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A mid-range gaming system to rip apart ... Please!

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March 7, 2007 3:17:09 PM

Hello all,

I am new to the forums and looking for advice. I am looking to build a mid-range gaming computer for less than $2000. I don’t plan on using it for anything but gaming and possibly video applications as I have a laptop for day-to-day stuff.
After doing as much research as I can (probably more confused now than before!), I’ve come up with what I think is a decent, mid-range, rig and want to hear your thoughts. Specifically, I’d like to hear if I’ve skimped in any one area or gone too powerful in another … (I don’t want to see one component bog the system down or pay more than needed for something that ends up under utilized.)

Also, I’d like to add my personal tastes when it comes to gaming to see if it helps with suggestions.

1) Least concern: “Resolution/detail” I don’t typically push the resolution/graphics quality to the limits when I game. My monitor is not the best as well as sometimes I like to play through my 62” projection TV.
2) Highest concern: “Game speed” I’m ok with ramping down the resolution/graphics quality, but I want to ensure I have the juice needed to keep the FPS at a decent level. It doesn’t have to be the best ever, but I’d like to be able to play something like Oblivion without having the system seriously bog down.

Anyway, here is what I’ve found for around $1700:

Processor(2): Intel Core 2 Duo Processor E6600 2x 2.4 GHz, 1,066 MHz FSB, 4 MB L2

Platform: Either:
1) eVGA NForce 680i SLI Chipset w/7.1 Sound, Gb LAN, S-ATA Raid, USB 2.0 Dual PCI-E MB
Or
2) MSI 975X Platinum i975X Chipset w/7.1 Sound, Gb LAN, S-ATA Raid, USB 2.0, IEEE-1394 Dual PCI-E MB
(About a $60 difference between the two … Is it worth paying the extra for the eVGA NForce?)

RAM: Corsair 2GB (1GB x2) DDR2-667 PC5300 Memory

Hard Drive: 250 GB HARD DRIVE [Serial-ATA-II, 3Gb, 7200 RPM, 8M Cache]

Graphic Card: Nvidia GeForce 8800GTS 320MB

Power Supply: NZXT PF-500 500 Watt Power Supply
(Is this enough?)

DVD R/W: 18X Dual Format/Double Layer DVD±R/±RW + CD-R/RW Drive

Other stuff: Liquid CPU Cooling Fan System Kit, Raidmax Katana Gaming Tower Case

Well, that’s it. Pretty stripped down for gaming. From things I’ve read, I will probably end up overclocking it (as soon as I feel comfortable that I won’t mess it up!) to get the most out of system.

Anyway, thanks for any advice you can give me!

Cheers!
March 7, 2007 3:26:21 PM

If you're really going to be doing video work you should have a second hard drive, raw video takes a lot of space and project files can fill up your drive and cause corruption or crashing.
March 7, 2007 3:32:45 PM

Thats mid range 8O . *Feels sorry for student friends who still run on athlon XP's and MX's*

Back to the point in question do its a solid rig. If you are after serious over clocking it will be worth going with the 680i + it has the advantage of the step up policy which is always nice.

As for the cpu heat sink, I may just be being dim as it were after a day of typing reports but I don't understand what you mean, These forums seem to recommend the Scythe Infinite if that helps.

Now second to last issue the PSU.

Helpful link

Estmating here but you are going to need a 30A + system preferable on a single rail have a quick look through the list and find something that suits your needs and wallet.

Would recommend a spare HDD or a second for a RAID 0 configeration to speed things up do if your spending that kind of cash. Personaly I don't believe the Raptors warrent the price but thats down to personal choice.

Aside from that solid rig and enjoy your new machine
Related resources
March 7, 2007 3:39:36 PM

Quote:
If you're really going to be doing video work you should have a second hard drive, raw video takes a lot of space and project files can fill up your drive and cause corruption or crashing.


Thanks for the reply. I probably should have mentioned that most of the non-listed peripherals will be yanked from my seriously outdated home pc!

I've updated a few components, to include a new hard drive after the one that came with it crashed, but the core system is 6-7 years old now ... Way past time to put it out to pasture.

When I get the new system, I'll be adding in the old hard drive to bring the total up to two. There is also a CD R/W in it, but it's pretty old ... mainly why I plan on going with the DVD R/W listed in my original post.
March 7, 2007 3:48:03 PM

Instead of wasting all that money on liquid cooling and that case, keep the stock HSF (just fine, and you don't need to OC). I recommend going for the DDR2 800 Corsair XMS2 instead of the 667 (it's faster). Both chipsets are rock stable, although the 680i is the cream of the crop. If the motherboard and cpu are $500 overall, that leaves a whopping $1200 (via your original budget) for you to spend on stuff. I'd also go for the 8800GTX if at all possible. While another $250 over the 320 Mb GTS, the 768 Mb GTX has that extra 448 Mb of memory and 32 extra stream processors. While you don't see a whole lot of difference now, I expect that games like Crysis will relish in that extra power.
March 7, 2007 3:59:37 PM

For the best gaming experience a RAID stripe is mandatory. Two drives is a start but four is the best. After four drives the performance doesn't increase enough to justify the cost. I can't afford it but four 15k SCSI drives would be the shit excpet you would wake up your neighbors when it booted up. But for a budget I would say 4 Seagate Barracuda 250GB. Maybe even 150GB or 160GB I don't know what your storage needs are. And instead of liquid cooling your rig which is uber unecessary for your setup, get a Noctua 120mm HSF. I would never buy any case fans or CPU coolers from another manufactuer. I only use Noctua now. It pwns the TT. As for memory, Corsair XMS2 DDR2 800 is good and I would absolutely go with the 8800GTX (if I wasn't an AMD/ATI guy :D  ). The Corsair PSUs are excellent. As for the motherboard, the eVGA is a no-brainer. If you MUST go Intel :evil:  then the 6600 should be plenty on a budget.
March 7, 2007 6:33:15 PM

Thanks everyone for your inputs. From what I read, it sounds like the system I plan is fairly solid, other than some tweaking, and the components are reasonably on par with each other.

However, I've noted several thoughts on doing something different in regards to cooling the CPU/board and maybe boosting the power supply?

With that, I wanted to add that I am not actually building this computer myself personally but getting it built by a local "mom and pop" custom computer store (I chose them because they come highly recommended by several friends who went down the same route.)

What they do is start with a couple of generic low, mid, and high level computers for various applications (gaming in my case), then give you a "ala-carte" type menu of alternate components with associated cost additions/subtractions (you can also remove certain items to take away cost as well). They carry a lot of stuff, but it's definitely not all inclusive like if you buy the components direct. You can ask for specific stuff, but they have to go out and buy it themselves which adds time and more overhead cost.

With that, they carry several PSUs, but they really just difer in power settings (I think they carry Enermax, NZXT, thermaltake, and Tagan ... up to 1000 watts). They recommended the 500 watt as the minimum for this system, but I wanted to hear from the community on whether it was enough. Are these easy enough to change out? If so, It would probably make sense to go with the standard offering and replace it myself.

They also offer the 8800GTX, but it adds a whopping $306 to the total price ... Not sure if I need to go that route with the type of gaming I plan on doing.

They also have external RAID hardrives (USB 2.0). They come in 2x flavors of 320 mb and 500 mb ... but again, the cheapest setup comes with a $450 price tag. Is this something I can add on at a later date as opposed to something that really needs to be done upfront?

Finally, their processor cooling options are limited. Is this something I could direct buy myself and easily replace the liquid CPU cooling fan system they offer? (if so, I'd opt with the standard and replace myself as soon as I pick it up.)

Anyway, thanks again for all your help!
March 7, 2007 6:50:32 PM

Ok, well I'm sure they'll know what there doing so the cooling for the heat sink shouldn't be an issue. The GTX isn't really worth the cash unless you play at really high res or feel the need to say my e-peon is this big -----^>

Make sure you get at least a 500W or better yet a 600W PSU. As i say they should know what there doing if your unsure that they there unsure ask them for a the AMP ratings of the PSU and remember that you need 30A

As for an external RAID it won't be needed. I am fairly sure if you ask them they will be able to setup a inside RAID 1 Config with a few HDD's inside of the case.

Changing the config of the HDD array once you have the software and hardware configured can be problematic but it is possible to do

*I should proof read. Poster below I meant 1, Yes I am quite new to a billion odd anagrams but thanx for taking the time to explain my mistake., as for the GTX comment. The op expressed that running games in Hi res isn't really necessary just running them well. so in my pov and what I would rec is the GTS is better value for money.*
a b B Homebuilt system
a b 4 Gaming
March 7, 2007 7:14:04 PM

OMG, could you go anymore noob? I actually stopped reading your post so I could find the word pawns in your post. (yes, its there, misspelled.) Never use AID0 for your OS drive, and get a bigger video card before getting AID0! AID0 doesn't help much with gaming, but getting the GTX over the 320GTS will.
March 7, 2007 8:14:25 PM

this is all you need unless your extreme :D 

nice dvd burner just got 1 myself :D 
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?item=N82E1682...

or any case you choose in this price range
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?item=N82E1681...

you get 2 of these for a total of $140.00
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?item=N82E1682...

I also just bought this card after 35.00 rebate your total cost $340.00
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?item=N82E1681...

tier 2 antec nuff said
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?item=N82E1681...

Just got it :D 
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?item=N82E1682...

just got it :D 
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?item=N82E1682...

always use it :D 
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?item=N82E1683...

for the price and from reviews overclockability :D 
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?item=N82E1682...

dont know much about this board (just google it) 8)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?item=N82E1681...

the chip you wanted
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?item=N82E1681...

and a little cool air to top it all off 8)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?item=N82E1683...

grand total delivered $1649.38 yeah baby yeah

if you dont think you can put it together yourself maybe a friend can help
or maybe that mom and pop shop will put it together for a small fee :?:
March 7, 2007 8:49:07 PM

NOOOO!!! YOU HAVE A CHANCE TO BECOME A DIYer!!! BUILD IT YOURSELF AND JOIN OUR RANKS!!!
March 8, 2007 9:38:38 AM

Hee hee ... Thanks for the vote of confidence but, knowing me, it probably frustrate me to all get out! (I am definitely of the instant gratification class of people!)

Might take a limited DIY approach though ... Thinking I could probably just have them put some basic stuff in like the power supply and the heatsink. Then buy something better from Newegg or such and swap them myself.

I'm guessing here, but I imagine swapping the powersupply and heatsink are fairly easy? Any words of warning in this area?

One last question ... Where would I get more bang for the buck ... choosing the better MOBO (eVGA 680SLI) or going with the 975 and picking the 8800GTX? (I know, should probably do both but hey ... money is tight!)

Thanks again everyone who posted their recommendations!
March 8, 2007 10:19:05 AM

The eVGA 680i motherboard is by far the best 680i motherboard available now. If you are going to go with nVIDIA, you have to get the eVGA board. And the 8800GTX is an excellent choice. That combo with chew through anything. As far as the heatsink and power supply go, get the Corsair 750W and the Noctua-UF12 heatsink. I think I remember you saying that you are getting the E6600 which will overclock very nicely and easily. Swapping a PSU and HSF are very, very easy.

If you need any help, IM me at doordand (AIM), or email me at doordand@gmail.com.
a b B Homebuilt system
a b 4 Gaming
March 8, 2007 4:25:16 PM

Changing out the PSU is a lot easier then changing the heatsink, but both are easy enough that anyone should be able to do it. If I remember my benchies correctly, there isn't a lot of difference between the 680i, and the 975/965 motherboards. Now that the 965 has been tweaked, it overclocks just as far as the 975/680i. This means that I'd get the 975/965, and the GTX. Having the best video card will impact your frame rates more then a motherboard.
March 8, 2007 5:24:35 PM

I love the EVGA 680i, especially for overclocking and all the goodies, but if you are planning raid down the line, check out the benchmarks.

Conclusion page of Tom's Hardware review 680i Motherboard Comparison Part 2


The 680i seems a bit weak in the raid area, but a winner overall. Great system you are planning! If you feel adventurous, you could have a lot of fun DIY'ing it. Of course if something goes wrong, it could also be a bummer, but those things can be fixed...
March 8, 2007 6:40:41 PM

DIYing is definately the way to go. I am an AMD guy and I have an ASUS Crosshair with a 5200+ but if you must go Intel, the 680i is the best.
March 8, 2007 7:13:28 PM

ScottN,

I do have to say that that system is in no way a mid-level system.

Since you plan on OC'ing you can get the 8800GTX to maximize the performance out of the video card. Read this.

Definitely get the E6600.

Now, grant it, the eVGA 680i is a sweet mobo, but you can easily get a 965 motherboard from ASUS or Gigabyte and save a ton of money. The P5B-E or the GA-965P-DS3 (which I just bought) will overclock nicely. I don't plan on going SLI or Xfire so I just opted for a mobo with one PCI-Express slot.

If you plan on SLI'ing with the 8800GTX eventually, then go ahead and get the eVGA 680i over the MSI 975x.

I wouldn't waste your money on a water cooled system. I would rather use that money and get the 8800GTX than the 8800GTS you mentioned. Personally, I'd go with the X1950XT (again, I just bought one). This is more a mid/high level video card. With rebate, I paid $200 for the card.

Just get a good aftermarket heatpipe heatsink with fan. The Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro is a very good reference. They are out-of-stock for the moment at most places and should be in soon.

Definitely get DDR2 800 memory since you are oc'ing. I just got the OCZ ATI Xfire model. I just saw the Corsair Dominator with rebate for around $225. They are awesome overclockers.

I don't know much about a RAID set-up but 4 hard drives is not needed. Most of the people that put a system together use 2 hard drives. The hard drive to get is the Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 Perpendicular drive if you can get it in the system.

The Antec NeoHE PSU's are very good. Make sure and get a nice efficient PSU because it will pay for itself. I plan on getting the Seasonic S12 650W. Up to 88% efficient. (I ended up getting the Antec Sonata II case since it had a $50 rebate. The PSU works for the moment but I will need something much better when I plan on overclocking.) Even though the 550W will handle your system with no problem, I'd go with something 650-750W to "future proof" your system a little. And I would rather have too much than the bare minimum.

I would recommend building your own system as I just built one. I hadn't built one from the ground up in 5 years. I've upgraded since then, but this one was a complete build. It was fairly simple.

Food for thought.
March 8, 2007 8:18:06 PM

The OCZ ATi XFire memory is an EXCELLENT OCer. I have gotten mine up to 1010MHz at 1.2V and 5-5-5-15 timings. I am currently running it at 940MHz at 1.2V with 4-4-4-12 timings. (I think I got the voltage right.) But for the HSF get the Noctua H-UF12. Nothing better for air cooling. It OWNS the Tuniq Tower and it is almost silent.
March 9, 2007 9:41:12 AM

I've never heard of that name of heatsink but from the looks of it, it definitely looks nice. But for $65 before shipping, it's rather expensive. You can pick up an Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro for around $40 at some places.

Though, when Newegg finally gets them, I'm hoping they will adjust the price to what they were before and they should be around 25-30 including shipping and they are very good heatsinks.

Btw, do you have any review links to the Noctua NH-UF12. I'm assuming you missed the N in the model name as this is what I see on the web. Just want to make sure.
March 9, 2007 10:08:03 AM

Hmmm... Well, I can tell you that my 5200+ (2.6@3) was running at 58 C under load and 49 idle with the Infinity. When Since I got the Noctua I am running 53 C under load and 44 idle. I will see if I can dig up some revies for you. Yeah, I missed the "N".

I also build computers for some extra money on the side so I have had experience with quite a few parts. The TT is nice but the Noctua blows it away. And sound? The Noctua is quieter than the TT (well, not quite but almost :D  ).

I also have 3 of their 120mm fans in my ARAURA (I think thats how you spell it) case. One intake in the front and two exhaust in the rear. (Create a vaccum inside the case to ensure a constant flow of air). And at full speed I can barely hear them.
March 9, 2007 10:32:19 AM

Quote:
Might take a limited DIY approach though ... Thinking I could probably just have them put some basic stuff in like the power supply and the heatsink. Then buy something better from Newegg or such and swap them myself.

I'm guessing here, but I imagine swapping the powersupply and heatsink are fairly easy? Any words of warning in this area?


Changing the power supply & heatsink is about as complex as it gets(which isnt very)- everything else is a sinch. There are mistakes that can be made, but so long as you follow a guide and are careful and diligent, you wont go wrong. If you consider yourself;

a) Average intelligence or above
b) Competent at following instructions (ie can you do flat pack furniture?)
c) A basic knowledge of computer components

Than you can build your own. Cheaper, better (esp when we help you with the build ;) ) and hugely more self-satisfying; you'll never look back.
March 9, 2007 10:37:17 AM

Quote:
I'm guessing here, but I imagine swapping the powersupply and heatsink are fairly easy? Any words of warning in this area?


Changing the power supply & heatsink is about as complex as it gets(which isnt very)- everything else is a sinch. There are mistakes that can be made, but so long as you follow a guide and are careful and diligent, you wont go wrong. If you consider yourself;

a) Average intelligence or above
b) Competent at following instructions (ie can you do flat pack furniture?)
c) A basic knowledge of computer components

Than you can build your own. Cheaper, better (esp when we help you with the build ;) ) and hugely more self-satisfying; you'll never look back.

Agreed 100%!!!
March 9, 2007 11:31:48 AM

I did find this review. It's a very good comparison between the Scythe Ninja & Zalman 9500LED.

It shows the Noctua NH-UF12 being the best of the 3.

This article shows that the Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro performing at the same level as the Ninja at full fan speed.

Here's a good review comparing the Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro and the older Noctua NH-U 12.

The Noctua NH-U 12 is better than the Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro. And the new Noctua NH-UF 12 is better than it's older model. Based on prices that the ACF 7 Pro could of been bought for 40 bucks including shipping compared to 80 for the Noctua, I would suggest the 7 Pro.

But in the end, the Noctua is a damn good heatsink and if want the best, then this looks to be the current leader. I just think $60 would be more reasonable including shipping.

Added: I just saw the Noctua NH-UF 9 for 50 bucks, here. Now, this would be comparible to the ACF7 Pro since the fans are both 92 mm.

Here's a summary of the NH-UF 9 to other heatsinks. It's in German but the results are shown in degC which can be read by everyone. Unfortunately, the ACF7 Pro is not on it but I know the ACF7 Pro is better than the AC Alpine 7.

Now, after shipping the NH-UF 9 is around 60 bucks. The ACF7 Pro was available for 25 bucks including shipping at one time. Maybe it'll be that way when more shipments come in.

But even at 40 bucks the ACF7 Pro is a good deal. Now, the Noctua NH-UF 9 is much quieter, so the 20 bucks is probably worth spending.
!