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$1000 Budget, component upgrades for homebuilt system

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March 29, 2008 1:19:58 AM

I've got a $1000 budget to upgrade some components in my homebuilt computer. I'm looking to get the most for my money and futureproof it as much as possible. My tech level is fairly low, so I could certainly use some advice, and any suggestions are welcome. This isn't an entirely new system, as I have some components which do not need to be upgraded, and so that frees up more money for the ones that do.

Here's what I came up with so far:

Motherboard
EVGA 132-CK-NF78-A1 LGA 775 NVIDIA nForce 780i SLI ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813188024

I've heard nothing but good things about that board. Since I'll be getting a video card that has PCIe 2.0, I'd like to get a board which has the same. I didn't find any non-SLi boards with PCIe 2.0 and this was the best of the mid-priced SLi boards. Chances are that I will not use SLi (or at least not anytime soon), but does the gap between PCIe 1 and PCIe 2 warrant getting an SLi board if that's what it takes? Also, is it worth the money to get a motherboard with DDR3? Would getting a non-PCIe 2.0 board with DDR3 memory be better than the other way around?

PSU
SILVERSTONE SST-ST75ZF ATX 12V 2.2 & EPS12V 750W Power Supply 100 - 240 V OCP,OVP,SCP,NLO - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817256006

Silverstone seems to be a popular choice. I was thinking of going for a 750w on the off chance that I do get SLi going, I'll be safe. I would've loved to get a modular psu to clear up some room, but I didn't recognize the brands that offered them.

Memory
CORSAIR Dominator 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820145043

I'd like to stick with Corsair. I've always had great customer service from them and never experienced any problems with the RAM that wasn't quickly corrected. I looked at the PC1200 RAM (the motherboard's standard), but didn't see much of a selection. I checked to make sure that the Corsair RAM was compatible and it is. Again, I'm wondering if getting a non-SLi board with DDR3 would be more beneficial. There's a bit of a difference in price, but if the performance is leaps and bounds above the DDR2, I'd be willing to pay a bit extra.

CPU
Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 Kentsfield 2.4GHz 2 x 4MB L2 Cache LGA 775 Quad-Core Processor - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Seems like a popular choice. I looked at the benchmarks and it was right up there with the 3GHz Duo's, but I'm wondering if the Quad cores will be utilized by software at a later date.

Graphics Card
EVGA 512-P3-N801-AR GeForce 8800GT 512MB 256-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Supported Video Card - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814130318

This system is used primarily for gaming, but nothing too intense. Usually WoW and occasionally a little Bioshock or Call of Duty. I want a card that I'm not going to have to worry about upgrading in the next two years and I don't want to spend an excessive amount of money or get a card that is terribly loud.

Well, that's it. Again, my tech level is minimal, so any suggestions are welcome. If I'm glaringly wrong about something, just let me know. I'd like to have confidence that I'm making the most of my money and put off the need to upgrade again for as long as possible. Thanks
March 29, 2008 12:06:56 PM

Nobody knows what the future holds. You're worried about whether the quad cores will be utilized in the future. Skynet could be active and Terminator could become reality. :) 

The quad is already utilized by some of today's software. Mostly productivity & a little entertainment.

DDR3 is not worth the money to me. It may be to you. You could make the max wage while I could make the min wage. You could be a memory reviewer who changes ram like there's no tomorrow.

GT512 is fine for your games. What's the target resolution?
March 29, 2008 1:39:07 PM

No matter what you put in there, it will probably be no more than entry-level BestBuy grade in 2-3 years. I prefer to invest some reasonable money now and save the rest to upgrade completely again in 18-24 months. I also think most games will always be more GPU than CPU intensive (except perhaps games that tries to use advanced AI). Given that, I think investing in a better GPU would be much more worth-while that a better CPU.

My suggestion would be:
  • CPU: E8400/E3110
  • MB: Gigabyte P35-DS3L or MSI P7N SLI Platinum (only if you want to keep your door opened for SLI)
  • RAM: Corsair XMS2 CAS5 or CAS4 (FSB-1066 = DDR2-533; FSB-1333 = DDR2-666; FSB-1600 = DDR2-800)
  • PSU: PC Power & Cooling 610W or CORSAIR CMPSU-620HX 620W (if you prefer modular cables ... I do :p )
  • GPU: Any good 8800GTS (G92) 512MB like EVGA, BFG, MSI (Seems it's as good as the soon-to-come 9800GTX so decently future-proof)

    Moreover, the GTS has much better cooler than the GT so less noise.
    Related resources
    March 29, 2008 5:20:58 PM

    Thanks a lot for the replies.

    The target resolution is 1280x1024. Or at least that's what I'm used to running. I haven't tried higher resolutions.

    And future-proofing for 2 years is about all I can hope for, which is my aim. I realize there's always something better around the corner in terms of hardware, which is fine. I just don't want to run into a situation with new games coming out which my computer can't handle or doesn't have the technology to run (such as the shader model issue I had with Bioshock and my x800 xt).

    Anyways, thanks for the suggestions. I'll take a look a the components you listed.
    March 29, 2008 5:25:10 PM

    At 1280x1024 resolution, the GTS will probably be overkill for most games then. What monitor do you have?
    March 29, 2008 6:14:38 PM

    It's a Sony LCD monitor that is about a year old or so.

    http://www.pcworld.com/article/id,120983/article.html

    Horrible response time, so not much for gaming. The picture quality on movies is excellent though. Not sure if I want to replace it yet or not, since I got it somewhat recently.
    March 29, 2008 6:38:46 PM

    A GTS would allow you to play most games at up to about 1680x1050 which is the native resolution of most sub-24" widescreen LCD monitors now. Unless you play at this kind of resolution, a GTS will be overkill.

    You might as well get a 8800GT and save-up the extra money to upgrade your monitor and/or video card in a year or so. I suggest MSI NX8800GT 512M OC, most 8800GT have single-slot designs, tend to heat and/or make a lot of noise.
    March 29, 2008 6:50:55 PM

    Is the difference between just getting PCIe x16 and PCIe 2.0 on my motherboard going to matter? Since the GT's are all PCIe 2.0, am I going to be missing out on a significant performance increase by not getting a motherboard with PCIe 2.0?
    March 29, 2008 7:20:06 PM

    No you won't. The main difference between PCI-E 1.1 and 2.0 is the communication bandwidth and no card today are even able to max-out PCI-E 1.1's bandwidth so you shouldn't have any noticeable difference.

    Tom's had an article a while back covering the subject, most of the article covered XFire, but this page covered single cards. For a 3870 card, the performance gain of PCIe 2.0 was lower than 2%. If you can get your hands on really cheap PCIe 2.0 card, go for it, but check the price difference for 2% gain :p .

    For SLI/XFire, the gain in a bit larger, about 10%, then again, I don't think you were aiming that way.
    March 29, 2008 8:10:57 PM

    Thanks again for the informative response. That does away with my PCIe 2.0 worry.

    As for the PSU, I definately would like to get a modular, and I did like the Corsair you recommended, however my case has a slightly quirky psu slot and the ones with fans on top, bottom or sides won't slide in all the way. Not a huge deal, but for it to fit snugly, the fan has to be on either the front or the back of the unit.

    I'm currently looking through the psu's at newegg to find a good modular one with a front or back fan. Let me know if you have any suggestions in terms of that. Thanks again.
    March 29, 2008 9:16:39 PM

    thank you
    !