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Spring 2006: Recommended System Parts

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masterwoot

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Joined
Mar 5, 2004
Location
47.6358 N, 117.2528 W
Since many of my friends have been inquiring of late about building comps or systems, I thought I'd throw together this guide.

I'm aiming here for anyone who's not built in the last couple years (or ever), so I'll try to be helpful and relatively brief. For those who need it, the detailed "what's the best ______ (ram/cpu/etc) for my comp" thread is usually stickied in each of the main forum areas.



When I think of a system, I think of the following 12:

  1. case
  2. power supply
  3. motherboard
  4. processor
  5. ram
  6. gfx card
  7. hard drive
  8. optical drive
  9. operating system
  10. keyboard/mouse
  11. monitor
  12. speakers/headphones

Preferences, pocketbooks, needs, and desires vary greatly from person to person. I'll try to keep this guide bent toward the gamer with various comments for other user types.

I'll reference prices at Newegg.com for simplicity. Of course you should shop around and buy from reputable businesses. :)
Pricewatch and Froogle are great for comparative pricing while ResellerRatings is a great tool for checking credibility of a store.




1. Case


There are soooo many cases to choose from. Here are some of the many good ones out there.

Antec Superlanboy for light aluminum ease of transport.
Antec Sonata II for a clean look and a good deal as it comes with a SmartPower 2.0 450W power supply.
Lian-Li cases for great aluminum cases with style. Be prepared to pay for the good quality you'll get. :)

Of course, you'll likely want a mid-tower unless you have special interests in water cooling or mega-stacks of hard drives for a server or your mondo mp3 collection.

Also, pay attention to the size of the case fans. The 120mm fans are soooo nice and quiet compared to the 80mm's.


2. Power Supply


You should definitely put the money here into a good, quality power supply. Skimp on some cheap unit and you'll regret it. DON'T SKIMP HERE!!!

Antec has been making some very quality power supplies.
FSP Group (Fortron Source) makes quality power supplies for a good price.
Enermax stands out as another good option.
PC Power & Cooling for the best. Again, you'll have to pay for the best.

Don't forget that your power supply should be 24-pin capable.
You'll definitely want to buy at least 480 Watt with more power needed if you're gonna go SLI or Crossfire on your video cards.

My picks:
FSP Group's AX500-A for about $90 or
Antec's TruepowerIII for around $95.
Of course FSP Group's FX700 is very tempting at $177.

3. Motherboard


Currently I believe the best performance per dollar and best performance title goes to AMD (currently). So for now I'll recommend for an AMD setup. Perhaps I'll edit later to include some Intel recommendations.

Socket 939 holds the crown for now. AMD will release their AM2 later this year as a DDR2 route, but this is the "Spring 2006" guide. :)

ASUS for solid, dependable performance.
MSI for another good motherboard option.
DFI for loads of overclocking options. Many hold that DFI makes "the fastest and best boards."

I'd definitely recommend Nvidia's NF4-Ultra or NF4-SLI chipset.

Here are my picks: DFI LANPARTY UT nF4 Ultra-D, DFI LANPARTY UT nF4 SLI-DR Expert, ASUS A8N-SLI, or the MSI K8N Neo4 Platinum


Of course you can always find the deluxe version in these boards for all the bells and whistles.



4. Processor


AMD's socket 939 processors simply rock. :)

Higher clock speeds, greater L2 cache, and dual cores will yield higher performances and demand more change from your pocketbook. :)

1MB L2 cache will yield roughly a 10% gain for you over a 512KB cache at the same clock speed. So a 2.0GHz
1MB L2 cache and a 2.2GHz 512KB L2 cache cpu will be close in performance. (I'd grab the 1MB cache personally.)

Dual or single core? If you are going to game your brains out, then go for the highest Ghz and L2 cache you can afford. The sweet advantage of a dual processor only comes into play when you're doing things that can take advantage of two processors. Currently, games don't utilize the both processors in a dual core cpu. So in short, spend the $$ first to get more Ghz and more L2 cache, then grab the second core. Ideally, you'd have the money for a dual core (2x1MB L2 cache) 2.4 ghz. However, you'll likely have to overclock to get that or be content with something less.


Three good choices depending on your pocketbook:
Venice 3200+ single core with 512KB L2 cache, stock @ 2.0GHz for about $155.
San Diego 3700+ single core with 1MB L2 cache, stock @ 2.2GHz for about $215.
Toledo X2 4400+ dual core each with 1MB L2 cache, stock @ 2.2GHz for about $465.

Grab the equivalent in an Opteron core for a more likely chance at better overclocks. However, the prices on Opteron cores have exceeded their non-server designated counterparts.

NOTE: The Opteron 165 and 170 are good choices for dual core each with 1MB L2 cache. The 165 runs stock at 1.8 Ghz w/ a mulitplier of 9 and the 170 runs stock at 2.0 Ghz w/ a multiplier of 10. I'd grab the 170 since that multiplier of 10 makes overclocking much nicer. :)

You can grab an Opteron 170 for about $400.


5. Ram


Although you could go with 1GB (2x512MB) to handle most gaming, I'd recommend 2GB (2x1GB) if you're building a new system. You'll only "need" PC3200 (DDR 400) even for some mild overclocking. If you want to really crank your OC, then faster ram 'tis the way to go. :)

OCZ has won my heart for ram. SOLID RAM. Great support. Great warrantees.
Corsair has always stood strong.
Crucial also has been true and steady. You've got to love those Ballistix!!
G.Skill has been a relatively newcomer to the ram world and produces great ram at great prices.
Mushkin grabs high marks also for their sweet ram--in particular the Redline series--for nice overclocking.


Sweet deals like OCZ Gold Edition 2GB (2 x 1GB) DDR 500 (PC 4000) for $205 ($165 after MIR) seem to come along quite often of late. So keep your eyes peeled.

My pick:
G.Skill's Extreme DDR 500 (PC4000) USU2's for $162!!!



6. Graphics card


This single part alone will make or break your gaming as well as your bank account. Reviews like this one at Tom's hardware or guides like this one can be very helpful. Read up for your own conclusion. :)

My recommendation:

Geforce 6600GT for around $130
Radeon X800GTO2. It's got a great record with tons of help here in the forumns. Good deal for around $150.
Radeon X850XT for around $160
Geforce 7600GT for around $195
Radeon X1800XT for around $300 (or Geforce 7900GT if you'd rather have Nvidia)
Radeon X1900XT for around $435

If you're thinking 2 graphics cards (SLI for Nvidia or Crossfire for ATI), then make sure you have the motherboard and cash to support it.
(If you have the "need" to spend $1100, then grab 2 Nvidia's Geforce 7900GTX cards.)


7. Hard drive

Definitely grab a 3.0Gb/sec SATA drive or a "Raptor" from Western Digital. The raptors do require the bucks though.

Seagate's Barracuda 7200.9 series are fabulous.
Personally, I can't think of any other drive than Western Digital's 250GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive that you can get for under $100

You'll likely have an idea already of how much space you'll need. I'd recommend two drives for anyone needing or wanting some "backup" space.

8. Optical drive
DVD burner for certain. No doubt about it.
Grab the outstanding NEC ND-3550A for under $40



9. Operating system

If you're even wondering, then you should get Windows XP home and save the money. Of course Windows XP Pro does have more options for networking--yet you'd have known that already if you really need it.

If you're wondering about Linux, then you shouldn't put it on this new build. Put it on an older comp for your first Linux go 'round. Of course, those of you who already know/use Linux will have already made up your mind on this one. :)


10. Keyboard/mouse

Logitech has won my support over and over again.

Grab a Logitech MX 5000 if you have the $115 laying around.

Definitely get a laser mouse! Logitech's G5 Laser for usb corded and Logitech's MX1000 or their G7 for cordless.

For keyboards, it's all your pleasure.
The blue or red backlit "eclipse" keyboard from Saitek makes for a sweet setup.



11. Monitor

LCD. LCD. LCD. Got that?
With prices as they are, I can't imagine why you wouldn't go with a 19" LCD.

BENQ and Sceptre both have been solid and well priced LCD's for me. There are many other quality LCD manufacturers out there. Be sure to check out other gamer's experiences with LCDs.

Also, be sure to read up on ViewSonic's LCD vs CRT rundown where they discuss tons of issues. (Click on the LCD advantages and CRT advantages links.) Note the "total cost of ownership" and the "multiple resolutions" sections.

My pick goes to Sceptre's X9g-Naga V Black 19" 8ms LCD Monitor for about $255.
Of course if you have the cash to slap down for a widescreen 24" LCD, then grab the Dell 2405FPW.



12. Speakers/headphones

You audio freaks already know what's best. For everyone else, I'll keep it simple.

Simple and good sound: Logitech X-230 32 Watts 2.1 Speakers for about $40.
Good surround sound:Logitech X-530 70 Watts 5.1 Speaker for around $70.

Headphones: grab a headset (mic included) like Sennheiser's PC 150 for about $47.



_______________________________________

Ok, here are a few recommended systems:

Valuewoot
  1. Antec Sonata II case
  2. (Antec's Smartpower2 450W power supply included with case)
  3. ASUS A8N-SLI motherboard (or DFI's LANPARTY UT nF4 Ultra-D if you want to really overclock)
  4. AMD Venice 3200+ processor
  5. 1GB (1x512MB) Corsair ValueSelect DDR 400 (PC3200)
  6. XFX Geforce 6600GT graphics card
  7. Western Digital's 250GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive
  8. NEC ND-3550A DVD burner
  9. Windows XP home
  10. Logitech basic keyboard and Logitech's MX518 mouse (both corded)
  11. BenQ's T903 Black 19" 16ms LCD
  12. Sennheiser's PC 150 headphones
Total price $1,095.79 before shipping. (Saved as ValueWootS06 under Newegg's public wishlists.)​

Wootgamer Spring '06
  1. Antec Superlanboy
  2. Fortron-Sparkle's AX500-A 500W power supply
  3. ASUS A8N-SLI motherboard (or DFI's LANPARTY UT nF4 Ultra-D if you want to really overclock)
  4. AMD San Diego 3700+ processor
  5. 2GB (2x1GB) G.Skill's Extreme DDR 500 (PC4000) USU2's
  6. Sapphire Radeon X850XT graphics card
  7. Western Digital's 250GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive
  8. NEC ND-3550A DVD burner
  9. Windows XP home
  10. Saitek Eclipse keyboard (blue) and Logitech G5 laser mouse (both USB corded)
  11. Sceptre's X9g-Naga V Black 19" 8ms LCD
  12. Sennheiser's PC 150 headphones
Total price $1,422.75 before shipping. (Saved as WootgamerS06 under Newegg's public wishlists.)​


Megawoot

  1. Lian Li PC-V1000APlus II Silver or Black Aluminum ATX Mid Tower Computer Case.
  2. Fortron-Sparkle's AX500-A 500W power supply or bump to their 600W version.
  3. DFI's LANPARTY UT nF4 Ultra-D
  4. AMD Athlon 64 X2 4400+ Toledo processor
  5. OCZ Platinum Edition 2GB (2 x 1GB) DDR 500 (PC 4000) ram or Mushkin eXtreme Performance (REDLINES!!) 2GB (2 x 1GB) DDR 500 (PC 4000)
  6. Sapphire Radeon X1900XT graphics card
  7. Western Digital's 74GB Raptor AND Western Digital's 250GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive
  8. NEC ND-3550A DVD burner
  9. Windows XP Pro
  10. Logitech's MX 5000 USB Bluetooth Wireless mouse/keyboard combo
  11. Sceptre's X9g-Naga V Black 19" 8ms LCD
  12. Logitech's X-530 70 Watts 5.1 Speakers AND Sennheiser's PC 150 headphones
Total price $2,494.87 before shipping. (Saved as MegawootS06 under Newegg's public wishlists.)​


ExtremeWoot
coming soon....​


Prices will drop. New hardware will come out. New guides will need to be written.

For now, I hope this helps some of you with the "what do I get?" questions.

Good luck!



MW
 
Last edited:

Soichiro

Member
Joined
Sep 24, 2005
Location
Indianapolis
Nice job, but I think I'll add some things (mostly regarding Intel)

Motherboards:
For Intel, the Asus boards are the best you can get. Their P5WD2 series boards are supposedly (I've never used one, but I've read stuff in the Intel forums) very good for overclocking, and if you don't have that kind of cash, you can get a P5LD2.
Also, MSI has been known to have quality control issues in the past, so if you go with a MSI board, it's kind of like gambling. You might get a great board, or it might die in 2 weeks.

CPUs:
Intel's Pentium D 805 is THE cheapest dual core you can find, at around $150. It won't be the best performer, since at stock it only has 533 FSB (compared to 800 on the other Intel dual cores), but they have been known to reach 4 Ghz on so-so air.

Video Cards:
The 7900GT is so much faster than the X1800 it isn't even funny. Some people might claim the X1800 has better image quality, but if you can really notice the difference while you're gaming, congratulations, because I can't (with both cards on the same settings), so unless you're an ATI fanboy, go with the 7900GT. As for the most expensive graphics cards, the X1900XT is a very good card, but the 7900GTX can beat it slightly. However, the 7900GTX is about $100 more, so unless you're some sort of crazy benchmarker, the X1900 is king.
 

Cobalt

Member
Joined
Jul 31, 2005
Location
England
Just like to point out if you really want to save some cash (and have the space) get a decent 21" CRT. I've got a Hansol Mazellan900P wich is around 5 years old but looks way better at any resolution than my LCD. However if you can I'd advise an LCD simply cause they save a lot of space.

Good guide :D
 
OP
masterwoot

masterwoot

Member
Joined
Mar 5, 2004
Location
47.6358 N, 117.2528 W
Soichiro, thanks for the input!

Cobalt, yes CRT's are cheaper up front. I can't imagine ever going back though. :) You should try to do a side by side comparison of your 21" CRT and a newer 19" LCD and see what you like better. Also, check out ViewSonic's LCD vs CRT rundown. I'll add a couple of the CRT benefits and LCD benefits to the guide.

Thanks for the kudos on the guide--was glad to do it.
 

n0aH

Member
Joined
Mar 6, 2006
Location
Virginia, USA
GREAT GUIDE! This sums it all up and could help a LOT of people out when buying stuff for a new computer. You hit a lot of the best products right on, But you left out G.Skill and Munsins in the RAM section :(
 
OP
masterwoot

masterwoot

Member
Joined
Mar 5, 2004
Location
47.6358 N, 117.2528 W
GSkill and Mushkin are definitely my next two picks for ram manufacturers. (dreamily rocking back in chair and remembering many good nights with GSkill LE's cranking at 300+mhz)
 

speed bump

Member
Joined
May 11, 2004
Location
Montana tech Butte mt.
Decent guide.

If your going for 2x1gb OCZ probably isn't the best way to go for overclocking. Team group makes good stuff if you follow OPBs instructions @ XS. Other than that I like Mushkins PC4000 ram and the results its producing.

If you like multimedia on you computer the only way to go is with an ATI x1800/x1900 AIW.

Personally at the low end I think the x800GTO might be better and its about $15 cheaper but its been awhile since I compared them.

Finally if you want quiet to go with SATA II capable HDs I would reccomend samsungs spin point HDs I have Seagates, maxtors, and WDs and nothing is a quiet or cool as my samsung.
 
OP
masterwoot

masterwoot

Member
Joined
Mar 5, 2004
Location
47.6358 N, 117.2528 W
speed bump said:
Decent guide.

If your going for 2x1gb OCZ probably isn't the best way to go for overclocking. Team group makes good stuff if you follow OPBs instructions @ XS. Other than that I like Mushkins PC4000 ram and the results its producing.

If you like multimedia on you computer the only way to go is with an ATI x1800/x1900 AIW.

Personally at the low end I think the x800GTO might be better and its about $15 cheaper but its been awhile since I compared them.

Finally if you want quiet to go with SATA II capable HDs I would reccomend samsungs spin point HDs I have Seagates, maxtors, and WDs and nothing is a quiet or cool as my samsung.

Great points, speed bump!

Will edit to reflect...(added X800GTO2 and some more.)

Also to note:
3.0Gb/sec SATA is a type of SATA II, although not all SATA II drives are 3.0Gb/sec (link).
 

Quailane

Member
Joined
Oct 18, 2003
I'm sad you didn't mention OCZ power supplies. :(

Also, if a gamer doesn't want to spend money frivolously, the case isn't very important.
 

frenzy20

Member
Joined
Apr 5, 2005
Good guide.
A few things you forgot have been mentioned, such as the fact that intel has gotten better and are overclocking very well. I think they have finally caught up in price/performance mainly because of their cheaper dual cores(or double cores in Intel's case?). Video cards, the 850xt has dropped under $200, and the 7600gt is around there, the 7900gt is probably the best bet for $300. Memory, yes, do not forgot to incude G. Skill and Mushkin. Power supplies, the most recommended for high end systems are PSU's with large, single 12v rails, like the Silver Stone ST56ZF and the OCZ Power Stream 520w, Generally PC Power&Cooling, Antec, Enermax, and especially FSP make good power supplies. Cases...Cooler Master makes some of the best cases I've ever seen and are cheap compared to other options.
Wow, thats really mixed up, sorry.
 

mdcomp

Classic Administrator
Joined
Nov 23, 2001
Just wanted to pop in and let you know that I'm impressed. Nice work on the guide. I think it would be helpful if use the suggestions people have given you and add some of them into the guide. The more complete the guide, the better. This is an interesting idea, one I would like to see continued in the future.

Anyways, good work.
:)

Matt
 

Sliver

Member
Joined
Jul 1, 2004
Soichiro said:
Video Cards:
The 7900GT is so much faster than the X1800 it isn't even funny. Some people might claim the X1800 has better image quality, but if you can really notice the difference while you're gaming, congratulations, because I can't (with both cards on the same settings), so unless you're an ATI fanboy, go with the 7900GT. As for the most expensive graphics cards, the X1900XT is a very good card, but the 7900GTX can beat it slightly. However, the 7900GTX is about $100 more, so unless you're some sort of crazy benchmarker, the X1900 is king.

Exactly what's going on in the IQ department at Nvidia? Is the AA still messed up or have they fixed that?
 

Soichiro

Member
Joined
Sep 24, 2005
Location
Indianapolis
Sliver said:
Exactly what's going on in the IQ department at Nvidia? Is the AA still messed up or have they fixed that?
AFAIK the only real problem Nvidia is having is the inability to have AA and HDR on at the same time (ATI cards can have both active from what I've heard, although I've never had a chance to try it). I haven't noticed any problems with AA on my 7800GT.
 

zoobler

Registered
Joined
Apr 7, 2006
Soichiro said:
AFAIK the only real problem Nvidia is having is the inability to have AA and HDR on at the same time (ATI cards can have both active from what I've heard, although I've never had a chance to try it). I haven't noticed any problems with AA on my 7800GT.

that isnt really a problem

the performance of nvidia is good enough to choose that in my book
 
OP
masterwoot

masterwoot

Member
Joined
Mar 5, 2004
Location
47.6358 N, 117.2528 W
Edited to beef up the ram section.
Since you all seem to like this, I'm thinking of adding some more later. Perhaps I'll do 3 different system spec lists and pricing soon. :)