Yes, it's another "what should I get" thread

…because, well, the questions never cease…

Anyhow, one of our machines went belly up via a cascade of hardware failures and it’s truly now time to replace it. It will be used for gaming, mostly, and MS Office stuff; no 3D modeling or the like. It has to be better than our existing AMD 64 boxes with 7900GS cards. It should be upgradable, so that in a year we can put in a new video card or a CPU if necessary. And it has to be about $1500.

I’ve priced out good components at newegg:

APEVIA CF12SL-UBL 120mm Blue LED Case Fan - Retail
($6.79 each)
LITE-ON 20X DVD±R DVD Burner With 12X DVD-RAM Write Black SATA Model LH-20A1S - Retail
($31.99 each)
Antec Sonata III Black 0.8mm cold rolled steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case 500W Power Supply - Retail
($119.95 each)
ARCTIC COOLING Freezer 7 Pro 92mm CPU Cooler - Retail
($34.99 each)
Intel Core 2 Duo E6850 Conroe 3.0GHz LGA 775 Processor Model BX80557E6850 - Retail
($309.99 each)
CORSAIR XMS2 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model TWIN2X2048-6400C4 - Retail
($107.00 each)
GIGABYTE GA-P35-DS3P LGA 775 Intel P35 ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail
($159.99 each)
SAMSUNG SpinPoint T Series HD501LJ 500GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - OEM
($119.99 each)
EVGA 320-P2-N811-AR GeForce 8800GTS 320MB 320-bit GDDR3 PCI Express x16 HDCP Ready SLI Supported Video Card - Retail
($289.99 each)

I’m relatively happy with all of it; certainly you can shuffle a different mobo or HD in there, and our monitors are 4:3 20" LCDs which our 7900GS’ have been running fine, so the 320 8899GTS should be ok.

What I don’t know really is whether to go with Vista or XP. I worry a bit about some of my niche games (Matrix, Battlefront, HPS) not working with Vista, as well as about some older titles, but I’m really more concerned about avoiding a new OS install in six months or so when I find I HAVE to have Vista installed. So I’m leaning towards Vista.

I’m also a bit baffled as to whether Vista 32 or 64 bit would be better–any real difference for gaming and mainstream Office use?

Any comments identifying glaring oversights or problems would be welcome. I also have not 100% decided whether to go newegg or spend a few hundred more and have AVADirect build the damn things (pretty identical config from them). newegg would be faster but after three days of constant troubleshooting and assembly/disassembly of failing PCs I’ve about had my fill of DIY…

You may want to get either the 320MB 8800GTS Superclocked or the 640MB.

I’d go with Vista, myself, as it’s not as wonky as XP (barring a few driver issues). Explorer has been once again spit-shined. It’s like going back to 95 from XP, more or less.

Vista 32-bit has better compatibility with drivers and therefore games, but you can’t get 4GB, and no difference for either (yet). Until games are compiled to support 64-bit OS to address more than 2GB of RAM there isn’t too big of a draw. Office will run the same on either, probably.

Get Home Premium, forget Basic or Ultimate.

The rest looks fine, although unless you need SLI I’d opt for the $90~ Gigabyte P35 board instead and save some greenbacks.

Also, consider going to a Lian Li if you are in the $120 price range already, and spend the extra to get a SeaSonic or PCP&P PSU. Antec ones have a pretty dismal failure rate (I’ve had three fail on me before vowing to never buy another) and their quality is suspect.

Say hello to CheapyD for me.


Just kidding.


Overall a pretty good setup, just a few tweaks I would make personally. For the same price I would go with the Q6600 and try overclocking it: while the E6850 has the edge in most games now, the quad-core is more future-proof IMHO; i.e., extra cores will be more useful than raw speed down the line. For that matter, I think the only reasons to buy an aftermarket CPU cooler to replace the retail one are if you want something quieter and/or you want to overclock; dunno how good that cooler is at either. I think I read somewhere that the Western Digital 500GB HDDs are the fastest, but I won’t swear to that; and differences in performance tend to be negligible among the major manufacturers.

I would also pony up the extra money for either the 640MB 8800 GTS ($300) or an 8800 GTX ($500). Bear in mind that SLI only works on nVidia-based MBs: if that’s something you want in the future, then you need to look for a different MB; and if you don’t want SLI, you can save some money getting a MB with only one PCIe x16 slot.

I consider Vista 64 to be The Future™, but right now it’s still a bit rocky. If you have a spare copy of WinXP lying around, I would do a dual-boot WinXP / Vista 64 setup.

Whether you get a 320MB 8800GTS or a 640MB is pretty much dependent on what kind of display you intend to drive with it. I’m not giving up my LG 17" LCD anytime soon so with a max res of 1280x1024, I really only need the 320MB model. If you want to run at 1600x1200 or higher then I’d suggest getting the 640 model.

Between Vista 32-bit and 64-bit, yes, the 32-bit version has better compatibility because 64-bit drivers are even MORE immature and games aren’t compiled for 64-bit at all.

I wish you could upgrade from 32 to 64-bit after installing, but apparently it doesn’t work.

Thanks for the input, all.

Our budget is pretty limited so as much as I want to move to a Lian Li wih another PSU (which is one of my configs I’ve specced out) I may not be able to afford it. The Antec Sonata IIs we have have done ok; one is still going (knock on wood) while the other had its PSU die just this week. But yeah, I’d rather have a different case/PSU if I could.

I’ve been running 1600x1200 on a 7900GS for a year or more and liking it, so I can’t imagine a 8800 GTS 320 would have a harder time with it. Again, I have to shave money somewhere and I’m already anticipating a new video card in 12 months anyhow.

As for the CPU, I’m torn as well between the G0 quad cores and the 6850; I haven’t oc’d since the Celeran 300A days though, and generally just go stock. I was thinking that I’d get a fast dual core now and pop in a more advanced multicore if necessary a year or so from now, perhaps.

Can you drop an extra $20-30 for the factory overclocked 320MB 8800 GTS? I hear it makes a big difference.

Personally, I would go with the 6750, which is $100 cheaper if you have to upgrade right now. Otherwise, I might recommend waiting for Penryn chips to arrive. They have SSE4, which games will be using in the future (15% speed increases? yes please!)

If budget is a concern, I would get a cheaper dual-core - e.g., E6550 (2.33GHz) for $180 or E6750 (2.66GHz) for $205 - and a cheaper MB (decent P35 MBs with 1 PCIe x16 slot start ~$100): save $150 - $200 and still have a pretty kick-ass system. If you don’t want to overclock, drop the Freezer 7 and save another $35. I would still go with the 640MB 8800 GTS for $300, but either GTS is still a kick-ass card.

Then when you’re ready to upgrade a year or two down the road, you can drop in a quad-core, new video card, and an extra 2 gigs of RAM.

I agree with what unbongwah said. :)

Thanks for the ideas. I finally went with the following:

SEASONIC, M12-500 Power Supply, 500W, 2
INTEL, Core™ 2 Duo Q6600 Quad-Core (SLACR G0 stepping)
OCZ, 2GB (2 x 1GB) Platinum PC2-6400 DDR2 800MHz CL 4-5-4-15 SDRAM DIMM, Non-ECC
eVGA, e-GeForce 8800 GTS Superclocked
MAXTOR, 500GB MaXLine Pro 500, SATA 3.0Gb/s,
LITE-ON, LH-20A1L Black/Beige 20x DVD±RW Dual-Layer Burner w/ LightScribe, SATA
MICROSOFT, Windows Vista Home Premium Edition 32-bit, OEM

This is for my wife, who after I thought about what she uses the PC for will probably benefit from the quad core more than I figured. We may or may not OC it but in any event it should be nicely upgradeable.

I still need to buy my machine, when I can. I’ll probably do a slightly different config; my work is on a Mac usually so mine will be nearly purely a game box.

Looks pretty nice. Decided to splurge on the case after all, eh? :-)

I should’ve posted this sooner: Tom’s HW has a pretty thorough comparison of CPUs if you’re still on the fence about which one(s) to go with: give you some idea as to when quad-core and/or higher clock speeds come in handy.

Kunikos: Sorry, I thought you were comparing Vista 32-bit to Win XP.

TheWombat: Nice way to pull the trigger. Good choice of parts. Fancy case and all.

I noticed you had the Sonta 3 in your first post. I recently bought that case and I love it. I saw that you changed to something else but I had to chime in and say how great the Sonta 3 really is.

Yeah, the Sonata III is a nice case. I went with the Silverstone for my wife’s computer because, well, I like the looks and it has very clean lines and flat surfaces (like some of the Lian Li’s I like as well). I also, having just buried another Antec PSU, wanted this time to try another brand of PSU, so I figured, what the hell.

For my box, I’m torn. I’m probably going with a dual core because, pretty much, all I use my Windows box for is games, and the “no replacement for displacement” mantra, while probably soon to be even more unreliable than now, still has some resonance for me. But knowing me, I’ll be unsure up until I pull the trigger. Heh.

BTW, these are the first boxes we’ll have had with no floppies–hell, nothing but SATA all around. God, I hope that doesn’t bite me in the ass, but so far, I can’t see much use for IDE anymore.

Thanks for the link; as usual, no single solution for everything. Some stuff is faster with quads, some with faster duos.

One thing is for sure; compared to my 3800+, they’re ALL lightning fast! I think we’ll be fine with any of the current Intel choices. And really, it’s mostly about upgrading my experience, not about meeting some arbitrary benchmark. Naturally bang for the buck is important, as is upgrading down the road, but I don’t mind being behind the curve a bit. Bleeding edge is not my comfort zone.

I would pick the Antec Solo over the Sonata, no question.

The Sonata’s not a bad case, per se, but the Solo is best-of-class. It’s outstanding. I just built one up for my wife and it is stellar. Between the P182 and the Solo Antec is really ratcheting up the quality and design smarts of the PC case wasteland.

I read on another board that the Solo isn’t big enough to fit an 8800GTX. Is there a good way to tell when looking at a case’s specs whether or not it’s large enough to fit a GTX?

FYI–those two components are cheaper at Directron. $35 less for the CPU, and $40 less for the motherboard. The other components are all on par (except for the video card, which is a little cheaper at newegg).

I asked this question before myself; there’s a thread over at Maximum PC about which cases the 8800GTX does and doesn’t fit. I don’t see the Solo listed, but judging by the photo in the thread you linked, I’m guessing it’s too small for the 8800 GTX. Notice how the 8800 GTX extends past the end of the MB, but in the Solo the MB goes right up to the drive bays.