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Need advice on gaming machine

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November 13, 2006 3:52:55 PM

I have a tough decision to make, and I could go in several directions here so I'm looking for
some advice. I'm a gamer and I try to keep a deticated high performance gaming machine as one
of the PCs on my network. I did a re-install of Windows a few months ago, and I didn't load
any games until this past weekend when I bought Neverwinter Nights 2. When I installed it,
there were many polygon artifacts popping up all over the screen during the in-game graphics.
I installed Half Life 2 to make sure it was the video card, and sure enough the artifacts were
present there as well. So I concluded it was the video card. I tried everying I could think
of:
1) first updating the drivers
2) then uninstalling the drivers and all ATI software, popping open the hood, unattaching
the video card, dusting it and the AGP slot off, then pop it back in, re-install the
drivers. This made things better but the artifacts were still there.
3) tried to use an old driver, didn't help.

I opened up a ticket with amd/ati, and see what happens but I'm not holding my breath.

So now I am thinking about buying a new videocard, and/or a whole new system. The specs of my
current machine are:

processor: AMD athlon 2.0
RAM: 1 gb ddr
videocard: ATI Radeon 9800 XT 256 mb
motherboard: x86, AGP 4X
HDD: 80 gb


I can see that my gaming machine is starring obsolescence in the face as my machine is now at
the lower end of the minimum specs for the big titles like Fear and Neverwinter Nights 2.
Since my motherboard doesn't have PCI Express, my options are somewhat limited for a replacement
videocard, but I wondered if something like this would be a good option:

http://www.pricewatch.com/video_cards/radeon_x1600_pro_...

Do you think this videocard could hold me over for a couple years, or do you think I should
upgrade other system components, or should I totally rebuild a new system and get a new
motherboard? If so, what components would you reccomend? I usually try to stay on the
trailing edge of the high peformance components.

Thanks so much for your advice,
Doug

More about : advice gaming machine

a c 90 B Homebuilt system
a b 4 Gaming
November 14, 2006 12:07:31 PM

If you go the AGP upgrade route I'd recommend the HIS Hightech Radeon X1650PRO 256MB AGP $126 after rebate. The extra 256MB VRAM in the card you linked isnt worth the extra cost - and the 1650Pro should be a bit more powerful.

Still at $126 that AGP upgrade is more than half the price of a kick-ass PCI-E video card eVGA 7900GT 256MB PCI-E x16 $236 after rebate or ATI X1950PRO 256MB GDDR3 PCI E x16 $240 after rebate

Couple that with a system upgrade and then, IMO, your new system will be good to go with the new games for the next couple years.
Motherboard: BIOSTAR TForce965PT P965 $105
CPU: Core 2 Duo E6300 Conroe 1.86GHz $184
RAM: pqi 2GB DDR2 667 (PC2 5400) $196
HD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 250GB $75
DVD: LITE-ON Black 16X DVD+RW Burner $29
Your choice of video card: $240
For a core system cost of around ~$826
Add a case & PSU, your choice of keyboard & mouse and OS and you have a very nice system upgrade for about ~$1000.
For an idea what a similar AMD system might look like check out this Midrange Buyer's Guide - September 2006
November 14, 2006 4:21:24 PM

Thanks for the suggestions. I was thinking that I may have to do a major upgrade in front of Vista coming down the pipeline. What are the specs for Vista? Will my current machine run it, or would I need to upgrade to a system like you are suggesting?
Related resources
November 14, 2006 5:20:02 PM

Quote:
Thanks for the suggestions. I was thinking that I may have to do a major upgrade in front of Vista coming down the pipeline. What are the specs for Vista? Will my current machine run it, or would I need to upgrade to a system like you are suggesting?


I wouldnt get vista unless you actually get a new system. As for the choice between just upgrading the videocard or going whole new system well it depend on you and your budget.

personnaly I just bough a similar system like WR2 suggested and I couldnt be happier. now im trying to get a new lcd too even if my current one is working perfectly =\. I want a 22" instead of this 19 !!
November 14, 2006 5:35:09 PM

I was reading the reviews at newegg about that motherboard and people seemed pretty disappointed. Why do you endorse this one? Also could you suggest a step up from this motherboard?
a c 90 B Homebuilt system
a b 4 Gaming
November 14, 2006 6:13:55 PM

Check this review: Biostar TForce 965PT & Gigabyte GA-965P-S3
Either one is a good choice. Plus ASUS P5B-E is also a good choice.

Your current system meets minimum requirements for running Vista. The suggested system would make you much happier though, without a doubt. Since games don't run as well on Vista you'd want a more powerful system just to not loose any gaming peformance. Most gaming oriented people will likely wait to adopt Vista, or at least have a dual boot setup with WinXP and Vista to ease the transition.
November 14, 2006 7:28:27 PM

The better choice for mimium money, will be the Radeon x1950 pro AGP card that is suppose to be out this month. THE best performer for agp.
November 14, 2006 8:22:22 PM

Quote:
I was reading the reviews at newegg about that motherboard and people seemed pretty disappointed. Why do you endorse this one? Also could you suggest a step up from this motherboard?


I got the Gigabyte DS3 and it is performing well. no clue about the other one.
November 15, 2006 2:01:21 AM

I like what I see with the video card, ram, hdd, and dvd, but i have some questions about the motherboard and cup. I see alot of negetive customer reviews for those 2 motherboards. So I scares into thinking I should buy this one

ABIT AW9D-MAX Socket T (LGA 775) Intel 975X ATX Intel Motherboard

As for the cpu, i see that the intel presler line like this one

Intel Pentium D 945 Presler 3.4GHz 2 x 2MB L2 Cache LGA 775

is rated much faster, and the specs seem the same. So why not a presler?
November 15, 2006 7:46:43 PM

The new Core2 architecture is faster and more efficient. Pentium D's suck, same with Pentium 4's. Look here: http://www23.tomshardware.com/cpu.html?modelx=33&model1...

The E6300 isnt on there, but instead compare the Pentium to an E6400, the E6400 is pretty close to the E6300, and as you can see, its way better. Not much can be compared by clock speed anymore...
November 16, 2006 12:13:09 PM

Ok so I'm sold on the Conroe architecture, so what about the motherboard. What do you guys think of the one I suggested? Is it better and a safer bet?

Thanks
November 16, 2006 8:10:40 PM

It looks good. And Abit is a great manufacturer.
November 18, 2006 3:58:17 PM

It looks the the DVD burner that was reccomended to me is out of stock. Can you guys suggest another DVD burner?

Thanks
November 19, 2006 9:00:35 AM

have u been overclocking your video card? artifacts shows when card hard been overclock off the limit. No, i dont think 9800 video card could handle the new titles are about to realease, since Direct x 10 has arrived, and new OS about to arrived that will require Direct x 10 cards. This means, if u want to play the new Directx 10 titles, u will be require to have a directx 10 card, and windows vista. Do not buy Ati 1900 for agp, since u dont have a very powerful cpu. Just build a new pc with pci-e, and a direct x 10 video card.
November 19, 2006 12:05:13 PM

Quote:
I was reading the reviews at newegg about that motherboard and people seemed pretty disappointed. Why do you endorse this one? Also could you suggest a step up from this motherboard?
Newegg reviews are not always a reliable source. This is a case in point. All the early P965 chipset boards were very picky about the ram installed. Enthusiast ram that needs 2.0v or more often would not POST on these boards. Buyers who bought this ram will post bad reviews. BIOS upgrades fix this. If you don't overclock, get 533 DDR2 value ram (Kingston works well) and all will be fine.
The S3 Gigabyte is a good board.
975 based boards cost more but are not as picky about your choice in ram. Not all 975 boards will run a Conroe though.
November 19, 2006 1:55:42 PM

The Gigabyte S3 is a great board for the price. Excellent. A number of people (including myself) have hit a 50% overclock on an E6300, to 3.0 ghz......some had 667 RAM, some have 800 RAM.

It won't get you as high an OC as some boards, this is true, but those boards are double the price.

Excellent value and a great performer. The DS3 isn't needed, a waste of money for the "longer-life" parts.......by the time the S3 is ready to die, you'll already been onto a whole new computer systems long since then ;) 
November 20, 2006 6:33:16 PM

Quote:
have u been overclocking your video card? artifacts shows when card hard been overclock off the limit. No, i dont think 9800 video card could handle the new titles are about to realease, since Direct x 10 has arrived, and new OS about to arrived that will require Direct x 10 cards. This means, if u want to play the new Directx 10 titles, u will be require to have a directx 10 card, and windows vista. Do not buy Ati 1900 for agp, since u dont have a very powerful cpu. Just build a new pc with pci-e, and a direct x 10 video card.


No I never touched that video card. It was my understanding that since its an XT model, all the pipelines were already unlocked. So I never tweaked it at all. Also older games show the same artifact problem. I first got this card when Half Life 2 came out and it performed well with it. I recently re-installed Half Life 2 and there were artifacts there as well as a new game like Neverwinter Nights 2. I'm building a new system no doubt, its just a matter of which components I'm going to buy. I'll post them here within the next couple days and show you guys the direction I am going. Most of the parts will be the ones reccomended here, others will be upgraded. Right now I'm looking at about 1500 for this system.
November 21, 2006 12:17:02 AM

Ok I have a major problem with this video card. The ati website says that it needs 38 amps on a 12 volt rail.

Radeon® X1950 PRO 256MB PCI Express

I browsed a couple power supplies on newegg, and they list the amps like this:
+12v1@19A, +12v2@19A

Is this equivalent to 38 amps on 12 volt rail?

Thanks
November 23, 2006 11:13:22 AM

Quote:
Ok I have a major problem with this video card. The ati website says that it needs 38 amps on a 12 volt rail.

Radeon® X1950 PRO 256MB PCI Express

I browsed a couple power supplies on newegg, and they list the amps like this:
+12v1@19A, +12v2@19A

Is this equivalent to 38 amps on 12 volt rail?

Thanks
Quote from shopATI.com:
"Connection to the system power supply is required:
* 450-Watt power supply or greater, 30 Amps on 12 volt rail recommended (assumes fully loaded system)
For CrossFire™: 550 watt power supply or greater, 38 Amps on 12 volt rail
"

Yes. It looks like ATI requires each card to have 8 amps available to it. That's almost 100 watts each! More rails just allows for thinner wires out of the psu, a good thing since battery cables get cumbersome inside a case. For Crossfire use, look at 3 and 4 rail supplies running 15 amps each. I just saw an ad for PC Power & Cooling that shows 38 single rail amps. This is fairly rare.
November 23, 2006 5:47:03 PM

Ok I got it. So here is what I bought:

Case: COOLER MASTER Mystique RC-632-KKN1-GP

mobo: ABIT AW9D-MAX Socket T (LGA 775) Intel 975X ATX Intel Motherboard

GPU: ATI 100-437807 Radeon X1950PRO 256MB 256-bit GDDR3 VIVO PCI Express x16 CrossFire Video Card

PSU: BFG Tech BFGR650PSU ATX 12v 2.0 / EPS 12V 650Watts Power Supply

CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 Conroe 2.4GHz

memory: CORSAIR XMS2 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800

DVD: LITE-ON

Monitor: Dell 20in widescreen


The only thing I didn't buy is a HDD. The reason why I didn't is because this one is 80gig and I don't need more space than that. Also I'm not concerened with load times for the games. Other than load times, is there any in-game bottleneck that I'm risking by not buying a new HDD?

Thanks,
Doug
November 23, 2006 8:22:13 PM

Like the Abit, most Conroe motherboards have only 1 IDE port. You CAN hook up your boot HD and optical drive to this, but I would not.
You can get a small SATA drive to boot from for cheap. Just one example (I didn't search for real deals):

WD CaviarSE 120GB/7200/8MB SATA OEM $57+6 11/23/06
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16822144414
You will be glad you did.
November 24, 2006 2:15:21 AM

For about $40 you can get an 80GB Sata II drive.
November 24, 2006 2:34:08 AM

If you can cancel the oreder on that vid card, please do so. Throwing your money away. Check pricegrabber.com and do a search for the X1950Pro. $204.99 shipped. Crossfire edition and all. If you plan ot go crossfire. If not, it's still a bargain and will will save you $90+ including shipping.
November 24, 2006 7:49:10 PM

Quote:
If you can cancel the oreder on that vid card, please do so. Throwing your money away. Check pricegrabber.com and do a search for the X1950Pro. $204.99 shipped. Crossfire edition and all. If you plan ot go crossfire. If not, it's still a bargain and will will save you $90+ including shipping.


Thanks for the tip, I'll follow through on this.
November 24, 2006 7:51:30 PM

Quote:
Like the Abit, most Conroe motherboards have only 1 IDE port. You CAN hook up your boot HD and optical drive to this, but I would not.
You can get a small SATA drive to boot from for cheap. Just one example (I didn't search for real deals):

WD CaviarSE 120GB/7200/8MB SATA OEM $57+6 11/23/06
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16822144414
You will be glad you did.


I think I will get one of these. I noticed that newegg has the 160gig version for only 1 dollor more. I think I will buy this drive. My only problem is that I've never had a SATA drive before. Is it tricky or different to install the window's drivers on this kind of drive?
November 25, 2006 1:26:37 PM

You just press F6 during setup (when it asks you) and insert the driver floppy. Or you can stick the driver into your windows install with a program called nLite. (nLite is the fun way, then you can get rid of useless crap too...like Desktop Cleanup Wizard, extra drivers, etc.)
November 25, 2006 8:05:00 PM

Quote:
Like the Abit, most Conroe motherboards have only 1 IDE port. You CAN hook up your boot HD and optical drive to this, but I would not.
You can get a small SATA drive to boot from for cheap. Just one example (I didn't search for real deals):

WD CaviarSE 120GB/7200/8MB SATA OEM $57+6 11/23/06
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16822144414
You will be glad you did.


I think I will get one of these. I noticed that newegg has the 160gig version for only 1 dollor more. I think I will buy this drive. My only problem is that I've never had a SATA drive before. Is it tricky or different to install the window's drivers on this kind of drive?No. The world has turned upside down for hard drives. It used to be that when SATA first was introduced that you needed to hit F6 on a windows install to load the drivers. I had to do this on my Intel D845PEBT2 board (a long time ago).

Now it's the IDE/PATA drives that need special attention. If you hook up an SATA drive it will be recognized and work without ANY special attention. P965 boards (especially using the JMicron add-on chip) need drivers loaded in order to boot from an IDE hard drive. You will also end up with an optical and boot HD on the same IDE channel (works but is not a good practice). That's why I recommended getting an SATA drive.

Also, it's good to have your OS separated from your data/programs anyway. Ideally, when you first set up your drive, partition 20-25 GB for the C drive as your home for XP. It will run cleaner/faster that way. Load everything else you can on the other partitions/drives.
!