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Megadude

New Computer help request

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  • Original Poster
  • Hello all,
    I think this is the correct place for this post, let me know if it should be somewhere else.

    I am thinking about getting back into SC after not playing for almost two years.  I quit playing when I had played too much and was tired of my slow computer preventing me from having large cities.  I am looking at building a new computer, but I am trying to figure out what works and what does not.

    I have a target price of about $1200.  I would like to be under that, but am also willing to go over if there is a big increase in performance for a small increase in price.  I am trying to decide between AMD and Intel, Duel or Single core, and just about everything else.  I do not plan on overclocking, and am planning on useing Windows XP.

    As there are many people here who have more computer experience than I do, I would appreciate any help sorting all of this out.  I dont want to spend a lot of money to find out that I cannot play the older games that I like (like SC4) or am not set up to use the new stuff.

    Thanks

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    With that kind of money, you can build a good machine that will play SC4 easily.  Dual core won't get you much extra performance over single because SC4 can't address the other processor.  It will allow you to be able to do stuff like play SC4 and burn DVDs at the same time, but if your not into that kind of multi-tasking, I'd stick with single as they get the job done and cost a lot less too.  Other than that, try to split your money up roughly equally.  Get a gig of RAM (which will cost you somewhere between $100-200 depending on quality).  Don't worry about getting a bleeding edge graphics card unless your motherboard can support it.  Basically, check to make sure that nothing is way more powerful than everything else, or your computer will a $1,200 piece of slow garbage.

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    Definately go with AMD, their chips are much more powerful and are estimated to be about 3 years ahead of Intel's in terms of the tech. used. As for picking out a Graphics card, For your price tag I would recommend either a Nvidia 6800 Ultra or a Nvidia 6600 with 256mb RAM. You should look at getting 1 - 1.5gigs of RAM, and hard drive size is completely up to you. Just remember Hard Drives ALWAYS have less storage capacity than they are labled, so expect a 250gb hard drive to only have 220-235gigs of storage space. I wouldn't go for anything less than a 160gb.

    Just to clarify, are you building this yourself or buying from a retailer?

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  • Original Poster
  • I am currently planning on building it myself, but I am open to a retail one if the cost/quality/performance is similar.  I am also more familier with Intel chips, so if AMD is better I could use some help on exactly which one would be best.  I am not planning on overclocking unless it is a huge benifit and fairly easy.

    Thanks

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    Overclocking is indeed very easy (usually) however I don't recommend it since it will void the warrenty on your computer, and will also cause the chip to decay faster. You also run the risk of overheating and causing damage to the chip.

    For AMD, you would probably be best off with either an AMD 64 4000 or an AMD 64 3700. Dual core is more expensive, and you currently don't really need it for gaming, but in a few years it may come in handy.

    A good place to shop for computer hardware is Newegg.com. I have talked to several people who have bought things from there, and I have heard nothing but good things about them.

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    nowadays, dual core cpus cost the same if not cheaper than equivalent single cores. AMD is the best way to go either way right now as they are the powerhouse and much cheaper. The only problem I have noticed with SC4 and newer hardware is that sometimes it doesn;t know how to use it properly so you get a wonky game, sometimes won't start unless software mode is used, soemtimes it starts but plays very slow because it will only allow settings similar to that of a slow computer (when it was released)... no matter what, I would search the forums and see what problems people have had with what and try to stick with whats known to work... thats not really ideal because you may end up with an AthlonXP and 9600XT like me and it plays fine. For $1200 you could build a power machine, dual socket motherboard, 2 dual core Opteron cpus (total of 4 cores), decent video and hard drive for $1200 give or take a hundred. The Opteron 265 has dropped from $700 to $341 (or cheaper). Try this on:

    1. 1
    Opteron 265 OEM (1.8GHz per core) x2 = $656
    1. 2
    Asus K8N motherboard $255
    1. 3
    Corsair 1024MB PC3200 Registered $114.50 each x2 = $229
    1. 4
    WD 250GB hard drive SATA w/ NCQ & 16MB cache $95
    1. total $1235
    everything else should be cheap beans, meaning possibly an Antec case with 500W power supply, your choice of video card (would suggest around a 6600-6800 nvidia card). This is just one build possiblity if you choose to do it yourself.

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  • Original Poster
  • Thanks for the help, I am looking at AMD more than I was before.

    Screwball, your second link for the motherboard did not work and I am not able to figure out what it should be.  I am not sure I need 2xdual cores, but it is interesting.  $1200 is a maximum target, if I could build something good for less I will (I was expecting to be restricted in my choices at $1200, not on the verge of a power gaming machine).

    Also, I dont like to have to mess with my comp to keep it working or adjusting stuff for different programs, so I would prefer a stable setup.  I occasionaly get a urge to play an old game (civ2 and others equaly old), but I also dont want to have to build a new comp in a year or two because this one is too old by then.

    EDIT:  Doh, you updated while I was responding, thanks

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    MayorTim: Hewlett-Packard does not void the warranty if you flash the BIOS or overclock the CPU.

    For CPUs, I would reccommend either an Athlon 64 3700+ ($212.00) or Athlon 64 X2 4400+ ($458.00). I personally have a 3700+ and it performs extremely well.

    Overclocking can give you boosts in speed (and it can push you into the next processor with AMD), but I've read you can't get any real gains unless you increase the voltage to the CPU, which will void the warranty. If you get a Hewlett-Packard Media Center PC, then you will need to flash the BIOS so you can get all the fun options that HP disabled.

    For GPU, I would reccomend the new 7900GT. It has the same amount of pipelines and shaders as the 7800GTX, and is clocked higher, thus making it faster for around $330. I would get the MSI version, as MSI and EVGA are the only two nVidia-based companies that will permit you to overclock the card, and I can't stand EVGA. The 6800 Ultra isn't worth the price when, for $50 more, you can get the second best nVidia-based GPU on the market.

    The motherboard that came with my Hewlett-Packard is basically this one, but graciously crippled by HP. Mine does not have the PCIe x1 slot nor the integrated DVI port. I like having a motherboard with integrated graphics, as it is nice to be able to fall back on something, should your grahpics card own itself. The motherboard does not support SLi or CrossFire, however.

    I have 1GB DDR400 RAM, and it works fine for any game I play. Two GBs is supposed to be the way of the future, but 1GB will do for now.

    I have an Aspire ATX 500W power supply ($39.99), and it has worked flawlessly since December. Some people critisize cheap PSUs, but this one has recieved great reviews, and the price was definatly right.

    To sum everything up: AMD + nVidia = 44.gif

    v Trigger_tre: you honestly think he needs 3GB of RAM? I would get a $300 graphics card an another $100 for RAM, or pocket the $100 for something else.

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    Why not get the best of both worlds.

    Personally I think you should by a pc form say circuit city or best buy (depends on your area and what electronics store are better).

    The problem with pcs you get from retail stores is that the usually give you some really good hardware then jip you on other hardware. But use this to your advantage.

    Look for a retail pc (personally I prefer Gateway or HP). Look first for the cpu. Highly recommend AMD Athlon 64 or 64 X2. Look for a pc that has RAM that is "expandable" to 4gb RAM (most likely it will come stock with 512 or 1gb). Dont worry about the graphics card because usually these retail pcs use onboard graphics cards.

    The point of this is that these retail premade pc are usually ALOT cheaper now then building your own for some reason. People will argue this by saying no I can get a cpu for xxx and a graphics card for xxx and memory for xxx. But how many pc work well without an OS, harddrives, etc.

    You can but a nice gateway or HP with an AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800-4200 for $700-800. (they come with OS, hardrives, and everything is connected correctly so basically no trial-and-error trying to get it to start up).

    So with $800 spent and roughly $400 left you can either buy a top line Graphics card (not recomended) or but a descent graphics card for $200 and add 2gb more RAM with the xtra $200.

    Of course tax isnt included and you would have to take that into consideration. But doing it this way is much cheaper and less headache when you forget a wire or misplace something trying to build your own.

    follow the link HERE and scroll down to the

    HP Pavilion Desktop PC (A1350N)

    &

    Gateway Desktop PC (GT5032)

    These are great pcs and easily upgradeable.

    -trigger

    -------------------------

    trigsidx18it.gif

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    Retail PC's usually suck. Especially ones from retailers such as BestBuy or CircutCity.

    When building a power desktop such as this, you will save hundreds of dollars by building yourself.

    Also, onboard graphics on any machine over $800 is incredibly stupid.

    _______________________________________________________

    (THE FOLLOWING I AM NOT SURE OF)

    Also, if you want an ultra-stable PC for gaming, 2 Opteron chips probably aren't your best bet. Most games aren't built to take advantage of a single dual core CPU. I don't know of ANY game that can take advantage of TWO dual core CPU's.

    Also, I believe Opterons are primarily designed for workstations/servers, so there may be somce compatability issues when running games on them.

    Again, I AM NOT SURE OF THIS, as I have never really bothered with Opteron's, and I honestly don't know very much about them.

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    MayorTim: Now thats just silly. Please break down the cost so we can add it up. Dont forget to add in necessary things like an OS, harddrives, etc.

    The whole point of buying this way is to find a pc that is lacking in 1 or 2 components but excelling in other more important ones. With the $$$ you save you then upgrade those lower end components.

    Let me break it down for you.

    YOUR WAY: buying seperately and building yourself

    1.) CPU: AMD Athlon 64 X2 4200+ Socket 939 (price= $350+)

    2.) MOTHERBOARD: A descent one compatible with AMD 64 X2 (price= $100+)

    3.) CASE: A descent and compatible one (price= $40+)

    4.) POWER SUPPLY: 350w-400w minimal (price= $40+)

    5.) CASE FANS: 2 fans 80-120mm (price= $15+)

    6.) MEMORY: 1gb descent RAM 2x512 (price= $100-150)

    7.) HARD DRIVE: 250gb serial ata (price= $100+)

    8.) CD/DVD DRIVE: dual DVD drives (price= $50 for both)

    CURRENTLY we have reached the same cost of a retail pc but we dont have an OS, we havent put it together, and dont have a good warranty. And you still have a crappy graphics card, and crappy memory. If you were to add those...

    9.) WINDOWS MEDIA CENTER 2005: (price= $125)

    10.) This doesnt include the savvy video you want and the more RAM you want.

    If you go my route, you get all the above on a working pc, with warranty, plus you get any bonus software they provide for about $100-200 less then building your own.

    Its all personal preference, but it will relieve you of a headache. And if your pc goes haywire then at least you know you can just return the whole thing and get a new one.

    -trigger

    P.S. if you go my route spend 799.99+tax = $850 for the complete console. Then you could either

    A.) go to newegg.com and buy 2x1gb RAM for about $150 and then you have $200 left over for a descent graphics card. + you still have 2 empty slots for and additional 2gb of RAM that would give you 4gb of RAM total if you ever upgrade later44.gif

    B.) go to newegg.com and buy 2x512mb RAM (price= $70) to add to your 2x512mb in the pc already, thus giving you 2 gb total. Then spend the $250 you have left on a nice graphics card or go slightly over budget and do as Praetorian Cohort recomends and get a 7900GT (very nice).

    by Praetorian Cohort: Trigger_tre: you honestly think he needs 3GB of RAM? I would get a $300 graphics card an another $100 for RAM, or pocket the $100 for something else.quote>

    Does he need 3gb RAM, no he doesnt need it. But, Sc4 is not necessarily a graphics hog game like FEAR, Quake, DOOM, and the likes. Simply because SC4 is not a real-time/anti-aliasing/multi-shader game. Playing Sc4 you will notice a better performance boost with more RAM than you will with a better Video card. Almost all gaming engines nowadays can easily be handled by $200 graphics card. This is how the gaming industry works and has worked for years.......pc makers make graphics cards which can handle all games, then a next generation game comes out pushing the limits of graphics cards so they increase. THis goes back and forth. We are now in the transition phase were games are just not demanding enough for high-end graphics cards. Give it a year though.

    Another reason RAM is more important is that anything you do on your pc will reap the benefits of more RAM.

    -------------------------

    trigsidx18it.gif

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    Umm...

    AMD Athlon 3700: $212

    ASUS SLI Premium ATX Mobo: $166.99

    Cooler Master Case: $74.99

    Thermaltake 430W Power Supply: $39.99

    2 120mm fans: $10.00

    1gb Crosair XMS (2x 512mb): $128

    250gb Hard Drive: $95

    CD/DVD drives: roughly $50

    Sound Blaster Audigy2 Sound Card: $75

    eVGA Nvidia GeForce 7800 GT: $285

    Microsoft XP Home: $109.95

    Total Price: $1,246.92

    This computer will blow almost every single one of the computers on the page you showed away. It will play 95% of all the games out today on all high settings (your going to need a $2,500ish computer to play Doom 3 on all high settings with no lag or choppyness)

    I went $46.92 over his budget.

    Now, arguably, the above computer doesn't come with speakers or a monitor, but I am going to assume that Megadude already has those (he really couldn't get here without a monitor) and so getting those would be a waste of money anyway. EDIT: forget this paragraph, I just realized the Gateway you showed doesn't come with anything but crappy speakers, keyboard, and mouse. So, if you wanted to buy another monitor, you would still be out $200 - $600

    Also, BTW, "Buying a computer excelling in some areas but lacking others and then upgrading some components" usually voids the warrenty 2.gif

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    Originally posted by: MayorTim

    Retail PC's usually suck. Especially ones from retailers such as BestBuy or CircutCity. When building a power desktop such as this, you will save hundreds of dollars by building yourself. Also, onboard graphics on any machine over $800 is incredibly stupid. _______________________________________________________ (THE FOLLOWING I AM NOT SURE OF) Also, if you want an ultra-stable PC for gaming, 2 Opteron chips probably aren't your best bet. Most games aren't built to take advantage of a single dual core CPU. I don't know of ANY game that can take advantage of TWO dual core CPU's. Also, I believe Opterons are primarily designed for workstations/servers, so there may be somce compatability issues when running games on them. Again, I AM NOT SURE OF THIS, as I have never really bothered with Opteron's, and I honestly don't know very much about them.quote>


    You're right about the Opterons being server chips.  And presently, the only known game that will run well on an Opteron system is Quake (that game runs on everything, even a computerized fridge--no joke).

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    Two problems with your computer plan, MayorTim.

    1) The $285 7800GT you mention is nub. Quite a few people with that model on the EVGA support forums, including myself, are plagued by a problem that will lock up your system during a 3D application for no reason at all. The only solution they've discovered is to RMA the card until you get a working one.

    2) A 7800GT needs, as an absolute bare minimum, a 450W PSU.

    Solutions for problems:

    1) Cut the case fans, and spend $330 on a MSI GeForce 7900GT.

    2) Buy the Aspire ATX 500W PSU I mentioned above.

    A sound card isn't really necessary. The Integrated soudn that came with my motherboard (this one) sounds fine on the Logitech THX 2.1 speakers I have. Honestly, I can't tell the difference between a computer with a soundcard and one without.

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    Case fans are an important part of any modern computer.  If your rig is running too hot, the system will slow down and become unstable.

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    Hmm, I actually never heard that about the 7800GT... I guess its a good thing I didn't get one in this computer then!

    Is this true only for eVGA 7800GT's, or for all of them? There are a couple versions of the 7800GT by eVGA, and a couple made by other companies.

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  • Original Poster
  • Thanks for all of the help.
    I was not able to look at computer stuff today as I had been planning to as we had snow here (Phoenix area) so I had to take a 5 hour drive up into the mountains to see it (most snow I have seen this low in Arizona in my 13 years here).  I think just about everyone else did too as the road was lined with stopped cars and peope having snowball fights for miles.

    I am going to look into some of these suggestions.

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    by MayorTim:

    Total Price: $1,246.92

    This computer will blow almost every single one of the computers on the page you showed away. It will play 95% of all the games out today on all high settings (your going to need a $2,500ish computer to play Doom 3 on all high settings with no lag or choppyness)quote>

    Thats funny how your pc you listed will blow mine out of the water since the one I theretically listed has......

    AMD Athlon 4200 x2 (better than the one you listed, yours = AMD 3700)

    2gb RAM (better than what you listed, yours = 1gb)

    Microsoft Media Center 2005 (better than what you listed, yours = just XP)

    7900GT (better than what you listed, yours 7800GT)

    This of course would bring MY TOTAL TO ROUGHLY 1,230.00.

    Over price by $30, which is less than yours, and much better components.

    So please explain how your lower cpu, less RAM, and lower Graphics card is better. I personally think a sound card is a bit of a waste. NO game on the market has sound quality so extreme that the onboard sound cannot handle it without ease.

    -trigger

    -------------------------

    trigsidx18it.gif

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    Originally posted by: Trigger_tre

    by MayorTim: Total Price: $1,246.92 This computer will blow almost every single one of the computers on the page you showed away. It will play 95% of all the games out today on all high settings (your going to need a $2,500ish computer to play Doom 3 on all high settings with no lag or choppyness)quote>
    Thats funny how your pc you listed will blow mine out of the water since the one I theretically listed has...... AMD Athlon 4200 x2 (better than the one you listed, yours = AMD 3700) 2gb RAM (better than what you listed, yours = 1gb) Microsoft Media Center 2005 (better than what you listed, yours = just XP) 7900GT (better than what you listed, yours 7800GT) This of course would bring MY TOTAL TO ROUGHLY 1,230.00. Over price by $30, which is less than yours, and much better components. So please explain how your lower cpu, less RAM, and lower Graphics card is better. I personally think a sound card is a bit of a waste. NO game on the market has sound quality so extreme that the onboard sound cannot handle it without ease. -triggerquote>


    It's about the quality of the audio and taking the workload off the CPU.  A soundcard is farther away from the motherboard and the electrical noise that is generated from the electricity passing through the circuits.  With a really good speaker system (or really good ears) you can hear the electrical noise that comes from using the onboard audio.  And if your soundcard has a DSP (many don't), then the soundcard will handle the audio computations, leaving the CPU free to do other work.

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    Originally posted by: MayorTim

    Hmm, I actually never heard that about the 7800GT... I guess its a good thing I didn't get one in this computer then!

    Is this true only for eVGA 7800GT's, or for all of them? There are a couple versions of the 7800GT by eVGA, and a couple made by other companies.quote>

    I'm pretty sure all of EVGA's 7800GTs are plagued with one problem or another. I haven't read any other companies support forums, though. But I can't imagine every 7800GT having a serious flaw, especially since it has been so successful for nVidia.

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  • Original Poster
  • Ok, with everyones help, I have narrowed it down to two general choices:

    Option 1:
    Go with an AMD Athlon 3700 (or similar)
    1GB of ram, Solid but lower cost video card (or onboard, not sure which one)
    This set up would have a target total price of about $800 with the idea that it would get me through about 2 years untill more programs that use duel core and 64bit stuff is released.

    Option 2:
    Go with an AMD Athlon 4200 X2 (or similar)
    1 or 2 GB of RAM, 7900GT video
    This set up would be around $1200 based on above advice and I would hope would work for about another 4+ years or so (about as long as my current one has)

    These prices do not include monitor, keyborad, or mouse but do include everything else, including Windows XP Pro with a CD so I can reinstall as required (unless the extra cost is not worth it, not sure what the other versions do).  I would like to avoid most of the other software that retail computers come with as I generaly never use it and it is a pain to get rid of most of the time, but can deal with it if the cost is good.  I suppose if I have the windows CD, I could just wipe the hard drive and reinstall only what I want.

    Also, I currently do not play any of the games that require high end video cars, so I am wondering if I can play SC and CIV4 using onboard video without slowing it down too much.  I would assume that if I was going to buy a game that required it I would by the video card at that time.

    I also do not have a problem with onboard sound as I cannot hear the difference a sound card would make as long as the onboard sound is not bad or causes conflicts or system problems or something.  I also do not generaly listen to much on my computer, the most I use the sound is to chat with my friends online via AOL or something.

    Does anyone know of a company that builds good retail boxes that only have windows (and updated drivers) installed at a good price?

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    Megadude:

    From the sound of it, you want a pc that will last for at least 2 years, will be easy to setup & use, and something you dont have to tinker with much. So it sounds like you dont really want to BUILD your own.

    OK here is THE best option then. Its a Gateway. I bought a Gateway a year ago and no problems whatsoever. If your worried about included software dont be. Some stuff like NERO, might be on there but its kinda useful. Most likely they will give you a stack of software CD's to install yourself if you like, just like they did for me.

    MOST BANG FOR YOUR BUCK BELOW:

    Gateway Desktop PC (GT5032) CLICK HERE

    Total Price: $869.69-$70.00(mail-in rebate)+60.90(Tax) = $860.89

    Corsair ValueSelect 1gb RAM 2.5 latency CLICK HERE

    Total Price: $66.90+4.81(shipping) = $71.71

    GRAND TOTAL at THIS POINT: $941.60

    I recommend you buy the pc first and test it out with the onboard graphics card. You will be surprised that it will handle SC4 flawlessly and CIV4 shouldnt be a problem.

    If in a few months if you decide to purchase a high-end-graphics-demanding-game then go ahead and purchase the following below. NOTE: the prices below are the current cost, and in 6 months these should drop significantly. Especially the 7900GT which would probably be between 250-300 by then.

    Antec TRUEPOWERII TPII-550 ATX12V 550W Power Supply (NOTE: you only need this if you get the new video card) CLICK HERE

    Total Price: $89.99-$15.00(mail-in rebate) = $74.99

    MSI NX7900GT-T2D256E Geforce 7900GT 256MB 256-bit GDDR3 PCI Express x16 Video Card (this thing is insane, 24-pipelines, 256mb, PCIExpressx16) CLICK HERE

    Total Price: $329.99+5.99(shipping) = $335.98

    GRAND TOTAL AFTER 2 YEARS: Probably around $1200-1300.00 but thats over two years which is a looooooooong time.

    TRUST ME this setup will last you at least 2 years, simply because of its upgrade potential. I predict that in 2 years the minimal RAM will be 1-2GB. This Gateway has the potential to get 4GB. So in 2 years when all your buddies have to go out and spend $800-1000 on a pc with 4GB you just have to buy the correct memory sticks, which will be fairly cheap by then. Current 2x1GB sticks are $200, in two years, LOL try about less then half that in two years.

    I know thats alot of info but buying a new pc is a big investment and we all want to make our hard-earned money last. Trust me you wont be disappointed.

    I have an AMD64 3500+ with 2GB and just the onboard graphics card (which is equivalent to and ATI x200) and I run SC4 without any problems.

    -trigger

    Yes you could go with the 3700+ single core, but in 1-2 years, when the gaming industry starts pushing the power of pcs again you will have wished that you followed my recomendations.

    -------------------------

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