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19 posts

Geek


Topic # 31182 7-Mar-2009 23:59
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Current rig specs:
Asustek A8N-SLI Motherboard
AMD Athlon 64 3800 skt939
2 GB RAM
XFX nVidia Geforce 7900GTX 512MB PCIe
Enermax 620W Liberty PSU

I know I pretty much have to upgrade everything since skt939 CPUs are pretty hard to find these days. If only there was someone out there that was selling a Athlon 64x2 4800+. But anyhow, is a quad core necessary? Intel or AMD? Would you go for the i7 eventhough it is pricey? And as for motherboards, what is good value for money and do you get more performance out of an expensive motherboard? What about video cards? So many choices out there. Would you really spend over 1k for a video card? nVidia or ATi?

Thanks.

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Wannabe Geek


  Reply # 199848 8-Mar-2009 01:26
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To a large extent the answers to your questions depend on what games you want to play and just how good you want the graphics to be.

The age of your current rig suggests you would be wanting to future proof a little bit with your purchases, buy something that will still be able to handle games that come out in 2 years or so. The problem with this is PC hardware is updating so fast that in a years time your system will depreciate by as much as half its original value. So, unless you have heaps of money to throw around I am going to make my recommendations based on a mid to low budget while maintaining good performance.

i7, Core 2 or AMD?

Because you have specified the main use as a gaming rig I am going to go ahead and recommend Core 2 at this point. My reasoning for this is simple - At this stage all the hardware reviews I have read (and ive read quite a few lately as I recently went over this question) suggest that the increase in performance gaming wise for the i7's over the core 2 line is minimal; the extra performance doesnt justify the large jump in price to setup a basic i7 system. You can save yourself several hundred dollars and still get the same performance or very close to it in games from a core 2 system. With regards to AMD, the new Phenom 2 range is looking great and has come in at a very competitive price range; if you want to go with AMD then these certainly arent a bad choice. The main reason I still recommend the core 2's over the Phenoms is the Core 2's have a much better overclocking capability than the AMD's; and this can be quite important in games that dont run as a multithreaded app - basically the game will only be using a single core and so it is quite important that that core has a decent clock speed.

Quad or Dual?

At this stage the majority of games are still only using 1 to 2 cores and the general feeling is that a Dualcore is more than enough to run most games at high frame levels. The other advantage of a dual is its easier to overclock than a quad as it doesnt produce as much heat as the quad cores do. At the moment I would recommend a Wolfdale Dualcore in the E8000 series line (E8400, E8500), these chips have proven themselves to be great for games and they overclock like champs (with a good mobo should be able to hit 4ghz and beyond without to much hassle). The E8600 is the best of the lot so far, but its a couple hundred dollars more than the E8400; you can save that money by buying the 8400 and overclocking it.

Of course there is always talk of future proofing by buying a quad, and games will begin to use quads as developers code for them and they become more popular. You could consider going up to the Yorkfield (Q9000 series) processors, but if you arent really doing much besides gaming and maybe watching a few movies then theres not too much point at the moment.

Motherboards

As I said you want to get a decent motherboard so you can obtain a decent overclock on your CPU. You could buy something super expensive and yes this will give you great features; but you can buy a decent midrange mobo that has good features and provides performance of the much more expensive boards. The first id recommend is the Asus P5Q Pro, usually around 200 - 250. Gives decent overclocks and has good feature set. The other I would recommend is the Gigabyte UD3P which gives HUGE overclocks and is still a lot cheaper than some of the top line motherboards. I would recommend staying with the P45 chipset at the moment, the x38/x48 boards are a lot more expensive and from what I have seen in testing, the bandwidth limits of P45 PCI-E  slots dont really cut down on Graphics performance that much. Suffice it to say if you are worried about SLI/Crossfire you should probably look at getting an i7 setup, a P45 mobo is fine for single card.

RAM

Dirt Cheap now that DDR 3 is coming in, you can pick up a decent 4GB set for around $140 now. Just make sure you get name brand sticks, the generic ones have a tendency to be unreliable/unstable.

Video cards

Lot of options to choose from here and as you have specified a gaming rig this is one of the  most important parts of the system in terms of performance. It really depends at what resolution you want to game at for a start, if its less than 1680 x 1050 then you could probably look at a single 9800 GT which should be able to run most games ok at high settings. At these low resolutions the CPU matters more than the graphics. At 1680 x 1050 you probably want to look at an ATI 4850 and at 1920 x 1200 you probably want to look at an ATI 4870 1GB / Nvidia GTX 260. If you are unsure, either of the last two models listed cost around 500 and will play most games at high settings with a decent framerate, so you really cant go wrong with either of them. Of course you can go higher and you will get more performance, but it really comes down to if you need it or not. People who buy the latest GTX 295 are probably gaming at 1920 x 1200 and above at the very highest  graphics settings which is why they need all the power, but many games can be run at lower settings and still look very nice.

The best thing you can do for a graphics card choice is to work out what resolution you will be gaming at, then  make a list of the games you want to play, then get online and search for reviews of the cards you are interested in and see what performance they give at your resolution for that game. If a 4850 will give you 80 FPS at 1680 x 1050 for say WOW (I have no idea what a 4850 would actually give, im just making this up as an example) then that should be more than enough for you. Going much higher would be pointless unless you are looking to future proof your rig for quite sometime or there is a game coming out soon that you know will need a lot more juice.


Anyway thats probably more than enough info to start, as I have said if you could give us some details as to what games you want to play; whether you plan to use the PC for other things a rough budget limitation, gaming resolution then we can give you much more tailored advice as to what parts you should be looking at getting. Hope this helped :D

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  Reply # 199908 8-Mar-2009 14:49
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If I was you I would decide how much you want to spend max first, then we can give you suggests for best price/performance that fits into that budget.

Example...

For under 2500 I would suggest someting like this:
http://www.computerlounge.co.nz/systems/systemdetail.asp?sysid=121&systypeid=4

With a new monitor 22" widescreen monitor like this to go with it
http://www.computerlounge.co.nz/components/componentview.asp?partid=6959



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Geek


  Reply # 199940 8-Mar-2009 18:11
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Money is not an issue but I don't want to waste my money on the best I can get. What I am aiming for is value for money and also a computer that will last me for a good 2 years minimum. The current rig that I have is almost 3 years now but just does not cut it anymore. It was struggling with FM 2009, which is not even graphic intensive and now Empire Total War, it could not even handle the intro cinematics.

Will my current Enermax PSU be enough? If it is, then all I need is a CPU, mobo, ram and gfx. I am thinking of getting a raptor too if it really helps with the performance, does it?

Future proof for at least 2 years is most important but maybe it might be cheaper to upgrade with cheap parts that might be good for a year and then upgrade again with more decent parts that should have come down in price by then. But surely something like a mobo and ram could last for some years without needing an upgrade.

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  Reply # 199956 8-Mar-2009 19:43
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Well if you don't want to decide on a budget to fit within, the next best way to determine good value for money is to look at what what screen you have at the moment, specifically what native resolution you will be playing at?

For example if you're just running a 22" LCD (1680x1050) you simply do not need to spend the same amounts on cpu and gfx as you do for smooth fps at higher resolutions. 

Your 620w Eneramx PSU will probably be fine for any single gfx card system.  It's only really when you're looking at SLI or crossfire with 2+ gfx cards that you need 750 or 1000w.



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Geek


  Reply # 199982 8-Mar-2009 22:18
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My monitor is the next thing on my list for an upgrade. Looking to get a 24" monitor. So am planning to play games at 1920x1200 resolution. Which video card would be suitable? HD4870 or GTX? I have heard that the GTX is not compatible with old games. Is this true?

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  Reply # 199986 8-Mar-2009 23:05
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For 1920x1200 in most games all you need to spend is around $400-500 on the video card imo.  Sure there certinaly are some games like Crysis which are glorified benchmarks which play terrible on anything that's not SLI or Crossfire multiple gpu's but in games people actually play like Left 4 Dead, Fallout 3 etc you don't really need to spend $1k on the video card.

I think you should be looking at ATI Radeon 4870 1GB or the Nvidia GTX 260+ (core 216) and pair it up with a core i7 motherboard and cpu.

Something like this..

Motherboard:  ASUS P6T X58 (Socket LGA1366) Core i7 PCI-E DDR3
- I prefer Asus over Gigabyte, pretty subjective choice but people many people do say Gigabyte have a higher return/fail rate than Asus.

Cpu:  Intel Core i7 920 Nehalem 2.66GHz processor Socket LGA1366, 8MB L3 Cache

Memory:  Corsair TR3X6G1333C9 (6GB) 3x2GB DDR3-1333 XMS3
- You could save money here and get a cheaper brand but Corsair has an awesome reputation for quality and performance.  3 sticks to take advantange of triple channel.

Graphcs:  ATI Radeon 4870 1GB
- Cheaper than the Nvidia GTX 260+, faster in some game engines slightly slower in others.. a real toss up.  Nvidia have the better reputation for driver quality but ATI have been doing really well in the last two generations of cards and drivers.

I wouldn't even consider AMD cpu's right now they are simply not in the same performance league as core i7.

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Ultimate Geek


  Reply # 199993 9-Mar-2009 01:36
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As far as 1GB 4870's go, I'd recommend this one:

http://www.tweaktown.com/reviews/1648/1/palit_radeon_hd_4870_sonic_1gb_graphics_card/index.html

Factory overclocked to GPU: 775mhz, Memory: 1000Mhz (GDDR5, so effective 4ghz). Reference is 750/900.
Has a non reference cooler which is quieter and runs about 20 degrees cooler. Will let you overclock to 800mhz.

I've got one and love it. 



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Geek


  Reply # 200294 10-Mar-2009 09:41
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So rough price estimates based on pricespy.

Palit ATI Radeon HD4870 GDDR5 1G DVI HDMI Dual Edition - $540

Asustek P6T X58 Core i7 PCI-E DDR3 Crossf Socket LGA1366 - $494
Intel Core i7 920 Nehalem 2.66GHz processor Socket LGA1366 - $620
6GB Corsair TR3X6G1333C9 PC10600 3x XMS3 2GB - $313

So all up $2k. Does that sound right? Does everyone agree with this setup or have better advice on where I should spend the money.

Thanks.


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Ultimate Geek


  Reply # 200395 10-Mar-2009 13:34
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Honestly, you'd save a lot of money if you went with a Core 2 Duo or Quad setup, and the gaming performance wouldn't be much different.

Plus you need to add in things like a good power supply and case, hard drives etc etc.
You could probably get 4gb of DDR2 for around half the price of 6gb of DDR3.

Although, at the end of the day, its your system, and up to you what you want, but that would be my suggestion.



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Geek


  Reply # 200466 10-Mar-2009 19:57
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Please recommend a good LGA775 mobo and a quad core cpu. Also, is there a lot of difference between DDR2 and DDR3?

Thanks.

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  Reply # 200505 10-Mar-2009 23:34
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Most current games do not take advantage of multiple cores so you do not see huge performance differences between a Core 2 Duo E8400 (3ghz, 2 physical cores no hyperthreading) ~$380 and a core i7 920 (2.66GHz, 4 physical cores + hyperthreading for 8 cores) ~$540 right now.

However it's quite likely that multiple cores will have more and more effect in new games.  Remember the LGA775 CPU and P45 chipet motherboard (or nvidia chipset equivalent) is now a previous generation, it's slowly advancing towards end of line, if you ignore core i7 I think a Q6600 or E8400 (depending on whether you want a quad or dual core) are the best price/performance still.  However the Q6600 are already end of line. no longer being made.  Intel has a large inventory and will keep selling them until they run out in 2010 sometime.

Also if you game and do a lot of things in the background or on a 2nd monitor while gaming you will gain alot from more cores.  Are you the sort of person who has irc, utorrent, winamp, a couple of remote desktops, 10 firefox windows, sometimes freeview going on the 2nd monitor while gaming?

Anyway without a defined budget to fit underneath it's a toss up, basically:

Pay less now and possibly have to upgrade sooner when sometime in the future you meet a game you'd like to play that taxes your system.

vs

Pay alot more now and last longer.

There are too many variables to make a certain decision just go with your gut feeling.  Some people prefer new shiny generation of tech, others prefer cheaper still good previous generation of tech.

I suggest a Asus P5Q Pro for the motherboard and an Intel E8400 or Q6600 for the cpu if going with the previous but still good generation of tech.  I would only go for the Quad core (Q6600) if you tend to do things in the background or on a 2nd monitor while gaming.

 A you are comfortable overclocking at all?  With a small overclock to boost the Q6600 (2.4ghz) to the same clock speed at the E8400 (3ghz) I think a Q6600 passes a E8400 in price/performance but then the E8400's can overclock well too.

DD3 is only worthwhile with core i7, I would just go with DDR2 for Core 2 Duo or Quad Core.


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