Graphics Cards and PC spec opinions

  DNABandit 09:48 05 Sep 2006

Hi All,

I'm looking at getting a new PC (once every 4-5 yrs) and am pimarily using it for games, but need it to keep up with likely software needs over the next 4-5 yrs. I'm looking at spending about £1500 (obviously the less the better!) but have two questions (leaving aside who I get it from!)

1) Graphics cards: I'm currently looking at either 2x 256MB nVIDIA GeForce 7900 GT in an SLI Configuration, or 1GB (2x 512MB GPU) nVIDIA GeForce 7950 GX2 - HDTV, 2xDual Link DVI with the idea of getting a second card in 18 months or so to make use of the SLI facility (how easy is it to "turn on" SLI capability, is it simply a matter of slotting in the card?)

2) The system I'm currently looking at is

Intel® Core™ 2 Duo E6600 Processor
(2.40GHz ,4MB L2 Cache, 1066MHz)
Genuine Windows® XP Media Center
ASUS nForce 4 SLI PCIe Mainboard
2048MB DDR2 900MHz Memory
300GB Serial ATA Hard Drive
19" Sony LCD TFT Display(DVI, 8ms)
Sony Super Format 16x DVD Writer
16xDVD/40xCD Drive
Creative Labs Sound Blaster X-Fi Xtreme Music Sound Card (oem)
Creative Labs Inspire T7900 - 7.1 Surround with Subwoofer
Logitech G15 Gaming Keyboard & G7 Cordless Laser Gaming Mouse
8 USB 2.0, GB LAN
Warranty-2 Yrs Onsite + 1Yr BTB

this is based off a mesh PC (upgraded from an off the shelf model). Please no comments about mesh! Should there be anything else I should consider? do without? (for instance I've gone for 900MHz RAM instead of 533, is there an appreciable differece?)

any thoughts opinions etc will be appreciated

  Jdoki 14:07 05 Sep 2006

All looks good.

I would definitely go for the GX2 card - you're getting SLI in one slot!!

Nvidia are working on a quad SLI driver - so in the future you could add another GX2 for (even more) amazing performance. The current quad driver is rubbish and actually results in lower fps than using normal SLI - but by the time you are in a position to go down the quad route I have no doubt Nvidai will have sorted the drivers out.

I like your choice of CPU - no point going for the higher spec when you could overclock to the same speeds with the one you have chosen.

I'm not a big fan of Sony TFT's. They generally have a shiny coating that I find reflects far too much, and I've never seen a Sony TFT come top in any comparative reviews for gaming. I prefer a matte finish, Viewsonic generally get favourable reviews for gaming TFT's, however I would do a bit of research on top line gaming screens.

My main issue with 19" TFT's is that they generally only go up to 1280x1024 resolution - your set up will easily do resolutions far in excess of this and personally I would want to be using 1600x1200 as a minimum for almost any current game on full detail. Seems kinda pointless to have all the graphical horsepower but only able to go up to 1280 resolution.

One other note - the Creative X-Fi is a great card, phenomenal infact - but I don't think an OEM version will come with an optical out - if that's no problem for you (for example if you are only connection the PC through the T7900's) that's fine - but I have a similar (older) set up using a Creative Audigy 2 Zs and T7700 speakers.

I found that it was a pain in the backside connecting up a PC, XBox360 and DVD player through the speakers. I ended up buying a Creative DDS-100 decoder so I could run all the devices through this box, and then in to the speakers. But because the soundcard has no optical output I had to use this really clunky manual passthrough switchbox that comes with the DDS. I found it annoying and eventually discarded the soundcard and used the lower quality onboard sound as it provided an optical out.

In regards to your memory speed quaestion - you'll probably not notice any difference, but as always... if you can afford it then go for it!

  Jdoki 14:35 05 Sep 2006

One other thing I hope you don't mind me adding - another post just got me thinking.

Keep in mind that some games are going to be Vista enhanced (such a Crysis) or Vista only (such as Halo2).

It may take a while for Vista games to become more mainstream (probably 6 to 12 months after release of Vista to be honest), but upgrading at a later date from XP to Vista could be an expensive option.

Current prices hint at it being around £100 for the upgrade - and of course you'll probably want to do a format and fresh install rather than installing Vista over the top.

So if you are not desperate to buy a new PC, then you might save a bit of money and hassle by waiting until Vista is included in the build options.

  Kate B 14:46 05 Sep 2006

I'd save money on the sound card unless you make music - onboard sound on most motherboards is so good these days that a soundcard is a just a redundant consumer of money and a PCI slot.

Also, if you can either add or substitute a couple of 10,000rpm Raptors to/for the HDD to run in Raid you'll get a good speed bump which is great for games. I've got a year-old machine running 2x74GB Raptors in Raid 0 and it flies along.

For gaming, forget the cordless mouse - it won't be responsive enough. Go for a wired model; and ditto if you're blowing money on a wireless keyboard, too.

  DNABandit 15:06 05 Sep 2006

Thanks for the advice Jdoki, just what I was looking for. I'm now looking at changing the monitor for a Viewsonic 32" Widescreen LCD-TV - Model N3260w. Been meaning to look for a HD TV and the price seems quite reasonable. Though not sure if this will do the higher resolutions, from what I can see it doesn't look like it (unless any of the MESH bods care to comment?)

Think I'll also drop the sound card as you suggest Kate, knee jerk reaction from when onboard sounds were abysmal. The RAID setup is a good idea though, forgot all about that (Duh), not sure they offer the 10K rpm drives though, doesn't state which they are so I'd assume not

  wjrt 17:03 05 Sep 2006

good review and has freeview also

click here

  Jdoki 22:10 05 Sep 2006

Looking at the specs of the Viewsonic, the vertical resolution is actually lower than the 19" TFT you originally had.

The 19" would have done 1280x1024

The Viewsonic does 1360x768 (or in HDTV terms 720p) this is standard for almost all current HDTV's - you may find a few that do 1080p (or 1920x1080, which would be preferable in your set up, but a serious amount of money.

I use a Samsung 26" LCD HDTV and a 17" TFT for my PC/TV/games console needs. The two screens are connected to my graphics card and I can game on one, and use my USB TV device to watch TV on the other - plus my XBox360 connects via component, leaving me a couple fo SCART sockets for older consoles and DVD players, and HDMI/DVI connector for future use (Playstation 3 I hope)! I'll certainly never go back to a standard ratio monitor/TV, widescreen is fantastic.

It does mean a bit more scrolling when reading web pages whihc is why I sometimes use the 17" TFT, but I really don't mind as the extra screen 'real estate' is fantastic.

I agree with Kate B - forget the wireless mouse. A Logitech MX518 is a greta mouse (I use one), although the G5 is a fantastic update.

The Logitech keyboard is good, but personally I found it a little gimmicky. My gaming set up uses a Microsoft multimedia keyboard, and a Zboard FANG gaming pad - I find it's essential for FPS games.

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