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Author Topic: Yet Another Help-Me-Build-a-New-Computer Thread  (Read 7062 times)
Deozaan
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« on: July 21, 2011, 03:23:35 PM »

Hi folks,

My current PC feels like a centipede that's on it's last leg. I've had numerous problems with it over the years and just this month I've had yet another a hard drive failure and 1 stick of RAM failed. This old single core 2.24 Ghz AMD, with 1 GB RAM, using Windows 7 has been driving me crazy. It's been sooooooooooo sllloooooooow!

I've been saving up for several months now and I just checked some prices and I think I have enough to buy a really nice new PC now. And if not now, then most likely by next month I will. Or hopefully really soon anyway. So I figured this would be a good time to start talking specifics and get educated and some feedback on the different components and what really matters these days (this computer is from 2006 and is single core, so... yeah a lot has changed).

I'm somewhat budget conscious but I do need a fairly powerful machine as I am a gamer and I also like to fiddle around with VMs and 3D rendering, etc. I also don't want to be miserable again in 2 years with a sluggish machine, so I'd like this thing to be as future-ready as possible so I can go 5 to 6 (or 7!) years before upgrading again. That said, here's my list of components I'm thinking of, along with questions and options. Please respond and suggestions and feedback.

UPDATE: Okay I just placed the order for the initial build:

Case: $90 for COOLER MASTER Storm Scout SGC-2000-KKN1-GP.
PSU: $120 for LEPA G500-MA 500W 80 PLUS Gold Certified Modular.
MOBO: $155 for MSI Z68A-GD55 (B3) LGA 1155 Intel Z68 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX.
CPU: $315 for Intel Core i7-2600K Sandy Bridge 3.4GHz (3.8GHz Turbo Boost) LGA 1155 95W Quad-Core.
RAM: $61 for CORSAIR Vengeance 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800).

That totals about $716 with some promo codes and $25 in NewEgg Gift Cards. But there's also $50 of mail-in-rebates.

Discussion about other parts below:

GPU: ASUS EAH6850 DC/2DIS/1GD5/V2 Radeon HD 6850 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.1 x16.

Possibly outdated info: This is one area where I'm not exactly sure what to do. Typically I get nVidia GeForce cards, but earlier this year some folks here on DC said that ATI/AMD GPUs tend to be more compatible with Intel CPUs, so I guess just buy an ATI card in the similar price range as the nVidia I had on my list? I typically stick with EVGA brand cards, too, but it seems they don't make any ATI GPUs. So are there specific brands I should avoid or that are known for reliability and quality? Please suggest some GPUs. For comparison/price range, I was considering at the EVGA 01G-P3-1556-KR GeForce GTX 550 Ti (Fermi) FPB 1GB 192-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 for about $150 (before $20 mail in rebate). But since I'm going for the $100 less CPU, I could spend a little more on the GPU if it's worth it. Ideally I'd like to keep it at around $150 but definitely no more than $200 unless there's a really, really, really good reason to go for it.

Monitor(s): Recycled.

HDDs: I'd like to get a 2 TB HDD or two but those are about $100 each so they can wait.

SDD: I'd really like to get an SSD for the OS drive but 64 GB still seems too small for me and they're still a bit on the expensive side (I don't like spending more than $100 on a drive). I'll probably end up with a 64 GB SSD but it can wait a little while longer.

Sound card: I'm no audiophile so onboard sound will do.

Keyboard/Mouse: Recycled from current PC.

DVD: Recycled. Current DVD drive is IDE so I will probably need to get a SATA one. Might as well get one that can do Blu-Ray playback, too, but this can also wait. I'll just use a USB drive or USB-connected DVD drive to install the OS with.

WiFi: I'd like to get a Wireless N card so I'm open to suggestions but if I have to I can probably just recycle my current PC's WiFi card.

Aftermarket Cooler: I've probably not going to push the limits of overclocking but I figure I might as well make use of the overclocking abilities, so I'll probably want an aftermarket cooler eventually.

All-in-One Media Card Reader: Yeah, that's one thing that I could really use around here.

UPS: A power outage/brown out recently fried one of my hard drives and possible a stick of RAM, so a UPS would be very useful.



Anything else I'm forgetting? undecided
« Last Edit: July 23, 2011, 01:40:21 AM by Deozaan; Reason: updated to most recent components I\'m considering » Logged

Ath
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« Reply #1 on: July 21, 2011, 03:59:28 PM »

A quick much longer then I expected reaction:

Case:
Looks just fine to me, though I don't like all those 'Christmas-lights' it has

CPU & Mainboard:
If you don't need SLI you could choose the MSI P67A-G45, it's about $20 less, but the second PCIe-x16 port has only 8 PCI-lanes instead of 16. MSI is a fine brand of mainboards.

GPU:
Use what works in your set-up. Personally I've had lots of trouble with the ATI-based cards (on MSI mainboards, amongst others), so I'm sticking with nVidia chips, unless there's a 0/0 swap policy available. The eventual speed-per-cost differences are quite small and dependent on the games you want to play, and what chip-brand the games are optimized for.

RAM:
I'd go for Kingston or another known brand, and not any of them 'over-clocking' DIMM's as they're (imho) not worth the extra money.
Do get a set of 4 pre-matched DIMM's, you can then rely on the supplier to have matched them for working properly together. (All using chips from the same production-batch, usually)

<will update in about 1 hour>

PSU:
You will want a silent one with a big fan, and about 450 - 500 watt, 80-plus Gold, from a brand like Cooler Master, be Quiet or Antec. It has to last for probably 4 or 5 years (looking at your current system), and you could spend the extra $20 you can save on the mainboard.
A modular PSU usually means it has connectors on the PSU casing and you just mount the cables you need. Connectors make it extra expensive, and introduce an extra possible point of failure, so unless the looks of the inside of the case is really important, you won't need a modular PSU.

MISC:
Monitor(s): Ok.
Harddisk(s): Be sure to either pick a 7200 rpm disk or a SSD for the boot-drive. If having a SSD, then get at least a 7200 rpm model for your applications-disk [D:], and if storing large amounts of data, like Virtual PC images or photo's, that could go on an energy saving 5400/5900 rpm disk [E:]
SSD: 64 GB is rather small for installing WIndows 7 and some applications, so 120 GB or bigger would definitely be preferable, but the cost will be the limiting factor.
Sound: Ok. Speakers/Headset?
Keyboard/Mouse: If they're not worn out then just re-use that, and replace when worn out or defective.
DVD: Ok if it's SATA, if not, just spend the extra $30 for a DVD-burner or some more for a BD-reader/DVD-burner combo drive. BD-burners are still quite expensive, and DVD's can hold enough photo's for archiving. Backups either go on external harddisks, 'the cloud' or tape.
WiFi: Sure you don't want wired network? Usually the ping-delays are lower and transport speed higher when playing on-line games.

After-market CPU-coolers: If over-clocking: When going for <= 5% extra speed, the standard Intel coolers are usually fine, at least when mounted properly (and on i5/i7 processors). When going for 5 - 10% get a big but silent cooler. When aiming beyond 10%, get a water-cooled setup, and also cool the GPU with it.
« Last Edit: July 21, 2011, 05:07:09 PM by Ath » Logged

Deozaan
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« Reply #2 on: July 21, 2011, 04:43:41 PM »

A quick reaction:

Case:
Looks just fine to me, though I don't like all those 'Christmas-lights' it has

CPU & Mainboard:
If you don't need SLI you could choose the MSI P67A-G45, it's some $20 less, but the second PCIe-x16 port has only 8 PCI-lanes instead of 16.

GPU:
Use what works in your set-up. Personally I've had lots of trouble with the ATI-based cards (on MSI mainboards amongst others), so I'm sticking with nVidia chips, unless there's a 0/0 swap policy available.

RAM:
I'd go for Kingston or another known brand, and not any of them 'over-clocking' DIMM's they're not worth the extra money.

Case: Yeah I don't really care about the "Christmas Lights" but they don't really bother me either.

Mainboard: Nice catch! I'm not intending on using SLI so that mainboard would indeed be a better fit for me.

GPU: There was a major consensus in this other thread that ATI was the way to go, especially with an Intel CPU. So I'd like to hear a bit more of the debate before making up my mind.

RAM: I looked into some Kingston RAM at higher speeds (1600) and found these for only $10 more (for 16 GB) than the slower (1333) G.SKILL sticks.
« Last Edit: July 21, 2011, 04:49:56 PM by Deozaan » Logged

Stoic Joker
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« Reply #3 on: July 21, 2011, 04:48:31 PM »

I've never been into overclocking, and I'm not up on the latest hardware. But I have had really good luck with the Mushkin Silverline memory kits. Memory can make a big difference in how a machine feels.

I just put 2 sets of these in my box at the office (for a total of 4GB) and the difference is quite noticeable when multitasking heavily.
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40hz
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« Reply #4 on: July 21, 2011, 05:06:40 PM »

Maximum had a build you might want to take a look at:

How to Build a Kick-Ass Gaming Rig for Under $700

This might not be quite as heavy-duty as you're looking for. But the selections and rationales were quite interesting to read.

Personally, I would definitely spend the small amount extra and opt for an i5-2500 CPU over an i3. I'd also get an ATX rather than a mini-ATX mobo for better expansion options.

For RAM I favor Crucial Memory over all the other memory merchants. Never once had hassles with their products. Good tech support and advice. And they do stand behind what they sell. Viking and Patriot are also good choices.

I'll chime in a bit more as the discussion develops.

 Cool

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Ath
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« Reply #5 on: July 21, 2011, 05:08:49 PM »

I updated/expanded my post quite a bit, as I was interrupted but not quite finished typing ohmy
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« Reply #6 on: July 21, 2011, 06:41:26 PM »

RAM:
Buy the RAM with speeds supported by the motherboard you intend to buy. Faster doesn't make sense, maybe even cause trouble (although not likely). Buy as much as the motherboard can address, that is the biggest speed gain you will get anyway.

GPU:
Never had any trouble with ATI cards. Granted, I'm not a games per se, the most demanding games I do play are racing games and my ATI Radeon 4670 (passively cooled!) runs games just fine on my 1080p monitor. For hours on end I must add.

CPU:
Asus is my brand. Intel (although being sparse) is my second brand. Both have proven to be very solid and reliable in my (anecdotal) experience.

Case:
Lian Li has the cases I find the most pleasing (hey, I like minimalism on the outside and high-end on the inside). As they have lots of customer and server models without the 'blinken-lights', maybe it is worth to take a look. They are not cheap though, but you do get what you pay for.

Edit: adjusted description for Lian Li cases
« Last Edit: July 21, 2011, 07:03:36 PM by Shades » Logged
Deozaan
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« Reply #7 on: July 21, 2011, 09:18:20 PM »

Ok so far I've had several different recommendations for RAM, and no two people have recommended the same brand. In a way that's confusing because I'm trying to find a known good brand. In another sense that's comforting because it seems as though there are several reliable, high quality brands if there are so many different brands being recommended.

As for RAM speeds, the motherboard I'm planning on getting can handle speeds of DDR3 1066/1333/1600*/1866*/2133*(OC). And since the 1600 is only $10-$20 more than the 1333 I was looking at previously, I think I'll go with that unless someone can give me a really good reason to go with the 1866 (or the 1333 I guess). But I still need to decide on which brand. So far I've had Crucial, Mushkin, and Kingston highly recommended.

RAM:
Buy as much as the motherboard can address.

Are you suggesting I get 32 GB of RAM? That's... a lot. I don't think I'd ever regret having so much RAM, but I'm not sure I'd really put that much to use, so I am not sure it would be a good way to spend money. Hmm... It appears as though NewEgg doesn't even offer 8 GB 1600Mhz sticks and the 8GB 1333 Mhz sticks cost more than four 4 GB 1600 sticks combined. So no thanks. It's definitely not cost effective to get that much RAM in this machine.

PSU:
You will want a silent one with a big fan, and about 450 - 500 watt, 80-plus Gold, from a brand like Cooler Master, be Quiet or Antec. It has to last for probably 4 or 5 years (looking at your current system), and you could spend the extra $20 you can save on the mainboard.
A modular PSU usually means it has connectors on the PSU casing and you just mount the cables you need. Connectors make it extra expensive, and introduce an extra possible point of failure, so unless the looks of the inside of the case is really important, you won't need a modular PSU.

Thanks for the info on modular. I don't care what it looks like inside, so I'll go without modular. As for the rating, any particular reason why it's important to get the 80-PLUS Gold certified power supply? Is it that much higher quality/better than a "standard" 80-PLUS certified PSU? I'm also concerned about the wattage. I know I've been reassured multiple times by f0dder in other threads that a 450-500 watt PSU should be plenty and that the most important thing is more about voltage stability or something similar to that, but it's hard to get over the feeling that 500 watts is a small amount when they're selling 1,000+ watt PSUs for the gamer market.

Looking into it now, it appears as though all the 80-PLUS Gold PSUs that NewEgg sells of Cooler Master and Antec brand are at least 750 watts and modular. And about $200 (or more). Yikes! I've never even heard of Be Quiet brand. Is the 80-PLUS Gold really worth it, and what about all that wattage? Funny how high that seems now when the price is also high. cheesy

How about this Kingwin 550w 80-PLUS Platinum PSU? It's also modular, but it's got wattage closer to what I'd need and it's platinum! (and cheaper than the 750+w PSUs). Kingwin also has a 550w 80-PLUS Gold PSU for $100. But I've never heard of that brand before so ... I dunno.

MISC:
Harddisk(s): Be sure to either pick a 7200 rpm disk or a SSD for the boot-drive. If having a SSD, then get at least a 7200 rpm model for your applications-disk [D:], and if storing large amounts of data, like Virtual PC images or photo's, that could go on an energy saving 5400/5900 rpm disk [E:]
SSD: 64 GB is rather small for installing WIndows 7 and some applications, so 120 GB or bigger would definitely be preferable, but the cost will be the limiting factor.

Yeah, ideally I'd like an SSD for the OS. I already use a system similar to what I'd need for an OS SSD where I pretty much only have the OS on an 80 GB HDD and install/store most everything else on other drives. My current PC is such a piece of smurf that I can't tell how much space is free on my C drive. Right-clicking and selecting Properties doesn't bring up the drive's properties. And attempting to view the general status of my HDDs from "Computer" (aka "My Computer") in Windows Explorer doesn't show anything at all. That's how seriously I need a new PC right now. . .

Anyway, I think I probably could get by on Windows 7 with a 64GB SSD but I would feel a lot better with 80 or 128 GB OS drive.

I also have 3 or 4 or 5 500 GB HDDs (7200 RPM each) so while it would be nice to consolidate all my data onto a single 2 TB drive, this is another case where I can just use what I have for now and then maybe in a couple more months buy the new HDD.

Sound: Ok. Speakers/Headset?
Keyboard/Mouse: If they're not worn out then just re-use that, and replace when worn out or defective.
DVD: Ok if it's SATA, if not, just spend the extra $30 for a DVD-burner or some more for a BD-reader/DVD-burner combo drive. BD-burners are still quite expensive, and DVD's can hold enough photo's for archiving. Backups either go on external harddisks, 'the cloud' or tape.
WiFi: Sure you don't want wired network? Usually the ping-delays are lower and transport speed higher when playing on-line games.

Sound: I already have speakers and (what I think is) a nice USB headset.
Keyboard/Mouse: I just bought new keyboard and mouse this year and I love them.
Optical: Good point on the DVD. I think all 3 of mine are IDE. I also have an external USB DVD drive so maybe I can just use that if/when I use/need optical media (which isn't often). Or, yeah, it's not that expensive to get a BD/DVD combo these days. So this one may depend on the budget.
WiFi: I currently have my PC connected via LAN (wired) but I'd like the WiFi "just in case" I move somewhere where the modem/router doesn't have proximity to where my "office" is. That's why this is another thing that can probably wait until I need it. I don't think it costs much for a standard Wireless N adapter but it's also not a necessity at this point.

After-market CPU-coolers: If over-clocking: When going for <= 5% extra speed, the standard Intel coolers are usually fine, at least when mounted properly (and on i5/i7 processors). When going for 5 - 10% get a big but silent cooler. When aiming beyond 10%, get a water-cooled setup, and also cool the GPU with it.

I'm really not sure how much overclocking I'm going to be doing. I've never done it before and I've never really been that interested in it. But since I can buy a processor that was made to be overclocked, why not take advantage of it? In that regard I doubt I'll be doing anything that would require liquid cooling, but maybe I'll be going for the 5-10% range. Any suggestions on reliable and quiet aftermarket CPU coolers?

Thanks for the feedback, everyone. I'd still like to hear more opinions on GPUs (nVidia vs. AMD/ATI).
« Last Edit: July 21, 2011, 09:38:27 PM by Deozaan » Logged

Deozaan
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« Reply #8 on: July 21, 2011, 10:36:46 PM »

Will a GPU that is PCIe 2.1 work on a Mobo with specifications that only mention having a PCIe 2.0 slot?

Here's the GPU I've been considering: ASUS EAH6850 Radeon HD 6850 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.1 x16 but my mobo only mentions having PCIe 2.0. . .

It appears as though NONE of the motherboards on NewEgg mention PCIe 2.1 specifically, so I would think they are compatible, but I'd feel a lot better if someone who knows for sure could verify it.
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Deozaan
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« Reply #9 on: July 22, 2011, 12:14:08 AM »

Okay, I think I've pretty much decided on everything I'm going to get for now.

Case: $90 for COOLER MASTER Storm Scout SGC-2000-KKN1-GP.
PSU: $120 for LEPA G500-MA 500W 80 PLUS Gold Certified Modular.
MOBO: $120 for MSI P67A-G45 (B3) LGA 1155 Intel P67 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX.
CPU: $220 for Intel Core i5-2500K Sandy Bridge 3.3GHz (3.7GHz Turbo Boost) LGA 1155 95W Quad-Core.
GPU: $170 for ASUS EAH6850 DC/2DIS/1GD5/V2 Radeon HD 6850 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.1 x16.
RAM: $130 for Kingston HyperX 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800)x2 (4x4GB = 16GB RAM).

That totals $850, which is where the build starts hitting the upper limits of my budget, going from being able to (barely, maybe, possibly) buy it now or having to wait a few months longer to save up more for it. But there's also $70 of mail-in-rebates which will (eventually) bring it down to $780. And maybe by the time I get those rebates back, I'll have saved up enough to buy some of the other things I had to leave out (like an aftermarket cooler, optical drive, SSD, HDD(s) and WiFi adapter).

I'm in dire need of a new PC soon, so I'm ready to order this ASAP. I think I'll let this thread continue over the weekend to give time for you folks to give me more feedback and prevent me from unknowingly buying the wrong thing(s). Then probably on Monday I'll order it sometime.

So check out my list of components and let me know what you think.
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« Reply #10 on: July 22, 2011, 03:22:08 AM »

Quote
I also don't want to be miserable again in 2 years with a sluggish machine, so I'd like this thing to be as future-ready as possible so I can go 5 to 6 or 7 years before upgrading again.
Alas, NOTHING you do can guarantee that - even if you buy the craziest powerhouse machine you can afford, things change. A lot. Which is a pretty good reason to NOT go all overboard, but buy something at a reasonable performance/price index.

With that in mind, an i5 2500k sounds like a very good choice. It's probably the CPU I'd go for if I were to build a new machine now (and after getting a Real Job(TM), I'm not extremely strapped for cash). Frankly, most of the time I wouldn't be able to utilize the extra Oomph an i7 has (the clock speed difference isn't all that high, and we're still at a point where not a lot of software can utilize even 4 cores... so utilizing 4 hyperthreaded cores? In the future, sure, but not now).

As for motherboard, I'd go for a chipset that lets you utilize the CPU-integrated GPU. "What, why?! I'm buying a powerful discrete GPU!", you say. Yes, you are, and that's what you'll be running your games off. But the integrated GPU can be used for GP-GPU purposes - right now there isn't a lot of uses (mainly video and audio transcoding), but there's a lot of focus on heterogenous computing right now, so this is something we'll likely see increasing in the future.

Personally, I'd go for a Nvidia GPU. I've simply had less issues with their drivers than AMD/ATi, and visual quality has often been better on the Nvidia GPUs (whether you can tell the difference at 60+ fps is another matter Wink). AMD cards may pack slightly more brute force for the cash, but that doesn't matter much when they suck at new features like tessellation (OK, nvidia GPUs also suck at that currently, but they suck less than AMD/ATi). And then there's PhysX and CUDA on NVidia, you don't get that with AMD/ATi. Go for a mid-end card, high-end cards are always too expensive smiley (I'm very happy with my GTX 465).

RAM... last time I looked, RAM speed didn't matter all that much, the intel memory controllers have been extremely effective since the core2 architecture was introduced. It depends on your workload - if you can utilize MANY cores very effectively, and mainly deal with very simple computations, then you could be memory I/O bound. Stuff like file compression (think WinRAR, not audio/video) can benefit somewhat from a lot of memory bandwidth. Games tend to do 'crunch' a bit more and not just move data around.

Perhaps you should go for 8GB intead of 16GB, though? I've got 8GB in my current workstation, and definitely wouldn't go for less... OTOH, even with a 512meg ramdrive, I don't go near the 8GB very often - even with development tools and a couple of virtual machines running. Games are still predominantly 32-bit, and while gaming you probably won't be running a bunch of virtual machines anyway. The i5 has a dual-channel memory architecture, so I'd say grab 2x4GB now - you can always easily add another 2x4GB if you need it.

FWIW, I've been happy with and haven't had trouble with Corsair.

PSU... haven't looked at what's available for ages, so won't make any brand suggestions (even big names have been known to use cheap OEM parts every now and then). But you definitely DO want a modular PSU, they're so much easier to work with instead of the utterly hopeless cable mess (and bad case airflow) you get with a non-modular one. As for 80plus and all that: the more efficient the PSU is under the load you'll be putting on it(!), the less heat it will generate. This means two things:
1) do go for an efficient PSU.
2) don't go for a gazillion Watts, go for one that's close to what you'll be using but with some room to spare. And then be sure to read reviews (or find somebody on DC that has been keeping up smiley) and select a stable PSU.

Quote
but it's hard to get over the feeling that 500 watts is a small amount when they're selling 1,000+ watt PSUs for the gamer market.
My current rig (see bottom of post) idles at 150W, does the same at ~90% CPU usage while running WinRAR benchmark (says something about the CPU not going to more efficient state on idle smiley), and jumps to 235W when gaming (DnF, there might be more GPU-intensive games but I think it's pretty much "idle or powered up"). 700W PSU was definitely overkill, and is probably not running anywhere near efficiently.

DO GET AN SSD. They rock. Bigtime. You sorta get used to the speed over time, but I really notice when I'm using a machine with a traditional mechanical HDD. 64GB should be just fine for your OS partition (mine's set at 24GB, but that's too small) - but you do need an additional HDD for all the 'bulk data'. You'll be installing games, the pagefile, and other huge stuff on the HDD. There's been a bunch of flaky SSDs lately, though, and I've been bitten myself by a Vertex2... my Intel X25-E hasn't had a signle hiccup, though. Electronics will be electronics, backups will be non-exis... backups.

Quote
I'd also like to overclock the CPU
don't bother. Stresses the system too much, can make it unstable in ways that are very, very subtle - like standby/resume fscking up at weird times. And definitely don't do it just for the sake of benchfapmarks.

The case you've selected looks like the one my brother (not p3lb0x, the other one) has. It seems to be relatively comfortable to work with, but it's noisy, gathers dust, and has too much disco lighting. Take a look at the case Jeff Atwood is using for his latest rig - it looks like it's very comfortable to work with, and the cable routing is pure genious... apart from being nicer to work with, removing clutter also means better airflow.

My current rig:
Intel Q6600 CPU
ASUS P5K motherboard (intel P35 chipset)
Gigabyte GeForce GTX460 1GB OC
ThermalTake ToughPower 750W (accidentally(!) got the non-modular version Sad )
4x2GB Corsair TWIN2MX-6400-C5DHX DDR2 ram
2xWD 74GB Raptor 10k RPM drives
1xIntel 64GB X25-M SSD
Whatever lite-on optical
Intel PRO/1000PT PCI-e NIC (onboard gbit NIC was too unstable on early Win7, and too slow anyway)
All stuffed in an Aerocool S55 case... looks wonderful, so-so to work with, and WAY TOO THIN SIDES, and thus noisy because of HDD vibration.
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« Reply #11 on: July 22, 2011, 06:41:39 AM »

Just want to emphasize something f0dder said with regard to memory:

Upgrading memory is extremely easy - just make sure if you get 8gb of ram that you do so by getting two 4gb sticks (rather than 4 2gb sticks which would be cheaper), so that you have room to add more later.  That's a mistake people sometimes make.
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Deozaan
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« Reply #12 on: July 22, 2011, 03:52:08 PM »

Can anyone who knows for sure answer this question please?

Will a GPU that is PCIe 2.1 work on a Mobo with specifications that only mention having a PCIe 2.0 slot?

Here's the GPU I've been considering: ASUS EAH6850 Radeon HD 6850 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.1 x16 but my mobo only mentions having PCIe 2.0. . .

It appears as though NONE of the motherboards on NewEgg mention PCIe 2.1 specifically, so I would think they are compatible, but I'd feel a lot better if someone who knows for sure could verify it.
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« Reply #13 on: July 22, 2011, 04:15:36 PM »

Wikipedia isn't super informative, doesn't really mention much about compatibility. A quick googling with some (affirmative but not super informative) forum posts indicates 2.1 cards should work fine in 2.0 slots, though.

And considering that PCI-e was designed to be software compatible with PCI, my guess is that they've done a lot of compatibility work.
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JavaJones
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« Reply #14 on: July 22, 2011, 04:18:14 PM »

Looks like everyone has already done an (unsurprisingly) good job of covering the bases, but in the interest of adding "votes" to some things (i.e. if 3 DC'ers recommend something it raises confidence in ti), I'll put in my 2 cents in a couple of areas.

Case: Seems fine, a bit too much "bling" for me, but appears reasonably easy to work in. Handle is extraneous in my view, but you may like the aesthetic, heh. If the aesthetic is *not* a positive factor, there ought to be plenty of other options in the price range, e.g. Antec Sonata Elite (I've used previous gen Sonata cases and liked them very much, and have generally been a fan of Antec): http://www.newegg.com/Pro...aspx?Item=N82E16811129057

CPU: If future-proofing is really of concern, spend the extra $80 and get the i7 2600 (unless overclocking is actually something you plan to *do* and not just "play with for fun" - i.e. you will end up using the system long-term in an overclocked state - then you don't need the "k" model which saves you some $). It's worth it. Not only is it slightly faster (100Mhz per core), but hyperthreading actually makes a real difference, sometimes as much as 20% additional performance for heavily multithreaded tasks. Since you mention 3D, this may well be applicable to you. I know it is for me. It is also becoming increasingly relevant for high-end games. And, although upgrading later would be easy, unlike say a hard drive where you can have multiple and just upgrade and move your old one into a slave position for extra storage, when you do a CPU upgrade the old one is either wasted, sold *very* cheaply, or you need to buy a bunch more parts to make it useful.

Motherboard: No major opinions here (though I've liked ASUS in the past), but f0dder's point about having a motherboard that can take advantage of the CPU's onboard GPU is an interesting and possibly useful one (only applicable if you get the i5, i7 doesn't have the integrated GPU). This can be a supported config for some tasks (e.g. use CPU's integrated GPU *and* discreet GPU for GP-GPU tasks simultaneously), however I don't know if Intel's GPU tech in particular supports OpenCL, and it certainly doesn't support CUDA, so unless support for the integrated GPUs improves in GP-GPU apps it may never actually be that practical as far as actual applications that can use that config.

RAM: All brands mentioned so far are fine. What you said above is basically true, there are a lot of good-to-great brands. Faster RAM will make virtually no difference unless you're overclocking, which I would just not recommend unless - again - you are actually serious about it (and by "serious" I mean you intend to run your machine way, not "serious" in the sense that you want to go all the way to water cooling or something cheesy). Save the money and buy the i7 instead of i5. Wink Also, get as much as you can afford, but don't be afraid to get "only" 8GB and upgrade to 16GB in say 6 months (if you find you need it even). Just be sure, as others said, that you get 2x4GB instead of 4x2GB.

SSD: Given money seems to be a concern now I say *don't* get an SSD in the initial build. There are several reasons for this in my view. 1: as recent discussions here have shown, there are still a lot of reliability concerns. 2: although prices are coming down, they're still pretty darn high, especially $/GB. 3: they are one of the easiest, if not *the* easiest components to upgrade in your system, and doing so does not immediately make your previous hardware obsolete. 4: it sounds like you already have hard drives, so it's not like you're choosing between 2 purchase options *now* (although later you would be when you go to purchase the 2TB drive(s)). 5: your new system will be a big jump in performance with the components you've already outlined, so you'll be happy for the time being. When you get to upgrade again with an SSD later - say in 6 months or a year - it will be yet another big boost in speed without having to replace your whole system. The cost-to-appreciation ratio is better if you delay the SSD purchase.

They can make a huge difference for some things, e.g. Windows startup, app launch, game level load time. They give you a nice tangible boost in some of the things that are most traditionally slow in computer use, so the improvement in "feel" is great. *But*, they will not do much to improve actual computational performance, e.g. game frame rates, 3D rendering time, etc. Neither will they make a big difference for dealing with large files unless the file happens to be on the SSD (and with price/GB at this point, that's unlikely). So for example for me, I do a lot of large photo editing, with RAW image files of 20MB+ (sounds small but...) that I have to scroll through at fairly fast speed to review, rate, etc. not to mention when I do time lapse sequences and want to preview my sequence in e.g. After Effects. I notice load times frequently. But none of this would be made notably faster by an SSD because I wouldn't keep my photos on it (unless I splurged for a 500+GB one, hehe).

All this having been said, I don't have an SSD in my main machine myself, so I'm not speaking from as much a position of experience as f0dder and others on the subject. But for me it's just more of a practical consideration given the points I made above.

- Oshyan
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« Reply #15 on: July 22, 2011, 04:35:48 PM »


I just went through this, and with a similar level of involvement.  I've snipped the areas I'll talk about...

1. I have this case, and it's awesome!  It's to a large extent plastic, but it doesn't have that plasticy feel; it's very solid, while not being as heavy as some other cases.  The lights are great(they aren't really christmas lighty, and can be turned off), and it was very easy to work on.
2. I got the i5-2400 for about $60 less.  I actually did some comparisons, and the difference between the two wasn't worth it to me, looking at the benchmarks.  Looking at newegg now, they don't have a deal like the one I was able to get, so I guess you're looking at a difference of $25 which isn't that much money.  But if you can find a similar deal, I'd say don't exclude that one.
3. I bought this exact same video card.  It's worked well in all of the games that I've played (and of course otherwise too).  It's in the sweet spot of price vs. performance for me; I benchmarked it also against similarly priced cards, and it compared favorably, even against higher priced cards.
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f0dder
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« Reply #16 on: July 22, 2011, 04:56:44 PM »

but hyperthreading actually makes a real difference, sometimes as much as 20% additional performance for heavily multithreaded tasks.
It's definitely heaploads better than the HT from the Pentium4 days, but it's still not perfect - and developers still struggle to thread applications and games efficiently. I still haven't seen any games that have been able to efficiently use more than 2 cores, and I kinda doubt we'll see full quadcore parallelization before current i7s are old hat. It's a guess, and I could be wrong, but I wouldn't spend too much extra $$$ for 'future-proofing' in such uncertain areas.

You also have to keep in mind that i7 means triple-channel memory, which means changes in your RAM setup (IMHO 6GB is a bit on the low side for a powerhouse machine, so you'd start with 3x4GB instead of 2x4GB - not THE biggest cash difference, but it all adds up).

Since you mention 3D, this may well be applicable to you. I know it is for me. It is also becoming increasingly relevant for high-end games.
That's probably more likely to scale well than games smiley - what kind of 3D soft do you use, and how much additional benefit do you see between HT disabled and enabled?

And, although upgrading later would be easy, unlike say a hard drive where you can have multiple and just upgrade and move your old one into a slave position for extra storage, when you do a CPU upgrade the old one is either wasted, sold *very* cheaply, or you need to buy a bunch more parts to make it useful.
Not to mention that socket types change, and when you're in the position where you want to upgrade, the old socket type has been phased out and you'll have to pay out of your nose for one of those "legacy" CPUs, unless you can find a demo model. (Friend of mine just upgraded his LGA775 to a Q9550 - he was lucky to find a demo model).

However I don't know if Intel's GPU tech in particular supports OpenCL, and it certainly doesn't support CUDA, so unless support for the integrated GPUs improves in GP-GPU apps it may never actually be that practical as far as actual applications that can use that config.
Intels integrated GPU is relatively low-end, and doesn't have a LOT of GPGPU muscle. It doens't support CUDA, but the jury is still out wrt. what's going to win (for a discrete card I'd get something with CUDA support, but the introduction of GPGPU capabilities in both GL and (especially) DX is reassuring). The intel GPU can deliver fast transcodes, though. I still don't see integrated GPU as a big selling point (except if your needs are modest enough to not need a discrete GPU), but it's a nice extra I wouldn't mind being able to utilize. Especially if "switchover" is supported on desktops like on some laptops (ie, let the discrete GPU go to power savings mode when graphics Ooomph isn't needed for great power (and thus heat) savings).

Faster RAM will make virtually no difference unless you're overclocking
Or are using integrated GPU, or are using a lot of CPU cores smiley

They give you a nice tangible boost in some of the things that are most traditionally slow in computer use, so the improvement in "feel" is great. *But*, they will not do much to improve actual computational performance, e.g. game frame rates, 3D rendering time, etc. Neither will they make a big difference for dealing with large files unless the file happens to be on the SSD (and with price/GB at this point, that's unlikely).
Very true - but there's still something about SSDs that make your computing experience feel a lot different. A lot of minor load-time annoyances that are removed. It's stuff that's often in the half-a-second-saved range, and shouldn't matter that much, but I feel a lot happier when using a SSD-equipped system.

Of course it also depends a lot on your workload. If you mainly deal with large files and mostly sequential access, I'd say that a SSD don't make THAT big a difference. Sure, you'll get 200MB/s instead of a decent HDD's 100MB/s... but it doens't matter that much. I wouldn't put big data files on a SSD for 'normal' use. But for launching apps, compiling source code (and grepping through large code bases etc), and other scatter-IO tasks... zomg.
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« Reply #17 on: July 22, 2011, 06:02:32 PM »

If I was going for the Core i7 2600 then the 2600K is only $15 more and I would probably just go for the 2600K.

But the upgrade from the Core i5 2500K to the Core i7 2600K is $95.

(And for the record, the i7 2600(K) processors appear to be dual-channel memory, since my mobo I have selected for the i5 also supports the i7)

However, if I cut my RAM in half down to just 8 GB, then that saves me about $65, which makes the Core i7 2600K "only $30 more" than what I was planning.

Also, I just remembered that I have $25 of NewEgg gift card. So that makes the Core i7 2600K almost exactly as much as I was planning to spend.

On the other hand, I could still save the $95 by sticking with the i5 and that would be about enough to buy an SSD/HHD or UPS or something else in the near future.

Decisions, decisions. . .

As for GPU. I have noticed that a lot of games I play show the nVidia/PhysX logo. On the other hand, it is nice to hear from wraith808 that the card I've pretty much settled on runs well in a similar setup. I like the card's output options (dual DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort). It also has Eyefinity, which as I understand means it can support as many monitors/displays as it has outputs (so 4 monitors/displays in this case). I only have 2 monitors but the idea of getting a 3rd sometime down the road and being able to use all 3 of them is attractive.
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« Reply #18 on: July 22, 2011, 06:50:51 PM »

f0dder:

HT is a great feature. I was not a huge fan of it for a long time, but they got it right on the "Core" series and it makes a big difference for my regular work now, which includes heavy 3D rendering with Terragen 2 (my company's software product), as well as just lots of multi-tasking. Multitasking is an area where it helps particularly well because you can have major CPU-using apps assigned to physical cores and still leave 4 "virtual cores" available for general system interaction, an approach which works great and balances performance for demanding tasks with system response nicely.

For Terragen 2, HT gives about a 20% speed boost, sometimes more, on an i7 with 4 cores and 4 HT threads. For gaming here's the theoretical performance benefit:
http://www.tomshardware.c...rk-Vantage-High,2418.html
Note the higher core CPUs are top of the list, including models older than the 2500k. 2500k does fairly well, but it's well below the 2600. Again this is theoretical. In most real games the difference is negligible. But since Deo wants this system to last for years, I guarantee you games will start taking more and more advantage of additional cores within its useful life span.

As Deo said, newer i7's are no longer triple channel. Same socket, same motherboard, same number of memory channels as the i5's.

I don't think Intel's current generation of integrated graphics will ever support CUDA, and that's what's used in the vast majority of current GPGPU implementations. Maybe OpenCL, maybe one of the GL or DX integrated versions (which are even further from maturity than OpenCL though, due to ubiquity of their parent standards, may be adopted faster).

You're right that SSDs change the overall experience. Ideally any new build would/could include one. But when price is an issue it's one of the biggest ticket items (to get a decent, performant one, and with reasonable capacity), and in a case like this where the upgrade in other areas is already so big, I think it will be a less important addition *initially*.

Combine that with the reliability issues which are a very important concern and I think going SSD is clearly a difficult and likely very personal decision. For some people it's A-OK to lose their system drive spontaneously and have to recover from backups; they have good backup methodology in place, they're comfortable with restores, they maintain appropriate backup hardware to restore to, etc. This does *not* describe the average person and, given the flakiness we've seen described and reported with SSDs pretty much across the spectrum, I think it's a risk that's honestly not reasonable to *recommend* to most people just yet, unless they're really prepared for and comfortable with the idea of dealing with a failure *and* the performance benefits are going to be noticed. Taking all that into account I see the number of people I'd recommend an SSD to right off as being fairly low for now.

Deo:

8GB of RAM should be fine to start. $95 is going to quite get you a good SSD, but I assume you meant it would contribute toward saving for one, which is very true. It really depends on what your uses for the system are. If 3D rendering use is extremely minor, then maybe stick with the 2500. Just keep in mind the other points regarding upgrade ease and efficiency (save $100 now, but waste the $200 later if/when you upgrade the CPU, for example).

Most games that support computation on the GPU (for physics or otherwise) support Physx or CUDA only. That's just a simple, unfortunate reality. That being said even with that limitation ATI cards often top the charts for game performance, especially for price/performance ratio. The only time it really matters is with games that stupidly implement a "PhysX-only" mode which allows, for example, "10x the number of particles for explosions!". They look great in this mode, but it only works on Nvidia hardware, and it sucks because faster CPUs, improving graphics cards, etc. mean that high-end and later generation hardware should be able to run at that level just fine, but they can't because it's tied to a specific technology. I think fewer games are pulling that kind of stupidity though and instead just implementing PhysX support for acceleration of otherwise implemented physics systems that can be independently dialed up and down. Maybe some more current gamers can comment on that.

- Oshyan
« Last Edit: July 22, 2011, 08:39:06 PM by JavaJones » Logged

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Deozaan
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« Reply #19 on: July 22, 2011, 07:01:11 PM »

I don't really do big time hard to do 3D rendering stuff. I play around with Blender from time to time and would like to get into (lowpoly) modeling. So I don't think I'll be too worried about the extra power an i7 could have on that.

I do tend to do quite a bit of multitasking (i.e. opening a bunch of different programs at once) so that might affect performance, but I'm having a hard time comprehending if I'll be able to notice the difference between 4-cores and 4-cores with HT coming from a single core machine. Don't get me wrong, I would really like to have that i7, but I'm still not sure the extra performance is worth the extra price. And if I need more performance I can always overclock the 2500K.

1. I have this case, and it's awesome!  It's to a large extent plastic, but it doesn't have that plasticy feel; it's very solid, while not being as heavy as some other cases.  The lights are great(they aren't really christmas lighty, and can be turned off), and it was very easy to work on.

Is the case noisy or quiet or what?
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« Reply #20 on: July 22, 2011, 09:58:23 PM »

Argh I can't decide! I'm getting really antsy to buy the system because my current PC is seriously not doing very well. It sometimes becomes non-responsive for up to a few minutes while it does... something I have no idea what! So I'm really chomping at the bit wanting to order this thing.

But I keep thinking thoughts like: $95 more for the i7 seems like a lot now, but if I really intend this to be a 5+ year system, then divided over 60 months (5 years) it comes to just under $1.60 more per month (or less for longer periods of time) for a more powerful processor. A more powerful processor will probably keep me satisfied longer and could extend the goal of 5 years out to 6 or 7 years. Is the hyper-threading, larger L3 cache, and a couple hundred Mhz worth $95 to me? Probably not. Is it worth $1.60 a month? Hmm, could be. So if I'm just patient enough and wait a little while longer to save up a little more money then I can afford the more expensive and powerful parts, which would keep me satisfied and remain useful longer, which would delay the need/desire for a new computer even longer.

But I also really have a pressing need for a new computer very soon. Hmm... What to do?
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« Reply #21 on: July 22, 2011, 10:04:56 PM »

If getting the i7 means waiting longer I'd say get the i5 and the new system now. That's definitely one thing I've found is that waiting seldom pays off, hehe. You can always wait a bit more to afford something good (wait even longer and you can get an SSD *and* the i7! Wink ). If your current system isn't enjoyable to use anymore then I think it's good to upgrade ASAP. Of course it also depends on how much longer it would take you to save for the i7 - a week, 3 weeks, a couple months?

- Oshyan
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Deozaan
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« Reply #22 on: July 22, 2011, 10:25:32 PM »

If getting the i7 means waiting longer I'd say get the i5 and the new system now. That's definitely one thing I've found is that waiting seldom pays off, hehe. You can always wait a bit more to afford something good (wait even longer and you can get an SSD *and* the i7! Wink ). If your current system isn't enjoyable to use anymore then I think it's good to upgrade ASAP. Of course it also depends on how much longer it would take you to save for the i7 - a week, 3 weeks, a couple months?

- Oshyan

I could probably get the i7 (since I'm only getting 8GB of RAM) and barely be able to afford it right now. But it would mean waiting longer to be able to save up for the other stuff I want like the SSD, 2 TB HDD(s), UPS, aftermarket cooler, optical drive, WiFi Adapter, 8GB ram more, etc.

Still, I think I'd have a pretty sweet system and it would make the time I spent saving up for those things much easier to live through than with this piece of smurf PC that is barely running now.
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« Reply #23 on: July 22, 2011, 11:17:03 PM »

For my small bit of input (since I haven't been around to add anything earlier), I don't know much about current system components in general.  However, I do know about power supplies and memory manufacturers, so I will speak to that...

1) Memory - G.Skill is definitely a quality brand.  They were one of the many new kids on the block about 10 years ago (maybe more) that catered specifically to gamers.  Personally I like Crucial brands, but any good brand does well, and of course you know Kingston is a good brand as well.  The specs between the brands are the best way to judge (as long as you stick with good brands) .

2) Power Supplies - Your post is the first I heard of LEPA, so I did a bit of research before posting.  There are a very few actual manufacturers as we pointed out in other discussions; most are just rebranded power supplies.  I like Seasonic as the manufacturer (makers of their own brand as well as rebranded under ThermalTake and Corsair in addition to others IIRC).  Antec is another well know manufacturer.  They sell the most and are re-branded the most (correlation?  Probably).  Enermax is another well known manufacturer that makes (supposedly) high quality PSU's.  I don't have personal experience with them, so I can't say how good they are, but they are well known not to have any of their PSU's rebranded - until now that is.  LEPA appears to be the first line of rebranded Enermax PSU's.  The stats are good as are the reviews of both Enermax and LEPA (no surprise since the only difference is the stickers).  

As to your questions.  80+ Certifications are an efficiency level.  They guarantee a minimum of 80% efficiency (meaning for every 100 watts pulled from the wall, at least 80 watts will go to the PSU outputs).  The different metals are levels, so 80+ guarantee 80%, bronze guarantee 85%, silver guarantees 89%, etc.  Don't hold me to the numbers, it is the concept that I am explaining - I don't know the actual percentages, but you can look them up if it matters.  In addition to that, though, it does tend to be a sign of quality that they are able to pass the cert and that they are willing to apply for it in the first place.

Wattage, on the other hand, is almost completely irrelevant.  Marketing plays with these numbers so bad that they are completely incompatible.  Some, for example, will state they have 3 rails at 400W per rail so they deliver 1200W.  This is completely bogus because they can not deliver 1200W - it just means each rail is rated up to 400W.  It is deceptive marketing at it's worst.  Ideally, they would be rated by their highest continuous stable power rating, but that just isn't the case.  Moreover, determining the right size PSU isn't always the easiest thing either.  However, few, if any machines require anything as large as a 700W continuous power, so getting anything bigger tends to be a waste.  Still, many people buy into the bigger is better theory so marketing plays to that.  From what I have seen, most people end up with a 700-1000W PSU because they need something bigger than the next size down, or they are borderline with the next size down, so they need to move up to that size.  There are size calculators at most sites so use one of those to estimate, add about 10% for the safety buffer (their estimation is also buffered, so you will have a good sized buffer at that point), and get the smallest quality PSU you can find that is bigger than the calculated amount.  With all that said, your LEPA option looks to be a fine choice as long as it is sized properly for your system.
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Deozaan
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« Reply #24 on: July 22, 2011, 11:30:21 PM »

Thanks for the info about PSUs, steeladept. Very useful indeed. I sure hope the 500w LEPA provides enough continuous power for my build. I really don't know and am just going by what other people are telling me. I know the GPU alone says I should have at least a 450w PSU, but maybe that's more because of the misleading marketing you talked about.

As for motherboard, I'd go for a chipset that lets you utilize the CPU-integrated GPU. "What, why?! I'm buying a powerful discrete GPU!", you say. Yes, you are, and that's what you'll be running your games off. But the integrated GPU can be used for GP-GPU purposes - right now there isn't a lot of uses (mainly video and audio transcoding), but there's a lot of focus on heterogenous computing right now, so this is something we'll likely see increasing in the future.

I just found out about the Intel Z68 motherboards. They let you overclock as well as allow you to take advantage of the CPU-integrated GPU.

This one looks like it has all the same features as the P67 I was considering but additionally has the CPU-integrated-GPU features:

MSI Z68A-GD55 (B3) LGA 1155 Intel Z68 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX
« Last Edit: July 22, 2011, 11:48:01 PM by Deozaan » Logged

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