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Update me on the state of PC's


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#1
Humodour

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I just got my $950 stimulus payment from the government and I figured now is as good a time as any to buy a new PC.

Problem is, last I heard DDR1 was uber cool, and the Athlon 1600+ was the ultimate gamer CPU. And it was unheard of to find over 256mb of RAM on a graphics card... except those weird Voodoo cards which were 10 years ahead of their time.

So, what's the dealio?

- I'm aiming for 2 (ideally 4) gb of DDR3 RAM.
- I want a graphics card that can play recent FPS games moderately well.
- I want at least two cores (no more than 4), clocking at least 2Ghz (but ideally 2.6 or more)

Is this feasible under $1000 AUD?

Or should I just get the Mac Mini with Intel Core 2 Duo @ 2 Ghz, 2Gb DDR3 RAM @ 1066 Mhz and a nVidia 9400? It's $1032 AUD with my student discount. It wouldn't play the latest games but I've got a backlog anyway (NWN2, Witcher, Bioshock, etc).

#2
Humodour

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This makes me drool:

Apple Mac Pro:
- 2 Quad Core Intel Xeon Nehalem CPU's @ 2.93 Ghz
- 32 Gb DDR3 RAM @ 1066 Mhz
- 4 Geforce GT 120's @ 512MB RAM each
Clocks in at just under $20,000.

Hmm. Something tells me this would be faster: http://www.tycrid.com/?page_id=85

#3
Oerwinde

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From what I hear DDR3's performance increase over DDR2 is minimal and not worth the price.

I may be entirely wrong though.

#4
mkreku

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Not entirely correct. DDR3 is worth it if you can also afford the i7 processor. Then you're talking about 3, 6 or 12 GB or RAM though. The i7 has the advantage of being able to use three memory channels.

If you're buying a Core 2 Duo/Phenom 2 then there's no immediate gain from using DDR3 since DDR2 is almost equally as fast right now and they're both using two memory channels.

#5
Humodour

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From what I hear DDR3's performance increase over DDR2 is minimal and not worth the price.

I may be entirely wrong though.


Hmm. That's surprising. I actually would've thought that RAM is one of the main performance bottlenecks these days (given CPU speed is esentially irrelevant as they're so fast they're idle most of the time waiting for cache/etc to respond) but this benchmark suggests that with DDR2 RAM, both doubling speed and halving latency combined give at best a 25% performance boost, but typically more like about 5%.

http://www.madshrimp...cle&articID=472

Given DDR3 is exactly the same RAM with exactly the same latency but twice as fast bus I/O bandwidth, it'd seem like using DDR3 over equivalent double-speed DDR2 would likely net you even less than the 5% boost the double-speed DDR2 got! Ouch.

It's hilarious because DDR4 comes out in 2012 which has a further 2x clock multiplier but still has the same latency as the DDR2 of the same clock. I imagine it'd give a similar miniscule performance boost probably at a significant cost in price, temperature and power use.

DDR2 it is, eh?

Err, although the above doesn't hold for the Mac Mini I mentioned because it uses a special model of the Geforce 9400 built into the motherboard. I.e. the GPU and CPU share memory, making the otherwise minor increase in bus access speed suddenly noticeable.

#6
Humodour

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Not entirely correct. DDR3 is worth it if you can also afford the i7 processor. Then you're talking about 3, 6 or 12 GB or RAM though. The i7 has the advantage of being able to use three memory channels.

If you're buying a Core 2 Duo/Phenom 2 then there's no immediate gain from using DDR3 since DDR2 is almost equally as fast right now and they're both using two memory channels.


Ah yes, I just noticed the high-end DDR3 has three channels. Cool, though even than only 1 or 2 channels would be used on average just as dual-channel DDR typically only operates half as fast as theoretically possible (i.e. as fast as one channel), making the speed increase kind of deceptive, no? Seems similar to the hype about multiple CPU's/cores. When would having an extra channel actually be tangibly useful? Movies? Games? Data mining?

Edit: Err, anyway, onto CPU and graphics. Any suggestions?

Edited by Krezack, 05 April 2009 - 02:16 AM.


#7
Bokishi

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i7 and a GTX 285

#8
Kaftan Barlast

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Any suggestions?



Dont buy an apple. The hardware is outrageously overpriced, and they still cant run Windows to 100%. Not to mention you will become a mac user, a social stigma that will haunt you for the rest of your life.

#9
Syraxis

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If you plan on using XP don't bother with 4GB of RAM, XP can only detect up to around 3GB iirc.

#10
mkreku

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If you plan on using XP don't bother with 4GB of RAM, XP can only detect up to around 3GB iirc.

Yeah, but there isn't any cost increase to go from 3 GB to 4 GB. Also, using 2 identical 2 GB sticks might mean a small performance increase. And you're slightly more "future proofed". Go with at least 4 GB even if you're going with XP.

#11
Humodour

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Any suggestions?



Dont buy an apple. The hardware is outrageously overpriced, and they still cant run Windows to 100%. Not to mention you will become a mac user, a social stigma that will haunt you for the rest of your life.


My student discount lowers the already fairly low price of the Mac Mini by a further 10% (yes, everything else is too rich for my blood), and you're wrong about running Windows - maybe at the start of the Intel switch, but Windows is 100% supported now (through both drivers and the advanced bootloader - EFI). It's just a PC. It uses the same RAM, the same CPU, the same graphics cards. It's not a done deal, but I'm seriously contemplating it. I'll have to dig up some pricing info on the latest Intel Core 2 Duos and ATI/nVidea cards to compare it vs building my own.

But I generally prefer OS X and Ubuntu for coding and multimedia anyway (i.e. most things besides games).

#12
mkreku

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Yeah, but there isn't any cost increase to go from 3 GB to 4 GB. Also, using 2 identical 2 GB sticks might mean a small performance increase. And you're slightly more "future proofed". Go with at least 4 GB even if you're going with XP.

Argh, GO WITH AT LEAST 4 GB EVEN IF YOU'RE GOING WITH XP is what that was supposed to have said.

Stupid disappearing edit button.

#13
Moatilliatta

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If you plan on using XP don't bother with 4GB of RAM, XP can only detect up to around 3GB iirc.

Yeah, but there isn't any cost increase to go from 3 GB to 4 GB. Also, using 2 identical 2 GB sticks might mean a small performance increase. And you're slightly more "future proofed". Go with at least 4 GB even if you're going with XP.

I suspect that Krezack already knows this, but the important difference is 32bit vs. 64bit, and the consensus that I'm reading seems to suggest 64bit Vista still being superiour to 64bit XP.

I also seem to remember that how much of the fourth GB that you get is dependant on the amount of ram on your GPU.

#14
Gorgon

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One thing still holds true, the more you pay the less you get. Look for a workhorse processor and board that should last you 2-4 years or so. Not smart trying to plan ahead longer than that.

#15
Humodour

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One thing still holds true, the more you pay the less you get. Look for a workhorse processor and board that should last you 2-4 years or so. Not smart trying to plan ahead longer than that.


Yeah, I've been burned by this before, It's why I basically refuse to pay over $1,000 for a new PC now.

#16
ericjones

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One thing still holds true, the more you pay the less you get. Look for a workhorse processor and board that should last you 2-4 years or so. Not smart trying to plan ahead longer than that.


Very true. I always go for what's "second best", so to say, meaning that I buy low-end newer tech or high-end older tech. Buying the very best equipment is a complete waste of money, as the difference in pricing in no way correlates with the difference in performance.

Krezack: Do you have a monitor already, or do you want to pay 1000 AUD for the whole package? From what I gather, however (you're looking at the Mac mini), the 1000 AUD price is without the monitor.

I would go for something like this:

Vista x64
-a lot better than its reputation, and A LOT better than XP

4 GB DDR2 Ram
-"Future proofing" as mentioned above

Intel Core2duo E8400 3.0 ghz with a cheap fan
-you can easily clock it up to at least 3.2 ghz without any worries

An nVidia geforce 8800 or better (preferably the 2xx series) with 512 mb DDR3 ram
-my experience is that newer games are slightly more optimized for nVidia cards than for ATI/AMD ones. Then again, my experiences may not relate to the experiences of others here.

I run this setup, and I run all newer games smoothly. Nowadays, it should certainly also be in your price range. I expect it to be a bit short on performance for games that come out later this year, but not by much.

#17
Magister Lajciak

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I will second the 'second best' advice. It is generally much better value for money.

#18
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This makes me drool:

Apple Mac Pro:
- 2 Quad Core Intel Xeon Nehalem CPU's @ 2.93 Ghz
- 32 Gb DDR3 RAM @ 1066 Mhz
- 4 Geforce GT 120's @ 512MB RAM each
Clocks in at just under $20,000.

Hmm. Something tells me this would be faster: http://www.tycrid.com/?page_id=85


It shouldn't. Macs suck. Major.

If you can afford it i7s and 285s are your friends, like Bok said.

That having been said, a Core 2 and some DDR2, with a 9800 or maybe one of the new 4970 if you like don't like nVidia, should be good.

#19
taks

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Buying the very best equipment is a complete waste of money, as the difference in pricing in no way correlates with the difference in performance.

i think the only case in which buying higher-end stuff pays of is with monitors since they seem to go down in price rather slowly, i.e., you won't buy a $700 monitor and find it selling for $500 3 months later. at least, that has been my experience. of course, i hold on to monitors longer than any other piece, too.

taks

#20
LadyCrimson

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Re: the i7's ...

Would a budget-minded/non-uber-geektech-gamer be better off with the lower end i17 (920) or the Core2Duo? Price ranges for the latter appear to be either 100+ bucks cheaper or about the same as the i7920, depending on core2 version.

Edit: This reviewer (no claims on how good they are...) has the 920's beating the E8500 in speed, whilst using Excell 2007, by quite a bit - almost twice the speed. So speed-wise, a lot better?...so I guess the actual question would be is it a lot more expensive to set up a rig around the i7 (motherboard etc), or any other advice you can think of?

Edited by LadyCrimson, 11 April 2009 - 09:02 AM.





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