Computer build!

It’s time for an upgrade, and in addition to reading the usual haunts (Tom’s, anandtech), I hoped to get the Dope’s opinions.

I’m hoping to hit Black Friday/Internet Monday/Soup or Sundae next week, so I don’t have that much time to get up to speed (it’s been about three years). Tom’s has an excellent article on Building A Balanced Gaming PC, and I could almost cop out on the research and just pick from there. But as you can tell from some of the buildingthreads around, that’s not all that interesting to someone who wants to build their own.

So, what am I going to do with it? Shoot zombies! Edit and burn camcorder-recorded HD movies. Office apps (Office, Adobe Design CS4). Shoot Zombies!

Stability and reliability are extremely important — its day job is as an office PC. That means no overclocking and a penchant for brand names that have a good reputation for service and reliability.

Describing performance expectations is a bit tricky. How about this — when Bioshock came out a few years ago, I was able to play it on a two- to two and a half year-old machine with all the graphics settings maxed out. That’s my conception of the sweet spot; not being intimidated by games for at least two years, then slowly needing to temper settings as new things come out. I think the Tom’s Balanced article linked above does a great job of capturing that mentality.

Any performance upgrades over a few bucks should be easily noticeable, not just stats in a benchmarking program. SSDs, for example — how noticeable is the difference? All media files will be kept on file servers, so it’s just the OS and apps on it, if it makes a difference. Would it help in video editing?

For budget I can go up to about two grand, but have no desire to spend up to that just because.


Umm, your video card is really the only important thing. An Intel Core-Duo 3ghz will do well by you if you want to save some money. Get 4gigs of RAM if you can. Get whatever hard drive you like.

I really liked my GTX285 video card. It’s like $ 350 but has SLI support and 1 gb of RAM. Basically this is the most important feature for a gaming machine, the rest you can save money on.

You should be able to get all of this for around 1200. If you want to spend the whole two grand then you could go for the newer Intel chipset. If it were me, I'd sink a bunch of it into a kickass monitor, particularly if you are doing graphics for actual work. I have an LG Flatron L227WTG which is a 22 inch. It's a great monitor 1:10,000 constrast depth. You definitely want at least that high in contrast depth, but you can really go nuts. I paid about 200 for my monitor three months ago, but you can get a much bigger one for 500 or 600. So yeah, if you wanna sink the money into an i7 chipset you have the budget to do it and still get a fucking pwning Graphics card and Monitor.

Great advice about the monitor – it’s all about balance. Better monitor will make lots of things easier and is worth upgrading earlier on. I’m on a Dell 24" Ultrasharp, so should be set for a few years.

I went with an SLI-capable board and card about five years ago when it was a bit newer (and a bit more expensive/less standard for the option). Never found the right set of options to get a second card; it made more sense to go with a new single card (see your threadand my/other’s response).

Well the SLI support isn’t all that important, but the card itself is friggin awesome. Mine got destroyed, and I can’t afford a new one.

I think if you want to do SLI the real way to go about it is to get two identical cards.

First off it’s difficult to make any worthwhile suggestions when you don’t specify which components you currently have, which makes making sure the components work together a bit tricky.

That said, it looks like you are looking for a new CPU and graphics card. If your CPU is in the E4200-E6600 class, there is plenty of reasons to upgrade.
I’d defintely recommend the** Intel i5 750**
It’s extremely fast, almost as fast as the very top end CPUs and it’s also a quad core. Why is that important? Because when editing movies and playing games in a year’s time there will definetely be a difference between dual core and quad core CPUs; already now there a few more modern games that take advantage of quad core CPUs and the trend will only increase.
Also for games or applicationbs that only use 1 or two cores (like Left 4 Dead, Microsoft Office, etc.), the i5 750 can safely (without decreasing lifespan or reliability) and automatically increase the speed up to 3.2 Ghz (the so-called “Turbo Boost” feature) which greatly helps performance

You’ll want a motherboard and some DDR3 RAM to go with that. A cheaper motherboard from one the better manufacturers is fine in your case.
Something like the** Gigabyte GA-P55M-UD2** ($105 or cheaper) would be decent.
I would go with 8 GB of RAM ($240 or cheaper). Since you are editing video it’s a very good to have as much of the video in RAM as possible and if you are multitasking heavily extra RAM will come in handy. You could also just buy 4 GB (2x 2GB configuration) and upgrade later since RAM is the easiest component to upgrade.

Graphics-wise I would recommend the HD 5850 ($310 or cheaper). The performance is great, it’s faster than the GTX 285 and cheaper too, and unlike the Geforce cards it has DirectX 11 support which may end up being important in the future (although adimittedly probably not a factor untill at least 2011.)
Some people might disagree with me, but I’d say that SLI is irrelevant unless you are a hardcore enthusiast, so don’t bother with the added cost to the motherboard (and possibly PSU).
You might want to look into upgrading your PSU, for the 5850 you’ll need two 75W 6-pin connectors, which your PSU may or may not have. It should also be at least 500W.
If you decide to upgrade your PSU I’d go with the Corsair CMPSU-650TX 650W or the Corsair CMPSU-750TX 750W. Both PSUs areenergy efficient, reliable and quiet.

About SSDs:
The difference between SSDs and regular harddrives is night and day, it’s a completely different experience as far as starting programs, loading times in games and windows start up times. The problem is that they are expensive and relatively small. Untill recently they also had a major that, when used, the performance would degrade significantly due to something similiar to fragmentation. With Windows 7 (which is needed since Vista/XP does not support TRIM) and the latest firmware on the newst SSDs (some Intel, OCZ, Crucial and SuperTalent drives) that is averted with the so-called TRIM feature.
If your most used programs, games and Windows 7 take up no more than 60 GB total, I would get the** Intel X-25M G2** drive (the 34 nm version) and upgrade the firmware once it comes out at the end of November.
It’s an 80 GB drive and it’s one of the fastest drives out there.
Of course you’ll need an additional regular non-SSD drive to store music, video and the like as well.
If your games, applications and Windows 7 take up more than 60 GB, I’d recommend waiting 6-12 months and then get an SSD, they should fallen significantly in price by then and you’ll probably be able to get a 120 GB drive or more, just make sure whatever drive you buy has good random read/write performance and TRIM support.

Oops, sorry. Pretty much a fresh start, except for the case. Current machine is heading down to the den, and I’m going to get a desktop formfactor for it and reuse the case up here. Other than that, it will be a new machine.

It looks like the price point between the i5s and the i7 920 is about $90 at Newegg. It also looks like Tom’s has a recent (September '09) comparison, so I’ve got some reading to do.

As long as it has Gigabit LAN and no hiccups, I should be good to go. Any disasters or traps I should be wary of? Chipsets with a bad reputation?

Heh… still on XP, so have been jonsing about breaking the 3 GB barrier. I’ll probably overcompensate. But how can you have too much RAM?

Always a tough choice! I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for a Dx11 card.

Night and day, huh. So it’s up to what I find with WinDirStat. Actually, maybe I could just go with the 80 GB and keep installations down for the next year.

Whoops, I forgot that the one I recommended was micro-ATX which probably isn’t ideal for you, sorry about that.
So I’m changing my recommendation to Gigabyte GA-P55A-UD3 ($135 or less). It has a decent audio card, gigabit lan and more importantly has USB 3.0 and Sata 6 Gb/s support which is actually very nice as far as upgradability goes.

I’d defintely stay away from the older boards made when P55 had just come out, especially from the lesser-known manufacturers. I’m a big fan of Gigabyte so naturally I recommend a gigabyte board, but a board from ASUS, MSI or AsRock should be fine too.

The i7 will only be a better choice if you are:
a) overclocking heavily or
b) using massively multi-threaded applications (6+ threads, for example video encoding, scientific calculation and similiar.)

95% of the time you’d want to go with the i5, there’s simply little reason to get the 920 when it’s more expensive and due to the 750’s Turbo Boost, the performance is pretty much tied.

Since this is an office PC as well as a gaming PC, I suggest you consider the noise aspect and buy a quiet PSU, CPU cooler, and fans. With that budget, you can afford a large SSD. You might also look into fluid cooling.