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Build Question... been out of the game for a while

Last response: in Graphics & Displays
November 25, 2011 9:14:48 AM

Hi Guys,

Have been out of the game for awhile, not done a full PC build in quite a few years and am getting upto speed on technology progress since my last build.

I have a few questions I am unsure about and wondered if someone could help

1 : If I install a Crossfire Mobo, I understand I must use ATI/AMD cards to utilitze the CF but am I restricted to using an AMD chip, or will these Mobos take an Intel Chip?
2 : If I use CrossFire or SLI, must I have the same GPUs when CF/SLIing or can I mix and match with different models
3 : If I want to use a Top End GPU (or perhaps 2 of them with CF), I will see some very strong FPS and I am confused as to if my monitor (or monitor I plan to buy) can handle it. I see people talk about FPS and Refresh Rate. My question is, if I have a card setup that can give me a good 80-100fps, is this wasted on a standard type 60Hz refresh rate monitor and would I instead need a monitor with the equivilant Hz : FPS ratio?
4 : If I go with a build that requires say 450-500w but intend to CF in the future, is it better to install a larger wattage PSU or replace the current one with a larger one when the CF kicks in
5 : If the choice is between buying a High End GPU (say a 570/580) that costs say £450 or 2 x Mid-Higher End GPUs (say 2 x 6850s) that cost £100 each, it seems wise based on benchmarking to go with 2 GPUs not to mention it would cost less.... what is the right course of action to get the most in a futureproof (well a good 3-5 years at least) system
6 : When I check Passmark ratings and other Benchmarks for i7s over i5s, it shows that the i5 2500k is a much lower performer to say the i7 2600k however all blogs and reviews seem to suggest they are comparable for Gaming... who is right on this one?
7 : When it comes to Case Cooling, in running 1-2 GPUs and an i5 or better CPU, 1 sound card, 1 dvd (rarely used) drive and 1 HDD, do I need to spend extra in fitting more fans or will the standard GPU / CPU fans handle the heat?
8 : Eyefinity is quite an interesting concept and I am loving the videos I see... Does anyone have experience with Eyefinity and would they say for a Gamer it is worth spending more money on 2 identical monitors to flank your peripheral eyesight to get that panoramic view? I have seen the videos and the concept of Playing Elder Scrolls V with a peripheral eyesight is a fantastic idea but how does this translate in gaming...? is it really worth the extra £££ spent on 2 more monitors?
9 : I have never been one to Overclock and am confused a little at the concept... The idea as far as I can see is to tweak the bios settings for the CPU/GPU an inch at a time and run a program to detect what stability the processor in question has and stopping when the RED LIGHTS kick in or when the system doesnt even boot. I get this bit, what I dont get is
a) Does it really make a big difference?
b) Is it safe to do if you follow the steps right?
c) How do you know you have succeeded (ie is there a program that detects the difference and reports it back to you?)
d) if it is such a good idea and everyone is doing it, why do cards come unclocked - surely the manufacturer want to tune them to be as good as they can be?

Thats pretty much the massive account of what I can think of.
I understand if some of you have more important things to do than assist me in the above, if anyone can however - I appreciate your valuable input and will give you an extra Christmas Wish this year!

Thanks again

More about : build question game

November 25, 2011 10:49:27 AM

whoa.. try to summarize your question otherwise it gets out of proportion...

anyway to answer your q's:
1) there are mobos that support CF and SLI for both AMD and intel chips
2) its better to have the same gpu but they dont need to be the EXACT same brand, eg you can have an MSI with an ASUS, etc.
3)a Hz of 60 is plenty enough, having a higher one is only needed if you want 3D
4) get a better PSU asap
5) for 3-5 years futureproof get two high ends
6) the 2500k is fast enough to run games HOWEVER for futerproofing the 2600K, maybe the 2700K is a better choice
7) you may want to get a few fans but make sure your case is big enough to allow lots of air flow
8) is more monitors better? that depends on your opinion
9) this is a long question... to summarise:
a) sometimes
b) yes but you have to accept the risk of decreased lifespan
c) compare a benchmark before and after oc
d) i have no idea why but maybe they set it to a optimal level yet others want more performance for the cost of heat, power and lower lifespan

phew finally done answering... '>.<
November 25, 2011 11:10:32 AM

alhanelem said:

1) there are mobos that support CF and SLI for both AMD and intel chips

I think you misunderstand - I meant to say ... if I go with Crossfire compatible board, since Crossfire is to work with ATI cards and ATI is owned by AMD, if I get a Mobo that has Crossfire - Can I still install an intel chip??

alhanelem said:

2) its better to have the same gpu but they dont need to be the EXACT same brand, eg you can have an MSI with an ASUS, etc.

Just as I thought, thanks

alhanelem said:

3)a Hz of 60 is plenty enough, having a higher one is only needed if you want 3D

Thanks, I have always been confused how a high FPS is even something our eyes can understand. After all the human eye can only take in a certain amount of Frames per Second and if you go way over this (say to 80-100) how can the eye make the distinction between 24 and 80?

alhanelem said:

4) get a better PSU asap


alhanelem said:

5) for 3-5 years futureproof get two high ends

I have heard that going high end in one slot is better than going mid end in two slots as your purse fills you have the option of making it a 2x High End rig rather than having to replace both your mid end ones.. unsure which is better still

alhanelem said:

6) the 2500k is fast enough to run games HOWEVER for futerproofing the 2600K, maybe the 2700K is a better choice

Thanks - this reassured me as going i7 for the sake of it seems silly and Futureproofing can always be taken too far where you buy a part at twice the cost to give yourself a few years extra life where in reality the money saved and banked could pay for a replacement build down the line to give yourself more life.

alhanelem said:

7) you may want to get a few fans but make sure your case is big enough to allow lots of air flow

i did worry about case size.
I built my last rig before MicroATX etc and picking what size is best, from an online shopping point of view where you cant see the product is hard. My guess is, if I have the room just to go with a Full Tower and worst case is that I end up with empty space inside

alhanelem said:

8) is more monitors better? that depends on your opinion

Yeah, something in me WANTS that Eyefinity all around view but it seems better to just go big size... still unsure

alhanelem said:

9) this is a long question... to summarise:
a) sometimes
b) yes but you have to accept the risk of decreased lifespan
c) compare a benchmark before and after oc
d) i have no idea why but maybe they set it to a optimal level yet others want more performance for the cost of heat, power and lower lifespan

phew finally done answering... '>.<

And thank you - this has answered a lot of my issues

When you say "A decreased lifespan" what does this mean in real numbers.
Are you saying that a board that would last 10 years would last only 2?

Also - if you overclock and find either not much difference or not worth it for the possible degrading hardware life, is it easy just to reset it and if you do, and only run it for a short period of time OCed, is the damage (if any) already done?

Related resources
November 25, 2011 11:21:03 AM

i think you misunderstood my answer for Q 1)

you can buy an intel mobo that supports CF
the newer motherboards allow system builders to get an intel mobo and run a CF since intel and AMD created a chipset to allow SLI and CF on the new mobos.

for your fps concerns, i remember reading somewhere that the human eye cannot see the difference when the frames are over 60
so you will see a difference between 24 and 80 but not 60 and 80 (in theory)

having a single high end card IS better when the SLI/CF support is buggy or not existent and sometimes two gpu's aerent worth the extra heat and power compared to the performance

also by decreased lifespan depends on the level of OC and heat, but most lifespans will decrease from a moderate oc by maybe 1-2 years (give or take half a year)
November 25, 2011 11:50:44 AM

I read up on FPS and such

It seems that 60hz = 60 refreshs per second, so if something is operating at 60+ fps, I am unsure a 60hz monitor can keep up

This article

Seems to delve deeper

it seems to suggest 30fps as a good aim to get smooth animation, less than this can cause issues.

It talks about how at around 15fps, the control element (mouse, keyboard etc) is working faster than the game is transmitting data to you so you end up moving a lot less sensitively

I found this when playing Skyrm on my dual core baby PC and 512mb gpu. I didnt get a specific frame rate but when I first used the lockpicking, the mouse was jumping around far too much and the sensitivity was gone suggesting this is quite true.

Game type seems to be important.
Like in TV, images that are fast moving run smoother at better frames per second. I am told it is like a Camera.

If you have a Camera that takes pictures 60 times per second and something is moving slowly, this is overkill as less would do.

If that same object is moving very fast, the extra frames the camera takes (like a high speed camera) allows the image to play smoother and reduce juddering or blur.

So racing games and Shooters need the extra FPS to allow the hardware to catchup with the game during a lot of action so that the end result is a smooth picture for us to see... a poorer GPU would take the same action and the FPS would drop below 30 and we would see loss.

This has really opened my eye up on what FPS means.
100 FPS is pointless in most static games like CIV 5 where the animations arent hefty and rapid moving... since we probably dont find much need for more than 20-30fps to handle those images.

However take a shooter where there are sprites running around firing lots of smoke and bullets around in detailed terrain and those 100 FPS are needed to allow the hardware to keep up with what the game is pumping out so we see little difference, like a buffer.

In reality, if I showed you 12-24 picture frames quickly (say in an animation) you would see what I want. If i show you double that, things move twice as fast and you would miss most of the action. Using this example, no-one ever sees 100fps as your eye cant handle it and if it was really outputting to that much, it would end up running 4x the speed as if watching a movie on fast forward and for games since they need to be viewed in real time, this doesnt occur...

... Instead you get the same amount of frames on your screen but the extra FPS is a buffer to allow your hardware to run fast enough to keep the same frames in front of you.

To be honest, the concept of FPS should have been converted to some more identifiable unit of measurement as games progressed. Measuring games in FPS nowadays is like measuring a FTL spaceship in Miles per hour, it would be pointless

November 25, 2011 12:03:08 PM

dont get confused.
when the fps is very high, lets say 100 FPS the game itself does not run faster.
games dont run like videos or animations. when the fps is high then the 3d models, vertices (shapes), pixels, etc are 'refreshed' faster not sped up.
anything more than 60 fps is very unnoticeable unless your running in 3D which needs 120Hz
also games have what's called vsync AKA vertical sync which prevents the fps from going higher than the refresh rate and prevents the models, pixels, etc from refreshing too fast and causing 'screen tearing' which are when two frames are displayed at the same time but one "cuts" into the other causing a frame to look distorted
its hard to explain but see this pic:
November 25, 2011 12:26:38 PM

So... above 60fps is pointless

This is pretty much my thinking.

That being said, a GPU that runs ("enter your fav game here") may operate at 100fps but come a year or twos time, the sequel to that game may be more demanding and the fps drops to say 60fps so in my head, choosing a GPU that does 100fps over one that does 60fps on your fav game, seems a waste if you only plan to ever play that game and nothing in the future...

The only reason to get one is either
a) You are an enthusiast you want your Benchmark to be a few % better than your mate
b) You want to futureproof your system and understand that before you can afford or plan to do a fresh build, you want a rig that can play all the games you want until that point

I have made my eyes bleed looking at Benchmark Comparisons for GPUs and really couldnt see the value in getting one over another when the FPS is topping 110 in one and 120 in another... I wont notice this so the only reason to go with the 120 is to be that slight inch further forward at futureproofing when this card can only perform much lower
November 25, 2011 12:38:47 PM

think about it, all of technology ( maybe even every product) is made to last the least amount of time but perform just slightly better than the last product. Its how businesses make money
you could wait till something good comes along but you might miss out and end up waiting forever

just buy whatever you want at your budget for your needs
if you want to futureproof then get the best you can afford otherwise spend money on worthwhile upgrades and wait for something better
a b U Graphics card
November 25, 2011 6:49:07 PM

Here are my answers to you, some have been answered already but some may be different:

1. I presume you want to make an Intel platform. Almost all the motherboards now support CF and SLI. So you can use an intel platform with CF.

2. alhanelem said it is better to have the same GPU, i say it can be done only with the same GPU, exceptions are when you use a 5990 with a 5870, those can be used for triple CF because bought cards use the same GPU. The 5870 will lower the speed's of RAM and GPU to 5990 speeds. Same with the 6k series if i remember right and with the 4k series from ATI/AMD. You can not mix models how you like because they vary in specifications. And how alhanelem said, you don't need to have them the same brand but it is usually better, if not some bugs might appear, but not necessarily.

3. I don't think it is wasted because not in all games you will have 60+ FPS in all conditions or/with maximum settings. So a 60Hz monitor will do. If you can afford but a 120Hz monitor, you will be able to see the difference yourself from 60 to 100+fps. Also the game will run more smoothly.
* A small note here: a 100 or 200Hz LCD or LED TV that can be used as a monitor is not the same thing with a 120Hz PC monitor, if you want a display that can input that many fps buy a PC monitor. TV's can only display that many fps, not input. If something changed i ask for someone to correct me.

4. It depends on when that future is, if it's 1 year from the build then it is recommended to buy a PSu that can power your PC with future upgrades plus the aging, a PC will use more and more power over time because components age and deteriorate. Also that does not mean that a 500w PC will use 800w in a year but you might ad 20w to it(just an example).

5. If you can afford, i recommend buying a faster single video card, even if you get higher FPS with 2 slower cards. Search on toms an article about micro stuttering in games. They made an article. It's really interesting, but the conclusion is that the effect is smaller in higher end video cards configurations, best is in a triple CF setup or SLI, so more video cards means less micro stuttering. So a single high end video card would be the choice if you are interested in the quality of the game. Don't go lower than 6950 or gtx570.

6. The i5 is a lower performer in winRAR or programs that take advantage of more cores. In gaming since very few games use more than 2 cores the difference is small. If you want buy an i7, it is a little more powerful(not much more in games).

7. The case is very important, i would recommend you buy a middle or big tower case that has good ventilation. Here is what a good case with a bottom mounted PSU must have:
*front intake, one or two fans,
*bottom intake-hole for PSU fan plus one intake fan,
*rear exhaust-bottom hole for PSu exhaust and top fan for exhaust,
*top exhaust, at list 1, preferable 2 exhaust fans,
*side panel intake that blows air on to the video cards.
If the last one exists the bottom intake fan is not really a necessary step.

If you want to make any sort of compromise you can buy a case that does not have a bottom intake fan and just a grid on the side panel since the front fan/fans will blow air on to the computer parts.

8. Playing with 3 monitors or 6 i think it is really more interesting but yo an also buy a curved LCD(if you can get your hand on one or can afford it). Don't have that much experience with that so i can not say much.

9. The idea is to increase the speed of the CPU/GPU/RAM/VRAM to obtain more performance from a device, trying to achieve similar performance to a faster device.
*a - Sometimes it does, but that depends on how high the overclock is.
*b - Yes, if you do not go to far.
*c - Succeeded in what? If you mean that if you have succeeded in rising the clock speed, you can use CPU-Z for that, it shows you everything and the program is free.
*d - Because not all hardware is stable at those higher speeds and because of marketing.

Here are some helps from me.

When you buy a video card it is important to think it thru because if you play at 1680x1050 you will need a 1Gb video card, for 1920x1080 a 1Gb card is ok, if it has more RAM the gain is minimal but sometimes the game can use more, especially if you use higher AA. If you want to go for higher resolutions a 2Gb or at list 1.5Gb video card is a must. That is where VRAM(video RAM) can give you an edge.

More important than speed is stability and temperature, any component in your PC must not go over the thermal limit recommended by the manufacturer or that part might fail sooner then it was meant to be, meaning that cards with good coolers are sometimes the best choice. Also if a part fails and it is overclocked and the manufacturer can detect that you will lose your warranty.

In shooters a 30FPS minimum is good for fluidity but 25fps will do also, in fast games such with cars like NFS or F1 you need higher FPS to be able to enjoy a smooth game. A 35+ is an absolute, 40-45 is ok.

What's your budget?
November 25, 2011 8:27:21 PM

After some thinking, I have excluded a 3 monitor setup. I hear some games dont support it well, the bezel can get in the way and its only really a benefit in FPS/Driving games where I play more Strategy or RPG.

I think a large monitor is a better idea and I am thinking 27 or 30 inch.

Budget wise I have around £1000-£1500 to spend although im not planning on spending money for the sake of it.
IMHO, buying a CPU/GPU that is 10-20% better and costs twice as much is a waste. Moore's law is directly applicable here and purchasing the upper high end (if not top high end) is a waste unless one has money to burn or has just won the lottery.

I am thinking of spending say £200-£250 on a CPU, £200-£250 on a GPU, £250-£300 on a Monitor.
Those are the 3 key components and will cost me £650-£800.

I then will go with a good enough : 500GB - 1TB HDD, Soundcard, Mobo, Case, Fan/Cooling, Keyboard + Mouse, Gamepad, 2 x 4GB DDR3 RAM, PSU and various other bits and bobs I might need. Although i would include such things in my budget, I am considering these to be the low part of my budget and whilst important, I am going to focus on the 3 core components first and worry about the other bits later.

NOTE : I did think about going SSD but aside from improved OS loading and disk activity, I have heard improvements in gaming focus on loading screens working a bit better but overall until SSD become a lot more cost effective, I dont want to spend money for the sake of it

So my idea is to go along with something like an i5-2500k, Radeon 6950 or 6970, a 27/30 inch Monitor (yet to be determined) and the rest as I see fit. This should see me well within my budget.

I can't draw down on my plans for a good 5-6 months and no doubt when I do, if there are better options at the time I will consider upping my requirements to the next closest model(s).

The advantage for me as well is that I work in IT and have access to a lot of base cost equipment, not to mention plenty of New Clearance / Aged stock that will result in me paying a good 10% - 20% less than retail as well.

Thank you all for your help, its been a long time out of the saddle but i think I have a good idea on what is good and bad. All that I will need to do next is make decisions on what element in a certain range is better (ie which make of Radeon Card is better than the next or which Mobo will give me the best suitability & reliability for my build)

a b U Graphics card
November 26, 2011 3:51:10 PM

Yea, about that HDD, see if you have a friend that has one fore sale because as of a short wile ago the prices have tripled in best cases and up to 5 times the price that was before, depending on area, local economy and policy. Some factory got flooded and they can't keep up with the demand so zbang, higher prices.
November 26, 2011 4:29:46 PM

Tell me about it.
I work in the trade and we had instances where our wholesalers (the ones who purchase directly from manufacturers) were reporting stock of HDDs at £40 and in a matter of a few hours it rose to £80 then £160.. it was crazy.

The reason was that where they had 100 in stock at £40 (their cost for arguments sake was £35) and they advance purchase 4000 at £85, suddenly due to average costing, £3,500 of stock (100 x £35) becomes £343,500 of stock (100 x £35 + 4000 x £85) and split this across 4100 units you get an average cost of £83.67...

... They do this, even when factoring in advance purchases because in theory if the marketplace determines that these drives now cost £85 to buy from source instead of £35, its a poor business decision to sell the ones you have, regardless of the cost you paid for them originally for lower than the average cost + profit.

Many people couldnt explain the big hikes but thankfully it has calmed down a bit now and the hikes are becoming lesser (maybe a smaller increase per week rather than a large one per day)

Regardless, prices have gone up and they wont calm down again unless the demand calms down... it will happen, it has to happen otherwise the price now would have been the price always... think of it like a flood (no offense intended) that washes over everything, eventually the waters have to receed and that will happen here.

Either way, I am quite fortunate as if I am happy using BULK / CLEARANCE equipment, I can absorb a lot of the increases in price by buying smart through the correct trade channels.

Not a good time but hey, if it isnt HDD, its a factory in silicon valley burning down and RAM doubles or chinese labour laws become stricter so LCDs increase in price. Roll with the punches!

I wouldnt say it is worth NOT building a system to wait for the market to calm down, at worst you buy a lower capacity HDD (sacrificing say 500GB you may/may not ever need due to price changes) and then upgrade with a replacement or additional drive as things calm down