My shopping list.

Discussion in 'General Hardware' started by Olle P, Jan 16, 2006.

  1. Olle P

    Olle P Newbie

    Here's my purchase list for next month (or the month after that, depending on my financial development).

    Base line:
    I need to upgrade my computer with a faster CPU.
    - My overall policy is to do incremental upgrades, trying to get stuff that isn't the very latest or state of the art, but still will do fine for a couple of years. I'm also pretty cost sensitive, so I'm not willing to spend extra money that can't be rectified by a similar gain in overall performance.
    - It's not an upgrade unless you notice a significant difference in performance.
    - Overclocking isn't really my cup-of-tea, although I run my computer slightly overclocked.
    - For cooling of the parts I'll have to go cheap right now, using the stock coolers. Some internal noise is acceptable since it will be mounted in my new home made sound proofed and well ventilated case.

    My current rig:
    • Athlon XP 1800+, Palomino, overclocked from 133 to 142 MHz FSB.
    • Soltek SL-75DRV5 motherboard with VIA KT333 chipset.
    • 2x256 MB RAM, cheap stuff.
    • Gainward Ultra/1100 TV/DVI graphics card. (Underclocked GF FX5900, 128MB RAM.)
    • Cheapish 350W PSU.
    • Cheap 10BaseT Ethernet card.
    • Two IDE HDDs.
    • MS Sidewinder Precision Pro joystick, with game port connector and not well supported by WinXP.
    • Other irrelevant stuff.
    So here's the basic shopping list, in short:
    • CPU (Athlon64, boxed with heatsink).
    • Motherboard.
    • RAM (PC3200).
    • Graphics card.
    • Joystick.
    Now for the details, in a somewhat different order:

    For me joysticks are a lot about ergonomics. One feature I love with the sidewinder is that the coolie hat is way up on the stick where it doesn’t interfere with the buttons. Most sticks have the hat centered between the buttons, which makes fast thumb movement between button on opposite sides a bit awkward. This is a key issue when playing Steel Beasts, since there I use three thumb buttons (zoom, LRF and palm switch) frequently and in fast succession when playing gunner.
    The only affordable joystick design I’ve found that fulfil this demand is the Saitek Cyborg.
    To make my swith feel like an upgrade rather than just a forced replacement I’m adding force feedback to the list of desired features and thus will buy a Saitek Cyborg EVO FF.

    Graphics, somewhat as a function of MB choice.
    Once I made up my mind to get a new CPU it was clear that it also required a new motherboard and new RAM, but how about the graphics?
    My current graphics card (GC) is the latest hardware added to the rig, and it has potential to perform better with a faster CPU, so discarding it right now to increase performance didn’t seem like an absolute must.
    At the same time it’s obvious that my next GC will use PCIe instead of AGP.

    The options were therefore:
    • “Temporary” MB without PCIe, to be replaced when I buy a new GC in the future.
      Not really an option since MBs are fairly costly no matter what options are there.
    • MB with both PCIe and AGP, keeping my current GC for now.
      Seemed initially like a nice solution. Problem is that MBs with PCIe and AGP fail to support some of the other features I want, so that’s not an option either.
    • MB with PCIe and built in graphics, using the on board graphics until I buy a good GC.
      Not that many around. Crappy graphics performance and lack of other desired features makes it a non starter as well.
    • MB with PCIe, complimented with the cheapest PCIe GC available until I can afford the real thing.
      Even the cheapest GCs for PCIe cost a bit, and they don’t perform nearly as well as I like. Not an option.
    • MB with PCIe and a good GC.
      Seems to be the only way to go, even if it require the most short term expenses.
    So, what would be a “good” graphics card with a nice price/performance value?
    - ATI drivers don’t support table fog with Direct3D, which is one of my key requirements, so I’ll stick to nVidia GPUs.
    - To get a performance that’s sufficient right now I’ve figured out that a GeForce 6600GT with 128MB RAM will be spot on, and that at a fair price.
    - That won’t be sufficient for very long though. When checking out the graphics card listings for SB Pro I see that GF6600GT barely miss what it takes to run SB Pro at high res with heavy filtering.
    - In a sudden a-ha revelation I get the idea to get a GF6600GT and an SLI MB. Then I can just add another GC should a single one be insufficient. Reading up more on SLI make me realise that solution to be outright crappy! (Most software I use don't support SLI.)
    - So, what other options are there? Tom’s hardware guide have compiled a very nice relative performance chart for PCIe boards, and comparing current GC price differences to performance differences I come to the conclusion that only GT-versions are worth buying.
    - A 6800GT cost some 60% more and is 39% faster than the 6600GT.
    - A 7800GT is twice the price and 93% faster than the 6600GT.
    Spending a bit more to get a GF7800GT will thus give me same price/performance as the cheaper card, but one that will do nicely for quite some time to come and also in line with what’s become my habit to skip every other generation of GeForce GPUs (starting with 256, upgrading to 3Ti200 and then FX5900).

    Right now my choice is a PNY GF 7800GT Verto, which is the cheapest available in the shops I consider using (and still have some nice features like ViVo).

    Dual channel is the obvious choise. Quantity: I have 512MB right now, and feel like getting more, but I’m reluctant to spend more than absolutely necessary. 1024MB of the cheapest matched memory available will have to do for now.
    Corsair Value Select 2x512MB matched seems to be the final choice.

    Here my first intention was to hit the “sweet spot” where one step up would be a steep increase in price while one step down wouldn’t save me much. That would be an Athlon64 3500+ or even a 3700+.
    Due to the “unexpected” added cost for a high performance GC I’ll instead cut costs by picking a boxed Athlon64 3200+.
    I expect to have the option of buying a faster same socket CPU later on in a year or two, should I feel it desireable.

    This is the really tricky component to pick, IMO. First I’ll need to compile a list with features I require and features that I don’t require but am willing to pay for anyway.

    Required features:
    • Socket 939
    • Dual channel RAM support.
    • 2 PCI slots (minimum)
    • 2 PCIe(x1) slots (minimum)
    • PCIe(x16) slot
    • On board sound (to save money). Two way stereo is sufficient since I only use two way speakers or headset.
    • SATA2 with RAID
    • USB2, the more ports the better.
    Nice additions:
    • PCIe(x4) slot. I don’t know what to use it for yet, but having it gives me more slack for future addons.
    • Fire wire. Same motive as for PCIe(x4)
    • Hardware firewall (as provided by nForce4). Security is always good!
    • On board Ethernet connection.
    • Bluetooth, to allow easy connection to my (work) cellphone and PDA. Not important.
    • Bundled hardware/software that I fancy.
    So far I’ve found two MBs that fit my wishes: Abit KN8-Ultra and ASUS A8N-E. They cost the same and I’m currently leaning heavily in favour of the latter.

    I think my current PSU will be able to handle the load, and then a simple 20 to 24 pin adapter is all I need for now. My experience with under powered computers this far is that I had trouble starting both HDDs at once when powering up the computer, and that problem I can live with for a while. (The workaround is to cut the power for a short while so that the drive that’s allready started doesn’t stop spinning before the computer is restarted.)

    I’ll need to investigate what PSU to buy next anyway...
    Ideally I’d like to get low cost quality with a power rating of at least 450W. Cost no more than 800 SEK (~80 USD if purchased abroad) unless I get something much better at a slightly higher cost.
    Suggestions are welcome.

  2. zachig

    zachig Newbie

    WOW. Good for you. I'm dying to upgrade my system as well.
    If you need help in deciding which models exactly to buy, don't hesitate, just ask :wave:
  3. Chai

    Chai Administrator Staff Member

    Why do you need a joystick? What type of games are you playing with?

    I guess you have already made up most of your choices. PSU? Anything from 400W-450W is more than sufficient for your setup.
  4. Olle P

    Olle P Newbie

    Flight sims, occasional racing games, and then of course Steel Beasts.
    I suppose a flight yoke could fill my needs as well, but those cost twice as much. :(
    The general outlines, yes, but the specific items are subject to changes based on price changes and new info.
    Right now I'm for example reevaluating the graphics card. The PNY is very straightforward with nothing extra. At a very small price addition I can get either this ASUS EN7800GT, with ASUS GameReplay and some other goodes, or Pixelview, that come bundled with Power Director 3 (video editor). That GameReplay feature seems really cool, if it works... anybody have any first hand experience with it? (Does it work together with nVidia's drivers? Does it record sound? What's the resolution?) :think:
    For now, yes. With another HDD, faster CPU and God-knows-what added later on I'll probably need more, which is why I'll buy something more powerful when I buy one.
    At least I found a 400W PSU with the same 12V limit as my current 350W PSU, which supports my theory that I won't need a new PSU immediately. :)

    Oh, and I'd like some feedback on the MBs above.
    Is there any technical reason to say one is substantially better than the other? To me the ASUS card have more/better features and extras.

    Last edited: Jan 19, 2006
  5. Chai

    Chai Administrator Staff Member

    My bro is still waiting for a new sci-fi flight sim for his MS FF2, because there was none last year! :shock:

    GC is all about bundles and prices, so I really can't help you much there.

    I think you can't go wrong with that ASUS board.
  6. aKho

    aKho beat around the bush

    i'm using an Asus A8N SLi mobo (bought in July 2005). my NB fan broke down in under a month. it was doing like 6000 cfm i think. anyway, i checked numerous websites and found out that it's a common problem and Asus is issuing free replacement for them. i got my replacement fan which is running around 3000 cfm only but stable.

    so just fyi, you may encounter problems similiar with this mobo. hopefully it does not affect the E models.. :whistle:
  7. Olle P

    Olle P Newbie

    aKho, thanks for the notice! :thumb:

    I might consider putting the stock cooler for my Athlon XP on top of that NB... Should be sufficient and silent (with reduced fan speed).

    I've noticed that it's almost exclusively the SLI boards that get public reviews, and not the non-SLI versions. :(

  8. aKho

    aKho beat around the bush

    looks like your A8N-E mobo is having the same type of NB fan as my A8N-SLi... so expect problems. i doubt they've replaced it but settle for giving out replacements instead...

    Attached Files:

  9. Olle P

    Olle P Newbie

    Prices change every week...
    The graphics cards seem to be dropping in price, and I've decided to wait to place any order until the cheapest CPU I've found is in stock by the 3rd of february.

    Right now best option for graphics is a XFX GF7800GT, slightly overclocked from factory. (450/1050 MHz instead of 400/1000)

  10. Olle P

    Olle P Newbie

    I just ordered that one, realising it was at a one week sale and a bargain. (A used demo card of that model was priced 20 USD higher!)
    I also ordered the joystick.

    The rest will be ordered within two weeks.

  11. Chai

    Chai Administrator Staff Member

    Wow...I wish we have sales here!
  12. Olle P

    Olle P Newbie

    Well, I guess it's a matter of tradition and regular price levels.
    The typical price for of a GF7800GT card in a Swedish on-line store is ~3500 SEK, which equals 460 USD (at todays exchange rate).
    On sale my card cost "only" 2995 SEK (~395 USD) plus 99 SEK shipping.
    (If I go shopping downtown I have to pay at least 10% and probably closer to 20% more.)

    The 25% sales tax is a killer in raising costs... :(

    Last edited: Jan 26, 2006
  13. Chai

    Chai Administrator Staff Member

    That's very expensive! And I thought USD 360+ here is expensive!
  14. Papercut

    Papercut Newbie

    Yeah I've heard the taxes in Sweden are pretty bad.
  15. Olle P

    Olle P Newbie

    Let's see:
    - Income (salary) tax: ~35% (Unless you've got more than an average salary. Then the tax goes up towards 50%.)
    - Financial income tax: ~30%.
    - Property tax: Insignificant, unless you're very rich.
    - Car tax. To cover road maintenance and registrations.
    - House tax. Hey, the house is there, so why not tax 1.5% of it's property value in addition to any property tax?
    - Sales tax. Typically 25%, but with exceptions. Books, for example, are only 6%.
    - CO2 tax. Applies to fossile fuel.
    - Alcohol tax.
    - Tobacco tax.
    - Dog tax.

    And then we have the latest invention: Crowd tax! If you drive a car registered in Sweden through central Stockholm on a weekday you'll have to pay some tax for that. (See Stockholmsförsöket (in English).)

    On the other hand, we do get something for all these taxes:
    - Free schools, including university.
    - Cheap healthcare.
    - Fairly good roads.
    - Retirement funds.
    - Other social benefits.

  16. kayFX

    kayFX Newbie

    sound like stock market.. :p
  17. Olle P

    Olle P Newbie

    I've now ordered the rest I need:
    - Motherboard: Asus A8N-E
    - CPU: Athlon64 3200+ Venice, boxed
    - RAM: Kingston value 2x512MB, 3-3-3-3. (I contemplated Corsair 2.5-3-3-8, but the extra cost wouldn't justify the expected less than 1.3% performance increase.)
    - Power plug adaptor 20pin -> 24pin.

    Delivery expected some 10+ days from now, since the CPU isn't in stock yet.

  18. Olle P

    Olle P Newbie

    It is like stock market! (With the exception that you can never sell at higher than purchase price...)

    ... and it seems like I had ner perfect timing! :dance:
    - Since I ordered most components have risen in price, so ordering right now would have cost me a bit, about 5%, more.
    - The new joystick, that's been something of a black sheep ordered as an update, because the new hardware won't support my old one, rather than an upgrade or replacement, is now needed as a replacement because my old stick started to lose it's calibration yesterday (about 12 hours after the new stick had been sent off by mail). I have to recalibrate it just before use, and then recalibrate it every half hour or so for continued use.


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