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Seeking Input on First-Time PC Build

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January 19, 2009 9:50:11 PM

Hi all,

So a few weeks ago I decided I would really like to try building my own gaming PC, and since then I've been doing a pretty extensive amount of research and learning about what's available. I'm aiming primarily for a bang-for-the-buck build, but more on the performance end...basically looking for really good performance without spending an absolute fortune. I will be doing a fair amount of gaming but the PC will also be sitting near my TV in a studio apartment where it will be used for Blu-Ray playback and multitasking (web browsing, music, etc...) As such, a relatively quiet build is a big plus for me, but my goal isn't (and probably can't be) absolute silence. Finally, I plan to do some moderate overclocking on the CPU and probably on the graphics card too, primarily just for kicks but also to get that additional performance boost. :)  I understand that this is probably a strange set of build goals but hopefully I'll be able to accomplish all of them pretty well.

I have what I think is a pretty solid build, but I wanted to post my suggested specs to get input and work on answering a few more questions. Here's what I have picked out so far and expected prices after any applicable rebates, with additional uncertainties noted where applicable:

Processor: Intel Q9550 2.83GHz Quad Core (waiting for a price cut to take effect soon) - est. $266
CPU Cooler: OCZ Vendetta 2 - $50
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3P Motherboard - $115
Video Card: EVGA NVidia GFX 260 Core 216 (Standard Clock) - $250
RAM: Corsair Dominator 4GB (2x2GB) DDR2 1066 - $44
Case: Antec P182 - $170
PSU: Corsair CMPSU-620HX 620W - $130 (*)
HDD: Western Digital Caviar SE16 640GB - $75 (**)

TOTAL: $1100

(*): It sounds like this PSU will work well for a single 260 Core 216, but what if I want to upgrade to SLI Core 216's in the future? I hear a lot of people saying to get a nice single-card setup to start out and then you can always upgrade with another one, but will it actually be the best move to buy a second one of these cards a year or two down the road, or just to buy a newer and better single card? Will this PSU be reasonably future-proof for single-card configs down the line?

(**): This will probably just be a data drive within 6 months or so. I originally wanted to get a 300GB Velociraptor as a boot drive in addition to one or more of the WD640's for data, but now I hear about the SanDisk G3 SSD that should be out mid-2009, at $250 for 120GB. I would probably buy this or another similar SSD sometime this year and convert the WD to be data only, since it looks like the G3 would utterly destroy a Velociraptor. :)  Any thoughts?

So, what does everyone think of this build? In particular, should I just get this power supply and should I be looking to leave SLI open as an option for upgrading? Does this all seem like a better choice compared to a Core i7-based system right now? Thanks in advance for any suggestions you can offer!

- Daniel
January 19, 2009 10:56:20 PM

Just buy a newer and better single card down the road. Most do.
Spend $5 more for a WD6401AALS, data drive later or not.
You are missing a $110 or so Blue Ray Reader.
1066 ram is trouble if you are not experienced. We will help you when you come back.
The psu is good, but if you are paying anywhere near $130 other much cheaper options are available.
The case you buy isn't what makes for a quiet system, it's the choice of fans and what control you have over them.
I would prefer an AMD/ATI card for what you want to do, but that's just me.
January 19, 2009 11:07:58 PM

a gtx 280, not a 285, is about 300 dollars now or 50 dollars more than your 260.
Related resources
January 20, 2009 3:25:10 AM

shiftstealth said:
a gtx 280, not a 285, is about 300 dollars now or 50 dollars more than your 260.


Hmm, I hadn't realized the 280's were this affordable! That does reflect a big change in price, doesn't it? I had only seen that the 260 Core 216 overclocked could beat the 280 so I always figured it was "the obvious choice", but I suppose the 280 would probably still win out since it can be overclocked too, eh? :p  From a quick glance back at some benchmarks including the 280 & 260, is it fair to say the 280 probably gives me another 10-15% over the 260, generally? If that's the case, it sounds like it would be worth upgrading to the 280. Thanks! :) 
January 20, 2009 3:35:30 AM

Newf said:
Spend $5 more for a WD6401AALS, data drive later or not.

Oh, I didn't even know a 6401AALS existed. Am I correct in understanding that it just has a 32MB cache instead of a 16MB? From what I gathered, the 6400AAKS still beats most everything (else) in its class even with a 16MB cache, but I'd happily upgrade to the 32MB just for good measure. :) 
Newf said:
You are missing a $110 or so Blue Ray Reader.

Good call, thanks LOL. Will look at those and post back with what I find.
Newf said:
1066 ram is trouble if you are not experienced. We will help you when you come back.

Cool, just as long as I'll get great performance I won't mind tinkering with it.
Newf said:
The psu is good, but if you are paying anywhere near $130 other much cheaper options are available.

Are there any other models in particular you'd recommend? The primary reasons I was looking at the 620HX were that it seems to be very quiet and it's modular, and that it would probably just barely fit in the P182 (sounds like long cables are required). But if there are other more inexpensive options out there that are comparable in quality, I'm all ears.
Newf said:
The case you buy isn't what makes for a quiet system, it's the choice of fans and what control you have over them.

The case does make a difference though, right? I read that the P182 had nice sound-dampening side panels, and a couple of the fans have speed adjustment switches on the back of the case. Plus, they're all 120mm, which I understand to be quieter for the air moved. All that said, of course, I am trying to be smart about what goes inside it too. :) 
Newf said:
I would prefer an AMD/ATI card for what you want to do, but that's just me.

From what I gather, NVidia typically has better drivers, particularly for Linux, so that was my primary reason for selecting NVidia/Intel...I think all of the graphics cards I've owned have been NVidia, so I'm probably sufficiently brainwashed by now LOL.
January 20, 2009 5:07:18 AM

I'm surprised that no one has mentioned this yet, but SLI is not an option with the GA-EP45-UD3P board. That board supports crossfire (ATI), not SLI. To get SLI capability in a board other than the new X58, you have to go with an Nvidia nForce motherboard which a lot of people try to avoid because of instability and other issues. I'd either change this to a X58/i7 build or go with an ATI GPU to allow the option of crossfire down the road. If you're really that stuck on Nvidia GPU's, you can look at the 750i and 780i chipset motherboards.
January 20, 2009 5:10:30 AM

djroze said:
Found this Blu-Ray reader...I like that it reads both Blu-Ray and HD-DVD and has LiteScribe, what do you think? (LG GGC-H20L, $120) http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... Does anyone know the difference between this and the GGC-H20LK?

The drive linked above is a very nice drive. The only difference between it and the GGC-H20LK is that the one linked above is in retail packaging and the GGC-H20LK is OEM. For $5, you're probably better off going with the retail version. The retail drive will come with a manual, software, SATA cable, and power cable. The OEM drive is just the bare drive.
January 20, 2009 5:40:57 AM

shortstuff_mt said:
I'm surprised that no one has mentioned this yet, but SLI is not an option with the GA-EP45-UD3P board. That board supports crossfire (ATI), not SLI. To get SLI capability in a board other than the new X58, you have to go with an Nvidia nForce motherboard which a lot of people try to avoid because of instability and other issues. I'd either change this to a X58/i7 build or go with an ATI GPU to allow the option of crossfire down the road. If you're really that stuck on Nvidia GPU's, you can look at the 750i and 780i chipset motherboards.


Thanks for the heads-up, shortstuff! Somehow I completely managed to overlook that, LOL. :ouch:  Originally I was looking at the EVGA 750i FTW, but I ended up finding this board as highly recommended for overclocking. I'm starting to think I should temporarily set aside my NVidia bias and look at the options on the ATI side of the fence. :)  Granted, I could probably get away with just a single NVidia card on this board, but I'm guessing it is always wise to leave myself the option for SLI/Crossfire in case I change my mind later on, right? Would you too recommend ATI for the tasks I'm expecting to perform, particularly with regard to Linux drivers? Thanks in advance!
January 20, 2009 1:28:18 PM

What resolution does your monitor run at? That will be a huge deciding factor on what GPU you should go with. The 4870 1GB model works great for up to a 22" monitor.

I haven't run Linux for a couple years, but it seems like I remember ATI releasing some pretty good Linux drivers lately. Hopefully someone with a little more experience in that area will offer some first-hand experience. I know that you can at least download the Linux drivers directly from the ATI site.
January 20, 2009 5:24:29 PM

shortstuff_mt said:
What resolution does your monitor run at? That will be a huge deciding factor on what GPU you should go with. The 4870 1GB model works great for up to a 22" monitor.

I haven't run Linux for a couple years, but it seems like I remember ATI releasing some pretty good Linux drivers lately. Hopefully someone with a little more experience in that area will offer some first-hand experience. I know that you can at least download the Linux drivers directly from the ATI site.


I'll be doing everything on my 42" Sharp 1080p TV, which works out to 1920x1080. I'll take a closer look at the 4870 1GB ATI card you mentioned - thanks!
January 21, 2009 8:03:15 PM

OK, after some input here and a bit more research, here's my revised stab at my new system's specs. Any other input, suggestions, etc. are welcome! Based on what I've heard, it seems like I would be best to just forget about trying to do SLI (now or in the future), and since I haven't seen any other PSU's more highly recommended for what I'm doing than the 620HX, that's still in the list, but if anyone has suggestions for replacements I'm still open to them.

Processor: Intel Q9550 2.83GHz Quad Core (currently $283, waiting for a further price cut to take effect) - est. $266
CPU Cooler: OCZ Vendetta 2 - $43
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3R - $105
Video Card: EVGA NVidia GeForce GFX 280 01G-P3-1280-AR (Standard Clock) - $305
RAM: Corsair Dominator 4GB (2x2GB) DDR2 1066 - $44
Case: Antec P182 - $145
PSU: Corsair CMPSU-620HX 620W - $130
HDD: Western Caviar Black 640GB WD6401AALS - $80
Optical Drive: LG Black Blu-ray/HD DVD-ROM & 16x DVD Burner GGC-H20L - $120

TOTAL: $1238

Thanks in advance for any other suggestions! :) 

- Daniel
January 21, 2009 11:19:57 PM

Correction - I think I'm going to add another WD6401AALS to this setup and create an Intel Matrix RAID array with 120GB in RAID 0 on the outermost portion to imitate what I'll have as an SSD someday, and have the rest in RAID 1. Rockin', eh? :-D
January 22, 2009 2:08:26 AM

Thanks for the suggestion aford, but it looks like it'd be about $70 more all told for the DDR3 and from the benchmarks I've seen, there is a minimal performance gain to be had between DDR2 and DDR3. It seems like it'd probably be more worth the money to just switch to DDR3 whenever I get an i7 down the line, unless of course you have seen different results indicating that the DDR3 affords a bigger advantage. :) 
January 22, 2009 7:12:06 PM

Huzzah! Finally ordered the components today for the above configuration (plus a syringe of OCZ Freeze :-D). Can't wait until everything arrives and I can put it together, and I'll cross my fingers for the E0 stepping CPU. Thanks for all the input! :) 
!