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Mid-range upgradeable PC build

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October 11, 2012 9:25:22 PM

Greetings!

The arrival of XCom Enemy Unknown has, sadly, confronted me with the fact that Windows XP might just be outdated. My current machine has issues with Windows 7, which leaves me with two options:
- Exchange the current AGP card of my system with a high-end GeForce AGP card (rare and hard to get)
OR
- Consider building a new system with (for a change) new parts of recent tech (which I have, sadly, not kept up with)

Both avenues have merit, hence my posting here. :) 


Note: The price below is subject to some heavy guessing (See also, "Hats, pulling numbers out of"). I am mostly after some viable (not too horribly expensive) configurations I could look up locally (this being mainland Europe and me having easy access to several countries to shop from, at least for now).


So, what - hypothetically - am I looking for?

Main requirements I would define as follows:

1) XCom: Should be able to comfortably run X-Com Enemy Unknown* on Windows 7.

2) Computer usage:
Generic home PC (Surfing, e-mail, basic office applications, Matlab (simple things), Labview (blessedly rare))
Most taxing functions: Games (where X-Com and Starcraft II are the worst offenders), occasional videoediting (which works fine on my current dualcore 2.2 GHz Win XP PC). I definitely will not get involved in any heavy duty image processing or rendering.

3) Upgrades: No need for the latest technology but must support future upgrades (CPU, GPU, RAM)

*Minimum requirements given as
Processor: 2 GHz Dual Core
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Video Memory: 256 MB
Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce 8600 GT / ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT or greater
Sound Card: DirectX Compatible


- Buying date: Slow accretion of parts over the next two months.
- Preferred Vendors: None, sources are not a concern at this time.
- Price range: ~300-400, worst case. Includes Mainboard, CPU, Graphics, PSU.
- Overclocking: No.
- Preferred technology: Nvidia graphics cards as ATI has always given me trouble with drivers - for over a decade with no sign of improvement. No other preferences.
- Monitor / Resolution: 1280 x 1024 minimum (Re-using CRTs, DVI adapter not an issue)
- Multiple graphics cards: Only for future upgrades


Required parts
- Mainboard
--- Must allow future upgrades, and I have no idea what to look for in current sockets to get that.
--- Would like the options for later MultiGPU and Quadcore support upgrades, possibly also for > 8GB RAM if justifiable (or cheap)
--- Basics: ethernet, sound, USB 3.0 ideally, but not at great cost.
--- Drives: At least two internal HDDs, one DVD drive, ideally with room to spare (I have never ever used SATA before, so excuse my caution here. I like putting jumpers on things).
--- ATX form factor

- CPU
--- Dual core 3.x GHz minimum (Flexible here, but I would like to see a definite improvement from my current 2.2 GHz Dual core if I am to buy a new PC)
[The Pentium G2120 from the Gaming CPU Article looked quite nifty, but even the Pentium G630 seemed fine. But my knowledge of CPUs and sockets is still limited as my last CPU shop was done on a Socket 939 board; AMD, dual core support more by luck than design.]

- RAM
--- 8 GB RAM Minimum

- Graphics
--- To be honest: No idea. I traditionally shop based on GPUreview.com and my current model, but pitting an AGP card against fairly recent cards is not particularly informative. Besides that I am wary of picking one of the duds that are occasionally thrown in between the decent cards.

- PSU
--- ATX.
--- Would like a power margin for future upgrades, but this would probably severly reduce efficiency. Optional.*
--- Power: Above + 2 HDD + DVDBurner + CPU-, GPU-, Case(x3)-fans

*Yes, I would like to have a bit of everything. But I can accept this might not be ... realistic. ;) 


Peripherals

Components that would be reused or sourced from ebay. Suggestions welcome but probably unnecessary. List included mainly for the sake of completeness; to make sure this setup would result in a viable machine, and in case I missed out any vital details above. Not included in the above budget.

- Case (Reused or Ebay, MIDI, ATX, devoid of windows, LEDs and other 'decorative' nonsense.)
- Cooling (Boxed or Arctic for CPU, 2-3 additional case fans (arctic), default Graphics cooler unless Selection ships with something abysmal)
- Screen (CRT reused, DVI adapters already available)
- Input devices (reused)
- 2x HDD ~200 GB+ subject to price, Ebay unless cheaply available
- DVD burner, Ebay unless cheaply available
- 3x SATA# cable (# matched to mainboard)
- Power chord (reuse or included above)
- Windows 7
- Windows XP (reused for primary in dual boot if feasible*)

*As opposed to useful, smart and efficient. :sarcastic: 


Notes (Feel free to correct me on any point):
Mainboard:
This is my main concern as, once chosen, the other picks become a lot easier. According to local guides, the CPU choice should be made first where I always started with the mainboard. Unfortunately, I don't really know what to look for right now. Picking the wrong socket - one that is already getting old or not very 'robust' in design - could be fatal here. I wouldn't consider mainboard replacement an 'upgrade' but a new computer. On the other hand, with the right socket / RAM support I would expect a computer to live for a very long time.

Graphics:
Based on various guides, including the local, I don't need SLI. The bulk of my software is old (Ranging from DOSBox content to Starcraft II, which is very lonely at the top). I stay far behind the tech curve not only in actual hardware but also in current games. XCom is one of those very rare occasions where I am actually buying early on, and is still only problematic because of an unlucky hardware/software combination in Win7. Most of my software does not know what to do with two cores, let alone two graphics cards. Hence the future option would be sufficient for my taste.

CPU:
It looks like Quad core is in the same situation as dual core on introduction; multithreading is still not common in software, and hence useless unless lots of things happen at once. Since I won't be playing Xcom while running a Matlab simulation of the known universe in parallel with folding@home, all while encoding 100.000 hours of BBC News video footage, a dual core processor should do the job. Again, I'd like the option for future upgrades, i.e. a mainboard that can (or at least in all likelihood will be able to) support some decent quad cores.

RAM:
Is there a case to be made for >8 GB RAM? I can accept that maybe by now >4 GB are necessary for the latest games, but have no idea how I'd use more than 8. Or just 8 for that matter.


---


I would expect even a 'budget' PC to beat the minimum system requirements of XCom with relative ease. My current PC could do it, if not for its Win7 hiccup. Not being a connoisseur of fine graphics, I am happy with moderate settings on any given game. I prefer to stay behind the tech wave for the sake of prices, and upgrade as newer components age and drop in cost, if really necessary. A trial run with the PC builder of a not-too-cheap vendor based on the 2012 gaming CPUs article here produces a whopping estimate of 650 Euros, however (case + contents), which is just too much.



Any advice you care to give, whole setups or parts, or anything else would be much appreciated.


Thanks,
Gene


P.S.: I have looked at a few build threads here. Though those were mostly concerned with what seems like high end gaming PCs and included all the peripherals, do let me know if my approximate price range borders on the deluded. :whistle: 
October 11, 2012 9:51:21 PM

You don't need anything particularly powerful, for what you are doing. It does seem to make sense, however, to use the latest, fully featured motherboard, and the rest of the system, to meet your current needs, and allow an easy upgrade route, to enable you to keep up with demands of improving tech.
I appreciate you are in Europe. If you can confirm where, and preferrably a suitable website, available to you, I can source and cost suitable components. If re-using case, can you confirm if mid-tower ATX, or give dimensions.
October 12, 2012 6:24:19 AM

Greetings!

Thank you for the quick replies, I honestly did not expect something so soon.

Operating System: Is already available.
Case: ATX, Midi

Budget The budget estimate is approximately 300-400* and includes only Mainboard, CPU, GPU, RAM, PSU.

*No units given on purpose, I'd be happy to pay less or could convince myself to invest more with good reason.

Location Netherlands, with easy access to at least Germany, maybe UK. My sources would be in German or Dutch, so probably the language barrier would stop you if you really wanted to pick out specific offers on my behalf. I more or less planned on doing the actual part-scouting myself once I had some idea of what those parts might be, though I realise there will be some price / cost variations based on currency and region.

If you insist, these are my reference points:
Hardwareschotte (Compares / inventories lots of sites, German)
Amazon (GER) (Feel free to refer to amazon.co.uk or .com instead.)


Quote:
It does seem to make sense, however, to use the latest, fully featured motherboard, and the rest of the system, to meet your current needs, and allow an easy upgrade route, to enable you to keep up with demands of improving tech.


I'm glad you agree, mainboards make such fine choke points. :pfff: 


Thanks,
Gene


P.S.: jrgong, not sure what else you exactly are asking for. I don't have a fixed budget as such (I could afford some of the 1000+ gaming machines mentioned elsewhere in this forum) but that would be overkill at its finest. As for orders of magnitude, I would hope for something roughly along

3.x Ghz Dual
8 GB RAM
Single Graphics card (upper mid-range to stave off upgrades as I would expect the GPU become inadequate most quickly)
Mounted on the 'fully featured' mainboard as mentioned by malbluff.

Not being all that savvy on current tech I'd be happy to correct that mental image up or down as need be. I'm sorry I can't give a more accurate breakdown, this is exploratory. How much can a small budget do at the moment, that line of thinking.
Related resources
October 12, 2012 10:29:11 AM

I have two possible lines of thought here, given that you don't have "unlimited" budget:

1) Use a fairly basic processor, like Intel G840, but have a fully featured Z77 mobo, like Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD3H. That should leave some funds, for decent graphics card, and would allow you, in the future, to possibly upgrade processor to i5-3570K, and overclocking.
2) Use a better processor, now, like Intel i3-3220. If you did that, you would be unlikely, then, to upgrade to i5-3570K (it just wouldn't be worth it, for what you'd gain). Depending then on what you wanted, for graphics, and whether you envisaged ever wanting a 2nd graphics card, you could then use a cheaper H77 mobo, which would give all the features, except overclocking and SLi.

If you can decide which sounds the most sensible, for YOU, then, with some idea of what funds are left for graphics, I could advise on your choices, there.
October 12, 2012 9:56:51 PM

I definitely like your approach.

So I have done some checking on these processor lines. Based on some price-checkers and, for data, cpu-world.com, I came up with this:

  1. CPU MHZ C/T Cost Extras
  2. G840 2.8 2/2 55
  3. G860 3.0 2/2 59
  4. 2120 3.3 2/4 102 HT AVX
  5. 3220 3.3 2/4 107 HT AVX


The G860 gives a little more power (I still can't help but focus on GHz alone) and does so for pocket change, so that would be my first choice. I don't see any catastrophic flaw in this model although the small price gap makes me wonder. G870 is on the wrong side of a larger jump, hence rejected.

On the i3 sockets, I found the 2120 to be a clone of the 3220 excepting supported RAM frequency and a graphics controller. Should I attach any siginifcance to that? RAM frequency I always disregarded except for compatibility issues, and presumably only matters if you want to go to the perfomance limit of a system. And CPU ... graphics... meh? :sarcastic: 

The four thread on two cores feature sounds like a marvellous achievement all by itself, but is probably useless given my current need for an effective quad core (none). Hyperthreading, described as giving ~20% more performance is just the thing that might make me go soft (I love percentage boosts) but at this price. Well.

Let's assume we go with the G860 at 60 Euros and if I buy something more expensive in the end, I will just have to blame myself. Luckily, everything is on the same socket, so even if I lose all self-control the system would still work. :D 



Mainboards I know little about. Just punching in all the limits* into my shop searcher reduces the pool to 6 boards, ranging from 96 to 323 Euros.
Search (German, but mostly hardware specs.)

The GA-Z77X-UD3H appears as the second cheapest, but the lowest price is taken by the ASROCK Z68 Extreme3 Gen3, with 20 Euros less and no obvious disadvantage (a couple less USB ports, one less SATA, that kind of thing. "Produkte vergleichen" in the search compares checked boards if you want to retrace my steps. Clicking on "Produktdaten anzeigen" on the mainboard scrolls to the data sheet).
Now I have noticed ASRock is much despised in some circles but have never understood that sentiment. One of my ASRock boards long ago died, but that's what mainboards do. And weren't MSI boards supposed to be the baddies? :whistle: 

If there is a good reason to go with the more expensive Gigabyte board, please do tell me. I know what to look for to ensure basic compatibility with other part but things like chipsets etc. remain a mystery to me. My ideal mainboard offers good CPU and RAM support and has more sockets than I have leads to plug in. And a half-life measured in megayears, of course.


*Search criteria:
  1. Socket: 1155 Socket Form: ATX
  2. FSB: 5 GT/s DMI USB: 3.0
  3. PCIe: 2x 16x MGPU: SLI



Thanks,
Gene


P.S.: I found at least one problem with the ASUS board, which I leave here as a note to myself:
The board ships with an outdated bios unable to support most i3+ cpus. If bought with such a CPU, it must be updated first, which requires an older CPU to run it in the interim. :heink: 
G860 and i3-2120 are supported by default. Perhaps a reason to choose 2120 over 3220, which is not supported, if that ever crossed my mind. :non: 
Gigabyte MB has some issues with TeamGroup Elite RAM (single report). Default bios version not known, i3220 requires F12, all others F4 (lowest version listed in CPU support list).
October 12, 2012 10:24:34 PM

I'm not sure where this non-support notion comes from. Z77 and H77 are specifically designed for IVYBRIDGE. With Z68 and older boards, there could be issues, but those can be overcome, easily. The i3-3220 is the ideal match with H77. I3-2120 will also work, with most H77's, but is inferior to i3-3220, so it's just not worth buying, unless on an extremely tight budget. Forget Z68, just "old hat" now.
I would still say your best two options are:
G8xx for now, with Z77 mobo, and upgrade to perhaps i5 Ivybridge, later, or
i3-3220 with H77 mobo, which will serve you well medium term.
October 13, 2012 8:45:43 AM

It's not a matter of the board itself - both boards have the same CPU support all the way up to the i7 cores. Just the BIOS thing, which isn't too surprising with newer CPUs running on older boards, relatively speaking. It's really just a reminder to myself.

I'll stick with the GA Z77 and the G860, as this eliminates any BIOS concerns and still gives me a very healthy margin in terms of performance, and a generous ceiling for future upgrades. If the new build is ever bottlenecked, it will probably the GPU that gives out first.

  1. Main: GA-Z77X-UD3H 113
  2. CPU: Intel G860 60
  3. GPU: ?
  4. RAM: ?
  5. PSU: ?
  6. SUM: 173


So far so good. :) 
Gene
October 13, 2012 10:04:10 AM

Paying that much for a motherboard to put a 60€ CPU in is silly. Just get a H61 board if you're going with that CPU - socket 1155 will not be used for the next generation of Intel CPUs.
October 13, 2012 10:29:58 AM

You could always go with the a10-5800k and a fm2 mobo. That way you get a 3.8 quad core cpu plus a HD 7660d gpu all in one. Total of that cpu and a decent fm2 board? about $230 leaving you about $170 for a psu and ram. The fm2 socketis new so there will probably be a few upgrade options coming down the pipes.

Later on you could get another card and crossfire the igp with a discrete or you could simply disable the igp and use a better discrete gpu to boost some performance or just buy a newer cpu for it to push an upgrade. Plus you can get a better cooler and oc the cpu as well as the igp for some gains.

The route your going with the g860 will have you buying it plus a mobo plus a gpu that will already net you at or a bit above the cost of the A10-5800k. Unless you get a cheap $60 card you will be hard pressed to beat the price and performance of an apu in this low of a cost build. And what card could you get better then the HD 7660 for under $60?

This route you need to get your ram yet so that is about $40-$50 and even at the higher end cost of the ram it gives you $120 to spend on a better psu for a better build later down the road when the funds allow. Up to you though.
October 13, 2012 6:40:46 PM

As always, thank you for your answers. And I am glad to see the AMD CPU make an appearance after all.

The "new socket" argument is compelling, although I have to add that 1155 supports quad cores that are far beyond any conceivable needs of mine, even with a view for the future. (Xcom would be the first software to exhaust my current 2.2 dual core)

Searching produces 7 viable FM2 boards (69-124 Euros), all of which seem to have been released within the last two weeks or so, along with the suggested processor. No SLI boards are among them, forcing me to go with ATI/AMD cards.
This I would like to avoid thanks to eternal driver issues but, as shown in my summary below, the AMD build is certainly more compelling both in pricing and performance for the money. Very compelling, unless I have made some terrible mistake in picking parts out of the (small) lot that is available. And of course the builds are just about half done, so there is still room for money to disappear in.


I have also played with the notion of sacrificing SLI / Dual GPU altogether, reducing mainboard cost (and making the FM2 more NVidia friendly?). This led to the H77 build below, which, by happy accident, still supports Crossfire. I suppose as long as I am open to both GPU brands, I can't avoid having multi-GPU support. :) 
And as long as the end result works properly, I suppose I can live with the constant pain that is the Catalyst Driver Centre and its henchmen. :sarcastic: 


Thank you,
Gene


Builds


Intel low-cost CPU (SLI / NVIDIA)
  1. Main: GA-Z77X-UD3H 113
  2. CPU: Intel G860 2x3.0 60
  3. GPU: ?
  4. RAM: ?
  5. PSU: ?
  6. SUM: 173

Alternate CPU: Intel i3-3220 2x3.3 (4-thread) 108

AMD low-cost CPU (Crossfire / ATI)
  1. Main: ASROCK FM2A75 Pro4 72
  2. CPU: AMD A6-5400K 2x3.6 61
  3. GPU: ?
  4. RAM: ?
  5. PSU: ?
  6. SUM: 133

Alternate CPU: AMD A10-5800K 4x3.8 110


Intel low-cost MB build (Crossfire / ATI)
  1. Main: GIGABYTE GA-H77-DS3H 75
  2. CPU: Intel G860 2x3.0 60
  3. GPU: ?
  4. RAM: ?
  5. PSU: ?
  6. SUM: 135

Alternate CPU: Intel i3-3220 2x3.3 (4-thread) 108

October 13, 2012 6:57:09 PM

The A10 has good built in graphics, capable of basic gaming, without a separate graphics card. However, its computational ability is feeble, by comparason to i3-3220. It may be overstating it, but the A10 is really a graphics chip, with a built-in processor. Hardware Secrets has a recent comparative review of the A10 and i3-3220.
October 13, 2012 10:41:32 PM

malbluff said:
The A10 has good built in graphics, capable of basic gaming, without a separate graphics card. However, its computational ability is feeble, by comparason to i3-3220. It may be overstating it, but the A10 is really a graphics chip, with a built-in processor. Hardware Secrets has a recent comparative review of the A10 and i3-3220.



That may be true when comparing it to an i3 3220 directly but you need to purchase a discrete gpu better then a Geforce GT 440 to beat it in many cases. And the op is considering this route or getting a G860 and going that route. Between those 2 i believe going with a 5800k would be better over all. It is weaker then a i3 3220 in single threading. But the op can always disable the igp later on and use a nvidia card (they seem to have a preference for them over amd) and this way they can save costs right now on a gpu.

http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/A10-5800K-vs-Cor...

And its not a badly priced quad core. Intels cheapest i5 quad is around $189.99+ . For low to mid range gaming the 5800k is well worth it i believe. Especially over the G860.
October 14, 2012 1:18:52 AM

And here I was still thinking you just mush CPU, GPU and RAM together on a mainboard and get a PC - easy, simple, no complications.


Having read the review myself, I did pick up on Starcraft II perfoming really well just on the A10 CPU, which is very encouraging. Judging by the relative performance of the dedicated GeForce, the integrated GPU should also be able to hande XCom Enemy Unknown - I think.
However, I only really looked at performance of software I actually use. For the CPU side of things, I only use virtualdub, but that's an aside for me, so the edge the i3 has is not important in that area.

Eliminating the dedicated graphics until some later date looks very good at this stage. This Review likens the A10 GPU to a Radeon 6600 series, and runs some benchmarks on i3 and a10 configurations with and without dedicated GPUs.
Again it looks like the integrated unit is quite sufficient for my purposes, including long term, and apparently even benefits from running in parallel with other ATI cards, at least when stressed. A bit weird, but at least it could still do something after a GPU upgrade, where I was worried it might just sit idle.

Looking at graphics myself, I had otherwise picked out the HD6670 (same as used in the review, which I find reassuring). It ships for 50-70 Euros, depending on the exact specs. It ranks quite highly* while GPUreview paints a more dire picture, but it seems to be a fairly strong ATI card, unless I want to jump to the next price category.

*for metrics not made clear :heink: 


Based on all that I would tend towards the AMD A10-5800K integrated build, yielding a stronger CPU for the money that would otherwise end up in a dedicated GPU of roughly the same performance. (?)
[Should the combination of a quad core and medium/high performance graphics not turn the chip into a furnace? Yet people seem to run it with boxed fans, happily so...]
In terms of price, Intel can only compete on the low budget CPU build and requires the dedicated GPU. The i3 GPU is, in any case, too weak, leaving the A10 with a huge price/performance advantage even if processing power is slightly better with the i3.


As always, thank you. I'm not sure if we're making progess or just going around in ever widening circles, but this is certainly interesting and quite educational. :hello: 
Gene
October 14, 2012 4:03:12 AM

Finding help is pretty easy here. And it is a great place to learn about different builds pricing and performance. But there is one thing to remember. To many here fps means every thing in a game. Which is why they recommend higher cpu's and gpu's to maximize it in builds. To them good is not good enough. They wantthe best and to pay for it.

Best possible performance right now seems to be a quad i5 teamed with a high end gpu (some prefer nvidia others radeon). You get to the mid builds and many suggest the i3 sandy or ivy line. And many even push for any thing not amd in a build.

The a10-5800k is an excellent low to mid level cpu. It may not max out all games but it will play many of them with decent frame rates. And for a cheap build its hard to beat the price of a gpu and cpu combined. I saw some benchmarks where they overclocked the igp for some great gains without heat problems on the stock fan. If heat concerns you with ocing the cpu you can always buy a decent cpu heat fan to make up the difference later on.
October 14, 2012 9:52:38 AM

Gene Razak said:
And here I was still thinking you just mush CPU, GPU and RAM together on a mainboard and get a PC - easy, simple, no complications.


Having read the review myself, I did pick up on Starcraft II perfoming really well just on the A10 CPU, which is very encouraging. Judging by the relative performance of the dedicated GeForce, the integrated GPU should also be able to hande XCom Enemy Unknown - I think.
However, I only really looked at performance of software I actually use. For the CPU side of things, I only use virtualdub, but that's an aside for me, so the edge the i3 has is not important in that area.

Eliminating the dedicated graphics until some later date looks very good at this stage. This Review likens the A10 GPU to a Radeon 6600 series, and runs some benchmarks on i3 and a10 configurations with and without dedicated GPUs.
Again it looks like the integrated unit is quite sufficient for my purposes, including long term, and apparently even benefits from running in parallel with other ATI cards, at least when stressed. A bit weird, but at least it could still do something after a GPU upgrade, where I was worried it might just sit idle.

Looking at graphics myself, I had otherwise picked out the HD6670 (same as used in the review, which I find reassuring). It ships for 50-70 Euros, depending on the exact specs. It ranks quite highly* while GPUreview paints a more dire picture, but it seems to be a fairly strong ATI card, unless I want to jump to the next price category.

*for metrics not made clear :heink: 


Based on all that I would tend towards the AMD A10-5800K integrated build, yielding a stronger CPU for the money that would otherwise end up in a dedicated GPU of roughly the same performance. (?)
[Should the combination of a quad core and medium/high performance graphics not turn the chip into a furnace? Yet people seem to run it with boxed fans, happily so...]
In terms of price, Intel can only compete on the low budget CPU build and requires the dedicated GPU. The i3 GPU is, in any case, too weak, leaving the A10 with a huge price/performance advantage even if processing power is slightly better with the i3.


As always, thank you. I'm not sure if we're making progess or just going around in ever widening circles, but this is certainly interesting and quite educational. :hello: 
Gene

Good analysis. Now I feel like I should buy an A10 :lol: 
October 14, 2012 2:43:54 PM

Finneous, this is terrible! I wanted to buy a new PC, not sell something. It's going backwards. :ange: 

At any rate, feel free to point out if I have misgauged the performance of the integrated GPU. Otherwise I would consider the CPU (and hence GPU) choice to be pretty much settled. A high-end, high FPS system is precisely not what I need (unless it happens to ship at the same price as the mid-range kit) and while I like games, I only need enough FPS to fool my puny human eyes / brain and can stomach longer loading times as long as the game is worth it. (I always have a book nearby for such occasions :)  )


Going over the specs of the mainboard looking for the DVI type, I also noticed my current choice - ASROCK FM2A75 Pro4* - has onboard Radeon HD7000 series... I merely wanted the option of using multiple GPUs some day in the future, and now I'm already counting two without a single graphics card in this build. And the HD7000 series dedicated cards rank as the best I have so far looked at, although the onboard version probably would score less. Computer tech is mad these days. :ouch: 


*Chosen for price and it sporting 4 RAM slots, while others at that price have only 2. You can never have enough of those.


On that, I have two naive questions (My excuse: Google swamped out the answers, whatever they may be, with noise):

1) Is there any hope of exploiting both onboard and integrated graphics? From google, onboard graphics seem to switch off as soon as a dedicated card is added, but whether this applies to CPU-integrated graphics I could not find out. At least both would be Radeon and in the previous review it at least looked easy to link the A10 GPU and HD6670 card.
Note: When I say 'exploit' I am thinking of performance, rather than using multiple screens.

2) Where would one actually plug in the monitor for an integrated CPU? Obviously, my choice board has a DVI port due to the onboard graphics, but not all boards do. Also relevant if I can't use my mainboard's port to access the CPU graphics. (Although the HD7000 might just outperform the integrated graphics, if it comes down to choosing.)

3) Another naive question: How long, on average, does it take for the first price drops to appear in these tech lines. FM2 boards and CPUs just came out and my target assembly would be during the December holidays. Would there be any point delaying the actual purchase hoping to save a few pennies? (This is assuming there is a pattern....)



Anyway, to give the illusion of progress in my builds, I'd also like to start looking at RAM. :) 

There is not much that can go wrong here and I tend to go for Corsair modules, which reportedly provides good quality. Does the frequency affect much these days? Checking my lists for DDR3 sets 8GB+, I can get 2-module kits for 30 or 40 Euros, 1600 MHz and 1866 MHz (max supported by A10), and don't know if the difference is worth it.



Thanks,
Gene

October 14, 2012 3:53:41 PM


The "Built-in AMD Radeon HD 7000 series graphics, DX 11, PS 5.0" refers to the CPU integrated graphics. I have no idea why they have included it there. The motherboard does not have graphics.

1) Nope, since ASRock has confused you. It is possible to Crossfire a HD6670 with the A10 CPU graphics.

2) It plugs in the motherboard.

3) There might be price drops, might not. I wouldn't hold off purchase if you're wanting a new system.

There's not a huge difference in RAM speeds in real world use, but if the price difference is not huge AMD APUs tend to benefit from faster RAM.
October 14, 2012 9:42:59 PM

Good grief, you are right. I still wonder just where this little fact is mentioned in the ASRock specsheet, but my price checker does say the graphics come in via an A10-5800K. A bit presumptious, perhaps, and that little word does change quite a bit. Oh well...


RAM

I picked an 2x4GB 1866 MHz Corsair RAM kit* for now. I could save 10 Euros using a lower frequency but take your word for this making some contribution to the performance at some point. This still leaves two slots for expansions, should I ever find a use for all that memory.

*8GB CORSAIR Vengeance Black - Dual Channel Kit (CMZ8GX3M2A1866C9)



Naive RAM-question: I like XP, and the mainboard seems to support it*, so I'd like to run a dual boot system. I know XP 32b only goes up to about ~3.5 GB RAM, and I don't care for or about the losses in that mode. But could this cause problems if a single module is greater than what the OS can actually support? I'm not sure if XP just drops the excess capacity from a module, or if it drops the entire module. Which would be problematic with two 4 GB modules for it to choose from.

*I already run dosbox. Don't make me run a winbox as well. Besides, windows 7 is way too easy to install. No laborious setting up partitions. No 8 hour waiting time while the updates of the past 10 years are installed. It's unnatural!



PSU

That leaves one thing, the PSU. If I know nothing about GPUs and mainboards, I know even less about the PSU. Except that certain evil corporate entities occasionally overstate the capabilities of certain PSUs, and that these cheap things will drag the rest of your hardware down to Hades when they die. Or so the rumours go. It's the internet.

I don't actually know how to deal with the power requirements for this build. PSU calculators don't know about the A10-5800K yet - TDP 100 W, peak power use according to an article on this site 140 W - and I am not sure how to treat the GPU in all this. It is likely in the 140W figure, another assumption.
Depending on how 'harsh' the conditions are (up to 3 extra fans, 2 high-RPM SATAs - an costly option offered in one calculator - and 2 HD6670s, linked, for a post-upgrade scenario), I came out with values for ~400 - 500 W. The benign scenarios are probably more accurate, but for my guess at a decent PSU, the price difference between 450W and 550W is negligible.*

Enermax Triathlor 550 W, selected for price, connectors - 2x 4pin secondary connectors, which presumably works fine with the 8-pin connector of the mainboard, and 2x6pin GPU connectors, which seem common enough among ATI/AMD cards - a high energy efficiency, price. Enermax was chosen because the only PSU I have ever picked myself is a used Enermax which is very quiet and well-behaved.
Specsheet, scroll down or click on 'Produktdaten anzeigen'. Though German, still informative. :sarcastic: 



Thank you,
Gene


P.S.: Current cost for the whole set (MB, CPU, PSU, RAM, no GPU) is 300 Euros. Given that this is tech from this month, which puts my initial hopes to shame, I am suitably impressed. Dare I hope for a system I need not touch for many years, capable of doing anything that is asked of it?

(Of course not, too easy. Either it would be struck by lightning, or struck by Vista 2.)
October 15, 2012 10:11:06 AM

There shouldn't be a problem with XP. Why you would want to use it is beyond me though.

The 140 W is for the entire chip, thus including the GPU.

The Enermax seems like a decent unit. I only found one review for it though.

For the use you have listed I think you'll be happy with this system for some time.
October 17, 2012 5:44:18 PM

Well, let's just say my previous encounters with Windows 7 were not always too convincing. Dual boot would be a nice opportunity to adapt, while also figuring out which of my old things will or won't run in the new environment.

At any rate, many thanks to you and everyone else who contributed here. As far as power and price are concerned, this should indeed get me through the winter (and much further). :D 


Gene
!