My dream build. What to cut?


#1

I have owned my current PC for 8 or 9 years, and all I’ve upgraded in the interim is the video card. I’m running an Intel i7 930 2.8GHz, 12 GB RAM, nVidia GTX980, Windows 7 64-bit. I have a 75GB hard disk with Windows installed that’s almost completely full; keeping it not full is a constant hassle. I also have a couple old mechanical SATA hard disks that are noticeably slow to wake up – 15 seconds of waiting. Also, a CMOS chip or something is failing; if I turn the system completely off, I have to enter the BIOS to reset stuff.

I could conceivably just keep upgrading the video card; the system runs most things fine. But I’m interested in running the Rift or similar hardware, and apparently my CPU and OS don’t cut it. Also, the hard disk situation kinda sucks. Plus, I have a little disposable income, so I’m tempted to build a new system. But when I add up my dream build, we’re looking at $3400 – more than I want to spend.

Here’s that build. If it wouldn’t be too much trouble, I’d be interested in your opinions on what I should pare back. (I’m guessing you’ll say CPU, RAM, hard disks.) Also I’m curious whether I’d get more value for my money with Falcon NW or another custom builder. (I doubt it, but maybe?)

Also, I have no clue how these all-in-one liquid CPU coolers work, but I think they’d work with the case – and I have no idea what the best cases are these days. I just dug that one up using Google and Amazon and Tom’s Hardware. I like the idea of a snap-on liquid cooler better than the clunky after-market air-cooling solutions I used to nervously apply with paste and brute force.

Also, apart from CPU installation, the part of PC-building that terrifies me is the teeny little USB headers. Have those improved?

Anyway, here we go:

Intel Core i9-9900K Desktop Processor 8 Cores up to 5.0 GHz Turbo Unlocked LGA1151 300 Series 95W $529

GIGABYTE Z390 AORUS Ultra (Intel LGA1151/Z390/ATX/3xM.2 Thermal Guard/Onboard AC Wi-Fi/RGB Fusion/Motherboard)\
$244.54

CORSAIR DOMINATOR PLATINUM 32GB (4x8GB) DDR4 2666MHz C15 Desktop Memory $269.99

CORSAIR HYDRO Series H115i PRO RGB AIO Liquid CPU Cooler,280mm, Dual ML140 PWM Fans $129.99

EVGA GeForce RTX 2080 XC GAMING, 8GB GDDR6, Dual HDB Fans & RGB LED Graphics Card $779.99

Samsung 970 EVO 2TB - NVMe PCIe M.2 2280 SSD $499.99

Samsung 860 EVO 4TB 2.5 Inch SATA III Internal SSD $697.99

Seasonic FOCUS Plus 750 Platinum SSR-750PX 750W 80+ Platinum ATX12V & EPS12V Full Modular 120mm FDB Fan 10 Year Warranty Compact 140 mm Size Power Supply $114.73

CORSAIR Obsidian 500D Mid-Tower Case, Smoked Tempered Glass, Aluminum Trim $149.98


#2

That’s a serious rig. If you’re looking for ways to save money, you could easily drop to 16GB of RAM and a 1TB 970 EVO. Oh, and a 4TB SSD for data? Probably overkill for that much money. Get a 4TB hard drive for $99 IMO. It’s unlikely you’ll notice the speed if all it has on it is photos/videos/documents.


#3

The high core count i9s and even i7a are best targeted towards pretty specific workloads. If you’re not doing heavy multi core operations (e.g. video rendering, streaming, certain kinds of scientific tasks, etc.), an overclockable quad core i5 will get you similar or exec better clockspeed, attached to cores your games will actually use, at a much lower price.

Now that said, if the next generation of consoles brings six or eight heavy duty cores into the norm for games, it’s possible that an i7 or i9 might have some extra longevity. Guys like @stusser are better hooked into the market prediction type stuff than I am.

A big honkin NVME drive for your OS, games, browsers, and productivity software will be an ENORMOUS quality of life improvement for you, and if you REALLY don’t wanna bother juggling your Steam backlog ever, a 2TB drive as the primary isn’t, well, completely crazy. I mean, some crazy, yes, but not totally.

For the data storage duties I assume the 4TB is for, a spinning disk external will probably be just fine at 1/7 the cost.

That said, my big 5TB external absolutely displays that same maddening goddamned spin up behavior you cite basically every time I go to hit it to open or save something, chewing up ten seconds of full computer HERP DERP lag every single time. If I had infinite money, you bet your Vulcan ass I’d run everything off SSDs!

For the graphics card, do think about the resolutions you’re likely to play at. The 2080 realistically isn’t going to cut it for RTX shenanigans at 4K and maybe even 2560x1440. But it WOULD blow those resolutions out of the water with most titles without raytracing enabled, and would be ludicrous overkill for a 1080p monitor.

So if your goal is to run Battlefield with max raytracing enabled at 4k, uh, I dunno. Wait for the 3080TI. Otherwise, unless you’re gaming at 4k in general, you can probably step down to a 2070 and save there.

AIO watercoolers do still bolt onto your processor and need thermal paste… And their big unwieldy radiators will need to screw onto an appropriate mount on your case. The midrange ones don’t enormously outperform high end air cooling and DO introduce the ever present risk of a leak, so if it were me, I’d skip it and go with the nicest Noctua heatsink/fan combo you can fit into your case.

Speaking of cases, I’d definitely recommend the Define R series. Super quiet, super dust resistant, lowkey fashionable design, and tons of little quality of life innovations that makes building in them a breeze.

If you go with crazy town watercooling and a multi GPU setup on a monstrosity EATX mobo, there are definitely some huge, feature laden full tower cases that would work better than the Define. Otherwise, unless something massively better has shown up in the last year or so, I’d strongly recommend it.


#4

Oh, and yeah, hooking up the Power / Reset / HDD Activity Indicator wires from case to mobo still sucks infinitely, but hey, at least you only have to do it once.

The internal connector for USB3 expansions, like from the front of the case to the mobo, is a wider and sturdier plug than the finicky USB2 one was, not really any worse than, say, a 6pin power hookup for a video card.


#5

Thanks for taking the time to reply! I appreciate it a lot.

In general, my strategy with PCs is to future-proof everything but the video card, which I don’t mind changing every couple years. Changing the motherboard, CPU, PSU, or even RAM are upgrades that I rather avoid: don’t want to touch those sensitive things if I don’t have to. I’ve been very happy that my little i7 CPU, a high-end chip at the time, has kept me going for 8 years or so.

Yeah, you’re probably right. Thing is, I seem to fill up 2TB of drive space with games even now, and they’re only going to get bigger. And it sure is annoying to sit and wait for my current SATA drives to spin up. On the other hand, some of my disk space is wasted on FRAPS videos I did in WoW and such ages ago. I don’t record much these days, and when I do, there are much more compressed options like OBS etc.

Good thinking. Nah, I won’t be gaming at 4K. I have an old Dell 3007 30-inch monitor, perfectly functional, but its top resolution is 2560 x 1600.

Ugh. Say it ain’t so. I always feel like I’m putting the danged paste on wrong. Sigh. Intel doesn’t make CPUs with built-in cooling solutions, huh?

I’ll check it out. Cases are hard to shop for online – it’s hard to visualize what you’re getting. Does that case have several bays for SSD drives? I just know I’ll want more storage space. External drives still chug along using USB, right?

Well that sounds like a BIG improvement. The last couple times I’ve built PCs, I remember lots of tiny individual plugs that had to go to lots of tiny USB receptacles.

Again, thanks for taking the time to reply!


#6

The sweet spot right now is 2 TB but it’s rapidly changing. Keep an eye on both of those as you near the time for upgrade/rebuild. I recently upgraded from a 1TB SSD and a 1 TB SATA to two 2TB SSD’s. Especially for the game drive, which was the 1TB SATA, it is a -vast- improvement in game load times, etc.

So whatever you go with, stick with SSD. Get the largest you can. Partition it if needed, 1 TB (or less) for system, and the rest for games. When upgrading, most partition manager programs will automatically help you take whatever you have and upgrade percentage wise into a new drive, so something like 500GB/1.5TB would become 1TB, 3TB on a newer and larger drive.


#7

My 0.02 as one of the more cheapskate gamers here is that staying on the leading edge is basically pointless these days. People prefer 1440p gaming on a modest PC over 4K gaming on a $6,000 PC, it’s not just better value. Overclocking too, Intel charges more for the CPU and then you need a higher end motherboard. Nah.

Consider a i5-8400, intel B360 board, 16Gb of 2400 ram, keep the 980, and maybe splurge on the NVMe drive and case.

But on a more positive note, it is a hobby and it’s nice to have nice things too. So go ahead for the crazy if you’re doing it because you like it and you want to and it’s fun to be near the front once in awhile.


#8

This. Lots of good advice, but don’t try and sit on the very top of the pile. Back off a spot and you will last just as long and save a ton of money. So go for the 9700k, drop the extra SSD and go with an old platter HD (I never notice mine spinning up), forget the water cooling, etc and you can probably knock of near $1k for no noticeable performance difference. You will have to copy games to and from the ssd and back but that’s not much of a burden. Then again I don’t switch games much, I play one till done, then move on to the next.


#9

Thanks for all the advice. Just what I was looking for.

I switch games all the time, and I’m typically rotating among a dozen games or more. I’ll play WoW for a bit, get tired of it, play another dozen games, and then return to WoW a few months later. So I want lots of fast hard disk space. My SATA hard disks do take a noticeable amount of time to spin up. Whenever I want to look at my F: drive, say, I know I have to wait 15 seconds after I click on its icon in Windows explorer. I notice it when saving and loading games too.

How important is it to separate a Windows partition from a games partition? I did that with my current system, and now my Windows drive is verging on full all the time. I kinda wish I had it all on one big SSD – games and Windows together. Is that a bad idea?

Also, would I be better off using a computer-building company, like Falcon Northwest? I did use AVA Direct for my last build (8 years ago) and wasn’t that thrilled with them.


#10

The separate Windows partition is a little nice insofar as a total Windows install death (say, when you go mucking around in registry entries you shouldn’t), you don’t totally have to blow your data away (I couldn’t even do an in-place reinstall!), though, of course, you still have to reinstall software anyway to get Windows to recognize it.

I’ll say that separate data from Windows is vital; I always move the my Documents and similar folders to my Giant Harddrive Du Jour. If you tend to monkey with your game installs a lot (e.g., mods), it might be worthwhile to keep them separated as a paranoid just-in-case, but if you’re just pointing Steam at a folder and downloading, then playing, eh. . . I don’t think it matters as much.

Using virtually any builder will increase the cost of your system over building it yourself unless you catch a hot Dell coupon, or something like more RAM price fixing or a Cryptocurrency resurgence spikes component prices again (the large-scale builders were able to weather those storms better than people buying parts piecemeal). Someone like Falcon Northwest or OriginPC will certainly build your system nicely, warranty the whole thing, provide tech support, etc., so if those things are worth the extra money (sometimes hundreds of dollars), sure. . . but I always build myself, in the end.


#11

As someone who just spent around 4K on my latest rig, I say save up a bit and get every damned thing you want. You’ll be happy you did.


#12

Thanks for your further replies! You guys are awesome.

I keep forgetting to ask about Windows 10. I buy a USB stick from Microsoft now? Or download and then put the installer on my own stick?

Yeah, I’d always have at least two partitions so that I can easily copy data. I’m just not sure about separating Windows from programs, but if I can be sure the Windows partition won’t fill up, I’ll do it. With my current rig, Windows performance becomes unstable because my 75G Windows partition is so close to full, and I can’t easily find things to delete from it. (Darn those games that insist on installing stuff on the C: drive. I’m looking at you, OOTP.)

Thanks also for your advice on building vs buying. I’ve never regretting building in the past, and in fact I find it fun. But my cabling is lame compared to the neat job system-builders do, and I do worry about getting thermal paste and headers correct.

Telling me what I want to hear! But I’ll probably shave a bit, like replacing the super-fast RAM with fast RAM, compromising on the video card (which I know I’ll upgrade in a couple years anyway), and maybe the water-cooling. @BrianRubin, did you build your rig yourself?


#13

Download and install via your own stick is best. Especially if you nab a cheapo key from Kinguin.net. Which feels skeezy as fuck, but it’s worked alright for me and many others.

This stuff is still rampant, so yeah, I mean, theoretically Win10 takes only “X” gigabytes, but then you get all these mandatory Chrome caches and driver installs and Windows update background downloads and suddenly you need 3X GB instead. You can either be enormously generous to the Win partition or just risk a mixed composition (and for what it’s worth, even after having to fully nuke my install–with most of my software installed beside of it in the same partition!–and redownload everything from scratch, I went ahead and went single partition again to avoid hassle).

IIRC, it’s the AMD chips this generation that especially benefit from extremely high RAM clockspeeds, so this is probably a safe swap.


#14

I didn’t, I found a local shop and paid them to do it after I spent months excruciatingly researching every damned part down to the extra case fans. $75/hour * 3 hours = Best $225 I ever spent. Thing’s been running great almost non-stop for three months.

I bought the USB stick myself because I liked the idea of having a physical copy. Just in case.


#15

Thanks! Really really helpful.


#16

Hadn’t thought of that option. Good idea!

Did you buy your USB stick directly from Microsoft? Looks like about $140.


#17

Sure did.

I got the idea after using a local shop to fix the motherboard in my last PC. I did some Yelping and found a local shop with amazing (and well-deserved, it turns out) reviews.

Here’s what I ended up getting in the end:

https://pcpartpicker.com/list/fG6rQZ

BTW, if you’re not using PC Part Picker, now’s the time to start.


#18

Thanks!


#19

OMG OMG, just what I need. Something to check compatibility, with links to compatible parts, and a nice clean list. I’ve been using an Amazon wish list, which is light-years behind this. Thanks so much for the link.

Your system actually looks a lot like my dream build, except you went with an AMD chip/motherboard. I’m curious: what are the three monitor support arms for? Also, why an external optical drive? And: do I need a SoundBlaster card in this day and age? What does it add that on-board sound lacks?

Thanks again for taking the time to reply!


#20

I don’t wanna speak for him, but mind that Brian does a lot of streaming and podcasting, so the core count on the AMD, the extra audio heft and quality the sound card affords, and the plethora of monitor-arranging choices are all awesome things. . . for the specific stuff he does.

Onboard sound is basically fine, and when all I’m doing is jamming to songs from a streaming service like Play Music on my $80 Sennheisers, it isn’t really making things substantially worse. If you’re gonna be rocking FLACs on a $2,000 stereo setup, well, you know, investing in a better sound solution is the least of your costs :)