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Some questions about my latest build

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August 5, 2009 12:15:17 PM

I’m looking at doing my second build, this one for my son. I’ve listed the requirements below along with a components list and some questions. Any feedback you can provide is appreciated. My son is entering high school so this build needs to be something he can use until college, at which point I expect he’ll want a laptop.

The machine does not need to be high end. Most of the time he’ll use it for web browsing, MS Office work and email but he does do video projects for school. I also expect he’ll play some less demanding games like WoW and Star Wars (he prefers games on his PS2 and Wii). We have a gaming computer, my first build, so if he decides to play something more demanding he can use that machine.

My budget of $700 includes the OS and, ideally, shipping costs. The build below comes in at $659. My schedule and components choices are flexible so I can afford to look for deals.

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: 1-3 weeks
BUDGET RANGE: $500-700 US, including OS
SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: video editing for school projects, web browsing/email/MS Office work, mild gaming (WoW, Star Wars),
PARTS NOT REQUIRED: keyboard, mouse, DVD burner, monitor, speakers
PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: newegg.com but I’ll look at buy.com and tigerdirect.com for better deals
PARTS PREFERENCES: I’m partial to Gigabyte and Corsair just because I had good success with them on my first build but am willing to try other suppliers
OVERCLOCKING: maybe (mild o/c if done)
SLI OR CROSSFIRE: no
MONITOR RESOLUTION: 1680 x 1050
ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: Would like the option to upgrade the CPU and/or GPU down the road but I do NOT foresee the need for SLI or Crossfire.

COMPONENTS
CPU: AMD Phenom II X3 720 2.8GHz 3 x 512KB Socket AM3 95W Processor $125 free shipping
Cooler Stock
Mobo MSI 770-C45 AM3 AMD 770 ATX AMD $80 free shipping
GPU ZOTAC ZT-96TES3P-FSR GeForce 9600 GT 512MB 256-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready $70 after rebate
RAM Crucial 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10600) $69 free shipping
Storage Western Digital Caviar Black WD6401AALS 640GB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive $75 free shipping
Case Antec Three Hundred Black Steel ATX Mid Tower $70 with shipping
PSU CORSAIR CMPSU-450VX 450W ATX12V V2.2 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Compatible with Core i7 Power Supply $60 after rebate, free shipping
DVD Have one already
OS Microsoft Vista 64-bit $110 free shipping

QUESTIONS
- Is 450W sufficient for a mild overclock and if I decide to upgrade the GPU in a couple of years (say to an HD4870 or equivalent)?
- How much overclocking can I do with the stock cooler and still maintain decent temperatures?
- Is Zotac a decent GPU manufacturer? I don’t know much about them.
- Are there places where I can trim costs without giving up much in terms of performance or quality?

More about : questions latest build

August 5, 2009 1:27:41 PM

Hmm based on your description i feel this project can be done even far less than $500 and even less the amount quoted below as i dun think a discrete GPU is a must as like you said there is already a gaming rig and a console for gaming hehe :p  I do up lots of rigs like these running of integrated HD3300 off that mobo :p 
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August 5, 2009 2:03:38 PM

Thanks for the comment. Certainly going from a 720 to a 710, and to a HD 4650 will save some money. I'll have to look at your case/mobo suggestions as I had not considered a microATX board. What is the downside of going microATX vs ATX?

I'm not sure I agree with your choice of DDR2 and 370W PSU as it may limit my upgrade path. But I may be wrong. Thanks again.
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August 5, 2009 2:09:17 PM

Well unless you have a need for multi GPU options and lots of expansion cards i can't really see any disadvantages from going ATX to mATX. Mostly i see the saving in household space with the smaller footprint though :p 

As for DDR2/PSU

The integrated memory controller (IMC) on an AM3 socket processor like the P2X3 710 can talk with both DDR2 and DDR3 and tests have shown there is no performance gain going from DDR2 to DDR3 really while the PSU is an 80+ efficient build with 27A on 12V so good to go with even a HD 4850 i would say AM2+ and AM3 chipsets mirror each other preety much anyway as they are on the same tech/southbridge unlike 2010 when AM3 hits SB 810/850
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August 5, 2009 2:39:52 PM

I like the OP's build, but there are a few things I'd change. You can get Windows in a combo with this Gigabyte motherboard.

GIGABYTE GA-MA770T-UD3P AM3 AMD 770 ATX AMD Motherboard - Retail

Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 64-bit for System Builders w/ Tech Guarantee - OEM

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite... $169.98 (motherboard + OS combo)

I agree that DDR3 is the way to go with any new build, but I would ditch the slow CAS 9 RAM for this CAS 7 kit.

G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model F3-10666CL7D-4GBPI - Retail $74.99

The 9600GT is OK, but I'd just go with a 4850 since it offers great bang for buck.

XFX HD-485X-YDFC Radeon HD 4850 512MB 256-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFire Supported Video Card - Retail $109.99

There are 4850's available for $10 cheaper, but they don't have free shipping and they're single slot designs that dump their hot air into the case.

The 450W Corsair PSU is very nice, but would be a little underpowered for a 4870. The Antec PSU in this combo would power a 4870.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...
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August 5, 2009 7:08:31 PM

With a GPU like the 4650 or even the 4850, and assuming a mild overclock, is cooling a problem with a microATX case?
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August 5, 2009 7:17:25 PM

Have run a HD 4870 on those - install the front 120mm along with the rear one and no super heavy clocks hehe
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August 8, 2009 3:59:41 AM

I've revamped my build a little based on your input and after talking it over with my wife. We decided to only have one gaming-capable machine in the house - my first build - so we can monitor usage. And my wife "suggested" a smaller footprint would be nice. So I redid the build using a microATX mobo and case, and went with a HD4650 GPU and a 710 CPU. I also added in a DVD and dropped the OS - I will likely download Windows 7 and wait until the family pack is out in Oct to upgrade all my machines ($150 for three machines is a nice deal). The build is not as upgradeable as I would like but it should have plenty of power for his video projects. The total cost minus OS is $415 and most of the stuff has free shipping.

ASRock A780GMH/128M AM2+/AM3 AMD 780G HDMI Micro ATX AMD Motherboard $69.99
AMD Phenom II X3 710 2.6GHz Socket AM3 95W Triple-Core Processor Model HDX710WFGIBOX $99.00
CORSAIR CMPSU-400CX 400W ATX12V V2.2 80 PLUS Certified Compatible with Core i7 Power Supply $29.99
SAMSUNG DVD Burner Black SATA Model SH-S223L LightScribe Support $28.99
Rosewill R101-P-BK 120mm Fan MicroATX Mid Tower Computer Case $24.99
SAPPHIRE 100253DDR3L Radeon HD 4650 512MB 128-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready Video Card $49.99
Western Digital Caviar Blue WD5000AAKS 500GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive $56.99
G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model F2-8500CL5D-4GBPK $54.99
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August 8, 2009 4:15:46 AM

Looks good to go but you could just dump the OS bundled with chip in my config as that 790GX is on better tech than your 780G
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August 8, 2009 3:07:17 PM

Yup, you're right. I'll make the swap. Thanks.
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August 8, 2009 3:31:27 PM

You are welcomed ^^
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August 10, 2009 12:26:21 AM

@batuchka - I noticed that the PSU for the Rosewill case gets mounted on the top. Not having used a case like that before, does the PSU get mounted upside down and do you need to reverse the fan direction?
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August 10, 2009 5:15:55 AM

No need upside down - the PSU fan will suck up hot air in case and exhaust thru rear
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