General advice / possibly build advice

Tarrosion

Weaksauce
Joined
Oct 2, 2007
Messages
110
Morning all,

I'll keep this as concise as possible.
- I am from Georgia and go to school in California. At school I have a Lenovo T400 - great laptop, not so great for gaming. Looking to have more gaming power available to me here. At home, I have a moderately powerful desktop (specs on that below).
- I want to spend up to $500 to increase my gaming capability here. This includes all costs - shipping if the best way is to ship my old computer/parts thereof, all components for a setup to run a desktop GPU through the T400 expresscard slot, etc. Spending less than $500 is fine - bonus points for enough less that I can buy a used Wii to play super smash brothers on with my roommate. I'd be willing to go up to $600 only if it made the difference between a mediocre and great solution.
- For most of this summer, I will be elsewhere doing math research. So I either want to buy in the next week and a half (which lets me build and use the system in Georgia) or in August.

Desktop back home, as best I remember:
Case: Lian-Li, big, fairly spacious. Looks like this except there's a side fan. case
PSU: Truth be told, little recollection here. I know I went with a decent brand - either Enermax or Thermaltake. Somewhere between 620 and 850 watts.
Motherboard: Asus M2N-SLI deluxe (socket AM2)
CPU: AMD Athlon 6400+ x2 (socket AM2)
GPU: Radeon 4870
RAM: 8GB Patriot DDR2
Hard drives: pair of OEM Western Digitals from Newegg, total 400GB
Optical: some OEM DVD writer.
Monitor: 1680x1050 P-MVA

Here are the answers to the posted questions if I ought to be doing a full or partial build:

1) What will you be doing with this PC? Gaming? Photoshop? Web browsing? etc
Most time consuming is work - office and programming - and web browsing. Most frequent use of power would be gaming.

2) What's your budget? Are tax and shipping included?
$500, including all taxes and shipping.

3) Where do you live?
California for the school year, various parts of the southeast for the summer. It'd be nice to build/use over the summer, but I'd have to ship again out to California.

4) What exact parts do you need for that budget? CPU, RAM, case, etc. The word "Everything" is not a valid answer. Please list out all the parts you'll need.
I am happy to reuse anything I already have, including case, motherboard, power supply, graphics card, RAM, optical drive, hard drives, monitor, and keyboard. As mentioned, if I use those, I will have to pay to ship to California. Counting anything reused, it'd be: case, power supply, motherboard, CPU, GPU, RAM, hard drive, optical drive, monitor, keyboard.

5) If reusing any parts, what parts will you be reusing? Please be especially specific about the power supply. List make and model.
See above. I'm not sure what there is worth paying to have shipped.

6) Will you be overclocking?
Not initially. Down the road minimally if at all.

7) What size monitor do you have and/or plan to have?
My current is 20 inches, 1680x1050. Aside from the cost of shipping it cross country, I'm very happy with it; I see little reason not to reuse it. I don't particularly care to have a higher resolution or bigger monitor. Maybe 1920x1080 tops.

8) When do you plan on building/buying the PC?
Either in 2 weeks, which gives me summer usage, or early August, which gives me some summer usage. Both of these would require shipping it to California in late August. Otherwise, building early September is fine.

9) What features do you need in a motherboard? RAID? Firewire? Crossfire or SLI support? USB 3.0? SATA 6Gb/s? eSATA? Onboard video? etc.
I'm not picky here. I like being futureproof, so maybe USB 3.0. Crossfire/SLI only if two lower end card provide the best bang for the buck.

10) Do you already have a legit and reusable/transferable OS key/license? If yes, what OS? Is it 32bit or 64bit?
My current desktop is running on an OEM copy of Vista. I'd like to switch to Windows 7, which I can get through my college for about $60.

One addendum:
For gaming, I don't much care about high resolution or ultra high settings. 1680x1050 works well for resolution, and sure, it's nice to run at top settings, but it's not essential. I'm more interested in being able to pick up a game that comes out a year or three from now and having it be playable and decent looking.

Thanks,
Tarrosion
 

Dangman

Ninja Editor SuperMod
Joined
Dec 15, 2005
Messages
46,062
Ok, I'm gonna assume that you're gonna build in two weeks while in Georgia when making recommendations in this thread. If you have to build in early August or early September, please come back and ask for advice again 2-3 weeks before your actual build/buy date. I can barely guarantee solid recommendations a month from now let alone 3-4 months from now.

Anyway, do you live anywhere near the two Microcenters in Georgia?:
http://www.microcenter.com/

Do you have the 1GB or 512MB HD 4870? Also find out what PSU you have. That's gonna dictate whether or not ANY upgrade is worthwhile.
 

Tarrosion

Weaksauce
Joined
Oct 2, 2007
Messages
110
I live easy distance from one of the Microcenters.

The PSU is a 620W Enermax. The invoice lists it as "PSU ENERMAX | ELT620AWT 620W RT"

I have the 1GB 4870.

Thanks,

Tarrosion
 

Dangman

Ninja Editor SuperMod
Joined
Dec 15, 2005
Messages
46,062
Hmm that PSU is a a bit too old for current hardware. You're looking at a new PSU.

So first and foremost, let's get the main bits out of the way. I recommend this PSU and GPU:
$215 - Gigabyte GV-R687OC-1GD Radeon HD 6870 1GB PCI-E Video Card
$64 - Antec NEO ECO 520C 520W PSU
---
Total: $279 shipped.

That should keep you set for a year or two. Now that leaves us $220 for other upgrades. And this is where you get more options:

Option 1: If you don't need more than 8GB of RAM and if you don't mind doing some beta testing, update your mobo BIOs to the beta 5001 BIOs:
http://www.asus.com/Motherboards/AMD_AM2/M2NSLI_Deluxe/

From there, go to Microcenter and pick up the AMD Phenom II 965 + Biostar A780L3G AMD 760G mATX motherboard bundle for $150 from this link:
http://www.microcenter.com/specials/promotions/AMDbundlePROMO.html

Plug in the 965 and see if it work. If not, just use that Biostar mobo and add this RAM:
$41 - G.Skill Ripjaw Series F3-10666CL9S-4GBRL 4GB DDR3 1333 RAM

Option 2: If you want 16GB of RAM someday without having to spend a lot of money, pick up the AMD Phenom II 965 + MSI 880-E45 bundle from the above MC link for $170. Then pick up one or two of above RAM set for 4GB and 8GB of RAM.
 
Last edited:

Epona

n00b
Joined
Jan 2, 2011
Messages
50
I think a big upgrade you're going to want to make is to get onto at least a quad core. You could just go with a 1090T and a decent motherboard (don't know much about AMD mobos) and getting 6gb of DDR3. Then you could either sell your 4870 and buy a 6870 or just buy a second 4870 and crossfire.

The 6870 will run you about $200, you can get a 1090T and a motherboard for $200ish here, and you can get 6/8gb of RAM for $60-100 on Newegg.
 

herfalerf

Gawd
Joined
Jul 17, 2010
Messages
698
Hmm that PSU is a a bit too old for current hardware. You're looking at a new PSU.

So first and foremost, let's get the main bits out of the way. I recommend this PSU and GPU:
$215 - Gigabyte GV-R687OC-1GD Radeon HD 6870 1GB PCI-E Video Card
$64 - Antec NEO ECO 520C 520W PSU
---
Total: $279 shipped.

That should keep you set for a year or two. Now that leaves us $220 for other upgrades. And this is where you get more options:

Option 1: If you don't need more than 8GB of RAM and if you don't mind doing some beta testing, update your mobo BIOs to the beta 5001 BIOs:
http://www.asus.com/Motherboards/AMD_AM2/M2NSLI_Deluxe/

From there, go to Microcenter and pick up the AMD Phenom II 965 + Biostar A780L3G AMD 760G mATX motherboard bundle for $150 from this link:
http://www.microcenter.com/specials/promotions/AMDbundlePROMO.html

Plug in the 965 and see if it work. If not, just use that Biostar mobo and add this RAM:
$41 - G.Skill Ripjaw Series F3-10666CL9S-4GBRL 4GB DDR3 1333 RAM

Option 2: If you want 16GB of RAM someday without having to spend a lot of money, pick up the AMD Phenom II 965 + MSI 880-E45 bundle from the above MC link for $170. Then pick up one or two of above RAM set for 4GB and 8GB of RAM.

danny you're the go to guy on this section of the forums, but i see some room for improvement in your recommendations.

check this out. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produ...&cm_re=seasonic_s12_II-_-17-151-096-_-Product seasonic s12 II 620w psu 80+ bronze rated and hardocp recommended for SLI. its only $2 more for a full 100 more usable watts (after all it is a seasonic)

also the OP mentioned that he would be willing to go up to $600 if the gain was great enough, so id recommend spending the extra dollars on a HD6950 and then upgrading the bios so it runs at 6970 speeds, for about $250 you cant really go wrong here. $50 extra between a good single gpu card and the second most powerful single gpu card on the market. at 1680x1050 you would have no troubles with any current games and be well future proofed especially if you plan to eventually upgrade to a 1920x1080 monitor. make sure you buy the 2gb model of the 6950 as i dont believe the 1gb models will work with a reflash.
 

herfalerf

Gawd
Joined
Jul 17, 2010
Messages
698

Dangman

Ninja Editor SuperMod
Joined
Dec 15, 2005
Messages
46,062
check this out. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produ...&cm_re=seasonic_s12_II-_-17-151-096-_-Product seasonic s12 II 620w psu 80+ bronze rated and hardocp recommended for SLI. its only $2 more for a full 100 more usable watts (after all it is a seasonic)
It's actually $20 more once you factor in shipping, not $12. Also note that the Antec PSU I recommended is also Seasonic made. In fact, the Antec Neo Eco 520C and 620C are based on the same platform as that Seasonic S12 II. Anyway, even if the OP was wiling to spend the extra $20, I still wouldn't recommended that $85 Seasonic since this is Antec PSU, also Seasonic built and based on a newer/slightly better platform, costs the same:
$85 - Antec Truepower New TP-650 650W PSU

Costs the same as that Seasonic 620W, performs just as well, if not better, as that Seasonic S12, Bronze rated, semi-modular, and comes with 6A more on the +12V rail meaning more room for upgrades. So if the OP wanted to spend the extra cash for a larger PSU, the above Antec Trupower New would be my recommendation.

also the OP mentioned that he would be willing to go up to $600 if the gain was great enough, so id recommend spending the extra dollars on a HD6950 and then upgrading the bios so it runs at 6970 speeds, for about $250 you cant really go wrong here. $50 extra between a good single gpu card and the second most powerful single gpu card on the market. at 1680x1050 you would have no troubles with any current games and be well future proofed especially if you plan to eventually upgrade to a 1920x1080 monitor. make sure you buy the 2gb model of the 6950 as i dont believe the 1gb models will work with a reflash.

If the OP is willing to spend the extra cash, he can go for it.
 

tonytnnt

Gawd
Joined
Jun 30, 2004
Messages
871
Here's my input:

$140 - Sapphire 5850 (the 5850 and the 6870 are nearly the same speed. 6870 is a bit better on some advanced AA and Tesselation but you probably won't notice at 1680x1050.)
$65 (with $20 MIR -- last day for this price and the MIR. be sure to use the promo code to get it to $65) - Antec Neo 620C 620W

Subtotal for PSU and GPU: $205 ($185 after MIR.)
Shipping: Free

Then follow Danny's advice for the CPU, motherboard, and RAM.

Option 1: If you don't need more than 8GB of RAM and if you don't mind doing some beta testing, update your mobo BIOs to the beta 5001 BIOs:
http://www.asus.com/Motherboards/AMD_AM2/M2NSLI_Deluxe/

From there, go to Microcenter and pick up the AMD Phenom II 965 + Biostar A780L3G AMD 760G mATX motherboard bundle for $150 from this link:
http://www.microcenter.com/specials/promotions/AMDbundlePROMO.html

Plug in the 965 and see if it work. If not, just use that Biostar mobo and add this RAM:
$41 - G.Skill Ripjaw Series F3-10666CL9S-4GBRL 4GB DDR3 1333 RAM

Option 2: If you want 16GB of RAM someday without having to spend a lot of money, pick up the AMD Phenom II 965 + MSI 880-E45 bundle from the above MC link for $170. Then pick up one or two of above RAM set for 4GB and 8GB of RAM.

If you get the GPU and PSU I recommended above, along with the Phenom II 965 + one of the motherboards, you should be around $400 including the tax you'll spend at Microcenter.

The 6950 that herfalerf posted is a faster card, but I'm not sure it's such a good value proposition for this build since you're below 1080p. I think you'd be better off saving the $100 price difference between that an the 5850 for 18-24 months and then chipping in another $100 then to upgrade to whatever the latest and greatest card is.

Alternatively, if you're going to be all over the Southeast and aren't going to be able to use your desktop much this summer, consider building it in August. AMD's Bulldozer architecture should be out by then, as well as the AMD 7000 series GPUs (hopefully released.)
 
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