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Building 2 PCs/2K Each - Review/Advice

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December 9, 2009 9:23:56 AM

It's been five years since I built PCs for me and my wife and they are showing their age. This is the third set I am building for each other. I usually build towards the top end and run them into the ground. I'm not into replacing parts unless they die. When I want to upgrade it's usually everything. The differences between the builds with be [1] mine [2] hers.

I am currently upgrading two machines with the following specs:
Cases/PS: Tsunami VA3000 w/450w PS
Motherboards: Asus K8N-E Delux
CPUs: AMD Athlon 64 3.4G
Graphics Cards: NVIDIA GeForce 6800s
Memory [1]2G, [2]1.5G
The rest is pretty basic with WD hard drives (7200 RPM, 16MB), dvd writer optical drives, etc.

Basically we both are going to spend around 2K each. I am going over because of the graphics card and my wife asked where she can "cut" corners. So both systems will not be identical. Basically this is where I will be asking advice. I don't mind cutting corners for her since this is the first time she is actually helping to pay for the systems! :D  But I want to make it smart choices when "cutting" corners. I told her anything I build will be an extreme upgrade from our current systems.

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: Can build both machines now. At least hoping too!

BUDGET RANGE: [1] Over $2000, [2] Under $2000

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: [1] gaming (EQ, EQII and now WoW, but want to get back into regular PC games), photo editing/graphic design with Photoshop, Illustrator, etc., watching videos, programming/developing, music, surfing, email, im, ect. [2] Photo editing is her number one thing now with Photoshop Elements. The rest she mostly does it surf, LiveJournal, Facebook, and plays WoW erratically (around a third or less of what I play). We keep talking about getting something more that an Flip video camera, so I would be the one to edit videos. Probably next year.

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: keyboard, mouse, monitor, speakers

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: I'm pretty open, but Amazon with Preferred shipping and no tax! Newegg.com or any reputable site that comes up in Google. I've built my last two sets of PCs from a local shop in San Diego, which has great prices if using your debit card at Chips and Memory

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA

PARTS PREFERENCES:
CPU: [1]Core i7 950 [2]Core i7 920 I figure downgrading her shouldn't hurt too much with performance and can save around $270.

Graphics [1] I'm pretty much set on Radeon HD 5970 and truthfully will want to crossfire another one in a year or so. I program during the day and gaming is my outlet now (when the kids go to bed. [2]Sapphire Radeon HD 5770 I've been reading this is the best value for a budget. She only plays WoW for a month then stops for two or so. The rest she is editing photos. Thought this would be a good card to start with and if she want to upgrade or get another and crossfire in a year or so she can.

Memory: I'm biased towards Kingston, but open to suggestions: Kingston HyperX 6GB DDR3-2000 For myself I was thinking about getting two kits for a total of 12G, but starting to thing that is overkill and can always add more later.

Motherboard: This has been the hardest to decide. I've had mostly ASUS mobos, but had others and open to suggestions. I've been leaning towards the Asus P6T series, but having trouble deciding. For myself I am thinking about the ASUS P6X58D Premium, which is supposed to have USB 3.0 support. I was originally thinking of the ASUS PST Deluxe for both of us. I've been going back and forth on this for a few weeks now.

Hard drives: [1]Western Digital 300GB Veloci-Raptor for boot and apps (For gaming). For my data and her drives: Two Western Digital 1 TB. 7200 RPM, Black Edition in a Raid 0 config.

PSU: Open for this: I know I need at least something like the Thermaltake 1000w TR2. Not sure if it could handle two HD 5970s. For her basically the same if she want to crossfire another card in a year.

Cases Again open to suggestion. It just needs to fit two monster graphic cards! Chips and Memory have some nice "gaming" style cases. But as long as it fits my hardware, has many fans, and is either black or silver, its good by me. LED light is nice, but not mandatory.

OVERCLOCKING: Yes... Was maybe, but this tread convinced me it's safer to overclock now. *Guide to Choosing Parts*

SLI OR CROSSFIRE: Yes

MONITOR RESOLUTION: 1920x1200 Both are HD compatable

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: Just thanks in advance for taking the time in reading this. The mobos are the biggest bottle neck in deciding a final build. All my friends went Mac, but with Windows 7, I decided to try one more PC build again! As in the beginning, I usually try to build systems that will last for a couple of years until everything is outdated. Usually more that two years.

FYI... I have some Logitech Z Cinema speakers that sound awesome, but the USB type connection and driver/software are not the best. If you have a suggestion on a good speaker system (Usually I look for 2.1 since 5.1 does not make sense when you get get the "rear/side" speakers in the right place on a desk.) Before I bought these, I was seriously thinking of getting the Bose 2.1, but for the price?
December 9, 2009 11:05:55 AM

You don't need 12 GB of RAM. 2000 mhz is also overkill. Pick up a nice set of DDR3 1333 mhz with CAS Latency of 7.

HDD: Velociraptor's are ccompletely worthless now days. Either go SSD or leave it out. Switch the WD data drives to Samsung Spinpoint F3. They're a lot faster and chepaer.

GPU: 5770 is overkill for what shes' doing.

PSU: You don't need 1000W. Probably be alright with 850W. Go Corsair or OCZ for quality.

Case: HAF 932.
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Best solution

December 9, 2009 6:06:06 PM

Save your money and get two 920s. They 920 and 950 overclock to the same speeds so its simply throwing money away to go above the 920 for overclockers.

Velociraptors and Black 1TB HDDs are one generation behind now. The new fastest HDDs run 500GB platters.

The new Caviar black 2TB is currently WDs only 500GB platter drive. Samsung F3 500GB and 1TB are also new, fast and inexepensive. Any of them consistently beat velociraptors even though they are only 7200 rpm drives.

I disagree with MadAdmiral about the 5770. Its the weakest card you want to go with if you are playing MMOs at 1920x1200. It should nearly max WoW at that resolution, but WoW isnt the most graphically challenging MMO.

The 5970 (especially overclocked) is a power hog. An Antec True Power Quattro 1000W PSU or Corsair 1000HX is not an unreasonable choice if you will be running two of them. The thermaltake you listed is not even 80plus certified, which means its output fluctuates more at different load levels. I wouldnt buy a nice high-end system like this and risk damaging it with a PSU that was not going to provide consistent power.

For the 5770 GPU, an Antec True Power 650 or Corsair 620HX would be plenty for overclockig and dual GPUs.

My preferences for high end cases are Coolermaster HAF 932 or 922 and Antecs 1200, 902 and 900. You could get the 932 or 1200 for the long 5970 GPU and a 922 or 902 for the 5770 system. Those cases look the same, but smaller.


USB3 is so new its hard to know how useful it will really be. Its my understanding that currently all USB3 boards loose USB3 capability when you crossfire graphics cards (not enough PCIe channels for both).
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December 9, 2009 6:24:39 PM

If you are going to be overclocking then the i7 950 is not worth the premium price. Get both systems i7 920s and overclock them both, the performance difference between OCed 920 and 950 won't be noticeable. That will help the price cutting you need tremendously.

PSU: For her a Corsair 750tx will be more than enough if she intends to crossfire 5770s. For 5970 you still probably won't need 1000w. An 850tx should do, or new 950tx for sure.

Make sure to do some research into aftermarket coolers for OCing, plenty of good and reasonably priced options around now for socket 1366.

I will also throw in for the Spinpoint F3, using one in my newest build and it is quite zippy. Velociraptors are not worth it anymore.
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December 9, 2009 6:52:38 PM

Thanks for the reply! I extremely appreciate it. Agree on the RAM.

HDD: I think SSD are not worth the price, so definitely not gong that route. The reason I was thinking about the Velocraptor's were from Amazon reviews. Basically most comments the only performance was in boot up response and gaming, but pretty much worthless for anything else. Going to go for the Samsung Spinpoint F3s.

GPU: Yea, since here only gaming is WoW, which doesn't have the best of graphics. Choose the 5770 since I believe it was their budget card for the 5XXXX series. Probably can get her a Radeon HD 4650 that would do the job and blow away the current GeForce 6800.

PSU: I believe for the 5970 a minimum for one card (OC) is 750W - 850W. Two I've read that you would need 1200W. Guess price will dictate if I want to start off with one PS/card or get a 1200W, but take the chance of never getting a second card. Looking into Cosair since I've come across great reviews always.

Case: Total score! That is exactly what I was looking for.

Now just need to decide on a mobo and I am done and just have to shop around for prices. Thanks again for the input! :D 
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December 9, 2009 7:03:27 PM

I wouldn't want to go lower than the 5770, mainly for the future potential. Any build with a decent budget (over $700) should be using a 5xxx series for a little bit of future proofing.
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December 9, 2009 7:28:34 PM

I would reconsider an SSD, expecially an Intel X25. I went from 4 Raptors in Raid to a single X25 80GB and the SSD makes those Raptors feel like they are 10yrs old. There is literally no waiting for everything to boot up - once you see your desktop, you are ready to go. Plus, SSDs are far more reliable than hard disks as there are no moving parts.

The ONLY downside to an SSD is having to use a computer without one because it will feel extremely slow.
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December 9, 2009 7:36:20 PM

ONLY downside??!! How about having to shell out a couple hundred bucks for a tiny drive. Or wasting valuable budget on something that doens't help anything beside booting up. Or seeing the price fall through the floor the second you buy one. Or only being able to use half the capacity to be effective. Or having to reformat all the time.

Any of those ring a bell?
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December 9, 2009 7:45:30 PM

First, you DONT need much space for the OS drive.
Second, it DOES help with much more than booting up. Obviously, you have never used one.
Third, show me ANY where that the prices on SSDs have fallen quickly.
Reformat? What the heck are you talking about?

Before you make these comments, make sure you know what you are talking about.

EDIT: what happened to the person who told the OP to ditch the Velicraptor for an SSD? I thought you were on the same page as me.

If the OP wanted a Velociraptor because of its performance, then an Intel SSD would be a much better choice. V-Raptor=$180/230 Intel X25=$200-250
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December 9, 2009 9:06:17 PM

I did, but that's only because if you're wasting the money on a raptor, you might as well waste more for a SSD. They're nice to have, but not worth the premium.
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December 9, 2009 10:45:21 PM

My first response was interrupted so much that there were other replies after! Great advice and did some research on them.

CPUs: Sold on the 920s and overclocking. That saves me money now!

GPUs: Sticking with the original 5770 for her for DirectX 11 and future potential. Upset that I have to wait for the 5970!

PSUs For future crossfiring both cards and after suggestions/researching: Hers: Corsair 750TX. Mine: Corsair HX1000W. Only $95 more than the Corsair TX850W and should handle another 5970. Plus $20 rebate.

HDs Raid 0 two Samsung Spinpoint F3 for both of us. Since my build is turning out cheaper, seriously thinking about a 80GB Intel X25 SSD. Just found out you cannot install CS4 on a flash drive. I wonder what other limitations are there. Still saving a lot more than the price of the SSD with this post.

Cases: HAF 932. Might look at a 922 for her if it will fit two 5770s then why not?

Mobos: My first choice has been the ASUS P6TD Deluxe. But a review of the item pointed me to the ASUS P6X58D Premium. It's getting good reviews, advance technologies (USB 3 and Sata 6GB), and seems to be pretty OC friendly like the P6TD Deluxe. And only $30 more.

Last is cooling for the CPUs. Truthfully I always bought what was available when buying the CPU. A 920 OC thread linked the Prolimatech Mega Shadow Deluxe Black Edition CPU Cooler. Although I know this is important especially with OCing, I really don't have an opinion on a good CPU cooler. Keeps the CPU cool then it's a winner to me whether air, water, pixie fairies, etc. :D 

Thanks again to everyone who has posted! It's been five years since building the last set and for the past month been frantically catching up on technology. You all filled in some the the gabs and put me in the right direction for some research.



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December 9, 2009 11:15:22 PM

5770s are relatively short cards. They will fit in a small case. Get her the 922.


The Megahalems is arguably the best air cooler available. Its also silly expensive ($120ish once you buy fans and clips). The Xigmatek Dark Knight is only $45 and only a couple degrees warmer than the Megahalems. The Coolermaster Hyper 212 plus is only $30 and is maybe a degree warmer than the Dark Knight. There are several other fine coolers in the price range like the Scythe Mugen 2, Noctua UD-12H, etc. With those glass side doors, aesthetics matter.
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December 10, 2009 3:06:09 AM

Yes, you can install CS4 on an SSD. I originally had thought this too due to Adobe's poor wording, but Adobe means an external flash drive. Oh yeah, and I have CS4 Production installed on an Intel X25 80GB.

The $75 Noctua is rated at the top and also extremely quiet.

Just want to confirm that you are aware of Raid 0's inherent risk?
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December 10, 2009 3:29:32 AM

@Specialk90 - Between your posts and friends that asked me if I am getting a SSD drive for the new build, I was finally sold. $200 - @250 isn't too bad. Thanks for the info on CS4!

Looked at reviews for the Dark Knight and they were great. I'll compare with the Noctua. Finalized the mobos: The P6T should be fine for my wife and is around $80 cheaper than the V2 and $100 than the P6X58D Premium.

Still looking into the RAM suggestions I have seen here and other threads. Usually always bought Kingston and never had problems nor do you ever see bad reviews. RAM is something I don't like to skimp on because failing RAM is a headache to troubleshoot!
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December 10, 2009 3:45:49 AM

Oh... About Raid 0 risks... Yea, I know them, but going with exp. on my side with having no problems. Our current set ups were the same except mine was in Raid 0. (It showed sometimes... especially installing software.) My two drives are still up and running and her hard drive died a year ago. I have a back up program that backs up continually, so I should be fine and not lose data. Just the hassle of restoring the data.
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December 10, 2009 4:02:58 AM

Failing Ram...don't get OCZ then. I got 12GB of their Obsidian DDR3-1600 in Sept and had 1 stick bad but didn't find it until about 2 weeks ago. Their reviews on newegg are bad also.

G.Skill has excellent reviews and is priced fairly low too.
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December 10, 2009 9:31:35 AM

Do not base an assumption about quality on Newegg reviews. Most of the people ar there aren't technically inclined and don't know what they're doing. Any RMA's or defect that could possibly be attributed to user error should be.

That said, I like G.Skill's offerings, and for the most part, they're cheaper for the same performance and quality.
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December 11, 2009 6:31:58 AM

I agree that many reviews on newegg are clueless but thats why I look at the low scores only. I weed out those that clearly seem clueless and go from there.

I just noticed that the Samsung F3 has incredible reviews, which means either newegg fixed their shipping process or Samsung has a very reliable drive.

And I can attest to the poor reviews for the OCZ Obsidian as I had a bad stick. There is not that much user error that can happen with ram to explain all these bad reviews/problems people are encountering.
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December 11, 2009 6:42:04 AM

It's pretty easy to weed out bad reviews from clueless people. With all the suggestions here, I've been basically googling different resources for reviews. Most suggestions have some great reviews on them. I believe one of the hardest pieces of hardware with on and off reviews is memory. I'm actually right now in the process of ordering parts. Too bad there are a few items out of stock. I'm hoping that I have the parts my the 21st. Taking the rest of the year off and it would be nice to have a new build.
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December 11, 2009 5:30:55 PM

In the process of ordering parts and talking to a friend on IM. He said don't spend the money on Intel X25-M 80GB SSD and Raid 0 two Kingston Kingston SSDNow V-Series SNV125-S2BD/64GB. He said they are pretty reliable. Anyone else heard of these?
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December 11, 2009 6:27:42 PM

cybian said:
In the process of ordering parts and talking to a friend on IM. He said don't spend the money on Intel X25-M 80GB SSD and Raid 0 two Kingston Kingston SSDNow V-Series SNV125-S2BD/64GB. He said they are pretty reliable. Anyone else heard of these?


Those drives are terrible compared to Intel's 80gb model. The read speed on those kingston drives are only 100mb/ps...and intels are 250mpbs.

If you perfer Kingston over intel...here is the exact same intel drive only with a Kingston badge:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Once you get a good SSD you will never want to go back. Trust me.
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December 11, 2009 6:32:54 PM

@cory1234 - Agree on the read/write speed on a single drive, but having them in Raid 0 should make up the difference.
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December 11, 2009 6:33:05 PM

There are not many good SSDs. Intel X25s (and IIRC OCZ Vertex) are about it. Someone has the intel X25 under a different name also. Check the Toms articles section, its a pretty recent article.

*edit* I have to retract that. Seems there are good new SSDs from several companies. You need to make sure you get a good new one, though. Old SSDs suffered horribly from aging and some other performance issues.
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/ssd-x25-m-vertex,23...

in the gaming performance charts, the intel still is the top performer by far.
http://www.tomshardware.com/charts/2009-flash-ssd-chart...
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December 12, 2009 8:26:00 AM

I went with the Kingston SSDNow V Series SNV125-S2/40GB and bought two to Raid 0 them. These use the Intel’s 34nm X25-M SSDs controllers, but only use five data channels instead of 10 like the Intel X25-ms. Pretty good read speeds of approx. 170MB/s, but only 40MB/s for write. Besides the capacity being only 40MB, this screams (and Kingston expects) you to Raid 0 these. I've read a lot of reviews with these in Raid 0 and it is mostly positive. Put two in Raid 0 and they usually benchmark above the Intel X25s.

In the end it sometimes comes down to what is available atm. The Intel's are not expected till the end of the year but I was able to buy the two Kingston's earlier. Plus the Raid 0 will slightly outperform the X25.

I notice most of the responses to my thread are users who seem active in this forum.

This is OT... But what is this fear of Raid 0? Sure the failure rate increases, but it is not doubled. Everyone I know has been Raid 0'ing for years and never having problems. I don't know one person who had Raid 0 and a hard drive failed. Hell, my current experience is I built two rigs identical except one had hard drives in Raid 0. The one with one drive failed a year ago. I know many people with one hard drive that failed... to include the misses. Should be backing up anyway!
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December 12, 2009 9:08:30 AM

Thought I was done, but.... I wanted to get the two SSD drives for the misses, but I was also getting the Asus P6T for a motherboard. I keep reading that JMicron is horrendous for Raid 0. I don't mind difficulty, I mind impossible. Should it be fine to have two SSDs in Raid 0 for the boot device after the CD on a Asus P6T? I have been reading people advising on the V2, but I don't think she needs that for her rig. Technically it looks fine for her.
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December 12, 2009 11:20:08 PM

The problem with the Kingston version (and Dane-Elec) is that they don't use Intel's firmware and, therefore, cannot be updated with Intel's firmware releases. You are stuck with whatever Kingston releases.

Part of why the X25 is so good is Intel's firmware that automatically fixes/defragments the drive without any user intervention.
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