Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in
Your question

My 10 Year Old's Gaming PC - Input Requested on Specs

Last response: in Systems
Share
July 18, 2009 4:47:49 AM

Hi everyone -

I am hoping to get some feedback regarding a PC my 10 year old son wants to build.

The criteria are as follows:
- Around $500 budget
- Light gaming for now, but designed to accommodate heavier gaming as he gets older
- Some video editing on it in the future
- He may want to overclock in the future
- Windows 7 64 bit is the likely OS, once it is released (Win 7 RC for now is what we are thinking, or XP)

Here are the specs he has laid out. I really don't know enough to say whether these will all work together well, although I have read enough to see that skimping on the power supply might not be wise. Also, the idea is to add a graphics card and a larger 2nd Hard Drive later as prices come down and his savings go back up.

1) NZXT Apollo Black SECC Steel Chassis ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - Retail ($69.99)

2) Western Digital Caviar RE WD2500YS 250GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Hard Drive - OEM ($39.99)

3) ASUS M4A78T-E AM3 AMD 790GX HDMI ATX AMD Motherboard - Retail ($124.99 w/ rebate)

4) Linkworld LPJ2-23-P4 430W ATX12V Power Supply - Retail ($12.99 w/ rebate)

5) OCZ Vista Upgrade 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model OCZ2VU8004GK - Retail ($44.99)

6) AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition Deneb 3.2GHz Socket AM3 125W Quad-Core Processor Model HDZ955FBGIBOX - Retail ($215.00)

Are we missing anything? Do you think this will all work together? Suggestions?

Thanks much!

a b 4 Gaming
July 18, 2009 5:01:38 AM

HELL NO on the PSU, i didnt even know you could buy that many capacitors for $13,
The caviar RE drives are really meant for RAID setups, stick with a caviar black.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
A bit more expensive but double the storage and better performance for his needs.

Thats a DDR3 board so you need DDR3 memory
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Not the cheapest or the fastest but as the budget is tight they should suffice just fine

Combo deals are awesome what more is there to say?
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

Nice case PSU combo, dont get a PSU from a brand other than Antec, corsair, seasonic, PC Power and Cooling, or OCZ unless you want the 4th of july in your house.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

Comes out to $525 before $15 MIR so only 10 over budget, everything is compatible and will work, but on a budget like that personally i would go for a triple core and a real graphics card.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

It will give much better gaming performance for the same price.
July 18, 2009 5:31:35 AM

Thanks much Hunter for the info. He likes the Apollo case (with the glowing blue lights). Any issues you can see in using that case? We'll definitely upgrade the PSU as you recommend.
Related resources
a b 4 Gaming
July 18, 2009 5:38:24 AM

Cases are personal preference, it appears to be plenty large, by the time he decides to start overclocking though he is going to want to look for one with more air flow, but by that time you can make him buy his own.

I assume you have an optical drive to throw into it correct? If not get one of the DVD RW drives off of newegg, make sure its a sata one as the IDE cable that comes with the asus boards is pretty short. They all run about the same price so just get the cheapest one in stock if you need one.
July 18, 2009 4:46:19 PM

you can get the X3 720 to save a little on the $$.
It should last a few years with light/med gaming and leave room to upgrade later.
a X4 is more for multi-threads apps/games and at 10 years old I doubt he'll need that much power now! Later he can chage the cpu to meets his need.
For gaming you're better with a hd4670 or up for light gaming. the GPU will have more impact on games than the CPU.

With the X3 720 you can overclock with ease and still get good performance for video editing.
July 18, 2009 10:08:05 PM

Thanks all - the advice is much appreciated!
a b 4 Gaming
July 19, 2009 1:19:14 AM

Not to be rude, but wouldn't a gaming console be a better way to go?

A PC can end up being a big pain. Just my opinion. I personally would wait two more years.
July 19, 2009 3:26:41 AM

For a case, check this out. 35 bucks.

http://www.geeks.com/details.asp?invtid=939PL&cat=CAS

I actually have one of these, and it's not the greatest, but it's good for the money, and still looks good too.

Not sure about te mbo, but 170 in a combo is hard to beat here.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

Other guys can probably direct you better on memory, but this seems to have good reviews and is only 51 bucks.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Hard drive you mentioned for 40.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

DVD burner at 25 bucks.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Putting us at 320 bucks.

Corsair 400 watt PSU, but a way better unit than the linkworld. 54 bucks.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

ATI 4850 by ASUS. 99 bucks.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...


Total right at 475 plus shipping. Keep in mind the board is definitely a budget board, spend a little more and you can do better. But this rig won't be the quickest, but it'll definitely do some gaming for a little while. I would say let everyone look at this and see what the consensus is.
July 19, 2009 5:48:46 AM

I would go with a Corsair, Antec or a PCP&C PSU. Not a LinkWorld (Similar to a generic). Also as stated above a Phenom II X3 720 should be good, a little overclocking and its a great CPU.
July 19, 2009 5:51:14 AM

photonboy said:
Not to be rude, but wouldn't a gaming console be a better way to go?

A PC can end up being a big pain. Just my opinion. I personally would wait two more years.


No - not rude at all. Valid point. A big part of it is his desire to learn about PCs and building his own seems the perfect way to do it. He seems pretty excited about the whole project. Maybe if it turns into a big pain, he'll think otherwise though!
July 19, 2009 5:56:30 AM

^ I agree, I'm not alot older than your son and I was pretty excited when I got to build my own computer. Good luck to him!
July 19, 2009 6:01:35 AM

Thanks OhioU_grad. I will await additional comments on your suggestions (sound reasonable to me, but what do I know).

BTW, could anyone steer me toward a good resource to read up on putting it all together? Or is it all pretty obvious once you get the parts? I assume at a minimum seating the CPU on the mother board could be a bit tricky - would love to read up on any tips and tricks for getting it assembled and running properly.
a b 4 Gaming
July 19, 2009 6:10:10 AM

Reading the motherboard owners manual as well as the checklist in the "READ before posting about boot problems!" sticky at the top of the forum should help you avoid the most common first time builder mistakes. A Google search for "how to build a computer" will also give you more reading material and videos than you'll know what to do with.
July 19, 2009 6:39:21 AM

Try and get the most modern building guide possible, it might get a bit confusing if it says AGP slot but you have a PCIe card.

in all though, as long as you can see clearly at short distance, and have an anti static mat and wrist band/ wooden floor, it's kinda hard to mess up.
July 19, 2009 7:58:45 AM

I'm an apple certified tech, and really, even if you are not using an anti static wrist strap, the main thing is be smart. Get everything in one area, don't move too much. Always touch an unpainted part of your case before touching any parts, and when handling parts, do not handle parts by the connectors or pins, always handle them by the edges.

The main thing I would suggest when doing the build, take the motherboard out of the box, and out of it's anti static bag, put it on top of it's anti static bag, and mount the processor and heatsink on while it's outside the case, go ahead and install the memory as well. Line it up with the holes in the case, and then go ahead and put all the standoffs in and mount it. I'd actually say put all your standoffs in before adding the chip and memory.

But once your done with this stuff, go ahead and mount it in the case, make sure it's not contacting the case in any way. And then get your hard drive and optical drives in, and plug everything in. A tip from a tech's point of view, if something does not fit, don't force it. If it does not fit, you may be putting it in wrong, so make sure. Most of this stuff is common sense. Of course be sure to read your motherboard manual while doing everything.

Here's a guide I pulled off of google. Of course there are others, but this may be semi modern as it's dated for 2007.

http://www.pcstats.com/articleview.cfm?articleid=1444&p...

Also for Static concerns, you may consider picking up one of these, it's certainly cheap enough.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
July 19, 2009 9:04:07 AM

I don't think you'll need the PII955 if you're using DDR2 RAMS, plus it's not that much of an upgrade comparing to PII940.

On the other hand, for very light gaming I think the on board graphic card on the 790GX should be enough. He can always save up himself and buy a discrete card in the future.
July 19, 2009 9:20:55 AM

If the intent is to do gaming initially, you really need a graphics card instead of onboard video - even if you have to skrimp elsewhere to get it. Your onboard graphics may only have about one quarter of the gaming power of a decent graphics card - so it is a shame to invest so much and end up with a system so much slower. On the oher hand, we all have to live within budgets. And since you apparently plan to upgrade later and want to use the system awhile, you don't want to skrimp to much on the basics that you want to carryforward into the later system - particularly the mobo and PSU. (How about a short term loan and a paper route? As a former paperboy, I can say from experience, nothing builds character like working to earn something you want to buy. And then he will want to keep working to buy the games he wants to play. And then he can learn to build a web page so he can see himself on the Internet. Then get paid for building sites for others. And be hooked on the American dream. All because of a video card.)

While there are cheaper cards, I would go with this deal on the HIS 4850 IceQ which is a good mainstream card on sale for only $90AR. You could get a cheaper card for $40 to $50 with a lot less power but I don't think it makes sense to spend that now and then still have to spend $90 on this later - and I don't see it going down too much in price - although time always works to your advantage on video card prices.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

This card could last him for several years, providing reasonable game play. Here is a review on the card:

http://www.hardwarezone.com/articles/view.php?id=2709&c...

Note however that HIS has two versions of the Turbo overcharged models and the one for sale by newegg is the slower one (only the core clock is overclocked - and only a little over the reference design - 650MHz vs. 625MHz) so it will not be as fast as the one used in the review (unless and until you OC it) - but still a very good video card.
July 19, 2009 9:49:21 AM

You might want to peruse some articles at extremeTech.com.

Here is one about a gaming pc for $500 that includes a graphics card but they sacrificed on the PSU to be able to afford it. Note that it uses the 4770 graphics card that runs close to the 4850. The budget for the 4770 in the article is $100 so that is more than enought to substitute the 4850 I identified above.

http://www.extremetech.com/article2/0,2845,2346481,00.a...

Here is one about a cheap $400 system - no graphics card and an older Athlon X2 Dual Core 5600+. It is probably less than you want, but I include it because the article has some simple step by step procedures for building the system, much of which applies to any generic system in this price range.

http://www.extremetech.com/article2/0,2845,2349271,00.a...

Also here is a guide for building your own PC from TechReport

http://techreport.com/articles.x/13671

With either of the two above guides - just remember to use them as general guides for the process, to help you organize things and do them in the right order, but refer to the specific directions with each of your components for the details on exactly how to do for your build.
July 19, 2009 4:32:42 PM

I wouldn't go AM2+ but AM3 for future upgrade...

More room option with AM3 than with AM2+.

For the video card you don't need a hd4850 for now... you can get a $50-$70 video card for now and change it later... in 6 months, 1 year... you decide when you'll need more graphics power. Then things you'll have to keep in mind when buying a low video card are: minimum of 128Bits with minimum ddr3 with usually 512Mb.

And when I was 10 years old I had a console and a computer at home and I prefered the PC... The fun wasn't always the game itself but all the configuration and settings with the installation of the game and all the other advantage the pc have over the console with the programs like office and learning to do my own budget in Excel.

PC for kids that want to play with the parts and do research to build their own will learn more about life itself than playing with a console and games only. Trust me when a teenager what to upgrade his video card he'll learn to manage his money better.
July 19, 2009 4:47:52 PM

If you did cheap on the video card, a 4670 is the lowest I'd go with.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

If you wanted to save more to go for a better chip and board, the PSU with the broadway case while cheap, is rated for 24 amps on the 12v+ rail, which should be more than enough for a 4670.

Or if you keep the corsair PSU, at least a 4830, which can be found for 85 or so on newegg.
July 19, 2009 6:32:20 PM

Why spend $57 on the 4670 now when you can have the 4850 - which should be fine for a couple of years - and have it now for only $23 more? Or pay $57 now and $90 later. So an extra $23 now saves $90 later. And have the faster gaming now.
July 19, 2009 7:26:55 PM

OK - Here you go:

The case your son wants
NZXT Apollo Black SECC Steel Chassis ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - Retail ($69.99)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Combo deal
AmD X3 955 720 and ASUS M4A78-E mobo $190AR of $15
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

OCZ Modstream Pro 500w EPS12v 80 Plus certified $39 AR of $20
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

HIS 4850 IceQ Turbo $90 350
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

G.Skill 2x 1GB DDR3 RAM $40
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 160GB HD OEM $40
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Samsung DVD Burner $25
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

That totals $494 AR and before shipping. Since you did not include shipping or OS I did not either.

You have the case your son wants, a triple core AMD cpu and asus mobo using AM3 socket to facilitate upgrades, OCZ 500w 80+ certified PSU, HIS 4850 IcQ Turbo video card - the great one I addressed above, 2 GB of RAM (I had to shave here but you can add two more 1GB sticks later and few games actually use more than 2 GB), A great Seagate HD - although only 160 GB - (but what do you need more space for? - and it is an easy updgrade later to add another larger one for storage) and the DVD burner. Ta Da. It is finished.

Actually, I am not that familiar with AMD systems so someone please confirm that the memory matches the rest of the system.

This will give your son excellent mainstream gaming right out of the chute and be a good system to upgrade a later - although I am not sure what he will need to upgrade other than a faster video card when ready to really move up beyond mainstream game play. More memory would be nice and a little more HD space might eventually be nice.
July 19, 2009 7:53:55 PM

Further regarding info about building, I purchased the book "Build the Ultimate Custom PC" by Adrian Kingsley-Hughs (yes I was read to trust someone with a name like that) and found it helpful. I had first checked online and could not find what I thought was a comprehensive set of instructions. This coyrighted in 2006 so some of the technology it addresses is dated - but the process is the same. I wanted it to make sure I did not miss any steps and had a resource if things went wrong. The only problem I had was memory timing issues which were beyond the scope of the book. I think it provided some helpful advice and gave me some comfort, but I also think I spent more time just reading it than actually doing the build - which is really not that difficult. It also did not have two things I was hoping for - a list of the beep error codes one might get at startup, althought that can be found online (and my mobo did not have a little built in speaker anyway) nor did it have info about testing - in particular using memtest and prime to test the system - also available online tho. Also it suggested building the entire system before powering up - I think it is more helpful to power up at stages to isolate any problems. I tried to go to amazon.com to get you a link but for some reason I could not open that site at the moment.
July 19, 2009 8:39:39 PM

looking good.

i might be inclined to agree with others about picking up a tricore instead of a quadcore.

very little takes advantage of 4 cores. most multithreaded apps fail to use more than 2. nearly nothing in terms of games uses more than 2. grand theft auto will benefit from 3, but not 4. nearly nothing uses all 4, transcoding video will, (which is now done faster with a gpu and cuda.) rendering in photoshop or sometihng will. not much else really.

it should be pointed out, directx11 is around the corner. one of the qualities of directx 11, apparently, is better multithreading. ie, games will use quadcores (finally) and more! 6 cores, 8 cores!
July 19, 2009 9:16:46 PM

I think that's a good build Rockyjohn, but I think a bigger hard drive would be better. Once he learns how to torrent, the drives fill up pretty quickly. There is the ISO image of the DVD, then the installed game. That could mean 10+ GB per game. He'll want to experiment with different genres and games to find what he likes. I think the OS, programs, music, and games will fill 160GB fairly quickly. 500 or 640 would only be about $20 more anyway.

Western Digital Caviar SE WD5000AAJS 500GB 7200 RPM 8MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" - $55
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Western Digital Caviar Green WD7500AADS 750GB 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" - $70
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

The 750 GB drive cost the same as the 640 GB.
July 20, 2009 12:04:07 AM

Great built from rockyjohn, but at 10 years old I still think he'll be better with a $57 hd4670 over a hd4850 and get 4gb of ram instead of 2gb with maybe a better/bigger hdd.

In a year or 2 you could pick up a better video card with DX11 something like a hd5850 or even the gen after a hd6850(?) with more horsepower for the games...
Since even with a hd4850 now in 1 or 2 years your son will probably want to upgrade the video card anyway...
July 20, 2009 1:56:13 AM

Yes, it would be nice to increase RAM and HD - if budget can be increased. But neither will increase his gaming performance that much.

The 4850 is only $33 more than your 4670. Not enough to pay for doubling the RAM. And even if it were, I beleive he would see a substantial DECREASE in game performance. Adding RAM later is the easiest upgrade to make later.

And that while that $33 might instead finance a larger HD, again it would be at a substantial decrease in game performance. I think it should take him quite a while to fill up a 160GB hard drive unless he is doing a substantial amount of video editing. By all means, I would strongly support moving up to a 320GB drive in the same model and that would only cost $10 more - a pittance. If the budget can afford it go for it. Maybe timber could clarify how flexible the $500 budget is. Also keep in mind that the $494 build does not include shipping cost and these must be added for a comprehenive comparison against the budget.

According to THG charts, the 4850 is 50% to 100% faster than the 4670 in most games - a HUGE difference. And in some critical games it raises the FPS from around 15 - hardly playable - to close to or over 30 FPS - a critical difference. I think the performance penalty is too high a price to pay for either the extra memory or HD space. Still if the budget could be increased to allow for more memory now - or in three months - or six months - that would be nice. It is a low cost increase that could be added that way - without throwing out and wasting money already spent.

http://www.tomshardware.com/charts/gaming-graphics-card...

Put the money where the performance is - and the son will enjoy his gaming experience all the more.
July 20, 2009 4:41:59 AM

Thanks to everyone! Great info here. This is a really great community on Tom's Hardware.

I really appreciate all of the input and ideas - especially rockyjohn with your suggested build. I also like the comment about the American dream and the video card! He has been saving his $ for a number of years and I have him doing yardwork at $4 / hour (don't tell the fair labor standards board). It is a good experience for him all around -- doing the research, planning a budget, dreaming about his machine, and putting in the hard work to make it happen.

Anyway, this gives me a lot to think over with him. The budget is a little bit flexible so some of the lower priced upgrades might make sense. But the tax and shipping are going to put a crimp on things unless he can do some more yardwork for the grandparents or neighbors.
July 20, 2009 5:18:05 PM

For shipping you can get FREE SHIPPING on some or all the items if you shop around.

Sometimes newegg has free shipping for a few items or if you're lucky you buy 1 item and get free shipping on entire order.
July 20, 2009 7:06:55 PM

I do not want to be rude either, but your son is going to be a social outcast if he is into gaming Pcs at 10. He needs to be playing outside and interacting with friends outside than being a PC gamer,and a little console to get his occasional fix..but damn

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/overclock-e5200-rad...
July 20, 2009 10:48:35 PM

Ya and by 25 he will have made a fortune winning tournaments and doing product endoresements. And by 35 he will be president of EA.

Rather sounds to me like an industrious, intelligent kid that will do very well in life.
Exploration and problem solving skills seem to be in short supply today and those like him who seem to have them will be heads above the rest of the pack.
July 21, 2009 12:43:49 AM

Our first family pc was a trs-80 color, I was like 5-6 years old when we got that pc...
My father was upgrading the PC every few years. I build my very first PC at 16 years old, well the cost for the PC was over $2000 for a Pentium 120Mhz with 32Mb ram and a 1.2Gb hdd...

I started I was very young and I didn't spend all my time on the PC... And now I'm working in IT because I felt in love with pc when I was very young...
July 21, 2009 12:46:49 AM

I'll be honest with you dude, I was the kid I started at like 5 with a commodore 64...anyone remember those? Lol. That and the old school 8 bit nintendo. I got my first pc at about 17 when 200 mhz and 32 mb of ram was the cutting edge. Anyway, I just was out to have fun and play games, but I learned a lot because my dad is a soundman for churches. When I was a kid he was always doing sound for the Church. And so he knew a lot about electronics because he would design systems, repair microphones and what not, but didn't know much about computers. However, I got to where I knew some about software, so we started upgrading our old computer, and then got into building as you and your son are thinking of now.

For me it eventually turned into an extremely rewarding career. Now at 28, I'm working for a school district as a computer tech, have my apple certification and 4 year degree for IT. But it goes back to a kid wanting to play computer games..which I sitll do from time to time, lol. Let your kid play with this stuff, supervise, but let him have fun, obviously don't let him get into torrents or p2p or anything potentially illegal, then you wouldn't have fun, lol. But let him have fun messing with it. I can honestly say I learned in school and at trainings I go to, but 75% of what I learned about computers, I probably learned by sitting down, playing with stuff, breaking a few things, and learning what to do and what not to do. It makes you think about solving problems and figure out how to make things work even when they do not want to work.

To comment on the poster above me, the reason I got to liking AMD so much was because when we did our first major pc overhaul, as a Christmas/Birthday present, dad and I started looking at chips, the 400 mhz Pentium 2 chip back in the day cost 400 bucks at microcenter. OUCH! Dad was like there is no way...we went to best buy, and they had the 450 mhz AMD k6 2 sitting in the case on sale for 100 bucks. Of course you can guess that's what we went home with. I'm kind of an AMDite myself now, I know intel performs better on some things, but could never justify the cost difference. I always could get more memory or a better video card with the money saved. Or a smaller hole in the wallet...lol.
July 21, 2009 1:48:37 AM

I am ambidextrous - or maybe tridextrous - my current and prior pc are Intel - the two before that were AMD - and the two before that were Apple - starting with the IIe. Liked them all.

When I build my next it will most likely be Intel. But recommended AMD here because that is what fit the bill, meet the requirements, fulfilled the need.
July 21, 2009 4:07:26 AM

My biggest OC back then was on a celeron 300Mhz @ 450Mhz...

That CPU OCed like hell... After that I was always looking to buy CPU to OC... And I got a better understanding of the PC and all the parts... And I found out the best way to save $$ on a PC is to buy a less expensive CPU and OC it to the safest maximum possible.
July 22, 2009 5:34:30 AM

cartmanclone said:
I do not want to be rude either, but your son is going to be a social outcast if he is into gaming Pcs at 10. He needs to be playing outside and interacting with friends outside than being a PC gamer,and a little console to get his occasional fix..but damn

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/overclock-e5200-rad...


I couldn't agree more - if that was ALL he was into.

Fortunately, he is into much more - he is a strong student, has starred in the lead role in school plays, runs a 22 minute 5k and a 6 minute mile, plays league soccer, loves swimming, biking and boogie boarding, reads like a maniac, and could tell you more about quantum mechanics and the theory of relativity than I could. He is very well adjusted. The only games he plays at present are Harry Potter games and we limit those to brief periods a couple of times a week.

The project is more about learning, setting a goal and achieving it, saving and budgeting money than gaming -- although to your point, I am sure there are way too many kids out there for whom gaming is their life. Believe me - I won't let him become that (not that he would anyway).
July 22, 2009 6:07:07 AM

I'm wondering if someone has thoughts on NVIDIA vs. ATI on the graphics. The video editing software we use (Cyberlink PowerDirector 7.0) supports - in theory - both chipsets. But I was just reading that some people were having trouble getting ATI Stream to work right and NVIDIA seems perhaps better supported by Power Director:

http://www.cyberlink.com/products/powerdirector/cuda-op...

What would be the comparable NVIDIA card to the ATI 4670 or 4850 above? Would the rest of the system (such as RockyJohn's build above) still be compatible with NVIDIA or would it require a different motherboard or other components?
July 22, 2009 7:29:45 AM

Everything would be compatible with nvidia - and frankly I prefer them myself because I like the cuda features - using the graphics processor to offload some computational work from the cpu to speed things up. However, not many programs use it yet. The 4850 is considered the sweetspot on good mainstream cards and the ICEQ I listed was an exceptional bargain at $90 so I recommended it.

Take a quick look at this article if you have not already - fresh off the presses today - or maybe yesterday by the time you read it - where THG picks the best cards for each budget:

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/best-graphics-card,...

The May Version listed the best cards as:
4670 @ $65
9600GT @ $80 (nVidia)
4770 @ $100
4850 and GTS 250 (nVidia) ties @ $140

Compared to July version linked above:
4650 @ $50
9600GT @ $75 (nVidia - still)
4850 @ $100 (note nVidia GTS 250 bumped out on price)
4870 @ $130

So if you want to go with nVidia, it looks like you are looking at the 9600GT or the more expensesive - but also excellent GTS 250. For particular cards - and considering cost and features - I recommend choosing between:

BFG 9600 GT with a lifetime warranty for $76
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

EVGA 250 GTS $110
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

The HIS IceQ 4850 is no longer available at $90AR - now it is $110AR. You snooze you lose. Because of its overclocking and exceptional cooling, I would still rate it better then the GTS 250 above - but the EVGA GTS 250 is a good card and only a little slower.

A step down is the 9600GT - still a very good card - just a little slower - and $34 less than the GTS 250. BFG is my preferred manufactuer and they made my current and last video card.

Here is a link for a review of the 9600GT from last year - just note that the review is for a factory overclocked card which my recommended one is not - the OC is not available at newegg - although it might give you some ideas about overclocking the graphics card a little

http://www.tweaktown.com/reviews/1449/bfg_tech_geforce_...


Finally, here are THG charts comparing generic reference cards for the GTS 250, 4850, 9600GT and 4670. The 9600GT is the third column - for some reason the name did not show on my screen. Keep in mind that on the FPS - frames per second - 30 is considerated reasonably playable and anything over 50 or 60 you will never be able to even notice the difference. Note that some scores are in "score" rather than FPS - meaning they are just rank scores on synthetic tests.

http://www.tomshardware.com/charts/gaming-graphics-card...

I think that in looking at that chart you will see why I was encouraging you to go with a good card like the 4850 now if you wanted to do any real gaming now. Still the 9600GT has decent play - you just might have to play with a little less of the texture and shading that 4850 would allow. The multiple listings for the games (why they don't sort so all the versions of each game are together I don't know) show how you can tune down the settings to make it playable. For instance on Far Cry 2 the resutls are:

.......................................4850...........9600GT
With 1920x1200 monitor
at 8 AA 16 AF....................9.6..............12.4.........Note the 9600GT beats it in a few case, both are too slow to play
at 4AA 8 AF......................28.................22..........4850 is fair to good while 9600GT is weak
at 0 AA 0 AF......................50.................33..........Both are very playable

With 1650x1080 monitor
at 4AA 8 AF.....................36.................28...........Both are very playable

Of course, FPS would improve on smaller monitors with less resolution and be worse on larger monitors with higher resolution.
July 22, 2009 7:48:23 PM

Wow - a wealth of info Rocky! I will read it closely, try to absorb it and discuss it with my son. Thanks!

I think we are close and I will post up our final configuration in the next day or so.
July 22, 2009 8:19:22 PM

I was trying to figure out if the motherboard we had picked out supported NVIDIA SLI (my understanding is SLI allows use of two NVIDIA graphics cards). My son had picked the board originally because it supports crossfire and he thought he might want the capability to add a 2nd graphics card later. It looks like his board does not support SLI:

http://usa.asus.com/products.aspx?l1=3&l2=181&l3=881&l4...

Anyone have ideas on a comparable motherboard to his original pick (ASUS M4A78T-E AM3 AMD 790GX HDMI ATX AMD Motherboard) that would support SLI?

Sorry - I am clueless on motherboards.
a b 4 Gaming
July 22, 2009 9:12:16 PM

You're not going to find many people around here who would suggest an Nvidia chipset motherboard. Using an Nvidia Nforce chipset motherboard is currently your only option for SLI without going to the X58/i7 platform. I would highly suggest sticking with an AMD chipset motherboard that supports crossfire and an ATI GPU. Nforce chipsets are famous for causing system instability.
July 22, 2009 9:21:59 PM

You are correct - the board does not support SLI.

I am not aware of any AMD3 socket mobos that support SLI. That is not to say there are not any - just that if they exist they are few in number and I don't know which. On the other hand, there are a lot of mobos for Intel cpus that support both SLI and crossfire. However, we already found that these were not the best fit for your budget with your planned use.

However, as soon as you consider SLI or crossfire - you are jumping way beyond the parameters and budget you set.

While the mobo previously selected supports crossfire - the PSU was not chosen for that. At 500w, it will probably support crossfire two small cards - but I would not want to use it with two 4850s let alone larger cards. You would need to add in a 600w to 750w card PSU now in addition to the cost of the video card later.

Also, you should note that the mobo supports one full x16 PCIe slot or two at half the bandwidth - two x8 slots not two x16. Now the x8 slot is more than enought to handle the bandwidth of the 4850s and even some larger cards - so this might not be a problem but there are limits - unless you want to pay more for an upgraded mobo.

If you are seriously considering SLI down the road - you need to increase the budget for what you buy now - off the top I would say at least $200 - and it may require going to an Intel system which might even add a little more to get the same cpu performance as the AMD system.

Also note that once you change the mobo you may have to change the RAM (which may or may not cost more) and the longer you take to make a decsion you may also jeopardize the rebates or package deals that were used to help you meet the $500 budget - or off course you might find better ones.

This kind of "system creep" or increase in requirements is pretty common as you get down to the details and try to tweak a little better performance - but we already "tweaked" all there was at your budget level so you need to decide if you are ready to increase the budget - and if you want it to go towards SLI rather than some of the other tweaks earlier suggested.

I would be most inclined to forget SLI for this system even if you can afford a little larger budget. I would stick with the 500w PSU and get either the 9600GT or GTS 250 cards now. Later if you can afford more - simply buy the better graphics card later. The money spent on the current card will be gone but you will not have had to spend more money to upgrade the system. The 9600GT will give him some good gaming now (did you read the reviews?) and the GTS 250 probably all he could handle for a couple of years. By then the better cards will have come down in price and he can get another great video card that is three times faster for only another $100 - $150.

But ultimately it is all about your preferences and budget. This should be an interesting learning excercise for you son since there are so many variables and alternatives to consider, multiple objectives and constraints, and no one right answer. And no matter what he chooses, it is highly likely that down the road as interests change he will wish he had chosen something differently. But hopefully he will still realize he made the "right" decision at the time, he still has a great system, and will also know he will be able to make a better decison next time - not that there will be any single right decsion then either. Wish I could be 10 again.
July 23, 2009 4:53:44 AM

Don't we all wish we could be 10 again - at least for a while. Anyway, thanks RockyJohn and ShortStuff for the input. I didn't realize the ripple effect.

To his credit, before I read your posts, I did mention to him that we might need to consider another motherboard and he told me right away that we would need to re-look a lot of things on the build. Anyway, I think we'll forget about planning for SLI.

I still might suggest to him that we lean toward NVIDIA for the graphics though - mainly because it sounds like it might work better with PowerDirector, our video editing application.

Based on the link you suggested earlier RockyJohn, it sounds like ATI might be putting some pricing pressure on the GeForce GTS 250. It may make sense for us to buy everything now except the graphics card and wait a short while to see if indeed the pricing comes down.

Anyway - thanks again!
July 23, 2009 8:17:00 AM

Yes, with your specific application favoring nVidia that might be the best way to go. In addition, I think others applications are going to slowly transition to making better use of the Cuda engine on those cards, giving them a real advantage. ATI seems to be way behind nVidia on this. I am sure they are working to catch up - but it is hard to tell if once applications adapt to Cuda if they will then also try to adapt to ATI or not. There are real advantages to being first to market.
I agree there appears to be some short term pressure on GTS 260 prices - although they have been slow to come down and have already come done from earlier pricing of about $150. We have already seen some subtantial general price reductions for video cards in the last 4 months. I would not expect the ATI pressure to affect the GTS 250 by more then $10 to $20 at most - and more likely towards the $10 side.
Also be aware that if you delay you may lose the $15 rebate at newegg that might more than offset any other price reductions. If you use one of the online price searchers like pricegrabber you will see that most stores are selling the GTS 250 in the $135 to $145 range right now. Newegg normally has the best prices - which is why they are the store mostly quoted by people at THG, but the rebates on many items do not usually last long.
Additionally technology has a slow, long term trend in pushing prices down. However one thing that it is difficult to gauge at this point is how the economy is affecting them. Has the downturn put increased short term pressure on prices such that vendors are discounting the cards now more than they will when the economy improves? Who knows? Or for that matter when will the economy improve.
Fortunately that mobo we selected has onboard graphics so you could do without the card awhile - just don't expect to do much if any gaming until you get a card. And if you are considerng any other mobos, be aware that many do not have onboard graphics - you have to check.
July 23, 2009 4:46:34 PM

OK - great help everyone. Here is what we have come up with for final specs (hopefully) based on all of the input:

COOLER MASTER RC-690-KKN1-GP Black SECC/ ABS ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - Retail ($70)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

AmD X3 955 720 and ASUS M4A78-E ($190 after MIR)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

PSU - OCZ ModXStream Pro OCZ500MXSP 500W ATX12V ($39)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

BFG Tech BFGE96512GTOCBE GeForce 9600 GT 512MB ($75)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 ($65)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Western Digital Caviar Blue WD5000AAJS 500GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Hard Drive ($49)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Sony Optiarc DVD Burner with LightScribe Black SATA Model AD-7241S-0B LightScribe Support (combo w/ lightscribe DVDs $40)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

Total is $528, after rebates and before shipping & tax.

We decided to go with a different case that might cool a bit better and also has 1394, e-sata, audio, and USB connectors on top. The DVD drive is a lightscribe version which might be nice with the DVD creation we'll be doing a bit of. Lastly, we're going with the 9600 GT on Rocky's recommendation.

Any other comments are always welcome. Thanks again to everyone for your comments and support!
July 23, 2009 6:07:55 PM

By George I think you've got it!
Congratulations. Looks like an excellent system. By your changes in the case and HD, I see you have been doing some research on your own and I applaud it - both doing the research and the choices you made.
I think you will be very happy with your system and enjoy building it.

One suggestion for your son - it is super easy to build web pages with HTML - the coding is easy to learn. You can go to numberous sites that offer free web pages - maybe your ISP even provides you a free one - and usually build a page quickly using their special tools and selections. But beyond that learning the underlying HTML code is easy and provides a lot more flexibility and control of content and design. You can learn HTML from free sources on the web, but a good book that takes you though it step by step can make it easier and faster. There are many good books on it.

On a personal note, I had learned a little of the old style programming so I put off learning HTML for years thinking it would take a fair amount of time, sadly, and then was pleasantly surprised when I learned how easy it is and regretted not learning it years earlier. Once you learn HTML - you can communicate with the world - not just as a receiver of the "word" - but as a full participant - and have a worldwide audience.
July 23, 2009 6:53:12 PM

I - in addition to my son - need to learn HTML!

Hey, thank you very much RockyJohn. I really appreciate the assistance and follow-through that you (and others) on this forum have provided.

I wish you well. I will let you know how things go once we get the system built.

Thanks again!
July 23, 2009 6:57:43 PM

If I can make 1 more suggestion...
since the motherboard has a GPU, you can buy everything except the video card for a few weeks to see if the price on the video cards will drop... and with the DX11 cards very close you can at least put your PC togheter and still have video output... at least until you found the right card at the right price for you and your son.
!