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Returning from the land of Xbox360 - looking for a sense of power required for max eye candy at 720p

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March 21, 2013 8:20:26 PM

Hello,

I am returning from 4 years in the land of Xbox360 and moving over to Steam Big Picture. I am building an mini-ITX system to play on my 720p HDTV - so at a max of 1280 x 720.

I've spent the past couple of days obsessively reading Tom's Hardware to reaquaint myself with the current state of Intel, AMD/Radeon & Nvidia hardware, however all of the component guides talk about 1920x1080 resolutions and higher.

I still do not have a sense in my mind of the correct power levels required to play 720p at maximum eye candy.

Here are a few tiers of power that I can afford to build, although I don't want to go for the most powerful just for the sake of it if I don't need to spend that kind of cash for games in the next couple of years:

a) 8GB RAM, i3 3220 & 7770HD 1GB

b) 16GB RAM, i5 3350P & 7870HD 2GB

or would a cheap and chearful integrated AMD solution do the job?
(limited to FM2 socket for the ITX form factor)

c) 4GB RAM, AMD A10 , Quad Core 3.8GHz, on die Radeon HD 7660D

d) 4GB RAM, Athlon II X4 740 (3.2GHz Quad) with a dedicated 6670HD.

Your help and advice greatly appreciated in bringing me back into the PC gaming fold!

(I'm not looking to overclock beyond manufacturer OC graphics cards due to the difficulty in cooling a small ITX like the Silverstone SG05.)

All the Best,

G
March 21, 2013 8:24:55 PM

go with B but you only really need 8 gigs of ram. some APU's might work at low setting but generally aren't up to speed for gaming (save casual). the 7770 gpu is good for low to meduim setting with minimum filtering...the 7850 should let you crank up the settings a bit more.
March 21, 2013 8:32:12 PM

Give us your budget, and we will be able to put together a list of components for you.

March 21, 2013 8:39:53 PM

Well I could go all the way up to £600 (-£100 for a Silverstone SG05 450W, leaving £500 for the gubbins), but if it doesn't need to be that much there are plenty other things that change could go to!
March 21, 2013 9:17:46 PM

edogawa said:
http://pcpartpicker.com/p/Lm7n

Left out the case since you know which one you want already.


An APU and a 7970? For gaming at 720p?
What sort of drugs are you on? :p 

The APU is a horrible pick for a CPU, and a 7970 is just silly for 720p.

OP, here's a link to something that'll last you a good long while doing what you want:
http://pcpartpicker.com/p/Lmi9

If that's still a little too much scratch, cut down to a normal 7870 and a 450w PSU of a reliable brand.
March 21, 2013 9:24:46 PM

DarkSable said:
edogawa said:
http://pcpartpicker.com/p/Lm7n

Left out the case since you know which one you want already.


An APU and a 7970? For gaming at 720p?
What sort of drugs are you on? :p 

The APU is a horrible pick for a CPU, and a 7970 is just silly for 720p.

OP, here's a link to something that'll last you a good long while doing what you want:
http://pcpartpicker.com/p/Lmi9

If that's still a little too much scratch, cut down to a normal 7870 and a 450w PSU of a reliable brand.


Lol. I was messing around on PC part picker and put down the wrong link.

March 21, 2013 10:04:08 PM

The OP is talking British pounds, not dollars, so he would probably need directions to a British site spec'd out in pounds, not a U.S. site in dollars.
March 21, 2013 11:07:18 PM

mbreslin1954 said:
The OP is talking British pounds, not dollars, so he would probably need directions to a British site spec'd out in pounds, not a U.S. site in dollars.


Done: http://uk.pcpartpicker.com/p/Lmkx
March 22, 2013 5:29:49 AM

Thank you all for your time and advice.

Broad consensus seems to be spending approx £160-170 on a HD7870XT / GTX660 for the graphics.
The case comes with a 450W PSU so that saves a bit of cash on DarkSable's build.

There is disagreement on RAM and CPU however:

edgowa is suggesting 8GB and an i3 is good, whereas DarkSable is pushing 4GB and an i5. Meanswhile atomicWAR is going all out for the 8GB and i5.

More info to help resolve this:
In addition to FPS I will be playing RTS and RPG such as Skyrim, Dawn of War II, and similar. Do you think the CPU stress of these games warrant the i5 recommended by DarkSable/atomicWAR? Will these games exceed 4GB of RAM?

edit: So many corrections... I'm still drinking my first cup of tea and am not thinking straight yet
March 22, 2013 8:00:53 AM

The power supplies that come with cases are 99.9% of the time utter crap. The power supply is like the heart of the machine, you entrust it to supply all your expensive components with steady power. You don't want it crapping out on you and taking the system down with it. Buy a trustable unit for Seasonic, Corsair or Antec. I'm sure the one's linked before are good. I would probably go for a Corsair CX 600M personally (they're a pretty good price in the UK). Semi modular is also nice for the price. It's a lot of power (600w) but the 7870 XT is a real power hog (I've read a review where the peak system power consumption was 415w, personally that's way too close for a 450w power supply's rated max).

7870 XT + i3 + 8 gb would be my recommendation. i5 is nice (about 15% faster than an i3 in most games), but people seem to forget that you're gaming at 720p, quite a bit less than half the pixels of 1080p.

They don't even run benchmarks at that low of a resolution for cards like the 7870 XT. A 1gb 7850 paired with an i3 would ample power, even at 1080p with medium to high settings. My brother maxes games like PlanetSide 2 at 1366*768 on a 7750 and a G860. If you have the money though, go for the 7870 XT, as it will last you through a monitor upgrade better.

Memory is quite cheap at the moment, so the difference between 4 and 8gb is at most going to be £20 or so. Most games use no where near 8gb, but occasionally (Skyrim with a lot of mods) they can be real memory hogs, so it's better to be safe than sorry.

I think an i3 will be plenty at your resolution/the games you linked and the money saved is better spent on a quality power supply.

All the best,

M
March 22, 2013 8:16:58 AM

Hi Marshall,

The Silverstone SG05 450W can only accommodate smaller SFX format PSU and comes with this one. Would you judge this PSU to be of poor quality? If so, can you recommend an SFX format power supply?

After reading of the noise put out by the 7870XT (Tahiti LE cutdown) I decided I should put in a 7870OC Pitcairn based card from someone like Sapphire, which should be much cooler, quieter and draw less power. The ITX case has so many vents for cooling, the 3D card is basically completely unmuffled - noise will be a genuine issue in the sitting room.

Thank you for your time,

G
March 22, 2013 9:21:40 AM

A Silverstone brand 80 Plus bronze certified, active PFC sounds much better than the usual no-brand crap they bundle in with cases. I wouldn't worry about that PSU, although the power output of 450w might not be enough, depending on what video card you end up getting.
March 22, 2013 9:37:39 AM

It's got 36a on the 12v. Which is what most 500w have.
March 22, 2013 9:40:45 AM

Thank you zooted and mbreslin for your assistance.

In the parts list below I have selected a single 8GB stick of RAM instead of 2 x 4GB to give me space to add if required. I remember a few years back there was some kind of 'paired sticks' stuff going on. Is this still the case? Would a single 8GB stick match the bandwidth of 2 x 4GB sticks? Or does the 'double channel' monkier mean 2 sticks are required?

PCPartPicker part list

CPU: Intel Core i5-3570 3.4GHz Quad-Core Processor (£155.94 @ Aria PC)
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-H77N-WIFI Mini ITX LGA1155 Motherboard (£79.96 @ Aria PC)
Memory: Corsair XMS 8GB (1 x 8GB) DDR3-1600 Memory (£31.99 @ Amazon UK)
Storage: Seagate Barracuda 1TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive (£50.99 @ Ebuyer)
Video Card: MSI Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition 2GB Video Card (£177.34 @ Scan.co.uk)
Total: £496.22
+ £100 for the case/PSU (not on partpicker)

Best solution

March 22, 2013 10:17:27 AM
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Ah sorry! Yes that power supply is indeed decent, it's in the 0.1% :p  I should have read your first post more thoroughly, my mistake.

Yes 2x4gb would give you 'dual-channel mode', effectively twice the bandwidth when compared with 1x8gb, so you're better off going that way. Here's a nice, cheap dual channel kit, that is also reasonably fast: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Patriot-PVI38G186C9K-Extreme-Ma... . I really don't see a situation where you'd need to upgrade to 16 gb, esp. at 720p (unless you're into some serious PhotoShop work or the like).

Although the Club3D one is quite noisy, the Sapphire 7870 XT is (to my knowledge) very quiet. It's £202 from Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00AX2ONI0/?tag=pcp0f-21 , which is only £9 more than the card you linked from Scan when you include shipping. Bear in mind it's going to be at least 10%-15% or so faster.

If you want to stick with a Stock 7870, the Gigabyte version is near silent (almost certainly quieter than the MSI one, since the fans can run at lower RPM) and comes with a better overclock than the one you linked (1.1Ghz). It's also bundled with free BioShock Infinite and Tomb Raider: http://www.dabs.com/products/gigabyte-ati-radeon-7870-h... which the one from Scan doesn't appear to be.

EDIT: Since you're basically stuck with the 450w PSU, I'd err on the side of caution and go with just an 7870, the 7870 XT has slightly higher power requirements.

All in all you'll have a very capable system for 720p+

M

March 22, 2013 11:09:32 AM

Hi Marshall,

You are correct on every count.

With one small issue: That sapphire is 275mm long & the gigabyte is 280mm long, whereas the maximum internal space of the SG05 is 262mm.

The nVidia GTX 660 is a bit smaller, but not as powerful as the XT; however it pulls 144W.

The internet claims the 7870XT pulls 210W, and the standard 7870 pulls 127W.

Do these numbers seem accurate to you? Do you feel this machine would be let down by the addition of a GTX660?
March 22, 2013 11:11:57 AM

marshallbradely is right, you want to go with paired memory sticks in order to get dual channel bandwidth. Based on what you'll be doing with it and the low res you're running, 8 GB is more than enough. I play Crysis 3 and also run Handbrake a lot, and I've never had my system use over 4.4 GB of RAM (that was with Crysis 3 running along with a number of tabs open in Google Chrome and an Excel spreadsheet up). Before running Crysis 3 I've never been able to get my memory usage above 4 GB.
March 22, 2013 12:03:11 PM

Oh damn, I really am making myself look bad :p  I should have checked... Good thing you're much more attentive than me!

Yeah the numbers seem about right. To be honest, at 720p there will be no difference between any of those cards, I'd imagine most of them to be pulling at least 80-100+ FPS in the most demanding games (maybe not Crysis 3, but that's always an exception), and especially coming from a console, you won't notice the difference in frame rate. The games bundle with 7870 does add some value to the card though, assuming you can find one that will fit which includes the bundle. nVidia is doing a similar thing with in game currencies for F2P games, so check to see if the retailer is offering these extras.

All the best,

M
March 22, 2013 12:05:15 PM

griff1, as mentioned, the power supply will most likely be crap, for a mini itx build to be used for gaming, I do not think it's a good idea.

You're really limiting yourself for your build. Since your gaming in 720p only though, an i3, 8GB of ram, and a 660 will be plenty enough for any game.

The problem with going with anything more powerful worries me with such a power supply, it won't be good most likely. A good system starts with the power supply too. The system I mentioned will pack a punch and easily handle your games at 720p, but if you'd like to go a bit higher I'd recommend re imagination of your build. Going to standard atx with a small HTPC case may work out well too.

I will make a couple recommendations for alternative cases which may end up providing you an easier time upgrading, and ease of use.

A Silverstone Tek GD08B:

http://www.amazon.com/Silverstone-GD08B-Aluminum-Extend...

A Haf XB:

http://www.amazon.com/Cooler-Master-Computer-Motherboar...

Fractal Design Black Aluminum / Steel Node 605:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
March 22, 2013 12:15:23 PM

@edogawa According to griff1 it comes with this: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... which honestly looks like a very decent unit from a fairly reputable source. I wouldn't worry too much about running a 660 or a 7870 off of it.

If he wants to go small while retaining upgradability, I recommend a Bitfenix Prodigy, but it's not nearly anywhere near as small as the Silverstone he linked.

M
March 22, 2013 12:36:35 PM

marshallbradley said:
@edogawa According to griff1 it comes with this: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... which honestly looks like a very decent unit from a fairly reputable source. I wouldn't worry too much about running a 660 or a 7870 off of it.

If he wants to go small while retaining upgradability, I recommend a Bitfenix Prodigy, but it's not nearly anywhere near as small as the Silverstone he linked.

M


That's a bit surprising it comes with a half way decent PSU then.

March 22, 2013 12:55:53 PM

edgowa, those cases really hurt budget wise as a decent PSU must be purchased on top of their already ~£100 cost.

However I do really like Marshall's Sapphire 7870GT.

I also take on board all your advice that despite the 450W PSU being a reputable make I should look for extra headroom.

With that in mind I am building within a Coolermaster Elite 120:
Long enough to fit the large Sapphire 7870XT, and can fit a full ATX PSU, all for £30.

PCPartPicker part list

CPU: Intel Core i5-3350P 3.1GHz Quad-Core Processor (£139.49 @ Dabs)
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-Z77N-WIFI Mini ITX LGA1155 Motherboard (£91.98 @ Amazon UK)
Memory: Patriot Intel Extreme Master, Limited Ed 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1866 Memory (£41.45 @ Amazon UK)
Storage: Seagate Barracuda 1TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive (£50.21 @ Ebuyer)
Video Card: Sapphire Radeon HD 7870 XT 2GB Video Card (£202.48 @ Amazon UK)
Case: Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced (Black) Mini ITX Tower Case (£32.36 @ CCL Computers)
Power Supply: Corsair Builder 500W 80 PLUS Certified ATX12V Power Supply (£40.95 @ Amazon UK)
Optical Drive: Lite-On iHOS104-06 Blu-Ray/DVD/CD Drive (£23.94 @ Aria PC)
Total: £622.86

(Would I really notice the performance difference between the low i5 3350P and the i5 3570? I mean it's only a £15 difference but if there no point me spending it I could pop in a blue ray drive or something)

Thank you again one and all for your continued perseverance with my build!
March 22, 2013 1:18:17 PM

I'd say go with the 3570, the 3350 has a locker multiplier, and no igpu.

You can overclock the 3570 a little with very minimal thermal increase too.

Keep mind anything over 1333mhz for ram will very little to no difference in gaming unless your using an APU.

I'd go with the gigabyte card instead personally: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B007LB3UIU/?tag=pcp0f-21

Also, how much do you really need a DVD drive?

Most gamers don't even need them anymore with Steam, unless you player older games, or emulators.
March 22, 2013 1:24:06 PM

Understood edogawa, the larger case does give me the breathing room to pop on a better CPU cooler anyway.

May I ask the reasoning behind your preference for the gigabyte 7870? (The PSU is no longer limiting, but have I missed another important detail?)

edit: Just saw your updated comment re optical drive: I don't own anything capable of playing blue ray films - you never know when someone might bring over a blue ray or when someone gives you one as a gift. I completely agree for games however - online distro all the way.
March 22, 2013 1:40:38 PM

Both cards will perform the same, it comes down to the cooling method, I typically recommend Gigabyte or Asus, others might recommend something else.

Either will be good though.
March 22, 2013 1:51:50 PM

@edogawa the sapphire card he linked is a 7870 XT, which is faster than just the plain 7870 by a reasonable margin. I do agree that Asus and Gigabyte have the best coolers though currently, if he wanted to go for the stock 7870.

M
March 22, 2013 1:56:03 PM

marshallbradley said:
@edogawa the sapphire card he linked is a 7870 XT, which is faster than just the plain 7870 by a reasonable margin. I do agree that Asus and Gigabyte have the best coolers though currently, if he wanted to go for the stock 7870.

M


He's doing 720p though so he won't notice a difference, going with a good cooler is better imho. He can always overclock too if he wanted.
March 22, 2013 2:24:23 PM

Its up to him really. Personally for the same price I'd rather have something with faster hardware and a middling cooler (the sapphire isn't even a bad one like the xfx, its just less good). Depends entirely on your priorities though.

M
March 22, 2013 2:27:21 PM

Right, I do believe I have a spec all set up.

Thank you everyone.

Now, which comment gets that lovely 'solution' tick?
!