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Building a new gaming system

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April 26, 2009 9:44:54 AM

Hi all, I've been reading and reading and reading and I thought it might be time to ask some help in getting a new gaming rig. Well, at least a new MOBO, CPU, GPU, PSU (and RAM if I'm not going to reuse my DDR2 memory). I've been out of this business since '03 probably so I'm trying to find as much info as possible about the current market status.

Let me first say I'm still not even sure if I should get an Intel or AMD chip. Money is an issue so I'm thinking about a Phenom II build but at the same time I read that Intel is still a bit better at the high-end range. What I'm basically looking for is a good gaming system for a reasonable amount of money. A reasonable amount of money for me is somewhere between 500 ~ 650 euro which is about $660 ~ $860 (for the components mentioned above).

My main criteria is that I need to be able to play upcoming (sandbox) games like ArmA II, Mafia II, Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising on mid-range resolutions (I run 1440x900 right now, I might upgrade to a bigger screen in the future, 24inch running at 1680x??) with good frame rates

Since, for some reason, I really don't like spending a lot of money on my PC (while I do spent irrational amounts of money on other things) I'd like to keep more or less within the budget mentioned above (while I do have something extra just in case ;)  ).

If it's worth anything, I currently have an AMDx2 4200+ 2.2Ghz, MSI K9N Neo 2?, 2GB DDRII 800mhz memory, 8600GT 512MB.

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April 26, 2009 10:53:01 AM

Ok. I don't know where exactly you plan on getting these components, but I'll use newegg as reference.

In my opinion, the Phenom II 720BE is the perfect budget cpu for gaming. 3 cores for $140, starting at 2.8GHz and can overclock much further, more cache, and more power efficient as well. Plus, games are beginning to use 3 cores.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

GPU: The upcoming radeon 4770 sounds perfect for $100. Unbelievably efficient in terms of both price and power consumption. You could even go crossfire. I heard rumors of a 4790, that is supposed to match the 4870 in performance, while using less power, if it is true, you could consider that as well, but i have no idea when it is coming.

MOBO: with that cpu and gpu combo. the ideal motherboard would be that Gigabyte 790X AM3.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
very nice board, supports crossfire.

With this board, you would need some DDR3 memory. This is an ideal kit:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

PSU: With that setup, and only one 4770, a decent 500W psu would certainly be enough. It might even be enough for 2 4770's, but to be safe, go with a 600W if you plan to double up that 4770. Here is a good choice:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

totaling that, its about $540US, $640US with 2 4770's.

if you want to spend a bit more, spend it on a more powerful gpu.

April 26, 2009 11:15:36 AM

+1 X3 720. Should work well in your budget, and really quad cores are not being used effectively in alot of software. Anyway for the performance I think its a steal at $140US.

You could get the BIostar TA 790gx board and unlock your 4th core. But it wouldn't be necessary.

The HD4850 and GTS250 are good midrange graphics cards.
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April 26, 2009 12:06:57 PM

Thanks! Would that MOBO also support future Phenom II x4's? I see it's running "1 x PCI Express x16 slots, running at x16 (PCIEX16_1) and 1 x PCI Express x16 slots, running at x8 (PCIEX8_1)". Is it bad too have one at x16 and one at x8 if you're going to use crossfire, should they both be x16 and pay a bit extra cash (don't know it it exists though ;)  )?

It seems that prices do differ a bit here in Europe compared to the USA. I checked my local prices via a Pricewatch (tweakers.net/pricewatch) website and it would be something along the lines of (converted from euro to dollars includes shipping more or less)

Processor = +-$185,-
Mobo = +-$170,- (btw, the 790gx is the same price as the 790x over here, don't know if that matters?)
Ram = +-$100
PSU = +-$105

totaling $560 without GPU. That's still within my budget of $660 ~ $860 if I, let's assume, add an 4870 1GB for $230,- (price in Europe) totaling to a $790,-.
April 26, 2009 12:35:23 PM

The phenom II X4 945 and 955BE would work on an AM3 mobo. I still prefer the 790x over the gx as you wouldn't be using the onboard graphics anyways, and the 790x would be more dedicated towards discrete video cards.

2 PCI'e slots both running at x16 show a very small performance increase over 2 running at x8, so I wouldn't consider the 790fx a reasonable upgrade considering the price difference.

And btw, those 4770's are coming out at the end of this month. After taking a look at the previews, i would rather get 2 4770's as opposed to a single 4870 1gb.
April 26, 2009 1:04:35 PM

+1 on the 720
ddr3 with out a doubt

I would go with this psu though BFG Tech GS-550 550W
in us $55 vs $95 fore 50w less

1gb of video ram is way over kill at your resolutions i would go 4850/or 70 512mb depending on you budget. the caveat being that a 1gb would be more future prof

go with a better single card vs 2 lower end ones (in this price range)
sli/crossfire are like multiple cpu cores 2 cores is not twice the performance think like 150% fore 2 cards

and 790gx or 790x a both in the same class and you should look at the specific boards at that point
i just order the asus 790gx if i remember i will repost on what i think of it
April 26, 2009 1:21:20 PM

ke7diz said:

1gb of video ram is way over kill at your resolutions i would go 4850/or 70 512mb depending on you budget.

It is? Even for big sandbox games like GTA IV or ArmA II (which has a maximum view distance of 10 kilometers or 6 miles)?
April 26, 2009 2:35:46 PM

I could not find any benchmarks run on those games so i can not verify that specifically. though i did find that they are very cpu orientated (as games go)


all i can tell you is that using traditional benchmarking games at 1680X1050 and below the difference between 1 gb and 512mb is minimal

if you can afford it 1gb ant going to kill you
April 26, 2009 5:04:46 PM

kevin1212 said:

In my opinion, the Phenom II 720BE is the perfect budget cpu for gaming. 3 cores for $140, starting at 2.8GHz and can overclock much further, more cache, and more power efficient as well. Plus, games are beginning to use 3 cores.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Assuming that the games I'd like to play are pretty CPU intensive, ArmA II for example claims to use 1 core for the AI alone (game is coming this summer) and recommends quad core. Same story with GTA IV which also recommends quad-core (don't know if the game actually uses 4 cores though).

Would it be better to go for a 3 core high clock speed CPU like the one you mention above (and others agree to) or would it be a better idea, with the type of games in mind, to go for a 4 core setup like the Phenom II x4 920 which is only about $35 more expensive at running as far as I can see at the same speed? It uses AM2+ and I see that the more expensive ones use AM3 (don't know if it should be AM3 if you're running x4?)
a b 4 Gaming
April 26, 2009 7:20:22 PM

The higher clock speed of the 720 covers those games that aren't really coded well for quads.

If I were buying a quad today, it would have to be at least a PII 940 or 955 or an Intel Q9550 or i7 920.

I do like the 720, especially with a good cooler like the Sunbeam CCTF and a 20% overclock.
April 26, 2009 7:28:09 PM

what it comes down to is $ the 720 is a realy good buy and 80% of all applications will not see the difference between x3 to x4

also am3 means the support fore ddr3 and a chance that in your next uprgrade you may be able to keep you mainbord and mem
April 26, 2009 9:12:14 PM

If value and getting more bang for the buck is your main concern, go AMD.

But don't listen to me. I like to waste money since I have four Intel processors and not one AMD. Seriously, I built my systems without thoroughly reading as many reviews and now I'm paying the price when I see benchmarks much better for equivalently priced AMD processors.

To further add support, I have put in some AMD stock in my investment portfolio and none of Intel stock. That's putting my money where my mouth is.
April 26, 2009 11:59:32 PM

zoog85 said:
Assuming that the games I'd like to play are pretty CPU intensive, ArmA II for example claims to use 1 core for the AI alone (game is coming this summer) and recommends quad core. Same story with GTA IV which also recommends quad-core (don't know if the game actually uses 4 cores though).

Would it be better to go for a 3 core high clock speed CPU like the one you mention above (and others agree to) or would it be a better idea, with the type of games in mind, to go for a 4 core setup like the Phenom II x4 920 which is only about $35 more expensive at running as far as I can see at the same speed? It uses AM2+ and I see that the more expensive ones use AM3 (don't know if it should be AM3 if you're running x4?)


Well, the Phenom 720 is my preference, and apparently is for many others as well. I have to say... its up to you. Those games you're looking at aren't the first ones to recommend quad cores. Many games in the past recommended quads and most of them turned out to only use 2 cores, crysis for example. The only games i am certain of that use 3 cores are far cry 2 and GTA IV, i think flight simulator X uses 4, but that is it, not sure of any other games.

If you are certain that these games will use 4 cores, then by all means; however, it wouldn't make a triple core obsolete. A P2 720 would still outperform any dual core cpu once the game allows more than 2 cores. The key idea as well is the great value, and power consumption. The fact remains that quad cores are still being wasted today, even though people were investing in them 3 years ago to be futureproof, and now they have weak, inefficient quad cores, and still have to upgrade like everyone else, haha.

Regardless, whether you choose a triple or quad, the big deal is the video card, either cpu choice would be great, but i would go with the triple.
April 27, 2009 12:10:06 PM

Cool, thanks for the feedback again all. I think I'll be getting the Phenom II x3 720 setup although I still like to break my head on the issue of going quad. I know it's eventually up to me, but it is a hard choice because I'm guessing that in the upcoming 2 years much more game engines will be optimized for quad. If I'm looking for Phenom II x 4 options, what things should I keep in mind? I'm sure there are drawbacks in some of them compared to the x3? Anyone could recommend me the "best" (if there is such ;) ) alternative if I'd go for a quad setup?

Oh, and before I forget, I got yet another question :D  Assuming I buy the system mentioned by Kevin at the beginning of this thread, would my current 450W PSU suffice (let's assume I'll put 1x video card in it something like a 4770, a 4850 or a 4870)?

EDIT: oh, and should I get a non-stock cooler for overclocking? Should I even overclock the Phenom II x 3 720?
a b 4 Gaming
April 27, 2009 8:36:26 PM

Wattage is not the most important spec for a PSU. A very high quality 450W PSU might power a 4850, but probably not a 4870 unless the rest of the system was very low power.

It's more a matter of available amps on the 12V rail, efficiency, V-droop under load, etc.
April 28, 2009 12:52:17 AM

it will be a long time before most games are threaded fore quad cores and then the cips will have come down in price by a lot

if you do go quad the new am3 ones are the best bet, 945 and 955, but they are significantly more expensive than the 720 (in us $140 vs $240) the main difference being that the 800s have only 4mb of L3 catch and the 900s and 700s have 6mb
(the original Phenoms were partially limited buy the 2mb of catch in them)

and in the end the gpu will always be more important any way so dedicating more of your budget to that will pay off more in the end

fore psu a 4870 would be fine on a 450w (kevin had a 600w listed) but you would be limited from there.
to be safe go in the 500-660w range so that it will last longer
as i said before this one is a good 550w that got the anandtech gold award
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
April 28, 2009 8:05:06 PM

Thanks.

I've cross-referenced input from here and my local "Toms Hardware" kind-off site with euro price considerations and in combining the recommendations here and over there I filtered 2 builds (I'll skip the details on some parts). What it comes down to is 2 types of systems.

Build 1 - Triple core @ 2.8 GHz with ddr3
AMD Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition
600W PSU
Gigabyte GA-MA790XT-UD4P
OCZ 2x2GB PC3-10600
Sapphire HD 4870 1GB GDDR5 PCI-E
Scythe Mugen 2 - SCMG-2000

Build 2 - Quad core @ 3.0 GHz with ddr2
AMD Phenom II X4 940 Black Edition
600W PSU
Gigabyte GA-MA790X-UD4
Corsair 2x2GB PC2-6400
Sapphire HD 4870 1GB GDDR5 PCI-E
Scythe Mugen 2 - SCMG-2000

They're both the same price, which is about 550,- euro without shipping ($715,-). Personally I'm more leaning towards the quad configuration, even if it's ddr2. From what I've read the gaming performance won't be drastically influenced by using ddr2 or ddr3 ram. On top of that I'm planning on playing CPU intensive sandbox games so Quad should do the job for upcoming years. Downside is of course the AM2+ socket on the quad setup which most probably kills any upgrade possibilities. On the other hand, if I can use such a system for 2 to 3 years I can easily build a new one around that time using more advanced technology instead of upgrading on an older mobo.

Since I'm very bad in making a final decision I would like to get some opinions on which system some of you prefer over the other and why. Any argumentation about the choice is very welcome!

Sorry to keep going on, it's simply a very hard choice for me :??: 
April 28, 2009 9:00:28 PM

Both are great. If you prefer the quad setup, i can't blame you. Have some confidence and go with the quad.
a b 4 Gaming
April 28, 2009 9:01:03 PM

Build 1 has a lot of waste built in. You do not need an AM3 board or DDR3 to run the 720, in fact there is zero advantage to it. Now, if you are trying to cover some future upgrade... well, there is no guarantee that AMD will ever make a CPU that actually runs DDR3 faster.

So yes, the DDR2 PII 940 is the better deal of those two.

The BFG LS-550 PSU is a good price here. If you have it there, check into it. It's enough for your 4870 and an overclock, and is a strong PSU.
April 29, 2009 8:22:48 AM

Thanks for the input.

I think I'll go with the quad setup :)  Unfortunately the BFS LS-550 PSU is not available in my country, I could get it from England but that would cost 90,- euro ($116,-) which is too much imo.

Any other recommendations for a PSU? I heard about the Cooler Master Real Power M520 (520W, 80 Plus, Modulair) which is about 65,- euro ($85,-).
a b 4 Gaming
April 29, 2009 8:25:48 PM

Generally Cooler Master and Thermaltake are PSUs I avoid. They actually DO have a few good units, but they have a nasty habit of building units that look the same and have similar names but are actually very different quality.

There has been some good work done lately on budget PSUs.

http://www.anandtech.com/casecoolingpsus/showdoc.aspx?i...

http://www.hardocp.com/article.html?art=MTYwOSwsLGhlbnR...

You can trust both those roundups and I imagine you can find something from those lists.

Here I did find this:
http://www.pc-look.com/boutik/Prod_OCZ_Power-Supply-ATX...
!