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$550 Gaming Machine (First Build)

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July 22, 2009 9:23:34 PM

Yes, after years of putting up with my eMachine from 2004, I'm finally building my own PC. I plan on building this sometime next week, and I am hoping to do some pretty decent gaming with it (Crysis, CoD 4/W@W, WoW) w/ my 22" monitor. I have a soft cap of $550 for this PC, and plan on running Windows 7 64-bit in lieu of buying an OS for now. So, without further ado, here is what I have thus far:

CPU: AMD Athlon II X2 250
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819103681

MoBo: ASUS M4A78 Plus
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131381

GPU: Sapphire Radeo HD 4870 512mb
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814102810

RAM: Kingston HyperX 4g DDR2 1066Mhz
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820104073

PSU&Case Combo: Antec Earthwatts 650W & Antec 300 Illusion
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?ItemList=Combo.215888

Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar Blue 320GB
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822136098

DVD-Burner
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16827151188

My plan with this set-up is to run modern games at a respectable capability while also being simple to upgrade in the future. However, as of now, I am more over-budget than I'd like to be (w/shipping, the total comes to $583.22). So, something that came acrossed my mind is to use an external dvd-burner that I use with my netbook instead of buying a new internal one for the time being. The only catch is that it transfers data via USB instead of SATA. Would that make a big difference in performance? Also, any suggestions on replacements would be greatly appreciated.
July 22, 2009 9:30:12 PM

What resolution is your current monitor? The speed difference between SATA and USB is huge, you will notice a significant difference
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July 22, 2009 9:33:42 PM

It's a 22" monitor, so 1680x1050, but I don't mind playing at a lower res for better performance.
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July 22, 2009 10:24:43 PM

You may want to consider putting this off a little bit and adding another 50-60 bucks to the build. An AMD 550BE would be a really nice step up, from what i have seen the AMD 250 is good for a multipurpose build, but for gaming the 550 is worth the 20-30 bucks. Plus, the BE you can later mess with the multipliers (carefully of course ^^ and get some OC performance)

Also, thinking ahead, again for a little bit more cash you could go to the WD Caviar Black 640, double the room, more cache, and i believe the black has a 5 year warranty.

Aside from what hunter suggested, what you have looks good. The Antec 300 is a good case and they make good PSU's. The video card is good.

I have to question the RAM + CPU + MoBo in compatibility, please someone correct me if i am wrong but, that MoBo is fine with AM3/AM2 +, but the processor is AM3 only right? Thus you need DDR3 ram, not DDR2?
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July 22, 2009 10:37:09 PM

The AM3 CPU's have both a DDR2 and DDR3 memory controller onboard. The type of RAM supported is determined by the motherboard. In this case, the motherboard supports DDR2 RAM, so that's what needs to be used.

I don't like the RAM chosen, though. Requiring 2.3v to get DDR2 1066 CAS 5 speeds doesn't scream "quality RAM" to me. You can get kits with the same speed and CAS ratings that only need 2v - 2.1v. Here's a few examples:

G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model F2-8500CL5D-4GBPK - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $50.99

G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model F2-8500CL5D-4GBPI-B - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $59.99

mushkin 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model 996599 - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $59.99

There's even a kit that only needs 1.8v with those same specs, which is amazing!

G.SKILL Trident 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500) Desktop Memory Model F2-8500CL5D-4GBTD - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $59.99
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July 23, 2009 3:13:33 AM

That motherboard is fine if you are going to use a single Radeon 4870, but not so much if you want to use crossfire as it seems the second slot only runs in 4x mode. If you want to run crossfire I would switch to

ASRock A780GXE/128M $79.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Or if you're just gonna go with a single card then you may want to look at this to save a few bucks.

ASRock A780GMH $69.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Getting the same case with the 500W Earthwatts unit will save you a few bucks

$124.94
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

Another option is to get a decent PSU and a cheaper case (just make sure it's big enough for the 4870). Right now the FSP blue storm II is at a pretty good price

FSP Group Blue Storm II 500W $59.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Pairing it with a cheap case should get you back into your budget. Also, the RAM you chose needs 2.3v to reach it's rated settings, which is a pretty darn high voltage. Consider this Gskill set instead for a few bucks less and runs at a lower voltage

G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1066 $47.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
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July 23, 2009 3:34:01 AM

Forgot to mention, whatever motherboard you go with make sure to research it to be sure that it supports the X250 out of the box. If you have to upgrade the BIOS it will be hard to do on a system that won't POST :D 
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July 23, 2009 5:40:18 AM

So, I just found a combo deal for my cpu and a 4870, but card is made by Powercolor instead of Sapphire. I'm not too familiar with ATI manufacturers, so I'm not sure if PC is reputable or not. However, the $25 difference in price would be a nice relief. Should I take up the deal, or stick with Sapph?
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?ItemList=Combo.206795
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July 23, 2009 7:02:09 PM

I agree with shortstuff_mt (the thumbs are missing right now, so I can't give him a +1...).
I also don't think you'll be happy for long with that 250. At least get the 550BE, or even the 720BE.
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