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Core2 Duo, Q6600, or Phenom 9950 BE ?

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September 23, 2008 2:41:34 AM

OK, I'm looking to do a CPU, MoBo, and RAM (and maybe GPUs) upgrade in the near future for my current gaming box below:

Lian Li PC-60 (with the fancy ducting, although I may use a PC-70 I have for the transplant so things are a little less cramped)
Enermax 650w SLI/CF PSU
Asus A8N SLI Premium
2x1GB Corsair XMS PC3200 (the ones with the fancy blinkenlitzen)
AMD x2 4400+
BFG Tech 8800 GT OC 512MB
SB Audigy 4
3x74GB WD Raptors in RAID5
1x160GB WD Caviar SE SATA 300
Asus DVD-E616A DVD-R
NEC ND-3504A DVD-RW

The current box does pretty well w/ most of what I play after I threw in the 8800 GT 512MB a few months ago (usually 25-50 fps @ 1680x1050 on high w/ HDR and Bloom where available, 2xAA and shadows turned down a step or so). That being said, I'm thinking I might like to move my gaming box out to the living room so I can use my 42" 1080p screen, Dolby Digital HT setup and lounge on the couch. There's definitely room for improvement in the performance department as well.

I'm pretty torn over what direction to go with this as I've kinda been a bit of an AMD fanboy since I built my first Slot A box, but my impression is that Intel still owns AMD in the performance and performance per watt departments. Further complicating the matter is my predilection towards nVidia GPUs due to bad experiences w/ ATI many moons ago. I'm trying to put asides my biases though and have almost convinced myself to go with an Intel CPU and chipset/Crossfire solution but I'm not sure whether to go for a dual or quad core, and if quad core, if the 9950 BE will actually do worse for me than the Q6600.

All that being said, I guess I'm looking for opinions on what direction to go here CPU, chipset, and GPU - wise.

Core2Duo w/ Intel X38/X48, 2x2GB DDR2 1066, and CF'd 4850 512 MB
Q6600 w/ Intel X38/X48, 2x2GB DDR2 1066, and CF'd 4850 512MBs
9950 BE w/ AMD 790FX, 2x2GB DDR2 1066, and CF'd 4850 512MBs
Core2Duo w/ nVidia 780i, 2x2GB DDR2 1066, and SLI 8800 GT 512MBs
Q6600 w/ nVidia 780i, 2x2GB DDR2 1066, and SLI 8800 GT 512MBs
or 9950 BE w/ nVidia 780i, 2x2GB DDR2 1066, and SLI 8800 GT 512MBs

If Core 2 Duo which model would you recommend?

I'd like to keep the total budget under around $700, which looks do-able for most of these combos so far, but may get pretty tight if I wind needing a bigger PSU. Would the 650w Enermax be enough for these combos?

Thanks for any input you can provide.
September 23, 2008 3:21:14 AM

I stay away from nVidia chipsets,and Asus motherboards myself.
An E8500 on a good MB with an X38 chipset and a 4870 for now will hold you until you want to get more power.
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September 23, 2008 3:54:18 AM

Right now ATI's graphics cards stomp on nVidia's.
You can also look at Tom's Hardware Graphics Card Charts and his Reviews.
Also nVidia has been having some reliability problems.
Crossfired 4850's are the best bang for buck plus ATI has newer updated drivers which work good.You can start out with just one 4850 for under $170 and get another one later on when you have more money.
That said the AMD 9950 BE is a good decent quad core CPU for a budget price.It's a little slower than the Intel's Q6600 but it has a much better stock CPU cooler.Also the 9950 has SSE 4.1 instructions which will make certain video encoding software faster.The Q6600 will wildly overclock though much better than AMD's 9950BE.If you intend to overclock Intel's Q6600 or AMD's 9950 BE you will need a beefier power supply than just 650 watts;750 watts or 800 is more like it.AMD's CPU mounting is simpler and many people prefer pins on their CPU's.If you choose AMD and the 790FX motherboard be sure to check the new 750SB types otherwise you might be better off with a 790GX motherboard as these are less expensive right now.Also those new 790FX or 790GX boards will be open to take faster AMD CPU's such as the upcoming AM2+ 3.0 Ghz Deneb (Phenom) in January 2009.AMD's 9850 BE is also another good choice to consider especially with its low price right now

All in all if you intend to overclock Intel's 6600 would be a much better choice but you will need to spend extra money on a good aftermarket CPU cooler and a beefier power supply if you intend to do so.

If you want to get a Core 2 Duo the 8400 or 8500 are good gamer CPU's.
Getting a quad depends on if you need one.If you use quad optimized software a lot or do a lot of video encoding or prefer to game while your anti virus program is running or you're also encoding a video at the same time than a quad is the best choice.
You will also get a smoother Windows Experience when using a quad core CPU.
I run Microsoft Flight Simulator X and do video work so a quad was my pick.
If you are into playing most of the modern PC games out there than a Dual Core might be best for you for the least cost.However more games are going to get muti-core optimized later on so take that into consideration.
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September 23, 2008 8:17:49 PM

Cool, thanks for the replies.

I do occasionally do some multi-track mixing, video production, 3d modeling and animation, and Photoshop, but I'm not sure if the performance increase in these apps is going to be crucial enough for how much I actually use them on this machine to justify the additional power consumption/heat and the bit of a gaming performance hit of the quad cores vs. the E8500/8400 right now. I like the idea of future proofing (usually try to make it at least 3 years on the same mobo/CPU/RAM), but I guess I could always pick up a Q6600 for a good bit cheaper down the road if I want the extra cores.

So what's the concensus on a good feature rich X48 based MoBo that will take 4x2GB of DDR2 1066 @ ~$250 or less? The only ones I've looked at so far are the ASUS RAMPAGE FORMULA and the ASUS P5E Deluxe which seem like they're basically the same board minus a GbE port and a BIOS flash.

Has Asus gone downhill in the past couple of years? I've had almost exclusively good luck with their mobos and GPUs so far (had to RMA one of their Intel based mobos due to memory instability about 5 years ago but have built 6 other machines with their boards that seemed pretty solid.)
September 23, 2008 11:54:37 PM

ASUS pretty much maintained its quality and reliability over these years, so you shouldn't have many problems with them.

ASUS Rampage Formula has been known for its superb reliability and overclockability. I wouldn't hesitate in recommending that board.

!