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First Self Built Gaming Rig (Critique)

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August 14, 2008 5:14:22 AM

First rig and first post. Feel free to tear it apart. I have been trying to research and understand the various components for awile now. I read many threads and several reviews of various products. This is what I have come up with. I am more than open to suggestions. I still need to decide on a case and psu. I am undecided on the mobo also.

Use: Moderate gaming. Play stag. games like civ 4, age of empires, etc. Also play adventure games. This rig is for games only and some net surf'n. I do not play online games.

Goals: strong rig with some upgrade possibilities. I have no clue how to overclock anything. I am more than willing to learn if it can be done on this site, otherwise i'll take the stock settings.

Budget: $1000-$1200 excluding monitor

Buid Ideas:

CPU: Intel E8400 $170

Mobo: Asus P5QLGA 775 p45ATX $130 OR Asus Rampage Formula x48 $290

Graphics: Zotac 2T-88TES3P-FCP GeForce8800GT $150

HD: Western Dig Raptor WD 1500 ADFD 150GB $170

Memory: G-Skill 4GB $80

DVD: Ausus 20x DVD +-R Burner with Lightscribe black sata model DRW-2014l1t #37

Case: ???

Power Supply: ???

A few questions...
1. Massive difference between the 2 mobo's I have listed. I am thinking Rampage because I can SLI in future if wanted to upgrage. Studid throught?
2. Both mobo's are decent for OC correct?
3. Would their be a big difference if I went with 8GB memory instead of 4GB?
4. What type of power supply would this or a similar setup need? Recommendations?
5. Case recommendations within price range?

6. AM I MISSING ANYTHING? What about sound? I do not understand if it is build into mobo's or not. This is one thing that has confused me.

Thank you for the help in advanced. I do have many queustions, but did try to research on my own before asking a bunch of stupid questions.
August 14, 2008 5:25:33 AM

Well good, that probably means you can avoid being torn apart. I like all your suggestion, but I would lean towards the cheaper motherboard rather then the rampage. Sli motherboards are notoriously shoddy and unreliable, unless you are willing to pay the premium for 790i sli.

As for a power supply, the corsair 750 watt power supply is really good and quite affordable. Try to get a ps with a single rail of you can, for a company like corsair or pc power and cooling. 750 watts will give you the room to power most any hardware configuration imaginable, especially in a single rail like that.

I would advise going the the Hd 4850 rather then the 8800 gt. The saphire version, after rebate, is the same price. It is also considerably better in every way. If you have your heart set on nvidia, the 9800 gtx+ is a little more expensive, and almost as good as the 4850.

The monitor... get something with 1680x1050 resolution if you can. Make sure to spend money on a good one. You want a very low number for the pixel pitch, a very high contrast ratio (dynamic contrast is not the same). You also want to read the reviews carefully. Look for something with a low response time as well.

As for the case, the antec 900, the coolmaster RC-900, or the nzxt tempest are all good buys. The nzxt is the biggest and will provide the most upgrade paths.

Buy the ocz DDR2 1000 Ram or the g skill DDR2 1000 Ram. Get four gigs and a 64bit vista operating system if you can.

The xigymatek cpu rifle cooler is a good buy. Make sure to get the retention bracket too. 36 dollars at newegg with a ten dollar rebate.

Good luck
August 14, 2008 7:00:25 AM

I like what youve done for the most part. I recently built my first rig with a similar setup and simmilar questions, though a lower budget.
My build:
e8400 at 3.6Ghz
arctic cooling pro freezer 7(or something like this name)
radeon hd 4850 also overclocked
ga-ep35-ds3l-s3l mobo
4gb ddr2 800mhz ram
antec 300 case
corsair 550w psu
old hdd and dvd drive that i already owned

i'd say you hit the cpu on the dot for price/performace, not to mention overclockability if you get into it(its easy if you research what all the things youre tweaking mean). Idk much about the 8800/8800's youre looking at, but i will tell you that my e8400 outpaces my 4850 in games like oblivion, crysis, and cod4, even when im above 60 fps. Honestly my e8400 hasnt maxed out on ANYTHING other than prime 95 which is a stress test program which purposely puts the cpu to the limit for hours to test its stability. So id definately look at either a faster single card setup, or go with 2 8800's. But it looks to me like you enjoy strategy games, which arent necesarilly as gpu intensive as what i do. Might be a good idea to wait just a bit longer till the 4870x2 comes out, as it should definately lower ati's prices, which should in effect lower nvidia's, but idk. Im pretty darn sure you'd be happy with a 4850 as it hasnt let me down whatsoever in any game, and if the price falls enough maybe you could go with a 4870, or one of the versions with 1gb of ram.

as far as the mobo goes, its really up to cost. Im plenty happy with my p35, but i also dont plan on upgrading anything on my build. The x48 should hold up much better in terms of upgradability and going with 2 gpu's, but again, i find no issues with my measly p35.

As far as the case, an antec 900 would be sweet, but if the budget is tight, dont feel like youre cutting too much back if you look at the antec 300(like 60 or 70$ on newegg since its got free shipping atm. Might have to jump on it tho cuz free shipping means almost $20 off if you stick with the cheap ups 3 day ground). The only thing its lacking in is the number of external 5.5" drive bays, but if you dont need more than 3 youre golden. I honestly cant think of anything wrong with the antec 300, from its solid build, to its ease of assembly, it was a perfect buy for me.

The corsair psu is gonna be sweet. I got the 550W, but a 750W is a must for you if you ever consider dual vid cards. the 4850 uses like 200W ea stock(or is that the overclocked value...) so you really need a beefy psu to handle 2. I only went with the 550W cuz im not gonna upgrade and the budget was tight. But the psu is gonna have tons of wires wrapped in a tough mesh to protect them , its gonna be reliable, and if its anything like mine, you wont notice it being on cuz its dead quiet and extremely cool.

4gb ddr2 is the right way to go rather than 8gb. Its true that you need a 64bit operating system to use it all, but with 32bit xp i still recognize 3.5Gb of it. So if you already have a copy of a 32bit operating system id say try to use it. With 4, in the most memory demanding games, ive still got around 2gb left over. What this means to me is that i can have any ram intensive background program running and not notice it. i went 800mhz just for cost. But there are other important things with the ram other than the mhz value. You want to make sure it has low timings and low voltage requirements for its specs. This means higher quality parts that can be tweaked more and should last longer. the lowest voltage value for ddr2 is gonna be 1.8V, but can go up to 2.1-2.2 I got 800mhz ram that normally runs 1.8-2.1V and like 4-4-4-15 timings, which is good, but i have it set at 4-4-4-12 and 1.9V. You should look into what good timings are for other frequency ram, but basically lower is better for timings because basically the numbers mean how many cycles the ram takes to accomplish different tasks, therefore 800mhz ram at 4-4-4-12 and 1000mhz ram at 5-5-5-15 arent overly different as far as the rams speed(as far as i understand, sorry if thats wrong). But the 1000mhz can still be considered better as it should allow you to overclock the cpu further, but youll learn about how that works if you ever get into that. The one important thing you should do tho is manually set the timings in the bios to what the manufacturer says it should be(the bios often sets it to something slower automatically). It may take a while to figure this out, as it did for me, but it pays off in the end. Im truly sorry if you know all this already :)  .

i agree with e3210 100% on the monitor, but id think the least important of those specs to you would be the response time, since its not intense fps games youre looking at, you dont really need the fastest reaction times. Pretty much when it comes down to it, the importance of the specs on a monitor come down to what youll be upgrading from and price. Obviously higher resolutions means more demand on the graphics card, but you prob know that since you got this far with your research. This is all assuming you even need a new monitor, i dont see anything indicating you want a new one tho.

Dont think you could go wrong with that brand of hdd... Ive got a 4 year old seagate pata drive thats still keeping up with me in my games(could be the cause of my jumpy loading in oblivion tho).

when it comes to a video card, its absolutely the easiest thing to overclock, hands down. Ive overclocked both a geforce 6200 to insanely high amounts(enough to compare it with a 6800 at stock) and now my 4850, but not such an insane overclock. Most video card overclocking consists of using a program, in windows, and simply raising a bar a little at a time. The program will have a stability tester to see if the setting remotely works, and often you can find an auto-overclocker in the program. And how do you test its stability? Play a graphics intensive game and see if you find any wierd green polygons or anything abnormal after an hour or so, this is artifacting and means the cards either too hot or overclocked a bit to much with either the memory or the gpu clock. its simple to tweak it around between gaming sessions till you hit the sweetspot (and hit the sweetspot with fanspeeds as well if you get a card with a really loud fan like the 4850). You can monitor all your computer temps with something like speedfan or hwmonitor and as long as the gpu stays under like, 80-90*C, you should be fine. Although i have become much more conservative with my gpu temp now that my video card has considerable value. if you go with a 4850 i recomend the asus since its only a bit more pricey than the cheapest one and comes with a program that lets you easily adjust the fan speed.

and lastly, onboard sound. all you have to do is look up the mobo on newegg, go to the specifications, and look for onboard sound, or a sound chipset. If it has something listed, you could do some research as to whether its good or not, etc. If your at all having trouble still finding this out, or it doesnt have the stuff listed, you can look at pictures of the side of the mobo to see if it has audio jacks, as well as look up as to whether it has audio ports in the specs. The asus rampage x48 looks like it doesnt have onboard sound, but instead comes with a soundcard. Never seen this before but id think youll get better sound from that than onboard sound. The p45 board looks like it has onboard sound but no sound chipset, meaning itll use the processor to process all its data rather than its own chipset. This isnt necesarilly the worst thing since youve got such a beefy processor(especially if you overclock that puppy).

Oh, and ive asked much dumber/more annoying questions in the process of doing research, you sound like a person who spent a good bit of time thinking things through.
Related resources
August 14, 2008 11:16:16 AM

forgive me, but I was under the impression that X48 boards only had Xfire, not SLI capabilities..... although with the 4850's and 4870's being such good value, thats actually a good thing.
August 14, 2008 12:00:37 PM

Yes X48's crossfire only.

Why plan your rig now. Wait till you have the cash then pick the best components available at that time for the right price. Tech changes so fast these days, especially with graphics.
August 14, 2008 7:24:08 PM

Are you looking to make a flashy inside for a windowed computer or the case needs to just keep food wrappers and cans from touching the fans? :pt1cable: 

For a no nonsense good air flowing case the CM690 is great for the price. Alot of people like the Antec 900 also and usually not to pricey over the CoolerMaster 690. The CM690 is a nice looking case if you don't need a windowed case and/or crazy molded plastic front bezel. :heink: 

Are you outside the USA? Notice you picking the Zotac brand. I don't want to quote prices from Newegg if you can't order from them. ;) 

4850>8800gt...Besides that the guts look good...stick with 2 sticks of 2GB DDR2-800
August 14, 2008 11:46:58 PM

Wow, excellent feedback. I appreciate every line of it. Thank for taking the time all of you.

I have no problem going with the 4850 and will make that change. As for cases, I'll go ahead and look up the many recommendations and pick one. I can care less if it is pink with green stripes...I want it to function correctly, not look good.

If I don't go with the rampage, which I am thinking I won't and save some money, then I won't crossfire in the future which is fine I suppose.

Looks like i'll save some money going with the cheaper mobo and 4GB instead of 8 for memory. I'll put that toward a good graphics card, case, and psu.

Certainly I will have more questions and i'll repost my plan once I reseach all that has been suggested. Thanks again.

Any other advice welcomed.
August 15, 2008 12:58:56 AM

yes i'm in the US.
August 15, 2008 2:48:51 AM

Ok here is what I have so far...up to date. Prices from newegg:

cpu: E8400 $170
mobo: Asus Rampage Formula $290
HD: Western Dig Raptor $170
Mem: 4GB (Brand Undecided) $90ish
DVD: Asus model DR014L1T $37
GPU: Sapphire 4850 512mb $170
Case: Antec 900 $109
PSU: Corsair 750w $120


I am still very undecided on the mobo. I do not know what to do with this. I choose this one for solid crossfire usage for future upgrades.

Also, what about the Sapphire 4850 1mb GPU? I thought about a cheaper mobo that doesn't support crossfire but upgrade this build to a 1gb 4850 GPU. Good idea?

I am happy with most everthing but the confusion on the mobo and the back and forth I go with the GPU. Sapphire 4850 I want to stick with, but 1gb with chaper mobo or 512mb with more expensive mobo? Or cheaper mobo with 512mb card?

Thanks again!
August 15, 2008 6:27:53 PM

First of all lets cover some groundwork on the mobos.

Intel's main architectures for mobos out right now are the P45 and X48 (P35 and X38 are older versions of these). Graphics cards these days use PCI-E and the big difference between these two motherboard architectures is that X38/X48 supports faster a PCI-E bus than P35/P45. For one card there is no difference - both architectures can run at PCI-E 2.0 16x. But if you throw in two cards the P35/P45 boards can only run at PCI-E 2.0 8x/8X while X38/X48 can run at PCI-E 2.0 16x/16x.

Yes it is theoretically twice the bandwidth but the question is whether or not modern graphics cards need that much. With two 4850's CFed on a P45 board some tests have shown bottlenecks (5-15% perforce decrease from the X38/X48) while i've seen other results that show no difference. And the biggest difference will be at high resolutions (>=1900x1280). 4870's will certainly bottleneck more, but you still won't see twice the performance through x38/x48.

So with that being said - my advice to you, since you seem worried about the budget, is to drop back down to the P5Q (a P45 board) and either:
1) get a 4850 for now - and go ahead and crossfire it later because you'll still see a very nice performance boost
2) get a 4870 (~$100 more) for now and maybe forget about crossfire (although it's still an option later if you decide to CF). Regardless, this is a better idea than upgrading to the 1GB 4850.

The P5Q is a good choice for a P45 board.

Like i said my recommendation is above - but if you want to stick with X38/X48 look for something cheaper than the rampage. You should be able to find a nice X38 (they're almost identical to X48) board for ~$200. Look at DFI or Gigabyte. I don't think you need the features of the rampage to justify the $290 price tag.
August 16, 2008 8:22:12 AM

I think you sold me on the p45...I really like the P5Q and was only worried about the upgrade issues. You have some good points with the graphic cards, which ultimatly made this decision easy.

I will go with the P45 board and probably stick with the 4850.

Thanks for the insight!
!