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[New System Build] CPU focused system for $1300 or so

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April 8, 2010 12:26:01 AM

I'd like to put together a new box that cranks the knob on CPU to get some future-proofed power on that front (I did that with my current build, and felt it helped the box stay viable a good long time). With that in mind, I'm looking at the i7 860.

On the other hand, I'm not trying to put together an insane-o box by any means. Key bits are that I'll be doing a 3 monitor setup (so presumably two cards), but don't want to do any sli/xfire (note that the 3 monitors don't factor into the ~1300).

Current box taught me that 1) getting a little extra CPU is useful for a long term box, 2) full sized towers are good for harddrive packrats like me, and 3) a fairly alright PSU is a worthy thing.



So, whataya think:


APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: over the next month or so
SYSTEM USAGE: games, art (multimonitor photoshop sessions, some 3DMax with static-scene rendering), low intensity compiling, movies.
PARTS NOT REQUIRED: keyboard/mouse/speakers/monitors.
PREFERRED WEBSITE: newegg, tho I'm not religious about it (and I'm in USA).
PARTS PREFERENCES:
  • i7 860 (splurging for some future proofed cpu power)
  • ATI video cards (Two: 1 for gaming on one 1920x1200 monitor, 1 to run two other not-for-gaming monitors at 1600x1200 each)
    OVERCLOCKING: never.
    SLI/CROSSFIRE: nope.
    MONITOR RESOLUTION: will be running three monitors for a combined resolution of 5120x1200.

    Comments:
  • Small apartment, so a quiet box is a plus (which I will leave on 24/7/365).
  • I don't have aircon, so my place gets hot in the summer.
  • I plan to run 3 monitors at 1200 height, left to right: 1600w, 1920w, 1600w (ie, 1920 in middle for gaming).
  • So presumably I need 2 video cards (I will not do sli/crossfire): a lesser card for the 2 1600width monitors, and a nicer card for the middle gaming monitor.
  • I would like to get some USB3.0 going on if possible, for frequent external drive copying/consolidation (copying 750 gigs via USB2.0 is painful).
  • I don't like to tweak, change, or mess with my box: I like to fire and forget, revisitting in a couple years for a new video card. So, for example, mobo/chipset bells and whistles aren't a draw for me. I only open my box to add HDs or to clean heat syncs of dust.
  • I value stability and longevity in a box.
  • I tend to accumulate a lot of internal HDs over time.



    While I'm at it, a couple questions:
  • Is a heat sync fan pretty much a given these days? (within the context of me never wanting to OC)
  • I'm not quite clear on what i need to get USB3.0 working: is this supported within the chipset, or do I need a card for this?


    So, whatayall think? Thanks!

    April 8, 2010 12:52:25 AM

    The new ATI 5000 series cards will handle 3 monitors, as long as one uses a display port plug. You might be better off buying the biggest ATI 5000 series card you can afford rather than buying two cards.

    If USB3 is a big issue, you might consider an AMD Phenom II x4 965 system, especially if you will not be overclocking. Intel has some architectural issues with USB3 and PCIE lanes. There may be new P55 motherboards with additional circuitry to handle USB3, but the standard ones can not handle two graphics cards and USB3.
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    April 8, 2010 1:06:59 AM

    Hm, very interesting info, thankyou dndhatcher. Does that series of card deal ok with 5120x1200? I've been reading some card specs, but am never quite clear on the max res- if it is per-monitor or total display.

    Re: not being able to use 2 video cards and USB3, is that simply an issue of the number of pcie slots available, or something more fundamental?

    However, if I read you correctly, you mean that I could obviate the issue by using a monster card that can handle a very large display stretched out over three monitors, thus saving a slot for a USB3 card?
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    April 8, 2010 1:29:54 AM

    You really need to go read the ATI 5800 and 5700 series articles here. They start last september. These cards are called "eyfinity" because they handle 2 or 3 monitors and can combine them into a single display if you want.

    New motherboards come with USB3 ports, no need for any card. The USB problem is for intel is more fundamental. They use some of the PCIE channels (thats connections between the CPU and the PCIE bus, not PCIE slots) for USB3, which limits what is left for your graphics cards and other PCIE devices. Some intel motheboards turn off USB3 capability when you put multiple graphics cards in because they just cant handle it. AMD doesnt use the PCIE channels for USB throughput so its not an issue. Newer intel motherboards have some additional circuitry that bypasses the problem somehow, but I havent read much about exactly how that works.
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    April 8, 2010 2:28:30 AM

    Well here's a build that should satisfy most of your requirements.



    Optical
    Light On $21.99
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

    Case
    HAF 922 $89.98 w/ $10 MIR
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

    HSF/Floppy Drive
    Hyper 212 Plus and random floppy $33.99
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

    HSF alone is $35, the combo means they're paying you money to take the floppy... don't ask

    PSU/HD
    OCZ modxstream 700w and Spinpoint F3 $124.98 w/ $20 MIR
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

    RAM/GPU
    G Skill RIpjaw DDR3 1600 7-8-7-24 and 5870 $514.98
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

    MOBO/CPU/Free Game
    ASUS P7P55D-E Pro LGA, i7-860 and AC2(hey it's free)
    http://secure.newegg.com/Shopping/ShoppingCart.aspx?Sub...

    MOBO does USB 3.0/ SATA 6.0 properly, so no loss of PCIE lanes.

    Total is $1,238.57 before shipping and $30 in MIR


    You will need a display port adapter like this in order to run 3 monitors.

    http://www.cableclub.com/mini-displayport-male-female-a...

    Other options validated by ATI here:
    http://support.amd.com/us/eyefinity/Pages/eyefinity-don...

    You don't really need a 5870 to game at 1920x1200, but given that you've got 3 monitors and eyefinity and room in budget, why not game at 5120 x 1200?
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    April 8, 2010 3:03:51 AM

    dndhatcher said:
    You really need to go read the ATI 5800 and 5700 series articles here. They start last september. These cards are called "eyfinity" because they handle 2 or 3 monitors and can combine them into a single display if you want.

    New motherboards come with USB3 ports, no need for any card. The USB problem is for intel is more fundamental. They use some of the PCIE channels (thats connections between the CPU and the PCIE bus, not PCIE slots) for USB3, which limits what is left for your graphics cards and other PCIE devices. Some intel motheboards turn off USB3 capability when you put multiple graphics cards in because they just cant handle it. AMD doesnt use the PCIE channels for USB throughput so its not an issue. Newer intel motherboards have some additional circuitry that bypasses the problem somehow, but I havent read much about exactly how that works.



    Great info, thankyou! This sets off the warning alarm with me, in that I realize I should get derailed on my CPU choice by a secondary (hell, tertiary) feature like USB3 that I would realistically use every 3 or 4 months.
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    April 8, 2010 3:08:33 AM

    banthracis said:


    MOBO/CPU/Free Game
    ASUS P7P55D-E Pro LGA, i7-860 and AC2(hey it's free)
    http://secure.newegg.com/Shopping/ShoppingCart.aspx?Sub...

    MOBO does USB 3.0/ SATA 6.0 properly, so no loss of PCIE lanes.



    Thanks for the awesome response, banthracis! Loads of good stuff to look at and chew on.

    In reference to the conversation above about USB3 and intel, you mention that your mobo pick handles usb3. It seems like these two elements don't quite square, as it were. Could you elaborate a bit on the topic of your mobo pick and the above discussion of USB3 problems I might encounter?

    Thanks again for the response!
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    April 8, 2010 3:48:21 AM

    Well basically, Intel currently doesn't support USB 3/SATA 6 in there chipsets. Gigabyte tried to solve this by stealing PCIE 2.0 lanes...the main weakness of P55 is limited PCIE 2.0 lanes. Not very smart IMO.

    Asus, basically didn't and used a hub to turn PCIE 1.1 lanes into extra 2.0 lanes.

    For more details and reviews:
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/usb-3.0-performance...
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/enthusiast-p55-moth...
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/usb-3.0-sata-6gb,25...
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    April 8, 2010 4:32:11 AM

    Hm, reading the above responses, and reading through the linked articles, I have to admit - usb3 seems like a blind alley for me. Its a tertiary feature (for my use), and trying to accommodate it results in significant perf hits. Screw it (and thanks for the input and links to help me realize this).
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    !