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November 15, 2011 12:08:33 AM

So I've not built anything for myself in about five years. Currently running Core 2 Duo 6320, 4GB DDR2 and GeForce 9800GT 512MB. Looking to run Civ 5 and SW:TOR when it is released at 1440x900. I've been researching for a bit and found the i3-2120 at 129, which seems like a good deal but I'm still stuck in 2002 or '03 in terms of what I know about performance. Basically, I'm looking for some suggestions as to weather to get the core-i3 at this point or switch back to AMD. I've been thoroughly impressed with each iteration of intel since Core Duo as compared to similar AMD systems. Like to keep the thing under $500 bucks and would like to go fresh except for a 500GB hard drive, of which I am abundantly supplied. $500 bucks is a soft barrier, but cheaper would be better

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November 15, 2011 12:19:43 AM

Do you need to get a monitor and/or operating system and/or keyboard/mouse on that $500 budget?

It's definitely possible to build an i3-2100 machine on $500 - especially if you don't need a hard drive.
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November 15, 2011 12:21:47 AM

short answer, no. If I don't have a 7x64 license, I'll get it outside of the budget
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November 15, 2011 12:32:54 AM

Today, the Intel sandy bridge cpu's are 20-30% more efficient than the amd offerings on a clock for clock basis.

The 2120 is an interesting option, Two fast cores seem to do better than 4 slower cores in most games. You might want to read this article on <$200 gaming cpu's:
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/best-gaming-cpu-cor...

If you are near a microcenter, they will sell to walk in's a 2500K for $180. There is nothing better today, or on the horizon. I highly recommend it. The "K" part lets you up the stock 3.3 clock to 4.0+ with ease.

8gb(2 x 4gb) is the norm for ram. Get the cheapest kit for about $40.

You can get a Z68 based motherboard for <$100.

Your 9800GT is a decent card. You might keep it for a while to see what the new 28nm graphics offerings which should launch at the end of the year.

If you upgrade the card now, make it a significant jump or you will be disappointed. Perhaps to a GTX550ti or an equivalent 6950. You are looking at $150-$200 or so there.

Can you reuse your psu, case, and dvd drive?
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November 15, 2011 12:40:41 AM

I think on a $500 budget your choices basically look like one of these two:

Phenom II x4 $140
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
AM3 mobo $60
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

or

i3-2100 (or i3-21xx) $125
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
H67 mobo $80
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

The i5-2500 and a Z68 board is a little much on a small budget. In a graphics build you sacrifice processor for video card. The rest would look something like the following:

Antec Earthwatts 430W $60
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Your favorite 4GB of RAM $30
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Your favorite $50 case
Any $20 optical drive

That's $365 so far, which leaves room for an HD6870 or GTX460 - both of which are competitive cards. I think the upgrade to an HD6950 is worth it, but if you can't afford it then you can't afford it.
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November 15, 2011 12:41:41 AM

Reusing depends on what I should get to run. Technically, I CAN reuse these without a problem. I would like a case and PSU, as the current PSU has been running for 4+ years, though solid. I've found it easier in the past to just replace the case as I might be able to give the current build to someone who can use it
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November 15, 2011 12:45:17 AM

I've been looking at a GTX460 but since geofelt thinks the 9800GT to be descent, I may just dump it in the new one and see how it runs. The current Mobo didn't ship with PCIe2.0, so I'm not sure I'm getting performance out of it that I could be getting
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November 15, 2011 12:54:43 AM

hosoke said:
Reusing depends on what I should get to run. Technically, I CAN reuse these without a problem. I would like a case and PSU, as the current PSU has been running for 4+ years, though solid. I've found it easier in the past to just replace the case as I might be able to give the current build to someone who can use it


If your psu is of good quality and sufficient power, go ahead and reuse it. What brand and model is it?

Here is what EVGA recommends for their graphics cards:

GTX550ti needs 400w with 24a on the 12v rails plus one 6-pin PCI-E power lead.

GTX560 needs 450w with 24a on the 12v rails plus two 6-pin PCI-E power leads.

GTX560Ti needs 500w with 30a on the 12v rails plus two 6-pin PCI-E power leads.

GTX570 needs 550w with 38a on the 12v rails plus two 6-pin PCI-E power leads.

GTX580 needs 600w with 42a on the 12v rails plus one 6-pin and one 8-pin PCI-E power lead.

GTX590 needs 700w with 50a on the 12v rails plus two 8-pin PCI-E power leads or 4 6-pin power leads.

Do not worry about pci-e 1/2/3. They are forward and backward compatible.
Only the very strongest cards are bothered a bit by pcie-2, and that can only be detected with a benchmark.

Do get a case you love. You will see it and touch it every day. Spend more to get exactly what you want.


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November 15, 2011 12:58:12 AM

If you upgrade the cpu/motherboard/ram but use the same video card you won't notice much of a difference in gaming performance. Waiting for the GTX6xx and HD7xxx cards is a fine plan, but the 9800GT is an old card and is pretty low on the totem pole. Upgrading the video card should be *first* on your list of priorities.

And in response to dish_moose, an x4 955 (as opposed to the 970 I recommended) is what you should buy if it means you can afford a better video card.
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November 15, 2011 1:04:04 AM

geofelt said:
Do not worry about pci-e 1/2/3. They are forward and backward compatible.
Only the very strongest cards are bothered a bit by pcie-2, and that can only be detected with a benchmark.


Uh, unless I don't understand something this is not true. PCIe 1.0/1.1 has a lower bandwidth limit than PCIe 2.0/2.1. A PCIe 1.0 card will be slower than a PCIe 2.0 card - PCIe is backward compatible but not forward compatible. However it is all moot anyway because the 9800GT uses PCIe 2.0. Also, there is no card that uses PCIe 3.0 yet so no card will be bothered by PCIe 2.0, but most cards will run slower on PCIe 2.0 than PCIe 1.0
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November 15, 2011 1:11:14 AM

Check my sig :) 
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November 15, 2011 1:12:40 AM

Power supply Coolmax CR 550B Taurus
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November 15, 2011 1:25:25 AM

hosoke said:
Power supply Coolmax CR 550B Taurus


The psu can deliver 35a on the +12v rails. In theory, that is enough. But having only one pci-e power lead, I think I would limit it's use to a GTX550ti. It is possible to use adapters though. Still, coolmax is not on my short list of quality psu's. That would include Seasonic, Corsair, XFX, Antec, and PC P&C.
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November 16, 2011 12:40:48 AM

So, a few follow ups. I'm pretty sure I want an intel proc, sandy bridge. I have no interest in OCing, I just want a decent MB that will be stable w/o problems
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November 16, 2011 12:47:26 AM

One more thing... is there any reason for me to spend more on USB3/SATA6 or the ability to do SLI/CRossfire?
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November 16, 2011 12:54:02 AM

hosoke said:
One more thing... is there any reason for me to spend more on USB3/SATA6 or the ability to do SLI/CRossfire?


I would want usb3.0 for easy external backups.

SSD's are getting faster, and 6gb sata helps them.

I do not like multiple graphics cards when one good one will do the job. I also prefer smaller m-atx and itx formats. SLI and cf are not high priorities for me.
If a GTX590 can't the job for you, then cf/sli will be needed.
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Best solution

November 16, 2011 6:48:27 AM

If you want Sandy Bridge (which is what I would recommend), you should go with the i3-21xx on an H67 motherboard.

The other options like usb 3.0, SATA 6.0gb/s, and sli/crossfire options are mostly about how much upgradeability you want to allow yourself. Right now there is not much that can use usb 3.0. Any external hard drive that spins (i.e. is a mechanical HDD rather than an SSD) might say usb 3.0 compatible but will be the same speed on usb 2.0 and usb 3.0. There are some usb 3.0 flash drives, but it's not a widespread technology. The only SATA devices that make use of SATA 6.0gb/s are SSD's which you don't have, but you may want to add eventually. You obviously don't use SLI or crossfire right now, but adding a second video card to a single card setup is a relatively cheap way to substantially improve your gaming performance down the line. Note that two PCIe 2.0 x16 slots aren't enough for SLI/crossfire - they really need to support x8/x8 mode instead of the cheaper x16/x4 mode.

So you won't get much use out of x8/x8 mode or SATA 6.0gb/s right now and the use of USB 3.0 will be limited, but those things give you options to upgrade in the future without scrapping your current motherboard. It's up to you if you want to spend the money.

Most motherboards come with USB 3.0 so you don't have to worry about paying extra for that. The cheap ones only have two ports (plus several usb 2.0 ports), but two is almost certainly enough. If you get an H67 mobo you'll have SATA 6.0gb/s. If you don't want that feature then go with H61 - the difference between the two chipsets is SATA 6.0gb/s support. It's not really worth it, though, because H61 and H67 are usually almost the same price. Getting a mobo with x8/x8 PCIe slots is going to cost you, though. That upgrade is significantly more than the boards without it.
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November 26, 2011 1:01:09 AM

Best answer selected by hosoke.
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