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Final Review before I hit the "purchase" button

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November 23, 2011 3:26:53 AM

Approximate Purchase Date: Weekend of Dec. 3rd (two weeks basically)

Budget Range: (e.g.: 500-550) After Rebates

System Usage from Most to Least Important: (gaming (yes, BF3 & Skyrim), surfing the internet, watching 1080p movies/TV, outputting to 37" 1080p HDTV)

Parts Not Required: (keyboard, mouse, monitor, HDD)

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: (newegg.com, other well-knowns, just want best price)

Country of Origin: (I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy...um...USA)

Parts Preferences: by brand or type (I am posting a tentative list so you can see what i'm aiming for)

Overclocking: Yes/most likely

SLI or Crossfire: Yes / No / Maybe (probably not within my budget now, but maybe later)

Monitor Resolution: I think 1920x1080 is the most I need, I will be gaming on my 37" 1080p TV mainly

Additional Comments: (Keep it secret...keep it safe...)

:) 

So, I had originally posted an Intel i3 build here . But then I began to think about dual core vs quad core and whether I wanted to possibly have that as a bottlekneck a year or two down the line with gaming. I also began to think that my logic of buying a CPU for it's integrated graphics was silly when I was going to spend $175-200 dollars on a discrete GPU anyway. So here is my final build. Please let me know if you think I can save money without sacrificing performance somewhere. All Newegg links are posted as well.

AMD Phenom II X4 970 Black Edition Deneb 3.5GHz Socket AM3 125W Quad-Core Desktop Processor $139.99
http://goo.gl/lb2mG

ASRock M3A770DE AM3 AMD 770 ATX AMD Motherboard PCI 2.0 x16/x4 $59.99
http://goo.gl/7U1k

PowerColor AX6870 1GBD5-2DH Radeon HD 6870 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.1 x16 HDCP $159.99
http://goo.gl/qLT9n

AMD Gift - Dirt3 Game Coupon - OEM (I get a free Dirt 3 game with the GPU)

Rosewill Green Series RG530-S12 530W Continuous @40°C, 80 PLUS Certified, Single 12V Rail, Active PFC $54.99
http://goo.gl/zfIlU

Arctic Silver 5 Thermal Compound - OEM $12.98

G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory $29.99

XIGMATEK Gaia SD1283 120mm CPU Cooler bracket included and dual fan push pull capable $24.99
http://goo.gl/bftHu (after rebate this is only $9.99)

Rosewill CHALLENGER Gaming ATX Mid Tower, Fans-1x Front Blue LED 120mm Fan, 1x Top 140mm $49.99
http://goo.gl/j9R4

All together, this is $537.75 shipped from Newegg. I think it's a pretty good budget gaming rig. All of the reviews say that this proc and GPU can play BF3 on high @ 1080p. So what do you guys think?
November 23, 2011 3:36:49 AM

i don't want to pick this apart but did you look at the AM3+ 4100 processor and an AM3+ mother board ?
November 23, 2011 3:36:53 AM

Get a Phenom II x 955. No difference with the 970 when it comes to overclocking.

It's all pretty good though.
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November 23, 2011 5:27:34 AM

swifty_morgan said:
i don't want to pick this apart but did you look at the AM3+ 4100 processor and an AM3+ mother board ?


I did look at the FX 4100 Zambezi, but it got bad reviews so I stayed away from it. It seems to be a major overclocking beast, but i'm not sure the extra 20 dollars is worth it over the 980.

I also looked at the 955 and figured that the extra 200 MHz was worth the 15 dollars.

Maybe i'm wrong, please tell me if i'm thinking wrong on either part.
November 23, 2011 6:48:34 AM

No. The 955 and 970 are more or less the same. When you overclock them, the both have the same max limit depending on your cooler.
November 23, 2011 7:59:59 AM

I'd keep the Phenom2 but I'd consider a 900-series AM3+ board.
November 23, 2011 8:17:22 AM

the 4100 is 120 bucks right now. late last night when I looked it was 104. you missed out.
November 23, 2011 3:01:35 PM

FinneousPJ said:
I'd keep the Phenom2 but I'd consider a 900-series AM3+ board.


Hmm. Interesting suggestion. Do you think that the addition of USB 3.0 and SATA 6 are worth the extra $25-30? I guess if I wanted to upgrade later (HDDs) I might regret not getting SATA 6. I originally had a more expensive AM3 motherboard that had those things but it was $40 more and I figured it wasn't that big of a deal. What do you think of this board http://goo.gl/PgPA0 ? It has UEFI too, which the board I chose doesn't.

If I go with the 955, that would save me $15 which I could put towards the better AM3+ motherboard. I'll crunch the numbers and see what I get.

swifty_morgan said:
the 4100 is 120 bucks right now. late last night when I looked it was 104. you missed out.


Yeah, even with the lower price I probably would have skipped it. I'm just a scaredy-cat when it comes to these things. I'd rather go for the tried and tested part.

Thanks for the replies guys, keep em coming. If you can suggest some great gaming peripherals too, that would be great. Does anyone use a gamepad for PC gaming (OMG did I just break some taboo)? :) 
November 23, 2011 3:16:22 PM

The ASRock is a great board :) 
November 23, 2011 3:39:13 PM

Most of all your spec is fine~
Hit the button~ or wait til tomorrow "Black Friday"
lol
November 23, 2011 4:05:18 PM

Ok. Now that you got me thinking about better motherboards, I got myself all crazy again. I have decided to take your advice and get an AM3+ board, but the chipsets and the PCIe 2.0 slot configs are driving me crazy. I selected a couple that seemed good, can you guys give me advice on which is better. I want to be able to, at a later date, add another 6870 for Crossfire (or Crossfire X) so they both have x8/x8 configs.

1. ASRock 970 EXTREME4 AM3+ AMD 970 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX ($110)
http://goo.gl/q5XKo

2. ASRock 870 Extreme3 R2.0 AM3+ AMD 870 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX ($90)
http://goo.gl/d5Ne5
November 23, 2011 4:08:30 PM

If you want to Crossfire later I'd go with the 970 Extreme4. The 870 seems quite able however - I'm just a sucker for the newest parts ;) 
November 23, 2011 4:30:31 PM

Since you mention BF3 and Skyrim specifically, I believe it is appropriate to mention that AMD is apparently [still] having driver issues with those games. I would suggest getting a GTX560Ti if you can swing it, a GTX560 otherwise.
Get an AM3+ 900-series chipset board. AMD upgrade options are very limited (it may be, but I would not bet on Piledriver being worthwhile), but at least leave yourself the option. Not getting SATAIII also does not make any sense. On a budget, check out this ASRock board: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
The 970BE may have a "better" stepping than the 955. The power consumption results shown by Anandtech indicate the 970 they tested using considerably less power than a 965; it may also be a different binning. I think it's worth the small price difference.
I'm running mine at a modest 3.8GHz under a Xigmatek Gaia, and with the temperatures coming down, I'm now seeing 28C-29C idle temps (during the summer, it was 30C-31C).
Your PSU isn't my first choice, but another model in the same family did receive an excellent competent technical review: http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/Rosewill-Green-S... so it should be okay. The PSU manufacturer listing Tom's recently did does not include the RG series, but the review suggests they're ATNG.
It may be worth waiting for Black Friday (or Cyber Monday) to see if any great deals show up.
November 23, 2011 4:37:47 PM

What are these driver problems? I never had any. On the contrary, nVidia had/has? issues with BF3. Just check the article here on Tom's.
November 23, 2011 6:16:57 PM

Onus said:
Since you mention BF3 and Skyrim specifically, I believe it is appropriate to mention that AMD is apparently [still] having driver issues with those games. I would suggest getting a GTX560Ti if you can swing it, a GTX560 otherwise.
Get an AM3+ 900-series chipset board. AMD upgrade options are very limited (it may be, but I would not bet on Piledriver being worthwhile), but at least leave yourself the option. Not getting SATAIII also does not make any sense. On a budget, check out this ASRock board: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
The 970BE may have a "better" stepping than the 955. The power consumption results shown by Anandtech indicate the 970 they tested using considerably less power than a 965; it may also be a different binning. I think it's worth the small price difference.
I'm running mine at a modest 3.8GHz under a Xigmatek Gaia, and with the temperatures coming down, I'm now seeing 28C-29C idle temps (during the summer, it was 30C-31C).
Your PSU isn't my first choice, but another model in the same family did receive an excellent competent technical review: http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/Rosewill-Green-S... so it should be okay. The PSU manufacturer listing Tom's recently did does not include the RG series, but the review suggests they're ATNG.
It may be worth waiting for Black Friday (or Cyber Monday) to see if any great deals show up.


Thanks for the reply. I actually looked at that exact motherboard before, but I decided to pass on it because it has x16/x4 PCIe 2.0. I have heard that when you have two PCIe with one running at x4, it will severely limit the overall performance of Crossfire/SLI. I don't want to spend $300+ dollars on Crossfire only to have it dinged by lack of bandwidth (or whatever you call it).

Specifically I am referring to this Tom's article http://goo.gl/Bxwcv

They tested some older games, but I can imagine that the performance difference is even greater with the latest games (BF3/Skyrim).

One more question, the motherboard says that it support DDR3 1600(OC), which I assume means overclocked. So...what does that mean exactly? If I buy the 1600 memory that I have listed above, will I have to overclock something on the motherboard to get it to work properly?
November 23, 2011 11:35:57 PM

techngro said:
Thanks for the reply. I actually looked at that exact motherboard before, but I decided to pass on it because it has x16/x4 PCIe 2.0. I have heard that when you have two PCIe with one running at x4, it will severely limit the overall performance of Crossfire/SLI. I don't want to spend $300+ dollars on Crossfire only to have it dinged by lack of bandwidth (or whatever you call it).

A very valid point; I was assuming a single video card, if only based on your remark that on your current budget, you would not be doing Crossfire or SLI. If you really think you might, then look for x8,x8. At least for now though, Skyrim is not supporting Crossfire, at least not until AMD updates their drivers.

techngro said:
One more question, the motherboard says that it support DDR3 1600(OC), which I assume means overclocked. So...what does that mean exactly? If I buy the 1600 memory that I have listed above, will I have to overclock something on the motherboard to get it to work properly?

That depends. Most likely, yes, but it would be a simple matter of setting the timings and voltage to their specified values. It is possible, however, that your mobo may recognize the RAM's abilities and make the settings for you. I have 16GB of RAM in my system right now. Curiously, my mobo recognized the first pair of sticks as DDR3-1600 and set it accordingly, but the second pair, though of the identical type (G.Skill Sniper Low-voltage DDR3-1600), I had to set manually. It all works properly though.
November 27, 2011 4:46:40 AM

cutebeans said:
No. The 955 and 970 are more or less the same. When you overclock them, the both have the same max limit depending on your cooler.


FinneousPJ said:
I'd keep the Phenom2 but I'd consider a 900-series AM3+ board.


swifty_morgan said:
the 4100 is 120 bucks right now. late last night when I looked it was 104. you missed out.


Do any of you guys think that an Athlon II X3 Rana 3.1GHz proc is too weak to play Battlefield 3 and Skyrim? I saw a couple of youtube videos where it played ok with a decent GPU. It's about $25 less, which I could put towards a better GPU.

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November 27, 2011 2:27:18 PM
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Is the X3 too weak to play? No, but I'm not sure it would be any better than just "ok."
You can get the PII X3 720BE for $75 now, but you'll need to get a cooler to go with it:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
It may unlock to a X4 (which won't matter too much for games), but should also overclock well; 3.6GHz is not unrealistic, and I can't imagine not hitting at least 3.2GHz.
A reasonable cooler will add $20-$30 to the price. Unless you already have a cooler, it would make more sense to get the PII X4 955BE for the same money: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... because it comes with a cooler, is already X4, and 3.6GHz-3.8GHz is a likely overclock.

Edit: Some other things I'd like to throw out. Most (but not all!) 900-series chipset mobos also support SLI, so if you chose a nVidia card to avoid possible [current] driver issues, you would not be limited to that single card. Furthermore, if PhysX is (or becomes) important to you, it would be a lot easier to add a low-end GPU (e.g. GT240 or GTS450) to an existing nVidia setup.
November 28, 2011 2:23:03 PM

Onus said:
Is the X3 too weak to play? No, but I'm not sure it would be any better than just "ok."
You can get the PII X3 720BE for $75 now, but you'll need to get a cooler to go with it:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
It may unlock to a X4 (which won't matter too much for games), but should also overclock well; 3.6GHz is not unrealistic, and I can't imagine not hitting at least 3.2GHz.
A reasonable cooler will add $20-$30 to the price. Unless you already have a cooler, it would make more sense to get the PII X4 955BE for the same money: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... because it comes with a cooler, is already X4, and 3.6GHz-3.8GHz is a likely overclock.

Edit: Some other things I'd like to throw out. Most (but not all!) 900-series chipset mobos also support SLI, so if you chose a nVidia card to avoid possible [current] driver issues, you would not be limited to that single card. Furthermore, if PhysX is (or becomes) important to you, it would be a lot easier to add a low-end GPU (e.g. GT240 or GTS450) to an existing nVidia setup.


Thanks for the response. I think i'll stick with the X4 955. The specs I have are very decent right now, and since I chose the mobo with the x8/x8 PCI-e 2.0, I know i'm safe with adding a second 6870 later for crossfire.
November 28, 2011 2:47:41 PM

Ok then; go for it.
November 29, 2011 12:22:34 AM

cutebeans said:
No. The 955 and 970 are more or less the same. When you overclock them, the both have the same max limit depending on your cooler.


Onus said:
Is the X3 too weak to play? No, but I'm not sure it would be any better than just "ok."
You can get the PII X3 720BE for $75 now, but you'll need to get a cooler to go with it:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
It may unlock to a X4 (which won't matter too much for games), but should also overclock well; 3.6GHz is not unrealistic, and I can't imagine not hitting at least 3.2GHz.
A reasonable cooler will add $20-$30 to the price. Unless you already have a cooler, it would make more sense to get the PII X4 955BE for the same money: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... because it comes with a cooler, is already X4, and 3.6GHz-3.8GHz is a likely overclock.

Edit: Some other things I'd like to throw out. Most (but not all!) 900-series chipset mobos also support SLI, so if you chose a nVidia card to avoid possible [current] driver issues, you would not be limited to that single card. Furthermore, if PhysX is (or becomes) important to you, it would be a lot easier to add a low-end GPU (e.g. GT240 or GTS450) to an existing nVidia setup.


Onus said:
Ok then; go for it.


Well, actually, since I posted, Newegg raised the price of the 955 another $20. So I have a new course of action. I'm thinking about buying a Phenom II X3 720 Black edition. http://goo.gl/sdGzX Reviews on Newegg say that it plays BF3 well (not ultra of course) and it's only $75. It is a Black Edition, and it seems I can get it to 3.5 on air easy (one reviewer said he got it to 3.7GHz @ 1.480v on ALL 4 cores) plus it has the possibility of unlocking the 4th core and turning it into a X4 Deneb (think 955). I know it's not guaranteed (people say it's 50/50 chance), but at this price point, if it plays BF3 well, then an unlock would just be a bonus. I had to change the motherboard as well to make sure I got AMD ACC which allows me to attempt an unlock of the 4th core http://goo.gl/BzBHK .

So what do you guys think now? Phenom II X3 720 + HD 6870? I know i'm a pain in the butt with all these configurations, but this is my first build and I want to be satisfied that I got the best bang for the buck. :) 
November 30, 2011 12:32:29 AM

All of the great deals that Newegg had over the last few weeks have kinda gone away. The same setup that I had a few days ago at $480 shipped is now $550. :( 

So i've had to lower my expectations a little. Now i'm gonna get either the Phenom II X2 555 or the Phenom II X3 720. Both are Black Editions, both have the option to unlock to a full X4. Yes, I know it's not guaranteed, but the odds seem good based on what i've read. I have a very good gaming case (Rosewill Challenger) with 3 fans and a great CPU cooler (Cooler Master Hyper N520) plus some Arctic Silver 5. That should allow me to get the most out of the CPU (whether unlocked or not).

I feel like I spent so much time thinking about getting the best "bang for the buck" that I actually missed out on the best deals. Go figure. :cry: 
November 30, 2011 1:08:41 AM

Yeah, that happens. Get the X3 though. If you don't get an unlock, that would be a lot better than being stuck with a X2.
December 10, 2011 12:05:56 AM

Best answer selected by Techngro.
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