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Confusion: $1,000 multi-use desktop (some games, work, video)

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January 7, 2011 3:52:04 PM

Approximate Purchase Date: Any day now - depends on availability of parts (i.e., waiting on Sandy Bridge if that is the direction I go). I could order today if it makes sense.

Budget Range: $1,000 US, but obviously lower is better. No reason to throw money away.

System Usage from Most to Least Important: Games, word processing, some video transcoding, general home computer stuff.

Parts Not Required: keyboard, mouse, speakers.

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: Newegg is my standard, but I am open.

Country of Origin: USA

Parts Preferences: Full tower works for me.

Overclocking: Unlikely (unless it is automatic).

SLI or Crossfire: Maybe

Monitor Resolution: probably 1920x1200 or whatever works well on a 24 inch monitor (no multiple monitors).

Overview: My wife has green lit me getting a new computer. I built my last one (with the help of a friend) and I think that I am up to doing it again. I don’t need the bleeding edge - I am more looking for something that makes sense. As noted, I like to play games, but I also do some transcoding of video for my phone or son’s PSP, plus it is a general purpose machine. Oh, and I doubt that it matters for these specs, but I also will work on this computer - I don’t do anything CPU intense when I work because it is all Word and Outlook and stuff - however I do tend to open lots of documents at once - like 15+ documents, pdfs, spreadsheets, outlook messages is pretty normal for me. As for games - I don’t like the idea of being limited as to what I can play, but I don’t need the detail and effects cranked through the roof either. I am going to get a 24 inch monitor (not included in the build budget). I have a Cat 6 network in my house and am hooked into my Windows Home Server with a couple of terabytes, so storage is not so much an issue. This computer will stay on pretty much 24/7 since it will be the main one in the house and everyone in my family is addicted to computers. So, I guess it is on to the discussion!

CPU: My research has come up with two conflicting responses: 1. go AMD Phenom quad or six core, and spend the money you save on a better video card or 2. Intel rules gaming (especially for Civ 5, which I got for Christmas and can’t play on our laptop), so go with Intel.

Then this whole Sandy Bridge thing makes things even more complicated. Again, research indicates that it has onboard GPU, but that it isn’t good enough for most gaming. So, does it add anything if I am going to have to get a video card anyway?

What is the general consensus? If Intel, I-5 or I-7? Apparently, there is going to be a pretty good sale on Sandy Core CPUs in a couple of days - http://dealnews.com/Upcoming-Micro-Center-circular-rele....

Motherboard: Obviously, this will depend in part on the CPU decision. Beyond that I figure that I want USB 3.0 and SATA 6.0 (or whatever it is called), but I am open to guidance as to whether that is true.

Case: I don’t want a case with lots of bling - neon lights, windows, built in espresso machines. I am a middle aged white guy and this computer will be sitting in plain sight under my desk. However, I do like the idea of having some expandability for hard drives etc. so that this machine could eventually replace my WHS. What can I say, I like options. Bottom line - function over form.

Graphics card: Well, my research seems to indicate that I am better off getting one more powerful card rather than 2 medium or lower end cards. And I don’t have a preference between manufacturers or anything. But, I guess the real question is, what do I need? Like I said, I don’t want to be limited as to what I can play (that is the problem now), but I don’t need to crank every graphical bell and whistle up through the roof either. But I did see something (but I cannot vouch for it) that said I may need a higher-end card because of the size of my monitor. And I don’t know how the card will play out with the whole Sandy Bridge on-board GPU thing.

Memory: I am planning on 4 Gigs and am focused on 133. However, as always, I am open to guidance

Hard Drive: Since I have the WHS, I figure I can drop in a 1 TB drive in and call it a day - that seems like the best price point. However, what about Solid State Drives. What would that get me? How will that work with this machine being on all of the time?

Power Supply: I have read that 600 - 750w is the way to go, so I guess that is the way I will go. Oh, and to avoid CoolerMaster PSUs. So I guess depending on the CPU, Motherboard, and GPU decisions I will need a suggestion here as well.

OS: Just windows 7. My young son and I like playing some older games (e.g. Star Trek Armada - and, yes, I know that for some of us "older" games means Pac Man and Tron, but that is why I have my Mame arcade), so I am wondering: do I need to get Win 7 Professional so that I get the vitual XP machine? Or do you think those games will run fine on Win 7 itself?

Is there anything else that I am missing?


Thanks for the suggestions.

- Miles
January 8, 2011 11:42:21 AM

No love? Sniff. Sniff. (Just kidding).

Did I overwhelm with info? I guess I should break it down to the first issue:

As of now, which CPU? It seems that the general consensus is SB I5 2500k (3.3. GHZ - $180) when possible. Now I understand that the on-board GPU isn't great for games. So why is that the CPU of choice if I am going to have to go ahead buy as video card anyway? How does the on-board GPU and the video card play together?
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January 8, 2011 12:00:37 PM

SandyBridge integrated graphics insufficient for playing anything other than Quake 3....and certainly insufficient for playing anything at 1920x1200.

If you can afford to wait the week or so for SB 2500k cpus ($200?) to hit the streets, I would....; there are a few new SB compatible socket 1155 mainboards reviewed the past few days at www.hardocp.com and www.anandtech.com

Get at least a 460 GTX (1 gb) gpu ($170), or 5870 ($239 at Newegg)....
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January 8, 2011 1:38:25 PM

So if the GPU is inadequate why go with SB?
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January 8, 2011 8:28:32 PM

Well for gaming at 1920x1080, you'll need a discrete graphics card anyway. It's unfortunate that the SB built in GPU doesn't really contribute anything, but there are many other advantages of the new Sandy Bridge chips.

This review http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/sandy-bridge-core-i... makes it pretty clear that performance/cost and also performance/power the SB chips are fantastic.

So why go with SB? Simply because it gives you better performance for lower cost (compared to the first generation i3/i5/i7s).
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