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Tips - Where to save money on a limited budget gaming rig?

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October 13, 2006 1:45:11 AM

When building a limited-budget (~$1200) gaming rig from scratch (nothing to recycle), what parts, if any, can one skimp on while hurting gaming performance the least? Another way of looking at this is what components provide the most bang for buck? I've looked at the hardware charts and all, but they compare graphics cards vs graphics cards, not graphics cards vs CPUs vs memory (I think). Could be because the answer's really obvious, but I'm not tech savvy :oops:  At this stage, I'm still looking for general tips and theories, not specific components (though it wouldn't hurt). Thanks in advance and please excuse the laymen's terms.

Dunno, if it's relevant, but I've listed my gaming priorities below to give an idea of what I'm looking for in a machine.

Eye candy - I certainly don't mind if it's there :)  However...

Performance - ...I'd much rather have a game run without stuttering during those graphically intensive moments than see all the eye-candy in full glory. Minimal loading times and not having performance degrade after playing for several hours straight would be nice too.

FPS - 25 ~ 30 and I'm happy. Don't think the human eye (or just me) can tell the difference between 30 and 60 FPS. Plus I don't play shooters, so I don't need that extra .01 second advantage.

Sound - Eh, don't care. Have yet to play a game where I didn't just end up turning off the sound because it grew old. Playing the same game for ~3 years tends to have that effect.

Future proofability - Since games I like come out about once every ~5 years, I'm not too worried. Everything I have becomes obsolete by then anyway.

*Case it matters, the game I'm looking to upgrade for is Neverwinter Nights 2.
a b 4 Gaming
a c 355 U Graphics card
October 13, 2006 2:20:46 AM

One place to cut corners is to use integrated audio instead of a discreet sound card. For most people integrated graphics should be enough. You can save up money and add a sound card later.

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Nowadays many people recommend 2GB of RAM especially if you are going to upgrade to Windows Vista. 1GB is adequate though. You have two options here:

1. Install 1 stick of 1GB RAM save up money and add another stick of 1GB RAM later. This will degrade performance though because with one stick of RAM, it will be operating in single channel mode instead of dual channel mode. This is until you add the second stick of RAM. I guess you'll take a 10% - 15% performance hit with only 1 stick of RAM.

2. The second option is to start with 2 sticks of 512MB RAM, then add an additional 2 sticks of 512MB of RAM later. The downside is the RAM timings will not be as tight as if you were to only use 2 sticks of RAM. For most people the decrease in performance will not be noticable unless you are using benchmarking utilties.

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Don't buy a premium motherboard unless you will be using those premuim features. There are quite a few good mobos in the $100 - $150 range.

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There are plenty of good mid range video cards out there, but spending a little more for something closer to premium range video cards can postpone future upgrades, thus saving you money in the long run.

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If you are really, really hurting cash wise, then consider an analog LCD monitor. LCDs with DVI interfaces generally cost more. In most cases you will not notice much difference between analog and digital quality. However, this should be your last resort because no matter how good the rest of your PC is, you will always be staring at your monitor.

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Hope these general tips help. A $1200 budget should be enough for a PC. But you may need to toss in another $100 for the operating system if you don't have one.
a b 4 Gaming
a c 355 U Graphics card
October 13, 2006 2:29:48 AM

Oh yeah, one other thing. Buy an inexpensive CPU and overclock it. "Free Performance"
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a b 4 Gaming
a c 355 U Graphics card
October 13, 2006 5:38:47 AM

I recently helped someone put a PC together for $775, without a monitor. You might want to take a look at for some ideas.

Budget: under $850

Not a premium gaming machine, but you can swap out the 7600GT for something better like the 7900GT. Also upgrading the RAM to 2GB would be ideal. That should still give you enough money for a 19" LCD monitor.

The Antec Case includes a 380w PSU which is enough to power the rig even with the 7900GT. If you want a little more power then consider the Antec Sonata II with a 450W PSU.
October 13, 2006 9:22:33 PM

Thanks for the detailed info as well as the link. Will put it to good use :) 
October 13, 2006 10:47:49 PM

I suppose if you were to cheap-out on something, you could do it on the case. I'd still avoid integrated PSUs though, and make sure you have a fan or two for that case. Cheap keyboard and mouse are places to save as well. Sometimes you can get the case/mouse/keyboard as an inexpensive set.

You could also get a smallish hard disk, but your savings wouldn't be all that much unless you were going to get a Raptor or something. Another place would be instead of TFT/LCD would be to get a CRT monitor. They take up more room on your desk but work just fine - maybe you can get one from someone who is upgrading to LCD/TFT used but in good condition?
a b 4 Gaming
a c 355 U Graphics card
October 13, 2006 10:50:22 PM

Quote:
I suppose if you were to cheap-out on something, you could do it on the case. I'd still avoid integrated PSUs though, and make sure you have a fan or two for that case.


Antec has a reputation for make good/excellent cases and PSUs. That's why I recommended Antec cases with PSUs.
October 13, 2006 10:55:29 PM

You can get a mid-range GFX card, the truth is....you can't really see past maybe 40FPS. At least I cant. Although, still keep in mind that you will need to have something adequate for what you do/play.

Edit: Sorry, I skimmed your post, you said what I said, we think alike :D 
October 14, 2006 3:00:09 AM

Quote:
I suppose if you were to cheap-out on something, you could do it on the case. I'd still avoid integrated PSUs though, and make sure you have a fan or two for that case.


Antec has a reputation for make good/excellent cases and PSUs. That's why I recommended Antec cases with PSUs.

Fair 'nuff. My advice was more in line with the ElCheapo cases or those pre-modded ones you can get.
October 15, 2006 12:40:27 AM

wow 1200 is a limited budged 8O

i like what hte first poster saida bout getting a single stick of 1 gig ram and upgrading to 2 gigs once you have more money :) 
October 15, 2006 2:50:46 AM

Yeah I'm doing that.

If you need a cheap video card (< $100), go for the X800GTO. Or for a little more, get the X850XT PE. Both are great choices. They can compete with the 7600GT while being cheaper. I'm an nvidia person, but I have to say they're powerful for their low prices. Also, the X800GTO is the cheapest 256-bit interface card on newegg.
October 15, 2006 4:35:16 AM

To answer your question from your title. Here, at the forum, of course. 8)

Let's see $1200 budget. Assuming you need everything.

CPU: E6300 - $180.
Mobo:Gigabyte GA-965P-S3 - $125. Unless you need RAID.

NOTE: I read on Newegg that:

Quote:
Notice: Only DDR2-800 memory supporting JEDEC approved 1.8V operation with timings of 5-5-5 or 6-6-6 is supported on Intel Desktop Boards based on Intel 965 Express Chipsets.


What kind of mumbo jumbo is this? I went to Gigabyte's website on the GA-965B-S3 and it supports 533, 667 & 800 DDR2 memory.

HDD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 320GB Perpendicular Drive - $95
Memory: PQI Turbo 2x1GB DDR2 667 - $180
Video Card: X1900XT - $203
Case & PSU: Antec Sonata II with 450 W PSU - $106
Monitor: Viewsonic VX922 19" - $270
Mouse: Logitech MX518 Optical Mouse - $45
Keyboard: Logitech LX300 Wireless - $53
OS: MS Win XP SP2 OEM - $140

Total: $1397

Memory: Dropping down to 1GB RAM: PQI Turbo 1GB DDR2 667 - $105
Video Card: PowerColor X800GTO - $92
HDD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 250GB Perpendicular Drive - $80

New Total: $1196

You can alway upgrade the memory & video card very easily.
!