Novice seeks advice on gaming build

By Jcole ยท 52 replies
Nov 6, 2006
  1. Hi there. I'm in need of a computer upgrade. Instead of buying from a major dealer (like Dell) I heard it's better to try and build a PC myself. But I only know the basics about computers, and can't really tell what makes one component better than another.

    I read that I should begin by looking for a processor and then motherboard. Any recommendations on what processor would be solid for online gaming purposes?

    I don't plan on doing any overclocking.

    I'd like to end up with a PC that can handle the latest PC games for at least a year before needing upgrades. The budget for the entire PC is in the neighborhood of $1500 US.

    Thanks for any advice you can offer.
  2. Sharkfood

    Sharkfood TS Guru Posts: 1,019

    Here ya go:
    Antec Sonata-II Case w/ 450Watt PSU - $99.99 ($59 after rebate)

    Pioneer 16x DVD +/-R,RW/DL - $31.82

    Asus P5W DH Deluxe Motherboard - $249.99

    OCZ DDR2-800, CAS4 2x1gig (2gigs total) - $262.99 ($232 after rebate)

    Intel Core 2 Duo E6400 - $222.99

    Seagate Barracuda 120GIG SATA drive - $55.99

    Sapphire X1900GT PCI-Express 256MB - $199.99

    Creative Xi-Fi XTremeMusic 7.1 - $92.99 ($72 after rebate)

    Windows XP Pro SP2 w/ Vista Upgrade Coupon - $139.99
    ~$1360 leaving some cash for your choice of LCD monitor/keyboard. (that's without any rebates.. full pay price. Deduct rebates from that)

    The videocard is "trailing edge" for the simple reason that Vista/DX10 is around the corner. Your motherboard will support both SLI and Crossfire so you can upgrade a year from now to the "hottest" thing DX10, but the X1900GT is a smoking videocard in it's own right. Definately bang for the buck leader.

    You can also shave about $100-$300 off the above list by going to a non-SLI/Crossfire motherboard (cheaper, single PCI-Ex16 mainboard) or slightly lower-end CPU.

    Some might argue about the Power Supply, but with the new Conroe's, it's not a big deal any more and the above listed videocard runs well on a 400W PSU/SmartPower. If you do eventually go Crossfire or SLI (dual 3d cards), you'll likely want a beefier power supply. The case is perfect though and beefier power supplies are cheap.
  3. twite

    twite TechSpot Paladin Posts: 937

    I would still probably get 500+ W psu for upgrade purposes...Im not sure how power hungry dx 10 cards are going to be.
  4. Rage_3K_Moiz

    Rage_3K_Moiz Sith Lord Posts: 5,443   +38

    For one videocard, the Antec SmartPower 450W PSU that comes with the Sonata case is awesome. But Sharkfood, wouldn't this card be a better one than the X1900GT? I've heard from other forums that the X1900GT is basically the ATi counterpart to NVIDIA's 7900GS so the above card would be a lot better wouldn't it?
  5. Sharkfood

    Sharkfood TS Guru Posts: 1,019

    For $279 vs. $199, it's got more pixel pipelines (20 vs 12) but lesser pixel shaders (20 vs 36). So, for older, heavier textured games, yes.

    It's anyone's guess how well Albatron honors their rebates. This is why I quoted the price without rebates- in my experience, it's a crap shoot if/when you ever see your rebate $$.

    Nvidia/ATI architectures aren't really that comparable right now. Again, pixel pipelines (i.e. fillrate/tex ROPS) vs. pixel shader ops... they are just too different.

    NVidia has the fillrate crown and more pixel pipelines. ATI has the shader op crown and more pixel shaders per pipeline (NV's top card is 24/24, ATI's is 16/48, the above X1900GT is 12/36 vs. 7900GS 20/20). For more modern games (such as Oblivion, the next Unreal engine game, Source engine, etc.etc.- basically anything DX9 or DX10 that will be shader rich..), shader pipeline stalls will prevent 3d cards from hitting their fillrate potential.

    So at the end of the day (surprise.. surprise) it really comes down to which games one wishes to play. My opinion from the original poster is he wants to play everything modern TODAY and those shader-rich games that may come out in the next 12 months.
  6. Jcole

    Jcole TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Wow, thanks for the advice. I'll start looking into your recommendations.
  7. F1N3ST

    F1N3ST TS Rookie Posts: 596

  8. Rage_3K_Moiz

    Rage_3K_Moiz Sith Lord Posts: 5,443   +38

    That's the card I asked Sharkfood about F1N3ST. Ok Sharkfood, how about the X1950PRO vs the X1900GT, leaving aside the price? They look almost like the same product.
  9. F1N3ST

    F1N3ST TS Rookie Posts: 596

    The X1950PRO Is 80nm and uses less energy. It is about equal to a 7900GT, but is newer, and the first card manufactured on 80nm. I would get an X1950PRO but thats just me.

    Are you joking on the sound card? Thats 72$ Towards a better video card. Take that off and get a 7950GT.
  10. Sharkfood

    Sharkfood TS Guru Posts: 1,019

    You're correct about the X1900PRO vs. X1900GT. They both have 12 pipelines/36 shaders. The Pro simply has tightened up timings and boosts bandwidth by cranking up the memory speed. Think of it as a slightly hot-rodded X1900GT. :)

    To the original poster JCole- as you can see, there are many, many choices when building a PC and there truly isn't a "wrong" answer. If you really wanted to, you could drop $499 on just the videocard and get something that you can crank up to 1900x1200 resolution, antialiasing edge smoothing, texture sharpening and other nice features, but we've all been shooting for a more "middle of the road" card for you as DirectX 10 is due out soon and both NV and ATI (the two main companies making the best videocards) have new cards for this under wraps awaiting release.

    If you go with an Nvidia 7800/7900 series card, or an ATI X1800/X1900 series card, you really will be in good shape for the next year. They both have their strengths and weaknesses, and as previous discussed- ATI's can do more shader workload (shaders being instructions that newer games use the GPU for shaping/shading object surfaces, amongst other things) and NV's can do more dry pixel drawing (so games that still use textures or images wrapped over objects vs. shaders, or when using insanely high resolution).
  11. Sharkfood

    Sharkfood TS Guru Posts: 1,019


    The XiFi will last long past DX10 in the next year. Face it, integrated audio sucks. It has poor driver support, uses CPU during gaming, can cause performance issues or unsmooth performance, etc.etc.

    Spending more than say $200 on a videocard right now, in my opinion, is a foolish venture for someone just now getting into a gaming computer without a specific game in question. We will have DX10 capable cards in the next 4-8 months (if not sooner) and shortly after, the first few games that will use the newly raised DX10 shader limits. People with heavy shader capable dx9 cards will likely get good fall-back path performance, everyone else will have to disable features (lose IQ) or upgrade to a new DX10 card.
  12. F1N3ST

    F1N3ST TS Rookie Posts: 596

    No, they X1950PRO is 80NM, AND USES LESS ENERGY, AND HAS MORE POWER. Get your facts strait, X1950PRO is the first 80nm GPU, and it uses LESS energy, like the Core 2's because of this.

    Give me an example of this ROFL, POOR DRIVER SUPPORT >_< HAHAHA (Your a nub on a stick) If your gonna suggest a sound card get one like I have, it has 7.1 Channels, and is cheap. And ALL sound cards use CPU power, I have yet to see a SPU(Sound Processing Unit), so theres some more true information to chew on.

    And, ANY eVGA card, can be upgraded to any NEW eVGA card within 90 DAYS, SUBTRACTING THE PRICE YOU PAYED FOR YOUR CARD.
  13. Sharkfood

    Sharkfood TS Guru Posts: 1,019

    Unfortunately, you're a very, very confused person and buying into marketing hype while staying away from facts.

    Yes, the X1950Pro is 80nm, but this is not the main reason for it's performance improvement. Yes, there are smallish tweaks on-die for performance but it gains it's real improvements in performance due to the lower latency/higher speed memory. It *IS* simply a hot-rodded X1900GT. Same architecture, respun/tweaked die and with lower ns memories at a higher clock rate. The memories are the main source of it's boosts.

    Simple. Realtek. Have a look on these forums for AC'97 or Realtek. Their driver support *sucks*. For 2 months, most owners many ALC/RT series sound boards couldn't even play Oblivion without lock-ups, freezes and crashes. It took Realtek that long to get drivers out. There are similar problems now with over a dozen games still waiting for driver fixes.

    Uhm, the XiFi is quite capable of 7.1... the XiFi is also clearly superior to the SoundBlaster Live!, especially for CMS/EAX use, hardware voice and signal-to-noise ratio.
  14. F1N3ST

    F1N3ST TS Rookie Posts: 596

    I know it's capable of 7.1..... And is he a professional music recorder? No. I had Realtak Ac'97. Never 1 problem, people probably just mess with it, and it has the most posted problems because it is one of the most widely used. And smallish tweaks on die? Oh My God, it has on the die crossfire, and revolutionized crossfire, by making it internal like SLi. And the "New Version" X1900GT's cant even handle 575Mhz, that is why they are 512Mhz. And i'm not into the hype, i went over to anandtech, and saw the benchmarks, I dont see how "hype" can fabricate bemchmarks in speed and power. Your living in the wrong area, go to San Fransisco it's where you belong.
  15. cfitzarl

    cfitzarl TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 1,975   +9

    Let's get back on topic before Howard closes this due to arguements ;)
  16. cfitzarl

    cfitzarl TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 1,975   +9

    BTW, isn't that mobo slightly expensive?
  17. twite

    twite TechSpot Paladin Posts: 937

    F1N3ST just face it, sharkfood won. To go and imply that he is gay because he out-argued you is childish. If he belongs in San Fransisco, then i think you belong back in elementary school.
  18. kitty500cat

    kitty500cat TS Evangelist Posts: 2,154   +6

    Other mobo (non-SLI or CrossFire)

    See this mobo
    ASUS P5B-E
    154.99 US dollars
    Would support current CPU & DDR2 800
    Not sure if the following line, found in Newegg's description, would be of any consequence:
    "Notice: Only DDR2-800 memory supporting JEDEC approved 1.8V operation with timings of 5-5-5 or 6-6-6 is supported on Intel Desktop Boards based on Intel 965 Express Chipsets."
    hoping to be of some service
  19. Sharkfood

    Sharkfood TS Guru Posts: 1,019

    Professional musician has nothing to do with CMS/EAX support, product line support and product longevity. The XiFi's are, hands-down, better cards than the Live! series, and lightyears better than on-board sound. If in your opinion integrated audio is so wonderful, than your opinion I'm sure is duly noted by the original poster.

    Obviously, you are confused with the term "respun" as in a re-spin. The RV570 is simply a respin with some minor tweaks. Yes, the compositing engine is now on-board with the RV570 but I'm not even recommending Crossfire here. Apples vs. Oranges. It should also be clear the i975X chipset given will perform excellently with normal composite engine Crossfire should that avenue be desired down the road.

    More than likely though- he'll want to scrap the card in a year and get a new, single DX10 card. That is the path I'm recommending- get the cheapest/bang for the buck 3d card he can, but don't skimp on anything else. (Core 2 Duo, 2 gigs of CAS4 DDR2-800, a good XiFi soundcard, Asus top-of-the-line motherboard with both SLI and Crossfire support, etc.etc.)

    And this has anything to do with... what?

    I priced him the Sapphire $199 card at 575/1200mhz. You're suggesting the 575/1400mhz 1950Pro, which is also a good suggestion... and, as it turns out, may be in stock for the same price. There is no argument that the higher-mem clocked RV570 core would be a good choice. It all comes down to price and what's acceptable to be basically of likely reduced value in the next 8-14 months.

    I am from San Francisco by the way. Guess "Bay Area, California" is a bit too cryptic under my name?

    and to cfitzarl:
    YES, that motherboard is VERY expensive. Price can be saved by going to a single PCI-E or different mainboard. With a $1500 budget though, I strongly recommend the Asus as it has nice heatpipe cooling for the northbridge, very fast Crossfire AND SLI support, good BIOS support from Asus and I've setup a total of three(3) of them in the past month with excellent, fool-proof results. For someone tackling their first self-build, the extra expenditure I'd say is warranted.. plus the stability/performance of the unit is very good!
  20. F1N3ST

    F1N3ST TS Rookie Posts: 596

    For 250$ You can get a 975X Motherboard. And I didn't imply that he was gay, you assumed that is what I meant, therefor you called him gay, gj.
  21. cfitzarl

    cfitzarl TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 1,975   +9

    Please, lets stop the fighting so Howard won't close down this thread. All the poster wanted was help building a computer, not people's opinions of each other. Calm down.
  22. Rage_3K_Moiz

    Rage_3K_Moiz Sith Lord Posts: 5,443   +38

    OK thanks for the clarification Sharkfood. Now, what about this for a sound card? As far as I can see, most of it's features are also present on the X-Fi right?
  23. kitty500cat

    kitty500cat TS Evangelist Posts: 2,154   +6

    Both of these look good to me, but considering that the Creative is $73 and the Diamond is $30 (after rebates), I would probably go w/the Diamond. You could buy, like, two of the Diamonds w/the price of one Creative.
  24. Rage_3K_Moiz

    Rage_3K_Moiz Sith Lord Posts: 5,443   +38

    Of course, price is a factor. But what about feature-wise?
  25. kitty500cat

    kitty500cat TS Evangelist Posts: 2,154   +6

    Yeah, I guess, looking at it, the Creative XtremeMusic probably would be a better choice (more features). I guess you sort of get what you pay for.
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