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Piecing together a gaming rig

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Last response: in PC Gaming
November 12, 2009 4:12:27 AM

I appologize for the length of this post. It is not necessary to read all the extra text, the basic question here is "are any suggestions/thoughts on the components?" I'm also not sure if this is the right topic under which to post this question (mods please move to proper location if necessary, thanks), but I just wanted to know if anyone had any better ideas for a gaming rig. My primary concern is really the upgradability of the components thereby setting myself up for "inexpensive" upgrades later on. I know that buying computer parts is a real poor investment but it may turn out to be cheaper to plan for further upgrades rather than buy a new rig every time I need more power. I'm hoping the i7 is going to be around for a while, as I've read Intel likes to change up their sockets a lot lately. Anyway, my plan is to eventually upgrade the CPU, RAM and double up on the graphics card when I feel the need for more speed. I'm not sure if I'm planning on overclocking just yet. Currently I've got on my list:

ASUS Rampage II Extreme LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail

Intel Core i7-920 Bloomfield 2.66GHz LGA 1366 130W Quad-Core Processor Model BX80601920 - Retail

CORSAIR DOMINATOR 6GB (3 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Triple Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model TR3X6G1600C8D - Retail

Antec P193 Gunmetal Gray Aluminum / Steel / Plastic ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - Retail

CORSAIR CMPSU-850TX 850W ATX12V 2.2 / EPS12V 2.91 SLI Ready CrossFire Ready Active PFC Power Supply - Retail

SAPPHIRE 100281SR Radeon HD 5870 (Cypress XT) 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFire Supported Video ... - Retail

I'm also hoping to RAID two:

Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 ST31000528AS 1TB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive

And as I'm not too familiar with RAID arrays nor hard drive specs. I'm not sure if there's a prefered hard drive for it. I know 2 TB seems like a bit of overkill for a gaming rig, this option is up for debate as of yet as it might cut down on cost (on the other end of the spectrum, I've considered solid state drives, any thoughts?). Also as another cost saving measure I may switch the motherboard to:

ASUS P6T Deluxe V2 LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail

Total retail price is approximately: $1770

Some concerns I have for this setup are:

I've read that the Rampage motherboard is slightly larger than standard ATX by about half an inch or so in length, will it fit into the P193 case?

Also, the size of the graphics card is an issue, it seems to be one of the largest on the market, will this also fit into the case mentioned?

If I do decide to overclock, are there any recommendations for a good heatsink? I've considered liquid cooling but not sure if its worth the extra money. This computer will be in an attic and the summer does heat up the room quite a bit without air conditioning. Apparently, the Radeon 5870 can run a little hot and raise the ambient temperature in the case so this could be a dangerous combination.

Are there any performance bottlenecks that anyone can spot? I'm considering investing in a sound card and would like to know if it is really worth the extra $80-$100:

Creative 70SB088000004 7.1 Channels PCI Express 1x Interface PCI Express Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium - Retail

Is the power supply going to be able to handle a second Radeon 5870?

I will also be buying a new mouse and keyboard. I've had nothing but good experiences with Logitech products so far (outside of certain gamepads):

Logitech MX518 8 Buttons 1 x Wheel USB Wired Optical Gaming Mouse - Retail

Logitech G11 Gaming Keyboard - Retail

Are there any suggestions for other mice/keyboards for games? I've been using an old Compaq Presario keyboard since the '90s and I'm quite fond of it.

One last thing. I haven't decided on a monitor just yet, but in a brief search I came across these:

ViewSonic VX2433wm 24-inch WideScreen LCD Monitor

ASUS VW246H 24-Inch Widescreen LCD Monitor - Black

Again, I'm looking for suggestions on what is best, whether listed above or not.

Thanks for reading, hope to get some feedback.

More about : piecing gaming rig

November 12, 2009 8:44:28 AM

Best to check Antec's site for internal dimensions of the case to see if the Radeon will fit. If it does then you're a winner.

The Corsair PSU will power two 5870s fine, but I recommend getting the HX not the TX so it's modular - you're going to be a little cramped inside with 2 GPUs so best not have unnecessary cables floating around.

Are you looking at Extreme overclocking or 3-way SLI/Crossfire? If not don't bother with the Rampage II Extreme - the board is an overclocking sensation but you do pay for it.

That being said, the Rampage II Extreme comes with it's own X-Fi sound card so you won't need to buy a separate one BUT if you want the card you've listed anyway you will have to use the 3rd 16x PCI-E slot to use it if you run 2 GPUs as the dedicated x1 slot will be covered. The black 1x PCI-E slot used for the bundled X-Fi has a heatsink right behind it which blocks the use of any other card (unless you bend/remove some of the fins).

If you decide against the Rampage II Extreme then I would actually go for the P6TD Deluxe, not the P6T Deluxe V2. Note the "D" in the name as that's important. A lot of people here are confusing the P6TD Deluxe for the P6T Deluxe V1 - they are not the same board. The P6TD Deluxe is a revision of the P6T Deluxe V2 using Asus's Xtreme Design technology, which basically means better heat dissipation from the CPU area, more copper in the motherboard, improved overclocking and other nice bits.

The P6TD Deluxe will get some good overclocks just as well as the Rampage II Extreme. It will be stable but the Rampage II Extreme has a serious amount of control for serious stability. The P6TD Deluxe doesn't do 3-way SLI/Crossfire - it runs its 16x PCI-E lanes at 16x/16x/1x Also the P6TD Deluxe has a 1x PCI-E slot away from the 16x slots so you can use your X-Fi Titanium without interfering with GPUs.

The RAM is nice, but you can do better for about the same money. With Core i7 you'll get more out of tighter RAM timings than faster RAM speed, but truth be told you'll only ever see that with synthetic benchmarks.

So, for roughly the same price point there's 6GB G.Skill Trident 1600MHz at 6-7-6-18

Corsair do XMS3 1600MHz at 7-7-7-24 timings, OCZ do Reaper at the same timings too.

Or if you want to stick at CAS8 you can save some money and get cheaper kit than the Dominators, like some Patriot Viper 1600MHz is 8-8-8-24

That being said, Dominator RAM is very robust so you could tighten the timings up on the kit you've listed.

For a gaming machine, you'll see more benefit from a fast boot/apps drive than you would lots of storage space. I'd recommend getting a Western Digital Velociraptor 150GB for system drive, but go for an SSD if you can stretch it, but we are talking money here.

In any case, I'd switch the Seagates for Samsung SpinPoint F3s - RAID 0 is unnecessary for storage as you won't see any use from the increased transfer rates and you're just putting an unnecessary risk level on your data. If you want 2TB on a single drive without buying a physically 2TB drive then use JBOD instead.

In regards to heat, every graphics card in the past few years runs hot. If anything the Radeon 5870 runs a little cooler than the previous generation, so it's all down to airflow in your case being able to shift it all out. The P193 is good though.

Regarding overclockling, if you don't OC that 920 even a little you're missing out! You can take the 920 up to 3.2 or 3.33GHz to match the Extreme Edition 965/975 on the stock cooler with absolutely no problem. Anything higher and you'd want a decent aftermarket job.

It depends on how far you want to go: for a 4GHz OC you'll need a beast like the Thermalright Ultra-120 Extreme Rev C (make sure it's the Rev C because the base is flat) or Prolimatech Megahalems with a pair of 120mm fans in push/pull.

I think a Scythe Mugen 2 or Thermolab Baram can get you up that high as well, but I'd be more comfortable using those two up to 3.8GHz. Cogage True Spirit is good as well, as is the Titan Fenrir but that's Europe only I think.

Yes, watercooling is an option but personally I think a lot of the time it's for bragging rights, prettiness for high-budget systems, absolute silence or extreme overclocking - the Ultra 120 Extreme or Megahalems can get the 920 to 4GHz on air whilst keeping within acceptable temps (75 degrees at load) without being too noisy (good fans though).

Hope this is useful to you.
November 12, 2009 9:02:19 AM

I agree about changing the Rampage 2 for a P6TD.

+1 for the Spinpoints and RAID1 is what you want for user data, or just JBOD and back up manually (or schedule it)
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November 12, 2009 2:34:50 PM

+1 Nice post LePhuronn.
November 12, 2009 2:40:08 PM

Cheers emyyhh

I've been speccing and reading up on my own OCed 920 build for a while now so I think I've caught back up with Intel's tech after 7 years.

Nice to be able to share the knowledge for a change, especially as my build is going to be pretty similar component-wise; I'm torn between the same motherboards (basically will I need 3-way GPUs), going for a 4GHz OC, 12GB Ballistix Tracer tightened to 7-7-7-24, 1T (it will do it, but I'll need the memory controller in my 920 to be top notch, so it's a challenge).

Personally I'm going for the Rampage II Extreme because I want to do multiple overclock profiles depending on my usage - I won't need to run 4GHz all the time, so I'll set up a couple of things for what I need and switch between them in real-time with the OC Station.

Oh, and it's all going in a modded Raven RV01
November 12, 2009 9:22:36 PM

Yeah thanks a bunch, that information is very useful and I appreciate how thorough your response is. Might have to keep an eye on your build and maybe copy it myself (I'd give credit where its due). Couple things though I'd like to continue to debate is whether a single drive creates faster load times in games versus RAID. From what I understood some years ago, RAID (using two drives reading simultaneously) would ultimately lead to quicker load times for everything including games. The hard drives suggested would boast the fastest load speeds available outside of solid state?

Also, I'm intrigued by what you've mentioned about the Rampage motherboard. You can adjust clock speeds while running in windows? That might be worth the investment, seeing as how it also has the x-fi soundcard it might make up the difference in switching down to the P6TD and make the Rampage worth the investment.

In my experience with overlocking, I found that the AMD chips were best for that several years ago. I ran an Athlon M (can't remember which chip it was now) overclocked up to around 40% and it lasted for several years until I upgraded (I may actually still have it in an older rig but turned it back down to default clock speeds). Anyway, my question is how well the 920 OC's and what effect that will have on its longevity and stability. I've read good things about it but I'm still concerned as I seem to have this sense that Intel chips can't OC like AMD's.

One more question, is 6GB of RAM enough? Is it worth adding another 6GB or more? Would I see any performance advantages in videogames or just in other applications?
November 12, 2009 11:46:58 PM

Don't worry about overclocking - both newer AMD and Intel chips OC like a beast - like I said the i7 920 can hit 4GHz on air - that's 50%. You just need to have monster cooling because the Bloomfields run very hot.

Cost of P6TD Deluxe + X-Fi Titanium is the same, or perhaps a little more, than the Rampage II Extreme alone, and yes it can OC on the fly using the TweakIt controls on the edge.

6GB RAM is enough for gaming, I'll be running 12GB because I do a lot of media work.

Regarding load times, RAID 0 ("striping") will split data equally across all the drives in the array and as a result will read back from all the drives at once. You don't literally get Nx speed (N = number of drives used) but it does get a lot faster than single drives. However because data is split, you lose the whole damn array if a drive fails, and the more drives in the array the higher the chances of failure (not that it will fail - individual hard drives are very robust but you multiply the chances of a failure occuring with every drive).

Don't forget rotation speed of the platters will improve access time, which is the biggest bottleneck in a mechanical HDD - the Raptors run at 10,000RPM over the traditional 7,200RPM. SAS drives are even faster at 15,000RPM but they're silly money and you don't get SAS controllers on anything other than workstation boards - no point going SAS for boot as they're even more expensive than SSDs.

Without going SSD, you could stripe 2 of those 150GB VelociRaptors for some fast access - get Windows and your games on this stripe and you'd be pretty good.
November 13, 2009 6:17:20 AM

I made some adjustments to my list and I did some browsing through newegg to see what I could find. So far I haven't come across any available G.Skill you mentioned at that timing. I know RAM timing can have an effect on performance and all that so what would be the best choice for gaming or does it matter at all since its mostly GPU power either way at that point? I also am ashamed to say I was never very clear on the RAM timing. Lower numbers in timings are better/faster, if i remember correctly?

I guess the only things I'm still stuck on are RAM and a monitor. I'm planning on running only one for gaming, maybe adding another just because I have extras.

On a side note, those Raptor drives are damn expensive lol

Also, any thoughts on the logitech keyboard? Any suggestions on a good one for gaming? USB is the way to go now though, right?
November 13, 2009 6:19:02 AM

Oh, forgot one question. If I run a RAID array with two cheaper drives spinning at 7200, will that offer me quicker load times than the Raptor at 10000? I'll look around on the site for any reviews but I'm getting a bit lazy since I got COD:MW2.
November 13, 2009 6:21:49 AM

Also forgot to add I came across this on Amazon for about $210 USD:

Corsair TR3X6G1600C7D Dominator 6 GB PC3-12800 1600 MHz 240-pin Triple Channel Core i7 DDR3 Memory Kit

Your thoughts?
November 13, 2009 8:33:04 AM

MantasL said:
Oh, forgot one question. If I run a RAID array with two cheaper drives spinning at 7200, will that offer me quicker load times than the Raptor at 10000?.

No. The rotation speed of a drive only affects access times of the drive - i.e. how fast the drive can find the data it's after. The actual read and write speed of the drive depends on the hard drive's controller and all that jazz. But yes two standard drives in a stripe would be faster than a single VelociRaptor - will take a bit longer to access data but then will make up for lost time in actually sending and receiving it.

Regarding the RAM, I looked at the CAS7 Dominators myself. My personal choice was to get the cheaper CAS8 kits and tighten them up to save money, but getting the CAS7 kits ensure that's what the chips are capable of running at. 1.65V DIMMs don't need active cooling so the fan's a nice bit of funky bling to add - might be useful if you're running 12GB though.
November 13, 2009 11:51:07 AM

By the way, I've just done a search for that crazy G.Skill Trident kit and Newegg have discontinued it, as have a few of my preferred suppliers over here in the UK.

It's possible there's been a problem with it and it's been pulled, even though G.Skill still list it on their site.

As you mentioned it, here's my spec for the (hopefully) end-of-year build:

Core i7 920 D0 stepping
Asus Rampage II Extreme
12GB Crucial Ballistix Tracer RED 1600MHz
2x Corsair X64 SSD RAID 0 system drive
2x Samsung SpinPoint F3 1TB RAID 0 data drive
1x Radeon 5870 1GB GPU *
Corsair HX1000 PSU
Thermalright TRUE Black Rev. C with 2x Xigmatek XLF-F1253 (I'm replicating the look of the Red Scorpion or Achillies with a cooler that actually works for i7 900s)
Silverstone Raven RV01 with window
Asus OC Station

Assorted minor mods and subtle lighting to go with my burning core red/orange theme.

* As far as the GPUs go, I'm playing it safe. Originally I was sticking to NVIDIA because I use CUDA-enabled media apps, but with the delays on Fermi, DirectX 11 and ATI's amazing performance leaps I thought "I game more than I CUDA".

So, assuming I build this system end of the year I'm getting 1 Radeon 5870 (5890 if it's out) while I wait for NVIDIA to get their arse in gear and ship Fermi-based cards. If they're as amazing as people say they'll be I'll sell the Radeon and get a pair of something high-end and be happy for about 8 years. If Fermi doesn't live up then I'll get another 1 or 2 5870/5890s and go Trifire, and be happy for about 8 years.
August 23, 2011 8:46:46 PM

Since everyone was so helpful last time...

So I never did build that rig, I ended up buying an Xbox and PS3 and a giant TV instead for the blurays. Now that BF3 is coming out I definitely need an upgrade from my last PC. I've been gaming on this laptop for a year now and its not gonna cut it haha.
August 23, 2011 9:54:28 PM

This topic has been closed by Mousemonkey