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$500 system build

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April 10, 2008 4:06:17 AM

My goal right now is to see how much of a PC I can build for $500, sans mouse, keyboard, and monitor, just the box. The PC is intended to be used for gaming for the near future, until the end of the year, and after that become either a Linux coding box and game/file server, or an HTPC, or both. I've been doing my homework for the past few days, and here's what I've come up with (Entirely from Newegg, I like to order all my parts from the same place, and Newegg has always been good):

http://secure.newegg.com/NewVersion/wishlist/PublicWish...

For those who don't want to click on the link, here's the details:
Antec Micro ATX Case + 380W power supply - $114.99
Gigabyte Intel G31 Micro ATX Motherboard - $66.99
Intel E4500 Processor - $119.99
XFX GeForce 8600 GT 256 mb GDDR3, factory overclocked - $94.99 (With -$30 rebate: $64.99)
OCZ Reaper 2 GB (2 x 1 GB) DDR2 800 Ram - $63.99 (With -$30 rebate: $33.99)
Seagate Barracude 7200 rpm 250 gb SATA 3.0 gb/s hard drive - $64.99
Samsung 20X SATA DVD Burner - $29.99

Total cost including rebates: $495.93

Shipping is about $30 on top of that.

I'm looking for any recommendations, critques, etc. The other big question I have is about the motherboard, processor, and ram. The motherboard, according to Newegg, supports FSBs of 1333/1066 mhz, whereas the Allendale processor uses 800 mhz. Is this going to cause any problems, will the processor be incompatible with the mb? And if I end up having to choose a lesser chipset, which would take RAM timings of 667 mhz, would I need to step down on the ram, or could I just use the ram I'm already going to buy?

I'm not looking to run Crysis on this thing, I'm just hoping for decent frame rates and video quality at 1280x1024 for any Unreal 3 engine based game, anything in the Orange Box, any of the MMOs currently out there, etc...and something that can eventually work as an HTPC. Hopefully it'll be decently upgradable too if prices on hardware go down once newer architectures come out.

Also, I'm not looking to do any extreme OC'ing of this computer...just want it quiet and stable. I'll build something more extreme late in the year that I'll OC to hell and back.

More about : 500 system build

April 10, 2008 4:29:05 AM

It looks decent right now...

Everything will work fine and be compatible.

But...

I would change the CPU, case and PSU.

My suggestions:

CPU: Intel Allendale Dual-Core E2160
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
I know you said you don't want to overclock very much, but this CPU can get 3.0 GHz (easier than cake) stable with the stock cooling. It will blow an E4500 out of the water.

Case: Cooler Master Centurion 541 Mini Tower
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Cooler Master makes great cases for the money. Their Centurion series has unmatched cooling and features for the price.

PSU: Corsair 450 VX
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
'Nuff said. Corsair has Seasonic internals, and 450 watts with a single 12v rail will be perfect for your system.

With the extra money from the savings on your CPU, I would upgrade your video card to a Radeon HD3850.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Only $130.

That would be an absolutely KILLER $500 system.

Let me know what you think.
April 10, 2008 4:31:32 AM

Also, G. Skill has a killer 2x1GB DDR2-800 kit for only $45.
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April 10, 2008 4:38:08 AM

I like the changes, but I'm unsure about the ATI video card. I've had problems getting ATI cards to work right in Linux, although I suppose now that AMD/ATI has completely open sourced their drivers, that will be a thing of the past soon. I'll go for that, then.
April 10, 2008 7:30:45 AM

I use Linux with an ATI card (X1400 Mobility), so I thought I'd chime in.

First off, with regards to AMD's open source friendliness... it's not exactly correct that they're fully open sourcing their drivers. FGLRX has a lot of licensing issues, so it will probably never be fully open sourced. However, AMD is releasing documents regarding their graphics cards (I believe they've released various documents on R4xx through R6xx, mainly; but I think they've also released one or two old documents on the R2xx or R3xx for the sake of completeness.) These documents are freely available to anyone, and you do not need to sign any NDA.

For newer cards, the open source drivers (yes, drivers, since R5xx and up is supported by the RadeonHD and xf86-video-ati drivers) are not quite complete yet. You don't get video acceleration or full 3D acceleration yet. I'm not even sure if 2D acceleration exists... You'd have to check up on each of those drivers to see how far they are along. Of course, in a few months or years, those drivers will be good enough for basic use, but don't expect them to have the same performance as the FGLRX drivers.

If you have no problems using the FGLRX drivers, then that's fine. They've come quite a long way now, but ATI still hasn't fully left behind their reputation for buggy drivers. Depending on the Linux kernel you're using, you may not be able to stand by or hibernate. Additionally, there is limited xrandr support (no screen rotation, as far as I know.) As of Catalyst 8.3 (or FGLRX 8.47.3, had the name not been changed to match the Windows drivers), video playback with Xv now works properly, but not in vlc (you may see green bands). Also, OpenGL overlays don't play nice with vlc. Finally, no matter what player or output mode you choose, video tearing is present.

The Catalyst Control Center for Linux doesn't really let you do much at all. I won't really say anything else about it... It's just there, but it's kind of useless.

Anyway, if you want desktop eye candy, then AIGLX is supported by the FGLRX drivers. For older ATI cards (R4xx and older, I think?), the open source drivers provide AIGLX support, so you can enable Compiz Fusion. Nvidia's closed-source drivers provide AIGLX support, also. I don't think the open source situation for Nvidia looks too good. Intel integrated (yes, GMA900 and up) works with AIGLX pretty smoothly, and the drivers are open source. Honestly, though, I would not recommend using AIGLX for eye candy at this point. It makes 3D windowed apps and video more hassle than it's worth. Perhaps when directed rendering to redirected windows is ready...

Yeah, that's the gist of the situation for Linux on the desktop. I don't really game, and the movies I watch are generally slower (no action scenes means video tearing is not noticeable). Well, actually, the only 3D game I really play is Frozen Throne, which happens to be one of the handful of Windows games that work in WINE without issues.

Anyway, that was a drawn-out post, but I hope it helps you with your graphics card decision, and potentially, your choice of whether or not to use Linux on that computer in the future... but good luck on your build!

Info about RadeonHD:
http://www.radeonhd.org/
http://wiki.x.org/wiki/radeonhd

Info about xf86-video-ati:
http://gitweb.freedesktop.org/?p=xorg/driver/xf86-video...;a=summary

AMD Catalyst for Linux:
http://ati.amd.com/support/drivers/linux/linux-radeon.h...

AMD GPU Documentation:
http://www.x.org/docs/AMD/ or http://ati.amd.com/developer/open_gpu_documentation.htm...
April 10, 2008 8:31:08 AM

https://secure.newegg.com/NewVersion/Wishlist/PublicWis...

$554 , not including shipping and handling, this is something I'm thinking of building ;
the memory is the one toms always uses in their low cost (and sometimes in their mid-range) system builder ;
everyone says this is the motherboard to get, and its great for overclocking, good for later upgrades too (could always throw in a quad or a 6750 later) ;
everyone says this is the cpu to get, and its great for overclocking ;
the case looks good in the pics and comes with two fans and has good reviews ;
the graphics card seems good to me from the reviews on newegg ;
and the 9600 seems like a good card overall ;
http://www.tomshardware.com/2008/02/21/nvidia_geforce_9... ;
from all the info I've read about power supplies, 430 is more than enough and this has a good reputation as a fine power supply ;
April 10, 2008 9:21:07 AM

I agree with Captain Deadboots' reasoning
April 10, 2008 1:03:55 PM

Yeah, after reading a few reviews for the 8800 GS, that seems like a solid buy, I'll be going for that. I've had better luck getting nVidia cards to play nice in Linux than ATI, and it looks like the 8800 GS is a more powerful card than the 3850, for less money. So a bit of a no-brainer there.

Also, thanks for the tip on the Corsair ram, chuckm, I switched that into my wish list along with the 8800 GS.

I'm at $480 pre-shipping...if I buy the power supply from buy.com that will bring the shipping costs down to around $20, which is exactly my $500 price point...or I could spend a little money on an aftermarket cooler for the CPU if I'm going to be OCing it like suggested here.
April 10, 2008 3:32:08 PM

3.0 with the stock cooling is fine.

If you go any higher, you will probably want an AC Freezer 7. But like I said, 3.0 will already blow an E4500 out of the water.
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