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Build based on recent mid-range articles

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July 1, 2008 2:16:55 PM

I am new to this board, having registered because I'm looking to build a new rig after a long break (my last rig the mobo had a 478 socket).

This system has been designed based on the March mid-range PC along with the one that came out a few days ago (late June). It also takes into consideration some comments posted by the author after the fact, such as this:
Quote:
I'd have to disagree with you, Moe. The motherboard was fine for an SLI system as we spec'd; although if I were to do it over, I'd choose a and two 4850's and an Intel X38 board instead of the GX2 anyway.


The system will be used for gaming and music production. Currently, gaming is mainly EverQuest2, but that will include Warhammer Online, Spore, and anything interesting over the next year or so. For music production I use Cakewalk's Sonar7 Producer Edition.

The hardware I use for music production is external USB, and if I was to update that it would move to Firewire if anything (nothing internal).

Anyway, here's what I have come up with and my reasons.

CPU: Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 - $194.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819115018
This was simply based on the current mid-range build. I realize that there might be other CPU's that would be slightly better for games, but this one seems like it will work well for both games and music production.

CPU COOLER: CoolerMaster Hyper TX2 - $25.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16835103031
My plans don't include much, if any, overclocking. While I was still considering the Swiftech H20-120 from the current mid-range build, after reading about some of the mounting issues I decided I'd stick with something more conventional.

MOTHERBOARD: Asus P5E - $224.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131219
This is an example of me winging it. Based on the author's comments that he'd use an "Intel X38" mobo if he had to do it now, I picked one almost at random to fit that bill.

RAM: A-DATA 2x2GB - $169.98
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820211282
I didn't see anything wrong with this suggestion, so no reason to change it.

GRAPHICS: 2x Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 - $379.98
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814102747
Like with the motherboard, this is based on the author's "two 4850's" comment. I have no idea if these will even work with the rest of the hardware I've chosen (that's why I'm posting, not ordering).

HARD DRIVE(S): Western Digital Raptor 150GB and Western Digital Caviar 500GB - $174.99 + $89.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822136011
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822136073
In the benchmarks for the mid-range system, it seemed like this (from the previous mid-range build) out-performed the RAID setup from the current build. That was good enough for me - disk access speed is extremely important with my music production needs.

CASE: NZXT Tempest - $109.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811146047
I liked this suggestion because it is supposed to be pretty quiet. My only negative is that there's no external Firewire port, but right now I have nothing Firewire anyway.

POWER: FSP Group FX600-GLN - $109.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817104014
I don't know enough about PSU's to comment on this.

DVD-RW:Sony Optiarc - $23.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16827118012
I'm not sure if this is the same drive suggested in the articles, but it seems close.

Total Price: $1514.88

Please let me know if there are any obvious errors in the above system, or if you have any suggestions on places where I might adjust things for better performance without a huge impact on price, or a better price without an impact on performance.

Thanks in advance,
CF
July 1, 2008 7:11:08 PM

Suggestion :
CPU Fan : Xigmatek HDT-S1283, Zalman CNPS9700, or Scythe Orrochi.
PSU : 650W from Corsair.
RAM : 2x2GB DDR2 800 CL4 XMS2 Corsair or Crucial.
Dump those raptors! They don't worth the money.
DVD-RW : Samsung S203B
The rest is good.
July 1, 2008 11:46:34 PM

No problems/errors with the hardware you picked at all. Everything would work together very well.

The Corsair 650TX PSU guanyu210379 recommends is a nice step up in quality, costs the same and has a $20 rebate on offer ATM. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

The P5E X38 motherboard is a great choice. But for $5 less you can get the P5E Deluxe X48 motherboard. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Productcompare.aspx?Submi...

If your monitor resolution is greater than 1600x1200 (24" 1920x1200 LCD for example) then I think 2x 4850 in Crossfire is a really good option. For 1600x1200 and below (22" 1680x1050 widescreen LCD for example) I actually like the HD 4870 better. Not all games scale well in Crossfire and in some a single 4870 can beat CF 4850s. As far as I know EverQuest2 is one of those games that doesnt scale well in Crossfire. No one knows about WAR yet.
From the Anandtech review @ http://anandtech.com/video/showdoc.aspx?i=3341&p=20
@ 1680x1050 FPS 1x 4870 vs 2x 4850CF
Assassins Creed: 57/53
Bioshock: 119/126
Crysis: 45/43
COD4: 99/147
ET/Quake Wars: 111/95
The Witcher: 58/70



Related resources
July 2, 2008 1:16:42 AM

This is pretty much exactly what I have pending in my cart at newegg based on the same articles and tweaks you mentioned. Definitely interested in everyone's suggestions here as I'm also a bit of a newbie. My one change was to go with the e8400 given that I'll be using this more for games than multimedia apps that would (potentially) take advantage of the quad cores.

What OS would you go with? I'm not excited about vista but not sure if I'm going to need directx 10 at some point.

Let me know if you order this and how it goes.
July 2, 2008 2:04:33 AM

Raptors are worthless unless you get the new $300 300GB one. The older ones are outpaced by current 7200RPM drives. Get rid of it.

The P5E is a good board, and its the one I use. You can get by with a P45 board like the P5Q Pro for $149, but the P5E gives you more headroom.

RAM you picked is ok. I prefer G.Skill http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820231148 over Adata.

Other posters are dead on.
July 2, 2008 4:28:07 AM

Hmm .. lots of information here and I thank everyone who has posted.

I'm very confused now about a few things. For one, I will be running at 1680x1050, but plan to have a second monitor connected at 1280x1024 as well. Based on what was said, I'm now curious if I should get a single card instead of crossfire. Add to that .. if I do get a single card, am I better off with GeForce over Radeon? And if I go GeForce, should I be changing my motherboard? (You can see that I'm putting WAY too much thought into this!)

I plan to run Vista Ultimate even though I have zero experience with Vista right now.

As for the memory and psu, I'm not married to my original choices, so I'll probably swap in the Corsair PSU as suggested, and I'll look into other memory. I guess the day I pull the trigger I'll take a look at what's available as far as memory and make a final decision.

Now for the hard drives. My original plan was to go with a couple of Caviar drives until I saw the benchmarks of the RAID Caviars vs the Raptor in the article. When you're recording audio onto the drive, speed is absolutely the most important thing. Maybe I should be looking at the 2x500GB Caviars in a RAID like in the article instead .. I'm not sure.

Kinda funny that the more information I have, the harder it is to make a decision ;) 

Please keep the advice coming
CF
July 2, 2008 2:53:28 PM

I posted over on the Graphic Card forum about which videocard option is best at 1680x1050 with a 2nd monitor at 1280x1024. Hopefully I'll get some additional information there.
July 2, 2008 4:42:28 PM

I think you'll really like Vista (once you turn off the UAC-user account controls). I'm still using XP occasionally and I much prefer Vista.
I'm almost certain that you can settle for using Vista Home Premium over Ultimate and save $75. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Productcompare.aspx?Submi...
Look this article over for help on choosing the right version of Vista: http://techreport.com/articles.x/15009/10
Here is a good Vista summary and some tweaks you can look over after you order: http://forums.anandtech.com/messageview.aspx?catid=34&t...

X38 vs X48 - the major differences between the versions are mostly Marketing! P5E vs P5E Deluxe - get the one less expensive.
Your RAM buying strategy is sound. Check the deals on the day you order. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Productcompare.aspx?Submi...
In case you're buying two sets keep in mind that many rebates allow only 1 per household and factor that into the cost.

Raptor & RAID; The performance gains aren't in line with the cost. The Raptor alone is more than 10% of your total budget and won't even add 1% to your overall performance. Yes it's faster in HDD activities but your OS should already be holding the necessary data/programs in your 8GB of RAM and 8GB+ Cache on the CPU for the CPU to use. Most of the time you can get your work done faster by overclocking the CPU vs adding a speedier HDD. (Of course when the budget isnt an issue you could do both). A good single disk compromise is the Caviar SE16 640GB. It's also much cooler and quieter than the Raptor.

Any of the video card options you're thinking about will handle a 16x10 primary and 12x10 secondary monitor for basic 2D multi-tasking. In a Crossfire or SLI setup only one monitor can be used at a time when playing 3D games unless the game is specifically designed for that (such as MS Flight Simulator). You'll need to turn CF/SLI off to go back to using 2 monitors for normal multi-tasking. In a single monitor setup you can 3D game on your primary monitor and have the 2nd monitor active for 2D programs (web browser, game utilities, etc). However some games behave badly when you switch monitors (pausing the game, minimizing the window, crash, etc). I've had the best performance when playing games in windowed mode even if the window is the same size as the monitor (1680x1050 window on a 1680x1050 monitor for example). The HD 4870 vs 9800GTX or CF 4850 vs SLI 8800GT question is variable based on what games you'll actually use and if they scale well in Crossfire (like COD4) or poorly (like Assassins Creed). Not knowing what games you'll be playing in 2009 a single 4870 now with option for a 2nd in 18 months might be a good idea. But at this moment in time the CF 4850s have to be considered the best bang for the buck option.

July 2, 2008 6:06:42 PM

WR2 said:
Any of the video card options you're thinking about will handle a 16x10 primary and 12x10 secondary monitor for basic 2D multi-tasking. In a Crossfire or SLI setup only one monitor can be used at a time when playing 3D games unless the game is specifically designed for that (such as MS Flight Simulator). You'll need to turn CF/SLI off to go back to using 2 monitors for normal multi-tasking. In a single monitor setup you can 3D game on your primary monitor and have the 2nd monitor active for 2D programs (web browser, game utilities, etc). However some games behave badly when you switch monitors (pausing the game, minimizing the window, crash, etc). I've had the best performance when playing games in windowed mode even if the window is the same size as the monitor (1680x1050 window on a 1680x1050 monitor for example). The HD 4870 vs 9800GTX or CF 4850 vs SLI 8800GT question is variable based on what games you'll actually use and if they scale well in Crossfire (like COD4) or poorly (like Assassins Creed). Not knowing what games you'll be playing in 2009 a single 4870 now with option for a 2nd in 18 months might be a good idea. But at this moment in time the CF 4850s have to be considered the best bang for the buck option.


I usually run games (like EverQuest2) in maximized "windowed" mode. The second monitor will show live parsing, voice communications, maybe a web browser, but nothing that I need to manipulate while overly active in the primary window.

I'll be honest here .. the whole "turn CF/SLI off" thing has me kinda scared. I'm not looking to have my game video spread across 2 monitors, so would I still need to do anything like that?

I'm pretty much decided now on the 4850 CF solution unless you give me very bad news here.

CF
July 3, 2008 2:12:06 AM

controlfreak said:
I'm pretty much decided now on the 4850 CF solution unless you give me very bad news here.
You would think that one little measly detail like that would be easy to ferret out from the 'Net. Not so.
2nd monitor support looks like it is a feature supported under the 8.3 version of the Catalyst driver.
"Another interesting feature of the Catalyst v8.3 drivers brings added flexibility to multi-monitor users under Windows Vista. In the past, users were required to disable CrossFire to watch certain types of video or to utilize additional monitors. But with the Catalyst v8.3 release, that is no longer the case. With cards from the X1800 series on up to today’s HD 3000 series, utilizing an extended desktop in a multi-monitor configuration does not require CrossFire to be disabled. "
From this article @ http://hothardware.com/Articles/ATI_Catalyst_83_Sneak_P...
8.3 would have been March and by now you'd think there were be more info out on the 'Net and in forums that its working. It's been pretty stealthy it seems.
[:wr2:2] There are also Hotkey commands and Profile options that can be setup through the Catalyst Control Panel.
July 3, 2008 1:12:05 PM

Well .. that sucks. I really don't want to build a new system that can do less than my old system did. Sure, it will be faster, but not having a web browser up (for maps, quest info, etc) on the 2nd monitor is something I didn't expect to give up.

I guess the real question is .. is this something that should be "known" within a few weeks? I can delay things easily enough - my current rig can do what I need to do now .. it just can't do what I want to do in a few months - and I don't want to make the wrong decision here.

Thanks,
CF
July 3, 2008 6:52:55 PM

Probably the best thing to do is open a new topic on that specific topic in the Graphics section of the forums and ask if anyone has tried the dual monitor while in Crossfire mode. You could also ask that question in the ATI support forums.
July 3, 2008 7:29:15 PM

Quick question .. and it's more because I have a friend at work bugging me with it and I can't give him a good answer .. but ..

If I wanted to use 64-bit, what would have to change in my build, and what kind of driver issues would I be looking at?

I assume that everything I have listed is fine for 64-bit .. and all I'd have to do is get the 64-bit version of Vista. Well .. that and I'd probably jump up to 8GB RAM.
July 3, 2008 7:37:44 PM

BTW, here's where I stand now as far as my shopping cart:

CPU: Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 - $194.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819115018
This was simply based on the current mid-range build. I realize that there might be other CPU's that would be slightly better for games, but this one seems like it will work well for both games and music production.

CPU COOLER: CoolerMaster Hyper TX2 - $25.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16835103031
My plans don't include much, if any, overclocking. While I was still considering the Swiftech H20-120 from the current mid-range build, after reading about some of the mounting issues I decided I'd stick with something more conventional.

MOTHERBOARD: Asus P5E Deluxe - $224.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131317
This is an X48 mobo that should support the crossfire 4850 vidcards nicely

RAM: A-DATA 2x2GB - $169.98
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820211282
This will probably change at order time based on prices.

GRAPHICS: 2x Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 - $379.98
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814102747
I feel like this is the best price/performance setup for me at this time.

HARD DRIVE(S): Western Digital Caviar SE16 640GB - $94.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822136218
After much thought and debate I've decided that this is a good option for me. If I feel like I need a 2nd drive it should be easy enough to add.

CASE: NZXT Tempest - $109.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811146047
I liked this suggestion because it is supposed to be pretty quiet. My only negative is that there's no external Firewire port, but right now I have nothing Firewire anyway.

POWER: Corsair 650W - $119.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817139005
Enough people are suggesting I go with this PSU that I don't see how I can refuse.

DVD-RW:Sony Optiarc - $23.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16827118012
I'm not sure if this is the same drive suggested in the articles, but it seems close.

Total Price: $1,349.89
July 3, 2008 7:55:22 PM

Nothing would have to change. Unlikely to have any driver issues unless you pull an old '03 piece of hardware out a pile somewhere (without any updated drivers available) and stick it in your new system. 64-bit OS isn't exactly new technology (XP since 2003) now. I think this article covers the issue nicely: http://techreport.com/articles.x/15009/10
Like adding another HDD....upgrading from 4GB to 8GB is one of those "easy upgrades" you could always do later.

Be sure to keep an eye on NewEgg for 4th of July specials.
July 3, 2008 8:07:44 PM

WR2 said:


Like adding another HDD....upgrading from 4GB to 8GB is one of those "easy upgrades" you could always do later.

Be sure to keep an eye on NewEgg for 4th of July specials.


Yup! The thing is, just remember to buy only 2x2GB kits, so that you have enough room for 4x2GB (8GB).

July 4, 2008 5:12:50 PM

Thanks WR2, that was a great read. I think after that I've made 2 decisions.

First, I'm going to not worry about dual-monitors in the short term, while hoping that support is there in the long term.

Second, I'm going to switch from the Corsair 650W PSU to a Corsair 750W PSU for an extra $10. I'd rather have some slight overkill on power than barely not enough.

Now a word of advice for everyone: If you get married, don't marry an accountant. They have a tendency to be smart about money, and when you're an instant-gratification kinda person, that can sting. And on that note, it's looking like early August for this system, so I'm sure everything will change.

CF
July 4, 2008 5:56:03 PM

I'm not sure I would be capable of setting something like that up correctly. You're talking about me getting 2x 4850 + that card as well? Sounds like a driver nightmare.
July 4, 2008 6:48:50 PM

controlfreak said:

Second, I'm going to switch from the Corsair 650W PSU to a Corsair 750W PSU for an extra $10. I'd rather have some slight overkill on power than barely not enough.
The 650W Corsair is MORE than a slight overkill on the PSU. Overclock everything in your system and you'll still be barely over 400W - 450W tops.
The one good GPU option vs 2 lesser GPUs in CF or SLI has a large following (full disclosure: that includes me).
If you want to join the "one to rule them all" camp you could go with a single 4870, a P45 motherboard, an E8400, a 550W PSU and save $150+ and not surrender hardly any performance in gaming or music production since you're backing off on overclocking. Yes the CF 4850 option will perform better in many games. In those others where it doesnt outperform a single 4870 it might still raise the minimum frame rate over what a can 4870 provide.
Maybe you should go back and look at some of those 4870 benchmarks and see if there are any games out there where the single 4870 doesnt give GOOD gameplay @ 1680x1050 resolution. If you find any - check and see what 4850CF performance is like in those games.
After you've done that you can consider if the single 4870 doesnt, in fact, meet your expectations in gaming.
I think you've focused too much on the GPU price/performance angle and not enough on the total system (P45+1 4870 vs X48 2x4850CF) price/performance.
July 4, 2008 7:33:59 PM

I won't argue that I'm overanlalyzing everything here .. it's kinda what I do before buy a new system (although it's been a few years). I did consider going with a single card vs XF/SLI here and the answer was plainly stated as 2x4850 .. and by the author of the article that started me on this path.

With a slight delay in my purchasing (early August) I have no idea what else will change in the market in that time. New drivers might change everything being discussed here. More information on Warhammer Online's hardware support/requirements could have a HUGE impact on all of my decisions.

Now for the confession part ... you are 100% correct that a single 4870 would probably meet or exceed all my expectations. I can't play Crysis .. a few attempts at FarCry made me realize that some games make me physically ill (nauseas) .. and I'd rather not go through that again ;) . Also, the FPS games that I do play .. I play on my 360. My PC will probably just run some MMORPG's and games like Spore that aren't released for the consoles.

Will EQ2, Warhammer Online, and Spore all run unbelievably well with max settings at 1680x1050 on a 4870? Almost certainly. Sonar7 would be perfectly happy with some crappy on-mobo video, so I'm not worried about that. Is this an e-peen thing? I like to hope not :whistle: . I guess the bottom line is that right now I can't really play anything well, so whatever I go with now .. if I wind up not upgrading for a long time I'd like to feel that my system will perform adequately at least for a few years.

CF
July 5, 2008 12:23:42 AM

controlfreak said:
I'm not sure I would be capable of setting something like that up correctly. You're talking about me getting 2x 4850 + that card as well? Sounds like a driver nightmare.


It is the same driver. You just pick the card in the CCC to set it up. You would have 2 independent setup of sorts.

Yes- all 3 cards for 2 monitors.


However- 1 4870 and a cheap card in the 2nd slot would be more than enough.
!