Looking to upgrade - gaming machine + vista

  Blitzer 17:53 07 Apr 2007

For sometime now I've been wanted to retire my old Win98 based PC and replace it's components with those that are currently in my games/gfx work PC. The current "gaming" PC has XP Home, AMD Athlon 2500XP processor overclocked to 3000XP speed, 1 Gig of Corsair RAM, X800Pro GFX card, Audigy 2 snd and a pair of 80gig DIE hard drives. Basically this is still ok for gaming but starting to fall behind, naturally it's fine for anything my workhorse Win98 machine is currently used for.

So basically I'm looking for opinions...

I've not really set myself a budget as such, but generally know when I look at each component as to how much I'm willing to pay for it in relation to it's performance. Having played around with configuring various bits and pieces I got up to around £1,200 if this helps. Oh, I recently replaced the monitor and all other peripherals and case (coolermaster black aluminium 4 case fans) are all going to be used in the build as are optical and floppy drives. Basically everything inside the case will be replaced. So price wise it's sensible and balanced without spending the earth! :)

I've always preferred AMD processors, but from what I gather ATM Intel currently offer better value for money so I'm looking at a Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 processor as the basis for this major upgrade.

As this is going to be a build with gaming in mind I'm looking at a GeForce 8800 GTX (yes I know it's expensive and the GTS is a good/cheaper option. I was looking further into the future and also considering the possibility of adding a second GFX card (same again) with a view of keeping the build a little more future/upgradable 12-18 months down the road.

I have a 480watt Antec (Truepower) PSU in the machine atm but I think this may not be up to the job of the new hardware so I'd rather replace that as well and am again keep on getting the same PSU again but at a higher wattage, probably 650. I like the Antec because it's quiet and has a good rep. etc. The downside of this is that the 650watt would only support 2 GTS gfx cards in SLI mode not the GTX's.

Motherboard wise I intend 100% to use a Asus board, I've built 2 machines with Asus boards now and found them to be very good and again they have a great reputation. I've selected two motherboards for consideration, one supports SLI and the other Crossfire. This should make my choice seem simple but with the PSU issue and only a possibility of adding a second gfx card at a later date I'm leaving this option open a little... suggestions please...

1. Asus P5B Deluxe WIFI Socket 775 Core 2 Duo - supports crossfire not SLI. Also has external SATA connector that I'm keen on. £113

2. Asus P5N32-E PLUS - supports SLI mode for gfx. No external Sata connector. £152

I'm looking at a minimum of 2gigs of memory, again having used Corsair memory I'm happy to use them again. Again I may go a little mad and either get 4gigs of memory or look at this as a possible future upgrade. I think the second motherboard above though did not support the Cosair ram I was looking at in DDR mode when used in a 4 gig config though?

For main hard drive 10krpm for access speed...

1. WD Raptor WD740DFD 74GB SATA 10KRPM 16MB Cache £98


2. WD Raptor WD1500ADFD 150GB SATA 10KRPM 16MB Cache£138

Storage hard drive...

Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 500GB ST3500630AS SATA-II 16MB Cache

I also want to get an external HD at some point again around the 500 gig mark and probably using SATA to keep the transfer speeds high. I'm treating this as a separate issue to the upgrade though (cost wise! ;-)).

Although I'm sure onboard sound would be fine with regards to quality in games etc. I don't want to take a hit in performance so will be looking at a sound card and have ear-marked the Creative X-Fi Xtreme Gamer 7.1 Soundcard - OEM £47 (I only have 5.1 speakers though?).

Looking to the future the obvious choice of OS has to be Vista (Home Premium), I know there are issues with this and again this mainly relates to games, but ATM I don't know to what extent. With this in mind I'll tackle this issue in another thread.

Enough of me rambling - please post your views on my upgrade thoughts, it's been a while since I looked at hardware so closely so there is every chance there is something I missed.

Thanks in advance. :)

  Blitzer 18:00 07 Apr 2007

I knew I'd forget something - cooling!

I have every intention of overclocking this upgrade and even considered going down the water cooling route, but TBH I think I can live with just getting a decent fan for the PSU and leave it at that. The case already has 2 80mm fans at the front and a single 80mm fan at the top and rear of the case. The PSU I was looking at also has a 120mm fan in it so in general the airflow through the case should be pretty good.

One thing is a must and that is that any alternative fan to the stock item must be as quiet as possible and ideally have blue LEDs - I have a windowed case you see and I like blue LEDs! ;-)

  Kate B 18:23 07 Apr 2007

Sounds like a nice build you're planning *jealous* Definitely go with the GTX version of the 8800: I think as more true DX10 games come along you'll want as much processing grunt as possible to make the most of it. If you're planning to add a second card later be aware that those babies are very power-hungry: I've seen discussion that you shouldn't run those two in SLI with a PSU of less than 1KW *faint*.

If you're only going to have one card for the foreseeable and you like blue LEDs, I've got this PSU glowing and supplying power to my two 7900GTXs click here

On the HDDs, you can never have enough storage space, but I've got 2x74GB 10,000rpm Raptors in Raid 0 and those two combined with a 250GB external HDD seems to be sufficient for my stuff including Vista, apps and data. But if you've got the dosh you might as well go for the two 150GBs HDDs (and I'll be jealous).

BFG does a watercooled iteration of the 8800GTX click here - I want one of these very, very badly. Though bear in mind that at the moment, the Vista drivers for the 8800 are a bit rubbish - don't expect top performance from the card just yet. Also remember than when ATI finally bestirs itself to deliver its DX10 card the Nvidia cards will probably come down a bit in price.

Processor-wise, yes, go with the Intel. The 6700 is obviously the luxury option but the 6600 I think is more than good enough - it's the graphics card you should go for the luxury option on, I think.

Watercooling is great but it's fiddly to work with: you'll be doing a plumbing job. I've found that anything I've needed to do to the innards of my gaming beast has required extra sets of hands to hold things out of the way if you don't want to get involved in draining down the system ... you can't, for example, just lift your graphics card(s) off the mobo and put them to one side: they're attached by the tubes. Not a major issue but it does up the fiddle factor quite considerably.

  citadel 20:45 07 Apr 2007

if you want a psu that can run anything you throw at it with rock solid stability the enermax galaxy was best in recent tests, plus it is very efficient.

  jam500 07:22 08 Apr 2007

Hi, Just 1 thing that i picked up on and it might just be a typo, But you have the Asus P5B WiFi Socket 775 board as crossfire and not SLI, If this is the case then you cant use an 8800 card as they only work for SLI boards and not crossfire as crossfire only supports ATI cards. And the cpu you chose is a very good overclocker and all the magazines that i have read have managed to get it to go over 3ghz and is very close to the top spec one. In fact the mag i have in front of me says " A perfect example is the Core 2 Duo E6400 (2.13GHz, 2x2MB L2 Cache, £140). While the multiplier isn't quite as high as the Core 2 X6800 (2.66GHz, 2x4MB L2 Cache, £615), The bus speed of 266MHz can be raised enormously, Bringing it all way past 3GHz and works with the stock cooler." Another jealous person.

  Blitzer 11:20 08 Apr 2007

Thanks for the very useful info there.

I suspected the power requirements for running two GFX cards in SLI with all that other hardware may be quite high, but I did not realise it would be quite that much! Leaves me in a bit of a "what to do" frame of mind as there is clearly quite a jump in PSU price from 800watts to 1000watts. :-s

HDDS: I've got to admit that although I'm aware of what RAID is I don't actually know what the different levels are, am I correct in saying that RAID 0 is when 2 HDDs are set-up in such a way that they appear as one disk? If this is the case have you done this purely to gain more dick space and/or to increase read/write performance? I was only really thinking of using a single internal 10,000rpm drive for OS, software and for games mainly to improve performance in games when the HDD is accessed. With a second drive running slower (to keep costs down) but at a much higher capacity for storage and backup.

GFX: I was looking at the non-water cooled version of that card, again because of the cost - I have to draw the line somewhere! Also having read your comments about water cooling I'm thinking that a good CPU cooler might be the easier and cheaper option. Just out of interest though is there much of a noise difference between a water cooled and air cooled system. My current games machine is quite pleasingly quiet and I'd like to achieve a simlar noise level if possible.

CPU: Agreed the 6700 is too much of a step up in price to justify. I generally look for items in this way - look for that jump in price and go for the cheaper option. :)

Water cooling: I still like the idea, but somehow the idea of putting liquid in with all the expsenive hardware does not seem right and I had failed to think of the added implication of access to hardware because of a cooling system. I'll stick with the air-cooled route for now. ;-)

  Blitzer 11:25 08 Apr 2007

That's a swanky piece of kit - shame about the lack of blue LEDs though. ;-) As I said in my reply to Kate though there is quite a jump in price to get a 1000watt PSU so I'm not sure quite what I'll do in that respect.

I'm also looking to keep things quiet and (I may well be wrong) but I thought I'd read in the past that enermax PSU were not exacty quiet, hence my original plan to get another Antec PSU which I have found to be very quiet.

  Blitzer 11:28 08 Apr 2007

The Asus P5B Deluxe WIFI Socket 775 Core 2 Duo does indeed support crossfire and not SLI, but then I thought this would mean I could only use a single SLI gfx card in it rather than not at all?

  Kate B 11:45 08 Apr 2007

Raid 0 is indeed two HDDs set up as one. It gives you fast access times - important if you're a mad gamer. The downside is that if one goes, you've lost all your data as it's striped across the two, and it does imply the need for careful and regular backups.

On graphics cards and PSUs, if cost is an issue I'd stick to one watercooled 8800GTX and a 750W PSU: frankly you just don't need two of those cards at the moment. Next year you could think about an upgrade and then at the same time perhaps upgrade the PSU. I like watercooling, my machine is very quiet. I know it's counterintuitive to watercool all that kit but it works brilliantly. And it can look fab - you can get all kinds of coloured coolants and even glow-in-the-dark.

I had an Enermax PSU until it died recently and I haven't noticed any difference in noise between that and the blue-lit OCZ with which I replaced it noisewise.

  Blitzer 12:04 08 Apr 2007

HDDS: I like playing games and don't like to wait an age for the action to start, but having not experienced SATA and 10KRPM drives I'm already expecting to see a noticeable difference over my current 7,200RPM IDE drives. Therefore can the extra expense of a RAID 0 setup and it's downsides be justified in your opinion? I'm thinking my original plan is still my best option or compromise ATM.

GFX & PSU: The SLI thing is only really a consideration for a future upgrade certainly not something I would bother doing right now. However, like a computer case I view a PSU very much an investment and not something I want to replace frequently. i.e. I'd prefer to buy the right PSU now and not go to more expense in replacing it 12 months down the line.

Thanks again for the useful reply. I'm going to post the specs of the stuff I've just picked out, not exactly a final build list and I'd possibly still look at making it a bit cheaper, i.e. compromise a little further. :)

  Blitzer 12:12 08 Apr 2007

Prices in brackets include VAT...

GFX: BFG GeForce 8800 GTX OC 768MB GDDR3 HDTV/Dual DVI (PCI-Express) - Retail £329.99

Memory: Corsair 2GB DDR2 XMS2 Dominator PC2-6400C4 TwinX (2x1GB) £139.99

OS: Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium 64-Bit Edition DVD - OEM - 1Pk (66I-00788) £63.99

Motherboard: Asus P5N32-E PLUS SLi nForce (Socket 775) PCI-Express DDR2 Motherboard £129.99

Sound Card: Creative X-Fi Xtreme Gamer Fatal1ty Professional 7.1 Soundcard - Retail £75.99

CPU Cooling: Zalman CNPS9700-LED Aero Flower (Socket AM2/939/754/775) CPU Cooler £38.99 (£45.81)

Processor: Intel Core 2 DUO E6600 "LGA775 Conroe" 2.40GHz (1066FSB) - Retail £154.99 (£182.11)

Main HD: Western Digital Raptor X 150GB WD1500AHFD 10,000RPM SATA 16MB Cache - OEM £136.99 (£160.96)

Storage HD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 500GB ST3500630AS SATA-II 16MB Cache - OEM £74.99 (£88.11)

PSU: Enermax Galaxy 1000W EGA1000EWL ATX2.2 Modular PSU £194.99 (£229.11)

Total Cost...

£1,340.90 excluding VAT and shipping


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