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Cheap gaming PC for my girlfriend


Humodour

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Hi guys, I would like your expertise on my options for getting my girlfriend a desktop computer.

 

She currently has a laptop that is failry ****ty. I mean, we'll keep it so she can use it at university next year, but it causes neck problems (partly because she doesn't have a desk) and she can't play games with me on it, besides Age of Empires 2, and I'm a bit sick of that.

 

So. She's getting a desktop PC. It needs to meet these requirements:

* As cheap as possible (ideally around the $500 mark, but I can go up to maybe $700 max - the AUD is above parity with the USD, so feel free to work in USD).

* At least 4 Gigabytes of RAM

* Discrete graphics card absolutely REQUIRED - the faster the better, but cost must be minimised

* Hard drive space irrelevant - we store our music and videos on a network attached storage device can stream them wirelessly

* Processor speed also largely irrelevant - everything is multicore these days and in the 3 gigahertz range, which will be plenty for our purposes

 

I am not averse to building it myself (in fact, it'd be fun), but if that is the case, can you suggest the specific components I should go for?

 

Muchas gracias, cheerio!

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AMD Llano-based (A-series) systems are actually viable for very basic gaming and given a graphics card worth its salt will eat up about a quarter to a third of the budget. I'd say onboard at the $500 budget level and discrete at $700 would be a fair assessment of the budget. I'll add in a couple example specs a bit later.

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Barest minimum - I'm using MSY prices as a guide:

 

CPU: AMD A8-3870 $139

M/B: Asrock A75M-HVS $72

RAM: cheapest 8GB kit $42

SSD: Intel 320 120GB $145

ODD: cheapest one $19

 

Equals $417 leaving $83 for a case with PSU which I don't tend to spec because taste is everything - but doable assuming you don't need an OS, external peripherals, etc.

 

 

Now what do you get for increasing the budget up by $200? Well given the lowest GPU I can conscionably recommend for gaming, the HD6850, is $135, not much wiggle room is really added. With a dirt-cheap case you may juuuust be able to stretch to the cheapest Sandy/Ivy Bridge quad-core and suitable budget motherboard. I wouldn't bother with a dual-core. Even then I'd actually lean towards keeping the Llano CPU and instead trying your best to stretch to a $250 7850 GPU - if you're sneaky you'll stick it in your old machine and give her your old one. Obviously if you need anything more than just the system box, it's outright not possible to do a discrete GPU in your budget.

Edited by Humanoid
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I've got two hard drives in RAID 0. But I want to dual-boot to Ubuntu Linux and that's really difficult with a RAID array. So I was going to un-RAID it anyway. Given that, I could just split the two hard drives between the two computers, yeah? So no HD cost. Why did you suggest an SSD for her? I know HD I/O is a performance bottleneck, but is an SSD worth it in this case?

 

8 gig of RAM sounds nice and cheap. Might upgrade my own comp to 8 gig while I'm at it.

 

I don't think she needs an optical disc drive because we use Steam and similar digital stores. Can always buy an external if we get desperate.

 

So that narrows it down to the following, yes?

PSU

CPU (agreed - quad core is a desirable bare minimum)

Graphics

RAM

MoBo

Case

 

For murky ethical reasons, I avoid Intel products (I know they're good at what they do, but I hate their anti-competitive practices), and buy AMD. This applies to graphics cards too, and I should have mentioned this originally. Sorry!

 

Thanks for your help so far man! I'm checking out MSY now, but I'd still really appreciate any further advice!

Edited by Krezack
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Given today's pricing of SSD vs HDD currently - you're probably looking at $100+ for a terabyte 7200rpm drive - there's little reason to get a spindle drive if you don't need the extra storage space. It's spending less than $50 for the biggest possible speed boost you can get on a PC.

 

Unfortunately if you're avoiding Intel drives then there's no good alternative SSD listed at MSY, though it shouldn't be hard to come across a Crucial m4 at an alternative vendor. Personally I imported mine from the US and may well be doing so with a video card later this year.

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http://i.imgur.com/Lgc9Y.png

 

Have fun. Also, how about upgrading your PC and using your old parts on her PC?

"My hovercraft is full of eels!" - Hungarian tourist
I am Dan Quayle of the Romans.
I want to tattoo a map of the Netherlands on my nether lands.
Heja Sverige!!
Everyone should cuffawkle more.
The wrench is your friend. :bat:

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http://i.imgur.com/Lgc9Y.png

 

Have fun. Also, how about upgrading your PC and using your old parts on her PC?

 

Good idea! And thanks for the image/table.

 

I'm actually also really interested in lowering the greenhouse gas footprint of my computer, as well as the power bill. And if she is also going to have a desktop too, that becomes doubly important.

 

(Several days have passed since I wrote the above - it was left lingering in a tab while I browsed other tabs and while my comp hibernated, but now I have returned to it)

 

I have decided that initially I will buy these components and place them in my current PC:

* An Intel SSD 320. This seems like the best bang for buck and also a really energy efficient drive (not the best around, but it's a jack of all trades, and consumes about 3 watts at peak load).

* 16 gigabytes of DDR3 RAM (then I will turn off paging memory management)

 

I'm hoping that with the combination of a huge amount of RAM and the SSD, any visage of the I/O bottleneck that plagues hard drives will completely evaporate. Further, with no moving parts, the SSD should draw a fair bit less power than my RAID 0 array of two hard drives. Even further to that, because the main memory will be so large, there will be no paging, and thus the SSD will remain in the less power-intensive idle state far more often. So a huge performance boost and a nice power consumption drop. Not bad.

 

I have also dimmed my monitors to 30 brightness (the lowest comfortable level I was willing to go). Compared to 100 brightness, and since I have two monitors, this is almost equivalent to only running 1 monitor instead of 2, in terms of power savings.

 

And then I'm also running a programme called DXTory, which is designed for video capture, but has a nifty little feature to cap frame rate at 30 FPS (the lowest level that still produces smooth gameplay - roughly the same level used on TVs and exactly the same level used on consoles). Considering that even when V-sync is turned on, games are running at roughly 60 FPS, this actually equates to a fairly large power saving because the GPU is not used as often (a nice side effect: less heat). Considering this is a software tweak, the saving in watts is phenomenal! This is only really relevant to systems that have a PCI-E card, though, because PCI-E cards are ****ing huge watt guzzlers.

 

When Intel releases their next round of Ivy Bridge processors in June, I will buy the Intel Core i7-3770T processor. It's extremely fast, has 4 cores, 8 threads, and is generally just top of the line (ignoring the $1000 Intel chips). It's not quite as fast as the chips above it, but the difference is slight, and instead of consuming 77 or 65 watts, it only consumes 45 watts!

 

Which leads into why I've suddenly decided to buy Intel again: as far as ethical concerns go, global warming ranks waaaaay above anti-competitive practices. AMD's Phenom processors consume 95 or 125 watts. I have a feeling my current Thuban is the 125 watt model. That's almost 3 times as much power draw as the Intel chip I'll be buying. Ouch!

 

Now, once Intel does release that processor, I'm going to build a new system with it. I'll also take the new SSD and memory I've bought and place them in the new system. The old RAID 0 array and old RAM will return to their original box, and I'll give that box to my girlfriend. It's actually an extremely energy inefficient box with the 2 hard drives, the Thuban AMD processor and a power guzzling Radeon 5870. But she won't use it anywhere near as much as me, so with me using a new super-efficient computer and her rarely using a super inefficient computer, the energy bill should fall a fair bit.

 

My final note is that I am going to test how the Ivy Bridge's integrated graphics performs, and not buy a Radeon GPU unless I need it! The HD Graphics 4000 looks like it might be able to handle the games I actually play, like the Source engine games, Torchlight 2, and lots of old games. If that's the case, then that's at least 60 watts saved right there (65 watts is the peak consumption of the Radeon 7750, which is ATI's most energy efficient GPU which still provides great performance... their worst cards consume can consume around the 150 watts mark). If the Ivy Birdge's graphics core isn't able to play one or two games, I will just play them on my old comp. I really can't see how I will need to buy a graphics card.

 

Oh, I forgot the PSU! I doubt Dell chose a good PSU for the box I bought. I'm going to check, and if it isn't above 90% efficiency, then it's gone (90% efficient PSUs have the 20PLUS Platinum certification). The PSU is actually probably the best place to look to reduce power consumption, because if you're drawing say 200 watts, and your PSU is only 70% efficienct, then you're actually drawing 285 watts and wasting 85 watts as heat! If it's 90% efficient, you're only wasting 22 watts as heat. A 63 watt difference.

 

http://ecogamer.co.u...-for-Efficiency

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By the way, regarding graphics card the new GTX 670, is probably the best bang for buck in graphics since the 8800GT. It really is incredible.

"My hovercraft is full of eels!" - Hungarian tourist
I am Dan Quayle of the Romans.
I want to tattoo a map of the Netherlands on my nether lands.
Heja Sverige!!
Everyone should cuffawkle more.
The wrench is your friend. :bat:

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By the way, regarding graphics card the new GTX 670, is probably the best bang for buck in graphics since the 8800GT. It really is incredible.

 

It has a TDP (thermal design power - basically max power draw) that would be perhaps twice that of the system without it, at 170 watts. That's one of the worst electricity guzzling cards I've come across so far! No thanks. :p

 

If I need a discrete graphics card (gonna see how the inbuilt HD Graphics 4000 core of the Intel i7 CPU goes), then I'll grab the Radeon 7750, which has a TDP of 55 watts while still producing really decent graphical output.

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