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New gaming rig, advice appreciated

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August 10, 2010 6:37:32 PM

I originally had this laid out: http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/291692-31-advice-gami... but have sat on it a while, talked with a friend, etc., and changed my mind on some parts. Let me know your thoughts, thanks.

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: This week

BUDGET RANGE: < $1300

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: Gaming (SC2, Diablo 3, some "Crysis-like" games)

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: Keyboard, mouse (will probably wait for a good monitor deal to upgrade)

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: Newegg

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: US

PARTS PREFERENCES:

HDD
$75
SAMSUNG Spinpoint F3 HD103SJ 1TB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

GPU
$295 (-$5 instant)
XFX HD-585X-ZAFC Radeon HD 5850 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.1 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support Video Card w/ Eyefinity
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Memory
$98
G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model F3-12800CL9D-4GBRL
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

HSF
$35
Scythe SCMG-2100 Sleeve CPU Cooler
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Case + DVD Drive Combo
$83 (-$20 instant -$12 combo)
RAIDMAX SMILODON Extreme Black ATX-612WEB 1.0mm SECC Steel ATX Mid Tower Foldout MB Computer Case
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

SAMSUNG 24x DVD Burner - Bulk SATA Model SH-S243N/BEBS LightScribe Support - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Mobo + OS Combo
$280 (-$20 instant -$10 combo)
ASRock X58 Extreme 3 LGA 1366 Intel X58 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit 1-Pack for System Builders - OEM

PSU
$85 (friend got a spare in a combo deal on NewEgg, possibly $65 after MIR if we can work around the one per household limitation)
XFX P1-650X-CAG9 650W ATX12V 2.2 / ESP12V 2.91 SLI Ready CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Modular Active PFC Power Supply
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

CPU
$200
Core i7-930 Processor Boxed
http://www.microcenter.com/single_product_results.phtml...

Total: $1151 before shipping

OVERCLOCKING: Yes

SLI OR CROSSFIRE: Not yet, maybe

MONITOR RESOLUTION: 1280x1024 currently, want to upgrade that with new monitor

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:

1. Not a huge fan of light-up cases, but this case looks cool, might purchase another green LED fan, any recommendations? (Or other case recommendations for me to look at.)

2. The original mobo I was looking at was the $310 ASUS P6X58D Premium board: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... but that seems too much to me. So I found the current board I have. Is it a good one? I currently have a GigaByte board but I think it's faulty and I've heard about quality control issues with GigaByte boards, so I kind of want to stay away from them. Any other mid-range options?

3. Are modular PSUs a problem? I haven't seen one before, is it easy to pull out the connections you don't use, or do you have to open up the PSU?

4. Good gaming midrange monitor suggestions? Probably 22" at least.
August 10, 2010 7:54:29 PM

Not that great. The i7 isn't needed for gaming. It'd be better to spend the money on a bigger GPU or even the monitor.

Here's what I'd build, including a monitor:

CPU/GPU: X4 955 and HD 5870 $520 with $10 gift card
Mobo/OS: Gigabyte GA-890GPA-UD3H and Windows 7 $230
RAM: G.Skill Eco 2x2 GB 1600 mhz CAS Latency 7 $105
HDD: Samsung Spinpoint F3 1 TB $75
Case/PSU: Lian Li PC-K62 and XFX 750W $170 after rebate
Optical: Cheap SATA DVD burner $18
HSF: Sycthe SCMG-2100 $35
Monitor: Asus 23.6" 1080p $180 after rebate

Total: $1,333 with $10 gift card. If you don't want to overclock right away, leave out the HSF. I'll look around for a different board to get you under the $1,300 mark.

EDIT: Here's a cheaper board: ASRock 870 Extreme3 (with Windows) $180. That makes the total $1,283.

And the questions:

1.) RAIDMAX is a budget (i.e. low quality) brand for pretty much everything. I wouldn't use their parts if I could.

2.) That one's fine, but the i7 has to go. You could easily switch to the i5 though. I should also point out that the Intel sockets are going to be replaced by the end of the year, meaning that the current CPUs are essentially the last ones that will be made for the current hardware. There won't be any upgrade path.

3.) Nope. All the cables are just like plugs. Either leave them or take them out.

4.) See above.
August 10, 2010 8:01:45 PM

Thanks for the advice MadAdmiral. So what you are saying is with the setup I had listed, the bottleneck would be the GPU and not the processor? It seems like a lot of people advise getting AMD chips over Intel. The AMD chips are more than enough to power good gaming? And the cost per performance is better with AMD?

So what are Intel chips used for? Sorry for all the questions, computing is complicated and I'd like to learn more about it if I can, especially when building a new computer.
Related resources
August 10, 2010 8:06:27 PM

The bottleneck is always the GPU for gaming.

AMD CPUs get a lot of recommendations because they're essentially the best bang for the buck. They're cheap, yet fairly powerful. Also, they have an upgrade path (my edit before explains). Cost is definitely better. Using Microcenter's prices for Intel CPUs essentially negates the price difference though.

Intel CPUs are more powerful, but that doesn't really matter for gaming. If you were doing some rendering, encoding, AutoCAD or such, the i7 would be an excellent choice. However, spending more on the CPU doesn't make sense for gaming as it draws budget away from the GPU, which is more important.
August 10, 2010 9:09:06 PM

bccarlso said:
MadAdmiral

My friend pointed me to this article which makes a case for Intel chips. http://www.techspot.com/review/305-starcraft2-performan... What are your thoughts on that?


At stock, or near stock speeds (the lower one for each processor), the minimum frame rates for the Phenom II X4 965, i5-750, and the i7-920 are all within a couple of fps of each other. (28, 29, and 34, respectively) Average framerates are similarly distributed (39, 40, 47).

The price gap between a 965 build and an i5-750 build is about $75. The price gap between an i5-750 and an i7-920/930 build is about $150-200.

Since you can't count on/guarantee overclocking, it only makes sense to compare stock speeds. Additionally, that chart was made with the fastest single GPU card out there...using a lesser card is going to produce lower fps, which should compress the results even more.

Note that on the individual pages (1920x1200 ultra picked as representative), spending more on a graphics card altered fps more than the stock speeds linked above. 5770 (45 fps) -> 5850 (59 fps). At least up until the 5850, beyond that, you're paying for minor improvements in SC2 (or for better performance at a higher resolution), but other games will use the graphics power of a larger card.

For the record, I haven't measured my fps, but I don't have any complaints with my Phenom II X4 965 + 5870 running at 1920x1200 on Ultra.
August 11, 2010 11:33:36 AM

^Agree with all that. Something to add is that Intel is bringing out new sockets by the end of the year. That will make the i5 and i7 obsolete. There is no upgrade path on the Intel side. AMD is going to be releasing at least their next series of chips for the current socket, so they're a lot more future proof.

Right now, my opinion of going with Intel is this: get a very slight increase in gaming performance from the CPU, you lose any hope of future proofing, and because you pay more, you have to sacrifice the gaming performance of the GPU. I find myself being able to justify spending good money on an Intel gaming build less and less.

I'm only running an X4 955 (at stock) and an HD 5750 (overclocked to about the levels of an HD 5770) and I've yet to see any slow downs when playing StarCraft 2 on Ultra at 1080p. That said, more intense games (like Crysis) would absolutely not run on my build.
August 11, 2010 12:03:48 PM

I would consider the upgrade path a non issue with Intel vs AMD. The reality is your build is going to last 3-5 years, after that, even the next gen of CPUs will be old news and you will be wanting to change the core of the system anyway so the fact you can get some upgrades from buying a newer old CPU is not really a big deal - especially when you factor in other changs that may have occured - next gen RAM? PCI E 3.0 etc.
When games started using more than 2 cores of a CPU I Certainly didn't consider changing from an E8400 to a QXXXX when there was new and better technology around.

Having said all that, I still agree with MadAdmirals build. While I consider the futureproofing being a non factor, AMD still has best bang for buck and when it comes to gaming the performance is so close that the AMD build will be better due to the affordability of a better GPU which gives far bigger gains.
August 11, 2010 1:21:35 PM

The thing is that in 3-5 years with AMD, you can drop a Bulldozer CPU in it for basically nothing and have a build that's basically brand new.

Think of it this way. Look at the the AM2 socket. You could have had one of the first CPUs for the socket and still have a lot of tech that is in use, and in a year or two, you'd still be able to drop in the X4 955 for cheap to get a massive boost. By doing that, you could easily extend the life of the build a good 1-2 years.

Right now, let's assume you get the X3 440 and a single 5770 with the ability to add a second one later. In three years (assuming no monitor upgrade), the newer games wouldn't be running as great at the top resolutions. Your CPU would still be decent for a bit, so you could spend a little bit of money (probably $50-75) and get another 5770. That'll add a good 2-3 years to the build. Sometime around the 3-4 year mark, you'd likely also need a new CPU as three cores aren't going to cut it any more. You could easily go out and find a cheap X4 955 or a cheap X6 or a cheap Bulldozer CPU. Throwing well under $100 for a new CPU, you'll get another good 2-4 years out of the computer. All told, you'll likely be able to have added a good 3-5 years to the life of the build overall for basically nothing. In total, you'll have an investment of around $850 ($700 for the original build, $150 for the upgrades), and have a build that's still kicking 5-7 years after you build it.
August 11, 2010 2:14:16 PM

I see your point, and ultimately it comes down to each persons own perspective, in my view, certainly with an x3 440 being able to get a Bulldozer in a few years time is great, however, if you are already getting the 955 I don't think Bulldozer will be much of an upgrade by the time you need one (not much different from eXXXX to QXXXX) so it is not really a futureproofing plan. Of course, I am also going on the assumption that the socket will be coming to an end after Bulldozer - I figure a new socket will be required, and I could be totally wrong. But either way, with the unpredictability of computer technology, I feel futureproofing is a lost cause when looking to make a build and is merely a bonus you may be lucky to make use of. Ultimately you want to be building the best you can with your budget - which luckily at the moment tends to be AMD anyway
August 11, 2010 3:09:44 PM

You guys have some very valid and interesting points that I would not have considered. I am almost still leaning towards the Intel chip, if only because of the $100 Microcenter discount, but you've got me thinking about AMD more. I recently got myself into a (good) situation where I have a month of free rent at a place before moving into another apartment, so I may be able to increase my budget by a couple hundred anyway, and go with an Intel chip and a better CPU. But I am still considering the AMD route + better GPU (and more probably a nice monitor).

I hate these decisions. :p 
August 11, 2010 6:53:35 PM

Whether or not Bulldozer is the last chip released for AM3, any CPU upgrade should only happen if you need it. I built a relatively high-end AMD gaming build based on the premise that whether or not I need a CPU upgrade, if I want it, it is likely to be there next year.

In all likelihood, I won't need to upgrade my CPU, and the benefit won't be realized. But by going with a high-end AM3 motherboard, I have all the bonuses of the X58 motherboard, while leaving an upgrade path open if it's needed within the next few years. In 4-5 years no matter what, I'm probably going to want a completely new mobo/CPU/RAM setup, but that's unavioidable no matter which way you go.

Other people might get other info out of this, but Tom's Balanced Gaming PC (part 4), posted yesterday, seemed to indicate that at 1920x1nnn and up, on most games, any 4+ core CPU will be fine, and you'll be running into the limitations of the GPU. (Which isn't news to most people, but it bears repeating.) The SLI Scaling article from a couple of days ago also suggested that once you're at 2 cards, an overclocked i7 can't keep up (on a single-monitor setup). Taken together, that suggests to me that there's little point in going overboard on an i7 setup when you'll get very similar performance from any quad-core, even if you have a dual-card setup. YMMV, of course.
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