New Computer Advice

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Mincewind
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New Computer Advice

Postby Mincewind » Thu Dec 10, 2009 8:52 pm UTC

I'm considering buying a new computer (and I am BUYING it, as it stands I don't have the time to go building anything) and I've found a deal I quite like the look of, but I need a critique so I'm sure. It's from crystech.co.uk, a little known website selling custom built PCs. I have some friends who have bought computers from the site so I'm pretty sure it's legit, although at first I was a bit skeptical considering the excellent prices. Anyway, the (most important) specs of the machine I have my eye on are as follows:

CPU: AM2 Phenom Quad Core 9650
RAM: 4GB 667MHz DDR2
Hard Drive: 500gb SATA II 7200 RPM 16MB Cache HDD
Graphics Card: 512MB Geforce 9800GT
Operating System: Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit

There are other, less vital specs but these are the bare bones. Now I want this system to be able to run most games to a reasonably high quality, but I'm not the 'run Crysis in 4 windows on ultra high settings simultaneously' gamer. I just want to get smooth frame rates on more or less any game, on reasonably high settings. So what I'm asking is how good will this system be for that sort of task? Also I'm wondering whether I should go for the 64 or 34 bit version of Windows 7, since I've heard good things about 64 but I'm not aware of how limiting the down sides can be.

So if I could get some replies telling me if I should make any changes, I'd be grateful. Thanks.

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Endless Mike
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Re: New Computer Advice

Postby Endless Mike » Thu Dec 10, 2009 10:02 pm UTC

There's literally no reason to get 32-bit Windows 7 unless you're on 32-bit hardware, which you're not, or have some exceptionally obscure bit of hardware that doesn't have 64-bit drivers, which I doubt is the case.

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defaultusername
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Re: New Computer Advice

Postby defaultusername » Thu Dec 10, 2009 10:46 pm UTC

Except for the hard drive, those parts are all leaving the market or have already left it. The Phenom line has been replaced by the Phenom II (high end) and Athlon II (low end). The GeForce GT9000 family has been replaced by the GT200, and will soon be even more replaced by the GF100 family. DDR 2 memory isn't quite dead yet, but it will be within a year.
If this is primarily a workstation (for mainly writing purposes) and secondarily a gaming computer, it's a semi-decent choice. If it's meant to be a gaming rig, you're making a mistake. Right now you will be able to play most things with "reasonably high settings", but in a year, not so much. In three, you will be lucky if you can even start most new games.
Out of curiosity, how much are you paying for it? Does it come with peripherals (mouse, keyboard, screen, etc.)?
Last edited by defaultusername on Fri Dec 11, 2009 12:08 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
Because phlogiston.

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Axman
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Re: New Computer Advice

Postby Axman » Fri Dec 11, 2009 12:34 am UTC

I say a 9800 GTX/ GTS 250/ HD 4850 is the minimum bar for gaming these days. For a teeny bit more you can get an HD 5750 which will push pixels for well over a year. Remember, the 9800 series is more than a year and a half old now.

While most things won't prove much difference between DDR2 and DDR3, you should at the very least buy 800MHz memory or faster.

As stated, Phenom II FTW.

Since your machine will have more than 4GB of memory (including non-RAM hardware) you should only consider 64-bit operating systems.

I'm guessing you did the research for this machine a while back?

Mincewind
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Re: New Computer Advice

Postby Mincewind » Fri Dec 11, 2009 4:34 pm UTC

Endless Mike wrote:There's literally no reason to get 32-bit Windows 7 unless you're on 32-bit hardware, which you're not, or have some exceptionally obscure bit of hardware that doesn't have 64-bit drivers, which I doubt is the case.


Yes, this is as I thought, I was only really posting it for a second opinion, so thank you.

defaultusername wrote:Except for the hard drive, those parts are all leaving the market or have already left it. The Phenom line has been replaced by the Phenom II (high end) and Athlon II (low end). The GeForce GT9000 family has been replaced by the GT200, and will soon be even more replaced by the GF100 family. DDR 2 memory isn't quite dead yet, but it will be within a year.
If this is primarily a workstation (for mainly writing purposes) and secondarily a gaming computer, it's a semi-decent choice. If it's meant to be a gaming rig, you're making a mistake. Right now you will be able to play most things with "reasonably high settings", but in a year, not so much. In three, you will be lucky if you can even start most new games.
Out of curiosity, how much are you paying for it? Does it come with peripherals (mouse, keyboard, screen, etc.)?


Well, I wasn't entirely aware that the rig was that out of date, although I definitely had doubts about how good the processor would be. In terms of the processor, an upgrade to Phenom II x3 720 would cost me an addition £50, but perhaps it would be worth the money. As for the graphics card, I had no idea that it would not be adequate, since I'd always regarded the 9800 as a fairly capable card. But if I really need to upgrade then a 1GB GTS 250 DDR3 would be an additional £35 or so to the price. And I guess I do want a gaming rig, but only a fairly low end one that shouldn't have much trouble with the games I want to play, just reasonably good frame rates I guess.

The price of the rig I had originally planned on was around £425 ($690) without a monitor, but with all of the other essentials. If I make the upgrades I just suggested, then the price would rise to over £500 ($811)
Axman wrote:I say a 9800 GTX/ GTS 250/ HD 4850 is the minimum bar for gaming these days. For a teeny bit more you can get an HD 5750 which will push pixels for well over a year. Remember, the 9800 series is more than a year and a half old now.

While most things won't prove much difference between DDR2 and DDR3, you should at the very least buy 800MHz memory or faster.

As stated, Phenom II FTW.

Since your machine will have more than 4GB of memory (including non-RAM hardware) you should only consider 64-bit operating systems.

I'm guessing you did the research for this machine a while back?
.

Ahah, even more doubt! I guess I could be less stingy and upgrade to 800mhz for not too much, I just worry about prices stacking up. Also, would you say I really need to upgrade beyond Geforce 9800 GT, or could I survive otherwise?

Thanks for the feedback so far.

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Axman
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Re: New Computer Advice

Postby Axman » Fri Dec 11, 2009 4:54 pm UTC

In terms of getting the best gaming out of each rainbowed note, your spending order of importance is:

Video card > processor > RAM > motherboard.

So if the difference between getting a GTS 250 and an HD 5750 is that you get a mainstream motherboard or only 2GB of RAM, it'll be worth it. Although I don't know why that'd be the case, at least in the US, those cards cost the same.

Even if you're only moderately interested in gaming you should follow that spending scheme, because the truth is that you'll never, ever notice the a difference using less or slower RAM, a cheaper motherboard, and a budget processor outside of games or content creation.

Antec NSK-3480, GBP67 case w/ power supply
XFX HD 5770, GBP133 video card
Phenom II X2 550 Black (3.1GHz), GBP74 processor
2GB Corsair DDR2 800, GBP39 memory
Asus 785G, GBP56 motherboard
Samsung Spinpoint F3 500GB, GPB37 hard drive

Coming in at GBP406 including VAT. I went with a 5770 'cause Scan doesn't have reasonably priced 5750s in stock at the moment, although Aria does. If you think you can afford 4GB of RAM that wouldn't be terrible but also not entirely necessary. Come to think of it, I'd personally go with the 5750 and 4GB of memory. And a better heatsink will come in handy if you want to take advantage of the unlocked processor and the motherboard's overclocking options.

Mincewind
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Re: New Computer Advice

Postby Mincewind » Mon Dec 14, 2009 4:55 pm UTC

Out of interest, how good a processor is the Phenom x4 9650? Because if it's a badly outdated processor that won't play modern games for too long, I'd have to choose a different option. However if it's not a bad processor that can do it's job to a reasonable standard, then I could instead invest the money I would've spent on the processor on a better graphics card. So is it better to have a Phenom x4 9650 and a Geforce 260 or a a Phenom II x3 720 but only a Geforce 250? Now I would've thought that as long as the processor is of a certain standard, I should throw the rest of my money into getting the best possible graphics card, but I'm not entirely sure if this is true.

Also, is there any real difference between 667 and 800mhz RAM? I'm guessing it's just response time, but I'm unaware of how much difference it makes.

Again, thanks for all advice.

EDIT: If anyone's interested the PSU for the computer is 500w.

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Axman
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Re: New Computer Advice

Postby Axman » Mon Dec 14, 2009 6:59 pm UTC

With regards to gaming, clock speed is vastly more important than core count and cache, and processors with on-die memory controllers are sensitive to memory speeds, but again, the most, most, most determinative component is the video card.

Now, Phenom II is clock-for-clock faster than Phenom, let's just say it's an across-the-board 10%. What that means is a 2.1GHz Phenom II processor will outpace a 2.3GHz Phenom. For games, which are largely optimized for one, and sometimes two cores, and almost never more, your Phenom x4 9650 would have to be clocked at 3400MHz, or 147% of its stock speed, to perform as well as that Phenom II X2 550, which itself is unlocked and can likely hit 3.4-3.8GHz without even twerking the voltage. Also, the 550 is an "unlockable quad", meaning that if you enable ACC in the BIOS, one or two more cores may become available, instantly giving you the equivalent of, well, there never was a Phenom X4 processor that fast.

And let's assume that you don't overclock the processor and none of the hidden cores are unlockable; even for multi-threaded applications, you're getting 6.2GHz of Phenom II power, which is only marginally surpassed by the 8.1 equivalent GHz of Phenom processing power--assuming that your multi-threaded applications scale linearly across four cores.

So yeah, the 9650 is kinda crap. Four cores are overrated.

The money you save going dual-core will get you faster memory but most importantly, a much better video card, such as a GTX 260-216 or a 5770, and that will make a serious difference with gaming. And if you're at all interested in longevity, DX11 and Direct Compute will be more important than the current slight performance advantage of the GTX 260-216, because it's a software optimization problem; already the initial gap at launch has more than halved, and it will continue to drop until the 5770 reaches or surpasses parity with the 4870 and 260-216.

As far as the memory, the 60% speed boost will probably yield a tangible performance benefit in gaming. I'd say in the 10-15% FPS range. With Core 2 that wasn't as important because of the huge latency between the controller and the processor, but on-die memory controllers are sensitive to both latency as well as speed. The only reason to not spend on faster RAM is that the price doesn't scale with performance like it does with GPUs or even CPUs. You can spend a fuckload on fast ram and the differences will be marginal--at the high end. But the difference at the low end are remarkable, especially when you're only talking a two pound markup between 4GB of DDR2 PC2-5300 and 8500. And they're at the same latency, which means its pure bandwith without any tradeoffs.

Mincewind
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Re: New Computer Advice

Postby Mincewind » Mon Dec 14, 2009 8:01 pm UTC

The site I'm using, crystech.co.uk, doesn't let me have the option of downgrading to a phenom II x2. So what I need to know is, is the Phenom x4 9650 better than the alternative you suggested? If it is, I'll be happy in not needing to change anything, however if it isn't good enough for modern gaming I'll need to rethink.

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Axman
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Re: New Computer Advice

Postby Axman » Mon Dec 14, 2009 8:20 pm UTC

Oh, I assumed you were building this computer yourself.

So... why don't you build a computer yourself? It's like really expensive Lego that only goes together one way. I can build a computer from parts in less than an hour, usually, unless the case is wonky or the CPU heatsink is stubborn. It takes longer to get Windows installed along with all the right software. All the individual parts are warrantied, if support's what you're concerned with. The actual building is really quite easy.

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Endless Mike
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Re: New Computer Advice

Postby Endless Mike » Mon Dec 14, 2009 9:49 pm UTC

An hour?? Wow. I think my best is four hours to Windows booting, although I've done it a total of two times so I don't have anywhere the experience you certainly do. In either case, it's not like it takes a long time.

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Axman
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Re: New Computer Advice

Postby Axman » Mon Dec 14, 2009 10:47 pm UTC

Oh no, I just meant assembly. Install takes another two or three hours, unless you're working from an image. Which I used to do back in the day, now, bleh, it's easier to uninstall drivers.

You want a sign that Vista was better than XP? Install ATI drivers, uninstall them, install NVIDIA drivers. Now uninstall the NVIDIA drivers and try to boot. I actually kept separate hard drives for the two companies' hardware for the benching rig, and one master hard drive with an image of a gold install without any display drivers but all the games. Anything less was asking for the sky to fall.

And for the record, I fucking hate doing case reviews. It's a thousand words of JUST LOOK AT THE DAMN PHOTOS.

But on-topic, before I do a clean install, I always go and download the drivers and software to a thumb drive before I even start the build.

Install goes like this:

Windows (with Windows update disabled)
Chipset driver, reset
Miscellaneous drivers, (audio, wireless, whatever) reset
Video driver, (if not bundled with the chipset installer) reset
Enable Windows Update, reset as mandated
Then other software. I fully approve of Ninite for quick, painless app installation.


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