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plans for first build (budget gamer)

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March 7, 2008 7:18:40 AM

Starting to plan for a budget gaming build. Here's what I've got so far...

CPU: E2160 Allendale 1.8GHz with Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro
MB: Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3L
GPU: MSI NX8800GT 512M OC GeForce 8800GT
PSU: Thermaltake Purepower W0100RU ATX 12V 2.0 500W
Memory: G.Skill 2GB (2 x 1GB) DDR2 800 (PC2 6400)
Case: Cooler Master Centurion 5 CAC-T05-UW
HDD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 250GB SATA 2
Optical: Samsung 20X DVD±R DVD Burner SATA SH-S203B
TIM: Arctic Cooling MX-2 Thermal Compound

About $680 before taxes, rebates, and shipping. Plan to use the machine for gaming, graphic programs (Photoshop, Painter, etc.), and the usual web browsing and whatnot. Don't need or want RAID, firewire, or SLI/Crossfire. I've heard that the E2160 is easily OCed to 3 GHz with the right stepping, but I'm wary of the 1 MB cache. What kind of activities would that limited cache hinder? Although I'm moving up from an old P4 2.8GHz with 512MB DDR ram and a Radeon 9800 Pro, so everything's an improvement. :lol: 

Also, would I be able to upgrade to a Wolfdale or Yorkfield in the future with this setup? I'm pretty sure the P35 is ready for 45nm but how about the ram? Is 800 MHz okay for light OCing either of the two or is it necessary to get 1066 MHz? I obviously don't need the latest and greatest or else I wouldn't be looking at the E2160... but I'd like to upgrade later when the prices of these CPUs fall (probably after Nehalem is unleashed) and not have to swap out too many components if at all possible.

Sorry for my noobness, but I'm still a building virgin. I've upgraded my GPU and ram before, but never dealt with the entire system. Any comments would be appreciated. Thanks! :na: 
March 7, 2008 8:02:48 AM

If you can swing a little more, go with the 8800GTS 512
March 7, 2008 8:02:55 AM

The case doesn't have any ventilation. Get something else. You'll probably need to update the bios if you swap out the chip later on. dr2 800 is fine for a "mild" overclock. The paste on the freezer pro 7 is adequate. You don't need to buy more unless you want. I know the e4300 oc like crazy, not familiar with the chip you chose. The video card. Something stinks about msi IMO. Their products, from experience, tend to die faster than most, except for ecs products. Try evga or bfg .....
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March 7, 2008 10:09:12 AM

You should be able to get 3.0ghz with that CPU no problem, not sure if the RAM will hold up or not, some people won't buy it, and it seems like the ones that do swear by it... so it's hard to say.

With the 8800 + an OC CPU you're not going to want that case... spend about $100 and get the Antec P180 (was onsale for 90 when I got mine) or get the Antec 900 (also around $100 and had free shipping for a while, not sure if it still does or not)

Everything else looks solid. I agree that you don't really NEED the mx-2 paste, but it might improve cooling a couple degrees.
March 7, 2008 10:18:58 AM

1. 8800 GT
2. 2GB ddr2 800 x 2 ( future needs 64bit ) 3.5GB 32bit
3. 500GB sata 2 32MB
4. E4300 like swifty_morgan sayed...
5. Case: bigger is better (budget: Any big ATX will do just fine... )
March 8, 2008 5:52:29 AM

Thanks for the replies!

I've looked around about the e4300, and it sounds like it OCs to a similar clock speed as the E2160. The former seems hard to find at a reputable US seller, while the latter is easily available and at least 50 bucks cheaper for 1 MB less cache. Then again, I might just consider waiting till the E8400's are readily available and use the money saved up to get one.

Is the ventilation for the Centurion case really that bad? It has a perforated front with a 80mm front fan and a 120 mm exhaust. I haven't seen it myself, but the reviews seem pretty positive for it. I was looking at the Antec 900 before since it looks like it has great circulation, but it costs twice as much as the Centurion and has the stupid blue LEDs. Would I be able to turn off the lights?

I looked at the EVGA and BFG variants of the 880GT but I keep seeing reviews saying the heat can creep up on them. I like the Zalman cooler of the MSI variant and think I'll be sticking with it.

The more I have to think about these parts, the greater my wallet is going to be hit. I wanted to stay on a low budget, but the geek in me wants the new toys now. So much for trying to build a budget machine. :cry: 
March 8, 2008 8:43:40 AM

Ignore the post above. The Centurion has excellent ventilation not to mention filters for the dust. It is a great budget gamer. The Elite 330 is also a good choice, and sometimes a little cheaper.
March 8, 2008 11:02:58 PM

Thanks tlmck. I love the aesthetics of the Centurion 5, so it's good to hear it has good venting!
March 8, 2008 11:47:08 PM

Oushi, you made some excellent choices.

I just got the 2180, and have it stable at 3.2 GHz (with the AC Freezer 7 Pro!)--a budget system CPU begins and ends with either the 2160 or 2180--there is no rational, defensible reason to spend more $ on a CPU in the here and now. Couldn't be happier with that decision.

I had already purchased an ATI HD3870, but if starting from scratch, the decision is easy; for a budget system, the 8800GT is unequivocally the best way to go. On Newegg, I see an EVGA for $199 after rebate, and $20 more for their OC'd version--those are no brainers for a budget system (spend the $20 more if the cash is burning a hole in your pocket). Sure the GTS is only another $40 or so after rebate, but the concept of diminishing returns kicks in very steeply after the GT.

As for the Antec 900 vs. Centurion 5, I am uniquely qualified to discuss this dillema, because I just bought the '5, then exchanged it 2 weeks later for the '900. After about a week of configuring fans, the 900 may only be a degree better than the '5. From a pride perspective, I like the 900. But logically, do not delude yourself into thinking that you are getting materially better performance from the '900--especially when considering the '900 is ~ double the price. The '5 is even built better, more solidly, and with more convenience features.

If you go with the '5, there are 3 necessities to get it to the performance of the '900: 1) put an 80 mm exhaust on the side top vent; 2) drill 2 screw holes and fit a 120 mm intake fan on the bottom side vent; and 3) with a layer of cardboard wedging, a 140 mm fan will fit perfectly into the front bezel grill (need to remove the metal drive bay blanks). If you get a variable low speed 80 mm, this whole setup will be roughly as quiet as the 900 also.

Bottom line, the '5 is quiet and has excellent cooling--got to trust me on that one. If doing over again, I would have kept the '5, taken that $60 difference between the '5 and '900, and put it towards a pair of $42 WD 80 GB HDs from NewEgg to RAID0...

Good luck!
March 9, 2008 1:00:00 AM

I must say that the case the OP listed is pretty bad on ventilation for its price range. The Antec 900 has the best air cooling sub 300$ and better imo then most of the 400-500$ monsters out there. I had one of my techs dust the case at work. There is literaly no dead air.

As for the GPU I would recomend the Asus model. You get some very good apps with it. You can option your OC to kick in full time or on demand when under load. The fan settings are the best I have seen with 4 temp settings with speeds to match. Full monitoring and great cross ship RMA. Avoiding any and all full time OCed graphics cards is a big deal.

The MB you picked is not a bad one by any means. I how ever I avoid MBs that require full time OCes just like I do with my GPU choices. If I had to pick I would move over to Asus. They supply good apps that allow you to OC and tune everything from the desktop. You can set your OC full time or on demand as well. Avoiding full time OCing is always a good thing. I have only had one system on an Asus MB OC on demand that gave me trouble. It turned out to be the Nvidia chipset(I avoid those as well). The idea is to let your system run stock so when your cruising the web or watching a dvd ect you are not reducing the systems life span. When you need the power its there instantly and you will never know it even ramped up.
March 9, 2008 1:00:34 AM

@OP:
You've made good choices for an excellent budget system, IMO.

Husky has given some good advice on low cost modding for your case that will further improve ventilation. It will take a little work, but sounds like a great way to get good air cooling performance at budget prices.

I personally own the Antec Nine Hundred and would recommend it if you can afford it. However, if you are budget restricted then I think you'll be fine with your original choice of the CM Centurion 5 if you take the time and effort to mod it to ensure improved airflow.
March 9, 2008 4:50:36 AM

Thanks for the information Husky. Really appreciated! May I ask why you decided to trade in for the Antec 900? I really like the Centurion and will probably choose it in the end, but I want to be certain of my choice and can't easily ignore the multitudes raving about the 900. I'm not strictly restricted by a budget, but I also don't like spending money frivolously. :pt1cable: 

Took a look at the ASUS mobos as jersey recommended, and reviews seem to be mixed. Seems like the more popular P35 boards have a lot more things than what I need, and cost at least double the Gigabyte DS3L as a result. Is there a certain model you would recommend I consider?
March 9, 2008 5:22:50 AM

oushi said:
Thanks for the information Husky. Really appreciated! May I ask why you decided to trade in for the Antec 900? I really like the Centurion and will probably choose it in the end, but I want to be certain of my choice and can't easily ignore the multitudes raving about the 900. I'm not strictly restricted by a budget, but I also don't like spending money frivolously. :pt1cable: 

Took a look at the ASUS mobos as jersey recommended, and reviews seem to be mixed. Seems like the more popular P35 boards have a lot more things than what I need, and cost at least double the Gigabyte DS3L as a result. Is there a certain model you would recommend I consider?


Don't worry about Jersey, he's hung up on ASUS's crappy/bloated OC utils. IMO it's better to fine tune OCs via the bios anyway. OC utilities are notoriously buggy and problematic.

Don't get me wrong, I've owned and used PLENTY of ASUS products and don't have a problem with their hardware, but I think you're going to be just fine with a Gigabyte P35 board.
March 9, 2008 5:34:22 PM

oushi said:
Thanks for the information Husky. Really appreciated! May I ask why you decided to trade in for the Antec 900? I really like the Centurion and will probably choose it in the end, but I want to be certain of my choice and can't easily ignore the multitudes raving about the 900. I'm not strictly restricted by a budget, but I also don't like spending money frivolously. :pt1cable: 

Took a look at the ASUS mobos as jersey recommended, and reviews seem to be mixed. Seems like the more popular P35 boards have a lot more things than what I need, and cost at least double the Gigabyte DS3L as a result. Is there a certain model you would recommend I consider?



Why I ditched the the '5 and bought the '900? Neuroticism, plain and simple. EVERYONE talks about the '900's legendary airflow, and how could the modest '5 ever compete with that? I fell for it. I do like my 900, but the 5 is an amazing value. You will see all the engineering effort they put into it. Everything is in the right place. The metal is heavier, the aluminum trim trumps the 900's cheap plastic trim. And it is hard to go back from the 5's tool less set up.

I believe that my "mods" are a necessity to get the proper cooling, and at appropriate sound levels--but don't get intimidated though, we are only talking about a few minutes of work. The included front 80mm fan is kind of a throwaway; it doesn't generate enough airflow to make much of a difference, and there is no way to really modify it for a larger fan (I tried). But it does keep your HDs cool. So here is what you need to do:

1) unscrew the side vent tube, since it won't fit with most aftermarket CPU coolers anyways. It is already tapped, so add an 80 mm fan. But keep the speed below 2000 RPM otherwise you will get "80mm whine" from the fan. Have it blowing outwards. 2) The lower side vent will perfectly fit a 120 mm intake fan if you take 2 minutes to drill two holes. Use a fan as a template, and on the backside of the panel use a pencil to mark where the holes should go. Any drillbit can then drill the holes. You only need to drill 2, since you can use the existing vent grill holes for the top 2. This fan is necessary to keep your videocard cool. 3) This is the largest impact: take the front bezel off, and then pop off the CD drive blanks. It is amazing how well a 140mm fan fits in the front grill, with no fuss. You just need to wedge it in there with a little cardboard. You will never see the cardboard, but the fan fits perfectly and looks very professional--to the point where if CoolerMaster simply provided 4 x $0.01 metal tabs, this should be a factory standard upgrade. I used an Aero, which is nice and quiet.

The only catch with this setup is that you will have invested in about another $35 in fans. And that is how I ultimately justified the move to the 900--'5 total cost was approaching $90, so I might as well get the "industry standard" 900. But of course I then kept $25 worth of fans, so I really shouldn't have gone with the 900 from a purely financial perspective...

Anyway, good luck! Feel free to email if you have any specific questions.
March 9, 2008 7:37:42 PM

What I am inferring from this: You may be able to squeak out a few dollars cheaper is you get the Centurion '5 and take the effort to mod it a bit. Or you can pay the few dollars premium for the 900 and have it ready to go out of the box. There are certainly pros and cons to each decision, so I am not going to try to steer you into one. I will say, however, that my personal experience with the Antec 900 was positive. I was close to getting the Centurion '5 myself, but am happy with my decision.
March 9, 2008 9:29:51 PM

I concur with mtyermom (just got it--clever BTW!), but one parting thought: I had to add the 120 and 140mm fans from the '5 to the 900 to get the '900 to actually outcool the 5...
March 10, 2008 5:50:45 PM

I think I'll stick to the Centurion 5 and attempt to do the mods you've suggested. Thanks for all the help! Didn't even know they made these 4-in-3 device modules. Should make things a little simpler. :D 
!