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Help please building a gaming machine

Last response: in CPUs
August 31, 2004 4:03:35 PM


I'm not sure if this is the right forum. I'm not sure which one is?
I've read a large number of postings, reviews and articles on similar themes to this request and am basically suffering from what I believe is called PPA (Pre-Purchase Anxiety :-)).

I want to build a fast games machine platform for a Nvidia 6800 GT. I'm considering all options but have highlighted two below for sake of discussion. I'm keen on buying very fast memory to try and get the best out of my system. I've read that games benefit more from a low latency than they do from a high bandwidth, so I've decided against DDR2 which all seems to be a CAS Latency of 4.

I'm looking for some help deciding whether to buy Athlon 64 or Intel. Generally speaking I prefer the idea of AMD with it's 64 bit processor and NX bit, also I'm suspicious of Intels approach with the XD bit. So despite my AMD preference I can't ignore what appear to be problems with running very fast memory with stability with Athlon 64's. As written up in the article on this website (

The initial purpose of this system will be for playing Far Cry, Doom 3 and Half Life 2 at super smooth high resolution settings. I don't tend to care so much about all the Anisotropic settings I'm more interested in smoothness and resolution.

Here are two options, but I'm open to others:

Intel P4 Northwood 3.4GHz Retail / Asus P4C800-E Deluxe / 1GB GeIL PC4000 Ultra Dual-Channel Kit - Bundle (BU-007-OK)
GeIL PC4000 Platinum is ready to take the full advantages of Intel's new chipsets to reach 250MHz+ FSB bandwidth!

- 184pin, Non-ECC, Un-buffered, high performance DDR memory modules
- GeIL 3.5ns 32x8 Density DDR Chip
- Optimized SPD for Intel 875/865 chipset Dual Channel DDR motherboards
- CAS 2.5 7-4-4 @ DDR500MHz PC4000

Price: £448.20 (£526.63 Including VAT at 17.5%)

AMD Athlon 64 3500 Retail / Asus A8V Deluxe / 1GB Corsair XMS3200XLPT Dual Channel Kit - Bundle (BU-015-OK)
Guaranteed 100% Compatible Motherboard/CPU/Memory Bundles carefully selected by the Overclockers UK team to provide optimum performance and reliability.
A matched pair of 512MB XMS3200XL Extreme Low Latency (2-5-2-2) memory modules - 1GB total - ideal for dual DDR motherboards.

Corsair 1GB DDR XMS3200XLPT TwinX (2x512MB) CAS2 (MY-049-CS)
Asus A8V Deluxe (Socket 939) Wireless Edition Motherboard (MB-063-AS)
AMD Athlon 64 3500 (Socket 939) - Retail (CP-086-AM)

Price: £465.90 (£547.43 Including VAT at 17.5%)

So I guess I'm looking for opinions. Should I go with Athlon 64 and slower memory or Intel and faster memory with my ultimate goal being gaming performance?

August 31, 2004 4:06:46 PM

Go for Option 2 !
Option 1 gets realy warm and will not be able to run Windows 64 bit in a few months.

Toms Hardware Site is a joke !
Looks like intel spent more on bribing reviewers to cover up it aint that great than they did in R&D, you know what im talking about Tom !
August 31, 2004 4:32:14 PM

A64 doesn't need fast RAM with onboard memory controler.
Check the D3 specs...the 3200+ is about the same as a P4EE.

A64 KILLS in games.

You could get Cas3 value ram, save like 200bucks, and get a minor drop in gaming power, so small you wouldn't notice.

yes Cas2 ram would inprove speed, and yes higher bandwidth will help for future upgrades and overclocking.
BUT.....for TWICE the price shouldn't you get more then 15-20% of the power?

If you have an unlimited budget get A64 53-FX, 1GB Cas2 RAM, and a 6800Ultra Extreme.
but if you think you should get bang for your buck....then dont get Cas2 ram for an A64.

<font color=blue> I am on an express train to hell. I hope I'm in the front row, the ride is ALWAYS better in the front. </font color=blue>
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August 31, 2004 9:19:23 PM

What is Budget?

Have you considered that with all this new Hardware you will need a new PSU? Sorry to say that old 300watt job you got from your old computer wont cut it anymore. If I was you I would aim for a 500 watt plus so your covered, and don’t buy any old crap like E-Buyer extra value PSU’s 600 Watt for a £5 jobbies either, get something like an Enermax or Zalman or a Q-Tec. I’m sure someone here will be able to help you in this department.

You want to get a Geforce 6800GT. Fair enough, so what display are you going to use? For a graphics card to so its true glory you want a decent monitor like a quality 19" CRT or a 17" 16MS TFT screen.

Do you plan to overclock?
August 31, 2004 11:04:23 PM

Going with Intel buy the Abit IS7 mobo. Best mobo for the money. Ram can you buy the new Ballistic PC4000 where you are?
September 1, 2004 12:45:07 AM

For the A64 system, even samsung generic ram is fine. For the Intel, you need expensive ram.
The A64 is better for gaming, and with cheaper ram, is less expensive as well.
September 1, 2004 4:40:27 AM

Go for the second option, but with a nForce3 Ultra chipset based mobo (MSI K8N Neo2 Platinum for example)

Or get A64 3400+ (2.4 GHz, 512k L2 cache) with MSI K8N Neo Platinum. It's a slightly better performing and cheaper CPU+mobo combo.

<A HREF="" target="_new">My Website</A>

<A HREF="" target="_new">My Rig</A> & <A HREF="" target="_new">3DMark score</A>
September 1, 2004 8:54:43 AM

Thanks for your replies.

Cheaper RAM sounds like good news. Do know of any gaming benchmarking articles that show the differences?

Someone asked whether I'm looking to overclock. The answer is yes in a small way. I'm looking for stability first, but like the idea of running faster than DDR400 memory with the Athlon64. I read a magazine article somewhere that recommended Geil Value PC3200 RAM which they successfully overclocked to DDR400, although if the performance were worth it I'd buy PC4000 for stability. I'm not going to mod the system for extensive cooling. I'm happy to buy a decent CPU heatsink/fan though.

Budget wise I'm looking at about £1000 inc. VAT. That's for the system only. I have a 21" DELL monitor for gaming.

I've yet to properly look into what sort of PSU I need with the 6800 GT. My system typically has 2 IDE hard disks in it plus two DVD/CD drives. I was thinking that somewhere in the region of a 420W would be sufficient. My existing PSU is a decent 350W one.

Looking at the Athlon64 3400+ (2.2Ghz, 1MB L2, S754) versus Athlon64 3500+ (2.2Ghz, 512KB L2, S939). I see in a number of gaming benchmarks that the 3400+ outperforms the 3500+ due to it's larger L2 cache even though it's memory bandwidth is lower. Is that going to remain true with future games? I realise that Socket 939 is the future but I'm now thinking that since my priority is always gaming I'll be wanting a PCI-express motherboard in a couple of years and so the motherboard will be out of the window at that point anyway.

September 1, 2004 10:28:17 PM

Uh, sorry Charlie! There is no way you are going to clock-up that 3.4 to 4.25ghz on air! Impossible! If you are going to overclock get a 3.0C with the D1 stepping.

Abit IS7 - 3.0C @ 3.6ghz - Mushkin PC4000 (2 X 512) - Sapphire 9800Pro - TT 420 watt Pure Power
Samsung 120gb ATA-100 - Maxtor 40gb ATA - 100
Sony DRU-510A - Yellowtail Merlot
September 1, 2004 11:46:01 PM

Sony DRU-510A - Yellowtail Merlot

Love that merlot, thier shiraz is great to.
September 2, 2004 1:42:25 AM

I'm doing the same as you in now building a gaming machine, and I've been reading a lot.

First off, go AMD, not intel. AMD is cheaper and faster for gaming. I'd suggest Athlon64 3200+, 3400+, or 3500+ depending on how much you wanna spend. They all pretty good speed/price ratio. Consider intel only if you are heavy into video editting stuff.

Geforce GT is a good value and speed, so that's a good choice. Myself, I'm getting the ATI x800pro. I find the ATIs to be slightly faster in everything but OpenGL games, and all the new nvidia cards seem to have problems with size and heat and noise, compared to ATI.

a gig of fast RAM will get you into each level of your games nice and fast.

HD has virtually no effect within games. Don't worry about RAID, performance-wise it gives no help at all for a typical desktop. Best setup I've read is to get a 36gig 10k rpm boot drive (for speed), then add a 7200rpm data drive (for cheap storage)
September 2, 2004 2:48:36 AM

WOW! 1 whole frame faster from CAS3 to CAS2

"If youre paddling upstream in a canoe and a
wheel falls off, how many pancakes fit in a doghouse? None! Icecream doesn't have bones!!!"
September 2, 2004 3:33:35 AM

Wow toy. you actually added something usefull to this post. Good job.
September 2, 2004 3:45:49 AM

Great stuff! Good flavor and very light on the sulfides!

Abit IS7 - 3.0C @ 3.6ghz - Mushkin PC4000 (2 X 512) - Sapphire 9800Pro - TT 420 watt Pure Power
Samsung 120gb ATA-100 - Maxtor 40gb ATA - 100
Sony DRU-510A - Yellowtail Merlot
September 2, 2004 2:07:54 PM

Thanks for the reference articles. Very interesting to see how little difference there is moving between CAS 2.5 and 3.0.

So what about the benefits of buying DDR500 instead of DDR400 memory with an Athlon 64 processor? Will I'll see a large benefit in gaming if I can run the memory at DDR500 speed?

I'm still amazed at how well the 3400+ clawhammer (1MB L2, single channel, 800Mhz Hypertransport) performs in games against the 3500+ (512KB L2, dual channel, 1Ghz Hypertransport). Will future games continue to perform as well/better on 3400+ or is that just a situation we're in now?

Thanks for all your help,