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Critique my son's system please

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August 25, 2010 9:52:36 PM

Hello,

I made a deal with my son last year that if he was able to maintain his good grades, I would match the money he earned during the summer for a new system he's been wanting. He is looking at a Cyberpower system and so far it looks like this:



* CPU:Intel® Core™ i7-950 3.06 GHz 8M Intel Smart Cache LGA1366
* HDD: 1TB SATA-II 3.0Gb/s 16MB Cache 7200RPM HDD (Single Hard Drive)
* MEMORY: 6GB (2GBx3) DDR3/1600MHz Triple Channel Memory Module (Corsair Dominator)
* MOTHERBOARD: * (3-Way SLI Support) GigaByte GA-X58A-UD3R Intel X58 Chipset SLI/CrossFireX Ultra Durable™3 Triple-Channel DDR3/1600 ATX Mainboard w/ 7.1 Dolby Audio, eSATA, GbLAN, USB3.0, 2 x SATA-III RAID, IEEE1394a, 4 Gen2 PCIe, 2 PCIe X1 & 1 PCI [+36]
* SOUND: HIGH DEFINITION ON-BOARD 7.1 AUDIO
* VIDEO: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 1GB 16X PCIe Video Card(EVGA Superclocked)
* 750 Watts - Thermaltake TR2 RX Modular PSU
* Factory overclocked 10%
* CoolerMaster V6 CPU Cooler

I'm hoping that this system will last him a while as he'll be using it for schoolwork, his photoshop hobby and his computer gaming.

How does the setup look? Will this last him a while or should we look into other parts that can future-proof it a bit more? Thanks guys, I look at the build sheet and it is greek to me. :/  (My son configured this, I just copied down the file he saved)

EDIT: I forgot to mention that he will only be using one monitor with this (which one, we haven't decided yet) but he's mainly interested in playing the current and future games on high graphic levels.

More about : critique son system

August 25, 2010 11:40:41 PM

Looks very good. My only comment is the hard drive seems to be an older model since it only has 16MB cache. Most modern 1TB drives have 32 or 64MB cache and are noticeably faster due to greater platter density.

If you can wing it... such a nice system really does deserve an SSD boot drive to go with the 1TB storage drive, but that's another ~$200. I would suggest dropping the CPU down to the i7-940 or i7-930 and add a good brand name SSD (that should save about $250 at retail prices). The SSD would easily make up for the 130-260MHz lost on CPU clock speed.
August 26, 2010 12:03:34 AM

Have you considered building a PC with your Son (good bonding) versus CyberPower?

My comments: Don't waste money on the i7-950, just get the i7-930, switch the PSU to either Corsair, Seasonic or Antec. Thermaltake PSU are okay but not at the same level, as the three I listed. I agree with the hard drive comment on a 1TB drive. SSD would be nice but not a most.

What is the overall budget??
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August 26, 2010 12:45:15 AM

Thank you for the replies so far, I appreciate the help. Unfortunately I don't know anything about computer system building so I don't know how much help I'd be to my son other than financing and picking up the parts for him. My son could probably put them together but I don't know if soldering or anything like that is involved, which I know he doesn't know how to do.

A few points on some of the replies:

* The i7-930 vs the i7-950 looks to be a $20 difference, which is my guess why my son picked it for such a small $$$ difference.
* I looked at the build page and switched the Thermaltake to Corsair, same wattage (750) for $12 more.
* My max is about $2K for the build as he has $700 and I'm willing to chip in enough to make it up to $2K (What a nice mom!)

As for the SSD option, I just asked my son about it and he mentioned he wasn't sure how big a SSD was big enough and if it would require another HDD so he just went with a big "regular" HDD. The past few hours I've just been reading up on as many pages as I could and I'm also a little confused: Could he do a smaller sized SSD for just the OS and add a 1TB regular HDD for other items? If so, what is the min size for Windows 7 professional on a SSD. (I'm a little confused on what would go on the SSD vs what goes onto the other HDD).

With the extra 1TB HDD, it is at $1750 which would leave $250 for a SSD...the options are:

* 64 GB A-DATA S596 Series Gaming MLC Solid State Disk for $112
* 128GB A-DATA S596 Series Gaming MLC Solid State Disk for $268
* 64 GB Kingston 2.5 inch SATA Gaming MLC Solid State Disk for $93
* 128 GB Kingston 2.5 inch SATA Gaming MLC Solid State Disk for $216
* 40 GB Intel X25-V 2.5 inch SATA Gaming MLC Solid State Disk for $75
* 80 GB Intel X25-M 2.5 inch SATA Gaming MLC Solid State Disk for $193
* 40GB Corsair Force 40 Gaming MLC Solid State Disk for $92
* 60GB Corsair Force 60 Gaming MLC Solid State Disk for $122
* 80GB Corsair Force 80 Gaming MLC Solid State Disk for $206
* 120GB Corsair Force 120 Gaming MLC Solid State Disk for $278

So it looks like a SSD is feasible, we'd just need some advice on size and brand (I've read about some SSDs "degrading"). I should stop reading, some parts confuse me more! :cry: 
August 26, 2010 1:35:27 AM

For SSD's, the controller is the most important part. Right now, SandForce and Intel are the controllers to get.

Obviously, the Intel SSD's have Intel controllers. The SandForce controllers on your list are the Corsair's. The other drives on your list use a less-desirable JMicron/Toshiba controller.

BTW, I have the Intel 80GB and a Kingston 64GB in my systems.

The Intel is faster but both are snappy. I have Win7 x64, 6 games, and an assortment of office apps, video encoding and photo software and I have 14GB free of the 80GB. 30GB is taken up by the games. So yes, the drive space disappears quickly and a second hard drive is needed for media files or programs that you don't need to launch quickly. I would suggest going with at least 80GB, but preferably get 120GB+.

I like the idea of building the computer yourself though. Could lead to better appreciation for the computer by your son and provide some good bonding (and save money). It reminds me of the classic image of a parent and a child building a hot rod together in the garage...
August 26, 2010 2:14:45 AM

Rose81 said:
Thank you for the replies so far, I appreciate the help. Unfortunately I don't know anything about computer system building so I don't know how much help I'd be to my son other than financing and picking up the parts for him. My son could probably put them together but I don't know if soldering or anything like that is involved, which I know he doesn't know how to do.

A few points on some of the replies:

* The i7-930 vs the i7-950 looks to be a $20 difference, which is my guess why my son picked it for such a small $$$ difference.
* I looked at the build page and switched the Thermaltake to Corsair, same wattage (750) for $12 more.
* My max is about $2K for the build as he has $700 and I'm willing to chip in enough to make it up to $2K (What a nice mom!)

As for the SSD option, I just asked my son about it and he mentioned he wasn't sure how big a SSD was big enough and if it would require another HDD so he just went with a big "regular" HDD. The past few hours I've just been reading up on as many pages as I could and I'm also a little confused: Could he do a smaller sized SSD for just the OS and add a 1TB regular HDD for other items? If so, what is the min size for Windows 7 professional on a SSD. (I'm a little confused on what would go on the SSD vs what goes onto the other HDD).

With the extra 1TB HDD, it is at $1750 which would leave $250 for a SSD...the options are:

* 64 GB A-DATA S596 Series Gaming MLC Solid State Disk for $112
* 128GB A-DATA S596 Series Gaming MLC Solid State Disk for $268
* 64 GB Kingston 2.5 inch SATA Gaming MLC Solid State Disk for $93
* 128 GB Kingston 2.5 inch SATA Gaming MLC Solid State Disk for $216
* 40 GB Intel X25-V 2.5 inch SATA Gaming MLC Solid State Disk for $75
* 80 GB Intel X25-M 2.5 inch SATA Gaming MLC Solid State Disk for $193
* 40GB Corsair Force 40 Gaming MLC Solid State Disk for $92
* 60GB Corsair Force 60 Gaming MLC Solid State Disk for $122
* 80GB Corsair Force 80 Gaming MLC Solid State Disk for $206
* 120GB Corsair Force 120 Gaming MLC Solid State Disk for $278

So it looks like a SSD is feasible, we'd just need some advice on size and brand (I've read about some SSDs "degrading"). I should stop reading, some parts confuse me more! :cry: 



SSDs do degrade. they are expected to no longer work between 3 and 5 years into their lifespan. By which time you want a new PC anyway.

As for building it himself, there's nothing involving soldering in modern PC builds, and hasn't been since the '80s. Everything is basically plug-in modules with nothing more complicated than a screwdriver and figuring out which jumper wire goes in the right spot.
August 26, 2010 3:36:23 AM

@rose81.

1) Have your son add up the cost of the parts, and compare it to the cyberpower price. Their need for a profit may exceed their ability to buy parts a bit cheaper. Pre built PC's often come with trialware preinstalled; it is a pain to get rid of it. The hard part has already been done, namely selecting the parts. All the parts are standard and assembly takes is really very easy. There are some video's online that show the process. You will get manufacturer's warranty on purchased parts which is often longer than the warranty offered by a custom builder. Good online vendors like newegg are very good about replacing any bad parts. The only assembly tool required is a phillips head screwdrive. Consider this as tuition for a part of your son's education. The satisfaction in building your own is priceless!
2) In general, I like the build. For gaming, the graphics card is much more important than the cpu. At 1920 x 1200 resolution, the GTX460 might be a bit weak, compared to the power of the cpu. The GTX460 is a very good card, but the GTX480 would be more appropriate. Alternatively, you can use two GTX460 cards together to get results similar to a single GTX480(called SLI). If you use just one card initially, be prepared to add another later.
3) If you can walk in to a microcenter, they will sell you a i7-930 for $199 vs the $300 or so it normally costs. A very good deal. The 930 can safely be overclocked 20%, or equivalent to the power of the i7-975.
4) Hold off on the SSD for a bit. I love them, everything seem so much snappier. But the marketplace is changing rapidly, and a third generation of devices is supposed to launch by year end. They will use 25nm technology which will be cheaper, faster, and larger. In the interim, I suggest that you reserve a portion of the 1tb hard drive for the OS and apps. Perhaps 160gb. If and when you get a SSD, you can just clone the partition to the ssd.
5) What case will be used? Most will work well, but kids have different preferences for "bling" and such. If space is an issue, then there are some very nice micro-ATX cases out there.
6) look into academic pricing for windows-7. If he is eligible(with a .edu e-mail), he can get windows-7 professional for about $30.

---good luck---
August 26, 2010 7:14:59 AM

Thanks again for the replies. My son and I just had a pretty good talk and went over the lists, looked online for prices, did rough estimates/compared and talked again about his preferences and comfort level.

It looks like we'll go for a Cyberpower since my son isn't comfortable yet with tinkering around with a system. He did say that he wants to learn and will do any future upgrades himself after he has learned and feels more comfortable. So that part is reassuring!

We ended up going another $200 up by bumping it up, as suggested, to a GTX480, a bigger PSU (the system builder suggested a bigger PSU, still going with a Corsair) along with a Corsair Obsidian 800D case due to the room inside.

No SSD for now, maybe later when the prices drop. I reminded him how expensive and small hard drives were just a few years ago to illustrate.
August 26, 2010 12:09:48 PM

My dad would have killed me for asking such specs for school.
Thank goodness, I can afford my own PC since 10 years ago.
If I was to ask him for a pc...he would give me only :
X3 440 with stock speed and no after market cooler.
economic 4GB DDR3 RAM
Onboard GPU, micro atx
onboard sound
500GB HDD
DVD burner
WLAN
cheapest possible case.
350W PSU
non wireless keyboard and mouse (cheapest possible)
and cheapest possible monitor.
less than USD10 2.0 speakers.
And Linux.

August 26, 2010 5:21:42 PM

i agree the amount you are spending on your childs PC is way to much, hell his pc is better than most peoples, i would just get him an i5 760 build with a gtx 460, that would be more than enough for his needs or an amd phenom II x4 965 build with a 5850 gpu
August 26, 2010 5:25:54 PM

and i think you should rather buy your own parts from newegg and if your not comfortable enough to build it yourself take the components to your local computer store and ask them to put it together for you
August 26, 2010 5:45:57 PM

ScrewySqrl said:
SSDs do degrade. they are expected to no longer work between 3 and 5 years into their lifespan. By which time you want a new PC anyway.


That may have been true with the previous generation. Modern SSDs are expected to last a good deal longer. Here's some napkin math.

To be clear, it's true that SSDs degrade over time. While there isn't a lot of data yet, 3-5 years isn't an accurate statement anymore. And even if it does, in all likelihood, a "failed" SSD should still be readable, unlike a failed HDD.
August 26, 2010 5:58:43 PM

I just need a HDD or SSD to be able to hold on about 3 years. By that time I will get the faster one.
August 26, 2010 10:25:49 PM

I woke up this morning and my son told me that he watched a youtube video by Corsair showing them constructing a computer using the same case and my son now wants to attempt it. I told him he could always come on here and ask for help. :) 

I did as suggested and went to MicroCenter and picked up a i7-930 for $199. So basically this is the build list:

Case: Corsair 800D
CPU: i7-930 *BOUGHT*
Motherboard: GigaByte GA-X58A-UD3R
RAM: 6GB Corsair Dominator
Graphics: Superclocked GLX480
HDD: 1.5TB Western Digital
PSU: ???
CPU Cooler: ???
OPTICAL: LG WH10-LS30K internal blu-ray drive

Are there any other pieces that we'll need? If he plans to overclock, what type of CPU cooler and what size PSU is needed?

Thanks guys. Despite what it sounds like, the kid worked his tail off this summer and earned it. He said he'd pay back anything over his 1/2.

August 26, 2010 10:37:27 PM

Ahhh... he's seen the light :wahoo: 

For PSU, go for the previously mentioned Corsair. If he will never run 2 graphic cards in SLI or xfire, then 550W would be plenty.

For a CPU cooler, try to find one that is a HDT (heatpipe direct touch) and make sure it supports socket 1366. These are the best out there without going to liquid cooling. Just to throw out a suggestion, take a look at the CoolerMaster Hyper 212 Plus or Xigmatek Dark Knight.

Don't forget to pick up a copy of Windows 7 64-bit. An OEM copy runs about $100.

Edit- if your son wants to go completely Corsair for a theme, Corsair also makes some decent CPU coolers, including some liquid coolers.
August 27, 2010 6:50:46 AM

^+1 for Corsair PSUs. Like said before, 550W for single GTx480 is enough but if he wants to go double (SLI/XFire) get 750W or 850W.
If he wants to have inside his case neat and tidy, get the modular version. Modular PSUs are more expensive than the none modular one, but I assume budget is not a problem for you. He might need also some cable extensions for that.

Hmmm....If you can still afford it, also like said before about the water cooler from Corsair, they are the H50 and H70. They are really easy to install.

and...Perhaps, he can also begin to learn how to OC a system :D 

Note :
Any mechanical HDD will bottleneck your system "tremendously". SSD have degradation over time of usage, but 3-5 years? Hmmm...you will probably already have replaced them for a better and faster one before it got even broken/slowed down completely.
I am still using Q6600, it is a very old snail compared to your i7, and my system was already bottlenecked without an SSD, that is why I bought one.

!