Building a cheap computer for Civ IV.
February 15, 2006 1:56 PM   Subscribe

Building a cheap computer for Civ IV.

Recommended System
Operating System: Windows® 2000/XP
Processor: 1.8 GHz Intel Pentium 4 or AMD Athlon processor or equivalent
Memory: 512 MB RAM
Hard Disk Space: 1.7 GB Free
CD-ROM Drive: 4X Speed
Video: 128 MB Video Card w/ DirectX 8 support (pixel & vertex shaders)
Sound: DirectX 9.0c-compatible sound card
DirectX®: Sid Meier's Civilization 4 DirectX® version
Assuming I already have a monitor, keyboard, Windows, etc., what's the cheapest I could build this for? (I might upgrade it later.)
posted by Tlogmer to Computers & Internet (16 answers total)
posted by Good Brain at 2:01 PM on February 15, 2006

Get more RAM than 512. I upgraded my creaky old machine to 512 just to be able to play Civ4, and it still has trouble with the graphics.
posted by COBRA! at 2:03 PM on February 15, 2006

Best answer: This may be of some help. Bear in mind all I cared about was smooth Civ IV play. I never play really graphics/CPU intentive stuff
posted by mojohand at 2:05 PM on February 15, 2006

intentive = intensive
posted by mojohand at 2:06 PM on February 15, 2006

The Ars budget box would be a good starting point. Includes links for comparison shopping. I agree with cobra though - get 1GB RAM.
posted by lbergstr at 2:07 PM on February 15, 2006

If you have the funds, don't go for the minimum specs. I built a system (using newegg) last month with CivIV in mind that just screams for $2K -- and 25% of that was for a widescreen Dell panel. CivIV at 1600x1200 really is a sight to behold.

And, on the plus side, I probably won't have to majorly upgrade my computer for three-five years.
posted by ewagoner at 2:18 PM on February 15, 2006

If you spend money on anything, spend it on more RAM. I built a computer two years ago that handles Civ 4 fine, and it cost me about $650 back then, for what it's worth.

P.S. Cossacks 4eva
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:21 PM on February 15, 2006

Best answer: What COBRA! said.

The most recent Civ4 patch had a bunch of tweaks to make it happier in low memory systems (where low-memory is effectively defined as < 1gb).br>
Graphics wise, it seems fairly happy running on an old Radeon 9600, at 1600x1200, though some detail needs to be turned down. On an nVidia Geforce 6600 Go, it's fine at 1920x1200 with all detail enabled.

You can definitely do this on the cheap... just don't skimp on the RAM.
posted by blender at 2:36 PM on February 15, 2006

Ugh... apologies for the corrupt HTML. That'll teach me to trust live preview.
posted by blender at 2:38 PM on February 15, 2006

Best answer: If you don't give a damn about quality, you could pick up a "great quality" brand at Fry's that would probably meet these specs -- they regularly offer them at $199, and occasionally (say, on holidays, like the upcoming president's day) you can find them for $99. You probably will have to buy an additional graphics card ($50) and 512MB of RAM ($50 or less) but even then, you're getting out for around $300.

They're POSes, but it'll probably work. If price is your main concern, i'd go with that. Next step up is a Dell (really great cases for the price you pay for most dells -- also, awhile ago it seemed like they were throwing in a flat screen with everything). Building your own is awesome, and newegg is unbeatable for that, but that is not the extreme budget route, IMHO. Hell, you can barely buy a decent case for $40, not to mention the $20-60 of your time it costs to slap together.

That said, I haven't actually priced out a box meeting these specs from newegg (and you'd have to pick a single vendor, i think, otherwise you'd eat any savings in shipping charges) -- but I seriously doubt you can do it for under $100 or $199.
posted by fishfucker at 2:43 PM on February 15, 2006

Do you NEED a CD-ROM drive to play the game, or just to install it? You might be able to just borrow a CD-ROM drive from a friend.

(You might even be able to score an old DirectX 8 128MB graphics card from a friend too -- particularly if they play WoW and used to use an FX 5200 and were forced to upgrade around patch 1.7. No, I'm not bitter.)
posted by krisjohn at 3:18 PM on February 15, 2006

krisjohn: The game requires the DVD to be in the drive to run.

Fortunately, this may be worked around using Alcohol 120%, a DVD image, and AntiBlaxx (from memory... not using my home PC right now). I use this setup on my laptop to avoid having to lug around the original DVD.
posted by blender at 4:02 PM on February 15, 2006

A related question: I'm planning to build an AMD 64 system from newegg parts. But every motherboard they sell has negative feedback from people that couldn't get it to work at all. Do I just ignore those? Where do you get your processor + motherboard + memory recommendations?
posted by jjj606 at 4:44 PM on February 15, 2006

I know jack about building pcs, and I had good luck with an A64 and Epox EP9NPA -- I think ours is the EP9NPA+Ultra.

Didn't even have to use a floppy to get SATA working; it Just Worked.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:22 PM on February 15, 2006

I haven't found Civ IV to be demanding at all, and I only have a GeForce 4 Ti4200 64MB graphics card that's about two years old. Civ IV still runs fine at 1280x1024 (my PC's TFT's max resolution) with nothing to note. My processor is an el-cheapo Sempron 3000 and it has 768MB RAM.. runs perfectly.
posted by wackybrit at 5:50 PM on February 15, 2006

jjj, here's what I'm currently using:

$233 Athlon 64 3700+ processor
$119 Asus A8N-SLI motherboard
$185 2GB Corsair PC3200 (DDR 400) RAM w/ 2ns latency
$265 eVGA (generic) GeForce 7800GT

It's a great combination, very effective on the performance/price, and with upgrades it's good for another 2.5-3 years.

Planned upgrades:
Processor: Athlon 64 4400+
Motherboard: A8N32-SLI, which runs both cards of an SLI config in 16x, rather than dropping from 16x on a single card to 8x on two cards.
RAM: Please note that for the A8N-SLI motherboard you must set the timing to 2.5ns, not 2 (spent a few hours tracking down this info)
Video Card: go SLI for an 80% performance boost.

Performance is amazing. With some light overclocking it runs Battlefield 2 at 1600x1200, 2xAA all settings maxed at 80FPS. I'll be set for Oblivion next month. Needless to say, this is very much overkill for Civ4, but by dropping the RAM to a single 1GB 3ns stick (to be doubled up later) for $80, and the graphics card down to a 6600GT (to be replaced entirely later) for $120, you can drop your price down to . . .

$552, and it will be great for Civ4 while having tons of room to expand over the next three years.
posted by Ryvar at 6:24 PM on February 15, 2006

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