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Tips on a new mid-range system

Last response: in Systems
June 2, 2008 6:11:07 PM

Probably a common question, but...

I'm planning to build another mid-range system, and for the most part I know what I'd like in it, but I am a little confused on one point (actually three points, but the last two are more afterthoughts).

I really don't know my way around motherboards. If I want to build an intel system with two 8800 GT's (I have one in my old system already), what's a good, decently priced mobo that would do a good job for me and would stay good for the future. I don't want to fall into the trap that occurred last time I built a PC, which was right at the time AM2 was announced. I went with 939 anyways, and now I have CPU bottlenecking issues that are pretty well impossible to remedy.

Also, am I wrong in assuming I should throw a Q6600 in? If I want this to be both a school and gaming computer, would that be the best processor to go with? Or should I be looking at a higher clocked dual core?

Finally, does anyone have any personal favorite cases that are functional, pretty, and don't cost a fortune? I have a Thermaltake Armor I could use, but I'm heading off to school in the fall, and honestly, the thing is a freakin' tank. I'm now in the market for something a little smaller. Not necessarily a small case, but one that's a tad more moderate in size.

Some advice on any of those points would be much appreciated.

More about : tips mid range system

June 3, 2008 2:25:27 AM

No no no!

You are falling into a trap if you SLI right now. Wait for the new video cards which will beat that setup, and produce less heat to boot.

Look at something with P35 or X38 chipset. Q6600 is fine, or E8400 depending on how long you wish to keep the system. <2 years dual >2 quad.

Cases- let someone else handle that, I buy cases based on what has free shipping.
June 3, 2008 2:55:05 AM

I was only planning to SLI because I already have one 8800GT, and picking up another would be powerful as hell and only cost 180$.

How much longer do you think a dual core will be good over a quad?

And do you really think quad will start seeing additional benefits soon as software begins to utilize its potential, or will a higher clocked dual-core always win out for some applications (gaming)?
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June 3, 2008 3:12:53 AM

For gaming dual core is most likely the way to go for the foreseeable future.

If you current 8800GT is not a G92 core your idea won't work.
June 3, 2008 4:12:56 AM

Aren't all 8800GT cards G92 core?

I plan to do some gaming on the PC (with higher end games that would benefit from the higher clock speeds), but it isn't solely a gaming PC. Do the gains in other applications make the quad-core worthwhile? Or is dual-core still a pretty safe bet?
June 3, 2008 4:19:52 AM

No they are not.

Dual core is ok for now. Go quad if you plan to keep the system more than 2 years.
June 3, 2008 6:12:54 PM

According to Rivatuner, my 8800GT is indeed G92.

As far as motherboards go, would be a good choice?

If so, I guess the only thing I need to decide on is between the Q6600 and the E8400. How experienced an overclocker do I have to be to get an E8400 to ~4.0 Ghz? or 3.6 Ghz for the Q6600? I don't really want to mess with voltages or anything, and the only aftermarket cooling I planned to get was a good, high powered CPU fan.
June 3, 2008 8:45:32 PM

Not experienced just lucky to get a good chip. You will have more lucky with the 8400 than the Q6600 on the benchmarks you listed. My Q6600 goes to 3.6 no problem, but my friends do not (same motherboard- fails to boot).

June 4, 2008 1:12:26 AM

I think I'd rather take the Antec 900 over the 300, and Newegg has the 900 for only 20$ more right now.

Right now I'm thinking:

Antec 900 Case
2x 8800 GT

What's the recommended RAM right now? I know DDR 800 is cheap as hell, will I see a significant performance hit if I go with it?

And I'm still left a little confused with the merits of various motherboards.

That's on sale and cheap, and seems to have the basics of what I need. Is there something that it's missing that I will probably want, or any other reason it would be a bad choice? If I'm not running an OS that'll let me take advantage of 4 gigs, should I go with the 3 gigs (2x1 and 2x512), or just go with 4 gigs (4x1)?

Finally, how much wattage do I need on my PSU for all this? Would 750 be more than enough to run all that? (Also, it'll have 3-4 HDDs and 2 Optical drives.
June 4, 2008 1:17:32 AM

DDR2-800 is just fine. Look at G.Skill... great kits! It is what I use.

I am running 2GB of their DDR2-800 stuff (native 4-4-4-12) at DDR2-667 (for 1:1 with my CPU) at 3-3-3-10.
June 4, 2008 1:49:42 AM

That abit board is what I'm getting, ordering Friday. I'm undecided on ram myself but G.Skill works very good with that board and is one I'm considering, ordered some Ballistix and got the bad batch so they're on their way back to newegg. I'm also thinking Muskin or Supertalent. I got the Antec 300 case and it came with an extra fan, here's a better deal than newegg who's out of stock anyway;

June 4, 2008 1:50:32 AM

I always prefer quad core. I've used a variety of duals and quads and no matter what the application I've had a better experience with quads. There are very reasonably priced quads often cheaper than comparable duals, so I see no excuse not to go quad unless going for a very cheap system.
June 4, 2008 2:02:44 AM

Like I said earlier, with the Antec 900 being 50$ off at Newegg, I think I'll probably go with that.

Is there any benefit on either side between getting 4x1gb or 2x2gb?

Would that board be unnecessary if I didn't plan to go with three gfx cards?

I like the abit board, but it seems quite cheap. It is a solid, reliable board, correct?
June 4, 2008 2:50:58 AM

2X2 will require less voltage and stress on the northbridge. As far as 3 cards, are you asking about the abit? I don't know what you mean by it seems cheap, it's a solid well thought of board. Not that you should go by them, but look at how many reviews it has on newegg. I'm not talking about the ratings, the amount of reviews. The only P35 board that has more is the Gigabyte DS3L. If you're going with a single GPU, it's one of the best P35 mobo's there is, I've done alot of research for my own build and was going to go with an Asus P5K-E, but really like what I've found out about the abit. I also have a friend that recently did a build with the abit X38 and it pretty much convinced me. That rig has been nothing but stable and hasn't had the first issue. He's running a Q6600 @ 3.5 very easily.
June 4, 2008 2:57:15 AM

I planned on doing dual 8800GT's.

That abit is SLI-capable, isn't it?

It says it has a PCI Express x16, and a PCI Express x16 (x4) (whatever the hell that is...).

And when I said that it "seems cheap," I didn't mean cheap as in flimsy, I meant that at $129 it seemed literally cheap, as in inexpensive.
June 4, 2008 3:05:22 AM

You cannot do SLI on an Intel chipset.

Please for the love of God don't SLI anything right now with the new nVidia cards on the horizon that will blast current 8x00 SLI setups. Unless you are running resolutions of 1920x1200 or greater SLI is a total waste of money. Don't be taken.

I know you already have one, but nVidia chipsets are quite buggy, and the new cards will be a better investment. One 8800GT right now can handle everything you toss at it.
June 4, 2008 3:10:48 AM

No the abit or ANY Intel chipset board, is not SLI-capable. They will only do Crossfire using ATI GPU's. That price is after rebate. To do SLI you will have to get a board with a Nvidia chipset.
June 4, 2008 3:12:22 AM

"You cannot do SLI on an Intel chipset. "

How the hell did I never know that?
June 4, 2008 3:19:52 AM

Wow, agree with shadowduck. Listen. Intel X38 is CrossfireX capable at 16 x 16 PCIE 2.0. What kind of monitor does OP have?
June 4, 2008 3:20:21 AM

Listen to chuckm too. He knows.
June 4, 2008 3:20:42 AM

I understand waiting for the next round of GPUs, but it seems strange to get a board that is incapable of SLI in the first place.

Besides, is the 2xx series going to be so groundbreaking that it will beat out two 8800GT's? Because right now to get a second GT means an extra $170, while getting a new 2xx series card on release means $450-600.
June 4, 2008 3:23:11 AM

And in response to badge, not a monitor that is good enough to take advantage of those kind of resolutions.
June 4, 2008 3:27:05 AM

Alright, forget that last bit about SLI then. I was being stubborn.

I think I've been taken in by the romanticism of it. =P

Sticking with a single GT frees up money for other things anyways.

June 4, 2008 3:31:05 AM

Yes- the 2xx series is rumored to beat 8800GT SLI setups with a single card. Another card to look at the ATI 4850/70 which are supposed to be vast improvements over the 38x0.

I am saying do NOT buy a new video card of any kind right now. Go with an Intel chipset motherboard and just wait for new cards. Buy one within a year or so. 8800GT SLI at your resolutions you will play at offer NO advantages. It is a waste of your $170.

Not to say there are not any advantages- for example in Assassins' Creed one single 8800GT can play the game basically maxed at 1920x1200 while an SLI setup can handle 2560x1600. But you said yourself you don't play at such resolutions so save your $170 :) .
June 4, 2008 3:39:36 AM

So here is my parts list as of now, e-punch me in the face if there's a horrible mistake included:

Motherboard = ABIT IP35 Pro LGA 775 Intel P35 ATX Intel Motherboard
Case = Antec Nine Hundred
Processor = Wolfdale E8400
Memory = G Skill DDR2 800 Dual Channel 4GB (2x2GB)

I still need an aftermarket CPU cooler, a solid PSU, and a few SATA DVD burners. I'm going to use the HDDs from my old computer.

Any suggestions on a good fan or PSU, or any disc drive brands to steer clear of or anything?
June 4, 2008 3:42:55 AM

Speaking of RAM, I ordered this PC6400 2 x 2 GB kit today. Looks like some very high clocking capability over at PC Stats.

I plan to use it in the VISTA 64 system I built Saturday with an e8400 and an ASUS P5E-VM HDMI Intel G35 chipset (same as P35 w/on board video capability). The system already flies and I can't wait to get it in there and see what it will do.

I have built with the Antec 900 also. I'll take the Antec 300 for $49, thanks.

OP seems set on building an SLI system. Someone mentioned the buggy, pickiness of the Nvidia chipsets (780i yikes!). I couldn't agree more. OP will probably end up with three sets of RAM from three different company's before that SLI kicks in. ;) 

June 4, 2008 3:44:39 AM

OP has a P35 in the cart. Wow.
June 4, 2008 3:46:14 AM

Don't worry, OP got his head out of his ass and realized the foolishness of his SLI wishes.

He's also thinking the RAM discussed has a slight edge over the G Skill he had earlier decided on, and is seriously considering substituting it in its place.
June 4, 2008 3:46:22 AM

He killed off SLI :)  He listened to us!

As for the memory, pick up what badge suggested or the $94 kit of that G.Skill for the tighter 4-4-4-12 timings. I have mine running at DDR2-667 (1:1 with my FSB1333 CPU) at 3-3-3-10.
June 4, 2008 3:48:05 AM

That G. Skill is fine. I have 8 gigs in this system, but it's the PC8000, which is same RAM (basically). I have mne running at 5-5-5-15 1066MHz. 2.1+v
June 4, 2008 3:49:08 AM

Thank gawd OP listened. Way to go OP! That rig is looking better by the minute. e8400, P35, G. Skill, Antec. Woooohooo!
June 4, 2008 3:52:48 AM

Uh, I have three gigs of the cheaper ADATA PC6400 installed on a 965 with an e6600. It's solid enough, but not rocket fast like the 4-4-4-12 good stuff. That ADATA Vitesta I linked is supposed to be some really good overclocking RAM with tight timings on the OC too. The Crucial and Corsair, OCZ are more expensive. But, I don't know that much about the compatibility factor. The Vitesta requires 2.0-2.1v, so your MB may have to to be tweaked in BIOS. That G. Skill you have will run in anything and run very good.

Edit. spelling.
June 4, 2008 4:05:51 AM

Now if I've only got one gfx card in here, and I'm using an E8400 (though I do plan to do some moderate overclocking), how much wattage am I going to need out of a PSU?

And of course, advice on CPU coolers would be appreciated.
June 4, 2008 4:07:55 AM

Op your lookin' good with you have listed. As far as heatsink fans, I am partial to Zalmans. I have 7 or 8 9500's running currently. The Zalmans will keep your rig cool, but if the fan ever dies, it's a pain to replace.

Scythe and Thermalright make some great HSFs I want to try some day soon. These are two that get great reviews.

June 4, 2008 4:12:10 AM

Chuckm and shadowduck know a lot about power supplys.
June 4, 2008 4:12:21 AM

Wow. Didn't think I'd be paying that much for a fan.

Whatever, guess that's about the last thing I'd want to skimp out on.

The Zalman seems pretty promising.
June 4, 2008 4:16:54 AM


Choice 1) Corsair 550VX 550W ($90 after MIR free ship)

Choice 2) Pc Power and Cooling 610W ($89 after MIR free ship)

Get choice #2 while its still on sale.
June 4, 2008 4:21:23 AM


Is it really normally $200 online, or is Newegg just saying that to make the deal seem better?
June 4, 2008 4:24:47 AM

I have choice 2 sitting unopened in a box right here. backup. :) 
June 4, 2008 4:24:57 AM

So now I need a few SATA dvd burners. Does quality vary all that much among burners, or should I just get something cheap with decent ratings?

June 4, 2008 4:42:34 AM

So, the end result, after mail in rebates, brings this all up to 700$, as I'm bringing the three HDDs from my current computer as well as my current video card.

Not bad at all.

It'll be nice to have a decent processor again, I'm running an X2 3800+ currently.

Thanks a bunch, you guys. Especially for talking me out of that SLI disaster.
June 4, 2008 5:08:00 AM

Oh, one more quick question.

My current hard drive configuration is pretty much a spattering of drives I've collected in the last few years.

All are 7200s, I've got two PATA drives, one that's 300gb, one that's 160gb, and a 300gb SATA drive.

Is throwing these drives randomly into my computer with little regard to configuration or efficiency having a serious negative impact on my access/transfer speeds? If so, how would you recommend it be remedied (I'm open to purchasing another drive, though I'm not sure if I'm rich enough to pick up a raptor).
June 4, 2008 9:48:38 AM

I agree with the PSU's suggested. I like Corsair's thru, they're usually cheaper than newegg. The good deal on them expired the first of the month, I'd keep an eye on this link, I got mine for $55 after rebate and using the google checkout. The 650 is also a good choice;
Get this cooler;
and a bolt thru kit. Both of these will work;
this one is cheaper and in stock;
I've tried applying TIM a couple of ways and this works the best:
There are others better informed than me on hard drives, but you don't really need a Raptor and should ok with what you have. You'll have to do a fresh install.
Here's the burner I got;
June 4, 2008 7:04:10 PM

Is the bolt-thru kit a necessity?

The Zalman cooler I did have selected seemed pretty tried and true, have you had good results with the Xigamatek?
June 4, 2008 7:10:16 PM

Is it worth getting thermal paste separately, or should Intel's included stuff do the job?
June 4, 2008 7:23:04 PM

The Zalman 9700 is on sale and only 10$ more than the 9500 right now, is it worth the step up in price, or is the performance difference fairly negligible?