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Specification for a mid-range computer

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Last response: in Systems
December 4, 2009 3:01:52 PM

My current PC has some elements from 2003, the rest from early 2007 - it needs retiring ASAP !
My eeds are not high end, he PC willbe used for basic Business needs, Photo & video editing and some ames such as MS Flight Sim X needing DirectX9. No need for fast hi-res action game support. Current spec is :-
(1) Case - Antec Sonata tower (2003 vintage)
(2) PSU - Antec NEO HE550GB - 550W
(3) MBRD - ASUS P5WDH deluxe (2007)
(4) PSU - Intel E6600 core 2 duo with Zalman CNPS9500 cooler
(5) MEM - 2 x 1GB Corsair XMS2 PC600 800MHZ
(6) Graphics - ATI Sapphire Radeon X1950XTX/512/DDR4
(7) Audio - Audigy 2 (2003)
(8) Keyboard - Cherry cymotion expert
(9) MS wireless mouse
(10) HDD - 2 x Seagate Barracuda SA-A150 120GB (2003)
(11) DVD writer - NEC 1300A (2003 or earlier)
(12) DVD player - Sony DVD ROM (2003 or earlier)
(13) Monitor - Samsung 22" widescreen LCD 1680 x 1050

Would appreciate comments / advice on any item, but please note :-

(1) Case has plenty of room. Fans not the quietest.
(2) 550W PSU should be enough for a mid range PC ?
(3) JUs need an update to the P5 from current boards. Don't need onboard video , do need wireless capability.
(4) Intel / AMD ??? 2 core / quad ??? 3GHZ ???
(5) Is 2GB enough ? What speed ?
(6) Just ordered n TI 5770 / 1GB - this will be transferred.
(7) Not a big audio fan - the Audigy2 has been switched off for a while, and the onboard audio is connected.
(8) Wireless ?
(9) Wireless ?
(10) These disks are from 2003, but no problems - should I change or wait till a fault occurs ?
(11) Don't need BluRay recording, but this item is probably 10 years old.
(12) Again, BluRay not needed, but maybe to display new movies ?
(13) 3 months old - sperb monitor. Keeping this.
(14) JUst received WINDOWS 7 Home Premium with 32 and 64 bit disks. Will install as clean copy on formatted disks.

My budget is reasonably flexible, but I would expect to spend about £600 - £800 in total

NOT budget - NOT HI-End.

Advice, please.

More about : specification mid range computer

December 4, 2009 3:26:22 PM

I'd go with either AMD Phenom II X4 955 or Intel i5. The i5 will be a little more expensive, but often has better performance. I'd take a look at benchmarks for what you do regularly, as I know the i5 is better for gaming, but that's not what you're using it for.

I would get a new PSU, probably 650W. This is mainly because PSUs get weaker over time. If the 550W is relatively new, then I would reuse it.

Most boards aren't wireless. You'll need to get an internal or external wireless adaptor. As far as specfic boards, check the benchmarks first to decide i5 vs. X4 955.

For the RAM, you should get at least 4 GB. DDR3 1333 mhz is the general standard, as anything above that doesn't help performance, and you don't save a whole lot by going slower. Make sure to get some with CAS Latency 7.

Don't get an audio card. They're useless.

HDD have seen quite a bit of improvement even in the last couple of years. I would switch the old ones out for new Samsung Spinpont F3s (come in either 500 GB or 1 TB).

If you don't watch BluRay on your computer, don't bother with a BluRay drive. The only reason I would buy a new optical is to get a SATA model.
December 4, 2009 3:37:08 PM

Your current build really isn't that bad. Have you considered overclocking your CPU and just upgrading the RAM, GPU, and HD? Your Zalman cooler will get you into the 3.2GHz - 3.6GHz range.

I would upgrade to a 2x2GB RAM kit, a 5850, and a Samsung F3 500GB drive. The system would game pretty well if you overclock to 3GHz+.

Be sure to install 64-bit Windows 7 so you can use 4GB+ of RAM.
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December 4, 2009 4:21:02 PM

@bddazza: OP says he already has the 5770. Also, the 965 is not a good buy. The 955 is the same chip and is cheaper. All you're paying for with the 965 is a mild factory overclock.
December 4, 2009 4:41:27 PM

There may only be a slight difference in price, but why pay more for the same thing? It's not like changing a couple of things in BIOS is hard to do...
December 5, 2009 9:47:48 AM

Initially, I was swaying for the new Athlon II X4 and keeping your existing memory, but since your budget has opened up a little more I think I'll shoot for a Phenom II build. This build is mid-high-end and is massively UNDER BUDGET :)  – I’d recommend that you sell your current motherboard, memory and processor on eBay for £90-100 to make this deal even sweeter!

1 x AMD Phenom X4 965 Black Edition 3.4GHz Socket AM3 8MB L3 Cache Retail Box £130.37
2 x G-Skill 4GB (2x2GB) DDR3 1600MHz/PC3-12800 Ripjaw Memory Kit CL7(7-8-7-24) 1.65V (8GB) £159.81
1 x ASROCK M3A770DE 770 Socket AM3 8 Channel Audio ATX MOtherboard £53.15
1 x OCZ Stealth XStream 600W PSU - SLI Ready ATX2.2 12cm Fan £59.99

As you can see, I've put in 8 GBs of ram because you said that you have a x64 version of windows 7 so it should utilise it. Plus it means that this rig should last a long time as applications are becoming more intensive. Notice the ram operates at a bus of 1600MHz DDR3 opposed the standard 1333MHz DDR3. The Phenom II X4 965 is a high end quadcore processor, the fastest Phenom II at the moment. I’ve put in a ATI 5770, it can play ANY game today pretty easily and is the best bang for your buck, the 5770 will be enough for intense gaming at reasonably high detail/frame rates for about 1-1.5 years then I’d consider replacing it! If you want something even beefier such as the 5870/5850 it will add another £200 to your total build and you will still be under budget.

Edit: I removed the ATI 5770 from the list, since you've bought it already!

Total: £403.32 free delivery! from

Hi again, glad you found the post. However, I do have concerns / comments to clear up before going for my credit card !
Bear with me - I'm not an expert !
Using the numbers from my post.

(1) Keeping the case, but probably look for a quieter case fan.
(2) The 550W Antec is from 2007, and includes 2 x 6 pin graphics power connectors - it's also quite quiet. What would I gain from a 50W increase ?
(3) A friend of mine fitted an ASROCK early last year. It failed in 6 months. The replacement failed a few months later. He now has an ASUS - Intel version. there an ASUS board to suit the AMD 955/965 ? Preferably no video, but sound onboard. Th P5 also has wireless onboard, but I suppose I could hard wire if they don't have one fitted.
(4) I'm in the camp which believes overclocking puts unnecessary stress on components. Rather put more stress on the credit card than on the PC.
Not got the need for absolute speed - does the 965 have any other advantages than speed ? How much is the speed increased ?
955 would probably do for me. Do I need a new cooler - I suppose the old 9500 will not fit an AMD board ?
(5) I cannot imagine ever needing 8GB of what appears to be expensive memory. I like Corsair - do they do 2 x 2GB units to suit the (ASUS) MBRD / PROC ?
(6) 5770 on order.
(7) I don't need / use more than 2 channel audio. Stretch to 4 channel maybe. >4 channel - Never. Onboard the (ASUS) MBRD ?
(8) Any quality wireless ones about these days ?
(9) My MS wireless mouse works fine. I'll keep it unless there are deals for wireless KBD/MOUSE around.
(10) Undecided on the need to change something which ain't broke. The Barracudas have never tripped up yet.....very quiet and run cool... ??? Plus after over 6 years use, I still occupy less than 50% of the space on them. Are there other advantages in current disks ?
(11) May change the DVD writer, as the firmware for the NEC1300 is no longer supported. What's around ?
(12) Any cheap Blu-Ray players around which would still play CD's and older DVD's ?
(13) Great monitor , last me for a few years.
(14) Apart fom reading >4G memory, what else does 64 bit do ? I have install disks for 32 and 64 bit. (can only install one however !!!)

Would appreciate your response to this. You can probably guess I'm not an expert - I just like the challenge of putting things together - if they work !!
December 6, 2009 2:05:25 PM

It is not necessarily about the wattage of the PSU, its more about the amps per 12v rail and how efficient and reliable it is. For example you can buy a cheap 700w PSU but it would probably only deliver about half of its quoted rating be less reliable than a 550w Corsair. You didn't specify the model of your Antec PSU but generally speaking Antec power supply units are reliable so you may get away with keeping your existing PSU.

I wouldn't take your friends bad experiences to heart, I've had almost all the major brand motherboards fail at one point or another inlcuding ASUS, Asrock and MSI. My current ASUS M4A785TD-V EVO is actually giving me problems it doesn’t too tolerate certain memory modules due to its lack of T2 timing option in the bios so there is often instability problems, which means I have to either pump extra voltage into the memory or down clock the memory bus to avoid blue screens and lock ups, we are actually protesting in ASUS' forum for a firmware update.

But if you are content with ASUS the cheapest board I can find is the "ASUS M4A77TD PRO 770". It supports all the Phenom IIs and Athlon IIs processors. It can take upto 16 GBs of ram and supports Crossfire.

ASUS M4A77TD PRO 770 £67.27 inc vat

To my knowledge all Blu-Ray readers read DVD\CDs too, I wouldn't recommend investing in a drive though as they tend to be slow at burning and the cost of blank media is stupidly expensive still.

The cheapest Blu-Ray drive I could find is the "LiteOn iHOS104" which burns at 4x

The "LG BH08LS20" Blu-Ray drive is slightly more expensive but burns at 8x

If you are just content with watching HD movies then do not be too concerned with the burn speed, but expect it to burn very slowly until these drives start advancing in a few years.

If you're after a 120mm case fan I recommend the "Akasa AK-183-L2B", ive got two in my case and they are absolutely quiet, runs at 18 dB(A) at full load.

Well the idea behind having a 64-bit operating system and a 64-bit processor is to prepare you for the upcoming native x64 application to experience a performance improvement, for home users like us it makes very insignificant difference but when you start running virtualisation solutions performance can improve sore significantly. For you and me accessing greater than >4GB of ram is enough of a reason. With windows 7 there is no obvious disadvantage to running x64, as far as driver issues I haven’t experienced any in almost 3 months of running the Windows 7 x64 beta.

What size monitor was you looking for? Generally speaking a 22' monitor starts from £100 whereas a 24' monitor starts from £130!

Thanks for the reply.

(1) case fan - OK, the one I have is noisy at full speed, so I will get one of those.
(2) The PSU is an ANTEC NEO HE550GB, which was top of the range in 2007.
Brief spec : +3.3V @ 24A : +12V 3 rails total 42A : +5V @ 20A : -12V 0.8A and another lo power +12V rail 2 x graphics connectors for PCI-E.
Efficiency 80 - 85% Should be OK
(3) The MBRD you list looks pretty good. I was looking at a slightly more expensive one - the M4A79XTD EVO 790X which has VG reviews.
(4) 955 vs 965 - don't know what the 965 has apart from a bit faster ?
(5) Memory - What speed does the MBRD run with ? I've seen a Corsair 2GB DDR3 module which runs at 1333 MHZ, and a Kingston DDR3 running at 1600 MHZ. 2 of either of these should do all I need. Is that speed difference significant ?
(6) on order
(7) Audio card not needed
(8) I will look for a wireless one, perhaps bundled with a mouse
(9) OK
(10) Any comment on the currently available disks vs my 6 yr old Barracudas ?
(11) I have seperate DVD writer and player drives - will keep this idea, but only need a DVD burner.
(12) Will look for a cheap Blu Ray player.
(13) I bought a new Samsung 22" widescreen LCD monitor 2 months ago - it runs at 1680 x 1050 so will do me for a long while.
(14) Will load up the 64 bit version when I do the build.

Think we're getting close to an excellent spec - my credt card has run away to hide !!
December 7, 2009 8:28:38 AM

You'd probably get away with your current PSU.
The "ASUS M4A79XTD EVO 790X" looks good, but in terms of features and specification it doesn’t have much more to offer than cheaper brand motherboards or even other cheaper ASUS motherboards. To be fair you are only paying for the "790X" chipset which is a semi-high end chipset. Back in the day the "790X" chipsets sell a huge selling point because they had crossfire support, but we're in a time where even the cheaper chipsets like the "785G" support crossfire, so what are you actually paying more for now? - Even if such a high end chipset allowed you to fine tune your overclocks better and could tolerate higher overclocks you explicitly said that OC isn’t for you.
I wouldn't recommend against that particular motherboard as it’s a good motherboard, a really good one, but value for money for your particular needs it’s not ideal.

The Phenom II X4 955 and 965 are essentially almost the same processor, the most obvious difference is the 200 MHz difference between.

The Phenom II X4 955 has a bus speed of 200 MHz and a multi of 16. 200MHz x 16= 3.2 GHz
The Phenom II X4 965 has a bus speed of 200 MHz and a multi of 17. 200 MHz x 17=3.4 GHz.

Generally speaking most people on this forum would avoid paying the premium for a mere 200 MHz clock speed and buy the cheapest of the two (955) and increase the multi themselves and hence overclocking the CPU. But in this situation have a good deal and only £5 separates the two CPUs and in my opinion I think £5 is a small price to pay for an extra performance boost especially for someone that isn’t concerned about overclocking and wants the fastest out of the box.

The "ASUS M4A79XTD EVO 790X" can operate DDR3 memory with a bus up to 1800 MHz when applying an overclock (you need high end overclockable memory) or up to 1600 MHz without an overclock. The memory bandwidth is simply the rate in which the data can be read or stored at, the memory is constantly storing variables and data on a temporary basis until it need retrieving. To be honest very few games today with the exception of Crysis/Far Cry 2 require that much bandwidth at the moment. You'd notice that memory bandwidth starved games often take a lot longer to load. If you're editing videos or images often you deal with raw files in the GBs a high memory bus is can cut down a lot of waiting time.
I had another look at the 2x2GB kits on eBuyer and the G-Skills is the best deal considering that it runs at a higher bus than some of the more expensive modules and at a lower voltage of 1.65v. Do not mistake G-skills for being generic memory, they make premium enthusiast modules a bit like OCZ.

Its probably best that you demote your old Barracudas HD to a storage only drive, use it to dump movies or porn onto, the chances are its write/read speeds will be very slow in comparison to the newer drives available with it being IDE.
I'd recommend the SATA Samsung SpinPoint F3 1TB, its one of the best rated HDs around and has excellent read/write. I also recommend the SATA Samsung SpintPoint F2 1.5TB Eco Green it’s slightly slower than the F3s but it is ultra quiet.

I'm not too sure if you still need a CD burner, but I find the "Sony AD-5240S" to be a really good deal. £15.94

Thanks for the reply. Think I / we have got the spec sorted now :-

(1) Original Antec Sonata case, with new 12cm ASAKA AK183-L2B fan
(2) Original ANTEC NEO H550 PSU (still in their current lists)
(3) ASUS M4A77TD PRO770
(4) Phenon X4 965 Black
(5) GSKILL 2 x 2Gb 1600MHZ CL7
(6) ATI Sapphire HD5770 / 1GB / DDR5
(7) Sound onboard
(8) Wireless, probably Cherry if they do one
(9) Wireless - keeping existing MS one.
(10( Keeping Seagate Barracudas 2 x 120GB units - these are SATA drives, and only 1/2 full.
(11) Pioneer DVR-S18LBK Black retail
(12) Can't find a Blu-Ray player at a decent price, so keeping the DVD player for now.
(13) Samsung 22" Widescreen 1680 x 1050
(14) WINDOWS 7 64 bit

I presume ebuyer will have most / all of these - I've used them before.

Once again, thanks for the effort - you really know your stuff !!
December 7, 2009 11:33:11 AM

shortstuff_mt said:

I would upgrade to a 2x2GB RAM kit, a 5850, and a Samsung F3 500GB drive. The system would game pretty well if you overclock to 3GHz+.

Be sure to install 64-bit Windows 7 so you can use 4GB+ of RAM.

I am planning to build a PC based on i5-750 soon...could you please clarify on:

a) How much RAM is enough for Performance/Gaming: 4 or 6 GB (DDR3-1333 MHz)?
b) If I choose Windows 7 then I should choose either 4 GB (for 32 bit) or 6 or 8 GB or more (64 bit): I read in most reviews that 4 GB good DDR3 RAM is very good and it's 32 bit. Will there be any increase in performance if I choose to install 6 GB (due to 64 bit)?
c) Lastly, this is a real head ache for me. I am looking for 4 or 6 GB DDR3-1333 MHz RAM with low voltage (1.5V) but issue is there are more players confusing with their specs. Now, question is which maker should I choose from:

i) Corsair ii) OCZ iii) Crucial iv) Kingston v) Any other

Please give your suggestion.



December 7, 2009 12:41:37 PM

Akula2 - You need to start your own thread instead of hijacking this one.
December 7, 2009 2:36:01 PM

shortstuff_mt said:
Akula2 - You need to start your own thread instead of hijacking this one.

I didn't mean to do that, regret if that's the case. I've created a new thread.

December 7, 2009 3:22:16 PM

The build looks solid,

I know it seems excessive, but I seriously think that you should consider 8 GBs of ram. Windows 7 can be very wasteful in terms of resources, it can use up to 1.5 GBs after a fresh reinstall sitting at the desktop doing nothing. Playing COD:WAW uses up to 3GBs of ram, Crysis near 4 GBs is used. I'd say that 6GBs is becoming the sweet spot but AMD doesn't support it for tri channel so you're stuck with 4 GB or 8 GB. Also if you buy 2x2GBs with the intention of buying another pair in a year or two you might struggle to find the exact modules on the market.

Apart from that I couldn't fault the build.

Let me quickly run through the delivery and returns. Ebuyer do a free delivery service when you spend more than £49.99 called "super saver delivery" it’s usually an up to 5 day delivery service (excluding weekends) but if you get your order in early in the week on either on Sunday night or Monday morning I've had eBuyer deliver within 2 or 3 days.

eBuyer give you a 30 day warranty on all components no argument, so if an item is faulty they will replace it within that period or give you your money back. Outside the 30 day period your warranty kicks in, your warranty is usually 1 year, 3 year or lifetime depending on the particular component. eBuyer will typically handle the RMA and test that the component is faulty, if they agree that there is a fault you'd get a replacement product or another product of the same value. If you are still not happy they'll give you your money back! Remember to check the whom deals with the warranty first as it can make things smoother, for example when my 1year old XFX 9600 GT became faulty eBuyer exchanged it for a faster XFX 4830 which later failed after a few months, eBuyer then replaced it with an ASUS 4850! However with my HannsG monitor the RMA was handled by the monitor company, they sent me a new monitor which arrived within 2 days after almost 3 years!

Thanks again. Agree Ebuyer one of the best suppliers.

One last (I think) query - the ASUS M4A77TD PRO 770 spec seems to say that 1600MHZ memory can only be fitted if overclocking is used ???
It would appear that 1333MHZ is the fastest normally clocked memory. If this is true, is there a 2GB 1333MHZ unit I could use which is cheaper than the 1600 MHZ - thus possibly allowing 8GB to scrape inside my budget ?
December 7, 2009 5:14:11 PM

Indeed you are correct it doesn’t support 1600 MHz without an overclock. The prices of 1600 MHz and 1333 MHz are too similar, they are within £10-20 of each other, on second inspection most ASUS boards will not accept 1600Mhz. If you buy the G-skills @ 1600 MHz it will down clock to 1333MHz and the timings will tighten automatically, you can choose to run it @ 1600 MHz manually and hence applying an over clock - well technically it wouldn’t be an over clock because it would be the actual rated speed of the memory.

The cheapest 2x2GB modules are the Crucial 4GB (2x2GB) DDR3 1333MHz - I wouldn’t recommend them, they seem like Crucials regular generic brand.

The second cheapest 2x2GB modules are the Crucial 4GB (2x2GB) DDR3 1333MHz - These are enthusiasts sticks, I’m actually running the same modules and I have no complains except that I need 2v for them to run stable because of ASUS half ass lack of 2T timing on my "Asus M4A785TD-V EVO".

OMG...its such a shame you do not over clock, this is probably the best deal OCZ 4GB (2x2GB) DDR3 1800MHz for tweakers.

OK for that - guess I'll settle on 4GB for now as I don't need the extra speed 8GB would give.

Sort my order out in the next couple of days, so I can build over the Xmas hols.

Thanks for all your invaluable input.