upgrading my wife's PC - FINALLY!

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upgrading my wife's PC - FINALLY!

Postposted on Fri Jun 15, 2012 12:46 pm

Hey guys and gals, I am a TR devotee and regular reader. That being said, when I do browse the forums, it's usually just to lurk. This might be a long post so buckle your seatbelts. I just got married in April of this year and am loving every minute of it. My wife is not what I would consider a geek, but she's got enough of the tendencies that I think I can at least sway her, to some degree :) She's had her HP minitower PC (Athlon X2 based) for a few years now. To give you an idea of its age, it originally came installed with Vista and was slow as molasses in January. Fortunately, it already had 4GB of DDR2 so it helped a great deal when I did a clean install of Win7. It has a basic nVidia card in it that is good for low-end games (can't remember right now but it's several years old and at least supports DX9, maybe 10). We've been playing League of Legends for several months now and she just loves it, and can't wait to play (never thought my wife would be a gamer!) But it's frustrating to the both of us when we either have to wait for her machine to boot or to load the game. Plus, I notice more than she does, but the graphics could use an upgrade, too. Also in other everyday tasks, she is much more likely to use her laptop because this computer takes so long to boot up - even with regular maintenance such as clearing temp files and defragging. So, I've been amassing some parts over the past several weeks in the hopes of building her a new machine to sort of bring her up at least a semi-modern build, and definitely something she should be more happy with. I thought I'd bounce it off the SBA forum for any insight you all might have. I'll go through the parts one by one and list any comments or ideas I might have.

Important note: this was a pretty budget-conscious build, for two reasons: #1, because I am not really sure how much to invest in a build that she might not use for much more than casual gaming (League of Legends-esque system requirements, which aren't much) and #2, because she has some significant credit debt that we are both working hard to pay off so that we might live a more comfortable lifestyle in the next few years.

CPU:
Core i3 2120 (3.3GHz) - ordered this off eBay for $99. Ordinarily I would order a CPU new but I saved at least $25 on this build by getting the CPU used. My main machine has a Q9650 that I also got used from eBay, and it's never had a problem. So, I'm not too worried about those sorts of issues.

Memory:
8GB G.SKILL DDR3 1333 - basic, no-frills memory, JEDEC standard, 1.5v, I could go on and on but you get the point. Memory is so cheap now that I felt dumb putting only 4GB in there. She's also hinted that she wants to learn how to edit photos later on her machine (I am a photographer on the side), and I figured it wouldn't hurt to go with more RAM. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820231422

Motherboard:
ECS H61H2-M2 - This is where I had a little hesitation in my choice, and what really jump-started this whole upgrade scramble. The other day on a deal-watcher site I saw that Newegg was going to be selling an LGA1155 mobo for $15AR. I said to myself, shoot, for $15 AR, even if it craps out early, it's not much to lose by trying it out, and it'd be a whole lot better than what she has now. It's an ECS H61H2-M2. Again, no frills, only SATA 3Gbit/s, H61 chipset, basic, basic, basic. But, it should do the trick. It's got a PCI-E x16 slot for whatever GPU we want to put in there, and should accept the 8GB of RAM I have to feed it with no complaints. Looks like I could cram it with up to 16GB if I wanted to. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813135288

Case:
NZXT Source 220 - I was willing to wait for the right budget-minded case to come along, since she wasn't going to be doing work in it anyway, it would be unlikely that it would be opened very often. She also isn't likely to have a fat, blazing hot video card in there either so airflow won't be the biggest issue to face with this build. But, since I was willing to wait, I could see where the sales took me. I noticed this case pop up on maybe a deal of the day shell shocker or just a sale, can't remember, but it was $35 AR with free shipping. Not bad for a modern case with good airflow and USB3. It also has toolless drive installation and great cable routing capabilities, not to mention a CPU cutout! http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811146083

PSU:
Antec True Power Trio TP3-550 550W - This one was an easier decision for me. This is actually the PSU out of my current system. I elected to get a beefier, modular SeaSonic 620w unit for myself, (since I have a Radeon 6950, and may upgrade later to something more demanding, etc etc) and put the Antec in her new build. No sweat. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817371002

Storage:
Kingston SSDNow V+100 SVP100S2/96G - Another recycled part, but way better than what she has now. I bought this about a year ago on Amazon during another super slick sale, for less than $120 (which was a GREAT price at the time!), but it's been sitting around for some time now because I already have Intel SSDs in my desktop and laptop. I actually tried putting this in her old Athlon system shortly after I determined I didn't have much use for it, but the performance gain was so incremental due to the rest of her system being the bottleneck, that I determined I'd save the write cycles for a future system build if I didn't end up selling it outright. So here we are. This will be her boot drive. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820139408
(I will also throw an old SATA drive in there for mass storage, probably in the range of 320GB or so. Depends on what I have laying around)

GPU:
Now here's where it gets a little tricky. Since the i3 has a built-in GPU (HD 2000), I wanted to try and see how powerful it was for basic gaming needs. I have been reading reviews all over the internet on this, and while they say that the HD 3000 is a little better, I didn't want to spring the extra $50 on a top of the line i3 when I knew that I would end up putting a more powerful discrete card in this system eventually. So anyway, I am hoping this integrated GPU can run League of Legends on low to medium settings with at least 30fps. If not, I will put her existing geforce card in this system to get by until I can afford to dump around $100 on a decent low-end GPU for her. Very curious about these possibilities, but of course I'm prepared to be disappointed, since after all it is integrated graphics, and intel integrated has never been that good. So if it's crappy, we'll just put her old card in and I'll consult the trusty System Guide™ at a later date.

Monitor:
We'll be recycling her monitor as well. Nothing new in this area.

So to recap, I've spent probably slightly less than $300 (Win7 Pro license included!) after rebates - not bad, not bad at all IMO. So, what do you guys think? The parts have already been ordered and I'm just waiting on the CPU now before I can start - (it was signature-required from USPS so it's sitting in the post office - grr!) so I can't really change much now, but I was just hoping to get your guys' general impressions on the build, likes, dislikes, mentions of anything I have missed here. I'm not planning on installing an optical drive in this system - these days you hardly need such a thing and if she ever really does, she can share one of mine over the network or I can get her a $30 USB powered external DVDRW. I'm not interested in buying one now because it just sits there and sucks power while mostly doing nothing.

Thoughts? Praise? Criticism? Feel free to chime in.

<edited for punctuation>
Last edited by apertur3 on Fri Jun 15, 2012 1:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: upgrading my wife's PC - FINALLY!

Postposted on Fri Jun 15, 2012 12:58 pm

My critique would be that you should have layed an upg path for the CPU and invested more (from the budget not over the budget) into a discrete video card (nothing fancy, like a 100-140 bucks card) since u get this system for gaming. I don't particularly agree with the choice of case and PSU but they aren't the most terrible either.

But now it's too late as you said. Overall you should be doing better on boot time and multi tasking. But if the old rig had a semi decent DX 9.0c card, ur new IGP might not fare so well despite the upgrades.
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Re: upgrading my wife's PC - FINALLY!

Postposted on Fri Jun 15, 2012 1:07 pm

Arclight wrote:My critique would be that you should have layed an upg path for the CPU and invested more (from the budget not over the budget) into a discrete video card (nothing fancy, like a 100-140 bucks card) since u get this system for gaming. I don't particularly agree with the choice of case and PSU but they aren't the most terrible either. But now it's too late as you said. Overall you should be doing better on boot time and multi tasking. But if the old rig had a semi decent DX 9.0c card, ur new IGP might not fare so well despite the upgrades.

Nah. He said it's for very basic gaming. The system should be fine, and if the GPU becomes and issue he said he'd put the old one in while saving for a new one. Besides, with this build, there's no where that money can be saved - it's ALL min spec and hand me downs.

At any rate, it's really hard to appropriately critique a $300 build. Fact is, at $300, there's probably not a single component in the system that's more than $5 or $10 away from a better model, but add $5-10 to each component and you've spent another $50-100.
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Re: upgrading my wife's PC - FINALLY!

Postposted on Fri Jun 15, 2012 1:12 pm

Thanks for the feedback! I'm not quite sure what you mean by:
Arclight wrote:layed an upg path for the CPU
Since this motherboard supports both SB and IB, I can always upgrade the CPU later but again it was just a build to "bring her into the modern era" and even into the general reach of something that might be classified as (or could be upgraded into) a gaming machine without having to resort to a G630 or other Pentium Dual-Core.

Arclight wrote:I don't particularly agree with the choice of case

Curious what you would have picked! This is an area where I always vacillate between options, nothing is quite perfect. But here I was going for cheap/decent. A hard bill to fit.

Arclight wrote:and PSU

Since it's recycled from my current PC, I figured "free" was the best option. I think it's still under warranty, too...

Thanks again for your opinion!
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Re: upgrading my wife's PC - FINALLY!

Postposted on Fri Jun 15, 2012 1:17 pm

flip-mode wrote:
Arclight wrote:My critique would be that you should have layed an upg path for the CPU and invested more (from the budget not over the budget) into a discrete video card (nothing fancy, like a 100-140 bucks card) since u get this system for gaming. I don't particularly agree with the choice of case and PSU but they aren't the most terrible either. But now it's too late as you said. Overall you should be doing better on boot time and multi tasking. But if the old rig had a semi decent DX 9.0c card, ur new IGP might not fare so well despite the upgrades.

Nah. He said it's for very basic gaming. The system should be fine, and if the GPU becomes and issue he said he'd put the old one in while saving for a new one. Besides, with this build, there's no where that money can be saved - it's ALL min spec and hand me downs.

At any rate, it's really hard to appropriately critique a $300 build. Fact is, at $300, there's probably not a single component in the system that's more than $5 or $10 away from a better model, but add $5-10 to each component and you've spent another $50-100.


This. I could have saved another $50 on the CPU, but from what I see in the sub-$100 range, another $50 goes a long way, and didn't break the bank - not to mention it should stretch out my upgrade timeline a little bit. Really, the only things I wish I had at this point would be USB3 connectivity on the mobo and some more DIMM slots, but, hey: for $15, I ain't complainin' :D
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Re: upgrading my wife's PC - FINALLY!

Postposted on Fri Jun 15, 2012 1:27 pm

I agree with both Arclight and flip-mode that the build looks fine for the budget. I would say be prepared to be dissapointed with Intel HD2000 graphics for gaming, but it's smart to hold off on a discrete GPU until you see how the IGP holds up. The only thing like you said that will save you is that these are older games. If HD2000 doesn't work out, you would be well served by a 7750 for the type of games you're talking about. You might also check out newegg's open box section from time to time where I recently saw a 6850 pop up for ~$90. Keep in mind that open box items can take advantage of mail-in-rebates if it's the same model number as the "new" one.
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Re: upgrading my wife's PC - FINALLY!

Postposted on Fri Jun 15, 2012 1:49 pm

apertur3 wrote:Thanks for the feedback! I'm not quite sure what you mean by:
Arclight wrote:layed an upg path for the CPU
Since this motherboard supports both SB and IB, I can always upgrade the CPU later but again it was just a build to "bring her into the modern era" and even into the general reach of something that might be classified as (or could be upgraded into) a gaming machine without having to resort to a G630 or other Pentium Dual-Core.

Arclight wrote:I don't particularly agree with the choice of case

Curious what you would have picked! This is an area where I always vacillate between options, nothing is quite perfect. But here I was going for cheap/decent. A hard bill to fit.

Arclight wrote:and PSU

Since it's recycled from my current PC, I figured "free" was the best option. I think it's still under warranty, too...

Thanks again for your opinion!


ECS H61H2-M2(1.0) has official support for Ivy Bridge CPUs? I'm too lazy to look but i'd like a link for that tid bit of info.

@PSU
It's old and never trusted Antec. Sure for the price of Free is ok but i'm saying i don't trust it.

@case
It's valued at 59,9 bucks on newegg......i saw 40 buck cases on newegg with same features minus the 140mm on top (though the ones i saw still had space to mount it). But after reading ur post i see u got it with a speacil deal for 35 bucks shipped. That's nice, never mind my comment on this item.
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Re: upgrading my wife's PC - FINALLY!

Postposted on Fri Jun 15, 2012 2:01 pm

Arclight wrote:ECS H61H2-M2(1.0) has official support for Ivy Bridge CPUs? I'm too lazy to look but i'd like a link for that tid bit of info.

You can find it on this list here: http://www.ecs.com.tw/extra/22nmcpu/index.html

Arclight wrote:@PSU
It's old and never trusted Antec. Sure for the price of Free is ok but i'm saying i don't trust it.

Ah, you have a relationship with Antec like I have with OCZ. I will confess that Antec has gone a bit downhill in recent years.
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Re: upgrading my wife's PC - FINALLY!

Postposted on Fri Jun 15, 2012 4:06 pm

apertur3 wrote: GPU: I am hoping this integrated Intel HD graphics 2000 can run League of Legends on low to medium settings with at least 30fps. If not, I will put her existing geforce card in this system to get by until I can afford to dump around $100 on a decent low-end GPU for her.
DPete27 wrote: I would say be prepared to be dissapointed with Intel HD2000 graphics for gaming. You would be well served by a Radeon HD7750 for the type of games you're talking about.

Radeon HD7770 has been down in the $100AR range a few times. That's close enough to Radeon HD7750 pricing for me to recommend the faster version of these two cards with AMD's Cape Verde GPU.
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Re: upgrading my wife's PC - FINALLY!

Postposted on Fri Jun 15, 2012 4:16 pm

JustAnEngineer wrote:
apertur3 wrote: GPU: I am hoping this integrated Intel HD graphics 2000 can run League of Legends on low to medium settings with at least 30fps. If not, I will put her existing geforce card in this system to get by until I can afford to dump around $100 on a decent low-end GPU for her.
DPete27 wrote: I would say be prepared to be dissapointed with Intel HD2000 graphics for gaming. You would be well served by a Radeon HD7750 for the type of games you're talking about.

Radeon HD7770 has been down in the $100AR range a few times. That's close enough to Radeon HD7750 pricing for me to recommend the faster version of these two cards with AMD's Cape Verde GPU.


I agree with you; I was just perusing Newegg's stock of 77xx cards about an hour ago and thought that the 7770 series as a general rule would be a good starting point, what with the 28nm tech, general bang for buck and the dual slot (hopefully quieter) design. Do you have any personal recommendations that stand out of the seeming sea of cards Newegg seems to have of this model?
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Re: upgrading my wife's PC - FINALLY!

Postposted on Fri Jun 15, 2012 6:37 pm

I got a Gigabyte GV-R777D5-1GD only because Newegg offered a $130 +fs -15 combo deal with another component that I was purchasing for my living room PC. You can currently get the XFX FX-777A-ZNF4 for $130 +fs -15MIR.
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Re: upgrading my wife's PC - FINALLY!

Postposted on Fri Jun 15, 2012 7:14 pm

The performance of the HD2000 will depend heavily on the resolution you plan to play at (probably the monitor's native, which I didn't see a mention of). My sort-of-educated guess is that it's 1680x1050 at most, meaning it'll probably run League of Legends somewhat decently at lower settings, based on a quick search. I don't think your target fps is unreasonable, and if she plays at lower resolution even mid-range settings should be ok.
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Re: upgrading my wife's PC - FINALLY!

Postposted on Tue Jun 19, 2012 8:52 am

Well, I finally had a chance to slap this thing together and it FLIES! I guess it wouldn't take much to notice a marked increase in performance from her old machine, but, wow. It boots up in probably less than 15 seconds and runs LoL like a champ. She's loading maps faster than my computer is now. :o With graphics on "high", it stayed mostly in the 40-50fps range, but I opted to drop them to "medium" and now get a solid 60 that she's perfectly happy with. In the future I will probably pick up a discrete GPU, but I'm going to wait until her tastes in games require a GPU with a little more oomph... Not much sense in dropping a big discrete thing in there if it doesn't get taken advantage of. I am very pleased with this build and am glad to get rid of that dinosaur it replaced.
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