Gamer PC
September 23, 2007 11:34 AM   Subscribe

Adivce on building a PC for a games fanatic (more inside)

I've built PCs before, but am well out of the loop regarding the graphics card/processor combination that would deliver a top notch games pc. What's state of art?

Budget for the whole system is around £800 -£1000.
posted by the cuban to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Intel Core 2 Duo E6750, nVidia 8800 GTX if you can afford it.

Tom's Hardware
has the a list of the best video cards for money. Your money is better spent on a video card than a processor if you're planning to run top-notch graphics.
posted by trim17 at 11:44 AM on September 23, 2007

I'm in your same position, cuban, and I'm looking at Ars Technica's suggestions for gaming boxes.
posted by Mercaptan at 11:56 AM on September 23, 2007

If you can afford the three recommendations below you'll be set for a good while. The quadcore is the standard for what new games are striving to compete with, the chipset is advanced enough that no games even begin to test its limits yet, the bioshock tester told me it was more than enough.

And the Nvidia 8800gtx on SLI is seriously overkill atm for graphics.

Intel Quad Core
GEforce 8 Series(the 8800ultra is new but is also SLI ready)
posted by M Edward at 12:17 PM on September 23, 2007

Don't bother with the GTX/Utra. Unless you're on a ridiculously huge screen, the GTS will work just fine. It's much less expensive, and draws much less power. A single GTS drives my 1920x1200 screen flawlessly in everything, including Bioshock.

You can overclock Core2s to a ridiculous degree most of the time. I'm running my '2.4GHz' chip at 2.7, and that's a very minor OC. There are people out there getting 3.6GHz on air cooling. You should be able to push most C2Ds to 3GHz without much trouble; you need to buy a lower bus speed (like 800Mhz) and clock it up higher. The Ars Technica guides above are good sources for parts.

Avoid Vista. Stick with XP.
posted by Malor at 12:58 PM on September 23, 2007

Seconding the E6750. An E6750 runs current games faster than a Q6600, at least for me. I'd recommend waiting until the next generation of quad core processors before buying one.

As long as you get an a version of the nVidia 8800, you should be happy. I don't think anyone is realistically going to see any difference between the Ultra, GTX and 640 MB GTS in anything available today. I think your money would be better spent getting more/better RAM.
posted by Ctrl_Alt_ep at 1:04 PM on September 23, 2007

Bottom line - you're not going to build a top notch gaming PC on that budget.
State of the art is more £3-4k.

I just bought a pretty high end machine at £3.5k (inc monitor), could have probably got it down to £2.5-3k if I self built and hunted around for the cheapest deal on each part but I couldn't be bothered.

You'll get 'pretty decent' under £1k but certainly not 'top notch' or 'state of the art'.
posted by missmagenta at 2:35 PM on September 23, 2007

Best answer: Bottom line - you're not going to build a top notch gaming PC on that budget.
State of the art is more £3-4k.

Unless your prices are ridiculously out of line with ours, that's not at all true. You can build a really excellent gaming PC for around $1500; 6750, solid motherboard, 3 or 4 gigs, (that last gig is hard to use), 8800GTS. Monitor would be extra. At current exchange rates, you should be able to get away at 1000 pounds, plus maybe VAT.

3000 British pounds -- on the order of 6,000 American dollars -- is a ridiculous amount of money to spend on a gaming PC. Yes, you can spend that much. But no, it will not improve your gameplay. The only way you'd get any real benefit from all that extra money is if you had a monitor the size of Texas.
posted by Malor at 3:12 PM on September 23, 2007

Something of a threadjack, but I believe the original poster will consider it helpful so I'll go ahead and ask.
Would you consider it worth the extra money to get 800 MHz RAM over 667 MHz? How significant is that compared to putting that money into more Gigs of the slower RAM, or into a better processor or graphics card?
posted by Naberius at 3:44 PM on September 23, 2007

Best answer: Bottom line - you're not going to build a top notch gaming PC on that budget.

You can get more then pretty decent for under £1k. As long as you don't need a monitor you could have the following as an example:

Asus P5K Intel P35
Intel Core 2 Duo E6850 3.00GHz
2GB DDR2 PC2-8500C5 1066MHz Dual Channel Kit
GeForce 8800 GTX 768MB GDDR3 HDTV/Dual DVI
+ Case, 850w PSU, 250GB HD, DVD-RW

Even thought I threw it together it only came to £905. So with the extra £100 there is space to upgrade certain parts, maybe ever go up to 4gb ram. Or just spend another £300 and get a nice 24" widescreen monitor to go with it.
posted by Hates_ at 3:48 PM on September 23, 2007

Best answer: Bottom line - you're not going to build a top notch gaming PC on that budget.
State of the art is more £3-4k.

Sure you can spend a small fortune on a computer, but two years down the road you are going to end up with an expensive museum piece (at least with respect to gaming). It makes a lot more sense to buy at the power/cost sweet spot plus a good graphics card than to spend twice or three times as much for that extra 10%.
posted by Ctrl_Alt_ep at 4:32 PM on September 23, 2007

On RAM speed -- first, you absolutely want to get RAM at the right speed for your processor. If your process has an 800Mhz front side bus, you want at least 800Mhz RAM.

If you're going to overclock, you generally want to buy up on RAM speed, because you overclock by speeding up the bus. Intel chips are multiplier-locked, so you raise the bus speed instead. The faster the RAM you have, the higher you can easily overclock.

You can also often decouple the bus from the RAM, running the RAM at some fraction of the bus speed. This is suboptimal: you lose some throughput because the RAM isn't going as fast as the processor can take the data. However, if this lets you overclock enough higher, you can overcome that inefficiency and end up with a net performance gain. As to exactly where the tradeoff point is, you'd have to ask people that know more than I do... I myself did just a little bit of an OC, because that's all I needed.

If you're just trying to bottom-feed and save as much money as you can.... well, I don't have any experience with buying down on speed grades to increase RAM size with the C2D. On the Athlon chips, that can make sense, as they're not that bandwidth-starved. On the old P4s, that would be a disaster. But on the C2Ds, I just don't know.
posted by Malor at 5:15 PM on September 23, 2007

A twist on the question: What if one wants to build a reasonable gaming PC on a barebones type form factor?

I don't necessarily mean the Shuttle brand, just the roughly 20x20x20 cm shape. If I understand correctly, the motherboard comes with the case, so the options are more limited. Any recommendations?
posted by kandinski at 7:26 PM on September 23, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the great advice folks.
posted by the cuban at 3:11 AM on September 24, 2007

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