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InactionMan
2005-02-21, 14:57
Bloody Hell. My girlfriends little brother want to get a computer. Initially he siad he just wanted it for basic web/email/music - general nonsense. So I was pushing him towards the iMac. He thought it was fine but wanted to think about it. On the way out of the store he asked if Macs can play the same games as PCs. Drat.

Anyway, apparently his PS2 and 200 games isn't enough to keep him entertained. And I cannot steer him towards a Mac if he wants it for gaming. But I have no idea what kind of computer to get or what it'll cost. He has about $2500 CDN to spend and is starting from scratch (no monitor, no nothing)

So...I'll be wasting time reading crap at Ars and Anandtech today but would appreciate any advice on picking out a good gaming PC.

Gargoyle
2005-02-22, 09:02
You'll probably be better off getting one built. Since most "Off the Shelf" PC's (even those sold as gaming machines) will not have the best kit, and will probably have some stuff you just dont need. This is the system I built about 6 months ago:-

iiyama ProLite E435S 17" LCD. (170)
ATI X800XT Pro GFX Card - PCI Express Version. (350)
Intel 925 mobo.
3.0Ghz P4.
512Mb DDR2.
500W PSU - Needed to drive GFX card.
2 x 80G Maxtor. (Above 5 items for 500)
DVD RW drive. (80)
Silly case with window and lights :) (35)
MS IntelliMouse Explorer 3.0 (25)
Keyboard - Only cheap but has a really nice feel and is very slim! (15)
Mic - A must for any online multiplayer (30)
Speakers (??)

Total Cost: 1205

Note the absence of stuff you dont need. eg. Floppy drive, modem, etc. Also I already had a copy of Windblows XP, but you should get a good OEM price for that.

Some of these prices are wholesale (I have good contacts) and some are off the shelf retail. Also, I built the system myself.

Luca
2005-02-22, 09:41
Hmm... well, every builder has their own preferences, and mine are obviously different from Gargoyle's. For gaming, AMD's Athlon 64 is better than the Pentium 4, and a bit less expensive too (plus you get the nice feeling of supporting the underdog rather than the dynasty). ATI makes good graphics cards just like nVidia, but I'd only go with them if you want low end or super high end. For midrange to moderately high end video cards, nVidia has better deals. If you want to spend under $200, go ATI. $200-$400, go nVidia. Over $400, back to ATI. At least, that's what I would personally do. My GeForce 6800 card was $280 and ATI doesn't offer anything at all in that price range that can come close to the 6800's performance. The 6800GT is an excellent card too, but it's really pricey at $400.

And that brings me to another problem... currency units and vendors. InactionMan is talking about Canadian dollars and I guess won't have access to a lot of the really popular American vendors like NewEgg, so the prices will be higher than I say. And Gargoyle is totally weird... talking in pounds... and I probably haven't even heard of the place from which he bought all that stuff. At least with Canada I can confidently say that I'm familiar with TigerDirect.

Anyway, since Gargoyle did it, I'll post my own rig and the price for each component:
Case: Antec SLK3700AMB (roomy, well built, not too flashy) ($70)
Power Supply: 350W Antec included with case
Motherboard: EPoX nForce3 w/ socket 754, 2xSATA, 3xRAM, Gigabit ethernet ($75)
Processor: AMD Athlon 64 3000+ (2.0 GHz) w/ retail heatsink ($150)
RAM: Corsair Value Select 2x512 MB PC3200 ($170)
Video card: BFG GeForce 6800 w/ 128 MB VRAM ($280)
Hard drive: Seagate 200 GB SATA ($115)
Optical drive: NEC ND-3500A 16x DVD burner ($80)
Sound card: Creative SoundBlaster Audigy 2 ($80)
Speakers: Logitech Z-560 THX-certified 4.1 (refurbished, $75)
Floppy drive: some cheap-ass brand, $8 (and yes I have used it)
Monitor: IBM C190 19" CRT (refurbished, $150)
Keyboard/Mouse: Logitech Cordless MX Duo (now discontinued, $75 when I bought it)

So it was a little over a grand in US dollars, when I bought it. Nowadays the price for many of the components hasn't changed (like the RAM, video card, monitor, and speakers), but many of them are a lot cheaper (motherboard, processor). I'd suggest going with a Socket 939 motherboard and processor instead of 754 like I did - back when I built mine, 939 was a lot more expensive and didn't offer retail processors so I would have had to buy a third-party heatsink as well.

I have a huge amount of knowledge accumulated through my various experiments in building and gaming with PCs, so if you have any other questions I can probably help. Right now I'd suggest looking for parts similar to what I listed and seeing how much they are. If you want to trim away some excess cost, I can probably help you with that too. It might be a good idea to have him skimp on certain areas and save some money. $2500 Canadian is probably enough to afford a cheap-ish gaming PC in addition to a used iBook. Unfortunately he probably won't be up for that, but if you could try pitching the idea to him that if he saves a little money on the gaming PC, he can also get an inexpensive laptop, he might be interested. You know how kids are these days with their laptops.

InactionMan
2005-02-22, 10:38
Thanks for posts.

tigerdirect seems like a good place. though I'm a wee bit baffled by the video cards. Does it matter which company makes the card? They have GeForce 6600 GTs from a bunch of different companies and the prices seems to vary by about $75 depending on the vendor. So....which companies are better? And is the 6600 good enough for most of current games? All of the 6800s seem to jack the price up to about $500 dollars. I think I'd go with a PCI Express card simply because they're cheaper.

And I would rather go with AMD. What's the minimum speed I should go with?

Thanks.

(on a side note, it's kind of fun going through all the different components. I wish you could do this with Macs.)

InactionMan
2005-02-22, 11:30
Ahaha! This is fun. Screw Apple for not letting me do this and still run OS X.

So what kind of power supply do I need? Is 300W generally enough? I should I buy a case that comes with a PSU?

I just might have to build myself one of these after I do this one.

Exactly how hard is it to put all this crap together? I've taken apart a few PCs before and done simple stuff like adding new hard drives and optical drives. Is it pretty easy to eff this up?

Do I need a case or can I just nail all this shit to a piece of plywood? It couldn't look worse than cases I've seen.

Alcibiades
2005-02-22, 11:44
check out www.ncix.com

You can order all the parts and build your own, or select the part out, and for $50, have them build it for you and test it as well, then ship it out. Great prices, and its a Canadian store to boot!

I recently built my own computer, and I don't recommend just jumping into it, especially when dealing with a rig that expensive. I'd trying buying a $50 jalopy from somone's closet, and then just take it apart, clean it, put it back together again, and see if it still works. Anyway, check that site out, its great! And it price matches as well. Good luck!

NosferaDrew
2005-02-22, 11:47
Do not skimp in the power supply - a solid PSU is essential for PC happiness.
I almost always go for Antec's TruePower series.

As for the case, just get something that's easy to get components in and out and one that has good airflow.
I have three of the Antec cases that Luca mentioned. I used them for my three dual Xeon Folding@Home machines. It's a good basic case.

It's fun slapping these things together, but it can be frustrating too.
Most of my headaches have come when I'm installing the OS.

Good luck!

Luca
2005-02-22, 14:00
Regarding graphics cards: That's an interesting thing. Let me give you a little crash-course in choosing one, since the graphics card is the centerpiece of any gaming box.

First of all, you have two different interfaces - AGP and PCI-Express. Some cards are PCI-E only, others are AGP only, and many are available in both. Now, PCI-E is newer and technically has twice the bandwidth of AGP 8x, but that doesn't help performance even with the highest end video cards available. The main advantages of PCI-E are future expansion (since AGP will eventually be left by the wayside) and SLI. SLI is cool because it lets you put two paired graphics cards in a pair of PCI-E slots and they'll work together as a single unit. A pair of GeForce 6600GTs in SLI will be roughly equivalent to a similarly priced single GeForce 6800GT.

Anyway, PCI-E sounds cool right? Well, it's Intel-only for now. That brings us to motherboard chipsets. I don't know much about Intel chipsets, but I know that if you want PCI-E, you have to buy an Intel CPU. I'd say it's worth it to sacrifice PCI-E if it means you get to use an AMD processor instead of an Intel. Pick out a motherboard with a socket 939 interface, made by a reputable company, and which uses the nForce3 250 chipset. Epox, Gigabyte, MSI, Asus, and DFI are all good companies... in general, you don't want to skimp on the motherboard and get a cheapo (like a Chaintech or PC Chips) but you don't need to get all spendy unless you really know what you're doing. $70-$80 is a good amount to spend. Plus, just about any modern motherboard in that price range should have 2-4 onboard SATA ports.

Okay, now you have to decide which card to get. Here's a generalized order of performance.

nVidia:
GeForce 5900XT
GeForce 6600
GeForce 6600GT
GeForce 6800
GeForce 6800GT
GeForce 6800 Ultra

ATI:
Radeon 9800 Pro
Radeon 9800XT
Radeon X800 Pro
Radeon X800XT

Unfortunately, ATI doesn't really have a midrange card. No Radeon X800 non-Pro. So there's this big gap between the $200 9800 Pro and the almost-$400 X800 Pro. The 9800XT isn't much faster than the 9800 Pro, but it costs $300. Bad deal. nVidia is the way to go if you want a $200-$300 video card. My GeForce 6800 non-Pro is perfect. A 6600GT will be almost as fast and it'll cost less. Just make sure if you want the 6600GT that you get the AGP version, which is more expensive than the PCI-E version.

InactionMan
2005-02-22, 15:42
Alright, so I priced this out on NCIX.com, I'm going to price a similar system on tigerdirect.ca and see if there is much of a difference. What am I spending too much/too little on? (I think the RAM is a tad pricey) Anything noticable a bad choice?

All prices in Canadian dollars.

ASUS ATHLON64 S939 DUAL DDR AGP 5PCI SATA 1394 SOUND 1000LAN (174.42)

BFG GEFORCE 6600 GT OC AGP8X 128MB VGA DVI TV-OUT (311.22)

AMD ATHLON 64 3000+ S939 1.8GHZ 512KB L2 CACHE (206.25)

MAXTOR DIAMONDMAX 10 200GB HARD DRIVE 7200RPM 9MS 8MB ATA133 OEM (145.15)

BENQ DW1620-BK DVD+-RW 16X4X16 DUAL LAYER +R 2.4X BLACK IDE OEM W/ SW (87.74)

CORSAIR 1024MB KIT PC3200 DDR CAS2.5 2X512MB (210.90)

ANTEC SLK2650-BQE BLACK QUIET MID-TOWER CASE 4X5.25 2X3.5 2X3.5INT 350W (78.98)

Total - 1214.66

Luca
2005-02-22, 15:55
That's kinda spendy for the graphics card. US$250 is too much for the 6600GT - it's worth closer to $210 or $220 here. For that price I'd look into the low end GeForce 6800 - it has the same 128 MB of RAM and AGP interface, but it has 12 rendering pipelines vs. 8 on the 6600GT, so that will help performance. I think you'd be better off seeing if you can find a different 6600GT though for a lower price. The 6600GT is still a great video card, just not quite as fast as the 6800.

The RAM price seems fine. About the same as it costs here.

The motherboard seems quite expensive. Asus is a great brand, but look and see if you can find a better deal.

Also consider whether you really need a DVD burner. I know they're not too expensive, but you can get Combo drives for a lot cheaper anyway. Plus, if you get a Combo instead, you can put the money towards a sound card, which will help a lot. PCs tend to have really bad onboard sound, even the nice, fancy motherboards. They tend to lack power and sound kind of wishy-washy. The SoundBlaster Audigy (the SB Live is crappy) is fairly powerful and has the best gaming support, while the M-audio Revolution apparently has better sound quality for music and stuff. Also, the M-audio is Mac compatible if he ever wants to transplant it.

It's a good start. Oh, it might make it easier to read if you kind of cut down on those descriptions a bit. Then again, maybe you're not sure which parts to cut out.

MCQ
2005-02-22, 16:10
Anyway, PCI-E sounds cool right? Well, it's Intel-only for now. That brings us to motherboard chipsets. I don't know much about Intel chipsets, but I know that if you want PCI-E, you have to buy an Intel CPU. I'd say it's worth it to sacrifice PCI-E if it means you get to use an AMD processor instead of an Intel.

:confused: Maybe I missed something while skimming?

http://www.newegg.com/app/viewProductDesc.asp?description=13-130-485&depa=0
http://www.newegg.com/app/ViewProductDesc.asp?description=13-131-524&depa=0

etc. etc.

InactionMan
2005-02-22, 16:11
Yeah, I wouldn't know what part to cut out of the description.

There were cheaper motherboards, but not by ASUS. Are most brands reliable? I couldn't find a cheaper 6600GT and the 6800s were all in the 400+ range. I might not have the art of scouring these sites down yet so maybe I missed some cheaper stuff. The AGP cards were also noticeably more expensive than the PCI Express cards. I think there was a 6600GT for about $240.

The DVD burner has got to stay, I could probably find a cheaper one but he wants for the sole purpose of turning himself into a warez whore.

It does seem pretty expensive considering he still has to pony up for Windows and a monitor.

(I priced out the system at tigerdirect at the prices are within $50 bucks of each other.)

MCQ
2005-02-22, 16:17
You may also want to check ZipZoomFly, they appear to ship to Canada and have pretty decent prices on most stuff. Not sure how the GST/PST factor in the US --> Canada shipment though.

InactionMan
2005-02-22, 16:28
I can cut over $200 off the price if I go with PCI Express motherboard W/out Firewire and a 6600GT PCI Express. I don't think he'd miss Firewire. So that would put the thing at closer to $1000 CDN, but still lacking Windows/Monitor/Keyboard+mouse/ Speaker+soundcard.

Seems a tad more reasonable.

MCQ
2005-02-22, 16:38
I can cut over $200 off the price if I go with PCI Express motherboard W/out Firewire and a 6600GT PCI Express. I don't think he'd miss Firewire. So that would put the thing at closer to $1000 CDN, but still lacking Windows/Monitor/Keyboard+mouse/ Speaker+soundcard.

Seems a tad more reasonable.

Note: Those Newegg links I had above weren't in Canadian prices... I was just using them to point out something to Luca. Zipzoomfly also isn't in CDN prices, its US pricing. You'd have to convert to CDN. I haven't looked, but I'd find it hard to believe that going with a board that has PCI-E and a PCI-E card would save you $200, unless TigerDirect is more expensive than I thought.

Edit: N/M, just noticed the NCIX post. I guess that must be the Canadian equivalent of something like a Newegg here in the US.

InactionMan
2005-02-22, 17:58
Yeah, the price difference came from different a motherboard and video card from tigerdirect.ca. The other Motherboard cost $130 and the video card costs $190. So just under 200 but still quite a difference.

Luca
2005-02-22, 18:50
MCQ: Those must be fairly new. I had heard about PCI-Express coming to the AMD platform a while ago, but when I built my system last fall it wasn't available. Now it is, obviously, but it's a hefty price to pay for a dubious advantage. PCI-E on Intel has been around for a long time and is cheap.

InactionMan: I just noticed that the price of that motherboard was equivalent to around $150 US. That's an expensive board. You don't have to buy Asus as there are plenty of other great brands. My Epox has been perfectly reliable, and friends of mine have other perfectly reliable motherboards by Gigabyte, MSI, and DFI. This (http://www.ncix.com/products/index.php?sku=13832&vpn=GA-K8NF-9&manufacture=Gigabyte) Gigabyte one is only about $150 Canadian and should be all you need. It has PCI Express too, so you can get one of the less expensive 6600GTs. As far as buying Windows is concerned... well, let's just say that it's very easy to get by without buying it. If the kid wants to be a warez whore, have him start by not buying Windows. It's the most (only?) righteous and commendable form of piracy. But I shouldn't go into any more detail in the open forum. If you want details you can send me a private message or something.

By the way, I think we should stick to listing prices in Canadian dollars from now on, just so we don't run into too much confusion. It's about 80 cents US for a Canadian dollar. If you're going to list US dollar amounts then please specify that's what you're using.

InactionMan
2005-02-22, 21:03
Luca, all the prices I've listed have been in Canadian dollars. It seems the PCI Express stuff is a lot cheaper than AGP.

I'm going to run this by my girlfriends brother and see what he thins and if he trusts me to build it for him. And if Apple doesn't give the iMac a decent upgrade soon I may just build myself one of these. :)

InactionMan
2005-02-23, 23:29
He decided to get an XBOX. Quite a bit cheaper seeing as he really just wanted something other than his PS2 for gaming.

Anyway, thanks for help everyone. Believe you me, if Apple gives the iMac a lameass update I'll be building myself one of these. I want OS X on X86!!!!!! :p

Alcibiades
2005-02-27, 14:27
Here's a tip in case you decide to build for yourself, never EVER order from an American site, no matter how good the deals look. Once you convert, pay taxes, pay shipping, then pay duty, its well above what you would have paid from a Canadian retailer. I can't stress it enough (I built my PC from scratch at the beginning, and ordered a part from an American site, ended up doubling its price on the way over here). Anyways, best of luck!

kevie
2005-03-02, 23:35
you could always try and get two computers 1800 is more than enough to have a gaming pc and then you would have enough for a macmini. Then everyone is happy

Kurama
2005-03-03, 10:39
make sure you have a high wattage power supply because it can make that machine more stable; plus you can overclock those 64 bit processors by 1Ghz.