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New gaming PC (price/performance <$700) - Already have GPU/PSU

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December 28, 2009 4:13:16 PM

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: now or very soon
BUDGET RANGE: $700 or less After all Rebates, Bing Cash Back, etc.
SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: gaming, photography, office, intenert
PARTS NOT REQUIRED: keyboard, mouse, monitor, speakers, PSU, GPU
PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: newegg.com, zipzoomfly.com, or any other site that is trustworthy
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
PARTS PREFERENCES: the price/performance leader
OVERCLOCKING: Maybe in future
SLI OR CROSSFIRE: Maybe in future (I realize this would require PSU upgrade)
MONITOR RESOLUTION: 1680x1050 (22") or occasionally, 1280x720 and 1920x1080 (52")

Hey guys. Okay my friend needs a basic PC and I am thinking of giving him me Dell 530. I have put a new PSU and GPU in that about 4 or 5 months ago. I have the original PSU and GPU and am thinking of putting those back in to give him that PC.

So If I would build a PC what would be some suggested components from a price/performance point of view? Also understand that I have never built a PC before and don't want to tinker with overclocking at this time.

I already own the following,which I got for a total of $160 - thanks to bing.com and mail in rebates :) 

ATI 4870 HIS IceQ 512MB
Corsair VX-550 (550 watts)

I would like to try to keep my PCs for about 5 years or so. So something that would allow me to swap GPUs and CPUs as needed in that time frame would be great. Technically I don't need a DVD burner either as I own a great external one.

So what do you suggest for:
CPU
Motherboard
Case
Ram
Hard Drive

Am I missing anything else? Any advice for a 1st timer?

As regards what I use my pc for:

Some games I like playing are as follows:
Tropico 3
Anno 1404 (a.k.a. Dawn of Discovery)
Galactic Civilizations 2
Age of Empires 3
Settlers 10th Ann.

Tropico 3 and Anno 1404 seem to point to my current CPU being a bottleneck (Core 2 Duo E6550).

So as you can see I really like strategy games. I also like racing games too but do that most on Xbox and PS3 (Forza, GT, etc).

I am not interested in playing 1st or 3rd person shooters. I do like using photoshop and other image editing software. Sometimes I do some video encoding.

Also, I've always bought Intel based computers for CPU but I have no problems getting AMD if it's performance is similar for less or still really good for substantially less. I don't need state of the art. I just don't want the cheapest thing either. I want something to last a while. You know great price/performance (that's why I bought a $105 4870). So following the same philosophy for suggested other components will be useful.

For comparison sake here is my current 2 year old system (Dell 530):
Intel E6550 2.33Ghz c2d
ATI 4870 512 overclocked by HIS (originally ATI 2600 256)
Corsair VX-550 (originally 300watt oem)
4GB Ram
DVD Burner
320GB HDD
Windows Vista Home Premium (I want Windows 7 for the new system)

Thanks in advance.
December 28, 2009 5:24:14 PM

Case: Antec 300 illusion ($65 incl shipping)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Hard Drive: Samsung F3 500GB. ($55 free shipping)
Fast single 500GB platter drive, the Seagate 7200.12 is another option at the same price.
<currently out of stock, Im waiting on amazon or newegg to get more>

At your budget you can afford an intel i5 CPU, 4GB (2x2GB kit) of DDR3-1333 or DDR3-1600 RAM and a good P55 motherboard like this gigabyte.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
December 29, 2009 11:58:35 AM

Do you think the i7 and appropriate board would be more future proof? (i.e. when it comes time to upgrade the CPU in 2-2.5 years or so, I would have more flexibility?) Or could I upgrade the i5 just as easily to whatever current processors would be there at that time? From what I understand I could only get other i5 processors or maybe i7s that use the P55 board.

I also understand that if I wan't to crossfire any future GPU puchases (say when 5870's go down in price) that if I get the P55 board, that I wouldn't be able to do this? Something about bandwidth on the PCIx16? Is thsi true?

What about AMD x4 processors? How do these compare? Also, do that have a two tier CPU/board architecture like Intel? Or could I upgrade the CPU to any current offerings in the future? (agian 2-2.5 years from now)?
Related resources
December 29, 2009 2:05:19 PM

Okay it seems to me that an i7 build is not much more than an i5.

i5 build $475
CPU: i5-750 $150 at microcenter
Motherboard: BIOSTAR T5 XE LGA 1156 Intel P55 ATX Intel Motherboard $100
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Case: Antec Three Hundred at Microcenter $50 same as http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Ram: OCZ Gold 6GB (3 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Low Voltage Desktop Memory Model OCZ3G1600LV6GK $120
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
HDD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 ST3500418AS 500GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" $55
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

i7 build $595
CPU: i7-920 $200 at microcenter
Motherboard: ASRock X58 Extreme LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX Intel Motherboard $170
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Case: Antec Three Hundred at Microcenter $50 same as http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Ram: OCZ Gold 6GB (3 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Low Voltage Desktop Memory Model OCZ3G1600LV6GK $120
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
HDD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 ST3500418AS 500GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" $55
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

The ram is the same for both because it ends up being one of the cheapest 6GB ones I can buy.

So for an extra 120 is it worth it? I like knowing I can do crossfire if I want. Although to be honest single card solutions seem to work best for me. Is tripple channel memory have a noticeable difference compared to double? The motherboard for the i7 has 6 dim slots vs. the 4 on the i5. That would come in handy if I wanted to add 6 more gigs (12 total). In the i5 I could only add one more stick of 2GB for a total of 8.

It seems like the i7 build is more future proof. Is that true? When i9s come out could I use them with this board?

Therfore, does the i7 build represent a more future proof computer?
December 29, 2009 5:33:10 PM

You want this antec 300 illusion. The one you have linked does not include the two front fans. Two front fans installed for $5 is a great deal.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...


You wont be upgrading the i5 CPU in a couple years, you will be replacing the 4870 with a stronger graphics card and adding an SSD for booting the OS and your most used applications. The i5 is far stronger of a CPU than the 4870 is a GPU.

We are past the era of dropping faster CPUs into the same old socket every couple years. Speed increases are not coming from frequency increase, they are coming from architecture changes. In the near future to significantly increase the CPU you will need a new motherboard also. There will be 6 and 8 core CPUs that may well fit in 1366 socket, but there is no guarantee the current x58 motherboards will handle them. For most gaming, more than 3 cores is not providing any benefit so you will not likely want to buy a 6 or 8 core CPU that costs as much as an entire new computer.

The one thing that the i7 920 has going for it is about a 5% graphics speed increase if you are running two high end graphics cards (like the $400 5870) and the ability to effectively run 3 graphics cards. The i5 is limited to two graphics cards and at the high end does loose some scaling because of the x8/x8 pcie restriction.
December 29, 2009 7:49:27 PM

Thanks for that information. This does all seem quite complicated. But I'm willing to learn.

As regards the x58 motherboards and i7 CPUs I can understand your point about no guarantees that I could put, say the i9s in them. But there is still the possibility, whereas there is none with the i5 option.

As regards gaming, I'm seeing an increase in games utilizing multiple cores. Anno 1404 is one example (of course this will vary per game)

See this (Q6600 50% faster than E6600 even though both are 2.6Ghz)...

http://www.pcgameshardware.com/aid,691811/Lynnfield-tes...

and this (shows load spread to all cores)....

http://www.guru3d.com/article/anno-1404-vga-graphics-ca...

I do understand your point about architecture changes are the way now to boost speed for any single core. Still, multiple cores also is the answer to faster computing as well. I do think more games (and applications) will take advantage of this.

I am not going to rule out either processor at this point. I am still interesting in hearing/learning more.

I don't want to overspend for something that won't provide much benefit.

There are so many motherboards to choose from. Which do you suggest for the i7?

Regarding the Gigibite you suggested for the i5 it appears to be 16x/4x on the pci-e 2.0. Would that be an issue with crossfire/SLI? Or am I not understanding the specs page

Lastly, what type of ram should I get for either i5 or i7. I don't know if I want to overclock. Learning towards not doing so. I understand some motherboards can only run in one channel mode at higher speed ram. What does this mean. Does it affect double or triple channel DDR3 ram performance?
December 29, 2009 8:48:31 PM

That asrock x58 extreme is the cheapest good motherboard. If you dont need lots of extra overclocking features in the bios, then there is no need to get a more expensive board.

For Gigabyte P55 you have to move up to the -UD4 model to get x8/x8 crossfire. Considering what you have now, tossing the 4870 and buying a single strong graphics card in a year or two is much more likely than ever getting a second 4870.

Realistically, getting DDR3-1600 cas7 RAM is the best you can do right now. A 2x2GB kit for i5/AM3 or 3x2GB kit for i7 920 is all the RAM you will likely need.
December 31, 2009 7:23:15 PM

What about triple channel verses double channel ram? Are there any disadvantages with staying with double channel (i.e. i5 processor)
December 31, 2009 7:32:05 PM

Memory is not an issue, its bound to the motherboard you choose. You stick with an i5 because you want the best gaming performance/price or you go with an i7 920 because you want stronger threaded application support.
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