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Gaming Rig, $900. Critique Welcomed

Last response: in Systems
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August 25, 2008 1:41:17 AM

I intend to use this build for gaming. I'm not intending or expecting it to be ultra-high end $5000 solid state space age stainless steel with free can opener. I'd like it to perform well with few hiccups and be a system I can rely on for a few years without it being too obsolete. I'm at the point now where my rig cannot meet the minimum system requirements for some games and I cannot upgrade it. That being said, I've been looking into buying a new system. My price range started as wide as $600 to $1300, hoping to pay as little as possible but prepared to pay what it takes to get the job done.

This build was drawn up by a friend. He started with the figure of $1300, determined to make me spend as much as I was willing, and ended up with the specs below. I'm not too tech savvy (Knowing what the components do, and capable of simple comparisons such as 4GB > 2 GB). With my primary and only goal being gaming, will this build work? Is it cost effective? What needs to be changed out? Are there any glaring weaknesses, things I've overlooked, incompatibilities, or components that are better than the others and could be downgraded? Any and all feedback is appreciated.

CPU: Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300 Yorkfield 2.5GHz 6MB L2 Cache LGA 775 95W
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$269.99

Case: Thermaltake Armor+MX VH8000BWS Black Aluminum / Steel ATX Mid Tower
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$134.99

Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-G31M-S2L LGA 775 Intel G31 Micro ATX Intel Motherboard
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$58.99

Graphics Card: ASUS EAH3870X2/G/3DHTI/1G Radeon HD 3870 X2 1GB 512-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready Video Card
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$249.99

RAM: G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$79.99

Hard Drive(s): Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 (Perpendicular Recording) ST3500630AS 500GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive x2
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$69.99 x2

Sound Card: Creative Sound Blaster SB0570 Audigy SE 7.1 Channels 24-bit 96KHz PCI Interface Sound Card
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$29.99

Power Supply: Antec TPQ-850 850W ATX12V / EPS12V NVIDIA SLI Ready ATI CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Modular Cabling Active PFC Power Supply
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$139.99

Fan: ZEROtherm Nirvana NV120 120mm 2-ball UFO Bearing / Transparent CPU Cooler
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$49.99

Total Price: $903.92
August 25, 2008 1:48:16 AM

Ok you made some big mistakes, and I'm sure others have better replacements, but first off, do not use a micro atx, all you do is sacrifice features, and your case will have lots of extra space. Second off, get him a cheaper case, there are ltos of sturdy cases for half the price, and you can use the money saved to upgrade the GFX card to two hd4850's in crossifre. that is why a standard atx board is better. Power supply is way overkill even for 2 GFX cards... unless he is overclocking that cooler is unnecessary...

So start by making those changes and getting more input from someone who knows more than me.
a b 4 Gaming
August 25, 2008 2:17:19 AM

I think I can improve on that list. All prices after rebate and shipping.

CPU: Q6600 retail, $190 For games, it's fast enough so it won't even be used at 100%. Also, if you learn how to overclock, it can become faster than the Q9300.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819115017

Case: RC-690, $99. Great cooling, very roomy.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811119137

Motherboard: P5Q Pro $140
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131299&Tpk=P5Q%20Pro

Video card: Visiontek HD 4870, $250. Faster than the 3870X2, and it will let you add a second card later when it's needed (and cheaper). You can theoretically do that with the 3870x2 too, but it works less well because 2 3870X2 cards mean 4 GPUs and games are not usually optimized for that.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814129113

RAM, HDD, PSU - good choices

Dump the sound card and the Nirvana - you don't need either of them. The motherboard has pretty good audio already, and the Q6600 retail comes with a cooler that can do the job perfectly as long as you're not interested in overclocking. Buy the Nirvana or something better when/if you overclock.

Total:
190+99+140+250+80+70+70+140=1039

(BTW, how did you get the total to $903.92 on that list in the original post? If I add them up I get 270+135+59+250+80+70+70+30+140+50=1154.)

If you can afford more, replace the P5Q Pro motherboard with this:
GA-X48-DS4, $235
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813128336&Tpk=GA-X48-DS4

And of course, add a second HD 4870 later. You can also add a HD 4850, it will work fine combined with a HD 4870 and you'll get performance somewhere in the middle between HD 4850 Crossfire and HD 4870 Crossfire.


Related resources
a b 4 Gaming
August 25, 2008 2:25:42 AM

Here are some charts, so you can see what a HD 4870 can do, and what HD 4870 Crossfire can:
http://www.guru3d.com/article/radeon-hd-4870-x2-review-crossfire/12

Between HD 4870 and HD 3870x2: the HD 4870 is a little bit faster, based on the benchmarks I've seen. It also has the advantage I mentioned earlier, that adding a second card later doesn't get you into the 4-GPU area.
August 25, 2008 2:34:03 AM

Change the memory out for more reputed company.

E.G. for 8 bucks more, you get better timing (look at the line with the #-#-#-##; the lower the values, the higher performance RAM configured):
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Skip the sound card. Put the money into a good motherboard, buy the card as an easy upgrade later on.

For the specs you have, the PSU is overkill (unless you plan on setting the system up with SLI/Crossfire). Look for a 500W-600W PSU.

No display?
August 25, 2008 2:42:43 AM

Agreed with aevm and and blueeyesm. They posted much better choices. You were using a lot of old tech and using a feature-limited board.
August 25, 2008 2:52:02 AM

Thanks a ton for the help, folks. I had no idea about the issues brought up. I sat there and grilled the friend of mine who wrote this thing up for half an hour about the different parts, and when he suggested a $180 sound card, I tactfully asked him if he minded if I searched around for a second opinion, haha.

Thanks for being here. You all have surely saved me a lot of trouble.
August 25, 2008 3:01:13 AM

+1 for the xigmatek cooler

August 25, 2008 3:25:25 AM

Here is the second draft, as per the recommendations above. I'm not sure if I need an additional cooler. Here's the list...

CPU: Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 Kentsfield 2.4GHz 2 x 4MB L2 Cache LGA 775 Quad-Core Processor
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$189.99

Case: COOLER MASTER RC-690-KKN1-GP Black SECC/ ABS ATX Mid Tower Computer Case
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$84.99

Motherboard: ASUS P5Q Pro LGA 775 Intel P45 ATX Intel Motherboard
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$139.99

Graphics Card: VisionTek 900244 Radeon HD 4870 512MB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFire Supported Video Card
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$270.00

RAM: mushkin 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$87.99

Hard Drive(s): Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 (Perpendicular Recording) ST3500630AS 500GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive x2
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6822148136
$69.99 x2

Power Supply: Antec TPQ-850 850W ATX12V / EPS12V NVIDIA SLI Ready ATI CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Modular Cabling Active PFC Power Supply
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6817371009
$139.99

Total: $1052.93

Does this look good? Any further changes to the list before I consider investing?
August 25, 2008 7:23:13 AM

I would get the Seagate 7200.11 500GB 3GBS 32MB Cache...

30 dollars more and a huge increase in real world performance
!