$1200 to spend, gaming rig--newbie at building/OC'in

Previously, I've always bought complete systems for my gaming needs, but this time around, I'd like to actually put it together myself. It'll be my first time though, so I was wondering if y'all could recommend something that wont require an expert's touch just to get booting! I can plug stuff in, but I know absolutely nothing about BIOS

I'm thinking of spending a little more money on the mobo than I should, so that the system could be improved a piece at a time. The A8N 939 and Lanparty NF4 both look decent?

SLI looks cool--I could buy a second, reasonably priced graphics card a year from now (or maybe a physics engine?). However, if I just saved the money by not getting SLI mobo/psu, I could get a much better single graphics card... it's a dilemma!

All best,
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  1. Hi Zippyx,

    Glad to know you want to start building a PC yourself. Here are some issues to consider:

    1) How will you be using the computer? Is it mainly for gaming (especially 1st person shooters, FarCry, Quake, Doom)? If so, I'd certainly recommend that you get an SLI motherboard and (potentially) two graphics cards (the 7900GT is a good bet).

    2) The choice of motherboard is very important. Besides SLI, the other points to consider are PCI Express support, as well as USB, Firewire, LAN and sound support.

    3) The CPU and RAM are also critical. There is also a movement towards dual CPUs in computers (again, for gaming mostly). So make sure you get something like the Athlon X2 CPU is you want to go down this path.

    For your budget of $1200, you can check out this article which recommends a sample configuration for you. Also, you should check this review of the DFI Lanparty UT RDX200 board, which (IMO) is one of the best out there at the moment.
  2. "However, if I just saved the money by not getting SLI mobo/psu, I could get a much better single graphics card... it's a dilemma!

    Both Epox and Jetway offer very reasonably priced SLI boards that are $100 less expensive than top Asus/DFI boards, so you can really have both for only $15 extra, if that, invested in the mainboard...

    Regarding your BIOS learning curve...THG had a nice "BIOS A-Z" guide a month or two ago, although 90% of settings are really only useful for those searching for 500+ MHz overclocks, useful for perhaps a 2-3 frames/sec boost at most games at high resolution.....

    Unless you have 1920x1200 capable monitor, I'd think a single 7900GT ($299-$320-ish) would do quite nicely for most folks these days, being even faster than earlier 7800GTX 256 variants....

    What processor have you chosen? (Look hard at an Opty 170 if budgetarily feasible, as more and more drivers and games are being optimized for dual core rigs; if forced to choose between a better video card or a dual core, I'd prioritize on the video card, going with a 3500+ single core and 7900GT as opposed to a 4200+ and a 6800GS/7600GT, however...)
  3. Let's get this right.

    Do you need a monitor? speakers? Optical drives? Mouse and Keyboard? All these cost at least 500$ and that makes a big difference in what you can spend on the performance-related parts,

    1. Forget about SLI. It is just a marketing technique designed to double the money you invest on the video card while only giving you the psychological feeling that it gives twice the performance. Even if it gave a 50% increase, it wouldn't be worth it. But it barely approaches a 30% increase at best, sometimes it even performs worse than a single-card solution. So, SLI is bad.

    2. Now that you know that you don't need SLI, you don't need a SLI-capable mobo either. SLI-capability doesn't hurt, but it's not needed.

    3. Given your budget, stay away from Intel, Athlons FX and X2. As mdd1963, get something like an Athlon 64 3500+ and a good video card such as 7900GT.

    4. CRTs are still the best screens out there, they are becoming rare but they cost less and if not encumbrance but value is your main concern, be sure to check out the Viewsonic 19".
  4. Oops, forgot to mention that I have a 19" DVI LCD monitor already, so it's 1200 to spend on the box itself (including case :)). I have opticals, mouse/keyboard, and sound... pretty much anything i want from the old system, but i'm not looking to reuse many of the performance-related parts. Probably means a new psu too.

    Okay, I'm still up in the air, unsure about SLI. But a question: I noticed that on some mobo's, when in SLI form, turn into 8x - 8x on the PCIe ports, so a total of 16x bandwidth instead of the expected 32x... are these just cheap boards and to be avoided, or do they all do that and just not say it?

    Would getting a cheap dual processor be better or worse than a more expensive single (for the same price, you can get a much nicer single, obviously!)

    I'll post a tentative list in a few hours
  5. Another reason to not buy SLI is that it will require a powerful PSU, which will also add to the total. Let's take an example:

    Single video card

    Antec SONATA II: 100$ (Case + PSU)
    7900 GT : 305$ (Video card)

    Total (Video Card + Case + PSU) = 405$

    Dual video cards

    Cooler Master Centurion: 64$ (Case w/o PSU)
    OCZ PowerStream 520W: 140$ (Kickass PSU for SLI)
    2x 7900GT = 610$

    Total (Video Card + Case + PSU) = 814$

    The best deal is of course the single video card.
  6. So, I'm assuming you need a CPU, mobo, PSU, GPU, case, hard drive, and memory. You have optical drives, and everything outside the box. Do you also want a soundcard, as that can vastly improve the gaming experience?

    Here's a very basic price guide from me:
    Mobo: $80-100 nForce 4 Ultra
    CPU: $300-350 3800+ X2 or Opteron 165
    GPU: $300 X1800XT or 7900GT
    PSU: $80-95 500W from a good name(Antec, FSP)
    case: $50-80 Cooler Master and Antec's have great stock airflow
    HDD: $90-100 Western Digital 16Mb cache (250GB is nice)
    memory: $150-200 DDR400 2GB(2 x 1GB) kit from OCZ, G.Skill, Corsair, or another good name

    Total: Should come around $1200 for good name stuff and depending on NewEgg sales and price fluctuations.
  7. So I've been reading through the suggestions and decided to see if I could afford the high end of the majority of the suggestions. The mobo is SLI, but I dont plan on taking advantage of that in the near future -- it'll be for later upgrades (or perhaps a physics card instead of a second gfx). I looked at the Opteron 170 and drooled, but it's another $75 and I'm not sure where I would squeeze that from. Below is the beginnings of my thinking:

    ASUS A8N-SLI Premium Socket 939 NVIDIA nForce4 SLI ATX AMD Motherboard $160
    DFI LANPARTY nF4 SLI-DR Socket 939 NVIDIA nForce4 SLI ATX AMD Motherboard $187

    OCZ 2GB (2 x 1GB) DDR 400 (PC3200) $141

    eVGA 256-P2-N563-AX Geforce 7900GT 256MB GDDR3 PCI Express x16 Video Card $319

    AMD Opteron 165 Denmark 1GHz HT Socket 939 Dual Core Processor Model OSA165CDBOX $325

    This list would put me at $972 ($945 with the asus). And I still need a case, PSU, and hd for the remaining $240ish. HD size isn't a really big issue... i have several HDs right now that more than hold everything i need, but i would like to get a newer, speedy drive for windows and the game files. Everything else can be stored on the slower guys.

    Any suggestions, tweaks, or alterations to the list... or ideas for the other 3 items I need? One random physical dimension: the tower idealy would be less than 20" (51 cm) tall!
  8. you can build a decent comp for 1200
    what I would do is get a case and PS for 150 dollars
    Just get a DFI lanparty for 122 dollars
    Either get a opty of someting in the x2 series. I would recommend 3800 or opty 165 and you can OC the opty to 4800 speeds
    spend about 160 on the RAM G.SKill makes good stuff and you can get it for about 150
    depends how much space you need but I dont need much so I only got a 80GB but you may need more
    For a graphics card go for 7900gt or x1800xt or maybe step up to x1900xt but you may need cooling for that
    have fun
  9. heh, my post right above yours Sandman is pretty in line with what you're suggesting. Could you please go in to a little more detail about the HD, case, and PSU?
  10. Quote:
    heh, my post right above yours Sandman is pretty in line with what you're suggesting. Could you please go in to a little more detail about the HD, case, and PSU?

    Case: Antec P180- $124
    PSU: Antec TruePower II 550W- $89
    HD: Seagate 160GB SATA II hard drive - $83
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