Core 2 Quad Q8300 Yorkfield 2.5GHz 4MB L2 Cache LGA 775 95W Quad-Core Desktop Processor - Processors - Desktops
This is the first thing I chose. Essentially all I did was look at the system requirements for "Dragon Age: Origins" and chose the recommended processor. Brilliant, I know. Then after some comparisons it looked good enough to stick with, and I'm under the impression I'll want a fast one for multi tasking. Quad core seemed safer than dual core in aiding me to play intensive games, but I don't really know. Of course, this processor is $150, which is a sizeable chunk of my budget. I also considered this dual core: Newegg.com - Intel Pentium E5200 Wolfdale 2.5GHz 2MB L2 Cache LGA 775 65W Dual-Core Desktop Processor - Processors - Desktops for half the price. Everything was going fine at this point. I had yet to encounter doubts about compatibility. Read on.

MOTHERBOARD -- Newegg.com - MSI G31TM-P21 LGA 775 Intel G31 Micro ATX Intel Motherboard - Intel Motherboards
I thought I should decide on a motherboard early and initially went with this one because it was cheap. Truth be told, I don't completely understand what should go into a motherboard. I did opt to go the way of Intel over AMD based on a couple of reviews and the point made in a post on these forums which compared Intel to a skinny guy carrying less bricks, but quicker, to a fat guy carrying more bricks, but slower. That's about as technical as I got. Feel free to advise me to go AMD. A couple of points/questions:
1. The board and CPU must match socket types, correct? In this case they are both LGA 775, so I'm good there?
2. The front side bus of the motherboard and CPU must match, otherwise the motherboard won't be able to get the most out of its processor? This board supports 800, 1066, and 1333Mhz. My choices for a CPU were 1333Mhz or 800Mhz, so I think I'm all right either way.
3. It's a micro ATX board, and I may end up using an ATX case, which I believe will be fine.

VIDEO CARD -- Newegg.com - BFG Tech BFGE88512GTSE GeForce 8800GTS (G92) 512MB 256-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Support Video Card - Desktop Graphics / Video Cards
I knew I wanted a decent video card so here's what I went with. Again, this decision was based on the fact that "Dragon Age: Origins" told me to do it. I'm such a sheep. I don't even want to play that game, I just figured it'd serve as a good reference point Still, it looks nice. One question: the interface is PCI Express 2.0 x16. My motherboard has a single PCI Express x16 slot. I read on this site that 2.0 is backwards compatible, so I'm assuming I haven't goofed there. What about the other two standard PCI slots my motherboard has? Are those compatible with hardware requiring PCI Express x16? It's the x16 that's throwing me. I think.

RAM -- Newegg.com - Kingston HyperX 2GB 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Desktop Memory Model KHX6400D2LL/2G - Desktop Memory
I was getting burnt out from all this so decided to chose some RAM next, figuring it would be less of a headache. It was, but not by much. After reading up on CAS latency and not really understanding timing, I opted for this little guy.
1. Again, compatibility. My motherboard has two slots for 240 pin sticks of either DDR2 667 or 800 RAM. This RAM is DDR2 800 and 240 pin. Seriously, this may seem obvious to the reader at this point, but I need assurances that I'm matching all this hardware up so that it'll work together. Soothe me.
2. I went with the 800 over the 667 because... it's better? I don't know. I do remember making an educated decision at the time, but trying to absorb so much information in one sitting has blurred out the reason.
3. My motherboard maxes out at 8GB of RAM, and I wanted at least 2 gigs to start, probably more later. A 4 gig stick was too pricy, so I went with a single 2 gig stick, leaving room for another 2 gigs down the road. I recently read on here though that two 1 gig sticks would be more effecient than my setup. Is it substantially more?

POWER SUPPLY
Ugh, I must have read more and agonized on this subject that any of the others. Even after reading the stickied posts here I simply don't know what to choose. I've read wattage is an overblown figure and amps are what matters, but I don't know how to figure my amp usage from all the hardware. I certainly don't understand this 'volt rail' structure. I ended up choosing a combo deal of case and PSU on Newegg.com as it seemed cheap and compatible with my hardware, but I've read cheap power supplies often found in case/PSU deals like this could fry and damage your other hardware. I'm not really looking to purchase this PSU but I'll use it as a reference to illustrate my many concerns. The link: Newegg.com - hec HP585D 585W ATX12V Power Supply - No Power Cord - Power Supplies
1. The type is listed as an ATX12V. I don't know what that is. I suppose I should look it up.
2. My motherboard is 24 pin, while this PSU has a 20+4 connector. As I understand it, that means it's a 20 pin connection with an attachable 4 pin connection, so it fits with either a 20 or 24 pin motherboard.
3. It has one 6 pin PCI Express connector, which my video card choice requires. Again, I need assurances.
4. My video card also needs a "425W PCI Express-compliant system power supply with a combined 12V current rating of 28A or more". If wattage is overblown, I assume I should focus on making sure my PSU has "a combined 12V current rating of 28A or more". Great. What does that mean? It sounds like algebra. I flunked algebra.
5. A helpful sticky on these forums gave me the advice that a good rule of thumb is that the more expensive the computer, the more power it needs. I'm using that post as my only resource on buying a PSU so far, but I could sure use help with specifics, such as how to calculate precisely the amount of power all of my hardware will need, as well amp usage on rails... if I'm even phrasing that right.

HARD DRIVE -- Newegg.com - Western Digital Caviar Blue WD3200AAJS 320GB 7200 RPM 8MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive
I picked this one quickly as it has more than enough space for me and was recommended by an article I read. Simple enough. 7200 RPM should be fast enough for me, and the connections are SATA, like my motherboard.

OPTICAL DRIVE -- SAMSUNG SH-S223F/BEBE Black SATA 22x double layer DVD+-rw drive-ACNT.COM
Again, picked this because it reviewed well and was cheap. SATA interface, so I'm okay.

And finally, that's everything. I believe I can use an old ATX case to house everything so I won't need to purchase that. I also have a monitor, OS and speakers. I'm going to wait and see on a sound card and floppy drive as I could do without both, but I need to nail down at least some of the choices I've made so far to get a clearer picture of price and where I need to make adjustments.

I think I spelled out all my concerns and questions. My biggest fear is that I'll be ready to assemble this thing and trip up right out of the gate due to the parts not being compatible. Past that, I'm not tech savvy enough to know what mistakes I'd be making even if it boots up. I can shop around for good deals, and I don't need my hand held so much that I need the best possible equipment for the right price, but I don't want to fry something due to a cheap PSU or lack of proper cooling. So any advice on this build would be immensely appreciated. I don't want to go ahead and chance buying all this until I feel more comfortable with my decisions. Thanks for the help.
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Old 03-05-2010, 09:58 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Seeking guidance on a budget gaming PC

You did well to make sure everything is compatible, but unfortunately those parts are last generation and not easy to upgrade if you choose to do so in the future. Its best to avoid socket LGA775 unless you already have parts for it.

CPU: In your price range its best to go with AMD (socket AM3); they have both triple and quad cores that will be ample for gaming. There's also the phenom lines which are good. They have L3 cache, but they're a bit out of your price range. Here's a cpu/mobo combo that looks to be a good deal:

Newegg.com - Computer Parts, PC Components, Laptop Computers, Digital Cameras and more!

The motherboard is socket AM3, which gives you room for future upgradeability. It also supports DDR3 memory. Speaking of memory, its best to get 4gb (2X2gb) of ram which will be enough to handle almost anything you need. Getting 2 sticks is better so you can utilize dual channel.

here are a couple of good kits:
Newegg.com - A-DATA Gaming Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model AX3U1600GB2G9-AG - Desktop Memory
Newegg.com - G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model F3-12800CL9D-4GBRL - Desktop Memory
only $1 difference so pick whichever you like.

For video cards, the 8800gts is alright, but this 4850 is a lot better and not much more expensive. It should fit in your budget. Look at the Graphics Performance List to see how the cards are ranked.
Graphics Performance List

PSU: Hec is not a very good brand. You said you've looked at the power supply guide, so you know which brands are good. OCZ has been having some good deals lately on newegg; here's a combo with an optical drive. Like you said, for an optical make sure its SATA and has good rating.
Newegg.com - Computer Parts, PC Components, Laptop Computers, Digital Cameras and more!

HD: Caviar blacks are popular these days as they're quite fast, and also the samsung F3 drives, they're quite fast too. But if you don't need that type of performance, the drive you chose is good, or for a few dollars more, this one with 500gb.

Newegg.com - Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 ST3500418AS 500GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive

Total: ~$475 + shipping ~$488. If you still have more money you could put in, upgrade that triple core to a quad core ($25 more)or phenom ($65 more) if you could add more. OR you could upgrade the video card to maybe a 5770 ($35 more). But without any of those changes, thats still a very decent gaming rig.

Make sure the OS you're using is 64bit because there's a limit to how much memory a 32bit OS can recognize, and you're over that limit with 4gb of ram and 1gb of vram. So make sure you get 64bit. Also make sure your case is roomy enough and is a standard ATX case.. can you tell us the exact specs of it? And as for floppy, don't bother; can't recall last time i had to use one. And the sound card, unless you're an audiophile, the onboard stuff is pretty good.


There's also a total of $45 rebates with those parts.

Good Luck.
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Old 03-05-2010, 01:17 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Seeking guidance on a budget gaming PC

Quote:
Originally Posted by aliasaid View Post
You did well to make sure everything is compatible, but unfortunately those parts are last generation and not easy to upgrade if you choose to do so in the future. Its best to avoid socket LGA775 unless you already have parts for it.

CPU: In your price range its best to go with AMD (socket AM3); they have both triple and quad cores that will be ample for gaming. There's also the phenom lines which are good. They have L3 cache, but they're a bit out of your price range. Here's a cpu/mobo combo that looks to be a good deal:

Newegg.com - Computer Parts, PC Components, Laptop Computers, Digital Cameras and more!

The motherboard is socket AM3, which gives you room for future upgradeability. It also supports DDR3 memory. Speaking of memory, its best to get 4gb (2X2gb) of ram which will be enough to handle almost anything you need. Getting 2 sticks is better so you can utilize dual channel.

here are a couple of good kits:
Newegg.com - A-DATA Gaming Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model AX3U1600GB2G9-AG - Desktop Memory
Newegg.com - G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model F3-12800CL9D-4GBRL - Desktop Memory
only $1 difference so pick whichever you like.

For video cards, the 8800gts is alright, but this 4850 is a lot better and not much more expensive. It should fit in your budget. Look at the Graphics Performance List to see how the cards are ranked.
Graphics Performance List

PSU: Hec is not a very good brand. You said you've looked at the power supply guide, so you know which brands are good. OCZ has been having some good deals lately on newegg; here's a combo with an optical drive. Like you said, for an optical make sure its SATA and has good rating.
Newegg.com - Computer Parts, PC Components, Laptop Computers, Digital Cameras and more!

HD: Caviar blacks are popular these days as they're quite fast, and also the samsung F3 drives, they're quite fast too. But if you don't need that type of performance, the drive you chose is good, or for a few dollars more, this one with 500gb.

Newegg.com - Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 ST3500418AS 500GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive

Total: ~$475 + shipping ~$488. If you still have more money you could put in, upgrade that triple core to a quad core ($25 more)or phenom ($65 more) if you could add more. OR you could upgrade the video card to maybe a 5770 ($35 more). But without any of those changes, thats still a very decent gaming rig.

Make sure the OS you're using is 64bit because there's a limit to how much memory a 32bit OS can recognize, and you're over that limit with 4gb of ram and 1gb of vram. So make sure you get 64bit. Also make sure your case is roomy enough and is a standard ATX case.. can you tell us the exact specs of it? And as for floppy, don't bother; can't recall last time i had to use one. And the sound card, unless you're an audiophile, the onboard stuff is pretty good.


There's also a total of $45 rebates with those parts.

Good Luck.

I agree with pretty much everything aliasaid mentioned and suggested.
One thing I would like to point out though, is that
Samsung HD502HJ 500GB SATA2 7200rpm 16MB Hard Drive

Samsung Spinpoint F3's can be found for the same price as the Seagate 7200.12's and far outperform them.

Amazon and Newegg and Zipzoomfly used to sell the 500Gb Spinpoint F3's for $55 with free shipping, but they all sold out very fast.
I'm hoping Samsung ships some more out soon.

Also I think using combo deals there may be a way for you to squeeze a Phenom II X2 into your budget.
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Old 03-06-2010, 12:40 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Seeking guidance on a budget gaming PC

Thanks a lot for the advice. I'm glad to know I'm more or less on the right track. I haven't had a chance to even access the computer I'm on since it all but died the other day. Had to reinstall my OS, and I'll need to take some time to update drivers, reinstall antivirus protection, etc. but in a day or so I'll take a look at those recommendations and probably have some more questions.

Quote:
Originally Posted by aliasaid View Post
Also make sure your case is roomy enough and is a standard ATX case.. can you tell us the exact specs of it?
I've got a couple laying around that are standard ATX in size, but I don't know much more than that. It occurs to me now that they're all quite old however. I'd be concerned about the hardware overheating using them, so maybe I'll have to invest in a case after all.

Again, thanks very much. I'm off to get this current system back in shape, then I'll get back to building a new one and repost here later.
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Old 03-06-2010, 01:52 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Seeking guidance on a budget gaming PC

Well my system is stable again for the time being. It's on its last leg, and its failure is the reason I'm investing in a new one. I've had a chance to look over the recommendations offered, and even do a bit more research in general.

aliasaid, all of your suggestions were great. I like them much better than my original choices, and I've gone with most of this new setup. I looked over a few benchmark tests and the Radeon HD4850 performed better than my original choice of a Geforce 8800 GTS.

I went with the PSU you suggested as well. I re-read the PSU guide here and feel a little more knowledgeable about what I need, but not by much. I checked out an online power supply calculator as well, and my hardware passed the test, but it only rated general wattage, not amps.

Quote:
Originally Posted by orihS ‪‪‪Shiro View Post
ISamsung Spinpoint F3's can be found for the same price as the Seagate 7200.12's and far outperform them.
Some of the negative feedback on the Seagate at Newegg.com put me off as well. While most reviews were positive, a minor chunk reported drive failures. I've already lost a lot of data to one drive failure this month, so I'm paranoid. I would go with your suggestion here, but your link was the cheapest offer I found, and the shipping quote from their site says it'll take the price to $65 total, so I figure I'll save a bit by sticking with the Caviar.

Finally, I picked out a case: Newegg.com - Rosewill R218-P-BK Black SECC Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - Computer Cases
It's a cheap mid-tower. My primary concern is making certain I have proper cooling. I don't know anything about what's needed, so if you fellows have any advice here, I'd be grateful. I made sure to get one with a fan just in case cooling is an issue, and this one has a single 120mm rear fan and side air duct. Is that good enough? Is it even necessary? And on the topic of cooling, I've been reading that processors usually come shipped with a bare essential heat sink, and that attaching an aftermarket heatsink is wise. Should I be concerned about that? I won't be overclocking or anything.

To summarize the new build:
CPU - AMD Athlon II X3 435
Motherboard - BIOSTAR TA790GXB3
Graphics Card - Radeon HD4850
RAM - 2x2GB DDR3 1600
PSU - OCZ Fatal1ty 550W
Optical Drive - Sony Optiarc DVD Burner
HDD - Western Digital Caviar Blue, 320 GB, 7200 RPM
Case - Rosewill R218-P-BK

Thank you both, aliasaid and orihS ‪‪‪Shiro for your input so far. You're a big help.
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Old 03-06-2010, 04:05 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Seeking guidance on a budget gaming PC

Depending on when you buy your case, here's a good one that'll come out to same price after shipping.

Newegg.com - NZXT GAMMA Classic Series GAMA-001BK Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - Computer Cases
this one has free shipping, hehe.. Since shipping is so steep on cases try to look for ones that have free shipping. That case is a 'deal of the day', so if you're not buying it today, look for another on a different day.

If you're not overclocking, it won't be necessary to get an aftermarket cooler; but you may find it will be quieter than the stock fan, depending on which one you choose. For now, i think you'll be okay with the stock cooler.
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Old 03-06-2010, 04:13 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Seeking guidance on a budget gaming PC

Quote:
Originally Posted by aliasaid View Post
Depending on when you buy your case, here's a good one that'll come out to same price after shipping.

Newegg.com - NZXT GAMMA Classic Series GAMA-001BK Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - Computer Cases
this one has free shipping, hehe.. Since shipping is so steep on cases try to look for ones that have free shipping. That case is a 'deal of the day', so if you're not buying it today, look for another on a different day.

If you're not overclocking, it won't be necessary to get an aftermarket cooler; but you may find it will be quieter than the stock fan, depending on which one you choose. For now, i think you'll be okay with the stock cooler.
Newegg.com - Rosewill Blackbone Black Steel / Plastic ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - Computer Cases

This case is the same price, and has two fans instead of that NZXT's single fan.

And with a promo code has free shipping until the 8th.
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Old 03-07-2010, 10:02 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Seeking guidance on a budget gaming PC

Avoid the Samsung Hard Drive.

The NZXT is a good well made case, the same cannot be said for the Rosewill.
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Old 03-07-2010, 03:38 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Seeking guidance on a budget gaming PC

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Avoid the Samsung Hard Drive.

The NZXT is a good well made case, the same cannot be said for the Rosewill.
The Rosewill Blackbone is not made by Rosewill but a private case design company known as MaxCube.
It's their Vortex 3630 design and it's an amazing case.
It's top tier for it's price class.
Two 120mm fans with the bottom front intake, top back exhaust.
Amazing wire management options, both sides are removable and there is a hole by the PSU wire output area.
Tool-less design.
There is a hole underneath the CPU mounting bracket area so you can switch out CPU coolers without removing the motherboard.
For only $40 it's a very nice case with a sturdy chassis.

Do you know something about the Samsung HDD's that I don't?
I've seen the benchmarks of the F3's, they beat the Caviar Blacks and in some cases even the Velociraptors in real world performance. (Sequential read/write averages)
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