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Would like review of my system and components

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May 19, 2010 3:23:38 AM

I spent a day researching parts for a new machine I felt it was time to build. I play poker online and use Holdem Manager software which uses a lot of data i/o in communicating with the database (PostGreSQL) in real-time while displaying Heads Up Display statistics. Additionally, the poker software itself seems to be pokey about tables being moved, resides, or minimized/restored. My goal is to get a new system set up that completely rocks in terms of processing power, memory, and data i/o.

However, I didn't want to spend too much. Initially I wanted to limit myself to $800, but I ended up spending $1,050 (buying locally). Here's my summary, with questions below:

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: just bought

BUDGET RANGE: 800-1000

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: playing 12+ tables of online poker with statistics software running alongside (all in virtual machine running under VMWare), while keeping multiple browsers and iTunes open in main OS

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: keyboard, mouse, monitor, speakers

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: newegg.com, tigerdirect.com

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA

PARTS PREFERENCES: no preference

OVERCLOCKING: Probably (seems worth it to do if only because my mobo is supposed to facilitate it very well)

SLI OR CROSSFIRE: Maybe down the road (if I suddenly get deep into PC game playing, right now I am not, other than the poker software)

MONITOR RESOLUTION: 1920x1080 and second monitor at 1920x1200

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: see comments below

PARTS

Here are the parts I bought (I will keep questions below them all):

Case ($100) - Antec 900


This is one reason my build got more expensive, but I realized it was pointless to get a cheap case with a cheap PSU, even if I intended to use the onboard graphics indefinitely.

PSU ($85) - Antec 550W New (550W continuous power)


I didn't want to spend $100+ on a 700W or more PSU, and the shop tech said this would be plenty for any dual video card setup I might want to add down the road, unless I went really high end, and in that case of spending $600+ on video cards, spending for a new PSU would not be such a problem

Motherboard ($125) - ASUS M4A78T-E AM3 AMD 790GX HDMI ATX AMD Motherboard

Seemed like a great choice because not only is it a high-end board with good overclocking capabilities, but it also provided economy in its leading integrated graphics. Furthermore I have enjoyed working with ASUS motherboards in the past, as the documentation is always great and the quality feels right.

CPU ($180) - AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition Deneb 3.4GHz 4 x 512KB L2 Cache 6MB L3 Cache Socket AM3 125W Quad-Core Processor

Was thinking about trying Athlon II X2 to save money and upgrade later, but decided to go for the top of the line now.

However, the one I got is 125W, not 140W - is this a problem... see questions below.

Hard Drives ($150) -
Western Digital Caviar Black WD7501AALS 750GB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5"

Western Digital Caviar Black WD5001AALS 500GB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5"


Initially I wanted to do onboard RAID 0+1, but in the interest of saving costs, I decided to do two single drives. The slightly cheaper 500 GB is for my system and applications (haven't decided whether I will further partition it), and the second will be dedicated to data storage, whether that's media or, more importantly, my database and hand history file archives. I figure I can transition to a RAID later, even if it requires using Ghost or something similar to clone these.

DVD Drive ($26) - SAMSUNG Black 22X DVD+R 8X DVD+RW 16X DVD+R DL 22X DVD-R 6X DVD-RW 12X DVD-RAM 16X DVD-ROM 48X CD-R 32X CD-RW 48X CD-ROM 2MB Cache SATA DVD Burner LightScribe Support

I always thought it would be cool to have the LightScribe support, even if I never use it, so I spent a few extra dollars on this one.

Memory ($170) -
Crucial 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10600) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model CT2KIT25664BA1339

Crucial 2GB 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10600) Desktop Memory Model CT25664BA1339


Unfortunately the shop didn't have anything with lower latency or built-in heat spreaders. I am concerned I didn't get a lower CAS latency rated memory for the same money. See questions below to see if I should return (or add heat spreader and overclock).

Operating System ($100) - Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 32-bit 1-Pack for System Builders - OEM

Am really looking forward to my first use of this new, 64-bit OS! Also am expecting virtual machine performance to be even closer to native performance running under Win 7 vs. my current WinXP Pro SP3.

Total Cost (local cost, with tax, NewEgg.com total is $100 less): ~$1,040

--------------------------------------------

Questions

Now beyond any general comments or recommendations, here are the specific questions I have:

1) The PSU - should I have gone for more wattage, especially if I plan on adding more drives? I think for my current system, I can add a decent "real" GPU and two more drives and still be covered, according to the PSU calculator. Anything else I should have considered, any other models? I don't know much about PSUs.

2) The memory - with a CAS latency of 9, should I return these and get the G Skill or other memory with latency of 7? Are these okay to overclock? Should I get heat spreaders for them, regardless of whether I do overclock or not? Also I assume no performance lost by having only three of four DIMM slots filled.

3) The motherboard -

a - I think this was a good choice, but should I have considered the higher end chipset, the 890GX? To me it seemed the only real difference was support for USB 3 and 6 GB/s SATA, or am I wrong?

b - I am not clear, but I assume my board will support the 6-core and any future AM3 socket CPUs, correct?

c - If I do go dual GPU at some point, this board will only do X8, not dual X16. In another thread a response said this will not really affect the throughput/total performance unless I am going really extreme on the GPUs. Any more feedback on this?

4) The CPU -

a - I didn't realize the Phenom II X4 965 also comes in a 140W version for a few dollars more. What real difference will this make?

b - I intend on using the stock cooler (but applied with Arctic Silver). Is there a real need to invest in another cooler?

5) Hard drives - I remember reading that the fastest ones are the ones with the 500 GB platters. Does that mean I should get the 1 TB and 2 TB ones instead? What difference is there? From the charts on this site it seemed quite a bit (enough to put the 2TB Black at the start of the list but the smaller Blacks behind all the other brands' models).

6) Any suggestions on an overclocking guide specific to this mobo/CPU combination? I have yet to search, but if there are any really useful links, I would appreciate them.

Now I am going to start building!

More about : review system components

May 19, 2010 4:01:44 AM

My first question... All are of these components already bought??? If not, we can make suggestions to improve...

My second question... You posted & linked the 32-bit version of Win7. Was that just by mistake since you reference 64-bit.

Okay... To your questions..

1) Your PSU choice is fine. You don't need major graphics power for on-line poker. It will handle pretty much any highend single GPU, which would be all you would ever need.

2) Yes, Cas7 would've been better but it isn't a major deal that I would look to return. Now, if you are talking driving down the street to exchange, than I would do it.

3-a) I would've go with the 890GX... Better board, more future proof and has the newer chipset.

3-b) It should support the X6's with BIOS updates. I can't say for any newer CPU's are supported until they are released.

3-c) x8,x8 is an acceptable Crossfire setup. You are only looking at roughly 4% difference with x16,x16.

4-a) You are fine with the 125w version (X4 955 C3 would've been the better choice)

4-b) If you plan to overclock, get an aftermarket cooler like the Cooler Master Hyper 212+

5) WD only makes 500GB platters with the 2TB and SATA 6.0Gb/s drives (500GB / 1TB). You would've been better off with the Samsung Spinpoint F3 or Seagate 7200.12 500GB or 1TB hard drives. They are faster and cheaper.

6) Visit the Overclocking forum and review their stickies and read up on overclocking there & on Google, would be my recommendation.




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May 19, 2010 4:46:44 AM

Yes, I posted the wrong version - I did get the 64-bit one, of course. And yes, everything here as listed is already purchased.

2) The memory - it would be a 40 minute round trip to exchange it. I've looked up some tests since then and it seems it's not that big a deal.

3-a) On the 890GX - so it seems you think this is a big deal. Isn't it just the USB 3 and SATA 6 GB/s support though that's different? Both of those can be addressed via add-on cards if it becomes a problem. But I do understand that it would be nicer to have the more future-proof board; but is there any performance reason to exchange this now?

4-a) On my processor - I thought the 965 was also C3 in this latest version? It seemed so from my Web searching. Or is there another reason 955 would have been preferable?

4-b) I guess I can upgrade this down the line. I can try seeing what stable OC I get with the stock cooler right, first? (the stock cooler is upgraded from what it was originally, in a recent review I read)

5) Yes I was really disappointed in the drive selection this place had. I really wanted the Spinpoint F3. I think they did have the Seagate but I had no idea on whether it was decent. To be honest, once I have the money, I'd like to set up an SSD RAID (or at least get some really high end drives in an array, like the 10K Velociraptors, perhaps even look into a dedicated RAID controller). So how detrimental do you think my HD selection will be? Won't the fact that I am running a dedicated drive for my database help performance a good bit anyway?

Thanks for the quick response. And I know above it seems like I just want to keep what I have, which is what I'd rather do - just seeing if any of your points are really that important that I should put off the build until I can get replacement parts. (the local store doesn't even have the Asus board with the 890GX for example, I'd have to go MSI or another brand)
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Related resources
May 19, 2010 1:14:38 PM

1. Even outside native SATA 6GB/s support SB 850 had ironed out a few kinks over previous gen SB 750/710
2. One has to select with extreme care 700 series mobos for Thuban capable BIOS - all 800 series even the budget Foxconn 880G runs these out of box
3. $12x for a 790GX is way overpriced - have a look at the $109 Asrock 880G Extreme3
Review
http://en.ocworkbench.com/tech/exclusive-review-asrock-...
4. I would go with Samsung F3 500 And since u specifically mentioned SSD RAID in future:
Latest gen Sandforce based SSD (just single) already threatening to saturate SATA 3GB/s hence: another reason not to go 700 series mobos hehe
Review
http://www.guru3d.com/article/ocz-vertex-2-ssd-review/1...
Findings/recommendations
Quote:
The Vertex 2 is once again one step closer to the limitations of the SATA2 bus and kicks massive ass when it comes to helping out with better real-world performance on your PC. It won't be long before SATA 6G will be a recommended requirement.
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May 19, 2010 8:31:48 PM

Isn't it also possible though that further changes/improvements will come along, and these first chipsets supporting these latest specs might also be obsolete in a year or two?

Or if nothing else, I could always just add on an expansion card for either or both of these updated capabilities (which might be preferable anyway for doing an SSD array, so that I might get a higher end controller, right?).

Also don't forget a major reason I chose this mobo is because it has one of the best built-in video adapters, AND I can use it in hybrid mode with a discrete video card at a later point (so I felt like I was saving money there on a $50 card purchase, and still getting to use it via hybrid down the road).

I guess I am just being lazy since I spent all night carefully assembling and laying in all the wires and got it to post and completed most of the BIOS setup alredy. :wahoo: 
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May 20, 2010 10:25:41 AM

All any IGP chipsets after 2008 (AMD) starting from 780G/HD3200 can do hybrid crossfire and only low end ones like HD 2400/HD 3450 will work giving an overall performance easily beaten by something as outdated as a 8600GT/2600XT? The 880G/890GX can do HCF with HD5450 but for best performance just get a proper discrete gaming class GPU

Actually 890GX *has* been reviewed/tested with SSD RAID and no need to more $$ when an elegant SATA 6GB/s solution which cost the same/less than some 700 series mobos is already out ^^

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May 20, 2010 9:55:41 PM

Thanks for the heads up on the built-in RAID test results on that chip. To be honest, the system is so fast as it is, I might not even do a drive RAID, let alone SSD (at least not until it's much cheaper and higher capacity)! I am comfortable sticking with this board, just a little upset that I paid $135 for it locally and could have gotten the 890gx board by ASUS as well online for the same price.

I've also seen the same from reading a lot more reviews and tests on the crossfire mode - it seems pretty much pointless unless one has a used or free card that's compatible! Do you happen to have any recommendations on what would be a good single card to be able to run any game in almost any mode at 1080 resolution (I use my TV as primary output) for when I do get a chance to upgrade? Do I need to spend more than, say, $250?

Next I guess I'll be visiting overclocking forum since even just upping my clock multiplier by 1X causes crashes in the AMD OverDrive stress test within one minute! (I think I need to disable CnQ although from other articles it seems CnQ can stay on - or perhaps just not during the OC setup/testing phase?) I am not even looking to go extreme, I'd just like to get up to a stable 3.6 or 3.7 Ghz (or ideally 3.8).
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May 20, 2010 11:21:14 PM

First...

For under $250, your best option is the ATI 5770 but for 1080p resolution, you will be better off saving some additional money and going with the ATI 5850. The 5850 will provide the best performance at 1080p, unless you get a ATI 5870 or ATI 5970.

Second...

The overclocking forum is a good place to start for help. One quick comment, did you diable the CPU Spread Spectrum in your BIOS before trying to overclock? If not, you might want to try that as a first step.
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May 21, 2010 12:33:14 AM

Great recommendation on the card, I am going to look to add that in the next month or two!

You know what, I thought I DID disable spread spectrum in my initial setup, but I actually just reviewed that again and saw that I didn't! Will definitely try that as I know that is a very likely culprit. Much appreciated!
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July 27, 2010 12:28:26 AM

Hey Tecmo, turns out that motherboard smoked on me (system shut down, would not power on, I spent the day testing power supply then buying a new power supply, at which point system smoked - still not sure why it only smoked then and turned on, only difference was new one was 650w).

Anyway, I ended up getting a new board (I posted it here)! This time I did get the latest, the M4A89GTD PRO/USB3. As I mention in my post above, what a sweet board.

Anyway I went back to my original Antec 550W supply, which seemed fine after all. I also took the opportunity to upgrade my cooler, I went with the Corsair H50. (still can't believe it keeps my cpu at almost room temp at idle with no power saving on - can't wait to try overclocking again!)

And last but not least, I bit the bullet and went for the 5870 upgrade. I looked at the 5770, but I got bit by the bug to not settle. After all, why spend $200 for the 5770 when you can get a 5850 for $300? And then, why not get the 5870 for $400? :)  (I got the XFX one, also from Fry's - I guess I won't be able to overclock it too much, but then again, I don't really want to take the chance of frying a $400 card.)

I've been using it with Crysis and am getting great framerates. The thing is, I only need to run at 1280x720, as this is the only mode that will trigger my Pioneer plasma to go into 720P mode. Since it's a 720P native resolution, I don't think I am giving up anything, right? In fact, I get more framerate. In hindsight, I guess the 5850 would have served me fine at this resolution? Or do the additional shaders still make for more realtime quality in terms of effects?

Finally I meant to ask you - how much of a difference would it make changing my memory for the CAS 7 instead of 9? Also I got the 1333 because I'd read 1600 was not good for overclocking. Does any of this really matter too much if I do overclock?
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July 27, 2010 1:17:23 AM

rockafella said:
1.) I've been using it with Crysis and am getting great framerates. The thing is, I only need to run at 1280x720, as this is the only mode that will trigger my Pioneer plasma to go into 720P mode. Since it's a 720P native resolution, I don't think I am giving up anything, right? In fact, I get more framerate. In hindsight, I guess the 5850 would have served me fine at this resolution? Or do the additional shaders still make for more realtime quality in terms of effects?

2.) Finally I meant to ask you - how much of a difference would it make changing my memory for the CAS 7 instead of 9? Also I got the 1333 because I'd read 1600 was not good for overclocking. Does any of this really matter too much if I do overclock?

1.) You aren't giving up anything based on your monitor's resolution. You are giving up the full power of your 5870, so it's potential is being under used. You would've been just fine with the 5850. I would down the road think about actually getting a LCD Monitor at 1920x1080 or 1920x1200 to see the fulll visual abilities of the 5870.

2.) Outside of benchmarks, there really isn't much of a difference between them to the average user. There isn't much difference between 1333 and 1600 at the same CAS level, so you were fine with going with DDR3 1333.
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July 27, 2010 11:50:01 PM

I am probably not going to upgrade my TV until the OLED's are cheaper. Even then, I am very happy with my Pioneer's black levels and the 60hz refresh rate at 720P. Sitting 6-8 feet away, I am not sure I'd notice the resolution difference on a 50" screen - it was always my impression one had to go to 60" or 70" to really notice it.

I think I am still getting better framerates though due to the 5870 (vs 5850), right? I notice when I do run in at 1920x1080, I only get low 30s on very high - but at 720P I get mid 40s, which is really smooth (I've been trying Life Sys and other mods though and some of those bring it down to 30 even at 720P).

I feel better about my RAM. It was bugging me out at the store seeing all the 1600/CAS 7 memory on sale!

Thanks for getting back to me on this I really value your input.
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