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Help with building gaming pc for ~$800

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April 13, 2010 5:50:04 PM

Hey everyone, per the "how to ask instructions" :

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: ASAP

BUDGET RANGE: around $800 After Rebates, willing to spend a bit more if it better meets my requirements (see additional comments)

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: gaming, photoshop/lightroom (photo editing), web surfing, word processing

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: keyboard, mouse, monitor, speakers, OS. Note: current monitor only has vga input. will be upgrading soon, but for now, my intentions are to use my 40'' 1080p tv, if this is possible....

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: newegg, tigerdirect, microcenter
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: U.S.

PARTS PREFERENCES: prefer intel, but mostly biased by marketing and lack of knowledge.

OVERCLOCKING: eventually, once I become educated on the topic

SLI OR CROSSFIRE: Maybe.. in the future

MONITOR RESOLUTION: 1920x1080 on my lcd tv (if this is possible) right now I have 19'' standard flat screen that is 7 or 8 years old that I will be upgrading (wouldn't mind recommendations on this also)

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: basically I want a reasonable yet upgradable computer (if there is such a thing). I started by looking at the i5 750 chips based on reviews on this website for the best processor for around $200. But then I saw that the 1156 socket does not have much of a future. Therefore I began to look at the 1336 sockets, but those are quite a bit more expensive. I do live near a microcenter where they are selling the i7 930 for $200, but I understand that the mobo's are more expensive, and the graphics card that will fit into my budget will cause a bottleneck. As you can probably tell based how my comments, I am not completely up to date on the latest and greatest (my last build was 10 years ago, and that is the pc I'm replacing), so forgive any of my dumb questions/comments.

Thank you for your help.

More about : building gaming 800

April 13, 2010 6:30:59 PM

Thanks MadAdmiral. Again, I'm out of touch with today's technology, but it seems that the system is a bit out of balance... To me the graphics card seems to be high end while the cpu seems to be underpowered. I'm not saying you are wrong, but can you explain to me your thinking? I have not researched AMD as much as Intel, but I thought I read on several articles that AMD is out-pricing themselves... as in, you can get a intel chip for $150 that would give you the same performance as a $200 AMD chip. (This is just an example, I don't have time at the moment to go and find these articles).

Thanks

edit: Ah.. I just saw on newegg reviews, what you can do with this chip... unlock the 4th core. Is this why you picked this cpu?
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April 13, 2010 6:55:19 PM

No, he picked that CPU because there is little additional benefit to having a 4th core for gaming. Getting a less expensive CPU allows you to get a better graphics card, which is really all that matters for gaming. You can certainly attempt to unlock a 4th core, but the AMD X3 435 and/or 440 are the best value for a gaming CPU around. See this THG article for more details. I'd argue that $10 (from ~$75 to ~$85) for .1 GHz more is not worth the money, making the 435 a little better choice.

Right now, Intel owns the high end of the CPU market, but AMD is completely in control of the value end, their price/performance at low cost cannot be beat. I'm not sure where you got those ideas about Intel vs. AMD, but it's pretty much completely opposite of reality at the low end of the market.
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April 13, 2010 6:58:18 PM

The CPU is a low end CPU. That doesn't really mean anything in terms of gaming performance. The CPU has basically no real world effect on gaming. Instead, the GPU is much more important. Hence the cheap CPU and high-end GPU.

The unlocking of the fourth core is not really why I picked it (no HSF as you can see). I don't like to depend on something that's left to chance. An interesting article here at Tom's (called "how many cores do you need" I think) found that triple core CPUs were actually better in gaming than quad core CPUs. But again, that wasn't really the reason I picked it. I picked it because it's a solid CPU that's very cheap, allowing for a much more powerful GPU.

As far as pricing, it's the other way around. Or close to that. The $200 i5-750 is about the same as the $160 X4 955. The i5 does perform slightly better, but once you add the $50 "Intel premium" to the motherboard, the extra $90 isn't worth it in most cases. Right now, AMD owns the low-end and middle budgets, while Intel owns the high end.
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April 13, 2010 7:03:13 PM

Thank you coldsleep. I was probably reading articles about the high end cpus....

I see that this cpu uses the am3 socket. Is that amd's newest socket? (Will I be able to upgrade the cpu in the future?) Will this mobo allow overclocking and be upgradable in the future (better gpu or 2nd gpu/crossfire)?

Will this processor/gpu combo allow fairly quick work in photoshop and lightroom? Currently, I hate the amount of time that I have to wait on my current pc between commands when editing my photos. (My typical photo size is around 12mb, if this matters)
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April 13, 2010 7:06:54 PM

It's AMD only socket. And it will be for the next few years.

Yes, the board is good for overclocking and Crossfire.

It would be alright for Photoshop, at least when compared to other current CPUs. It would be a lot better if you were able to unlock the fourth core.
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April 13, 2010 7:13:42 PM

MadAdmiral, thank again for the response.

Ok, last questions. Let's say I was interested in being able to play the latest and greatest games in HD.. how long will this system last before an upgrade is needed? What will need to be upgraded, the gpu or the cpu? I don't need the 100% best looking performance, but I want it to look good and be enjoyable.

Also, I have never gone with AMD. Will there be any "surprises" when I'm putting it all together, as compared to my knowledge with intel? Again, probably a dumb question, but it's been a while...

Thank you both for answering my noob questions. Really appreciated.
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April 13, 2010 7:17:29 PM

It should last 2-3 years. The GPU would need to upgraded first.

THere won't be any surprises. AMD and Intel are basically the same.
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April 13, 2010 7:18:59 PM

The 5850 should be fine for now at 1920x1080. See the THG Best Graphics Cards for the Money, March 2010 for more info. It should be fine for at least couple of years, possibly more, depending on what your standards are. For gaming, since the GPU is the most important part, you would likely need to upgrade that first. If you find photoshop or other programs running a little slow, you could consider upgrading the CPU.

No, there won't be any surprises. A CPU is a CPU. A motherboard is a motherboard.
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April 13, 2010 7:23:14 PM

So the CPU really is that good and for only $70?

Let's say I was willing to up the CPU to the next level. Where would that put me?
Or is that just a dumb waste of money....

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April 13, 2010 7:31:56 PM

zeppman said:
So the CPU really is that good and for only $70?

Let's say I was willing to up the CPU to the next level. Where would that put me?
Or is that just a dumb waste of money....


You would be looking at either an Athlon II X4 for between $100-$120 or a Phenom II X3 for $105, or a Phenom II X4 for $140-$190. Generally speaking, going from Athlon II to Phenom II doesn't have a lot of effect on gaming, though it may multitask a little bit better.

EDIT: This chart from the end of the Best Gaming CPU for the Money (April 2010) article places the X3 at about the same level as the i3s, which are $120+ at newegg. The Core 2 Duos that are at the same tier are old tech that you don't want to go with. The next tier up on the Intel side starts at just under $200, while the top-end AMD chips are $160-$185.
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April 13, 2010 7:37:03 PM

Alright, well unless someone speaks up in the next few hours, I think I'm going to go with MadAdmiral's original build:


CPU
: X3 425 $70
Mobo: Gigabyte GA-790XTA-UD4 $125 after rebate
RAM: G.Skill Ripjaws 2x2 GB 1600 mhz CAS Latency 7 $120
GPU: HD 5850 $300
HDD/PSU: Seagate 7200.12 500 GB and OCZ StealthXStream 700W $95 after rebate
Case/Optical: Coolermaster 690 and cheap DVD burner $83 after rebate

Total: $793.

Thank you both!
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April 13, 2010 7:43:42 PM

That looks like a great system to me. Keep in mind that any modern processor (including the Athlon II X3) is not going to bottleneck a modern graphics card. The differences that you see in benchmarks are typically due to the testers artificially restricting the resolution so that the differences stand out more.
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April 13, 2010 7:50:03 PM

Thanks for the re-assurance.

Really quick, since I am at work, I can't follow these links to newegg (don't ask me why) so I am copying the names and pasting them in the newegg search bar. The HD 5850 for $299 is the sapphire card, but it is part of package and seems that I can't buy it separately. What else (even from a different store) would you suggest?
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April 13, 2010 7:52:34 PM

There are 2 5850s at $300 (Sapphire and HiS) at newegg, neither of them require being bought in a combo. There's an XFX 5850 at $310, and another Sapphire card at $320 that includes the game Modern Warfare 2.

After typing in the search term, narrow it down by selecting the component in the left frame, and then selecting lowest price in the sort drop-down. In this case, you'd select Desktop Graphics / Video Cards.
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April 13, 2010 7:58:20 PM

Well I don't know why I get an "error: part of a combo" when I click on the $299 sapphire.

If I crossfire, does the 2nd card have to be identical?

I see these all have DVI and HDMI outputs. Will this mean my 8 year old vga only display will be useless?
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April 13, 2010 8:02:39 PM

You can crossfire with non-identical cards, but the best case is that they perform at the level of the lower-end card. It's generally recommended to go with 2 same-model card (same manufacturer if possible, but not totally necessary).

You can get DVI or HDMI to VGA adapters. This one, for example. There are also a number of them on newegg for slightly more.
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April 13, 2010 8:02:49 PM

That board isn't the best for crossfiring, or overclocking for that matter. Take a look at the ASUS Crosshair III. It's a MUCH better board for ~ $60 more.
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April 13, 2010 8:28:43 PM

Don't touch the PSU. Raidmax makes poor quality units.

@goat: First, the Crosshair III is not "much better". It's about the same in terms of overclocking and only 4% better in Crossfire (which is only noticeable with 5970s). Also, it's going to be obsolete in a few months because it doesn't have USB 3/SATA III support. Doesn't seem like you get a lot for $60...
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April 13, 2010 8:30:46 PM

MadAdmiral, thanks for the clarification. Do you still recommend the original psu you spec'd out? I don't want an inefficient supply....
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April 13, 2010 8:39:56 PM

Is 650W enough if I choose to upgrade, add another gpu, and upgrade the cpu in the next couple of years?
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April 13, 2010 8:42:22 PM

650W is enough power for dual 5770s, dual 5850s (with an adapter), or a single GPU of anything that's above those (5870, 5970 or GTX 470, GTX 480). The CPU wouldn't really change the power requirement too much.
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April 14, 2010 2:05:51 PM

Ok guys,

I think I want to go with one of the 80 rated 650w power supplies.

How is this combo (it will replace my xfs 5850 card)

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

If someone can tell me how to share my "newegg cart" i would like to post it here for everyone to review. I'm ready to buy this today!

I also want to make sure that the mobo and psu will be able to handle upgrading the cpu and adding another gpu for crossfire (or replacing the current one for a better single card). MadAdmiral, what is this adapter for dual 5850s?
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April 14, 2010 2:13:29 PM

You can't share your chart. You can take a screenshot of it and post it though.

That combo is pretty good, but you would likely be able to save more by just getting the cheapest 5850 and a good 650W PSU, possibly even a good 750W PSU.

For example:

5850
Same PSU
Total: $380 after rebate (vs. $390)

or

Same GPU
Antec Earthwatts 650W $80
Total: $380 (no rebate needed)

or

Same GPU
Antec Earthwatts 750W
Total: $385 after rebate
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April 14, 2010 2:20:48 PM

Thank you MadAdmiral, are there any major differences between the 5850 cards to justify the price differences? What would be your top pick out of the three options you just gave me, and my pick?
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April 14, 2010 2:29:46 PM

There really isn't any difference between brands for the 5xxx series right now. So just get the cheapest.

I would probably go with the 750W Earthwatts simply to not have to worry about connectors for Crossfire and have some extra head room. Though any of the options would be fine. I've had no trouble getting rebates from either company, which can be a concern.
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April 14, 2010 2:41:18 PM

I'm sorry for my ignorance, but how do I post the screenshot I just took....
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April 14, 2010 2:50:18 PM

To be honest, I have no idea. I think you may have to upload it to Photobucket first.

Or you could just list what you have in the cart.
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April 14, 2010 3:01:56 PM

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
SAMSUNG Spinpoint F3 HD502HJ 500GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
GIGABYTE GA-790XTA-UD4 AM3 AMD 790X SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX AMD Motherboard
SATA 3.0, USB 3.0, 3x USB power

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
SAPPHIRE 100282-3SR Radeon HD 5850 (Cypress Pro) 1GB 256-bit DDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support Video Card w/ Eyefinity

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Antec EarthWatts EA750 750W Continuous Power ATX12V version 2.3 SLI Certified CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC "compatible with Core i7/Core i5" Power Supply

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model F3-12800CL7D-4GBRM

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
AMD Athlon II X3 425 Rana 2.7GHz 3 x 512KB L2 Cache Socket AM3 95W Triple-Core Processor

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...
case and drive...

Let me know! Thanks.
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Best solution

April 14, 2010 3:06:46 PM

Looks great.
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April 14, 2010 4:20:34 PM

Best answer selected by zeppman.
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