My (nearly complete) mid-high i7 machine, opinions :)

jktstance

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This machine is meant mostly for gaming. You'll notice I have multiples of some parts (I have 3 cases, for instance). Multiples just mean I can't decide quite yet which to get :) Total budget: $1500 give or take a couple of hundred.

I have a DVD burner I can salvage as well a 3 medium-sized HDDs. I am currently on a 19" monitor, but I plan on upgrading that to a 22"-24" widescreen in the near future. I have not picked out a video card (the most important part...) because frankly there is too much choice. I'm shooting for around $300 on the video card(s).

https://secure.newegg.com/WishList/MySavedWishDetail.aspx?ID=9800091

Parts:

Case:
COOLER MASTER RC-690-KKN1-GP Black SECC/ ABS ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - Retail $89.99
COOLER MASTER COSMOS 1000 RC-1000-KSN1-GP Black/ Silver Steel ATX Full Tower Computer Case $189.99
Antec P182 Gun Metal Black 0.8mm cold rolled steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - Retail $149.99

HDD:
Western Digital Caviar Black WD1001FALS 1TB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - OEM $109.99

PSU:
CORSAIR CMPSU-850TX 850W ATX12V 2.2 / EPS12V 2.91 SLI Ready CrossFire Ready Active PFC Power Supply $139.99

Thermal Compound:
Tuniq TX-2 Cooling Thermal Compound - Retail $4.99

RAM:
OCZ Gold 6GB (3 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Triple Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model $114.99
OCZ 6GB (3 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Triple Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model $108.99

MOBO:
GIGABYTE GA-EX58-UD3R LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail $209.99
ASUS P6T LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail $249.99

CPU:
Intel Core i7 920 Nehalem 2.66GHz LGA 1366 130W Quad-Core Processor Model BX80601920 - Retail $288.99

CPU Cooler:
ZALMAN CNPS9900LED 120mm 2 Ball CPU Cooler - Retail $74.99

OS:
Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 64-bit for System Builders - OEM $99.99

Subtotal: $1,832.87

I am concerned about memory. By default, the Core i7 works with 1066MHz memory and you need to overclock to reach 1333 or 1600 DDR3 speeds. I plan on doing a bit of overclocking, but I value stability over speed, so I think overclocking to reach 1600MHz might be too high. What about 1333MHz memory speeds?

And again, I have yet to pick out a video card. ~$300 seems to be the sweet spot, but other than that I'm clueless as to what cards are good deals.
 

Transmaniacon

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jktstance

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Thanks for the suggestions. I should probably state that I really like the styling of the COSMOS and the gun metal case (simple FTW) but I'm quite averse to their HUGE sizes. I appreciate having space in a case to work with, but the COSMOS in particular is ridiculously massive.
 
I'd remove the P182 from the contest. For example it accepts an 8800GTX and 3 hard drives, but not more because the big video card takes too much room and forces you to take out a drive cage. The RC-690 is perfect. It's also cheaper so it frees funds for more important things.

Get a 24" monitor. 1920x1200 is much nicer than 1680x1050, and you can afford a decent GPU to handle it.

The GA-EX58-UD3R supports 2 ATI cards. It does not support SLI i.e. two nVidia cards. I'd suggest two HD 4870 1GB cards for a total of $380. You can save some money from the case (RC-690), the cooler (this Xigmatek is only $40
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16835233029)
and the PSU (Corsair 750TX would be enough, and it's only $95).


 
You've got two nice options:

1. GA-EX58-UD3R+750TX+HD 4870 1GB Crossfire, total 210+95+2*190=$685

2. P6T (needed for SLI) + 1000HX (needed for GTX 285 SLI) + GTX 285 (just one for now) - total $250+250+335=835. This costs $150 more and delivers less power, but it's a lot more future proof because then you can add a second card and smoke even Crysis at 1920x1200.

Or you could get the GA-EX58-UD3R with the 750TX and a GTX 295 (or a HD 4870 X2), also good stuff. The HD 4870 X2 can deliver 60 fps or more at 1920x1200 in most games, which makes the GTX 295 overkill for now. However, future games may be more demanding than today's.
 

xthekidx

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I would go with option 2^^ but IMO you don't need a 1000w PSU to handle those GTX 285's, they are surprisingly low on power consumption. An 850tx would be enough to handle two of them IMO. That will cut $150 off that price. Read this article on multi gpu setups:
http://www.anandtech.com/video/showdoc.aspx?i=3517&p=13
Under full load GTX 285's SLI'd don't break 500w total system power consumption. Manufacturers always overestimate power requirements in case you pick the lowest quality PSU out there. A quality PSU like the 850tx or Antec Signature 850w would be more than enough. That isn't even 60% load for those PSU's, both of which also have overvoltage protection.
 

Siggy19

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I like the NZXT Tempest case because it has front panel e-Sata. If you have an external HD for backups, that is convenient.

There is a 1GB 4870 at Newegg for about $200, which seems like a sweet option to start with, you can always crossfire it later, if needed. Alternatively the 4850 X2 is going for $250.

I second the xigmatek cooler. Heard good things about it and it's affordable.
 

xthekidx

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Dec 24, 2008
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@aevm do you really think a 1000w PSU is necessary to drive 2 GTX 285's? Maybe if its a rosewill...but honestly 1000w PSU to drive a system that needs less than 500w at full load? Just because a PSU isn't on the list that nvidia has doesn't mean a PSU won't work, I know that my Coolermaster Real Power Pro 850w PSU would be plenty to drive 2 GTX 260's, but its not on that list. I think that marketing and sales contracts between companies has a lot to do with the PSU's that get listed there.

Anandtech used a super PSU to drive their system, but they are sponsored by other companies who want to get people seeing their products. If they had a 1200w PSU then no reason not to use it, but if they didn't and all they had was a Corsair 850tx, I think they probably would have still done the test. They also used a i7-965 Extreme and a Rampage II Extreme mobo, but you don't need one of those to run 2xGTX 285 SLI.
 

jktstance

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Awesome, I got some reading up to do. I've been hearing that the nvidia boards tend to perform better in games per clock cycle (kinda like how AMDs "slower" CPUs 5 years ago were beating Intel's chips), but quite frankly on a 19" monitor anything is more than enough.

Can anyway answer my question regarding DDR? I'm definitely going with the Core i7 920 and I'm wondering how much OCing is needed to make getting the 1600 MHz RAM worth it.
 

xthekidx

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"Overclocking" the ram to 1600 from 1066 is a simple matter of changing the multiplier to x12 from stock x8, it takes a couple seconds to do, really easy. Now if you are going to be overclocking the CPU as well, then it gets a little more complicated. Ram speed is determined by BCLK x Ram mutliplier, CPU speed is determined by BCLK x CPU multiplier. You can't just choose any multiplier you want to uses to set ram speed, they have to be multiples of 2. So to get your ram running at 1600mhz you would have to OC the CPU to 3.2 (160x10 Ram, 160x20 CPU) or to 4.0ghz (200x8 Ram, 200x20 CPU). You can of course run it lower than that. I have my i7 running at 3.5ghz (175x20) so my ram which is rated for 1600mhz is running at a lower speed of 1404 (175x8).

"Overclocking" is just a term used when running anything outside of factory specs. Don't let the word scare you.
 

jktstance

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I was under the impression that the multipliers for the 920 and 940 were all locked and the only way to up the speed was to increase the BCLK. (from this article: http://www.maximumpc.com/article/features/ultimate_core_i7_overclocking_guide_we_push_nehalem_its_limits).

Regardless, is it better to get 1333 MHz RAM and overclock it or get 1600 MHz RAM and underclock it? Usually I would say underclocking is better (more stable), but I don't know how the latency timing is affected. 1333 MHz RAM can get pretty low in the timings and I wonder if those are preserved when overclocking (I've never overclocked RAM before).

Thanks again for the replies everyone! You're saving me hours and hours of painstaking reasearch and comparisons. I might get this thing ordered this week after all :)
 

xthekidx

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Only the CPU multiplier is locked, the Ram multiplier is not. Its easier to get 1600mhz ram and underclock it, you will be able to find a stable speed, when overclocking the ram from 1333 you have no guarantees. Typically if you have high speed ram and underclock it, you can tighten up the timings as well, or lower the voltage.
 

IzzyCraft

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COOLER MASTER COSMOS 1000 it's a wonderful case get some variable speed fans and run them at 800-1200rpm it's nice and quiet and cool then you can ramp it up when you are doing a long gaming session.
 

croc

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Had you read the entire three part series that Derek did, you'd know why... 2 295's suck quite a bit of power, and Derek wanted a common test platform for all three articles.

I'd recommend the series as required reading for all new system builders, paying especial attention to Derek's comments re: price / performance, matching GPU(s) to monitor size, etc.

My Noctua nh-u12p se1366 just arrived... Need to go play...
 

radiowars

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He, he, off topic, but do you think a 850w Corsair would power 2 GTX 285's? :D
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817139009
Some guy on the reviews said he was running 2... just checking, cause you seem to be the expert :wahoo:
-Thanks
 

xthekidx

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Dec 24, 2008
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I was in no way trying to discount aevm, he knows much more than I do. But yes, I think that the 850tx would be fine. aevm's suggestion is a safer one, as you will have a much larger buffer and it is certified by nvidia for SLI GTX 285's, but so much more expensive and IMO its not necessary to spend all that money on that PSU. Marketing has a large effect on those ratings I think.