building a new gaming pc, need help

So I'm looking at building my own machine for the first time, and I'm finding that there's more options than I had ever imagined, so I figured I'd ask the smarter people here. I would like to build a gaming machine to replace my current 4 year old desktop, and am willing to overclock, provided I don't dramatically shorten the lifespan of my hardware. I've been doing most of my shopping on Newegg so far. I have a maximum budget of about $3600, and no brand loyalties.


Right now I'm comparing the AMD X2 6000+ and the E6600. I'm right now leaning towards the E6600, as it has better energy efficiency and because it should be a better performer if I make use of it's overclockability.

As far as RAM/Mobos, I've been considering these.

Intel:
EVGA 122-CK-NF68-A1
4Gb (4 x 1Gb) Patriot eXtreme Performance DDR2 1066 5-5-5-9
Here I'm considering the 1066 RAM because it's a similar price and because the motherboard supports it.

AMD:
GIGABYTE GA-M59SLI-S5
4Gb (4 x 1Gb) mushkin eXtreme Performance DDR2 800 4-4-3-10

As far as the rest goes, I'm thinking of this:
HDD1: Western Digital Caviar SE 80Gb
HDD2: SAMSUNG SpinPoint T 500Gb
PSU: Thermaltake Toughpower 850W (large psu allows for future upgrades/SLI)
Case: Thermaltake Kandalf LCS Black
VGA: BFG Tech GeForce 8800GTX Water-cooled
Disk Drives: Sony NEC Optiarc 18X DVD±R Burner
LITE-ON 20X DVD±R Burner
OS: Not sure whether to go with Vista, even with a DX10 card (since it would still be a great card), or to just keep going with XP.

Any and all comments/thoughts/advice are greatly appreciated.
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  1. That's quite a bit of money, so you're going to want top end stuff. Good choice on the BFG, definately recommend that. Maybe see if you can fit the Core 2 Quad Q6600 into your budget as well? The Zalman Reservator2 system will be good to keep your system water-cooled and quiet. If you get the kit, it'll come with a VGA cooler, so you don't need to buy an 8800GTX that already has a watercooler on it.
    I'd recommend the Gigabyte DS3 board for overclocking, but you might want to consider getting an eVGA 680i board so you can have two 8800GTX cards in SLi setup. RAM wise, there's no point getting 1066MHz RAM - you couldn't clock the CPU to keep up without phase-change cooling. I'd recommend the Crucial Ballistix DDR2 800 RAM (I think you can get C3 stuff).
    HDD has to be a Western Digital Raptor. Seriously fast drive and cuts down loading times a lot.
    Case is up to you, but I know that Thermaltake cases are cool, but not too quiet. I'd recommend the Antec P180 for being quiet and cool, or the NZXT Lexa if you like window cases.
  2. I had stopped looking at 4 core solutions a while ago, but the current Newegg price is $541, which isn't nearly as bad as the ~$850 it was last time I looked. Theoretically software should be able to better take advantage of more cores in the years to come, so is then the extra ~$250 for 2 more cores worthwhile?

    As far as SLI goes, I think I might go SLI in the future, but for now I'm not really thinking that SLI is worthwhile with a card like the 8800, not until the price comes down a fair bit. That budget needs to get me an OS and a pair of monitors too.

    What I like about the Thermaltake case is that it comes with the water-cooling system included, so I don't have to shell out another $400 for a water cooling system. I also don't imagine that a vga cooler like the one included with the reserator system would be appropriate for the 8800 since it has so many heat-generating components, which is why blocks are made specifically for that card.

    I'm not quite sure on the Raptor, because while I know it will make a difference in loading times, I have to ask myself if it's really worth $1.40/Gb. Personally, there will already be a huge decrease in loading times since I'm upgrading from a system with 1Gb DDR 266 and ATA/100.

    As for the ram, I'll keep the recommendation in mind and also stick with DDR2 800. I still might look at the Mushkin ram though, since has tighter timings and if a lot cheaper after the rebates. There's just a ton of ram choose from.
  3. Yeah, I've heard the Mushkin RAM is pretty good (don't really know as I've never seen it in the UK). Personally, I've never cared about SLi, so go with a Gigabyte DS3 board and a single 8800GTX. I didn't realise that case had watercooling already - sorry! That's a pretty good choice then with the 8800GTX having an included watercooler block. If you can fit in the quad core, then that'd be good for future proofing (make sure you get a new revision board that supports it).
    What were you going to get for monitors? A lot of my friends have dual 19" Samsung monitors, and they're very good value for money. My only gripe is that they don't have DVI (the ones that do are a bit expensive). I know that here in the UK, the best deal I've seen is the 20" Samsung with 700:1 contrast ratio, 6ms response time and 1680x1050 resolution. Perhaps you could get two of them?
  4. For monitors I've been thinking about either a 19" widescreen Samsung with 2ms, 2000:1 Dynamic, or a 19" LG with 2ms, 3000:1. My local Best Buy carries both of these, so in the end I'll probably just go look at them and decide that way. Only thing I'm not really sure of is whether to go widescreen or not, being that I do a lot of gaming.
  5. My housemate got a new PC recently with a widescreen monitor. It's a bit annoying with older games (like PES6), but newer games (like Test Drive Unlimited) look really good. Pretty much all new games should be widescreen now, so I wouldn't worry about that too much.
  6. So I guess what I'm looking at now is the Q6600 with these same components:
    Memory: 4Gb (4 x 1Gb) mushkin eXtreme Performance DDR2 800 4-4-3-10
    HDD1: Western Digital Caviar SE 80Gb
    HDD2: SAMSUNG SpinPoint T 500Gb
    PSU: Thermaltake Toughpower 850W
    Case: Thermaltake Kandalf LCS Black
    VGA: BFG Tech GeForce 8800GTX Water-cooled
    Disk Drives: Sony NEC Optiarc 18X DVD±R Burner
    LITE-ON 20X DVD±R Burner

    So what I need now is a motherboard. I want to be able to upgrade to SLI later on, as well as having some overclocking ability, but I won't be doing anything too extreme. Most importantly though, I want a board that will be stable for a good while. I've heard the EVGA boards have some issues (though newegg reviews seem solid), and have had Asus recommended to me, but I don't really think I want to pay for anything like the Striker Extreme without a good reason, especially when it may well turn out to be more feature-rich than I need.

    I'd also take a recommendation for running Vista or XP.

    *Edit: maybe I need to look again at my memory, because if I plan to run SLI, I need SLI-ready memory, right?
  7. I have heard most of the problem with the Evga board have been resolved, and Everyone says they have great service. I would go with them, but you could also look at the 650i boards. I guess you want the best SLI possible when you start using it so the 680i has full x16 on both slots.
    If you want the best game performance, get XP Pro 32. If you want to use all of the 4 GB of RAM, you need a 64 bit version of windows. You could set it up to dual boot and have best of both worlds Vista 64/XP Pro 32
  8. I guess what I'm really thinking as far as OS goes is to run XP for a while and then maybe add vista later on when price comes down a bit and it has some more of the kinks worked out. Then as far as ram efficiency goes, would it be a good option to run 64-bit xp?
  9. I am not sure it is efficiency but 32 bit OS like XP can only address 4 GB total. It uses about 1 gb for all the hardware "handles" so depending on how much hardware, is how much RAM you have to use. 64 bit OS has a lot more addresses to use so 4 gb will all be usuable by you. I do not not the limit but nothing we can put in a desktop MB will use all the space, over 16GB right now.
  10. I guess what I would need to know next then would be if I'm right in thinking that I would need SLI-ready memory, or if I would be fine with the Mushkin memory, since it's on the evga supported memory list (unless there's some better recommended memory).
  11. There is no SLI memory, it is marketing. All good memory will work. Using what is on their list is always good pratice but only in rare cases will other memory with the same specs not work. When picking the RAM, you need to know if you are overclocking the CPU, will you O/C the RAM and what level of chips are you willing to pay for. Mushkin chips are the best, and their RAM is very good, but some other sets you might think about have heat spreaders or even water cooling.
  12. Cool, I like to hear that. I'm thinking I'll keep with the Mushkin ram then, because it sounds really solid, as well as having nice rated timings. The EVGA board still sounds pretty solid to me, so I think I might keep looking at that board. As far as overclocking, I'm not entirely sure how much I'll touch the ram, and I don't plan on doing anything really major, my main concern being the lifespan of my hardware.

    I guess while I'm at it, would getting the w/c 8800 gtx be buying more graphics power than is reasonable, or is that fair game? I'm liking it with the waterblock both because of the fact that the other pci slot isn't blocked, and because I know the card runs really hot.
  13. go with the E6600, and don't get the liteon (I've had a bad experiance with them).
  14. I think you are ok with the GTX, of course watercooling makes it perfect for your build.
  15. Check out my sig... its the way of the future bro. Also, I bought a X-Pider Silver Aluminum Case w/Window. This case is nice and big, looks great, and keeps everything nice and cool. This is my 2nd case like this... and to make it sweeter its only about $100.00. The pictures do not do this case justice my friend... It all prices out to about $2500.00 after rebates. Peace :twisted:
  16. How long do you plan to go with this build before your next upgrade? That's important, as it will affect whether you need the quad core or SLi. As far as overclocking - what alcattle means is that there's no point getting really fast RAM if you're not going to overclock the CPU to match. Indeed, if you don't overclock, I think the motherboard will by default drop your RAM speed to match the FSB of the CPU. You'd need to heavily overclock to match any of the core 2 CPUs to match 800MHz RAM, but you might be able to get close to it with watercooling. I'd personally recommend you get 667MHz RAM (possibly some Crucial Ballistix stuff as it has C3 timings). 667 RAM will allow some easy overclocking, but nothing that pushes the CPU too much.
  17. I honestly wasn't aware of the possible issues with the ram getting bottlenecked by the fsb. I can see myself overclocking to match the 667 ram, but I don't think I would push it so far as to match the 800 ram. I think though that the ram might still run at its rated speed, but just be bottlenecked by the fsb, so performance gains from the faster ram might be negligible. I dunno.

    Taking a look on newegg, I liked the look of G.SKILL DDR2 667 3-4-3-8. I looked at the Ballistix available there too, but the were rated at 3-3-3-12 and cost about $55 more per pair.

    As far how long I'd like to go with this system, I'd like to see it still running 4 years from now, like my current desktop, which I why I'm concerned with the effects of overclocking on the lifespan of my hardware. On the other hand, it mostly seems that if I keep it cool I should be fine.
  18. 4 years is quiet a while, and technology is changing exponentially. Seeing as you want it to last so long, you may want to consider getting DDR2 800 RAM to allow you to upgrade to a newer CPU later on.
  19. Would I really need an upgrade like that later though? What I'm thinking is that with a high-end build like this I could hopefully get good use out of it and be entering the market again for a new build after four years, when my mobo sucks compared to anything new, and everything uses better newer buses and interfaces. On the other hand, would it be better to be dipping into the market every couple years and upgrading here and there?
  20. I think it would be better to get a good rig now with lots of upgrade options, rather an all out rig that has to last four years.
  21. I guess really my concern is more that I want to build a good computer that I won't have to constantly pour money into to keep it up to par. I guess I have a bit of the feeling that upgrading is a futile struggle because at the point where I started really paying attention to what's going on in this market I was sitting here with outdated technology that couldn't be upgraded much except to wring just a bit more use out of it.
  22. I agree, get a e6600 and an 8800, a very good PSU and plenty of HD space. In two years, upgrade the GPU if needed. Then in 4-5 years you will be ready to almost do a total rebuild.
  23. So it'd probably be a more effective solution, you think, to forgo the 4core chip for now and upgrade later than to just get it now?

    That makes sense, because if I buy the e6600, I can get pretty much the same preformance for less energy and less heat (meaning more power gainable through oc'ing), and then I can use that extra $260 in maybe 1.5-2 years when quad core chips are cheaper, more powerful efficient, and better utilised.

    So I guess right now I'm feeling good about going with the G.Skill pc2-5400 memory, evga 680i mobo, and the e6600. Anything else I should keep in mind as I get ready to hit that spiffy order button?
  24. Yeah, that all sounds good. You could save even more with the E4300 (overclocks easily to the same level as the E6600, just has less cache, which doesn't make a massive difference at the moment). That way, you'd have more to get a decent quad core and newer GPU later on.
  25. Something else has occured to me, with fsb 1333 coming in the near future, will the chips then be using a 333mhz fsb, changing the natural ram bottleneck to 667mhz? If that's the case, should I then get DDR2 800 ram to better match a future cpu upgrade?
    Edit: I think I might go on that assumption, the price difference is about $1.50/Gb between the G.Skill and the Mushkin.

    Also, with ATI having finally put out their DX10 card, the gpu decision is rather less clear. I had been going to order in about a week's time, and I'm considering holding off on DX10 for a little while until things actually get working proper, maybe run a cheap card for a couple of months and then upgrade. Any thoughts?
  26. Yeah, I've heard that the price difference for 800MHz RAM in the US is pretty minimal, so go with that. On the graphics front - the 8800's are still very good cards. They outperform the HD2900XT in most DX9 applications, and should still be very good for DX10. However, the HD2900XT is probably better in terms of futureproofing. It has more stream processors, higher memory bit rate, supports AVIVO (it's worth noting that ATI have always been better for video playback), and also features tessellation. At the moment, I'd say the 8800GTS is a better choice, just because it's cheaper (or at least in the UK it is). Here in the UK, the 640MB version of the 8800GTS is cheaper, although it's generally recommended that only the 320MB version is appropriate for resolutions up to 1600x1200.
  27. Yeah, I'll definately go with the 800, there's currently a $30 mail-in rebate for 2x1Gb pairs.

    The advanced features available on the 2900 are what's making me stop and think real hard right now. If it were purely performance I wouldn't hesitate to go with the 8800 series. I just know that getting this level of a card I won't really be willing or able to replace it for a long time, so I'm thinking forward a bit. It seems to me that there's a chance that performance due to drivers/software will level out and they will end up somewhat even, and features may become important.
  28. I know exactly what you mean. I'm having the same problem deciding for my own next build. I'm probably leaning a bit more towards Nvidia, just because their cards tend to be better supported by games. I must say I'm a bit surprised that ATI's card doesn't use GDDR4 technology.
  29. Maybe I really should just chill with something like the eVGA 7600GT here for a couple months, and then buy DX10.
  30. Seems like a fairly good idea. You could use the eVGA step up program later on once the 8900 cards come out (hopefully including tessellation and GDDR4 technology)
  31. Why wait... there will always be something better around the corner. Buy the nicest card you can afford now if your not going to be upgrading any time soon. I usually upgrade my VGA every two years (married w/kids :)) Peace :twisted:
  32. Yeah, I was talking with a friend of mine today and came to the same conclusion. Besides, it's sort of anti-climactic to get a sweet machine like this and then not get a top-end gpu. I'm going with the standard evga 8800 gtx, and I'm going to be ordering sometime tonight. You guys have all been really helpful, I appreciate it.
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