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Gaming & General Purpose Build for £800

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April 22, 2010 10:32:34 PM

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: Preferably order parts by the end of the month at the latest.

BUDGET RANGE: Around £800 though willing to go up to £1000 at most, including VAT and delivery.

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: Gaming (S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series, Battlefield series, for example), watching movies, browsing the internet, backup/storage and audio file conversion.

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: I won't need a mouse, keyboard or speakers. I plan to upgrade from a 19' monitor to either 22' or 24' near the end of the year although that doesn't need to be considered in this specification. The higher resolutions will need to be considered for the graphics card.

I have a 1TB HD I'll be using for storage and will likely use a 500GB Western Digital for primary until SSD price/performance is more standardised. My current rig has two DVD-RWs, so I'll use one of those in a new system. OS is not required.

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: I'm not too bothered, but aim to get all parts from the same store for savings on delivery charges.

Here's a list of websites in preferred order: aria.co.uk, ebuyer.com, overclockers.co.uk, scan.co.uk, novatech.com and microdirect.co.uk. I've mostly been using Aria since they have the "SuperSpecial" deals available.

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: England, United Kingdom

PARTS PREFERENCES: Quad-core processor, ASUS/GIGABYTE mobo, DDR3 RAM, PSU suitable for future crossfire, tower chassis with space and good airflow.

OVERCLOCKING: Possibly. I'd like an aftermarket cooler for the CPU regardless.

SLI OR CROSSFIRE: Not at present, but would like crossfire capabilitity.

MONITOR RESOLUTION: Currently, 1400x900 at 75 Hertz refresh rate.

I've fleshed out a few builds which all contain the same case and chassis which I'm fairly confident on. The reason for the 750W is for crossfire and my current PSU is a 600W M12 Seasonic, so it'd have to be a significant "upgrade" from that.

Coolermaster CM 690 II Advanced (£93.99)
Corsair HX750 (£115.14)

I'm unsure which vendor for these two 5850 graphic cards:

Asus EAH5850 DirectCU 1024MB (£234.99)
Sapphire HD 5850 1024MB (£240.86)

None of these builds include a planned CPU cooler. The graphics card used for the calculations is the ASUS above, since it has a nice visable cooler.

1366 Build

Intel Core i7 920 D0 Stepping (SLBEJ) 2.66Ghz (Nehalem) (Socket LGA1366) Processor - OEM (£164.49)
Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R Intel X58 (Socket 1366) DDR3 PCI-Express Motherboard (£164.49)
Patriot Viper Extreme Performance 6GB (3x2GB) DDR3 PC3-12800C8 1600MHz Triple Channel Kit (£143.34)

Total (including the case, power supply and graphics card with delivery) = £928.45


1156 Build

Intel Core i5 750 2.66Ghz (Lynnfield) (Socket LGA1156) Processor - Retail (£135.11)
Gigabyte GA-P55A-UD3 Intel P55A (Socket 1156) DDR3 PCI-Express Motherboard (£112.79)
G.Skill RipJaw 4GB (2x2GB) DDR3 PC3-12800C9 1600MHz Dual Channel Kit (£96.34)

Total (including the case, power supply and graphics card with delivery) = £800.33


AM3 Build

AMD Phenom II X4 Quad Core 955 Black Edition 125W (£117.49)
Asus M4A79XTD Evo AMD 790X (Socket AM3) DDR3 PCI-Express Motherboard (£90.46)
Corsair XMS3 4GB (2x2GB) DDR3 PC3-12800C9 1600MHz Dual Channel Kit (£105.74)

Total (including the case, power supply and graphics card with delivery) = £769.87

Since i7 920 prices have dropped, I have mainly been considering that build. My concern is the cost of the 1366 socket motherboard and RAM, which can cost up to £50-80 more than the processor; OEM or not. The motherboard and RAM I chose for that build were effectively the cheapest available, leading me to believe this is a rather gimped specification for an i7 system. I'm concerned that the motherboard choice doesn't provide much future growth and have no experience with Patriot RAM.

I've been undecided on the 1156 and AM3 as they appear to both provide similar performances on benchmarks. Overall, they both seem similar in capability on day-to-day application and usage. I feel more confident with an AM3 than the 1156 has the appeal of a limited 1366 socket. The other point is the recently anounced hexacores on the AM3 socket while Intel plans to introduce a new socket (LGA1155), though this would mean a 890FX board for the above AM3 build.


I'm looking to build a computer, which is a noticeable upgrade from my current C2D E6600 system, that'll last me for around 3 or more years until hexacore processors are more mainstream, by which time I'll probably build a new system with a new motherboard. In short, I want a quad core system that'll hold up against current games and will still be moderately capable in a few years.

Advice and criticism greatly welcome. Thanks for reading. :) 
April 22, 2010 11:05:10 PM

You do not need a 750W PSU for a system with two 5850s, you probably do need more than that Seasonic gives tho, so I'd advise you get this instead: XFX 650W £90 Of course if you are not going to be adding another graphics card for awhile it might be wise to keep using that Seasonic until you do either add another 5850 or replace it, whichever seems to be the best option at the time.

I would also go for the first of those graphics cards.

The motherboard is perfectly good in the first build, and the RAM is possibly the best out of the lot at CAS8. I don't see a problem with using Patriot RAM.

The motherboard on option two pretty much confines you to choosing between second graphics card or SATA 6Gbps/USB3. The RAM in that option is better than the RAM in third option tho, so keep that if you go for a platform with dual channel memory. I would also favour the AM3 route over the LGA1156 route if upgradeability is something you want. So at the moment I think we should rule out the second option for the above two reasons.

For more of a budget, but still very good CPU cooler, I'd suggest this: CoolerMaster Hyper 212 Plus £20
The more costly option for supposedly one of the best air CPU coolers, where you will also have to buy fans is the Prolimatech Megahalems Rev B £45
Another good option: Titan Fenrir V2 £32
April 23, 2010 10:37:33 AM

Silvune said:
You do not need a 750W PSU for a system with two 5850s, you probably do need more than that Seasonic gives tho, so I'd advise you get this instead: XFX 650W £90 Of course if you are not going to be adding another graphics card for awhile it might be wise to keep using that Seasonic until you do either add another 5850 or replace it, whichever seems to be the best option at the time.


The Seasonic still runs fine and could be used in a new rig. I intended to keep the basics of this old rig intact though. I don't have any experience with XFX branded PSUs, but that price is reasonable. There is a Corsair TX series 650W for around that price too.

I've had the Seasonic for nearly 4 years, what's the average lifespan on these? I could always take it for now and get a lower wattage should the old system come into a new purpose in the future. The chassis on this system is a Thermaltake Aguila and is definitely showing its age. As for required wattage, I'll be running two SATA drives, a DVD-RW, a 5850 and whichever quad core processor.

Silvune said:
The motherboard is perfectly good in the first build, and the RAM is possibly the best out of the lot at CAS8. I don't see a problem with using Patriot RAM.


Thanks for this input. A GIGABYTE motherboard would be a nice change from ASUS, do you have any experience with the layout of the board? I've read a few reports that the PCI slots are too close together and it gets very crowded with crossfire/SLI. The low CAS timings for that price are also nice with the Patriot.

Silvune said:
The motherboard on option two pretty much confines you to choosing between second graphics card or SATA 6Gbps/USB3. The RAM in that option is better than the RAM in third option tho, so keep that if you go for a platform with dual channel memory. I would also favour the AM3 route over the LGA1156 route if upgradeability is something you want. So at the moment I think we should rule out the second option for the above two reasons.


To be honest, I kinda stuck the 1156 build on there to add more variation. Back near the start of the year, most of the Tom's Hardware's "Best Gaming CPUs" articles peg the i5 750 as the good buy. After reading more into the sockets abilities and the currently dropped prices in i7 920s, I'm tempted to get a budget i7 build without all the extra frills, problem is I don't want to get a relatively gimped motherboard like I did with this E6600 (ASUS P5W DH Deluxe when a P5Q would've been the better choice).

I've heard a lot about G.Skill RAM and have had good experience with Kingston/Corsair in the past. AM3 is probably my budget build for around £800. If I could get a comparable 1366 build for just under the £1000 mark though, I'm tempted to go with that. So I'm mostly considered that going "cheap" on an i7 will limit the effectiveness and any upgrade path.

The E6600 CPU back in early 2007 cost around the price of an i7 920/930 now. The LGA775 motherboards were noticeably cheaper though.

Silvune said:
For more of a budget, but still very good CPU cooler, I'd suggest this: CoolerMaster Hyper 212 Plus £20
The more costly option for supposedly one of the best air CPU coolers, where you will also have to buy fans is the Prolimatech Megahalems Rev B £45
Another good option: Titan Fenrir V2 £32


Thank you for the suggestions. I've been looking at the Hyper 212, but a lot of places have it out of stock in the UK, which is sad. How does the Corsair H50 compare to those air coolers? FrostyTech reviews have been helpful, but since I haven't decided on a CPU build, it makes a definite choice difficult.
Related resources
April 23, 2010 3:17:46 PM

That 650W XFX is one of the best 650W power supplies around, just read the jonnyguru review: http://www.jonnyguru.com/modules.php?name=NDReviews&op=... The other advantages it is 80 Bronze and it is partly modular, but the Corsair is perfectly fine for your needs as well.

Well the warranty of modern, good quality PSUs these days seem to be around the 5 years mark, I'm sure a good one will keep on working for much longer if it is treated properly. Your Seasonic is rated for around 570W on the 12V rail, I'd say after four years it probably doesn't quite do that much anymore. I'd say your system with a single 5850 will use around 400W under load. So if you're current system stresses your PSU that much then it should be fine in your new one until you add another graphics card.

I do not have personal experience with the GA-X58A-UD3R, apparently the first two slots are the x16 slots, so it doesn't look like you would be able to easily fit two graphics card in those slots. Be mindful that x8 slots only significantly bottleneck very fast cards such as the 5870 and above. And not necessarily by very much. So I don't think it would be a problem putting the second card in the 3rd or 4th slot. I've just finished reading a review in Custom PC of it and they liked it very much, mostly for it's overclocking ability.

If you're going to keep the same CPU for 3 years, before doing a total rebuild then I think the i5-750 would be fine, but the motherboard I'd suggest would be the same price as the 1366 Gigabyte one: Asus P7P55D-E Pro £163. This is a very high quality one tho.

I still haven't found exactly what Intel are going to do with new CPUs, I think that there should be some new ones for both 1156 and 1366, but maybe Intel can't do much more with those two platforms and already have enough products out.
Everything else is likely to be easily upgradeable, like another graphics card, more RAM, fast SSD with Sata 6Gbps.

Well the word seems to be that the Corsair H50 can be outperformed acoustically and thermally by the better air coolers, I'm suspicious that part of the reason why some people say that is because they don't like any water cooling. They also argue that a low cost one will be low quality and is likely to leak. I have definitely heard from someone who did own and use one that the noise from the pump became intolerable to him when he moved it from a Rosewill case (closed off) to a Cooler Master HAF 932 (lots of ventilation). He was also very impressed by the temps he got. I don't think he was quite as impressed when he got a Noctua NH-D14.
April 23, 2010 9:31:56 PM

Hey Silvune, thanks for the response and advice.

I've been doing a little more research and somewhat agree with the i5 750 recommendation. The fear with the ~£1000 1366 socket build is skimping on the motherboard and RAM cost with no-frills that effect the long term performance and options down the road. However, it's likely I'll spec a build with a new motherboard when hexacores become more commonplace in a few years time, similar to how my current E6600/P5W setup has gone.

If I did focus on the other two builds by cutting back the cost of the main three components, I could possibly go with a 5870 or 5850 Vapor-X card. Is there a risk of bottlenecking 58xx series cards in crossfire on 1156 and AM3 platforms, specifically an i5 750 or PII 965? If so, a 5870 maybe the better choice over the 5850.

The ASUS board you linked looks good and the price is reasonable. I remember reading people reporting issues with a P7P55D and high pitched noises, was it the P7P55D-E series? I'd ideally be looking to spend around the same for a motherboard as I would for the processor.

Overall, I'm unsure on which of the three sockets I should go with for a solid quad core processor with the current market. The cheap prices of the i7 920 D0 are appealing, while the accessories cost is not. The real misfortune with a 1366 build is the likelihood I'd probably not be using the full potential of the processor in software-intensive applications and design. Any money I save with a cheaper spec now can go towards a new build in the future.
April 23, 2010 10:32:45 PM

Toms did an article awhile ago - that I can't find atm - that showed that two 5870s only suffered a 4% performance hit on dual x8 on 1156 compared dual x16 on 1366. So not much of a bottleneck. For AM3 it would probably be a similiar story, not much bottleneck, altho x8 speeds can be avoided on both 1156 and AM3. Altho you have to pay quite a premium for it for only a little increase in performance.

If you did decide to get a 5870 then you'd have to go back to a 750W PSU.

Yes I have read about the high pitched squealing, and it was from the P7P55D-E. Don't really know what to suggest if you don't want to take the chance that you get a bad one.

Yea good point, for gaming you don't need an i7-920. It probably would be a better use of money to get a stronger graphics card if you want to max games out for as long as possible.
April 24, 2010 5:22:15 PM

I found a similar article to what you are mentioning on techPowerUp. The two-part Building A Balanced Gaming PC article supports your point on a stronger graphics card.

With a capable PSU (adequate wattage), how does the 1156 socket fair with a single 5970 and any future series? I may take the route of replacing the 5850 in the future in place of a crossfire setup.


Here's the proposed Intel i5 720 build. Since there's a little more flexibility, I've added a few extras to reduce salvaging parts.

CPU: Intel Core i5 750 (£158.80)

MOBO: Asus P7P55D-E PRO (£162.80)

RAM: Corsair XMS3 DDR3 2x2GB (£102.37)

GPU: Asus HD5850 DirectCU 1GB (£248.99)

PSU: XFX XXX 650W (£84.94)

CASE: Coolermaster CM 690 II Advanced (£84.58)


(The extra parts below - need advice)

CPU Cooler: Gelid Tranquillo (£26.05)

Hard Drive: Samsung Spinpoint F3 500GB (£38.97)

DVD-RW Samsung SH-S223C DVD-RW SATA (£14.91)

Case Fan: Scythe Gentle Typhoon 120mm (£12.31)


After looking through reviews, the P7P55D-E sounds like it's worth the risk with the noise. There's always RMA. The price isn't perfect (trying to pay around the same cost as the processor or lower), but the features seem good for a long term board. The other board I've read fair reviews on is the EVGA P55 FTW although it's difficult to find available in the UK.

Is there really any performance difference between IDE and SATA for DVD-R/DVD-RW drives? There's an unused IDE burner lying around (LG GSA-H42NBAL 18 DVD±RW) and the P7P55D-E PRO has 1xIDE port listed on the specification.

The WD 500GB Black is a little higher in cost and so I went with the Samsung F3. Eventually, I'll get ahold of an SSD or equivalent to replace the 500GB HD. Scan only has Corsiar DDR3 memory; is the Dominator worth it for the heatsinks?

The Scythe Gentle Typhoon is for CM 690 II side to cool the PCI slots/graphics card. I'm fairly stumped on which cooler to go with. I found scan.co.uk had the Gelid Tranquillo which bit-tech gave it a good review.

Are there any similar cases at the CM price, since it's preorder, like the Fractal Designs R2? I'm after good airflow/cooling, noise is secondary and features for easier mounting are always good.
April 24, 2010 9:26:18 PM

Quote:
With a capable PSU (adequate wattage), how does the 1156 socket fair with a single 5970 and any future series? I may take the route of replacing the 5850 in the future in place of a crossfire setup.
Should be no problem. Altho there is not enough space inside the CM 690 II for a card as long as the 5970, the limit is about the length of a 5870. Seeing as the current PCI-E spec has a practical limit (before overclocking is taken into account) of 300 watts per card, then I think a good 650W PSU should be fine for any single card setup.
Quote:
Is there really any performance difference between IDE and SATA for DVD-R/DVD-RW drives? There's an unused IDE burner lying around (LG GSA-H42NBAL 18 DVD±RW) and the P7P55D-E PRO has 1xIDE port listed on the specification.
I don't know, a 5 second google search showed me a comment saying that optical disks are slow enough that the interface doesn't really matter. Which makes sense to me. The other thing that I read is that the only major advantage was better cable management potential. You will have to

The Samsung F3 is actually one of the fastest 500GB hard drives around, so it's a good choice, I would have suggested it, but I wasn't sure whether you'd already had one or not. Good plan about the SSD. No, the heatsinks on the Dominators are not worth it, the only real reason to get Dominators is if you want to overclock them a hell of a lot.

Another good site to get good comparisons between heatsinks is tweaktown. Here is a review of the Gelid Tranquillo which shows that the £6 more expensive Xigamatek Dark Knight-S1283 gets slightly better temps. However the noise is much worse. One of my favourite heatsinks continues to be the Scythe Mugen 2, it keeps showing up as a very good performer in both temps and acoustics. So Titan Fenrir if it was available, Dark Knight if you really don't mind the noise, Gelid Tranquillo and Scythe Mugen 2 if you don't mind paying more.

Maybe if you're willing to pay a bit more postage, then you could get the CM 690 II from another site along with one of the CPU coolers I mentioned earlier, as you would still get the case you want and potentially a better heatsink for not much more money.

I think some of the good cases on scan that are around the same price are: Antec 900/902, CM Storm Scout, HAF 922, NZXT Tempest Black Xclio Blackhawk & Lian Li PC-7FNB.
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