Starting From Scratch, Decent Budget, Help Needed

Hi guys, first post here.

I've been out of the PC game for awhile now. Bought my present system 2+ years ago. Back then it was at the top of the pile (3.2EE, 2G Rambus (remember that stuff?;)), x800xt, etc.)

Anyway, it's served me extremely well up until now but is finally starting to show its age. Can't run Bioshock without the new Pixel Shader, no DX10 support, and it's starting to hiccup on a lot of the next gen games. Meh.

Thought about stretching its life out a bit longer by picking up an x1950xt AGP, but I think I'll go ahead and retire it with a bit of its dignity intact.

Here's some guidelines:

-I'll be using it for gaming primarily, but I'm a photographer by trade... don't know if that'll make much of a difference processor/memory-wise, but I thought I'd throw it in there. Photoshop's a beast.

-I know little to nothing about the new processors and graphics cards. Like I said, haven't kept up at all. (I know some of them are dual/quad core and SLI's apparently still around. That's about it.)

-I won't be building it myself, so I'll likely be customizing and ordering from an online retailer. Any suggestions on which company to go with would be appreciated.

-I've got ~$1200 to work with. Could go a little higher if it'd be truly worth my while, (say, $1500 at the top end), but I'm shooting for the former if at all possible. That's for pc+assembly only. Don't need a new monitor or speakers.

-It'd be nice if I could run Crysis at a decent framerate when it comes out. :-)

So what I'm looking for is the best system possible given the parameters listed above. I used to check TH for most of my reviews and benchmarks, so this is the first place I'm coming to for some expert advice.

Thanks in advance. Your help is greatly appreciated!

14 answers Last reply
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  1. First I want to say if at all possible wait until the end of the year as the new Nvidia cards and Intel 45nm chips will be out. The prices on the old stuff will drop a good bit come 1Q next year. If you can't wait try this setup and see what you think.

    GIGABYTE GA-P35-DS3P LGA 775 Intel P35 ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail


    Antec Nine Hundred Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - Retail

    $129.99 ($99.99 after $30.00 Mail-In Rebate)

    Patriot Extreme Performance 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory - Retail

    $111.99 ($66.99 after $45.00 Mail-In Rebate)

    Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 Kentsfield 2.4GHz 2 x 4MB L2 Cache LGA 775 Processor - Retail


    Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD5000AAKS 500GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - OEM


    EVGA 320-P2-N815-AR GeForce 8800GTS 320MB 320-bit GDDR3 PCI Express x16 HDCP Ready SLI Supported Video Card - Retail

    $299.99 ($284.99 after $15.00 Mail-In Rebate)

    SILVERSTONE DECATHLON DA650 ATX12V / EPS12V 650W Power Supply 100 - 240 V - Retail


    LITE-ON Black 20X DVD+R 8X DVD+RW 8X DVD+R DL 20X DVD-R 6X DVD-RW 12X DVD-RAM 16X DVD-ROM 48X CD-R 32X CD-RW 48X CD-ROM 2MB Cache SATA DVD Burner - Retail


    1296.92 (1206.92 after rebates)

    You could also trade in the Q6600 for an E6750 and save $85 to put twords a good sound card but I thought using the quad core for Photoshop might help you our a bit.
  2. You could save some on the PSU since that is likey a bit more power than you need. Most of the reviews on the Corsair 450w point out that it can handle any single GPU system including the 8800GTX.

    He is a link to the 520w model of some extra headroom.
    (NewEgg is overpriced so here is a cheaper site....)

    The saved memory may get you to 4gb if you need that.
    I would check your memory usage while using Photoshop to see if you need the extra memory.
  3. If you don't need onboard firewire or SLI, this board would save you about $$50

    I'd get a smaller hdd for the OS/programs and use the 500GB for storage, makes life a lot easier when you have to reinstall Windows, don't have to worry about backing up data. I like Seagate and I think their smallest SATA drive is 80GB.
  4. Case: Centurion 543 $50
    Nicer case. 2 120mm fans.

    CPU: Q6600 $289
    Back in my day, the E6600 was this expensive.

    Mobo: Gigabyte DS3L $95
    Solid mobo with the P35. Good OCer.

    RAM: WINTEC AMPO 2GB (2 x 1GB) $75
    Not a bad brand and DDR2-800. It should be enough to get a good OC on the Q6600.

    GPU: MSI NX8800GTX-T2D768E-HD OC GeForce 8800GTX $500
    It is as fast as some stock Ultras already.

    PSU: Antec True Power Trio 650W $95
    52A on the 12v, it is good enough. SeaSonic OEM.

    DVD: Generic $30
    Pick whatever you want.

    HD: Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD3200AAKS 320GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive $75
    Good HD. That's about it.

    Cost: $1209
  5. Thanks for the advice.

    One more quick question:

    Anyone know of a good pc-building tutorial for a first timer? I'm thinking it'll be worth the time spent learning how to do it considering the money I'll be saving.

    And if you know of one, a video tutorial would be ideal.

  6. bennyprofane said:
    Thanks for the advice.

    One more quick question:

    Anyone know of a good pc-building tutorial for a first timer? I'm thinking it'll be worth the time spent learning how to do it considering the money I'll be saving.

    And if you know of one, a video tutorial would be ideal.


    Suggest reading the manual for the Gigabyte DS3L board. There are any number of good building guides out there but when you actually build you'll be using mobo manual. Even if you don't get this board, basically all the instructions are the same. Once the machine is built you'll install Windows, then the drivers that come with the mobo, then any other hardware, e.g., wireless card, video card, audio card if you're not using the onboard audio, etc, and then your programs. The actual build the first time will about about 1 1/2 - 2 hours, the software to install and set up the you want can take a couple of days depending on how much software you're installing.
  7. Well, now that I've looked at some benchmarks, I think I'll be going with the E6850. At the same price it outperforms the Quad Q6600 in both games and Photoshop (surprisingly), and by a healthy margin.

    So it looks like I'll be keeping my current setup (er, at least the case and a few of the bells and whistles) and replacing the PSU, MB, CPU, RAM, HD and graphics card.

    CPU - Intel Core 2 Duo E6850 ($300)
    MB - GIGABYTE GA-P35-DS3P LGA 775 Intel P35 ATX ($160)
    RAM - 2GB Patriot Extreme ($110)
    HD - Western Digital 500GB ($110)
    GC - GeForce 8800GTX ($500)

    Total: ~$1340

    I can live with that.
  8. I'd actually say stick with the Q6600--the E6850 is faster for some stuff, but future Photoshops will be quad-core optimized (something you'll want as a pro photographer). XBitLabs did a nice comparison of the Q6600 G0 and E6850 G0...
  9. The E6850 may be better now at stock speeds but if you are going to keep your rig for a while the Q6600 will take the lead by a wide margin as soon as photoshop and games are able to use the additional cores. Also you can very easily OC the Q6600 to 3G and even leave EIST enabled so that it will run at 2G until it is needed. The Q6600 is a significantly smarter choice if you can afford the extra money.
  10. The "extra money" is a couple of bucks, E6850 and Q6600 are about the same price. Yeah, Q6600 is the way to go. Last time I saw a review like that the Q6600 was 9% faster in Photoshop than the E6850, both at stock.
  11. Ah, I see. Good to know. Guess I'm back on the Q6600 bandwagon.
  12. Quad-core is the way to go! You'll be overclocking?
  13. Get it from to ensure you get the G0 stepping/revision. I imagine most sites have the G0 now but don't take any chances. If they won't guarantee it buy from Clubit.
  14. I think if you stay around the $100 PSU like Zen & Sanji stated, you should be fine. Not sure if your really going to need SLI, since most single card GPU's do extremely well, in your price range. And if you wait a couple of months you can get the latest GPU's out that will probably smoke the current ones.

    My 2cp's
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