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Gaming system help

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December 18, 2010 11:48:46 AM

I am looking to purchase a new computer so that I can play games (SC 2 mostly), watch videos (via youtube and hulu), plus all the typical things you would do on a computer (word processing, internet, etc.). At this point anything is an upgrade, as my current desktop is 10 years old (Dell Dimension 8100) and it's gotten to the point where it is annoying to watch any video, and playing any game online is just pointless. The current system I am looking at (since I don't plan on building myself) is the Gateway FX 631-01. I do not want another Dell, since upgrading sucks with them.

The specs include...
Intel® Core™ i7-860 Processor1 2.8GHz with Turbo Boost2 Technology up to 3.46GHz (8MB L3 Cache)
Genuine Windows® 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
8192MB DDR3 Dual-Channel 1333MHz Memory
1.5TB 7200RPM SATA hard drive
ATI Radeon™ HD5850 Graphics card with 1GB of Discrete Video Memory
16X DVD+/-R/RW SuperMulti Drive
750W Power Supply

It is currently being sold for $1099.97 at TigerDirect.

If I was to build my own (hopefully not) I would like for it to have similar specs to the Gateway, but would have no idea where to start, but do know I would want it to be upgradeable beacuse I plan to keep this computer for at least 5 years, but who knows maybe 10.

I do not need a blu-ray player, but I am not sure if this is the best desktop i can get for the money. I have a total budget of $1200 and would still need a monitor (but not essential).

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December 19, 2010 6:03:58 AM

Gateway, HP, Acer,emachines, and Compaq are some of the worst brands to buy. If you think dell was dificult to upgrade then you've never owned a gateway or HP. They use backwards style Motherboards called BTX making it impossible to replace it when it goes bad. (And they do about every 2 years) Every video card you install has to go in upside down. Wich if it's a big card ends up hitting the processor and it won't fit.

Sadly dell really does make a decent desktop compared to the other brands. Their new ones are a whole new animal compared to the ones they made 10 years ago. I've been a tech for all of the system for 7 years and dell despite it's pitfalls is better that then above mentioned brands.

If you live in arizona I can put you in touch with a local computer shop that will build you a custom computer using fully interchangable parts. Theyve been around for 20 years.

Have you looked as ASUS desktops? Some food for thought Asus MSI and foxconn make most of the parts for the major brand names. So their stuff is nicer for less becuse they cut out the middle man. With the exception of foxcon they just suck in my experiance.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
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December 19, 2010 1:01:07 PM

You already know about the components needed. That is the hardest part of building it yourself. Assembly takes only a couple of hours. Support from this forum will probably be as good as from the oem's.

I encourage you to consider building a PC yourself.

Your cost will be less, and you will get better quality parts.
The experience is priceless.

No doubt, you can get some nice build suggestions for forum members, and your needs/wants are not special.

As a suggestion, wait to Jan 5 for the sandy bridge launch. Read about it here:
http://www.anandtech.com/show/3871/the-sandy-bridge-pre...

In the mean time, look at cases which are the most personal of components.
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December 19, 2010 2:13:37 PM

Thank you for the responses, starting to second guess the Gateway now...

Does it matter which case I get? I'm looking to use an Intel based computer...nVidia vs. ATI doesn't matter to me, as long as it's a good card. I've heard about the SLI and crossfire for the cards, if it's easy to install a 2nd video card, then that's a possibility for the future. If it's difficult (again I've never built my own before), then I'd rather pass on that. I've read about overclocking, but not really sure what that does to help the system. And I'm not that comfortable changing the BIOS so it works. The other major problem is having to pay for Windows, that always bumps the cost up a little bit more. Do you have some suggestions on parts as far as motherboard, case, PSU and video cards. Again, trying to keep within a $1200 budget and I could use a monitor.
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December 19, 2010 3:08:47 PM

sfb12 said:
Thank you for the responses, starting to second guess the Gateway now...

Does it matter which case I get? I'm looking to use an Intel based computer...nVidia vs. ATI doesn't matter to me, as long as it's a good card. I've heard about the SLI and crossfire for the cards, if it's easy to install a 2nd video card, then that's a possibility for the future. If it's difficult (again I've never built my own before), then I'd rather pass on that. I've read about overclocking, but not really sure what that does to help the system. And I'm not that comfortable changing the BIOS so it works. The other major problem is having to pay for Windows, that always bumps the cost up a little bit more. Do you have some suggestions on parts as far as motherboard, case, PSU and video cards. Again, trying to keep within a $1200 budget and I could use a monitor.


To answer some questions:
1) Cases are largely a personal preference. They need to be large enough to hold your motherboard, and parts. For your use, you do not need much. A hard drive, and perhaps a SSD, along with a video card. Even a mini-ITX motherboard will work, or, a micro-ATX would do. The full ATX motherboard size has 7 slots, the micro-ATX has 4, and the mini-ITX has one. Here are some samples of each size from lian li, one of the best quality case makers:
mini-itx:Q08-B http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
micro-ATX: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Here is a good standard sized Antec case:
full ATX: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

2) I would not plan on sli(nvidia) or crossfire(ati) unless a good single video card will not do the job. Where I say sli, I also mean crossfire. Only if you had a 2560 x 1600 monitor(>$1000) or multiple surround gaming monitors, would sli be needed. Some games do not scale well with sli, and you need to invest more up front for a slli capable motherboard and a stronger psu. The typical 1080P(1920 x 1080) monitor needs something like a 6850/GTX460 or 6870/GTX470 for great to outstanding gaming . http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/gaming-graphics-rad...
No doubt, future video cards will be faster and cheaper. If you should ever need an upgrade, it is easiest to sell the old and pop in the new.
The market is very competitive. With newer cards, you will get what you pay for, and within a price tier, there is not that much difference.

3) Overclocking lets your cpu run faster than the official speeds. In recent years, it has become safer and easier. The upcoming sandy bridge processors have two "K" models which are designed by Intel for overclocking. How high you can overclock is determined by the cooling ability of your case and cpu cooler. It is as simple as raising one parameter in the bios from the default of perhaps 33 to 38 or 40. You should know how to access the bios in any PC you build or buy. It is where you identify the hard drive that you want to boot from. You access it py pressing "delete" or F2 while the pc is powering on. Try it on your current pc and see.

4) If you are a student with a .edu e-mail, you can get windows-7 for $30 or so. If you want to upgrade several pc's to Windows-7, there is a 3 license family pack for $150. Otherwise a oem or upgrade license will be $100 or so. It is best to get the dvd package instead of a download. The dvd includes some recovery capabilities if you should ever need them.

5) Get a good monitor, you will keep it a long time and see it every day. I suggest a 24" 1920 x 1200 monitor. They are becoming a bit uncommon because the 1080P(1920 x 1080) size is the same as a TV, and are cheaper to produce. I have been pleased with Samsung. They make the panels for many vendors, and I think they keep the best samples for themselves.

6) Get a quality psu. My short list would include Antec, Seasonic, Corsair, PC P&C, and XFX. The size is determined by the video card configuration.
A 650w unit from any of the quality vendors will power any single vga card out there today.

7) For a hard drive, I enthusiastically recommend a SSD for the OS and apps. Budget about $100-$200 for a good one. If you need more space, get a cheap storage drive.

8) For specific parts, I will wait for sandy bridge.

Spend the next three weeks doing some reading.
Download and read a motherboard manual.
Download and read a case manual. Lian-li manuals are sparse, look for the manual from the Antec 300 case.
There are also some tutorials or video's on building a PC. Look for a newer link.

---good luck---
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December 19, 2010 6:16:18 PM

Again thank you for the detailed response I read the article on the cases and decided that since looks don't matter to me I'm going to go for the mid size tower. Was thinking about the Rosewill DESTROYER I found on Newegg because it comes with 3 fans.

Now I'm looking at motherboards and this I'm nervous about. I'm going to get an i7 processor (not sure which one though) but will wait til prices drop a little because of the sandy bridge versions coming out. So you can base the rest of the comp around this idea. Would I need a mobo with a 1156 chipset or 1366?.

The other thing I really don't know about is the cooling fans, since the case I chose comes with 3, do I need anymore? I know I don't want liquid cooling because I'm not that responsible to keep tabs on that.

I also picked out a power supply... COOLER MASTER GX Series RS650-ACAAE3-US 650W ATX12V v2.31 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC. I think this should be enough power for what I would want in the computer.

Looking at graphic cards, is it worth it to get the GTX 570 over the GTX 470? And does it matter which brand (PNY, EVGA, MSI, Gigabyte, etc) I get for the card, is one that much better over the other? Because I was looking and saw this note next to one of the EVGA cards, and I don't know what this means...
Core Clock: 797Mhz (vs. 732Mhz reference)
Shader Clock: 1594 MHz (vs. 1464 MHz reference)

The reference numbers are the ones all the other cards have. I assume higher number is better, but why and is it really making a difference?

Feels like I'm making progress and I haven't really done anything yet...thanks for the help so far.
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December 21, 2010 1:33:42 PM

Best answer selected by sfb12.
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December 22, 2010 3:41:24 AM

You are correct about the video card reference. That card you were looking at is overclocked from the factory. Wich means it is going to be a little bit faster then other gtx 570 cards running at the reference speeds.

You case has plenty of fans. It will work fine with one large fan and 3 is excellent. So no worries there.

The powersupply is great i think it was a good choice.

The gtx 570 is significantly better that the gtx 470 and it's faster than even the gtx 480 for that matter. Don't consider the gtx 470 or 480 as The manufactures are already trying to discontinue them in favor of the GTX 570 and 580. Brand can make a difference in long term quality.I like in this order EVGA, Gigabyte, XFX, ASUS. Ignore saphire and I'm not a fan of Palit or PNY. The advantage of XFX is most their cards have LIFETIME warranties. The other manufactures have them aswell but XFX warranty is transferable if sold over ebay. Meaning you can feel a little better about getting a used XFX card of ebay on the cheap as long as the original owner registered it and your the second owner.

Here is the review of the GTX 570 compared to the other cards. If it gets a bit dry for you skip to the end. It's basicly their top recomendation.

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/geforce-gtx-570-gf1...

There are 2 kinds of i7 cpus. The i7 900 model series fits on the 1366 socket and the i7 800 series fits the 1156. The difference is the socked 1366 is more powerfull and more expensive. You also have to buy ram in sets of 3 instead of sets of 2. The reason is socket 1366 motherboards use whats called triple channel memory instead of dual.

Socket 1156 is a little more mainsteam class. It's more affordable while delivering excllent performance. If you choose 1156 get a higher end i7 and not the cheapest one.

I like to think that the i7 processors that fit the 1366 as more of an i9 series instead of i7. And if your wondering there is no i7 that fits both socket types. It's one or the other as they are entirly different designs.

When your looking at motherboards brands make a huge difference in my option. My preference go as follows. Gigabyte(by a wide margin), Asus, MSI, The rest i don't really consider.
Here is a top rated 1366 gigabyte board. This is A toms hardware top recomended board for best all around everything goodness.

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

And here is one i'd like to suggest for 1156 to help get you started.

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

And to answer your first question at the end of my comment I don't belive you need the 1366. For your need and what it is it would be like driving a buggati veyron(note: This car goes 258 mph) at freeway speeds. I belive the 1566 fits your needs nicely and it is still a cherry red Ferrari galliardo.

Does that help at all or does it just raise more questions?
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December 22, 2010 3:46:46 AM

One more thing. I agree that samsung makes some if not the best monitors for computers AND TVs. However I have also found that the same is true for asus monitors. I have 2 of them and they are the best monitors I've ever used. When i shop i equaly consider ASUS and samsung screens. Also i'm happy with 1920x1080 any bigger and I'd need reading glasses and my screes are 23"(thats HUGE). And i'm the kind of guy thats SUPER picky about his hardware including the quality display of monitors.
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December 22, 2010 1:22:57 PM

thlillyr said:
One more thing. I agree that samsung makes some if not the best monitors for computers AND TVs. However I have also found that the same is true for asus monitors. I have 2 of them and they are the best monitors I've ever used. When i shop i equaly consider ASUS and samsung screens. Also i'm happy with 1920x1080 any bigger and I'd need reading glasses and my screes are 23"(thats HUGE). And i'm the kind of guy thats SUPER picky about his hardware including the quality display of monitors.


If your resolution is the same 1080P, you will get bigger text if you used a larger monitor. I also have trouble seeing small text on my 30" 2560 x 1600 monitor, but I make good use of the zoom capabilities of my keyboard.
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December 22, 2010 2:45:23 PM

Yes zoom is a life saver. Website cause to much eyes strain without it. Note: I sit about 4 feet away from my screens too. So take that into account. If your the kind of guy whose nose is touching the screen then it doesn't matter. If you farther away like me then the resolution in perportion of the screen size is an issue. I probably wouldn't get a 1920x1200 smaller than 24 inches. 1920x1080 for 21-23 inches and 1640x1050 for anything smaller. That should keep text at a useable readable level for most situations. Anybody disagree with this rule of thumb that i just made up?
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December 22, 2010 3:03:33 PM

thlillyr said:
Yes zoom is a life saver. Website cause to much eyes strain without it. Note: I sit about 4 feet away from my screens too. So take that into account. If your the kind of guy whose nose is touching the screen then it doesn't matter. If you farther away like me then the resolution in perportion of the screen size is an issue. I probably wouldn't get a 1920x1200 smaller than 24 inches. 1920x1080 for 21-23 inches and 1640x1050 for anything smaller. That should keep text at a useable readable level for most situations. Anybody disagree with this rule of thumb that i just made up?


I would not get 1640 x 1050 except perhaps in a laptop. 1920 x ... gets you more pixels. Just get a monitor large enough so that the text is readable at the distance you view it. If you sit 4 feet away, consider something like a 1080P 40" TV.
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