Right, I'm giving PC gaming one last go


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ilmaestro
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Having decided that I do really want to play Sins of a Solar Empire (and other stuff like Crysis and STALKER), I'm thinking of buying a new PC in three weeks' time. So, it needs to be able to run Crysis pretty well, and be nice and upgradeable so that next time I don't have to buy a whole new machine (like I have the last twice).

Is this an especially bad time to be buying a new PC for any reasons? If not, what components am I looking for, and where should I be looking to shop?
#1 at 21:04:10 - 07/04/2008
Kay
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It's an excellent time to get a PC, as you don't have to break the bank to get a great spec nowadays. I'm in the process of ordering one myself.

How much are you looking to spend?

K
#2 at 21:12:57 - 07/04/2008
ilmaestro
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Ideally around the 750-800 mark, but I'd go higher if there was obvious benefit.
#3 at 21:22:41 - 07/04/2008
Kay
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That's more than enough.

Take a look at this website - it's where I'm getting my PC from. They have some good gaming systems there, and they can also build a spec for you from scratch.

Some quick suggestions:

CPU: Go for Intel - Q6600 (quad-core) or E8400 (dual-core) are great for the price. Or, if you want to spend a little extra, you can go for the new Penryn Quad-core Q9300/ Q9450.

Graphics card: The nVidia 8800GTS 512MB will serve you fine. The newer 9800GTX is essentially just an overclocked version of that card, and not worth spending extra on.

RAM: 4GB, 800mhz from any of the reputable companies - Geil, Corsair, OCZ, Kingston.

Motherboard: A cheap Intel P35 will do you fine. X38/X48s are slightly newer and more expensive, but only really worth it if you're heavily into overclocking and stuff.

You'll also need a good 500-600W PSU from a reputable company (Antec, Seasonic and Corsair are all good).

K
#4 at 21:40:58 - 07/04/2008
ilmaestro
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Oh, nice, I work literally 10 minutes from where they're based so I might have a look at that. :)
#5 at 21:53:29 - 07/04/2008
strangeed
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Oooh, they look pretty good. Ah well, budget says not this year. I'd be skinned a live. 'Why do you need a PC? You have a laptop'. Yes dear.
#6 at 11:17:13 - 08/04/2008
ilmaestro
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Kay said:
Motherboard: A cheap Intel P35 will do you fine. X38/X48s are slightly newer and more expensive, but only really worth it if you're heavily into overclocking and stuff.

Just looking at this, is the P35 "future proof" enough?
#7 at 16:05:25 - 08/04/2008
Kay
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The P35s are compatible with the new 45nm Intel CPUs, so yeah, they should be fine for upgrades for a while I reckon.

The ASUS P5K Pro seems to be a great board, and is only around 80 anyway - so you can always just replace it in a few years when it's time for a major upgrade, and if the board doesn't support whatever new CPUs are out at that time.

K
#8 at 16:37:43 - 08/04/2008
Trip SkyWay
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Having just got my new pc a month ago, I've started wondering why it took me so long to come back to PC gaming (the last game being Warcraft3). Some of the stuff is just awesome, Civ 4 and Company of Heroes are particularly ace.
#9 at 10:30:57 - 09/04/2008
ilmaestro
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Looking at pre-made systems, Chillblast's Fusion series seems to be quite popular. Customizing one of their systems can get:

Q6600 @ 3.2 GHz
Asus P5K
4GB 800MHz RAM
8800 GTS 512MB
320GB HDD
Thermaltake 500W PSU
Vista

for 800 including VAT.

How does that sound?

edit: Best (I think) I can work from Komplett's customizations:

Q6600
P5K
4GB 800MHz RAM
8800 GTS 512MB
500GB HDD
OCZ 600W PSU
No OS

685 inc. VAT

And DinoPC:

Q6600
Asus P5N-D (nForce 750i)
4GB 800MHz RAM
8800 GTS 512MB
500GB HDD
Thermaltake 750W PSU
Vista

755 inc. VAT
#10 at 22:59:31 - 11/04/2008
Kay
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That Komplett one looks like a great deal. Vista should only be another 65 or so. Though all of them are pretty decent to be honest.

Any info on the CPU cooler though? With that spec + CPU a decent one is a must. Also, make sure they don't skimp on the case - has to have plenty of cooling, and check if there's enough drives bays + space for future upgrades.

K
#11 at 14:30:05 - 14/04/2008
peej
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Worth mentioning that if you know anyone who works at a Uni (not me, I've used up all my good graces with OUCS) they can get Vista Premium Professional for 20 quid through Microsoft's educational deal.

So sweet talk 'em and get 'em to go nab you a copy.
#12 at 16:36:23 - 14/04/2008
Rhythm
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Got any info about that, Peej? My missus works in a uni and I wouldn't mind Vista
#13 at 17:38:21 - 14/04/2008
peej
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If she works in any UK Uni, she should be able to purchase a Select 6 version of Vista for 20 quid. For staff, you get a licence that you can use with one copy at work, and an additional copy at home for "work purposes"

requirements

Caltech's select 6 agreement

If her Uni doesn't have an agreement like this, they must've really pissed Microsoft off.
#14 at 18:11:47 - 14/04/2008
Kay
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Is that for the multi-user licence copies that ship with education PCs? Because I work at a uni, and I can easily get one of those (Business Edition) for nowt.

K
#15 at 18:31:28 - 14/04/2008
ilmaestro
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Kay said:That Komplett one looks like a great deal. Vista should only be another 65 or so. Though all of them are pretty decent to be honest.

Any info on the CPU cooler though? With that spec + CPU a decent one is a must. Also, make sure they don't skimp on the case - has to have plenty of cooling, and check if there's enough drives bays + space for future upgrades.

K

Right, I'll bear that in mind. What did you order from that awd-it place, and how much did it come to, if you don't mind me asking?
#16 at 20:00:10 - 14/04/2008
Kay
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Long post alert...

My spec is very similar to the ones you're looking at - haven't actually ordered it yet though, because I've spent a ridiculous amount of time researching and tweaking the specs, as well as being busy with other things.

I was actually all set to order it today, but the Lian-Li case I wanted is currently out of stock... so I might have to wait a few more days. This is what I'm looking to get:

Lian-Li PC-60B Plus II case
ASUS P5K Pro
Q6600 CPU
XFX 8800GTS 512
Patriot Viper Extreme PC2-8500 (1066mhz) RAM
Samsung Spinpoint 500GB HDD
Corsair HX 620W PSU
Scythe Mine CPU cooler
Sony Lightscribe DVD-RW
Vista Home Premium 64-bit

That, with an extra DVD-ROM drive and the 15 for insured delivery, comes up to just over 800. Though that's without the sound card, as I'll be buying an external firewire interface separately - but the onboard will be enough for gaming purposes.

Basically I chose the exact spec I wanted using components from the website (and some that weren't there), and they'll build it for me free of charge. They'll even overclock the Q6600 (and test it of course). However, there's new deals and price drops happening every week, and I've just been going for whatever's the best value - so it might change again slightly by the time the cases are back in stock. And all the parts will come with their own warranty (lifetime for some), with a year for the PC itself.

It's true that I might be able to get the individual components separately for slightly cheaper if I was to shop around - but then I'd have to build it myself. More than anything else though, I recommend that place for the customer service. The poor guy who owns it must be sick and tired of me by now, the amount of times I've rang him up on his mobile to enquire and ask advice. But he's extremely friendly, and was always willing to help with whatever query I had - even when I asked him to see if he could get components that aren't on the website. I reckon it'll be worth giving him a ring and seeing what he can come up with, before you order from anywhere else.

Hope that helps. :)

K
#17 at 21:48:34 - 14/04/2008
ilmaestro
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Wow, that sounds awesome. I'll definitely get in touch with them for a chat to see what they could sort me out with.
#18 at 02:24:16 - 15/04/2008
ilmaestro
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Kay, you're a legend. Spoke to that company, think I'm definitely going to order from there. I'm going to wait for them to get the Q9450 in, though.

How much benefit would I see from an extra 45 for an 8800 GTX over the GTS? And, more to the point, would I see a real difference between the two if I picked up a second one (of whichever I buy, obviously) somewhere down the line?
#19 at 16:50:43 - 16/04/2008
Kay
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The two cards are actually very similar - the 8800GTX only has a real advantage when playing at really high resolutions, so it depends on how big your monitor is. Otherwise it's better to go for the 8800GTS, as it's smaller, runs cooler and based on the latest GPU core.

I'll be using a 17" CRT, so the 8800GTS will be fine. Especially when you have prices like this. That's the XXX (pre-overclocked) version of that card, the fastest 8800GTS available, usually around 200 in most places - plus it comes bundled with Company of Heroes! The 8800GTX is only 26 more there too if you fancy going for that.

The case I want won't be in stock until next week, so I can't order mine just yet... :(

Edit: Oh yeah, as for SLI - not really worth it imo. Apparently there's a 30-40% gain at the most. It's actually more worthwhile to replace the card completely in the future, then try to complement it with the same one.

One more thing - if you're not planning on SLI, don't get an SLI board. Stick with an Intel (P35, X38, X48 etc), mainly because the nVidia boards are not very good with quad-core CPUs from what I've heard.

K
#20 at 17:30:08 - 16/04/2008
ilmaestro
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Hmm... but I quite like the idea of SLI. The way I figure it, even if it's 30-40% gain, it can't be that far off the improved performance you'd see out of a new card (bar paying 350+ or so) and it would come in at a much lower price.

I'll have a think about it, though, while I wait to see what's happening with those new CPUs. Cheers again.
#21 at 18:12:54 - 16/04/2008
Kay
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No, what I meant was - if you have the money and want to have an SLI setup now, then go for it.

If, however, you're planning on getting one card now and then doing SLI with another one a few months from now, then it might not be worth it - mainly because new cards are coming out all the time, and a single new card at that point would be more beneficial than two old cards. Think about it - what's better, two old cards effectively stuck together, or one more advanced card, with better shaders, higher clock speed and the latest GPU?

For example, the 9900 cards are due in July, and the new GT200 GPU cores are due later on in the year. The latter especially should, in theory, be significantly more powerful than any existing card. And that new card won't necessarily cost you 350 as well, there's always a range in a series.

By the way, when I said 30-40% gain I meant at most. I seem to remember reading somewhere that some games, like Crysis, have much less of a benefit. But if have extra money to spend (and you must have, if you're going for the Q9450) then sure, go ahead. :)

K
#22 at 18:41:35 - 16/04/2008
ilmaestro
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Hmm, now I'm thinking. ^_^

I'd always assumed that the main benefit of SLI was putting a second card in there a few months later, and saving 100 or so on buying a new card (even if you went for a mid-range card from the next series when they first appear).

On the CPU note, I have to admit that I was going for the Q9450 purely because it turns out that I do have about an extra 100 or so to play with, and I liked the idea of a shiny new CPU that would hopefully have a year or more extra future-proofing in it. If they don't have any in stock on Monday, or more likely if there's going to be a significant delay past Monday, I'll probably switch that to a dual core E8400 for now, and look to buy a quad core a little way down the line.

edit: in fact, if I went with the E8400 and the 8800GTS I'd be saving 140 or so, which is very tempting. Or I could use that for a second GTS...

edit2: This is really frying my brains. Somewhere down the line I want a new spiffy monitor, and I'm sure then I'd like the extra gubbins to run in higher resolutions. But that could be anything from 2 to 6 to even more months away... I need a rest.
#23 at 19:40:21 - 16/04/2008
ilmaestro
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Not long ago took my new PC off the bloke who very kindly hand-delivered it to me on his way home from work. As an attempt at balancing price, performance and whether to spend more money now or more money later I ended up with the E8400, Asus P5N-D, 4 gigs of Corsair PC-6400 RAM and the 8800 GTS.

From reading around on the web I feel moderately confident about getting the FSB up to 1600MHz and running the CPU @ 3.6GHz, but the important thing for me was just to get the basics in for now as I didn't have any other systems that I could have upgraded in the future (having basically given them away to "the family" - no, not the Corleones - and buying a new system each time).

Cheers again, Kay, an overall pleasant buying experience from awd combining most of the benefits I would have been looking for from both a self-build and a pre-built system.
#24 at 00:32:09 - 25/04/2008
Trip SkyWay
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Nice one! Let me know your Steam ID so I can have a friend.

Actually is there a Steam ID thread.

/goes to look.
#25 at 04:14:23 - 25/04/2008
ilmaestro
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Yeah, I need a list of things to do and get (Steam account etc). I *should* resist the temptation to set it up when I get back home, especially as I still need to get a DVI-HDMI cable to get anything above 1366x768, and get some sleep in first but that would require some very good self control.
#26 at 04:50:02 - 25/04/2008
Trip SkyWay
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Heh, set it up!
#27 at 04:57:24 - 25/04/2008
ilmaestro
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Well, it looks like I might be home a little earlier than I might have been so I could have a little look. ^_^
#28 at 05:16:06 - 25/04/2008
Kay
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Nice one ilmaestro. Was it Alex who you spoke to + got the PC from?

He hasn't got back to me about the case yet, so I'm assuming it's still out of stock. I may end up having to postpone my purchase though, thanks to the extension that's being done on my house. Work started this week, so things are a bit cluttered and messy there at the moment. I knew this was coming of course, but I didn't think it would start this soon (and that it would take so long for me to actually choose and buy a PC).

I'm going to give it a few more days, if the case isn't in stock by then I'll just leave it for a few months. It's not like I'm going to get much of a chance to play PC games over the summer anyway. Still a bugger though, I wanted my shiny new gadget now. :(

Did you go for the XFX 8800GTS by the way? That's out of stock too now... :/

K
#29 at 13:07:57 - 25/04/2008
ilmaestro
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Yeah, it was Alex.

That was the video card I ordered, yeah, I feel a bit bad now if it means you not being able to get it or having to wait a while longer. :(

So far had a bit of a bash on Dark Messiah, which seems as much fun as I thought it might be (I nearly upgraded my old PC however long ago it was to play this) and had a pop on Crysis. The first level has run very nicely with all settings on high @ 1600x900, but I'll have to leave fiddling with it to see what the max settings I can run it at playably are for another day.
#30 at 23:34:49 - 25/04/2008

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