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Best of 3 Systems for value/performance

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April 14, 2011 8:46:49 AM

Looking for a gaming pc that will last me 1+ years running games on max/almost max settings. ie I don't want to spend $540 now and have it perform poorly managing to only play it on low settings in 6 months when BF3/COD/Whatever else is coming out is released.

I have done a bit of research and designed three systems. The lowest possible amount spent is ideal. My current favourite is option 2 because the board is eligible for the AM3+ update (http://event.asus.com/2011/mb/AM3_PLUS_Ready/) and supports crossfire. So in 12+ months time I'll just upgrade the CPU to Bulldozer and add an additional 6870.

The PSU I've also done extensive research and is apparantly very capable (can handle any crossfire thrown at it) and has a 5 year warranty! +it was reconmended for use on the Coolermaster PSU calculator so it must be good enough.

I want to be able to play games like Crysis on max settings and for it to keep up for a year or more until I upgrade the RAM, Crossfire and if I go for option 2 upgrade CPU to Bulldozer.

Option 1:
CASE: Antec Three Hundred – $55
PSU: Thermaltake LitePower 500Watt – $ 57
CPU: AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition – $148
MOBO: Asus M4A87TD-USB3 Motherboard – $99
RAM: Kingston KVR 4GB (2x2GB) DDR3 1333 – $44
HDD: Hitachi 3.5" Deskstar 1TB SATA HDD $59
GPU: Radeon HD6870 1GB – $220

Total = $686

Option 2:
CASE: Antec Three Hundred – $55
PSU: CoolerMaster GX 550W 80+ – $ 90
CPU: AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition – $148
MOBO: Asus M4A89GTD-USB3 Motherboard – $166
RAM: Kingston KVR 4GB (2x2GB) DDR3 1333 – $44
HDD: Hitachi 3.5" Deskstar 1TB SATA HDD $59
GPU: Radeon HD6870 1GB – $220

Total = $786

Option 3:
CPU: Intel Core i5 2500 $219
Mobo: Asrock P67 Pro3 B3 $169
RAM: Kingston 4GB (2x2GB) DDR3-1333 $44
HDD: Hitachi 3.5" Deskstar 1TB SATA HDD $59
GPU: 1GB AMD Radeon HD6870 $220
Case: Antec Three Hundred – $55
PSU: CoolerMaster GX 550W 80+ – $ 90

Total: $856

(I don't want to spend over 700... but I suppose if the i5 is THAT much better I can deal with the money) also is the 6870 in crossfire comparable to like a 6950?

And finally should I be holding off a few months for something new thats coming out that I'm not aware of or just bite the bullet now..

Thankyou in advance :) 

Want to run it on 2 screens when I get the $$ for a second 22"+ plus monitor (1920x1200)

More about : systems performance

April 14, 2011 10:22:04 AM

I'd go for the i5 but you could save a lot of money on the motherboard, the P67 models are mainly for overclocking and crossfire/SLI. If you don't mind sacrificing those you could go for a cheaper 'H' model.
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April 14, 2011 10:33:44 AM

I may Crossfire the 6870 down the road.. Would that show significant improvement? I'm talking like once it stops running games on max settings (excl AA, shadows and all that not so important stuff).

I am leaning towards the i5 seeing as its only 70 bucks more, if you could reconmend a Mobo that will provide Crossfire support for 2 6870's for less then that would be great!
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April 14, 2011 10:43:23 AM

To be honest, Crossfire sounds like a good and cheap upgrade path but it really is easier and probably even cheaper to just upgrade a single card. Crossfire means that youre going to consume a lot of power so you need a more powerful (and expensive) PSU. (700w+) Also you would be spending about $80 extra on a motherboard that supports x8/x8 Crossfire. Basically by just going down the single card route, youre going to be saving yourself $100+ and some of the trouble people have with it.
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April 14, 2011 10:52:08 AM

Hmm well I did a few of the online calculators for PSU's and they seem to all say the most I would need under peak load at 20% capacitor aging that all I'd need is 600W (this is under 6870 crossfire) and the power supply I specified can supply a peak load of 670Watts. I don't really know much but to me it seemed fantastic quality and value for money :/  http://www.thermaltake.outervision.com/Power

So if I'm just going to stick with the single 6870 what motherboard would you reconmend? Should I overclock my CPU and GPU down the track then or also not really worth the bother? I just want this system to be able to run most games at max settings for atleast a year at like 30+fps, is that likely with this system, if I upgrade to 8gb ram when I need it?
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April 14, 2011 1:04:24 PM

First of all, option #2 is a crapshoot, with performance too dependent on what Bulldozer may or may not bring. And, the 890-series chipset won't allow all features of Bulldozer to function; someone please provide accurate (?) specs, but I think that includes power saving and turbo modes.
How about option #3, but with an i5-2400 or even -2300?
Finally, you've selected sub-standard PSUs in all of them. For possible Crossfire or SLI, you'll want 650W or more. It isn't just the size though, it's the quality. Those just don't cut it, wandering out of spec when loaded, and/or being overrated (not good for what's on their label). Quality brands include Antec, Seasonic, Corsair, XFX, and Enermax. If you plan on a single GPU, 500W-550W would be plenty.

Edit: Personally, if you wait until the 900-series chipset boards are available, Option #2 may become more viable, especially if verifiable BD benchmarks have begun to show up. Otherwise, i5 is the way to go.
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April 14, 2011 1:26:48 PM

My advice is:

1) If you want the best graphics possible for your budget, forget the i5 and concentrate your budget on your graphics card. The X4 955 BE will be easily good enough for gaming for some time

2) Consider buying a dual-bios 6950 (make sure it's dual bios) and flashing it to a 6970. It's pretty easy to do (http://www.techpowerup.com/articles/overclocking/vidcar...) and will give you much better performance than the 6870 for little more money. Here's a good looking one: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

2) Consider 8GB RAM for future-proofing and system performance - better to buy it now as 2x4GB sticks than add 2x2GB sticks later

3) Don't skimp on your PSU as if it goes it can take out other components, but don't go crossfire unless it makes a lot of sense cos you'll need a bigger, more expensive PSU


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April 14, 2011 3:01:42 PM

Ok couple of things to clarify.
1. Bulldozer will not work with socket AM3. BD will require the new socket AM3+. However, current CPU's will work in AM3+ (ie it's backwards compatible).

2. Don't buy a 6950 expecting to be able to unlock it. The reason it's even possible is that the 6950 line is built using flawed chips which instead of throwing out, AMD, disables the flawed parts of the chip and sells it as the cheaper 6950.

Now, sometimes the cheaper line is so popular, that the demand exceeds the supply of flawed chips. In this case, AMD takes perfectly functional chips and disable perfectly good parts of the chip to fill in inventory for the 6950. Due to the extremely mature 40nm process at this point, there aren't all that many flawed chips, so more so than normal, you get good chips being used for 6950's.

However, it is still a luck of the draw and I'd be shocked if the success rate was more than 50%.

Basically, don't buy a 6950 expecting get a 6970.
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April 14, 2011 3:05:55 PM

As for your actual build, fill out the form in the sticky, link in my sig.

For ex. Are you gonna OC? Is the $700 budget before or after rebates and shipping?
Do you need an OS? etc.
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April 14, 2011 9:23:34 PM

Approximate Purchase Date: Some time in the iminent future 1 months time however I could wait if new hardware is due for release or price drops are known to be coming.


Budget Range: 600-800 less is better but if it goes higher it just means I'll have to save longer before I can buy. After Rebates


System Usage from Most to Least Important:Gaming, surfing the web, doing school/uni work, watching movies, listening to music


Parts Not Required: keyboard (will upgrade down the track), mouse, monitor, speakers


Preferred Website(s) for Parts: any website that will ship to AUS but MSY, UMART, PCCG


Country of Origin: Brisbane, AUS


Parts Preferences: I have no preference between AMD or Intel. Want to run it on 2 monitors down the track (1 for the game 1 for chat cleint/itunes) but one will be fine to start offf with.


Overclocking: Maybe (I have no idea how to do it and it sounds daunting to me but if it increases performance that significantly I guess I'd learn)


SLI or Crossfire: Maybe (if it's worthwhile?)


Monitor Resolution: My current monitor (http://accessories.us.dell.com/sna/productdetail.aspx?c...) max it supports is 1680 x 1050 / 60 Hz, so would that be my resolution? Keep in mind I want to upgrade to a Benq 24inch monitor for my primary and the 20inch as the secondary in a few months when i get the money together for that.


Additional Comments: Want to be able to play any game I throw at it with medium-v. high settings for 12 months, maybe even longer. I don't want to upgrade in 12months time unless its a small upgrade (not a total system rebuild). I want to be able to play BF3 on high settings when it comes out..

On the systems I specified I worked out I could lose that power supply and drop down to like a Thermaltake Litepower 500W - $57 and that would save me $43 which I could use to upgrade from the 6870 to the 6950. Will this make me a bit more future proof? Also will the i5 be substantially better for longer? or will the 955 perform equally in gaming?
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April 14, 2011 9:56:42 PM

I'm not sure which site to use but i think with that budget you should aim for something along the lines of:

Intel Core i5-2400
2x2GB 1333Mhz DDR3 (OCZ/G.Skill/Corsair etc.)
H61/H67 Motherboard
HD 6850 or GTX 460 1GB
500GB/1TB HDD (Samsung/Seagate/Western Digital etc.)
550W PSU (Antec/Cooler Master/OCZ/XFX/Corsair etc.)
Decent budget(ish) case such as Antec 300

I think this build would give you decent bang for your buck in gaming without the hassle of learning OC'ing and using SLI/Crossfire. Just for reference as to price, (as i don't know which site to use) on www.aria.co.uk (the site i use over here in the UK), i can get this build for a touch over £500 which is below your upper budget limit at about 780 AUD

Intel Core i5-2400
2x2GB Corsair XMS3 1333Mhz
MSI H61M-E33
MSI Cyclone GTX 460 1GB
500GB Seagate Barracuda
Antec 300
600W Corsair Builder Series
Sony DVD Burner
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April 14, 2011 10:04:29 PM

Well, if that PSU is 80+ like its FSP-built smaller brother (450W), it should be a very good entry level PSU. HardwareSecrets awarded the 450W model a Golden Award.
There are some 890-based mobos out there beginning to claim AM3+ compatibility, but I'd skip them for the 900-series chipset, due out hopefully within a couple of months.
If you're going to buy before then, go Intel.
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April 14, 2011 10:11:32 PM

banthracis said:
Ok couple of things to clarify.

2. Don't buy a 6950 expecting to be able to unlock it. The reason it's even possible is that the 6950 line is built using flawed chips which instead of throwing out, AMD, disables the flawed parts of the chip and sells it as the cheaper 6950.

Now, sometimes the cheaper line is so popular, that the demand exceeds the supply of flawed chips. In this case, AMD takes perfectly functional chips and disable perfectly good parts of the chip to fill in inventory for the 6950. Due to the extremely mature 40nm process at this point, there aren't all that many flawed chips, so more so than normal, you get good chips being used for 6950's.

However, it is still a luck of the draw and I'd be shocked if the success rate was more than 50%.

Basically, don't buy a 6950 expecting get a 6970.


Agreed, but a lot of people are getting success with reference 6950s in general and for this particular card - see the comments for it on newegg. Sure there's no guarantee, but it's a decent enough card as a 6950 anyway so you haven't lost anything if it doesn't work.

If you're more risk averse the best card at this price range is probably the gtx 560.
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April 14, 2011 10:15:55 PM

Quote:
However, it is still a luck of the draw and I'd be shocked if the success rate was more than 50%


Actually it's 100% for reference boards. They don't use bad chips, they just disable the shaders and use cheaper memory. It's better to just unlock the shaders and overclock the core a bit than to flash to 6970.
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April 15, 2011 3:10:12 AM

olliiee said:
I may Crossfire the 6870 down the road..


Not with a 550 watt PSU .... and you'll want the extra fans in the Illusion over the regular 300 to remove the heat produced by twin GFX cards.

Compare the 6950 w/ the 560 Ti 900MHz

Guru3D uses the following games in their test suite, COD-MW, Bad Company 2, Dirt 2, Far Cry 2, Metro 2033, Dawn of Discovery, Crysis Warhead. Total fps (summing fps in each game) for the various options in parenthesis (single card / SL or CF) are tabulated below along with their cost in dollars per frame single card - CF or SLI:

The 6870 gets 434 fps (51 cents per frame) total w/ single card / 701 (63 cents per frame) in CF
The 560 Ti (900MHz) gets 495 fps (44 cents per frame) total w/ single card / 862 (51 cents per frame) in SLI

The 560 is 14% faster as a single card and 23% faster w/ dual cards

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

These are the components I normally recommend for a < $1,000 budget ($924 US). You may find some coponnets worthy of consideration.

Case - $70 - Antec 300 Illusion http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
PSU - $95 - XFX 750 W Core Edition PSU http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
MoBo - $395 - ASUS P8P67 Pro http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...
CPU - incl above - Intel Core i5-2500K
RAM - $84 - (2 x 4GB) Corsair CAS 9 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
GFX - $215 - Gigabyte GTX 560 Ti 900 Mhz http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
GFX - Later - Same
HD - $65 - Spinpoint F3 1TB 7200 rpm http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Ya could save $40 getting 2 x 2GB instead of 2 x 4GB but that will cost ya later on.






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April 15, 2011 4:09:58 AM

How long will that system last?
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April 15, 2011 5:25:39 AM

Do newegg ship internationaly?
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April 15, 2011 10:25:31 AM

My 2cents...Most games don't utilize all 4 cores just yet, I reckon you will be happy with just an i3 2100(save money until faster chips drop down). Make sure your motherboard is future proof(sli/crossfire) if you do stick with intel and I wouldn't cheap out on the power supply like others have stated. Btw /url http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... seems like plenty of space and maybe the most reliable of the HDD companys? Lastly just remember you usually get what you pay for.
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April 15, 2011 12:33:57 PM

browserr said:
My 2cents...Most games don't utilize all 4 cores just yet, I reckon you will be happy with just an i3 2100(save money until faster chips drop down). Make sure your motherboard is future proof(sli/crossfire) if you do stick with intel and I wouldn't cheap out on the power supply like others have stated. Btw /url http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... seems like plenty of space and maybe the most reliable of the HDD companys? Lastly just remember you usually get what you pay for.


The OP is looking for future proofing so I would definitely recommend four cores. Even if the game can't use more than two cores (and quite a lot can now) there are always other system / background processes going on in Windows so it's good to have that spare processing power.
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April 15, 2011 12:58:15 PM

How does this sound:

Intel core i5 2500 - $219
gigabyte GA-P8H67MA - $119
KINGSTON 4GB DDR3 1333 - $44
Hitachi dekstar 1TB SATA - $59
MSI GTX560 Twin Frost II OC - $260
Antec three hundred - $55
CoolerMaster GX550W 80+ - $90

TOTAL - $846
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April 15, 2011 2:37:27 PM

Looks good to me
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April 15, 2011 10:17:51 PM

I know its one of those questions that are very hard to answer and I certainly don't want an AMD vs Intel battle erupting. But when I look at my possible builds and look at the cost of things, I could save $100 by going for the X4 955 BE compared to the i5 2500, both have 4 cores, both operate at around 3.2 or 3.3 Ghz both have 6MB L3 cache. I honestly don't understand why making the change to intel a) costs more b) will perform better and last me longer....
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April 15, 2011 10:59:35 PM

...because Intel DOES considerably outperform AMD.
The difference is quite dramatic: http://www.anandtech.com/bench/Product/288?vs=88
That's at stock. Both chips OC, but even if you OC the 955 to the level of the 970 and keep the Intel at stock, it makes little difference: http://www.anandtech.com/bench/Product/288?vs=186
That said, if your budget constrains you, a 955BE can play any game. Maybe you'll have to lower a setting, or lower it sooner than you'd have to with Sandy Bridge, but you'll be able to play the same games.
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April 15, 2011 11:19:06 PM

@jtt283 how does this PSU look? http://www.umart.com.au/pro/products_listnew.phtml?id=1...

I have a friend who is ademate that AMD X4 955 will perform equally to the i5 2500 and I should save the $100 to spend on a better monitor etc :/ 

Am I going to see a significant drop in performance from a 2500 or 2400 or 2300 although I wouldnt save much on that front....

Also GTX560, will it handle dual monitors, one at 1920x1080 one at 1680x1050 or is the HD 6870 a better option for this?

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April 16, 2011 12:24:46 AM

olliiee said:
@jtt283 how does this PSU look? http://www.umart.com.au/pro/products_listnew.phtml?id=1...

I have a friend who is ademate that AMD X4 955 will perform equally to the i5 2500 and I should save the $100 to spend on a better monitor etc :/ 

Am I going to see a significant drop in performance from a 2500 or 2400 or 2300 although I wouldnt save much on that front....

Also GTX560, will it handle dual monitors, one at 1920x1080 one at 1680x1050 or is the HD 6870 a better option for this?


The PSU looks a little underpowered but it should cope.

Your friend is wrong, the sandybridge chips are awesomely fast. You may not actually notice the difference, however (as you're doing mostly gaming the GPU is the main thing).

The GTX560 will easily give you dual 2d desktop (even an integrated gpu could do this)



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April 16, 2011 12:33:37 AM

geekapproved said:
Quote:
However, it is still a luck of the draw and I'd be shocked if the success rate was more than 50%


Actually it's 100% for reference boards. They don't use bad chips, they just disable the shaders and use cheaper memory. It's better to just unlock the shaders and overclock the core a bit than to flash to 6970.



False. I've personally gone through 8 6950's 2gb reference designs from several vendors this year.

So far only 3 are stable unlocked under furmark.

There's a huge difference btwn simply enabling disabled shaders, which you can do on 100% of the cards, and having these disabled shaders actually work properly under load.

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April 16, 2011 1:13:28 AM

ethel said:
The PSU looks a little underpowered but it should cope.

Your friend is wrong, the sandybridge chips are awesomely fast. You may not actually notice the difference, however (as you're doing mostly gaming the GPU is the main thing).

The GTX560 will easily give you dual 2d desktop (even an integrated gpu could do this)


So you think a 2300 will perform aswell as for as long as a 2500? or is it worth spending the extra $20?

When I say will it handle I mean will I be losing alot of performance while playing games if I do this with the 560?
I've read alot of forums about the GTX 560Ti failing on startup with dual monitors so I guess I'm leaning towards single monitor or downgrading to the HD6870.. :/ 
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April 16, 2011 2:15:34 AM

That PSU is decent.
Introduce your friend to the wonderful world of benchmarks. Like I said, the 955BE can play any game, but it is not as fast. In some games, the difference will be insignificant. In others (e.g. Starcraft 2), it is a lot. Look through benchmarks of the games you want to play, or at least the type(s) of games.
I recently chose a GTX560Ti because I wanted to max Civilization V, and I wanted PhysX because I have Sacred 2. Just as CPU benchmarks can help you decide if AMD is good enough (it may well be), so they can also help you choose a GPU.
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April 16, 2011 2:45:05 PM

Thanks for your advice guys!
However I have slept on my builds and seeing as I wouldn't be able to get some of these products from my local PC store for 2 weeks or so +an extra week for putting it together installing windows etc seeing as I can really only do stuff on the weekends as I have school all week. This means I wouldn't be able to get my system together for 3 weeks or so and by then I'd be in the thick of my assesment (final year of highschool) so wouldn't have time to play around on it until my holidays 3-4 weeks later (Mid-June till Mid-July).

With this in mind I figured I was better off saving all my pennys till the week before holidays go buy my gear and then I can use it over the holidays and if I get a dud part I can return it. This also gives me the option of waiting to see what Bulldozer brings which I've heard will be released June 7th or July even which could only lower the price of an i5 chip or give me a better AMD one!

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April 16, 2011 3:02:32 PM

Clock for clock, don't expect BD to be better than SB. However, where there could be a big shift is performance for the money. Keep in mind that gaming wise, you're still fine with a phenom II x4 or core 2 quad.

Especially at high resolutions and with eye candy on, the GPU not cpu is the bottleneck to playability. Even in games that are CPU bound, you won't see this until well over 40FPS.
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April 17, 2011 12:29:19 AM

Yeah I figure BD is either going to be alot better than sandy bridge and therefore cost shitloads and make inte chips cheaper. Or its going to perform at a slightly lower level than sandy bridge and therefore BD will be pretty cheap. Either way I'm going to have to wait a while anyway, may aswell wait another 2-3 weeks and see what happens, prices will only fall. If I do stick with the i5 I'm pretty sure this will let me run atleast 2 years of games at medium :) 

CPU: Intel Core i5 2500 $219
Mobo: Gigabyte GA-P8H67MA - $119
RAM: Kingston 4GB (2x2GB) DDR3-1333 - $44
HDD: 1TB SATA HDD 7200RPM Samsung Spinpoint - $65
GPU: Sapphire ATI HD6950 2GB - $300
Case: Antec Three Hundred - $55
PSU: Antec 520W ATX NEO 520C ECO PSU - $68
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April 17, 2011 12:33:44 AM

I'd think that would run most games maxed out, likely for at least another year.
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April 17, 2011 12:45:39 AM

Well, until next gen consoles come out, I don't think any game would be an issue for your current setup. Problem is that most major game companies make multiplatform games which need to work on 6 yr old hardware, aka PS3 and xbox 360.

The few that make PC exclusives, like blizzard, make PC games that'll work on 6 year old PC's.

The only exceptions are 3d and eyefinity/surround or getting a 2560x1600 monitor. Those would probably require an upgrade.

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April 17, 2011 5:55:58 AM

Nah I wouldn't be using eyefinity or anything I sit fairly close to my screen less than half a metre I'd say so monitors much more than 24inches I'd have to turn my head to look from one side to another :p 

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