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First build - $1500 quad core gaming rig

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June 10, 2009 5:34:55 AM

Canadian Prices

Approx Purchase: Late July/Augst 2009
Budget: $1500 max
System Usage: Gaming, music/movies, Internet browsing
Preferred e-tailers: ShopBot, newegg.ca, Memoryhouse, NCIX, DirectCanada
Parts not req'd: Key+mouse, speakers, display
Part preferences: Corsair RAM/PSU, Intel CPU, WD or Seagate HDDs, Antec cases, No preference for optical drives
Overclocking: Basic graphics card overclocking and possibly CPU OC'ing if cooling is adequate
SLI/Crossfire: SLI and/or Crossfire compatible motherboard. Want room for dual GPU expansion

I've only ever used NVIDIA cards in the past, however I've been reading lots of reviews and benchmarks and am considering ATI as well for the best value and longevity.

Motherboard

Gigabyte EX58-UD4P ATX LGA1366 X58 DDR3 3PCI-E SATA2 Sound GLAN 3-WAY CrossFireX SLI Motherboard
ASUS Rampage II Gene mATX DDR3 X58 2PCI-E16 PCI-E4 PCI GBLAN CrossFire SLI Motherboard
ASUS P6T X58 ATX LGA1366 DDR3 3PCI-E16 PCI-E1 2PCI CrossFire SLI SATA2 GBLAN Motherboard

CPU

Intel Core I7 920 D0 Stepping Quad Core Processor LGA1366 2.66GHZ Bloomfield 8MB LGA1366

Memory

G.SKILL 6GB (3 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Triple Channel Kit Desktop Memory

Graphics Card

SAPPHIRE 100259-1GL Radeon HD 4870 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFire Supported Video Card
SAPPHIRE 100269SR Radeon HD 4890 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFire Supported Video Card
XFX GX260NADBF GeForce GTX 260 Black Edition Core 216 896MB 448-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Supported Video
EVGA 896-P3-1170-AR GeForce GTX 275 896MB 448-bit DDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Supported Video Card

Power Supply

CORSAIR CMPSU-750TX 750W ATX12V / EPS12V SLI Ready CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Compatible with Core i7 Power Supply

Case

Antec Nine Hundred Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case

Hard Drive

Western Digital Caviar Black 640GB 7200RPM 32MB Dual Proc 3.5IN SATA Hard Drive

Optical Drive

LG GH22NS30 Black DVD+RW 22X8X16 DVD-RW 22X6X16 DL 16X/12X 2MB SATA
June 10, 2009 5:55:33 AM

Hi... I see you are leaning towards nviida...but for that price range, you can also look into the ATI 4850 and you can easily get a AMD Quad core with dual 4850s in crossfire for that budget of yours...
June 10, 2009 6:00:40 AM

First off, if you want price/performance, you MUST go ATI/AMD. That's their target consumer. Phenom II X4 955 + 4870x2 + 640GB HD + 6GB G.Skill DDR3 Memory (Heard its good) + ASUS M4A79T Deluxe = about $1000-$1100. Then you have the rest of your budget to buy case/psu/monitor/cables/fans. This is similar to a build an acquaintance of mine has.

Imo, I don't think Core 2 Duo will last any longer for more intensive games. If more titles like GTA IV are coming out, it doesn't stand a chance.

I always recommend ATI to people for graphics. Its better bang for your buck and Nvidia just haven't offer anything to compete yet. The benchmarks on Toms Hardware all say the same thing. Also, there are more crossfire compatible motherboards than SLI compatible motherboards. Some food for thought.
Related resources
June 10, 2009 6:03:21 AM

With all the benchmarks out lately, I've been having trouble deciding which routes to take with my processor and graphics card. It's between GeForce GTS250's/GTX260's and Radeon HD 4850's, which are virtually neck-and-neck and have VERY similar price-points.
EDIT: Sorry, nvidia ARE definitely the most expensive between the two...But like I've mentioned, it's just getting over my 'fear' or lack of experience with ATI that's making me consider between the two.
On the CPU side, I also see Core 2 Quad's and Phenoms pretty close in performance, although the C2Q are a little pricey versus Phenom II X4's...

It seems I'll have to continue my research...I know a lot of people have gone the AMD/ATI route for budget and price/performance ratios.
Still nervous to take the plunge into ATI, since I've been using GeForce's since I've been using a computer.

EDITEDIT: From what I've read, G.Skill is a quality brand for memory. I won't be wanting high-end DDR3, my memory needs aren't too intensive. Between Corsair and G.Skill, I will be getting good quality memory.

PS: Thanks gkay09, Armi and helloworld_98 for your advice so far. It's definitely made me re-consider my GeForce affliction and continue researching before I make any final decisions. I have a month and a half to wait anyways. *shrug*
June 10, 2009 6:07:08 AM

for the gfx card, get one of the ASUS glaciator 4850's, I've got mine upto 800/1049mhz and no problems so far. But you could probably go higher, it's just that CCC limits you to overclocking only to 800mhz.
June 10, 2009 6:09:52 AM

Helloworld_98 said:
for the gfx card, get one of the ASUS glaciator 4850's, I've got mine upto 800/1049mhz and no problems so far. But you could probably go higher, it's just that CCC limits you to overclocking only to 800mhz.

I like the idea of using ATI software to overclock with...It's somewhat annoying dealing with third-party apps like RivaTuner to tweak my card. And to my knowledge, ATI has some tools with CCC to test your OC settings for stability? (an artifacting test, if I'm not mistaken?)

Your 4850, is it stock cooled by any chance?
June 10, 2009 6:11:02 AM

^ nope, it uses the glaciator cooling which ASUS 4850's come with.
June 10, 2009 6:12:03 AM
June 10, 2009 6:17:23 AM

But if you dont want to hit the higher limit of the budget and still want to get nearly the same performance, then AMD/ ATI is the way to go...
If you stick with AMD, you can get HD 4890 crossfire into that budget...
But the main thing is @ what resolution do you play ? You would be needing that much graphics power only for 2560X1600 resolution...
June 10, 2009 6:19:35 AM

Wow, that EVGA board seems to be surprising lower priced...I was originally looking at an Asus P6T (the original board) but even that mobo was still in the $300's.
Obvioulsy, I'd be going with a Core i7 920. Every other i7 CPU seems like a complete waste of money.
The OCZ DDR3-1600 seems like a decent value and like I said, I'm SO not picky with high-speed memory...It really doesn't seem worth it. I wouldn't even care if I stuck these DIMMs in and only got 1066MHz speed (I've seen that I'd have to tweak voltages at speeds higher than 1333MHz with most motherboards. Not something I'm particularly interested in)

I'd be gaming at 1680x1050 almost exclusively. I may be upgrading to a WUXGA monitor later this year if I can afford it, but nothing over 1920x1200 even if that were the case. Anti-aliasing and aniso would be a nice commodity but it's in no way required for my gaming needs. In my opinion, at those res, I would barely need AA anyways...

Everything will depend on how much money I can throw around by the end of the summer...Damn college, sucking me dry atm :p 
June 10, 2009 6:25:36 AM

^ Then stick with a single graphics card for now and later add one more when you upgrade your monitor...
June 10, 2009 6:26:37 AM

gkay09 said:
^ Then stick with a single graphics card for now and later add one more when you upgrade your monitor...

I'm thinking that would be the smartest route.
A single 4850 would probably suffice at high(er) settings for the games I'm playing right now.

Company of Heroes, Far Cry 2, Mirror's Edge, Call of Duty 4, UT3 and F.E.A.R. are what I play nowadays.
I hate gaming at 1024x640 with medium/lower settings.
June 10, 2009 6:33:06 AM

Oh, and one thing that also confuses me...AMD Sockets.
AM2 is the older Athlon 64 socket, correct?
What is the big difference between AM2+ and AM3?
Will a Phenom II X4 work on AM2+ or only AM3?

I find Intel Sockets less confusing, but that's just me.
Not enough research I guess.
June 10, 2009 6:35:14 AM

It is because the demand for the higher speeds are high and hence more production - standardised price...

I had not included any aftermarket CPU cooler...Get one if you want to overclock the CPU...
June 10, 2009 6:39:31 AM

gkay09 said:

I had not included any aftermarket CPU cooler...Get one if you want to overclock the CPU...

I'm pretty certain I'd be getting a Zalman CPU cooler. It seems if I go AMD, I'd be saving some cash over an i7 build because there's more CPU coolers by Zalman supported for AMx sockets and LGA775...
As far as I know, the only compatible Zalman cooler for LGA 1366 is CNPS9900 which is $99.99...Not bad if I had a larger budget.

As for my GPU, I'm pretty confident in a Radeon 4870.

SAPPHIRE 100259L Radeon HD 4870 512MB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFire Supported Video Card
http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E1681...

Minus the 512MB memory difference, this is what I will be paying for a GTS 250 if I go the nvidia route...I'm starting to see a pattern here, with what you were saying about AMD/ATI price/perf vs Nvida price/perf. Also, I've noticed in a LOT of benchmarks, the 4870's are almost always at the top.
June 10, 2009 6:49:53 AM

No Zalman...they are not the best any more...
Get this...it is one of the best of its price...check its reviews...
http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E1682...

And as for the graphics card, get the 1GB version of the 4870...the difference is not that much and they help in improving the FPS...
You can also look into 2x 4850s...you can get them for about $95 to $100 each and 2 of them in xfire are unbeatable for that price...
June 10, 2009 6:50:46 AM

gkay09 said:
No Zalman...they are not the best any more...
Get this...it is one of the best of its price...check its reviews...
http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E1682...

And as for the graphics card, get the 1GB version of the 4870...the difference is not that much and they help in improving the FPS...
You can also look into 2x 4850s...you can get them for about $95 to $100 each and 2 of them in xfire are unbeatable for that price...

I'm not experienced in CPU OC'ing so an aftermarket cooler would be an after thought, really.
I think I will try it once I get my base system set up, if I want a little extra juice. Btw, that's linking to an Asus monitor :p .

I would think that a 1GB 4870 would be a better investment at the moment...It's basically the same price (a tad cheaper I think) as dual 4850's. I can always add another later for more performance. Like I said, I don't need 8xAA/16xAN in any game :p 

I'll be picking up an Asus 21.5" HDMI LCD this Fall/Winter depending on finances.

ASUS VH222H Black 21.5" 5ms HDMI Widescreen LCD
http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E1682...
June 10, 2009 7:40:06 AM

A lot of people are saying now that LGA775 is basically finished and done with.
To quote someone on another forum, Intel released their last LGA775 processors 2 months ago so LGA775 is a "a dead socket".

For longevity, I think it's between to AMD Phenom or Core i7 with a Sapphire 4870 1GB.

Two systems considering:

ASUS M4A79T Deluxe AM3 DDR3
AMD Phenom II X4 940 Deneb 3.0GHz Socket AM2+
Antec Nine Hundred Mid-tower
Corsair CMPSU-750TX 750W ATX (Non-modular)

vs

MSI MB X58M microATX
*newegg's still sold out of the X58M's...$189.99 was their price, its a little over $200 elsewhere like this link
Intel Core i7 920 Nehalem 2.66GHz
Antec Mini P180 Black Steel MicroATX Mini Tower
Corsair CMPSU-620HX 620W Modular

Both systems will use:

Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 1GB GDDR5
G.Skill 6GB (3x2GB) DDR3-1600

Total Cost shipped (AMD): $1,201.92
Total Cost shipped (i7): $1,368.63

There's literally a $150 difference between the two (Intel platform's more expensive...It's actually the P180 Mini and modular Corsair power supply that make it more expensive. I need the modularity for a mATX system, I believe.
June 10, 2009 7:59:32 AM

http://ncix.com/products/index.php?sku=35757&vpn=GA-EX5... $282.21 CAD After Mail In Rebate: $262.21 CAD
Gigabyte EX58-UD4P ATX LGA1366 X58 DDR3 3PCI-E SATA2 Sound GLAN 3-WAY CrossFireX SLI Motherboard

http://ncix.com/products/index.php?sku=39291&vpn=141-BL... $269.99 CAD
EVGA X58 SLI LE ATX LGA1366 DDR3 4PCIE-16 PCI-E1 1PCI SATA2 Sound Dual GBLAN 1394 Motherboard

http://ncix.com/products/index.php?sku=35710&vpn=OCZ3G1... $112.99 CAD
OCZ Gold OCZ3G1600LV6GK 6GB DDR3 3X2GB DDR3-1600 PC3-12800 CL 8-8-8-24 Triple Channel Memory Kit

http://ncix.com/products/index.php?sku=36168&vpn=F3-128... $119.99 CAD
G.SKILL F3-12800CL8T-6GBPI PC3-12800 6GB 3X2GB DDR3-1600 CL8-8-8-21 240PIN Triple Channel Memory Kit
June 10, 2009 8:06:55 AM

Wow!@EVGA SLI board...Seriously, I don't think I would need that many PCI-e slots for a LONG time...if ever.
Good price though, considering. Quad SLI is still fairly unsupported, if I'm not mistaken?
And the Gigabyte board is even 3-way SLI.
If I go with any X58 board, I think I'll only want dual PCI-e, to be honest...Although most LGA1366 boards are close to $300 either way. The original Asus P6T still goes for close to or over $300...with only 2 PCI-e slots.
[/ramble]
EDIT: Hmm, didn't even realized the Asus M4A79T has 4 PCI-e slots.
June 10, 2009 8:23:21 AM

The ASUS M4A79T mobo uses dual channel DDR3. So you would need a 2x2GB or 4x2G kit.
June 10, 2009 5:55:15 PM

Common components:

From newegg:

Antec 900
Corsair 750W
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 1GB

Memoryhouse:

LG GH22NS30 Black DVD+RW 22X8X16 DVD-RW 22X6X16 DL 16X/12X 2MB SATA OEM
Western Digital Caviar Black 640GB 7200RPM 32MB Dual Proc 3.5IN SATA Hard Drive

$123.35 memoryhouse shipped.

AMD

GIGABYTE GA-MA790XT-UD4P AM3 DDR3 AMD 790X ATX AMD Motherboard
AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition Deneb 3.2GHz Socket AM3 125W Quad-Core Processor
CORSAIR XMS3 DHX 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600

vs

Intel

GIGABYTE GA-EX58-UD3R LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX Intel Motherboard
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\

Total @ newegg shipped (AMD): $1,218.28
Total @ newegg shipped (Intel): $1,301.49

Total (AMD): $1341.63
Total (Intel): $1424.84

I think all the configurations are compatible.
The Intel Gigabyte board only has 2 PCI-e slots, which is fine for me.
I put Corsair DDR3-1600 with the AMD build, I couldn't find G.skill DDR3-1600 in 4GB kit.
June 10, 2009 6:07:47 PM

In THG's latest $1,300 SBM article, they said that the difference between an AMD 955 and a core i7 920 build is around $80, and they chose the i7 because it was not just a gaming rig and is faster at many desktop and productivity apps. It looks like you have found the same thing.

I would personally choose the i7 920 build, because I use my PC for more than gaming, and the X58 mobos support SLI and Crossfire, whereas the AM3 mobos only support Crossfire.
June 10, 2009 6:15:24 PM

If you want to wait until the beginning of September, thats when "core i5" comes out and it will be $198 US, which rounds to about $220 CAD. The mobo's will be about ~$200 and by then nVidia's 300 series should be out, so you can also get a higher end graphics card, and spend less on ram.
June 10, 2009 6:28:48 PM

@DXrick
I'd have to agree with you, I like having the flexibility to go either ATI Crossfire or Nvidia SLI with the X58. I just skimmed the $1300 SBM article and you're right, it's pretty close to the i7 configuration I'm considering. I wouldn't need SLI GTX 260's though, not initially at least.

not moose said:
If you want to wait until the beginning of September, thats when "core i5" comes out and it will be $198 US, which rounds to about $220 CAD. The mobo's will be about ~$200 and by then nVidia's 300 series should be out, so you can also get a higher end graphics card, and spend less on ram.

Isn't the Lynnfield processors using a completely different socket? Socket 1156 or something?
From what I've read, there won't be as much emphasis on that socket as opposed to LGA1366.
That's just what I've heard though, we'll have to wait and see once it's actually released.
June 10, 2009 7:03:40 PM

lynnfield uses 1156 but for the processor that not moose was talking about, you will lose 4 threads, hence the lower price.
June 11, 2009 4:35:11 AM

I think I'm going to stick with a Core i7 X58 LGA1366 build, at least for the time being.
It seems a better value, with a slight edge over the Phenom II quads and from the looks of things, Core i5/Lynnfield just seems to be a bastardized version of the Core i7's.
I'm still incredibly conflicted between graphics cards and motherboards.

For the motherboards, I've been looking at:

Intel BOXDX58SO LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX Intel Motherboard - $319.99
MSI X58 Pro-E LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX Intel Motherboard - $209.99
GIGABYTE GA-EX58-UD3R LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX Intel Motherboard - $229.99

I would like two PCI-e x16 2.0 slots so I can add another video card later on.
I don't, however, require or care for more than two PCI-e x16 2.0 slots.
SLI and/or Crossfire support would be nice, these boards seem to have that but it depends on the video card I'll be using.
Was also considering the newer MSI X58M MicroATX. It's sold out at more of the better known e-tailers.

The graphics are a whole other issue. I want something that will last me the next year or so. Preferably a card I can get a duplicate of and SLI/Crossfire further down the road. I'm conflicted between a number of cards. To start on the ATI side of things, I'm looking at the 4850, 4870 and the newer 4890 and all the increased-memory variants. Sapphire alone offers the 4870 in 512MB, 1GB and 2GB (Vapor-X, or something like that) and it's hard to determine what's the best value.

I'm keeping Nvidia in the back of my mind, seeing as they're not as good of a bargain as ATI cards at the moment. I'm looking at (from lowest to highest performance-wise) a EVGA 9800 GT (SLI later, but it's a pretty dated card), XFX 9800GTX+ 512MB, XFX GTS 250 1GB (rebranded 9800GTX+), or an XFX GTX 260 Core 216 896MB. All are within the $140 - 225 price range, which is kind of nice. Like I've mentioned before, I've only ever used nvidia cards so I'm comfortable with all these cards. It's just the value I'm not too sure about, they don't seem like they're going to be around much longer, with the exception of the GTx series cards (even then...).

I don't want to spend more than $250 on a single card.
June 11, 2009 5:35:16 AM

Since you want to game at 1680x1050 - 1920x1080, get the 4870 from ATI. Well worth it and if you really need the extra boost of power, you can just get the second card. Remember, get the 1GB version, its heaps and bounds better than the 512mb version.
June 11, 2009 6:07:21 AM

if you can afford it, get the 4890 since dual 4890's beat a GTX 295 which dual 4870's cannot do.
June 11, 2009 5:00:42 PM

Helloworld_98 said:
if you can afford it, get the 4890 since dual 4890's beat a GTX 295 which dual 4870's cannot do.

Source: http://www.overclockersclub.com/reviews/crossfire_vs_sl...
It seems that SLI GTX 260's match 4890's Crossfire'd.
2x GTX 260's are about $100 cheaper than two 4890's.
I'm still considering a single 4890, probably overkill for what I want for gaming at the moment.
I can get another in Crossfire in the future.

A fully overclocked 4890 has more of an edge over a fully OC'ed GTX 275.
Source: http://www.anandtech.com/video/showdoc.aspx?i=3575&p=7

Depending on how pricing is a few months from now, I may get either a 4870 1GB, 4890, GTX 260 or GTX 275.
If I spend the extra cash for a 4890 or GTX 275, I can just use a single card for the next while and add another later on.
With the 4870 and GTX 260 though, I may need to upgrade sooner with the newer games that will be coming out over the next couple of years.
Why_Me said:
D0 stepping

http://ncix.com/products/index.php?sku=38881&vpn=BX8060... $347.64 CAD
Intel Core I7 920 D0 Stepping Quad Core Processor LGA1366 2.66GHZ Bloomfield 8MB LGA1366 -SLBEJ-

http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/forum/page-261066_10_0.ht...

gkay09 said:
Other better mobo options...
Gigabyte EX58-UD4P
ASUS Rampage II GENE LGA 1366

gkay09 said:
And as for the graphics cards -
EVGA 896-P3-1170-AR GeForce GTX 275

Updated my original post to reflect these recommendations. Thanks to every one who has replied.
June 12, 2009 5:17:15 AM

I was a little weary about the older Core 192 versions of that card.
Although, from the little I've read about it, there doesn't seem to be much difference between the 192 and 216 versions.

...Does it really matter? $165 is a steal compared to the $220+ for the Core 216's...
June 12, 2009 6:03:52 AM

The Core 216 is better than the core 192 version...Stick with the Core 2116...and the BFG I had linked is a core 216 as given in the spec sheet...But confirm the same...
August 29, 2009 3:06:34 AM

This may be a bit late to say, and I am hoping you haven't already made your orders, but I have the sapphire vapor-x hd radeon 4870, and the asus 21.5" vh222h at 1920x1080 res. These two products have an incompatibility issue. The monitor itself has DVI, VGA, and HDMI options, the issue lies with the DVI. On the monitor is a DVI-D dual link connector. On the vid card, you have a DVI-I dual connector. Then, and here is the real palm-smacker, the DVI cable that the monitor came with is a DVI single link. Right now I am working on finding a Dvi-D to DVI-I adapter, but to be honest its not looking to good and I might have to order a new card. I will update once I know whether one of these adapters is available and for how much.
!