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Looking for Input on a New Build

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March 13, 2009 9:22:02 AM

So I'm putting together this new computer, and I wanted to get your input and analysis. I'd like to cut as much "fluff" out as possible, and minimize the cost without sacrificing a significant amount of performance. I'm primarily concerned with the motherboard, since that is probably the one part of the computer I lack the most knowledge about. In an effort to shave off a few dollars I found an alternative to the HDD I already had picked out, so I would appreciate some input on that as well. Really I'd just like to pick the brains of the people in the community who have a more intimate knowledge of computer hardware, so that I don't go wasting any money or investing in a combination of hardware that is bound to have completely preventable technical or performance issues in the future.

If you do comment on any of the parts of this computer, please be detailed and give some kind of explanation. This is probably a given, but I've run into the problem on message boards before of having people who just post "Get a GeForce instead" with no elaboration at all, which is completely useless to me.

Three things to note as well: This computer is going to be primarily a gaming rig that may also be used for some media editing. I don't want the monitor to be the make-or-break factor for the video card. Finally, I do want a sound card.


CPU - Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 2.4GHz
GPU - SAPPHIRE Radeon HD 4870 X2 2GB 512-bit
PSU - PC Power & Cooling 750W
RAM - G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB)
CASE - NZXT TEMPEST
HDD - Western Digital 640GB 7200 RPM
HDD (Alt.) - Seagate 640GB 7200 RPM
MOBO - GIGABYTE LGA 775 Intel P45
DVD - SAMSUNG Black DVD/CD Player & Writer
AUDIO - Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi XtremeGamer 7.1
MONITOR - SAMSUNG Black 22" Monitor

Thanks again. If you need any other information, go ahead and ask.

More about : input build

March 13, 2009 9:47:51 AM

a 22" mon will prob run a max of 1680x1050 which a 4870x2 is overkill for.

you would get more out of the system by spending less on the GPU and more on the screen. either a 4870 1 gig or a 216 would run a 1920.1200 disp fine and you would get more out of the setup. total cost would be the same or cheaper...


either of these GPU with this screen will give you a better experience. both are pretty equal in performance and price so the only question is do you have a preference for one or the other?

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...
March 13, 2009 10:25:52 AM

Unlike the Q6600, the newer quads have the SSE4 instructions that are apparently used for things like media encoding. A Q9400 might be a better choice for you for that reason.
Related resources
March 13, 2009 10:36:23 AM

I'd be more inclined to drop the audio card and upgrade the CPU to either the Q9400 like jtt283 said or a Q9550. If after you've run the onboard sound and find it lacking, add the audio later.
March 13, 2009 10:45:18 AM

+1 to HD 4870, CPU upgrade and leaving out the sound card.
A 2nd HD 4870 and/or a sound card could be added later if you're unhappy with performance.
But I don't think that will happen.
March 13, 2009 1:04:41 PM

I agree with dirtmountain completely. Upgrade to Q9550 even if you have to cancel or postpone the sound card.

If you get the HD 4870 X2 you can downgrade to GA-EP45-UD3R because you won't need the second PCI-E slot and Crossfire. if you get the HD 4870 1GB then definitely keep the GA-EP45-UD3P for future-proofing.
March 13, 2009 2:37:26 PM


Would this card be a better alternative to those?
SAPPHIRE Radeon HD 4870 1GB

I'm definitely considering diverting funds from the GPU to the CPU. Although that monitor does look nice, I really can't spend that much money on a monitor. I was really hoping to keep it as close to $200 as possible. Would still like some more opinions.

Does anyone have anything to say about either of the two HDDs? Am I going to need some kind of a network card? If so, what would be a good network card?

March 13, 2009 3:35:19 PM

Seagate is currently having some major firmware and reliability issues. I would avoid them for a while until they get this sorted out (if they can since they recently began making their drives in China and dropped their warranty from 5 years to 3 years). The 640GB WD drives are awesome. I would spend an extra $5 and step up to the Black edition.

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

Your motherboard will come with integrated LAN, so there's no reason for a separate network card.
March 13, 2009 4:36:49 PM

Nexus21 said:
Would this card be a better alternative to those?
SAPPHIRE Radeon HD 4870 1GB

I'm definitely considering diverting funds from the GPU to the CPU. Although that monitor does look nice, I really can't spend that much money on a monitor. I was really hoping to keep it as close to $200 as possible. Would still like some more opinions.

Does anyone have anything to say about either of the two HDDs? Am I going to need some kind of a network card? If so, what would be a good network card?


Yes, I would trust Sapphire more than Powercolor or MSI.

Are you planning to buy that T40 monitor? You are talking about gaming at 1920x1200. Get the HD 4870 X2 and don't even think about cutting there. That's the last place to cut on a gaming box. The X2 can play almost anything at 1920x1200 with 60 fps (the monitor's limit). The HD 4870 1GB can't.

If you need to cut the costs cut the CPU to E8400 ($165) because it will be better than Q6600 ($197) or even Q9550 ($275). The quads are better only in GTA4 and FSX.

+1 for the WD disks. Seagate is too risky right now...



March 13, 2009 8:43:51 PM

shortstuff_mt said:
Seagate is currently having some major firmware and reliability issues. I would avoid them for a while until they get this sorted out

+1 to "don't touch Seagate with a 10-foot pole". I've had 2 friends get burned by their firmware problems. One managed to backup his stuff, so he didn't lose anything, other than the drive, but the other is SOL, and getting Seagate to make good on their data-recovery promise is like pulling teeth. Stick with WD. Or Samsung, if you're feeling like cheaping out.
March 13, 2009 9:16:16 PM

Nexus21 said:
Would this card be a better alternative to those?
SAPPHIRE Radeon HD 4870 1GB

I'm definitely considering diverting funds from the GPU to the CPU. Although that monitor does look nice, I really can't spend that much money on a monitor. I was really hoping to keep it as close to $200 as possible. Would still like some more opinions.

Does anyone have anything to say about either of the two HDDs? Am I going to need some kind of a network card? If so, what would be a good network card?


the thing you will spend most of your time looking at is the screen. i can bet you will upgrade it least too (providing you get a good one to start with)

buy getting a cheap screen you will negaite any gains a faster CPU and or GPU will give you. its a question of balence. therefore i stand by the point, ditch the dual GPU and go for a lower level card and a nicer screen. you can always add another card later as people have mentioned.

in regard with the manufacturer of the card, IMHO as long as you dont buy no name you are pretty safe, check the warrenty offered and the levels of overclocking to suit your needs. modern manufaturing processes are pretty good. no manufacturer wants to be hit with a high level of RMAs and in the cases where that does happen (G84 G86 chips by nvidia) the problems can be traced futher up the line. there are very few manufactuing scandles that hit the partners now.

just make sure you are happy with your selection. it will make the build easier if you have conviction in your choice of hardware.

sorry for the spelling and typos.
March 14, 2009 10:00:43 PM

I get what it is you're saying, but isn't there a way I can get a good monitor less than $370?
March 15, 2009 8:58:51 AM

I've found that visiting different big box stores and being able to look and compare monitors side by side is a big help in choosing which one to get. Figure what size you're looking for (24" or higher probably), look at some reviews on the web and what stats to look for in a gaming monitor then visit the stores. I have a 22" LG L227wtg that i'm very happy with, but i'm not a rabid gamer. Another advantage from buying at a big box store is you can buy it and they'll check it as you wait for any problems (dead pixels etc.) This quote from a Bit-tech review of monitors is pretty good.

"There are lies. There are damned lies. And then there are monitor specifications. More than most PC components, buyers should be extremely wary of the specs monitor makers attach to their produce.

Partly, the problem is down to the fact that it typically requires expensive specialist kit to confirm or deny screen performance stats. If you buy a CPU advertised with a 2.5GHz operating frequency, it's straight forward to get a reliable confirmation that the chip is behaving as promised.

But how is the average punter supposed to check that their new gaming panel is the real 2ms deal? Or that their lovely 24-incher really kicks outs 400cd/m² and has viewing angles of 178 degrees in both planes? The answer is that they can't, monitor makers know this and they play pretty loose and free with specifications as a result."
March 15, 2009 8:46:39 PM

Excellent point.

When you look at monitors, try to look at them from an angle (both horizontal and vertical). There will be differences, sometimes big. I found that LG and Viewsonic tend to do well in this test. Samsung not so much, at least in the cheaper range.

To check for dead pixels you can start Paint, set image attributes to something huge (1920x1200 for example), view full screen. Then fill the image with black, study it again, repeat with red.
March 16, 2009 4:45:51 PM

I'm really hesitant about getting the 24" over the 22" again mainly because of money. Rather than a $370 monitor that's 2 inches bigger, I can pay less than $200 for a 22" monitor. Unless I can find a 24" monitor that doesn't equal nearly half the cost of the computer by itself, I think I'll just have to make do with 2 fewer inches in my display.

Something I was wondering was whether I'll need a network card, and if so which? I haven't really been keeping up with the latest networking equipment, so I'm unfamiliar with what is the best thing to get for the dollar. Does anyone have any input or suggestions on that?

Finally, something that came to mind about this computer was the PSU. I'm not sure if I should cut cost a little and get a 610W instead of a 750W. It's about a $30 difference. The two I had in mind were:

Choice 1: PC Power & Cooling S75QB 750W
Choice 2: PC Power & Cooling S61EPS 610W

Assuming I keep the 750W PSU, these are the updated specs to the computer without the monitor:

CPU: Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550 Yorkfield 2.83GHz
GPU: SAPPHIRE Radeon HD 4870 1GB
PSU: PC Power & Cooling 750W
RAM: G.SKILL PI Black 4GB (2 x 2GB)
HDD: Western Digital Caviar Black 640GB
DVD: SAMSUNG DVD+-R/RW & CD+-R/RW
CASE: NZXT TEMPEST
MOBO: GIGABYTE LGA 775 Intel P45
AUDIO: Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi XtremeGamer 7.1

Total Cost: $1,085.91
Total Cost (with S&H): $1,121.53
March 16, 2009 5:20:21 PM

I don't think you need a network card. The GA-EP45-UD3P has a networking feature already. Come to think of it, it even has two LAN chipsets (Realtek 8111C).

If you get the 610W PSU and later decide you want Crossfire, then you will have to buy two adapters. They cost $3 each right now, and I have no idea how much for shipping. BTW, the difference now between those two PSUs is only $15. I'd rather pay the extra $15 and get 11A more and avoid the need for adapters.

Try to figure out how likely you are to ever add the second card. If not very, consider the GA-EP45-UD3R too because it's cheaper and has more PCI slots and all you lose is Crossfire.
March 16, 2009 5:23:33 PM

One more thing: if you rule Crossfire out, at least get the Corsair 650TX instead of the PC Power & Cooling 610W. Both are top quality products, but the Corsair has 3A more and 6+2 PCI-E connectors and costs $10 less right now at Newegg.
March 16, 2009 5:32:35 PM

Do you have a 7.1 speaker system?

If not then a 7.1 audio card is unnecessary, since the mobo already comes with an 8 channel audio chipset.
March 16, 2009 8:26:07 PM

I will definitely be Crossfiring at some point down the road. If the motherboard already covers the internet connection, then that's great.

As far as the sound card is concerned, let me explain what exactly I plan on doing (audio-wise) with this computer, and you tell me if a sound card is a good idea:

1. Heavy gaming
2. Playing media (movies, music, etc.)
3. Editing images, video, and music
4. Voice communication (Ventrilo, Skype, etc.)
5. Recording audio being played on the computer. For example: Using software to record a clip of an audio file (like an excerpt from a recorded conversation) in order to save it as its own audio file.

Can the onboard audio do this as well as that audio card?
March 17, 2009 12:37:30 AM

1,2,3,5 - yes, except maybe a few games that would benefit from the sound card.
4 - I don't know.

Anyway, it looks to me that sound is more important to you than to most others. Also, you can afford the sound card without cutting any corners where it would hurt (like CPU or GPU). Yeah, I think you should buy that sound card after all.

But I'd try without it for a week or two anyway. If you're happy you save the money by not buying the sound card. If not, it's easy to add it and at least you'll know for sure that the money wasn't wasted.
March 17, 2009 2:40:09 AM

I just bought the EP45-UD3P and the Q9550 but have not yet installed them. Also went with the modular Corsair PSU. I know it's more, but there's a nice rebate on the 620HX and I just want a neat case.

Not sure that it makes much difference and I may get blasted since the G Skill RAM is quite popular, but it's not approved for the Gigabyte board IIRC. I went with Corsair there too (again, another rebate that ends on the 17th).
March 17, 2009 12:54:21 PM

That's fine, Corsair makes good RAM.

Good luck with the build!
March 18, 2009 1:59:03 PM

How good are Acer or ASUS monitors? They seem to be cheaper than most of the other brands. Like I said, the limiting factor on a monitor is price, and I can always upgrade later if it's absolutely necessary.
March 18, 2009 3:18:05 PM

They aim for the value segment, i.e. cheap no-frills stuff. You get fewer features, you may need to buy cables separately, etc. For example the 24" model you're looking at doesn't allow pivoting, which means you need to physically lift the monitor up and move it a bit if you're not always sitting in the same place. It's not a major problem, but it could be annoying. I guess LG is in that category too, for example. Compare with Dell, Samsung or Viewsonic which typically deliver monitors with more features but at higher prices.

Here's a conclusion from a review about that P243WAid 24:

Quote:

The Acer P243WAid doesn't have all of the bells and whistles found on some of the higher-end 24" widescreen monitors such as height adjustments, pivoting, an integrated USB hub, or integrated audio, but it's still a nice monitor especially considering the price. Some of these higher-end models go for $400~600 USD, while the P243WAid is priced at a mere $390. In addition, it has a 2ms GTG, HDMI input, DVI with HDCP, and other features one would expect. The monitor's base and bezel is made of plastic -- compared to metal parts with other models -- but it's built quite well and are confident with its construction. We were also appeased by this monitor with its image brightness, no defective pixels, no uneven brightness, and overall quality. If you are looking for a 1920 x 1200 display with the features we have mentioned and aren't concerned about its lack of physical adjustments and plastic base, the Acer P243WAid is worth considering for your next LCD upgrade.


http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=article&item=acer_p243w_lcd&num=1

March 19, 2009 1:12:47 AM

Is the difference between the Q6600 and Q9550 worth the extra $76? What about the intermediate models?
March 19, 2009 2:44:55 AM

It depends.

If you are going to use programs that can max a Q6600 (e.g. FSX) then it's worth upgrading to Q9550 and buying an aftermarket cooler and overclocking.

If not, Q6600 at stock would do the same job in the same time (e.g. compressing a DVD takes the same time on stock Q6600 and on overclocked Q9550, because the hard disk is a bottleneck and even the stock Q6600 is used at less than 100%)
If you compress lots of videos and you have a Velociraptor or a RAID 0 then yes, a Q9550 would be worth it.

Just to give you an idea - at stock, the Q9550 is about 25% faster than the Q6600. That is, 2.83 GHz vs 2.4 GHz, larger cache, improved arithmetic unit, support for SSE4. If your media editing software uses SSE4 then the Q9550 may be 100% faster than the Q6600. With overclocking, some really good clocks would be 3.6 for Q6600 and 4.0 for Q9550 - the speed difference is a lot smaller than at stock.

The only intermediate model I'd look at is Q9400, and TBH I'm not impressed with that one either. It's handicapped by small cache and low multiplier. I think Q6600 or Q9550 are still the best choices.

March 19, 2009 2:46:59 AM

Actually, on second thought, there's an intermediate model that deserves respect. It's AMD's Phenom II 940. But that needs a different motherboard, etc.
!