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Advice on a $1,500 Workstation/Gaming New Build

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Last response: in Systems
January 2, 2011 6:10:54 PM

It has been a number of years since I have owned anything remotely resembling a gaming rig (or even had base knowledge of the various technologies I should be looking for). With a new job telecommuting from home, and a little bit of disposable income, I have decided to take a crack at building a dual purpose work/gaming machine. The two major foci for this machine are longevity/upgradeability and emphasizing value per components. I would greatly appreciate any comments, suggestions, critiques, etc. (e.g., if two components I have conflict in some disastrous, world-ending, way).

I have based my build by reading up on the most recent $2,000 and $1,000 (using components from the $2,000 build as much as I could) builds posted to the website and using them as some kind of framework for what I am looking for. I have, however, decided to switch over to an AMD six-core CPU with motherboard suggested by the holiday buyer’s guide for two reasons. 1) As I am attempting to emphasize value over sheer premium tech shininess, AMD seems like a good choice. 2) Any intel CPU I would be looking at for the price point would be quad core, and from my understanding the additional two cores would provide some marginal increase in my ability to work in a multitasking environment.

Anyway, without further shenanigans, here is my build:
Approximate Purchase Date: Ideally this week

Budget Range: Approximately $1,500 (including monitor) Before Rebates

System Usage from Most to Least Important: Work which includes multitasking with various programs at once, gaming.

Parts Not Required: Keyboard and mouse

Preferred Website(s) for Parts:

Country of Origin: USA

Parts Preferences: I am not particularly set on any of the parts I have selected, and I am willing to consider any changes to the rig that can be done to improve the value of the machine without sacrificing too much longevity.

Overclocking: Maybe in the future, to increase the lifespan of the machine

SLI or Crossfire: Probably in the future

Monitor Resolution: Depends on what monitor I end up getting. Eventually I would love to snag a second monitor as well.

Additional Comments: Pretty much mentioned in my initial comments. I would love to set up a machine that is easily upgradeable (e.g., picking a good graphics card now, and throwing in a second one later).


(The obligatory)Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit 1-Pack for System Builders – OEM $99.99

Corsair Graphite Series 600T Black Steel / Plastic ATX Mid Tower Computer Case $159.99 (as seen in the $2,000 build)

Seasonic SS-850HT 850W ATX12V v2.31,EPS12V v2.92 80Plus Silver Certified, Active PFC Power Supply – OEM $119.99

AMD Phenom II X6 1090T Black Edition Thuban 3.2GHz 6 x 512KB L2 Cache 6MB L3 Cache Socket AM3 125W Six-Core Desktop Processor HDT90ZFBGRBOX $275.99

XIGMATEK Gaia SD1283 120mm Long Life Bearing CPU Cooler bracket included I7 i5 775 1155 AMD and dual fan push pull compatible $29.99

COOLER MASTER R4-BMBS-20PK-R0 Blade Master 120mm Case Fan $11.99

GIGABYTE GA-890FXA-UD5 AM3 AMD 890FX SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX AMD Motherboard $179.99 (recommended in the holiday buyer’s guide)

1x SAPPHIRE 100314SR Radeon HD 6870 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.1 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support Video Card with Eyefinity $239.99 (The idea being that when I can I’ll pick up a second for crossfire)

G.SKILL Value Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10600) Desktop Memory Model F3-10600CL9D-8GBNT $84.99 (I had hoped for a similar corsair product, but it appears to have just gone out of stock)

SAMSUNG Spinpoint F3 HD103SJ 1TB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive $69.99 (at some point I expect I’ll pick up a ssd or two)

Linksys WMP600N IEEE 802.11a/b/g, IEEE 802.11n Draft 2.0 PCI Wireless Adapter with Dual-Band WEP, WPA & WPA2 Personal, WPA & WPA2 Enterprise $55.24 (I’ll need a wireless networking card for my work, not set on this particular model, but I have had positive experiences with linksys products in the past)

LITE-ON Black 24X DVD+R 8X DVD+RW 12X DVD+R DL 24X DVD-R 6X DVD-RW 12X DVD-RAM 16X DVD-ROM 48X CD-R 32X CD-RW 48X CD-ROM 2MB Cache SATA 24X DVD Writer LightScribe Support $25.99 (I imagine at some point I will add a blu-ray player or burner, but can't really justify the cost increase at this point in time)

Asus VE228H 21.5" Full HD HDMI LED BackLight LCD Monitor w/Speakers ASCR 10,000,000:1 $159.99 (I’m not particularly set on this monitor, but it seemed like a good value)

Subtotal: $1,514.12


Thanks much for your help and advice. Cheers!

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a b 4 Gaming
January 2, 2011 8:22:05 PM

Pretty good build. I think there are a few areas where you can save some money/get better, more suitable components.

The first is the PSU, which is overkill for a system with two 6870s. According to the two reviews I've seen, a system with two 6870s doesn't even draw 500W, around 460 in typical gaming, so I think you would be perfectly fine with a good 650W PSU. I would recommend the Antec Truepower New TP-650 80Plus Bronze Modular $90 ($3 shipping), as it has good efficiency, is well built, high quality and has cables which should be long enough to reach the top of that case.

Generally it is accepted that there is minimal difference in crossfire/SLI performance between motherboards with PCIe slots at dual x16 and dual x8. So if you're willing to get a 890GX motherboard then you could save a bit, while not sacrificing much performance. I will make a recommendation if you confirm that you'd be willing to go 'down' to an 890GX motherboard.

I feel I should point this combo out to you, as you can get an SSD for basically $30 cheaper than if you were to buy that particular SSD by itself:

January 2, 2011 8:46:57 PM

Thanks much for your advice! I have switched out the power supply for that which you had suggested.

I would be willing to go for a cheaper mobo if it wouldn't significantly hurt the longevity of the system. My thought on the matter was if I could spend $50 bucks more on a motherboard that I could push for six months to a year longer than a cheaper unit it would be worth it. I really don't know much about the matter, and if you think they would be relatively obsolete at roughly the same time, that seems like a good place to cut some costs.

A question about the case: do you think that the case I have selected ( is a good pick, or does it seem like too much for my purposes? It seemed to be very recommended in the latest $2,000 build review, but obviously my components now differ greatly from the original.

P.S. That combo looks great, and could make me reconsider getting a ssd now, but it appears that the RAM component is currently out of stock. I will keep an eye out for it.
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a c 463 4 Gaming
January 2, 2011 9:09:26 PM

At $1500, I'd be doing an Intel build.

Case - $180 - Antec DF-85
Case Fans - Later - Antec 120 mm Fan
PSU - $120 - Antec CP-850
MoBo - $200 - Asus Sabertooth
CPU - $295 - Intel i7-950
Cooler - $40 - Scythe SCMG 2100
TIM - $5 - Shin Etsu
RAM - $100 - 3 x 2GB OCZ CAS 7
GFX - $230 - EVGA GTX 470 SC
GFX - Later - Same
HD - $70 - Samsung F3 1TB
SSD - Later - OCZ Vertex 2 3.5" 120GB
DVD Writer - $19 - ASUS 24X DVD Writer
OS - $140 - Win 7-64 Pro
Monitor - $180 - ASUS VH242H1920x1080

BTW, for work, I wouldn't rely on wireless and I'd run a cable

The above build has larger LED monitor, case which provides for greater flexibility in upgrades (SSD's and HD's are in swappable cages), some of which are includes as "later" ..... The Pro version of the OS gives you XP mode for compatibility with older business programs and games. As far as the GPU, it's a toss up between the 6870 and 470. But if you meant "workstation" in it's typical vernacular .... that is for rendering, graphics, movie editing, then you'll ant the CUDA capability of the Nvidia cards. Otherwise pick which one will suit you best by viewing the benchmarks starting on this page:
a b 4 Gaming
January 2, 2011 9:40:42 PM

It is a high quality case, with lots of useful and interesting features, such as being able to remove or reposition one of the hdd bays, which will restrict airflow much less. Also it has a built in fan controller (I suggest turning the fans all the way down, as then it should be quiet, and I'm sure it has been shown that turning the fans up just adds noise, while not decreasing temps.)

The large fans are of an unusual size, so you would not have many options to replace them if you ever had need for replacements, at least not in the short to medium term future. Not that I'm saying that you'd need to replace them.
There are probably over a dozen other, cheaper popular cases available which would cool your components well enough.
So there are definitely options for cheaper cases, but it can be quite time consuming finding the right one. For instance, it has taken me over a year to find two contenders for my next case, which atm looks like it will either be a Lian Li PC-9F (which isn't available in the UK yet) or the Lian Li PC-B25FB. And I still have to look at a bunch of other Lian Li cases to make sure I know what they are about as well. This process has been complicated by not really knowing which review sites were the best for getting large, high quality pictures and not recording my findings for the first six months. I've found that techpowerup, bit-tech, xsreviews and hardwareheaven have a lot of good reviews of cases, where you can easily save large, high quality pictures of the cases, so you can easily go looking through them all to remind yourself about a particular case.

So if you're happy with the Corsair and don't feel the need to save any more money, as I have already saved you $20, then the Corsair is a good choice.

I think my choice for a cheaper AM3 mobo would be between these two:
GIGABYTE GA-890GPA-UD3H $135 ($3 shipping)

ASRock 870 EXTREME3 $110
Unfortunately this change would void the combo I mentioned earlier.

I think there are two reasons not to spend that much money on a mobo with dual x16 PCIe. The first is that people say that most people end up not going for a dual card setup, if they don't buy both cards straight away as they end up just replacing the older card with something newer. The second reason is, that I have my doubts about what kind of longevity/upgradeability is provided by dual x16 over dual x8. At moment x8 doesn't bottleneck cards much at all, so it will take quite a while, IMO, for x8 to become a significant bottleneck and by that time PCIe 3.0 x16 will surely be the mainstream spec.

On the newegg page for that G.Skill RAM it says the ETA is the 7th, which is in this week isn't it?
January 2, 2011 9:54:19 PM

JackNaylorPE said:
At $1500, I'd be doing an Intel build.


BTW, for work, I wouldn't rely on wireless and I'd run a cable

The above build has larger LED monitor, case which provides for greater flexibility in upgrades (SSD's and HD's are in swappable cages), some of which are includes as "later" ..... The Pro version of the OS gives you XP mode for compatibility with older business programs and games. As far as the GPU, it's a toss up between the 6870 and 470. But if you meant "workstation" in it's typical vernacular .... that is for rendering, graphics, movie editing, then you'll ant the CUDA capability of the Nvidia cards. Otherwise pick which one will suit you best by viewing the benchmarks starting on this page:

Thanks for the feedback. I am sold on upgrading the OS to professional and upgrading the monitor. I may be using workstation in the wrong sense, but I primarily will be using it for running multiple programs at once, which may require heavy processor load but will probably not require much graphical power (the GPU would be primarily for gaming). Regarding the wireless card, I understand it is a less than ideal situation, but unfortunately it is a requirement for the near future, as I can’t guarantee I will have the box near enough to be wired.

Could you help walk me through why you think an Intel build would be better than the AMD? It looks like the CPU you have recommended has fewer cores and runs slightly slower, but costs more with a respectively more expensive motherboard. I’m not opposed to switching over, but I’m not sure I understand the benefits of doing so at this price point.
January 3, 2011 4:02:00 AM

The AMD chip does have more cores, but it has fewer threads. The i7 chips run two threads (processes) per core while the AMD chip only runs one per core. The i7 chip can also use 3-channels in memory whereas the AMD chip can only run 2-channels. The 1090T chip should work just fine, but the i7 950 is the better processor.

I would recommend sticking with the AMD graphics cards, the nVidia cards are power hogs and are more expensive for the same performance. The only real benefit from going nVidia is they have a few cards that run 3D graphics.

The rest of your build seems fine, just make sure you invest in some Arctic Silver 5.
a b 4 Gaming
January 3, 2011 3:06:05 PM

The Intel processor doesn't reall have any advantage because of triple channel memory, as this thread shows that the actual performance difference between them is minimal:

Can't really argue that the Intel processor is more powerful in more applications than the AMD, but I don't think Ampersat needs any more power than he's already got, so I don't understand how extra cost can be justified.
January 5, 2011 12:20:01 AM

Thanks all for the input and advice. I have decided at this time to go with the deal that Silvune posted---going for a slightly better cpu and mobo along with a solid state drive. Regarding the TIM: Arctic Silver seems to be the standard posted around the net. Will one of these suffice, and I will be pretty much only using it between the cpu and heatsink, no?

Unfortunately the monitor I am set on is currently out of stock, so I may wait a couple of days before ordering, but I may end up ordering that separately.

After all the changes, I have gone a little over the budget I started with, but it shouldn't be a problem. I'd love any final comments/suggestions anyone might have, and thanks again for the help!

  • Monitor: ASUS VH242H Black 23.6" 5ms HDMI Full 1080P Widescreen LCD Monitor 300 cd/m2 1000:1 (ASCR 20000:1) Built in Speakers ~$179.99

  • TIM: Arctic Silver 5 Thermal Compound $9.99

  • OS: Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64-bit 1-Pack for System Builders $139.99

  • Case: Corsair Graphite Series 600T Black Steel / Plastic ATX Mid Tower Computer Case $159.99

  • PSU: Antec TruePower New TP-650 650W Continuous Power "compatible with Core i7" Power Supply $89.99

  • MOBO/CPU/SSD/RAM Combo: GIGABYTE GA-890FXA-UD5 ATX AMD Motherboard & AMD Phenom II X6 1100T 3.3GHz, 3.7GHz Turbo Socket AM3 125W Six-Core Desktop Processor & G.SKILL Phoenix Pro Series FM-25S2S-60GBP2 2.5" MLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD) & G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Desktop Memory $642.99

  • GPU: SAPPHIRE Radeon HD 6870 100314SR Video Card with Eyefinity $239.99

  • Storage Drive: SAMSUNG Spinpoint F3 1TB 3.5" SATA 3.0Gb/s Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive $69.99

  • CPU Heatsink: XIGMATEK Gaia SD1283 120mm Long Life Bearing CPU Cooler bracket included dual fan push pull compatible $29.99

  • Additional fan for CPU cooler push/pull: COOLER MASTER R4-BMBS-20PK-R0 Blade Master Case Fan

  • Wireless Card: Linksys WMP600N PCI Wireless Adapter with Dual-Band

  • DVD Drive: LITE-ON 24X DVD Writer Black SATA Model iHAS424-98 LightScribe Support $25.99

  • Subtotal: $1656.13
    January 5, 2011 12:48:24 AM

    Okay a few things

    TIM: pick up at your local radioshack it will be cheaper than online
    Case: that is a very high quality case but I would save a bit and buy the CM HAF 922 from amazon (free shipping) it will be more than enough for your needs and is very large and well built
    GPU: with the savings spring for a 6950 free shipping on this model
    CPU heatsink get this push/pull heatsink for less and it is just as good as the Gaia buy from amazon free shipping and both fans for the heatsink

    Rest looks good :D 
    January 5, 2011 11:48:02 PM

    Best answer selected by Ampersat.