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~$700 Maximum Performance/Price Gaming System

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June 6, 2009 10:13:09 AM

I'd like to build a computer which hits the "sweet spot" of the hardware market and gets maximum performance for the dollar. I'd also like it to be as "futureproof/upgradeable" as possible, so that, as it starts to fall behind, a few upgrades might extend its lifetime. I'd also like to aim for a price range somewhere near $700, but this is not firm.

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APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: within a month or two

BUDGET RANGE: $500-$850, emphasis on price/performance and upgradeability

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: gaming, video editing, Matlab, Solidworks

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: monitor, keyboard, 5.1 speakers

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: www.newegg.com, will take suggestions

PARTS PREFERENCES: None, other than aforementionred emphasis on price/performance

OVERCLOCKING: Maybe SLI OR CROSSFIRE: Probably Crossfire, again, willing to follow advice

MONITOR RESOLUTION: currently 1280x1024, would like to be able to run on a 22-24" monitor with decent resolution

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: would like the build to be quiet, upgradeable (if possible), and to maximize performance/price

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This is an initial configuration I put together. Nothing is set in stone.


Hard Drive: $74.99
Western Digital Caviar Black WD6401AALS 640GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

GPU: $183.99 - $20 MIR
HIS Hightech H487QT1GP Radeon HD 4870 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFire Supported IceQ 4+ Turbo ... - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Memory: $97.99
GeIL Black Dragon 8GB (4 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 667 (PC2 5300) Quad Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model GB28GB5300C5QC - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Case: $54.95
Antec Three Hundred Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Motherboard: $109.99
GIGABYTE GA-MA790X-UD4P AM3/AM2+/AM2 AMD 790X ATX AMD Motherboard - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

PSU: $99.99 - $10 MIR
CORSAIR CMPSU-650TX 650W ATX12V / EPS12V SLI Ready CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Compatible with Core i7 ... - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

CPU: $139
AMD Phenom II X3 720 2.8GHz Socket AM3 95W Triple-Core Black Processor Model HDZ720WFGIBOX - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Mouse: $8.25
Logitech SBF-96 Black 3 Buttons 1 x Wheel USB Wired Optical Mouse - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

DVD/CD Player/Burner: $27.99
Sony Optiarc 24X DVD/CD Rewritable Drive Black SATA Model AD-7240S-0B - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Total: $797.14 - $30 MIR



Specific questions:

Should I go for a better motherboard that supports DDR3 Memory? Will there be much performance difference in DDR2 and DDR3 memory?

Should I try to reconfigure for an Intel chip like the i7?

Where is the bottleneck on the system I've put together? How can it best be addressed?

Where is the system over-performing and what would be the recommended solution?

What could be done to improve upgradeability?

What could be done to improve the performance/price ratio?


June 6, 2009 10:30:40 AM

go for 4GB of 1066mhz+ ram instead because amd processors really benefit from the extra speed.
June 6, 2009 11:08:39 AM

Raidmax case $35 - 10 rebate = 25 free shipping
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

OCZ Memory 3x2 GB DDR3 1600 7-7-7-24 $100 - 20 rebate = 80 free shipping
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

ASUS 1366 P6T se $210 - 15 rebate = 195 free shipping
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

eVGA GTX 275 $240 - 20 rebate = 220 free shipping
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

w/850 watt power supply Seventeam 80plus bronze combo deal for $95 more
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

HP DVD/CD burner, ide but with lightscribe and free shipping $25
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

i/o gear keyboard/mouse combo $20 free shipping

i7 920 quad core $229 plus shipping = ~240
http://www.microcenter.com/single_product_results.phtml...

oh yeah, a hard drive. the 640 GB WD black is $65 free shipping this week.

That's about $965 after $65 in rebates, a bit high.

You could save $130 if you got a 4850 512 MB which are reaching as low as $90 after rebate, or save $60 with a recertified GTX 260 (216 core, not 192 core) for $160 after shipping.

You could also save $60 on an open box motherboard.

And reusing a case/keyboard/mouse would save $45.

So with the 4850 that's $730!
Related resources
June 6, 2009 11:49:34 AM

If you have any plans for crossfire in the future (4870) grab yourself a 750TX instead of the 650. Going AM3 will have more ability to upgrade, but cost more. The Antec 300 should house your hardware well but you will have to buy some extra fans because it only comes with two.

AM3.

Antec 300 - $54.95
Corsair 750TX - $119.99
AMD Phenom II X3 720 - $139.00
OCZ Reaper HPC 4GB DDR3 1600 - $73.99
GIGABYTE GA-MA790XT-UD4P - $139.99
SAPPHIRE 4870 1GB - $199.99
Western Digital Caviar Black 750GB
SAMSUNG Black 22X DVD+R - $26.99

Total cost: $834.89 | After Rebates: $774.89

AM2.

Antec 300 - $54.95
Corsair 750TX - $119.99
AMD Phenom II X3 720 - $139.00
G.SKILL 4GB DDR2 1066 - $54.99
GIGABYTE GA-MA790X-UD4P - $109.99
SAPPHIRE 4870 1GB - $199.99
Western Digital Caviar Black 750GB
SAMSUNG Black 22X DVD+R - $26.99

Total cost: $785.89 | After rebates: $760.89

The AM3 only costs $14 more than the AM2 when rebates are applied, I would go for the AM3 and buy now. I went ahead and put the WDCB 750gb because its only $5 more than the 640gb. A heatsink wasn't included because I don't know if you're overclocking or not, if you are overclocking just tag on a XIGMATEK HDT-S1283 and some thermal compound.
June 6, 2009 12:39:45 PM

If you're spending more than $175 on a VGA card get the 275 (check though depends which games you play, 4890 1 gb is good too, 275 is the best deal from 175 to 320, when 2x 260 is possible), from 140 to 170 get the 4870 512 little less or gtx 260 little more (again, depends on games you play) and less than that get the 4850 512.

I rec. the 850 watter as a 750 will be marginal for xfire/sli, you need 550 or 850, not in between.
June 6, 2009 1:08:35 PM

^ actually the 4890 is the best deal, it's $20 less than the 275 and performs about the same or completely owns it.

750w is enough for either in a dual card setup.
June 6, 2009 2:08:42 PM

Well, the benchmarks I've seen shows they're pretty even, that it depends on the games. Specifically I'd refer you to the benchmarks done in TH's review.

Where have you seen benchmarks that show the 275 is slower?

June 6, 2009 2:17:34 PM

I did say a 750 watt would work, simply that it'd be marginal. He wants room to grow this. Why skimp on power of all things?

And 750 won't work with 2x275/4890 depending on how many peripherals you add.

And it won't be enough he you got a 280 GTX for $219 recertified at NewEgg and wants to add a second later.

And it won't be enough in 3 years as it ages and loses a little power. It will start to fail and then he'll need a new one when if he bought an 850 to start ...
June 6, 2009 2:23:31 PM

+1 for not moose's builds
June 6, 2009 3:10:18 PM

i see u do engineering (Matlab/Solidworks) :p  and i like how you listed ur most to least important options with ur engineering stuff last :D 

tbh, i wud've done the same.

but i dont think u have to worry about those packages. if u can run any recent game at all, i'm sure the PC will handle any CAD or design apps superbly.
June 6, 2009 8:06:29 PM

Thanks for the great advice guys.

Does anyone have comments on what I'm gaining/losing between inmytaxi's i7 build and "not moose"s AM3 build? Unfortunately I'm getting 404s when I try to follow a lot of Rudy's links.

Any reason everyone is dropping to 4 GB of RAM instead of 6 or 8? Will 6 or 8 be overkill at this point?

I think I'll follow the advice of getting an 850 W PSU if you guys think that upgrades may require that much power eventually.
June 6, 2009 8:32:41 PM

Six GB is what comes with i7 builds, it's triple channel. You get more benefit out of the extra channel than the 2 GB, but it might come in handy depending on the size of your photo files.

The i7 costs more, and the video card won't do as much as a more expensive one. But you can add a second 4850 when you have an extra $100 dollars to catch up to the 4890, and pass it!

I think a 850 watt ps will outlast the system. With the i7 you won't need to upgrade anything except video card for 3 or 4 years, and then only the CPU. Perhaps the memory.

Of course, by then you'll be well employed, not driving a taxi, so you won't care about money.

Of course, the AM3 system should last at least two years too, it just won't perform quite as well as the i7 with the upgraded video card.

To compare them directly is impossible, depends on the games you play. I overclocked my e8400 from 3 to 4.55 and my framerates went up from 40 to 55 on GTA IV at 1920 x 1200, High to Very High settings, with a mere 260 GTX card. That's as fast as GTA goes (maxes at 60). Games like Crysis also like CPU power.
June 6, 2009 8:36:27 PM

Mine is
cpu- amd 955
mobo- gigabyte GA-MA770T (ddr3)
Ram- G Skill 4gb DDR3 1333
HD- WD 640 gb 32mb cache
Video card- Sapphire 4890
Case- Antec 300
June 6, 2009 9:12:32 PM

walkerds said:
Thanks for the great advice guys.

Does anyone have comments on what I'm gaining/losing between inmytaxi's i7 build and "not moose"s AM3 build? Unfortunately I'm getting 404s when I try to follow a lot of Rudy's links.

Any reason everyone is dropping to 4 GB of RAM instead of 6 or 8? Will 6 or 8 be overkill at this point?

I think I'll follow the advice of getting an 850 W PSU if you guys think that upgrades may require that much power eventually.


In terms gaming you will be losing little performance, as for the other things I doubt that either. If you feel that the x3 720 is too slow you can always upgrade to an x4 assuming you go AM3. A 750TX will comfortably run two 4870s and even two 4890s, 850w is way overkill.

inmytaxi's build has a P6T SE, that only allows crossfire and won't allow you to upgrade to a second graphics card if you want one (assuming you go with his GTX 275 choice). The raidmax case also only comes with one fan and has a maximum of 3.

If you want an i7 but want to stay in budget, wait a while for core i5 to come out, its $198 US and the boards will be around $200.
June 6, 2009 9:22:08 PM

Moose, I don't see the logic of paying $25 more for 100 watts less power. How does that make sense?
June 6, 2009 9:37:17 PM

FWIW, My build is this:

OCZ Stealthxstream $25 after rebate
intel e8400 $135 at microcenter running at 4.55 GHz
OCZ 2x2 GB DDR2 1200 6-6-6-18 $70 after 10 rebate
GTX 260 $170
Lite ON DVD/CDRW $25
2x WD Black 640 GB $140
Gigabyte GA UD3LR $95 after 20 rebate
Saitek KB $20
Logitech mouse $40
Nzxt Tempest Case $80 on sale
tt big water 735 $50

$850 inc. $140 on case/keyboard/mouse

I got stupid on the case and kb/mouse.

June 6, 2009 9:38:50 PM

Its not all about the watts. Take a look at the specifications, the main difference between the two is the 750TX has a single 12v rail, where the 850ZAF has two. ;) 

CORSAIR CMPSU-750TX
Seventeam ST-850ZAF
June 6, 2009 9:50:50 PM

yeah, but the 7t is 2.5 % more efficient.
June 7, 2009 10:32:40 AM

Thanks everyone!

So, after reading the posts and doing some further research, I think I've narrowed things down a little. It looks like the Phenom II X4 995 compares fairly well with the i7 920 in most games, and in turn it looks like I don't lose too much performance dropping from a 995 to the X3 720. Since the X3 720 is the sweet spot in the market right now, I'll stick with it. I'll also try to get an AM3 motherboard so I can upgrade the chip later if needed.

I'm also still leaning towards a 1 GB 4870 card. I think I will get good performance out of the box with it, and still have the option to add a second one later.

Finally, stuck with the 640 GB hard drive after reading some reviews stating that the 750 GB was slightly slower.

So the current configuration is:

Sony Optiarc 24X DVD/CD Rewritable Drive Black SATA Model $27.99
Antec Three Hundred Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case $54.95
Western Digital Caviar Black WD6401AALS 640GB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s $74.99
GIGABYTE GA-MA790XT-UD4P AM3 DDR3 AMD 790X ATX AMD Motherboard $139.99 - $15 MIR
SAPPHIRE 100259-1GL Radeon HD 4870 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 $199.99 - $15 MIR
CORSAIR CMPSU-750TX 750W ATX12V / EPS12V SLI Ready CrossFire Ready $119.99 - $10 MIR
AMD Phenom II X3 720 2.8GHz Socket AM3 95W Triple-Core Black Processor $139
OCZ Reaper HPC 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) $73.99

Total: $839 - $60 MIR

I would rather go down on the price instead of up, so if anyone can make arguments as to why I might want to downgrade some of these components, I would definitely listen.

Finally, I have a few alternate components I'm considering, and I'd like to know if you guys would recommend these over what I've currently got in the build.

MSI 790FX-GD70 AM3 AMD 790FX ATX AMD Motherboard $169.99
The reason for considering this motherboard is that it supports 2 cards in crossfire at 16x, instead of two cards at 8x. I read that the 4870 is at a level where the additional bandwidth will actually improve performance in crossfire, so if I do add a second card later, this will give me some extra performance. I'm also worried about the 790X in my current build because of some reviews stating that the slots were too close to use two graphics cards.

HIS Hightech H487QT1GP Radeon HD 4870 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 $164 - $20 MIR
This one is SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper than the Sapphire card. I currently have the Sapphire in the build because the reviews are all very good and stress that the card is QUIET, which is of value to me.



So specifically:

1. What do you think of the current build? Is there anywhere I can save money? Is there anywhere I can improve upgradeability?
2. Do you think that the 790X motherboard will work well for crossfire with the Radeon 4870? ie will two 4870's physically fit with enough room to stay cool? And will the resulting 8x bandwidth reduce my performance gains much?
3. Should I buy a cheaper version of the Radeon 4870?
June 7, 2009 10:58:40 AM

Dunno.

Until the end of today, New Egg has the 4850 1 gb on sale for 105, that'd save you 70 bucks and when have enough for a second, two of those in crossfire would easily beat any single GPU card on the market.
June 7, 2009 12:13:52 PM

The Sapphire 4870 probably runs cooler than the HIS 4870. I haven't heard about that site before but you could give it a shot, It has a great price too. I would keep the Gigabyte board because honestly you won't see much of a difference when you crossfire the two 4870s. No comment on the MSI board.

Good luck on your build.
June 7, 2009 2:43:18 PM

Good solid build, in your original post you said it may be a month or 2 before you order. Prices always change, new deals come out etc. keep your eye on prices and keep your eyes open for the new Intel i5/P55 which may be coming out around your purchase timeline. Also if ATI has better luck with their 40nm GPUs(HD4770) or above, you may not need as large of a PSU for crossfire.

here's a very early (using engineering samples) of i5/P55 review.
http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/showdoc.aspx?i=357...
June 7, 2009 9:37:08 PM

Hello again guys.

I'm feeling pretty confident in the configuration now, and I'm just searching around for the cheapest sources for the components. I think I'll buy now as opposed to waiting until September when it looks like the i5 will become a serious contender for a low budget computer.

I do have a few more questions, being that this is the first time I've built a computer.

1. For the OEM hard drive and DVD/CD drive that I've included, what cables should I buy in order to make sure I've got everything to set them up?
2. Are there any tips you guys have for getting this system up and running? Anything overly complicated involved in getting it to boot up the first time? I plan on running Windows 7 for now.

Thanks!
June 7, 2009 11:11:48 PM

So the current configuration is:

------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Newegg:
Sony Optiarc 24X DVD/CD Rewritable Drive Black SATA Model $27.99
Antec Three Hundred Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case $54.95
Western Digital Caviar Black WD6401AALS 640GB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s $74.99
Logitech SBF-96 Black 3 Buttons 1 x Wheel USB Wired Optical Mouse $8.25
Combo Deal: AMD Phenom II X3 720 and OCZ Reaper HPC 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3 1600 $207.99 - $20 MIR
CA Tax: $30.87
Shipping: $23.04

1% Cashback via FatWallet: -$3.74

Mwave:
GIGABYTE GA-MA790XT-UD4P AM3 DDR3 AMD 790X ATX AMD Motherboard $118.99
SAPPHIRE 100259-1GL Radeon HD 4870 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 $174.99
CA Tax: $27.19
Shipping: $7.63
$10 off $100 purchases coupon on site: -$10.00

2% Cashback via FatWallet: -$3.30

Tiger Direct:
CORSAIR CMPSU-750TX 750W ATX12V / EPS12V SLI Ready CrossFire Ready $114.99
CA Tax: $0
Shipping: $1.99

4% Cashback via FatWallet: -$4.60


Total: $863.86 Shipped - $20.00 MIR - $11.64 Cashback= $843.86 - $11.46 Cashback
------------------------------------------------------------------------------


For comparison, if all components were bought directly from Newegg, the price would be:
$928.52 Shipped - $60.00 MIR - $8.34 Cashback = $868.52 - $8.34 Cashback

So, buying from different sites only saves you about $25 when rebates are considered, but you don't have to apply and wait for nearly as many rebates. Since I hate rebates, I think I'll spread the purchase around. Also, if you use Fatwallet to get cash back on these types of purchases, you'll get slightly more from the other sites.

I'm still scouring for any other ways to knock the price down or find a higher-end component on sale.
June 8, 2009 12:22:32 AM

Your motherboard will include the cables that you need, the Gigabyte 790X includes 4 SATA cables and the cables for a rear IO E-SATA. You're fine.
!