New Computer Bleg

I would like a new gaming rig, and it will be new because my current motherboard is not going to let me upgrade usefully. I have not looked at specs at all in the past two or three years, so I have no idea what I should be getting, what is a good deal, etc. I would like a system that will run most current games at high graphics settings (say City of Heroes/Villains, the Orange Box, maybe The Lord of the Rings Online™: Shadows of Angmar™ or something similar) and could be expected to run the next generation at medium settings. I don’t think I have anything resource-intensive except for games, and I don’t need to be at the bleeding edge there.

Any recommendations? I would prefer to stick with Windows XP (no install CDs from last purchase, grumble) and not need to put it all together myself. Dual monitors could be neat. Pricing a Dell XPS put me around $1500, which is not an unreasonable amount for me, but I don’t know enough to know where to look for better these days. Systems, specs, sites, deals, friend-of-a-friend who can hook me up, whatever: I welcome your input.

: Zubon

22 thoughts on “New Computer Bleg”

  1. In terms of CPU you want to be looking at a top-end Intel Core-2-Duo (e.g. E6600). Don’t go quad or extreme, waste of money. Not sure about motherboard maker, some are better than others if you want to OC, are you into that? If not mobo maker less important. Just make sure to match your RAM speed to your mobo+cpu FSB speeds, no use getting a 1333MHz RAM with a mobo/cpu that only support 1066MHz…
    Anyway a good chart (and article) to look at Intel CPUs:
    http://www.tomshardware.com/2007/10/24/does_cache_size_matter/page3.html

    In terms of GPU, sweet spot seems to be the Nvidia 8600GT in terms of most bang for your $$. Again not sure about exact card maker. If you want more performance and can afford it the 8800GT is the place to go. Anything more (xtreme editions etc.) is just a waste of money.

    http://www.tomshardware.com/ is the place I like to go for more detailed recommendations. Browse past articles and do some searches, you should get some solid ideas.

    The thing I would worry about most is noise/heat-vs-performance. Basically the higher performance system you’ll get, the more heat. Means usually more fans, which means more noise. Blah :( Not sure how to solve this myself, I went 2 years ago for more fans, regretting it now. Water-cooling seems to expensive. Not sure what is a good compromise, if you find a good solution please post about it :)
    Whatever you do, make sure to get good cooling for your GPU, not the stock cooler, those suck.

    Cheers,
    Solid

  2. Zubon,

    just before Christmas my computer up and died on me. I ended up going the Dell route and bought an XPS. I paid around $4000 Australian, but that also included about $1600 for a 27″ monitor. And we pay a lot more comparitively for our hardware than you guys do.

    The post where I wrote about it the new system is at http://stroppsworld.com/2007/12/07/the-beast-rises/

    So far I’m really happy with it. It should do the next couple of generations with no probs.

    BTW, I made sure it was XP. No Vista for me!

  3. I would suggest shopping out a system online through a site like newegg.com. You can buy the components separately and assemble them yourself (with the help of a friend) or customize a premade box.

    I suggest looking at something with a:

    > Core 2 Duo / PCI-E / LGA 775 / DDR2-800 Motherboard (Asus or MSI)
    > Core 2 Duo, LGA 775, 1333 FSB Intel Processor
    > 2GB of DDR2 800 (PC6400) RAM (Corsair XMS)
    > 512MB GeForce 8600GTS Video Card (EVGA)

    After that you can find a decent hard drive, DVD burner, case, etc. If you buy it all separately, you should spend around $1000-1250 tops with a nice 22″ wide LCD (go for 2-5ms response).

  4. Hardware wise I’ve always found only RAM and graphics cards make a huge difference in game performance. Most chips use dual processors nowadays and there’s only minor performance differences from what I’ve seen.

    I say get at least 3G RAM and a 512mb card.

  5. I agree with Sanfzg, with one exception. I just built a new box last week from a nice ASUS motherboard. The key for me is that it is upgradeable to the 45NM technology when I want to step up to a Penryn chip and a 1333 FSB. I got a Core 2 Duo LGA 775 that runs at 2.6gHZ, 2 GB of DDR2 800 and a nice 750 W PSU.

    The one major thing to look for is see if you can find a nice 8800 GT card. It gives much better performance than the 8600 GTS, runs cooler, takes only one expansion slot, and at about $260 – $280US per, I am able to run all of my games at full settings. I’ve suddenly got much better at TF2. Maybe it’s because I’m playing a game and not a slide show now.

    Feel free to look me up if you have any questions about my rig. I spent about $1400 for everything including WIN XP Pro, a lightscribe DVD burner and case. I’m very satisfied and I have a machine I can easily upgrade later to newer tech and SLI, if I want to.

  6. Core 2 Duo is the way to go as AMD is lagging behind fairly badly now. Sad, because I am an AMD fan.

    nVidia is also winning the current graphics card war. The 8600 listed above or one of the entry level 8800’s will keep you going for a long while.

    Motherboard wise, I would go with something that supports SLi. Instead of a future complete upgrade you can just get an extra video card and SLi it with your old one.

    3 GB RAM is the most you will need, but I suggest just sticking with 2 GB for the time being.

    I know this is fairly sparse on specifics, but for $1500 you can build a machine yourself that will dominate any XPS package from Dell.

  7. Everyone is spot on here. Go Core 2 Duo (I have an e6750) with 2GB RAM. 8800GT is a sweet video card for around $250. I have the 8800GTS which I regret now that the GT came out for a lot less. Get a good quality power supply, too many people cheap out here.

    Leave room to grow into a quad core should more games take advantage of it, as well as moving to 3GB RAM. 4GB is a waste on XP.

    I buy all my parts from Newegg and build myself.

  8. I upgraded my rig a couple months ago and ended up getting an 8600GT with heatsink instead of a fan. Haven’t had any heat related issues and my rig is super quiet. Most of the time I can’t even tell it’s on!

  9. I got my last one built by Cyberpower PC. They were pretty quick and have quite a few options on their site. I ordered a few parts I didn’t need (they already came with other pieces) and they conveniently removed them AND the cost from my PC without me having to tell them. The PC is of good quality, although my video card just bombed out, it’s a manufacturer defect, not their fault, and they offered to replace it free of charge without going through a mindfuck of phone calls and begging. Their customer service/technical reps speak plain english which makes communication for me a lot easier (throw in an accent on a phone and I may as well be talking to my cat).

    Overall the company has satisfied pretty much all my needs and I appreciate their honesty and timely service, giving them a 4 out of 5 (always room for improvement :) ).

  10. I bought a new PC last September from iBuyPower, whom you can now get from Costco and others (but you can still go direct). I went with them due to their low prices and apparently decent rep (but everyone is disliked by someone).

    The total price was something around $2500 but that’s months old pricing now (:-). It was relatively expensive because I got dual 8600GTX’s and dual 1600×1200 5ms monitors (NEC). I am very happy with the system. It was DOA but the guy talked me through reseating the RAM and it’s been flawless since (touch wood!). It is fairly noisy though, despite the (cough!) quiet case.

  11. Taking Cybercat’s suggestion, I looked at Cyberpower PC. This is what I tossed together based on all that advice. Thoughts? The price looks reasonable, although I have yet to compare it against Newegg and other places to buy and assemble at home. They have Windows XP, woo! I may look for an indulgent monitor while I am at it, or maybe 19″ is enough.

    $1207.00 (before all applicable rebates)
    CASE: CoolerMaster Stacker 830 Tower 420W Case W/ Side-panel Window (Silver Color)
    CPU: (Sckt775)Intel® Core™ 2 Duo E6750 CPU @ 2.66GHz 1333FSB 4MB L2 Cache 64-bit
    MOTHERBOARD: Asus P5N-E nForce 650i SLI Chipset LGA775 FSB1333 DDR2 Mainboard
    MEMORY: (Req.DDR2 MainBoard)2GB (2x1GB) PC6400 DDR2/800 Dual Channel Memory (Corsair Value Select or Major Brand)
    VIDEO CARD: NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT 512MB 16X PCI Express (Major Brand Powered by NVIDIA)
    LCD Monitor: NONE
    HARD DRIVE: Single Hard Drive (500GB SATA-II 3.0Gb/s 16MB Cache 7200RPM HDD)
    Data Hard Drive: NONE
    Optical Drive: (Special Price) 20X DVD±R/±RW + CD-R/RW DRIVE DUAL LAYER (BLACK COLOR)
    Optical Drive 2: 16X DVD ROM (BLACK COLOR)
    SOUND: 3D WAVE ON-BOARD 5.1 SOUND CARD

    It looks like the deal of the day expires before any of you will read this, but there will be a similar one soon/constantly, I’m sure, and I care more about whether I am missing something big in the system than missing a few dollars on the deal. Besides, must comparison shop, etc. Also: sleepy, so bad time for decision making. Mmmm, sleep.

  12. Looks like a win Zubon, except for a few things:
    * 420W is way too low IMO for a modern system for gaming, you definitely want over 500W PSU at the very least.
    * I see no options for running quietly. You might want to check out some articles by silentpcreview.com.
    * In any case don’t go with the stock CPU and GPU coolers, get good ones, perhaps fanless. For your case at the very least go with 12″ fans not the standard 8″ ones (larger diameter = slower revolutions = less noise).
    * You mentioned going with a 19″ monitor. I think 22″ (wide format) LCD monitors have significantly dropped in price recently and are now very reasonable. You can play at 1600×1050 resolution instead of 1280×1024 that a 19″ can give you and the extra screen real-estate is really helpful.

    Good luck,
    Solid

  13. Yeah, looks good. Agree on the power supply, need to have 500W minimum – don’t go crazy – but 600W is a good target.

    No disrespect towards Solidstate but as for running quiet, unless you care, don’t worry about it. My latest machine is so quiet I can’t hear it running and I did nothing special. Stock cooling for the CPU and GPU as well. Unless you are overclocking or the machine is overheating, no need to worry about upgrading the cooling (in my opinion). I take a wait and see attitude on cooling. If it runs hot – then go out and buy an aftermarket cooler.

    Go widescreen for a monitor, for sure. Love it.

    Did that price include the OS? If so, then good price. If I built you a machine from Newegg without OS, it would probably run around $800, perhaps even less. If you want me to price something out for you to order from Newegg, let me know. Building a PC is easy.

  14. Well, you can get away with that power supply, but a significantly better one wouldn’t cost you much, make it easier to upgrade in the future, and simply would provide peace of mind. The NZXT PP500 at 50 bucks is a bit expensive, in my opinion, but it’ll be nice and reliable. No-name ‘standard’ power supplies are [i]bad news[/i] : it only takes one fault to fry your computer.

    While I’m not too focused on the ‘silent’ PC — most people have headphones or speakers, after all — I strongly advise against sticking with the stock CPU fan and heatsink for the Artic Cooling Freezer 7, at least. It’s a very minor cost difference, much more quiet, and can add significantly to the lifespan of your machine. Changing out the other fans probably isn’t worthwhile, as CoolerMaster tends to build decent boxes at that price range, but it’s a good thing to keep in mind if the box does end up being too loud.

    Note that the CoolerMaster Cosmos has all the important buttons and wiring on the front top of the case. That’s great if it goes on the floor, but not so great if you want it sitting next to your monitor. It’s also a biiiiig case.

    Processor and graphic card are both well-chosen. It’s hard to go wrong with that pair.

    Motherboard I’m not so convinced by. It’s not a bad deal, compared to the MSI options, and it leaves a lot of upgrade paths for you. I really wouldn’t advise it for a home-built system — it’s expensive for what it does, and there are better chipsets out there — but of the options it’s the best for its price.

    Seriously consider purchasing the bare minimum of RAM from them, and getting higher quality stuff and installing it yourself. You can get cheap RAM cheap or you can get really good RAM for 50 bucks. The difference in cost and performance isn’t major, but the time involved is minimal. Likewise, if you’re really going to hound for the space, stick with an 80GB primary drive and used the saved money to hook in a second one.

    Consider a separate sound card. They’re a bit of expense, but the difference in hardware and software sound’s performance can be surprising, especially in CoH. The Creative Labs X-FI XtremeGamer 24-BIT they’ll add it actually a fairly good deal, less than the price of putting it in yourself, but just the 30 dollar option is an improvement.

    That machine looks to be ~100-200 USD more than you’d pay by home-building the thing from scratch, depending on how exactly you plan to match the components. Might be worth it, might not, depending on how much you value your time.

    You might be able to find a better deal pre-built system, but most of the time you’ll find yourself making compromises or paying roughly the same price.

  15. The 8800 will give a lot better graphics than the 8600. I have an evga 8600GTS and can run LOTRO at High settings, but not Very High, and probably couldn’t run Oblivion or Vanguard at the highest settings either.

    I always choose quiet components: the biggest heat sinks that fit, quiet fans, rubber grommets, I have an Antec Solo case which has rubber and vinyl sound deadening. Once you actually do it once, you do notice the difference in sound level. Plus aftermarket heat sinks just usually work better anyway.

  16. Oh wait I didn’t notice your motherboard: the 650i chipset is a hybrid chipset for people that wanted SLI before the 680i chipset came out. Don’t even bother. Just get a 680i board. 680i will get you 2 more SATA ii ports plus another PCI slot. I would not bother with 650i.

  17. Huh, it didn’t list the power supply. That was with a “CoolerMaster Unit 600 Watts eXtreme Power – SLI Supports” power supply. Does it matter that the case is 420W? How do those interact?

    It also has “CoolerMaster Liquid CPU Cooling System (Superior Cooling Performance + Extreme Silent at 20dBA)” and yes the OS.

    Motherboards are the thing I know least about. Switching to the 680i looks like a $100-$200 addition (still yet to price components separately):

    • (3-Way SLI Support) MSI P6N Diamond nForce 680i SLI Chipset LGA775 FSB1333 DDR2 Mainboard [+$120]
    • (3-Way SLI Support) Asus P5N32-E nForce 680i SLI Chipset LGA775 FSB1333 DDR2 Mainboard [+$102]
    • (3-Way SLI Support) Asus Striker Extreme nForce 680i SLI Chipset LGA775 FSB1333 DDR2 Mainboard [+$210]
    • (3-Way SLI & QX9650 Support) EVGA nForce 780i SLI Mainboard FSB1333 DDR2 3 x PCIe x16 SATA RAID w/ USB2.0,IEEE1394,&7.1Audio [+$132]
    • (3-Way SLI & QX9650 Support) Asus P5N-T Deluxe nForce 780i SLI Mainboard FSB1333 DDR2 3 x PCIe x16 SATA RAID w/ USB2.0,IEEE1394,&7.1Audio [+$159]

    Case size is not an issue. RAM separately is a good point: I usually do that.

    On the monitor, I already have the 19″. Unless that video card supports two monitors (or I get a second video card), getting a bigger monitor is a separate expense. A tempting expense, but a separate consideration.

  18. That case is an ATX-standard compatible case, and will thus will work with any power supply matching the ATX standards (although you’ll want an ATX 2.0 or 2.2, for motherboard and upgrade compability — all of the power supplies they’ll let you pick match those). The 430 watt statement next to the name of the computer case is the grade of power supply that the case comes with by default.

    420 watts is actually workable for a single-GPU, Core2Duo system with only two or three drives, but I wouldn’t buy anything that low power that wasn’t a well-known name brand.

    If you were building this system from the ground up, yourself, I’d say a resounding no to the 650i. It just doesn’t have the number of PCI and PCI express ports for a lot of normal users, and while a decent 650i board can be found in the ~100 USD range on its own, a 680i would be only show a ~30-40 USD difference in price. That makes it a ‘no-brainer’ to jump up a grade : replacing the motherboard later if you need the extra slots is several times the cost.

    At the prices you’re seeing for prebuilts, however, it’s harder to say for sure. 100 USD now hurts. If you can’t see yourself using more than 2 PCI Exp x16 slots (or slap a pair of 8800 Ultras in there), 1 PCI Exp x1, or 2 PCI slots, the 650i isn’t going to hurt much. If you might, then going to the P5N32-E now would probably be for the best.

    Most nVidia 7600 or higher cards, and most 8600 or higher cards, provide at least the capabilities for dual monitor output. There are a few exclusions, but I doubt custom builders use them for gaming machines : they typically surrender a DVI or D-Sub connection for HDMI output.

  19. Wow, what timing. I’m in the same boat here…my old 6600GT is not going to cut it if I want the “full experience” of AoC. It looks like I need to go PCI-Express, so new motherboard, new memory and possibly new power supply.

    Do you guys recommend going SLI with two TigerDirect $80 crap specials, or should I spend the $200-300 on a single “kick ass” card? NVidia or ATI? I’ve got a 2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo, so it appears that (according to the posts), I’m still okay there. AoC supports DX10 so it looks like I have to go to (eek!) Winblows Eyesore…er Vista.

    Also, any mobo and ram recommendations would be sweet.

    I’d love to hear from people who have “taken the plunge” and have somehow managed to get Vista to play DX10 games decently. Much appreciated.

    …I guess the other option is to buy another XB360 (I know it’ll be cheaper)

  20. …also, I have a Soundblaster Audigy (original) going into the Creative Labs Desktop Theater of old school…it’s a piece of crap and will be updated to a Logitech monster – what about the soundcard? Any need to upgrade this? (Is 7.2 all that much better than 5.1 digital audio?)

    Muchos gracias, ciao.

  21. A55d0wn Don’t bother with SLI unless you run in 1600×1200 or more. SLI mainly helps you run large resolutions with the same FPS as small resolutions. If you are running lower than that, you won’t see any increase in performance at all. So the general rule of thumb is always buy the best single card you can.

    Looking at anandtech or tomshardware at any videocard comparison to see graphs of the cards at different resolutions.

    I like Vista, the graphics drivers are pretty up to date and there’s not many problems, but some games have major problems. I play The Witcher and it crashes constantly so I have to keep saving every few minutes. But other games I have no problem with. DX10 sure looks awesome though. I can’t wait till everything is more stable. AoC might not be till who knows when so… I don’t know what to tell you as far as should you lay out money now or wait. I guess if you’re happy now you might want to wait.

  22. Dont bother with upgrading your soundcard unless you want the THX effect. I have a 2.1 system at home which i kinda customised myself, and I’ll tell U for less than $100 I built a system that whould knock the socks off anything priced remotely close to it. But yeh if your really into surround sound then look into THX enabled soundcards and speakers..but I believe that to be a waste of money you could spend on better performance

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