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Calling all experts: Building a PC to last, Need help

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December 22, 2010 10:52:30 PM

So, Oblivion killed my last PC and it's about time for a new one. I want to build it myself, but it's been awhile since I compared components and it seems that the field has passed me by. Now I'm lost in this jungle of parts and prices with so many things to choose from. I've found some interesting articles and resources on the web, but it seems like the more research I do, the more contradicting opinions I come across. This forum seems to have a very well informed and helpful community, so I turn to you guys and gals to help resolve my dilemma.

What I want: A solid machine that will stand the test of time and allow for modular upgrading. I'm tired of having to buy a whole new machine every time one thing craps out or becomes obselete. I'm really torn when it comes to things like intel vs. AMD or ATI vs. nVidia, so I'd really appreciate some guidance in that direction. I'm also not sure how much RAM I really need. Clearly, more is better, but I don't want to drop cash on wasted power. I'd prefer not to mess around with SLI or crossfire as I just don't know much about setting this up, but if you guys think it's the way to go, I'm wiling to experiment a bit.

Approximate Purchase Date: ASAP, though I could wait a month or so if necessary.

Budget Range: I'm in Germany, so I'm working with Euros. I'd like to spend between 1200 and 1800 Euro.

System Usage from Most to Least Important: Gaming focused - I want my Mass Effect 2 to look super sexy when it arrives (Wifey got it for Xmas!). I'm also planning on getting Starcraft 2, Fallout 3, Bioshock 2 and COD:Black Ops once I've got a machine that can handle it. Next thing for me is movies and music. I've got 5.1 speakers, but my sound card is a nightmare, so I'd like something that can provide distinct audio profiles for surround sound movie viewing vs. home disco night.

Parts Not Required: Speakers

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: Any that delivers to Germany. Unfortunately, newegg.com is out, so I've been doing most of my shopping on Amazon.de. I'd really appreciate a tip on a reliable site for the thrifty shopper in the Eurozone.

Country of Origin: Germany/Deutschland

I've been using this article as a sort of reference point, but even the comments there are chock full of contradictions. Do you guys think you can improve on this build? I hope so!

I eagerly await your response and thanks in advance!
December 22, 2010 11:55:53 PM

90% of gaming performance at decent resolution is a result of the video card, of which the GTX460 is practically a screaming buy.

The Intel i5/i7 quad cores (which typically outperform higher clocked Phenom X6 rigs in gaming) on nearly any Asus/Gigabyte/MSI socket 1156 P55 chipset mainboard and 4 gb of RAM (DDR3/1600 RAM should result in a solid gaming build...
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December 23, 2010 12:10:53 AM

Thanks for the reply!

So you'd definitely go for the 460 over the ATI 5870 or 6870?

Could you elaborate a bit on the virtues of i5 over Phenom X6? I'd heard that AMD generally give more bang for the buck, would you agree?

Also, I'd heard that intel is about to make the 1156 socket obselete, so for upgradability's sake, would it be better to go AMD?
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December 23, 2010 12:40:38 AM

LGA1156 is being replaced in two weeks. It will never see another new CPU line (speed bumps yes, new lines no). It also lacks for PCIe lanes, which makes it more difficult to add cards later. I would not recommend it at this time at that budget if you have a desire to be able to switch out the CPU later.

There's 3 other major sockets to build a system around: LGA1155, LGA1366, and AM3.

LGA1155 is the successor to LGA1156. It improves the PCIe situation, offering 24 total (including the 16 integrated in the CPU). It's not the most upgradable, but it will be receiving new CPU lines (Ivy Bridge in early 2012). It is the new shiny though, it won't come cheap.

LGA1366 is indeed still potent. The i7-930 overclocks like a beast and it's got some absurd number of PCIe lanes. It's the old shiny (and still expensive). Gulftown (6 cores) is there to upgrade to in the future, but I don't really see Intel ever making Gulftown cheap. However, if they do, Gulftown is the fastest consumer CPU out there (and will remain so until it too is replaced by a successor socket).

AM3 would normally be the upgrader's socket of choice, but unfortunately AMD couldn't make Bulldozer AM3 compatible without hamstringing it. Those are said to be AM3+ only. So, what you see is what you get for that socket (same as LGA1156 and LGA1366). Thing is, at your budget you can easily grab the fastest desktop processor AMD sells, the X6 1100T (or an X4 970). There's nowhere to go from there.

Modern sockets, in 500 words or less!

Now, as GPUs go, what resolution are you playing at and how high do you like the eye candy?
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December 23, 2010 12:47:30 AM

Wow, super informative response!

What resolution am I playing at? Currently, none at all. I'm willing to drop a nice chunk of my budget on quality eye candy, so the higher the better I suppose. Most of the benchmarks I've seen average around 1920x1200, so I guess that's the target, but if I can afford to go higher...
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December 23, 2010 1:24:59 AM

Monitorwise, 22" 1920x1080 panels are cheap. 1920x1200, not so much (and I have yet to see a 120Hz 1920x1200 panel). Above 1920x1200, things get expensive, fast (unless Europe has cheap 30" screens, in which case I need to find an excuse to take a vacation there).

Gaming at 1080p or more is the province of high end cards, with the 5770 being probably the minimum there. If you haven't already, take a look at the Best Graphics Cards for the Money article. The prices are all US dollars, but I'm assuming they follow similar pricing structures in Europe. At 1080p, you probably want a Radeon 5770 or better. The 460 1GB is a favorite here for a reason, it's pretty potent for what it costs (though the 6850 that came out recently gives it competition in the price-performance department).

Another question, do you intend to overclock?
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December 23, 2010 1:40:54 AM

If you like eye candy, I would go with a HD 6870 or the GTX 470

Wait a few weeks and pick up the new SB Intels coing out with.
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December 23, 2010 4:12:06 AM

Thanks so much to all the folks offering help. With your tips and a whole night of searching the internet, I think I'm starting to figure out what I want. Check out this build and tell me if you see any glaring errors.

Case: CoolerMaster HAF932
Mobo: Gigabyte GA-890GPA-UD3H
CPU: AMD Phenom II X6 1100T 3.3Ghz
GPU: ATI Radeon HD 5870 1GB
RAM: Corsair 8GB DDR3-1600, CL9, Kit4
HD: Corsair Force SSD 60GB
Cooler: Corsair H50 Hydro series
PSU: BeQuiet! 700W

Plus a nice monitor, a gaming NIC, keyboard, mouse, and other assorted junk like a fresh copy of Windows 7, and I'm coming in right in the middle of my target range ~1550 Euro.

What I'm thinking here is that this rig will work nicely for me now and allow me to set up an extra 5870 in crossfire if I need to down the road. Am I forgetting or overlooking anything?

Oh, as to overclocking, I've never done it before because I was too scared of burning out my gear, but with the liquid cooling system in there, I figure I'll give it a shot.
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December 23, 2010 4:14:26 AM

Niklas_13 said:
If you like eye candy, I would go with a HD 6870 or the GTX 470

Wait a few weeks and pick up the new SB Intels coing out with.

I was reading reviews on Techspot.com that said that the 5870 is a faster card than the new 6870 and compares very favorably to the 470 for the price point.

LOL, I was so confused by all of these model numbers when I posted this thread, but now it's actually starting to make sense! Thanks guys!
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December 23, 2010 4:24:06 AM

I would recommend buying a psu from a more well known manufacturer like corsair, I am sure others would agree. Another thing is toning your ram down to 6 gb maybe.
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December 23, 2010 4:35:39 AM

AMD CPU is dual channel, so RAM should be 4 or 8 GB.
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December 23, 2010 4:41:15 AM

jltcool94 said:
I would recommend buying a psu from a more well known manufacturer like corsair, I am sure others would agree. Another thing is toning your ram down to 6 gb maybe.

I'll take the PSU advice into consideration, thanks.

Is there any reason besides price that I'd want less RAM? The price point is good, so I think 8GB is cool.
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Best solution

December 23, 2010 6:39:09 AM

Psychodabble said:
I was reading reviews on Techspot.com that said that the 5870 is a faster card than the new 6870 and compares very favorably to the 470 for the price point.

LOL, I was so confused by all of these model numbers when I posted this thread, but now it's actually starting to make sense! Thanks guys!


For fresh builds unless u can get a HD 5.8K card on the (dirt) cheap HD 6.8k ^^

ATI Radeon 6870 6850 - Featured Review - Widescreen Gaming Forum

Quote:
Conclusions

The Radeon HD 6870 and HD 6850 are both excellent cards, and offer an amazing price/performance ratio. In my testing, the Radeon HD 6870 offered approximately 95% of the performance of the Radeon HD 5870, for 64% of the price - all with lower heat, noise and power.

The Radeon HD 6850 performed offered approximately 85% of the performance of the Radeon HD 5870, for 48% of ther price. The HD 6850 vs. HD 5850 comparison held ot that of the 6870/5870 - 95% of the power for 64% of the price.




Looks at the games tested in the link provided: HD 6k CF scaling is so good that HD 6850CF goes toe to toe with HD 5870CF
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December 23, 2010 6:47:54 AM

Psychodabble said:
I'll take the PSU advice into consideration, thanks.

Is there any reason besides price that I'd want less RAM? The price point is good, so I think 8GB is cool.


Look for a review of any PSU before buying it. The review should include load testing. Jonnyguru, HardOCP, and HardwareSecrets are examples of sites that can test PSUs properly. I don't know the Be Quiet's reputation since they aren't sold on this side of the pond. Preferable to have a review (though a review of a unit in the same series works if you KNOW they're built on the same foundation).

Here's the thing. PSUs are pretty vital and a bad one can take everything else with it. Some manufacturers are pretty solid among their whole line (Seasonic and Corsair, for example). Others will crash and burn (I'm looking at you, Diablotek). I will say this though, a cursory look didn't turn up any giant red flags assuming my pidgin German was enough to understand it. Look into it, I suspect it's a fine unit, just not a brand known by Americans.

Drop the gaming NIC and get a hard drive to store everything that won't fit on the SSD. The NIC integrated into your motherboard is almost certainly good enough. SSDs are awesome, but modern games are large and only getting larger. Samsung Spinpoint F3s, Western Digital Caviar Blues and Caviar Blacks are favored for speed, but for a secondary drive you can get away with a 5400 RPM drive like a Caviar Green if the price is right.

As a final note, if you don't have a particular reason to get the H50, large air coolers can perform better for less money.
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December 23, 2010 12:43:57 PM

batuchka said:
For fresh builds unless u can get a HD 5.8K card on the (dirt) cheap HD 6.8k ^^

Looks at the games tested in the link provided: HD 6k CF scaling is so good that HD 6850CF goes toe to toe with HD 5870CF


Argh! Just when I thought I had made a decision, lol! :pt1cable: 

That was an excellent article, thanks for the link. Here's the thing though: the price on the 5870 has come WAY down since that was written while the price for the 6870 is about the same. I can get a 5870 for 250 Euro and the 6870 is 230 at the cheapest. I know the cards are very similar, but it looks to me like the 5870 is still the more powerful model, in single or CF.

I guess my question now is how much of a difference do those little bars make? I want power and sexy eye candy - will I see the difference between the two, or should I just save myself the twenty bucks? Does 250 qualify as on the cheap? :o 
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December 23, 2010 1:22:52 PM

dertechie said:
Look for a review of any PSU before buying it. The review should include load testing. Jonnyguru, HardOCP, and HardwareSecrets are examples of sites that can test PSUs properly. I don't know the Be Quiet's reputation since they aren't sold on this side of the pond. Preferable to have a review (though a review of a unit in the same series works if you KNOW they're built on the same foundation).

Here's the thing. PSUs are pretty vital and a bad one can take everything else with it. Some manufacturers are pretty solid among their whole line (Seasonic and Corsair, for example). Others will crash and burn (I'm looking at you, Diablotek). I will say this though, a cursory look didn't turn up any giant red flags assuming my pidgin German was enough to understand it. Look into it, I suspect it's a fine unit, just not a brand known by Americans.

Drop the gaming NIC and get a hard drive to store everything that won't fit on the SSD. The NIC integrated into your motherboard is almost certainly good enough. SSDs are awesome, but modern games are large and only getting larger. Samsung Spinpoint F3s, Western Digital Caviar Blues and Caviar Blacks are favored for speed, but for a secondary drive you can get away with a 5400 RPM drive like a Caviar Green if the price is right.

As a final note, if you don't have a particular reason to get the H50, large air coolers can perform better for less money.

I've done some checking on BeQuiet and apparently they are a division of Lastan, the biggest European computer component manufacturer. They are the market leader and have established a solid reputation over years of doing business. I checked a few review sites and couldn't find anyone with a negative word to say about the PSU I chose. Yay me!

I probably should have mentioned before, but I've got an additional 650 GB of storage across two Seagate Barracuda 7200's that I'm planning to cannibalize from the machine that died. Those should handle my gaming storage needs, then I've got a 1.5 TB external for music, movies, and other assorted sundry items, leaving my SSD free for OS boot and any particularly demanding game installs.

I don't have any particular reason to get the H50, but I've always wanted to have a liquid cooled system. They're super quiet and I get a weird feeling of security from the idea that my CPU/GPU can't burst into flames because they're surrounded by water. Stupid, I know, but it's the feeling I've got and the system is only 88 Euro. Is the H50 a good choice as liquid coolers go?
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December 23, 2010 4:22:38 PM

Psychodabble said:
but it looks to me like the 5870 is still the more powerful model, in single or CF.


For the most part not really but again the efficiency at the cost of frame generation with previous gen tech...
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December 23, 2010 5:39:27 PM

Psychodabble said:
I've done some checking on BeQuiet and apparently they are a division of Lastan, the biggest European computer component manufacturer. They are the market leader and have established a solid reputation over years of doing business. I checked a few review sites and couldn't find anyone with a negative word to say about the PSU I chose. Yay me!


Good. Nice to see there are other PSU companies that don't cut crucial corners.


Psychodabble said:

I don't have any particular reason to get the H50, but I've always wanted to have a liquid cooled system. They're super quiet and I get a weird feeling of security from the idea that my CPU/GPU can't burst into flames because they're surrounded by water. Stupid, I know, but it's the feeling I've got and the system is only 88 Euro. Is the H50 a good choice as liquid coolers go?


Among small self-contained water units, H50 and its big brother H70 are among the best in a small field. They're good, not magic bullet good, but effective enough if you don't start pushing too much voltage through your chips (nothing short of LN2 will save a 32nm CPU from 1.5V, it'll fry. Tom's managed to fry its first few 32nm Pentium samples with 1.45V despite good temps). Shop around though, you may be able to find it cheaper.
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December 23, 2010 6:19:31 PM

batuchka said:
For the most part not really but again the efficiency at the cost of frame generation with previous gen tech...

I'm not sure I really understand this answer. Are you saying that the 5870 isn't a more powerful chip? The benchmark tests I've seen place it above the 6870 pretty consistently. Is it your opinion that the efficiency of the 6870 trumps the raw power of the 5870 or that the power difference is negligible?

I could see going with the 6870 when the price of the 5870 was still north of 350 bucks, but now that it's down to 250, what do you think? Does that qualify for the "on the cheap" statement you made in your earlier post?

Again, all the help is really appreciated. :D 
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December 23, 2010 6:24:46 PM

If u look at just the single GPU benchmarks the little gain HD 5870 comes at the cost of much higher power/heat generation and once u hit 2 of either cards, Eyefinity becomes a possibility where the HD 6k scaling is better. You can also nab a HD 6870 $205AR
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
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December 23, 2010 7:45:51 PM

batuchka said:
If u look at just the single GPU benchmarks the little gain HD 5870 comes at the cost of much higher power/heat generation and once u hit 2 of either cards, Eyefinity becomes a possibility where the HD 6k scaling is better. You can also nab a HD 6870 $205AR
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

So it's the efficiency thing then? I'll have to think that over.

That's a nice price from newegg, but they don't ship to Germany. I'll see if I can get it that cheap here, but I'm not so sure.
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December 30, 2010 6:58:19 PM

Best answer selected by Psychodabble.
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December 31, 2010 10:29:28 AM

Yep happy shopping/building and happy new year!
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!