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First time build - 2000-2500$ price point - gaming

Last response: in Systems
September 5, 2008 8:31:18 PM

Hello all! I'm newly registered, although I've been reading the forums for awhile now.

I've decided that it's time to build my first computer. In the past, I've bought Dells. Yes, I know -- I'm a bad person.

I'm pretty computer savvy when it comes to software and so forth (in fact, I write software for a living) but kind of a dummy when it comes to hardware.

This computer will be used for gaming, and to a lesser extent, utility. (I tend to 'retire' my old computer when I buy a new one into my fileserver, email, web-surfing box to keep my nicest box clutter free). The types of games that I gravitate to vary quite a bit, but include MMOs, RPGs like Oblivion, first person shooters, RTS games, and strategy games -- (currently, I'm pumped for Spore to come out next week).

I'm confident that I am pretty capable of physically putting the computer together correctly, but buying the parts is a little scary to me because of compatibility issues, performance bottlenecks, cooling, power, and all the other little considerations. Frankly, I don't even know where to begin.

As said in the subject, I'd like to spend between $2000 and $2500 for the whole rig, which should include the monitor and a 64-bit copy of Vista or XP. If a few extra dollars could yield me something stupendous, I'd be willing to go higher too -- that's just ballpark.

Lastly, a few thoughts:

I'd like to stick with an Intel chipset. Another question I have is whether waiting for the Nehalem architecture would be wise at this time. My current understanding is that the chips they are releasing this year will be the -extremely- high end chips, probably costing an arm and a leg. If not, I suppose it makes sense to go with a quad core?

I've always been more of a fan of NVidia than ATI, but I see a lot of people recommending the 4780x2 card in other threads. I know that NVidia just had their NVision or whatever conference where they debuted some new stuff. Anyway, I'm flexible here. I just want the best performance.

Fast hard drive(s), I don't particularly want RAID. Are those velociraptor drives worth getting?

Overclocking, again, I don't know that much about it -- but if it were -easy- to do and not stressing my components, I'd be interested in that as well.

So anyway, I'd just like some advice or "fantasy builds" that would get the job done here. I'm in the US, so Newegg is my likely purchase avenue.

Thanks for reading!
September 5, 2008 9:02:06 PM

We don't know a ton about what nehalem will bring. If you do wait and don't like what you see it will probably help to lower prices on stuff as well so it might not be a bad thing even if you don't go with nehalem. especially if you have a functioning computer right now. Another option would be to do a 1k build now that is good and plan on doing another in 2 years when nehalem is more mature. at that point you could spend the other 1500 on an even better system.

However with that being said you have a budge and want ideas so i will give them.

cpu - q9550 quad core: $325

Ram - 2x2gb mushkin ddr2 800 1.8v - $69 after rebate

mobo - x48 mobo (asus rampage) - $290

gpu - hd4870x2 - $560

hdd - 2x 640gb wd - $170 total

case- Antec 1200 - $180 (case will keep things very cool, no need for heat sink etc unless overclocking)

psu - Antec 1000w - $170 (combo deal with the 1200 case, see that link, leave enough room to add another x2 in the future if you choose)

dvd rom - you can pick get sata - $50

monitor - Samsung 245t 24" - $660

Total = $2474

Note: You wanted high end. If you want to save I put x48 mobo that allows you to add another 4870x2 crossfire in the future and a PSU that is powerful enough to run it. Also went with a very high end monitor. so if looking to save money there are lots of places. Acer makes a great 24" monitor for cheaper. and if no plans to crossfire ever then lower psu and p45 mobo would drop prices.
September 5, 2008 9:04:43 PM

Sorry left off vista. $110 so may want to save on monitor. also the hdds i chose are about the best price per gb you are going to find. can run them separate or together but i just don't think the raptor performance is worth the price.

also left off the mobo link:
Related resources
September 5, 2008 9:12:43 PM


Thanks for the replies. Looks pretty slick. How advantageous (and easy) would this system be to overclock?

Would I notice an appreciable performance gain? I mean, if this system would run everything currently out there maxxed out, there wouldn't seem to be much benefit overclocking it, just added risk.
September 5, 2008 9:19:21 PM

you could do some mild overclocking very easily with very minor adjustments. and that case would still keep things cool. however if you really want to make sure it is cool for not too much$$

This heatsink and bracket (make sure to get the bracket) totals $42

and remember. i probably went a little overboard on the monitor. you can get that same resolution for cheaper on some pretty dang good monitors. so that is one place to get more opinions. :)  :) 
September 5, 2008 9:28:02 PM

Checking out the heatsink and bracket now. I definitely want to keep the hardware safe. A little unclear on how the bracket works. Most of the aftermarket fans I've seen just sit directly on top of the CPU (with thermal paste obviously). How is this setup different? Or is it?

I see the antec case comes with 5 fans. Is it quiet? A friend of mine has a PC with so many fans on it that it sounds like a helicopter taking off! ...At least that's what I tell him, because it pisses him off. ;-) I would not want to open the door to any retorting!
September 5, 2008 9:33:21 PM

cortright said:
How advantageous (and easy) would this system be to overclock?

Actually very easy to get moderate overclocks. Harder to get the high and stable overclocks at the upper edge of the hardware's ability. Performance increases will depend on how well the software scales with the higher clock speeds.
In many games when you're running max graphics quality at high res you won't actually see any increases as the video card is the limiting factor. Better to give the GPU a bump up instead.
Of course some games respond better to CPU OC's - MS FSX and Supreme Commander would be an examples.

For most audio/video creation and editing the CPU OC will get you a nice bump in performance. Same for CPU intensive tasks like virus scans, etc. Very little or no noticeable improvement for office tasks like web surfing, email and the like.

September 5, 2008 9:36:13 PM

only difference is that instead of using those awesome push pins that everyone hates the bracket allows you to use screws.

if you have all of the fans at max you are going to hear it. but it is give and take. it does an excellent job of keeping things cool and it has removable filters on the intake fans that you can take out and clean. the fan speeds are adjustable to keep the noise down. i know several people who did a good job with cable management to keep things clean on the inside and they run the fans on low and it is plenty cool and very quiet.

but there are lots of case choices.
September 5, 2008 9:38:06 PM

The retention bracket is a back plate that gives added support to the moderately heavy heat sink.
It's an alternate attachment method thats easier, more secure and gives better performace than the more traditional push pin standard option.
September 5, 2008 9:53:13 PM

WR2 said:
Performance increases will depend on how well the software scales with the higher clock speeds.
In many games when you're running max graphics quality at high res you won't actually see any increases as the video card is the limiting factor. Better to give the GPU a bump up instead.
Of course some games respond better to CPU OC's - MS FSX and Supreme Commander would be an examples.

When you are saying 'bump up' the GPU, are you talking in the sense of buying a better one or OC'ing the GPU?

That 4870x2 card looks massive! It's basically two of the 4870 chip on one board, right? How much better is it than the NVidia offering of the 280 GTX?
September 5, 2008 10:22:27 PM

Most video cards can be overclocked just like the CPUs. Actually much easier to do in fact.

The X2 is two GPUs on one card. The X2 can sometimes outperform the GTX 280 in some games when using graphics quality filters (AA/AF). How much of a difference between the two depends on the games you have (or will get). There is no easy answer to "which one is best".

September 5, 2008 10:45:24 PM

I also am building a new machine; I sold my water rig 2 weeks ago in preparation for the new build... I am waiting for Nehalem.

DO NOT spend $2400 bucks now when Nehalem is literally a month away!

The benchmarks I have seen weeks ago show a 2.93 ($562) Nehalem crushing a current Quad Extreme ($1500) processor in almost everything except games which were close. In games the processor is still going to rock a Wolfdale or Yorkfield.
Read up on it, the only bad thing youll ever find is its not suppose to have a 20% in crease in games like it does for everything else… Clock for clock however it will be faster in games.

Go for dual 4850's, save 200 bucks.
September 5, 2008 10:57:24 PM

If you buy existing LGA775 Hardware you are completely not upgradeable!

Nehalem uses the new LGA 1366 and Triple channel DDR3... At least in a year or two you can upgrade processor and Ram.

Buying LGA775 at this point is like buying a 2008 Mustang when in November they are releasing a new body style.. Your brand new car just got dated!
September 5, 2008 10:59:19 PM

The Rampage Formula is very easy to overclock. It does have the CPU level up for people that do not want to mess with all the settings. And when you learn more about overclocking this board has tons of overclocking options and is very stable.

I have the Xeon X3350(The counterpart of the Q9450) and I have it at 3.6Ghz (450FBS) with 8 Gig of DDR2-1000 (@ 900 1:1 ratio). The 9550 should do around 3.6 - 3.8 on air with the cooler bdollar recommended.

I would recommend higher speed RAM, yes most ddr2-800 will overclock BUT the Q9550 will do way over 400FBS. The OCZ Platinum is only $62 after rebate and I have 8Gig installed on the Rampage Formula.

Plus later you can Crossfire another HD4870 or HD4870X2 :) 

September 8, 2008 4:31:11 PM

Thanks for the advice guys. To those of you saying wait for Nehalem at this price point... let me ask for clarification on something.

The Nehalem chips that are coming out this year are the super high-end chips right, aka... the equivalent to the current 'extreme' edition right? The regular (and 'normal' high-end) chips are coming out QC of 2009 I understand.

Assuming I don't want to drop $1000 on my CPU, that seems like a long time to wait. Thoughts?