My under $1k gaming system build

I build new systems from scratch about every 2 years. My old systems I usually donate to charity or give to a needy relative. My current system was built in October 2006, and it is still a decent system: Core2Duo E6400, 2GB Corsair XMS2, Gigabyte GA-965P-DS3, SB Audigy2, XFX 8800GTS 320 MB (upgraded from a 7600GT about a year ago), but it is time to upgrade. My system before that one was a AMD Athlon XP 3000, Geforce 6600 (later upgraded to a 6800GT), 1GB ram, with an ABIT NF7 mboard (built in April 2004).

The goals for my new computer are for it to perform as a general home computer with the added benefit of some mild over-clocking and while being a decent gaming platform, meanwhile attempting to maintain quiet components (low dB PSU, CPU cooler, etc.) where possible, all for about $1000.

The system I came up with is this:

Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-EX38-DS4 - $205 from Newegg - I looked at ASUS, ABIT, XFX, MSI... I have an ASUS laptop which I absolutely hate, so I started out with some negative sentiment against ASUS. I love my GA-965P-DS3 board, so I decided to stay with Gigabyte. I wanted a board that would have a maximum lifespan in terms of technology. The X38 chip supports up to 1600 FSB, so I can hopefully upgrade to a faster 45nm chip when they are available. For only $30 more than a high end P35 based board, it seemed to make sense to go with the X38. Plus, the dual x16 PCI-X 2.0 ports ensure I will be able to use future PCI-X 2.0-only based video cards.

CPU: Xeon E3110 Wolfdale ($218 from ANTOnline, now OOS). I definitely wanted a 45nm Intel chip. The E8400 is impossible to find, so I went with the Xeon E3110 instead... it is supposed to be identical to the E8400 and I have read that Gigabyte boards have no problems posting Xeons. Some other boards tend to have issues with Xeons (Abit, I've read), but I suspect that this is a mboard software spec issue rather than an issue with the Xeon since the E3110 and E8400 have the same CPU id. I have also read some rumors that the Xeon has a lower V range than the E8400, at least in the marketing literature - if that is true I don't care - I do not plan to push 4GHz+ with my cpu.

CPU Cooler: Tuniq 120 Tower ($39 from NewEgg). I have read good things about this cooler. I thought about a Zalman 9700 NT, but for similar performance and at a savings of almost $40, I went with the Tuniq.

Video Card: MSI NX8800GT 512 OC - ($197 after rebate from NewEgg) - I seriously thought about getting a GTS 512MB card. After pouring over the specs and benchmarks of the the GT and GTS 512, I decided that the extra cost of the GTS 512 was not worth it for my purposes and could put me over budget. This card is also supposed to run cooler than other OC 8800GT cards.

Memory: 2GB OCZ Platinum Rev2 DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) ($37 after rebate from NewEgg) - For the near term, I only plan to run 32-bit apps and games. I have no reason to run a 64-bit OS. Sure, 4GB would be nice. But, I don't want the headache of using 64bit Vista or 64-bit XP. 2GB is fine for now. I don't plan to do any crazy memory O/C so PC2 6400 is OK for me.

Hard Drive: Seagate Barracuda ES.2 ST3250310NS 250GB 7200 RPM SATA-300. At $80 and with a 32MB cache, this thing is supposed to be as fast as any 10K drive but at a fraction of the price and noise.

Case: Cooler Master Centurion 5 ATX Case - ($49 from Newegg) - I'm not a big fan of fancy over-priced cases. I put my computer case under my desk and only see it when I drag it out for maintenance. I wanted something sturdy, made of steel, and large enough to provide clearance for video cards and cpu fans. I like cases with 120mm fans in the back, so this one fit the requirements. Plus the styling fairly plain and it doesn't look like an alien egg incubator.

CD/DVD Burner: Sony NEC Optiarc DVD Burner w/LightScribe PATA ($28 from NewEgg) - I decided to keep my CD/DVD drive PATA to maintain maximum compatibility. I've read of issues with OS installers supporting SATA CD/DVD drive.

Round PATA Cable ($4 from NewEgg) - The motherboard comes with ugly black flat IDE ATA cables. I prefer round IDE cables to keep things looking neat and clean.

Power Supply: SilentXStream OCZ500SXS ($49 after rebate from Newegg) - 500W is sufficient for my purposes - I'm running a single video card, a single hard drive, and energy efficient mboard. Normally I am against PSUs with single 120mm fans. Most of the PSUs that I have seen smoked have been of the "silent" type with 120mm fans, and I lost a AMD board a few years back to one such PSU. This PSU has dual 12v rails and is 80% efficient, so that greatly reduces my concern. At the same or less price than many less-efficient, single-rail PSUs, with sata connectors and 6-pin pci-x power, this seemed like a good deal.

Total: $903
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  1. If your after maximum lifespan, the current technology ends the end of this year or the first of next. New socket which means new boards and CPU's. You should still be able to get some mileage out of the X38 board though
  2. chuckm said:
    If your after maximum lifespan, the current technology ends the end of this year or the first of next. New socket which means new boards and CPU's. You should still be able to get some mileage out of the X38 board though

    I figured this will probably be my last LGA775 build. If I get 2 years of use out of this system, I will be happy. The 1600 FSB on the X38 hopefully gives me an upgrade path when/if 1600FSB 45nm 775 chips are released.
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