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$2500 system for games and movies

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July 23, 2009 7:19:59 AM

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: one week

BUDGET RANGE: $2500 + a little

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: gaming, watching movies, surfing the internet

PREFERRED WEBSITE FOR PARTS: newegg.com

I was originally planning on buying a simple system for a few hundred dollars so I could set up a home network for my son and I to play some multiplayer games. So much for that idea! After looking around at what's on offer (a lot), I have found ways to rationalize a ballooning budget and I'm now into $2000 territory.

I would like to have the option to upgrade to SLI and also to perform some modest overclocking (once I learn how).

I would be very grateful to the experts on this forum if they would take the time to consider the provisional parts list below:

CASE:
COOLER MASTER HAF 932 RC-932-KKN1-GP Black Steel ATX Full Tower Computer Case - Retail
This case has good reviews - apparently offers effective and quiet cooling. It also has the USB external connections at the top of the case - much better than the bottom when the case is on the floor as mine will be.

PSU:
Thermaltake W0116RU 750W Complies with ATX 12V 2.2 & EPS 12V version SLI Ready CrossFire Certified 80 PLUS Certified Modular Active PFC Power Supply - Retail

CPU:
Intel Core i7 920 Nehalem 2.66GHz LGA 1366 130W Quad-Core Processor Model BX80601920 - Retail

CPU COOLER:
ZALMAN CNPS9900LED 120mm 2 Ball CPU Cooler - Retail
I have not seen this recommended very often but expert reviews seem favorable and I think it looks nice.

M/B:
ASUS P6T Deluxe V2 LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail

HDD:
206952Western Digital VelociRaptor WD3000HLFS 300GB 10000 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive - OEM

RAM:
CORSAIR DOMINATOR 6GB (3 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model TR3X6G1600C7D G - Retail

Video Card:
MSI N285GTX SuperPipe OC GeForce GTX 285 1GB 512-bit DDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready Video Card - Retail
Or:
BFG Tech BFGEGTX2851024OCBE GeForce GTX 285 1GB 512-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Supported Video Card - Retail
Or (if I can afford it):
EVGA 017-P3-1295-AR CO-OP Edition GeForce GTX 295 1792MB 896 (448 x 2)-bit DDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Supported ... - Retail

ODD:
LG Black 8X BD-ROM 16X DVD-ROM 40X CD-ROM SATA Internal Combo LG Blu-ray Reader & 16X LightScribe DVD±R DVD Burner - Retail

Monitor: very confused about this. Would like a biggish (24") monitor that is good for games and for movies where more than one person is watching. A monitor which is well reviewed is this one from HP but it's expensive:
HP LP2475w Black-Silver 24" 6 ms (GTG); 12ms HDMI Widescreen LCD Monitor - Retail

OS: even less sure. My experience is pretty much limited to Win XP 32 bit, but it looks like it would be a hassle for this system. Even apart from not addressing more than 4 GB ram, there are apparently issues with installing it on a SATA drive which I could probably sort out but I don't want to bother if I don't have to. Also, seems dumb to install such an old OS on a system like this. On the other hand I've heard bad things about Vista and don't want to bother with it unless someone convinces me it's good. I believe there is a pre-release version of Windows 7 that can be obtained free from MS. Would I be able to download this on my existing machine and then install it on the new completely clean system? Do you think it would be compatible with the majority of games of 2004 vintage and newer?

In any case thanks for this extremely useful forum and for any advice or suggestions you may have!
July 23, 2009 9:04:49 AM

I would drop a little extra cash and upgrade to the Corsair 850W. It's a better PSU and you will be safer in terms of power for SLI options.

You need more than just a 300GB velociraptor if you are going to install more than a few games. Grab an extra hard drive of some substantial size. This is a part that needs to be downgraded (150 GB version) or dropped altogether for something like a WD Caviar Black if your budget goes too high.

Zalman makes nice heatsinks, but they just aren't hanging with the big boys on i7s. There are many heatsinks that will stomp all over the 9900's performance at a fraction of the price. If you are concerned about the way your heatsink is going to look, I'll let you pick out your own. This page has a nice little chart of a ton of heatsinks and their tested performance. You can also find reviews of almost any major heatsink on that site.

The price/performance ratio of the GTX 285 and 295 is less than stellar. Consider a single 4870x2 with the option of dropping a second one in later. This would give monster performance for a 24" monitor(and would be overkill to start, but needed as time goes on, depending on how long you plan to keep the system). You may need a bigger PSU for CF 4870x2s tho, and for sure for SLI 295.

Unless you have some sort of special needs above and beyond the average gamer, I see no need to pay $500+ for a 24" screen. You can get a very nice Samsung for around 300.

TBH, Vista problems are not a big deal anymore, especially if you are starting from scratch with brand new parts. You can try Win7 RC, but my guess would be that you will run into more problems with it than Vista, and will have less people to help you sort them out.
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July 23, 2009 9:18:24 AM

I would say, go for the corsair PSU like spinny suggested,

either get one of the new Intel 160GB SSD's or get a WDC black 640GB, VRaptor's aren't up to standards anymore.

all zalman heatsinks are rubbish for i7, I'd recommend a Corsair H50 or a Noctua NH-U12P SE1366 instead.

get a 4870 instead of a GTX 285, way better value for money, but with the money you saved, get a 5870 when they come out at the end of September.

If you're going to pay that much for a monitor then at least get a Dell UltraSharp or IIyama Prolite.

Anyone who complains about vista either has a rubbish PC, hadn't downloaded SP1, or dropped it after first use. And now that it's the only OS currently available with a usable 64bit interface, along with coming with a free Win7 upgrade voucher, it's a great idea to buy it.
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July 23, 2009 10:16:39 AM

The setup is good but the points that other people have pointed out are very good

1. The PSU - Certainly change the PSU To the Corsair...
2. Graphics card - I would say the GTX 275/ HD 4890 are far better options than the GTX 285...
For the resolutions that you are considering, the performance difference between the GTX 285 and the GTX 275 are negligible...but the price difference - not so negligible $100
3. HDD - The velociraptors are not worth the extra cash...like helloworld said, wait for the intel's latest "Silver colored" SSDs and get them...
4. Heatsinks - There are far better heatsinks available - One of them - Scythe Mugen 2...
5. As for the monitor - +1 for the Dell ultrasharp - has MSRP - $412 but you can get it for less by asking the dell rep for a discount...
http://accessories.us.dell.com/sna/products/Monitors/pr...

Now for some general suggestions...

I would still suggest you reconsider the option of building 2 PCs for you and your son -
Reason - For about $2500 + some, you can still get 2 very powerful PCs, that can max out most of the current games @ 1920X1200/ 1920X 1080 resolution...
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July 23, 2009 11:52:03 AM

gkay09 said:

2. Graphics card - I would say the GTX 275/ HD 4890 are far better options than the GTX 285...
For the resolutions that you are considering, the performance difference between the GTX 285 and the GTX 275 are negligible...but the price difference - not so negligible $100
3. HDD - The velociraptors are not worth the extra cash...like helloworld said, wait for the intel's latest "Silver colored" SSDs and get them...


2. shush you! $50 per frame is totally worth the price! ... esp with the larger depreciation we can expect of the gtx 285 when the RV870/GT300 chips come out in the next 6-9months... :D 

3. two caviar blacks in RAID 0 will outperform a raptor while giving you more space and being cheaper.
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July 24, 2009 5:45:34 AM

All great replies. Thanks! Also, they’re largely unanimous meaning I have to think less – always a good thing.

So I’ll get the Caviar Black. In fact I think I will get two as suggested and set up a RAID 0. Two 640 MB Caviar Blacks = $75 X 2 = $150 << $230 for the 300 GB VRaptor. Sounds good… Also, the Xigmatek Dark Knight or Noctua NH-U12P (I’ll choose later) and the 850 W Corsair PSU.

Just a few more questions if I may:

1. Can the Xigmatek or Noctua fit into the HAF 932 without removing the side fan?

2. Do you need a separate RAID controller for a RAID setup or can this board (the ASUS P6T Deluxe in this case) handle it on its own?

3. I have nothing against ATI at all and would happily buy the 4890 or 4870x2. They are clearly good cards. However, I’ve read that the latter at least runs very hot. Could this be solved with a judicious placement of an extra fan? Perhaps the HAF 932 would help too since it is said to have such good air flow.

4. The Dell UltraSharp sounds good. I’ve read though that it has a large input lag time – however, it seems this has been improved in the latest iteration. Anyone here done any gaming on this monitor? Btw gkay09, where did you see it for $412? Seems to be $449 on the Dell site.

Again my thanks to all!

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July 24, 2009 9:24:39 AM

1. yes

2. the ICH10R chipset (on all i7 mobo's) can handle RAID.

3.I don't see any point in getting a 4870 X2 now, the 5870 which comes out in September costs ~$250 and will equal or beat it's performance while outputting less heat.
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July 24, 2009 9:31:08 AM

EDIT: Dint refresh before posting ...

^ Good going with the WD Blacks...

As for your questions -
1. Yes they would fit without having to remove the fan
Another very good CPU cooler, that you should consider -
Scythe Mugen 2
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Reason - http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/coolers/display/core-i...

2. No you wont need any separate RAID controllers...the mobo has onboard RAID...

3. I wouldnt suggest the 4870X2s for the reason that you had given - HEAT...The HD4890s are very good alternatives for the GTX 275s though...

4. When I linked that monitor, it was showing $412...It just jumped to $449 now :|
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