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Building a New Gaming Comp

Last response: in CPUs
May 11, 2005 8:16:34 PM

I'm looking to build a gaming computer for around $1000, excluding monitor, speakers, and DVD burner (which I already have). I'm not interested in overclocking. I've read through many of the official guides here, as well as the buyer's guides on these forums. Here's what I'm looking at:

CPU: Athlon64 3000+ or better. I'm "upgrading" from a Pentium 3.00GHz because my family wants my current computer, so I'd prefer something better, yet still reasonably priced. Is it worth holding off for a couple of months for a dual-core processor, or will they be exorbitantly expensive anyway, and beyond my budget?

Motherboard: I see that the Socket 754 is recommended with the Newcastle line of processors for the 3.0-3.4+ range. I find this curious, as I'd think it'd be best to go with a newer (and presumably faster) socket 939 mobo. Comments?

Also, I would love to get a motherboard that allows me to plug my headphones into the front of the computer, yet is still connected to a separate sound card (later on that) rather than an integrated onboard sound card (because they suck). I use my headphones more than speakers, and I hate having to drag the computer out every time I want to switch between the speakers and my headphones. It would also be nice if I didn't have to change the volume in Windows whenever I switch between headphones and speakers (I don't currently use a separate amplifier).

Memory: I'll want memory to match the processor and mobo of course. 400 DDR seems to be the standard for Athlon64's. I'll probably go with a total of 1GB. Is any more than that necessary for gaming?

Video Card: An eVGA Nvidia Geforce 6600GT looks good. I'm upgrading from a Geforce4 Ti4200. XD The video card is the most important part of a gaming computer it seems, on a price/performance basis, so I want to make this one good.

Sound: Creative Soundblaster Audigy 2 ZS. Looks cheap and seems to meet my needs. All I'm interested in is the gaming aspect (speed, sound quality, and EAX). I'm upgrading from an Audigy 1. I generally use my Zalmunn 5.1 Headphones at all times. If there's better surround sound headphones available now for <$100, I'm all ears. If I could also use them with my PS2, I might even be willing to pay more.

Ethernet Card: Is integrated NIC the way to go nowadays? Should I be investigating for the perfect ethernet solution for my computer as well? I'm on an always-on connection at all times (either by cable modem or T3), and I've started playing MMORPG's lately. I also use the Internet constantly.

Hard drive: Usually I'd just go with a good 200MB drive and leave it at that. Would there be significant advantage to getting a Raptor and putting my OS on it, and then getting a 200MB drive to store everything else on? I'm not too interested in fussing around with swapping things like games between drives when space runs out on the smaller one (which would require a reinstall if I wanted to play the game again...).

I think that hits all the main components. I'd appreciate any comments/suggestions you guys could provide. :) 

More about : building gaming comp

May 11, 2005 11:06:52 PM

i just wanted to point a couple things out before i get to the specs.... the first thing is you shouldn't get s747.. they are pretty much discontinued and you have no upgradability on that socket. and the second thing is, with a budge gaming system, ditch the sound card... most of us will be happy enough with the integrated sound and depending on the case you get, you should be able to plug your head phones in (whats surround sound head phones?!)

okay here are the specs i recommend:

a64 3500+
dfi ultra-d

that lays the foundation of your system... ditch the 6600GT, you can get something better... and you have about $250 left for w/e you want... hd... case... yeah you get hte point...

<font color=red>One Lowe</font color=red> <P ID="edit"><FONT SIZE=-1><EM>Edited by masturdebat3rr on 05/11/05 07:08 PM.</EM></FONT></P>
May 12, 2005 12:33:50 AM

>Is it worth holding off for a couple of months for a
>dual-core processor, or will they be exorbitantly expensive
>anyway, and beyond my budget?

For gaming, you can safely ignore dual core. And you can always upgrade to one if need arises. Not much point in spending $500 extra now for something you won't likely need for another year, maybe two, by which time those $500 extra will buy you something much better. I'd look at a 3500+ or so.

>Motherboard: I see that the Socket 754 is recommended with
>the Newcastle line of processors for the 3.0-3.4+ range. I
>find this curious, as I'd think it'd be best to go with a
>newer (and presumably faster) socket 939 mobo. Comments?

You guessed it: seems like the sticky is outdated. Get a S939.

>Also, I would love to get a motherboard that allows me to
>plug my headphones into the front of the computer,

Any motherboard with onboard audio should have connectors to do just that; tricky thing is however, that an Audigy may not (not sure). I think my old Audigy Player doesn't. I wouldn't recommend the audio card anyhow, I hate mine, no matter how good the sound quality is supposed to be. Software and drivers suck BIG time, and frankly, even with my highend amplifier and speaker setup, I can't tell difference from my onboard audio. EAX ? I always disable it, sounds terrible in every game I've tried it. Even the supplied demo's didn't impress me one bit.

>I'll probably go with a total of 1GB. Is any more than that
>necessary for gaming?

1GB is about the sweet spot now. Depends on your games though, I play IL2 Sturmovik (Pacific Fighters), and its a memory hog. Its quite a bit happier with 1.5 GB, especially if you like keeping other things open and alt tab between them. MMORPGs also tend to eat (and leak) memory, so you might want to keep some money aside to buy another 512Mb.

>Ethernet Card: Is integrated NIC the way to go nowadays?

More than good enough for internet access. Some boards also have Gbit ethernet, but that is only usefull if both your machines have them, and to connect both. For internet, any NIC will do, onboard or not.

>Video Card: An eVGA Nvidia Geforce 6600GT looks good. I'm
>upgrading from a Geforce4 Ti4200.

Not sure here. However, I have the same GF4 as you, and I was looking at getting the same 6600GT :)  But then its mostly because I "have" to avoid ATI as there are too many problems I hear using ATI & IL2.

>Hard drive: Usually I'd just go with a good 200MB drive and
>leave it at that. Would there be significant advantage to
>getting a Raptor and putting my OS on it, and then getting a
> 200MB drive to store everything else on?

For gaming ? Nope. Might help windows load times though, but not worth it IMHO for a gaming rig. I would suggest getting a drive that is ~1.000x bigger though, they are quite affordable these days :p 

= The views stated herein are my personal views, and not necessarily the views of my wife. =
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May 12, 2005 1:01:52 AM

Here's what I'd get:

Soltek K890-Pro S939 mobo - $99
A64 3500+ Venice - $272
ATI Radeon X800XL - $295
OCZ Enhanced Latency DDR 2x512 2-3-2-6 - $135
WD 300GB SATA - $156
Onboard sound - $0

Total: $957

It's cutting it a little thin, but you still have some $$$ left over for a case. I'd not skimp on this though as it'll last through many upgrades. Get a good antec case. I have an SX1040B with an upgraded power supply to a 480W that I've had for a long time now and will for some time to come.

A slower processor like a 3000+ Venice with some overclocking (it's really easy and safe) will save you about $100, going down to a 250 GB SATA drive will get you another $30 or so, and then you might have enough left over for a 36 GB raptor to stick in for an OS drive, or a better case, or a sound card...

s signature has been formatted to fit your scr
May 12, 2005 2:50:21 AM

If I was you I would put a RAID 0 (what about 2 X 160GB) 94% faster than single drive - 100% reliable

Don't think twice :) 

<P ID="edit"><FONT SIZE=-1><EM>Edited by edurm on 05/12/05 02:44 AM.</EM></FONT></P>
May 12, 2005 3:51:31 AM

Wow. I never expected anyone to contest that I should ditch the sound card. Yet all three posters here so far have done so. Hmm. First, I'd like to say that I'm pretty attached to Creative's EAX line of sound cards. I remember back when I got a SoundBlaster Live!, and the change in quality simply in the MIDI's was astounding. Note that the card gave me no end of problems with driver conflicts and the like, however. My Audigy has given me less problems, but a few problems have cropped up every now and then (most recently disabling sound solved the crashing in a certain Japanese anime game). I also love EAX, and I think it really heightens the immersiveness and realism in 3D games like Knights of the Old Replublic. Finally, the official guides here state that onboard audio is a significant draw on the system resources, specifically the CPU, and that the addition of any sound card greatly reduces this draw to about 2% of the CPU power.

I should say that my current computer has onboard sound as well as the Audigy (I have the onboard sound disabled). So I could also stick with the Audigy and leave my family with the onboard sound. If it's good enough for the people here then I'm sure it's good enough for them. :p  ;-) Would any here know if there's any noticeable quality/performance/EAX difference between an Audigy 1 and an Audigy 2 ZS?

And yes, they're 5.1 surround sound headphones. XD See this review for more details:

I love them. In fact, I love them so much that I keep them on even when no one's around. Nothing like a great set of headphones to make you feel like you're in another world of swords and sorcery. And they only cost me $50 at the time (about a year and a half ago)! They might even be cheaper now...

CPU: Everyone seems to be suggesting a 3500+. I'm ok with that, though a 50% price increase from a 3200+ (3200+ = $180, 3500+ = $270) for only a 10% increase in processing power seems kind of steep.

Video Card: I need to check the benchmarks for this, but I can't seem to find any in the official guides here. How much better is an x800-xl than a Geforce 6600 GT? Is an x800-xl closer to an x-800 XT PE, x-800 XT, or an x-800 Pro? Why an x-800 instead of a Geforce 6800 (+/- GT).

Motherboard: I need to look more closely at this. I didn't read any guides yet, since I hadn't even decided what socket to get (now I know). Browsing through and making sense of the various guides here on-the-spot could take hours though, and I don't have time for that until Friday or Saturday.

Hard drive: Ah yeah, 200GB. ^_^; I'm still on the fence as to whether to get a Raptor to put my OS on. I'm leaning towards no though if it won't improve game performance. In that case I'd rather go with a bigger drive, or maybe even a second drive instead.

Ethernet card: Ok, integrated it is.

Memory: If I have some spare money, I'll go with another 512MB. Hell, I'm only paying 33% of the cost right now (it being a present of sorts), so I might as well get it now while I can. XD I'd prefer to keep my costs under $333 (3x$333=$1000), but I could go a little over if need be. Yet there's clearly a point of greatly diminishing return when it comes to hardware, and I'd prefer to upgrade less, more often, than to pull out all the stops and not be able to upgrade again for 5 years...

BTW, I should also mention that I already have a $100 case with all the bells and whistles (though I think the power supply is merely 350W). I could probably even let my family front the cost of an extra cheap case on their own.
May 12, 2005 4:00:38 AM

I don't like the idea of RAID. You know why? RAID0 more than doubles the chance that you're going to lose everything, because if either of them fails you're screwed (and you're at the mercy of the least stable of the two). The other RAID, which copies all of the data onto to each drive, thus creating a back-up, doubles writing time--which also sucks. Sounds simpler and even advantageous to just keep your drives separate as they were meant to be.
May 13, 2005 9:59:55 PM

I have an Audigy 2 myself, and haven't had a lick of problems with it... or for that matter pretty much any Creative sound card I've used. SB16, SBAWE64, SBLive!, SBAudigy and SBAudigy2. I've heard of a few issues involving mostly VIA chipsets... but having had 2 computers with VIA chipsets that are still up and running... I had no issues.

I prefer add-in cards because the codecs usually use more CPU power than an add-in card. nVdia's Soundstorm was the exception to that rule... I have no idea how Intel's newest solution holds up.

<font color=red> If you design software that is fool-proof, only a fool will want to use it. </font color=red>
May 13, 2005 10:17:18 PM

the first thing is you shouldn't get s747.. they are pretty much discontinued and you have no upgradability on that socket.

<A HREF="" target="_new">Here</A> and <A HREF="" target="_new">here</A> you can see the even socket 939 is going to die next year.. So, in this case, an upgrade later will probably mean a complete motherboard/cpu/RAM in order to really worth it. That mean that if he plan on keeping his system more than one years, and with the availability of socket 754 PCIe motherboard, that a 3400+ socket 754 is a really good system right now. Often performing better than the 3500+ because clocked 200MHz faster, this could help in encoding and rendering tasks.

IMHO, right now, and if those new socket are going to be the next standard, it doesnt worth it to invest much more money in a dying socket 939 that wont worth upgrading when newer motherboard with better performance and feature that will really worth upgrading will start to show up.

<font color=red>Sig space for rent. make your offer.</font color=red>