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Prebuilt Alienware system for gaming/dev

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April 6, 2011 3:14:54 PM

Hey guys,

I've recently graduated (comp sci, so I know my way around a computer a little bit :p ), and have a job line up starting next month where I will have way more money than I know what to do with, and the totally best possible plan I could come up with was to buy a gaming computer and put the dark days of low settings behind me :p 

Anyway, I have very little experience with hardware besides doing some OS stuff and assembling a desktop computer about 4 years ago (and that was not a painless experience), and I'm sure things have changed a lot since then, hence why I'm looking into prebuilt machines.

Anyway, I'm currently looking at this Alienware system for 2144 USD:

Matte Stealth Black Chassis with 875W Multi-GPU Approved Power Supply
Intel® Core™ i7-2600 (8MB Cache) Overclocked Turbo Boost to 3.9GHz
16GB Dual Channel DDR3 at 1333MHz
Dual 2GB GDDR5 AMD Radeon™ HD 6950
No Keyboard
2TB (2x 1TB) SATA II (3Gb/s) 7,200RPM (2x 32MB Cache)
Alienware® 19-in-1 Media Card Reader
No Monitor
Integrated 7.1 Channel Audio
802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.1 EDR USB Combo Adapter
Single Drive: 24X CD/DVD burner (DVD+/-RW) w/double layer write capability

So, anyway, I've got a few questions base don this build:

Does anyone have any idea about whether this is a good price for this system? If being prebuilt is *significantly* inreasing the price, how hard are these things to put together these days? I've never even seen a dual XFire setup, let alone put one together....

Any guesses on how long this will last before I have to start running into games I can't run/I have to run most games on low graphics?

Does anyone know anything about the i7-2600 vs the i7-2600K?
The price difference is pretty small, but wikipedia says that the 2600k version does not have the VT-d and TXT extensions, which I am actually interested in from a dev perspective. Would I need extra cooling or anything to reach the 5.7 GHz max on the 2600k, or do I just press a button and magic?
I just saw the alienware case has liquid cooling (ooooh, shiny), so maybe it'd just work, but I'm probably still more likely to use the VT-d extensions than max out 5.7GHz for any lengthy period of time.....

Any thoughts on the graphics cards? From what I've been reading on this site, the radeon 6950/6970 are the best bet atm, but for some reason alienware don't seem to sell the 6970s... Are they any better? Am I completely misguided?

Any comments or thoughts would be appreciated :D 

- Alex

Best solution

April 6, 2011 3:38:14 PM

getting to 5.7GHz requires good luck. every chip is unique in how far it will successfully overclock dependent on conditions at the moment of manufacture. at the 32nm scale, being a few molecule widths off can make the difference in overclocks, though it won't affect baseline speeds.

as for Alienware, they generally charge an arm and a leg. A similar system at iBuyPower or CyberPower is around $1800, and build-it-yourself, around $1600
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April 6, 2011 3:45:42 PM

Ok let me cover the question of the Intel® Core™ I7 2600 vs. 2600K. First you can see the differences here http://ark.intel.com/Compare.aspx?ids=52214,52213,. But for most people the difference between them comes down to two things. The Core I7 2600K can be overclocked a great deal more and if you use the on processor graphics you get the HD 3000 graphics over the HD 2000 graphics on the Core I7 2600. There are a couple other things that the Core I7 2600 has over the Core I7 2600k and those are largely for a business environment like TXT and VT-d.

Christian Wood
Intel Enthusiast Team
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April 6, 2011 4:10:40 PM

Check out Origin PC

The company is made of former Alienware folks, and actually quite reminds me of Alienware when it first started out.

Not sure how much of a comparable deal you can get for the system you are looking at - but you certainly will have more choices in hardware (since they will build a system with literally any piece of hardware, even if they don't have it).
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April 6, 2011 5:35:00 PM

I just looked at Origin and they are about as outrageously priced as Alienware.

i3-2100, LanCool case, 500W PSU, GTX 550 ti, 4GB 1333, and a 320 GB HDD, and Windows 7 home premium is $1155!! Thats a $500 computer self built (albeit with a much cheaper case). $600 with windows.
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April 6, 2011 10:21:09 PM

I say build it your self. Do you really need 5+ghz...NO. And other than that everything else is easy peasy. I just built my first system and like you for a wile I was thinking of paying close to 2k to get a prebuilt. I decided to try to build one myself and BAM not only was it easy I saved a boat load of cash :) 
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April 6, 2011 10:58:10 PM

jgr_bgpc said:
Check out Origin PC

The company is made of former Alienware folks, and actually quite reminds me of Alienware when it first started out.

Not sure how much of a comparable deal you can get for the system you are looking at - but you certainly will have more choices in hardware (since they will build a system with literally any piece of hardware, even if they don't have it).

I like the fact that they have the option to really customize your parts. However they are just as expensive as the other guys lol. If only ppl knew how easy it is to build a gaming pc :) .
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April 7, 2011 12:27:57 AM

cburke82 said:
I like the fact that they have the option to really customize your parts. However they are just as expensive as the other guys lol. If only ppl knew how easy it is to build a gaming pc :) .

Indeed. This is my first PC I have ever built(built it like a year ago but I'd upgraded memory, PSUs, and GPUs before) and building went just fine. It is easy, just may be a bit time consuming for a newby.
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April 7, 2011 12:42:05 AM

Thanks for the tips on overclocking, if it requires luck to get there then I'm definitely going with the i7 2600, since I do see myself playing around with the VT-d extensions at least (yes, I know what it is).

So I went and had a look at prices on newegg, and these are what I came up with:


Processor: Core i7 2600 $300
GFX: ATI Radeon HD 6950 $500 ($680 for 6970) + CrossFireX bridge
Motherboard: $100
Case: $100
PSU: 850W $100
HDD: 2x 1TB SATA drives $100
RAM: 4x 4GB DDR3 1600 $200


Is there anything missing from that list that I would need to make a functioning system?

They're rounded to the closest $100, so some stuff got rounded down, some up, but that totals out to about $1400-1500, plus other random stuff like DVD/wifis will probably round it out to $1600, which is way, way lower, so I might actually put this together myself.

Having said that, I still have no idea about parts, there seem to be a whole lot on the market, there even seem to be many different ATI Radeon 6950s I can buy.

Also, for the motherboard, it seems I need to ensure that I have the following things matched up:
CPU socket type
RAM socket type
CrossFireX support (it seems this is just the socket type, I need 2x 16 PCIe slots or something)
HDD connectors

Is that it, or do is there something else I need to match up with the rest of the hardware?
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April 7, 2011 1:00:43 AM

Well, If you are looking for an overclocking monster that supports both SLI and CF you may want to spend more than $100 on a mobo. Right now I am looking at newegg and cheap SandyBridge mobos with 2 PCIe slots support only 4x for the second slot. You definitely want more bandwidth. Look for at least 8x bandwidth for the second slot.
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April 7, 2011 1:07:23 AM

Hmmm, actually, I looked at ncix.com, and I can get almost the same specs from ncix for a bit under $1800 (ScrewySqrl seems to have been right on the money so far :o ), but I hadn't bee able to get that kind of price from iBuyPower for some reason.

And now the cost savings aren't so huge I may just go with that...
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April 7, 2011 1:15:42 AM

yyk71200 said:
Well, If you are looking for an overclocking monster that supports both SLI and CF you may want to spend more than $100 on a mobo. Right now I am looking at newegg and cheap SandyBridge mobos with 2 PCIe slots support only 4x for the second slot. You definitely want more bandwidth. Look for at least 8x bandwidth for the second slot.


The ncix one is listed as PCIe 2 x16: 2 (x16, x8) : http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... and is around the $100 mark.

What difference does this actually make? There is an upgrade option to one that is x16, x16, I have no idea what that would affect though...
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April 7, 2011 2:02:58 AM

x16/x8 means it'll run at x8 speeds with 2 cards, and 16x with one card. the actual results between 16x/16x and 8x/8x is at best 1 FPS out of 50 (so 49 vs 50 fps, or 98 vs 100 FPS)

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April 7, 2011 2:09:15 AM

Best answer selected by Eridrus.
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April 7, 2011 3:00:21 AM

Don't go alienware.
I know one website (skycomp.com.au) that will let you select all the parts and build it for an extra $70.
I'm sure there are many others like that out there.
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April 7, 2011 4:05:17 AM

As ScrewySqrl said, 8x is fine but 4x is too low for upper range cards. And yes, that MSI board should be fine. It is still a bit over $100 dollars.
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