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$2000 Gaming PC

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October 6, 2009 10:16:58 PM

So, I've decided to get a new gaming computer. I'm pretty sure I'm going to customize the computer and then order it online from alienware or some other company. Anyway, I want to spend around $2000 all-in (not including shipping/tax, etc.). I already have a monitor, really nice speakers, a keyboard, mouse, etc. I plan to order the computer some time in the next two weeks. I've done a bit of looking around for parts already, so here is where I stand. Even though I have a lot of it thought out already, these are only tentative ideas so far, and I'm really looking for people to correct me on this stuff where it needs correction.

For processors, I'm pretty sure I want to go Intel. I was leaning towards the i920 (2.66 Ghz), because from what I've heard it's easily overclockable to 3.0 Ghz which shouldn't be bottlenecking anything at the moment, I assume. It's around $300 to upgrade from that to the i950, but if anyone thinks that's worth it please help me out here, as I'm fairly new to this.

For processor fans, I've been customizing my computer on ibuypower.com so far, and I was looking at one of their liquid cooling options, which is only around $60.

For RAM, I'm not so sure what I need. 6 GB seems like a reasonable amount for a gaming computer, but I could also go with 12 GB. I don't know how much practical improvement that upgrade would give for the money, though. I'm also not sure what speed I want. I've looked at 1333, 1600, and 1866. It's around $100 to go from 6 GB 1333 to 6 GB 1800. Also, I can pay slightly more and get the Corsair or Kingston HyperX RAM in some cases. Is this worth it over a no-name brand, and if so, should I go Kingston or Corsair?

For video card(s), I'm also pretty undecided. For around the same price range, I could get a GTX 295 EVGA superclocked edition, 2 ATI HD 5850's, or 2 GTX 275 1.8 GB editions. I realize that the 295 is the lowest performer of those combinations, but there are a couple of advantages for having only one GPU. I don't really care about upgrading, but it's smaller, produces less heat, and uses less power. I'm not worried about power consumption from a savings point of view (I don't pay by the watt anyway), but less power would mean less heat and less stress on the computer overall. Also, I'm sort of leaning towards an Nvidia over an ATI because I want an Intel processor, but the dual HD 5850's are appealing. I don't know which setup gives the best raw performance, but that's not all I'm considering, as cooling will be an issue for me because I don't have an AC or external fan near the computer, and my last gaming computer did have heating problems.

For motherboards, I'm pretty clueless so far. I know it will have something to do with what processor and video card(s) I get, but other than that I know nothing. The default mobo is the Asus P6T, but there is another mobo in the same price range called the MSI X58 PRO-E. Is it worth shelling out another $150-$200 on a much better mobo, and if I decide to stay in the defualy price range which of the above two mobos makes more sense for my build?

For a power supply, how many watts do I need? I realize this depends on what video card setup I choose.

For a harddrive, I'm going to go with a 1 TB hardrive because I could use the storage. Will a RAID 0 setup improve my gaming experience for the extra $100 or so?

For a sound card and network card, I figured that if I had extra money out of my $2000 left over at the end of my build, I'd put them into a $100 Xtreme Gamer sound card and/or a Killer Xeno Pro network card. Otherwise I'll go with a cheap sound card and a cheap intel network card.

Oh, by the way, my moniter is 24 inches and runs at 1920X1200, which is what I want to run games at. I live in the US, if that matters. Also, although I've been customizing my build so far on ibuypower.com, any reccomendations on companies that build custom gaming computers are appreciated. Alienware and digitalstorm were also options for me, but they looked too expensive. Thanks.

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October 6, 2009 10:40:18 PM

wait, you want to buy specific parts and an alienware pc? I dont think it works like that because alienware uses cheap dell parts.

You also dont need more then 6gb of ram at 1333mhz, that should definatley be sufficient to your needs. If I were you I'd just buy a single 5870 which will play every single game at max as it is.

A good crossfire/sli mother board will do and a normal asus p6t se would be fine for overclocking.

Raid 0 helps with load times and as far as I know I dont think you really need to drop in 100 bucks for faster load times...

Another thing is if your just going to overclock to 3ghz you definatley dont need liquid cooling, if anything you can do that no problem with the stock fan.. and an I& 950 would definatley NOT be need, if you want a cooler buy a coolermaster v8 or if you want liquid cooling buy a corsair h50.

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October 6, 2009 10:46:18 PM

Even Tom's reviews dont recommend going above an i7 920.

Raid 0 has very little impact on gaming performance. It only affects time loading new maps and such, nothing during most gameplay. Review articles trying it showed about a 1% overall improvement.

Assuming both motherboards are from quality manufacturers, the only reason to spend more on a motherboard is the capability to run more than one graphics card.

If you are spending that much money on a gaming system, you probably want the graphics card to last a few years. That means the ATI 5850 or 5870 because they are the only DX11 compatible cards available right now. We have no word yet about when Nvidias 300 series DX11 GPUs will be released. It could be by the end of the year or could be as late as next spring. A GTX 295 is really a GTX275x2 (dual core GTX275); it does not really count as a single GPU anyway.

There is no reason to associate intel CPUs with Nvidia GPUs. There may have been a issues years ago but any real reason is long gone.
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October 7, 2009 1:18:49 AM

Well, Alienware may not, but ibuypower.com does give you a lot of choice over specific parts and brands. Also, given the current prices, wouldn't 2 5850's make a lot more sense than 1 5870, assuming I'm not looking to upgrade?
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October 7, 2009 1:33:54 AM

Fuzzball3000 said:
Also, given the current prices, wouldn't 2 5850's make a lot more sense than 1 5870, assuming I'm not looking to upgrade?
Two 5850s = more heat, more noise, more power consumption, ~$100 more and no upgrade path. If it only means going from 100 to 130 FPS then its a waste. It depends on if you will be able to make use of enough for the next couple years while game developers catch up. On a 30 inch monitor at 2560x1600 or multiple monitor setup it might be beneficial. On a single 1920x1200 it is probably wasteful overkill.
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a c 212 4 Gaming
October 7, 2009 1:36:14 AM

If you are truly going to have someone build it for you, use a custom builder rather than a "puter mill". I don't know that much has improved since Dell bought alienware but I imagine the http://blog.alienwaresucks.com site is still around.

For MoBo, I'd recommend the Asus Rampage II Extreme if you want to go all out, the P6T if you wanna calm down a bit.

Th 920 is the sweet spot right now price / performance wise and should remain so till February. If money isn't an issue however than there a lot to be said for faster rated CPU's. After all there is a reason Intel labels a chip a 920 instead of something higher.

I'm kinda stuck on the Prolimatech Megahalems as a HSF at th moment. Seems to outperform the competition on 90% of the reviews and general consensus is that it has the easiest mounting arrangement.

For RAM, DDR3 1600 is about the fastest that seems to make sense at the moment. Aything more than 6 GB will be wasted on anything ou are likely to run. Dial it in on newegg (3 x 2GB, DDR 1600, etc and soon you will be left with less than 2 dozen choices.....go down the lsit and find the lowest timings you can afford. Last I looked, Mushkin Redline was holding the lead on timings.

I agree with you that both the 295 GTX and 2 x 5850's are viable choices. The twin 5850's will win for raw performance easily. For me DX11, isn't really a big deal as, with 11 machines in the house, not one of them has DX10 and no one is complaining. NVidiahink is significant and others see no value as it doesn't increase fps.

Personally, I like to buy hi end MoBos.....I find the longevity offered by the superior components , especially in the realm of power management to be worth the investment. To my mind, the $300+ investment pays off in the long run. Many won't agree.

For PSU and Case buy what you need. I recommend the Antec 1200 / Signature series combo. To find ya size, use this:

http://www.antec.outervision.com/

use 85% CPU utilization, 90 % load and 25% capacitor aging in the drop downs. Depending on how efficient you wanna be and how much "cushion" ya want, multiple the answer by a peak to average power ratio you are comfy with. I use 1.5

Look at the THG HD Performance charts to see who's at the top of the charts on the day you buy....the top dogs change frequently. Make sure to check the temperature and sound level charts. And keep in mind that afst 2 TB drive won't translate necessarily to a fast 1 TB drive from the same vendor / model line.

On Board NIC and sound, especially on the R2E is fine.

My son is doing a build right now and has it posted here. It's the 1st one he is doing w/o my help.

http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/270740-31-college-bou...

His budget is a little higher but he has new KB, mouse, etc in there which is driving up the price.
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October 7, 2009 1:37:07 AM

dndhatcher said:
Two 5850s = more heat, more noise, more power consumption, ~$100 more and no upgrade path. If it only means going from 100 to 130 FPS then its a waste. It depends on if you will be able to make use of enough for the next couple years while game developers catch up. On a 30 inch monitor at 2560x1600 or multiple monitor setup it might be beneficial. On a single 1920x1200 it is probably wasteful overkill.


So even on a gaming computer that I'm looking to use for two years or so, you're saying that 1 5870 is enough? Like, in a year or so, it'll still run the new games at 1920x1080? I'm not disagreeing, just confirming this before I put my order in. Also, any advice about the rest of my build would be really appreciated from you people "in the know." Thanks a lot.
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October 7, 2009 2:15:44 AM

Also, looking at RAM again, should I go for Corsair Dominator or Kingston HyperX in the 1600 category?
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October 7, 2009 3:36:16 AM

JackNaylorPE said:
If you are truly going to have someone build it for you, use a custom builder rather than a "puter mill". I don't know that much has improved since Dell bought alienware but I imagine the http://blog.alienwaresucks.com site is still around.

For MoBo, I'd recommend the Asus Rampage II Extreme if you want to go all out, the P6T if you wanna calm down a bit.

Th 920 is the sweet spot right now price / performance wise and should remain so till February. If money isn't an issue however than there a lot to be said for faster rated CPU's. After all there is a reason Intel labels a chip a 920 instead of something higher.

I'm kinda stuck on the Prolimatech Megahalems as a HSF at th moment. Seems to outperform the competition on 90% of the reviews and general consensus is that it has the easiest mounting arrangement.

For RAM, DDR3 1600 is about the fastest that seems to make sense at the moment. Aything more than 6 GB will be wasted on anything ou are likely to run. Dial it in on newegg (3 x 2GB, DDR 1600, etc and soon you will be left with less than 2 dozen choices.....go down the lsit and find the lowest timings you can afford. Last I looked, Mushkin Redline was holding the lead on timings.

I agree with you that both the 295 GTX and 2 x 5850's are viable choices. The twin 5850's will win for raw performance easily. For me DX11, isn't really a big deal as, with 11 machines in the house, not one of them has DX10 and no one is complaining. NVidiahink is significant and others see no value as it doesn't increase fps.

Personally, I like to buy hi end MoBos.....I find the longevity offered by the superior components , especially in the realm of power management to be worth the investment. To my mind, the $300+ investment pays off in the long run. Many won't agree.

For PSU and Case buy what you need. I recommend the Antec 1200 / Signature series combo. To find ya size, use this:

http://www.antec.outervision.com/

use 85% CPU utilization, 90 % load and 25% capacitor aging in the drop downs. Depending on how efficient you wanna be and how much "cushion" ya want, multiple the answer by a peak to average power ratio you are comfy with. I use 1.5

Look at the THG HD Performance charts to see who's at the top of the charts on the day you buy....the top dogs change frequently. Make sure to check the temperature and sound level charts. And keep in mind that afst 2 TB drive won't translate necessarily to a fast 1 TB drive from the same vendor / model line.

On Board NIC and sound, especially on the R2E is fine.

My son is doing a build right now and has it posted here. It's the 1st one he is doing w/o my help.

http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/270740-31-college-bou...

His budget is a little higher but he has new KB, mouse, etc in there which is driving up the price.


Wow I agree with you on everything except for the case/psu combo. I think if you are going for an antec 1200 then it only makes sense to go for the Antec CP-850.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Here is a link to what Johnny says.
http://www.jonnyguru.com/modules.php?name=NDReviews&op=...
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October 7, 2009 4:52:49 PM

JackNaylorPE said:
For me DX11, isn't really a big deal as, with 11 machines in the house, not one of them has DX10 and no one is complaining.
DX11 is so you can continue to play games with maximum eye candy for the next 3+ years. I dont see the point in buying an new expensive card that is going to become outdated over the next two years. That would be like buying a DX9 only card two years ago. You just end up regretting the decision a couple years down the road. I am making an assumption that DX11 will catch on faster than DX10, but I think thats a good assumption.

Fuzzball3000 said:
So even on a gaming computer that I'm looking to use for two years or so, you're saying that 1 5870 is enough? Like, in a year or so, it'll still run the new games at 1920x1080? I'm not disagreeing, just confirming this before I put my order in. Also, any advice about the rest of my build would be really appreciated from you people "in the know." Thanks a lot.
Two years for sure. Software developers are not that fast. The newer Crysis takes less GPU power than the first version. Software is becoming more efficient, not less. If the tesselation feature of DX11 becomes common there will be huge jump in software efficiency. If you are sticking at 1920x1200 or less then a single 5870 is and should continue to play at max eyecandy until DX12 comes into play (5-7 years maybe).

Twin 5850s is only like 1.5 5870s anyway, its not that much different. You can always add a second 5870 in a couple years if for some reason you need to. With twin 5850s you dont have that option.
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October 7, 2009 11:25:47 PM

Thanks for the advice thusfar. On a different note, I heard from a friend today that a Solid State Drive is the way to go for gaming, and to get an SSD and then a regular drive for storage. Will this give me a practical increase in gaming performance for the money? In other words, is it worth it? If so, how big of an SSD do I want?
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October 7, 2009 11:36:18 PM

Is this friend actually using an SSD, or did he just read about it? If you get an SSD you have to be very careful which ones. They have been improving pretty rapidly the past year so you dont want to buy one based on year old design technology. They are still extremely expensive and rapidly improving so I am not sold on them being a cost effective performance enhancer. I feel like in 6 months the new models will likely be so much better you will regret spending so much money today.
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October 8, 2009 12:24:28 AM

Also, with regard to SSDs, in terms of gaming, they provide faster load speeds for maps and such, but actual in-game performance is dependent on GPU, and limiting CPU, which shouldn't be a problem at your price point and the parts you are looking at. SSDs really provide advantages to load speeds. Keep in mind that to take advantage of the load speeds for games, the games will have to be installed on the SSD. Just having a small SSD for the OS, and then your games on the larger HDD will provide no advantage to gaming, but will just allow for quick start-up for the OS. So, depending on the games you play, and how many, you will want to keep in mind how much space they take up.
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a c 212 4 Gaming
October 11, 2009 4:16:38 PM

dndhatcher said:
DX11 is so you can continue to play games with maximum eye candy for the next 3+ years. I dont see the point in buying an new expensive card that is going to become outdated over the next two years. That would be like buying a DX9 only card two years ago. You just end up regretting the decision a couple years down the road. I am making an assumption that DX11 will catch on faster than DX10, but I think thats a good assumption.


That's the thing .... around here....can usually keep a puter around productively for about 4 years .... with a GFX upgrade after the 2nd year .... the card will never see that 3rd year. Meanwhile we get to see effects like these:

http://firingsquad.com/hardware/batman_arkham_asylum_ph...

"Advanced cloth simulations are responsible for many of the PhysX effects in the game. Banners and flags flutter and sway, shredding when a Batarang or gun fire hits. Caution tape and cobwebs tear as Batman moves through them. Sheets of paper are strewn about the floors throughout Arkham interiors. They furl and roll around in reaction to characters kicking them. During combat, Batman’s swift movements cause them to fly into the air and float back down again. Without PhysX, they only exist as static piles and textures stuck onto surfaces. On the outside, fallen leaves act in much the same way, adding to the appearance of your interactions with the game world."

"Eye candy PhysX features like cloth simulation and volumetric smoke/fog are nice additions that really up the immersion factor, but it’s the addition of rigid bodies that really sets Batman: AA apart from previous PhysX titles like Mirror’s Edge. You can really see this in the scarecrow levels where entire walls can be blown up into hundreds of pieces."




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October 11, 2009 4:44:44 PM

Hey guys, thanks for all your advice. In case you're interested, I ordered my computer yesterday as follows:

Case CoolerMaster HAF 932 Full Tower Gaming Case - Black
Processor Intel® Core™ i7 920 Processor (4x 2.66GHz/8MB L3 Cache)
Motherboard Asus P6T SE -- Intel X58 Chipset CrossFire Supported w/7.1 Sound, Triple-Channel DDR3, Gb LAN, S-ATA Raid, USB 2.0, Triple PCI-E MB
Memory 12 GB [2 GB X6] DDR3-1600 Triple Memory Module - Corsair Dominator
Video Card ATI Radeon HD 5870 - 1GB - Single Card
Case Lighting Cold Cathode Neon Light - Red
Power Supply 1000 Watt -- Extreme Power Supply - [Gaming Series] Quad SLI + Active PFC
Processor Cooling Asetek Liquid CPU Cooling System w/ 120mm Radiator [SOCKET-1366]
Primary Hard Drive 1 TB HARD DRIVE -- 16M Cache, 7200 RPM, 3.0Gb/s - Single Drive
Data Hard Drive None
2nd Optical Drive None
Optical Drive 22X Dual Format/Double Layer DVD±R/±RW + CD-R/RW Drive - Red
Sound Card Creative Labs Sound Blaster X-Fi XtremeGamer
Network Card Intel Pro 10/100/1000 Network Card
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a c 212 4 Gaming
October 19, 2009 8:41:58 PM

ragsters said:
Wow I agree with you on everything except for the case/psu combo. I think if you are going for an antec 1200 then it only makes sense to go for the Antec CP-850.


From a "value" standpoint the CP-850 is an amazing PSU....it's performs almost as good as the SG and even exceeds it on Ripple (Hey Grateful Dead sung about that)

http://www.last.fm/music/Grateful+Dead/_/Ripple :) 

Johnny's review says that the CP compares favorably with the SG, almost matching it's performance. Johnny hit it on it's value point system when it was at the $299 price but if ya shop and wait for deals, it can be grabbed for $199.
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October 19, 2009 9:22:26 PM

JackNaylorPE said:
From a "value" standpoint the CP-850 is an amazing PSU....it's performs almost as good as the SG and even exceeds it on Ripple (Hey Grateful Dead sung about that)

http://www.last.fm/music/Grateful+Dead/_/Ripple :) 

Johnny's review says that the CP compares favorably with the SG, almost matching it's performance. Johnny hit it on it's value point system when it was at the $299 price but if ya shop and wait for deals, it can be grabbed for $199.


Yeah but what beats $120 with free shipping with such a quality product?
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
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a c 212 4 Gaming
October 20, 2009 2:46:16 AM

I wuz lucky....grabbed the SG for $199 on newegg special.....entire order of $2200 of components cost $10.92 in shipping and they included a free copy of Crysis Master Edition or something....(arrives tomorrow)
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