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Exceptionally clueless on new system (Dec 2007)

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December 15, 2007 7:50:29 PM

Hi all,

I want to apologize in advance for yet another "best motherboard/CPU for gaming" thread. I'll try to post as intelligently as I know how.

My gaming system is aging, to put it mildly. I think it's going on 6, maybe 7 years. To give you some idea, I pieced it together because of the announcement of a really cool sounding new game called "Return to Castle Wolfenstein". I did a lot of research, built a great system, and through the magic of upgrading video cards, it's done well ever since. I played a game called Stalker, and although the game was playable at first, I could tell my system was struggling to keep the game playable. Recently, one of my HDs has been making an intermittent odd sound, so I figure between the game and HD noise, nature is telling me to upgrade.

I did a lot of research and basically ignored PC technology for the past 7 years. I see things have changed quite a bit.

I toyed with building a system about 3 years ago. Back then many people were talking about dual opterons or an AMD FX for gaming. The idea of having a 64 bit system was kind of neat. But I see that things have changed even since then. I've been lurking on hw sites and my *perception* is that Intel is firmly in the lead for gaming use. Since I plan on using my gaming system as a Linux/WinXP dualboot, I think Nvidia is the way to go (ATI has notoriously poor drivers for Linux).

It seems like people are mainly talking about Intel's "dual core" and "quad core". I don't see much "buzz" about AMD's offerings recently. From reading, my perception is that, although quad core is better, it may not go a long way for gaming since an application needs to be "quad core aware", and so far, not many games are. Mind you, this is what I've read on forums, so it may be bogus.

I'm really at a loss here. I've seen these combos mentioned:

Intel Core 2 Duo E6850 Conroe 3.0GHz LGA 775 Processor Model BX80557E6850
Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 Kentsfield 2.4GHz LGA 775 Processor Model BX80562Q6600
Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6850

ASus P5N32-E SLI LGA 775 NVIDIA nForce 680i SLI ATX Intel Motherboard
MSI P6N SLI Platinum
ABit IP35 Pro LGA 775 Intel P35 ATX Intel Motherboard
Asus Striker Extreme

Although I have to say that a $1000 CPU and a $300 mobo seem a "bit" extreme.

I would like to buy a mobo that will stay relevant so that I can drop in future CPUs as today's unaffordable processors become tomorrow's affordable processors.

I don't care much for onboard stuff since I tend to use cards for network and sound. Although I'm not completely opposed to the idea of using onboard chipsets for this. Historically, Linux has done better with PCI cards than chipsets. But maybe that's changed in the past 7 years.

I want a system that's reasonably quiet, but it certainly doesn't have to be silent. I almost always have the stereo going and when I play games, I'm usually too absorbed to really notice computer noise anyhow. Quietness is important, but not an all-guiding factor.

I'd like to try one of those 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound speaker systems. They look fun. I assume they need sound chipset (or PCI card) support.

I'd like to use SATA 3.0Gb/s drives.

Since I plan on reusing some of my old components, I don't mind dropping a little more change on a nice CPU/mobo, although $1000 for a CPU is clearly out of the question.

Since I'll be using an NVidia video card, the question of SLI comes up if I decide to buy a 2nd video card. My understanding is that the mobo must have a SLI capable nForce chipset. I've never seen a SLI system, so I don't know how effective SLI is. Is SLI worth basing (or at least affecting) a mobo decision on? Since this is a gaming system that I hope will be around for as long, I'd like to hear other peoples' opinions.

OK, I wrote the best "what's the best gaming mobo/cpu" type post I know how. So... what is the best gaming mobo/CPU (for me)?

Any explanations and suggestions are greatly appreciated!

Thanks so much!

More about : exceptionally clueless system dec 2007

December 15, 2007 11:37:58 PM

From what I've read the consensus is that you're better off putting money into a high end video card than 2 lower ones for gaming. P35 are the best bang for the back right now will run Intel's new/upcoming quad cores. They won't run SLI but will run Crossfire if you want 2 video cards but they'll have to be ATI. If you're just running one, you can run nVidia card. If you are using firewire the ASUS is good because it's built in otherwise I'd go with the Gigabyte. The more onboard hardware features, the better given you'll get at most 3 PCI slots. Given the price get DDR2 RAM. I like Crucial but have used ADATA when money was tight. a little less expensive
http://www.newegg.com/product/product.asp?item=N82E1681...
http://www.newegg.com/product/product.asp?item=N82E1681...
http://www.newegg.com/product/product.asp?item=N82E1682...

2 hdd drives is a very good idea. Get a small Seagate, think the smallest is now 80GB for them, for the OS/program and a bigger one for data. The best bang for the buck right now is 320GB but if you don't accumulate a lot of DATA get a smaller one. For a CPU for gaming I'd go with the E6750 for gaming and upgrade to a quad core in a year or so with prices come done. If you were working with videos or photos the quad would be better, more CPU intensive.
December 19, 2007 12:57:35 PM

Thank you, G-Paw, I truly appreciate your input.

Money isn't too much of a problem. That said, I'd rather not pay for features I don't use, and I don't mind waiting a bit for the premium on today's bleeding edge to come down a bit. I've got some student loans I'd like to pay off quickly, but I'm not really on a restrictive budget.

I can't think of a reason why I'd use firewire - except perhaps for a hard drive, but USB 2.0 is supposed to be almost as good. I'd like to play around with video someday, but my interests in video / graphics would be more towards using Maya or programming in OpenGL than pulling video off a camera. So firewire is almost certainly not needed.

As for why I use computers and choice of CPU and mobo:

I basically use computers for two things. I am a programmer who focuses on numerics. I write a lot monte carlo, FFT, matrix inversion/decomposition, PDE/ODE solving, regressions, etc. I often run a simulation in the background while I continue to develop. The point is, raw procesing power is important to me so I can run my simulations quickly *and* continue to program while they run (hence my use of Linux).

I also pull market data from the net into a MySQL database and run analytics for myself at night. Additionally, I have lots of mp3s, video, am a data pack-rat, and install lots of video games. So hard drive space is definitely important to me. And fast data access since I move a lot of data back and forth from a database (although I'll probably put the DB on my current gaming computer which will become a print/file/font server).

Aside from numerical computing, the 2nd thing I use computers for is gaming. My job can be pretty stressful, and nothing beats stress better than a game of racquetball -- but if I'm feeling lazy, the second best stress reliever is gaming. And since I'm stressed quite a bit, I definitely need to game for long periods of time... :ange: 

For video cards, I obviously want something great for gaming, but I also would like to play around with doing numerical calculations on a GPU. I don't have any friends who have tried to utilize a GPU as a numerical processor, but I've read about research groups that have used them effectively. Although I think you need to store all your data in matrices since OpenGL is used to facilitate data transfer between the CPU cache/main memory and the VRAM, I don't think VRAM requirements for computing are very high since a whole lot of 8 byte doubles/16 byte long doubles can fit in, say, 512MB. So VRAM will be solely determined by the need to store texture data for games.

So here's what I'm planning:

Case: Apevia X-Discovery Computer Case
http://www.xoxide.com/aspire-x-discovery-black.html

Power supply: CORSAIR 620W HX SERIES ATX
http://www.fadfusion.com/selection.php?product_item_num...

The mobo you suggested looks good. My only concern is the FSB: This morning I saw that there are (or will be?) boards out there that run at 1600 FSB. I'm not going to pay $1000 for a chip, but I can pay a bit more for "best bang for the buck" if it's pragmatically better. Is this still the board/CPU you'd recommend? Another issue is waiting - I'd rather not wait for technology to come out since there's always something on the horizon.

Mobo: GIGABYTE Intel P35 + ICH9 Chipset DDR2 1066 ATX GA-P35-DS3L
http://www.zipzoomfly.com/jsp/ProductDetail.jsp?Product...

The price differential between the E6750 and E6850 doesn't seem worth it for a speed difference that can be achieved through a little overclocking. For me, overclocking is like motorcycle mechanics: I used to do it all the time in grad school, but now I'd rather not go crazy with it anymore since my time is pretty limited these days. If I can achieve something faster easily, that's great. But I really don't want to suffer through random lockups or heating issues.

CPU: E6750
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

RAM: Not sure, but I was going to go with whatever Crucial recommends.

Videocard: Again, not sure. $500 seems excessive unless I planned on quiting my job to become a professional gamer. I don't feel the need to have the best, but I also don't mind paying a small premium to get something very good. I do want nVidia since its Linux drivers are better than ATI's (this will be a dual-boot Linux/XP).

Hard drive: Seagate Barracuda ES ST3320620NS 320GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

I was going to pick up 4 of these things. 1280 GB should last me for awhile. LOL.

Everything else will be recycled from my current gaming machine.

I don't know a whole lot about today's hardware, so I really appreciate your help!
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December 19, 2007 2:11:33 PM

Given what you're doing sounds pretty CPU intensive, not really familiar with specifically what you're doing, I think quad core would make sense. It would cost you about $80 more but the performance boost would probably be worth it. Check out this chart for a comparison.
http://www23.tomshardware.com/cpu_2007.html

From the reviews I've read, right now the P35 is the best bang for the buck and the X38 is too expensive for what you get. If you're interestes, check reviews of the X38 on this site, extremetech.com, and anandtech.com. It is supposed to be easier to overclock than the P35 but again, the latter can be overclocked if you know what your doing and it sounds like you do. If you're thinking about RAID, one of these two boards would be good but if not the Gigabyte DS3L would work. The advantage of the ASUS is that it has onbaord eSATA and firewire and ASUS says it will support the 45mm chipset, Penryn. At this time I'd go with the ASUS, I have had very good luck with their boards. I've also read that Intel with be coming out with a new chipset for mobo, I think it's he X48 in 6 months or so but figure a year or more before mere mortals can afford it. Again this would argue for the P35.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://usa.asus.com/products.aspx?modelmenu=2&model=186...

The nVidia 8800GT is supposedly the best bang for the buck gaming video card right now. 2GB of RAM would work but if you can afford it, 4GB would be better but I believe the P35 will only read 3.5GB. But if it came down to the quad core or 4GB I'd go with the quad core. Not sure if you went with 4GB if it would be better to go with 2 x 2GB or 4 x 1GB. Crucial website likely has the answer. Still think a smaller hdd for the OS/programs makes sense. You could always partition a larger one putting your data on the 2nd partition but it would be easier to back up/image a smaller one. Not sure a WD Raptor would be worth the extra money but at least for me, I'd only consider the Raptor if I had some extra money left over after the quad core and RAM. I've read a little on using the GPU for calculations but not a lot because it's out of my price range and needs but also sounds like it's in the early stages.

My impression is that in the nest 2 years or so there will be a lot of changes with CPUs and mobo and while I wouldn't recommend waiting, you can wait for ever for the next big break through, it sounds like the current bleeding edge, e.g., thex38, is really the last of the this generation. Case and PSU look good, case if a bit lit up for my taste but I'm an old guy :) 

If you're in the US, check out prices at newegg. Generally very competitive and great service.
December 19, 2007 2:15:07 PM

Quote:

I basically use computers for two things. I am a programmer who focuses on numerics. I write a lot monte carlo, FFT, matrix inversion/decomposition, PDE/ODE solving, regressions, etc. I often run a simulation in the background while I continue to develop. The point is, raw procesing power is important to me so I can run my simulations quickly *and* continue to program while they run (hence my use of Linux).


Assuming you are running parallelized software (which you probably should be for serious numeric calculations), you should probably choose an intel quad Q6600. If you are comfortable with overclocking, try to make sure to find a G0 stepping (also known as SLACR).

Most people agree that the 6850 is not worth it over a 6750.

If you aren't planning on overclocking, the options from AMD are generally better priced, though they lack the truly high-end components that Intel is offering.

Quote:

For video cards, I obviously want something great for gaming, but I also would like to play around with doing numerical calculations on a GPU. I don't have any friends who have tried to utilize a GPU as a numerical processor, but I've read about research groups that have used them effectively. Although I think you need to store all your data in matrices since OpenGL is used to facilitate data transfer between the CPU cache/main memory and the VRAM, I don't think VRAM requirements for computing are very high since a whole lot of 8 byte doubles/16 byte long doubles can fit in, say, 512MB. So VRAM will be solely determined by the need to store texture data for games.


I don't know about numerical computing on GPUs, though you'll probably need special drivers for it. You may need to contact folks at the research institutions that are doing it and asking them.

As for gaming, it's pretty hard to go wrong with either a 3850, 3870, 8800gt (256 or 512). The 8800GT-512 is almost a top performer, and below the price point of a 3850, and you start to lose too much performance. They range in price from $180 to $250-300 (8800GT is hard to find in stock, lots of price gouging, same with 3870). ATI has started (funded?) an open source video driver, but I'm not sure that it has released all the specs for it's latest video cards. For now, the safe bet is probably nVidia.

While the power supply you suggest is great, you don't need that many watts. Drop down to a Corsair HX520 or a VX450 and save some money.

Quote:
The mobo you suggested looks good. My only concern is the FSB: This morning I saw that there are (or will be?) boards out there that run at 1600 FSB. I'm not going to pay $1000 for a chip, but I can pay a bit more for "best bang for the buck" if it's pragmatically better. Is this still the board/CPU you'd recommend? Another issue is waiting - I'd rather not wait for technology to come out since there's always something on the horizon.


No board currently "supports" 1600FSB, though plenty achieve speeds sufficient to run processors at a 1600FSB (aka 400 clock). Good P35 boards hit around a 450 clock. The first FSB1600 board will be the X48, which is an expensive enthusiast board. I'd suggest a P35 board with good reviews. A lot of people like the Gigabyte GA-P35C-DS3R. It's the same as the "L" version, but with RAID capability and extra SATA ports (looks like you will need them). There are lots of good P35 boards, though. Go read a roundup somewhere.
December 19, 2007 3:47:59 PM

Some thoughts on what you are planning:

Case: The case you picked may not suit your needs. It has room for only 4 internal 3.5" bays, and you may fill that up quickly if you start with 4 hard drives. If you want quiet, you can do better. The apevia case has a 120mm output fan, but only a single 80mm input fan. To get good cooling, you will have to run those fans at high rpm's which will not be quiet. If you want "bling" though, the case is ok. As a suggestion, look at the Antec P182. At $90 after a $50 rebate with free shipping, it is a great deal. It has 6 internal HDD bays, and plenty of 120mm fans with speed control switches. Also, the sides are insulated with sound deadening material which makes it one of the quietest cases around. No "bling", though. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

PSU: very good.

Mobo: The Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3L is a very good board, but it has some limitations that you don't want. It has only 4 sata ports, so you will not have room for any expansion or even a sata DVD burner. It also has only one pci-e slot. If you put your gaming vga card there, you will not have a place to put a second card to be used for numerical computation. As an alternative, look at the Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3P. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... Most mobo's today have decent onboard sound and ethernet ports. Nothing extra is needed there.

CPU: E6750 is good, particularly with a mild overclock. I can't help but think though, that a quad might be better if you are doing lots of multitasking.

Ram: Any name brand(including crucial) DDR2-800 ram is good. Go to the vendor's web site and use their memory configurator to verify that the ram will work with your mobo. I would suggest getting a matched 4gb kit up front. Sometimes memory specs for the same ram change over time, and cause problems with some motherboards. Particularly with multitasking, you will want enough ram to keep the working sets of all your tasks in memory. A 32-bit OS will let you see only about 3.3gb, but that is a lot better than just 2gb. If your critical programs will run under 64-bit vista, then that is a good way to go.

VGA card: The 8800GT and 8800GTS-G92-512 are newly announced good cards. I would suggest the 8800GTS-512. Not only is it a bit faster, but it has a better cooling system which exhausts the vga heat out the back. This gives you a quieter system that does hot recirculate hot air to the cpu.

HDD: ok.

CPU cooler: I would suggest getting a oem cpu cooler with a 120mm fan up front. They will keep your cpu cooler, but the bigger fan can turn slower, keeping the system more quiet. If you want to do some overclocking, it will be helpful also. Coolers are best installed outside of the case so you can see the back of the mobo and be certain that they go on properly. The best around is the thermalright ultra 120 extreme, but others are also quite good. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...


Monitor: If you have any funds left, look into a bigger/better/additional monitor. This is what you will touch and use every day. Money spent here is most satisfying.


---good luck---
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