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Building a gaming rig on a £500-£600 budget.

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February 11, 2009 1:08:51 AM

Hello there,

I'm in need of some advice. I've recently decided I want to get myself a new gaming rig. I can no longer bare using my current system. It is painfully dated. However I have had to limit myself to £500-£600 as I can afford no more than this at the moment. The good news is that I don't need to replace the periphrals for the time being. I need to replace the motherboard, processor, hard drive, PSU, GPU and RAM. Now the issue is I want something that's going to have some lasting power, but I don't want to overspend. So far I've been looking at motherboards and processors. I've been out the loop for a while, so I'm playing catch up. The combinations I've been considering are:

Asus P5Q Pro Intel P45 (Socket 775) PCI-Express DDR2 Motherboard
Intel Core 2 Quad Pro Q6600 2.40GHz

and

AMD Phenom II X4 Quad Core 920 2.8GHz (Socket AM2+) - Retail
Asus M3A78-T AMD 790GX (Socket AM2+) PCI-Express DDR2 Motherboard

As far as I can tell these combinations would have some lasting power. However the main problem I've hit upon is that both these combinations are just shy of £300, leaving me with £200-£300 for everything else. I'm thinking I'm being a little optimistic especially since I wanted to spend about £150 on a GPU.

So my question is what are my alternatives for motherboard/processor setups. I'm also thinking of getting an ATI GPU. However I have no idea whats hot or not in ATI as I have never brought an ATI card before. I'm hoping to pay about £150 as stated before. Can anyone make any suggestions there too.

Thanks in advance. Any help is much appreciated.
a b 4 Gaming
a b V Motherboard
February 11, 2009 1:39:22 AM

The Q6600 is a good CPU, but a bit old. I have one myself, and it's been almost two years. The Phenom will beat it.

150 pounds buys you a HD 4870 512MB. Pretty good card, I think it's 6th or 7th best these days.
http://www.overclockers.co.uk/showproduct.php?prodid=GX-093-PC

Get a 750W PSU (for example Corsair or PC Power & Cooling) so you can add a second HD 4870 later. That should make your gaming box last a lot longer.
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February 11, 2009 8:19:33 AM

Thanks for the quick reply. Sorry I have another question. Is it worth get 4gb of RAM if I'm not running a 64bit OS?
a b 4 Gaming
a b V Motherboard
February 11, 2009 9:23:51 AM

Well its better to have 4GB RAM even though u will get abt 3.5GB in a 32 bit OS cos
1. The Paired RAM sticks come as 2X1 or 2X2 so if u end up buying 2X1 then u mite fell more ram was better as the applications 2day are memory hogs...
2. And running memory in dual channel is better than running them in single channel (if u are gonna put a 2GB stick and a 1GB stick)
So better off getting 2X2 GB RAM...
Am nt sure whether the 2+1 GB will run in single or dual channel if both the sticks have same freq...
Bt better to have 2X2 GB RAM
February 11, 2009 11:54:01 AM

Are there any alternatives to the above motherboard, that still support the phenom 2 and have xfire capability? Preferably cheaper boards? I'm somewhat overwhelmed by all the motherboards out there. I'm currently looking at ASUS boards as I've been told they are of a good calibre.

a b 4 Gaming
a b V Motherboard
February 11, 2009 12:08:44 PM

Here are all the Crossfire AM2 boards at overclockers.co.uk. There are 8 of them in total.

http://www.overclockers.co.uk/productlist.php?groupid=701&catid=5&subid=808

There are two Asus models there apart from the M3A78-T but they cost more.

I found a Gigabyte board though that would do:

GA-MA790X-DS4
http://www.overclockers.co.uk/showproduct.php?prodid=MB-108-GI

It supports the Phenom II 940 if you flash the latest BIOS.

http://www.gigabyte.com.tw/Support/Motherboard/CPUSupport_Model.aspx?ProductID=2695
February 11, 2009 5:57:56 PM

Heya, thanks for the response. I've been looking on overclockers a fair bit. However I'm finding it difficult to discern what I need. That board looks fairly solid though and it appears to support the Phenom II 920 and costing is better than the asus board. Will try and find some more reviews.

That said I figured using the ASUS board I'm going to need to spend about £430 for processor, motherboard and GPU. I'm now left with about £170 for PSU, RAM and Hard drive. Is this feasible? It seems RAM will cost about £80 and well I'm lost on PSU's. The 750W PSU's seem to be over £100, which would take me outside of budget and with no money for a SATA hard drive. I'm hoping to get something in the region of 500gb. I'll carry on my search, but any suggestions are most welcome.
February 12, 2009 10:04:48 AM

Ok, so it can be done sort of.... I'm going to look into that other motherboard today and see what people think of it. I'm not sure if it's worth paying the £30-£40 extra on the asus board. It appears to be a very good board for my needs though. Thanks for you input so far aevm. Its very much appreciated. Maybe I'll have to go a little over budget if I want that little bit more. I was also wondering if I use the Asus board with the phenom II, will I be able to use 1066MHz RAM and will it even be worth it?
February 13, 2009 3:42:36 PM

GIGABYTE GA-MA790X-UD4 Socket

Found this board too, which seems to support the phenom 2. Anyone got any comments on this board? I'm not too sure on the ASUS board now as there seems to be a fair bit of bad feedback on it.
February 14, 2009 7:35:55 AM

Yeah, I can't seem to find a lot of information about it. Strange! Well I think I've decided against the ASUS board eventually. 10% bad reviews isn't good. Plus I think most of its features are overkill for me anyway. I'm going to look into RAM now as I'll have a little more to spend on it now. Last I heard crucial was good, has this changed?
February 14, 2009 2:31:21 PM

Stupid question, but the PSU you mentioned claims to be SLI ready, I'm assuming it means it's crossfire ready too, although it doesn't implicitly state this.
February 14, 2009 6:14:42 PM

It seems on further inspection that there are no british suppliers of the UD4 board that I was looking at as it's relatively new. What a pain! The board looks perfect for my needs. No need for flashing and cheap to boot. No onboard GPU either which is great cause I don't need it. (couldn't edit messages so having to add as another message same as before)
a b 4 Gaming
a b V Motherboard
February 14, 2009 6:22:57 PM

Yes. The 650TX can do both Crossfire and SLI. Any PSU that claims SLI can do Crossfire too, and the opposite is true too. The problem is, SLI or Crossfire with what kind of cards. Some cards need two PCI-E connectors per card and more amps than other cards.

The question is not stupid at all, good thing you asked. The 650TX has the amps for two HD 4870 cards but not the 4 PCI-E connectors. It only has 2. That can be fixed by buying two adapters for a couple of pounds each, so it's not a major issue. You don't have to do that now, just when you add the second card.

If that's too annoying, you can spend 103 pounds on a PC Power & Cooling 750W or a Corsair 750W,
http://www.overclockers.co.uk/showproduct.php?prodid=CA-004-PP
http://www.overclockers.co.uk/showproduct.php?prodid=CA-011-CS
Both are excellent PSUs, especially the PC P&C, and both have 4 connectors and 60A on the 12V rails.
a b 4 Gaming
a b V Motherboard
February 14, 2009 6:24:39 PM

LOL, I was replying to your post about the PSU there. I hadn't seen your post about the MB yet.
a b 4 Gaming
a b V Motherboard
February 14, 2009 6:34:14 PM

How about this one:
http://www.overclockers.co.uk/showproduct.php?prodid=MB-108-GI
GA-MA790X-DS4 £88.54

It supports the Phenom II 940 and Crossfire
http://www.gigabyte.com.tw/Support/Motherboard/CPUSupport_Model.aspx?ProductID=2695

On second thought, Idon't like this one much. The newegg reviews are pretty bad.

How about this one:
Asus M3A78-T AMD 790GX £114.99
http://www.overclockers.co.uk/showproduct.php?prodid=MB-311-AS
Again, it supports Phenom II (with the latest BIOS) and has Crossfire.

February 14, 2009 6:43:47 PM

LoL these are the 2 mobos I've been debating over, but the newegg reviews on the ASUS board are not great either. About 15% people gave 1-2 stars at newegg. Which is why I was considering the Gigabyte one. I think you reccomended it before. Only problem being I would need to flash for the GA-MA790X-DS4 and I don't have a chip to do that. I was looking at the UD4 because there is no flash required and I don't need onboard GPU, but that's not available as far as I can see in the UK. Just been looking at the Gigabyte GA-MA770-UD3 770 and that seems to offer support, but I'm not sure whether I'd need to flash this either. However it looks like an older chipset.

Thanks for the update on the PSU. I think I'll stick with the first as I won't be adding a second card for a while yet and I think the adaptors should be easy enough to locate when I want them.
a b 4 Gaming
a b V Motherboard
February 14, 2009 11:48:14 PM

Oops, we came back to that Asus. Sorry, I didn't read the thread again when I replied today, didn't realize you'd already looked at it :) 

The GA-MA770-UD3 will support Phenom II indeed, but you can't do Crossfire with it.

Here's a nice one, with perfect ratings at Newegg and CRossfire (up to 4 cards, LOL) and Phenom II and so on, but I think it blows your budget.
Asus M4A79 Deluxe, AMD 790FX £152.23 Inc VAT
http://www.scan.co.uk/Product.aspx?WebProductId=952122


February 15, 2009 1:15:18 AM

I looked at that. I would probably choose it over the M4A79-T, but I just dont have the cash. A real shame that. I'm considering trying to buy a GIGABYTE GA-MA790X-UD4 Socket and getting it shipped to the UK. Annoyingly they sell them in Ireland but not in the England. I'm still mulling it over it.
a b 4 Gaming
a b V Motherboard
February 15, 2009 4:07:48 AM

How do you know they sell it in Ireland? I only know one site there, www.dabs.ie, and they don't have it. If you know a better site let me know please, I'll add it to my collection :) 

Wouldn't the exchange rate hurt you if you do that? I have no idea how the euro is doing these days, but I know the British pound is rather low.
February 15, 2009 10:49:59 AM

Yeah it would, the only site that I've seen that does this item close to home is Komplett, which serves ireland, but it's british branch has closed to customers. It is most, most annoying. I'm now at a complete loss at what to do.
February 15, 2009 1:50:04 PM

Looks like I can't get the UD4 from America either, Newegg doesnt do international shipping, which is very sad considering its an absolutely great site. The other sites all use UPS for shipping costing silly amounts of money. So back to the first choice. I'm going for the Asus M3A78-T AMD 790GX and try my luck. So it looks like my system is going to be:


AMD Phenom II X4 Quad Core 920 2.8GHz (Socket AM2+) - Retail

Asus M3A78-T AMD 790GX (Socket AM2+) PCI-Express DDR2 Motherboard

Corsair 650TX PSU

Powercolor ATI Radeon HD 4870 512MB GDDR5 TV-Out/Dual DVI/HDMI (PCI-Express)

WD6401AALS Hard drive


This takes me up to £586.95. I'm happy to spend a little more on the RAM to take me over £600 since I'm not too sure on the OcUK RAM. Any suggestions as to who to go with. For now I'm going to get 2 paired sticks of 2gb 800Mhz DDR2 RAM. I think this should do me for the time being. Thanks. From what I've gathered everything here is compatible.

a b 4 Gaming
a b V Motherboard
February 15, 2009 8:06:30 PM

Check these out:

Corsair 4GB DDR2 XMS2 PC2-6400C5 TwinX (2x2GB) Twin2X4096-6400C5 £45.99
http://www.overclockers.co.uk/showproduct.php?prodid=MY-136-CS&groupid=701&catid=8&subcat=813
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820145184&Tpk=Twin2X4096-6400C5

OCZ DDR2 PC2-6400 Titanium 4GB Edition Dual Channel (OCZ2T800C44GK) £43.69
http://www.overclockers.co.uk/showproduct.php?prodid=MY-144-OC&groupid=701&catid=8&subcat=813

The OCZ has better timings but requires 2.1V. I can't find it at Newegg, so no user reviews.

February 16, 2009 7:58:23 AM

Hey there, well I finally brought everything. It should be arriving tommorrow. I eventually went a little over budget, but what the hey. I'll let you know how the build goes. Thanks so much for all your useful input. It's been invaluable!
February 16, 2009 9:42:24 AM

Ouch, for a few quid more you could have got a quad cf K9A2 platinum, oh well
February 16, 2009 5:56:06 PM

I've had problems in the past with MSI boards, so I avoided them this time round and went for what I gathered to be reiliable manufacturers.
February 16, 2009 6:00:23 PM

Hey aevm, what about the possibility of OC-ing an E5200? They still manage great performance, are only about 70$ (I haven't shopped over where OP is for local pricing and exchange however) and would give him a little extra headroom for his budget. What do you think?
February 16, 2009 6:30:10 PM

Too later, tehee. I've now gone and brought my parts. They are arriving tommorrow! I am going to report on the build when it's complete. Fingers crossed there are no hiccups.

It's amusing how I've got more responses now I've brought the system. Oh well.
February 16, 2009 6:33:40 PM

That's my bad. I was just browsing and came upon yours. I like budget threads, because at the low end we really see the competitive pricing heat up. Be sure to let us know what you go with, and if you have any questions on assembly, we're here to help.

Well, not all of us...some though. You know, those of us that want to help you...or watch you short the mobo...I mean... 0=)

Seriously though, g/l
February 16, 2009 6:40:50 PM

Cheers I will do. Thanks.... also going to be my first build :) 
February 18, 2009 7:33:44 AM

Heya,

well parts arrived yesterday and me and a friend put the system together. My friend has built a number of systems before so he's reasonably experienced. Once everything was in placed we hit the on button and then there was nothing....

We then started playing around with everything in a process of deduction before he finally had to go. Eventually my housemate came back home and began trying to figure out the problem and in the end we isolated it as the processor. He stuck his old AMD in and it works. So the new processor is either duff, this motherboard doesn't support it, but after all the research I did and all the questions I asked I don't think thats the case. Or the BIOS needs flashing, but my impression was I wouldnt need to on this board, which is partially why I went for it. Can anyone offer any further input?

Thanks, much appreciated.
February 18, 2009 8:07:45 AM

I've just checked my mobo where I think the motherboard revision is printed and it says 1.01G. However according to the ASUS website Phenom II X4 920 has been supported since BIOS version 0502. I'm not sure if I'm reading this right, but it seems my BIOS should be able to handle the processor with the current version of BIOS. Or am I reading the version number incorrectly? If this is the case then my chip must be a dudd, whic is going to hold things up a lot. None of my computers have ever worked straight out. It's very annoying.
a b 4 Gaming
a b V Motherboard
February 18, 2009 12:48:23 PM

I found this thread here where somebody had the same MB and the same problem with a Phenom II 940.
http://icrontic.com/forum/showthread.php?p=670989

They installed an older CPU, flashed the BIOS, then installed the Phenom again and it worked. Try doing the same, since you already have an older CPU there.

February 18, 2009 3:44:58 PM

I was going to try flashing the BIOS anyway. I'm pretty sure the motherboard is OK as it got to POST with another chip. What I find irratating though is the fact that the BIOS version displayed on the board and the BIOS versions given on ASUS's website do not seem to be in the same format. I would like to have known I was flashing because I needed to, not blindly. If this doesn't work, then the most expensive component will need to be sent back marked faulty, which would be very annoying as it's going to delay the build. It's suprsing how many faulty components these companies send out, as every build I've ever seen undertaken has had at least one.
a b 4 Gaming
a b V Motherboard
February 18, 2009 4:00:47 PM

I suspect that the board you bought was sent to the retailer some time ago, and it did have the most recent BIOS at the time. That is, Asus did the right thing after all.
if I'm right, then the blame should go to the retailer. The retailers should be aware of this issue and should display the BIOS version in specs. But that's additional work for them and works against their interest so I don't expect it to happen soon. :( 
February 18, 2009 6:13:00 PM

Seems like I was a bit hasty to criticise in one of my earlier posts. I said that there seemed to be no correlation between 1.01G and the 0502 BIOS version. It turns ones the motherboard revision and the other is the bios revision. I misread one of the ASUS support pages. So i will need to get to POST with the other chip and check my BIOS revision. That way I'll have a better idea what the problem is. I'm off work in an hour, so I'll try when I get home. I also suspect you are correct on the retailer point. Fingers crossed that thats all I need to do. Wish me luck.

Just to re-iterate I wasn't complaining about the mainboard but the possiblity of a faulty chip. Sorry if I appeared to be in a point the finger sort of mood. I report back later this eve.
a b 4 Gaming
a b V Motherboard
February 19, 2009 12:29:22 AM

No worries, go ahead and criticize Asus all you want. They're used to it by now :) 

Yeah, good luck!!! Let us know how it works out.
February 19, 2009 9:05:29 AM

It worked!!! Good news, everything is A OK. My computer is working like a dream. I installed everything using the other chip. I then Installed the flashing utility and flashed the BIOS to 0802 and rebooted with my phenom 2 and everything was fine. I like sucess. No more crashing or chug chug chugging. Its great! Thanks for all your help. This is a great website!
!