Specs for a good gaming retail computer?

By BlitzJG
Dec 14, 2011
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  1. Hello everyone!

    I am graduating with my B.S. this Friday and my parents asked me what I wanted for a graduation present and jokingly I said a new computer... and they went for it. So now I'm in a pickle of sorts... cause I do want one. The one I am using now is about 6+ years old, it is running ok but obviously is becoming quite inferior. This computer was custom built with my friend's help so was pretty good at the time it was made.

    Now I am about to engage heavily into computer gaming with SW The Old Republic coming out, and will probably also play Diablo 3 when that is released... so I am hoping to get a computer which can handle these games on the highest settings...
    That being said however my dad is pretty firm about getting a computer from Best Buy or some type of retail seller... IIRC this is frowned upon by most computer experts or at least for those who build their own...

    Can I get your advice as to good models for the kind of gaming I will be doing? Or at least the minimum specs I should be looking at, or things/brands to avoid when picking one out? I was really hoping to get something relatively top-of-the-line but I don't think the budget could exceed $2K.
  2. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,699   +586

    Best Buy do sell computer components so you're not limited to buying a prebuilt (ugh).

    No Best Buy in my country, but a quick look at the site shows you can build a pretty good system for that budget. Bear in mind you could save around $500-600 by going with a more basic setup:
    Intel 2500K CPU+ Gigabyte Z68 motherboard + 8GB RAM $649
    Power supply: Corsair TX650M $100
    Windows 7 x64 Home Premium (OEM) $110
    Chassis : Corsair Carbide 500R $122. You can save ~$40-60 by going with a more basic case.
    Hard drive: WD Cav Black 1TB $150 (Prices are obscenely high at the moment)
    HP DVD rewriter $30
    Basic component cost (so far) : $1141
    Now...
    Graphics card. If you aren't planning on upgrading again in the short/medium term, then I'd suggest spending enough to see you through the current and upcoming game releases.
    XFX HD 6950 1GB $243.

    Monitor...Your choices are a cheaper TN+film panel, or a more expensive IPS panel which offers better color range (gamut) but may have higher latency (detectable ghosting with fast motion).
    HP's 2511x (25", 1980x1080) is a very nice TN based LED panel ($230) or
    HP's ZR24W (24", 1980x1200) is a very nice IPS based panel ($405)

    Total: $1634 or $1809

    Peripherals, if you don't already have them:
    Mouse : Razer DeathAdder 3500 ($60) -Highly recommended. I use one myself- very nice ergonomics and fully featured.
    Keyboard: Razer Arctosa ($50)
    Mouse pad : Razer gaming pad ($15)
    CPU cooler...
    If you are planning on NOT overclocking then the boxed Intel heatsink will work fine...However, if you are planning an overclocking adventure (the 2500K is usually good for 4.7+ GHz in daily operation) then I'd suggest an aftermarket cooler:
    A mild or medium overclock - mid-priced air cooler such as the Corsair A70 ($38), a medium-high (say 4-4.3GHz) oc needs a good air cooler such as the CoolerMaster V6GT ($51), while a 4.6 or more I'd recommend either a very good air cooler (none on the Best Buy site that I could find), or the Corsair H100 all-in-one water cooler ($110).

    You'll need to make some compromises along the way- especially if you are paying for someone (Geek Squad) to put the system together - wasted money IMO. There's enough online help and guides to allow you to put the system together easily- although your father might have other ideas on the subject. Decide what you need, and what you don't, and whether you would be happy with a gaming orientated TN monitor, or would prefer the better colour reproduction that the IPS provides. Your best bet here would be to see both types in the flesh- so a reconaissance to your local computer shop could well be in order.
    Juggling the options around should keep you within budget. If you need/want a speaker sytem, gaming headset, webcam etc. you will need to make further compromises...or add some funds towards your folks nice offer.

    Good luck.
  3. BlitzJG

    BlitzJG Newcomer, in training Topic Starter Posts: 46

    Ok so from your and my cousin's advice I would be willing to build it myself... so right now I should have made clear I am looking for a Tower only, I have a relatively nice monitor that is not being used in my parents house that they wouldnt mind parting with... and also have access to Windows 7 Pro, so basically I have a $2000 budget for a tower only, and I would be willing to supplement as you suggested if need be. Would this change anything you recommended?

    I am also not familiar with how additional cooling options like water cooling works, is it more maintenance? I had an Alienware case used last time, it had several fans and a temperature read-out which was nice, but it also had LED lights on the front cover which proved to be very annoying... haha especially since I kept the PC in my room.

    Also, I bought from NewEgg several years ago and that would probably be where I ordered from this time unless otherwise recommended...
  4. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,699   +586

    If you're not planning on saving your folks any money...then the only real recommendations would be going with an SSD as boot drive- such as this Crucial M4 or OCZ Vertex 3.

    After that, a lot depends on what you intend to do with the machine...i.e. overclocking, connectivity, workload. Moving to a faster-at-stock/hyperthreading/larger L3 cache 2600K (or 2700K) CPU will gain you a fair gain in performance in content creation and productivity applications, but you won't gain appreciably in gaming performance, especially if allied to heavy overclocking- since you may have to disable hyperthreading to achieve a higher base frequency.

    Best Buy have a pretty average motherboard lineup, so unless you're planning on dual graphics cards (in which case maybe look at the P8Z68 Pro* or Gigabyte Z68XP-UD4)...which of course would necessitate a larger PSU (750-850w range).

    All-in-one watercooling is no more maintainance heavy than a standard air cleaner. Both should have periodic cleaning with canned air to clear dust buildup from the cooling fins. The Corsair H100 has the benefits of being easier to mount and doesn't suffer with compatibility problems with tall RAM heatspreaders. You can also mount two more fans to the radiator (2 each in push-pull) to increase cooling efficiency.

    *P8Z68Pro and 2600K ($530) + 8 GB DDR3-1866C9 ($80)...$40 cheaper than the combo kit
  5. BlitzJG

    BlitzJG Newcomer, in training Topic Starter Posts: 46

    I have never understood overclocking or known how to do it, but if its worthwhile for gaming performance I would do it. In terms of performance Gaming is my only concern, other activities would include those typical of a college student including media and word processing, but those aren't very taxing.

    This is what I was able to pull together from NewEgg, can you take a look? The Dvd rewriters seemed to have a limited selection so I grabbed two not knowing which would be better or compatible:

    HP DL360G6 Slimline 12.7mm DVD-RW Optical Drive Black SATA Model 532068-B21
    $109.49
    . .
    Corsair Carbide Series 500R Black Steel structure with molded ABS plastic accent pieces ATX Mid Tower Computer Case
    $139.99
    . .
    Western Digital Caviar Blue WD10EALX 1TB 7200 RPM SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive
    $129.99
    . .
    XFX HD-695X-CNDC Radeon HD 6950 2GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.1 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support Video Card with Eyefinity
    $279.99
    . .
    HP Black SATA 12.7mm Slim Optical Drive Model 481041-B21 - OEM
    $99.99
    . .
    CORSAIR Enthusiast Series TX650M 650W ATX12V v2.31 / EPS12V v2.92 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Modular High Performance Power ...
    $119.99 -$10.00 Instant $109.99
    . .
    CORSAIR XMS 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model CMX8GX3M2A1600C9
    $42.99
    . .
    GIGABYTE GA-Z68XP-UD4 LGA 1155 Intel Z68 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard
    $209.99 -$15.00 Instant $194.99
    . .
    Open Box: ASUS P8Z68-V PRO LGA 1155 Intel Z68 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard with UEFI BIOS
    $209.99 -$40.00 Instant $169.99
    . .
    Intel Core i7-2600K Sandy Bridge 3.4GHz (3.8GHz Turbo Boost) LGA 1155 95W Quad-Core Desktop Processor Intel HD Graphics 3000 ...
    $319.99
    . .
    CORSAIR H100 (CWCH100) Extreme Performance Liquid CPU Cooler
    $119.99

    Totaling to a little over $1700
  6. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,699   +586

    The DVD rewriters are for slimline desktops and the like. You're better off with a standard height unit.

    Either motherboard is fine. You pays your money, you takes your chance with Open box. It's someone elses return. For the sake of $40 I'd go with the latest revision board thats factory sealed.
    Other than that the components look the same as I recommended in my earlier post excepting the lower rated RAM and a harddrive with 3 year warranty (Caviar Blue) instead of 5 years (Caviar Black).

    Looks like you're good to go
  7. slh28

    slh28 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,925   +170

    DVD drives can't seriously cost $100... they're all pretty much the same, $20 ones are fine.

    If you're only using the computer for playing games, music and MS Office then the i7 2600K is overkill, the i5 2500K is more than enough. The gaming performance will be the same as the 2600K.

    You can put the money you saved into an SSD, e.g.OCZ Vertex 3 VTX3-25SAT3-120G 2.5" 120GB SATA III MLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)


    If you're planning future upgrades, e.g. adding another card in CrossFire, then consider getting a 750W+ PSU.
  8. BlitzJG

    BlitzJG Newcomer, in training Topic Starter Posts: 46

    I am pretty computer-hardware illiiterate as you can tell so that was several mistakes on my part haha... i pretty much have no knowledge of my own in this department to pick one thing over another... what kind of RAM would you recommend? Correcting for proper DVD drives cut the price down a bit...

    and is the SSD just an additional component?

    And the PSU options are overwhelming, there were some with a CrossFire ready option? I would be up for upgrading at a later date, obviously that is better than springing for a new comp, especially after building this one myself (physically of course)
  9. Atlasphoenix

    Atlasphoenix Newcomer, in training

    an ssd is a solid state drive, a new type of hard drive. Where "conventional" drives work with a spinning disk to store the information, an SSD works similar to a giant jump drive or usb stick. This results in "pulling" information faster and loading programs and files extremely quickly. It also performs read/write tasks much quicker, so for a gaming computer this can be an extremely valuable upgrade in terms of overall performance.

    The downside is that these hard drives tend to be smaller in size at the moment, but a 120g can run anywhere from $175 and up (the mushkin cronos comes highly recommended =) stay away from ocz, their customer service is horribad). 240g are available but the price starts around $300. What most people, including myself, do is to use the SSD as your main boot drive, for your operating system, and loading the games that you're going to play onto it, and having an additional HDD (say 500gig) for storing music, files, and other large programs.

    Retail prebuilt systems (like dell or hp) should be avoided like the plague in my opinion. Check out a site like ncix.com to get a good idea of sites that offer you the option of picking individual parts and having them build it for you or give you advice. Theyre a Canadian site, but sites like Newegg or Tigerdirect probably ship internationally as well. If you're not sure what you'd like you can check out their custom prebuilts or ask them to build you one =) gl.
  10. BlitzJG

    BlitzJG Newcomer, in training Topic Starter Posts: 46

    So in the case of this current build, I could go with a mushkin chronus, and cut down the 1Terabyte HD for a 500 gig? Which I figured would be something like this, but needing better RAM and a PSU that will work:

    1 Mushkin Enhanced Chronos Deluxe MKNSSDCR120GB-DX 2.5" 120GB SATA III MLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)
    Model #:MKNSSDCR120GB-DX
    Item #:N82E16820226225
    $269.99 -$60.00 Instant $209.99

    1 Western Digital Caviar Black WD5002AALX 500GB 7200 RPM SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive
    Model #:WD5002AALX
    Item #:N82E16822136795
    $129.99 $129.99

    1 Corsair Carbide Series 500R Black Steel structure with molded ABS plastic accent pieces ATX Mid Tower Computer Case
    Model #:500R BK
    Item #:N82E16811139009
    $139.99 $139.99

    1 ASUS P8Z68-V PRO/GEN3 LGA 1155 Intel Z68 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard with UEFI BIOS
    Model #:p8Z68-V PRO/GEN3
    Item #:N82E16813131790
    $219.99 -$10.00 Instant $209.99

    1 XFX HD-695X-CNDC Radeon HD 6950 2GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.1 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support Video Card with Eyefinity
    Model #:HD-695X-CNDC
    Item #:N82E16814150550
    $279.99 $279.99

    1 CORSAIR Enthusiast Series TX750 V2 750W ATX12V v2.31 / EPS12V v2.92 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Modular High Performance Power ...
    Model #:TX750M
    Item #:N82E16817139031
    $129.99 -$10.00 Instant $109.99

    1 Intel Core i5-2500K Sandy Bridge 3.3GHz (3.7GHz Turbo Boost) LGA 1155 95W Quad-Core Desktop Processor Intel HD Graphics 3000 ...
    Model #:BX80623I52500K
    Item #:N82E16819115072
    $219.99 $219.99

    1 CORSAIR XMS 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model CMX8GX3M2A1600C9
    Model #:CMX8GX3M2A1600C9
    Item #:N82E16820145324
    $42.99 $42.99

    1 HP 24X Multiformat DVD Burner Black SATA Model 1270i LightScribe Support
    Model #:HP 1270i
    Item #:N82E16827140041
    $23.99 $23.99

    1 CORSAIR H100 (CWCH100) Extreme Performance Liquid CPU Cooler
    Model #:CWCH100
    Item #:N82E16835181017
    $119.99 $119.99
  11. slh28

    slh28 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,925   +170

    That looks like a great build, good luck!

    p.s. you have included both a Mushkin and an OCZ SSD, you only need one ;)
  12. BlitzJG

    BlitzJG Newcomer, in training Topic Starter Posts: 46

    Ok well I will take out the OCZ, but can you recommend a 750w PSU and a higher rated RAM? dividedbyzero said I went with a lower rated one, but I'm not sure how to tell the difference
  13. slh28

    slh28 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,925   +170

    Here's a suggestion for a 750W PSU: CORSAIR Enthusiast Series TX750 V2 750W
    Same price as the 650W one you were going to get, except it's not modular. Modular means you can remove the cables which are not being used to save space and increase airflow in your case. However your selected case has very good cable management so you don't really need a modular PSU. A quick google images search for the 500R will show you what I mean.

    Your RAM is fine, you don't really need it any quicker.
     
  14. BlitzJG

    BlitzJG Newcomer, in training Topic Starter Posts: 46

    So everything looks compatible and heat wise I should be ok? How long approximately would building it take? All the parts are in-stock which is nice... Also I want to see if there are any lights on this Tower, its hard to tell in the pictures, my current one has these blue LEDs and they are obnoxious...
  15. treetops

    treetops TechSpot Evangelist Posts: 1,570   +41

    You can unplug a lot of leds from the power supply. I hate them too.
  16. slh28

    slh28 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,925   +170

    Everything you have listed is compatible, if it's your first time building a PC then it will probably take a couple of hours. You might want to watch some youtube videos or some online guides.
  17. BlitzJG

    BlitzJG Newcomer, in training Topic Starter Posts: 46

    I just realized AFAIK there is no network card, and obviously I need to be able to connect to the internet, and my current computer is connected with an ethernet cable, am I missing this in this build? Can you recommend one? I will probably have to rush shipping at this point lol...

    Same with a sound card, or are those no longer separate units?
  18. BlitzJG

    BlitzJG Newcomer, in training Topic Starter Posts: 46

    Ok I think I panicked pre-maturely, I was told the MB has built-in LAN card, and it sounds like the same goes for audio unless I want to enhance it I should be fine...

    I did have some building questions I posted in another thread, but for now I am reading up on the guides
  19. ---agissi---

    ---agissi--- TechSpot Paladin Posts: 2,382   +15

    How about one of AMDs new A8 processors coming out soon for $135. They are a quad core chip, very modestly priced, and include a graphics card built-in, the Radeon HD 6550. RAM is cheap but 4GBs would be plenty. Im just thinking if you want to spend closer to $500-$600 total, it would still be a huge upgrade over a 6 year old machine.

    Ethernet and Sound has been built-in to motherboards for years now. They always come standard.

    Also the ATI 7xxx Series is slated for 9 JAN launch, with a press conference on the 22nd which I hope to see reviews transpire from. Word is the 7950 will be 30% faster than the 6950. So its probably worth the wait. Plus the mid-range cards should be a lot better on power consumption given the 28nm process.

    Blitz: Look at the pictures of the motherboard your buying. Look at the back where all the ports are. I would never personally spend $210 on a motherboard when chipsets offer a 1-2% performance difference. Your paying for a few features and marketing over a $80 motherboard.

    I remember before the floods a 1TB 7200rpm hard drive was $60 to $65. You've got a 500GB on there for $120. I read about the Black series coming with a 5 year warrenty, VS the 2 year on the green and blue drives. I'd expect the hard drive to be good for the first 5 years, after that its when they tend to go all flaky on me.


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