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Gaming Computers

Posted on 2006-07-11
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I am looking for this questions...and know that it will be a bit of an opinionated question, but I want to compile a list of various options that I have.

I am helping a friend find the best place to purchase 25 mid-to-high end gaming workstations that would be used at a gaming center to play the latest & greatest games.  They would primarily be used in a networked setting, however, they will also be hooked up to a T1 for internet gaming (is that fast enough with that number of computers?).

Basically we are intersted in finding out the best options for the PC (including the video card), the monitors, the keyboards, mice & the networking behind them (just a basic 3Com or HP gigabit network backbone?  Etc Etc).

Please let me know what questions you may have & I will try to address them.  Also, I want to know if there are places that would discount based on that quantity.  Most of all, I need machines that are going to be very high quality & not cause a lot of problems.

Thanks! (and I am trying to find prices/quotes by Thursday)
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Question by:rustyrpage
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by:simsjrg
ID: 17086762
Honestly best bang for your buck IMHO is Dell. They are practically giving machines away these days and with free upgrades to 15" or 17" LCD's. You can always try to catch some deals on:

http://www.gotapex.com
http://www.slickdeals.net
http://www.fatwallet.com

I know there are a bunch.

For 25 machines it just isn't worth the hassle to build them and they would cost more then a dell and each part would carry a warranty from a different manufacturer.
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by:rustyrpage
ID: 17086770
But I want a high-end machine...not a give-away machine...I was considering their XPS line, but I want someone's opinion who has used them in a high-end gaming market.  And I am thinking it would be best to go direct to the dealer instead of a third-party for support reasons.

Thanks
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by:simsjrg
ID: 17086788
Their XPS line is very nice but also very overpriced. You can get a Dimension or Optiplex capable of playing almost all the new hits for a fraction of the XPS cost.
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by:rustyrpage
ID: 17087055
But the Dimension & Optiplex don't have nearly the same video interface etc....a lot of it does boil down to perceived value & "coolness".  Because this is for a gaming center, people are more likely to play on high-end gaming machines, otherwise they would just play at their house.   I am thinking more along the lines of an Alienware or something like that.

Thanks
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by:_Mr_Limo
ID: 17087179
Alienware has always made great gaming boxes (yes I know they were recently bought by the big "D", - but they haven't messed 'em up yet)...  Definitely want to go AMD on the processors - they're proven better when it comes to the gaming - AMD Athlong 64 XD is a good choice, couple of GB's of ram & a decent hdd (SATA is faster, but may not be as reliable).  

Video cards are always a personal choice - ATI or NVIDIA???? which to choose?  I've personally been happy with the ATI card I have, but it goes back & Forth.  Keyboards & Mice are Logitech in my opinion - you'll probably want to get "wired" though - don't want 'em walking away with the gamers...

Gigabit network is probably best - T1 is good for online - especially with that many machines - but it's not gonna be cheap (also for the reliability).

Monitors I'd choose a 17" or 19" monitor - Viewsonic are one of the best, but not cheap, again...

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Nemesis09 earned 500 total points
ID: 17087379
...this is a rather odd subject, you dont often find someone with the need for "gaming workstations" but your plan sounds cool enough... good luck with it.

I havent had a great deal of experience with high end workstations, just the "give away" kind. But I have had a lot of experience building custom high end gaming and media systems. Though not for a few months now.

I think alienware would be a good way to go as they are purpose built gaming systems, and I've never herad anyone have anything but the best to say about them... plus they do have some really good looking cases. Though from my experience they tend to be tremendously expensive. On the other hand, I think Dell is your only other option and the XPS's tend to have the same price problem.

Graphics:
        With reguards to the graphics cards of the systems, you really dont have to spend an arm and a leg anymore to get a great card. As I said I've been out of the gaming scene for a few months now, so I'm still running an nVIDIA GeForce 6600GT 128MB PCIe. And honestley I havent found anything that I cant just install, set everything to high, and have run perfectly and with out any kind of frame skipping (except 3DMark06 dammit!).
        And this is where the opinion comes in... STICK WITH NVIDIA. I have used both nVIDIA and ATi cards in my own computers, as well as in systems for other people during my 5 years at a custom pc shop, and nVIDIA is truly better. ATi does sometimes release a card that outperforms the nVIDIA equivilant, the benchmarks prove it, and theres nodoubts about it, but the tables will soon turn, and so it goes. The thing is that theres more to a card than framerate and in this respect, nVIDIA has it all over ATi and always has. The nVIDIA drivers are a lot more mature, a lot more stable and supported by a lot more software and other hardware, plus a lot more user friendly and less intrusive.

Chipset:
        For the same reason as the graphics cards I recommend Intel motherboard chipsets (Northbridge/Southbridge). I have found these to perform well as well as being the least troublesome and the most widley supported. I've heard only good things about nVIDIA MB chipsets as well, I havent used them a great deal but in my experience they seem a little buggy.

CPU:
        Um... I'll always go with intel because of many bad experiences with the Athlon XP series, and because I've always found Intel to be a more stable, controlled platform, the athlons always seemed a little crazy and hyperactive. Note however that I'm talking about Athlon XP's here, the new AMD chips are completley different and I've had nothing to do with them. The new athlons do need drivers though... drivers... for the cpu... thats just wierd.

RAM:
        Especially when buying "production line" built systems you have to make sure they give you enough RAM, almost every mass producer tends to rip you off like that. ie. They'll offer to double your RAM for little extra cost, made possible by them giving you half the amount you need in the first place. You really need at least 512MB for a gaming system, preferably 1024MB, and I'm pretty sure its stock in new systems now but dont pay any more for DDR2. Plus, not that you'll really have much choice in package built systems but 2x512 is always better than 1x1024, feel that dual channel power :-)

LAN:
        I'm pretty sure that pretty much all motherboards nowdays come standard with  a built in Gigabit NIC so there's no worries there, if they dont though, a 100MBit/s card will deffinatley suffice for your needs. Gigabit will be overkill. I would recomend a decent gigabit smart switch though, especially for routing through to your broadband gateway. I dont really know why you specified 3com and HP though? Brands are mostly irrelivant. But if you really really want some kind of direction, I like realtek for the lan cards and cisco switches/routers are the best you can buy, but theres absolutleyno need for the monster abount of money you'll pay for cisco in your situation. Any decent name brand gigabit smart switch will do (we use D-Link).

T1:
        I think this connection will be fine, I've ran a LAN of 15 pc's all in the one online multiplayer game on a single (pretty poor quality) 512/256k ADSL connection before and it ran ok.

...Damn, that was a lot longer than I expected, I hope this answers at least some of your questions, good luck with it all.
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by:rustyrpage
ID: 17087882
Looks good so far...I have an email into Alienware about pricing....we already have the T1 in, so price won't be a surprise, I just wasn't sure how much bandwidth some of the new games use for on-line gaming (since i am not a gamer myself)
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by:Callandor
ID: 17090178
If you're willing to build, you can get Alienware performance at a lower price.  If you are willing to overclock, you can get top performance at mid-level prices.  I have an Opteron 148 that runs at 2.75GHz and is as fast as some of the top cpus out there.  I don't bother getting the latest video cards because of the premium prices built into them, but for $200, you can get some high-performing cards like the Radeon X1800GTO (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16814161004) or nVidia 7600GT (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16814150140).  Here's a video card comparison: http://www.tomshardware.com/2006/05/12/graphics_card_buyers_guide_2006/index.html
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by:rustyrpage
ID: 17090206
I would prefer not build the 25 computers (maybe 2-3..but don't have time for 25 =).

So, if I were to go with Alienware, it wouldn't be worth getting the top video card?

I would prefer avoid over-clocking as a means to save money since I need to make sure that these run stable & don't have any heating problems.

Thanks
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by:Callandor
ID: 17090401
> So, if I were to go with Alienware, it wouldn't be worth getting the top video card?

That's right - the top card usually costs around $500, but it is only a few fps faster than the next best card.  In 3-6 months, that card will be dethroned by a new model.  You only need a sustained 30 fps for a game to be playable, and you don't need to have AA and AF enabled.  You can be generous and go for 60 fps, but it will be no different than a card that goes at a minimum of 30 fps.  The eye can't see anything faster than that (movies are shot at 24 fps and video at 30 fps).

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by:rustyrpage
ID: 17090854
I had Dell price out a Dell XPS 700 with the following specs (I would assume something similar for specs through Alienware):

3.4ghz Pentium D950
2gb ddr2 SDRAM at 667mhz
250gb SATA w/databurst cache
Dell 2007WFP Wide Aspect Flat-panel (is wide-screen preferred for gaming?  Is that monitor good enough of a monitor)

Let me know what you think of the specs...the price seems to be right at less than 3000 per machine (including shipping)

Thanks
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by:Callandor
ID: 17091217
Which video card did you get?  Even the 7800GS option is a very capable card.
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by:rustyrpage
ID: 17091484
512MB ATI Radeon X1900 XTX
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by:Callandor
ID: 17091680
That is a top-of-the-line card!  That machine will have nothing to apologize for, and should achieve top scores.  The dual core D950 doesn't benefit gaming, by the way, but if you ever need to use them for multitasking, they will be powerful.  Widescreen gaming is not that common, but they are nice for movies, and the Dell flat panels are very nice to look at.
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by:rustyrpage
ID: 17091709
Would it be better to try to get full-screen since these are going to be primarily for gaming?

Is there a "cheaper" or more efficient processor that you could recommend?  (money isn't too big of a deal on these, but I don't want to waste money)  

Like I said, these are ONLY going to be used for high-end gaming (War Craft etc etc)

Thanks
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by:rustyrpage
ID: 17091739
Also Callandor, while I have your attention =), for the networking side of things...what would you recommend for the switching etc?

Also, what would be the best way to make the workstations "locked down" without affecting the play of the games.  In other words, a lot of the people who are playing on these may start messing around.  

I also want to make sure that the anti-virus & some sort of firewall is protecting the machines, but I cannot have it affect performance or the gaming ports needed to be open.

Thanks for your help!
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by:Callandor
ID: 17092202
A regular 4:3 aspect ratio screen would be cheaper and meet your needs; be sure to get ones with sub 8ms response time so that the games don't exhibit "ghosting".

A high-end Pentium 4 3.8 single core cpu should be sufficient, since they are as fast as the dual core on single-threaded applications.  Alternatively, the Athlon64's perform very well compared to the Intels, but Dell has only just begun to carry non-Intel cpus.

Gigabit switches are not that expensive these days - I have two 8-port DLinks in my house, and I use cat5e and inexpensive gigabit cards.  That said, no game is going to make use of all that bandwidth, but it's nice to have if you need to copy large files on the network.

Locking down the PCs will probably involve group policy settings, which I'm not up to speed on (the OS TA has lots of people who know this stuff).  For antivirus and antispyware, stay away from Norton's bloatware.  Adaware, Spybot, and AVG are free and do a great job.
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by:rustyrpage
ID: 17092225
I will check with Dell to see if they have AMD...if not, I am still waiting to hear back from Alienware about a quote for a machine.

Thanks for your help...if you don't mind, I am going to keep this open to get your opinion on the Alienware & IBUYPOWER quotes.
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by:rustyrpage
ID: 17092506
Also, I am thinking about getting a price for HP workstations.....my guess would be if I went that way, all I would need to add would be a high-end video card...is that right, or would it be too inferior?  Also, what would the best one be to add?
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by:Callandor
ID: 17093486
HP workstation?  Are we talking about dual Xeons?  I don't think they run any faster than high-end desktops, unless you have a specific configuration in mind?

The Radeon X1900XT is a very nice state-of-the-art card that should handle anything you throw at it.
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by:rustyrpage
ID: 17093522
I am just looking at pricing options.  I can get the HP workstations through my regular vendor who gives me my platinum pricing.   (can't get Dell or Alienware from them)  I am not sure what processor the HP workstation would have (maybe just a P4).  I will send you the specs when my vendor gets back to me.
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by:rustyrpage
ID: 17100998
Would a XEON processor (just single) do better, the same or worse than the above mentioned gaming machine?  Also, I had it quoted with 2gb of RAM & the X1800XT.  The total price for that came to 2115 without the monitor.  Does anyone have a specific model number of a monitor that they have used recently for gaming? (19-20 range)

Thanks
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by:Nemesis09
ID: 17105056
Stay away from Xeon for gameing, Xeon CPU's are specifically designed for servers. There great for multithreading applications and working with large files and the like, but there lacking on the multimedia side of things as they were never meant to do that.

Also, I doubt a HP workstations would have a Xeon CPU... and even moreso two of them. On the other hand, Callandor would probably know what he is talking about, but that just dosent add up in my head. Xeons are expensive proccessors that were specifically designed and built for use in servers, I cant imagine HP putting them in everyday workstations.

I dont think a widescreen is going to be good for gaming, most games have an internal setting for the screen resolution, and most of them only support the normal 4:3 aspect ratio. Plus, it would just be wierd...

Also, I think 2gig of RAM might just be on the "wasting money" side of things, I cant imagine 1gig being too little any time soon... then again, vista is on its way, and I find myself remembering that some guy by the name of Bill once said "No one will ever need more than 64K of RAM".

I'd suggest sticking with the Pentium 4 (or the AMD equvilant if you must) rather than the Pentium D, and especially Xeon processors. For your purposes the P4 will perform exactly the same (or possible better) as the Pentium D, as to my knowledge there are no games avaliable which actually use multithreading, and the P4's are going to be much cheaper.

Also, I definatley agree with Callandor on the graphics card, spending double the price for an etra 5fps is a little insane. And as I said, my GeForce 6600GT is still going strong, so I think a 7600 GS will more than suffice anyones needs.

As I also said, chances are that the motherboards in whatever systems you end up getting will have builtin Gigabit LAN cards, so for the little extra when buying your switch, I would go with a Gigabit Smart Switch to avoid possible routing problems with all the systems accessing the net at the same time and requiring very low latency.
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by:Callandor
ID: 17105519
I was wondering specifically what kind of workstation was being hinted at, since Dell sells workstations (I don't mean servers) with dual Xeons which are a step above regular desktops (I use a dual 2.2 at work).  If HP is competitive, then they would have something similar, but perhaps it's all a matter of semantics what constitutes a workstation.  Xeons would not be cost-effective to act as gaming cpus.
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by:ap-it
ID: 17110489
If you dont mind some more comments.

video card - I would suggest somethin like the 7600GT - it has a 256bit memory interface compared to the 7600GS or 6600GT and would last longer for playing games.  It retails in the $150 range so price/performance is excellent.  I would drop down from your X1800XT and put more money towards monitor.

Monitors - depends on what game your playing.  If you end up playing MMRPG's then I do suggest teh 20wide screen - I run duel 20WD and in RPG games its fantastic.  If your mainly fps then the standard 20in is what I suggest.  

I actually priced out an Alienware for friend today using their base AMD system with, AMD 380064X2, 1gig ram, 7600GT video.  Price came to around $1800.  If you can wait little bit, AMD will cut their CPU prices across the board sometime in the next 2-3 weeks as Intel is releasing their new Core 2 Duo processor.  I wouldnot suggest getting the new Intel processor for as many machines you need, and they will be a premium and short supply intially.  Intel should also be dropping their prices on their other processors to clear out inventory.

Memory - 1gig min.  Depending on cost I would go with 2gig if it fits your budget.  I know running MMRPG's 2gig helps alot also.

chipset - I recommend Nvidia Nforce they have proven many times to be the best stable and fastest.  Intel chipset would be close second, but this is all opinoin :)






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by:_Mr_Limo
ID: 17314342
which computers did you buy?
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by:rustyrpage
ID: 17314764
I haven't purchased as of yet...I am probably going with the Dells
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