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System Advice - Very good gaming & Quiet

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January 28, 2009 1:20:07 PM

I have been looking at a number of different posts here and see a lot of advice around different components, etc. My current system is old enough that I believe the best option is to cannibalize it for a few things, but fundamentally getting a new system.

My system:
HP Pavilion based on AMD 64 X2 3800+
3G PC3200 DDR)
2 150G SATA Drives in Raid (performance) using Promise Raid Controller.
2 other IDE Drives (150G and 300G)
HP DVD Writer (940d)
GeForce 8800GTS (640m)
2 Sound Cards (Turtle Beach Santa Cruz & SB Audigy)
2 Monitors (24" @1900x1200 and 19" @ 1280x1024)

I want a system that can run the latest games at very good resolutions/graphics/performance. This is meant to be a multi-purpose PC, but gaming is something that I want this PC to be able to do well.

Here are some unique things that I want to continue to be able to do with this PC.

- Dual Monitor (DVI) at the above resolutions
- Need BOTH a digital and analog sound output (Digital to my Home Entertainment System and Analog for HK Soundsticks at the desk). - Do current MoBos offer this without additional cards?
- Would like to keep all of the disks - Continue to use the SATA as Raid (for performance) as main OS/Games drive and the other drives as extra media and backup storage. --- I have read about some of the current MoBos being able to do Raid. It this really possible without the Promise Raid Controller?
- As quiet as possible. - Fundamentally, when I am at my PC and not doing something taxxing (Games, HD, etc), the system is essentially quiet. When I run games I hear either the CPU or the GPU fan kick on and it gets pretty noisy. I would love to have it be very quiet when running normal operations (Email, Internet, etc, etc, etc). Having it not get WAY noisy during gaming would be a bonus too.
- I have Vista License that includes 64bit version.
- I have good logitech Wireless keyboard and mouse.
- I have read a little about potentially using the 8800GTS, but not sure...Maybe as second card to something else??


Now to what I am thinking....

- It appears that going with an i7 920 Chip is good choice for performance/potential overclocking, future upgrades, etc.
- Need a new Case (quiet) since my current PC is HP Pavilion and expect that it would not be reusable.
- Need PowerSupply -- Again, looking for good quality with some consideration for being quiet.
- Need MoBo and Memory (3G / 6G)?

In looking at some earlier posts, it seems like I could do something that satisfies my thoughts above, reuses some of the stuff from my current system, and costs $1000-$1500.

I GREATLY appreciate advice from this community. It is clear that there are a number of very talented members. Being able to leverage your experience and knowledge is very, very helpful.

Thanks,
Steven
January 28, 2009 2:30:12 PM

About this part:
2 150G SATA Drives in Raid (performance) using Promise Raid Controller.

I'm assuming you meant RAID 0. What kind of average read rates do you get? A single WD6401AALS disk (no RAID) would get about 100 MB/s. If your RAID is close to that it might be worth switching to one of these new disks.



Any high-end video card these days has two DVI outputs (some like HD 4850X2 even have 4), so your dual-monitor setup shouldn't be a problem.


Current X58 mobos (i.e. what you need for the i7 920) have pretty sophisticated sound. You can reuse your current sound cards anyway.


X58 motherboards have RAID. AFAIK it's still better to have a dedicated RAID card, but they do support several types of RAID.


You can control fan speed in nTune or Catalyst. For example I can turn down the clocks on my 8800GTX using nTune if I don't intend to play games. That reduces fan speed and power consumption and noise.

You can combine the 8800GTS with another 8800GTS, nothing else. It's not worth it, because a single GTX 285 or HD 4870 or better would usually beat the 8800GTS SLI.


Check out the CoolerMaster HAF 932 at Newegg, for example.


With your budget you can probably afford a GTX 285 or even two, or a GTX 295 or a HD 4870 X2, or HD 4870 1GB Crossfire. You need to pick a PSU after you pick the video cards.

For example this PSU
PC Power & Cooling S75CF 750W $70
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817341011

would be fine for a single GTX 295 or GTX 285 or HD 4870 X2 (and no plans to add more cards later), or for HD 4870 1GB Crossfire.

For combinations like GTX 285 SLI (two cards or three cards) or GTX 295 SLI or HD 4870 X2+HD 4870 or HD 4870 X2 Crossfire you'd need some more serious PSUs. I can help you there after you decide which card combination you want.

January 28, 2009 3:51:35 PM

aevm raises some good points as usual.

Heres my 2 cents:

You want a quiet PC that will play some game and do your work? That does narrow your selection down some.

CPU:
Intel i7 920 is the most future proof at this time. The stock cooler will be low noise, but if you plan on doing any overclocking, you will need an aftermarket cooler and that usually brings more noise to the table.

Mobo:
Gigabytes X58 boards may fill the bill for you. Good on board sound. SLI and Xfire capable.

Memory:
6 gigs, 3 2gig sticks, is the way to go considering you have Vista 64.

HD:
Honestly I would get rid of all your current HDs. As aevm pointed out a single WD 640 may be as fast or faster with far less headache than a raid setup. If you absolutely must have raid, buy a new card, assuming yours is not PCI-E or ancient, as on-board raid can be spotty, even on new mobos. Buy a single 1tb+ HD for your storage drive. Make sure you have the ability to back up important stuff.

Video:
This is where alot of your system noise is going to come from. You do have a few options. Myself, I would just go with a single 4870X2 with a non factory cooler. Gainward and Palit both make a good solution for this. This card will easily run both of your monitors as well as give you HDMI out w/ sound for your home entertainment system.

Sound:
Dump em. The onboard sound on the mobo is probably as good or better than what you currently have and will provide analogue out. Im not totally sure on your setup but if you can use an HDMI cable to handle your video/sound, any modern video card will handle it with ease. If you have to have a sound card, buy a PCI-E one from Asus or Auzentech.

PSU:
Normally I would recommend a 750 watt PSU for a setup like this, but as your system needs more power it makes the PSU hotter, which increases fan speed, which increases noise. In your case I would point you toward a 850 watt Corsair. A little more juice, a little less noise.

Case:
Im a fan of nice cases. In your situation where you want low noise, a Coolermaster ATSC 840 is probably your best bet. But to each their own on this. Look for something with multiple low speed 120mm fans.

Looks like you have the rest in hand.
Related resources
January 28, 2009 4:03:08 PM

I just realized... For a high-end gaming box with lots of RAM you need Vista 64-bit. But that means the RAID card and the sound cards will need Vista drivers if you're going to try and reuse them. That might be a problem...

If you decide to get an nVidia card for now and (maybe) add another later, check that the x58 you get supports SLI. All of them support Crossfire (two ATI cards), but only some support SLI (two nVidia cards).

If you buy new hard drives soon, stick with WD. Seagate has some horrible firmware bug that they keep fixing but it reappears. Some articles suggest that they fix something and introduce new bugs along with the fix for the old bugs. Can't blame them much because I've done that myself a few times :)  I'd give them another month or so to get things back under control.

If you want a quiet PC it's important to get a quiet PSU and a quiet case. The PSU is actually pretty easy - PC Power & Cooling, Corsair, Seasonic are very good at that.

The case choice is more difficult. For example the Antec P182 has a great reputation as a quiet case, but you can't use it with a large video card and lots of hard disks because it's too small. For example I couldn't fit an 8800GTX and more than 3 hard disks in it. Lian-Li makes some excellent quiet cases, but they tend to cost a lot.
January 28, 2009 4:12:37 PM

Thanks for the replies so far...I'll do a little more researching based on these recommendations and see about assembling a parts list for additional comments.

Steven
January 29, 2009 4:37:43 PM

OK, based on the recommendations and a little more research, here is what I have come up with so far. Remember, my goal is to have a system that is a good multipurpose PC, Dual Monitors, as Quiet as feasible, very good gaming....


1 COOLER MASTER HAF 932 RC-932-KKN1-GP Black Steel ATX Full Tower Computer Case - Retail - $149.99
1 Western Digital Caviar Black WD7501AALS 750GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - $89.99
1 SAPPHIRE 100259-1GL Radeon HD 4870 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 - $259.99
1 PC Power & Cooling S75CF 750W EPS12V - $109.99
1 G.SKILL 6GB (3 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) - $159.99
1 GIGABYTE GA-EX58-UD5 LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail
1 Intel Core i7 920 Nehalem 2.66GHz LGA 1366 130W Quad-Core Combo w/ MoBo - $518.99
Subtotal: $1,328.93


Some of the prices above have some instant rebates and some mail-in already included.

This coupled with the two monitors (24" @ 1900x1200 & 19" @ 1280x1024), Logitech Wireless Keyboard/Mouse, I would canibalize the two IDE Drives for extra storage/backup & the DVD-Writer from the current system.

This would, by the way, leave me with a very good full PC for either selling or donating, etc.

Here are a couple of additional questions:
1. I decided to go with one 4870 vs. 4850x2. Seems that there are still some challenges with drivers for the 50x2, the 50x2 seems to be a louder solution (bad), and the performance/price is very similary --- Did I miss anything?
2. I looked a bunch of cases and went with this one based on the AEVM recommendation --- Any challenges?
3. Memory was based on an earlier recommendation --- I don't NEED 6G, but might as well since I have Vista64 - Any better deal that I should consider?

Anything else that I may have missed??


Again, a HUGE Thank you to the forum and specifically to those that are helping me....it really is helping me quickly understand all of this. I am very proficient with PCs (been tinkering with them since they first came to market)...I have to admit though, this is the first time I am attemping to build one from scratch.

Cheers,

Steven
January 29, 2009 5:26:19 PM

Frankly, I'm not a big fan of the HD 4850 X2. It's very fast for the money, true, but whoever decided to make it have 4 DVI outputs and no cooling vent should be kicked.

I think I'd just get the HD 4870 1GB. (Btw, it's $240 at Newegg right now, not $260. Are you looking at some other site, or did they just cut the price a bit since you posted last?)

See how that works for you. It should be enough even at 1920x1200 and even with the eye-candy maxed, in a lot of games. If your games are among those that need more power, you can always add a second card. You need an X58 motherboard anyway because you want i7, so you might as well take advantage that it supports Crossfire at full 16x speed.

Actually, what are your favorite games?
January 29, 2009 6:19:29 PM

aevm said:
Frankly, I'm not a big fan of the HD 4850 X2. It's very fast for the money, true, but whoever decided to make it have 4 DVI outputs and no cooling vent should be kicked.

I think I'd just get the HD 4870 1GB. (Btw, it's $240 at Newegg right now, not $260. Are you looking at some other site, or did they just cut the price a bit since you posted last?)

See how that works for you. It should be enough even at 1920x1200 and even with the eye-candy maxed, in a lot of games. If your games are among those that need more power, you can always add a second card. You need an X58 motherboard anyway because you want i7, so you might as well take advantage that it supports Crossfire at full 16x speed.

Actually, what are your favorite games?



I see that the card is now $249 with $10 Rebate...

Games-wise, I am mixed...most tend to need the higher-end graphics (or at least can go high-end). I like the FPS games and have liked the Call-of-Duty series, Crysis, Halo 2....I also like the Need for Speed series and sometimes like the Sports games such as Madden.

What I am finding is that my current system will now just barely run some of these unless graphics and resolutions are dropped.

Lastly, any good ideas on what to do with a slightly-used system (HP, AMD 3800+, 3Gig, 300Gig (Raid 0), 8800GTS, Sound)??? I really don't need another PC (I already have 2 other laptops).

Thanks again,

Steven
January 29, 2009 6:38:32 PM

All right, I'd get a HD 4870 1GB for now. Of all those games, only Crysis needs more power at 1920x1200, and you can always play it at a lower resolution. Besides, you've already played it and I hear it's less fun the second time.

About the old PC, hard to say... eBay, Craigslist, etc.? I have no experience selling stuff so I don't know. Maybe make some kid happy on his/her birthday? Or invite some friend over and play some less demanding games in multiplayer mode? I used to play Diablo 2 like that on something 10 times slower than your old PC, and it was fun anyway.


January 29, 2009 7:01:45 PM

What i have to add is pretty much nit picking and it's about your statement for a "quiet" system. While the HAF 932 is a great gaming case, it's not going to be very quiet. There are some cases which are easier to make a quiet system in and some aftermarket graphic card coolers that might be an option in the future if the HD4870 1GB proves to be a little too loud for what you want. One case is the NZXT "hush"
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
another is the Antec P182
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

they both have reduced cooling compared to a gaming type case, it just depends how your priorities lie.
You might check out this site for other tips and ideas for making your system a bit quieter.
www.silentpcreview.com
January 29, 2009 7:04:04 PM

If you want to get rid of an old system and you don't have any friends or family that can use you old system i've donated outdated systems (after purging or removing HDs) to a local boys/girls club and used the donation for a tax write off.
January 29, 2009 7:27:59 PM

The NZXT Hush and the P182 are great for the "quiet" requirement, true. However, they may be a problem if the OP wants a big gaming card and lots of disks. They should be OK with a HD 4870 card, but it could become a problem in two years or whenever he upgrades the video card.

How about this:
COOLER MASTER COSMOS 1000 RC-1000-KSN1-GP Black/ Silver Steel ATX Full Tower Computer Case - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811119138

It's expensive ($190) and heavy, but it's huge, has 4 fans, and apparently it's very quiet. It's padded with foam, according to specs.

Then there's also the Antec 1200 ($180, free shipping)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811129043
Also huge, even more fans, also pretty quiet. It has switches to adjust fan speeds, so you can reduce the airflow and the noise when not playing.





January 29, 2009 11:46:17 PM

Thanks for the additional Case considerations. I really don't want to go with a full tower...My case right now would be considered a mid-tower and it fits nicely in my office. I believe that a full tower would be too cramped for the space that I have available. Note: It's not cramped now and there is pleny of airflow on all but one side. If I went with a full tower, I would be cramping it on two additional sides (Top and Back).

I really liked the CM Cosmos, but just too big for my space.

The NZXT is also nice, but the front-panel ports are really on the right side which won't work for me in the space.

After looking more closely, the case I had selected (CM HAF932) also appears to be a bit larger than I would like.

Of the cases, I have looked at and that have been recommended, the Antec P182 appears to fit the bill. It's size is very comparable to what I already have in the space, it appears to get good reviews, and it seems to be one that is designed to be quiet. It's even $5 less expensive than the CM that I had in my original list.

Any other opinions on cases?

To aevm's point, this case could limit future capabilities...it appears to be quite capable of handling what I would be putting into it originally. Anyone know whether a second 4870 would cause trouble in this case? From my reading, it appears that lenght is a typical challenge with the existing cards and doesn't appear to be a problem with this one....opinions are very welcome though.

I greatly appreciate all of the help here,
Steven



January 30, 2009 12:10:23 AM

Fair enough. I have a huge full tower myself (TJ-09) and it takes an awful amount of room under the desk.

I did a bit of searching and found an example where a guy has HD 4870 Crossfire in a P182. I guess you'll be OK with that case.

The max number of hard drives is not really that important anyway, considering that 2TB drives have already been released this week. :) 
January 30, 2009 12:18:51 AM

Outstanding.

Latest pricing from NewEgg.com is $1288 with another $31 in shipping...not bad. I had been originally thinking about the HP Firebird (from Voodoo). There is a lot I like about it, but it seemed too limited in future upgrades and cost was on the high side of what I wanted to spend...even with a discount that I can get on it.

I had not really been thinking about building my own until the last few weeks....this forum and the great help that has been offered certainly put me in a position to feel confident in the purchase. I have been very proficient with PCs forever, just never put one together as a new build before.

Thank you all for the input...

I'll probably place the order tomorrow just to give a little more time for any feedback....

Cheers,
Steven
January 30, 2009 12:22:55 AM

Good luck with the build!

You do know about electrostatic discharges, right?
January 30, 2009 12:28:00 AM

aevm said:
Good luck with the build!

You do know about electrostatic discharges, right?



I do....I'll make sure to ground myself early and often...

To that point though...any other good resources to read on the topic of a new build? I'm comfortable with the process, but always willing to learn more and especially leverage other's experiences.

Cheers,
Steven
January 30, 2009 12:59:26 AM

There are lots of guides on the Web (Google "build your own PC" or similar). Some are ancient, but some are still OK.

If you have a public library nearby, search for "Scott Mueller".


February 7, 2009 10:26:39 PM

Well, the order was placed last weekend and the final configuration is:


-Antec P182 Gun Metal Black 0.8mm cold rolled steel ATX Mid Tower Case
-PC Power & Cooling S75CF 750W EPS12V SLI NVIDIA SLI Certified
-GIGABYTE GA-EX58-UD5 LGA 1366 Intel X58
- Intel Core i7 920 Nehalem 2.66GHz LGA 1366 130W Quad-Core Processor
- G.SKILL 6GB (3 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600
- SAPPHIRE 100243-1GTXSR Radeon HD 4870-Toxic 1GB 256-bit
- Western Digital Caviar Black WD7501AALS 750GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s
- Arctic Silver 5 Thermal Compound
- Koutech IO-RCM620 USB 2.0 3.5"/5.25" Card Reader

Everything arrived mid week and I have successfully assembled this new build. I also installed the following from my older PC:
- Western Digital 120G IDE Drive
- Western Digital 300G SATA Drive
- HP DVD-Writer 940D
- HP 24" Flat Panel Display (1900x1200)
- HP 19" Flat Panel Display (1280x1024)
- Logictech Wireless Keyboard and Mouse
- and a few other bits...

This was my first new build and I learned a lot in the process. I ended up undoing a few things once I got into the build and redoing them because I "learned" a few things along the way. For example, this case allows you to hide just about all of the cables underneath the motherboard and behind the right side panel.

I took my time and was able to get it up and running on the first shot of plugging it. Vista64 was straight forward and I am now transforming this into a full working system. Since I had backed up almost everything to the two drives that I scavenged, the restore of music, photos, and lots of data is going smoothly.

I've reinstalled a couple of games so far and I am really amazed at the speed and graphics quality...

All in all, I am very happy with the build and how a few things worked. I use this PC as my music hub. I have a S/Pdif link between the PC and the main receiver for the house. In the previous PC I had to use two different sounds cards to get simulataneous digital connection to the Receiver and analog connection to the Harman Kardon SoundSticks on my desk. This new set up allowed me to do the same thing and all via the on-board sound connections...very nice.

One thing I can't figure out is that 3DMark Vantage runs but there is too much screen tearing to even be able to make out the scene that is playing during the benchmark...I'll have to look into it. Need For Speed Undercover, Far Cry 2, and Call of Duty - World at War all seem to work fine.

Oh, lastly, the PC is nice and quiet. I have the P182 fans all set to Low and I did go with the Toxic 4870 that has a better cooling solution that (and it's overclocked a bit). The CPU is running around 50c when doing most things. The GPU is mid 60's (DispIO).

Are there any good references for good temperatures for both the CPU and GPU under load and idle? Even under stress, the GPU fan kicks up to a higher speed, but is still more quiet that my old PC.

Again, a HUGE thank you to this community. I learned a lot in a short time....I plan on sticking around here to see what else I can learn.

Cheers,

Steven
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