View Full Version : Calling all PC building folks!
06-08-2011, 08:37 PM
I need some suggestions, advice, and all that good stuff as I'm looking for a new desktop system. I WOULD build one myself but I don't trust myself at the moment since I have no experience. However, I have two older systems I can dismantle to see how things come together and all but I want to do that on my own time. Right now, I'm feeling kind of compulsive so, yeah, I'm just going to go for a pre-built PC.
I'm not looking for a Dell or HP though since I'm looking for a mid-range gaming build that doesn't cost over $2000 (without taxes). Ideally, I'd like something that can handle video recording and encoding with files that generally range betwen 4 GB - 20 GB at a zippy speed (like, for example, I don't want something that'll take an hour to encode a 5-minute XviD AVI file).
In terms of gaming, I have a computer monitor that runs at a native resolution of 1680x1050. I would like to be able to run modern PC games at that res with at least 4x AA on (as well as other settings like shadows and stuff on high) and not be treated to a slideshow.
Oh yeah, I should mention that I'm not all that interested in Crossfire or SLI configuration. Also, I live in Canada so I'd like to avoid US stores unless they offer some decent prices for shipping (or even free shipping).
I was looking at NCIX.com and came across this: http://pc.ncix.com/ncixpc/ncixpc.cfm?uuid=0EA6FE0E-3BB6-4FA1-84AA68C63F1EEFFB-3497508
I ended up e-mailing NCIX to see what sort of system(s) they would recommend and the rep that responded said that the Vesta i5 3050 SLI Base Package is the one I could consider. He also suggested that I should upgrade to 8 GBs of RAM and a 620W PSU (in case I wanted to run SLI) and a Western Digital Black series hard drive. Or, if I was going to do more video processing, I could go for 2 Seagate 1TB drives set up in RAID0.
In all honesty, I'm not all that concerned about losing my video data so having redunancy is not very important for me. I have a question about the 8 GBs of RAM though -- won't I need to be running a lot of things at once to require that amount of memory? When I'm video encoding or recording, I'm rarely doing anything else. I may, however, have programs like Firefox and Pidgin open as well.
Anyway, any input is greatly appreciated! :D
06-09-2011, 05:29 AM
The first thing I was gonna suggest was to bump up that Mushkin RAM from 4 to 8 Gigs. =P
You did mention that you won't be having much else open, but I know that audio and video editing eats up quite a bit of RAM (uncompressed video and audio are quite huge), so more RAM is always nice for those purposes. However, if you were only using it for surfing the web and stuff, 8GB will definitely be way overkill.
The 400W power supply...with an i5 Quad Core...hmm! Yeah, I think that should be fine, if you're not planning to outfit your computer with two video cards to run SLI.
Personally, for home computers (so long as it's non-critical/sensitive stuff), I never set up any RAID or hard drive mirroring since I've never felt the need. If you're not worried about that, then you could go ahead with the Western Digital Black series HD.
...Ohh...mmm, i7 Quad Core Hyperthreading.....
How much higher are you willing to push the processor speed? How much are you willing to spend?
06-09-2011, 01:40 PM
Tagging to take a look at in a bit.
06-09-2011, 03:15 PM
If you aren't building, definitely use something like NCIX to build it for you. For the love of god, don't get a Dell D:
If video encoding is really important to you, 8GB RAM may be worth it. You'd be fine with 4GB for just gaming and general use though. I don't know about Hyperthreading though, you're looking at a $100 increase just for that specifically. If you aren't doing it professionally, I'd say get an i5 over an i7.
And it sounds like you'll probably want a 560Ti or 6950. Maybe a 570/6970 if you can fit that in your budget (you can, but I am trying to work on something cheaper than $2000...)
CPU: i5 2500 (http://www.ncix.com/products/?sku=57963&vpn=BX80623I52500&manufacture=Intel). Beastly CPU, same as the i7 2600 but doesn't have hyperthreading. It will chew up anything you throw at it.
Optional Upgrade: i5 2500k (http://www.ncix.com/products/index.php?sku=57962). Same as the 2500 but it's unlocked so you can overclock it. If you have no intention of OCing, don't bother with this.
Optional Heatsink: Hyper 212+. (http://www.ncix.com/products/?sku=41337&vpn=RR-B10-212P-G1&manufacture=COOLERMASTER) Great cooler if you overclock. Even without OCing, it will still keep the processor a lot cooler than the stock junk.
RAM: Some Mushkin 8GB kit. (http://www.ncix.com/products/index.php?sku=55544) That's a pretty cheap kit and is well reviewed. Mushkin is supposed to be a good brand too, although all my builds have been G.Skill. 8GB will help while video encoding. You could optionally downgrade to one of many 4GB kits and be fine though, as long as it's PC-10666 or higher and 1.5V.
GPU: MSI 560Ti Twin Frozr. (http://www.ncix.com/products/index.php?sku=61077) Should be plenty powerful and has a good heatsink on it to keep it cool.
Alternative: XFX 6950. (http://www.ncix.com/products/?sku=58456) A little more powerful than the 560Ti, but it's bigger, hotter, and doesn't have the GPGPU advantages of an NVidia card.
Optional Upgrade: Asus 570 w/ triple slot heatsink. (http://www.ncix.com/products/?sku=59238) More powerful with a great cooler. Huge though.
Motherboard: Gigabyte P67 motherboard. (http://www.ncix.com/products/index.php?sku=60424) Has all the features you would need at a great price. Not a good overclocking board though.
Optional Upgrade: Asrock Extreme4. (http://www.ncix.com/products/?sku=59673) Great features for the price, and should do well when overclocking.
Hard Drive: Deskstar 7K1000.C 500GB (http://www.ncix.com/products/index.php?sku=57878) and Caviar Green 2TB (http://www.ncix.com/products/index.php?sku=49591&promoid=1339). No Samsung HDDs on NCIX is really disappointing, so these are the best backup options. A reasonably fast 500GB drive should be more than enough for your primary HDD, along with the 2TB drive for storing media such as your videos. Caviar Greens aren't particularly fast, and they park their heads quicker than other HDDs so they are okay for storage drives, but not primary drives.
Optional Alternative: Caviar Black 1.5TB. (http://www.ncix.com/products/?sku=56022) A single fast HDD for everything. I wouldn't recommend anything smaller than 1.5TB if you are only going to have one drive and deal with videos. In fact you may want to go larger, but that's up to you since you have a better idea of how much space you need.
Power Supply: Antec Earthwatts Green 650W (http://www.ncix.com/products/index.php?sku=59339). This thing is a STEAL at this price ($40). Even off sale, it's a pretty good PSU. You probably won't order fast enough to get the $40 deal though. Canada PSU prices suck by the way, pretty much everything else worth recommending is $100+.
Case: Any one of the following:
690 II Advanced (http://www.ncix.com/products/?sku=49226) - Cools well, looks nice.
Define R3 (http://www.ncix.com/products/?sku=53537) - Cools alright, quiet, looks classy.
HAF 922 (http://www.ncix.com/products/?sku=38996) - Great cooling, looks gaudy.
Optical Drive: Samsung DVD burner (http://www.ncix.com/products/?sku=39427). Frankly, a DVD drive is a DVD drive. This one is SATA and it's cheap.
Using the primary recommendations you come to $994.84 before rebates. I don't know if Microsoft has deals on Windows 7 in Canada like they do here, but students can get it really cheap. If you know someone with a .edu email you should look into that. Otherwise, throw in Windows Home Premium 64-bit which brings you to $1,114.82
NCIX also has a custom assembly option for $50, so they will build it all for you and ship it to you. You just select it at checkout.
This is all well below your $2000 budget, so if you feel like you want more, there are plenty of places to upgrade. An SSD would be a good start, like one of those new 120GB Intel ones, along with a big HDD for general storage. You could also upgrade the GPU to a 580, which is the best GPU available (excluding the multi-GPU 590 and 6990).
06-09-2011, 04:02 PM
I'm going to throw in a recommendation for building yourself. You'll get a ton more bang for your buck (just wait....) and it is pretty much physically impossible to screw up to the point of damaging components. Everything is clearly labeled nowadays, so it's all plug and go.
I put this together on newegg:
CPU: i7 2600 (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819115071). Hyperthreaded for moar awesumer encoding. Gives you 8 threads total on apps that support hyperthreading. It really is a pretty big difference from the i5 for certain applications, like what you'll be using it for. The 2600 is not OC-able, so if you want that you'd need to get the -k version. Though, I didn't get the feeling that you cared to overclock.
RAM: 8GB G.Skill DDR3 1600 (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820231314). It's a 2x4GB configuration, so that leaves room for a future upgrade to 16GB if you so choose. It's also really solid RAM.
GPU: EVGA Superclocked GTX 560Ti (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814130610). Great brand, solid card. Especially for the price point. Upgrading to a 570 or 580 is a huge price increase, so sticking with the 560 is a good call. And it has plenty of power.
Motherboard: Asrock Z68 motherboard (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813157251). This is huge. Not as in size, but for your video encoding. The core-i series of CPUs is incredibly awesome for video encoding because they have a built-in processor for it. Unfortunately, that section of the chip shuts off when you plug in a video card. The way around this "feature" is a Z68 motherboard. Unlike the P67, you can convince a core-i chip on the Z68 to NOT shut its onboard graphics processing off when a real video card is inserted, thereby taking advantage of the amazing onboard encoding engine. It also has another feature this list will take advantage of, but that's coming up in a bit....
Hard Drive: 1TB Samsung Spinpoint F3 (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822152185). Samsung hard drives--especially the F3 and F4--are really good and really cheap. They make for great data drives, or OS drives, or whatever. And if you decide to RAID it up later, it's easy to get more.
SSD: 60GB Corsair Performance 3 SATA III (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820233153). I know, you didn't include an SSD on the list. But here's the thing. On today's machines--especially with core-i systems, 8+GB of RAM, and a Z68 motherboard--the bottleneck is the hard drive. Using an SSD as a scratch drive for encoding alleviates that particular issue. There's another bonus for using an SSD on a Z68 board, though--you can set the SSD to be used as cache instead of storage. Which essentially means that anything you run frequently will run as if it was on the SSD. So, you have a choice as to how to use it, but either way you'll still get a pretty sizeable performance boost.
Power Supply: 650-watt Corsair (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817139005) 650 watts should be plenty for you, and Corsair makes great power supplies. Though, power supplies are something you can be a bit more flexible on as long as they meet wattage, connector, and voltage requirements. Which for you, pretty much everything over 600 watts will.
Case: Antec Nine Hundred (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811129021). Time-tested, great case, great value. Depending on how much cooling you want, you could even drop down to the Antec Three Hundred and save like $40.
Optical Drive: LG CD/DVD Burner (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16827136238). It's...a CD/DVD burner. Pretty standard.
Operating System: Windows 7 Home Premium Upgrade (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16832116713). Yes, it says upgrade, but it supports a from scratch install--and if you're upgrading from Win XP that's pretty much you're only choice. And like Chaosblade said, if you're in school you probably qualify for educational pricing on Windows, which makes a huge difference. In some cases, a new version of Win7 costs $35-ish.
The whole thing as outlined, including Windows, comes out to 1,311.90. But you're getting an i7 and an SSD. There's plenty of room to upgrade the SSD, in capacity or to a later Sandforce controller, add more hard drives, or even upgrade the CPU and/or video card. Plus, don't discount cannibalizing your current system for parts. Like HDDs.
The other thing about this build is that it's easily expandable and upgradeable, so you won't have to worry about doing a complete rebuild for a really long time.
Bottom line, though, don't be afraid of building a PC. You pretty much can't screw it up anymore. Not an any significant way. Everything fits one way, and it's all clearly marked. Not only that, but you can get a much better PC for less. Labor is expensive, yo. I know it's pretty scary at first, but after you've done your first one you'll sit back and wonder what you were so afraid about. :)
06-09-2011, 04:20 PM
He's (presumably) in Canada so those prices aren't going to be accurate. I found that to be a problem while putting parts together from NCIX, PSUs and GPUs in particular were quite a bit more expensive, and some parts I'd typically recommend either weren't available or cost a lot more.
But yeah, building it yourself will open up a lot more options and you can shop around for better prices. Newegg Canada would be particularly beneficial, and Amazon even has some really competitive prices sometimes.
I'd also vote against the Nine Hundred. Or honestly, any Antec case. They just aren't up to par for the price these days, other companies offer more features and equal build quality for the same price (or less, sometimes). Antecs are very, very well built, quality cases, but I can't recommend them when they lack now-basic features like tray cutouts, tool-less bays, etc. For a "cheap" case I'd recommend the HAF 912 for $60, which is cheaper than the Three Hundred in Canada and offers more features for the price (holds longer video cards, tray cutouts, removable HDD bay for better airflow, etc).
And I forgot about Z68's video encoding feature, it's worth getting one of those if only for that. Not as confident about the SSD caching, I read that feature turned out to be pretty disappointing.
06-09-2011, 04:53 PM
Honestly, I'd say his best bet is to just use the SSD as a scratch drive as opposed to for caching. Mostly I just wanted to mention that caching was available with that board.
Consequently, if you're going to be doing a ton of video encoding, the SSD is probably one of the first things I'd upgrade. I specced out a relatively low-end one there.
07-04-2011, 04:37 PM
Sorry for the no response for almost a month! @_@;
I've been highly distracted with other non-Internet things for the past while. (I make it sound like I have a life. Hahaha.)
I want to thank everyone for their input~! ^__^
As for not getting a Dell, I got one a couple of years back and it's still chuggin' along just fine. (Gave it to my mom. She just watches YouTube videos and K-dramas on that thing. XD) Never had any issues with it and even upgraded the video card to a much better one a couple of months before I decided to get the custom built system that eventually spontaneously combusted on me.
And about video recording and encoding, I do it on and off so it's not some hardcore hobby. Most of it is just gameplay from some console games and occasionally PC games.
I would SO love to do HD recording (currently stuck with S-Video) and lord knows I'll need a fat HDD for that! ^^
Seriously thinking about going the NCIX route since they'll be opening a new store in my city! It won't even be a 10-minute drive away!! :D Just kind of debating on whether or not to go for one of those ones under their PC building section or to pick my own and have them do the work. :|
Oh yeah, anyone know much about ghosting or cloning a drive? I'm thinking that when I get the faster hard drive, I'd want to just move all the stuff from my primary partition (the one with Windows 7 Pro X64) to the new one. I take it that Win7 won't work on the new system w/o a call to Microsoft to authenticate the OS?
Anyway, I'll probably be getting the system some time later in August since I chipped in in getting a new car so my funds are kind of low at the moment. :/
07-05-2011, 12:35 AM
You'll need some separate and probably expensive extra hardware for HD recording from an external source (like a console). Recording something playing on your PC is easier, but you'll want a fast CPU (2500/k would be more than good enough for that) and a second HDD for the recordings. You don't want to do them on your primary HDD to keep transfer rates as high as possible.
But yeah, nothing wrong with having NCIX build it for you or something similar. But building yourself really isn't hard, there isn't much to mess up.
And you will need to call Microsoft to activate your copy of Windows on a new PC. It should all be automated, you just answer a few questions and punch a number in on the phone and bam, Windows on the new PC.
Not really going to bother making any adjustments to the stuff I mentioned above if you're thinking August, component prices and deals change by the day.
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