New Gaming PC

So, I am looking to play Star Wars: The Old Republic when it comes out and my current PC will just not cut it. I would like to finally be able to run a game at the highest or near-highest graphics levels without lag or other problems.

So, what recommendations do people have? I know Alienware use to be the premiere gaming machine maker, but I do not know how good they are since they were taken over by Dell. What other manufacturers should I consider? Also, I do not need fancy boxes or styling. I am looking for performance per dollar. I do not need bells and whistles like Solid State Drives (I will take longer loading times so long as it improves the price and does not affect actual gameplay). A hybrid drive would not be terrible though.

So, if anyone can recommend brands, processors, etc, I would appreciate it. I was hoping to pay in the $1500 neighborhood and would also appreciate an idea of how realistic that is. Thanks.

If I were you I’d build one myself. It seems as though every pre-built desktop has a hidden drawback. Fast processor but mediocre video card, for example. 1.5k is more than enough for a solid PC. Take the following build, for example:

Seasonic PSU, $150 and enough juice for a dual GPU system if you choose to go that route

NZXT case: $115. You can go a lot cheaper or more expensive on cases. I have this one but in black, and I love it.

i5 2500K. $225. Seems to be a consensus gamer’s choice processor. I have the older generation of i7 and it’s enough for my gamin needs; this one provides even better performance.

Asus motherboard. $210. You could potentially go cheaper, but I wouldn’t. The mobo is the core of the sytem.

GTX 570 2.5 GB. $400. Expensive graphics card = high framerate, and with 2.5 GB of vRAM you can crank up the AA and add texture packs to your games. I had texture overload problems on Oblivion with a 1GB Radeon 4870; that was fixed when i switched to a 2GB Radeon 6950. The radeon is a hell of a card and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it (performance is almost up to par with the 570), but it struggles in some nVidia-optimized games such as Metro2033 and Crysis 2. Not sure which is recommended for SWTOR. If that’s your highest priority, find that out and buy the card from the manufacturer whose logo is on the box art of the game.

Corsair RAM. $50. Good manufacturer, fast memory, and with 8GB you won’t have any problems. I’m getting by with 6GB just fine.

Sony DVD drive. $20. This is just an example; you can get whatever cheap drive is available.

Seagate HDD. $150. If you don’t need an SSD, you probably don’t need a hybrid drive either. HDD speed doesn’t really effect your gaming experience. The only difference I noticed when switching to my SSD was the elimination of area loading lag in Oblivion. My recommendation would actually be to buy a used hard drive for cheap, or a smaller capacity drive, or use the drive you’re on now. Plan to use this drive for a year. The reason is that the flooding in Thailand greatly increased the price of hard drives; for example, the drive I am linking to could have probably been purchased for about $75 a few months ago. If you’re willing to wait a year, the supply will be reinstated and the drive prices should deflate to normal levels. Otherwise, here’s the Seagate.

That leaves you about $200 to buy your monitor of choice. I rounded up on all prices to try to account for shipping. If you want a more expensive monitor, I have no qualms about recommending the 6950 for a $150 savings.

I like knowing exactly what’s in my computer should I ever need to upgrade. I got tired of trying to upgrade a pre-made computer, only to realize that some component is inadequate (for example a measly 300W PSU on my hp that would not support a dedicated graphics card). Buying pre-built is easier, but building it yourself is more rewarding!

This comes up a lot - seriously, we should have a sticky for gaming rig resources.

Danja’s suggestions will definitely get you a great performing PC - but if you don’t want to build yourself, go to CyberPower, or iBuyPower, Puget Systems, or any number of other boutique PC builders, and spec out exactly what you want, often down to the component manufacturerer. Sure, you’ll pay a premium for assembly, but if you aren’t a tinkerer it’s a good way to go.

If you want to research which specific parts would offer the best price/performance ratio, AnandTech and Tom’s Hardware both have extensive benchmarks available on CPUs and graphics cards. Tom’s also regularly builds and benchmarks systems within certain price ranges, which can be an awesome resource.

Thank you guys. I had considered building my own last time I bought, as I am very hands-on (though not very knowledgeable on computer hardware). When I was asking around to all my build-it-yourself friends, they said that even they had gone the Dell or whatever-company-you-care-to-name route as you could get a better machine for cheaper. They only recommended building it yourself if you wanted a project. Has this changed or were they wrong then?

[edit: I was just reading an article on a $500 budget gaming PC. Seems the parts alone would run you several hundred dollars more. Is that uncommon?]

As to being able to get good machines with a drawback, don’t most companies allow you to pick and choose among components, or are you talking only about and off-the-shelf take what they have machine?

I have been to sites like Cyberpower since posting the OP and I am paralyzed by the options. After finding the base model to start with (which is still just a guess) I have no idea which components are worth the extra cost and which are not. The sites you linked to, Crown Prince of Irony, are good, but I guess the problem is I don’t even know how much is what I need and how much is too much.

This is going to take a very long time to familiarize myself enough with everything to make an informed decision. I am going to go through those sites Irony listed in greater detail, but is there anywhere else you would recommend?

I wouldn’t say it’s a project - once I’ve picked out the parts for a system, I can get it put together and install Windows in about 3 hours. Your first build will take longer obviously - but it’s super-fun, and very rewarding to know that you assembled your own computer from scratch (well, not from scratch - most folks don’t have a fab plant in their backyard).

There are many builder’s guides out there that will walk you through the process too - just make sure you have a free computer/phone/tablet to read along as you assemble.

Not sure what you mean - did the article list parts that cost more than $500? I can tell you that any article written more than a couple months ago won’t take into account the huge jump in hard drive prices resulting form the Thailand flooding that Danja mentioned. Back in the summer, most builder’s guides were suggesting larger hard drives just because they were so cheap - less than $100 for a 2TB, which now runs for $225 on average.

The so-called boutique builders, such as I linked (and dozens more) usually give you a high degree of control over the off-the-shelf parts they will put in your PC, while Dell, HP, etc. will usually not give you many upgrade choices, and what options they do have are “white-box” parts, with no choice between manufacturers. This may be seem a good thing as too many choices can sometimes be confusing, but ultimately, these types of upgrades can cost more than their off-the-shelf equivalent, or can have fewer features - generally speaking, they are of lower quality than off-the-shelf parts.

Here is the only site I could find that has done any significant benchmarking of the SWTOR beta, a German site that has done good stuff in the past (link is to a Google translation).

I’d imagine that SWTOR will be more CPU dependent than most games, and it does appear to offer increased performance on four cores. Also, it looks like the GTX 570 and the Radeon 6970 are neck and neck, until 8x anti-aliasing is turned on, at which point, the 6970 shows much lower minimum framerate than the 570 (but oddly, slightly higher avg framerate). Given these benchmarks, I’d say that Danja’s build will be spot on for SWOTR - while this site tested the game with a Core i7 860, all the CPU comparisons I’ve seen indicate that a Core i5 2500/k will hold its own.

If you want the absolute most optimal sytem for the game, my suggestion would be to wait until it has released in a few weeks, after which everyone and their uncle will be benchmarking the hell out of it.

I don’t know much about bits and pieces of a PC . But the general rule of thumb I follow is I never buy a pre-assemble rig. I go to a good PC shop in my town , tell them I want a gaming rig, tell them how much I want to spend and that their’s no rush for the parts, get the best within my budget.

The Force has moved this thread to the Game Room, from IMHO.

You don’t need to spend $1500 to play TOR. You do want an SSD. They’re the biggest performance boost in years. At $1500 (or even $1200), there is plenty of room in your budget to get quality components and an SSD.

I built a budget gaming machine back in March: here’s the thread. Got some great advice, and the feeling of pride when I finally got it working (which is to say, when I wiped off the giant gob of conductor gel that was shorting out the chip) was pretty strong.

Anyway, the advice I got here was great.

Here’s the Ars Tech budget box from last March -

It costs around $500 (assuming you don’t buy the monitor, speakers, mouse & keyboard). It includes links to each of the parts for shopping purposes. I built my current machine around an Ars Tech guide a few years ago and I’m still very happy with it.

If you want to splurge a little, you can move up to their Hot Rod bos -

Wow, thanks everyone. I guess I might really consider building my own then. A little clarification:

I will not be building or buying the best-of-the-best, but I would like something at the higher end of the performance spectrum without breaking the budget.

SWTOR is what I will be playing first, but I do not need to tailor specifically to that. I just knew that the first thing people would ask me is how good of a machine I wanted, so “Good enough to play SWTOR on the highest resolution/graphics setting without lag” is my benchmark. If I can get a huge price reduction for a little compromise on that I will take it.

I had not found earlier threads, but I had not thought to search The Game Room, so I will search here as well.

I have replaced most parts in computers and laptops, but never built one fully. Does anyone have a good link to a step by step guide? Also, information on how to ensure my parts will all play nice together would be good.

Lastly, what are the relative merits of buying a monitor or using a TV as my monitor as I need to buy a new TV at this time or sometime relatively soon. Thanks again for all the help.

LHoD, how does the machine work for you? How good are you able to set graphics and what kind of frame rates do you get on what games?

I priced out the ArsTechnica Hot Rod machine both as individual components and as a system from CyberPower and it looks like you save a bit under 10% by building it yourself. That may not be enough to justify doing it, but I am undecided. In any case, it is coming in a bit over my price range, so I am looking to easy back a bit from that.

A little research shows that the best idea for TV/monitor is to just get a nice monitor and use it as a TV since we have a cable box as a receiver and can use the computer as a DVD player.

I currently have this as a configuration. That is combining a lot of the ArsTechnica information with Cyberpower and some other information. I will add all the details at the end of the post. What do you think? Is anything more than you think is really needed and worth dropping back on? It would be very nice to take a few hundred dollars off of the price.

Also, based on the hard drive prices from the site, do you really think it would be worth getting a worse one now and upgrading later when prices come down? What is involved in adding an SSD drive to an existing SATA and getting the best out of both?

Thanks again for you help, here are the details:

CAS:NZXT Black Tempest 210 Mid-Tower Gaming Case

CD:Sony 24X Double Layer Dual Format DVD±R/±RW + CD-R/RW Drive [+4] (BLACK COLOR)

COOLANT:Standard Coolant

CPU:Intel® Core™ i5-2500K 3.30 GHz 6M Intel Smart Cache LGA1155 (All Venom OC Certified)

CS_FAN:Default case fans

FAN:Asetek 510LC Liquid Cooling System 120MM Radiator & Fan (Enhanced Cooling Performance + Extreme Silent at 20dBA) (Single Standard 120MM Fan)

FLASHMEDIA:INTERNAL 12in1 Flash Media Reader/Writer (BLACK COLOR)

HDD:120GB Corsair Force Series SATA-III 6.0Gb/s SSD - 550MB/s Read & 510MB/s Write (Single Drive)

HDD2:2TB (2TBx1) SATA-III 6.0Gb/s 64MB Cache Power Saving 5900 RPM HDD (Single Drive)

IUSB:Built-in USB 2.0 Ports

KEYBOARD:Xtreme Gear (Black Color) Multimedia/Internet USB Keyboard

MB_SRT:None

MEMORY:8GB (2GBx4) DDR3/1600MHz Dual Channel Memory Module (Corsair or Major Brand)

MONITOR:27" Widescreen 1920x1080 Sceptre X270W-1080P LCD Display w/ Built-in Speaker, DVI, & HDMI-Input

MOTHERBOARD:[CrossFireX] Asus P8P67-M Intel P67 Chipset DDR3 mATX Mainboard w/ UEFI, 7.1 HD Audio, GbLAN, USB3.0, 2x SATA-III RAID, 2 Gen2 PCIe, 1 PCIe x1 & 1 PCI [B3 Stepping]

MOUSE:XtremeGear Optical USB 3 Buttons Gaming Mouse

OS:Microsoft® Windows 7 Home Premium [+104] (64-bit Edition)

OVERCLOCK:No Overclocking

POWERSUPPLY:500 Watts - Standard Case Power Supply

SERVICE:STANDARD WARRANTY: 3-YEAR LIMITED WARRANTY PLUS LIFE-TIME TECHNICAL SUPPORT

SOFT1:Microsoft® Office® 2010 Home and Student (Word, Excel, PowerPoint + OneNote)

SOUND:HIGH DEFINITION ON-BOARD 7.1 AUDIO

VIDEO:AMD Radeon HD 6670 1GB GDDR3 16X PCIe Video Card [+50] (Major Brand Powered by AMD)

Everything looks good except the GPU. That’s really entry level GPU. For gaming you’re looking at a 6700 series at minimum.

In your budget range I would:
Remove the liquid cooling (unless it is uber cheap) - the I5 2500k overclocks quite well on air cooling from what I have read.
Keep the 120gb SSD but get the minimum spinning hard disk you can/steal one from somewhere you already have, and wait for prices to go down. If you have to get one now look for an external drive deal on newegg or amazon.com and crack the case to get the hard drive that is inside. The pricing on Hard drives, particularly bare drives, is insane and you should avoid paying it if possible.
Second the better GPU - if you are buying this for gaming I probably would go up to at least toms best GPU for <$200 (http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/fastest-graphics-card-radeon-geforce,3067-4.html)

The liquid cooling was a free upgrade at Cyberpower. I will price out the final machine again before buying to see if building is worth it. If I build I will downgrade. Thanks for the info on the video cards. Have bumped that up to a Radeon HD 6870. As for the hard drives, how much should they cost? It currently adds $195 to the cost for a 2TB SATA III 5900 RPM drive. How much should that cost? I don’t have access to any other hard drive at the moment. Is there any problem with just running it off the SSD for the moment? Have SSD prices also gone up like HDD prices?

No problem running a basic system off just the SSD - but you will have room for only OS + programs - not room for more than a handful of games, DVD rips, etc- basically it will just make you think about space, have to uninstall games when you are done with them and move to the next game, etc). I wouldn’t pay more than $100 for a 2TB drive -and you can still find some 1.5 or 2 TB drives for <$100 in external enclosures on Amazon or Newegg, or at least I have seen some in the past week for <$100. SSD prices basically haven’t moved.

Western Digital just resumed production in Thailand, so hard drive prices should start coming back down to earth in a few months.

Sorry for the bump, but Tom’s Hardware just posted an article benchmarking SW:TOR - they don’t do a very exhaustive hardware analysis, but they do enough to show that a) the 2500k is indeed an ideal CPU for this game, and b) surprisingly, the Radeon 6970 seems to perform best at most resolutions/AA settings (although only by a bit, and the GTX 570 would likely be a better all-around performer in most other games).

Not sure if you ordered your PC yet flight, but it may be worth a look-see.

I was going to place the final order tonight. Thank you very much for the info. I decided not to build myself as I am going to get 5% knocked off the price for accepting a “delayed ship time”. The delay is only one day later than normal this time of year and with the discount the savings for building myself are pretty darn small.