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What kind of CPU should I buy/build for games?

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Anonymous
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February 26, 2001 1:50:56 AM

I have a VERY Little amount of knowledge in computer hardware in that I have build an old 386 and 486 computer before. =) I also have played around a little bit with my current Pentium 233hmz, 32 megs ram, no 3d card, 5400 rpm 2 gig hard drive, and 56k modem... dont u feel sorry for me already. =( Anyway, I am into online games (Tribes, Tribes 2, Halflife: Counterstrike, UO3d, Halo *Some games arent out yet:)  and am looking for a computer to buy that will basically run these games with no problem what-so-ever. I was wondering if I could get some advice on what to go for. I was looking at one of the following systems...
P4, 1.5ghz, 256-384 megs RDRam (i think...), best damn 3d card I can get, 60gig 7200rpm hard drive with ultra ata100
or...
Athalon 1.2ghz, 256-384 megs ?Ram, best damn 3d card I can get, and same hard drive as above.
What is the better system for games listed above, and... what company has the best parts (quality and highest tech parts (fastest available)) or any suggestions on what parts to buy to build one of these systems? Thanks for the help & your time.
*I heard that Alienware or something has good gameing cpu's, anyone have any comments on their systems?
P.S. I dont know much about the specific types of things, like i said, i have limmited tech knowledge when it comes to hardware.
Anonymous
a b à CPUs
February 26, 2001 2:39:49 AM

AMD Athlon all the way man
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February 26, 2001 2:46:56 AM

I'd recommend a AMD Thundebird/Athlon. For the price you can't beat the perfomance. If you want the absolute FASTEST processor- the only choice is the P4... despite the fact that it's a huge disappointment, it does hold the highest benchmarks in most games. Still, it's not worth the money in my opinion. As for a video card- i recommend anything nVidia- specifically the GeForce 2 GTS or Pro. The best right now is the GF2 Ultra- but the cheapest you can get it anywhere is about $330.

-MP Jesse
February 26, 2001 2:58:02 AM

p4 only is better in the sandra memory benchmark. IT's not worth it.

Get a good video card. have you seen the preview of tribes2? I think it's going to be pretty intensive.

Go t-bird

"I think I brained my damage"
February 26, 2001 3:33:51 AM

Yeah, stick with an AMD TBird 1200mhz - The money you save buying that chip vs. the Intel P4(not to mention the money saved on SDRAM vs. RDRAM)can be used to go toward the best vid card currently available, the Nvidia GeForce2 Ultra 64MB DDR which will kick the crap out of any P4 system with anything less than the same video card. Also, you could get DDR SDRAM which will be slightly more expensive, but still cheaper than Rambu$ while offering you even better performance. Not to mention, the current P4 architecture is due to be upgraded to a new process in a few months and the current P4's will be left with no upgrade path

********************************
Wherever you go, there you are.
February 26, 2001 3:43:30 AM

The AMD is prolly a better choice. You will get more for your money. I would get the Deckstar 75GXP for HD, its top of the charts. Also you may want to research the systems with DDR memory vs SD memory. If your buying OEM your limited on what DDR you can get so SD is best. But if you are building I strogly sugest looking into DDR boards. The AMD 760 chips is good but the Via KT266 will be even better(due in March). DDR may or may not be fore you so just research it and make the choice. GeForce 2 Ultra is only way to go for vidio. The prices are going to drop quite a bit as soon as GeForce3 is releases(next Month also I think). Key advice, never rush a purchase, and don' skimp out on quality memory.

Someday I will stop asking all the questions!
a b à CPUs
February 26, 2001 4:08:51 AM

Don't even compare the P4 for current games. It's designed for future games that will be optomised for it, but can't even beat the PIII 1GHz when it comes to current games. In fact, for the most part, neither can the 1200MHz Athlon. Really when it comes to 3D, the Graphics card comes first, then the processor. Most 3D stuff is better optomized for SSE (Intel) than 3DNOW! (AMD), aven though the later has been around longer. What this means for gamers is that the 1200MHz Athlon Thunderbird is not really any faster than the PIII 1GHz when it comes to most games. So avoid the P4 entirely for now and set your sites on the 1200 Athlon or the 1000 PIII depending on personall preference. And get a good video card like the GeForce2 GTS, PRO, or Ultra, depending on your budget. If your building yourself, check memory speed on the graphics card as some cheap GeForce2 Pro cards are comming with the slightly slower memory of the GTS.

Suicide is painless...........
Anonymous
a b à CPUs
February 26, 2001 10:31:24 AM

Yeah this is what your system should look like if you have an uunlimited budget:

1.2GHz Athlon Thunderbird
256MB PC2100DDR
64MB GeForce2 Pro, if you can't get a hand on a Pro go with Ultra
80GB UATA/100 7200RPM
Anonymous
a b à CPUs
February 26, 2001 11:02:52 AM

avoid the P4 but anything at that speed is limited by the graphics card anyway so throw your money that way and make sure you have plenty memory..... good luck

M

UK Prices are <font color=red>toooooooooo</font color=red> high , keep competition going to bring em down :smile:
February 26, 2001 12:06:09 PM

If you get a p4, there will be NO upgrade path, and that will be a one of the largest mistakes you can make. The next version of p4 will need different motherboards etc.

Wait a few weeks and get the 266 FSB AMD Athlon 1.3Ghz. Also get the nVidia GeForce3. Thats also coming out pretty soon. It will kill any other combination of Hardware.

Oh Yeah, also about 256MB ram and an Asustek motherboard. they're really good. IBM UATA100 Harddrive will also be pretty cool.
February 26, 2001 12:22:17 PM

You've got to love everyone's so unbiased suggestions for you. Since you aren't up to date on the recent technology, I'll help you not by suggesting what you should buy, but by explaining the advantages and disadvantages with either system. And then you can make an educated choice instead of just having to rely on the whims of us technophiles. :) 

If you have to buy a system RIGHT NOW, here is the rundown of what's available:

For currently existing games, the AMD Athlon (T-Bird) is the way to go. It's the fastest chip for running unoptimized software. And it supports DDR SDRAM (double-rate SDRAM) which gives it a bit of a boost in speed over standard single-rate SDRAM systems. And, AMD systems are less expensive, so you can save a bit of money there and get a really good video card or a nice big monitor if you want to spend a lot of money.

For future games yet to be written, you're better off with a P4. The P4 has a higher clock speed, which sounds good. But, Intel hacked off half of the floating-point processor because they had to keep the chip size small. This results in the P4 not performing nearly as well as it should, which makes it seem a pretty bad choice.

However, it's not quite as bad as all that. You did specifically mention a need for support of future games. And this is where the P4 has a huge advantage over the Athlon. The P4 has SSE2 which the Athlon does not. When software is written to actually use SSE2, the P4 rocks.

AMD even admits that SSE2 is useful, and in the future will support it as well. But for now, the P4 is the only chip that has it.

Now, those chip suggestions are based on if you had to buy a system RIGHT NOW. But, if you can wait, there's a few things worth waiting for:

Intel is working on a new version of the P4 that should have this floating-point processor fixed. Because the chip will be etched with a smaller process, that means that they can fit more on the same sized chip, and so will (hopefully) be putting the full FPU back into the P4 design. This new chip will be a different socket type, and thus any P4 you buy now won't have much room to upgrade. But waiting to see what the new P4s will be like might definately be worth it to you.

AMD is also working on new chips, including the ClawHammer. The ClawHammer will (hopefully) be using SSE2. If this is true, it will make it very competative against the P4. So it is also worth waiting to see how well it holds up to the hype.

And, as AMD fanatics like to forget to mention when they tell you that the current Intel chips have no future as Intel is replacing the current sockets with different sockets, they forget to mention that AMD is doing the EXACT SAME THING, and that any currently purchased AMD chip systems have no room for expansion either.

It is because of all of these new chips coming out that I strongly suggest waiting on purchasing your new system until they do come out. That way you will have room to upgrade in the future, and the new chips may perform quite considerably better than anything in the market currently.

Also, nVidia just launched their GeForce3 chipset, which will (hopefully) soon be coming to market. This graphics chip for video cards sounds like it will revolutionize the video cards yet again. So waiting for this to come out before you purchase a new system might also be interesting to you.

So my suggestion to you would not be to go with either AMD or Intel yet, but to instead wait and see which of their next generation chips will come out on top. But also feel free to completely disregard my suggestion if it doens't meet your needs. :) 

- Sanity is purely based on point-of-view.
Anonymous
a b à CPUs
February 26, 2001 12:45:10 PM

Hey slvr , are you waiting for the test system again? :) 



UK Prices are <font color=red>toooooooooo</font color=red> high , keep competition going to bring em down :smile:
February 26, 2001 1:05:44 PM

This morning I've had a combination of waiting to test and trying to piece together why my software won't process the response from a specific querry to the hardware until after she software has reached a time-out check I added in, at which point it just tosses the hardware responses anyway.

It's just plain acting weird and I'm stumped for a reason why.

I swear, I should just bloody redesign the hardware. But that's not my job so they won't let me. Heh heh.

- Sanity is purely based on point-of-view.
Anonymous
a b à CPUs
February 26, 2001 2:08:26 PM

I dont plan on buying/building this system untill just before summer vacation (in school still). I will have about $3,000 available, give or take about $200. I would am still debating between the Athalon and the P4, since the Athalon is currently the better overall system, but the P4 still sounds pretty sweet for games in the future. If AMD came out with a system with the new P4 tech. (dont remember what it was) then there would be no ? to what the better system would be. Like I said, I plan on buying/building this system about just before June. So... what do you think will be the better system at that time? Thx for the help.
February 26, 2001 6:22:38 PM

$3000 will buy one hell of a system. If games are your major concern think about two things. How well the games perform and how good games look. Thinking about these you will be looking to buy a great monitor and a great graphics card. I recommend a professional quality 19" monitor. (You'll have to look and choose one for yourself as monitors are very much a personal preference). As for a graphics card, there is no doubt that the top graphics card Geforce 3 (NV20). It should be available before summer. I don't know what the price will be but it has been rumored at $500-$600. Even at this high cost, and probably a little more for the monitor, you will have plenty left over for a top performing computer. You should wait until the Geforce 3 is available before deciding which class of system pairs best with it. However, I should think that even an Athlon 1000 should be able keep up at really high resolutions like 1600x1200.
February 26, 2001 7:26:11 PM

If he had an unlimited budget why would he get the Pro? The Ultra is better!

- I don't write Tom's Hardware Guide, I just preach it"
Anonymous
a b à CPUs
February 27, 2001 11:03:46 PM

I have been working at a local K-mart at $6/hour since before thanksgiving saving up for this system. I am only 16, so... no living costs, but still... (I EARNED this damn machine, which is why i am researching it so much)
February 27, 2001 11:24:24 PM

Hey man, I feel for you. I've spent the last half year saving up for my PC, and I'm only 14. I spend my weekends working as a Soccer and Futsal referee, anywhere from $12-$18 per hour. So, basically the last year I have had almost silch time for fun =(
But now it has finally payed off. And yes, I've spent th last year researching the hell out of everything computer related, and now after shunning light, nutrition, and friends, but not girls =) I can finally say that I am one of the highest authorities in the state. I can't believe how ignorant everyone is, and how ignorant I was, when I look back. I read the paper ads every weekend (Compusa, Staples, etc.) and laugh at the prebuilt systems. And now I have finally earned the nicest system I could dream of. Plus the 19" monitor I couldn't be more in love with (Compaq MV940). How many 14 year olds do you know that have built their own PC?

- I don't write Tom's Hardware Guide, I just preach it"
February 27, 2001 11:51:31 PM

Hey, when I was 16 I did the exact same thing. But if I was you, I'd try to wait until the next P4 and the next AMD (hammer series) comes out and then decide. You've earned enough money to build a killer system, but things are changing rather rapidly. I don't know the exact release dates of the new cpu's though...

"I think I brained my damage"
Anonymous
a b à CPUs
February 28, 2001 1:40:49 AM

Quote:
And, as AMD fanatics like to forget to mention when they tell you that the current Intel chips have no future as Intel is replacing the current sockets with different sockets, they forget to mention that AMD is doing the EXACT SAME THING, and that any currently purchased AMD chip systems have no room for expansion either.

That is absolutely untrue and it's another reason to BUY an AMD system. Socket A, in it's present format, will not only work with upcoming Palomino Athlons and Morgan Durons, it will also work with .13 micron Appaloosa Athlons. Socket A will continue to be supported for all 32-bit AMD processors.

Buying an AMD system for gaming is a no-brainer and there is no reason to wait. What's happening today is no different than what's always happened in the industry. Things change! If you need a new system you get the best you can with the best upgrade path for the least amount of money. If you wait for things to stabilize or some new technology to emerge, you'll always be waiting. Did I say AMD?

I recommend buying a Micron Millennia Max XP. Very sweet, nicely configured box.

Oh, and AMD systems don't use RAMBUST either. Stay away from any machine that uses RDRAM.
<P ID="edit"><FONT SIZE=-1><EM>Edited by Connie on 02/27/01 10:52 PM.</EM></FONT></P>
February 28, 2001 2:06:20 AM

Something else not to overlook are harddrive! Harddrive are the bottle neck of these killer systems that you are talking about. You have the best Video, CPU, Memory but one ata100 drive? Why? With 3000 dollars put some of it into a disk array! Promise makes a FastTRAK 100. Put Three xxGB 7200 RPM ATA100 and run a raid0. Or when you buy a motherboard makes sure it comes with the ability to do raid0. If you want more info on what raid can do for you let me know.

As far as both chips being having no upgrade path, Motherboards aren't that expensive. Have any of you just upgraded a cpu? Why? By the time you have out grown your cpu, you better have outgrown your Motherboard too not to mention video cards.

I work for an intel shop, But on the side everything is AMD. Both chips are great. P3 P4 Tbird they all will work wonderfull as game machines. What is paired with that chip that matters. To build a killer P4 Box would be a lot more than you could make a Killer Tbird.

If you want to play around with prices go to www.pricewatch.com (watch the shipping charges) (If you find your product look to see how far down before you see it again)

Keep in mind some things
Case - Need good cooling good power supply. How many CD/DVD/CD RW will you have? How many drives? So you know how many bays you need!

Make sure you case has plenty of places for fans and looks cool. Nothing is worse than sticking 3000 in a machine that is ugly:) 

Caddies or Coolers for your harddrive? Have to have some cooling for the drives

Network Card 4 Broadband or Modem 4 dialup :(  ?

Sound Card - get some type of Sound Blaster Live

Mouse - has to be optical that is multi button and scroll

Keyboard - I like the internet pro from microsoft

Joysticks?

Make a list of things that you have thought of, and I am sure we will point out things for you.

What kind of games do you like by the way?
February 28, 2001 2:31:47 AM

About what you said in regards to any AMD system purchased now will not be upgradeable in the future. Well, I read something that the next generation of AMD processors on the .13 micron, not clawhammer but something else, Thourougbred I think, will be fully compatible with todays chipsets and motherboards. I don't know if clawhammers will be compatible, but why not? PIIIs still work on the old 440BX chipset made for Pentium II's. The fact is that clawhammer won't come out until sometime in 2002, so that gives atleast another year or longer of compatible AMD releases for upgrading purposes. Pentium 4 has abosultely no room for expansion, which has been confirmed, but I believe AMD still has a bunch of new procs that will be compatible. I say go with an Athlon 1200 and spend the extra few hundred bucks you save over a Pentium 4 on a big monitor and sweet video card. Hell, you could almost afford a Geforce 3 with the money you save going Athlon 1200 over Pentium 4 1500 (about $400 after mobo and RAM difference).
February 28, 2001 10:55:26 AM

i would also say look in to a force feed back joystick
it's amazing how much better of a feel you can get
i personly like the fact of the little ristance that is put in it allow me to be a litle more pricise
February 28, 2001 2:15:03 PM

AMD CLAIMS that the new .13micron revisions of their chips will work in SocketA motherboards. But it's HIGHLY unlikely. (At least not without a motherboard chipset revision.) Why? Think about it. The new chips will be requiring considerably lower voltages! Do any of the current SocketA motherboards support this right now? How many older SocketA motherboards are there that don't support this?

So yes, the SocketA standard in itself might not change. But you'll still need a brand new motherboard to use the new chips because of this voltage difference, making current AMD systems JUST as limited in upgradability as current Intel systems.

So forgive me for generalizing the problem. But it's pretty assured that anyone who already owns an AMD system won't be able to upgrade to these new .13micron chips without replacing their motherboard.

- Sanity is purely based on point-of-view.
February 28, 2001 2:22:45 PM

First off, don't get an optical mouse. They are extremely annoying,jumpy, and not precise at all. At the very least try one out for a couple days and make your own decision. I couldn't use one for the life of me for anything. It was a gamble: We were taking bets to see where the pointer would end up next.

Second, I have seen one of the new boards that Tom reviewed that did support a wider range of voltages for newer processors, so just keep your eyes open.

"I think I brained my damage"
February 28, 2001 3:21:41 PM

Yeah, but THG almost always reviews preproduction engineering samples. So good luck actually finding any of those motherboards now. **L** It's a good thing that this system isn't being built until the summer. ;) 

Now to poke fun at AMD and see what kind of poor reasoning people like Connie will try to defend AMD. :) 

Sure, in the future it'll be easy to get these motherboards that support the varying voltages. The same occured when Intel released the P3 on the same chips and slots that the Celerons used. And Intel quickly learned how bad of an idea it was to do things this way.

All those poor AMD users out there now who want to use the new .13 micron chips will STILL have to go with a new motherboard to properly support their chip, just like any Intel user will to use Intel's new .13micron chips. It's just plain fact.

A different socket ensures that a customer won't shove a .13micron chip into a motherboard that doesn't support it.

While just a change in voltage regulators ensures that there will be idiots out there who fry their chip by putting it into an older motherboard. But it allows a customer to take an old chip and use it in a new system.

Forgive me for being confused on how there's any advantage to putting an old chip into a new system. Intel obviously went the smarter route to ensure that half-informed customers don't do something that they will come to regret. AMD just took the method that cost them the least amount of money to implement without a single care for any customers.

Big surprise there.

- Sanity is purely based on point-of-view.
Anonymous
a b à CPUs
February 28, 2001 3:30:22 PM

I dont know too much about harware tech terms, but in simple english, (or tech terms with lil explination) what is the difference between class A,B,&C AMD Athalon's? Do they run faster slower, or do they have differnent features, what would be the best class to buy if I was builing my system? Thanks again for the help.
February 28, 2001 3:53:18 PM

A = crap
B = 100MHz FSB
C = 133MHZ FSB

The C in a system that fully supports a 133MHz FSB (chip, motherboard, and memory) will outperform a 100MHz FSB system with the same CPU overall MHz/GHz rating.

- Sanity is purely based on point-of-view.
February 28, 2001 3:54:44 PM

Athlon A: 500-1000 MHz. 512K off-die cache, running at 1/2 clock speed for slower models, 2/5 and 1/3 clock speed for the faster ones (so the cache of a 500Mhz runs at 250, while the cache of a 1000 runs at 333). 100MHz DDR bus speed.

Athlon B: Thunderbird. 700-1300+MHz. 256K on-die, full clockspeed cache. Performs better than the Athlon A. 100MHz DDR bus speed.

Athlon C: Identical to B, except 133MHz DDR bus speed. In fact, a C is so identical to B, that you can take a 1200MHz B...which is running at 12x100, close the L1 jumpers and make it run at 9x133...just like a 1200MHz Athlon C would.

~Crapple0

"intel inside, idiot outside"
February 28, 2001 6:13:32 PM

i don't know which optical mouse you used bu the one i have is smoother than my ball mouse
it dosen't jump or skip at all and it is nice have the browsing buttonson it
February 28, 2001 8:15:22 PM

Hehehe....you are the epitomy of an Intel droid. You are more fanatical in your devotion to the great satan of chipmakers than any fan of AMD in these forums. And what's with the comment about Connie? I see nothing wrong with his/her reasoning. I do see lot's wrong with yours.
March 1, 2001 2:31:17 AM

I was using the microsoft optical with the wheel. It was a nightmare. I tried every surface, but it was just a royal pain in the..

Maybe I just had bad luck, but either way I wouldn't recommend someone buying one just because they are the newest thing. Make sure you try one out first...

"I think I brained my damage"
March 1, 2001 2:08:51 PM

oh, come on now! learn to read, he backs up Amd more than you or connie does! I know the truth is hurting you bad.


"Amd cpu...Gone in -60 secs!"
March 1, 2001 9:49:57 PM

i love my optical mouse.. it's microsoft intelli explorer...
i had to click like 5 hours of clicking on point click to get some internet cash.. oh well.. it's free anyway :p  except for the shipping and handling..
that mouse has like 5 buttons :p  2 on thumb, left click, right click and middle button.. pretty nifty :) 
good for playing fps games like TFC (thumb buttons for throwing grenades :p ) hehe..

but for builing a system for game and .. i'm researching that now too.. i'll agree with the few previous post... Athlon all the way..
i'm not as techinical as them :(  sad to say.. not enough research done yet..
but if you're playing games.. graphics card and sound card comes pretty important too.. to me that is..

besides that.. not to mention your cable connection.. if you're playing multiplayer games.. hmm don't forget cable or DSL (i'd go for cable :p )
March 2, 2001 8:10:25 AM

I have a crazy setup but hay. Descent and other games that you need to use a keyboard and joystick or mouse at the same time. I use dual Joysticks wingman force and wingman extream or dual wingman extreams. And I piss people off when I play games on line. For the controls I have.
March 2, 2001 8:58:31 PM

Don't know about any others but the Abit KT7As and KT7s support voltages down to 1.1 volts. However, the KT7As only support speeds up to 1.667 ghz and the KT7s only 1.25 ghz without overclocking FSB.

On the other hand, it may be that the 'Thoroughbreds' and 'Appaloosas' will use multipliers other than the current 5X-12.5X range.

Memory bandwidth would be an issue on the older motherboards but someone was planning ahead for .13 micron compatibility
March 3, 2001 9:02:02 PM

My first optical mouse sucked but I had used one that was nice so I gave the crap one to my father inlaw and bought a new one. It is wonderful! As far as a pad I didn't use one at first now I have a func industries pad. They are not cheap for a mouse pad but they ship in a nice case. (Charge less and throw it in some plastic $30 for a mouse pad! What was I thinking?)

If you get a good one you will be happy.
Anonymous
a b à CPUs
March 4, 2001 3:14:40 AM

There is a ton of good information in these replies. One thing to keep in mind is that if you go AMD you should plan on spending some extra time getting it running perfectly. You will, at the very least, have to carefully read some faqs and make sure you have the latest drivers installed and in the correct order. Most of the mobos for the athlons are not very forgiving of any kind of error. This is the price you pay for a cheaper chip.

On the other hand, I have a 1gz athlon system that runs like a dream. I did, as expected, encounter some obsticals but now its been running for over 2 mos straight without a single crash or freeze and I install a ton of games and demos.
March 4, 2001 5:34:51 AM

How much was that monitor? I need a new one!

Someday I will stop asking all the questions!
March 4, 2001 5:40:39 AM

Did you say more info on RAID? I need it, the pro's and cons. The board I want looks like it has RAID 0 but I havent totally decided on a board yet. I know nothing of what RAID does or how it affects your system, or even if a deckstar 75GXP 46.1 HD 7200rpm ata 100 will work with it. That is the HD im buying. booky@327th.com is my email if you don't mind sending me info.

Someday I will stop asking all the questions!
March 4, 2001 3:16:29 PM

Raid-0 (striping) requires 2 hard drives of equal size. It will give you a slight speed increase but at the cost of reliability. If one of your drives goes down, you lose everything. Also, Raid-0 eats up some of your CPU processing time.

Raid-1 (mirroring) also requires 2 hard drives of equal size. It will give you much greater stability but at the cost of disk space. Since one of the drives is used as a mirror, you only get to use half your potential disk space.

Raid 0-1 (striping and mirroring) requires 4 hard drives of equal size. This gives you the best of both worlds, but is expensive because you need 4 drives to make it work.
For most gamers, Raid is not a reasonable solution. I looked into it and ultimately decided it wasn’t worth the risk/cost involved.
March 4, 2001 4:10:19 PM

I don't use a motherboard with built in raid (I use a promise controller card), I have 3 drives running on a Raid 0 No use of my cpu (like I said I don't use an onboard raid) My controller was $60 dollars but well worth it. The speed that I have noticed is amazing! As far as one drive dies you lose everything, well there is always a price to pay. But if you only have one drive and it fails you lose everything! If you want fast and failsafe there are some Raid 5 cards but the cheapest you can get your hands on a IDE Raid 5 card is about $375 and you have to have atleast 3 drives. If you have the money for a raid it is well worth. Just my opinion

Opinion are like assholes everyone has one, and most of them stink!
!