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Potential Components for a System in ~3 months

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March 3, 2009 2:47:46 PM

I will be building a new system for a friend of mine in a ~3 months, and as such have been researching components for it. (To update my "everyone buys C2D Conroe chips" level of technological knowledge.) The system will be mostly used for gaming, with the maximum "multi-threaded" use being Torrents, gaming, and MP3 playing at the same time.

I have been pre-buying parts as I see them at a great price for this project, and as such have already picked up:

Case: Antec 300 : http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811129042&Tpk=antec%20300
PSU: Enermax Modular 525w (3 rail 12v times 25w = total 480w x 40a) : http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817194035

The computer will be built with a single ~750 GB OEM SATA 2 HD, duel DVD burners (one IDE, one SATA probable), no extra sound card, 4 (or 6) GB of ram, air cooling (with aftermarket CPU cooler), 1680 x 1050 resolution, on 64 bit Windows Vista Home Premium.

3 "opinion based" questions for all:

1. With the quality branded and highly stable PSU (based on reviews of the model), what is the best video card setup that I could put in the system? (By best, I mean in the ~$150 to ~$300 dollar price range at that time period.) 4870 x 2? GTX 285? 4870 512 CF? Core 260 216 SLI? Or, do the cards pull too much power and a 4870 or GTX 280 single card are the best "high priced" options? (Remembering the fact that the cards won't be chosen until that time period, thus exact models are not a factor here. Just the general card line/setups.)

2. 3 lines of thought seem to go through the forums and general internet reviews on processors.

a. Core i7: Best overclocker, new technology, best for mulit-threaded apps, not "the best" for gaming but future proofing
b. Phenom II: Best quad/tri core for mainstream, 2nd best for multi-threaded apps, decent overclocker, future proofing if choose AM3 socket over the AM2+ with DDR2 (or, save money and stick with AM2+, DDR2 ram, keep at 800 Mhz to avoid chipset limitations on duel channel memory)
c. C2D: Best "for the now" gaming CPU due to overclocking potential for users who don't "multi-thread" regularly

The one question I didn't answer was the budget. The budget is "lowest price possible with future upgradability in mind." Note: The CPU of this computer will probably never be upgraded in the future. Graphics cards, additional ram, and additional HD space will be added.

With that said, general opinions on what should be chosen?

3. And, with your opinion on question 2. What MB chipset?

a. Only one real choice...
b. Coming from the C2D Conroe / Nvidia "is graphics king with 8800 GT series in SLI" era, I don't know the differences in the AMD MB chipsets.
c. Avoid the Nvidia MB chipsets at all costs, as the 680i LT (my MB) was the only truly stable MB produced from the line with SLI capability. The Intel p45 is usually recommended, but it eliminates Crossfire capability options on question 1.
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I was informed last night that I will also be asked to build another friend a computer in the same general time period. Changes to the above:

1. No pre-bought components.
2. Friend 2 is a "multi-threaded CPU required" person, thus eliminating the C2D.
3. "Good" onboard sound or separate card required
4. Low price very important. Upgradability secondary. (As opposed to friend 1 who has equal weighting on the 2 issues.)

Thank you all in advance for your opinions.
March 3, 2009 2:50:39 PM

Addendum: "Light" overclocking will be done on both computers, but the emphasis will be on stability at low voltages in order for the systems to have a long life.
March 3, 2009 3:04:48 PM

Why would you spend $135 on a PSU with 40A, especially if you're dreaming of configurations it can't support like HD 4870 X2 or GTX 260 SLI.... You really should have asked FIRST and bought LATER.

Forget 4870 x2 and GTX 285 because those want at least a 650W PSU (according to Visiontek and eVGA respectively). Forget HD 4870 Crossfire and GTX 260 SLI too because they want the same or even more. You can see the official recommendations for Crossfire and SLI here:
http://www.slizone.com/object/slizone_build_psu.html
http://game.amd.com/us-en/crossfirex_components.aspx?p=3

That PSU should be enough for a HD 4870 1GB or, if you don't overclock, a GTX 260.

Since you want the option to add graphics cards but don't intend to upgrade the CPU, and the budget is low, I suggest a GA-EP45-UD3P and one of these CPUs: E5200, E7400, E8500, Q9550. Get the best CPU you can afford. Get a HD 4870 card at first. Later, dump that PSU and get a Corsair 750TX instead (it's cheaper and it has 60A instead of 40A, LOL) and add a second graphics card.

Related resources
March 3, 2009 3:07:43 PM

Because I didn't pay that for the CPU...I paid $50 after the mail-in rebate.

As said, I am buying "stable" parts for a "long term" build at "on sale" prices for greatest value.
March 3, 2009 3:12:30 PM

I think what aevm was trying to point out is that PSU isn't a "long term" item. You just shut the door on the crossfire/SLI possibility with that PSU. I thought your friend said that upgradability was more important than price on that first build. With that in mind, you might want to use the PSU you already bought for the second build that is more budget minded and pick up a PSU that will allow for the possibility of crossfire/SLI in the future for the first build.
March 3, 2009 3:22:56 PM

Yeah, it's a good PSU, and $50 is an incredible price for it, it's just not suitable for your plans.

For the friend's PC: so basically he wants a cheap quad. Some good options IMO would be Q8300 on the Intel side and Phenom 9850 on the AMD side. If he can afford a bit more and needs more power, then Phenom II 920 or Phenom II 940 or even Q9550. There's also the Core i7 line but that is probably too expensive here.
March 3, 2009 3:28:51 PM

So you don't even have a ballpark budget for either build other than "lowest price possible with future upgradability in mind."? Here's a few suggestions for the first build:

Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550 Yorkfield 2.83GHz 12MB L2 Cache LGA 775 95W Quad-Core Processor - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $279.99

GIGABYTE GA-EP45-UD3P LGA 775 Intel P45 ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $134.99 - $20.00 MIR

G.SKILL PI Black 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $44.99

or

Intel Core i7 920 2.66GHz 4 x 256KB L2 Cache 8MB L3 Cache LGA 1366 Quad-Core Processor - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $288.99

ASUS P6T Deluxe V2 LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $289.99

G.SKILL 6GB (3 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Triple Channel Kit Desktop Memory - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $109.99

Pair either of the above with these for a great gaming PC:

SAPPHIRE 100243-1GTXSR Radeon HD 4870 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFire Supported Video Card - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $219.99

Western Digital Caviar Black WD6401AALS 640GB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $79.99

I'd forget the 750GB drives since they're slower than the 640GB drives due to drive density.

Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 64-bit English for System Builders 1pk DSP OEI DVD - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $99.99

A 64-bit OS will be necessary to fully use 4GB+ of RAM.

Of course, planning the builds this far in advance is a little pointless because things change very fast. What is recommended this week may change next week. I'd just come back when you're actually ready to start buying parts for the best recommendations at that time.
March 3, 2009 3:34:05 PM

Here's some suggestions for the second build:

AMD Phenom II X3 720 2.8GHz 3 x 512KB L2 Cache 6MB L3 Cache Socket AM3 95W Triple-Core Black Processor - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $144.99

GIGABYTE GA-MA790X-UD4 AM2+/AM2 AMD 790X ATX AMD Motherboard - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $114.99

G.SKILL PI Black 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $44.99

POWERCOLOR AX4850 512MD3-DH Radeon HD 4850 512MB 256-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFire Supported Video Card - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $149.99 - $15.00 MIR
March 3, 2009 3:35:57 PM

Especially on forums, wording is what matters...but I understand. Further, I have already thought about your recommendation on the PSU and its move to PC2 is an option.

But, manufacturer websites are also well known for overstating what is required in XXX watts when the 12V rail is what truly matters.

Thus, before I bought the PSU, I found: http://archive.atomicmpc.com.au/forums.asp?s=2&c=7&t=9354

Which has a collected information set for true video card power use.

So, if you use a 95watt Phenon 2 CPU, and 255watt (max 3D power draw for the 4870 CF) = 350 watt.

480 watt 12v * 75% recommend PSU load = 360 watt

And, yes, upgradability for PC1 was curtailed as the PSU is sized "correctly" for the current pc with current "high mainstream" graphics. However, with the current economy, the price could not be beat...even for computer 1.
March 3, 2009 3:41:50 PM

Thank you for the recommendations, but as you and I have both said...planning this far in advance for "actual prices" is pointless.

I am looking for collected opinions on Core i7 versus P2 versus C2D in 2 different particular builds. (Which is the question we end up all asking at some point.)

It is backwards pc building (components then CPU/MB chipset), but the only way to do this in this time frame. (If it were 6 months-1 year out, then no use at all. If was now, then prices matter...but with 3 month time frame, the shopping around is best option.)
!