Post-graduation Pre-graduate school gaming build help please!


Junior Member
Dec 4, 2008
Background: Have a Dell Inspiron 9300 laptop (Pentium M 2.0 ghz, GeForce 6800 go 256mb, 1gb ram, 40gb hard drive) that functions (typing on it now!) but failed to run Warhammer Online acceptably. I?m graduating from college (dec) and got accepted into a top law school for 2009, so I?ll have some time to kill to tinker with the system, play some games, and learn some programming languages etc. between now and law school. I might also be able to throw some Christmas/Graduation $$$ at the build in addition to what I saved up while working in college.

Because it's really a 9 month window, I think there's no reason to bleed money trying to "future proof" the build - if it can run modern games decently, I'm good - I can do incremental updates as we go along. But come august gaming will become a much smaller priority!

Budget: ~$1,000 for the system, ~$350 or so for the monitor ideally. I could spend more, but spending less is better, so feel free to make suggestions that would either lowball or increase the budget

Budget to cover: Everything except maybe a keyboard

Purchase Date: Late December or early January. Any particular time to aim for or avoid due to sales or new tech?

Decided specs: Since this is a ground-up build and my first PC build since, oh, Pentium III era, I?m very much trying to find even one thing I?m certain of!

Uses: Office, gaming (Warhammer Online, Fallout 3, GTA IV, some modern graphics-munching FPS games, Crysis just to say I can... (if I can!)), spreadsheets, programming.

Country: USA

My knowledge: Limited on current issues, but I build a PC once (back in elementary school, haha) and spent thanksgiving break pouring over posts here and reviews/benchmarks at sites like tech report, guru 3d, and this website.

Current build and thoughts:

Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo e8400 (~$165.00)
Thoughts: Seems to be the sweet point. Based on my usage, I see no need for quad 4 ? if that changes, then maybe I?ll upgrade to i7 if prices have gone down

Motherboard: ASUS P5Q LGA 775 Intel P45 ATX (~130.00)
Thoughts: Really lost here, so I tried to go cheap but functional. Can I go cheaper?

Memory: G. Skill2x 2gb DDR2 800 (~$45)
Thoughts: 8gb looked cheap enough, but I?ve heard that even 4 is probably huge overkill?

Hard drive: Western Digital Caviar Black 640gb 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s (~85.00)
Thoughts: SSDs look tempting, I could probably afford to put in a small one for the operating system and feel all kinds of cutting edge. Would a raptor be worth it?

Video Card: EVGA GeForce 260 Core 216 (not overclocked stock, ~$248.00)
Thoughts: Sweet spot again? How big of a monitor can I reasonably look at and skill get decent FPS with modern games?

Audio card: Not planning to buy one
Thoughts: I feel like I will be happy with onboard. Is this a mistake?

Optical Drive: Samsung SH-S223F 22x DVD burner. (~$25.00)
Thoughts: What is lightscribe and why would I want it?

PSU: Complete and total shot in the dark, Antec EA650 650W ATX12V Ver.2.2 / EPS12V version 2.91 SLI Certified (~$60.00)
Thoughts: I have absolutely no idea if that is good, bad, terrible, etc.

Case: Antec Nine Hundred Black Steel ATX Mid Tower ($110)
Thoughts: Good looking, big, maybe too many LEDs? Total shot in the dark. I could care less if my case looked like an old shoe box, I just want big and cool

Operating System: Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit ($100 OEM)
Thoughts: It might not like my printer, but otherwise since it?s a ground up build I can?t forsee much trouble with compatibility. The other option would probably be xp32 and waiting on Windows 7, but I feel fairly comfortable given my reading that Vista64 makes sense, esp. to utilize all 4gb of memory? Should I buy a student version?

Mouse: Something comfy I see at best buy
Keyboard: I have a ?Das keyboard?, and maybe an el-cheapo Logitech if the whole ?no written keys? thing gets old

Total system cost: ~$908 + $35 shipping (mostly from case, it seems)

Monitor: I?m looking hard at 24? and 1920 x 1200, that seems to be a real sweet spot and it?s what my current 17? laptop has and I find it quite roomy. I already have a 20? 1680 x 1050 monitor, which I like, but it?s kind of a funky resolution and it?s dated (Samsung SyncMaster 205bw). I?d love it to be a secondary monitor for more real estate, even if the 24? monitor dwarfed it.

I?m looking hard at the Acer P243WAid Black-Silver 24". It?s $340, has great reviews, 2ms response time... I?m guessing it?s TN or whatever, which isn?t optimal, but I kind of doubt I?d mind too much? Really appreciate any input here.

Here's the link:

Total system cost w/ monitor: $1,247.91 + $34.48 shipping at New Egg

Final thoughts: looking for any and all advice, please! I?m least certain about mobo, PSU, and case picks. I?m also not 100% sure I?ve picked right on monitor, HD, and video card but I?m more certain that I at least have good and worthwhile choices as opposed to total shots in the dark.

Also, for minor overclocking, should I look into a CPU cooler?

Thanks everyone!


Diamond Member
Oct 6, 2007
Pretty good list of parts. 1680x1050 isn't really an odd resolution anymore. It's becoming one of the standards as a lot of people move toward 20 and 22" widescreen monitors.

Your graphics card will have an easier time with 16x10 than with 19x12, but you should be able to play games on a 24" pretty well. (Especially considering gaming will move to the back burner after the summer.)


Golden Member
Feb 12, 2005
I've been out of the new hardware loop for a couple years since I built my last PC but I will chime in in regards to the monitors. I added a Dell 2408fpw to my existing 2007fpw and I absolutely love it. Whatever my main focus is goes on the 24 and anything else gets windowed on the 20. It makes sending a quick IM or email or changing tracks in iTunes an absolute breeze! You'll love it.

Oh, and you can't beat seeing two pages at the same time in Word if you're working on a paper or something. It helps me keep track of what I've said and whatnot... ENJOY!