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Need advice for a first time builder - gaming build

Last response: in Systems
July 10, 2007 3:50:56 PM

(Edit: If you happen to have already read this message in the "Cases, PSU, & Components" area, please forgive me for the double-post. I didn't see the "New Systems" area to post about a new build previously and thought this post should belong in the "New Systems" forum. Thanks!)

Greetings all,

I was hoping that I could get some help and advice from the experienced system builders here. I am currently in the process of ordering the parts for my first system build (Unless, of course, the wife changes her mind and pulls the plug on me before I I better be quick :)  ).

I'm looking to build a new gaming system and would really appreciate it if anyone reading this could take a look at my goals and part selections, and let me know if it looks like I've made solid choices that will meet my goals.

First off, this is to be a gaming system so, as a goal, performance is a given. I'm planning on running dual nVidia 8800 Ultra cards in SLI. I want to build the system around the Q6600. I'm not planning to overclock right away (As this is my first build...I just want to get THAT right before I go playing mad-scientist with overclocking). However, I do eventually plan a mild or moderate overclock so I've accounted for that in my build...and plan to order parts to facilitate cooling and such. I'd prefer to stick with air cooling, as I don't feel that I'm ready to tackle any sort of water-cooling yet, and I also don't plan on 'pushing' any overclocks on the Q6600 very far.

Another very important goal for me is 'ease' of build for a first-time builder...while still having the parts available for me to 'tweak' as I learn more. This goal is especially so with regards to the case, I've read many reviews now about different cases...and it seems to me that for a first-time builder...the 'ease' of working inside a case and the room available really can go a long way to making a build easier or harder. So I'd like a 'large' case with plenty of room to fit the dual 8800 Ultras and heatpipe CPU cooler, plenty of good airflow, and 'ease' of working inside of to make this first build go as smooth as possible.

Below is my 'shopping list'. Below the shopping list I'll add any notes as to why I chose those parts. Where letters are listed (A, B, C, etc)...those indicate 'choices' and I have not determined/am unsure of which choice is the best for my build.

A) CoolerMaster Stacker 830 Evolution
B) CoolerMaster Stacker 832
C) Gigabyte 3D Aurora 570 GZ-FA1CA-ASB

A) Enermax Galaxy EGX1000 FWL ATX12V/EPS12V/BTX 1000W
B) ThermalTake Toughpower W0133RM 1200W Cable Management ATX12V/EPS12V Nvidia SLI Cert

EVGA 122-CK-NF68-A1 nVidia nForce 680i SLI

Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 Kentsfield 2.4 Ghz LGA 775

CPU Cooling:
ThermalRight Ultra-120 Extreme with
Scythe S-Flex SFF21F 120mm Fan

2 or 4 GB (Not sure which yet) Corsair XMS2 (2x1GB) 240 Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500)

(dual in SLI) EVGA 768-P2-N881-AR GeForce 8800 Ultra 768MB GDDR3 PCI Express x16 HDCP

A) Western Digital Raptor WD1500ADFD 150 GB, 10000 RPM, Serial ATA 150
B) Seagate Barracude 7200.10 ST3320620AS 320GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0 GB/s

A) Creative SoundBlaster X-Fi XtremeGamer
B) Creative SoundBlaster X-Fi XtremeGamer Fatal1ty Professional Series

LITE-ON 20x DVD +/- R DVD Burner with Lightscribe

Windows Vista Ultimate 32-Bit, I'm considering dual-boot with Vista + Windows XP Pro

That should about cover it.

As for the cases, in my own research, the 3 cases I've chosen were reported to be large and room, easy to work in, good airflow, and kept parts cool. I was initially planning on the Gigabyte 570 case, however, after talking to ThermalRight support I've discovered that the Gigabyte 570 case will only fit with the mesh door (A mesh door or clear plastic door is provided). It will not fit with the clear plastic door & blow hole. ThermalRight support also suggested that the Gigabyte 570 Hard Drive cage might get in the way of adequate airflow for the dual 8800 Ultra cards. They suggested the CoolerMaster Stacker 830 or 832. I originally though that the Gigabyte 570 would be a solid choice, but after reviewing the information on the CoolerMaster choices...they seem really great. The CoolerMaster seems to have a TON of fan seems that alot of users don't use that tray thingie that holds 4 120mm fans. Maybe that many fans is overkill and the tray likely wouldn't fit with my CPU Cooler. So, at this point, I'm not sure WHICH case would be the best ticket for me...and IF the best choice is the coolermaster...whether I should use that tray thingie and fill it up with fans. I've read a ton of reviews on the 830 Evolution and it looks fabulous...HUGE...but fabulous. Any opinion anyone has on the case selection for a first time builder with my above parts list would be great!

As for the choices for those are based on the reviews, user opinions, and research on the net and magazines. They appear to be solid choices. I've read alot of good things about the Enermax that might be the way to go for me. I've also read alot of good things about the ThermalTake 1200W. The only 'negatives' I've heard about it is the sheer size....however...I'm getting a very large case so hopfully size wouldn't be an issue. It appears that any of the cases I mentioned above should fit the large powersupplies. The other 'negative' is price...the ThermalTake is quite a bit more expensive than the Enermax and I might not need the 1200 Watt ThermalTake versus the 1000 Watt Enermax.

As for memory...I did the best I could to make a good selection there. I'm not overclocking this system right away, but I would eventually like to put a small or moderate overclock on the FSB. As I understand it...I'll need better memory for that. I've selected 1066 Mhz memory for that reason. I've been reading about overclocking the FSB and its relation to memory I'm hoping I made a solid choice. I haven't decided if I want to go with 4 GB memory right away...or just 2 GB. I remember reading something about Vista 32-Bit not utilizing the 4GB maybe it would be a waste.

As for video cards...I'd like to pick up the 8800 Ultra's in SLI. I read alot of folks talking about 'heat' out of the 8800 series cards so I thought perhaps I might need VGA coolers? I've had the ThermalRight HR-03 Plus units suggested to me and they seem to get very good reviews. I'm concerned about having 'room' to fit them though...or if they'll really be necessary. I don't plan on overlocking the video least not initially, if at all. I've never used an 88xx series video card, much less two of them so I have no idea how much heat they'd put out. I'd hope that the stock card cooling would handle it at stock speeds. Advice?

As for the Hard Drive, I'm stumped here as well. The Raptor seems like the 'performance' choice but maybe its overkill? Maybe I'd be better off with the seagate? I have no idea how 10000 RPM versus 7200 RPM would effect my gaming? I don't really care much about speed of game installs, or even how long it takes to 'load' a game...the only part I'd care about is hard drive access WHILE you are playing, in the middle of the action. All gamers have experienced that little 'hiccup' in the action while your HD pages some stuff into memory. I'm not sure if the expensive Raptors will help prevent that or lessen that effect...or whether the raptors will have very little effect on that. I have no experience with 'high performance' drives so its difficult for me to compare. If the raptor is the 'way to go' then so be it....if its overkill....then I'll stick with the Seagate.

As for sound card...thats a toss up. I'm positive that I want to go with a Creative X-Fi based unit and I've read alot about driver problems with Windows Vista. I'm not going to worry too much about that for now, as sooner or later I think they'll get the driver problems worked out. In choosing between the two models seems the only difference is that the more expensive model has XRAM and 192 Sampling rate...while the 'base' model has a 96 Sampling rate and no XRAM. I'm not worried about XRAM as the game would have to be developed to utilize it anyway. The sampling rate...I have NO idea whether I'd notice the difference between 192 and 96 or not. I also noticed that the 'base' unit is a smaller card...which might fit better in the case with all the other stuff.

Well...thats it...any help, advice, opinions, or observations would be greatly appreciated.

July 11, 2007 2:59:48 AM

if you are in the mood for thinking about over kill try the two 8800 ultras you won't notice the difference unless you have like a 35 inch screen from 2 8800 gtxs and those won't tell any differance from a single 8800 gtx on anything less than a 28 inch screen as fro hard disks get 2 seagates and raid 0 or for data security get 4 and raid 0+1, both of those psu's seem over kill... try 850 to 950 watts with a 32 bit os it will only see a little over 3 gb ram any how so go for 2 gb as for the sound card you won't notice the difference, cds only have a 44.1 sampling rate
July 11, 2007 4:54:49 PM

First of all, get a 64 bit OS, not 32 bit. the reason is that you won't be able to address all the memory you have (or will have) in the future and you'll be forced to be a 64 bit OS anyway.

Why not check out this case also:

Antec Performance One P180 Silver cold rolled steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - Retail

About the graphics cards, don't get ultras, just don't, they are overclocked GTX. In other words, you could save about $200+ by getting dual 8800GTX ($200 is a pretty hefty sum) and overclocking them to ultra speeds when you need to (with SLI GTX you won't need to do it anytime soon though)

Unless you are an audiophile, you should drop the sound card, onboard sound serves most of us well enough ($100+ savings too!)

As for the ram, you don't need DDR2 1066 unless you are really planning to do some insane overclocking (insane as pumping liquid nitrogen as your cooling solution), Most DDR2 800 will serve you fine for a mild overclock. Dropping down a notch to DDR2 800 may even make it worth it going for 4GB, ram is one of those things that its better to get more instead of worrying so much about speed.

a CPU HSF that you should consider is:

Tuniq Tower 120 P4 & K8 CPU Cooler - Retail

Still a beast on it's own right.

And if I were you, i'd drop the raptor and get two of those 320GB.

I just saved you about $300 without losing performance, maybe you can now take the wife out to a REALLY REALLY nice dinner.

EDIT: Oh yeah, these would also help:

Arctic Silver 5 Thermal Compound - OEM

Thermaltake A2375 80mm PCI Slot Case Cooler - Retail

(Why not, it's $4.00 and it helps :p )
Related resources
July 11, 2007 5:31:39 PM

What size monitor are you planning on using? I second the above and say you should either use two 8800GTX cards in SLI if you are using a huge monitor or just one 8800GTX if your monitor is 24" or smaller. The Ultra's are a waste of money. Also skip the sound card. Not really needed unless you are an audiophile. I have Vista Ultra 32 with 4 gigs of ram and I love it. Even if Vista 32 only sees about 3.5 gigs, it rally does well loading and playing games. Not sure I would go Vista 64 yet as there are still a few driver issues...
July 11, 2007 6:11:33 PM

Thanks for the help turtle1, Emp, & gators1223!!!

As for monitor size....I use a 24", & run in 1920x1200. I had originally decided to go with the Ultra's as the Ultra's I'd chosen were only a $50 from the GTX's. I figured that the Ultra's might be a respin, but for $50 a little future-proofing would be nice. Based on what folks have said here....I think I'm going to drop down to just one Ultra or GTX for now. I'll have an SLI-capable motherboard so I can always pick up a second in the future.

As for OS...I'd really prefer to stick with 32-bit. It seems there is better driver support and better 'game' support. In the future, once I'm more experienced with this sort of thing, I might give the 64-bit a shot.

With regards to RAM....Turtle1 mentioned you have 4 Gigs and windows sees 3.5 gigs of the total 4. After doing considerable reading about this 32-bit OS memory limit...I've discovered that Windows reserves the upper addresses for hardware overhead and 'housekeeping'. Alot of the stuff I've read claims that if you install 4 will "see" only the 4 gigs minus whatever memory your video card has. I don't know if thats true or not...but I was wondering if folks who install 4 gigs of RAM...and if windows only "sees" 2.5 to 3.5 of that 4 gigs...whether the user can still see any performance difference. Once upon a time, the first time I upgraded from 1GB to 2GB was like day and night in gaming. So I'm wondering if folks who go from 2 to 4 (even though windows can't "see" it all) experience the same day and night difference...or if its largely unnoticeable.

Also, at least one person has told me the following:


I would still only get 2GB for right now as the more ram you get the slower the machine because latency’s go down. Its better right now to have 2GB of FAST ram then 4GB of just kinda fast ram.

Does anyone know if this is true?

Emp, thanks for the link to that case. Its very nice!!!!! The Tuniq Tower you suggested was actually one of my 'choices' on my list here...I just forgot to type it above. I've heard alot of good things about that ThermalRight so far...only problem is the 'height' I've had to choose from cases that I knew would fit it. However, if I got with the Tuniq then it gives me a tad more 'room' :)  You suggested dropping the Raptor and grabbing two of the Seagate 7200.10 320 Gb. I've never setup a RAID array before so hopefully its not difficult. Do you think I'll get at least 'comparable' performance to the Raptor? I understand that the .10 Seagate's use the perpendicular recording technology and I've heard good things. Also...the extra storage space would be nice over the 150 GB raptor :)  With regards to Hard Drive...and after reading reviews...I'm also a bit confused on whether or not I'd actually 'see' any performance increase with the Raptor. I understand that the 10,000 RPM drive makes the system more responsive overall, reduces load times, installs, etc. However...the only 'performance' that I really care about is...when gaming...sometimes there can be a little 'stutter step' or 'hiccup' when the game (especially online games) pages from HD to memory. I'm not sure if the High RPM drive would help with that at all, or not. As for load times and overall responsiveness....I don't mind waiting an extra second here or there....I'm patient :)  If those types of things are the things that the high RPM drive would assist with...then I can definitely save some money there.

Thanks again guys!!!

July 11, 2007 6:41:15 PM

I run my 4 gigs of ram at 4-4-4-12 2T settings with no problems. My 4 gig vs. 2 gig example is playing games like Far Cry where all of the needed game files get loaded into ram and the hdd is never accessed making for a nice experience. The same for Oblivion. The hdd is almost never accessed where when I had only the 2 gigs installed there was a lot more hdd access. Again, my system "sees" 3.5 gigs. I will go to Vista 64 when the driver issues are all resolved (after SP1). I also use two 150 gig Raptors (plus a 400 gig Seagate) and love them. But again, with the 4 gigs most of the files get loaded into ram and hdd access is not as important.
July 11, 2007 6:52:37 PM

If you do SLI, then 4gb will be a complete waste unless you run Vista 64. The reason is that the SLI drivers will drop available memory to about 2.5gb.

If you use a Single Video Card, you should be up to 3.5gb as the previous poster mentioned.

So if your heart is set on SLI, I would not go for 4gb w/o Vista 64.

Personally, I think SLI would be an overkill.
However 2gb is likely all that you would need for a gaming system.

For business use, I find my 3.5gb a tight squeeze and will be moving to another OS in a few monthss so I can upgrade to 8gb.
July 11, 2007 7:11:32 PM

Hey, just a quick little help for you about the question on hard drives. Here is an article I recalled from not too long back about how RAID 0 compares to the raptor

I'm also in the same boat...waiting for chip prices to drop. Many of the comments on numerous forums have been helpful. Does anyone have an opinion on whether I should get the E6650, E6750, or should I buy a quad?

I do plan to game. I do want it to get me a little into the future. I do plan on overclocking some. I know that the 4 processors will be utilized more and more in the near future, but they need such a huge PSU in general don't they? Also, do you need 1066 ram to OC the new processors (since their FSB is higher)? or will 800 still work?

Thanks. Hope that link helps the new builder. I am excited to be building my first rig soon too :) 

July 11, 2007 7:11:49 PM

well if you do dual boot, i would go with a 64 bit version of vista and a 32 bit version of xp
also, if i were you since your screen size isnt huge, buy 1 gtx or ultra to hold you back until the end of this year, because nvideas coming out with the new G90's, which will be 3x faster than any of the g80's that are out today (according to nvidea)
but the system looks good, of course you are going to wait until the July 22,nd price drops right?
July 11, 2007 7:13:46 PM

Well....that helped ALOT! Thanks Turtle1, Zenmaster, SuicideSilence, & Huron.

I'm definitely just going with one video card for now...and then maybe I'll bump up to 4 Gigs. Gaming-wise....I don't tend to play many of the FPS games and such, mostly MMORPG's and oblivion-type games. In my experience, those types of games are just crazy for RAM and maybe the extra RAM would help me alot. On the other hand, perhaps I'll just stick with 2GB for now and one video card. Whateve the case, I'm in the same boat as Turtle1 in that I think I'd like to try 64-bit once I know there is better driver support and that the games I enjoy will be supported.

Now I just have to decide whether I'm going to get a Raptor for the OS & Games and a Seagate for storage, or RAID two Seagates, or just get the one Seagate. Have any opinions on that?

So, you guys just solved one of my decisions that has been holding me up :)  Thanks!

Thanks! I like that idea....maybe I'll do just that...dual boot XP Pro 32-bit and Vista 64-bit. Thats something I hadn't even considered. Thanks for the heads up on the video card as well....I'm definitely just picking up 1 card now. As for the July 22nd price drop, unfortunately I probably won't be one of the lucky to take advantage of that...I'll be ordering in the next day or so. Right now I'm between jobs, my next job starts on the 23rd (I'm a programmer) I wanted to complete this build before then. The price savings would be considerable...but I'd been looking forward to using this time to start this new 'hobby' and perform my first build. I'm lucky I'm off right now as I'm already amazed at the amount of time I've spent each day reading and

Huron, thanks for the link. I'll definitely check that out as soon as I post this :) 
July 11, 2007 7:35:12 PM

i think the raptor for os and games, and a seagate for storage that seems to be a popular set up currently and it gets you fasterl oading times with enough storage.
July 12, 2007 3:51:51 PM

From what I've read a raid setup will give you extremely similar performance to that of the raptor, but it'll just give you faster loading times in games like the guy above me said. I'm really happy with my single 7.2K rpm hitachi drive speed.

And as far as 64 bit OS support, I'd say it's pretty good and I don't think there are many incompatibilities like people are led to believe, maybe 2 years ago but not now. I have both 32-bit vista and 64-bit vista DVDs. the reason? When I go to vista i'll use 64 bit, but my dad was as reluctant and skeptical as many people are and decided to get himself a 32-bit copy instead.

I used for a short while (vista), and I didn't go back to XP32 because I had problems with vista 64 as in a 64-bit OS issue, but rather with vista's "spectacular" design and performance. I just don't see a reason to pay microsoft twice for if we're all going to need within a year or two the 4 gigs of ram anyway.