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Best Configuration for a Gaming PC (April 2010)

Posted on 2010-04-06
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Hi Guys, I am planning to build a Gaming PC over the next few months. I am not going to limit myself since i can afford it, but at the same time i do not want to waste money for a minor performance upgrade. The center of the universe will be my GPU and on that i will not cut back. But all the rest are subject of performance/cost ratio.

In other words i mean that i want a rig with the best GPU out there (or wait for it to come out if it comes within the next 3 months) and in general i want to build the system to make the most out of my GPU. Saying that if a processor that costs 1000dollars only adds 5% of performance to the system in comparison with  a processor that costs 200, i will probably go with the 200 US one. I hope you get my approach.

So Far I have the following component list:

Video Card      ASUS      EAH5970/G/2DIS/2GD5/A (requires one PCI Xpress 2.1 x 16 slot
Motherboard      ASUS      P7P55D Deluxe
Processor      Intel      i5-750 (socket LGA1156, P55 chipset)
Processor Cooling      Noctua       NH-U12P SE2 Ultra Quiet CPU Cooler
Case      CoolerMaster      HAF 932
Harddrive      WD      2 X 3.5" Velocyraptor 300GB SATA Drive
Harddrive      OCZ      OCZ COLOSSUS LT SERIES SATA II 3.5" SSD 120GB
Power Supply      FSP      Everest Pro 1200W
Memory      OCZ      OCZ DDR3 PC3-12800 PLATINUM LOW VOLTAGE QUAD KIT 8GB
DVD reader/writer      Samsung      Samsung SH-S223Q

I would like to receive advice on the following:

1)What do you think of the component combination? Is there anything that doesn't fit or doesn't work well with the others? Did i forget something?

2) Regarding Storage. Will having just one SSD (solid state drive) where the OS is going to be sitting add significant value to the system? Does it worth having velociraptors as secondary disks?

3) Regarding Memory. Do you think 8GB is enough? Will 12 or 16 GB make a difference?

4) Is 1200W of PSU overkilling it by far? Remember a may have in the future 2 HD5970 corssfired

5) I am not into over clocking so much, but i might consider it if i see real difference (since my system is going to be very powerful i might not need over clocking in order to see the best output). Having said that do you think i need the extra cooling for the CPU? (Noctua)

6) I am looking to the i5-750 for CPU since everybody says how awesome performance it has when it comes to gaming. but do you think that it would be better to go for one of the i7s? Which one and why? If you recommend an i7 i would appreciate it if you can recommend a motherboard as well.

Point management: I will leave this question running for a week or so regardless the answers. Just to get more feedback from more people. At the end i will try to be fair and allocate some points to the people who provided clear and useful information first and i will try to be as fair as possible. I hope this post at the end will be a useful reference for elite systems during 2010.

Thanks in advance!!

AT
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Question by:totopsgr8
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SemperWiFi earned 1160 total points
ID: 29897823
It seems as though yours is rather loose, posting a budget for this project will be very helpful. A lot of money for one user is nothing for another. We design/build $10k + workstations and gaming rigs everyday for those with big needs and even bigger wallets. It sounds to me as though you are budget conscious at least to a degree and simply want to get the most for your money (I think this is great). You'll see this thread will get flooded with people putting in their 2 cents, I promise you will get much better advice from those who actually know something if there is a target dollar amount posted.

So while most will just tell you what part they like best at the moment, I'm going to try and provide you with a somewhat of a guide and some information you can use when building performance systems in general. In mild context ;-)

A question I have for you is in regards to your HDD setup. What configuration are you planning to use with those listed drives and how do you plan to use them? I ask as it is a rather odd choice of drives. If you are a normal home user then the stored data you are accessing does not have any particular need for being housed on high speed drives. If your looking for a performance boost to come from your HDD configuration then your barking up the right tree, only maybe a bit sideways here. Your OS and installed applications live on your primary drive or array. Performance increases here will pay LARGE dividends in real feel overall system performance increases since this is the place where all actions start. For performance purposes RAID 0 can't be beat since there isn't the parody overhead of other arrays. 2 x SSDs here will make for a very nice primary (just DON"T STORE DATA HERE). For data storage there is no benefit of having high speed drives, I strongly suggest a three drive RAID 5 configuration here using 7200rpm SATA. For one, slower speed drives tend to last longer 1. plus for where we store data. RAID 5 has parody for protection against data loss due to drive failure 2. plus for where we store data. 7200 drives come with larger capacity options for less money 3. plus for where we store data. RAID 5 data array will out perform your friend's single drive primaries so you still end up with a performance increase even if it is in a place where it isn't needed.

Next RAM - Ever since the general public was made aware of the options to have more or less RAM via clever marketing there has been a push by everyone to stack as much RAM in their as possible. This is not always needed and certainly NOT always the best option. It used to be goofiness with people wanting 4GB with XP x86 and now it has gotten worst as x64 Win7 is the norm and since sky is the limit people can't wait to toss as much RAM in the system as they think they can afford. Useless and quickly produces diminishing returns. I remember years ago several months prior to the release of Doom 3 and we were preparing a system for review and while 2GB was the 'high-end system standard' we chose to go with a 1GB setup. Sound silly for a top of the line gaming rig of the time? Many thought so but guess who got another Editor's Choice Award with that review... we did. Facts were these; firstly, the games hardly used much RAM nor did much else and 2GB XP x86 systems were hardly ever if ever saturating 2GBs of RAM which makes the configuration a waste. Second, the more memory you have the more you limit how fast you can make it. So while everyone else sent out there 2GB and 3GB systems with DDR400 and whatever T2 latency timings they could muster. Our system went out with 2 x 512s @ DDR595 4-3-3-7 T1. SO, unless you have something particular in mind you plan to do with this system that will actually be using tons of system memory, don't let anyone tell you that you should get gobs of it. But you need to look at what YOU are doing with it to make this choice.

CPU - For whatever is out whenever you actually purchase your parts, I'll say this. CPU speed is only part of the equation as I'm sure you know. Don't forget L1 and L2 cache amounts. Processors are always produced in families that share the same architecture. The standard being the only difference between the lowest and the highest model in each family is the SPD and the stamp on the top. Now within the programming of the SPD sometimes these lower models will have limitations with multipliers etc so look out for those. These limitations will often make it more of a challenge to get the lowest end model to OC the same as the high-end. Believe me AMD and Intel aren't stupid. Never the less a good rule of thumb is that the lowest end model of a particular family can always be clocked within 6% of the stock performance of the highest model in the same family without running any risk of damage and with easy and cheap air cooling. Design (or pick) your CPU cooler and case correctly and there isn't even a need for any additional noise.
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by:jamietoner
jamietoner earned 640 total points
ID: 29903035
1. what you have would be ok personally I'd make some changes.
2. Since the os is on an ssd Id get rid of the raptors and get 2 tb drives for storage
3. For gaming 8Gb is more than enough, http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/memory-module-upgrade,2264.html
4. Psu will be fine especially for a later upgrade.
5. I never use the stock Intel coolers even when not overclocking.
6. For gaming and making sure the cpu and ram aren't a bottleneck with 2 5970's I'd get the Core i7 920, with an EVGA E758-A X58 motherboard and 6Gb's of triple channel Corsair XMS3 DDR3 1600 with the lowest latency.
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by:totopsgr8
ID: 29905469
Dear Semper,

Thanks for your quick and well structured response. To respond to your request I worked out that my budget should be around 3300 USD. This is excluding the monitor which i have no need for at the moment.I hope this will help people focus better in providing recommendations.

Having a second look to my HD setup it does look odd, and certainly doesn't accommodate well for raid. I was thinking on plain back up. I might have been affected by an article a while ago where they were analysing how raid configurations may result in less HD lifespan and more data loss percentages than plain backups (thats maybe a whole different subject that we may get into here). since then i abandoned the idea for raid. I am planning to backup only critical data such as Email,pics,videos,documents. Yes if the OS drive fails i will have to rebuild the system. I would be very happy to reconsider though if you strongly believe otherwise. I also remember that RAID0 was a NOWAY in that particular article due to high rate of drive failure. Performance wise i know its the best .Regarding the need for the velocyraptors i am thinking that droping them for just normal 7200rpm drive will probably be wise, but i would still consider the SSD for OS since as you said it proabably pays off on performance

So if i get it right on HD: you recommend 2 SSDs 120GB in Raid 0 for OS, critical apps and Games, and if i want to store Data such as music videos etc have a normal additional HD in Raid5.

Question of the Raid noob: can i have Raid0 for two drives in my system and lets say raid 10 or raid 5 for other two or three? I though you can only have one raid sytem and that it has to cover all your drives.

Regarding the RAM: My uses would normally cover the following. To Have tones of regular apps running at the same time. Also I do Video editing and play games. So from what you are saying 4GB should be plenty?

Regarding the CPU: Are you subtly suggesting that a low end i7 (such as i7-920) might be a better choice than the high end i5 (such as i5-750)?

Thanks already!!



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by:SemperWiFi
ID: 29911479
If your looking into SSDs for your primary, I don't think you'll have much to worry about in concerns with RAID configurations shortening their life span and the performance increase will be will worth it (around 82% increase in throughput - overall system performance gain should be around 45% over single/same drive). [HINT: Once you complete your clean system build and install of base applications; create an image using Ghost or Acronis which will allow you to reload fast and painlessly should a drive go and you need to swap it out. Makes for happy living with RAID 0]

Additionally, take a look at the warranty coverage for the drives. In your budget you can look into ES2 Seagates or something equal and they for one do great in RAID and two I believe that warranty is 3 years. If one fails just RMA it.

To continue the RAID conversation just a moment longer, if you are doing audio/video encoding using large files then your data store needs are a little different than a standard user. You will in fact benefit from the increased performance over a single data drive scenario when you get to editing, applying effects, cropping etc. Also, depending on what application you are using for this process, it is possible that you will saturate a decent amount of system memory. However, these days most high-end editors strongly rely on GPU and VRAM resources for these processes. My thought is a 6GB setup of high speed low latency system memory should do you quite nicely. You can always bump it up down the road if you see a need.

In regards to your CPU reply. This is why I like giving people information and not just a 'parts suggestion' because you now know something new. I think you know the answer to that question now ;-) [yes]
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by:totopsgr8
ID: 29919627
Guys

Thanks for your response, I think by popular demand i am switching to i7920 and 6gb of memory.

Any ideas about what would be a top end motherboard to accommodate that?

Also to Semper: Thanks for the input approach. I do prefer to understand why something is better so your explanations are more than welcome :). Just one more clarification. I can have 2 drives in Raid 0 and three Drives in Raid 5 in the same system?
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by:SemperWiFi
ID: 29926043
BAH! I'm sorry I forgot to touch on that in my last post.

RAID controllers can support multiple arrays. There is no high-end board out there currently that you may find yourself getting into which won't support a RAID 0 Primary of 2 HHDs and 3 in RAID 5 for data. So I wouldn't worry about that.

I've got a few systems I've been playing with around the house on this platform. I like it, solid OC, etc. You may like it as well - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813188048

I think something of that nature should be good for you since it has room to expand in the areas where you may want to do so. IE - Purchase a 6GB DDR3 kit now and double it down the road if you please with no waste. Also, it has room to play with drive configurations and easily expand down the road as well.
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by:SemperWiFi
ID: 29926756
Also, very similar board with 6 6Gb/s support for your primary array is this Gigabyte board, take a look - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813128413

Haven't played with this board but haven't ever had a problem with their boards in the past.
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by:totopsgr8
ID: 29929093
Do all these support Crossfire as well? I am definitely going for ATI
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by:SemperWiFi
ID: 29932017
The EVGA board supports SLI and the Gigabyte board supports both SLI and Crossfire.
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by:totopsgr8
ID: 29933271
Also guys what do you think regarding Sound? Would the onboard sound be enough or an extra card required? Have sound cards become obsolete with the onboard sound motherboards?
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by:SemperWiFi
ID: 29939874
Add-in cards are typically all about personal preference, implementation, and performance concerns.

Explained:

Preference - Some people are big into applying effects to their sound output and not all onboard sound chips support this. But at the end of the day, if it sounds good to you then its perfect!

Implementation - Assuming we are only talking about standard output - music, video, games and not studio oriented applications. Take a look at the total scope that remains. Are you planning to have high-end speakers? High-end headphones? If you're basically going to have normal headphones and/or speakers connected to the system then it may not be worth worrying very much about what the sound quality benchmarks look like; one solution compared to the next. You most likely won't hear it anyway.

Performance - Though it may only be visible in a benchmark test. If you are using sound effects etc. or you simply want to enhance performance in other areas, you may consider an add-in soundcard. Simple fact about most all add-in card implementations is they inherently bring with them a little thing called 'hardware acceleration' which removes processes from system resources leaving them available for other tasks. Examples: Add-in RAID card will control the RAID processes so the CPU and RAM are not used in the process while onboard controllers utilize more CPU and RAM resources to perform their duties. Video cards, sound cards, etc also do the same. When cards like these are present the CPU looks at the job and simply sends it on it's way to the hardware available to take care of it.
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by:SemperWiFi
ID: 29939986
Oh by the way, all of that being said, Creative X-Fi cards have steady been VERY good over the years and always been a personal favorite for me.
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by:Callandor
Callandor earned 200 total points
ID: 29945871
You don't have to go with an i7-920 cpu.  I was considering this a little while ago, and an i7-860 will cost half as much, deliver almost the same or better game performance while providing TurboBoost and power saving when idle (see www.cpubenchmark.net).  The Lynnfield cpus have improvements over the previous generation, and you can use the same P55 chipset motherboard that you were considering originally.  You also spend less on the motherboard, as LGA1366 cpus require X58 chipset motherboards that are more expensive.  You would lose triple channel RAM ability, but dual channel is not that slow.

Regarding SSDs, you want to avoid anything that has a JMicron controller, as that has known problems with significant write delays.  The Intel models and Samsung controllers don't suffer from this affliction.
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by:SemperWiFi
ID: 29971241
@ Callandor - The platform suggestion, while not being without merit, is rather interesting. Some good points made indeed! However, I will have to ponder its place in a performance system build considering the current state in technological evolution regarding not only the chipset but the system memory as well. I'm trying to sort out the idea of getting behind a technology on its way out the door being used in a performance system where it's my guess is the user would enjoy not including a platform upgrade during the life cycle of the core system.

I will certainly give this some thought and will be looking forward to a deeper explanation of your logic process should you not mind providing it.

I love food for thought, thanks!
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by:totopsgr8
ID: 29990978
Regarding the sound: I am using high end 5.1 Headphones. So from what you are saying it might be good to get a card.

To calandor: Thanks for your input. You are probably correct in all the performance versus cost arguments, but i think i will go with what semper is suggesting. Since i can afford it, i am not only buying best cost performance ratio (i5-750 might have been in the same group) but also future upgradability, since i am buying the low end i7-9xx. I also get a socket which may go a long way in the future (1366) and the capability to host more memory even if that is not required at the moment. Your thoughts on my approach?
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by:Callandor
ID: 30044390
It depends on what kind of upgrader you are.  I typically don't consider upgrading a cpu unless the price drops below a certain threshold, say $200, or the performance is at least double what I have currently and I know I can benefit from the additional processing power.  From my experience, that has meant an upgrade in 3 years for cpus.  At that point, the new cpu usually requires a new chipset or socket, and that has meant a new motherboard.  The concept of upgrading just a cpu is nice, but I haven't actually done it, starting from the original 8088 because of the requirement for new chipset support.  As soon as the new 32nm cpus come out, if history is any indicator, they will not be compatible with existing motherboards.  If you upgrade every year, then this does not apply to you.

Here are comparisons of performance and price.  An i7-920 scores 5587 and costs $289 at newegg.  The i7-860 scores a very close 5533 (and sometimes beats the i7-920, depending on the game) and costs $280.  The i5-750 is nowhere near, scoring 4206 and costing $195.  The X58 chipset motherboards required for the i7-920 typically cost $50 or more over a P55 chipset, though they offer more bandwidth with triple channel RAM.  Triple channel RAM has an advantage, but not as much as one would think in real world performance  http://www.techreport.com/articles.x/15967.  Unless you really need a lot of RAM, you can still get up to 16GB using 4GB modules in a dual channel setup.

Basically, you have to ask yourself if you are going to see the benefits of a 1366 socket setup, and if the additional cost is worth it.  I consider myself a hardware afficianado, with 7 machines in my home connected with gigabit before it was popular, and I couldn't see going for an i7-920.
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by:jamietoner
ID: 30067531
One advantage of the x58 vs the P55 is the pci-e bus. There a few P55 boards(usually cost just as much if not more than most X58 boards) that have 2 16x pci-e 2 slots that run at 16x when crossfire or SLI is used, normally this wouldn't be a problem but when using HD5970's it can be a bottleneck. Also the 32nm Westmere based cpu's will be socket 1366 and compatible with the X58 chipset, however the next gen 32nm cpu's called Sandy Bridge probably won't be as they will be based on new micro-architecture.
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by:totopsgr8
ID: 30079668
Thank you guys, your input is great. Seems locking down the motherboard and processor is more complicated than what i originally thought.

@ jamietoner: if what you are saying is true then getting a p55 is a no go for me since i am purchasing one 5970 now and i am looking to crossfire it with another one down the line.

Speaking of motherboards, i was looking around at the X58 models last night. Do you think its worth going for the flashy new USB 3.0 and 6gb Sata mobos out there since i dont see me upgrading mobo for at least two years?
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by:SemperWiFi
ID: 30100941
Ever heard the term - "Don't be penny wise and pound foolish."

When you're talking about wanting a performance system, not planning a core system upgrade for 2/3 years, will be upgrading (adding to) while you have it; is this really being discussed still? LOL

;-) just giving you a hard time...

Answer your last question yourself, how much flexibility do you want to have and even though you may upgrade the system in 3 years, would you be tossing this one when you do?
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by:Callandor
ID: 30221102
USB 3.0 is worth it (I have it in my Gigabyte P55A motherboard), as it is a significant improvement over USB 2.0.  6Gbit SATA will probably not confer much of an improvement, as 3Gbit SATA is limited by the maximum disk throughput right now.  Since both are bundled together, you have to get both.
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by:totopsgr8
ID: 30370979
Ok guys, Thakns for your input, the configuration after taking your advise in ocnsideration has been changed as follows:

Video Card      ASUS      EAH5970/G/2DIS/2GD5/A (requires one PCI Xpress 2.1 x 16 slot
Motherboard      Gigabyte      GA-X58A-UD7 or ASUS Rampage Extreme III
Processor      Intel      i7-920 (socket LGA1366)
Processor Cooling      Noctua      NH-U12P SE2
Case      CoolerMaster      HAF 932
Harddrive      Samsung      3 X F1 Raid Class 1TB (Raid 5)
Harddrive      OCZ      2 X OCZ COLOSSUS LT SERIES SATA II 3.5" SSD 120GB (RAID 0)
Power Supply      FSP      Everest Pro 1200W
Memory      Corsair      Corsair 6GB PC3-12800 1600MHz DDR3 DIMM Memory Kit (CMT6GX3M3A1600C7) 7-7-7-20
DVD reader/writer      Samsung      Samsung SH-S223Q
Sound Card      SoundBlaster      X-Fi


Your comments always welcome
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by:totopsgr8
ID: 30371051
Will i need a separate raid controller for the raid or the on board system is good enough?
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by:SemperWiFi
ID: 30409229
Onboard is fine bro. Looks like a fun system I'm sure you will enjoy. Hope you learned something in this thread ;-)
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by:totopsgr8
ID: 30425932
Thanks semper!

I learned a few things indeed!
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by:jamietoner
ID: 30426028
I wouldn't use the onboard for Raid 5 for a gaming rig, even though it is supported. The onboard controller is a driver based controller and will use the the systems cpu and memory when calculating parity and these algorithms can be intensive and would noticeable slow down the system. You could add a Raid controller for a few extra hundred bucks, but would also need to look at different boards as a pci-e raid controller would steal bandwidth from the 2nd hd5970, so you would need a board like the EVGA X58 Classified with the NF200 chipset. Personally i'd just get a couple of 2tb drives and use the onboard controller for a raid 1, this would more than fast enough for storage or even if you needed to install a couple of games on it.
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by:SemperWiFi
ID: 30457718
The RAID 5 in this case is for file storage so I don't see where there would be an issue in this case.

Though, as mentioned before, hardware acceleration is never a bad thing. So if you want to speed things up a little more then this is another area you could do so indeed. Adaptec 5*** series universal serial port controllers are quite nice especially for the price. You can do either SAS or SATA with them.
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by:SemperWiFi
ID: 30457722
The RAID 5 in this case is for file storage so I don't see where there would be an issue in this case.

Though, as mentioned before, hardware acceleration is never a bad thing. So if you want to speed things up a little more then this is another area you could do so indeed. Adaptec 5*** series universal serial port controllers are quite nice especially for the price. You can do either SAS or SATA with them.
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Author Closing Comment

by:totopsgr8
ID: 31711259
Points were appointed in accordance with my useful point system. Where a point has been assigned for each useful statement within a response. The 500 points were divided by the total useful points and then the result was multiplied by the number of useful points the involved individuals have  made. I tried to be fair. Thank you guys!! The total number of points for each guy has been allocated to a single answer although the points were awarded for multiple answers.
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