critique this gaming PC build
May 27, 2019 2:27 AM   Subscribe

My 14yo daughter is saving hard for a gaming PC. She looked around at all the pre-built options she could find, and had trouble finding one that ticked all her boxes - so she's looking at going down the self-build route. Which I think will make a nice project anyway, and increase her sense of ownership & satisfaction with the end product - assuming it all hangs together ok...

Her proposed build, as of now, is here: She doesn't have a VR headset on the parts list right now, because it would bust her budget - but VR-readiness is definitely a big factor in her thinking.

What would you change? Do you see anywhere to cut costs without major sacrifice in performance? Anything missing?

(I think the storage might not be exactly right - but some kind of mix between a smaller SSD and one or more larger HDDs seems reasonable, yes? And maybe more memory?)
posted by rd45 to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
If this list was adapted from an online guide, its out of date which i think is pushing prices up. i would look for a newer guide, looking at the comments on the parts - people are using this for builds a year ago. for the best pricing you'll want current items that are well stocked everywhere. pricing goes up on limited stock older items sometimes.

What store are you buying the parts from? makes it easier to suggest alternates - i'm only familiar with USA stores.

You'll need a dvd drive to install windows. Although if games are only going to be installed via steam / other downloadable - you might be able to borrow one to use the first time.

240GB SSD gets really tight, once the OS is on, you'll only fit a few things and will be playing the micromanagement game. 512GB gets more livable.

looking on newegg - the 240GB 540s is the most expensive, larger capacities are actually cheaper. 545s 512gb is showing for 80$. even 1TB might be doable. I would include other brands in price comparisons, the samsung EVO series (although don't get the latest 4-bit QLC models, stick with 2 or 3 bit MLC/TLC).

a 6 core cpu may not be fully utilized for games - if theres a faster 4 core that might work better, or save money.

the geforce 1070 is in the process of being discontinued for the 2070 series. You'll need to check the pricing - discontinued tech can go up in price vs well stocked newer items.
posted by TheAdamist at 3:35 AM on May 27, 2019

Totally agree this would be a cool project.

For storage I just run with a 500GB SSD, no HDD but for your budget you should be able to get a 1TB SSD. I just find having single drive simpler to deal with. I'm not sure if that would work for your daughter.

CPU is maybe where you can save some money. Do you really need an i7? Looks like the i5 8600K is close in performance.

Like TheAdamist said looks expensive. For that sort of money you should be able to get a RTX 2060 or 2070. AMD are just about to release some new GPUs, with NVidia looking for spoil things for them. So you may find some good deals.

The monitor looks small. Having a little hunt around 24 inch 1080p ones come in around the same price, which would give a nice boost.

Windows now installs from a flash drive, so no need for a DVD drive if you have no other use for one. The Monitor does not have speakers, so you'll need some existing one or add them to the build or maybe a headset.
posted by Z303 at 3:57 AM on May 27, 2019

All good points above. Things I will add -

For VR you will want high frame rates and RAM speed starts to become an issue - there are Coffee Lake benchmarks where some games achieved substantial (10-20fps) frame rate improvements by just switching to higher RAM speeds. The "standard" RAM speed is now 2666mhz and if you're buying 3000mhz RAM it will just default to 2666mhz unless you buy their top end motherboards - the Z370 / Z390 can support up to 4000mhz.

I run a single m.2 SSD in the case (512GB) and then I have a small form factor 1TB external USB HDD that I plug in very occasionally - the m.2 carries everything I need to use on a daily basis and is for temporary storage / downloading, data which gets transferred long term off into my 1TB external USB HDD.

You can definitely save a small amount of money on the PSU - try 500 watts. Your CPU is 65W and the graphics card is say 175W which is 230W and the rest of your system put together won't exceed 300W. Power supplies run less efficiently at the lower end of their range (eg, if you get a 1000W power supply and run 200W through it, the efficiency is worse, it's a bit like a car engine running outside its ideal rev range).

Do not skimp on the monitor. You wouldn't spend this large amount of money on what looks to be top tier hardware only to be let down by how the content is delivered to you. You definitely want an IPS monitor running at 60fps for better color reproduction (the difference between TN or VA versus IPS is astounding, watching two movies or two games side by side on both types of monitors is a totally different experience), or else you want a GSYNC / FREESYNC monitor running at 120fps or 144fps. In particular, the high frame rate monitors have motion blur reduction via pulse width modulation, it's an incredible piece of technology that tricks your eyes into interpolating the content on the screen - it's like watching an actual real object move across the screen, rather than being aware that an image of an object has been refreshed 60 times per second in its journey across the screen. Monitors tend to last two generations of hardware (generally 6+ years) so I consider the cost of a monitor to be well worth it.
posted by xdvesper at 4:45 AM on May 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

I would

*Replace 8700 with Ryzen 5 2600x and b450 or x470 motherboard, saving around UKP 75. Right now the Ryzen 2xxx cpus are on a firesale as they just last night announced the 3xxx for July. Ideally I'd recommend a motherboard with a second m.2 slot, pcie x 2 being better than sata.

*Ditch 2.5 inch SSD and hard drive for 1TB pciex4 m.2 drive, losing that UKP 75 again. When that drive gets full, put in second m.2 drive.

*Replace video card with 2060 for more performance at same price

Alternately if she doesn't need the machine until mid-July, wait for benchmarks on Ryzen 3xxx chips and x570 motherboards.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 5:52 AM on May 27, 2019 [2 favorites]

If you want a second opinion, consider looking at Logical Increments. Note you can select your country to be UK. The i7-8700 CPU she chose sets the level at about "Excellent".

The main change I'd look to is GPU. At that level they recommend the new RTX 2060 video card instead. That 1070 is a last generation card and may be artificially expensive now that everyone's buying the new stuff.

If it were me I'd dump the spinning disk and get a 500 GB SSD instead. I'd pay a bit extra for a more efficient and quieter power supply. And I'd definitely want a bigger monitor. 1080p is fine for gaming, but physically bigger is nice.

There's nothing in her list for cooling. I'm fine with stock cooling myself, so I think that's a fine choice, but most people would buy a third party CPU fan and maybe GPU cooler as well.

All those prices in total seem high to me. FWIW it's £1300 vs £1040 for the Logical Increments system. I haven't dug into why the difference.
posted by Nelson at 6:42 AM on May 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

You'll need a dvd drive to install windows. Although if games are only going to be installed via steam / other downloadable - you might be able to borrow one to use the first time.

That is absolutely not true. Windows can, and should, be installed from a USB thumb drive. The installer is free to download directly from Microsoft. Then you can purchase an activation key online.
posted by Lokheed at 7:22 AM on May 27, 2019 [8 favorites]

That SSD is definitely more expensive than it needs to be. It's old and small. Like others have said, going with a single 500/512GB or 1TB SSD, making sure it's a recent one, will probably work well. This parametric search is for 500GB+ SSDs with M.2 NVMe interfaces (basically the fastest interface you can get right now). I'd get one of those. You'll need a motherboard with at least one NVMe M.2 slot. Add a drive (probably another SSD) later if she finds she needs more space.

16GB of RAM should be fine for now. Consider a motherboard with 4 RAM slots so that if RAM capacity somehow becomes an issue (seems unlikely, but you never know), then she can just buy and add two more sticks of RAM.

So for a motherboard with 4 RAM slots and 2 M.2 slots, try this search. (The "add from filter" option on parametric searches is really handy for making a parts list that updates as prices and availability change, btw.)

I'll second the points above about looking at newer GPUs and AMD CPUs.
posted by whatnotever at 8:28 AM on May 27, 2019

if you are considering other builds, this is my favorite and most updated suggestion page.
posted by bbqturtle at 11:19 AM on May 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

If you want to run a Rift, I would say get the 1080 (or newer equivalent). For gaming the graphics card is going to be a big deal.
posted by jeffamaphone at 10:21 PM on May 27, 2019

I would say that for home use I don’t think there’s that much real world difference between a SATA SSD and an NVMe drive.

As others have pointed out the SSD in that list is old & busted. You can get a 500+Mb Samsung EVO SSD for the same price (or less) today from Amazon.

You can always wait for the newer, better, faster component that’s coming out in a few months, but the imminent arrival of the Ryzen 3000 is going to tank prices for Ryzen 2 CPUs, so even if you don’t want to wait, now is probably a good time to shop around for a decent AMD motherboard + CPU. Intel’s performance advantage over AMD has been heavily eroded by the workarounds that OS manufacturers have had to install for all the security issues in current Intel CPUs, plus that advantage never really showed up in gaming use anyway unless you were buying the bleeding edge which AMD couldn’t match.

Another side comment: it looks to me as if this build seriously cheaps out on the monitor. Personally, I prefer to spend a greater proportion of my computing budget on the thing that’s going to be in front of my eyes day in day out. Moniters tend to out last PCs in my experience & so are worth spending the money on if you have it available.
posted by pharm at 11:48 AM on May 28, 2019

NB. You don’t need a DVD drive to install windows these days - you can download a USB image straight from Microsoft.
posted by pharm at 11:56 AM on May 28, 2019

Based on my son’s homemade gaming PC from several years ago, the right i5 processor should work very nicely. His machine is older but still keeps up pretty well. Be sure not to underestimate the power supply needs, which was his only mistake.
posted by lhauser at 7:06 PM on May 28, 2019

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