View Full Version : Designing the best gaming system

21st Aug 2004, 04:20
Hello all,

I'm a hardcore PC gaming fan. I don't touch any gaming consoles, cause I think the graphics and all just suck. I'm really dissappointed on the decline of PC gaming.

Anyway its time for me to upgrade my system, actually design a new one. I want to design a system that will have the best possbile gaming experience.

Questions are, the best video card, 3d accelerator card, processor(pentium or athlon,etc), sound card, etc to get. I know the best from 2nd best can have a dramatic price difference so if you can name the 2nd best too for them and the price range. I know all the components for computers and how to put them together but I don't know the good/bad brands, and the difference in all the 3d accelerators for example.

So other then the obvious (hard drive, ram, etc needed, what do you recommend or know is the best? thanks

21st Aug 2004, 18:00
I think the "best" is not worth considering. You can pay twice as much for a 10% increase in performance. Second best is good enough for me. Here are the second best components that I just bought (haven't assembled them yet - maybe tomorrow).

Case - Kingwin aluminum, KT-424-S
Power supply (deliberate overkill) - Antec TRUE550
Motherboard - ASUS K8N-E Deluxe, NVIDIA nForce3 Chipset
Processor - Athon 64 3400+
Memory - Mushkin 184 Pin 1GB(512MBx2) DDR PC-3500
Video card - eVGA nVIDIA GeForce 6800GT (includes Far Cry until end Aug)
Hard drive - Western Digital 10000 rpm Raptor SATA, 74 GB
Sound card - Sound Blaster Audigy2 ZS
8x DVD rom
8x DVD writer

The total cost of all this stuff was about $1600 at Newegg. I'll let you know how it works later. :)

Video cards are like a religeon. ATI has its advocates. I think that the Geforce 6800 betters ATI X800 in most benchmarks, and I hear of fewer driver problems. Processors are the same. Pentium 4 has advocates. I think that Athlon64 has slightly better benchmarks and price / performance. With every one of these things there are good alternatives.

I suggest www.anandtech.com and www.sharkyextreme.com for research and www.newegg.com for purchasing.

22nd Aug 2004, 05:28
Originally posted by Peter Smith
Video cards are like a religeon. ATI has its advocates. I think that the Geforce 6800 betters ATI X800 in most benchmarks, and I hear of fewer driver problems.

That's certainly true of the 6800GT vs the X800 Pro (the $400 cards). It's not quite the same between the 6800 Ultra and the X800XT (the "you can't afford one if you have to ask" cards).

The Athlon 64 has consistently demonstrated it's the best choice for gaming. Though the Socket 939 variants are still a little pricey compared to the Socket 754 versions, though still better value than the Intel equivalents.

As for sound card, it depends on what your tastes are. An Audigy2 would be overkill if you don't like/use EAX. It's a shame the nforce3 chipset doesn't come with Soundstorm.

Anyhow, Arstechnica have a decent system guide (http://arstechnica.com/guide/system/index.html) at various budget points that would be worth perusing. Tech-report (http://www.techreport.com) and Beyond3D (http://www.beyond3d.com) are also sites worth browsing.

I'd be wary of relying Anands benchmarks. Their recent comparisons have been less than reliable (e.g. using the driver control panel to control AA in Far Cry doesn't actually enable AA). Basically, read as much as you can - any single site will have its own biases that broader research will uncover.

22nd Aug 2004, 21:26
I think personally I'd also be picking an Athlon 64 for price/performance these days.

As for vid cards/3D accelerators (all included in the same thing these days), I'd go for the ATI Radeon X800. Yes, it's slightly lower on some benchmarks than the nVidia 6800, but it sucks about half the power (and therefore cranks out about half as much heat into the case too).

About a gig of good quality RAM, at the appropriate speed. Definitely DDR-RAM rather than RD-RAM, if the latter crap is even still available.

I'm *really* happy with my ASUS A7N8X Deluxe 2 mobo, with built in 5.1 sound - it's an nForce. The appropriate newer ASUS nForce board for your processor would be great, IMO.

I'd be going for a serial ATA hard drive - I have one and am very happy with it. If budget really is no object you could get two hard drives and set them up in RAID...

A good DVD/CDRW combo drive can be OK, but my machine has them as separate drives, which also has its points.

A case with front firewire (ieee 1394) and USB 2.0 ports is very useful, but serious cooling is important. I have this case: http://www.thermaltake.com/xaserCase/xaser3/v1000plus.htm

Have fun putting it together! I did this exercise a few months ago, and am *very* happy with my new machine.

Mr. Perfect
23rd Aug 2004, 00:00
The system Peter posted looks pretty keen.

X800 puts out half the heat of the 6800GT? O_o Got a link to that?

As far as memory goes, the Athlon 64s are quite sensative to latencies due to their integrated memory contoller. If you're not looking to spend a whole lot then don't bother worrying about this, but a 2-2-2-5 rated pair of PC 3200 would be the ideal memory. A gig of such ram can be had from Corsair for about $280 these days. If you're not carefull you could get stuck with some 4-4-4-8 crap.

Also, unless you're going to overclock your system, don't bother with pc3500 ram. The Athlon 64 will run it at 3200 speeds anyhow, since it's only built to controll up to 400MHz memory.

23rd Aug 2004, 01:54
thanks for all the tips, I'll still be checking it, gonna prob buy the equipment in about 2 weeks so anyone else wanting to add their input can too. thanks


23rd Aug 2004, 03:16
Originally posted by Mr. Perfect
The system Peter posted looks pretty keen.

X800 puts out half the heat of the 6800GT? O_o Got a link to that?

I think half may be an exaggeration, however the X800XT consumes about the same amount (http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/video/display/ati-powercons.html) of power as a 9800XT - and less than (http://www.spodesabode.com/content/article/6800upower) a 6800 Ultra.

[edit] If performance in Thief Deadly Shadows is a concern, read this (http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/video/display/graphics-cards-2004_35.html).

23rd Aug 2004, 19:20
Thanx, thegrommit! Yeah, Mr Perfect, I was kicking around some wild generalisations, but the general point is less power requirements with the ATI part, so if that's an issue...

The second to fourth paragraphs of this review: http://reviews.cnet.com/ATI_Radeon_X800_XT_Platinum_Edition/4505-3025_7-30871661-2.html address the issue.

Mr. Perfect
24th Aug 2004, 03:01
Oh. Peter suggested the 6800GT, not the Ultra. Both the 6800GT and the X800 use one molex, it's just the Ultra that needs two.

24th Aug 2004, 04:48
Yes, it is the Ultra that has the problem with power supply and the heat. I got the GT rather than the Ultra because I didn't want to mess with the power, I didn't want to spend the extra $100, and the performance margin is not that significant.

By the way, I assembled the system over the weekend, and it runs quite well. Played TDS at 1600 x 1200 with all Thief video options turned up -- no problem at all. It runs much better than my Gefoce 4 Ti 4200 did at 800 x 600. I guess it is 10 x faster than the 4200. When I added 4x antialiasing and 4x anisotropic filtering outside the game, it started to lag. I didn't see any benefit from the filtering at that resolution, so I guess you can play super hi res without filtering or lower res with filtering, and the results will not be too much different. Hi res without filtering is probably faster. But really, the graphics of TDS do not warrant a really high resolution. You are limited by the textures. I'll need to take a look at Far Cry and DOOM 3 one of these days.

It turns out that I forgot to order the sound card, perhaps fortuitously. The on-board sound seems to be OK on the Asus motherboard, although there is no native EAX support. There may be no need for an Audigy. I need to play with that a little more and listen to some CDs before I make a final decision on a sound card. I might be tempted to get an M-Audio Revolution instead for better music and say to heck with EAX. TBD.

I had a problem with a DOA Gigabit ethernet port, so I am going to RMA the motherboard. Newegg is good about that. Other than that, no problems assembling the system.

I haven't had the chance to do any benchmarking. Will do that after I install the new motherboard and install more software, including benchmark suites.

24th Aug 2004, 05:51
I just saw the benchmark comparison article linked by thegrommit. Very impressive testing. Go to page 1 for a table of contents. I found the following page interesting:


There is a lot of variation between games. On average, the 6800 GT beats the X800 Pro, but not for TDS.

24th Aug 2004, 23:27
Congrats on the new rig - hopefully newegg are quick on the RMA. :)

This article (http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/video/print/ati-vs-nv-power.html) compares power consumption of both ATI and Nvidia cards.

Short version - don't go with a cheap no-name power supply, and pay particular attention to the 12V rail.

My Antec 430W Truepower (20A on the 12V rail) is fine with a Athlon 64 3200+ and X800 Pro. I doubt it could cope with a 6800 Ultra given that a A64 (as do modern P4's) draws heavily off the 12V rail.

27th Aug 2004, 03:53
Originally posted by thegrommit
Congrats on the new rig - hopefully newegg are quick on the RMA.
Yay! It lives!:D

I expedited the RMA by ordering (and paying for) a replacement board and returning the old board for refund at the same time. This would be dicey with some resellers, but not with Newegg. The new motherboard arrived this afternoon, four days after the problem was identified. It is all assembled now, it is is fully functional, and I am communicating from its LAN connection. CPU temperature is lower (42 C) with my grease than with AMD's paste. So, I am stoked. It is kind of tenuous blaming a motherboard for something, but my intuition turned out to be right.

So now I can install all my software and get on with it. :)