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$700-750 School/Work/Gaming Machine

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March 14, 2010 12:58:18 AM

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: Before March 16 BUDGET RANGE: 700-750 After Rebates

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: programming (for school), internet/word processing/etc, gaming, watching movies, watching tv (maybe eventually)

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: keyboard, mouse, speakers, monitor (23" 1920x1080 HD LCD), operating system (Windows 7, possibly dual boot Ubuntu or another distro)

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: NCIX.com (the Canadian one!) COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: Canada

OVERCLOCKING: maybe eventually SLI OR CROSSFIRE: maybe eventually

I'm look for a $700-750 computer to last me at least the next two years. The majority of the time I'll be using it for programming (I'm a comp sci major) and other school assignments, as well as for general procrastination (ie, the internet). I'm not a hardcore gamer by any stretch of the imagination, but when I do game, it is important to me that the graphics quality is high. As far as "future-proofing", the system needs to go strong for the next two years with virtually no upgrades but beyond that timeline I'm anticipating an increase in cash flow (closely correlated with me graduating and getting an actual job) so I would be comfortable with extensive upgrades or a whole new system at that point. I also suspect that my needs/wants in a computer will change at that time.

For now, I have absolutely no plans to overclock, use two graphics cards, or watch tv on my computer. However, two years is a long time and if I keep this system longer than that I would potentially want to do all three.

With the help of some friends who have done a couple builds, I have tentatively selected the following components. The total is currently sitting at $720 CAD (and I have not yet checked to see if I can price match to get things a little lower), so I have a little room to move, but the $750 is a hard upper limit - anything beyond that is not going to be feasible for me. All of these selections are completely flexible and I'm open to all suggestions.

So, what do you think?

AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition Quad Core Processor 3.2GHZ AM3 8MB Cache 125W Retail Box
http://ncix.com/products/index.php?sku=47459&vpn=HDZ955...

Gigabyte GA-MA770-UD3 ATX AM2+/AM3 AMD770 PCI-E16 2PCI SATA2 RAID 1394 HD Sound GBLAN Motherboard
http://ncix.com/products/index.php?mode=productreviewre...

XFX Radeon HD 4870 750MHZ 1GB 3.6GHZ GDDR5 PCI-E 2XDVI HDCP Video Card
http://ncix.com/products/index.php?sku=42237&vpn=HD487A...

OCZ XTC Platinum Edition PC2-8500 DDR2 4GB 2X2GB DDR2-1066 CL5-5-5-18 Dual Channel EPP Memory Kit
http://ncix.com/products/index.php?sku=29623&vpn=OCZ2P1...

Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 500GB SATA2 3.5IN 8.5MS 7200RPM 16MB Hard Drive OEM *3YR MFR Warranty*
http://ncix.com/products/index.php?sku=36050&vpn=ST3500...

OCZ ModXStream Pro 600W ATX 20/24PIN SLI Ready Modular Cables 135mm Fan Active PFC Power Supply
http://ncix.com/products/index.php?sku=33041&vpn=OCZ600...

NZXT Beta Evo ATX Mid Tower Case 4X5.25 5X3.5INT No PS Front Audio USB Black
http://ncix.com/products/index.php?sku=48086&vpn=BETA%2...

Scythe Slip Stream Kaze Jyuni 120MM Fan 1200RPM 68.5CFM 24DBA
http://ncix.com/products/index.php?sku=26747&vpn=SY1225...

LG GH22NS50 Black 22X SATA DVD Writer OEM
http://ncix.com/products/index.php?sku=40435&vpn=GH22NS...

This is my first build and I'm still not super knowledgeable, so when answering please do lots of explaining or provide links to explanations. :) 

Best solution

Anonymous
March 14, 2010 3:09:52 AM

Let's see if I can help:
PSU:
Consider this. It's made by another PSU maker.
Antec Earthwatts 650W - 59.99 (limited time only)
http://www.ncix.com/products/index.php?sku=30037&vpn=EA...

GPU:
XFX 5770 - 164.99 (Performs similar to 4870 but supports DX11)
http://ncix.com/products/?sku=48038&vpn=HD577XZNFC&manu...

Alternatives: (What you have is good too but if you want to save some extra cash look at the CPU alternatives)
Drop your CPU to:
Athlon II x3 435 - 89.99 (I recommend this over the Athlon II x4)
http://ncix.com/products/index.php?sku=45591&vpn=ADX435...

or Athlon II x4 630 - 129.99
http://ncix.com/products/index.php?sku=42601&vpn=ADX630...

DDR3 is the way to go. In two years, DDR3 will still probably be hear so you can save yourself in the future a few bucks.
G.Skill Ripjaws 1600 - 109.99
http://www.ncix.com/products/index.php?sku=42745&vpn=F3...

Motherboard: (needed if going DDR3)
Gigabyte 770 AM3 USB3 - 109.99 (not including $10 rebate)
http://ncix.com/products/index.php?sku=47584&vpn=GA-770...

PS. Since you know about the price match feature. Use this site to help you find the lowest prices. & Going through NCIX's UI is hell. :( 
http://www.pricecanada.com/c.php/Desktop-Components-14/
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March 14, 2010 3:20:05 AM

I would say you did a very nice job. Any suggestion I would make will just up the price too much. Be aware though that the board is not crossfire. You cannot add a second card and you won't be able to find another 4870 in a few months anyway. Also your PSU wouldn't easily support a second 4870.

DDR2 memory is also going out - but you really can't complain at that price. You'll have a great performer as-is.
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March 14, 2010 3:23:14 AM

Rokez:

I'll definitely get that PSU - better + cheaper is a good combination!

I'm curious about your CPU suggestion. All the others seem to be improvements over my current components, but you recommend dropping the CPU. Why? Is there a reason I wouldn't need as powerful of a CPU, or is it just to offset the increased cost of some of the other components?
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Anonymous
March 14, 2010 3:37:20 AM

The CPU alternative recommendation is a little of both reasons. Probably a bit more to offset the price increase of the DDR3 Memory/Mobo should you go with it though. The other reason is that gaming may be affected only a couple of frames (depending if the game is multi-core coded) since at that resolution, it all depends on how good your GPU is.

Take a look: (they don't have the exact CPUs I said so just look at the x3s and x4s and minus like 2 frames maybe.)
http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/showdoc.aspx?i=372...

If you were to overclock those CPUs though (I understand you aren't interested), I'm sure you will get frames much closer to that of 955.

@Proximon
I retract my statement about OCZ then. But the Antec Earthwatts I listed is still a good value but you lose the modular aspect. You created that list right? If so might I suggest you sort it by Watts and not amps. (It would save me tons of time for future reference)
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March 14, 2010 3:48:20 AM

Yep :)  A lot of work has gone into that list... hopefully soon it will go public.
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March 14, 2010 3:49:42 AM

The lack of interest in overclocking is mostly due to a lack of knowledge and a lack of time to learn how. I could probably bribe someone else to do it for me.

As far as DDR3 goes, what is the advantage over DDR2, assuming that I'm comfortable with buying a new motherboard + memory two years from now?
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March 14, 2010 3:51:44 AM

Ah well as to that... the final list will have separate sections linked from an easier to understand page.
We will not be sorting by watts however. Watts are far less important than 12V amps, and the two do not always agree.

The database is searchable though. It's a project I started, but I have a few volunteers helping.
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Anonymous
March 14, 2010 3:54:00 AM

There's sadly no really any advantage with what you just stated then. With DDR3 I believe you get a few extra frames but the only reason I suggested it was future proofing. :( 
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March 14, 2010 4:06:57 AM

In that case...

I will switch to the 5770 for graphics and probably switch power supplies as well, but otherwise keep my components as they are.

Thank you very much for your help!

PS - Extra thanks for the website to look for prices, it will save me so much time!
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March 14, 2010 4:37:19 AM

Best answer selected by eiwee.
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