seeking new system advice

Discussion in 'Computers' started by James_Kiang, Mar 22, 2006.

  1. James_Kiang

    James_Kiang Screenwriter

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    Hi all. Sorry to ask the same sort of questions I'm sure get raised perenially.

    I currently have an ancient Pentium III 1.0 ghz machine at home. Right now, it gets used mostly for internet and office stuff, but at heart I am a gamer. Unfortunately, having five month-old and five year-old daughters doesn't give me much time to play. Still, I want my new system to be capable of running the stuff that is coming out right now, and if it's flexible for the future that would be a plus.

    Now, I will say up front that I am partial to Intel for some reason. Having said that, it seems there are quite a few different Pentium 4's out there now. I think I have a handle on the basic differences between the standard P4, the Pentium D, and the Pentium 4 EE (nice, but way out of my price range). So, now that I've built all that up - and thanks for reading - let me ask some questions:

    1 - Someone linked me to a benchmark comparison at Tom's Hardware. When I first looked at it, I was checking the Pentium D 920 and 930. Pricing these through Dell, I was coming up with about $1600 to get a system with 2 mb RAM and a GeForce 6800. Then I saw that through my work I can get a Gateway system with the Pentium 650 for a couple hundred less than that. The benchmark comparison looked to show the 920/930 as superior, but when I checked the game tests it actually went the other way. So (finally), which chipset is going to work best for me?

    2 - One thing I liked about the Dell was that I could get the 6800. The Gateway comes with the Radeon x300 or a GeForce 6200. I know there are newer 7000 series cards out or coming. Regardless of where I buy it, should I be shooting for at least a 6800?

    3 - Ah, the inevitable timing question. I was planning on waiting for the release of Vista and Office 12 (or whatever it will be called), but it looks like that won't happen until January 2007. I don't really need the new system now, but it would be nice. Should I wait for these releases so I can get them installed clean from the get go?

    4 - Are there any other good places to go online to customize a system? My current machine is a Dell and I haven't had any real problems with it, but it isn't cheap. Falcon Northwest and Alienware are both a bit out of my price range while Gateway (at least through my work) doesn't seem to offer me as many options as I might like.

    5 - Is 1 gb RAM good enough, or should I get 2 gb right away? The jump from 1 to 2 is like $160 at Dell, though I know I can get cheaper ram from Fry's. I don't know how the quality will compare though, and again I'm thinking it might just be easier to get it all pre-installed to begin with.

    Thanks for your help.
     
  2. Ken Chan

    Ken Chan Producer

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    If you like Intel, I would just wait for the new machines with the Conroe processors. Low power, dual-core. These might be out before Vista. In that case, just wait for Vista. Get 2GB of RAM, and don't worry about upgrading for three or five years. No muss, no fuss.

    Graphics cards are a little trickier. You'll certainly want something near the top end to last as long as possible. Any advice today would be no good in eight months.
     
  3. Mike Fassler

    Mike Fassler Supporting Actor

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    1 gig of ram is fine for 90% of the games out there but games like battlefield 2 like 2 gigs of ram. you really cant go wrong with either. I would go with a 7800 series card myself for a new rig because they are pretty cheap now that the 7900 series is out. im still running an ATI x850XT and I can run all the new stuff at high resolutions just fine. personally id stay away from dell as a gaming pc, you dont get enough choices and your upgrade path is pretty hindered due to the fact they use proprietary stuff. voodoo makes pretty good stuff as does ABS for those gamers on a budget. they still dont beat building a system yourself thou.


    http://www.abs.com/index.asp

    check them out [​IMG]
     
  4. Mike_J_Potter

    Mike_J_Potter Second Unit

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    I would just go with the 7900 instead, all the sites I have seen have the 7900GT the same price or a few dollars more then a 7800GT. If your looking for a prebuilt system, I would go to sites like hardocp.com or other PC enthusiast sites, they frequently review gaming pcs and can maybe give you some good idea of where to look
     
  5. SethH

    SethH Cinematographer

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    I would shoot for 2GB of RAM -- or at least make sure you've got open slots. I haven't read up too much on Vista, but XP essentially requires 256MB just to function. I would count on Vista taking up at least 512MB, so it would be nice to have 1.5GB allotted to other programs/games.
     
  6. Ken Chui

    Ken Chui Supporting Actor

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    Vista looks to be quite the resource hog:

    800MB RAM with CPU idling
    2GB+ RAM recommended for Vista gamers

    RAM prices could escalate in second half of 2006, in anticipation of Vista's release (although the OS has been pushed back for release in 2007). Link

    I think your needs would be better served with an AMD processor, but that's the PC gamer bias in me speaking. [​IMG] As Ken Chan suggested, the Conroe processors may be worth holding out for. Here are some recent comments on Intel's Pentium Extreme Edition 965 processor:

    From CNET:
     
  7. James_Kiang

    James_Kiang Screenwriter

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    Well...What would be the AMD chipset that I would be looking for? Keep in mind that I'm probably limited to about $1500, so I know this won't be top-of-the-line. If it can play current generation games and still be a reasonable system for at least a couple years I'll be happy.
     
  8. Rommel_L

    Rommel_L Second Unit

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    Wait for the Vista and the hardware that will support it when they come out.
     
  9. Ken Chui

    Ken Chui Supporting Actor

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    James:

    I'm inclined to agree with Rommel on possibly holding out a bit longer for Vista's release before deciding on a PC purchase (even though it's more than 9+ months away). Even though Microsoft has posted a preliminary spec list for Vista (based on the beta 1 build), it's anyone's guess as to how well the retail version of Vista will run on current low- to mid-end PCs.

    The main question I have for you is: will you consider only pre-built PCs (e.g. DELL, Gateway, etc.) or are you willing to take a gamble with the BYO (build your own) route? Your upgrade route may be limited by proprietary components favoured by the larger PC manufacturers. If you're willing to consider other pre-assembled PC sellers (such as ABS, iBuyPower, Monarch or Velocity Micro), I think you'll find that their products and service are comparable, if not better, than their more renowned counterparts. If you're looking for a reputable PC builder, you should check their customer ratings and feedback on ResellerRatings.

    As for video cards, you may want to keep an eye on the recently announced nVidia GeForce 7600 GS, which supports dual-link DVI, PureVideo, and SLI, is both HDCP- and Vista-ready and comes in at a price point of ~$150 (the press release was just issued yesterday by nVidia, so they won't be available just yet).

    Unless there is an enticing rebate, memory can usually be had for less online. Sometimes memory manufacturers offer online coupons for purchases through their websites, so you may want to keep an eye out for those (I know Crucial has done so in the past, and I've bought two sticks from them on such occasions).
     
  10. James_Kiang

    James_Kiang Screenwriter

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    Everyone - Thanks for the suggestions. Waiting for Vista makes sense on a couple of levels. One, as Rommel and Ken have said, is that a system built around Vista will probably run it better then than now. Two, it probably makes a little more financial sense for me to wait. Sure, that means I have to give up on Dungeons & Dragons Online and Oblivion (for now at least), but I really don't get much time to play anyway [​IMG].

    Ken -
    I've always considered myself not quite a novice when it comes to computers, but not an expert either. I've added my fair share of RAM, hard drives, video cards, etc. but I've never done a system from scratch. I will check out those sites you listed as I am not permanently attached to a name-brand by any means. I simply want to get a machine I'll be happy with at a reasonable price. All by my standards of course [​IMG] .

    EDIT: I'm checking the IbuyPower site right now. I must say that I am impressed with their offers. I can get a Pentium D 920 with 1 gb RAM for $1524; that's a bit lower than most places I've tried and it includes a 7800 video card. I guess that leads to another question -
    Is it better to go with something like the 7800 (or 7900 GT for $50 more?) or get 2 6800's in SLI mode?
     
  11. Ken Chui

    Ken Chui Supporting Actor

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    I assume that this is a gaming performance-related question?

    I'm more of an ATI guy, but I'll take a crack at this nVidia dilemma. The 7xxx series of cards should offer better performance and are more future-proof than 2 6xxx cards in SLI mode.

    For this example, I'll use the 7800GTX (retails between $410-600, depending on manufacturer and core clock speed) and 2 6800s (between $130-250 each, depending on manufacturer and onboard memory). You'll find a number of evaluations between a 7800GTX and 2 6800 Ultras in head-to-head matchups on some popular PC forums and their results are fairly comparable; with base 6800s, even in SLI mode, the 7800GTX will easily overmatch its 6 series siblings.

    Keep in mind that newer gamers will utilize more shaders and newer technologies (such as transparency anti-aliasing and High Dynamic Range (HDR) lighting; visual examples can be found here); this is where a 7800GTX will pull ahead in both features and performance. Even though a 7800GTX is more powerful, it consumes less power and runs cooler. I'm sure there are some instances where SLI may be beneficial and, depending on one's settings, may provide a significant increase in performance (where games are concerned). I can do some checking around.

    PC games are, for the most part, still CPU-intensive, so you will need a very fast processor that can keep up with its GPU counterparts to minimize bottlenecks.

    One thing you can consider is an SLI motherboard and a 7800 card for now; when prices drop, you can add another 7800 card and have the best of both worlds. [​IMG]
     
  12. Duane R

    Duane R Second Unit

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    I'd echo the sentiments of waiting for Conroe, which is due in July. Several tech sites ran benches on a preliminary production Conroe chip running at 2.66Ghz that outperformed an overclocked AMD FX-60 running at 2.8Ghz by about 20-25%. If you have to have an Intel sooner, wait until April 23rd when the next round of price cuts kick in...
     
  13. Ken Chui

    Ken Chui Supporting Actor

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    According to Intel, 945 and 965 chipsets should qualify for the Vista Capable PC Programme and the Windows Vista Premium OS logos (article).
     
  14. James_Kiang

    James_Kiang Screenwriter

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    I found one article from a site that appears to have tested the Conroe processor. I did not realize that this was going to be moving away from faster cpu speeds and focusing more on other aspects to maintain and maximize speed. I'll have to admit that I'm a bit more swayed by the speed of a Pentium D 940 than I am by the prospect of a sub-2.0 Conroe (I'm assuming I woun't be able to afford the higher end versions). I also found - as the site mentioned - the tests they performed to be a little on the dubious side. Since I don't plan on buying before fall (unless I really cave), I guess I can wait to see what the final product ends up like.

    Speaking of objective previews, Gamespot had some article mentioning that Vista would result in like 6 to 8-fold better gaming performance. That sounds suspiciously like propaganda to me...

    After a little more research, I did find a site called Cyber Power that could give me a machine I'd be happy with (Pentium D 940, 1 gb RAM, Geforce 7900) for just under $1600. That's a little more than I wanted to spend (plus tax and shipping) but maybe after the April price cut Duane mentioned it will be low enough to force my hand. Any thoughts on Cyber Power? I checked ResellerRatings and they were...okay, about the same as IBuyPower.

    EDIT1: Would you go with 1 gig of RAM with the Geforce 7900 or 2 gigs of RAM with a 7600 or 7800?

    EDIT2: I'll do some searching myself, but what are the 945 and 965 chipsets?
     
  15. James_Kiang

    James_Kiang Screenwriter

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    Man, I knew I shouldn't have looked at the AMD chips [​IMG]. At CyberPower, for the same money I was looking to spend on the 940, I can get an AMD Athlon 64 x2 4200+ with 2 gigs of RAM and the 7900 gt for about the same price, if not a little less. That's the extra gig of RAM I wanted without even sacrificing on the CPU or video card. I can save $73 by going down to the 3800+ and even more by going to a lesser video card ($54 for a 7800 gt or $127 for a 7600 gt). I can also drop another $150 by forgoing Office; my wife is a teacher so I can get the Student/Teacher version for closer to $100 on my own.

    The 4200 performed pretty well on the benchmarks over at Tom's when compared to the 940. Just to assuage my fears - are there any real compatability issues with AMD chips?
     
  16. Mike Fassler

    Mike Fassler Supporting Actor

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    AMD procs have always been cheaper and faster and more efficient than intel and more than likely always will be.
    no there isnt any compatibility issues with AMD. the main advantage of using AMD is that they tweak their architecture alot, they do more per cpu cycle hence why a
    little slower clock speed is still faster.
     
  17. Duane R

    Duane R Second Unit

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    Upcoming Conroe Pricing:
    E6700 (2.67Ghz) $531
    E6600 (2.40Ghz) $315
    E6400 (2.13Ghz) $240
    E6300 (1.86Ghz) $210
    The 6600 and 6700 chips will have 4MB cache, while the 6300 and 6400 chips will have 2MB cache. I see a Conroe in my hands in July when they're released [​IMG]
     
  18. Ken Chui

    Ken Chui Supporting Actor

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    The 945 and 965 chipsets are Intel's own motherboard chips (northbridge and/or southbridge). The northbridge chip is the faster of the two and is usually responsible for handling communication and speed between the CPU, RAM and video; the southbridge takes care of the rest (PCI, DMA & IDE controllers, BIOS memory, etc.)

    Intel chipsets usually reside on Intel-based motherboards, whereas AMD mainboards will have offerings from nVidia (nForce), VIA, ATI and even AMD itself.
     
  19. Ken Chui

    Ken Chui Supporting Actor

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    None that I've encountered in my 10+ years of ownership and usage. Every PC I've bought or built on my own has been powered by an AMD processor.
     
  20. Ken Chan

    Ken Chan Producer

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    Cheaper perhaps. But who's ahead as far as faster or more efficient on a given month from now until the end of time?
     

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