My first system build

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Top Gun
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My first system build

Post by Top Gun » Mon Jun 29, 2015 9:08 pm

(I'm cross-posting this from another haunt for additional opinions, so if you happen to post there too, sorry for the repeat!)

So here's my current situation: I'm typing this on what is at its core a 2004 Dell system I bought for college, with all that it entails. That includes a Pentium 4 processor, Windows XP, and *sigh* a slowly-dying CRT which has probably given me several forms of cancer by this point. Over the years I've replaced RAM, a video card, and a HDD, plus I've swapped out a dead PSU on another machine, so I have some experience with pretty much everything beyond installing a CPU. Up until this past year I haven't been in a financial situation to let me sit down and build an actual gaming rig, at least not the caliber I'd really want, but I finally have enough set aside to have a serious go at it. But seeing as how I have only a general idea of where to start, I was hoping some of you would be willing to lend a bit of expertise.

I do have a few general ideas as to what I'm looking for, and what I particularly need some help with, so I can get those listed. Before that, though, I saw that Tom's Hardware recently put out a list of articles for their recommended items for the first half of 2015. Should I pretty much be sticking to those for my choices, or are there any other good summary listings I should know about?

Price/Performance: Figure that's the best starting point. I'm willing to spend somewhere in the $1500-$2000 range, display included. I don't necessarily need the absolute highest-performance components that were just released yesterday, but I would like it to be as close as reasonably possible. I know anything's immediately outdated the moment you buy the parts, but I want a system that can easily handle pretty much anything I throw at it today, and still remain fairly competitive for a few years, with the capacity for requisite upgrades. At the same time, though, I'm not looking to do any overclocking, or exotic cooling, or any sort of SLI/CrossFire setup. Just a really solid no-frills system.

CPU/GPU: My preferences for these would be Intel and Nvidia, respectively, since it seems like every high-profile video issue I've heard about over the past few years has primarily affected AMD cards. I have heard something about some sort of brand-new line coming out from AMD in a month or two, but I'm not really willing to wait that long in order to get things started, and besides, that's presumably always going to be the case no matter what component you're talking about.

Motherboard: Absolutely no clue how that works. Halp.

Memory: What are we up to, DDR4 now? This part I think I can handle, provided someone recommends me a good brand. And I'd assume that I'd want to go with at least 16 GB, if not even more.

Storage: I know the standard procedure now seems to be to get a nice SSD for your OS partition and a few specific types of programs, and then a big-ass HDD for general storage. The former's something I don't really have any experience with, so any help on brands or performance concerns would be greatly appreciated. Also a minor thing, but since I'm one of the comparative few still dedicated to physical media, I'll need at least a BD-ROM, if not writer.

Sound: Is it even worth getting a dedicated video card anymore? I know I've heard people say that on-board audio is good enough these days for most purposes, so if that's true I'll gladly pass it up.

Display: Yeah...if I never have to stare at another CRT again it'll be too soon. I know there are a couple of different technologies at play here, but I'm specifically looking for something that would be good for gaming purposes. Resolution-wise, I seem to recall hearing that most sizes somewhat larger than 1080p are sadly hard to come buy, and I don't think I need something as insane as a 4K display. As far as a multi-monitor setup...well it might be fun, cost permitting, but not exactly a necessity.

PSU: I know the capacity depends on what exactly I'm putting in here, and I've also taken to heart the dire warnings about not skimping on it. Is there a particular brand I should go for?

Case/Fans: Now this I know next to nothing about, other than a lot of it depends on my own preferences. Obviously getting something that's easy to work with and has ports galore is a plus. Having a built-in dust filter would be handy too, since I'm not exactly religious about cleaning out my case. I'd also need some serious help figuring out the whole fan-amount-and-placement thing when the time comes.

Peripherals: Ehh, not a huge priority. Somehow my ancient 2-button generic Dell optical is still hanging on; I got a recommendation for a Logitech G500 as a decent gaming mouse, but I still haven't gotten around to buying it. Also using a generic Dell keyboard that's as old as my system; I wouldn't mind getting a nice mechanical at some point, but this one's still kicking for now. And I have a set of Altec-Lansing speakers that came off a family desktop from (I swear) 15 years ago and are still holding up remarkably well. Unfortunately I don't have the environment that would allow for an awesome 7.1 setup, at least not for the time being.

That's everything I can think of at the moment. Thanks in advance for anyone who manages to read through all of this and still has a shred of patience left to give some advice!
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Re: My first system build

Post by vision » Tue Jun 30, 2015 3:24 am

Top Gun wrote:CPU/GPU: My preferences for these would be Intel and Nvidia, respectively, since it seems like every high-profile video issue I've heard about over the past few years...
You should post over at Descent: Underground and make sure you have a system that can play it!

I wish I was more help. My life for the last half dozen years and into the future consists of Linux running on old, old laptops. I have no idea what makes a decent box these days.
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Re: My first system build

Post by Krom » Tue Jun 30, 2015 5:13 pm

For gaming CPUs, about the best you can do at the moment is the Intel i7-4790K.

Motherboard, I've been using Asus motherboards for quite some time, to support a 4790K you need a Intel chipset (preferably a Z97) with a LGA1150 socket. Doesn't hurt to stick to one with an Intel LAN chip, other features are up to user preference/budget.

The i7-4790K requires DDR3 memory, 16 GB worth should be reasonably affordable. Two things matter in memory, speed and latency, but mostly speed up to a point. After about the 2133 MHz range of DDR3, increasing speed doesn't really show any benefits and usually higher speeds increase the risk of failure in addition to consuming more power. The difference in a targeted benchmark between 1600 MHz and 2800 MHz is usually less than 10%, and that is a benchmark designed to extract the biggest difference, generic benchmarks may not even notice at all. So with memory, quantity pretty much always wins over quality (unless you are dong competitive benchmarks/overclocking).

A single Geforce GTX 980 (Ti optional) video card will be sufficient for the vast majority of games at 1080p for the next ~18-24 months, which is about the maximum service life expectancy of a high end video card before it is too slow to play newer stuff. The 980 (not Ti) gets bonus points for being surprisingly energy efficient (my EVGA one actually shuts off its cooling fans entirely at idle because it doesn't need them). The 980 Ti is close to the fastest single card (pending AMD's latest) you can get, without being a $1000+ Titan X.

SSD, for most users a Samsung 850 EVO will be more than sufficient, 1 TB is even reasonably affordable if you want to go big. Pair it up with a 3-4 TB mechanical drive for expanded storage/backups/etc. As for the brands, I have quite a few Seagate drives, and I also have quite a few Western Digital drives, together they are the most recognized manufacturers, and I have had drives fail from both of them anyway. The only guarantee you can get on a hard drive is "it will fail eventually", so don't worry about it too much and keep the really important data stored in more than one place.

Case, a lot of this is up to personal preference, but I really like my Corsair Carbide 300R. Maybe grab a couple really quiet 120 & 140 MM fans to fill up the remaining fan slots in the case, emphasis on quiet, there is room for a lot of fans so if you add them all up they don't have to be that powerful individually to keep a lot of air moving which means you can keep the noise down.

PSU, for a single GPU system with only a couple drives and fans, 500 watts is pretty much overkill. Look for a nice 80 plus gold or platinum certified unit in the 450-550 range, note your video card will require two PCIE (PCI Express) 6/8 pin power connectors, so make sure it has those.

Throw in a decent CPU cooler too, the stock Intel one is barely adequate. No need for an exotic closed loop water cooler or anything like that, just a big lump of heatpipe tower cooler will be plenty. CoolerMaster makes a decent one in the latest versions of the Hyper 212 EVO or whatever they call it these days.

I have a logitech G500 mouse, it is really good and I can't name any faults with it. Once it is programmed the way you like (assuming you don't want to use the already sensible default button assignments) you don't even need the software for it anymore. Keyboard, up to personal preference, I'd actually recommend shopping for one at a brick and mortar store where you can try out the demo models.

Monitors, this is a slightly tougher call, but since you are sticking to Nvidia for your video card, look for something called "G Sync", you won't regret it. DisplayPort is a must, but don't spend more than $10 on the DisplayPort cable that won't come with any monitors. Generally with LCD monitors, IPS/PVA panel types look better (viewing angles), TN panel types are cheaper and faster but have poor viewing angles.
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Re: My first system build

Post by Top Gun » Thu Jul 02, 2015 7:43 pm

Thanks a bunch! I'm putting your recommendations along with the others I've received into a big ol' spreadsheet because I'm crazy like that, and then I'll try to figure out what seems to work best for me and post it up.
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Re: My first system build

Post by Top Gun » Sun Jul 12, 2015 10:37 pm

Almost forgot to update: I went back-and-forth with several people at my other forum, and I wound up settling on this build. I still have to figure out a display for it, and I'll be picking up a mouse and KB separately eventually, but at least I managed to get it finalized. Now for the fun part!
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Re: My first system build

Post by ReadyMan » Sun Aug 02, 2015 12:03 pm

That's a nice build TG.
I'm looking to build a pc for my brother DatGuy for the Descent Underground release.
Looking forward to your pics and report....may just copy your build for him!
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