Trying to upgrade before wow releases it's next expansion.
July 30, 2010 12:30 PM   Subscribe

Help me build a middle range gaming system! I'm not looking for it to do awesome things, just to play World of Warcraft (and possibly the star wars mmo coming out in the future) and do some standard video editing and graphic designing. I have a list of components I'm considering. I've also been told there are websites to help you decide, but my google skills fail me. While I've taken a class on dissembling and resembling computers, this will be my first time constructing my own for use. Budget: $500

This is what I'm currently considering:

Case: COOLER MASTER Centurion ATX Mid Tower Computer Case

Power Supply: COOLER MASTER eXtreme Power Plus 500W V2.3 Power Supply

Motherboard: ASUS M4A785T-M/CSM AM3 AMD 785G HDMI Micro ATX AMD Motherboard

Processor: AMD Athlon II X2 255 Regor 3.1GHz 2 x 1MB L2 Cache Socket AM3 65W Dual-Core Desktop Processor

RAM/Memory: Crucial 2GB 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10600) Desktop Memory Model CT25664BA1339 (x2 - so 4gb total)

Graphics Card: XFX PVT95GZAFG GeForce 9500 GT 1GB 128-bit GDDR2 PCI Express 2.0 x16 Video Card

Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD3200KSRTL 320GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Hard Drive

Optical Drive: ASUS Black SATA 24X DVD Burner

Other Details:

64bit System
Windows 7 Home Primium
Not interested in blu-ray
Interested in SSD, but doubtful it fits in my budget

What do you think? Do you see anything that's a bad idea? Have any alternative ideas for any of the components? What else do I need? Do I need a heat-sink and a fan or does it come with the processor?
posted by royalsong to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Post at Tom's Hardware; that's a better group for this kind of thing.

I'm using a SSD-- it's awesome, but only marginally more awesome than the new HDD in my friend's computer, and could eat up most of your budget.

If you plan to overclock, you'll want more than the stock heatsink.
posted by sninctown at 12:36 PM on July 30, 2010

Ars Technica forums system guide thread might help.
posted by haveanicesummer at 12:41 PM on July 30, 2010

You can get a bigger hard drive by selecting this one which is actually cheaper since free shipping (500 gig WD cavier instead of 320). It's a "bare drive" but if you're building yourself, you will not have any reason to need the retail packaging.
posted by haveanicesummer at 12:46 PM on July 30, 2010

Or for 20 bucks more you can get the Caviar Black 640 gb (I have two of them and have been very happy.) Those come with a 5 year warranty instead of the 3 years for the "blue" line.
posted by haveanicesummer at 12:50 PM on July 30, 2010

A retail box CPU includes a heatsink while an "OEM" CPU does not.

You don't really need a 500W CPU.

You're getting a micro-ATX motherboard and putting it in a fullsize midtower case. Personally, I prefer the smaller cases, so I got a uATX MB and put it in an Antec NSK2480. The PSU that came with it has absolutely been sufficient for my needs. I mean it's not like you can't put a uATX board in a fullsize case, but you're giving up 3-4 expansion card slots and not gaining a smaller/quieter footprint by doing so. I'd either get a board sized to match the case or a case sized to match the board.

Pretty much any system you put together these days will destroy WoW with its settings maxed, although depending on the resolution of the video you're editing, that may put a greater strain on it. I think the stuff you've listed is fine, though.

I'd link you to an ArsT system guide but they haven't put one together since 2009. :(

Have fun!
posted by kavasa at 12:56 PM on July 30, 2010

I've found the Hardware Leaderboard from PC Perspective to be very useful at recommended compoments/configurations. They post a budget/mid-range/high-range/ultimate system w/ components and prices and update each month.
posted by reptile at 1:18 PM on July 30, 2010

Any particular reason you're going with an nvidia GPU rather than ATI? Your selected motherboard supports Hybrid Crossfire, meaning you can use the onboard together with a compatible ATI GPU. I believe the ATI Radeon HD 5000 series plays nice with HD audio over HDMI.

I just built an HTPC with slightly better specs for about your target budget (then again, I didn't include the Win7 purchase price - don't know if you're including that in your $500). My best suggestion is to watch SlickDeals and similar sites for temporary sales and bargains. I managed to get a great modular 500W PSU for the same price as the one you've chosen, and a couple of good combo discounts, too. Newegg is great, but also make sure also to check out ChiefValue (which I believe is owned or operated by Newegg) - it's not as friendly to navigate, but it can have some great deals. As others have said, you don't need a retail HDD, but if you don't get a retail CPU, you'll need to get a heatsink/fan. If you're not planning on overclocking, the stock heatsink is probably fine - your case seems like it will allow for decent airflow. Also, I would join the others in recommending a larger hard drive. It's not much more money to double your capacity.

Finally, I too put a uATX board in an ATX mid-tower. I bought the smaller board with the goal of eventually putting it in a smaller case that wasn't yet available, but the larger case was cheaper than any decent uATX box I could find, and I like having the extra drive bays.
posted by dilettanti at 2:30 PM on July 30, 2010

I'd either get a board sized to match the case or a case sized to match the board.

Then again, an oversized case could make life easier on a new computer builder. I love my NSK-2480, but it's cramped and somewhat of a pain to work with (the first heatsink I got for it wouldn't fit because it was something like 2mm too wide; getting to some components requires removing others.) I wouldn't have wanted it to be my first build.

But much depends on the specific case. There's a world of difference between the cramped NSK-2480 and the ginormous Antec Mini P180 (which would eat up too much of the OP's budget) though they're both micro-ATX cases.
posted by Zed at 2:36 PM on July 30, 2010

I think you've made some good decisions so far. The most important considerations on a gaming system should be upgradability down the line. I think an AMD AM3 processor and motherboard would best serve those needs in the short term future (1-2 years), vs trying to decide between an Intel LGA 1156 or 1366 platform or future Sandy Bridge system. I don't think World of Warcraft is built for bleeding edge systems so you can work on building the best value for your dollar primarily.

I second the slickdeals suggestion. If you're in proximity to a Fry's these are the best cpu/motherboard combos to clook for:

To save money on Windows 7 all you need is an .edu email address:

Follow these instructions to install that upgrade cd without having to install a previous version of Windows on your computer:

Also don't forget to check your local craigslist for cheap dvd drives, cases, parts etc.. Best of luck to you.
posted by uffepeder at 2:56 PM on July 30, 2010

You're sort of building the Tech Report's econobox. The 500 GB Samsung Spinpoint F3 is the same price as the 320 GB WD, and it's faster, too. The 9500 GT is really, really marginal for gaming. I'd try to go for an ATI 5670 or maybe a 4670.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 4:32 PM on July 30, 2010 is my personal favorite computer hardware site. Lots of specific product reviews, construction by budget guides and comparison tests using current games as well as benchmark programs. They also do a great job presenting the material using easy to read graphs and they break up their articles such that you can find the info you want very quickly (or spend several hours learning things you never thought you'd care about). My personal strategy is to start with their latest complete construction guide (usually broken into budget/mid-level/high-end) and then go to specific articles regarding the parts i care more about ( i.e. processor, gpu).
posted by Sharakov at 10:25 PM on July 30, 2010

I'm actually going for as small HDD as I can. I already have a 700GB drive for data and I'm no where close to using it all up. (also trying to keep just my OS and programs to one drive - so the less space I have to clutter it up, the better!)

Windows 7 was not part of my budget, as that is a gift I was given.

Thanks for the video card advice.. and thoughts on case size vs motherboard size.

And I love all the links! If I could mark you all as best answer, I would!
posted by royalsong at 7:44 AM on July 31, 2010

If you want that smaller drive, at least get the cheaper bare drive version. Savings of about $13 including shipping.
posted by haveanicesummer at 9:14 AM on August 2, 2010

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