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$800 balanced future-proof computer

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August 17, 2010 6:15:31 AM

Hey guys, I'm planning to get a new computer to replace my 7-year-old Athlon XP-powered computer that can barely run a browser anymore. This would be my second computer, but the first that which I choose my own parts.


APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: next few weeks

BUDGET RANGE: $700-$800 CAD for the main system after pricematching and sales; a little over is fine. Add up to another $200 for a good LCD screen.

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: Web browsing, productivity software, programming (eg. Eclipse), light gaming (mostly older stuff that may require more than on-board graphics), movies

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: OS (already have Windows 7 Pro student license), speakers, mouse (but need keyboard)

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: ncix.com - will be price matching from other sites

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: Canada

PARTS PREFERENCES: non-Asus motherboard (heard bad experiences on Internet about them, and one of my relatives had an Asus board fail just recently)

OVERCLOCKING: No

SLI OR CROSSFIRE: No

MONITOR RESOLUTION: 1920x1080

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: PC should be as future-proof as possible; the idea is "overkill for any task I need right now, but still a good performer for most things for many years to come". Upgrades should not be necessary for at least another 4 years.

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In addition to my original build, I've considered a few, more expensive, options for which would would also have a good future-proofing possibility / current cost ratio.

Option 1: Phenom II X4

CPU: AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition Quad Core Processor 3.2GHZ AM3 8MB Cache 125W Retail Box

Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-870A-UD3 AMD870 ATX AM3 DDR3 1PCI-E 2PCI RAID HD Sound GBLAN SATA3 USB3.0

RAM: G.SKILL F3-10666CL7D-4GBRH Ripjaws PC3-10666 4GB 2X2GB DDR3-1333 CL7-7-7-21 Core i5 1.5V Memory Kit

Case: Antec Three Hundred Mini Tower Gaming Case 300 ATX 3X5.25 6X3.5INT No PS Front USB & Audio

PSU: Corsair VX450 450W ATX 12V 33A 24PIN ATX Power Supply Active PFC 120MM Fan

GPU: Powercolor Radeon HD 5750 PCs 700MHZ 512MB 4.6GHZ GDDR5 DVI HDMI VGA DIRECTX11 PCI-E

Hard drive: Western Digital Caviar Black 640GB 7200RPM 32MB Dual Proc 3.5IN SATA Hard Drive OEM 5YR Mfg Warranty

DVD writer: LG GH22NS50 Black 22X SATA DVD Writer OEM

Case fans: GELID Solutions GELID Silent 12 PWM 750-1500RPM 120MM PWM Control Fan 58CFM 12-25.5DBA HDB 4PIN

LCD screen: Any suggestions for a good 22-24" 16:9 monitor?

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Option 2: Phenom II X6
Is there much of an advantage for an extra two cores? Is it worth the extra ~$50 compared to the 955?

CPU: AMD Phenom II X6 1055T Thuban 6 Core Processor 2.8GHZ Socket AM3 Retail Box

(Everything else is the same as above)

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Option 3: Core i5
Seems the i5 has better performance per core than the X6 for about the same price. Requires a slightly more expensive motherboard though.

CPU: Intel Core i5 760 Quad Core Processor Lynnfield LGA1156 2.8GHZ 8MB Cache Retail Box
Motherboard: Gigabyte H55M-USB3 mATX LGA1156 H55 DDR3 1PCI-E16 1PCI-E4 2PCI HDMI Sound GBLAN USB3.0 Motherboard

(Everything else is the same as the 955 build)

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One more question: Although NCIX has a PC assembly option for an extra $50, I'd like to have a try at building it myself. However, how risky is building the computer myself? Are there a lot of ways to accidentally damage components? I have done upgrades on my computer, but have never built an entire PC from scratch. Of note, I am a little clumsy; the last time I added a case fan, I accidentally disconnected some USB port connector wires, reinserted them incorrectly, and ended up making a USB flash drive (with A LOT of important data on it) permanently unreadable after plugging it into the port. Of course, that was a few years ago... but then again, nearly a grand's worth of components are on the line this time.


Thanks in advance for any help! Any tips and suggestions are appreciated.
August 17, 2010 6:29:09 AM

The PII X4 or i5 build seems good. Though it would be quite impossible to expect for your PC to still qualify as "speedy" four years down the line. With your selections however, looks like the video card would be the first (and maybe the only) thing you'd replace.

The 5750 is fast but it's not the fastest, though for now it should cover your needs. If you can stretch your budget, a 5770 might be a bit better. A 5850 or GTS 460 would be best.
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August 17, 2010 6:05:58 PM

Thanks for your reply.

tbh, I can't really justify spending an extra $50 or so for ~15% extra performance for the 5770... well, at least, not yet. Maybe I'll get it if it's on sale.

Would the i5 offer much of a significant performance advantage per core, compared to the PII X4 or X6? Looking at benchmarks, the i5 destroys the PII X4 in nearly all benchmarks, and beats the X6 in those that don't utilize all its cores. But what about in real world applications... is it worth the extra $50 compared to the X4, or ~-$5 compared to the X6?
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August 17, 2010 6:17:16 PM

Future proof is a pipe dream. That being said, the AMD might have the slightest of advantages in the sense that their socket seems a bit more stable, while intel will be swapping away from 1156 within half of a year.

In terms of balance, your graphics card isn't really balanced with the other stuff you have in there, but you didn't really list gaming as a focus, so maybe this isn't an issue for you.
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August 17, 2010 6:17:51 PM

X6 is made more for multitasker than for typical gaming machine.
Which i5? If you are talking about i5 750...it is about the same to X4 965.
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August 17, 2010 8:10:29 PM

NeoElemental said:

In terms of balance, your graphics card isn't really balanced with the other stuff you have in there, but you didn't really list gaming as a focus, so maybe this isn't an issue for you.

Yeah, now that I think of it, 'balanced' would apply to everything but gaming... although I would assume the 5750 would still be handle many newly-released games with okay settings for a while?

guanyu210379 said:
X6 is made more for multitasker than for typical gaming machine.
Which i5? If you are talking about i5 750...it is about the same to X4 965.

i5 760, since its price is now close enough to (if not less than) the 750 at many retailers.
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August 17, 2010 8:13:05 PM

The 5730 will be adequate yes. You can probably upgrade to whatever card sometime in the future. In the current landscape, nvidia seems to have the leg up in terms of value, but every generation that flip flops (or almost every generation).
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August 19, 2010 11:41:26 AM

The AMD build would ideally be a bit more "future-proof" as AMD does usually support older sockets. Though this isn't a guarantee, as AMD did change sockets before and didn't release updated parts (i.e. Socket 754). So it isn't really guaranteed that it would be future-proof.

Intel however has a history of not supporting sockets 1~2 years after release. Intel is more consistent with this (see Socket 478 and 775).

Intel is on a roll now, and we couldn't really say if they could keep this lead in the future. Though, whatever you buy now it'd surely be insanely quick for your needs. Apps that usually push hardware to their limits are the newer games, video encoding software and maybe also some CAD apps.
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August 22, 2010 5:43:25 AM

Alright, I've made a few changes to the build, so here is the (maybe) final parts list, along with approximate prices (in CAD):

CPU: AMD Phenom II X6 1055T, $201.79
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-880GA-UD3H, $111.91
RAM: G.SKILL Eco 2X2GB DDR3-1600, $102.98
Case: Antec Three Hundred, $53.99
PSU: Seasonic S12II 520W, $69.90
GPU: Powercolor Radeon HD 5750 512MB, $104.99 after $20 MIR
Hard drive: Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 1TB, $59.99
DVD drive: LG GH22NS50 22X, $22.99
Case fans: 2 x GELID Silent 120MM Thermal Control Fan 3PIN, $19.64
Monitor: Samsung E2320X 23", $169.99
Total: $938.17 before MIR, $918.17 after MIR
Probably around $1100 after taxes.

I've also decided to assemble the system myself.

A few more questions have come up though:
- Is it worth it to get the Radeon HD 5770 for an extra $35? Is the difference really noticeable, compared to the 5750?
- How does the Phenom 1055T's stock cooler perform, in terms of noise and performance? Should I get an aftermarket cooler? (Also see my other thread)

Any suggestions and comments are still appreciated.
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August 23, 2010 6:57:40 AM

1. HD5770 will definitely worth the price! or if you can still pay a bit more GTX460 is also a very good option.
2. After market proc fan is only needed for OC or if you feel the stock fan was too loud. I say, go with the stock fan and see for your self.
3. Your new configuration looks fine to me. If you can still affor one, get an SSD, an SSD will change your system performance drastically. (OCZ Vertex 2 or Crucial C300)
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August 30, 2010 2:59:55 AM

Okay, so I've ordered the parts yesterday. Made some additional parts choices: no aftermarket cooler initially, and changed the video card to the 5770. (The fact that the 5750 stopping being on sale, and the 5770 became on sale changed my opinion. :kaola:  ). I'll maybe get an SSD in the future, when prices come down dramatically.

Changes from the config from above are in italics:
CPU: AMD Phenom II X6 1055T
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-880GA-UD3H
RAM: G.SKILL Eco PC3-12800 2X2GB DDR3-1600 CL7-8-7-24
Case: Antec Three Hundred
PSU: Seasonic S12II 520W
GPU: XFX Radeon HD 5770 1GB
Hard drive: Western Digital Caviar Black 750 GB
DVD drive: Samsung SH-S223L/BEBS 22X
Case fans: 2 x Noctua NF-S12B ULN 120MM Ultra Quiet Cooling Fans
Monitor: ASUS VH236H 23"

Total was just over $1000 CAD before taxes.

Thanks again to everyone for their input! I probably will need to ask for some help though, when I receive the parts and build the PC... so many wires and cables... so many fragile parts... :sweat: 
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!