First of the year build - $1500

At the beginning of the year I will be building a new PC. I have around $1500 to spend. I have already chosen to use Windows XP Pro and a Samsung 2253BW Black 22" 5ms/2ms(GTG) DVI Widescreen $249.99 / $229.99 after Mail-In Rebate. I will be upgrading from Windows XP Pro later on. I already have a copy so I will save some green for the time being.

This computer will be used for gaming mainly, graphics design, website management, adobe cs4, etc etc etc... so a lot of programs that demand a highly powered system. I have put together this system so far but would like to know what modifications you guys think should be made.

Antec Nine Hundred Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - $109.99
Case Fans
Scythe SY1225SL12SH 120mm "Slipstream" Case Fan - $8.99 (x5 for Case)
Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 Wolfdale 3.0GHz 6MB L2 Cache LGA 775 65W Dual-Core Processor $164.99
Hard Drive
Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD3200AAKS 320GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - $54.99
Intel ASUS P5Q Pro LGA 775 Intel P45 ATX Intel Motherboard $129.99 / $114.99 after Mail-In Rebate
Power Supply Unit (PSU)
CORSAIR CMPSU-750TX 750W ATX12V / EPS12V SLI Ready CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Power Supply - $119.99 / $99.99 after Mail-In-Rebate
OCZ Reaper HPC 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500) Dual Chanel Kit Desktop Memory $70.99 ($40.99 after rebate)
Video Card
2x SAPPHIRE 100259L Radeon HD 4870 512MB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x 16 HDCP Ready CrossFire Supproted Video Card - $194.99 / $174.99 after $20 Mail-In Rebate
Sound Card
Stock Sound Card
Logitech X-540 70 Watts 5.1 Speakers $61.21
ASUS Black 20X DVD+R 8X DVD+RW 8X DVD+R DL 20X DVD-R 6X DVD-RW 14X DVD-RAM 16X DVD-ROM 48X CD-R 32X CD-RW 48X CD-ROM 2MB Cache SATA 20X DVD+-R DVD Burner with LightScribe $34.99

I'm not set on the cpu as I've been looking into the Quad Core Q6600. I have never OC'd anything but am willing to do so. Initially to some a little money I also opted towards using the stock sound card. I did this because those are easy upgrades. I'd also like to know if you guys think I should throw a heat sink in there so the system doesn't overheat when after I OC it.

I've read that if I go any higher then the P5Q Pro mobo that I'd need to upgrade more of the system parts? I'm not quite sure on this so any clarification would be helpful.
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More about first year build 1500
  1. If you get a better motherboard, based on what you are planning to get above, it is fine. You don't need to upgrade more system parts. Have you considered getting core i7?
  2. I'm pretty sure that CS4 will see a huge improvement with a quad core and a 64 bit OS and a lot of ram
  3. P45 isn't the best chipset for XFire, you might loose 10-15% of performance compared to a "full" x16 XFire. However, you could always pay 100$ more and get a 4870x2 (prices might drop soon as NVidia's 295GTX is due soon for the same price and is reported to beat the 4870x2).

    BTW, note that there is a limit of 1 MIR per household so you might pay full price for the 2nd 4870.
  4. I personally would go try to go with an i7 build... You would have to sacrifice some in the graphics area, but you'd have better upgradablity in the future.

    Also, I hope you don't mind noise... Because with 5 of those fans that case will probably put your vacuum to shame.
  5. What's with the extra fan/fans ? That case has enough already.

    I have a 4870/512 card. I replaced it with an XFX GTX260. Couldn't be happier. If you're a die hard ATI fan get the 1gig version.... might help a little bit.

    I'd also opt for a quad core processor ...for the uses you mention above.... not saying the one you chose isn't any good. . good luck
  6. I was told I'd need the fans in there to cool down the 2x 4870. To someone who posted about I did list up there I wanted to go with 2 4870s so your recommendation to buy another one didn't really accomplish anything.

    How much improvement will the Core i7 give me over, say the Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 Kentsfield 2.4GHz?

    Once again I know photoshop will take use to a lot of ram and it will operate better with Quad cores. I have 4GB of ram listed above. I figured that would be enough. Are you guys saying it's not?

    What specific motherboard do you guys recommend? A link to the product at newegg would be nice. I'm into gaming heavily aswell so keep that in mind. Games like CoD5 are a lot more demanding than older games. A poster above mentioned that the P45 chipset wouldn't use xFire to the fullest. I was told that anything above the P5Q would just add bells and whistles and not really offer much more in terms of performance.

    Last but not least what is the processor that you guys recommend?
  7. If you think another part is worth upgrading but out of my price range then feel free to list it as 1) I can extend my price range and 2) PC part prices drop frequently.
  8. An i7 will notably outperform a q6600, and it overclocks better...

    I put together a i7 build for $1400 (before rebates), but thats not including the monitor.
    And it only has one 4870, but you can always add another as funds allow.

    Antec 900:

    Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD3200AAKS 320GB:

    1 4870:

    Speakers you listed:


    GIGABYTE GA-EX58-UD5 LGA 1366 Intel X58:

    i7 920 + antec truepower 850w combo deal:

    And vista 64 bit, which you would defiantly want with this build. Because with xp you'd be using only 2.8-3.0gb of your 6gb of RAM.
    Wouldn't that be a better motherboard? When is the F.T.W. version of this board due?

    As far as gaming goes does the i7 920 over clocked over any performance over an over clocked E8500 Dual Core?

    Building the i7 system costs a fair amount of money over what it would cost me to build a system with the E8500. I've read some comparisons and since games aren't using all four cores the performance benefit is 0. Some go as far as to say that the Quad Core processors are worse for gaming...any opinions?
  10. Also,

    What heatsink do you recommend?

    Will the i7 system offer an advantage for gaming compared to an E8500?
  11. The i7 920 is an awesome overclocker. I have personally seen one do 4.2GHz on air. The i7's work fine for games. They really get to show their power when you put them in a SLI/Crossfire configuration.
  12. Yes, the EVGA board is good as well. Not sure when the F.T.W. is coming...

    As far as gaming you wouldn't see much of a difference in the i7 vs e8500, except in a select few that do take advantage of more than 2 cores. However, I'm thinking the newer games are slowly going to start taking advantage of quads, since they are becoming pretty mainstream now.
    Another advantage of quads is that they can feed heavy multiple GPU setups better than duals.

    Depending on how hard you overclock, an e8500 can reach about 4.5 on air.
    And the 920 i7 can reach about 4.0.
    Of course alot of that depends on your individual chip and setup, so maybe more maybe less.

    Your more intense applications and multi-tasking, will of course, heavily favor the quad in most cases.

    I think the best you can do right now for a HSF for the i7's is this:

    EDIT: Yeah, +1 to shortstuff :)
  13. Alright after a lot of research and thought. I've decided to go with an Intel Core 2 build.

    Why? (I know a lot of you are going to say..go with the more expensive, higher tech, faster, more up to date build.)

    Because of money restraints (college), and I can see the prices of the i7 dropping as soon as this summer hits when the 32nm version is released with a new socket type of its own.

    I also know that the Core 2 Duo/Quad aren't going anywhere yet because of Intel's announcement to release the B43 Express Chipset (which doesn't even support the Core i7 series as of now).

    So with that said brings new questions afoot. I'll make this easy to read and hopefully painless.

    1) Will the ASUS P5Q Pro Motherboard get full use of 2 ATI Radeon 4870s?
    2) What fans do you recommend I put into the Antec 900 Case? I heard the ones that comes stock should be replaced with new 120mm fans. I will be over clocking the PC so I need to find a balance between the amount of air these fans move and the volume of sound.
    3) What heat sink should I go with for the Core 2 build?
    4) Any recommendations on a sound card?
    5) Will a 750W PSU be enough?

    I estimated it would be around $585 more for what I chose to go with the i7 build. Not worth it as of now IMO.

    Thanks for the help so far.
  14. 1) The motherboard will run at a 8x PCI-E link speed when in crossfire instead of 16x, but the latest benchmarks show little negative impact. The only way to get true full-speed 16x crossfire would be to go with a X38/X48 chipset, but I don't think they're worth the money.
    2) I don't recommend swapping out the fans in the Antec 900. The fans that come with it are pretty good. They're also adjustable with three speed settings so you adjust them as needed.
    3) XIGMATEK HDT-S1283 120mm Rifle CPU Cooler - Retail $36.99 - $10.00 MIR

    XIGMATEK ACK-I7751 Retention Bracket - Retail $8.49
    4) You don't need a sound card. The onboard sound is actually pretty good. Give it a try and add a card later if you think you need to.
    5) Yes, a 750W PSU will power your system even if you go with crossfire 4870's.
  15. shortstuff - you don't think it'd be worth it to even add a few more fans (5 total) to the case to keep it cool when over clocked?

    I have not seen much about that heatsink. Is it better performing than say a Freezer 7, Zalman 9500A, and a Tehremalright Ultra-120/90?
  16. The Antec 900 has more than adequate cooling with the stock fans for even the highest overclocks. I've seen a setup with an i7 at 4.2GHz and SLI GTX 280's in an Antec 900 and cooling was not an issue. That big 200mm fan on the top is very effective.

    LOL - You've not seen much about the most popular air cooler out for the past year? The Xigmatek cools considerably better than a Freezer 7 or a Zalman 9500A. It's right there with the Ultra 120.
  17. Thanks for the speedy reply and links...and yea, I'll admit I'm not really up to date on my heatsinks.
  18. One last thing I need to decided is this. Should I go with a Q6600 or an E8500. I will overclock whichever one I go with.

    Faster at multitasking
    More cores
    Faster at encoding

    Lower gaming performance
    A lot of programs don't utilize all four cores
    Vista is almost a requirement

    Better gaming performance
    Higher speed
    Will function quicker in most programs unless doing multiple tasks at once or using programs that utilize four cores

    Two cores
    Not as quick when multitasking

    Some will say the Q6600 is more 'future proof' but it's actually older tech. The E8500 has 45nm technology, runs a lot cooler, and is more energy efficient. In the next year Intel plans on releasing a new chip specifically for the Dual Core CPU and won't even be compatible with the i7 so that tells me that dual cores aren't going anywhere. The Q6600 is outdated tech. now that the new Core i7 is out with much faster speeds.

    If I had to summarize what I do on the computer I'd put it like this:
    1) Gaming/Web Browsing - 70%
    2) Web design (work in adobe) - 15%
    3) Other high demand programs - 15%

    What would you guys recommend?
  19. Any opinions?
  20. q6600- future proof, and you can do some overclocking. great bang for buck

    just make sure you get an aftermarket cooler!
  21. I'll vote for the dual, since 70% of what your doing is just fine on a dual.

    However, if you are going to be doing some heavy multi-tasking you'll definitely enjoy the quad.

    But considering you'll be spending most of your time doing things that work a little faster with the dual (gaming) you'll probably care more for that, than saving seconds in the programs you'll spend 15% of your time on.
  22. Option 1:

    Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 Wolfdale 3.0GHz 6MB L2 Cache LGA 775 65W Dual-Core Processor - $159.99
    *Open Box* ASUS P5Q Pro LGA 775 Intel P45 ATX Intel Motherboard - $78.75
    Power Supply Unit (PSU)
    PC Power & Cooling S75CF 750W EPS12V SLI NVIDIA SLI Certified (Dual 8800 GTX and below) CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Power Supply - $109.99 / $69.99 after $40.00 Mail-In Rebate
    OCZ Reaper HPC Edition 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory - $54.99 / $24.99 after $30.00 Mail-In Rebate
    XIGMATEK HDT-S1283 120mm Rifle CPU Cooler - $36.99 / $26.99 after $10.00 Mail-In Rebate
    XIGMATEK ACK-I7751 Retention Bracket - $8.49
    Antec Nine Hundred Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - $109.99
    Case Fans
    Scythe SY1225SL12M 120mm "Slipstream" Case Fan - $8.99
    Scythe SY1225SL12M 120mm "Slipstream" Case Fan - $8.99
    Scythe SY1225SL12M 120mm "Slipstream" Case Fan - $8.99
    Video Card
    EVGA 01G-P3-1280-AR GeForce GTX 280 1GB 512-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0x16 HDCP Ready SLI Supported Video Card - $374.99 / $344.99 after $30.00 Mail-In Rebate
    Hard Drive
    Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD5000AAKS 500GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - $64.99
    Acer X223Wbd Black 22" 5ms Widescreen LCD Monitor 300 cd/m2 2500:1 - $169.99
    Logitech S-220 17 Watts 2.1 Multimedia Speaker System - $22.99
    SAMSUNG 22X DVD+R DVD Burner with LightScribe Black SATA Model SH-S223Q - $28.99
    Thermal Compound
    Arctic Silver 5 Thermal Compound - $5.99
    Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 64-bit for System Builders - $99.99

    Option 2:

    Intel Core i7 920 Nehalem 2.66GHz LGA 1366 130W Quad-Core Processor Model BX80601920 - $299.99
    *Open Box* ASUS P6T Deluxe/OC Palm LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX Intel Motherboard - $229.50
    G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model F3-10666CL9D-4GBNQ - $94.99
    Video Card
    SAPPHIRE 100259L Radeon HD 4870 512MB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x 16 HDCP Ready CrossFire Supported Video Card - $199.99 / $179.99 after $20.00 Mail-In Rebate

    That's what it's down to. With Option 2 replace the above items with the ones listed. It's around $155 more but is it worth it? That setup would have 4GB of RAM but another stick of 2GB could be added within a few months of the purchase (it would be around 3 months later). I'd also be sacrificing quite a bit with only 1 4870. If I remember correctly I could add 2 more 4870s or 4850s in the future (running at x16/x8/x8). In the future would mean around 5-6 months later. Adding those cards would also require a new PSU in the future though.

    What would be a better option?

    *EDIT* Reading more about the 920 and the motherboard choices it seems A LOT of the i7 motherboards are having problems. This is my first build but I want the best product for my money. I know someone who can help put this together w/me for free if I run into troubles (he's in the computer industry). I'm stuck between choosing between these two though. I feel it's not worth it to get a Core 2 Quad because of the price (besides the Q6600 which I don't feel is a better buy than the E8400). For that price I can build the i7 Core system.

    This will be my computer through college so keep that in mind.
  23. It really comes down to what your willing to pay.
    I would really suggest against buying open box... Its really hit or miss if you get a good one.

    Save yourself some money on those fans... You don't need them, the stock antec's are fine, I'm running a E8400 in an antec 300, with just 2 antec stock fans, one on low, and the other on medium. And I idle at 28-30 degrees celcius, thats with air cooling.

    If money is tight go ahead with the e8400, if an extra $150-200 doesn't mean that much go with the i7. That PSU should be fine with crossfired 4870's, although not three. However, that monitor (which I'm staring at right now, and its great :) ) is 1680x1050, and its kinda pointless to use three graphics cards at that setting, not enough performance gains.
  24. I've looked into both systems and your right about open box. The difference turns out to be around $400 between both machines. I took a look into the monitor size and what GPU I chose; the crossfire'd 4870s were overkill IMO. People are maxing out today's games with a 4850 with all the eye candy turned on (with a 1680x1050 resolution). A single 4870 will be fine for that monitor and ALL of today's games.

    The budget is pretty tight so I'm fine with a 22" and a 4870. I was thinking of going with a 24" but the price difference wasn't worth it, and then I'd also need a more power GPU.

    In the end this is what it's going to be:
    Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 3.0GHz 6MB L2 Cache LGA 775 65W Dual-Core Processor
    PC Power & Cooling S75CF 750W
    GIGABYTE GA-EP45-UD3P LGA 775 Intel P45 ATX Intel Motherboard
    XIGMATEK HDT-S1283 120mm Rifle CPU Cooler
    OCZ Reaper HPC Edition 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800
    XIGMATEK ACK-I7751 Retention Bracket
    NZXT TEMPEST Crafted Series CS-NT-TEM-B Black Steel / Plastic ATX MId Tower Computer Case
    SAPPHIRE 100259L Radeon HD 4870
    Western Digital Caviar Black WD5001AALS 500GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive
    SAMSUNG 22X DVD+R DVD Burner with LightScribe Black SATA Model SH-S223Q
    Arctic Cooling MX-2 Thermal Compound $6.99
    Acer X223Wbd Black 22" 5ms Widescreen LCD Monitor
    Logitech S-220 17 Watts 2.1 Multimedia Speaker System
    Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 64-bit for System Builders

    I have two last questions:
    Do I need to get a heatsink to OC the motherboard/GPU even with the case fans?
    Is it necessary to get the Artic Cooling MX-2 Thermal Compound?
  25. I think that'll be a good choice of system.

    You'll just need the heatsink for the CPU. The mobo and GPU will be fine.
    And definitely get the Artic thermal compound, because I'm pretty sure that HSF doesn't come with any.

    You may know this already, but... When applying the thermal compound don't overdo it.
    What I do is put a drop sized amount on the CPU, then I get an old bread bag (or any stretchy thin plastic bad) and push my finger into the plastic, then spread the compound around until it just barely covers the entire CPU surface.
    So its just a little bit spread really thin.
  26. Where all do I need to apply the thermal compound? Thanks for the tip.
  27. I'll add a comment about your final build. In regards to the HDD, I'd go with a 640GB Caviar Black. It's $10 more for and additional 140GB and better platter density, which means better overall performance than the 500GB version.
  28. The only problem with that is I don't see how I could ever use all that space. I currently am using only 80GB of a 160GB hard drive.

    Is there a better performing lower spaced HDD?
  29. The only "better performing lower spaced HDD" are the Velociraptors or SSD. But if you go see at the links, we are talking at least 6 times the price per GB here and the performance gain sure isn't of that magnitude.
  30. Yea, I know about SSD and the Velociraptors and decided to stay away from them because of the cost.

    But robert27 recommended the 640GB Caviar Black because it has better performance over the the 500GB I chose. So....the same hard drive model just with lower space has worse performance?..... I have no need for a 640GB HDD, 500GB is even a little much.
  31. You indicated that this build is supposed to last you through college. You may not need 640GB right now, but say 2 years down the line you might. I think the $10 increase in price is worth the performance and storage boost.
  32. pmacdonald said:
    So....the same hard drive model just with lower space has worse performance?
    As stupid as it may sound, yes different sizes of the same HDD can have different performances.

    The mechanical parts of the HDDs are what makes them so slow; the less they have to move, the better. Ton increase the size of a HDD, you either add platters or increase "density". Both have a positive impact on performance. If you add platters, there are more heads to read simultaneously. If you increase density, the head has to move less to read the same amount of data.

    How much performance increase from 500GB to 640GB, I have no idea, you have to look at benchmarks and decide if it is worth the extra $$$.
  33. Does anyone have a link to the benchmarks? Looking at both HDDs they have the same specs and both good reviews. $80 is the most I'll spend on a hard drive so if you think there's a better one for that price then let me know.
  34. 500GB WD Caviar Black is $69.99

    640GB WD Caviar Black is $79.99

    The second option is arguably the best HD you can get at the $80 price point. I haven't seen benchmarks comparing the two drives, however by virtue of the 640GB drive having two 320GB platters vs. the 500GB drive having two 250GB platters, the higher density 640GB drive logically wins any hypothetical performance test.

    The 140GB storage capacity increase is worth the $10 difference for the larger drive. Increased performance is just icing on the cake.

    Like I said earlier, right now you may not need 500GB, or 640GB, but if you're building this rig to last for about four years, why not plan for the unexpected?

    However, this isn't my rig. I was just trying to give you some useful advice, not try to sell you one drive over the other. Do what works best for you :)
  35. But then wouldn't getting a 1TB drive go even faster?

    I'm going to go with the 640GB because I say a benchmark against the Velociraptor and it was comparable performance. I'll probably add another within a few months and run them in raid 0.
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