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Need some major help with this nice gaming machine.

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December 19, 2010 10:10:06 PM

It's been about 7 years since I've build a new system, and I've only casually been following hardware changes since then. I started putting the pieces together for a new gaming system I'm going to build, but quickly realized that being out of the loop for so long has left me with lots of questions.

I don't have a firm budget in mind. It's going to be pretty high end, but I'm not going to go crazy a buying i7-980 for instance. I'll be looking to overclock it of course.

Here's what I feel like I've made up my mind on so far:

ASUS VW266H Monitor
Intel Core i7-950
2 x Crucial Real SSD C300 128GB SATA-6GB/s (RAID 0)
Western Digital Caviar Black WD2002FAEX 2TB SATA-6GB/s HDD
Lite-On 12X Blu-ray Burner SATA Model iHBS112

So a lot of stuff missing still such as motherboard, memory, PSU, graphics card, etc.

Before I get to that, I have some questions:

With my 1920x1200 monitor, what is the best graphics solution? A single card, or SLI/Crossfire? I'm going to be playing pretty much everything....

I need a motherboard with 3 x SATA-6GB/s connectors for my 2 x SSD and HDD, right? Doesn't seem to be too many of those with this being the only one on newegg that matches my CPU socket as far as I can tell......

Memory recommendations? What's the fastest brands out there these days?

That'll do for now. Thanks
December 19, 2010 10:34:50 PM

first off, for any intel build: Sandy Bridge is due out Jan 9. Just 3 weeks away.

If your primary purpose is gaming, you'll do just as well with an i5-760 as with an i7-950, and save about 200 in cpu, motherboard, and RAM. Again, sandy bridge is likely to upset this applecart in just 3 weeks.

There is no real gain in using the SATA 3 hard drive. Get the Samsung Spinpoint F4 2 TB Drive for $99. Its only 5400 RPM, but the platters are very dense, making it equal to other SATA 2 7200 rpm drives. For less than the sata3 drive.

Go for Mushkin Callisto drives, which uses the excellent sandforce controller, much cheaper than the Crucials. running SSDs in RAID *will* lose TRIM support, the primary way to keep SSDs lasting longer, but sandfirce is petty robust as it is. You're probly better off with a single 100-120 GB drive as a boot drive and sink the rest into graphics card. At your resolution, the minimum choice is a Geforce GTX 460 or HD 6850

2 of either is probly your best choice at 350-360ish for really pushing AA and Ultra settings
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December 20, 2010 12:54:15 AM

What exactly is Sandybridge? New Intel CPU's? And do they use a new socket? .... so new motherboards too? I can definitely wait.... I feel like I'm going to be planning for a few weeks anyway.

Having said that, where would one notice the difference between the i5-760 and the i7-950? Not during gaming?

Hmmm, didn't know that about TRIM support. So that means I'd have to format the SSD's periodically to get that space/performance back? Maybe I will go with the single SSD. The Mushkin's aren't SATA-III though, are they?

Not sure if this is a curiosity question, or if it will affect what I buy: Is the 5970 the fastest graphics solution there is right now, or will two of a particular card top it?

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December 20, 2010 1:09:05 AM

Sandy Bridge is a new platform from Intel.. new CPU's and new motherboards (socket 1155)

the i7-950 has 4 cores /w Hyper-Threading (so 8 virtual cores recognized by the OS)
the i5-760 has 4 cores /wo Hyper-Threading (so 4 cores recognized by the OS)

hyper-threading hasn't proven to be particularly that useful across the board... where it does shine though is apps specifically optimized for it... mostly and mainly video editing apps and such...

5970 is the fastest (single) card you can buy right now... 2 cards from a particular model can definitely top it...

while you (should) wait for Sandy Bridge... the new R6990 should be released sometime shortly after Sandy Bridge... and should be the (new) fastest single card... so should be worth waiting for too...

agree with a single larger SSD to get TRIM support
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December 20, 2010 1:10:06 AM

nothing really saturates SATA II, much less Sata III, so no reason to get a sata 3 drive. a few really top-end SSDs can saturate sata 2, and need sata 3, but they are hugely expensive. A gaming machine is best sinking its money into the GPU.

The i7-950 will see advantages in doing things like rendering with 3D Studio or Maya, video encoding, creating MP3s, and stuff like Folding@home, where its ability to do hyperthreading helps. Games don't use hyperthreading, and are actually slowed down by it.

5970 is the fastest card there is right now....because its really a pair of slightly underclocked 5870s. Fastest single processor GPU is the GTX 580. both are outperformed by the D6850 and gtx 460 in crossfire/SLI

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December 20, 2010 1:16:30 AM

Am I clear on what you're saying.....

2 x HD 6850 or 2 x GTX 460 outperform a HD 5970?

Even though 2 x HD 6850 cost about $360 or 2 x GTX 460 cost about $320, and a HD 5970 starts at $500?!?!?!?

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December 20, 2010 1:29:33 AM

on paper 2 x 6850's should be inferior to a 5970 because:

5970 = 2 x 5850 (more like a hybrid between a 5850+5870)
5850 > 6850 although sometimes the 6850 surpasses the 5850 because of newer tech)

so theoretically the 5970 should beat the 2 x 6850's / 2 x 460's...

2 x GTX 580 SLI is the most powerful 2 card setup right now... also 2 x 570's is more powerful than a 5970 (and much better value than 2 x 580's)
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December 20, 2010 1:55:41 PM

for 2 x GTX 570's you'll need at least 850w. if you plan on overclocking your CPU (which you should, if you don't want the i7-950 to be a bottle-neck for those 2 cards), then you'd be better off with something like this:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

as for the case... i love Antec... and i love that 900 too (i have the 900 II myself). having said that... the 900, 900 II and even the 1200 are a tad out-dated... and here's why: that 900 doesn't have a black interior (less cool), doesn't have proper dust filters for its intake fans, all 3 of them lack any ease in cleaning out those intake fans as well - you have to remove both side panels and unscrew 16(!) thumb-screws (24 for the 1200) to get the dust filters out..! and also all 3 lack a native 2.5" drive bay for SSD's...

don't get me wrong... the 900's are GREAT build quality... and look good too... my 900 II will be with me for several builds no doubt. but there are newer alternatives now, even from Antec... that resolve more "modern-needs" like this one:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
-Antec Dark Fleet DF-30: has the same cooling system practically as the 900's, all black interior, bottom mounted PSU, EASILY removable dust filters and an SSD bay as well...

or this one from Cooler Master if you don't want a side window:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
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December 20, 2010 4:52:50 PM

Okay, here's where I'm at. I am pretty sure I'm gonna wait till Sandybridge, but am planning everything out for now all the same. Here's what I have in my newegg wishlist:

Monitor: ASUS VW266H Black 25.5" 2ms(GTG) HDMI Widescreen LCD Monitor

CPU: Intel Core i5-760 Lynnfield 2.8GHz LGA 1156 95W Quad-Core Desktop Processor BX80605I5760

CPU Cooler: COOLER MASTER Hyper 212 Plus RR-B10-212P-G1 "Heatpipe Direct Contact" Long Life Sleeve 120mm CPU Cooler Compatible Intel...

Motherboard: ASUS P7P55D-E Pro LGA 1156 Intel P55 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard

Graphics Card: 2 x ASUS EAH6950/2DI2S/2GD5 Radeon HD 6950 2GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.1 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support Video Card with...

SSD: Crucial RealSSD C300 CTFDDAC128MAG-1G1 2.5" 128GB SATA III MLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)

HDD: Seagate Barracuda XT ST32000641AS 2TB 7200 RPM SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive

Case: Antec Dark Fleet DF-30 Black ATX Mid Tower Computer Case

PSU: CORSAIR TX Series CMPSU-950TX 950W ATX12V v2.3/EPS12V v2.91 SLI Ready 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Active PFC Power Supply

I'm missing memory, and need some help selecting that. Thoughts on that setup? Any major bottlenecks?

Thanks
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December 20, 2010 5:40:20 PM

shoudl be pretty solid. Get DDR3-1333 or -1600 RAM, 4 GB worth. 8 if you feel like splurging :) 
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December 20, 2010 5:54:23 PM

yeah... the 1156 platform can bottle-neck: with 2 x cards like the GTX570's or R6950's - you'll want the full 32 (16+16) PCI-e lanes for each video card. and in 1156 the P55 chipset will give you 1x16 or 2x8 if you Crossfire/SLI.

Now i hear because Sandy Bridge is "replacing" 1156 (and the current X58 1366 will only be "replaced" at the end of next year with X68 socket 2011), it may have the same PCI-e lane limitations as 1156

now i'm sure they'll release motherboards that have a 3rd party chip onboard to expand the lanes for enthusiast class releases... but still then you're using a "limited" platform that needs a 3rd party chip just to get to current X58 1366 platform performances levels...

so i think it boils down to what video card setup you're going to decide on (single or dual-card)...

if you go for a single card setup: then you can wait for Sandy Bridge and get what will probably be the fastest card: R6990 (which should be about the same performance level as your 2 x R6950's CF)

if you go dual-card: then just go for the current X58 setup (for example: ASUS Sabertooth motherboard /w SATA6 USB3 + Core i7-950). just overclock your CPU... and no bottle-necks whatsoever

fine choices on all the rest of the components... for RAM:
- Sandy Bridge 1155 dual channel: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

- Nehalem 1366 triple channel: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
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December 20, 2010 6:01:41 PM

8x/8x loses only 2% compared to 16x/16x....meaning 98 fps instead of 100, or 49 fps instead of 50.

Its not significant
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December 20, 2010 6:07:04 PM

some tests show more than 2%... games are only going to get more demanding... and why bottle-neck now even slightly? if you have the budget... go enthusiast... go 1366 for 2 x video cards.

however again... if only 1 x card (like the R6990 which should do you fine when it comes out) -> then go with Sandy Bridge no problem

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December 20, 2010 6:14:49 PM

because 1366 adds about $225 more for the more expensive CPU, Motherboard, and Memory? Which is most of the way to a second graphics card anyway.

I may lose 2% with a pair of 6870s with my 8x/8x board, But I'll be a hell of a lot faster with an i5-760 and 2 6970s than a i7-950 and 1 6970!
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December 20, 2010 6:44:23 PM

sorry, i don't know how you got to that number ($225), but you're highly mistaken... a 1366 combo (CPU+RAM+Mobo) will be about ~$100 more than an 1156/1155 combo... actually, even less because if 'moogleslam' goes dual-channel.. that's 8GB dual channel RAM vs 6GB for the 1366 triple channel


1366:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
- ASUS Sabertooth X58 SATA6 USB3: $200

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
- Intel Core i7-950: $295

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
- G.SKILL Ripjaws 6GB (3x2GB) triple channel DDR3 1600: $90

Total: $585

1156 / ~1155 prices too:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
- ASUS P7P55D-E Pro SATA6 USB3: $180

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
- Intel Core i5-760: $205

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
- G.SKILL Ripjaws 8GB (2x4GB) dual channel DDR3 1600: $120

Total: $505

price difference: $80

again... go 1366 for 2 x video cards at the enthusiast level you're purchasing at... or 1155 Sandy Bridge for 1 x card
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December 20, 2010 7:15:50 PM

I was thinking more along these lines:

AS Rock P55- Extreme 4 (8x/8x mobo): $145
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
(Savings $65)

I5-750 ($199)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
(Savings $95)

Mushkin 4GB DDR3-1333: $42
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
(Savings: $47)

or

Mushkin DDR3-1600 CAS 7, $65 after rebate
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
(Savings $25)

total savings: $180-207

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December 20, 2010 7:42:46 PM

the dude is buying his 1st PC in 7 years.. clearly wants to go all out.. and is willing to spend ~$2000 on a top of the line gaming monster... and you're recommending him a (soon to be instinct in a couple weeks) mid-range 1156 components... doesn't make any sense -> it's just confusing him more <-

and also Sandy Bridge will be 'new tech'... and new tech is always priced higher than final MSRP's upon release... and for a while after too.

So after discarding 1156 (again - it's on its way outta here in 2 weeks guys)... you'll have a 1366 price war vs Sandy Bridge... and they'll be about the same pricing i'm guessing for relative comparable components (like 1155 Sabertooth edition vs 1366 Sabertooth edition)

which leaves it to the 1 x card (go 1155 Sandy Bridge) vs 2 x card (go 1366 Nehalem)
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December 20, 2010 8:02:03 PM

you asked where the $225 difference is. Its dropped a bit mostly from the drop in Memory. But still ~$200. I provided the difference.

However, its all moot if the OP is waiting for sandy bridge, which is rumored to be replacing the entire i5 lineup. SO I expect Sandy bridge pricing to be SIMILAR to the i5 lineup, to put more pressure on the Phenom II line.

and on a ~$2000 budget, an 970 or 980x 6-core shoudl be on the table, NOT any 4-core.
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December 20, 2010 8:16:40 PM

well, i don't know exactly what his budget is (2000 was just a fun guesstimate)... but clearly it's at 'enthusiast level' pricing... which means your mid-range 1156 component recommendation is irrelevant... [cause you're just trying to find cheap 1156 parts]... which is confusing him

'moogleslam' -> after disregarding 1156 from your options... Sandy Bridge 1155 will offer similar pricing to current and comparable 1366 parts... So once you decide 1 vs 2 video cards... you'll have a clearer choice between the two platforms to choose from
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December 20, 2010 8:34:49 PM

to sum it up here's my recommendation for each option in a nutshell:

(you can buy this as of now) -> if you go dual card like 2 x R6950's 2GB Crossfire -> go for something like: ASUS X58 Sabertooth SATA6 USB3 + 6GB (3x2GB) DDR3 1600 RAM + i7-950

or

(available in just a couple weeks) -> if you go single card setup like the unreleased yet R6990 2GB -> go for something like: ASUS P67 Sabertooth SATA6 USB3 + 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3 1600 ram + i5-2500K

hope that simplifies it for you :) 

each option should cost you about the same... as well as the R6990 is expected to perform very closely to 2 x R6950's CF
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December 21, 2010 5:31:47 PM

If Sandy Bridge is replacing i5, what's replacing i7..... and when?
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December 21, 2010 5:42:28 PM

better go by sockets... cause you have i7's + i5's both in 1156 and 1366

so Sandy Bridge (1155) is replacing 1156... and 'socket 2011' (i hear coming out late next year.. so about a year from now) will replace 1366 as the new 'high-end' so to speak...

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December 21, 2010 5:57:44 PM

Will some of the new Sandy Bridge (1155) technology be comparable in speed to the current 1366 technology?

My thinking is I don't want to buy something that is soon to be outdated (1156), but I want something that is high end and fast, so if that's the new Sandy Bridge, I'll wait, otherwise, I'm just going to buy some current 1366 technology......

I supposed the answer is I should wait a couple of weeks for some 1155 reviews and benchmarks...... and I can do that.
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December 21, 2010 6:20:19 PM

ya, just wait... it's really not that far off

my guess for you would be to get a Sandy Bridge P67 / Core i5-2500K / R6990 GPU... overclock the CPU (ala - 'K' edition)... and you'll have a gaming monster that'll last you for years @ 1920 resolution gaming
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