evaluate this gaming PC please

Hey all, what would you tweak below to get the most bang for your gaming buck?
Thanks in advance.

Power Supply: 700 Watt Modular
Motherboard: EVGA X58 SLI Micro
Processor: Core i7 960 3.20GHz
Processor Cooler: HeatSink/Fan
Memory: 6GB (3x2GB) 1333MHz DDR3
Video Card(s): GeForce GTS 250 (512MB)
Sound Card: On-Board Audio
Hard Drive: 500GB - 7200RPM
Optical Drive: 22x DVD+/-RW
Media Reader: Internal Media Reader
64-Bit Operating System
Windows 7 Home Premium

::Swipes modular PSU and runs away::


I would skip the i7 960 and instead get the 920 + a decent second market cooler. I got my 920 up to 4.2 Ghz and the cooler is quieter than what ships with the CPU. Instead, put that extra money towards a better GPU which is the most important component in a gaming PC (specially when we’re already talking high end CPU’s anyway). Either get a GTX 285 or better yet, go for ATI’s latest DX 11 tech the 5870 or 5850.

Personally Id say the 960 still has too much of a ‘shiny-and-new’ premium on it. I don’t think it is nearly worth 300 bucks over the 920.

Of course if I had spent 300 more buck on my processor I may have been fast enough to not be post Ninja’d by Kinthalis :wink:

I should have added that you should also talk to me like I’m a small, dim-witted child. Thanks for the advice so far.

Is this a system you currently own, or what you are thinking of buying? You’ll get much better value for money by buying an i5-750 or i7-860 on a P55 board (boards with USB 3.0 have just become available). X58 really isn’t worth it for 99% of users. The dual-channel memory controller isn’t an issue at all, and the limited PCI-E 16x bus only affects performance if you are running a couple powerful cards in SLI or Crossfire.

The i7-870 (fractionally faster than an 860) and i7-960 offer terrible value for money.

Also, your graphics card is very underpowered for the processor you’ve specced. A budget processor (say, a 2.9Ghz Athlon X3) with an ATI 4870 or 4890 would give much better gaming performance with most titles.

My recent build was an i5-750 with a 4870 card, it runs all recent games in 1920x1080 without any problems. That gives me plenty of processing power, the plan is to drop in a new graphics card in 2 or 3 years time, and overclock it then if I need to.

It’s something I’m thinking of buying, more kind of day dreaming stage.

I agree with everyone else. For a gaming rig right now it’s heavy on the CPU and light on GPU. If you’re planning on keeping it 2-3 years you my eventually appreciate the extra CPU horsepower but you’re going to want to upgrade the video card soon.

The window shopping is half of the fun.

Damn. I was hoping you could send it along for a proper evaluation.


Agreed on the overpowered CPU, underpowered GPU. A good rule of thumb these days for a gaming rig is to spend at least as much on your graphics card as your processor (IMHO, I think a 2-to-3 ratio is ideal- if your CPU is $200, you should be looking at $300 video cards). Ditch the high-end i7, go with something like an i7-920 or an i5, and upgrade your graphics card to a ATI 5850 if you can find it online for a decent price. If not, then a ATI 4890 or a Nvidia GTX 275.

One more :).

The 965 is overpriced relative to value at the moment and your card will be more of a limiting factor. Get the much more cost effective 920 or if you want to stay at stock and not overclock, get one of the Lynnfield chips ( either the i5 750 or i7 860 if you must have hyperthreading - the 870 is also overpriced right now ). Even the i5 750 will equal or outperform the i7 920 in gaming sans overclocking and you’ll save even more money.

Just for comparison, my own recent purchase ( arriving tomorrow, barring a UPS disaster and yes, bought not built - I don’t change my own oil anymore either :slight_smile: ):
Power Supply: 650 watt CorsairTX
Motherboard: ASUS P7P55D Pro
Processor: Core i7 860 2.8GHz
Processor Cooler: Vigor Monsoon III
Memory: 4 GB ( 2x2 ) 1333 DDR3
Video Card(s): ATI 4890
Sound Card: On-Board Audio
Hard Drive: 1 TB drive
Optical Drive: 20x DVD+/-RW
Fan Controller/Temp. Monitor: NZXT Sentry-2
OS: Windows 7 Home Premium
Case: CM Storm Scout

One year warranty on parts, after which I figure I might experiment with some mild overclocking. With any luck I’m hoping the CPU will last me a good few years and I can always upgrade video and RAM as need be.

So if I swapped the GPU for the Radeon R5870 with the above specs, would I have a machine that will stay cutting edge for a while and I’d be able to upgrade in a couple of years?

Hells yeah. I don’t see you upgrading for a good long while. The new cards also feature multi monitor gaming. I think up to 6 monitors can be used, but three are more practical. I think that’s going to be my next major PC gaming upgrade, probably xmas of 2011 :slight_smile: 3 monitors, hopefully the ones with no bevel. Sweet.

Sweet. Now I can finally play Pong!

Some things to consider:

  • What resolution will you be gaming at? Unless you are using something higher than 1920x1080 you are unlikely to get any real benefit from a 5870. The target is to get a consistant 50 fps in games, anything higher won’t make a perceptible difference.
  • Buying a slower processor would give you the budget to buy an SDD. This would make much more difference to your system’s performance than a slightly quicker CPU. The top-end intel processors are a complete rip-off. An i5-750 is quicker than a $1,000 Core 4 Quad Extreme Edition from last year, and it’s trivial to overclock the cheaper CPUs to i7-975 speeds. SSDs are pricey and the technology is still a little immature, but they still offer much better value than top-end CPUs. The hard disk is the biggest performance bottleneck for most users.

I would have to disagree as most users won’t see any significant improvement in terms of gaming with an SSD except when installing a game and in loading times, none of which are a significant problem on modern PC’s (which typically carry 4 + gigs of RAM). SSD are still very expensive and unless you MUST boot up quicker you’d be better off with a conventional magnetic drive, hell, RAID with terrabyte drives would probably be a better idea (and cheaper). I personally wouldn’t consider them until they are both more reliable and cheaper, maybe in a year or two.

I wouldn’t recommend an SSD quite yet either, due to price and the performance degradation problems. However, they offer a much greater performance boost than a few hundred Mhz of clockspeed. If someone wants to build a high-end PC they are a better investment than the most expensive CPUs.


I don’t recommend RAID on a desktop PC, as it doesn’t address the the real problems with hard disks, which is slow random access times, not throughput.

The hard disk is by far the biggest performance bottleneck in my PC. Even with 4GB memory, Windows still uses the page file (try looking at the number of Page Faults in TaskManager). Page faults are the main cause of stuttering in games. Also, quite a few games load data on demand (e.g. Oblivion, Fallout 3).

Some good advice in this thread. CPUs are definitely not an area where you want to spend more than $300 or so, because there’s a very high premium cost to them. The best and second best CPU available at any given time is always expensive out of proportion to comparable but slower CPUs of the same line.

Based on the way you’ve referred to some components generically, I assume you’re buying this from a vendor that lets you choose your parts. That’s fine but I assume it means you won’t be overclocking which is easy enough to and lets you make those cheaper, lower end CPUs perform as well or better than the expensive one you listed. To some degree this depends on what the vendor you’re looking at charges for the parts, which you haven’t listed.

X58 is a high end enthusiast chipset that you probably won’t need unless SLI is important (using 2 nvidia cards in conjunction) to you - and even then, ATI’s cards do better in crossfire (their equivelant of SLI) anyway. SLI is not worth it on new rigs … you don’t get double the performance you would on one card, more like 30-50% more, so your money is better spent on just getting a better single card. One nice benefit of SLI is that down the road you can pop in another card equivelant to your first one after it has gotten cheaper, but most people shouldn’t bother with SLI. ATI’s crossfire scales better anyway - you get more performance out of 2 ATI cards than 2 Nvidia cards. And a P55 board can do crossfire - if that interests you just make sure the particular motherboard you’re getting has 2 16x pci-e slots.

I don’t know that much about core i7 stuff, but the i5 750 seems to be a price/performance sweet spot at around $200. A p55 board with an i5 750 would probably not be noticibly slower than what you’re looking at (unless you’re doing lost of CPU bound tasks like video editing, but even then it’s probably not worth the extra cost). You’d save hundreds of dollars here, which you could put into a better graphics card and into your pocket.

For a video card you’re going to want something from the ATI 5000-series. These are the only directx 11 cards available on the market, and they’re massively powerful. DirectX 11 has a lot of cool features, and they designed it to be easier for games to support it, so it will be more widespread than DX10-specific features. A 5850 will run you $300, which you can afford easily here with what you can save on the CPU/motherboard, and it will have a much, much more noticible effect over a GTS 250 than the i7 960 would over the 750 or 860. The somewhat better and more expensive 5870 ($400) is also a good card. But even if you wanted to skimp there and get something in the $150 range like the GTS 250, the Radeon 5770 is a better bet.

I also agree with the notion of having a fast hard drive. High performance hard drives have bad GB/price ratios, which is why people don’t consider them, but you don’t just use the fast hard drive. You get a fast drive like a velociraptor or an SSD to put your OS and games on, and then get some cheap $85 1tb drive to load all of your non-speed-essential data on like movies, music, etc. The combination works really well, since a fast hard drive speeds up everything relating to loading anything. But it isn’t essential - once you actually have a game loaded and going, there isn’t really mid-game pausing to page out information or load it on demand like there is in the past - systems have enough ram that game designers don’t do this. And for that matter, a good big 7200 RPM drive is really pretty fast these days anyway.

If you are indeed ordering this from a custom build vendor, if you post what they’re charging you for each part and what your alternatives are, we can be more specific in our recommendations.

I disagree with this. The 5870 will have DirectX 11 features that previous cards simply don’t have, making it qualitatively better. It’s also decent value - not a huge high end premium on it - since it outperforms the 4000 series by a large margin. I also like to set my FPS targets higher - users are more bothered by minimum FPS than average FPS, so you want your lowest FPS to be somewhere around there, not your average. There’s more performance, features, and future proofing out of the 5000 series cards.

I’m not saying it’s required - I use a GTS 250 and it’s fine for pretty much everything - but if you’re willing to throw down the sort of money you’re looking at with your processor selection, the 5850 or 5870 is a much better use of your money.