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Author Topic: My (Somewhat Realistic) Dream PC - Is it necessary?  (Read 4880 times)

Deozaan

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My (Somewhat Realistic) Dream PC - Is it necessary?
« on: May 10, 2009, 02:25:09 AM »
I got an e-mail from TigerDirect advertising this powerful system for $1700 + about $50 shipping.

TigerDirectPC.jpg

Well, my eyes got wide and I felt that yearning desire like a child who had just seen the coolest bicycle in the window of a store but knew he (his family) couldn't afford it.

So I wondered if I could take a look at the specs and build something approximately as powerful for less money. Oddly enough, neither the processor nor the motherboard were in stock at TigerDirect so I turned to NewEgg. At first I was going to try to build the exact same machine, but when I found out that the motherboard is also out of stock at NewEgg, I started looking for substitutes (which also help cut down on costs). This is the machine I came up with:

Case: Antec Performance One P180 Silver cold rolled steel ATX Mid Tower: $140.
Motherboard: MSI X58 Platinum SLI LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX Intel Motherboard: $220.
GPUs: 2x EVGA GeForce 9800 GT Superclocked Edition 512MB 256-bit GDDR3 PCI-E 2.0 x16 SLI: $130x2 = $260 - $40 Mail in Rebates (MiRs).
PSU: CORSAIR CMPSU-750TX 750W ATX12V / EPS12V 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC: $120 -$20 MiR.
CPU: Intel Core i7 920 Nehalem 2.66GHz LGA 1366 130W Quad-Core Processor Model BX80601920: $280.
RAM: 12GB (2x CORSAIR XMS3 6GB (3 x 2GB) 240-Pin SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Triple Channel Model TR3X6G1600C9): 2x$100 = $200.
HDD: WD Caviar Black WD1001FALS 1TB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5": $100.

Extras:
CPU Fan: Thermaltake CL-P0508 110mm CPU Cooler : $60
Thermal Gel: Arctic Silver 5 Thermal Compound: $9.
WiFi Adapter: LINKSYS WMP300N 32-bit PCI Interface High-speed Wireless-N: $65.

Total: $1454 (before Mail in Rebates) + about $10 shipping since most of these items have free shipping. There are $60 of Mail-in-Rebates so at the end of it all it will be just over $1400.

The only thing that I can tell that is missing from the original PC advertised at TigerDirect is a DVD-RW Dual Layer, but I have one in an older computer I could salvage. Also a keyboard and mouse, but once again I could salvage both of those from my old computer. Oh yeah, and the TigerDirect PC comes with Vista Premium 64-bit. I have Vista Ultimate 64-bit from an MSDN subscription as a benefit for being in college for Computer Science, so I don't need to buy the OS.

I could probably also salvage my wifi card from my old PC and I probably don't really need the Thermaltake CPU cooler since the Core i7 comes with a fan and heatsink.

My question(s) though are:

1. Can anything really make use of 12GB of RAM these days? Naturally I'd have 64-bit Vista on it until I got Windows 7 (RTM?). I am a gamer and I like to have tons of applications open at the same time, but isn't 12GB overkill?

2. Is there anything in this list that has a substitute that is just as good but costs less? Or maybe something that is better but costs the same? For example, are the GPUs sufficient? I'm looking for a good trade-off between cost and power (not electricity). I pretty much picked these two GPUs because they were the ones (or similar to the ones) in the $1700 PC. Or maybe something on this list that just isn't good quality and I really ought to spend more money for high quality hardware? For example, is the PSU sufficient or should I go for a 1000w PSU?

3. Is there anything NOT in this list that should be? Am I forgetting something important like cables or connectors or something that should be obvious and is necessary like a CPU? Is anything glaringly incompatible with something else in this list? I didn't consider, for instance, making sure there are 64-bit drivers for Vista for the WiFi Adapter. I almost didn't think of getting a Thermal Compound, either.

Just remember that the more expensive this thing gets, the less likely it is that I'll be able to buy it. The cheaper it gets, the more likely it is I'll be able to buy it. However, the less powerful it gets, the more likely I'd rather wait until prices come down or until I have more money so I can still consider it a (realistic) dream PC.

And just for reference, here's my current machine's specs:

Case: Not sure what brand, just some mid-tower ATX case.
Motherboard: Abit uGuru AX8 K8T890.
GPU: EVGA GeForce 8600 GTS 256MB 2xDVI.
PSU: Antec EA-380 (380w) 80 Plus.
CPU: AMD Athlon 64 3500+ (2.25 Ghz).
RAM: 2GB (2x 1GB) (not sure what speed or anything else about them).
HDDs: 880 GBs (80GB Maxtor SATA, 300GB Maxtor SATA, 500GB Western Digital SATA).

Other:
WiFi: U.S. Robotics Wireless MAXg PCI.
Optical: NEC DVD-RW Dual Layer (ND-3550A)
CPU Fan: Thermaltake A1
Keyboard: EluminX Sapphire.
Mouse: Logitech Trackman Wheel (which is going bad... :( ).
Monitors: ViewSonic VX992 (19" LCD) and DCLCD (19" LCD).
Speakers: CodeGen S3-001 45W 2.1 speakers.

EDIT: I are good at teh English.

« Last Edit: January 05, 2010, 08:50:00 PM by Deozaan »

housetier

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Re: My (Somewhat Realistic) Dream PC - Is it necessary?
« Reply #1 on: May 10, 2009, 07:36:34 AM »
So you received an offer, but "they" don't even have the hardware in stock?

That doesn't surprise me at all, I think it's the usual way for "them" to make more money: They'll accept your order and money now, only to deliver the goods much later when you can get them everywhere for a better deal. So unless they really deliver the next day, I wouldn't accept such an offer.

You are asking good questions though, here is another one: Do you really need such big gear now?

f0dder

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Re: My (Somewhat Realistic) Dream PC - Is it necessary?
« Reply #2 on: May 10, 2009, 07:53:28 AM »
12GB is overkill, you'd probably be fine with 6GB. I'd personally go for 12GB though, as I've gotten used to 8GB in my workstation, and 12GB would allow for even larger permanent ramdisks :)

I wouldn't go for SLI, I don't need the juice (a GF8800GT/512meg does just fine) - costs too much, draws too much power, generates too much heat.

Dunno about PSU - I got a 700W, but even when maxxed out, my system draws ~250W or so... and that's with a 2.4GHz Q6600 overclocked to 3GHz. I'd probably have been better off with a decent 400W PSU, from what i understand a PSU runs most effectively near the power consumption it was designed for.

So you received an offer, but "they" don't even have the hardware in stock?
They might have pre-built PCs ready but not the individual parts...
- carpe noctem

fenixproductions

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Re: My (Somewhat Realistic) Dream PC - Is it necessary?
« Reply #3 on: May 10, 2009, 08:12:49 AM »
Little OT:

Am I the only person thinking that buying 1TB HDD is not wise?

I see that a little bit risky, not because the brand (or capacity) but from reliability point of view. Personally I'd rather go for two smaller disks for completely new PC. Shit happens and I would never store my data on one HDD only.

f0dder

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Re: My (Somewhat Realistic) Dream PC - Is it necessary?
« Reply #4 on: May 10, 2009, 10:58:38 AM »
fenix: I wouldn't go with a single drive either, no matter what the capacity. For my storage needs, 2x500GB disks in a raid mirror would be quite adequate - and since I use a fileserver for bulk storage, I don't even need that much for my workstation.
- carpe noctem

Lashiec

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Re: My (Somewhat Realistic) Dream PC - Is it necessary?
« Reply #5 on: May 10, 2009, 12:43:21 PM »
Heh, typical pre-built PC. Throw a lot of RAM memory, skim on the rest of the components.

1. Sure, 12 GB is overkill. Dunno what kind of apps you run, but you have to be a seriously heavy multi-tasker using heavy apps to take advantage of that. 4 GB, or 6 GB if you use a Core i7 (to take advantage of triple channel) is more adequate IMO, you save money and you still get quite some memory to go crazy (based on my experiences with 2 GB of RAM).

2. Cost-wise, it would be a good idea to take a look to the Phenom II or the older Core 2 (Duo or Quad), maybe even wait for the i5. The Core i7 may be the fastest processor available, but it has a matching price, including the motherboard, and on most tasks you will be hard-pressed to notice an advantage (again, depending on what you do with the computer).

The GPUs are sufficient if a bit underpowered. Not really underpowered, but there are several offerings both from nVidia and ATI with similar prices as the two 9800GT (which is nothing more than a revision of f0dder's GPU), but better performance. You also avoid several of the SLI-induced headaches, and with a 19" monitor you won't be using resolutions that need so many power.

PSU, +1 on f0dder's opinion.

3. Sure, as fenixproductions and f0dder said, two hard drives (or three, or even four...) is not a bad idea. You have several options there: a small one for the OS and applications and a big one for the rest of the data, run two in a RAID mirror, have an internal drive synchronized with an external one... A big drive for backups would be mandatory in all cases. A thermal compound is not really necessary, probably all coolers carry one, and IIRC the Core i7 one carries its own thermal compound patch so you don't have to spread it over the CPU.

Deozaan

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Re: My (Somewhat Realistic) Dream PC - Is it necessary?
« Reply #6 on: May 10, 2009, 03:21:34 PM »
So you received an offer, but "they" don't even have the hardware in stock?
They might have pre-built PCs ready but not the individual parts...

Exactly. The pre-built PC is in stock but the CPU and mobo are not available individually.

I wouldn't go for SLI, I don't need the juice (a GF8800GT/512meg does just fine) - costs too much, draws too much power, generates too much heat.

The GPUs are sufficient if a bit underpowered. Not really underpowered, but there are several offerings both from nVidia and ATI with similar prices as the two 9800GT (which is nothing more than a revision of f0dder's GPU), but better performance. You also avoid several of the SLI-induced headaches, and with a 19" monitor you won't be using resolutions that need so many power.

Okay, so I'll be honest here and say I don't know much about SLI/Crossfire. All I know is that two GPUs can connect together but I don't really know what the benefits of that happening are. Can someone explain to me what purpose SLI serves and go into some detail as to why or why not it's worth having SLI? Also, Lashiec, what sort of SLI-induced headaches are you talking about?

Would it be better to go for a single GPU that costs about as much as the 2 GPUs I intended to SLI? Is this a case where it's better to go for higher quality/more power at a higher price (individually) but since I'm planning on buying two of the less powerful GPus, buying one more powerful GPU would be about the same price or less?

Finally on the GPU topic, keep in mind that if I get a GPU setup that allows a very large native resolution then I would also be looking into (eventually) getting a larger monitor that could handle a larger resolution, like this or this.

Am I the only person thinking that buying 1TB HDD is not wise?

I see that a little bit risky, not because the brand (or capacity) but from reliability point of view. Personally I'd rather go for two smaller disks for completely new PC. Shit happens and I would never store my data on one HDD only.

fenix: I wouldn't go with a single drive either, no matter what the capacity. For my storage needs, 2x500GB disks in a raid mirror would be quite adequate - and since I use a fileserver for bulk storage, I don't even need that much for my workstation.

As for the single hard drive issue, typically when I get a new computer I will backup my data and format my old computer, remove extra hard drives and put them in the new PC. I tend to leave the smallest hdd in the old PC and reinstall Windows so it's a functional computer but just without a lot of HDD space. So if I were to get this new PC I'd probably also have my 500GB and 300GB in it as well.

I have never set up a RAID and I don't plan on doing that. I know I probably ought to but I just can't stand the idea of having two 1TB drives but only being able to use 1 TB because everything is mirrored onto the second hdd. I know this is wrong, but it just feels like such a waste of space.

3. Sure, as fenixproductions and f0dder said, two hard drives (or three, or even four...) is not a bad idea. You have several options there: a small one for the OS and applications and a big one for the rest of the data

That's how my current PC is set up. 80GB for Windows drive and Program Files. 300GB and 500GB for games and other data. But I still don't back anything up like I should. :-[

Dunno about PSU - I got a 700W, but even when maxxed out, my system draws ~250W or so... and that's with a 2.4GHz Q6600 overclocked to 3GHz. I'd probably have been better off with a decent 400W PSU, from what i understand a PSU runs most effectively near the power consumption it was designed for.

I think with SLI I would need at least a 600W PSU. The original pre-built PC only had a 650W PSU in it but I decided to go for a 750W PSU because I thought the more electricity you've got for your gear, the better. If that's not the case then I could probably save some money by going down to a lower wattage.

A thermal compound is not really necessary, probably all coolers carry one, and IIRC the Core i7 one carries its own thermal compound patch so you don't have to spread it over the CPU.

I figured I might need the thermal compound for the Thermaltake CPU cooler. Speaking of which, are there any opinions on whether or not I'd need the beast of a CPU cooler? I don't ever mess around with overclocking my machine, but I do play games which tend to make things run hot. Is the stock Core i7 cooler sufficient and/or is the Thermaltake upgrade necessary?

12GB is overkill, you'd probably be fine with 6GB. I'd personally go for 12GB though, as I've gotten used to 8GB in my workstation, and 12GB would allow for even larger permanent ramdisks :)

1. Sure, 12 GB is overkill. Dunno what kind of apps you run, but you have to be a seriously heavy multi-tasker using heavy apps to take advantage of that. 4 GB, or 6 GB if you use a Core i7 (to take advantage of triple channel) is more adequate IMO, you save money and you still get quite some memory to go crazy (based on my experiences with 2 GB of RAM).

I haven't bought desktop RAM for a while, but when I found out I could buy 12GB for $200 (especially when the 12GB kit was ~$265) I just about peed myself with giddiness. The price seems really good to me. My other concern is that if I only buy 6GB now, then later when I consider getting the other 6GB, it would be a different brand/type/speed, and therefore not efficient. But maybe that's changed as well. Since it's triple channel, would all 6 sticks run at the slowest stick's speed? Or would I just need to make sure that each trio was the same, and one trio could run slower while another trio could run faster?

You both said that 12GB is overkill, and yet, f0dder, you said you'd go for it anyway, which surprised me. Last I'd heard, there weren't really any applications out there built to handle more than 2GB of RAM, even on a 64-bit OS. Out of curiosity, are you running a 64-bit OS? (Vista?) How much of your 8GB are you using for ramdisks? And, erm, what is a ramdisk and what are the benefits and drawbacks of a ramdisk?

Do you really need such big gear now?

2. Cost-wise, it would be a good idea to take a look to the Phenom II or the older Core 2 (Duo or Quad), maybe even wait for the i5. The Core i7 may be the fastest processor available, but it has a matching price, including the motherboard, and on most tasks you will be hard-pressed to notice an advantage (again, depending on what you do with the computer).

You both bring up a good point. Is the Core i7 necessary? I can tell you I would notice an advantage from my current single-core machine. But is there a noticeable difference between a Core 2 Quad and the Core i7? I don't know the answer to that.

I don't really need a new PC. My current one is working okay right now. I tried to run Crysis and that didn't go over very well. I also tried Unreal Tournament 3 and I think that was just as bad. When it comes to games, my machine could certainly use an upgrade. But my PC handles just about everything else I do just fine.


tomos

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Re: My (Somewhat Realistic) Dream PC - Is it necessary?
« Reply #7 on: May 10, 2009, 04:50:53 PM »
... well,
you should know what you want to backup ;D

  • after a recent thread, (cant remember name now..*) I think if I was to get a new PC I would get a smaller drive just for windows and at least one other drive then. Ups the price naturally, especially if you were to get a higher speed drive for the OS.

  • Prob too soon to talk about monitors but I would read the negative reviews of those monitors pretty carefully before going for it! (advantage of reviews at NewEgg is you can zoom in on the bad reviews - not the case at that other site..)


* found it :)
and others related and recent
Tom

Deozaan

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Re: My (Somewhat Realistic) Dream PC - Is it necessary?
« Reply #8 on: May 10, 2009, 05:47:39 PM »
after a recent thread, (cant remember name now..*) I think if I was to get a new PC I would get a smaller drive just for windows and at least one other drive then. Ups the price naturally, especially if you were to get a higher speed drive for the OS.

This is another one of those "I can't stand to see the space wasted" problems. I can't stand the idea of spending $100 for a 74GB 10k RPM drive when I could buy 1TB 7.2K RPM drive for the same price.

But like I said, I do typically use a smaller drive for OS & Program Files and keep all other data (including "My Documents") on a different, larger drive. I'd probably use my smallest extra drive from my old PC for my new OS drive and use the 1 TB drive for other data.


Shades

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Re: My (Somewhat Realistic) Dream PC - Is it necessary?
« Reply #9 on: May 10, 2009, 05:59:29 PM »
Don't know for sure as I do not speak of experience, but when comparing with 7200RPM drives, do 10000RPM and/or 15000RPM drives generate a lot more noise? Or a higher pitched noise (more "penetrating" effect)?

f0dder

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Re: My (Somewhat Realistic) Dream PC - Is it necessary?
« Reply #10 on: May 11, 2009, 05:12:56 AM »
Quote
I have never set up a RAID and I don't plan on doing that. I know I probably ought to but I just can't stand the idea of having two 1TB drives but only being able to use 1 TB because everything is mirrored onto the second hdd. I know this is wrong, but it just feels like such a waste of space.
You'll stop feeling this way once you've had a taste of major data loss... and then you'll be regretful :)

Quote
I figured I might need the thermal compound for the Thermaltake CPU cooler. Speaking of which, are there any opinions on whether or not I'd need the beast of a CPU cooler? I don't ever mess around with overclocking my machine, but I do play games which tend to make things run hot. Is the stock Core i7 cooler sufficient and/or is the Thermaltake upgrade necessary?
Personally I'd just go with the stock cooler (they sucked in The Olden Days, but are fine now) - you can always replace if it turns out it isn't adequate, or if you want to overclock or whatever.

Quote
You both said that 12GB is overkill, and yet, f0dder, you said you'd go for it anyway, which surprised me. Last I'd heard, there weren't really any applications out there built to handle more than 2GB of RAM, even on a 64-bit OS. Out of curiosity, are you running a 64-bit OS? (Vista?) How much of your 8GB are you using for ramdisks? And, erm, what is a ramdisk and what are the benefits and drawbacks of a ramdisk?
Indeed there aren't many individual applications that can take advantage of huge amounts of RAM, but if you run a lot of individual applications it helps... and it's always nice to have a large filesystem cache (but 12GB would be overkill for this).

A RAMDisk is just that - a virtual disk drive that exists solely in ram. The benefit? read/write speeds of several gigabytes per second, and seek time measured in nanonseconds rather than milliseconds. With 12GB of ram, you could affort to keep a several gigabyte ramdisk enabled at all times, and run your applications out of that. Necessary? No. Nice? Yes :)

Quote
You both bring up a good point. Is the Core i7 necessary? I can tell you I would notice an advantage from my current single-core machine. But is there a noticeable difference between a Core 2 Quad and the Core i7? I don't know the answer to that.
Depends on your needs, really. I certainly wouldn't mind a core i7, but my current Q6600@3GHz fits my needs. Most of the time, I could go with a decent dualcore - but sometimes I run heavy transcoding, and some of the recent games are starting to utilize more cores.

Quote
This is another one of those "I can't stand to see the space wasted" problems. I can't stand the idea of spending $100 for a 74GB 10k RPM drive when I could buy 1TB 7.2K RPM drive for the same price.
For typical workloads, you don't really get that much advantage from a 10k RPM drive anyway - lower seek time, sure, but you probably need to go from 7200rpm->SSD to notice an advantage for desktop use.

Quote
Don't know for sure as I do not speak of experience, but when comparing with 7200RPM drives, do 10000RPM and/or 15000RPM drives generate a lot more noise? Or a higher pitched noise (more "penetrating" effect)?
I don't noice the "spinning" noise from my 10k RPM raptor drives at all - moving the read/write heads are loud, but that's only really noticable if I stress the drives with multiple access streams, and it isn't an unpleasant noise (compared to the spinning whines of my first 5400rpm drive, for instance).

As for SLI/CrossFire... it does enable you to run higher resolutions at a higher framerate. But afaik there is (or at least there was!) trouble distributing shaders across SLI - and modern games are more shader- than fillrate-heavy , so SLI might not give you all that much bang for the buck. Go for a decent mid-end card, they're plenty fast. Running 4200x4200 with 16xFSAA is only a penis thing, it's not that much more enjoyable than, say, 1680x1050 with 2xFSAA :P
- carpe noctem

Dormouse

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Re: My (Somewhat Realistic) Dream PC - Is it necessary?
« Reply #11 on: May 11, 2009, 05:45:02 AM »
I've gone off RAID. Only really see the value of mirroring now.
Even then, I'd mostly want to rebuild after a HDD loss and it is only all the data I want.

What I do find useful/comforting is using a HDD caddy, so I can just swap HDDs in and out.
Gives an extra easy layer of reduncancy.
So I have:-
Duplicated on another HDD in machine;
Duplicated on NAS drive;
Duplicated in HDD off site;
Duplicated over the net.

Lashiec

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Re: My (Somewhat Realistic) Dream PC - Is it necessary?
« Reply #12 on: May 13, 2009, 07:45:35 PM »
Okay, so I'll be honest here and say I don't know much about SLI/Crossfire. All I know is that two GPUs can connect together but I don't really know what the benefits of that happening are. Can someone explain to me what purpose SLI serves and go into some detail as to why or why not it's worth having SLI? Also, Lashiec, what sort of SLI-induced headaches are you talking about?

In addition to the issues mentioned by f0dder in his first post, one of the problems of running two cards in SLI or Crossfire is they take some good space on the motherboard, and depending on how the layout is set up in the one you're using, they might render all the PCI and PCI-e ports unusable, it could be less of a problem for you as the cards you chose are not double-wide. Also, they might cover some the SATA ports in the mobo, again depending on where they are located (in some boards they are moved upwards or turned 90 degrees to the right to avoid this).

Then there are the inherent problems with these setups. AFAIK, for a game to take advantage of SLI and Crossfire, the drivers you're using must have specific profiles for them. It seems the problem it's no longer as big as it was, but you still encounter a game from time to time that does not support these setups. And the problems with load balancing that f0dder mentions sometimes result in games that have lackluster performance in comparison with the results you get with a single card.

There used to be problems if you were using SLI with multiple monitors as well, but nVidia fixed them a while ago.