Thursday, June 21, 2012

Gaming rig recommendation 2012/June (without breaking a *big* bank: $1500 price point)

Since I cannot get all the good stuff every time they get released, I thought of posting about what I thought was a great gaming rig setup every three months or so. This is not the greatest rig out there, but the aim is to build a very capable, balanced PC without breaking the bank. Well, we do not go for the cheapest stuff around, but the aim is to build something that would last a couple of years without upgrading anything, or just the video card.

So here goes the recommendation:

Component Suggestion Price (US$)
CPU Intel Core i5 3570K @4.4GHz 229.99
CPU Cooler Coolermaster Hyper 212 Evo 34.99
Motherboard Asrock Z77 Extreme4 134.99
RAM Corsair Vengeance LP 1.35V 8GB DDR3 54.99
Video Card Gigabyte GTX670 2GB with Windforce3 cooler 399.99
Sound Card Asus Xonar DX (PCI-E) 71.99
Hard Drives Samsung 830 series 128GB SSD 129.99
Samsung HD204UI 2TB 119.99
Case Corsair Carbide 500R 139.99
Power Supply beQuiet Dark Power Pro 10 550W 143.99
Total 1460.90
Peripherals
Display 24” (will update with a model soon)
Mouse Logitech G500
Mouse Pad Razor Sphex
Keyboard Logitech G510
Headset (will update with a model soon)
Speakers Corsair SP2200 2.1
Webcam Logitech C920

Why this and that?

CPU:

I5 IBIntel IvyBridge CPU is the best option right now. You can get a cheaper AMD CPU or an older Sandybridge CPU but with all the new features an IvyBridge CPU offers such as low power consumption, faster HD graphics (hitch you can use for blistering fast video encoding), PCI-E 3.0, native USB3.0 support, IvyBridge seems the logical choice. You can get a Sandybridge-E system, but that would break the bank and won't offer much for our current build. Who needs all those PCI-E lanes when you are going with only one graphics card? You also lose the HD graphics, unless you get a hex core CPU, there aren't many reasons to get one of these enthusiast CPUs.

Will the 212 Hyper suffice? I heard IvyBridge runs pretty hot.

CM_Hyper_212_EVO_01-500x374Well, I don't see spending $50 more 5% more performance. Even the most expensive water cooler would I Lu get you to around 4.8GHz. If you can get to within 10% of that with the 212 Hyper, I would stop at 4.4GHz with no hesitation. IvyBridge should be fine with that cooler at 4.4GHz.
Why ASRock? I thought they were a tier3 company.

imagesASRock have done really well in the recent past. They have the most bang for the buck motherboards. They also do have those crazy high-end boards, but we don't need them in our configuration. As per the Anandtech review, the Z77 Extreme4 is a very capable motherboard. It does not have many fancy mumbo jumbo stuff that Asus brings to the table but most of those drooling features are soon forgotten when you actually get things done with the PC. Since this is not a high-end build, I would not spend more than $150 on the motherboard, which most Asus motherboards seem to exceed.

RAM? I need RAM with fancy heat spreaders.

images (1)Tall and fancy heat spreaders don't do anything other than lower your options of buying a great CPU cooler. Unless you are using RAM that are rated for ultra high speeds like 2400MHz. These Corsair LP RAM are not only cheap but uses 1.35V thus running cooler and using up less power compared to the regular 1.5V RAM.

Why GTX670? What about HD7970?

Gigabyte-GeForce-GTX-670-WindForce-3X-01HD7970 is slightly faster than the stock GTX670 but this Gigabyte card is not only much faster than a stock GTX680, but also the best GTX670 if you are thinking of overclocking further. Kepler GPUs throttle at high temperatures - at 70C, it throttles 13MHz on the core and does this for every 10C. So keeping the card below 70C not only means good health for the GPU, but also better performance. Gigabyte Windforce3 is the best GPU cooler that comes preinstalled on a graphics card. But if you are indenting to go dual graphics card setup (which I recommend that you avoid if possible) you are better off buying cards with the reference cooler which exhaust hot air out the back of the case. These custom coolers always drop the heat back into the case so the top card with die a slow death with all the heat that traps between the cards.

Hard drive setup? Do I need a backup drive just in case. And why Samsung, when there are so many faster drives out there?

Sure, go ahead if budget permits. You should have a good backup plan up your sleeves. Better option would be to buy an external drive to backup everything like every week or so. Having an internal drive for this is not recommended because it would always be spinning and any issues with the power supply would kill it with the rest of the drives. But an SSD and a single large HDD is the bare minimum in a rig of this class.

samsung_ssd_830About Samsung. Samsung is considered as the most reliable SSD controller presently available. Intel drives also have a very high reliability but since they are using Sandforce controllers in their latest drives, you have to keep wondering, when will it go wrong. However, if you want the performance of the Sandforce controller, you are better off buying the proven king in terms of performance as well as reliability, the Kingston HyperX which I am currently using.

Do I really need a dedicate sound card? If so, why not Creative?

No, not really, because the latest Realtek ALC898 is a great integrated solution as per what people say. But you might get better warmer, lively audio from a dedicated audio card. However, the feeling is subjective. You might like the audio that comes out of the deducted card or you might like the integrated cards more. It depends I the kind of DSPs the drivers are using.

P_500I would recommend that you skip Creative. Their drivers are no good. Right now I am experiencing a problem where I lose sound after reboot every now and then. Reinstalling drivers does the thing. It could be something else though, because I remember getting these problems with the old PC when I had an nVidia card. I've been getting this problems after buying the GTX670 so the problem can be related to that.

Case? How about the airflow in that thing?

400r_opensidefixCase is mostly the consumer's choice even though there are certain cases that you should avoid at any rate. Corsair Carbide 500R is a decent case with a wide variety of options but doesn't have the fancy stuff some of the exotic cases have. 500R is a decent all rounder. Nothing really exceptional about it nor nothing wrong with it. It is just a safe choice, but if you prefer you can get a different case. Just take a peek at Overclock3D YouTube channel for lots of case reviews.

Then what about the PSU? Aren't there better brands that beQuiet? and just 550W??? Ugh! I need pawaaaaa!!

4746_01_be_quiet_dark_power_pro_10_550_watt_power_supply_reviewThis particular PSU is a very high-end and expensive PSU for just a 550W model. JonnyGuru reviewed this model recently and gave a good score. It is also a 80+ gold rated PSU. And most importantly, you should not buy PSUs with a lot of headroom because it would make them run at a low efficiency. 550W is overkill even for this system. That CPU doesn't eat up a lot of power nor does that GPU.

You can get a cheaper PSU instead but I don't recommend that you cut corners in the PSU front. If the PSU dies, it can take the rest of the PC with it to the grave.

Keyboard, mouse and other peripherals

These are all up to you. I just recommended few good ones. You can go cheap on these, but remember these are what you directly interact with when you use the PC, so do not go cheap on the quality because it can have a very bad impact on your comfort as well as health.

That’s it for now folks. Next I will try to build a PC with half the price but only 20% less performance. Wait for that post…soon.
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