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Can we discuss the different levels of technology?

I've tried to bring this up in my "what should I build" posts but have not recevieved any constructive feedback other than good build combo's. (For that, thank you!)

I see a good majority of people looking to build $600 - $800 machines, usually consisting of 4gb of DDR3, AM3, Phenom or Atholon X4's, and either a 5770 or GTX460 gaming card. Typical suggestion is a 650 watt PSU, and a Antec 300 case or equvelant. Samsung F3 is the HD of choice, and a cheapo dvd player.

At what point do you need more power (for a lack of a better term) out of a machine to justify spending more? Why?

On the flip side, at what point do you need less power? Why?

For the average Joe (such as myself) that posts on this board asking the "what build" question, it seems that about 85+% of us are looking for a modern machine that handles today's games, and in general we use it for basics needs like email, FB, surfing, MS Apps, and some dvd watching.

Will the average Joe notice the difference between an X2 and an X4 AMD chip or an I3 vs. an I5? A 5770 vs. a 460 graphics card? a $50 case vs. a $150 case? Please explain other noticeable indifferences.

I'm trying to determine if everyone reccomends the safe build above because its not high end, but its not 2 cores. But in reality, is there a huge difference in performance or is there technology or tasks coming down the line that an X2 or i3 couldn't handle to where its worth spending $750 over a $450 build?

For those of us who don't know a ton about the hardware side, but that are interested to learn, can one of you guys who reccomends builds all day long break down the different build patterns into layman's terms?


And for your pleasure, here's my latest build, thoughts?

Case Antec Three Hundred ATX Mid Tower Case
Mobo Asus M4A87TD/USB3 Socket AM3 870 Motherboard
CPU AMD Phenom II X4 Quad-Core Processor 955 Black Edition Boxed
HD Samsung Spinpoint F3 HD502HJ 500GB 7,200RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive - OEM
DVD Sony AD-7260S 24X SATA Internal DVD Burner - OEM
Memory Corsair XMS3 4GB DDR3-1600 (PC-12800) CL9 Memory Kit (Two 2GB Memory Modules)
PSU Cooler Master eXtreme Power Plus 600W ATX Power Supply
GPU EVGA GeForce GTX460 768MB PCIe 2.0 x16 Graphics Card

$707 at microcenter or $750 from newegg with a dif. mobo. Can you beat the pricepoint for what is offered here?

Thanks to those in advance who actually take the time to comment and to comment with explinations! It's hard to justify an $800 machine when I may only need a $450 machine, but because I'm just reading technical stats, I can't really determine what is a need and what is just extra that I may never even use or fully capacitate.
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  1. We have a number of references here that discuss these things, and I think you might benefit by reading them. I will link some:

    My guide is linked in my sig.
    CPU guide http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/267801-28-buyer-guide
    Tecmo's builds by usage http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/269162-31-recommended-builds-usage

    The build you listed is a very nice build for the price point, and represents good value. I will not comment on any specific deals you might find that could lower the cost. There might be an exception on the PSU however, and I would advise one that is better tested and a company with a better track record. See the PSU guide in my sig.
  2. You would have to define "average joe". Here is a question that many get wrong. Who sells the most video cards? Its actually Intel because they sell the most IGPs. More then everyone else combined. If average joe means someone who surfs the web, types papers, and watches stuff on hulu or youtube then he doesn't need much of a machine. A low end dual core with 4GBs of ram and lots of harddrive space is enough for him. A nice $299 Dell will work fine. If he doesn't want that, then building a cheap $500 will do ok as well, but he still doesn't need all the frills things like sound cards, video cards, etc.

    Many build $600-$1000 computers because that gets you into game playing. Building something in this range should get you everything you'd need to play video games on your computer instead of your console. When would you need more? Usually only when you are doing high res gaming due to your 30" screen or Eyefinity setup.

    There are exceptions to this such as people who use their machine to do work. You wouldn't want to use a slower dual core if you are working with high resolution photos in PS. Or if you are trying to edit and make a video montage of the wedding you just shot to show during the reception. Quads do have their place, as do $3,000 machines.
  3. 4745454b said:
    You would have to define "average joe". Here is a question that many get wrong. Who sells the most video cards? Its actually Intel because they sell the most IGPs. More then everyone else combined. If average joe means someone who surfs the web, types papers, and watches stuff on hulu or youtube then he doesn't need much of a machine. A low end dual core with 4GBs of ram and lots of harddrive space is enough for him. A nice $299 Dell will work fine. If he doesn't want that, then building a cheap $500 will do ok as well, but he still doesn't need all the frills things like sound cards, video cards, etc.

    Many build $600-$1000 computers because that gets you into game playing. Building something in this range should get you everything you'd need to play video games on your computer instead of your console. When would you need more? Usually only when you are doing high res gaming due to your 30" screen or Eyefinity setup.

    There are exceptions to this such as people who use their machine to do work. You wouldn't want to use a slower dual core if you are working with high resolution photos in PS. Or if you are trying to edit and make a video montage of the wedding you just shot to show during the reception. Quads do have their place, as do $3,000 machines.

    Thanks, that helps. Still confusing though once you break into the "video game realm" as you can build a $550 machine all the way on up to as much as you want to spend. What makes a $100 gpu differ from a $200 and so forth? What makes one motherboard better than the other? etc?
  4. Best answer
    GPU is easy so I'll start there. What monitor do you play on? My wife has a 19" LCD thats 1440x900, while my 20" LCD is 1680x1050. Doing the math she has about 1.3M pixels, while mine has 1.75M. An even larger 1920x1080 screen has just over 2M pixels. The more pixels your card needs to work with, the more powerful card you need. A 30" display that's 2560x1600 has over 4M pixels. Your not going to be able to get playable frame rates in games with a GT220 and one of those screens.

    A motherboard is harder to show. More expensive boards have better bios's allowing more options, and usually more things on them. A cheap $50 board has probably just the basics, which is fine for some. But a more expensive $100 board probably has better capacitors that will hold up to heat and aging better, more SATA ports, better audio, etc. An even more expensive board will have even newer features like USB3, SATAIII, etc. This is also one of the nicer things about computers over consoles. The more you pay, the better your experience can be. (also the down side as there are more configurations there are the harder it is to support.)
  5. 4745454b said:
    GPU is easy so I'll start there. What monitor do you play on? My wife has a 19" LCD thats 1440x900, while my 20" LCD is 1680x1050. Doing the math she has about 1.3M pixels, while mine has 1.75M. An even larger 1920x1080 screen has just over 2M pixels. The more pixels your card needs to work with, the more powerful card you need. A 30" display that's 2560x1600 has over 4M pixels. Your not going to be able to get playable frame rates in games with a GT220 and one of those screens.


    Monitor:
    I'm running an HPLP2475W monitor as it was highly suggested for loong days at the desk. I was considering dual 22's but decided to step up to a better pannel as I look at spreadsheets all day and I'm learning to software develop at night. Although 1900x1200 is what's reccomended for this monitor, I like the 1280 x 1024 setting, don't have to squint so much :)

    4745454b said:

    A motherboard is harder to show. More expensive boards have better bios's allowing more options, and usually more things on them. A cheap $50 board has probably just the basics, which is fine for some. But a more expensive $100 board probably has better capacitors that will hold up to heat and aging better, more SATA ports, better audio, etc. An even more expensive board will have even newer features like USB3, SATAIII, etc. This is also one of the nicer things about computers over consoles. The more you pay, the better your experience can be. (also the down side as there are more configurations there are the harder it is to support.)



    I guess I'm being kind of a Nancy here... but I'm an "Anal"yst so I like to obtain as much detail as possible before making a decision, especially when it comes to $600+ purchases.

    Here's what I've been able to understand from reading posts so far.

    Mobo:
    It seems as though I should get a really good mobo with the latest; e.g. SataIII(what is this :lol: ?, USB3, and the ability to crossfire for down the road. I have no idea why I'd need dual video cards as I'm 31 and games are more of a fun past time these days than being super competitive. Although I plan on schoolin' some peeps in the new starcraft II.

    GPU:
    5770 vs 460? What are the gains here, it's almost a $70 difference on newegg now.

    Memory:
    People have been consistantly posting that the DDR3-1600 at 4gb is more than enough, when would you want to go to 6 gb or more?

    HDD:
    Samsung F3 seems to dominate the boards unless you can afford an SSD. How much fast is an SSD? Would be nice to have that on my work machine for my multi tasking.

    DVD Player: Seems pretty straight forward so probably not much to chime in on here.

    PSU: This seems like a hit and miss area. Steady power seems important, how do you know what watts are sufficient and what brands are reliable?

    Stock fans?

    Case: What makes a case $150 over a $50 case? Fans? Design? Do they offer better gauge metal to dumb down fan noise?
  6. If your doing software development I would have gone for the dual 22"s. Coding is much better on multiscreens. More so if you aren't using the resolution that the screen you bought provides.

    The GTX460 is more powerful, which is why it costs more. If you have a 1080 or 1200 monitor then you should get it IF you do gaming. The 5770 will struggle a lot more at these higher resolutions.

    You'd want more ram if you have a need for it? Weak I know. 2-4GBs seems to be what people need these days, more maybe later. You'd know if it you did.

    SSDs don't help with multitasking, not in the traditional way anyways. Once the info is loaded into the ram your not using the drive anymore. This is why having that 4GBs is important. If its just a straight surfing/programing machine the F3 is fine.

    PSUs brands that are considered good are Antec, Corsair, Enermax, and Seasonic. Others that are probably good include XFX, OCZ, PCP&C, ThermalTake, and probably many others that I'm forgetting. You figure out how many watts you need by looking at the CPU and GPU, and then adding another 50-100 for everything else you have installed. For example, if you have a 95W CPU and a 150W GPU you need at least 300W for everything. If you have two of those CPUs, then you'll need 450W or so for that CF/SLI setup.
  7. 4745454b said:
    If your doing software development I would have gone for the dual 22"s. Coding is much better on multiscreens. More so if you aren't using the resolution that the screen you bought provides.


    Right now I'm still doing mostly spreadsheet bs in a finance role, just started learning how to code and anticipate having another monitor I'm sure. I opted to go for the nicer 24" for now as the panneling is better and a good amount of people suggested this monitor for long hours at the screen.

    4745454b said:

    The GTX460 is more powerful, which is why it costs more. If you have a 1080 or 1200 monitor then you should get it IF you do gaming. The 5770 will struggle a lot more at these higher resolutions.


    Thanks for giving me a difinitive answer on this, the 460 now makes the most sense.

    4745454b said:

    SSDs don't help with multitasking, not in the traditional way anyways. Once the info is loaded into the ram your not using the drive anymore. This is why having that 4GBs is important. If its just a straight surfing/programing machine the F3 is fine.


    Ok. Help me understand where the SSD does shine, preferably in layman's terms like the above info :sol:

    4745454b said:

    PSUs brands that are considered good are Antec, Corsair, Enermax, and Seasonic. Others that are probably good include XFX, OCZ, PCP&C, ThermalTake, and probably many others that I'm forgetting. You figure out how many watts you need by looking at the CPU and GPU, and then adding another 50-100 for everything else you have installed. For example, if you have a 95W CPU and a 150W GPU you need at least 300W for everything. If you have two of those CPUs, then you'll need 450W or so for that CF/SLI setup.


    Awesome, thanks again!
  8. 4745454b,

    You seem to be able to explain things in a way that make logical sense, can you help me understand the CPU?
  9. The best way to see how fast they are is to go to a store (Apple store, Best Buy, whatever) and see if they have two similar computers, one with an SSD and one without.

    SSDs improve boot times and app loading times. They make your computer seem much more responsive, and just generally improve the day-to-day experience.

    Here's some intro reading on SSDs.
    Anandtech's SSD Relapse - a few months old, so the product recommendations are a bit old, but the overview of the technology can't be beat
    Value of SSDs vs. traditional hard drives - more recent, lots of graphs
    SSD Buyer's guide - also pretty recent, good overview of the different controllers
  10. Where are you going to school? I got a BS in Business administration from the CSU system. My options were in Acct and MIS. I took HTML, SQL, visual basic, and Java programing. I can't imagine taking the SQL and Java classes with only one screen. The reason why people like that monitor is its large, and provides a high resolution so you can see all your stuff at once. You don't don't get this if you run at 1280x1024.

    SSDs are nothing more then ram that retains its info with the power off. Because of this they have the same advantages that ram has, namely no seek time and full transfer speeds. Mechanical drives get slower as they get to the inner tracks. (harddrives are like CD/DVDs if you didn't know.) When your using the tracks near the center, you can't read/write as fast. SSDs can (comparably) instantly get the data and transfer it down the SATA bus. As coldsleep said this makes then great for loading large things like programs. They also make good drives for swap files. Because most of the time we AREN'T reading or writing to a disk, they aren't needed that much. Once its loaded into ram you work with it there. When you have read speeds of 150MBps like the F3, you can read a 1GB file in just a few seconds. Who cares if an SSD can read a 1GB file in 4 seconds instead of 8?
  11. 4745454b said:
    Where are you going to school? I got a BS in Business administration from the CSU system. My options were in Acct and MIS. I took HTML, SQL, visual basic, and Java programing. I can't imagine taking the SQL and Java classes with only one screen.


    Wow, small world. I'm in CSU's MSBA - CIS program, very stoked to start here in a couple of weeks. I have an undergraduate in business and was taking classes for a second bachelor's in CIS when I stumbled across CSU's program. The program focuses more on high level programming than machine language, and being that I have about 10 years in business I think this will be a great fit to break into a microsoft shop or some other high level business application development company.

    Let me know how your experience was as it looks like I'll be covering similar material. The link to the course's is here: http://www.biz.colostate.edu/cisMaster/Program%20Overview/pages/default.aspx

    Actual course list is;

    CIS 600 Information Technology and Project Management
    Description: Strategic role and management of information technology and software development projects.

    CIS 601 Enterprise Computing and Systems Integration
    Description: Integrated extended enterprise planning and execution systems concepts including ERP, CRM, SCM, MRPII, business processes, front/back office systems.

    CIS 605 Business Visual Application Development
    Description: Design, construction, and testing of business application systems including leading-edge visual, E-commerce languages and tools.

    CIS 606 Application Software Infrastructure
    Description: Design, construction, and testing of business application software infrastructure including hardware, operating software, and communications network.

    CIS 610 Software Development Methodology
    Description: Methods for all phases of software development focusing upon the establishment of economical software that is reliable and cross platform.

    CIS 611 Object-Oriented Systems
    Description: Object-oriented and web-based software; object model describing classes; relationships to other objects, attributes, and operations.

    CIS 620 IT Communications Infrastructure
    Description: Technical aspects of information communications, business considerations; wireless technology, architecture, and applications.

    CIS 655 Business Database Systems
    Description: Database analysis, design, administration; data modeling; data sublanguages, query facilities; distributed database systems.

    CIS 665 E-Business Application Technologies
    Description: Developing E-business (B2B and B2C) through construction and deployment.

    CIS 695 Var. Independent Study/CIS 696 Var. Group Study (Plan B )

    or

    CIS 699 Thesis (Plan A)


    Also, when you get a chance, whats your thoughts on intel boards? I have a relative that can get me an i5 or i7 and mobo from intel for cheap because they work there.
  12. As has been pointed out by some of the people I work with, in a few years I will have started my college career before some of the young whipper snappers I work with have been born. Meaning I don't recognize a lot from your list because when I took classes the CIS program didn't exist. (I think I remember hearing about it coming when I left, but it wasn't in the CIS system yet) Reading the descriptions some of it sounds very familiar like 605, 606, 611, 655.

    My acct classes were rough, but the MIS classes where time chewers. I took a class that was a mix of 605 and 655 and basically lived on campus the entire time. I'm not joking. When the class starts they gave me the security code to the alarm system. To be honest I was the Database lead in charge of developing the DB that the application we were writing for Chevron so I was a bit more then just a common student. But even the people in my team spent a lot of time there. Some of these classes won't be to bad, but others you can kiss your social life goodbye.

    An actual board by Intel? Most of us stay away from those as the options in the bios tend to be very limited. No overclocking or some performance options missing. If the discount is nice enough or if you run stock all the time then its probably worth it.
  13. Best answer selected by josh2010.
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