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No holds barred gaming system build -- suggestions/improvements?

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November 2, 2007 10:12:02 PM

Hey guys -- first time system builder, looking for advice/suggestions on this build. I'm not particularly worried about the budget, but I'm looking to stay around $5000. Here's what I've got so far:

Case: Cooler Master Stacker 830 RC-830-KKR3-GP (includes 1000W Power Supply); $350
Motherboard: eVGA 122-CK-NF68-A1 LGA 775 nForce 680i SLI ATX; $240
Processor: Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6800 Quad Core; $950
RAM: Corsair DDR2 SDRAM 800 (PC2 6400) TWIN2X2048-6400C3DF (4 1GB sticks); $640
Optical Drive: Plextor PX-760A SW-BL DVD R/RW CD-R/RW E-IDE ATAPI Drive; $75
HD1: WD Raptor 150GB 3.5" Serial ATA150 10,000RPM; $180
HD2: WD Caviar RE2 WD5000ABYS 500GB 7200 RPM SATA; $130
Sound: Creative SB X-Fi Xtreme Audio 70SB104000000 7.1 Channel PCI Express
Video: 2x eVGA 768-P2-N887-AR GeForce 8800Ultra 768MB 384-bit GDDR3 PCI Express x16; $1460
Fans: 4x CoolerMaster Y720CCD-25K1-GP 120mm Case Fans; $76
Speakers: Creative Inspire P7800 90Watts 7.1 Speakers; $77
Monitor: NEC Display Solutions LCD2170NX-BK Black 21" 8ms LCD Monitor; $670
Keyboard: Saitek PZ30AU Black USB Wired Standard Keyboard; $40
Mouse: Logitech MX Revolution Laser Mouse; $80
OS: Windows Vista Premium

A couple of comments:

1) I realize that just a couple of the components I've chosen are not "ideal" for gaming systems, i.e., a wireless mouse and an LCD monitor. That's okay -- I need the LCD Monitor for desk space and I have a few wired mice I'm comfortable using if the wireless one doesn't pan out...more interested in just trying it.

2) As a first time system builder, I'm most interested/concerned about compatibility problems or pieces that wouldn't fit together in the case or with each other in the system. This is something I'll screw around with if no one can help me, but hopefully someone more experienced knows that these pieces are compatible (I've checked them as best I can on the manufacturers' websites)

3) Cooling -- I threw on the 4 fans because the case has slots for up to 9 of them, but I don't really know if I need to get all 9, or if even the 4 are overkill, or what. Do I need to buy individual fans/heatsinks/Arctic Silver for the CPU, graphic cards, etc., or will this work as is? What do people recommend?

All suggestions are hugely appreciated. Thanks guys in advance.
November 2, 2007 10:30:39 PM

Wow. I would help you, but I don't really know much about high-end components. I'll try to do my best:

1. What PSU comes with that case? Generally, high wattage PSUs won't be bad, but since you are building a ~$5000 system...You will want a pretty good PSU.

2. I've heard that new processors are coming out sometime relatively soon. I can't really say when, but If it was buying a $950 CPU, I'd not want a better one come out and drop my price by ~$500. If I recall correctly, the Q6600 went from ~$900 to ~$300 in about half a year.

3. Get a bigger monitor. Sorry for being blunt, but SLI won't really even help all that much on the max resolution of the LCD. I think they are really overpricing that monitor. I betting you can get a much bigger and faster response time monitor for about the same price or a little more.
November 2, 2007 10:43:08 PM

Thanks for quick reply -- the PSU with the case is a RealPower Pro 1000W. I looked up a few reviews of it and it looked okay, but then again -- I'm sure I know even less about high-end components than you do. I think I need to stay above 1000W though to be on the safe side, and I liked the fact that the PSU came with the case and I was sure it would fit correctly.

Processors I'll stay on top of...thanks for the heads up.

What's the deal with SLI? I was under the impression that it basically meant you're running the system with the power of 2 cards...so each card bears half the load and overall framerate is much faster. If it's only good for increasing max resolution, then maybe I don't even need it. I want to be able to play cutting edge games at full settings at 1600x1200; I've never used a resolution higher than that so don't even know what it'd look like. My desk is only so big, and although the budget for this guy is a lot I don't want to drop a thousand bucks on the monitor alone...thoughts?
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November 2, 2007 11:09:43 PM

Since you're in the US I think it's safe to say you can get a better monitor that is larger (or at least the same size) for less money than you're budgeting for at the present. Seriously, you need to check out www.newegg.com and browse through their monitors. I personally prefer Viewsonic, but they have plenty of other great brands. No is going to suggest you buy a CRT in 2007.

If you're truly going nuts with this build, might as well pick up a second Raptor and have them running in RAID 0.

Personally I think it's a bad time to buy a top-end rig because the 8800 GTX/Ultras have been out for a while and they'll surely be surpassed by something real soon... at least you were looking at EVGAs... their step-up program should CYA for 90 days in the event some new card drops.

Other than those things I definitely think you're headed in the right direction for a top-end rig. When you first get it, play as many games as humanly possible... gaming rigs have a short life and you might as well get your money's worth out of it.
November 2, 2007 11:30:55 PM

Indeed -- I've been going off the same system which was cutting edge back in 2004ish and it's already having trouble with a lot of stuff.

Looks like the monitor is the number 1 thing to fix in the build. I browsed Newegg on the first run through but I'll go through it again. Do you guys think there is much merit to trying to play at a resolution higher than 1600x1200? Like I said, I've never seen it that high -- wondering if the text is even readable. Should I be going for a widescreen monitor? Any links or specific advice are appreciated...as well as continued advice on the system itself.

I noticed the CPU doesnt come with a heatsink, so I threw one in, along with some arctic silver...seems like a reasonable precaution for the incremental cost.

Rodney_ws -- if there's anything I know nothing about it's hard drive configurations. What is RAID 0, and is it worth getting another 150GB Raptor (and lowering the total size to 300GB vs. 650GB) for whatever increase in access speed I'd be getting? Is that going to be noticeable in a game?
November 2, 2007 11:34:29 PM

Update -- yeah, a quick review of the ViewSonic monitors seem to show a lot of 22" ones for ~$250-$300...definitely a better sounding deal. Looks like the reason I was paying so much was because of UXGA vs. SVGA or something else; again, anyone more experienced about refresh rates, max resolutions, latency/response times who can give advice is appreciated.

I was looking at the ViewSonic VG2230wm 22" 5ms Widescreen for $289. I'm a little worried though because it says it's max resolution is 1680x1050...
November 2, 2007 11:41:06 PM

You want a 24", not 22.
November 2, 2007 11:55:43 PM

andronimus2002 said:
Hey guys -- first time system builder, looking for advice/suggestions on this build. I'm not particularly worried about the budget, but I'm looking to stay around $5000. Here's what I've got so far:

Case: Cooler Master Stacker 830 RC-830-KKR3-GP (includes 1000W Power Supply); $350
Processor: Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6800 Quad Core; $950
RAM: Corsair DDR2 SDRAM 800 (PC2 6400) TWIN2X2048-6400C3DF (4 1GB sticks); $640
Optical Drive: Plextor PX-760A SW-BL DVD R/RW CD-R/RW E-IDE ATAPI Drive; $75
HD1: WD Raptor 150GB 3.5" Serial ATA150 10,000RPM; $180
HD2: WD Caviar RE2 WD5000ABYS 500GB 7200 RPM SATA; $130
Sound: Creative SB X-Fi Xtreme Audio 70SB104000000 7.1 Channel PCI Express
Video: 2x eVGA 768-P2-N887-AR GeForce 8800Ultra 768MB 384-bit GDDR3 PCI Express x16; $1460
Fans: 4x CoolerMaster Y720CCD-25K1-GP 120mm Case Fans; $76
Speakers: Creative Inspire P7800 90Watts 7.1 Speakers; $77
Monitor: NEC Display Solutions LCD2170NX-BK Black 21" 8ms LCD Monitor; $670


Case: excellent case. Don't like the PSU much. I'd get the Stacker without the PSU, or a Silverstone TJ09 or a Lian-Li PC-V2100. A very good PSU for that sort of rig is Thermaltake Toughpower 850W.

Processor: either get a $280 Q6600, or spend your $1000 on a QX9650 - it will overclock much higher, be faster, consume less, generate less heat, etc.

RAM: that price is insane, you can get 4 GB of excellent DDR2-800 for half of that. Anyway, get 2x2GB, not 4x1GB.

Optical - get a SATA drive, not IDE. I love my PX-810SA. Careful with some recent Plextor models, they're cheapo stuff relabeled (Sony NEC Optiarc).

HDD: replace both disks with two WD7500AAKS. Speed and price like the Raptor, 5 times the capacity, less heat and noise.

Sound card: Vista and X-Fi don't kiss and work well together. Get an HT Omega Claro or HT Omega Striker instead.

Video: BFG 8800 GTX OC2 costs much less than an Ultra and has about the same speed. I'm very happy with mine. eVGA makes a good overclocked GTX too.

Fans: you must be kidding. $24 for a fan that works at 38 dB ??? Yuck! Look at SFF21E (21 dB) or SFF21F (28 dB).

Monitor: I like the Samsung 275T a lot. LG and Viewsonic are also very good, and usually cheaper. Anyway, for that sort of SLI setup you need a 24" or more, otherwise you're just wasting money on the second video card and the SLI mobo and the powerful PSU. 24" to 28" usually means 1920x1200, and that's a great resolution for 8800 GTX (or Ultra) SLI.






November 3, 2007 12:06:58 AM

I would rather highly recommend Nvidia over BFG.
November 3, 2007 12:22:57 AM

nVidia doesn't make cards. The BFG has nVidia chips in it.

Did you mean eVGA? eVGA has two overclocked cards at newegg, for $580 and $630. BFG 8800 GTX OC2 is $540 and it's faster than the $580 eVGA and exactly as fast as the $630 eVGA card. eVGA's step-up program is useless if you buy an overclocked 8800 GTX, there won't be anything to beat that in 3 months. Both companies have great reputation and warranties. I don't know, I like both, but why pay more for the eVGA in this case?
November 3, 2007 12:44:28 AM

ok i'll have a stab at this. i'd say the optical drive is overkill. i've never had a problem with lite-on drives personally, and they only cost $30-40.

the cpu is good.

the ram, i'd suggest going with 2x2gb ram if possible. it'll make upgrading in the future much easier. it's also just about the same cost as 4x1gb. don't bother with corsair. i've never had a problem with cheaper ram myself. my current rig has ocz memory. i won't deny corsair ram is good, i just think it's hella overrated. $320 for 2gb?? come on, corsair!

you don't necessarily need a raid0 setup, and it does make things simpler to just stick with single drives. you CAN put more than 2 drives in a case. if you're just looking to stay with two drives though, the raptor is certainly a good choice for a boot drive. i would even suggest going to a 750GB western digital as your storage drive. it's been rated as the fastest 7200rpm drive currently available. that way, you can have really fast, large storage. no need to let anything slow down :) 

the sound blaster is a decent card, but someone argue this please, i've heard they have issues with windows vista. microsoft dropped directsound from the directx package? and eax doesn't work either? it might be worth it to find a different brand card. also, i've heard that the X-Fi Xtreme Audio is total crap too? or is that the Xtreme Music? either way...

as for SLI, it only rears its head as useful when you're pushing 1920x1200 or higher resolution. it might help a bit at lower resolutions, but it's really designed to simply ALLOW you to run a 30" LCD at 2560x1600.

i'd drop the 8800 Ultras because that's a ridiculous price to pay for cards. for example, foxconn (dell's supplier) sells a GTX clocked a bit slower than those Ultras for $500.
http://www.newegg.com/product/product.asp?item=N82E1681...
whether foxconn is to be trusted or not is another question. but it's an example of the fact that the Ultra is just an overclocked GTX priced way higher. go for an XFX, BFG, or eVGA 8800GTX or two. much better buys. and you'll shave off around 150-200 on each card. that's money that could go to a better monitor :) 

the motherboard, well eVGA is good, but i did like what i saw with XFX's rendition.
http://www.newegg.com/product/product.asp?item=N82E1681...
both are good boards to my knowledge. better raid controller on the XFX possibly, if that comes up in the future.

for the mouse, i cannot recommend my very own logitech MX-518 enough. sure, it's old. but to me, this mouse absolutely rocks.

get whatever keyboard feels best to you.

the monitor...
definitely go 24" or bigger. make that SLI setup work to earn its keep! if you go with some of my suggestions, you'll probably shave enough off to get a really good one. Samsung, BenQ, Westinghouse, and recently Acer, all seem to have lots of good reviews. i've not owned one myself, but my friend has a BenQ 24" widescreen, and he loves it. he's also a hardcore gamer, and he vouches for his screen. not sure of the model specifically. those 24" screens also cost the same as the 21" screen you listed, at the most.

make sure to get windows vista premium x64 if you're getting 4gb or more of memory. put it to work. from what i've heard, the compatibility issues with x64 have largely gone away by now.

anyway, best of luck! that's my two cents.
November 3, 2007 1:10:51 AM

rodney_ws said:
Personally I think it's a bad time to buy a top-end rig because the 8800 GTX/Ultras have been out for a while and they'll surely be surpassed by something real soon... at least you were looking at EVGAs... their step-up program should CYA for 90 days in the event some new card drops.


I second this. Newer games are beginning to use all the 8800s power and hopefully some next-gen or refreshed cards drop here within a few months. EVGA's step-up is an option, or even using 8800GTs as holdover parts until something new comes out would probably be fine at your resolution.
November 3, 2007 2:15:27 AM

Wait for new intel quads. If you dont wanna wait then get a Q6600 or w/e cheap and the upgrade later Go with a X38 mobo if you have all that money. Get some WD HDDs. AAKS models. Wait to see whats going on with ATi. If failure, then go with OCd GTX or regular GTX or wait to see what nvdia has comming up.If you wanna buy hte cards, go with evga and use the step-up program. its worth it. Do not use the PSU that comes with the case. thats a bad idea. bad
November 3, 2007 3:30:21 AM

aevm said:
nVidia doesn't make cards. The BFG has nVidia chips in it.

Did you mean eVGA? eVGA has two overclocked cards at newegg, for $580 and $630. BFG 8800 GTX OC2 is $540 and it's faster than the $580 eVGA and exactly as fast as the $630 eVGA card. eVGA's step-up program is useless if you buy an overclocked 8800 GTX, there won't be anything to beat that in 3 months. Both companies have great reputation and warranties. I don't know, I like both, but why pay more for the eVGA in this case?


I meant Evga, and you don't know nothing will be better.
November 3, 2007 3:58:51 AM

True, I don't know. There may be something nicer than an overclocked GTX in December:

http://www.dailytech.com/But+Wait+Theres+More+NVIDIA+G92+for+2007/article9474.htm

I have no idea if it will really be faster and by how much and whether it will really appear in December. Paying $90 more for eVGA, just for a chance to step up to this new card, may be a wise idea, or totally dumb. Can't say, not enough info yet. :lol: 

November 3, 2007 4:37:48 AM

Guys -- just got a chance to read the responses; thanks for all the tips. Let me digest some of this and look at Newegg to see if I can fit in some different pieces. Monitor change is a definite, looking like I might want to kick around the video cards to save some $$$ and change the RAM as well.

Will have to look into the PSU since it seems like people aren't huge fans...will 850W be enough for the system? The only reason I was shying off the 2GB sticks of RAM was that I had heard they could be a lot less stable and slower to access...if this is not the case, then I definitely figure I should be getting 2GB sticks.

Finally, it seems like people have criticized the sound card some but I haven't seen any better suggestions -- thoughts?

Again, appreciate all this. I'm looking to buy by the end of this weekend so keeping the ball rolling is always helpful, even if something better is around the corner...
November 3, 2007 7:09:44 AM

andronimus2002 said:
Guys -- just got a chance to read the responses; thanks for all the tips. Let me digest some of this and look at Newegg to see if I can fit in some different pieces. Monitor change is a definite, looking like I might want to kick around the video cards to save some $$$ and change the RAM as well.

Will have to look into the PSU since it seems like people aren't huge fans...will 850W be enough for the system? The only reason I was shying off the 2GB sticks of RAM was that I had heard they could be a lot less stable and slower to access...if this is not the case, then I definitely figure I should be getting 2GB sticks.

Finally, it seems like people have criticized the sound card some but I haven't seen any better suggestions -- thoughts?

Again, appreciate all this. I'm looking to buy by the end of this weekend so keeping the ball rolling is always helpful, even if something better is around the corner...

My buddy has an Auzentech X-Meridian card, sound make me jealous :love: 
Many audiophiles tout Auzentech cards as the best, but I'd say you have to listen to them and decide for yourself. I personally don't know too much bout sounds cards. They also recently released an X-fi compatible Auzentech card... But once again I can't tell if it's good/bad. Just throwing that out there for you to check out :sol: 
November 3, 2007 11:27:43 AM

I'm going to update the build and refresh it for you guys. Still looking for advice on the PSU and RAM situations. Will post an updated build shortly
November 3, 2007 12:12:48 PM

Just a thought if you really want to go all out it is possible to do quad SLI with 8800s. (Yes it is possible, you need one of the 680i motherboards with 4 PCI 16x slots.)
November 3, 2007 12:26:54 PM

I am too lazy to read all this, but you cannot forget about Solid State Drives if you are talking about "No holds barred"
November 3, 2007 1:32:52 PM

I got the Sound Blaster X-FI Gamer Fatal1ty and it seems to work fine with modern games under Vista 64 bit. However, you are going with the X-FI Xtreme Audio. Isn't that a weird card that requires different drivers than the other X-FI cards? I would stay away from that if it does.

Get a nice 24" monitor that supports 1920x1200 native resolution.

I went with an EVGA nvidia card because of the step-up program as well. In my opinion you should go with 2x 8800 GTX cards and save 400.
November 3, 2007 2:02:05 PM

Thanks for all the help -- with the advice from this forum, I've made a few changes. Appreciate thoughts on the new setup:

Monitor: right now I'm looking at the Samsung 245BW 24" 5ms DVI Widescreen LCD for $450 (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...). It's got the higher native resolution that I'm looking for, and seems like it doesn't compromise in any way from my original choice, while also being cheaper.

Hard Drive: I looked at the Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD7500AAKS, and it seems like a very well regarded HD all around, and its hard to beat the 750GB capacity. If I want to go with two drives, what's the best setup? Use 2 of these guys? Do I only really need one (I don't download tons of movies or anything)? If I use 2, should I use one of these 7500AKSS and one Raptor?

Videocard: I looked at the BFG 8800GTX 768MB (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...) and it generally seems people are right -- a slightly smaller overclock for a savings of $200 per card. If that's the only difference, probably no need to go with the eVGA, and a big $$$ savings to boot. Am I missing anything here?

RAM: On advice I went with 2x2GB. I'm looking at both these Patriot ones (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...) and these Corsair ones (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...). They seem essentially equivalent. I want to make sure they'll fit in the Mobo...they are not specifically on the "compatible memory" list (http://evga.com/support/mbmem/). Do people have thoughts one way or another on these sticks?

Misc: I switched the fans to the Scythe S-FLEX SFF21Fs from my original models, for a savings in price. I also added a NIC card (gotta have this, right? link at http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... I'm off on this, someone let me know). With Windows Vista Premium Home, there's just one version, right? I can't find multiple listings anywhere -- I'm assuming the x64 selection is just made during the install and I don't need to actually BUY a seperate OS.

Again, thoughts are really appreciated. This forum has already been a major help -- I feel like I've strengthened the system and I'm saving money too. Thanks to all help so far...

Soundcard: I went with the HT Omega Claro Plus+ 7.1 (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...) on advice from one of the posters here, but I'm still open to suggestions if people think I should get something from Creative. Also, with the mobo I have, and the videocards I'm putting in, do I care if the soundcard is PCI or PCI-E? (Mobo link http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...)


November 3, 2007 2:28:00 PM

Within 1-2 months, there will most likely be a new nvidia card. Im not sure why you arent going with evga when a **** load of people have told you to. Now, it may or may not be a better card, but if I was spending all this money and a month later a newer better card came out, I would be pissed. Go with evga so you have the option to step-up if you should.
November 3, 2007 2:37:31 PM

I'm still open to going with eVGA -- that was my first proposal, after all. I didn't get the impression that everyone was wildly for it, though -- seemed like a lot of people thought it wasn't the best bang for the buck and you were just paying a huge premium for a mild additional overclock. Either way, I think I understand the GPU situation -- still looking for comments on other pieces of the build...
November 3, 2007 2:46:28 PM

Matrox TripleHead2Go + 3 19" monitors - $1,000
kick-ass PC components (P35, e6750/6850) - $1,500
Greenpeace, American Cancer Society, your choice - $2,500
November 3, 2007 3:27:55 PM

Case suggestion:

Go with the Antec P190

It comes with dual Antec PSU's which would give you more stability when running 2x high-end graphics cards and it probably already has all the fans you need so you wouldn't need to buy any others.

If you're not sure about it, watch this video review from Tom's Hardware:
http://www.tomshardware.com/site/flash_videos/antec_p19...

Also, definitely go with all SATA hardware inside your system, especially the DVD writer. SATA cables are very slim and will not hinder the airflow inside your case as much as IDE cables will (you could go with the nice IDE cables but then the price to buy them would actually be MORE expensive than getting an SATA DVD writer in the first place).

About the monitor, I've heard great things about BENQ 24" monitors. My brother-in-law has a couple and he just bought another one. I'll ask him later about the model#.

Oh... and if you get a chance, either spend the extra $$$ on a QX9650 (the new Penryn based Quads) or wait a little while longer to get the slightly lower versions coming in Q1. The QX9650 can EASILY be clocked to 4GHZ on air cooling and the numbers are crazy. It's WAY better than the previous EXTREME CPU's. For a full read-up, read Tom's Article on the Penryn:

http://www.tomshardware.com/2007/10/29/intel_penryn_4gh...

Oh... and one last thing... since you're going uber with everything on the system, you might as well go with DDR2 1066 RAM instead of 800... the prices have come down a lot recently and you wouldn't have to pay so much for them (well, at least for 4x 1GB versions)

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

other deals on 1066 RAM:

http://www.pricewatch.com/memory/ddr2-1066_pc2-8500_1gb...

Man... wish I had as free $$$ floating around as you do... I had to get by on a system build for around 1/2 of your budget : (
November 3, 2007 3:31:09 PM

When are the QX9650s coming out? Seems like they're a big improvement, but I can't find anywhere to buy online. Couple references to November 12th...but I don't want to get into a situation where they are sold out and I can't get one for 3 months or something.
November 4, 2007 12:55:56 PM

Can anyone tell me if the QX9650 will fit the mobo I've selected (eVGA 680i?) If so, I'll wait for one of those...are there any other pieces that won't be compatible anymore if I use the 9650 instead of a 6800?
!