Help Me Build My PC Catch-All

From what I see on a review site, that cooler comes with a 120MM fan. Look carefully at the 140MM fan mount on your case; there might be screw holes to replace it with a 120.

This is long and drawn out, sorry I only get to do this about every 5 years.

I was planning to do an upgrade with my bonus at the end of the month, but my wife called and gave me an ultimatum, “Do it now, I can’t do anything on this crappy laptop anymore.”

I’ll be taking a few things from my existing computer and moving them over to the new system and then putting some older things back into the existing one and setting up a desktop for my wife to replace our very aged cranky laptop that she does the budget on and other school related work.

The older computer is as follows:
CPU: AMD Athlon 64 X2 4600+
Mobo: ASUS A8N-SLI
GPU: EVGA GeForce 9800 GTX+ 512MB
RAM: (x2) OCZ Peroformance 1GB (2 x 512MB) 184-Pin DDR SDRAM DDR 433 (PC 3500)
HDD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 ST3320620AS 320GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s

I’ll be moving the existing video card (until the new DX11 cards come down in price) and hard drive to the new system. They’ll be replaced with an nVidia XFX 7900GT and an old IDE 160GB drive I have sitting around. I also want to replace the case/power supply on the current computer, moving to a quieter design. The current case has about 10 80mm fans and blue LEDs everywhere, a remnant of my LAN party days.

I don’t really have a set budget at this point, but I am trying to keep the price reasonable. After combing the internet I came up with this list (prices are from newegg):

Monitor: Dell 2005FPW
Case: LIAN LI Lancool PC-K7B Black Aluminum
PSU: CORSAIR CMPSU-550VX 550W
CPU: Intel Core i5-750 2.66GHz LGA 1156 95W Quad-Core Processor
Mobo: GIGABYTE GA-P55-UD3R
GPU: EVGA 512-P3-N871-AR GeForce 9800 GTX+ 512MB
RAM: Crucial 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10600)
HDD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 ST3320620AS 320GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Hard Drive
DVD: Sony Optiarc DVD Burner with LightScribe Black SATA
Mouse: Logitech MX518

My questions:

Why not go with an I7 processor, and if I do which one? I’m not sure which to go with between the 860 Lynnfield or 920 Blumfield, both within a few dollars of each other. My friend just built a 920 system with 6GB and loves it, but it looks to be more power hungry and the 860 is slightly faster. The requirements for RAM and motherboard probably put the 920 out of my price range anyway.

Should I also look at dropping the extra $30 dollars for the GIGABYTE GA-P55-UD4P motherboard?

Of course the case I really want to use for both computers is out of stock until January 1st, not that big a deal for my own as I can reuse my existing case for the time being and order one when they are back in stock. I really like the layout of the venting on this case, we have 2 dogs and 3 cats so I’d like to limit (no side venting) and filter the air that is going into the case. On my case I want the USB, speaker, and power/reset buttons on top of the case to keep animals from brushing up against the front of the case and resetting the computer and breaking mini-pins off. The wife’s case can probably get away with USB and speaker connections on the front and power buttons behind a door. But it still needs limit and filter the air that is being drawn into the case, anyone have any thoughts for a reasonable case for my wife?

What’s up with memory, aren’t the UD4P motherboards having issues with Crucial memory? Will the Crucial work OK on the lesser motherboard?

Power supply? Do I need more or can I get away with less?

And lastly, what about a monitor? I originally planned to keep my Dell 2005FPW and find something for her, but as cheap as monitors are now a days I’m leaning more towards giving the dell to her and getting something that is more up to today’s gaming standards. I’d like something slightly larger (22” or 24”), 1920 widescreen default resolution that will accept a 360 via VGA cable and if it’s reasonable HDMI input for moving to that for the 360 down the road. Price range would be $200-250.

Your thoughts?

About the motherboard, I see no reason to pay $30 extra for what extra is in the board. It allows for SLI and Crossfire, but honestly I will argue you should do neither. The cheaper board, however, only supports SLI and if you decided to upgrade your video card (and I would argue that will happen at some point in the future if you get a larger monitor because 512mb is not ideal for 1920x1200 in a lot of games) you are shoehorned into only going the Nvidia route if you do want to utilize the SLI, but again, you probably shouldn't.

You psu is fine unless you go SLI and then you might run into problems.

I'll let others give you exact reasons for sticking with the i5, but the basic answer is the price/performance of the i5 is nicely balanced, while the i7 doesn't really give you enough performance to justify the cost.

Good choice on the mouse, I rather like mine.

I'll also let others respond about ram and monitors because I'm not as up to date with them.

The big reasons to buy the more expensive board, from my perspective, are more PCIe slots and a newer Realtek sound chip. I would certainly go that way if it were me, as I tend to add stuff to my computer. More slots means more flexibility. If you tend not to touch your computer until you replace it, the cheaper board will be fine.

i7 has more expandability, and works much better for heavily multithreaded apps, but is more expensive for slightly lower performance on one- and two-thread programs. Normal folks rarely run more than 1 or 2 cores at a time, so the 750 is better in an absolute sense unless you know otherwise, and then is cheaper to boot. Makes the decision pretty much a no-brainer.

I would suggest not doing the Crucial RAM for this board. Do Corsair instead.

PSU's a great choice; it probably wouldn't work for SLI/Crossfire, but will happily drive any single card you can buy. You can probably drop to something like a Seasonic 430 and also be just fine, as long as you don't overdo it on the video. (ie, no double-GPU-on-one-card solutions.) The Corsair will give you enough headroom to put any single video card in without thinking about it.

I'm not at all familiar with current monitors and cases; hopefully someone else will chime in.

Yeah, I have SLI on my current motherboard, never used it, and won't be in the future either. So not an issue.

As far as monitor goes, I need to buy one and figured there are probably better gaming LCDs out there now compared to the 2005FPW in both refresh rates and color quality. Down the road I will be running a 1GB vid card, I just don't think there is a big enough jump in performance (other then the extra memory) between what I have now and other cards in my price range. I can live with some games running in lower then 1920x1200 for the time being to have that option down the road.

I found the case I'm gonna order for the wife's computer. Antec Solo matched with a CORSAIR CMPSU-450VX 450W power supply. ~edit~ of course I post this and then go check stock on the case I want and it is back in stock, so back to the LIAN LI case for both of us.

So I've settled on the I5 with the UD4P (since I'm gonna run on board sound) and this set of Corsair memory (should I go with another?).

So anyone have suggestions for a monitor? I'm trying to stay around $200 maybe $250 at the max, and I'll probably buy local in case of any issues (are dead pixels still an issue these days?).

Thanks for all the help.

So a friend came over to help me assemble my PC. We got everything installed, press power the fans spun for a moment and then stopped. To make a long story short, we figured out that everytime the video card was installed, it wouldn't power up. Everything powered up just fine without the video card. Frustrating.

So my friend is taking the video card home to see if it will work in his system. If it does, we're guessing it means I have a bad motherboard. Are we pretty on the money or does anyone have other ideas?

Do you have both power leads connected on the motherboard?

You mean the 24 pin? Yes. The video card power leads go directly to the power supply. Unless there is an additional cable I don't know about?

Nevin73 wrote:
You mean the 24 pin? Yes. The video card power leads go directly to the power supply. Unless there is an additional cable I don't know about?

He means this too, it's above the cpu.

IMAGE(http://img37.imageshack.us/img37/2146/powerconnector.jpg)

(Note: That picture is upside down, it's the best angle I could get.)

There are two needed cables to the motherboard; one is 24-pin, and the other is either 4- or 8-pin. You always have to plug in at least four pins. Most motherboards come with an 8-pin connector, with a plastic shield over four of the holes. You can plug a four-pin connector into the open holes, or remove the shield and plug in an 8-pin cable if that's what your power supply provides. Either works fine. Plugging in eight is always okay; you can't provide too much power.

In garion's picture, the blue connector in the bottom center is it.... it's got four open holes on the left, and the other four are shielded by a black plastic plug. You MUST plug the right lead into the open holes, and CAN fill all eight if you wish.

Thanks, I suppose that could've used a little more explanation.

Looks like the 5870s are now starting to become available. Amazon just shipped me the one I ordered last month.

That being said, it looks like I'll have an extremely low mileage 4870 available soon if anyone is looking for a new GPU.

After a epic fail in topic creation (failed to notice the pinned topic) I respectfully resubmit. GWJ Overlords, Feel free to lock my failed attempt.

I find myself on the receiving end of a "new" computer from work and thought I'd ask the tech savy folk here at GWJ for their opinions on upgrades etc. My current home PC is barely acceptable as a computer and is really only viable for emailing/internet and games from 2004 and earlier (Yes, I'm still playing Sim City 4 & X-Com). While I'm not shooting for high end performance I'd like to be able to use this new machine to get back into PC gaming and play all the games I've purchased on Steam and haven't been able to run :(. While not a professional, I feel I'm tech savy enough that I'll be making any upgrades myself.

In the next week or so I should be getting a old Dell XPS 600:
3.2 GHz Pentium D
2 GB RAM
Nvidia GeForce 7800GTX (x2)
DVD R/W drive
CD R/W drive
230 GB HD

Should I be making any upgrades to this? The one that jumps out at me would be upgrading to Win 7 and upgrading to the 8 GB max ram supported as mentioned in the manual.

I had been planning on actually building a PC from scratch, but I think I'll take this opportunity to save money while still upgrading. Questions/Thoughts?

I've been looking at getting myself a small matx/mini-itx system. Here's about what I'm looking at getting from avadirect.com

INTEL Core™ i5-750
GIGABYTE GA-P55M-UD4
KINGSTON 4GB (2 x 2GB) ValueRAM PC3-8500 DDR3 1066MHz
ASUS EAH5850/G/2DIS/1GD5, Radeon™ HD 5850
OCZ 120GB Vertex Series SSD,
SABRENT CRW-UINB Black 65-in-1 Card Reader/Writer
SONY AD-7240S Black 24x DVD±R/RW Dual-Layer Burner
SILVERSTONE Sugo SG01-F Black Compact Cube Case,
OCZ ModXStream Pro Power Supply w/ Modular Cables, 500W,

I may also add a 1.5 - 2 tb hard drive.

avadirect.com will build this for me for $1800. Newegg prices this at: $1,500, not including little things like cables and stuff. I've been building my own recently, but I'm not sure I have the time, space and patience to build my own this time.

Here are my questions:
Anyone know anything about avadirect? They've been around a while and seem reputable. They offer a 3 year warranty.

How's the balance of CPU vs. GPU? I have a 1920x1200 monitor and would like to utilize that. This is the highest end rig I've ever built and I'm trying to hit the high end of the curve before it starts getting steep. Upgrading to an i-7 would be about $100, but I don't know if it will be gpu bound. It'll be running windows 7 and ubuntu.

You're certainly fine with the i5 and 5850 for running games at 1920x1200. I'd say the balance is perfect.

I know nothing about avadirect, however.

You probably don't want that power supply; that's a dual-rail job. Something like this Corsair 450 is probably a better bet. Single-rail supplies provide all the power, all the time, on all the connectors, and you just have to not overload the total available. With multi-rail supplies, you can't overload any part of the supply or the whole computer will fail.

Remember that with these small cases, noise can be an issue. 5850s are fairly warm cards and there's not a whole lot of air in that case, so the GPU fan is likely to be working harder than it would in a bigger case, meaning more noise.

I also don't know anything about avadirect.

Malor wrote:
You probably don't want that power supply; that's a dual-rail job. Something like this Corsair 450 is probably a better bet. Single-rail supplies provide all the power, all the time, on all the connectors, and you just have to not overload the total available. With multi-rail supplies, you can't overload any part of the supply or the whole computer will fail.

Remember that with these small cases, noise can be an issue. 5850s are fairly warm cards and there's not a whole lot of air in that case, so the GPU fan is likely to be working harder than it would in a bigger case, meaning more noise.

I also don't know anything about avadirect.

avadirect has the corsair@550w and also pc power and cooling supplies which are single rail. One newegg review says the cables on the corsair are long and I'm concerned with all those cables in a small case, which is why I chose a modular power supply.

Well, both Corsair and PCPAC are excellent choices. PCPAC may be better. But, yeah, cables could be an issue. You might ask the guys at avadirect what they think, since presumably they'll have worked with that case before.

It looks like it's fairly large for a compact case, so there may be room for the extra cables underneath the supply, above the board.

Can anyone help me out with some recommendations for a good mid-range pc?

My old dinosaur died recently, so I am stealing the family dual-core, 4gb, XP pc for all of my legacy gaming goodness and want to replace the main family rig.

I'm many years out of the game as far as building my own rigs go - so I am clueless about just about everything from processors to video cards. I'd like a quad-core with a good amount of memory and Windows 7. I'm hoping to spend under $1,000 for a pre-built machine (with no monitor) that plays all the modern stuff (Dragon Age, Far Cry 2) on medium or better. I'm quite capable of upgrading with a seperate video card as well...

Thanks in advance for any advice!

Tom

What native resolution is your monitor?

And you want it prebuilt? Well, of course, our recommendation is to build it yourself.

@garion333

1680x1050

BreechLoad wrote:

INTEL Core™ i5-750
GIGABYTE GA-P55M-UD4
KINGSTON 4GB (2 x 2GB) ValueRAM PC3-8500 DDR3 1066MHz
ASUS EAH5850/G/2DIS/1GD5, Radeon™ HD 5850
OCZ 120GB Vertex Series SSD,
SABRENT CRW-UINB Black 65-in-1 Card Reader/Writer
SONY AD-7240S Black 24x DVD±R/RW Dual-Layer Burner
SILVERSTONE Sugo SG01-F Black Compact Cube Case,
OCZ ModXStream Pro Power Supply w/ Modular Cables, 500W,

I've been looking at something similar, though I have lots of pieces to reuse.

My current cart looks like this

GIGABYTE GA-P55A-UD3P
CORSAIR XMS3 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800)
Intel Core i7-860

I have plenty of drives, DVD writers, mice, keyboards... a couple of extra power supplies (eg: 600W Silverstone), and my display is 1920x1200 native.

What I'm trying to decide is what to do about CPU and video. Should I drop down to the i5 750, and just go with a 5850 alongside it? Stay with the 860, and use a 5850? Drop down to the i5, but then upgrade the video to a 5870?

I'm totally open to suggestions. The difference in price between the the 750 and the 860 is ~$85. Difference in price between the 5850 and 5870 is about the same, $70-110. I'm just not sure what makes the most sense. I've also been considering an 80-120GB SSD for the OS.

Help me, O' GWJer collective! Tell me what to blow my money on!

garion333 wrote:
What native resolution is your monitor?

And you want it prebuilt? Well, of course, our recommendation is to build it yourself. :P

I'd second building it yourself. Shop around for parts, follow the guides in the OP and you can get it done for well under $1000.

PaladinTom wrote:
@garion333

1680x1050

Okay, so we don't have to get too exotic on the videocard.

You have a couple options. The more expensive of the two would be to go Intel and get an i5. The cheaper would be to go AMD. I currently run AMD, but honestly, the i5 is a better way to go.

On the videocard side, I'm more inclined to go Ati than Nvidia based on the premium Nvidia puts on all their cards. For your needs, a 4870 would work nice, but you might be fine with getting the new 5770's. I don't like 5770's when running at higher resolutions than 1680x1050, but for you it should work out great.

Okay, over at CyberPower I did a fairly basic build. I'm not supremely versed in i5 and ram compatibility (what ram works best), so I just went with 4gb of their slowest (1066) Corsair ram. Anyway, here's the basic build (I highlighted the manufacturer and part so you could look them up on NewEgg to see reviews):

[size=11]Case: CoolerMaster Elite 310 Mid-Tower Case with See-Thru Side Panel (Blue Color)
Extra Case Fan Upgrade: Maximum 120MM Case Cooling Fans for your selected case
Power Supply Upgrade: Corsair Power Supplies (750 Watts CMPSU-750TX - Quad SLI Ready)
CPU: Intel® Core™ i5-750 2.66 GHz 8M L2 Cache LGA1156
Motherboard: [CrossFireX] GigaByte P55M-UD2 Intel P55 Chipset DDR3
Memory: Corsair 4GB (2GBx2) PC1333 DDR3 PC3 10666 Dual Channel Memory
Video Card: ATI Radeon HD 4890 1GB DDR5 PCI-Express
Hard Drive: 500GB SATA-II 3.0Gb/s 16MB Cache 7200RPM HDD (Don't know what brand)
Optical Drive: LG 22X DVD±R/±RW + CD-R/RW Dual Layer Drive
Sound: HIGH DEFINITION ON-BOARD 7.1 AUDIO
Wireless 802.11B/G Network Card: None (Didn't know if you needed this or not)
Operating System: Microsoft® Windows® 7 Home Premium (64-bit Edition)[/size]

Total cost: $976

Your power supply is more than you need, but it's the smallest Corsair they sell and I didn't care for the other brands with lower wattage.

I also opted for the 4890 over the 5770 as it was only $17 more and it has much more performance packed into it. (See this article.) Plus the 1gb 4890 will be good if you get a new monitor at some point that supports higher resolutions, which the 5770 is not good at.

Also note that Cyberpower doesn't sell the 4870 anymore, probably because Ati is pushing their new 5770's. I don't really know why.

One final caveat. This is by no means the best build possible, this is simply a quick build I did that covers the basics. There can be some tweaking here and there to get better components (more money, generally) or lower spec components (less money, generally). So, do your research at places like Tom's Hardware, Anandtech and Ars Technica looking at what they suggest for mid-range systems. You're price range is a fairly high mid-range system, but the way you described what you want (1680x1050 and medium quality), you're actually talking budget so we could possibly find a build for ~$600 that would suit your needs.

Tyrian wrote:

What I'm trying to decide is what to do about CPU and video. Should I drop down to the i5 750, and just go with a 5850 alongside it? Stay with the 860, and use a 5850? Drop down to the i5, but then upgrade the video to a 5870?

I'm totally open to suggestions. The difference in price between the the 750 and the 860 is ~$85. Difference in price between the 5850 and 5870 is about the same, $70-110. I'm just not sure what makes the most sense. I've also been considering an 80-120GB SSD for the OS.

Help me, O' GWJer collective! Tell me what to blow my money on!

My gut tells me to go with either i5-750 and 5850 or upgrade both and go with i7-860 and the 5870, but I don't have any data or testing to back that up.

clever id wrote:

In the next week or so I should be getting a old Dell XPS 600:
3.2 GHz Pentium D
2 GB RAM
Nvidia GeForce 7800GTX (x2)
DVD R/W drive
CD R/W drive
230 GB HD

Should I be making any upgrades to this? The one that jumps out at me would be upgrading to Win 7 and upgrading to the 8 GB max ram supported as mentioned in the manual.

I had been planning on actually building a PC from scratch, but I think I'll take this opportunity to save money while still upgrading. Questions/Thoughts?

That can be an effective base for a mid range gaming system.

I would be hesitant to spend too much money on components that won't transfer to a newer system down the line, so personally I wouldn't load up on too much RAM. Maybe go to 4 gigs if you can do it without discarding the existing sticks. Buying a big chunk of DDR2 doesn't seem like a good use on your money, even at RAM prices.

If I had that system and I wanted to refresh it I would go in this order.

1) Second big hard drive. New games are large.
2) New GPU. The 7800 is pretty geriatric, SLI scaling isn't great and adds complications. I'm pretty sure that any ATI 4850/70 or 5850/70 or even 5770 will be an improvement
3) Windows 7.
4) More RAM if the 2 gigs is clearly holding the system back.

GPU, HD and Windows can go to a new system if you update your platform. Everything else will go on the junk heap, or into a file server, or be handed on to a 10 year old for Peggle.

Tyrian wrote:

What I'm trying to decide is what to do about CPU and video. Should I drop down to the i5 750, and just go with a 5850 alongside it? Stay with the 860, and use a 5850? Drop down to the i5, but then upgrade the video to a 5870?

I'm totally open to suggestions. The difference in price between the the 750 and the 860 is ~$85. Difference in price between the 5850 and 5870 is about the same, $70-110. I'm just not sure what makes the most sense. I've also been considering an 80-120GB SSD for the OS.

Help me, O' GWJer collective! Tell me what to blow my money on!

I went with the i5 and the 5870 for a build I put together back in November and am loving it. When I was doing my research I just couldn't justify the extra money on the CPU given the i5s great performance stats. I splurged on the GPU because I was moving up from an ancient 256 MB 7900GT and wanted to see all the bells and whistles I had been missing for years.

My only caveat is that I had to get a "temp" video card for a month or so (there were no 5870s to be found at that time) and picked up a 4870. The 4870 played every game very nicely for about half the price of the 5870.

If I were you I'd consider opting for the i5 and the 5850 and then using the "savings" to get the SSD. I don't think you'll really be able to notice the difference of not getting top shelf for the CPU and GPU, especially if you're moving up from a much older system. I figured by the time the i5 was getting long in the tooth, it'd be time for a completely new build anyway.

MrDeVil909 wrote:
clever id wrote:
specs

That can be an effective base for a mid range gaming system.

I would be hesitant to spend too much money on components that won't transfer to a newer system down the line, so personally I wouldn't load up on too much RAM. Maybe go to 4 gigs if you can do it without discarding the existing sticks. Buying a big chunk of DDR2 doesn't seem like a good use on your money, even at RAM prices.

If I had that system and I wanted to refresh it I would go in this order.

1) Second big hard drive. New games are large.
2) New GPU. The 7800 is pretty geriatric, SLI scaling isn't great and adds complications. I'm pretty sure that any ATI 4850/70 or 5850/70 or even 5770 will be an improvement
3) Windows 7.
4) More RAM if the 2 gigs is clearly holding the system back.

GPU, HD and Windows can go to a new system if you update your platform. Everything else will go on the junk heap, or into a file server, or be handed on to a 10 year old for Peggle.

Good News/Bad News...

Good News is the specs have changed and it now has 6 gigs of RAM, Windows 7, and a 1TB HD.

Bad News is instead of replacing the computer I was using at work they upgraded so I won't get the computer for a few more months.

Looks like I'll go for the GPU upgrade if everything else stays the same, and because of the work provided upgrades I can afford to sink a extra $200 into it

Thanks for the input.

OG_slinger wrote:

If I were you I'd consider opting for the i5 and the 5850 and then using the "savings" to get the SSD. I don't think you'll really be able to notice the difference of not getting top shelf for the CPU and GPU, especially if you're moving up from a much older system. I figured by the time the i5 was getting long in the tooth, it'd be time for a completely new build anyway.

This is probably a good plan. My current machine (which is borrowed), is a 4800+ x2, 3GB, and a 4870. I am definitely not running games at 1920x1200 (well, except for torchlight).