System Usage from Most to Least Important: Gaming - old games like Homeworld (1999) and newer games like Deadspace 2 and Starcraft 2. HTPC - I would like to have a computer, Blue-Ray player, and television all in one system. Internet, music, maybe some audio or video editing. A lot of multi-tasking.
I will need a lot of hard drive space for music and programs. I currently have 1TB and it is running out.
Overclocking: Maybe. I'm a novice.
SLI or Crossfire: Maybe, if either is beneficial.
Monitor Resolution: 1920x1080
Additional Comments: I haven't bought a new computer in over 8 years. I've never owned a lcd monitor or lcd television, or a Blu-Ray player. I'm looking to update all my entertainment technology at the same time.
I would like to play video games on a large screen television. I would like to run newer games with all the graphics setting at max.
I would also like the computer to have a Blu-Ray player so I don't have to add any external components to the system.
When I am not gaming or watching movies, I would be surfing the internet, with a couple windows open, itunes, and maybe ripping some audio or running a video capture program.
Everywhere I've looked, the 6950 1gb has slightly trumped the 6950 2gb. It's not the testers fault, it actually happens and it happens on every resolution, the 1gb performs better. If you want a single $280¬ card, the gtx 570 far outperforms the 6950 1gb and 6950 2gb, as well as beating the 6970 by a fair margin.
My colleague here has opted for the $289.99 6950 2gb. A gtx 570 could easily be bought for that. If you want amd still, the 6950 1gb is $200, and as you can see it performs on par or better compared to the 2gb.
Another alternative to buying 2 x 6950 1gb for a total of $400, is to buy a single GTX 580.
The 2 x 6950 1gb is far superior in benchmarks however.. crossfire and sli, (especially crossfire, read toms article) has a lot of microstuttering. This means that some frames are actually sticking on your screen longer than others; this reduces the perceived fps. Thing about it this way; if you were watching a movie, and for the first half of every second you got 1 frame, but for the second half second you got 100 frames. Your fps would be about 50, but it obviously would be unenjoyable to watch... The second thing is that 2x 6950's is more problematic in that it is a cf setup. 2 cards have many more problems that 1 card setups, and they are hotter / more power hungry etc.Also, the more fps you see on benchmarks has a reduced effect in crossfire, as 50 fps ends up like 35 fps due to microstuttering. SLI (nvidia cards in conjunction) have the same problem, but it is a smaller problem in nvidia; currently their drivers are better to address this issue. By the by, you should know that your tv, which is 1080p and im guessing you aren't upgrading for at least 3 ¬ years (nothing to upgrade toexcept 3d anyways at the moment), the gtx 580 will play any game at 1080 p at max settings, for the next 3 years easily. At a good 40-45 fps or more, with a minimum of 40 fps. Crysis 2 at 1080 p was tested by anandtech at max settings and had a MINIMUM fps of 41 (average was 56). It's not getting more demanding than that; metro 2033 at max had a MINIMUM fps of 42. Playable is 30 fps, and the holy grail for most games is 40 fps. Most of the time it'll be at around 56 (average) anyways .
Secondly, your psu. My colleague recommended you a $143 top of the line 850 watter modular psu.
HDD: No offence to flyboy 86, but this hdd is garbage. "Green" versions of HDD is meant to mean eco friendly or w/e. But .... when it runs on 20 watts at max, its like calling a mini cooper a slow 'formula one' car. The samsung spinpoint f3 1tb is considered the fastest normal hdd under $80, and is just $60. Its the best normal HDD - obviously an ssd is far better but far more expensive too.. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
^Much faster than the more expensive $65 'eco' hdd... (poor poor choice i must say the rest of the build was largely good flyboy )
RAM: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $16 lesser for the exact same product. gskills sniper is the same as g skill 'x' series. Normal g skill ram is a step below them. Sniper is the improved version and on par with the x series... But this saves you $16 for the same speed and same proficiency of ram.
I believe you are entitled to select whatever case you want; but in fear of you picking something that has terrible air flow, stick to a case above $80 AND from cooler master or lian li or corsair. Lian li is my personal favourite; best quality and some of their cases look amazing, whilst others look average. The $100 - 200 range is what ought to interest you from lian li.
This is cheaper, and as you are a novice i dont really think you are going to need a top of the line motherboard with 100000 different capabilities - keep it simple! I wouldve recommended the z68ud3 version but one of them is more expesnive than the z68ud4 (so no point stepping back), and the cheaper z68ud3 version is out of stock... so the z68ud4 for you . Saves $40 and itll do everything u want and more; the $200 - $300 and $400 mobos are for people who really know what they are doing or rich fools who waste money, and both of us are in neither category i suspect haha
You may ask why i have only recommended cheaper products? (except for gpu where ive recommended a whole raft of things)
Because in many cases the cheaper products i recommended are genuinely better, or perhaps in the case of the psu they perform the same job pretty much to the same level but are cheaper.
In the case of the ram it is exactly the same, but cheaper (why pay more?)
The money you save you can invest back into the case (aesthetics, very important), and the gpu(s) very important (although i stress a 580 is all you need. This one is max requirements for years... for maxxing any game with that resolution http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...)
Wow such helpful insight and suggestions, thank you both very much!
motherboard: ASUS P8Z68-V PRO I am currently using an Asus board, it's refreshing to see you recommend this as I have no problems with my current board.
RAM: G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) I have never heard of this brand but I've seen the name all over Tom's hardware. Good quality vs. price?
Also, why did you choose this one over the G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1333 1.5v CL7, just faster?
GFX (two in crossfire): XFX HD-695X-CDDC Radeon HD 6950 2GB 256-bit GDDR5 This setup is substantially cheaper than the BestConfigs build, is this because of how much prices drop over time or was there a sacrifice for some reason? Why can't more expensive just mean better Consider my budget "flexible" if you felt constricted.
PSU: CORSAIR Professional Series HX850 (CMPSU-850HX) 850W - I like that the unused cables can be removed. I don't particularly like the mess of cables in my current pc.
Storage drive: Seagate Barracuda Green ST1500DL003 1.5TB I had an Iomega exernal 1tb (Seagate drive) that stopped working for me, some master file error that caused all the data to be lost. Is this common with this brand or just bad luck?
flyboy86 thank you so much for your time, I look forward to delving deeper into some articles with the knowledge you have shared with me. I don't keep up with the advancements with pc tech and you have surely given me a solid foundation to learn more.
http://www.anandtech.com/bench/Product/331?vs=293 <comparison of 6950 (2gb) and 6950 - 1gb Ok, now that is startling. You'd think the extra $30 per card for the 2gb would be a sure bet, but, I guess you don't always get what you pay for, great link. I guess it comes down to the 2gb version not using it's memory efficiently?
microstuttering - I now know more about microstuttering than what I've learned recently about Crossfire and SLI as a whole. You explained it all very well. I guess this is a situation where benchmarks can only lead you so far.
GFX - I am thinking the single 580 might be what I'm looking for. You sell it very well; less problems, 3+ year upgrade, and holy grail FPS. I'd sware you worked for the manufacturer Do you think the 580 is unique in it's ability to meet or exceed the performance of two 6950's, or do you generally shy away from multi-card setups for real-world use?
PSU - I guess this comes down to my GFX setup and aesthetics, and price. I am currently using an Antec PSU and I would agree it is top notch. No problems whatsoever.
Case - This is where I hate to spend money But, as always will follow the advice not to go cheap in this area. Fun to shop for one, but never feel good about paying for it. Like buying a fancy new car and parking in a garage, out of sight.
Price - If more expensive simply meant better, then I could probably just go buy what I need and be done with it. Though I understand that this sort of stuff is a juggling act, where the balls are constantly changing and aren'r all compatible. That's why I come here for advice from people who know what they are talking about. Cutting out needless frills and diverting that part of the budget somewhere else is what I hope to have accomplished when I'm done racking my brain here.
Thank you both for your help. I'm off to do more research and hope to be educated on what you have laid out here.