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Old-time builder seeks advice on new i7 gaming (mostly) rig

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March 6, 2010 4:55:28 AM

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: this month BUDGET RANGE: $1,500-1,700

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: gaming (not terribly hard-core: mostly into strat games like Company of Heroes, RPGs like Dragon Age and the occasional shoot-em-up like TF2), photos (photoshop/lightroom/etc) and a bit of home movie rendering, productivity (office), surfing

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: kb (g15), mouse (mx revolution), monitor (dell ultrasharp - though I may upgrade this later)

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: newegg and the like COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: usa

PARTS PREFERENCES: intel, mid-tower

OVERCLOCKING: Maybe SLI OR CROSSFIRE: Maybe

MONITOR RESOLUTION: 1680x1050

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: quiet is good. a bit of future-proofing is good too (not too crazy though).

My first (and most recent) build was back in 2005 and that rig has served me well up until about 6 months ago. It's a p4 2.8g with an Abit IC-7g board and a Powercolor x1950 AGP (yes, AGP!) card. Needless to say, it's time to kick this pig to the curb (or at least the wipe/HTPC graveyard). So here's where I'm at with something new:

ASUS P7P55D-E Pro LGA 1156 Intel P55 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard
$189.99

Intel Core i7-860 Lynnfield 2.8GHz LGA 1156 95W Quad-Core Processor Model BX80605I7860
$279.99

COMBO
Antec Performance One P180 Silver cold rolled steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case
XFX HD-585A-ZNDC Radeon HD 5850 (Cypress Pro) XXX Edition 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFire Supported Video Card
$399.98

Mushkin Enhanced Blackline 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model 996776
$374.99

CORSAIR CMPSU-750HX 750W ATX12V 2.3 / EPS12V 2.91 SLI Ready CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS SILVER Certified Modular Active PFC Power Supply
$149.99

Western Digital Caviar Black WD1001FALS 1TB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5
$109.98

LITE-ON CD/DVD Burner - Bulk Black SATA Model iHAS124-04
$26.99

====================================================
Questions are:
1. Should I pull back on the RAM (or really the question is "should I bother getting stuff this good)? Mushkin has served me very well over the years and this is the top-of-the-line stuff.
2. Am I good on the PSU? I'm a little concerned it might not fit well in this case, but I definitely prefer a modular PSU.
3. Will this system be quiet? Should I invest in better fans than the stock on this case (like Nexus or the like)?

I have friends at work urging me to just get a better-than-average Dell due to my desire for something quiet and less hands-on from a build/service perspective. Honestly after doing the comparison between components and price; it still seems like an infinitely better deal to go with building something myself. My free time is definitely cut down much less than 4 years ago though (2 kids!).

Anyway, thanks in advance for anyone interested in offering an opinion!
March 6, 2010 5:11:47 AM

You are in the ball-park ... BUT ... A few prudent adjustments, for a well-balanced, premium gaming rig.

1) Start with a 1GB-GDDR5 based Ati 5870 card (one only) and be sure your mobo is cabable of 8x8 CrossFire ... If you are compelled to add a second 5870 (nothing less), in 18 months (or so), then the system will perfom with the intended "balanced symetry".

2) Reduce the ram to 4GB (8GB = Overkill .. spend on gpu!)

3) PSU you want the proper number and type of PSU connectors to host TWO 5870s and I'm pretty sure that means 4x6pin PCIe connectors (somebody should confirm ... might need four 6+2 (or 8-pin) connects. I think, the former, but 6+2s go both ways.

Forget DELL ! They are OK but you can do better ! Don't forget an excellent afterrmarket heatsink+fan cpu cooler and some Arctic Silver thermal compound (syringe).

Quiet? Can't say but, as a general rule ... larger fans are more quiet and more bearings are better. Variable speed is also helpful ... Auto temp fan control is highly desirable, as well.

= jus' some thots =

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March 6, 2010 5:15:10 AM

just chkd specs on that PSU ... "perfect" ... you are golden. It'll fit, too. Fairly quiet.

= Al =

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March 6, 2010 5:26:51 AM

Oh, yeah ...

That proc is a little bit "over the top" ... A core i5-750 is plenty good and is the overwhelming favorite for INTEL gamers (like, "unanamous") ... It OCs extremely well and out-does the i7-920, on some benchmarks.

Another thing ... your chosen RAM has sluggish CAS timings ... I hope one of the "stock and value kings" of this forum will drop in and make some "most excellent" recommendations as to which RAM modules will clock the best with a Socket 1156 i5-750 ... I would, but others are truly expert at knowing which sticks are hot, at the moment.

= Al =
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March 6, 2010 5:32:51 AM

Hey, thanks for the quick replies, Al!

I hear you on the 5870. Does that mean this MB is not desireable? I do like the USB 3.0 and Sata3 for the future.

On the proc, I'm not sure I'll OC right away. OC usually means much more heat which translates to higher fan speed and consequently noise. I thought the i7-860 offered a good balance at the stock level. Glad I might be able to get away with less RAM though as that's a bit of a killer on price.
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March 6, 2010 5:36:09 AM

Alright, so the ram is definitely overkill I would say, especially with today's prices. Drop it down to 4gb like alvin said. get more later when prices are down and when you actually need that much RAM

The PSU is of great quality. You can't go wrong there, and it should have all of the connections for CF/SLI.

The 5870 definitely fits in your budget, but you mentioned that you weren't a hardcore gamer, so I don't know whether to recommend it or not. It is the fastest single gpu video card on the market so I guess I have a hard time recommending it to someone that doesn't want/need the fastest gaming performance. My guess is that the 5850 would more than suffice for you (especially if you stay at 1680x1050 resolution).

You have a very lenient budget, so once again, you can easily afford the i7 860. If you wanted to save a bit of money, you could go with the i5 750 which will give the same gaming performance. This is where you have to decide where your priorities are and if you want to save money. The hyperthreading capabilities of the i7 cpu will probably make it more appealing to users running very cpu-intensive tasks (and users seeking something more future-proof). So it's really up to you to decide how much you need out of your cpu and video card.

That mobo will do crossfire.

So my advice is that if you are just trying to stick with that budget and not concerned about saving extra cash, go with Alvin's advice. It will be an extremely powerful system, as well as pretty balanced.

But just to throw it out there, you could build a very awesome system (that I think would meet/exceed most of your needs) for probably $1200-$1300. Of course I cannot tell what exactly your needs are, so that is more up to you.
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March 6, 2010 5:52:47 AM

touchdowntexas13 said:
But just to throw it out there, you could build a very awesome system (that I think would meet/exceed most of your needs) for probably $1200-$1300. Of course I cannot tell what exactly your needs are, so that is more up to you.



Sure if you are not planning to OC, then the AM3-BLACK @ 3.2GHz would be the frugal choice, and would make that 5850 even yet more affordable.

IF you are "stuck on" INTEL branding, AND youare going with the "stock-clock" speeds, then, yeah, the 860 certainly would not hurt performance and WOULD be much better for multimedia transcoding and 3D renders.

Furthermore, you could go with the stock cooler and save, yet, a little more $$$ ... BUT >>>

If there is ANY chance you are going to OC with any fervor, then definately go with the faster CAS RAM.

I was UT-RTF communications major and I advocate modern multimedia communications and refer to it/them as "The New Global Literacy" ... ... ... Many folks underestimate how much video transcoding (output rendering) we are all likely to be doing, as the future races towards us. A little hyperthreading could not hurt (860).

Lastly, I am located in Greenwood Towers, 2 blocks south of UT Tower ... Looking at it right now (through my open window). I use it as my personal "wall clock".

HOOK-'EM, BIOTCH !

= Al =

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March 6, 2010 11:49:25 AM

Honestly, I'm leery about going with AMD just b/c I've never built a system around one before. The time investment to learn what's what is also a negative factor (I'm pretty obsessive about researching any electronics I buy) - unless it's not that much different. I'd need a completely different MB at a minimum.

There's definitely potential for me to OC in the future. I've read good things about G.Skill. I don't mind spending extra to avoid any issues around finicky components. My goal is a good balance of performance, future-proofing and quiet. Let's say price in the RAM dept is no concern. What would be a quality option (or choice of options)?

Re: the 5850 - is there much difference between all the varied models? When I dig into the real specs it seems there's various adjustments to clock speed for the most part (stock OC'ing from the packager).

In terms of potential upside on my resolution; I'll probably be looking at one of the new Dell Ultrasharps (maybe the 24 or 27). I think both run at 1920 x 1200.
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March 6, 2010 3:58:41 PM

thefuz said:
Honestly, I'm leery about going with AMD just b/c I've never built a system around one before. The time investment to learn what's what is also a negative factor (I'm pretty obsessive about researching any electronics I buy) - unless it's not that much different. I'd need a completely different MB at a minimum.


It's a CPU. You stick it in the socket on the motherboard. The end.

I'm really not sure why people are so concerned about switching brands when it's the right choice for their budget. There's very little physically different (on a human scale) between AMD & Intel. Pretty much all of the differences are at the circuit/microscopic level.

For overclocking, the G.Skill kit linked earlier is a good choice, although this G.Skill Eco series CAS 7 1600 MHz is only about $7 more, and runs at a much lower stock voltage, allowing more overhead.

Typically, there is little difference between various models of graphics cards, especially at the higher end, when they all come with the same outputs, etc. The most noticeable difference is usually warranty.
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March 6, 2010 5:52:35 PM

I hear you. I think it's part loyalty to a brand; part historically higher scores (intel has the edge still, no?). I know it's probably close though. Tempted to get the 5870 though ;) 

For coolers - I was looking at this. I think it might be too tall for the case I've selected. Anyone have experience with this cooler? I'd probably pair it with one of the Nexus 120mm fans as I like the one I have now.
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March 6, 2010 7:10:21 PM

Go for the 5870 !! Build the system around that. GPU is NOT the place for compromise, for anyone who wants a modern gaming rig that will last more than 1 yr.

There are favored coolers for under $40 (CoolerMaster comes to mind) which are more than adequate, for full OC.

Absolutely NO issues going with AMD/AM3 BLACK QUAD ... in fact, I urge you to look into it. Savings could allow for a better GPU (most important part).

If you really intend to go with a system-wide, full-clock OC, then do INTEL but be honest, with yourself.

for the INTEL socket 1156 >>>

My (current) choice:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Other INTEL 1156 choices:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Productcompare.aspx?Submi...

For the AMD/AM3 ...

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Productcompare.aspx?Submi...

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March 6, 2010 7:29:41 PM

thefuz said:
I hear you. I think it's part loyalty to a brand; part historically higher scores (intel has the edge still, no?).


Intel certainly has the performance edge at the top end.

At a lower budget though (pretty much $1k-$1.2k and under), AMD offers the best price/performance value for gaming. If you want hyperthreading, you have to go Intel. If you want to save a little bit of money so you can afford a better graphics card on a budget, then AMD is the answer.

Generally speaking (for gaming machines):
$600-$1k - AMD
$1k-$1.5k - AMD or i5-750
$1.5k-$2k - i5-750, start considering i7-9nn if you also do processor-heavy tasks such as audio/video editing
$2k+ - get whatever you want, though most people go i7-9nn
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March 6, 2010 7:55:36 PM

I think the i5-750 does not sport HT either ... but the socket 1156 i7-860 does.

just FYI ... pretty sure that is "good dope".


= Al =
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March 6, 2010 8:01:37 PM

Once again, Alvin is very right. The GPU is the single most important factor in a modern gaming rig. The x58 board is mostly for multitasking/server tasks. For gaming, the i5-750 is every bit as good, and wierdly, in some benches, better. The 955 x4, and the i5-750 are both very good for gaming builds. In the end, you're better of going with a nice GPU ( 4850 xfire, 5850, 5870, or 5970, depending on budget). Also, realy scratch the 5970. It's overpriced at 700$, considering the 5870 xfire is like 750$ now.


Also, on the HSF note, I'm going to throw a recomendation towards the Hyper 212+
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March 6, 2010 8:07:58 PM

I see the 5970 as the ultimate single slot option, for those with uber-loaded systems or other bus/resource constraints.

Really ... almost any but the slimmest budgets ... 1GB 5870 ... (Nike Slogan)

= Just Do It ! =

cut you system costs ELSEWHERE !
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March 6, 2010 8:10:22 PM

Dude, 2 5870s is 760$, and a 5970 is 700$, so i would honestly rather pay the extra 60$ for 5870 CF. Maybe when the 5970s prices fall agian. I would only buy a 5970 if i had only 1 slot on my mobo.


Bet yeah, +1 to everything Alvins said so far, except the HSF and the 5970 being a good buy at todays prices.
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March 6, 2010 8:11:46 PM

Alvin Smith said:
I think the i5-750 does not sport HT either ... but the socket 1156 i7-860 does.

just FYI ... pretty sure that is "good dope".


That's correct, i5-750 does not do hyperthreading, which is the reason it's rarely recommended for editing builds that don't intend to game.

Non-gaming editing/number-crunching builds usually go: AMD -> i7-860 -> i7-9nn as the budget increases.

Of course, none of that changes my original statement that only Intel is offering hyperthreading processors at the moment. The lack of specificity was intentional, since it seemed like the only discussion in this thread was whether or not to go i5 vs. AMD for what is primarily a gaming rig.
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March 6, 2010 8:15:52 PM

As far as 5870 vs. 5970, I'd tend to agree with Alvin on going with the 5970. as CrossFire does not scale perfectly, nor do all games play well with CrossFire.

Just food for thought.
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March 6, 2010 8:18:31 PM

Sleepy,

Yeah, I grokked "all that", from your post but I thot it an opportunity to point out that difference and, also, I was trolling for confirmation of said "fact" ... I got clarification and reinforcement for what I was (already) almost 100% sure of.

Hate giving "bad dope" when real $$ is at stake ... know what I mean?

= Rhetorical =
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March 6, 2010 8:22:38 PM

coldsleep said:
As far as 5870 vs. 5970, I'd tend to agree with Alvin on going with the 5970. as CrossFire does not scale perfectly, nor do all games play well with CrossFire.

Just food for thought.


The 5970 crossfire card, not a single GPU card. This is why i hate that the 5970 isn't called the 5850X2. Nobody tried to tell me the 4870X2 was a non-crossfire card.
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March 6, 2010 8:31:56 PM

That's all fine but, let's remember the "diminishing returns" at the top end ...

For *me* ?? I would not go above a single 5870 unless ACTUALLY COMPELLED to do so by REAL issues in my gaming experience.

Just remember that the entire system will be JUNK in about 30 months ... almost always best to hit the seet-spot ... $$>>JUNK ... got boxes of it !

= Al =
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March 6, 2010 8:43:57 PM

just FYI ... pretty sure that is "sweet spot".
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March 8, 2010 2:21:50 AM

Alright, alright: you mad gear-heads have sold me on the 5870! Sucks that retailers seem to be taking advantage of the short supply though. Tough to choose:

SAPPHIRE Vapor-X ($70 premium on this one!!):
http://www.newegg.com/Prod [...] N82E16814102872
$480+$7.87 shipping

XFX HD-587X-ZNFC:
http://www.newegg.com/Prod [...] N82E16814150476
$410+$7.56 shipping

SAPPHIRE 100281SR (this one is on hiatus, but gets awesome ratings):
http://www.newegg.com/Prod [...] N82E16814102856
$440+$7.87 shipping

My concerns are:

1. Length on these with the Antec case I've chosen; although I guess I can just yank the center HDD enclosure or see if the card fits into it somehow.
2. Warranty. 2 years on the Sapphire cards - really?? I guess I did upgrade once along the history of my current rig but that wasn't due to the card failing.
3. Sound - so I do have a goal to keep this pig quiet... is this card going to blow that up no matter what? The Vapor-X version does seem to be rated well for the shhh factor, for those that speak about it.

Anyway, rest of the rig is set thanks to you folks. Just need to clean up the vid card and I'm off to the races.

PS - A side-topic question, if I may: Any of you ship fedex for the delicate stuff or whatever's least expensive? I've read UPS bounces stuff around quite a bit from Newegg.
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March 8, 2010 2:41:32 AM

builderbobftw said:
just FYI ... pretty sure that is "sweet spot".


Wrong again !

That was SEET (Sustainable Economic Efficiency Threashold)

You mean, you've never heard that ?



= P S Y C H E ! ! =

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March 8, 2010 3:02:54 AM

thefuz said:
Alright, alright: you mad gear-heads have sold me on the 5870! Sucks that retailers seem to be taking advantage of the short supply though. Tough to choose:

SAPPHIRE Vapor-X ($70 premium on this one!!):
http://www.newegg.com/Prod [...] N82E16814102872
$480+$7.87 shipping

XFX HD-587X-ZNFC:
http://www.newegg.com/Prod [...] N82E16814150476
$410+$7.56 shipping

SAPPHIRE 100281SR (this one is on hiatus, but gets awesome ratings):
http://www.newegg.com/Prod [...] N82E16814102856
$440+$7.87 shipping

My concerns are:

1. Length on these with the Antec case I've chosen; although I guess I can just yank the center HDD enclosure or see if the card fits into it somehow.
2. Warranty. 2 years on the Sapphire cards - really?? I guess I did upgrade once along the history of my current rig but that wasn't due to the card failing.
3. Sound - so I do have a goal to keep this pig quiet... is this card going to blow that up no matter what? The Vapor-X version does seem to be rated well for the shhh factor, for those that speak about it.

Anyway, rest of the rig is set thanks to you folks. Just need to clean up the vid card and I'm off to the races.

PS - A side-topic question, if I may: Any of you ship fedex for the delicate stuff or whatever's least expensive? I've read UPS bounces stuff around quite a bit from Newegg.


They are all basically the same ... Saphire is known for the least amount of RF noise as they use hi quality caps and coils, etc. I'm sure the XFX is just fine, basically the twin of the 3rd card ....

... If I was offered to choose between them, at no cost to myself, I would want number one but, If I had to pay for it, I would choose number three because it is the same card as number one, with a less fancy cooler.

While I have nothing in particular against XFX, Saphire has been around as long as I can remember (almost) ... They have built a very good rep on their build-quality and lo-noise designs.

The vapor cooler is prolly quieter, may do better under OC stress, and will prolly has a better chance at a long functional life (less apt to fail in old age )

It really is a hard choice ... really. Number three is the logical choice, for the money vs. quality/performance ...
BUT, who wants to wait until number three is in stock ??

Number one is clearly the most desirable, but not worth THAT much extra money ... $80 ? That's alot! Sorry.

I am tempted to go with number two, because it looks and functions zactly the same and, as long as it works and looks great then ... who cares ?? But it is not a Saphire and I don't know how XFX handles RMAs and other support issues. Prolly fine but I am just not familiar ... track record? ...reviews ??? ... popularity ??

So, for me ... it has to be a Saphire ... I can either wait or overpay ... I might just watch the product page or tell the page to " eMail ALERT " me when in stock ... If no stock in 3 days .... better Saphire and try to be happy I got the cool VaporX OC cooling.

= decisions ... decisions =

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March 8, 2010 6:49:40 PM

Yeah ... I *would* feel comfortable spending my own $$ on that H.I.S. card, if the affordable version of the Saphire is not avialable.

= 'att'll do, Pig ... 'att'll dooo =

~~ from: "Babe" (the pig) ~~
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March 19, 2010 11:41:10 PM

After a heavy bit of researching and more than a few folks (and reviews) telling me not to get the i7-860, I've instead opted for the i7-930. However, getting this CPU changes my build quite a bit. I have to upgrade my MB and memory at the very least (thinking i'll go with the ASUS P6X58D Premium and 6 MB of G.SKILL PI Series DDR3 1600). What I'm struggling with now are 2 things:

1. Am I still OK with the Antec P180 (and/or P182,P183) case?
2. Is the CORSAIR H50 a good option for the CPU or should I stick with air cooling via the CM Hyper 212 Plus? Does the 212+ prevent me from getting the RAM above? The heat spreaders on those are ridonculously high, but from pictures I've seen of the 212+ installed with both fans it looks like there's just enough clearance.

If I'm getting the 930, I'm definitely going to OC it from day 1. I'd still like to keep the case quiet. Is that plan blown unless I invest heavily in water cooling (wc just seems like much more maintenance than I'd reasonably want to deal with; besides being $300-500 more expensive). I'll probably still go with the Sapphire Vapor-X 5870 (since reviews suggest that fan is quiet and the card is very well rated).
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March 19, 2010 11:54:55 PM

Get the HAF-922.

The Vapor-X is overpriced now, maybe stick with refernce or buy a water block and a WC setup.
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