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Core i7 Project --- Suggestions, Comments, Rants, Put-downs, welcome

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January 14, 2009 5:00:31 AM

Hello All,

I'm new to this forum but not Tom's Hardware. I remember this site helping me put together a P4 3.0GHz, Asus P4P, 1 Gig mem, ATI Radeon 9800 Pro machine in the summer of 2004. I type on that machine nearly unchanged, now.

I've lost the last week of life on search engines, forums, review sites, vendor sites, etc. feverishly searching out the most machine for a budget concsience consumer. Being a poor student who gets deeper into debt by the day, yet whose hobby remains those hour-melting games (confounded things that push hardware to infinite heights). Alas two important things stand out: Performance + Budget.
To that end, the fruits of my research have yielded the following.

Prices as of 1 AM, Jan 14, 2009

Core i7-920 2.66 GHz -- $280 w/ combo
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Gigabyte GA-EX58-UDR3 -- $185 AR
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

G-Skill (3 x 1G) kit DDR3 (1333) -- $85
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Asus EAH4850 Radeon HD 4850 512MB (overclock) -- $135 AR
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Corsair CMPSU-750TX (750 Watt) -- $105 AR
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Price Tag: $790

I have decided to keep by WDC 200Gig--7200 RPM--HDD, my Sceptre 20.1' monitor, and my Thermaltake Armor Tower case.

The absolute most important question. Yes that Gigabyte mobo is an unbelievalbe deal, but do those inherent limitations: 4 mem slots (not 6), and 1 PCI-e at x16 (not 2) hinder me irreparably before the next 4 or so years?

Am I better served spending an extra $60 going with a 3 x 2G kit of memory, especially since I'll probably wait for Windows 7 to go 64 bit OS. For that matter should I spend an extra $5 for the Corsair XMS3 (3 x 1G) kit or has G-Skill built a comparable reputation.

I'm convinced that a Radeon HD 4850 is the best video card, value-wise. In that case will the 750 Watt PSU ably support that card? Will it support two?

If I plan NOT to overclock this Core i7 for at least another year, does the stock Intel CPU cooler do the job or is the after-market cooler still necessary?

Any and all comments are appreciated.

January 14, 2009 5:13:07 AM

Yes, that PSU will easily hold a 4850. It could even control 4870s in crossfire. It is a very, very well made PSU. Also, exactly which case is that? If you are going i7, expect some heat, so good airflow in a roomy case should be a priority.
January 14, 2009 6:45:39 AM

The board looks to have dual X16 PCI-E. I can't imagine they would cut that, as it's inherent in the chipset.

You should, however, get 6GB of RAM. 3 is not enough and you would have to throw it away to get 6 later.
January 14, 2009 7:44:26 AM

I agree with the previous poster, get 6gb ram now since you cant fix extra later.

There arnt many coolers for LGA1366 yet, the 2 or 3 that are available are quite expensive. I wanted a new cooler as well, but will wait untill others are released.
January 14, 2009 7:47:31 AM

I see your tack here.

In answer to your key question, the best simple upgrade you can do to an old computer is to add RAM, IMO, so just make sure you factor this in.

The beauty of it is that if you buy 3x2 with 6 slots, then you can just buy an additional set when money allows and pop it in. Your initial investment is not wasted. If you buy 3x1, that's good too because you can pop in another 3x1, provided you have 6 RAM slots.

However, with the UD3R mobo, despite the great deal you're getting today, you can only upgrade memory buy tossing out your existing set of RAM if you buy 3x1. Therefore, the price difference between UD3R and UD4P should also reflect the wasted cost of your original RAM sticks.

On a budget, I could live with all of the deficiencies of the UD3R that I wrote about in the other thread--e.g. limit yourself to 2 ATI cards in Crossfire. However, the lack of RAM expandability would seem to be imprudent, when considering the "budget" equation.

Let's make an educated guess about how much it would cost to buy 3x2 in the future if you ever need to upgrade RAM. Let's say DDR3 prices halve in 3 years and 3x2 costs $85, the same as your current 3x1. Then you've paid $85 today and then $85 in the future (worth, say $67 today by discounting at 8%). 85+67=152, about the price of inexpensive 3x2 today (and my recommendation below).

Again, the time value of money makes you indifferent, so if you don't need it, then just buy the 3x1 today and keep your money in the bank. You're running WinXP now and the best time to upgrade to Win7 is probably after SP1--maybe 2 years from now? Add more RAM then.

Depending on use, though, if you buy 3x2 today and then another 3x2 in the future, then you've not wasted your $150 today and get the full use of 12 GB in the future, and not just 6GB. The question really becomes whether or not you need the extra physical memory in the use of your computer. If you heavily multitask and work with large files, then yes it's worth getting 3x2 and 6 slots because you really need it.

Because you're planning on jumping up to Win7, then you should plan for extra system resource needs because this is a lousy time to buy an i7 rig, when the future is a little cloudy. However, it is always the case that resource needs increase over time.

By the way, the UD3R mobo can run 2 PCIe 2.0 slots in full x16, which means you can run up to two 4870x2 cards in Quadfire without a problem. This mobo just lacks the third video slot.

But if you've got your heart set on the UD3R mobo for its exceptional value, then maybe the better memory solution (especially if you don't want to upgrade RAM ever, like in your OP) is to run dual channel 2x2, so that you at least have 1 more GB of RAM over 3x1.


To help you out further, here are some suggestions on slightly different parts:

PSU: You will not find a better value than this PCP&C 750W (link here) for $80 after MIR, provided that you can live with the red color through your transparent side panel. This would be good for powering up to two 4870s in Crossfire and overclocking your i7 in the future.

RAM: Try this set of 3x2 G.Skill DDR3-1333 at CL7 for $154: link here. G.Skill is excellent value, and generally a great overclocking RAM for gamers.

Video Card: Go with 1GB video RAM, as the larger frame buffer will help if you move to a higher resolution later, and also if you ever Crossfire at high res. Here's a Sapphire 4850 1GB for $157 after MIR. The price difference is also quite small over the 512MB version.

Mobo/CPU: The current Newegg combo deal for the Gigabyte EX58-UD4P (my recommendation) and i7 920 is $535.

Total for my parts listed above comes out at $927, which is only $137 above yours and has much better future expandability, IMO, especially if you feel that you will need the larger quantity of RAM (and you will).


The stock cooler is fine if you don't OC for now. Just buy the cooler later, but remember that you will have to dismount the mobo to install a backplate.

However, note that the actual best value/performance deal out there for you is simply to wait 2-3 months before jumping to i7, as prices will likely improve a bit. If nothing else, you might be able to at least get the UD4P mobo for a better price, adding to your potential expandability over the long-term. If you're managing on your old rig now, then you should be able to stretch for just a little longer.

I think that my bottom line for investing in the i7 as a platform is that over the long-term, you should plan for maximum expandability. Otherwise, how is it really that much better than the Core 2 Quad platform?
January 14, 2009 4:35:21 PM

Akebono 98,

Thanks for the wonderful advice. You raise up very interesting arguments for future expandability.

Just priced your modifications to my set up and it came to +$122 (saving $20 on the PSU sure helped, and I've read PCP+C makes great PSUs). Certainly reasonable for Mobo expandability and twice the RAM (of which I get to keep in a later upgrade).

As it stands now:

Core i7-920: $275 w/ combo
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Gigabyte GA-EX58-UD4P: $240 AR
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

PCP+C S75CF (750W): $85 AR
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

G-Skill (3 x 2G), DDR3 (1333) Cas: 7: $155
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Sapphire Radeon HD4850, 1G: $157 AR
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Price Tag: $912

I'd like to throw this out to the community, mostly I'm curious about opinions. Given the choice would you prefer:

1) The inital build at the top: $790 (note: Now that Asus GPU has gone out of stock)

2) This revised build: $912

Basically is twice the memory and more versatile Mobo worth $122 in today's hardware climate?

-----------------
Also Akebono98, do you really believe the prices will come down noticeably in the next couple of months. If I may save ~$30 or so, the wait wouldn't be worth it. Once again, thanks for your help.
January 14, 2009 6:17:14 PM

The upgrades seem worthwhile, but be aware that the entire build is a bit heavy on the processing side and a bit light on the FPS, over all. You'll want to add a second 4850 at some point.

If you came to me and said, "What is the best gaming machine I can build for $1000.00" it would not have been an i7. Likely, it would have been an E8500 or Q9550, P45 MB, 4GB RAM, and a 4850X2 or GTX 280.

This build has a brighter future though.
January 14, 2009 6:27:19 PM

Thanks Proximon. BTW you're general guide was an excellent read and very well done.

Two questions I just thought of:

Do video cards have to be identical in order to support crossfire? Do they both have to be single-GPU or same RV###? For example if I buy a HD 4850 now, and in a year decided to buy a HD 4870x2 for the other slot, will they crossfire?

The other question goes for the memory. If a 3 x 2G kit is already installed, will a 3 x 3G kit work in the future?

Many thanks.
January 14, 2009 6:30:22 PM

it's not well tested, but what I hear is yes, although you will only get the slowest card crossfire. So, adding a 4870 to a 4850 would result in the same crossfire performance as two 4850s.
January 14, 2009 6:33:49 PM

You should be able to put different size RAM sticks in the two channels, but I don't know what the X58 chipset and i7 will do yet. Would the two sets need to be the same voltage and timings? I don't know.
January 15, 2009 2:36:06 AM

skander said:
Also Akebono98, do you really believe the prices will come down noticeably in the next couple of months. If I may save ~$30 or so, the wait wouldn't be worth it. Once again, thanks for your help.
You're more than welcome--the pleasure is mine!

GTX 285 is coming out tomorrow (Thursday). Intel has announced price cuts to Core 2 Quad and Core 2 Duo for next week. Therefore, the best window of opportunity would probably be in about two weeks, when prices for CPUs and GPUs firm up in response to these two events. That's probably just about right for your needs. After that, we're into a whole new ball game.

And I hear ya--it's hard to wait... ;) 
January 15, 2009 4:45:56 AM

An even better deal on the PCP&C red 750 watter: link. It's going for $65 after MIR at Amazon.
January 15, 2009 5:09:36 AM

Akebono 98 said:
An even better deal on the PCP&C red 750 watter: link. It's going for $65 after MIR at Amazon.


wow great find!
January 15, 2009 5:31:19 AM

@Foolycooly: Can't take credit for that one--only saw it on a thread where I replied. The finder is actually "AirBabed".
January 15, 2009 4:30:26 PM

I need to order a book for school from Amazon anyway, today, might as well add the Power Supply. Can't imagine a quality 750 Watt PSU going for cheaper. Great find!

I'll definitely hold out from some price shifts on the rest. I'm really wondering how those GeForce 9800 GTX+ change in response to the GTX 285 release today.
January 16, 2009 4:18:02 AM

The 9800 GTX+ is a very good value for driving your 20" monitor if you're a nVidia kind of guy, and then a pair in SLI would be a great future expansion for you. However, then you'd be stuck with getting the UD4P mobo, in which case you've answered your own thread! :D 

Seriously, though, between the 4850 and the 9800 GTX+, here's a chance to get a video card with true dual slot cooling--with the rear exhaust. Most 4850s don't have this little nicety. Get an eVGA or XFX with a lifetime warranty and then you'll be set for a long time...
January 16, 2009 5:54:32 AM

+1

Sweet deal, have your cake and eat it too--Proximon rules!!!
January 16, 2009 5:33:37 PM

Looks like a good product. Although I'd be paying $12 more for a card with half the video memory, 512 MB instead of the Sapphire 1G. Previously we discussed the extra buffer helps should I get a bigger monitor later and play at higher resolutions.

Also it seems that particular brand of G-Skill memory, the blue, low latency (3 x 2G) kit had some Quality Assurance problems. Nearly half the reviewers received 1G Dimms in the packaging rather than 2G. A little disconcerting . . . :-D
January 16, 2009 6:04:11 PM

Yes I don't pay too much attention to user reviews but it's pretty clear in that case. I'm sure G.Skill had an accident there, and I imagine it's all fixed. The only question is if all the bad kits are gone from the channel now.

Did you see this review?
http://www.legionhardware.com/document.php?id=803
They only used one GTX 280 so the results may be somewhat limited.
January 17, 2009 10:26:12 AM

Aw shucks, and here I thought that Proximon unearthed this great nVidia wannabe video card... well it's still a great video card.

From a value perspective, though, I guess that it's pretty hard to beat the Sapphire 4850 1GB, which probably still wins out in your case because:

i) you've got a Thermaltake Armor case, which covers off the cooling aspects; and

ii) it still has a 2 year warranty, in which time most things that could go wrong would probably have shown up.

There aren't too many 9800GTX+ 1GB cards out, and they all cost a bit more too.


It's too bad that G.Skill's great product got messed up by a QA problem. Unfortunately, there's nothing that even comes close in terms of performance for value here. At least the company is clearly aware of the problem and hopefully it will have been fixed by the time you order yours, should you ultimately decide to go with them. I still think that it's worth the risk, however, if you've got access to another computer and can afford the unexpected downtime. This type of product is a little too hard to ignore, IMO.


I also sense a bit of "early adopter risk" here.
January 17, 2009 1:22:12 PM

Yeah lifetime warranties on computer parts sound nice, but of course after two or three years the parts aren't worth the cost of shipping anyway.
January 20, 2009 6:02:12 PM

Just saw some news on the upcoming Intel price drops. Looks like its only for the Core 2 Quad and Core 2 Duo series'.

In fact some people say since AMD's Phenom II don't even compete with Core i7, Intel may increase the prices for those processors since they pretty much have no competition performance-wise for a good while.

More than likely Intel will just release the Core i5 (a gimped i7) later this year at a lower price point rather than reducing the prices of i7. Just some thoughts . . .
January 21, 2009 4:52:27 AM

As a matter of fact, here it is: Intel Price Cut table (January 20, 2009).

I've actually been mulling over this shift in landscape and you know what occurs to me? It's that the relative value equation has shifted a bit in favour of LGA 775, IMO.

In conjunction with this price cut table, have a look at the new Intel releases of the E7500 (11x), E5400 (13.5x) and Q9550S. Those 2 Duos are both R0 stepping with very high multipliers, which would easily allow overclocks comfortably above 4GHz. Thus in a situation where multi-threading is not a factor, they should be able to run with the overclocked i7 920 pretty easily.

Then there's the Q9550S, which has a very interesting feature buried in its spec sheet--a 76.3 degree Thermal Spec, which is about 5 degrees higher than the regular version of the Q9550. Is Intel subtly raising the OC limit of the Quads and building in a favourable upgrade path for owners of socket LGA 775 rigs? And, by implication, allowing overclocked Core 2 Quads to keep up with the i7? If so, then that would make a Core 2 Duo a very compelling buy today, from a value perspective.

I.e. If you started with a Duo today and invested in a good overclocking LGA 775 mobo, then in the future you could just upgrade to a fast overclocked Core 2 Quad and add an additional 2 sticks of DDR2 (for 8 GB total). When you also throw in Win 7, then I would think that this would then become a reasonable rig to meet future needs at that point, possibly not being too far behind the i7 in the real world.

IMO, this upgrade path would then set you up for a jump to the next iteration of the LGA 1366, being the 32nm Westmere or later. At that point, that platform would at least have matured somewhat.

Now is that not a better value proposition than being an early adopter of the i7, living with its growing pains, and trying to squeak out value by going with a substandard platform?

At the very least, everybody wins! :D 

@Proximon: What do you think?
January 21, 2009 6:38:21 AM

I can tell you that although I have the money, I can see insufficient reason to dump my E8400 @3.6Ghz. It's very fast. Maybe in a few months I'll see some need.

What I'm saying is, I can't say what your particular needs are going to be. I came to the conclusion a few days ago that all 3 of these platforms are pretty nice, and most folks will be happy with AMD, LGA 775, or LGA 1366.
January 21, 2009 3:13:56 PM

That is the million dollar question and of course no one has a crystal ball into the future . . . (and if they did, I highly doubt they'd give this info for free on a forum); nevertheless, Which is the socket of the future!

Does Intel plan on sticking with LGA 775 for the next 4 years and continue to develop + release new products (they still are so far)? Do they slowly begin to phase it out and push people towards LGA 1336. Or is LGA 1336 a passing fad, something that will be remembered as a quaint little phase between 775 and the true heir Intel develops.

Honestly, for 1336, I really don't see much of a difference b/w a Mobo at $250, $300, or $350. I don't plan to enter any overclocking competitions where every last hertz counts. I think that my $240 Mobo from Gigabyte would be a solid investment for i7 IF (and this is a big IF) Intel sticks with LGA 1336 as the socket of choice and 3-4 years down the road I'll have the option of replacing the CPU without replacing the entire MOBO and throwing my memory away.

If in 3 years time, I can replace just the CPU, add a kit of memory, and appreciably scale my platform/performance upward. Today's Core i7 purchase will be well worth it. If development for the socket is disbanded (perhaps necessitated by a chip with 8 true cores rather than 4 hyperthreaded), then the purchase will have been a mistake.

My gut says LGA 1336 is for real, whatever that's worth. :??: 
January 22, 2009 4:26:17 AM

Thanks, Proximon.


skander said:
My gut says LGA 1336 is for real, whatever that's worth. :??: 

I think so too!
January 22, 2009 3:17:40 PM

Well so much for holding out, 2 weeks was enough, right. :sol:  Bulk of purchase has been made.

Final Parts for machine:
========================================
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Final Price including shipping and taxes = $981.66

Rebates (not counting them until received) = $75
=========================================

The Powersupply was purchased on Amazon for $10 less than seen in above link. After reading numerous negative posts about the heat ATI cards were known to generate, I decided to put the money in a cooling solution rather than extra GPU memory (Sapphire made decision easier by pulling their rebates). Here's hoping the build goes off without a hitch. I'll try to post pics if I can.

Upgrades to think about in a year or more. Bigger monitor (Hanns-G 27.5" going for $350), another HD 4850 for crossfire, and SSD for OS/apps. The machine will probably run dual boot:

Windows 7 Beta 64X
Windows XP 64X

Thanks to all who threw their 2 cents my way.
January 27, 2009 10:04:12 PM

That's a very neat & elegant solution--looking forward to your pics! Good luck with the build.
!