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Old November 16, 2011, 07:11 AM
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Arrow Gaming PC: Input needed on everything but GPU

Trying to help out a mate with building a gaming computer.
We are both novices or worse when it comes to technology, so I thought I'd ask for input from you brilliant people.
This is his current system in need of upgrading(?):
Quote:
Processor: AMD Phenom(tm) II X4 940 Processor (4 CPUs), ~3.0GHz
Memory: 4096MB RAM
Hard Drive: 1 TB
Video Card: AMD Radeon HD 6870
Motherboard: ASUS M4A785-M

  • This computer will be used primarily for gaming and pretty much nothing else. His old system with an Nvidia 9800 GTX lasted him a very long time, but the more recent games like Battlefield 3 and Shogun 2 has been giving him problems. He got an HD 6870 because it was basically the only upgrade path that didn't require a complete overhaul, but still feels bottlenecked somewhere.
  • He lives in the US, so let's try to stick to newegg prices unless you got some bitchin' deals from another trusted vendor.
  • Comfortable budget limit is 500-700 dollars. More can be spent if it will yield great returns.
  • Don't really have a brand preferance, but his AMD 940 has lasted him a long, long, long time and has been running without a hitch.
  • Resolution will be the current fanfavorite 1920x1080.
  • Looking to build soon.
  • Would like an SSD with around 100GB for select games and W7.
Now that the introduction is over, let's get to it!

CPU: Obviously Intel is making better CPUs these days. That much is indisputable and it doesn't seem like AMD is going to throw in a worthy contender with the new Bulldozer series.
But when I look at gaming benchmarks for CPUs, all the data seems to suggest that modern day games rely much more on GPU than CPU. I've seen benchmarks where 100-800 dollars more spent on a CPU only gives a few more FPS.
Example from the most recent CPU review done by our beloved Hardware Canucks:


The AMD X4 945 is just 2 FPS lower than the i7-2600k, even though they are worlds apart in power, generation and price.
If it wasn't for the rather old motherboard(?), I'm not sure if I would even recommend getting a new CPU.
Any thoughts/suggestions/input?

Motherboard: Depends on what we decide in the CPU section, but I was sniffing on the Crosshair V for AMD. I have Crosshair IV Formula myself and I can't really say anything negative about it so far. Thinking Crosshair V instead of IV because of the small price difference and because the V is AM3+/990FX chipset in case AMD actually brings out something amazing from their Bulldozer line.
The ASUS Sabertooth 990FX AM3+ is also something I've been sniffing at for an AMD processor. Hardware Canucks gave it a positive review and it's cheaper than Crosshair V.
If I'm not mistaken, it also includes the novice overclocking tools

RAM: Was thinking 4GB of Corsair Vengeance CAS latency 9?
RAM seems to matter less than CPU as long as you have some decent stick of 4GB?
Newegg.com - CORSAIR Vengeance 4GB 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model CMZ4GX3M1A1600C9

PSU: Newegg PSU calculator suggests that he is going to need 686W in case he decides to try out Crossfire 6870s in the future. Are we looking for 850W then?
Modular seems to be where it's at these days?
Long warranty is a plus(and perhaps a must?), as is history/failure statistics.

SSD: SSDs are expensive and have low capacity compared to their HDD brethren. But due to their noticeable increase in W7 boot-time and game loading, it seems to be a better area to throw some money into compared to for example CPU.
A minimum of 60-100GB is what we are thinking for his storage needs.

HDD:
?

Case: He will be using his current case

GPU: As I mentioned earlier, he is currently sitting pretty with HD 6870 and plans to Crossfire it up.

Last edited by Freezern; November 17, 2011 at 06:30 AM.
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Old November 16, 2011, 08:22 AM
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You're probably looking at other benchmarks, but the one you selected is indeed GPU limited. Find some benchmarks with a double or triple video card set up and see how much faster the Intel chips really are. You can get a 2600K, a great motherboard, and 8GB of RAM for probably under $500...others will step in and say save $100 and go 2500K, but if he's looking long long term I'd still (and did) go 2600K for the extra cores and HT, which only very few games make use of currently but we should expect to see more of in future.

As to an SSD, I always recommend instead putting the $$ into the GPU if it's going to be primarily a gaming system. Sure, fast o/s and game loading is nice - so it depends where your priorities are. If you want faster frames, and prettier, go GPU and conventional HD - the SSD doesn't boost your actual gaming performance at all. You are/he is going to have lots of dough to get another 6870 right now - $1400 budget and reusing his case, less $500 above, another $100-150 for a good PSU (yes 850W, get a good one), maybe $150-200 for HDD, you're $6-700 still in hand with what to get?. Either do that, or sell his and move up in the GPU world.
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Old November 16, 2011, 09:03 AM
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Honestly if it's used primarily for gaming he won't need a new cpu. Just overclock that 940 into the 3.6GHz range.

If the upgrade bug has biten he could just update the bios to the latest available version and drop in an AMD X6 black edition cpu, then overclock the crap out of it. Maybe add some more ram to give 8Gb's. A pair of 6870's in CF should give him enough jam for a long time. I'm running 5850's in crossfire with an eyefinity setup and I'm pretty pleased with it.
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Old November 16, 2011, 10:01 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Killswitch View Post
Honestly if it's used primarily for gaming he won't need a new cpu. Just overclock that 940 into the 3.6GHz range.
I agree, if he wants more GPU power he should wait until the new cards come out a 6870 should be fine until then.
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Old November 17, 2011, 06:29 AM
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Updated the budget because it seems I wasn't clear enough.
Also found his motherboard model, it's been added to the opening post.

Seems that his motherboard has 6 xSATA 3 Gb/s ports Support RAID 0,1,10,JBOD.
Would that bottleneck an SSD?
For example the OCZ Agility 3?
Newegg.com - OCZ Agility 3 AGT3-25SAT3-120G 2.5" 120GB SATA III MLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)
Anyone got any input on SSDs?

We overclocked his CPU to 3.4 GHz, using the CCC CPU Overdrive software(which actually fiddles with multiplier), to see if that will increase his gaming experience.
It seemed to be stable, volts at some 1.3 I think, multiplier up to 17 from 15.
Not sure if it improved anything yet, we got preoccupied with playing Bloodline Champions

Last edited by Freezern; November 17, 2011 at 06:45 AM.
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Old November 17, 2011, 07:34 AM
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Crucial M4 SSD's are the current favourite around here, the agility is not a very good SSD apparently it has a lot of issues. All new sandforce drives are having issues on intel platforms and some on AMD platforms too, pick up a 64 or 128 gb Crucial M4 and you should be set, tell him to save his money for when ivy bridge comes out.
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Old November 17, 2011, 12:26 PM
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Newegg.com - Crucial M4 CT128M4SSD2 2.5" 128GB SATA III MLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)
This bad boy?

I happened upon this list done by Tom's Hardware.
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/...lity,3021.html

They put the Crucial M4 up as "Best SSDs for $205: Performance" and had this to say:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom's Hardware
The 128 GB m4 recently got our 2011 Recommended Buy award, which is one of the reasons it makes our list this month. If you prefer something SandForce-based, you still can't go wrong with that previously-mentioned Adata S511 drive.
Based on our Storage Bench v1.0, the 128 GB m4 performs ~44% faster than its 64 GB variant, while only offering 11% less performance than its 256 and 512 GB big brothers. The extra capacity is what you're paying for, sure. But it's good to know that buying up higher in the stack also gives you more speed, too.
Sounds great to me, but will his motherboard bottleneck the SSD since the motherboard has SATA 3 GB/s and not 6 GB/s?
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Old November 17, 2011, 12:37 PM
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SSD's are faster almost no matter what standard you're on. Yes, it will run faster on 6GB/s but it will still be lightning fast on 3GB/s.

I still disagree that an SSD is a 'best bang for buck' component, for gaming. It's a luxury that doesn't really contribute to performance though, again, faster o/s, o/s and game load times are nice. In order, GPU and CPU upgrades will give more actual gaming performance.
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2600K @4.6
P8Z68-V Pro Gen3
Patriot Div2 Viper Extreme PC3-15000 4GBx2 (1866 9-11-9-27-2)
Gigabyte GTX780
Caviar Black 1TB x2 RAID0
Corsair Gold 850W
Corsair H80
Corsair 600T Graphite
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Old November 17, 2011, 02:40 PM
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as far as I have noticed SSDs only boot the PC faster and also start the game or software a little faster other then that I am sure that once the software is loaded allot of it goes into ram anyway so the SSd does nothing ( at least I don't think it does) .I haven't noticed any different with either if my SSDs accept for system boot and software start load times.
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