Looking to build a new PC for HTPC/emulation/gaming

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Looking to build a new PC for HTPC/emulation/gaming

Postposted on Mon Mar 24, 2014 3:44 pm

Hi all,

I'm looking into building a new PC in the next couple of months. I've built a gaming PC and 2-3 office/basic computers, but haven't done much in the last few years. Regardless, this PC will be for my use, although it will be largely a HTPC/emulation machine/browser/gaming PC. Looking at a budget of around $700-$800 AU$. I've done a bit of a search on HTPC/emulation machines, and have found them to be a fair bit cheaper than I thought they would be - although I'm in AUS, and those prices are likely to be US.

So, it will be hooked up to an oldish 40' Samsung TV (1080p) and will be used via wireless keyboard/mouse from the couch. Apart from watching movies/browsing the web, I also want it as both an emulation machine - looking at stuff from the NES era, up to a maximum of PS2 era. I've done a little bit of research into some of this, and based on what I've read, a lot of the 'beefier' emulators (such as PS2 ones) work a lot better on single cores, with some dual cores being better. I was leaning towards some form of i5, but I'm not sure whether that would be suitable for what I'm after.

Another thing I'd like to use it for would be some gaming. I haven't done a lot of PC gaming recently, but have always preferred it to consoles. However, due to life these days, I much prefer to sit back on the couch and play some PS3 rather than go on my old gaming PC, which is now used by my children to play games/go on the web, hence why I'd love for this build to be able to play some PC games on the big screen. I really want to play some of the old Infinity Engine games, Total War games, Morrowind/Oblivion (heavily modded, normally), Fallout series and many others that I can't think of. I haven't played any recent PC games, but would love to give something like The Witcher 2 (not that that's really super recent these days) a shot. I also used to do a bit of DOSBox gaming too, though I guess power isn't all that important in that case.

One of my major concerns with playing PC games with this setup would be input lag...I would rarely be playing online, but is my PC gaming experience going to be severely reduced by playing on the couch? I'm not concerned about getting extreme graphical quality (I've been playing PS3 for the last couple of years now!!), but having some decent textures and stuff at 1080p would be nice.
I'm pretty sold on a SSD to hold my operating system, along with a couple of TB worth of space for games, movies, TV shows and other bits and pieces, but I'm a little lost in terms of CPU and GPU.

Am I better off with an i5, or should I stick to an i3 and get a better graphics card? I wouldn't be doing any overclocking. In regards to OS, I'm happy to go with Windows 8 if it's a better optimized than W7. Dual-boot isn't a major concern at the moment, although if I find some nice emulation/XBMC front-ends, I might dual-boot. Would like a horizontal case to suit my lounge, but am also happy to get a tower - although something that looks nice would be great.

So, I'm basically looking to build this PC based on a CPU and GPU. Does anyone have any advice as to what the best way to go about this, based on what I'm after?
Thanks for any advice.
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Re: Looking to build a new PC for HTPC/emulation/gaming

Postposted on Mon Mar 24, 2014 4:28 pm

My rig is a i7-2600K @ 3.5GHz (gonna OC to 4-4.5 at some point), an HD7950 3GB clocked at 1GHz, and 8GB DDR3-1600, and I can run pretty much anything at 1080p. The main issue with emulation you're gonna have is how good/efficient the emulators are.

I can easily emulate PS2, Wii, Gamecube, Dreamcast, Saturn, most Arcade boards, as well as play COD: Ghosts, Metro: Last Light, and such wide open, all at 1080p.



EDIT:

Forgot to mention that a Logitech Wireless Keyboard, a Razer Mamba mouse, and a wireless 360 controller make gaming on the big screen fun.
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Re: Looking to build a new PC for HTPC/emulation/gaming

Postposted on Mon Mar 24, 2014 8:22 pm

I don't know too much about playstation emulation or pcsx2. I can only say that the last time I used it was slightly before the 1.0 I think. and they were talking about some major improvement to allow those on quad cores to get a boost from them.

http://pcsx2.net/getting-started.html

this page recommends a "i3/i5/i7" at 2.8ghz, but makes no preference for the i5s, so it could be that it's still mainly dual-core focused or the quad core improvements are either experimental or have since been taken away due to stability or usability concerns or other stuff. also, emulation is more cpu-intensive than native gaming workloads by way of the op translation. and apparently, emulating the ps2 was unusual due to the strange way it was set up with two different processors, making it a bit of a larger process workload relatively speaking. and the gpu will have less to do in general than modern games because when the stuff is translated to dx calls, it still is only getting the gpu to compute lower-res textures, models, and older shaders, possibly running at low resolution compared to modern cards.

going by the system requirements, you should be just fine with the i3. and then you can put more money into your gpu, if that suits you. but, if it is true that your main focus is emulation, then that kind of configuration is more towards sub-optimal in this case. you may wanna peruse their forums and see what people think.
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Re: Looking to build a new PC for HTPC/emulation/gaming

Postposted on Mon Mar 24, 2014 8:39 pm

I saw a screenshot once showing 3 instances of PCSX2 running simultaneously on a Phenom II X3 720, so it should be fine. I myself had no trouble running FFX on my Phenom II X6 1055T.
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Re: Looking to build a new PC for HTPC/emulation/gaming

Postposted on Mon Mar 24, 2014 10:18 pm

fhohj wrote:I don't know too much about playstation emulation or pcsx2. I can only say that the last time I used it was slightly before the 1.0 I think. and they were talking about some major improvement to allow those on quad cores to get a boost from them.



It did. On 1.2.1, it'll recognize all 4 physical cores with my i7 (hyperthreading is AWOL, ATM), and they also improved the JIT recompliers for the VUs. It's still not perfect, but it's getting close. Much closer than NullDC or SSF are, at any rate.
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Re: Looking to build a new PC for HTPC/emulation/gaming

Postposted on Mon Mar 24, 2014 10:22 pm

I think for what you want to do with your HTPC an i3 should be fine. Any idea on what type of case you want? I have the fractal design node 605, it looks awesome and was easy to build in...but things run really hot in there! I actually opted to take out my graphics card because the case was really hot to the touch. Also, are you planning on using the PC to watch and record live tv?

As far as input lag is concerned, I'm about 10 feet from my computer and get noticeable lag when using the trackpad on my little Logitech k400 keyboard. The xbox 360 controller works great though!
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Re: Looking to build a new PC for HTPC/emulation/gaming

Postposted on Mon Mar 24, 2014 11:21 pm

Hz so good wrote:My rig is a i7-2600K @ 3.5GHz (gonna OC to 4-4.5 at some point), an HD7950 3GB clocked at 1GHz, and 8GB DDR3-1600, and I can run pretty much anything at 1080p. The main issue with emulation you're gonna have is how good/efficient the emulators are.

I can easily emulate PS2, Wii, Gamecube, Dreamcast, Saturn, most Arcade boards, as well as play COD: Ghosts, Metro: Last Light, and such wide open, all at 1080p.



EDIT:

Forgot to mention that a Logitech Wireless Keyboard, a Razer Mamba mouse, and a wireless 360 controller make gaming on the big screen fun.


Hmm, I guess I should lower expectations a little. I don't really need modern-ish games to run at 60fps at 1080 as that's not my main concern, although if it does, that's a bonus. I think an i7 is too expensive for what I'm after at the moment..


fhohj wrote:I don't know too much about playstation emulation or pcsx2. I can only say that the last time I used it was slightly before the 1.0 I think. and they were talking about some major improvement to allow those on quad cores to get a boost from them.


this page recommends a "i3/i5/i7" at 2.8ghz, but makes no preference for the i5s, so it could be that it's still mainly dual-core focused or the quad core improvements are either experimental or have since been taken away due to stability or usability concerns or other stuff. also, emulation is more cpu-intensive than native gaming workloads by way of the op translation. and apparently, emulating the ps2 was unusual due to the strange way it was set up with two different processors, making it a bit of a larger process workload relatively speaking. and the gpu will have less to do in general than modern games because when the stuff is translated to dx calls, it still is only getting the gpu to compute lower-res textures, models, and older shaders, possibly running at low resolution compared to modern cards.

going by the system requirements, you should be just fine with the i3. and then you can put more money into your gpu, if that suits you. but, if it is true that your main focus is emulation, then that kind of configuration is more towards sub-optimal in this case. you may wanna peruse their forums and see what people think.


Think I'll stick with the i3 at the moment - it seems that some games run at decent enough speed at 1080 with an i3, based on what I've read on some of the forum posts.

Skullzer wrote:I think for what you want to do with your HTPC an i3 should be fine. Any idea on what type of case you want? I have the fractal design node 605, it looks awesome and was easy to build in...but things run really hot in there! I actually opted to take out my graphics card because the case was really hot to the touch. Also, are you planning on using the PC to watch and record live tv?

As far as input lag is concerned, I'm about 10 feet from my computer and get noticeable lag when using the trackpad on my little Logitech k400 keyboard. The xbox 360 controller works great though!


I'm looking at a Fractal Design Define R4 in the Titanium or Black at the moment...Meant to be a larger case, but I'm not too fussed about the size - a little more concerned about noise, and how it looks..At this point, I wasn't looking to record TV, but it might be nice to watch tv at some point. Not a focus though. Thought the input lag might be an issue...hoping that with a controller it won't be too bad on older games and stuff..

At the moment, I've got the build as follows...It is a little expensive for what I was hoping to spend, but I have no idea where I should be trying to save money...

CPU
i3 4130 - $178
Motherboard
ASUS H87M-E - $114
RAM
8GB Kingston HyperX - $99
GFX Card
GTX 660 Gigabyte WF2 - $199
SSD
Fujitsu 64GB SATAIII SSD - $69
HDD
Seagate SATAIII 2TB - $96
Case
Fractal Design Define R4 Titanium - $150
PSU
Corsair CS550M 550Watt 80Plus Gold ATX - $125
Optical Drive
LG Blu-Ray Combo SATA - $65
Heatsink
Coolermaster Hyper-212 EVO - $37
Thermal Paste
Arctic Silver Ceramique - $10
Mouse
Gigabyte GM-M7700B Bluetooth Laser Mouse - $22
Keyboard
Logitech K400r - $45

Total $1209

At the moment, I think I could probably save on the power supply...I haven't put much research into what I actually need, but I just selected one of the more expensive ones - don't want to skimp on the PS, but assuming I could save a little bit of cash there...Also, the case...One of the pricier components, but overall, I need something that looks decent in the lounge - unless someone could recommend something a little cheaper? I suppose I could drop the SSD, though it would have been really nice to load the OS onto that and boot from there...
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Re: Looking to build a new PC for HTPC/emulation/gaming

Postposted on Tue Mar 25, 2014 1:04 am

astuart88 wrote:Also, the case...One of the pricier components, but overall, I need something that looks decent in the lounge - unless someone could recommend something a little cheaper?


Checkout the Silverstone Grandia series. Some of those are around $100 and are meant to blend in with AV components.
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Re: Looking to build a new PC for HTPC/emulation/gaming

Postposted on Tue Mar 25, 2014 2:36 am

You don't need a big tower cooler for an i3, the stock cooler should work fine. You also probably don't need to get thermal paste; the Intel coolers have a single dose pre-applied, and most other coolers come with a tube of it. The different pastes really aren't that different in performance anyway, especially at the lower end of the power/heat spectrum.

You probably won't be drawing more than 200 watts under load, so as long as the GPU you want only has one 6-pin power connector the Corsair CX430M should be a good enough power supply for this system. Up until recently I was running a very similar system (i5 3350p, 650Ti Boost, 1 SSD, 2HDDs) with one of those. You may not get any benefit from the modular version (the molex cable is the only one you might not need, depending on how your case fans get their power), so you might be able to save a few more dollars getting the CX430 non-M.

The main downside to the CX430(M) is that it only has 4 SATA connectors, and one of them is going to be very close to the optical drive. It will be fine for the parts you've listed, but you might not be able to add a second HDD without mounting it in an optical drive bay.
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Re: Looking to build a new PC for HTPC/emulation/gaming

Postposted on Tue Mar 25, 2014 3:50 am

kumori wrote:
astuart88 wrote:Also, the case...One of the pricier components, but overall, I need something that looks decent in the lounge - unless someone could recommend something a little cheaper?


Checkout the Silverstone Grandia series. Some of those are around $100 and are meant to blend in with AV components.


Great, thank you. Had a look at a few of these, and have decided on the Silverstone LC-100. Little bit cheaper, and looks pretty nice.

Melvar wrote:You don't need a big tower cooler for an i3, the stock cooler should work fine. You also probably don't need to get thermal paste; the Intel coolers have a single dose pre-applied, and most other coolers come with a tube of it. The different pastes really aren't that different in performance anyway, especially at the lower end of the power/heat spectrum.

You probably won't be drawing more than 200 watts under load, so as long as the GPU you want only has one 6-pin power connector the Corsair CX430M should be a good enough power supply for this system. Up until recently I was running a very similar system (i5 3350p, 650Ti Boost, 1 SSD, 2HDDs) with one of those. You may not get any benefit from the modular version (the molex cable is the only one you might not need, depending on how your case fans get their power), so you might be able to save a few more dollars getting the CX430 non-M.

The main downside to the CX430(M) is that it only has 4 SATA connectors, and one of them is going to be very close to the optical drive. It will be fine for the parts you've listed, but you might not be able to add a second HDD without mounting it in an optical drive bay.


Thanks!! I've removed the cooler and thermal paste which saves a bit. I've also downgraded the PSU to what you recommended. It doesn't specify whether it's modular or not, but doesn't really matter...In regards to installing another HDD, that may happen at some stage, but not 100% sure at the moment...Need to figure out roughly how much media I have, and then either upgrade the 2TB to a 3 or 4TB, or chuck in another 2TB drive...

At the moment, I've adjusted the build to as follows...

CPU
i3 4130 - $135
Mobo
ASUS H87M-E - $114
RAM
8GB G.Skill Ares - $99
GFX
GTX 650 1G Gigabyte - $139
SSD
Samsung 840 EVO 120G SATA3 - $105
HDD
WD Green EZRX SATA3 2TB - $95
Case
Silverstone LC10-E - $118
PSU
Corsair CX430M - $69
Optical Drive
LG Blu-Ray DVD Combo - $65
Mouse/Keyboard
Logitech MK330 mouse keyboard combo - $47

Total - $986.

Could probably save a little more by using different suppliers, but will see how much that actually saves me once shipping is taken into account. Pretty happy that I've thrown a better SSD in there. Hopefully the CPU and Graphics card will be sufficient. 30FPS would be sufficient for me on most newer games. Be nice to hit 1080 in terms of resolution...Also hoping that PS2 emulators will run relatively well on this - again, not at massive FPS..

Any other ideas?
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Re: Looking to build a new PC for HTPC/emulation/gaming

Postposted on Tue Mar 25, 2014 4:19 am

You need a better video card than that. The 650 non-Ti is a very weak card. If you want to game at 1920x1080 you really get your money's worth stepping up to a 660, but an AMD r7 260 or 260X (or a 7790 if you can still find one) is a decent choice if you want to spend less. Try and get a 2GB card if your budget allows.

At the very least if you do get a really low end card, make sure it has GDDR5 and not DDR3, even though it's usually 1GB of GDDR5 vs 2GB of DDR3. The DDR3 cards are much slower.
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Re: Looking to build a new PC for HTPC/emulation/gaming

Postposted on Tue Mar 25, 2014 4:29 am

Melvar wrote:You need a better video card than that. The 650 non-Ti is a very weak card. If you want to game at 1920x1080 you really get your money's worth stepping up to a 660, but an AMD r7 260 or 260X (or a 7790 if you can still find one) is a decent choice if you want to spend less. Try and get a 2GB card if your budget allows.

At the very least if you do get a really low end card, make sure it has GDDR5 and not DDR3, even though it's usually 1GB of GDDR5 vs 2GB of DDR3. The DDR3 cards are much slower.


OK, fair point. I'll bump it up to a 2G 660. Puts me over my budget a bit, but I don't want to sacrifice the 1080 resolution on the TV...

Is the CPU and Mobo decent enough, or could either of them do with a slight bump upwards?
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Re: Looking to build a new PC for HTPC/emulation/gaming

Postposted on Tue Mar 25, 2014 5:03 am

The next real step up for a CPU is an i5, and you won't see nearly as much of an improvement there as with the 660 vs 650. The fastest i3 is only about 10% faster, so if you can find it for only 10% more money (unlikely), go for it.

My take on budget motherboards is that they either do what you want, or they don't. If that one has all the ports & doodads you want, then fine. If a cheaper one does what you want, get the cheaper one. I'd avoid the very bottom end, but for the most part the choice of mobo will only make a difference if one doesn't have a feature you need. They're all more or less equally fast.


Edit: By the way, you can game at 1080p just fine on a cheaper video card than the 660 (just turn the anti-aliasing down), it's just that the 650 in particular isn't worth what it costs. Like I said, the R7 260 or 260X are decent choices and shouldn't cost much more than the 650.
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Re: Looking to build a new PC for HTPC/emulation/gaming

Postposted on Tue Mar 25, 2014 5:11 am

astuart88 wrote: RAM
8GB G.Skill Ares - $99
US$72¼ 2x4 GiB PC3-14900 G.Skill F3-14900CL9D-8GBXL (DDR3-1866, CAS 9, 1.5 V)
or US$82 2x4 GiB PC3-12800 Crucial BLS2K4G3D1609ES2LX0 (DDR3-1600, CAS 9, 1.35 V)

astuart88 wrote: Case
Silverstone Lascala LC10-E ATX HTPC case - $118
US$100 Silverstone Grandia GD05 micro-ATX HTPC case
i7-4770K, H70, Gryphon Z87, 16 GiB, R9-290, SSD, 2 HD, Blu-ray, SB ZX, TJ08-E, SS-660XP², 3007WFP+2001FP, RK-9000BR, MX518
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Re: Looking to build a new PC for HTPC/emulation/gaming

Postposted on Tue Mar 25, 2014 5:16 am

We're working in Aussie moneys here.
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Re: Looking to build a new PC for HTPC/emulation/gaming

Postposted on Tue Mar 25, 2014 7:34 am

For your stated purposes and uses, I think your build is solid.

The i3 has decent gaming chops - I use it in my HTPC with a HD 7850 and do fine on Guild Wars 2 and Titanfall at 1080.

As for the graphics card, definitely up it to at least a 750 Ti. 1gb of VRAM is probably fine if you stay at 1080p and keep the anti-aliasing turned down. The 750 Ti will handle anything out now very well. Shoot, it runs Battlefield 4 on high at 1080p at a solid 60fps, though that review was done with an i7 processor and with a 2gb card.

2TB of storage is a ton of space for just about any user. I have a 3TB drive since I record a lot of gameplay footage, but even then it doesn't take up much space after I run it all through Handbrake. For me, the 3TB was more about getting the high density platters for higher sequential write speeds (around 180-190mb on the outer edge 1gb partition I made).

As for input lag, I play my PC from a recliner all the time using either a wired or wireless Xbox 360 controller. I never have an issue even playing games like Titanfall (I really only use KB and mouse for MMOs). If I can still shoot pilots that are ping ponging off walls with my controller, you can handle any single player game just fine.

One final caveat - I built my gaming rig on a bit of a budget as well and made good choices for what I wanted to do at that time. A year later, I wish I would have spent a bit more and gotten a 660ti or 7950. If you really get into PC gaming, you will want to hit a solid 60fps all the time, and then you will want to turn up the eye candy. My 7850 is a major trooper. The only game it has trouble with at higher detail settings is Guild Wars 2, and that's really only in the big 80-100 man world versus world battles. It works well, but I'd be a bit happier with a card with more pixel power to turn the graphics up a bit more - GW2 is a solid looking game even with the graphics turned down, but it looks really amazing with the shaders set to high among other settings. So yeah, look at your build, look at your wallet, and just be sure you are okay settling for something that may feel a bit underpowered in a year. If you are okay with that, go for the 750ti. If not, spring for a 760. its easier to spend an extra $100 now rather than an extra $250 a year later.

Good luck with the build! Please post pics!

EDIT - and one other thing - you *always* want to game at native resolutions if at all possible. Put your game resolution to 1080p and then adjust other settings down to make the game run smoothly. Don't lower the resolution unless you cannot get the game to run well at all.
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HTPC: i3 3225/H77/8gb g.skill 1.25v/1+2TB HDD/Asus BR/MSI 7850 2gb/Silverstone GD05B/Antec 380w/InfiniTV 4/Win7
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Re: Looking to build a new PC for HTPC/emulation/gaming

Postposted on Tue Mar 25, 2014 2:05 pm

southrncomfortjm wrote:As for the graphics card, definitely up it to at least a 750 Ti. 1gb of VRAM is probably fine if you stay at 1080p and keep the anti-aliasing turned down. The 750 Ti will handle anything out now very well. Shoot, it runs Battlefield 4 on high at 1080p at a solid 60fps, though that review was done with an i7 processor and with a 2gb card.


The 750 Ti isn't a great deal for the money unless you absolutely need the lower power draw. That R7 265 beats the 750 Ti in all of those benchmarks and should be the same price (if you can find one).
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Re: Looking to build a new PC for HTPC/emulation/gaming

Postposted on Tue Mar 25, 2014 2:40 pm

Fair enough. I've just gotten used to dismissing AMD's entries since they have been grossly overpriced the last several months. Not really an issue anymore, and probably never was for a lower end card like this. Definitely go for whichever card is cheaper since the performance difference is minimal between the two.

Though, overall, I still recommend stretching the budget to include the next level of card based on my experience.
Gaming: i5-3570k/Z77 Extreme4/212 Evo/Corsair 500R/16GB Ballstix Tact 1600 CL8/Asus 7850 2GB/840 250gb, EVO 500gb, SG 3tb/Tachyon 550w/Win7

HTPC: i3 3225/H77/8gb g.skill 1.25v/1+2TB HDD/Asus BR/MSI 7850 2gb/Silverstone GD05B/Antec 380w/InfiniTV 4/Win7
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Re: Looking to build a new PC for HTPC/emulation/gaming

Postposted on Wed Mar 26, 2014 4:24 am

southrncomfortjm wrote:For your stated purposes and uses, I think your build is solid.

The i3 has decent gaming chops - I use it in my HTPC with a HD 7850 and do fine on Guild Wars 2 and Titanfall at 1080.

As for the graphics card, definitely up it to at least a 750 Ti. 1gb of VRAM is probably fine if you stay at 1080p and keep the anti-aliasing turned down. The 750 Ti will handle anything out now very well. Shoot, it runs Battlefield 4 on high at 1080p at a solid 60fps, though that review was done with an i7 processor and with a 2gb card.

2TB of storage is a ton of space for just about any user. I have a 3TB drive since I record a lot of gameplay footage, but even then it doesn't take up much space after I run it all through Handbrake. For me, the 3TB was more about getting the high density platters for higher sequential write speeds (around 180-190mb on the outer edge 1gb partition I made).

As for input lag, I play my PC from a recliner all the time using either a wired or wireless Xbox 360 controller. I never have an issue even playing games like Titanfall (I really only use KB and mouse for MMOs). If I can still shoot pilots that are ping ponging off walls with my controller, you can handle any single player game just fine.

One final caveat - I built my gaming rig on a bit of a budget as well and made good choices for what I wanted to do at that time. A year later, I wish I would have spent a bit more and gotten a 660ti or 7950. If you really get into PC gaming, you will want to hit a solid 60fps all the time, and then you will want to turn up the eye candy. My 7850 is a major trooper. The only game it has trouble with at higher detail settings is Guild Wars 2, and that's really only in the big 80-100 man world versus world battles. It works well, but I'd be a bit happier with a card with more pixel power to turn the graphics up a bit more - GW2 is a solid looking game even with the graphics turned down, but it looks really amazing with the shaders set to high among other settings. So yeah, look at your build, look at your wallet, and just be sure you are okay settling for something that may feel a bit underpowered in a year. If you are okay with that, go for the 750ti. If not, spring for a 760. its easier to spend an extra $100 now rather than an extra $250 a year later.

Good luck with the build! Please post pics!

EDIT - and one other thing - you *always* want to game at native resolutions if at all possible. Put your game resolution to 1080p and then adjust other settings down to make the game run smoothly. Don't lower the resolution unless you cannot get the game to run well at all.


Thanks, this is what I wanted to hear - makes me feel a bit more confident with the i3. I'll be playing at 1080 basically exclusively...Quite happy to lower the eye candy a little to keep that resolution. Seeing as I'm used to console gaming, the 30FPS and lack of eye candy/bad textures isn't that large of an issue...Though, like you say, if I got into PC gaming again, I'd be looking at 60FPS a little more seriously...

I'm pretty happy with the build, but am really looking at upgrading the GPU as recommended...It would just basically mean an extra week or two of putting money away essentially...

The 660 I have priced is at $199 AU...If I spend another $100 I could bump that up to a 2G 760...or, another $166 (on top of $199) and it could be a 4G 760...Would be over what I wanted to spend, but hey, what's an extra $100 or so.....(Yes, I realize I'm treading a dangerous path here...).

I Can actually get the 750 ti for the same price as the 660...Have NO experience with Radeon, so can't really make a comment...Though, the R7 265 isn't on MSY (Where I normally get my hardware from)...
astuart88
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Re: Looking to build a new PC for HTPC/emulation/gaming

Postposted on Wed Mar 26, 2014 6:10 am

In terms of upgrading the GPU, I'm with southrncomfortjm on this one; you will be happier in the long term with a 760 (or a 660 Ti, they perform about the same). Don't forget about the power connectors. You need a PSU that has enough cables to supply the GPU. That CX430 should be enough for most 660's, but you'll probably need to step the PSU up for anything bigger.

I wouldn't go for a 4GB card for 1080p. You'd be better off putting that cash towards a faster GPU or CPU.
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Re: Looking to build a new PC for HTPC/emulation/gaming

Postposted on Wed Mar 26, 2014 2:12 pm

Melvar wrote:In terms of upgrading the GPU, I'm with southrncomfortjm on this one; you will be happier in the long term with a 760 (or a 660 Ti, they perform about the same). Don't forget about the power connectors. You need a PSU that has enough cables to supply the GPU. That CX430 should be enough for most 660's, but you'll probably need to step the PSU up for anything bigger.

I wouldn't go for a 4GB card for 1080p. You'd be better off putting that cash towards a faster GPU or CPU.


Yeah, with a 760, get a 500-550 watter just to be safe - leaves a bit of room for overclocking too. I use a Rosewill Tachyon 550 and that works fine for me, though I got it on sale and it was no more expensive than a comparable Seasonic, but it had a higher 80plus rating. I'm not a huge fan of Rosewill, but the Tachyon is actually just a rebranded Sunflower PSU, so its good quality. Something like this Seasonic or this Corsair are perfect if you can find them locally.

And agree on the second point too - 2gb is all you need at 1080p. More VRAM, if you system isn't already maxing out VRAM usage, won't improve frame rates or anything. If you really feel like you can spend $350 on the graphics card, you may want to consider a GTX 770 for a bit of future proofing. That said, you should do very well at 1080p with a 760 and it remains my recommendation. And yes, the path of PC building is normally fraught with "its only X dollars more..." for the next better piece. Avoid that kind of thinking... except for the graphics card :)

Also noticed that Justanengineer recommended a Silverstone GD05 case - I can second that case since its the one i used in my HTPC. It was solid with my non-modular power supply, and I can only imagine it is even better with a modular one since you won't have to deal with the clutter I had to. its a solid case and looks like a piece of home theater equipment rather than a PC. I paid $100US for it and never regretted the choice.
Gaming: i5-3570k/Z77 Extreme4/212 Evo/Corsair 500R/16GB Ballstix Tact 1600 CL8/Asus 7850 2GB/840 250gb, EVO 500gb, SG 3tb/Tachyon 550w/Win7

HTPC: i3 3225/H77/8gb g.skill 1.25v/1+2TB HDD/Asus BR/MSI 7850 2gb/Silverstone GD05B/Antec 380w/InfiniTV 4/Win7
southrncomfortjm
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Re: Looking to build a new PC for HTPC/emulation/gaming

Postposted on Wed Mar 26, 2014 5:56 pm

southrncomfortjm wrote:Yeah, with a 760, get a 500-550 watter just to be safe - leaves a bit of room for overclocking too.


A quality 450 watt PSU should be fine if it has the right cables. An i3 system with a 760 should draw well under 300 watts under load. The issue is that the 760 will have either two 6-pin PCIe connectors or one 6-pin + one 8-pin, so the power supply needs to have those as well. The CX430 I recommended earlier only has one 6-pin connector.
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Re: Looking to build a new PC for HTPC/emulation/gaming

Postposted on Thu Mar 27, 2014 3:06 am

southrncomfortjm wrote:
Melvar wrote:In terms of upgrading the GPU, I'm with southrncomfortjm on this one; you will be happier in the long term with a 760 (or a 660 Ti, they perform about the same). Don't forget about the power connectors. You need a PSU that has enough cables to supply the GPU. That CX430 should be enough for most 660's, but you'll probably need to step the PSU up for anything bigger.

I wouldn't go for a 4GB card for 1080p. You'd be better off putting that cash towards a faster GPU or CPU.


Yeah, with a 760, get a 500-550 watter just to be safe - leaves a bit of room for overclocking too. I use a Rosewill Tachyon 550 and that works fine for me, though I got it on sale and it was no more expensive than a comparable Seasonic, but it had a higher 80plus rating. I'm not a huge fan of Rosewill, but the Tachyon is actually just a rebranded Sunflower PSU, so its good quality. Something like this Seasonic or this Corsair are perfect if you can find them locally.

And agree on the second point too - 2gb is all you need at 1080p. More VRAM, if you system isn't already maxing out VRAM usage, won't improve frame rates or anything. If you really feel like you can spend $350 on the graphics card, you may want to consider a GTX 770 for a bit of future proofing. That said, you should do very well at 1080p with a 760 and it remains my recommendation. And yes, the path of PC building is normally fraught with "its only X dollars more..." for the next better piece. Avoid that kind of thinking... except for the graphics card :)

Also noticed that Justanengineer recommended a Silverstone GD05 case - I can second that case since its the one i used in my HTPC. It was solid with my non-modular power supply, and I can only imagine it is even better with a modular one since you won't have to deal with the clutter I had to. its a solid case and looks like a piece of home theater equipment rather than a PC. I paid $100US for it and never regretted the choice.


Had a look at that case - looks pretty similar to what I had, although I think I prefer the look of the one I originally selected, although the GD-05 is about $10-$15 cheaper, so slight advantage...One thing that I just realized about the case I originally selected has a depth limit (for GPU) of 8.75" (unless one of the HDD cages are removed)...Would the GTX 760 be longer than this distance? With a 2TB HDD, I'm not sure whether I would need another HDD, but it is a possibility...The case, I'm also assuming, is a bit larger, as it has an ATX form factor. With a 760 and i3 in the case, would a larger case be sufficient for cooling? The GD-05 does appear to have some bigger fans, so that could be a factor too...

Also, regarding the 760, is there a major difference between the manufacturer brands? I realize they tend to have different cooling/OC/etc, but not sure which one would be ideal...I have the option of the following...

Gigabyte OC - 309
MSI OC-TF - 324
Asus OC - 319
MSI-HAWK - 359

They're all pretty similar, except for the MSI - would it really be worth an extra $40-50? I don't mind spending a little extra, but only if it's justified.

Melvar wrote:
southrncomfortjm wrote:Yeah, with a 760, get a 500-550 watter just to be safe - leaves a bit of room for overclocking too.


A quality 450 watt PSU should be fine if it has the right cables. An i3 system with a 760 should draw well under 300 watts under load. The issue is that the 760 will have either two 6-pin PCIe connectors or one 6-pin + one 8-pin, so the power supply needs to have those as well. The CX430 I recommended earlier only has one 6-pin connector.


Ok, so the PSU needs a bit of an upgrade too, seeing as I'm sold on the 760...Do you have a recommendation on a suitable power supply that has the additional 6-pin (or 8) connector? Would prefer for a modular system.
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Re: Looking to build a new PC for HTPC/emulation/gaming

Postposted on Thu Mar 27, 2014 3:30 am

Assuming something like this would be alright?
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6817139059

It's modular, and has the two 6-pin connectors. Will set me back $125 instead of $69 but...I really like modular cables..

If the W isn't enough (assuming it is), then I could also bump up to this for an extra $14..
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6817139060

Meh, I've gone well over my budget now...Also really like the Silverstone GD07 case...again, will set me back another $50 :/

Decisions decisions...
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Re: Looking to build a new PC for HTPC/emulation/gaming

Postposted on Thu Mar 27, 2014 5:19 am

In another thread, I wrote: Here's a price search engine for Australians:
http://www.staticice.com.au/
Here are a couple of popular cheap e-tailers:
http://www.msy.com.au/Parts/PARTS.pdf
http://www.auspcmarket.com.au/

ATX cases are significantly larger than the micro-ATX A$134 Silverstone Grandia GD05. GD07 is 435mm deep, while GD05 is only 325mm deep. Both are 440mm wide. GD05 is the same size as a home theater receiver. Grandia GD05 supports graphics cards up to 11" long. That will allow GeForce GTX760 and some GeForce GTX770 cards.

If your budget were larger, I would question your choice of the Core i3 processor over a Core i5 if gaming is the primary focus for your new PC. Games like Dragon Age: Origins were able to fully-utilize quad-core processors several years ago and newer games are more likely to be multi-threaded. Since the extra A$74 for a Core i5 doesn't fit into your budget, a 3.4 GHz Core i3-4130 will be adequate for most games.


astuart88 wrote: The 660 I have priced is at $199 AU...If I spend another $100 I could bump that up to a 2G 760...or, another $166 (on top of $199) and it could be a 4G 760...Would be over what I wanted to spend, but hey, what's an extra $100 or so.....(Yes, I realize I'm treading a dangerous path here...). I can actually get the 750 ti for the same price as the 660...Have NO experience with Radeon, so can't really make a comment...Though, the R7 265 isn't on MSY (Where I normally get my hardware from)...

Dropping down from GeForce GTX760 to Radeon R9-270 could save you A$100 while still providing good gaming performance at 1080p. These cards are A$209 and up at MSY.
In another thread, I wrote: Radeon R9-270X is a faster version of R9-270 which is an updated version of Radeon HD7870. These cards use the full Curacao/Pitcairn XT GPU which is noticeably more powerful than the Pitcairn Pro GPU that has 1/5th (20%) of its shaders disabled in the Radeon R7-265 / HD7850.
At as little as US$182, Radeon R9-270 provides a good gaming experience at 1080p. Radeon R9-270 has much better gaming performance than the similarly-priced GeForce GTX750Ti.


If you intend to use your HTPC as a DVR, You'll want a 3.0 TB or larger hard-drive for storing recorded TV.
i7-4770K, H70, Gryphon Z87, 16 GiB, R9-290, SSD, 2 HD, Blu-ray, SB ZX, TJ08-E, SS-660XP², 3007WFP+2001FP, RK-9000BR, MX518
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Re: Looking to build a new PC for HTPC/emulation/gaming

Postposted on Thu Mar 27, 2014 8:43 am

If there's one thing we do well here, its bust budgets if you let us :).

For DVR use, 3tb is nice, but a 2tb drive has worked well for me so far. I don't record everything in HD, and tend to cap the number of recordings per show at 10, so I get along fine. More than 3tb v. 2tb, I would recommend being sure you get a quieter drive. I have Seagates in mine, which are cheaper, but also tend to be louder than some Western Digitals. For me, given the choice between a louder 3tb drive and a noticeably quieter 2tb at the same price, I'd go for the 2tb if I couldn't afford a quieter 3tb. Even with a 2tb drive, you will still have space to store other stuff like videos and pictures. Note that you can start with a single 2tb drive now and just add another later when they are even cheaper. No need to buy all your long term storage now.

As for GPU manufacturer, the ones you listed are very similar. If you are going for an Nvidia card, I think most people agree that EVGA is the best overall (I've heard their ACX cooler is very good and quiet). Other than that, you probably won't find too much difference between an Asus, Gigabyte or MSI. All the cards should overclock easily, so I wouldn't worry too much about paying more to get an already overclocked one. Just download Asus GPU Tweak or MSI afterburner and increase your speeds. A small overclock on a GPU is unlikely to get you a major increase in performance. If you get a really good card for overclocking, then you may get some real performance gains (my 7850s both overclock to within spitting distance of 7870s, but that's not common amongst most cards).

I've lost track of your budget (I think you may have too haha) but I'd do an accounting of everything and see where you stand. Long term, you will be better served by:
(1) a Core i5 ("K" model if you want to overclock).
(2) a 2gb GTX 760 or R270 (this and CPU selection really depends on how intensely you plan on gaming in the next few years - JAE's 270 recommendation is a very solid one. I've been overlooking AMD cards lately because they have been overpriced, but it seems like the 270 is a very solid value and will give you more room in your busted budget to get an i5 processor).
(3) a 250gb+ SSD (anything smaller and you will feel cramped when you want real speed)
(4) a quiet 2tb+ HDD
(5) a 500 watt modular PSU
(6) a comfortable case,
(7) 8gb of ram (16gb is nice but not necessary yet)
(8) aftermarket air cooler if you want to overclock a bit(Hyper 212 Evo is fine, but you can add later if you are okay with stock clocks to start),
(9) a discrete sound card if you plan to use analog inputs (I don't think anyone has mentioned this yet. If you are using an optical cable, the onboard stuff should work just fine).
(10) a "Z" model motherboard to allow for overclocking if you get an overclockable "K" type processor.

and I'm sure all that adds up to way more than AU$800. Um... sorry :)

There are a lot of opinions here, most just slight variations on the same theme, so it can get a bit overwhelming if you keep listening to us go back and forth. Step back, take stock, and make some decisions. I know I got overwhelmed the first time since every time I made a decision, someone else popped in and gave me another idea. In the end, it all worked out and I built 2 computers I am very happy with.

Also, just to mess with things some more, note that the integrated graphics on an Ivy Bridge or Haswell i5 will be plenty to run emulators and even some older games, like Morrowind, though I wouldn't want to try Witcher 2 at 1080p with it (but who knows, my Ivy Bridge i5 will run Battlefield 3 at 30ish frames and low quality settings). Unless you need to jump right into Witcher 2 and PS2 emulators right away, you can buy everything else now and see how you feel about a graphics card later. Basically, you can catch up on older games trying the integrated graphics and decide on a GPU later, maybe after some new cards some out and the cards you are considering drop in price a bit. Just thought I'd add that to make things interesting.
Gaming: i5-3570k/Z77 Extreme4/212 Evo/Corsair 500R/16GB Ballstix Tact 1600 CL8/Asus 7850 2GB/840 250gb, EVO 500gb, SG 3tb/Tachyon 550w/Win7

HTPC: i3 3225/H77/8gb g.skill 1.25v/1+2TB HDD/Asus BR/MSI 7850 2gb/Silverstone GD05B/Antec 380w/InfiniTV 4/Win7
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Re: Looking to build a new PC for HTPC/emulation/gaming

Postposted on Thu Mar 27, 2014 6:00 pm

southrncomfortjm wrote:If there's one thing we do well here, its bust budgets if you let us :).
*SNIP*
Also, just to mess with things some more, note that the integrated graphics on an Ivy Bridge or Haswell i5 will be plenty to run emulators and even some older games, like Morrowind, though I wouldn't want to try Witcher 2 at 1080p with it (but who knows, my Ivy Bridge i5 will run Battlefield 3 at 30ish frames and low quality settings). Unless you need to jump right into Witcher 2 and PS2 emulators right away, you can buy everything else now and see how you feel about a graphics card later. Basically, you can catch up on older games trying the integrated graphics and decide on a GPU later, maybe after some new cards some out and the cards you are considering drop in price a bit. Just thought I'd add that to make things interesting.




I can't believe I didn't think about it earlier, but a Gigabyte Brix could work. I was trying to come up with something in the $600-$800 range, and what I spec'd out would've made a perfect HTPC/emu/mid-level gaming rig. I'll be damned if I can remember what the combo I came up with NewEgg was...
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Re: Looking to build a new PC for HTPC/emulation/gaming

Postposted on Sun Mar 30, 2014 10:18 pm

Thanks all!

Think I've definitely busted out the budget! :P. Will have to have a bit of a think of what I want to do over the next month or so. As it stands, I won't be able to afford to purchase until mid-year at least - so any new hardware coming out soon? :).

Realistically though, the option of going with a better Haswell chip and leaving the GFX card until a later date is one I will consider...I'm not sure that I'll get a lot of time to do some serious gaming, so to weigh up the cost of a decent card to the amount of time I Get to use it, is something I need to think about...But, I know that even if I DON'T get a lot of time to play games, I'll want to spend some of the time I do have, playing some of the games that do require some graphical power - Modded Elder Scroll games, Mass Effect 3, The Witcher 2, newer Total War's...I'm pretty sure that the graphics card is something I need (especially for 1080).

Another thing I need to think about is the fact that I couldn't really see myself upgrading any time in the next 5 years or so...So, it would be nice if I could have something that would last well for at least a couple of years (Haha, yeah right). Overall, I'd love to build a good PC, and would get use out of it - would also mean that I probably wouldn't need to buy a PS4 anymore, which is something I would look at getting in a year or so.

Anyway, I've gone a bit wild with the build and have put together what my ideal build would be. I've thrown the budget out the window, to a certain extent. For now, I think I'm going to have to sit on it and see where I stand once I have about $1000 put away...I could either keep going, or cut right back...

I've also adjusted for the possibility of overclocking, and have allowed for a wireless PCI card to access the network here...I don't know if I'd be able to run ethernet cable into our lounge. Also picked up a couple of extra case fans, because I'd assume it would get a bit warm in the case? Sound card was a good point actually - I'd be looking at connecting to a receiver, but I'm not sure how I'd be connecting it yet, but I've included a sound card just in case (could be removed once I have a better idea). I've thrown in the heatsink, just in case I did want to overclock...Of course, if I decided not to, I could save $100 by downgrading the motherboard, CPU, and cooler...Also upgraded the SSD to a bigger size, and also upgraded the HDD to the largest size (with a WD Green, which should hopefully be relatively quiet with a lower RPM). Graphics card is decent, and the i5 is an upgrade over the i3 I originally had. Also threw in another antistatic band, because I have no idea where my old one went...

I've busted my budget by well over $900, but the original budget was a bit conservative based on what I'd read on other peoples HTPC builds...I do want this to be a long-term build, so spending the extra money isn't the end of the world...Especially now that I have a better idea of what I actually need to spend for what I want it to do.

So, build is as below...

CPU
i5 4670K $270.00
Motherboard
ASUS Z87M-Plus $128.00
RAM
8GB G.Skill Ares $99.00
GFX Card
GTX 760 2G Gigabyte $319.00
SSD
Samsung 840 EVO 250G SATA3 $179.00
HDD
WD Green EZRX SATA3 4TB $189.00
Case
Silverstone GD07 $149.00
PSU
Corsair CS550M $125.00
Optical Drive
LG Blu-Ray Combo SATA $65.00
Heatsink
Coolermaster Universal Hyper 212 EVO $37.00
Thermal Paste
Arctic Silver 5 3.5gram $9.00
Mouse/KB
Logitech MK330 Mouse + KB $47.00
Sound Card
Asus PCI-E Xonar DX $84.00
Fans
2 x Coolermaster 120mm Xtraflo Fan $18.00
HDMI Cable
LG High Speed HDMI-HDMI 1.8m $10.00
Wireless Card
WDN4800 $47.00
OS
Windows 8.1 $112.00
Anti-Static
Parlist Anti-Static Wrist with Earth Discharge Strap $4.00

$1,891.00
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Re: Looking to build a new PC for HTPC/emulation/gaming

Postposted on Mon Mar 31, 2014 4:39 am

If you're connecting to your TV using HDMI, you probably don't need a sound card.
i7-4770K, H70, Gryphon Z87, 16 GiB, R9-290, SSD, 2 HD, Blu-ray, SB ZX, TJ08-E, SS-660XP², 3007WFP+2001FP, RK-9000BR, MX518
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Re: Looking to build a new PC for HTPC/emulation/gaming

Postposted on Mon Mar 31, 2014 1:49 pm

You don't need thermal paste either, you'll get some with the 212EVO and the difference in temperature between that and the Arctic Silver is going to be so negligible that it's not worth doing.

You're better off spending another $9 on the heatsink instead, but I wouldn't bother because the EVO is already plenty good enough for cool and quiet operation, even with a mild overclock.
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