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Mid-range machine to be used for several years

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August 13, 2009 11:26:48 AM

Greetings all!

I am considering getting a new PC, which I would like to enable me playing of Starcraft 2 in very good quality, which will also play Half Life 2 and Fallout 3 quite good, and finally which will last me for several years as I don't like changing computers often.

I am from Croatia, where unfortunately the prices of the computer equipment are considerably higher - the parts which I will list now cost here more than 1.150 USD. This PC was suggested to me on the Croatian forums:


Intel Core2Duo E8400 box, 2x3.0 GHz
MB Gigabyte EP45-DS3, s775
Gainward GF GTX275 896 MB DDR 3
HDD Seagate ST3500418AS, 500 GB
Gigabyte Midi tower SETTO 1000, 2x 120mm fan, USB, FireWire
DDR 2 2GB (x2) PC6400 (800 MHz), OCZ value
OCZ Power supply Stealth X stream 500 w

The monitor that I want is the 24" - 1920x1200:

Samsung SyncMaster 2433BW

I would like if you can provide me with some advices:

1) Is this a good motherboard/processor combo or should I check for something better?
2) I have noticed Gigabyte GF GTX275 for about 60 USD less - is there any reason why I should take Gainward (one friend who deals a lot with computer has advised that Gainward GPUs are optimized for gaming)
3) Would you recommend stronger power supply?
4) Will this machine be able to provide good FPS in these games if played on full screen resolution (monitor has pixel mapping 1:1 so should not be a problem to reduce resolution, but it would be nice to play on full)
5) Can you please recommend me a good SATA WD disk with a capacity of no more than 500 GB (I have problems filling my WD2500JS of 250 GB which is a EIDE device)
6) I would like to continue using old hard drive and also old DVD burner which is also IDE - should I change this intention and buy a new DVD burning device?
7) Do you find this machine well optimized or is it possible to forsee a bottleneck?
8) Should I go with Windows XP or get a newer version of windows?

Thank you all for replies - if you need more information I will gladly answer.
August 13, 2009 1:26:29 PM

I understand there are significant hurdles when trying to get the latest computer equipment in Eastern Europe, though this system barely tops out my last build that I did 2 and a half years ago. The E8400 won't have any problems with games you currently play, though I question how well it will hold up on future titles. Since you said you don't like changing computers often, choosing an LGA775 board at this time isn't the best idea. I'm not sure how much the newer core i7 based components cost you over there, but it probably won't be affordable for quite some time. Have you considered AMD processors for your build? Phenom II processors are much more affordable, and still have upgrade possibilities down the road.

As for your video card question, I'd take the Gigabyte for cheaper. The Gainward might perform better out of the box, but the chips are essentially the same. If the Gainward comes with a high factory overclock also, you might not get as many years out of the card also.

I would definitely go with a larger power supply if you can afford it. If you do need to make some upgrades down the road, a larger power supply will be necessary.

Currently, the best HD to recommend would be WD Caviar blacks, 500GB is the one I would recommend. Even if you never fill the drive, it will perform better than a smaller equivalent drive as the percentage utilization will be lower, fragmentation won't be as bad, and theoretically the drive should last longer.

You should be able to keep using that IDE burner if you want, I think most MB's still have 1 IDE controller on them. If a newer SATA type burner costs you more than $30 USD I'd say stick with the old one till it dies. You're not getting much more with a SATA drive other than convenience.

Your build is a bit unbalanced in the sense that your gfx card is much better than the processor, but it will do what you want for now, can't say the same a year from now though. Definitely go with at least Windows Vista. Windows 7 Release Candidate would be better if you can get it. Security on XP machines will become an issue.
August 13, 2009 8:18:58 PM

Core i7 is way too expensive, the only alternative coming in this price range would be the Phenom II 920. I will try to find time tomorrow to compare the E8400 with this Phenom and see how they compare. Which of the two would receive a higher recommendation for a long-time usage?
Also which motherboard works best with the Phenom II processors?

Related resources
August 13, 2009 8:30:23 PM

^ you know you could easily build a great i7 PC for $1150.
August 13, 2009 8:38:46 PM

AM3 boards are the latest from AMD, they will support all of the latest AMD processors for sure. They also support DDR3 RAM, but prices have not dropped to what DDR2 costs, though it's close enough that many people are adopting it despite the minimal performance gain over DDR2. I'm pretty sure an AM2 or AM2+ board will work just fine with a Phenom II 920. As for recommended manufacturers, Gigabyte, Asus, MSI. I've had pretty good luck with ECS as a budget brand, Biostar isn't terrible either. I would stay away from AMD boards based off nForce chipsets, otherwise stick with what is most practical in your country.
August 14, 2009 10:24:56 AM

I've found a few threads and read them, although there's more to be done - reading a 50-message thread while working can take some time. Anyway, it seems to me that the general opinion in this dilemma (I've even found one E8400 vs Phenom 2 thread) is to go with the quad-core. The E8400 is apparently the end of the road, so although I guess it will work very well for Fallout 3 and Half Life 2, as I suppose these games were made for 2-core processors, it is a question how will the Windows 7 or StarCraft 2 work under it. I will surely play these games but as I do not have too much free time on my hands, it will take me a lot of time before I am done with them and switch to something new (like GTA or something).

There is an option to go with the Phenom 2 and a motherboard that would support future AM3 processors, which would make upgrading of the PC very easy - provided I purchase a motherboard that goes with DDR3 and the GF 275 GTX should provide enough strength for a stronger processor than Phenom 2 920 - as you've told, the 275GTX is a slight overkill for my current build.

I've been checking the motherboards you've suggested, but I've only been able to find AsRock ones for now - M3A790GX. There are some mobos like GIGABYTE MA790XT-UD4P, 790X/SB750 or ASUS M4A78-E, AMD 790GX/SB750, DDR2, but the prices of these reach 200 USD easily. And the M4A79T reach almost 300 USD.

In any case I will try to find myself what would be the best motherboard for Phenom 2 920, performance /price ratio, and will try to assemble an alternative build to my home computer.

Help / advices from people with greater knowledge than mine are most welcome :D 
August 14, 2009 11:40:45 AM

I would go with the AMD build as you can see there are new chips coming out for that socket and should be for a time to come.

I have the GIGABYTE MA790XT-UD4P motherboard. It has a lot of great features on it but mine stopped working for some reason which in turn is forcing me to RMA it. I will be without my media center pc for about 3 weeks for the RMA turn around time.

This has made me think hard on going to EVGA for their customer support. Gigabyte is a great company but 3 days to get an email response with no phone support and 3 weeks RMA turnaround time? That's not convenient at all.

I can dial EVGA's tech line and have someone on the phone in 2-15 minutes, usually 2-4 minutes.

Unfortunately EVGA doesn't support the new AMD chips so I am forced to go with the Q9550 and a new EVGA motherboard. This is fine in my case as its a media center setup and I have a main gaming rig that's separate for my gaming and I can afford to be stuck at the 775 socket dead end.

I would probably go the AMD route if I were you since I7 is too expensive.
August 14, 2009 12:31:26 PM

ASRock is an okay choice, they still have a fair following among overclockers, and do fairly well with support. Some people complain of a high percentage of DOA boards, but once you have your hands on a working one, it's not an issue. Also, since you are considering the AMD route, I'd also keep some ATI graphics cards in mind so you don't find yourself wishing for features you don't have in your system down the road. While you certainly can stick with the 275GTX, something like a 4870 X2 will perform very well, and depending on how things are for your local market, may come at significant cost savings. It will also open up the possibility of going with a dual card crossfire setup down the road if you need extra graphics capacity for games 2 years down the road.
August 18, 2009 7:44:54 AM

Well, back from the weekend, I've read your posts and some opinions from the Croatian forum as well, but many people, many opinions...

While you're advising for the AMD build, which might be used for future when, with a good motherboard, may be upgraded by simply replacing the processor with a newer one, I've received following advice when suggesting going for AMD Phenom X II 920:

quote

The AM2+ X4 920 processor supporting only DDR2 IMC is already now at EOL (end of life)...
If you want to have an processor which may be used with AM3 mobo and DD3 memory get a new AM3 processor with combo DDR2 and DDR3 IMC, 955 or alternatively get 720 or 550 and pray for unlocked cores...

unquote

While considering this, I will also note that due to limited amount of free time I intend to play only following:

Fallout 3
Half Life 2
StarCraft 2

I will try to find some comparisons for processors which are used to play these games and personally I think that any processor, be it E8400 or AMD Phenom II, will run Half Life 2 quite well when paired with GTX 275. Fallout 3 seems to be more demanding, and I don't know if it makes use of 4 cores. I can only hope that Blizzard will do their best to optimize StarCraft 2, although WoW also requires a strong machine.

I have checked the posts on Tom's hardware considering GTX 275 vs Radeon HD4890 - but I'd like to use GTX 275 when given this choice (Radeon HD 4870 appears best in terms price/performance).
August 18, 2009 11:00:25 AM

If you are building your machine with the intentions of no upgrades for the next few years it would only make sense to get a quad although a good dual such as the E8400/8500 would overclock very well and do most current games satisfactorily.

If you are willing to make occasional upgrades along the way a good cheaper dual core isn't a bad choice. Taking your 1st post seriously as no upgrades I would get a good quad and the EVGA 275. It would be 3 years or so before you would be feeling the desire to upgrade if that's long enough down the road for you.

Depending on when and what you are willing to upgrade really is a big factor on what to suggest to you now IMO...
August 18, 2009 12:11:23 PM

Dual cores with high clocks are a great option if he already had a LGA 775 board to work with, my aging E7600 still has plenty of power for current gen games. Building a new computer from scratch though, it's hard to recommend CPU's for a socket type that is truly a dead end. There are dual and triple core AMD's out there that support newer socket types, but for the best, competitive performance to intel's offerings, you are really only looking at Phenom II Quads.
August 18, 2009 3:32:47 PM

I do not see myself playing any games that will come in the near future - as unfortunately I do not have enough free time to do so, I will be trying to squeeze an hour or two daily for the games I've already mentioned.

But I would like (as would anyone) to have a PC that will be able to provide good durability and to be useful not only now but for the next few years.

Having in mind all the comments and suggestions for the quad cores, I've assembled following with AMD Phenom II X4 940:

MBO SAPPHIRE AM3RS790G, 790GX / SB750, DDR3,PCI-E, s. AM3
WD 640 Caviar Black
Gigabyte Midi tower SETTO 1000, 2x 120mm fan, USB, FireWire
XFX ATI Radeon HD4890 1Gb
AMD Phenom II X4 940 box
RAM PC-12800, 4 GB, CORSAIR TW3X4G1600C9DHX, DDR3 1600 MHz, KIT 2x2 GB
OCZ Power supply Stealth X stream 500 w

The monitor will be Samsung SyncMaster 2433BW - just a quick note, in Croatia it's 460 USD and I've noticed it costs half of this price in USA...

Do you find this build well-balanced? Would you change any of the items here mentioned?

The Intel quads are rather expensive here, and note that this processor is only somewhat under 300 USD here.

I've chosen this MBO because it supports AM3, so I hope that I may be able to upgrade this PC with the newer AMD processor in two years or so - and I suppose to increase the power I may need to insert another GPU and have it paired with the 1st one.

Your comments have been helpful so far.
August 18, 2009 8:26:14 PM

Well My advise to you is to buy them of the internet cause its a lot cheaper than most of the store out over the world.
+ if you do buy it in the Net you could even get a i7 Processor with $1150.
August 18, 2009 9:32:25 PM

the amd 940 is a am2+ cpu
August 19, 2009 12:47:11 AM

I thought it was possible to use older processors with newer boards for AMD as long as the socket is the same, I could be wrong though. Otherwise, that build looks like very good performance for the amount of money spent.
August 19, 2009 2:22:03 AM

No, you can use AM3 processors on AM2+ boards but not vice versa, the AM2+ processor has 2 extra pins that the AM3 processor doesnt to prevent this from working. AM2+ chips only have a DDR2 memory controller but AM3 boards are DDR3.
August 19, 2009 9:29:36 AM

I've noticed later that AMD 940 might not be compatible with the MBO I've placed, but in any case, I will then consider AMD 945.

Please advise regarding the CPU's and the matter of Black Edition, which is better:

CPU AMD Phenom II X4 940 BE BOX, 3.0GHz, SckAM2+

or

AMD BOX CPU AMD Phenom II X4 945 Phenom II X4 945, Socket AM3, 3000 MHz

However if the AM2+ MBO supports DDR2, will it make much of a difference when eventually using newer generation AMD Processors - will they require DDR3 or will work without problems with DDR2?

Sorry if I ask some questions which are sometimes self-explanatory or show my lack of knowledge - I've been out of this world for several years now and it takes me a bit of time to collect the necessary info.
August 19, 2009 11:57:04 AM

hunter315 said:
No, you can use AM3 processors on AM2+ boards but not vice versa, the AM2+ processor has 2 extra pins that the AM3 processor doesnt to prevent this from working. AM2+ chips only have a DDR2 memory controller but AM3 boards are DDR3.


Thanks for clearing that up, I don't work with AMD boards as much as I used to.

As for the question on the difference with the AMD "Black" editions, I think it's just a matter of having their multipliers unlocked, so you have more flexibility for overclocking.
August 22, 2009 8:19:50 AM

I've assembled 2 builds, one with AMD 940 BE and the other with AMD945:

am2+
ASUS MBO M4A78-E, AMD 790GX, SB750, BUS 5200 MHz, DDR2
WD 640 Caviar Black
Gigabyte Midi tower SETTO 1000, 2x 120mm fan, USB, FireWire
XFX ATI Radeon HD4890
AMD Phenom II X4 940 box
Corsair 4GB, 2x2GB, 800 MHz DDR2, XMS2-6400 2x128Mx64non-ECC 240 DIMM,
OCZ Power supply Stealth X stream 500 w
Samsung SyncMaster 2433BW


am3
MBO SAPPHIRE AM3RS790G, 790GX / SB750, DDR3,PCI-E, s. AM3
WD 640 Caviar Black
Gigabyte Midi tower SETTO 1000, 2x 120mm fan, USB, FireWire
XFX ATI Radeon HD4890
AMD Phenom II X4 945 box
RAM PC-12800, 4 GB, CORSAIR TW3X4G1600C9DHX, DDR3 1600 MHz, KIT 2x2 GB
OCZ Power supply Stealth X stream 500 w
Samsung SyncMaster 2433BW


Although originally I wasn't into overclocking, reading forums made me think that apparently everyone does it - and also it seems quite easy to do it with the AMD BE's.

My questions:

1) How difficult it is to overclock 945 vs 940 BE? I'd be grateful for a guide which I haven't managed to find so far.

2) Which of the 2 builds would you recommend? They are quite similar, the AM3 currently costs me some 100 USD more (I'm from Croatia, all the items here are unfo way more expensive than in USA).

3) Any items you'd suggest changing? Would GF 275 GTX work better in this build (I'm somewhat loyal to the manufacturers whose items I use for several years without problems...?

4) Regarding the radeon 4890 - should I take Sapphire Vapor-X, XFX, Gigabyte or plain Sapphire?

Thanks for the answers.
!