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Could you please help me economize this? Mid-high gaming PC

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April 24, 2007 4:53:12 PM

Hello, Tom's Hardware Guide Forumz:

As the number beside my name indicates, this is my first post here. A few months ago, when I first became interested in a custom-built solution to my computing needs and the potential to push my equipment beyond the factory-specified limits, I started reading your forums. Since then, I have moved along in the design process and have now prepared a draft and have logged in to humbly submit it to the consideration of those with more experience and knowledge than myself. I would appreciate it greatly if you would assist me in making this computer more cost-effective; either more power for the same price or the same (or marginally less power) for a lesser price. Obviously, I wouldn't complain if you could achieve both of those objectives!

If I indeed do overclock it, I intend to do a mild overclock on this machine. Nothing worthy of a place in my, or anyone else's, signature, but my complete lack of experience in overclocking does not justify, in my opinion, anything radical. As for what I want in the computer, as the thread title suggests, I intend to use it for video gaming. As a final note, I am from Canada, if that matters - I'm thinking the supply aspect of this might be a bit more difficult from that consideration. Regarding difficulty of supply, I am operating through a shop that can put the hardware together for a price I feel is more than worth the peace of mind.

For the CPU, I have chosen the Intel Conroe Pentium E6600. I've heard nothing but good about it; but the E6320/6420 seem to be a good deal cheaper for a small reduction in clock speed. If I'm overclocking, or not, will that be that big of a deal?

For an attached heatsink, I am leaning toward the Zalman 9700. I get the feeling that's a bit overkill, though. I know nothing about thermal compounds.

I'm at a bit of a loss when it comes to a motherboard, unfortunately, as I've never selected one. (My lack of experience should be shining through here again.)

For memory, I'm thinking of the Corsair XMS2-5400, but get the feeling that the XMS2-6400 offers better performance - does it really justify the price (in my case, over twice as high?) Certainly I understand that the 6400 will let me do much better overclocking. For hard drive, I'm thinking of the Seagate 320GB Barracuda 7200 with a 16MB cache. Would more than one be a good idea? I haven't a clue about the advantages between SATA and ATA, though.

For the video card, I'm thinking of a 8800GTS. I'm not sure whether the 640MB version is worth around $100 USD more, though. As for the difference between eVGA and XTX, I'm afraid I have neither opinion nor understanding. EDIT: I forgot to mention - this will be for a widescreen 22" Samsung SyncMaster 225BW at a native resolution of 1680x1050.

When it comes to the case, I was quite impressed by the Antec 900 gaming case - I'm told the fans are quite good, and unfortunately water cooling is not something I'm comfortable with, so a powerful air-cooled case sounds good to me. For a power supply, Antec makes a 550W or 650W Tri-Power model that seems interesting to me. The loss of a floppy drive doesn't bother me too much. I have noted that there is an empty 120mm fan slot on the side of the case and wouldn't be averse to putting a fan there, should it be considered necessary. Regarding cases, I regard things like windows and LEDs as frivolities, so if you pick a case without them, I'd probably appreciate the money more. Molded fronts with designs are actually a negative - I prefer traditional cases... but I like the one I mentioned here because its cooling sounds quite powerful.

For an OS, I am intending to use Vista.

I would very much appreciate some input on this setup. Thank you in advance. I really appreciate the advice that this website has given me in being able to start work on speccing out a custom computer, and feel I have learned a great deal more than I used to know as a major computer-manufacturer purchaser. I'm open to suggestions. I'm aiming to spend no more than $2000CAD (EDIT: $1775 USD, my apologies for not providing the proper conversion, I don't expect people here to be currency traders or anything) - I would have a really hard time convincing myself to spend more than that, and would probably feel bad about it, but I _could_ theoretically afford more if it offered a good difference in performance or longevity.

Thanks a lot,

D. Corbett


Note: I have read the thread about n00bs, and I suppose I fit the bill, not returning to check on their threads after some people, very kindly, assist them. I do not expect to follow that overall description and will definitely check into this thread.
April 24, 2007 6:18:34 PM

Even if you can't/don't want to/won't help me with economizing, I'd still appreciate any advice I can get. I'm always interested in learning more about computers.
April 24, 2007 6:28:27 PM

my god man, there are a whole lot of words that are not needed.lol
anyway, if your going to run a 22" you might as well get the 640 8800.
as for cooling you can oc the e6600 with the stock hsf a little. the cpu dosent heat up much. as for vista, you might as well skip it for now. everybody pretty much says that its not worth it right now. plus you pretty much need to max out your ram for the 32bit. stick with xp until the drivers get fixed for vista. as for ram, i dont know what you are looking at, but you can find pc 6400 2x1 gig for about 150 and under. im guessing you are going for the coinstar for the epp, and really you dont need to. your not running a server and you turn off the computer every day most likeley. epp is really only for servers because it will self check, when you turn off your computer, and restart it the epp is usless because all of the data is lost anyway. for thermas paste. get artic silver, its good and not to expensive. remember that if you are going to oc then your warranty is void. so unless you have enough money to replace the cpu dont go crazy with oc'ing. im sure others can give you better info on what you are looking for, but nobody has posted yet so i figured i would.
Related resources
April 24, 2007 7:00:48 PM

You can narrow your mother board choices by deciding if you want to be able to run two video cards together - SLI (nVidia) or crossfire (ATI/AMD) ? If you decide not to run SLI/crossfire less expensive boards are available to choose from. Myself, I will not be running SLI/cross fire so I went with a P965 chipset board - Gigabyte GA-P965-DS3. Which way do you think you'll go?
April 24, 2007 7:09:40 PM

Everything looks pretty good IMHO. You forgot one major thing and that is a PSU. You need a high quality powerful CPU to run that rig and have room for expansion in the future. The PC Power and Cooling 750 Silencer would be a great fit but it is pricey.

As far as a motherboard I can full recommend the Asus P5N32-E SLI Plus. Must be the Plus version. It is an excelent, stable overclcoker and relatively inexpensive
April 24, 2007 7:26:58 PM

First of all, thank you for the prompt responses! I appreciate it.

mGuyA
Thank you - I don't plan to run more than one video card at the same time, otherwise I'd buy a more expensive one (keep it simple, I guess). As for the card you recommended, I'm examining it. The Gigabyte GA-P965-DS3 would save me some money compared to what I'd have to spend on the card mentioned below, so if it's not horribly worse...

merc14
Actually, hidden in my post was a mention that I was looking at either the 550 or 650 watt model of the Antec True-Power Trio Power Supply w/ Triple +12V rails. My apologies for not making that clearer - the truth is that I actually had to search around in my own post to find that information, and I wrote it, so I must have put it pretty far down in there... the card you recommended looks pretty good from the minimal searching I've done on it, but a bit pricey.

RealiBrad
Thanks to you especially for replying so quickly! However, I'm afraid I don't quite understand what you mean by EPP. Have I looked into a hard drive with a feature I don't need? Also, regarding Vista: I don't know if it's that cost effective for me to not buy it. Unfortunately, all of my XP installs are OEM and came with my manufacturer-PCs. I'll just need to upgrade anyway. :( 

Regarding the length, it's because my typing speed exceeds my computer knowledge.
April 24, 2007 8:07:50 PM

OK, here's a new design. I'll try to economize from here. EDIT: Updates!

CPU
Pentium Core 2 Duo E6600

Heatsink
Zalman CNPS9700.

Thermal Compound
Apparently, the stuff that comes with the Zalman 9700 is just great, so I won't buy any extra. Save some money.

MotherBoard
Asus P5N32-E SLI Plus. Apparently, it's one of the best. And, unlike the previous one, it seems to actually like my RAM choice, and I don't have to buy an ethernet card.

RAM
2GB of Mushkin's HP2-6400 saves me about $100 Canadian with a rebate over the Corsair option, so...

Case
Antec 900.

PSU
Corsair HX 620W w/triple +12V rails. Frankly, the power supply does NOT sound like the component I want to skimp on, and I'm told that this model in particular is just the best.

Hard Drive
Seagate 320GB Barracuda 7200, 10 SATA II w/NCQ, 16MB cache.

DVD Drive
LG Super Multi DVD Writer 18x18x10 DVD +/-RW Dual Layer, Lightscribe, Black.

GPU
eVGA e-GeForce 8800 GTS, 640MB.

OS
XP.
April 24, 2007 8:10:00 PM

Quote:

E6600 is worth the price difference IMO.

Zalman 9700 is expensive but it is quiet and cools well==> your PC will last longer

Motherboards: P5N32-E SLI is my favourite, it includes LAN and audio so you can save some money there. It is rather expensive though and you
don't really need the SLI ability (i.e. two graphics cards).

PC2-6400 will give you a few percentage points of additional speed compared to PC2-5400. Personally I think it's worth it, especially if you find a good price. Something like C$280 for 2 GB is quite easy to find, at least in my city.

Seagate 320GB Barracuda 7200 with a 16MB cache is great. Best bang for the buck these days, and quieter than WD or Maxtor. SATA is much faster than ATA and has smaller cables (which improves airflow and reduces noise and heat, so you do care even if you don't open the PC case ever.)

8800GTS 640 is worth the difference if you play games that need lots of memory. Also better for the future, of course. Both eVGA and XFX are good, pick the one that bundles better games or the cheaper one. EVGA also has a step-up program (if you want to upgrade to 8800 GTX in 3 months) but I doubt you need it.

Antec 900 is good. the 550 W model is enough, I believe, but get the 650 W if it's not much more money, it will help later for upgrades or adding disks.

A floppy drive is only used today by enthusiasts to flash BIOS chips. What you need is a $40 DVD-RW (for example LG H42 or similar) and a 1 GB USB drive ($20 at Bestbuy), no floppies. If you have a digital camera you can get a floppy+card reader (7 in 1, etc, $17 or similar).

There's no such thing as an 1200mm fan :p  120 mm fans are the best because they move lots of heated air at low rotation speeds and that reduces noise while improving cooling.

I'd stay with XP because lots of games or other programs crash in Vista because of bad drivers or other reasons.

Post the URL to the site of the company that will build it, if it has a builder page. For example
http://www.shoprbc.com/ca/shop/configurator.php?cgid=6


Never mind the thread about n00bs. The guy who started it must have been drunk. I hope so, at least. That's scary, considering he's 17 and some of the noobs he treats like that have achieved things he hasn't, such as college degrees, jobs, paid mortgages, or at least having girlfriends. What's he going to suggest next, banning women and non-Caucasians??? :roll:
April 24, 2007 8:11:40 PM

the epp was for the ram, not the hd, sorry i wasent more clear. and as for the os. i would still get an oem xp rather than vista. you can get an oem for 89.99. it will still be better than vista for well over a year. now for the psu, you will need something with 650w or higher. dont go cheap on a psu. if your ram goes bad, the thats bad, but if your psu goes bad it can take other parts with it. you mutiple vid cards are going to take a lot of power. its better to have extra.
April 24, 2007 8:14:51 PM

He won't have multiple graphics cards. But yeah, agreed, get the 650W.

Man, what's up with your Enter key, did you get Pepsi in it? :p 
April 24, 2007 8:15:02 PM

as a side note, i find it funny that you are trying to economize and wrote a unnecessarly convoluted post. i found it funny, but others might not. carful of the ninjas.
April 24, 2007 8:24:16 PM

Oops, 1200mm fan - I'm just imagining the practical aspects of a fan with a four foot diameter! I bet it'd be great for cooling the PC with little noise, but... wouldn't fit the case :)  Good call - I was trying to say 120mm, but twitched a little, lol :) 

In all seriousness, I updated my setup. Just one thing: XP runs office 2007, right?
April 24, 2007 11:05:16 PM

Does anyone have any more recommendations, or can let me know where I could go to look into more information as to whether the 320MB or 640MB configuration is better?

Thanks.
April 25, 2007 3:09:13 AM

Which games are you playing most?

Here:

http://www23.tomshardware.com/graphics_2007.html?modelx=33&model1=707&model2=706&chart=278
This shows that for Battlefield the 640 MB delivers 45 frames per second. You monitor can display 60. Anything over 60 is useless for your monitor and resolution. (Check your monitor's manual, it may be 70 instead of 60, mine is an LG and has a refresh rate of 60 Hz, yours is a bit better).

Based on this, I'd say the 640 MB is worth it. The charts don't include the 320 MB model but I expect it to do less well than the 640 MB in all games, in some almost the same and in others a lot worse. What you're aiming for is between 30 and 60 fps with your resolution (or 1600/1200, it's close) and with all the eye candy enabled.

Same for this game:
http://www23.tomshardware.com/graphics_2007.html?modelx=33&model1=707&model2=706&chart=283
or here:
http://www23.tomshardware.com/graphics_2007.html?modelx=33&model1=707&model2=706&chart=283

Oblivion in outdoor scenes is VERY nasty, even the 8800 GTX has trouble. I used a lower resolution here so you still get a playable number of fps.

If you're playing this sort of games (or newer) go for the 640 MB. If you're playing Diablo2 or Warcraft got for the 8800 GTS 320. If you're playing Tetris or Solitaire get something under $100.
April 25, 2007 4:08:32 AM

I'm a great fan of the Elder Scrolls series and have been since the heady days of Daggerfall. I happen to have Oblivion sitting on the shelf behind me, and one of the things that contributed to my desire to upgrade was suffering through the indignity of having to play it on my laptop at minimum 640x480 and Ultra Low mode in order to have playable FPS (...usually...) Oblivion outdoors is nasty, but just for kicks I turned up all the settings to max... I got maybe 0.25 FPS outside, but wow, it was a beautiful slideshow. :)  This setup might be able to handle 25FPS with that at my resolution, which is, as noted, about 100 times better than it used to be. I guess I'll just have to run at slightly less than maximum resolution.

Were I playing Tetris as a favourite game, of course, I'd be buying a computer that probably costs less than half this much - at most! As for Warcraft, I play neither WoW nor Warcraft III.

Uh, I don't think you have a benchmark for EVE Online, but that's another game that's a favourite of mine. In the off chance that there's someone around here that plays it, I should be able to keep up good FPS even in fleet combat with this, yes? Also, what of a sound card? Reading the Newegg reviews, I'm informed that a good sound card is supposedly far superior - and as I've noted lag for sound on the game mentioned above, do you think that might help, with just a cheap $30 Audigy?
April 25, 2007 4:31:03 AM

To answer an earlier question. Yes you can run Office 07 on XP.
April 25, 2007 4:39:47 AM

Thanks for the info. I didn't figure Microsoft would be that silly.

Uh, regarding memory - the Mushkin HP2-6400 vs. the Mushkin EM2-6400. I can get them for within $5 of eachother, basically. Apparently the HP2-6400 is CL 4-5-4-11 at 800MHz, 2.1V-2.2V. 240 Pins. The EM2-6400 is 184 Pins, goes 1.8-2.0V, and has CL 5-5-5-12 timings at 800MHz. Which of these is better? The HP2 is blue rather than green, which is kind of cool, but overall pointless to this analysis. Uh, I'm not sure if the mobo I have listed at this moment likes 2.1V... I don't think it does...

EDIT: If it's a significantly better motherboard, I understand someone mentioned here the P5N32-E SLI Plus. I don't know if they have a version that's just like it without SLI, though. :)  I have, however, read that it is a VERY good motherboard...
April 25, 2007 5:35:55 AM

Quote:
Thanks for the info. I didn't figure Microsoft would be that silly.

Uh, regarding memory - the Mushkin HP2-6400 vs. the Mushkin EM2-6400. I can get them for within $5 of eachother, basically. Apparently the HP2-6400 is CL 4-5-4-11 at 800MHz, 2.1V-2.2V. 240 Pins. The EM2-6400 is 184 Pins, goes 1.8-2.0V, and has CL 5-5-5-12 timings at 800MHz. Which of these is better? The HP2 is blue rather than green, which is kind of cool, but overall pointless to this analysis. Uh, I'm not sure if the mobo I have listed at this moment likes 2.1V... I don't think it does...

EDIT: If it's a significantly better motherboard, I understand someone mentioned here the P5N32-E SLI Plus. I don't know if they have a version that's just like it without SLI, though. :)  I have, however, read that it is a VERY good motherboard...

If you go with a P965 chipset mobo, you'll want the 1.8v, 5-5-5 memory. 965s tend to be finicky. I do have my memory @ DDR2-1000 5-5-5-15, but 2.2v, because that's what the ram likes. It's helpful to have the first specs, because you need the mobo to POST before you can even get in and tweak on the settings.
April 25, 2007 12:12:36 PM

The P965 motherboards all say they want 1.8v memory. If your looking for economy I can recommend the Mushkin 2GB EM2-6400.

Do you want a 8800 now? The 8800 will give you best possible performance today but it is expensive. I choose to go with a 7900 when I built my system last month. I figured I would get a dx10 card as an upgrade 6mo to a year out, after ATI's dx10 cards are out and prices had a chance to reflect competition and relative performance. 7900GS's are around $150US, X1950's are a bit more expensive.
April 25, 2007 1:17:17 PM

Man thats a lot of typing! :wink:

The E6600 is indeed a great CPU, but an E6420 will also handle your gaming needs... a good place to trim if money is tight. $200

The Gigabyte S3 is a good board for $100 USD... what do you need more for?

I recommend G.Skill Ram... $170 and OCs well. Get the model with HZ at the end of its Model Number... they are made with Micron mem chips. (Good Stuff)

Hard Drives... take your pick... under $100. About $70 for a 250Gig - All ya need to start.

Coolermaster Centurion Case = $50 USD... great Case, great airflow... and will fit an 8800GTX in it so long as you keep the HDD high or low.

Unless you plan to crank your OC... I wouldn't worry about aftermarket CPU cooler right now. Run things at stock speeds and see how it feels to ya. And a stock cooler can handle a mild overclock at least for long enough a time that you can check it. (- $60)

8800 GTX or HD2900 XTX... going to be the same price - if you can wait a few... if not, I have the GTX... and it is wholey adequate for kickin butt. $550

Antec Truepower 650W $130. Great server quality PSU... and enough power for your system.

So thats roughly $1300 USD... you can start increasing from there.

This budget is easily doable.
April 26, 2007 1:20:00 AM

Thank you all for the advice! It was extremely useful. I intend to go down to the shop and purchase this all Friday, and without the information you've given me, I'd be nowhere near ready enough. Thanks again!
April 28, 2007 5:47:37 AM

Well, I went and bought it. Thanks for all the help. It should be ready in a few days.
April 28, 2007 7:44:19 AM

What exactly did you end up getting?
Maybe some pics when your done.
And did you stay in budget or just say "farkit!"
April 28, 2007 8:17:03 PM

OK, I got mostly what I said I would.

CPU: E6600
CPU Heatsink: Zalman CNPS9700 NT - they didn't have the LED Cu :( 
I'm using Zalman's stock grease.

Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-965P-DS3
RAM: Crucial BallistiX 2GB PC2-6400 [I'm a little worried about the motherboard/ram combination, but the people at the motherboard area don't seem to think it's that big of a deal.]

Case: Antec 900
Power Supply: Corsair HX 620W

HD: Seagate 320GB Barracuda
DVD-RW: LG Super Multi DVD Writer 18x18x8, w/Lightscribe
GPU: eVGA 8800 GTS 'superclocked'

Sound Card: Audigy SE 7.1

I broke down and, against my better judgement, got Vista. I knew I'd have to do it eventually.

Oh, and yes, I blew over my budget by $170, not including tax. :p 
April 29, 2007 12:44:13 AM

Very nice build Corbett... and you know I just went to Vista last tuesday and was actually supprised by how powerful a system it is.

Great install speed, Downloaded all my drivers for me before it even finished the install... and had an Internet connection waiting for me.

So far no real hitches... and man was I dreading going to vista... but after my last episode with Xp I decided it was time too.
April 29, 2007 3:04:01 AM

Thank you, PCAnalyst! I eagerly await its arrival. I'll see what I can do about the pictures when it gets here. I don't know what to think about getting the CNPS9700 NT Ultra Quiet rather than the 9700 LED, but I suspect they're about the same... I hope. :)  I understand the one I got has a green LED, and I hope that doesn't clash too badly with the blue LEDs on the front of my case, but truth be told, it's probably going to go sit on the floor, if anything.

Thanks a lot for the help! Yeah, I figured Vista was something that I should better do quickly enough, and am looking forward to using it for the first time. How do you find its backwards-compatibility with somewhat older programs that ran on Windows XP?
April 29, 2007 9:52:55 PM

To be honest I run 2 computers. One for gaming and surfing... and the other (Xp) system for eveything else... so I haven't loaded anything onto the comp in my sig except for essentials like Deamon tools, VLC player, ffdshow codecs, Azereus, Battlefield, UT2004 and Gamespy. And they all run great.

I did have everest and 3Dmark 06 and 01 installed breifly and they worked. But I am certain that any unsigned or cracked files will give you some trouble... an IE7 doesn't want to do some things on the internet that Xp didn't have a problem with.

Get firefox to remedy that... VLC to remedy any unsigned video problems, and get ffdshow or a good codec pack to start with for sure.
!