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New build to be based around Sandy Bridge-E, GPU Advice?

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November 9, 2011 1:50:55 PM

Hi all,

Planning a new build, hopefully to be based on the new LGA2011 Mobo's/Sandy Bridge-E processors.

Approximate Purchase Date: Shortly after release of the LGA2011 Hardware

Budget Range: ~ £1000+ (1600USD)

System Usage :Gaming

Parts Not Required: keyboard, mouse, monitor, speakers, OS, Case

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: Any, though UK sites preferred (e.g. www.scan.co.uk, http://www.microdirect.co.uk Micro-direct is especially good as I can negate shipping costs from them)

Country of Origin: UK

Parts Preferences: by brand or type : See Below

Overclocking: Maybe

SLI or Crossfire: Yes

Monitor Resolution: 1920x1080

Additional Comments:

My CURRENT build is as follows:
Mobo: msi dka790gx platinum
CPU: AMD Phenom II 940
RAM: 2x2gb Corsair DDR2 1066
GPU: 2 Radeon HD4870 512mb's in Crossfire
HDD: 160gb SATA
Case: Coolermaster HAF 932.

And I was planning to upgrade to something with the following approx specs

Mobo: Looking at the ASRock X79 Extreme7 (£225/360USD) Though may stretch to the Extreme9 depending on the price.

CPU: The i7 3930k looks to be the best of the SB-E CPU's I'll be able to stretch to at first, at ~£360 (based on a 583$ price I've seen quoted in several places, though I have seen some reports of it retailing for about £100 more than that, not sure who to believe)

RAM: 4x4gb at first, not yet decided on specific brand, though the corsair vengeance kit looks decent at ~£90 (~160usd)
Corsair Vengeance 16GB kit

GPU: This is where I'm stumbling. My first thought was to get a Radeon HD 6950, and in a few months buy a second one as a nice upgrade. Then I read this: http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/best-graphics-card-gaming...
and became unsure as to whether this would be good decision, as it appears to be ranked a tier below my current set-up of 2 4870's. Should I just stick with my current GPU's until I can afford to get 2 6xxx series cards? or perhaps even just wait until the 7xxx series ones are released, supposedly early next year?

I'll need a new PSU, and I'll probably be looking in the £100-150 region for that, recommendations here would be great.

I'll likely also be getting an SSD to replace my current, frustratingly slow HDD. Reccomendations here would also be useful,

Case, disc drives, etc. will be remaining the same, so no worries there.

Total Cost ~£990 if I should get a 2gb Radeon 6950 to go with it (excluding the SSD from the price here, as I can probably strongly hint that as an Xmas present from family ;) )

So yeah, ideally I'm looking for advice on the situation with graphics cards at the moment - best bang-for-buck, worth replacing my dual 4870's? etc., advice on good PSU's and SSD's (Is the cost of a PCIe SSD worth it over a SATA for example?)
and also, general comments on things I may not have thought of wrt the SB-E Mobo's/CPUs.

I've not actually built a computer myself in around a decade now, so my knowledge/tech savvy is both horribly rusty and woefully outdated. As such I'm terrified there's some compatability issue or performance bottleneck I'm unaware of which will make some of the more expensive components pointless. (The hidden price of lazily ordering custom-made systems!)
November 9, 2011 2:33:28 PM

sandybridge e performs exactly on par with the 2500k and 2600k for gaming. buy the 2500k now and save money and get it months earlier.
throw in your current video card, which will perform better with a 2500k than with the phenom II 940, by about 10%. then buy the top of the line 7k series in january when they come out.
November 9, 2011 2:44:23 PM

Hi Farrengottu, thanks for the reply.

A 2500k is currently my backup plan, and I have a nice, fairly cheap build I'll get if I don't go through with this one, but I'm mainly interested in getting the LGA2011 stuff for the upgrade potential - as far as I can tell, there are no LGA1155 motherboards with more than 4 DIMM slots, and at some point I'm looking to stick enough RAM in to play around with RAMDisks, or just for futureproofing.

Might I ask how you know that the Sandybridge E performs on par with the 2500k? I've not yet seen any benchmarking or reviews or anything for them, and had assumed that there wouldn't be until they were released, if I've just missed something (or if it's simply something predictable?) could you explain/provide a link?
I'm aware that current games don't make much use of multi-core CPU's, if that's your reasoning, but am expecting this to change within the lifetime of this build. Is there some reason why I shouldn't be holding my breath?
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November 9, 2011 2:59:16 PM

Get Ivy Bridge than SB-E.
November 9, 2011 3:32:45 PM

Apologies - I should've stated in the original post that I want this build to be ready for the release of Diablo 3, which probably means Ivy Bridge won't be soon enough. I guess I could always go the 2500k route for now on the cheap, and then upgrade once more to Ivy bridge later on when it's decent value for money, but I don't know how much that would set me back in the long run
November 10, 2011 11:44:49 AM

Kaolix said:

Sandybridge-E gaming performance similar to 2500k?
I like big RAMs, I cannot lie.
The gaming future is bright, the gaming future is multi-core.


Please look at Intel Core i7-3960X (Sandy Bridge-E) And X79 Platform Preview, this is the extreme edition X model pitted against the 2600K. Clock speeds for 3960X, 3930K, 2500K and 2600K are very similar. Keep in mind that the 3930K has 25% less L3 cache memory than the 3960X.

I like big RAMs too, if you want 8 RAM slots and go the 64GB RAM route Sandy bridge-E is for you. The 2500K and 2600K still support up to 32GB of RAM with 8GB modules however. Also note that RAMdisks are not persistent. Copying a 20GB game to RAM each time before playing will actually cost you more time than running it from disk. I would suggest a 2500/2600K with a fast SSD out of the savings over a 3930K gaming system with only a HDD any day.

On to the multi-core gaming future. Multi-core support will keep getting better no doubt. The question is whether most games will (dare to) require more performance. From what we know today about upcoming game consoles the 2500K with a mid-range GPU will still be a good deal faster than the fastest console in early 2014. Also, next generation processors from Intel (Ivy bridge) and AMD (Piledriver) are expected to bring only performance improvements in the 10-20% range.

I am not a betting man, but I would bet you that the 2500K with a late 2013 GPU will run most PC games on medium/high just fine in early 2014. You will need the new GPU because of game options for larger textures, more detailed object models, enhanced physics, tessellation and better AA/AF filtering. Game options that will use additional CPU power on the other hand are harder to market. Consider what would happen if your AI squad mates would get shot all the time on the playstation and xbox but the PC version had a setting for much better AI. Sure your 3930K would love it, but console gamers would hate it. Publishers do not want to upset a good portion of their market. They will probably not want to risk it and choose to save a few bucks on game design in the process.

Some PC-only games might be an exception, so if you only play Civilization 5 and would die if your new build could not handle Civilization 6 with all advanced options active the 3930K could still be worthwhile. Otherwise just buy it for the same reason I do. I love my computer like I love my beer: 6-core, 6-pack :sol: 
November 10, 2011 12:55:33 PM

Thanks for the reply CPUEnthousiast.

Certainly looks like Sandy Bridge E is getting less and less appealing for the cost - I may end up getting a cheap build for now then and then purchasing a big, fancy GPU later on.
WRT RAM, I was aware of the issues with RAMdisks - was mostly planning on using it for long-haul gaming binges, particularly on pre-loaded games that I intend to play on the second of release. If I do go the 2500k route, any idea when >4gb sticks will hit sensible prices?

Thanks for all the responses people, it looks like common sense will prevail and I'll end up saving my cash for a more opportune moment, further in the future!
November 10, 2011 1:29:55 PM

I'd like to note you also need expensive software for large RAM disks. From what I've seen most free software only allow 1 GB or a couple GBs maximum.
November 10, 2011 1:36:56 PM

I agree with the other members regarding the cost and advantages (or lack of advantage) to building an Ivy Bridge rig over a Sandybridge. As for using a RAM disk you are probably better off buying a good SSD and not overdoing on the RAM: there is a gaming performance disadvantage to RAM over 8 GB.
November 10, 2011 2:02:29 PM

Kaolix said:
Thanks for the reply CPUEnthousiast.
WRT RAM, I was aware of the issues with RAMdisks - was mostly planning on using it for long-haul gaming binges, particularly on pre-loaded games that I intend to play on the second of release. If I do go the 2500k route, any idea when >4gb sticks will hit sensible prices?

Please, get an SSD of 120-256GB and keep it to only 2x4GB (4x4GB if you must) of RAM for the moment. This RAM will have faster timing at lower prices than 8GB modules, and your 2011/2012 games will never use more than 4GB anyway as none are native 64-bit applications. Windows will have plenty of RAM left for other processes and a decent disk cache even with 8GB total system memory.

Then on to the SSD story. An SSD is fully silent while offering random access times about 100x better than even a high-end HDD. The SSD will store all your pre-loaded games persistently and you will be in game in typically half the time compared to a traditional HDD. The SSD offers this speed at boot and without any need to copy data to RAM first. It will allow very many interleaving disk requests allowing you to start multiple applications concurrently without all of them suffering noticeably. Look at the Plextor M2P 256GB (very fast), Crucial M4 (still fast, cheaper) or many other high-end models like the Vertex 3 some people swear by. Those should load your games at about 400-500MB/s on a SATA-600 link. Even a Velociraptor at 10.000 rpm will only get you to about 150MB/s.
November 18, 2011 6:55:28 AM

Don't hold your breath on 2500k with a late 2013 GPU, By then GPU's will be PCI-E 3 and will need a motherboard that supports ti(yes wether the extra bandwidth will get any use in next gen games can be debated lol), 2011 Sandy Bridge E has it. first Ivy Bridge will be same socket as normal Sandy Bridge socket 1155 and later on Intel will release Ivy Bridge extreme cpu's that will slot into socket 2011 boards, So 2011 will not be obsolete and will remain top end for quite a while. I would get onboard new socket 2011 with all the new features and just buy the entry level Sandy Bridge E cpu. End of next year if it ISN'T cutting the mustard in games/apps which I doubt then you can always slot in an Ivy Bridge extreme. If you are on a tight budget best thing to do is just keep what you have now and get a top SSD drive, It will make the most dramatic improvement that you will notice and wait it out for entry level Ivy Bridge which will be 1st or 2nd quarter of 2012! As for GPU's hold off as both AMD/ATI and Nvidia are not far away from a major release of next gen cards both of which will be a massive improvement over current generation thanks to the much needed die shrink that has been delayed time and time again.
Ram I wouldn't stress over too much as most games will be struggling to make use of more than 6gb at present and speed wise there is little difference for average joe to notice in everyday tasks.
P.S. Once you have tried PCI-E SSD there is no way in hell you will ever go back, Worth every cent but that's just me(enthusiast). OCZ Revodrive 3 X2 240gb is a beast trust me,Very fast boot times, Very fast game loads, Very fast file transfers, Silent, Less heat, Flashy Leds look good, You get what you pay for, Love it! ;) 
November 18, 2011 8:22:34 AM

IQ11110002 said:
Don't hold your breath on 2500k with a late 2013 GPU, By then GPU's will be PCI-E 3 and will need a motherboard that supports it ... I would get onboard new socket 2011 with all the new features and just buy the entry level Sandy Bridge E cpu. End of next year if it ISN'T cutting the mustard in games/apps which I doubt then you can always slot in an Ivy Bridge extreme .. As for GPU's hold off as both AMD/ATI and Nvidia are not far away from a major release of next gen cards ... Ram I wouldn't stress over too much as most games will be struggling to make use of more than 6gb at present

PCI-Express bandwidth impact on gaming performance is minimal with 7% worst case going from 16 lanes down to 8 lanes for current high-end GPU's. Note that PCI-E 2.0 is about to be replaced, so it will be some time before PCI-E 3.0 start to show similar numbers. Source: PCI-E bandwidth and lanes impact on gaming performance

Also, there are several mainboards for the 2500-2700K available today that will support PCI-E 3.0 with Ivy bridge. A 2500K today and upgrade to ivy bridge later will still get you PCI-E 3.0 support when it starts to matter.

As for my claims about consoles some background checking reveals a different story. It seems the meaning of a 10+ year lifespan of the Playstation might well be different from what I previously thought. Latest news is that Sony and Microsoft seem to be aiming for a late 2012 early 2013 release of the next generation consoles. Sony reaffirmed the Playstation 3 will have a 10+ year lifespan, so new games should still come out for it. However, I found that FIFA 12 and other sports games were released for the (2001) Playstation 2 this year and so the Playsation 2 could be considered to be 'alive' still. By that definition, along with Playstation 3 owners being disappointed a more beefy CPU might be just what you need in late 2013. An upgrade path of a PCI-E 3.0 ready mainboard with a 2500K today and a late 2012 ivy bridge is still cheaper than getting on board with a 3930K today however.

GPU wise you are spot on, 28nm products are coming, tape-outs have occurred. It is already known that the High Performance process will run very hot (28nm HP). This will limit performance gains somewhat without breaking the 300W PCI-Express ceiling and we will probably also be seeing more 3-slot cards thanks to larger coolers (Asus DCII).

Current games cannot access more then 4GB as they are 32-bit programs. When using a 32-bit version of Windows games cannot even use more than 2GB of RAM without tricks. Of course Windows itself also needs memory, as do other processes. 6GB (tri-channel) or 8GB of RAM seems to be the memory sweet-spot for gaming on 64-bit Windows versions for now.

The Revodrive performance promises to be like 2 times the Vertex 3 SSD in RAID 0. In most trace based benchmarks it does not quite reach that performance level, but it is still pretty damn impressive. Look at the gaming trace benchmark near the bottom of the page in this review: Revodrive 3 benchmarks
If budget allows, the requirement to install storage drivers does not deter you and high performance without the hassle of RAID is what you desire than this is for you. I hope they will support Windows 8 on all models, but the Revodrive 3 should be a safe choice in that regard given that it will be only 1 year old when Windows 8 launches.
!