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First build in about a decade; kinda urgent; budget around $700

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July 7, 2010 9:18:24 AM

I started a thread earlier seeking feedback on one of yesterday's Newegg Shell Shockers. Folks were kind enough to post helpful replies, and suggested I start a new thread with the usual template. So here it is. The project has suddenly gotten a bit more urgent because the current Franken-desktop in the house seems to be dying on us.

I will warn you: I am a detail kind of person. Hope that winds up helping here more than it hurts.

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APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: Hoping to order all parts this week if possible.

BUDGET RANGE: Around $700, after rebates if any. I might have a skosh more than that come available, depending on how this week goes (it's a long story).

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: Games (I'm a Civilization junkie and also like finding cheap stuff on Steam sales; fiancee plays The Sims more than anything and downloads tons of custom content); general internet use; Microsoft Office; some video processing and burning (AVI to DVD and vice versa)

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: We can get by with existing keyboard (we're using one that came with my old eMachines), mouse (my Razer Diamondback is still working fine), and speakers (a budget Cambridge Sound Works 2.1 set I picked up about 10 years ago).

The monitor is also still perfectly fine (ViewSonic VP171b, reviewed here in fact, back in its day). I wouldn't, however, be surprised to see us replacing/upgrading it in the near future...they just got me a ginormous and gorgeous new Dell monitor at work, 2560x1440 resolution, so 1280x1024 at home doesn't seem all that spacious anymore.

I'm using an external USB 2.0 hard drive for backups--a Western Digital Elements 1TB--and can continue using it for the new machine for a while yet. But I'm thinking I'd want my next backup drive to be an eSATA, so a motherboard with such a port would be nice.

I have a valid, unused Windows 7 upgrade pack (Home Premium, 32-bit) that was included with the Vista laptop I bought last year. As I decided to wipe the lappy's hard drive and install Windows XP on it instead, and will probably keep it running XP indefinitely, I don't need the Windows 7 license for that machine. If the upgrade discs will work for my new build, and if that version of Windows 7 will be suitable, I'll use that for my OS. (If that doesn't work, I do have a .edu e-mail address.)

I have also already purchased a case and PSU, having got a good combo deal on Newegg for:

Antec Three Hundred Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811129042

Antec NEO ECO 520C 520W Continuous Power ATX12V v2.3 / EPS12V 80 PLUS Certified
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817371030

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: Newegg is my go-to website. I've also dealt with ZipZoomFly before; and of course there's always Amazon when appropriate.

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA

PARTS PREFERENCES: I've been looking at AMD Phenom CPUs. I like Crucial RAM. I've used Western Digital hard drives mostly over the years and they've treated me well. My most recent graphics card is a Sapphire and I've been happy with it. LightScribe seems like something I'd enjoy having on my DVD/CD burner. These are all things I am favoring based on what little I know know...but if other options might be better for me, I'm all ears.

OVERCLOCKING: Maybe (It sounds like a fun project, but I don't want to do anything that would significantly reduce the lifespan of the components...for me reliability and durability outrank tweaking the system for that little bit of added performance.)

SLI OR CROSSFIRE: Maybe (I can imagine buying one graphics card now, and making it a pair later.)

MONITOR RESOLUTION: 1280x1024 now; something like 1920×1200 once I'm able to afford a new monitor

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: Quiet is good. Energy efficient is good. Worry-free operation once it's all put together and configured is very good. (If I'm tinkering with it later on, I want it to be because I want to...not because I have to.)

I fret over the system staying cool, especially as there's often more dust in the computer's environment than I'd like (I swear it multiplies in the air ducts), and I worry about that keeping the fans from doing their job properly.

What I've had in mind for this project generally is something between the $550 and $1000 machines in the latest System Builder Marathon. In my hunting so far, I've tended to stick somewhat close to those examples, as I'm hardly an expert at this.

Now I'm not a rookie either--back around 2000-1 I built a Duron system from scratch, and it still runs; and since then I've cobbled together various Franken-PCs as needed for myself and family, upgrading and repairing and combining parts. But my knowledge has never been close to comprehensive, and a whole lot of what I do know is quite out of date.

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July 7, 2010 10:42:57 AM

XFX 5850 and AMD 955 - $424.98
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

G Skill 1600mhz CL7 - $104.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

DVD Rom - $22 (any, it doesn't matter much)

Asus M4A78T-E Motherboard - $94.99 with rebate
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...


Samsung Spinpoint F3 500gb - $54.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Total: $701.95

The Graphics card is completely overkill for your monitor and by the sounds of it your needs too. I put it in there as it fit in your budget and you want a new monitor eventually.

However, you will probably want to get the Windows 7 64bit OEM $99.99 to make full use of the 4gb RAM and so perhaps will want to drop to a 5770 card

My build is more of a high end build with our budget, others may have even cheaper builds that may interest you


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July 7, 2010 1:57:45 PM

For saving money you could go for PII X4 945 (or 925) & HD 5830. The PSU and Case you selected will do just fine
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Best solution

July 7, 2010 2:08:24 PM

optical $20
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

HD
F3 500gb $55
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

MOBO
GA-790-UD4 $140 w/ $15 MIR
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
xfire capable if you need to expand GPU capabilities in the future

RAM
G SKill Eco 1600 cas 7 $105
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Ripjaws that are lower voltage for same price.

CPU/GPU
Phenom II x4 and 5770 $305 w/ $20 MIR
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

OS
Win 7 64 bit OEM $100
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Total: $725 before $35 in rebates
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July 7, 2010 10:49:41 PM

Thanks for the replies...that's some good help.

Below I've detailed the system as I've got it planned out now, including full details of absolutely everything I'm reusing in case any of those parts are too lousy to keep, or might cause some problem I'm unaware of.

Before I roll with this, I do have a few questions I'm chewing over, and I'd appreciate any further input that folks might have regarding them:

1) Anything just plain wrong with this setup? Any important components/coolers/tools/parts I'm missing?
2) If I decide to add a card reader, any favorites around here or will anything do?
3) Is there any reason, apart from the $20 price difference, for choosing the 500GB drive you recommended instead of the 1TB version of the same?
4) Any changes--amounting to no more than $50 or, if it's a big leap forward, possibly $100--that would greatly increase the performance and future-proofness of this system?
5) Conversely, any changes that might save me $20 or $50 or more with very little sacrifice in performance or reliability?
6) I've priced this all out on Newegg so far. Where else online would you suggest looking for a good bargain on these items? (Brick-and-mortar-wise, I suppose MicroCenter would be the preferred choice if a field trip would have a chance of being worthwhile...though it is an hour's drive away from me, with state sales tax of 6%-7%.)

Thanks again for all the help and advice provided in these forums. I'm new to posting here, but have enjoyed and appreciated this site for quite some time, and recommend it to others.


I. Parts Being Reused

MONITOR
ViewSonic VP171b-2 17" LCD Display (1280x1024)
http://www.viewsonic.com.au/products/ppspecs.php?id=114

KEYBOARD
eMachines KB-0108 PS2 Keyboard
http://www.amazon.com/eMachines-KB-0108-Internet-Multimedia-Keyboard/dp/B003A1LK1O

MOUSE
RAZER Plasma Diamondback RZ01-020300-R1M1 USB Optical Mouse
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16826153104

SPEAKERS
Cambridge SoundWorks PCWorks 2.1 Speaker System
http://www.amazon.com/Cambridge-SoundWorks-PCWorks-Multimedia-Computer/dp/B000068PJG

EXTERNAL BACKUP HDD
WD Elements 1 TB USB 2.0 Desktop External Hard Drive WDE1UBK10000
http://www.newegg.com/product/product.aspx?Item=N82E16822136321

ROUTER
Linksys WRT54GL Wireless-G Broadband Router (running Tomato)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833124190

UPS
APC BE750G 750 VA 450 Watts 10 Outlets Back-UPS ES
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16842101311


II. New Parts Already Purchased

CASE
Antec Three Hundred Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

PSU
Antec NEO ECO 520C 520W Continuous Power ATX12V v2.3 / EPS12V 80 PLUS Certified
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...


III. Parts To Purchase

MOTHERBOARD
ASUS M4A78T-E AM3 AMD 790GX HDMI ATX
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131366
$109.99 in combo with Windows 7 (free shipping) ($20 mail-in rebate)

CPU
AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition Deneb 3.2GHz 125W Quad-Core HDZ955FBGMBOX
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819103808
$149.99 in combo with GPU (free shipping)

GRAPHICS
ASUS CuCore Series EAH5770 Radeon HD 5770 1GB 128-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.1 x16
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814121363
$154.99 in combo with CPU ($1.99 shipping) ($20 mail-in rebate)

RAM
G.SKILL ECO Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) F3-12800CL7D-4GBECO
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820231321
$104.99 (free shipping)

HDD
SAMSUNG Spinpoint F3 HD502HJ 500GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822152181
$54.99 (free shipping)
OR
SAMSUNG Spinpoint F3 HD103SJ 1TB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822152185
$74.99 (free shipping)

OPTICAL
LITE-ON iHAS424-98 24X DVD Writer LightScribe Support
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16827106335
$25.99 (free shipping)

OS
Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16832116754
$94.99 in combo with motherboard (free shipping)

Grand Total today on Newegg: $697.92 or $717.92 delivered (depending on HDD), before $40 in mail-in-rebates
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July 7, 2010 11:11:16 PM

Regarding possible upgrades, I do see that folks in another thread have been suggesting the ASUS M4A89GTD motherboard. Newegg is offering combo deals with that and several different processors, for instance:

With same X4 955 processor as above, $274.98 ($35 more than build above, counting rebates).
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?ItemList=Combo.430433

With AMD Phenom II X6 1055T, $309.98 ($70 more than build above, counting rebates).
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?ItemList=Combo.430421

Of course we could spend all day talking about adding $35 here and $70 there, and eventually come up with a $2000 machine...but this new motherboard seemed worth asking about. That is, if the newer stuff on-board like USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gb/s is indeed ready for prime-time.
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July 8, 2010 3:44:35 AM

Also been looking at other versions of the Radeon HD 5770 card. I like the looks of the Sapphire models, and prices look to be comparable or just slightly higher with a good combo deal. Any thoughts as to these versus the ASUS?

SAPPHIRE 100283L Radeon HD 5770 1GB 128-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814102858

SAPPHIRE Vapor-X 100283VX-2L Radeon HD 5770 1GB 128-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.1 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX w/ Eyefinity
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814102898
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July 8, 2010 9:49:23 AM

I think you mentioned having an email address that allows you to get windows 7 cheap. How much would it cost if you did that? I just wonder because if it is cheap enough to allow you to get the build I posted above it means you have apoerful card for whenyou eventually upgrade your monitor which I assume you plan on when you can afford it. The problem with the 5770 is that when you upgrade your monitor you may find yourself needing to replace the GPU depending on what games you are playing 6 months down the line
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July 8, 2010 1:26:58 PM

If you want a xfire board w/ sata 6 USB 3 get the ga one I linked above.

That UPS won't work. Active PFC PSU's require a pure sine wave UPS.
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July 8, 2010 4:23:57 PM

banthracis: So I'm going to need a new UPS? Oy, that'll add to the cost.

I'll give that Gigabyte board another look...I'd been scared by some of the customer comments on Newegg, but you never know which of the complaints are because of bad-quality boards, and which are just people who are doing it wrong. And I found some in-depth reviews of Gigabyte boards at a site called Hardware Canucks that raved about them...and got me looking at their 890GX board, which has the same pre-rebate price as the 790X on Newegg:

GIGABYTE GA-890GPA-UD3H AM3 890GX HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813128435

asteldian: I understand what you're thinking, but I'd prefer to take that savings and pocket it for now (if there is any...see above), with the thought that I could always add a second 5770 in Crossfire when I'm able to get a new monitor. From what I understand, that would be significantly more powerful than a single 5850...so long as my power supply could handle the additional card. (Could it?)
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July 8, 2010 4:34:28 PM

It'll run it xfire 5770. Not sure it's got right cables though, so you may need an adapter.

re: UPS, ok technically, yes, using that is better than no UPS. However, if you don't use a pure sine wave UPS, you'll be damaging your PSU each time (any active pfc PSU).

It's like running a car on kitchen grease. It'll work, but it's not good for your engine.
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July 8, 2010 5:27:59 PM

Well, if any UPS is better than no UPS, I'll run on kitchen grease until I can get a replacement. Will have to find out what the cheapest suitable APC unit might be.

Been browsing sales and Newegg has a deal right now for a different set of G.SKILL RAM. The timings don't look as favorable, but the price sure is tempting. How much worse would this be?

G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Dual Channel Kit Model F3-12800CL9D-4GBNQ
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820231193
$89.99 through 7/14 (free shipping)

They've also got a Rosewill card-reader knocked down to $7.99, but judging from the customer comments it's probably not worth even that...
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July 8, 2010 11:04:05 PM

Okay, I think I've got my order ready. Did a little shopping around, but Newegg's prices are, as expected, not easily beat.

I can, however, get a quite nice discount purchasing Windows 7 64-bit through the university. They may only be able to get me the upgrade edition rather than the OEM edition, but surely I can make that work. I'll copy the Windows directory over from the XP machine I'm retiring before "upgrading" if that's what it takes.

I'm still mulling over video card options (5770 or something more ambitious? ASUS CuCore or Sapphire Vapor-X or Sapphire reference or HIS IceQ?), so that's not included in this order. If it comes to it, I can limp along with the integrated video for a few weeks while I'm trying to decide--after all, if the 3DMark06 scores are to be believed, the IGP on the 890GX might be shockingly comparable to what the old machine has been running.

I don't have the money to replace my UPS with anything Pure Sine right now, but my understanding is that it's only going to do its kitchen grease thing when the battery backup kicks in. Which hopefully won't be that often.

So, here's what's in my Newegg shopping cart. I'm going to post this, go home, have some dinner, then pull the trigger unless anyone's got any last-minute cautions or suggestions.

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MOTHERBOARD
GIGABYTE GA-890GPA-UD3H AM3 890GX HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813128435
$127.49 in combo with CPU (free shipping)

CPU
AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition Deneb 3.2GHz 125W Quad-Core HDZ955FBGMBOX
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819103808
$144.49 in combo with motherboard (free shipping)

RAM
G.SKILL ECO Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) F3-12800CL7D-4GBECO
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820231321
$104.99 (free shipping)

HDD
SAMSUNG Spinpoint F3 HD103SJ 1TB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822152185
$74.99 (free shipping)

OPTICAL
LITE-ON iHAS424-98 24X DVD Writer LightScribe Support
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16827106335
$23.99 (free shipping)

Grand Total today on Newegg: $478.95
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July 9, 2010 2:19:01 AM

Best answer selected by KevinTMC.
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July 9, 2010 2:30:50 AM

I'm off and running then. Thanks so very much for all the good help.
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July 9, 2010 8:35:48 AM

2143521,15,371442 said:
Okay, I think I've got my order ready. Did a little shopping around, but Newegg's prices are, as expected, not easily beat.

I can, however, get a quite nice discount purchasing Windows 7 64-bit through the university. They may only be able to get me the upgrade edition rather than the OEM edition, but surely I can make that work. I'll copy the Windows directory over from the XP machine I'm retiring before "upgrading" if that's what it takes.

No need, you can install the Windows 7 on a clean hard drive. You can either install it twice (avoid activating automatically and just do it manually once you have installed twice) or you can install once then go into registry - there are plenty of write ups explaining it on the internet, it is easy to do, especially the install twice method. Also, this is legal if your old XP system is no longer going to be used (assuming the old system had a full XP version)

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July 9, 2010 6:29:46 PM

asteldian said:
No need, you can install the Windows 7 on a clean hard drive. You can either install it twice (avoid activating automatically and just do it manually once you have installed twice) or you can install once then go into registry - there are plenty of write ups explaining it on the internet, it is easy to do, especially the install twice method. Also, this is legal if your old XP system is no longer going to be used (assuming the old system had a full XP version)


Good to know...thanks. I've edited the registry before without causing things to asplode, and the instructions I found via a quick Googling involve simply changing a single bit from 1 to 0, so that shouldn't be a problem.

(And yes, the old XP system is being retired so there will be an unused license to upgrade.)
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