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$500 Build for Office Apps and Movies

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January 20, 2010 11:36:29 AM

Hey everybody, I'm building a simple box for mostly productivity apps, watching movies, and some occasional light gaming such as with World of Warcraft or emulating older arcade games with MAME. I want to make sure that my prospective build is ok. I welcome any other comments or suggestions.

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: This month
BUDGET RANGE: $450 - $550 including tax and shipping
SYSTEM USAGE: MS Office, Internet, playing movies, light gaming
PARTS NOT REQUIRED: keyboard, mouse, monitor, speakers, OS
PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: newegg.com or tigerdirect.com
PARTS PREFERENCES: none
OVERCLOCKING: No
SLI OR CROSSFIRE: No
MONITOR RESOLUTION: 1920x1200
ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: It is a design goal that when not playing games, the computer should be inaudible.

CPU: AMD Phenom II X4 925 2.8 GHz
Mobo: Biostar A785GE AM2+/AM3 Micro ATX AMD Motherboard
Memory:PQI POWER Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800
GPU:Zotac ZT-20401-10L GeForce GT 240 512MB 128-bit GDDR5
HDD:Western Digital Caviar Blue WD3200AAJS 320GB 7200 RPM SATA
Optical: LITE-ON CD/DVD Burner - Bulk Black SATA Model
Wireless: GIGABYTE GN-WP01GS PCI Wireless Adapter
Power:Rosewill RV350 350W ATX 1.3
Case:Apex TX-381-C Black Steel Micro ATX Tower

These items total $528 on Newegg, including shipping. Price is a major concern, but I'll spring for more if it's really worth it. There are a few specific things I want to make sure of:

1) The power supply (350W) is enough.
2) All of this fits into the case, which is a largish microATX case.
3) There will be little to no noise when watching movies.
4) How reputable are PQI, Biostar, and Zotac? I've never heard of them.

Thanks for any suggestions!



Best solution

January 20, 2010 12:58:51 PM

What do you mean by "light" gaming? What games are you playing?

1.) 350W would be enough, especially since (depending on the answer to the above) I would recommend droppint the GPU and going with onboard video.

2.) It will all fit in the case.

3.) I don't think you're going to notice it while watching a movie.

4.) Never head of PQI or Zotac, but they probably don't matter too much. Biostar isn't very high quality.

So here are my changes:

Mobo: MSI 785GM-E51 $88 shipped. This is more expensive, but has onboard video, so I'm recommending not getting a discrete GPU. It's also higher quality and supports the current RAM standards.

RAM: OCZ Platinum 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3 1333 CAS Latency 7 $80 after rebates. $100 shipped.

GPU: None. Use onboard video.

HDD: Samsung Spinpoint F3 500 GB $55. It's worth the extra $8. If it's sold out, the Seagate 7200.12 500 GB is the same price and just about as good.

PSU: SeaSonic SS-300ES Bronze 300W $44 shipped. Much higher quality, and much more efficient (lower heat, less noise, longer lasting).

Total: $512 shipped, plus $20 in rebates for a final total of $492. Unless I added wrong. You can also check for combos for lower prices/higher specs.
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January 20, 2010 1:03:55 PM

Thank you very much for your reply.

Quote:
What do you mean by "light" gaming? What games are you playing?


It would be really nice if the computer could handle World of Warcraft at 1920x1200 at medium graphics settings with a decent FPS (40+). That's sort of what I'm shooting for, though really most of the time, it's just going to be movies and Office.
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January 20, 2010 1:16:19 PM

WoW isn't very graphics intense, so this might be possible with the onboard video. It definitely doesn't require a $90 GPU.

I would suggest that since you're trying to keep costs down, and a GPU will certainly put you over the $500 mark anyway, try an integrate graphics build first, and if that isn't good enough, grab a ~$50 GPU.
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January 20, 2010 1:20:58 PM

Ok, thanks!

Do you think it's worth it to get a higher power PSU when I initially buy it on the off chance that I might get a video card?
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January 20, 2010 1:27:45 PM

Maybe. Check out the requirements for the GPUs in that price range or find a good wattage calculator.

I doubt you'll need to go over 400-450W though. Stick with OCZ, Corsair, Antec Earthwatts, Seasonic, FSP and PC Power & Cooling. They're all very reputable PSU makers.

OCZ currently has a 700W StealthXStream for $55 after rebate. It's overkill for anything you'll need, but it's often cheaper than smaller models.
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January 20, 2010 2:00:33 PM

For 40 fps or greater in WoW, you'll want some sort of discrete graphics card.

I run 40-60 fps in most locations with an older 7950 GTX Go, so you don't need anything massive, but I would be surprised if you could get the required performance off of integrated graphics.

However, I agree with MadAdmiral that you should try it without first, see if that meets your requirements, and then buy a video card later.
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January 20, 2010 2:28:20 PM

So now, following MadAdmiral's advice, I'm thinking about:

CPU: AMD Phenom II X4 925 2.8 GHz
Mobo: MSI 785GM-E5
Memory: OCZ Platinum 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3 1333
HDD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 ST3500418AS 500GB 7200 RPM SATA
Optical: LITE-ON CD/DVD Burner - Bulk Black SATA Model
Wireless: GIGABYTE GN-WP01GS PCI Wireless Adapter
Power:OCZ ModXStream Pro OCZ500MXSP 500W
Case: Apex TX-381-C Black Steel Micro ATX Tower

Does that look good? Also, I'm reading reviews online, but I can't find a straight answer to the question of if the HD4200 integrated GPU on the motherboard is capable of playing HD movies smoothly. If I wanted to add on a discrete GPU for WoW and HD movies, would you guys have any good suggestions?
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January 20, 2010 2:32:19 PM

Oh yea, and this totals $510 on Newegg.
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January 20, 2010 2:42:17 PM

Use this article and choose either based on the resolution or the price. Keep in mind that the resolution performance listed is for games that are much much more graphics intense than WoW.
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January 20, 2010 4:20:30 PM

Um, if you wanna play wow at 1920 x 1080 integrated graphics won't cut it. If you're alone it might be fine, but in Dal or raids or large bgs... yea.


Try this build

CPU
Phenom II x4 $140.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

RAM/MOBO
OCZ Platinum DDR3 1333 and ECS microATX $134.98 w/ $38 MIR
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

GPU
HD 4850 $99.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

older GPU, but kicks the butt of anything in the price range.
http://anandtech.com/video/showdoc.aspx?i=3720&p=14

Case
APEX $24.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

HD
7200.12 $54.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

PSU/Optical drive
OCZ 500W and Samsung $75.98 w/ $25 MIR
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

Total: $548.91, before $63 MIR and Shipping.
Was $515.41 w/ shipping to NYC after MIR
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January 20, 2010 5:08:09 PM

Thanks banthrasis. That GPU looks good, though it may be more than I need. The Mobo/Memory combo looks like a good deal, but should I be worried about the quality of the components?
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January 20, 2010 5:51:28 PM

Well depending on settings, WOW can start to tax the GPU power. I've got xfire 5850's and an i5 at 3.6ghz, and at max settings at 1920x1080 Dal drops me to 69ish FPS. It was ~40 FPS when I was using 1 5850. That place is just a PITA.

There's a HUGE difference between a comp running WOW, and a comp running WOW in DAL or a 25 man raid/40 man BG.

To be honest I've never actually used an ECS MOBO lol.

You can go with this combo instead.
Biostar Mobo + the OCZ RAM $143.98 but only $20 MIR.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

Final cost goes up $26, but it'll still be a bit under $550 after everything. Biostar is a good budget MOBO company and I've used their boards in builds I did for friends.


I initially used the other MOBO to keep the system Cost under $550 before shipping and MIR (personally I'm too lazy to do MIR's).

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January 21, 2010 3:50:49 AM

After finding some deals on Newegg, here is my spec:

CPU: AMD Phenom II X4 925 2.8 GHz
Mobo: ASUS M4N68T-M
Memory: G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 2x2GB DDR3 1600
GPU: [GIGABYTE GV-R467ZL-1GI Radeon HD 4670 1GB 128-bit DDR3
HDD : Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 ST3500418AS 500GB 7200 RPM SATA
Optical: LITE-ON CD/DVD Burner - Bulk Black SATA Model
Wireless: GIGABYTE GN-WP01GS PCI Wireless Adapter
Power:OCZ ModXStream Pro OCZ500MXSP 500W
Case: Apex TX-381-C Black Steel Micro ATX Tower

This setup has a decent low-end video card and all of the parts are from reputable manufacturers. The total comes to $531 shipped. What do you guys think?
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January 21, 2010 10:30:44 AM

The consensus seemed to be that my CPU was overpowered, so I dropped the CPU down from the X4 to the X2 BE. I would like to try to unlock the other cores on the X2, but I can't figure out if the M4N68T-M supports it. I guess I'm happy with the setup, regardless of whether I can unlock the other cores or not; the X2 BE is a fine chip. I won't be overclocking because of the increased heat and noise.

CPU: AMD Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition Callisto 3.1GHz
Mobo: ASUS M4N68T-M
Memory: OCZ Gold Edition (2 x 2GB) DDR3 1066
GPU: SAPPHIRE 100287VGAL Radeon HD 5670 (Redwood) 512MB 128-bit DDR5
HDD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 ST3500418AS 500GB 7200 RPM SATA
Optical: LITE-ON CD/DVD Burner - Bulk Black SATA Model
Wireless: GIGABYTE GN-WP01GS PCI Wireless Adapter
Power:OCZ ModXStream Pro OCZ500MXSP 500W
Case: Apex TX-381-C Black Steel Micro ATX Tower

(The PSU and optical drive come in a combo for $57, which is hard to beat.)

The shipped total is $517, which is more around where I'm shooting for. I think this build looks good. My original spec wasted money on the CPU, and this spec transferred some of that cash to the video card, where I think I'm getting more bang-for-the-buck, even though I won't be gaming that much.
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January 21, 2010 12:00:57 PM

Um you're better off with the 4850. It's $5 more, but kicks the 5670's butt in terms of performance.
Check the article I posted, it's over 25% faster. You lose DX 11, but then again, the 5670 can't actually run any game with DX 11 features enabled at a playable frame rate... so it's kinda useless
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January 21, 2010 12:13:54 PM

Agree with banthracis. The 5670 is not a gaming CPU. However, it is a great HTPC card. I don't tend to recommend it because I think it's overpriced...
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January 21, 2010 2:33:08 PM

Yea, you're right, the 4850 definitely bests the 5670 by margins of 25-50% in benchmarks, and only $5 more expensive. My concern is primarily heat and noise, which is more important to me than performance, since this computer will be in my bedroom and primarily used for applications other than gaming. It's kind of a tough call.
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January 21, 2010 2:44:01 PM

Noise for a GPU is entirely dependent on the FAN attached to it, not the GPU chip itself =D the 4850 linked has a better fan, so it might actually end up being quieter even though it runs hotter.

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January 21, 2010 3:49:44 PM

Sure, no doubt, but the chipset determines the power usage that the cooling solution must dissipate.

I would very much like to get the 4850, but the reviews on Newegg for the Sapphire 4850 that you linked to seem to be split between saying that the card is too noisy and that the card is quiet. For me, it's much more important that the card be silent when running office apps and playing HD movies than the card having better performance. (I don't really care what it sounds like when playing games, as that will be fairly infrequent.)

You don't by any chance know of reviews of the noise/temperature characteristics of the cards or fans by manufacturer?
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January 21, 2010 4:24:49 PM

There are VERY few reviews btwn the fans of different manufacturers, too many to really do, and the few that exist are only for the top of the line cards.

Closest you'll get is http://anandtech.com/video/showdoc.aspx?i=3720&p=13

You can look up the specs for the individual fans used by sapphire, I just don't remember the names. I do remember the 4850 's fan had much higher CFM/RPM. IE moves more air per RPM of the fan.

Bear in mind that playing WOW for ex, the 5670 will be at close to 100% load most of the time. The 4850 will be closer to 50%.

This means the 5670 will probably generate similar heat to a 4850 simply from the fact it has to work so much harder to do the same thing.

I like the Prius vs sports car example. If you're racing around a track, the sports car is gonna get better mileage, even though on paper the Prius is more efficient.
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January 21, 2010 5:03:38 PM

That's a pretty compelling analogy. I changed the GPU to your suggestion and also slightly upgraded the mobo because the old one has a slower hypertransport than the CPU and also because I found verification that this mobo has the potential to unock the X2. Nothing else is changed.


CPU: AMD Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition 3.1GHz
Mobo: ASUS M4A78LT-M LE
Memory: G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 2x2GB DDR3 1600
GPU: SAPPHIRE 100245HDMI Radeon HD 4850 512MB 256-bit GDDR3
HDD : Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 ST3500418AS 500GB 7200 RPM SATA
Optical: LITE-ON CD/DVD Burner - Bulk Black SATA Model
Wireless: GIGABYTE GN-WP01GS PCI Wireless Adapter
Power:OCZ Fatal1ty OCZ550FTY 550W
Case: Apex TX-381-C Black Steel Micro ATX Tower

It's $538, and I think I'm ready to buy it soon.
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January 21, 2010 5:58:46 PM

I'm going to have to go the other way on the suggestions above. The 4850 uses 55nm technology while the 5670 uses 40nm technology. The 5670 uses much less power, runs way cooler, and is considerably quieter. Don't take my word for it, let the charts speak for themselves.

http://www.anandtech.com/video/showdoc.aspx?i=3720&p=13

Based on the fact that you prefer the system to be quiet over having a powerful gaming GPU I'd get the 5670.

chrislipa said:
For me, it's much more important that the card be silent when running office apps and playing HD movies than the card having better performance. (I don't really care what it sounds like when playing games, as that will be fairly infrequent.)
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January 21, 2010 6:06:33 PM

Yea, I understand what you're saying about the manufacturing technology, but the charts you linked to are comparing apples and oranges. They compare cards at full load, but full load for a 4850 is %30 larger than for a 5670. A fair comparison would be the 5670 at full load versus a 4850 running at 75%.

That being said, you are certainly right about the 5670 being cooler and quieter for a given workload. My question is if it is an audible difference for my non-gaming purposes.
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January 21, 2010 6:12:05 PM

As far as an audible difference, I don't think there will be if you're not gaming. Playing movies isn't that graphics intense, so it shouldn't make either card work very hard.
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January 21, 2010 7:19:36 PM

Movie wise both cards will be idling, IE noise will be less than case fans.

You might push the 5670 to some load w/ 1020p blue ray, but that's about it.
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January 28, 2010 5:29:52 AM

Best answer selected by chrislipa.
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