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$1250-$1500 Gaming Desktop

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December 6, 2009 10:30:13 PM

Hey, guys, let me first off say that this is my first time building my own computer. I don't have a huge amount of hardware experience, but I like to think of myself as fairly competent. :) 

I am a college student majoring in Computer Science, and I'm going to be mainly using this computer for gaming and programming. I don't need to be able to run Crysis at max or even ultra high, mainly because of my budget, but I'd like the highest value, obviously.

So my initial setup was going to look something like this:


Radeon HD 5850 1024MB - $300ish

either
Intel Core i5-750 @ 2.6Ghz - <$200
or
Intel Core i7-920 @ 2.8Ghz - $275ish

either
Asus P7P55D Motherboard - $150ish
or
Gigabyte P55-UD4P Motherboard - <$175

Crucial 4GB DDR3 1333 RAM - <$100

Samsung 750GB 7200 RPM SATA Hard Drive - <$75

(Some kind of) CPU Cooling Unit since I plan to overclock - <$75

Power Supply - ~$100

Case - <$100


Total WCS Cost: $1200
$ 300 General Expenses

Total Cost: ~$1500



Now, before you start formulating what would be best for me, hear me out. The main reason I chose the 5850 was not for its performance so much as my intention to (much later on so as not to include this in my expenditures) purchase an additional 5850 down the road and crossfire them. Like I said though, that is further down the road, so don't count that in the total cost of the machine.

The reason I am mentioning this right now is because, if I am correct, the dual 5850s crossfired together will not work with the P55 chipset that both of my chosen CPUs implement. Thus, I'm going to need a new (quality) CPU, which I think means I'm going to need a new motherboard as well.

If I have not made this clear yet, I've done plenty of research on video cards and am 95% sure that I want to stick with (eventual) dual 5850s. Unless you have something that is just a lot easier, cheaper, and better in terms of performance, leave that part alone.

The CPU and Motherboard are the main things I need configured. I plan to overclock my CPU, and because I heard that the i5-750 is a relatively cheap quad core that can be overclocked to perform as well as CPUs that are hundreds of dollars more expensive, I chose that one. You can pretty much rule out AMD, as I've already decided that Intel offers better performance.

Motherboards have somewhat been a mystery to me since I began dabbling in computer hardware. All I really know is that they allow everything else you purchase to communicate with each other, and that if you don't have the right motherboard, stuff screws up. :D  So the quality of motherboard doesn't matter too much to me; let it suffice that I don't want to spend much more than 150 dollars on one, but I don't want it to hold my video cards or CPU back any.

I think I have to replace my RAM choice too, if I'm moving from P55 to X58. Crucial is a solid brand from what I've heard, and I would like to stick with them if at all possible.

Hard drive is low priority, as I'm not going to be using this PC for anything that would require loads of raw space, such as storing Blu-Ray movies. 1 TB of memory is PLENTY if not excessive for me; the main care in this category is access speed, and I'm not even willing to spend that much on drives since they're so cheap. $100 MAX.



And, honestly, after all this is figured out, can you tell me if this is even a good idea? I'm talking about the general concept behind this desktop: dual 5850s, your opinions on P55s and X58s, should I start from scratch?, etc.

Thanks so much, guys!
December 7, 2009 7:45:48 AM

"I think I have to replace my RAM choice too, if I'm moving from P55 to X58. Crucial is a solid brand from what I've heard, and I would like to stick with them if at all possible."

If you are planning on an X58 get an X58. No sense on getting a P55 platform to later replace it with a X58. If you don't need a monitor you can afford an X58 with your budget. I suggest you get the X58 now or you will have to replace your CPU, motherboard, and RAM. I would have gotten an X58 but I was already over budget and AMD gives me everything I need.

"The reason I am mentioning this right now is because, if I am correct, the dual 5850s crossfired together will not work with the P55 chipset that both of my chosen CPUs implement. Thus, I'm going to need a new (quality) CPU, which I think means I'm going to need a new motherboard as well."

First time I've heard that. Crossfire is Crossfire. As long as you have a Crossfire capable motherboard you can Crossfire any ATi card. I believe you are suggesting the 8x8x Crossfire that the P55 distributes instead of 16x16x. It is a handicap but it doesn't really hinder performance enough to not get two 5850's. We're talking about a loss of 10FPS max. An X58 platform will handle any Crossfire/SLi configuration depending on which motherboard you select without any handicap. X58 CPUs currently are not as efficient as the P55 CPUs but that is because X58 was released first. The difference is mostly in power consumption and heat.

"Hard drive is low priority, as I'm not going to be using this PC for anything that would require loads of raw space, such as storing Blu-Ray movies. 1 TB of memory is PLENTY if not excessive for me; the main care in this category is access speed, and I'm not even willing to spend that much on drives since they're so cheap. $100 MAX."

I would look into the Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB. Its faster than your selected HDD and it costs around $80. Many people have suggested that HDD on Tom's because of its low price and extremely competitive speed.

"And, honestly, after all this is figured out, can you tell me if this is even a good idea? I'm talking about the general concept behind this desktop: dual 5850s, your opinions on P55s and X58s, should I start from scratch?, etc."

If you are looking to Crossfire 5850's I would recommend an X58 or AM3 790FX platform from AMD if you are concerned about performance on the graphic's end.
=========================================================================================

Here are some components you may want to look into. They all review and preform very well and are priced fairly.

Motherboard:
X58: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
AM3: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
P55: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

RAM:
X58: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
AM3/P55: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Heatsink Fan:
X58/P55/AM3: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
X58/AM3: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Power Supply:
750W: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Case:
690: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
HAF 922: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Storm Scout: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
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December 7, 2009 10:02:33 AM

The conventional wisdom is that the i920 / X58 system is the fastest mainstream computer available today. That was true back in August 2009, but that position is being challenged with the introduction of the i750 & i860 / P55 systems. Most people do not realize that the i750 / P55 system actually outperforms the i920 / X58 system when using only one graphics card:
http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/showdoc.aspx?i=364...

But most people realize that the i920 utilizes two PCIe X16 slots when two graphics cards are installed, whereas the i750 / P55 system is limited to two X8 slots in this situation. However, in actual performance testing the improvements are miniscule. In fact, in some cases with two graphics cards, the i750 actually outperforms the i920, and visa versa, but these systems are essentially identical:
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/core-i5-gaming,2403...

Both the X58 and P55 platforms have good overclocking potential. The following article shows the performance of the i920 / X58 system compared to the i860 / P55 system at stock speeds and overclocked to 4.2 GHz with either one or two-crossfired ATI 5870 graphics cards:
http://www.anandtech.com/mb/showdoc.aspx?i=3649&p=6
Once again, the performance of these two systems is nearly identical with the i860 outperforming the i920 in some applications, and visa versa.

One of the reasons the i750 & i860 / P55 platform does so well is because these processors have incorporated the PCIe bus onto the chip, thus eliminating bandwidth bottlenecks associated with the Northbridge chip required in the i920 system.

The bottom line is that they are all great systems. A typical i920 build (CPU + MB + 3X2GB RAM) will tend to be about $200 more than a typical i750 build (CPU + MB + 2X2GB RAM). For most gamers, this $200 would be better spent on getting either a better graphics card, or adding a second graphics card.

Since you are a college student majoring in computer science, a i920 may make sense for you if you can come up with the additional money. If you go this route, be sure to get a decent motherboard such as the ASUS P6T Deluxe:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Your idea to buy a single 5850 graphics card now, and add a second one later is fine. The two graphics cards will perform extremely well in either the Gigabyte P55-UD4P or ASUS P7P55D PRO motherboards.

Good Luck!


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December 7, 2009 5:42:22 PM

Wow, thanks for the reply! And some great articles, too!

I'm still slightly confused, though, mainly about slot sizes. I've never dabbled with this before now, so please excuse my undoubtedly error-filled jargon:

So, I know that an X58 has two PCIe x16 slots, and I know that a P55 has two x8 slots. So how did the test in your X58/P55 comparison article that tested Arkham Asylum crossfire two 5870s with the P55? I don't see how it can fit, since each 5850 requires a x16 slot.
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December 8, 2009 11:34:21 AM

I suggest you research more about computers and PC building before purchasing anything. You don't seem to know what you are doing or talking about. Its an expensive decision to buy a new PC. You really need to research more if you are asking questions like these.

Read articles on Tom's and other sources and also watch as many YouTube videos as possible. That is how I learned.

Sorry for my brutal honesty but you will thank me later.

I will throw you a bone...

Any single graphics card on the market can use a P55 platform without any restrictions. The 16x16x and 8x8x configurations on any motherboard and on any platform are the amount of bandwidth dedicated to your graphics card. P55 uses a full 16x bandwidth until another graphics card is installed. Then the bandwidth is divided into 8x8x because all P55 CPUs have an onboard PCI controller capped at 16x bandwidth total. Which means if you have only one graphics card installed it will run without any handicap because that one card is using 16x bandwidth. Once another card is installed in a P55 platform the bandwidth is split into 8x8x since there is only 16x total bandwidth allowed. This doesn't wreak as much havoc on graphics power it may look. You are looking at a loss of 10 FPS max on a P55 dual graphics card setup.

An X58 CPU doesn't have an onboard PCI controller in the CPU. Which leaves all the bandwidth control to the motherboard. With an X58 Platform you are allowed 32x bandwidth total which will be split into 16x, 16x16x, or 8x8x8x8x.
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December 8, 2009 11:48:52 AM

Tth 16x or 8x is the speed at which the slots operate. Both boards will be able to fit the cards, as the slots are the same (PCIe). The 16x/16x on the X58 means that the two cards will both run at 16x. The 8x/8x on the P55 means the two cards will both run at 8x. As such, 16x/16x should be faster, but there's not really a noticeable difference. Just make sure you don't a board that has a slot running at 4x.
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December 8, 2009 9:14:37 PM

Gotcha. That makes sense. Thanks, I'm going to research some more, as this purchase is meant for a ways down the road. And by that time, I'll be able to get some more technical advice from some people who actually do this stuff for a living.
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December 8, 2009 11:33:44 PM

A lot of people here DO do this for a living. Or at least do it enough to stay current with all the recommendations and benchmarking. You'd be surprised how fast the new stuff gets recommended here, probably a lot faster than in the stores.
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December 9, 2009 3:32:14 PM

Yeah, Tom's Hardware is pretty legit when it comes to reviews and recommendations, even a novice like me can see that.

By the way, I was looking around on the net for some information about the PCI bandwidth issue, and I found this quote:

"Smaller PCIe cards will fit into larger PCIe slots. The computer simply ignores the extra connections. For example, a x4 card can plug into a x16 slot. A x16 card, however, would be too big for a x4 slot."

http://computer.howstuffworks.com/pci-express3.htm


So smaller will fit into larger, but larger will not fit into smaller?

Isn't that exactly the opposite of what you guys just got done telling me? Or does the x4 bandwidth just suck that badly?
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December 10, 2009 11:33:19 AM

It just sucks.

All that means is that a 4x card will be able to run without any handicap on a 16x bandwidth slot because that 4x bandwidth can easily fit into 16x slot.

A 16x card obviously can not use all of its potential in an 4x bandwidth slot.

I would stay away from that website as its obviously confusing you.

I use http://www.bit-tech.net/ exclusively for reviews. They are dead on and are not afraid of giving a bad rating to one that deserves such.

Take your time and read things over and over if you have to. Understanding what you want to build is key. It took me four months of research to be absolutely sure what I was buying was right for me. I was constantly switching from AMD and Intel, motherboard to motherboard, graphics card to graphics card, etc. for quite awhile. What I have right now I know will last me for some time because it has room to grow and upgrade options.
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December 10, 2009 11:41:01 AM

Research is definitely the key. It's a mistake jumping into the part selection right off the bat. I suggest starting by reading many, many guides on the actual building (you know, this piece here, that piece there kind of stuff). That will make you familiar with the general layout of motherboards and what parts use what slots.

Once you're got a good idea on how to build a computer, start reading up on the basics. Know what specs are important for the different parts, and how big the differences have to be to be noticeable. This will help you figure out exactly what you're looking, so you don't have to take an internet stranger's word on quality and performance.

After that, start looking at parts. Once you've got a compatibile build together, start looking at benchmarks for specific parts or start asking people online.

All of this could take a while, making it pointless to start with the parts. By the time you know what you're looking at, the parts you originally picked will either be replaced or signifianctly cheaper.
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December 10, 2009 9:37:00 PM

BohleyK said:
It just sucks.

All that means is that a 4x card will be able to run without any handicap on a 16x bandwidth slot because that 4x bandwidth can easily fit into 16x slot.

A 16x card obviously can not use all of its potential in an 4x bandwidth slot.

I would stay away from that website as its obviously confusing you.

I use http://www.bit-tech.net/ exclusively for reviews. They are dead on and are not afraid of giving a bad rating to one that deserves such.

Take your time and read things over and over if you have to. Understanding what you want to build is key. It took me four months of research to be absolutely sure what I was buying was right for me. I was constantly switching from AMD and Intel, motherboard to motherboard, graphics card to graphics card, etc. for quite awhile. What I have right now I know will last me for some time because it has room to grow and upgrade options.



lol, same here, I have been researching/reading multiple sites, reviews, guides etc. for about 3 months and I still have till the begining of febuary to make the purchase.

I have changed almost all of the components at least once and changed them back over and over again
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December 15, 2009 1:51:21 PM

Okay, guys, thanks for all the replies, I think I'm beginning to grasp this a little bit more. I'll continue to do my research as the decision day nears.
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December 15, 2009 3:21:03 PM

First one all, I agree that personal research and reading is important. It's your money, once you're stuck with a decision affecting your budget... in your case ability to dual card (1366 mobos) vs future-proofing (1366mobos) vs budget (i5-750) vs performance/price (i5-750).

What I like about this forum is that many people will give out a summary of a good article in addition to linking the article.

Like dpaul pointed out:

The bottom line is that they are all great systems. A typical i920 build (CPU + MB + 3X2GB RAM) will tend to be about $200 more than a typical i750 build (CPU + MB + 2X2GB RAM). For most gamers, this $200 would be better spent on getting either a better graphics card, or adding a second graphics card.

It seems there are 3 big factors you need to think through:

1) You major in cpuscience, therefore Hyper-Threading sounds like a good thing for you. 2nd it's more logical to get a future proof system so you won't have to get new parts (processor, mobo, rams) later.

2) Best gaming performance to price ratio. Every time you're going to build an i7-920 system and add the mobo + ram, you'll keep telling yourself: "WoW, I'm better off with 05-750 for gaming, much cheaper and in some cases better than i7". It'll make you happy knowing performance/price wise you made a good decision going i5. However back to point #1, for better future upgrades, you're still better off with i7 1366 mobos.

3) What resolution do you play, and if you want to max out settings. Correct me guys if I'm wrong, but this is what I think: @ 1650x1080 reso or lower (max settings) a single premium card is better than dual cards. @ 1650x1080 reso or higher (very high) dual cards is better than single premium card. Of course nothing beats dual premium card at higher reso and you can (max settings), then again it'll be back to square one because of price/performance constraint.
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December 15, 2009 4:27:02 PM

Good points, woozy. As I'm looking more into CPUs, I'm starting to think that the 1366 i7's are eventually going to take over in gaming, even though currently they are often beaten by the 1156's all around. I'm probably going to sit it out though, as I'm thinking Intel is going to have them optimized (or at least improved) by the time I'm ready to decide on parts.

I'm one to plan for the future, as I don't want to make a purchase and then be forced to replace everything a couple years down the road because superior hardware is now dominating the market. So with the future in mind, I'll probably just wait for the LGA1366's to improve.
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