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friend wants to buy new "very good, but not top of the line" gaming PC -- help?

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  • friend wants to buy new "very good, but not top of the line" gaming PC -- help?

    A friend has asked me for guidance on buying or "having built" a gaming PC which is "very good, but doesn't have to be top of the line". I haven't followed PC parts/etc for... years (my Q6600 drives my daily NS2 play...). Does anyone have any guidance/recommendations for a hardware novice who is qualified to install upgrades (video cards, hard drives, etc) but /not/ interested in building his new PC from purchased parts?

    I'm not sure which games he has in mind /exactly/, but I know he's played Splinter Cell, Mass Effect, and ESO (all multiplayer) on consoles in recent memory, so the box needs to be prepared for similar titles (Battlefield, etc), I'm sure. At a guess, I'd say the lifetime target for this rig will be 4-5 years (ideally avoiding /lowest/ game settings throughout that duration).

    I'm not sure what else to offer -- I don't want to distract with unnecessary info. I can answer any questions, and I appreciate any help. :)
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  • #2
    Re: friend wants to buy new "very good, but not top of the line" gaming PC -- help?

    I would advise your "friend" (lol) to overcome his irrational fear of putting the whole thing together. Nothing to it, really, if he can install cards, upgrades, etc. it's all just more of the same. Because your money just goes so much further when you build it yourself. Plus you gain the knowledge, and you have no problem upgrading parts in the future (or building another entire PC, if needed).

    Budget? And how firm is budget?

    Personally "very good, but not top of the line" is exactly where I shoot for, and is where you will get the most bang for your buck. Right now that's probably an i5, decent amount or RAM, SSD, and however much GPU you can afford. Personally, I think investing in a high quality PSU is worth the money, but most people skimp on this. Also what parts is he recycling (if any) or already has (monitors, mouse, keyboard, etc.)? Case is a matter of aesthetics and therefore really a personal choice. A lot of these things (case, PSU if quality, peripherals) can be recycled into future builds.
    "The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it." - George Bernard Shaw


    • #3
      Re: friend wants to buy new "very good, but not top of the line" gaming PC -- help?

      These guys offer %35-%50 off at least once a month on older refurbished dell systems:

      This post says the 990 uses a standard ATX power supply which he will need to upgrade as the included one is underpowered:

      Add your choice of video card and additional RAM, storage and away you go.

      Basically a bare bones i7-2600/mainboard/case for ~$250. Making sure all the power supply connectors are attached would be the hardest part of the install. The real issue is finding some sort of "barebones" system that has an adequate power supply already installed so he doesn't have to deal with that.

      Otherwise there are all the usual suspects offering their gaming brands and independent boutique gaming builders.
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      • #4
        Re: friend wants to buy new "very good, but not top of the line" gaming PC -- help?

        Budget is the real big thing.

        I have often discovered with my own testing, when you buy a machine from the big names (like Dell), you do get some clearance on the Power supply that enough for more ram and disks, but not often enough for a better Video card. So if he planning on upgrading the Video card to one better then comes with the machine, he often need to plan for a PSU upgrade. Given the way a lot of those cases are designed, it may not be easy unless he gets a Workstation that stops pretending that you can shove a PC in a shoebox and stick it under your bed with no issues.

        It not that hard to put a machine together, takes a few hours to a weekend depending on how much you decide to move things around to look nice and how familiar you are with everything and as long as you take basic safety precautions there no danger to the parts. The first big thing that is often ignored, is that a good power Supply makes a big difference.

        There is a lot of system errors, BSOD, issues and the like that can be linked back to an undersized or cheap Power Supply. If you have to pick only one thing to not go cheap on, always make it the Power Supply. A bad one will destroy your parts, and an average one that is undersized will cause no ends of issues that don't seem to have a common cause.
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        • #5
          Re: friend wants to buy new "very good, but not top of the line" gaming PC -- help?

          Another thing to really consider is that it is important to look at the manufacturer and their reputation. The real issue is that cheap parts can be cheap parts while others can be cheap bad parts. They could work for a year or they might work for 3 or 4 years.

          I remember how a year or two ago, I helped Knight with his search for a dell powersupply. Knight wanted to upgrade his GPU but found that he needed a new PSU. That being said, his Alienware needed a specific dell model. Finding that PSU was hard, so stay away from companies that use products that are needing odd-ball sizes or non-standard hardware parts.

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          • #6
            Re: friend wants to buy new "very good, but not top of the line" gaming PC -- help?

            Yeah that's why I advise build your own. Because you can get high quality, name brand parts, that will all work together. And often for the same or less money.
            "The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it." - George Bernard Shaw


            • #7
              Re: friend wants to buy new "very good, but not top of the line" gaming PC -- help?

              Keeping in mind that at the time of this video being posted, 300 CAD was equivalent to 237 USD...

              On a more serious note, since you asked for "v. good but not top", and nobody else has suggested specific parts... here's what's good in MY opinion.

              GTX 970 - Priced so damn good since the GTX 980 came out.
              i5 6600K - Pretty damn affordable for the current flagship i5. Means getting a Z170 board, which means price bump for DDR4, but better future upgradeability - OR -
              i7 4790K - Personal preference, but I like to go heavy on the CPU so that in the future I can swap in a new GPU or go dual-gpu without leaving a CPU bottleneck.
              Liquid CPU cooler - so cheap now, saves space, runs quiet, and of course fantastic if you ever overclock...
              Decent mobo - don't cheap out here, a decent ASUS board will not do you wrong.
              16 GB of decent DDR3/DDR4 - Ram, even DDR4, is still getting cheaper by the day. 8GB is probably enough for now, if you want to save some cash here and add another stick later.
              240 GB SSD - Unless you're going super-budget, I think every PC these days deserves to have their OS on an SSD. 200ish GB leaves enough room for a couple of priority games.
              2TB HDD - Or however much you think you'll need. Storage is cheap.

              You can get away with a lot less than this, obviously, but this is what I would consider being very good without being silly. Finding all this for under 1500 USD before tax shouldn't be a problem.

              If you want to drop cost, get an older i5, 8GB ram, smaller SSD.

              I'd be hesitant to recommend someone build their own PC unless they have an interest in the actual act of building it. I find it difficult to price out a cheaper part set than the same parts from a boutique, by merit of their better purchasing power. It can be done, for sure, but from what I've seen you either have to buy used or pick up the parts over a period of time as they go on sale.

              I built my current PC. Managed it mostly without a hitch, and I am pretty proud of it. I did have a somewhat alarming moment of doubt due to some ambiguous motherboard power supply labeling. I also didn't clue in when ordering that the ATX mobo I ordered had one less fan plug than my case had fans. And my SSD still just hangs by its cable due to lack of a proper mount. (it's fine like that) And my optical drives never worked properly again. Probably a driver issue? Anyway. These are things a boutique would catch. And if they didn't, you could get angry until they fixed them free of charge. And hey, having a warranty for your first year never hurt anyone either.

              My go-to right now is iBuyPower, and I consider it the standard for PC boutiques.

              They've got some pre-configured PCs that would be pretty good for around 1200-1300, I'd suggest using those as your price/performance standard while you check out some other options.


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