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Thread: Calling all Hexites - suggestions for a ~£400-500 rig - with a few set points?

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    Calling all Hexites - suggestions for a ~£400-500 rig - with a few set points?

    I'd very much appreciate it if some knowledgeable bods can give me some recommendations on gear for my new machine. I've been out of the loop for the best part of four years now, my most recent PC (RIP) dates back to 2005, with only RAM and HDD upgrades since then.

    I have a few provisos in mind, but I don't think they're unreasonable... The machine will be running XP Pro - NOT Vista!, for hardware and personal reasons - and dualbooted with some flavour of Linux and OSX Leopard (Hackintosh baby! Finally I can use Logic at home as well as at University to do my coursework.) A mate of mine said he was pretty much forced to install Vista because he was sent the DX10 version of his card when he ordered - which ran like ass in XP. This is very undesireable for me, as having to use Vista day in day out on other machines is more than enough


    Many of my choices aren't made yet, but here's what I'm aiming for:

    Graphics card

    Make: preferably NVidia, I feel like I've run the course with ATi cards and they just don't match up (particularly when doing stuff like passing signal to HDTVs, and other related driver issues).
    Dual DVI is preferable, HDCP-compliant HDMI if there's one out there would be ace (but not essential).

    Performance: needs to be able to play games like CS:S at good framerates, and be able to handle games like Spore and BioShock 2 without rocking back and forward slowly while hiding in the corner.

    CPU

    Make: most definitely Intel. Aside from it smoothing the Hackintosh setup, I've again run the course with AMD chips, and they just seem to have been outstripped by Intel in the past five/six years. Now, here's a tricky one... The more I read about the Q6600 CPU, the more I see just how much of a powerhouse it is when compared with other chips. Is it really *that* good?! The most recent THG System Builder Marathon (their $625 Gaming PC article) recommends the E7300, so I'm doubly unsure. And I've also seen the Q9450 recommended by other THG users, which apparently runs cooler than the Q6600 and has more L2 cache, so I'm triply unsure.

    Mobo

    And of course, I need a decent mobo to pair the CPU up with... I'm also thinking about SLI as a potential future option for increasing 3D performance, and I've read that an 8800 series card will provide that kind of future upgrade path, so that sounds tasty. Is it worth it though?

    I'm so unsure of what make of mobo to buy - Asus? DFI? Abit? Is Gigabyte stuff good again? I had such trouble with an old nForce 3 mobo that I'm a bit scared of nvidia chipset mobos but again, if it's improved and makes a good system, then I'll give it another go I suppose. Gigabit ethernet is a must, handful of USB2 ports, firewire, PS/2 for my oldskool keyboard would be a nice bonus.

    I seriously need some help in this area! I've fallen so far out of step with current kit that I have absolutely no idea where to start.


    Another key concern for me is that I'd love to be able to play 1080p HD video (both from HD-DVDs using my xbox 360 HD-DVD drive, and from 1080p x264 MKVs). My laptop can handle 720p fine but fails horribly with 1080p and I neeeeed that 1080p capability! With a Q6600 and an 8800, would this kind of playback be readily achievable, or would it need something beefier than that?

    Given my budget (thinking initially around half a grand, with £100 or so breathing space max, but I can justify a price hike if it's totally worth it), I'm seeking that mystical 'all-round balance', but I'm not a mad overclocker and neither am I a mad hardcore 24/7 gamer. I just want decent enough game framerates and a raw performance boost for every day apps and audio work / graphics work


    Stuff that's either already decided on, or is far more flexible:

    Audio: my old SB Audigy 2 will do very nicely thanks, it works great with the kX Project drivers (7ms ASIO latency too)
    HDDs: I'll be buying some Seagate SATAs, the only make of drives that haven't blown up or died on me yet!
    Case: Lusting after the £180 Cooler Master, also lusting after Lian Lis but will probably end up buying the Antec 300
    RAM: ... Probably end up buying Crucial again, but I'm open to suggestions. (Hiper? OCZ?)
    Monitor: already have one Sammy, wouldn't mind a nice LG or other good panel which can run at more than 1280x800 to make the most of HD content and gaming
    PSU: will most definitely be another modular Enermax, the last one I bought has been rock solid... But why are some retailers just not stocking them at the moment?!
    kb & mouse: already got
    Optical drives: already have (Lite-On)


    So as you can see, that leaves me with the following components as undecided, but they are biggies:

    Mobo & CPU (and HSF...)
    RAM
    Graphics card (with SLI possibility?)
    Display



    My budget is flexible, and as I have virtually no useful knowledge to help me out with my forthcoming PC splurge, I'm relying on you guys to help a nerd out All useful people will be thanked through the rep system, of course! And also although I have an ebuyer business account, I'm more than happy to send my custom towards Scan if it's worth it financially. (or Aria, or Novatech, or Tekheads if it's worth it from a common sense standpoint...)

    Hopefully this will help other middle-of-the-road system builders in the forthcoming new year who have a bit more cash than they'd usually have, but can't afford a crazy expensive setup
    I like ellipses...

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    Re: Calling all Hexites - suggestions for a ~£400-500 rig - with a few set points?

    I'm in the same position at the moment:

    E8400 or E5200 both can be clocked but the latter is a lot cheaper. (or q6600 ofc)
    MSI P43 Neo F
    Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro or Akasa 965, the latter is only a tenner
    Corsair Dominator PC8500 4GB or Standard Corsair TwinX
    Nvidia 9800GTX+ 512MB, or GTX 260 or GTX280 ofc

    I'm a bit vague with options but i was sticking to a budget also

    Display, a toughy i would just go for another Viewsonic, having owned one for 4 years it has not a single issue. The new VX series 22" can display upto 1920x1080, VGA compatible to 1680x1050, DVI compatible to 1920x1080 as far as i understand. Viewsonic Site
    Insert signature here.


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    Oh Crumbs.... Biscuit's Avatar
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    Re: Calling all Hexites - suggestions for a ~£400-500 rig - with a few set points?

    not so sure your allowed o discuss hackintosh over here mate :/

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    Re: Calling all Hexites - suggestions for a ~£400-500 rig - with a few set points?

    Ok, so disregard the bit about Hackintoshes. (fwiw, legally speaking, I of course have all relevant OSX licenses etc etc but never mind that). Let's just say that I'd want to ensure compatibility with OSX's preferred hardware configs, should Apple decide that they are going to officially release a standalone version of Leopard which anybody with a compatible PC can buy and install... And leave it at that.


    I have problems just telling the CPUs apart; for example, my laptop has a T2300 in (1.6GHz), but from my quick powergoogling all I can tell is that the Qs are later revisions and happily use less power per clock cycle. Oh, and Q meaning Quad. But are the Es mobile chips or something? And is there a consolidated resource for finding out which chips have which multipliers, etc? It's a bloody minefield


    Taking a quick glance at your sig too Biscuit, how much did your "main PC" rig cost to put together (and when did you do it?)
    I like ellipses...

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    Re: Calling all Hexites - suggestions for a ~£400-500 rig - with a few set points?

    With a Budget of £400-500 you may be disappointed if that needs to include a monitor you certainly will not be getting a Q9450.

    Basically as I see it your CPU options are (OC values will vary with each individual CPU and motherboard)

    Q6600 - £150 - Quadcore 2.4GHz 9x multi, will OC to 3.6GHZ
    E5200 - £65 - Duelcore 2.5GHz 12.5x multi low cache, but will clock ~4GHz
    E7300 - £95 - Duelcore 2.66GHz 10x multi slightly more cache will again clock high

    Motherboard wise I would steer clear of nVidea chipsets (so that counts out SLI) and look at the P45 anything by ASUS, Biostar, DFI and Gigabyte will be hard to go wrong with look to be spending ~£80-110.

    PSU - Very important the smart money is with Enermax either modular cabling MODU82+ 525w for £73 or fixed cables Pro82+ 525w £60 also consider the Seasonic S12 and M12 units if the Enermax are unavailable, Corsair are good but overpriced now.

    Graphics wise you are going to need to spend £150 on a 9800GTX+ (unless you find one on offer) to meat your needs ATI's options here really are better the 4850 only costs £120 with the same performance. If £150 is too much then the 9800GT is the next step down (but it is a big one) you can find them for ~£100.

    Memory any of the big manufacturers get 4GB will cost you £40 fro DDR2-800 you won't need anything faster for the CPU's I have listed above (especially not the E5200).

    CPU cooler, your basic option is an Akasa at ~£11 then the are a few things in the middle but for really great performance Thermalright Ultima 90, TRUE 120 and the Scythe Ninja are where its at they will set you back £30+ though.

    Display wise I think you will have to wait you need to be spending ~£150 to get something half decent in the 22" range I would probably stick with what you have at the moment and upgrade the monitor in the future.

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    Re: Calling all Hexites - suggestions for a ~£400-500 rig - with a few set points?

    Excellent, that's a fsckin ace response!

    Quote Originally Posted by Webby View Post
    With a Budget of £400-500 you may be disappointed if that needs to include a monitor you certainly will not be getting a Q9450.
    True, given the price of good 22" displays I think I'll hold off for the moment. Hopefully I'll have a couple hundred more coming in as the year goes on which I can allocate to PC spends, so second monitor will wait (already have a 19" which will be more than adequate).

    I'm fine with not getting the Q9450 if you don't think it's good value for money; I was under the impression that the 9450 was almost as expensive as two 6600s, but if the performance boost isn't worth it then I'll readily trash that idea! (Shame I didn't have the money to get this new PC when the 6600 was cheaper a while ago, judging from what I've read )

    Quote Originally Posted by Webby
    Basically as I see it your CPU options are (OC values will vary with each individual CPU and motherboard)

    Q6600 - £150 - Quadcore 2.4GHz 9x multi, will OC to 3.6GHZ
    E5200 - £65 - Duelcore 2.5GHz 12.5x multi low cache, but will clock ~4GHz
    E7300 - £95 - Duelcore 2.66GHz 10x multi slightly more cache will again clock high
    I'm guessing that the 5200 is slightly less overclockable due to its multiplier, right? (again, not really done anything approaching hardcore o/cing, and to be honest I'll probably run this machine at almost totally stock speeds given how lazy I am). Given this, would you agree that the E7300 is a better bet than the 6600?

    Quote Originally Posted by Webby
    Motherboard wise I would steer clear of nVidea chipsets (so that counts out SLI) and look at the P45 anything by ASUS, Biostar, DFI and Gigabyte will be hard to go wrong with look to be spending ~£80-110.
    Quote Originally Posted by Webby
    PSU - Very important the smart money is with Enermax...
    Absolutely! Went with Enermax last time and was thoroughly pleased with my choice, they're my preferred PSU now

    Quote Originally Posted by Webby
    Graphics wise you are going to need to spend £150 on a 9800GTX+ (unless you find one on offer) to meet your needs. ATI's options here really are better the 4850 only costs £120 with the same performance. If £150 is too much then the 9800GT is the next step down (but it is a big one) you can find them for ~£100.
    This does raise another interesting question I guess - is my loss of faith in ATi cards unjustified here? Are they really worth considering over a comparable NVidia card? My last ATi was an X1600XT and to be honest I wasn't overly impressed with its capabilities, plus I had problems with outputting correct HD resolutions to my housemate's HDTV via HDMI (and I then did some reading and found out that the NVidia cards 'just work' whereas the ATi cards need some real fiddling about to make them work). Are these problems fixed now?

    More importantly though, will buying an ATi card over an NVidia card result in better performance if an NVidia card would also force me to have to install Vista? Because I want to avoid installing Vista at all costs.

    Quote Originally Posted by Webby
    Memory any of the big manufacturers get 4GB will cost you £40 fro DDR2-800 you won't need anything faster for the CPU's I have listed above (especially not the E5200). (any brands handle overclocking better than others - would you recommend Hiper/OCZ/Crucial etc?)
    Your first lot of info was dead useful, I definitely understand the current crop of hardware a bit more now
    I like ellipses...

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    Senior Member Pob255's Avatar
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    Re: Calling all Hexites - suggestions for a ~£400-500 rig - with a few set points?

    You'll not have any problems with ati or nvidia if you stick with xp (in fact I don't know of any cards that have vista only drivers)
    Main thing that will effect you here is Linux if you use it, as I seem to remember that currently ati linux support is not very good.

    on a 19" monitor a 9800gt will not struggle and can cope if you go up to a larger 20-22" monitor later (1680x1050)

    One thing .o note here, 20-22" monitors are pritty much at there lowest prices atm and I don't think they'll drop by much any time soon.
    What we'll probably see is 24" and the new high res 23" monitors coming down in price,

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    Re: Calling all Hexites - suggestions for a ~£400-500 rig - with a few set points?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pob255 View Post
    You'll not have any problems with ati or nvidia if you stick with xp (in fact I don't know of any cards that have vista only drivers)
    Main thing that will effect you here is Linux if you use it, as I seem to remember that currently ati linux support is not very good.

    on a 19" monitor a 9800gt will not struggle and can cope if you go up to a larger 20-22" monitor later (1680x1050)

    One thing .o note here, 20-22" monitors are pritty much at there lowest prices atm and I don't think they'll drop by much any time soon.
    What we'll probably see is 24" and the new high res 23" monitors coming down in price,

    So, I shouldn't be too concerned about DirectX revision of the graphics card I get? The reason I keep hamming on about this is because my friend got an 8800GTS which was DX10 - and it ran awfully in XP, he said, eventually forcing him to install Vista... And after that it ran great. (He said he ordered the DX9 one but the retailer shipped the DX10 version). Is this a non-issue with the most recent nvidia drivers or should I consider sticking the Omega drivers on as soon as I slap the card into the machine?

    (and would people recommend any particular brand of nvidia or ati card, e.g. XFX, Sapphire, PNY, Inno3D etc?)
    I like ellipses...

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    Re: Calling all Hexites - suggestions for a ~£400-500 rig - with a few set points?

    Quote Originally Posted by ChristopherW View Post
    So, I shouldn't be too concerned about DirectX revision of the graphics card I get? The reason I keep hamming on about this is because my friend got an 8800GTS which was DX10 - and it ran awfully in XP, he said, eventually forcing him to install Vista... And after that it ran great. (He said he ordered the DX9 one but the retailer shipped the DX10 version). Is this a non-issue with the most recent nvidia drivers or should I consider sticking the Omega drivers on as soon as I slap the card into the machine?

    (and would people recommend any particular brand of nvidia or ati card, e.g. XFX, Sapphire, PNY, Inno3D etc?)
    There is no such thing as a DX9 version of a graphics card. Once ATi and nVidia hit 2xxx and 8xxx generation of their graphics card respectively, they became DX10 compatible which means that they can render DX10 graphics when used with Vista.

    Also I dont really understand why there would have been performance issue with your friends card when using under XP. Early tests showed that graphics performance was better under XP than Vista before SP1 was released.

    Both ATi and nVidia provide drivers for XP and Vista and they are both superb.

    I generally dont think there is that much of a difference between brands, I just look for the card that has the best warranty, although some people say to stay away from some of the cheaper brands like Inno 3D etc.

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    Re: Calling all Hexites - suggestions for a ~£400-500 rig - with a few set points?

    The are no DX9 or 10 versions of the cards they all support DX10 (and DX10.1 in the case of ATI) and are completely backwards compatible with DX9.

    My guess is your friend had messed up drivers the change of operating system solved this problem as tey were re-installed correctly and the issues went away. To reiterate the is no problem running a modern card under XP.

    As to ATI and nVidea until today ATI had the fasted single card in the shape of the 4870X2 the release of the nVidea GTX295 has put paid to that and taken the lead. If you want a handy performance ranking then check the sticky in the Graphics card section its not been updated for a couple of weeks (really must do that tomorrow) so the prices are a little off but the cards are still ranked in the right order. For your resolution I would be looking at the 8800/9800GT, HD4830 or the HD4850 current pricing on the 9800GTX+ makes it a not very attractive proposition unless you really want an nVidea card over ATI.

    Right onto processors, overclocking any of the three I listed is a piece of cake it could be done in an afternoon (plus some stability testing) I would say if the funds are there get the Q6600 (wait for it to be on offer will probably get it for £135 rather than £150) we can easily get it clocked to 3GHz which will be more than enough for gaming for a long time to come and games which are nicely multithreaded like FArcry2 will really thank you for it. If money is tighter I would probably say the value proposition is in the E5200 again you will easily see it hit 3GHz without even trying and personally I don't think the extra cache the E7300 offers is worth the extra £30.

    Hope that helps any more questions or if I missed something you wanted answered then ask away

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    Re: Calling all Hexites - suggestions for a ~£400-500 rig - with a few set points?

    Haha, and there was an Inno3D advert at the top of the page too

    Thanks to your helpful answer though, I'm now still unsure as to whether to go for the Q6600 or the 5700 I may have some questions for you in the future Got any idea if/when deals on the Q6600 might be coming about?

    Flippin 'eck. What a bunch of answers! I think I'll have to print this thread out and chew it over a bit to help make my mind up. In the middle ground I'm still completely mystified as to what constitutes the best value, so all advice is much appreciated
    Last edited by ChristopherW; 09-01-2009 at 12:35 AM.
    I like ellipses...

  16. #12
    radix lecti dave87's Avatar
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    Re: Calling all Hexites - suggestions for a ~£400-500 rig - with a few set points?

    ES is engineering sample, so I'm not surprised you are having trouble finding details on the multiplier....

  17. #13
    finding nemo staffsMike's Avatar
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      • Memory:
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    Re: Calling all Hexites - suggestions for a ~£400-500 rig - with a few set points?

    Although I wouldn't condone saving on the PSU. You can find good deals on OCZ modXstream's which if they are anything like the gameXstream i have they are very good and generally very quiet and efficient. I would rather have a seasonic/corsair or enermax though. The proe's make good sense, the modular are pretty expensive right now hence the OCZ suggestion

    On a tight budget i would opt for the pentium dual core E5200 ignoring the cache it's as good a clocker as any and plenty enough for gaming performance.

    Quad's are tricky ground right now due to pricing. I like the Q6600 for "budget" or Q9550 for performance. That said, on a budget, AMD Quad's do make a fair bit of sense even if they aren't the new phenom II's. The older phenom 9950 overclocks happily to 3.0GHz on any board you like really given it's unlocked multiplier.

  18. #14
    Senior Member Pob255's Avatar
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    Re: Calling all Hexites - suggestions for a ~£400-500 rig - with a few set points?

    Just a quick FYI the current macs run on ati cards, the older and crappy 2400, the top rannge ones use nvidia 8800GS which is half decent but a ways behind the 8800gt (or 9800gt which is basically the same card)
    they come with 20", 22" (both 1680x1050) or 24" (1920x1200) screens

    just for comparisons you understand not anything to do with installing cracked OSs

  19. #15
    Oh Crumbs.... Biscuit's Avatar
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    Re: Calling all Hexites - suggestions for a ~£400-500 rig - with a few set points?

    my rig isnt worth talking about lol

    May be selling some things soon which brings the point when building on a budget, you cud buy second hand.

  20. #16
    Senior Member Pob255's Avatar
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    Re: Calling all Hexites - suggestions for a ~£400-500 rig - with a few set points?

    Quote Originally Posted by Biscuit View Post
    my rig isnt worth talking about lol

    May be selling some things soon which brings the point when building on a budget, you cud buy second hand.
    apart from the older 8800gts 320mb card it's not that bad.
    I seem to remember that q6600 are around £90 2nd hand.

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