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High End System, Advice please

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June 27, 2008 9:14:16 AM

Hi all,

I've been looking around to try get the best setup for my new gaming PC build. I have a fair idea of what i'm after, just looking for a bit of a nudge one way or the other as far as incompatibility/odd quirks or suggestions people have. Anything you've got i'd love to hear. I'm not looking to tread on any toes, and most of my choices have been fairly well considered so MAJOR changes probably won't be hugely useful ;)  . Also I live in Australia, so pricing/availability may not be the same for me as it is for a lot of you.

To start, my goal is to be able to run all games on high(est) settings @ 1920x1200, and my budget is uh...flexible, so pretty much anything is on the table tbh as long as there is some form of perceived value in it. One of the tricky points is Crysis atm. In and of itself, Crysis performance is a bit meh, however I'm thinking that it's probably a good indication of futureproofing so something that can run Crysis on Very High DX10 (4x AA wouldn't hurt, but not a must) at playable (~30fps Avg, Min ~20fps) levels would be good.

CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E8400
Cooler: Zalman 9700LED
Mobo: ASUS Striker II Formula 780i
Memory: 4x2Gb OCZ Reaper HPC PC2-8500 1066MHz
Video: 2x GTX 260 (probably an OCed model depending on Pricing)
Hard Drive: Samsung Spinpoint 1Tb
Case: Thermaltake Armor+ Black
Power Supply: OCZ GameXtream 1010W OR Antec Truepower Quattro 850W
Monitor: Dell 2408WFP24"
O/S: Vista Home Premium 64-bit
Keyboard/Mouse: Logitech MX5500

From what I have gathered, OCing the CPU doesn't do a lot for real-world performance, BUT OCing to ~4GHz might help give the Video Cards some more headroom. In which case i'm tempted to go for the E8500 instead simply to increase stability/longevity rather than having to push the voltage too far on the E8400.

PSU: I've heard good things about the OCZ, but i'd really like a modular PSU, on the other hand...the Antec is about the same price for the 850W and the extra headroom may be useful should I ever want to go Tri-SLI down the track.

Video: Even the HD4870 in CF just doesn't seem to quite get to playable on Crysis unfortunately, i've never been a huge supporter of either ATI or nVidia, but for my needs, nVidia seems to be the only option until the 4870X2 which I'd rather not wait for (been 4 months with only a POS laptop) :ouch: 

RAM: Have heard of issues with extremely high amounts of RAM, and further issues with the 780i chipset not wanting to play nice. Can anyone comment on that?

Keyboard/Mouse: Currently have the Logitech MX3000 bundle which is an absolute dream to use. I'm not into competitive gaming or anything, so the wireless factor is pure win in my books compared to the G15/G9 option, I have heard that the keyboard on the MX5500 kit likes to turn off though? :??: 

That's pretty much all the MASSIVE WALL OF TEXT i have for the moment, but i'm sure there's more to come. Once again, any tips you can offer would be great. Thanks in advance :) 

§eraph

More about : high end system advice

June 27, 2008 9:34:41 AM

Look at the Anandtech review of the 4800 series cards... it looks like the 4870 is pretty even with the GTX260, and then you'd get to use an X48 board, which doesn't have the issues that the 780i has had. The CF support is only going to get better.

Also, if price isn't a problem, step it up to DDR3 (with a 790i or X48), which looks like it overclocks like a dream.

And if price REALLY isn't an objection, try a pair of GTX280s. This requires some serious power, though.
June 27, 2008 9:56:51 AM

I have tried to check out most of the reviews I can, however one of the glaring inconsistencies that I keep coming across is they all seem to use EITHER an X48 and CF OR a 780i/790i and SLI, which is fair enough when testing single cards. What would be more practical from a real-world perspective however would be testing CF X48 with the HD48*0s and SLI 780i GTX 200s side by side.

I have to admit that the price difference in both the Video cards themselves on top of the Mobo make the Radeons tempting, but most of the reviews i've seen they tend to die in CF at higher res and/or with AA/AF on. The GTX series on the whole isn't amazing anywhere, but they do seem to be consistent (check some benchies of the 280 vs the 9800GX2, GX2 averages higher fps mostly, but the 280/260 has a waaaaaay higher minimum). Still, X48 with CF 4870s is on the table and i'm not discounting it :) 

Price is kinda an issue when talking DDR3 and the GTX280s. DDR2 is just so insanely cheap atm that I can pick up 1066 or even 1200mhz DDR2 with lower latencies than their DDR3 counterparts in roughly double the quantity/price ratio =/ The only thing that stops me from going for the GTX 280 is that a single card just doesn't quite seem to get there. 2 cards is of course obscenely expensive, and when the 260 i can go 2x, and add a 3rd if need be later...seems the better option atm. That said...if the expected price drop hits, SLI 280 may very well be on the table again :D 

For reference, one of the reviews that i've been looking at http://www.tweaktown.com/reviews/1480/xfx_geforce_gtx_260_xxx_edition/index.html is largely what swayed me to the OCed GTX 260 corner. And I do understand that no review is entirely without bias.

One of the problems I think i'll face is as you mentioned, the drivers maturing for the Radeons. Likely i'll be purchasing before we see full maturity in either green or red drivers which may cost badly down the track.

§eraph
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June 27, 2008 10:35:47 AM

You may want to consider a 9800 GX2, it's got the same performance as a 280 but is considerably cheaper. Don't waste your money on an E8500, the price increase is considerable for minimal performance.

I'm going to echo the 2x 4870s on a different board. I've used the Striker II Formula in a system I built recently (not for myself) and I found a lot of asus' software for it incredibly unstable.

For a modular PSU i'd consider a 750w Thermaltake Toughpower, there is nothing in this rig that requires even an 850w PSU. Also most of what I read on the GameXStream PSUs hasn't been good.
June 27, 2008 10:47:41 AM

Thanks Miso,

I've been trying to steer clear of the GX2, price is nice, but memory bandwidth and reliance on SLI is less than appealing.

I have heard of a few issues with the 780i chips, i've had a good history with ASUS myself (2 Mobos, 3 Video cards only 1 minor problem), but the X48s do seem to be the pick. Will have another hunt around for CF HD4870 benchmarks.

I know it's unlikely i'll ever even break 600W with the 4870/260 setups, but I'd rather pay the extra $50 and have the spare up my sleeve for future. I don't think i'll go with the TT PSU tbh. Prices here are ~$50 more than the Antec for the same thing, plus i've had bad history with them. My old Kandalf came with a 430w oem job which was supposed to be rubbish, worked ok for 2 years then started smoking...then tried to get a new PSU and all they had was a direct replacement :(  which I took, only lasted 2 months and the PC shat itself again. Nice airflow in the cases...a bit gunshy of going back to them for power though.

Thanks for the input :D 

§eraph
June 27, 2008 11:43:52 AM

I'll admit i've seen thermaltake PSUs fail amazingly.
I still like them just because they provide some of the most rock solid power i've seen. Still I can't blame you.
June 28, 2008 5:41:37 AM

After having another look at some HD4870 CF reviews, they do seem to perform better than the GTX 260s in some tests...and then just fall completely flat on their collective face in others. I'm guessing at this point it's mostly a driver issue however. I keep leaning back to the GTX 260s because they seem pretty consistent at least, also better availability currently, even if more expensive :(  Another point of interest is the crossfire setups seem to perform a LOT better with an OCed CPU in most of the benchmarks i've read.

Which brings me back again to, OCing on air, i've seen mixed results with the E8400s, seems to be a bit hit and miss as to whether it's doable at slightly increased voltages or with other dies, needing to up the vcore to well above recommended settings. I know the E8500 is a complete waste of cash at stock vs stock, but any other opinions about OCing @ 4GHz? Would the extra cash be warranted for the (supposed) extra stability/lower vcore on a permanent OC? Does anyone have any comments on higher GPU performance when given higher CPU/Memory bandwidth?

Also forgot to add, I have a Creative X-Fi Fatal1ty that I intend to put into the new system too if anyone's had any experience (good or bad) with them in newer hardware. It's the original Fatal1ty model (X-Ram + Front panel), before they changed the naming conventions.

Cheers,
§eraph
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