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Looking for performance and longevity in desktop


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#1 Kain

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Posted 29 November 2012 - 03:17 PM

So, perhaps to start off with, a little back story. For the last 10 years or so, I've owned a few "budget PCs/Laptops" that I picked up at the likes of Walmart and Best Buy. They always seem to perform well when you take them out of the box. I've even found that they might run a select few "new" (for their times) games on low settings (but where's the fun in that?) Seems in no time though, they don't match up to the minimum requirements for games even just a couple months down the road and they're performance in general feels like it tapers off rather quickly due to changes to how we use our computers and such.

So... after having used this current laptop for about a year, I find myself fed up. It has trouble even playing YouTube videos these days, so I'm thinking I've just about ran it into the ground. That got me onto the kick of wanting a new computer. I've got some money saved up, so... I'm feelign like splurging a little. That altered my mindset from just "I want a new computer," to "I want a new, big and bad, computer!" Ha. It seems like "Alienware" might be the iPhone of computers, in that it's the "cool" thing to have for "gamers" or whatever. That, or maybe those fancy lights they have just have a "moth to the bug zapper" affect on people?

So... I looked into their products. "Ooh, shiny" I thought. I found myself looking more-so at their Laptops, since I love the mobility given with them. Going out of town for the weekend? Take your "life" with you, if you will, you know? Plus, if the power goes out... at least you can still play solitaire for a while, you know? Lol.

I came sooooo close to hitting the "Checkout" button on one of their big M18x laptops. However, I got to thinking... how much of that $5,000 price tag is for the name, fancy logo and the pretty lights, you know? That... and I've always heard bad things about Dell. So... I backed out. Especially when asking people if they're worth it, and kept getting suggested to "build your own." Not too into the idea of doing that though, but going to a PC shop and having them build one seems like a reasonable option for me.

So... I went into a local shop and spoke with the owner for quite some time. I went in with the general idea of "I want big, really big" in terms of performance. Desktop by this point, mind you. I kind of want to "future proof" myself a little. I know that all PCs have a lifespan, most starting to hit the retirement home around the 5 year mark. However, I'm wanting something that I won't have to worry too much about for that kind of time period. Tired of buying these budget systems and wanting to throw them out of the window in a years time because I feel they just don't perform well anymore and be capable of handling what I want to throw at it, whatever that may be.

I must say... never really a big gamer, but I think that is in part because I never really had a "gaming PC". I've been interested in some games before, and tried Demos only to have them lag so badly that it wouldn't be feasible to play them on the computer I have at the time, or not even meet the specs enough to want to load. I do a lot of multi-tasking though. I constantly have programs running in the background. I usually have music playing while doing anything and everything from surfing the net to marking up a website (sometimes in Dreamweaver, sometimes in just EditPad or similar).

I'm just looking for something that is going to run smooth and be capable of running a game if I happen to run across some screenshots and think "That looks cool, I'll give it a try." The owner of the shop asked me what my budget was, and without really thinking I threw $2,000-$3,000 out there as a price window. That's something I can afford right now, and it seems like it's enough to put together something to really be proud of. Here's the specs he was throwing around for the PC Package he would do (mind you, I don't have exact details on a lot of it):

8-core AMD CPU @ 3.1ghz (FX8120)
32GB memory
3 TB Hard Drive
Windows 7 Ultimate (not liking what I've seen of 8)
Lightscribe DVDRW
BluRay Burner with Software
Wireless Keyboard and Mouse set
Wireless PCI Network Adapter
2GB video card, GeForce GT 640
21.5" LCD Monitor
52-in-1 card reader

Like I said, pretty generic specs, don't have model numbers for a lot of it. Also don't know what kind of motherboard he would be looking to use, etc. It does come with a 3-year warranty on all the parts and such, and he's said in the 15 years he's been dealing with the supplier he's got, he's only had to make like 3 warranty claims. Could just be a sales pitch, as it seems the odds of warranty claim would be higher than that. The price he quoted me for this build was $2,175 plus tax, take home price of $2,351.18. He ball-parked it in the store that day as being around $2,400, so he actually came in under his estimate.

My biggest reluctance is... AMD vs. Intel. I've always had Intel processors, and don't know much about AMD. Nor the difference between the two. I've heard it said that Intel is better for gaming, while AMD is great for like video editing and such. I keep getting recommended to go with an Intel though, due to the gaming, more "standard" choice, etc. The shop owner said it's more of a personal choice with no real benefit one way or the other. I've since sent him an email asking what a build with Intel may look like in terms of components and price, but still awaiting word on that.

I'm also pretty lost on the video card. I've never messed with 'after market' cards, simply relying on the built in graphic chips (which is probably my biggest problem with my previous PCs not wanting to play nice with games). This has a single 2GB, whereas in other peoples "high end specs", I keep either seeing a single 4GB card or dual 2GB cards. What should I be going for in this department? While I would probably primarily use the monitor, I might at times output to my 32" 1080p 3D TV, either as the primary display or as a second one. Like if I were wanting to watch a movie while writing some Web code, haha.

I was discussing these specs and quoted price with a co-worker the other night who has done a couple high-end builds himself and he said it sounds about spot on for a really high end computer. He expressed his preference for Intel too though, as well as questioned the video card thing. So... I don't know.

I've seen some recommendations to run a SSD, even if just a smaller one to run your OS and a few frequently used programs from since they offer better read/write performance and thus will result in faster and smoother boots and such. The shop owner seemed to shy away from it though, saying you wouldn't see much performance boost there. Maybe a second or two.

I'm just trying to really put some thought into this and collect some opinions. Dropping a lot of money into anything, computer or otherwise, shouldn't be taken lightly. I know the specs we discussed are overkill (in some areas, by a long shot), but like I said. I want something that may not be "high end" in 5 years, but something that might still be a little respectable by then. You know? So... any opinions? Especially on the whole "Intel vs. AMD" thing, the video card dilemma and whether that's a fair ballpark for a good "high end" PC.

PS -- You deserve a cookie if you read all of this. Oops. I have a bad tendency to turn what could even be the shortest of messages into a chapter from a book. A really big book. :P

Edited by Kain, 29 November 2012 - 03:26 PM.


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#2 killerx525

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Posted 29 November 2012 - 04:37 PM

Looks good but 32GB is just over the top and you would never probably use that much, 16GB is much more reasonable. A SSD in the system would be night and day difference, not sure what the seller is telling you but the slowest SSD is faster then the fastest hard drive. Windows 7 Professional should be fine as Ultimate is mostly enterprise features. The GT640 is a basically a low end graphics card, i don't even think it is considered a gaming card. The bang for your bucks card is either the 7850 or 7870 from AMD. Intel or AMD CPU is fine for website creation and gaming. So in summary cut back a few things and allocate it to the largest SSD that will fit in the budget and getting a better video card.

>Michael 
System1: CPU- Intel Core i7-5820K @ 4.4GHz, CPU Cooler- Noctua NH-D14, RAM- G.Skill Ripjaws 16GB Kit(4Gx4) DDR3 2133MHz, SSD/HDD- Samsung 850 EVO 250GB/Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB/Seagate Barracuada 3TB, GPU- 2x EVGA GTX980 Superclocked @1360/MHz1900MHz, Motherboard- Asus X99 Deluxe, Case- Custom Mac G5, PSU- EVGA P2-1000W, Soundcard- Realtek High Definition Audio, OS- Windows 10 Pro 64-Bit
Games: APB: Reloaded, Hours played: 3100+  System2: Late 2011 Macbook Pro 15inch   OFw63FY.png


#3 Kain

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Posted 07 December 2012 - 07:36 PM

So, I tried emailing the shop owner that quoted me the price on the aforementioned specs about some potential tweaks, and after not hearing back for a week I decided to check out another shop I've heard some good things about. I went in the other morning and spoke to one of the Tech's and some ideas were tossed around. Went back in this morning and spoke to the other Tech as well as the Owner about the potential build. They all three seemed to fall more in-line with your suggestions of downgrading the RAM, throwing in the SSD and upping the graphics card. They just kicked an email my way with an overview of said specs:


Processor - i5 3750K - This is the gaming processor to get right now, The "K" indicated that the processor is setup to be overclocked if that ever becomes something you want to pursue, I wouldn't recommend overclock right away, but the option is there.

Memory - 16 Gig of performance 1600Mhz DDR3 ram. Motherboard can be upgraded to a maximum of 32 Gig of ram, though i dont see a need for that at the moment, that again is an available change in the future.

Video Card - EVGA GTX 680 - 2 Gig of Video Ram on the card and 1536 Processor cores. The system will also be able to support an additional card in the future.

Storage - Solid State system drive (250 Gig) / Storage Drives 2 x 2 TB Western Digital Hard Drives.

Additional Items are Aftermarket CPU Cooler/SD storage Card reader/Blu-Ray (reader and burner)/Windows 7 Professional/Extra Case Cooling/ 750W Power High Efficiency Power Supply

24" HD Widescreen Display

4 Red LED Fans

Current Price Before Tax is 2068.00


They all expressed that an i5 would do the trick, and that an i7 would probably be an unwise expense. I believe the first Tech as well as the owner said that games aren't even capable of utilizing the hyperthreading so you would probably never even touch that chips' full potential. There was also the "Ivy Bridge > Sandy Bridge" mentality. Again, they also put over that 32GB of RAM would be more than just overkill. The Tech this morning spoke of how he was running two games as well as processing a video in the background the other day and was still only running about 8GB of memory usage on his system. So 16GB sounds reasonable and still "future proof."

The first Tech would throwing around ideas for the build, and what he would do said that the "680 would go in there, no question about it", but the second Tech (who actually "put together the spec quote") had a 660 quoted. The owner kind of leaned toward the 660 too, as he was saying it would certainly perform well. He put across that the card would probably need replacing in about a years time anyway, given how fast technology evolves. Told of how the 580 was the "must have" just last year, haha. Didn't seem opposed to throwing the 680 in there though, evident by it being in the revised quote.

When it came to storage, they initially only had a single 1TB storage drive (on top of the 250GB SSD). I asked about going higher and the Tech said you could go up to a 3TB drive, but the Owner quickly shot down the idea of putting one of those in there, his theory being that it would have more platters and be slower than say, putting in multiple drives. That's how the 2 x 2TB idea came about. Seems like a reasonable compromise to me.

All in all, it sounds to me like a decent set up. I'm really not a "Tech-literate" guy anymore (hence why I'm hear, making a 'diary' of sorts regarding my foray into custom building and looking for opinions along the way). Does it look like a "good performing 'future proof' system"? Is the price it's sitting at now, $2,000 a fair price for what's going into it? I don't imagine the case would add much to that either. Is there a component I may be missing which I should cover with them before moving forward?

Edited by Kain, 07 December 2012 - 07:36 PM.


#4 killerx525

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Posted 08 December 2012 - 01:23 AM

It looks good but if you wanted to save some money, then you could get the non-K CPU and just stick with the stock cooler which is adequate.

>Michael 
System1: CPU- Intel Core i7-5820K @ 4.4GHz, CPU Cooler- Noctua NH-D14, RAM- G.Skill Ripjaws 16GB Kit(4Gx4) DDR3 2133MHz, SSD/HDD- Samsung 850 EVO 250GB/Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB/Seagate Barracuada 3TB, GPU- 2x EVGA GTX980 Superclocked @1360/MHz1900MHz, Motherboard- Asus X99 Deluxe, Case- Custom Mac G5, PSU- EVGA P2-1000W, Soundcard- Realtek High Definition Audio, OS- Windows 10 Pro 64-Bit
Games: APB: Reloaded, Hours played: 3100+  System2: Late 2011 Macbook Pro 15inch   OFw63FY.png


#5 rotor123

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Posted 08 December 2012 - 05:41 PM

Two Thoughts
What Make and model of motherboard? All Motherboards are not created equal. Can it do crossfire or SLI if needed in the future? Power Supply and case make and model.
Do you really need Fans that light up? Case fan quality is all over the place in terms of durability. hat Brand and Model of SSD. Some are way better than others.

Moving on to your laptop.
The fact that it has slowed down makes me think it is garbaged up with junk / Malware programs.
I would back it up to save anything I didn't want to lose and do a System Recovery back to as new condition. That will wipe everything out so backup first.
Then Make sure you have created the System Recovery Disk set of DVDs just in case. Then Do the built-in system recovery. Make sure you can afford to be without it just in case something goes wrong. It is always good to have a spare computer.

As a point of information my econo laptop from The days of Vista still plays YouTube videos fine. But it isn't garbaged up with crud. I make sure to keep it clean.

Good Luck
Roger

Edited by rotor123, 08 December 2012 - 05:42 PM.

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#6 Kain

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Posted 08 December 2012 - 09:55 PM

I actually just asked the guy just yesterday in an email about the motherboard, go figure, lol. I've seen on here that it's an important component but one that none of the shops I had talked to were too interested in talking about, you know? The one he has picked out is the "ASUS P8Z77-V PRO LGA 1155 Intel Z77". As I understand it, ASUS is one of the better brands when it comes to motherboards, so not knowing all the technical stuff, I felt a little safe when I read that. He did note however that if I wanted to, I could go "better" by going with a " EVGA Z77 FTW board" but thinks it wouldn't be necessary as I probably wouldn't utilize the extras like the potential for four graphics cards.

The case hasn't actually been decided on yet. He presented some options, and I wasn't really a fan of them for various reasons. I didn't go into it with any real ideas on what I wanted from a case, just with the general idea that if I'm going to sink a good chunk of change into this thing... I want it to be a little "pretty", something you want to proudly display on your desk, not something that looks like it should be tucked away in a closet and left to chug along doing it's thing. They had a red & black AMD case on display in their shop, which caught the interest of the individual that was with me. They really latched onto the idea of a red and black case, seeing as those are my two favorite colors. However, the Tech said when he called with the first quote, that it might not be too doable, since a lot of those cases have a lot of plastic and really bad cooling issues. That's when he came up with the idea of maybe doing a black case, with the red fans to accent it. He ended up finding some red and black ones to recommend though, but like I said... wasn't a big fan for various reasons.

He's recommended several, but I'm finding that I'm being a little picky. The majority of the ones recommended thus far have been Thermaltake, there was also a SilverStone, one NZXT and a Zalman among the ones he had picked out. From what I've seen, it seems Thermaltake and CoolerMaster are two of the more popular brands for cases. Just a matter of finding a style that suits me. Any other quality brands to look into?

As for the laptop... I don't think it's a simple matter of it being cluttered up with junk and malware. I do believe that earlier in the year, I did a complete system restore and saw similar performance issues afterward. From what I understand, having a laptop run hot will deteriorate it's performance due to the wear and tear on the parts. That may be where the problem lies, because I've often pushed this little budget machine to it's limits. I don't recall it running too hot when I first got it, but now... it can get rather hot.

Edited by Kain, 08 December 2012 - 09:59 PM.


#7 rotor123

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Posted 08 December 2012 - 10:57 PM

The laptop probably needs the CPU Heatsink cleaned. The laptop will slow down performance when it runs hot to help with the heating. Thus running too hot will slow it down. The next step if it still runs to hot it will shut off.


I like ASUS Motherboards, Mine and the one I built for my brother, both I7 based are using ASUS motherboards.

This is a good Brand of case. http://www.lian-li.com/v2/en/contact_us/index1.php I still have the aluminum one I bought many years ago. It still works and has 4 USB ports in the front, Two cooling fans in the front and one in the rear. It has a filter for the front fans. Everything is aluminum. Solid, Quiet.

To my way of thinking these are the Cadillac of cases. Clean Simple lines, Sturdy, All metal. A computer should never be heard. It should just sit there and work.

Good Luck
Roger

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#8 Kain

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Posted 10 December 2012 - 04:45 PM

Cleaning the heat sink on a laptop... is that something you can do yourself? Simple task with a desktop, as I think I did that once before with one of my old ones. Laptops on the other hand... never opened one up, or even tried to.

I've read some good things about those cases, in terms of quality and such. However like you say, they are kind of simple, a little too simple for what I'm looking for. I know computers don't need all the fancy designs and flashing lights and such... but, I'm looking for kind of a Ferrari of a computer. Powerful under the hood, and "cool" on the exterior if you will. Lol.

I went browsing NewEgg again and the Thermaltake Element G VL10001W2Z kind of stood out to me. Doesn't seem to have too bad of reviews, unlike some other cases I had looked at before. I wouldn't like the blue and green (or multi-color) fans though. I've seen some good things about Antec cases too, and the Nine Hundred Two V3 & Twelve Hundred V3 cases have some appeal. They seem to have pretty good reviews too, for their quality, durability and even the airflow. Hm... sooo many choices.

#9 rotor123

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Posted 10 December 2012 - 05:24 PM

I would need to know the make and model of the laptop to know how you would do taking it apart if that is needed.
This is a HP guide that you can try. It will generally apply to most brands.

Symptoms of heat issues and causes of excessive heat
The following list describes some of the issues caused by too much heat in the computer:

Games stop responding during play.
Windows stops responding during use.
Fans inside the computer become louder because they are spinning faster to remove the heat.
When starting the computer, it sometimes stops at a black screen and does not open into Windows. Windows usually stops responding when it does open.
Mouse and keyboard stop responding.
Windows 7, Vista, XP - Computer unexpectedly restarts or displays a blue fault message.
Windows 95, 98, and Me - Frequent Fatal Exception, Illegal Operation, or General Protection Fault error messages occur in several software programs.


For cases some of the things to look for in new cases.

Do you need a 3.5 inch drive bay? It could be handy for a media card reader or other device.
one or more 2.5 inch internal drive bays for SSD drives so You don't need a adapter to mount them.

Antec cases are good.

Roger

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#10 HaxxTaxx

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Posted 10 December 2012 - 07:10 PM

Hi Kain,

I have scavenged through and noticed a few things that may help.

The processor is fine but know the Ivy > Sandy is another gimmick of Intel > Amd or AMD > Intel. I have a I7-2600k which is sandy bridge and love it. Could not see it getting better. I mean I can OC it but I don't even utilise its full potential now.

16GM RAM (Certainly enough)

250GB SSD / 2 x 2 TB WD HDD (I could not imagine the use for 4TB of space unless you are using 1 hard drive to mirror the other)
Best course of action is to save the programs on the 250GB SSD and all data on your WD HDD.

Stock coolers on Intel CPUs are more the sufficient. Only time you would upgrade them is if you plan on overclocking.
If you order that Thermaltake it does come with the three fans, no additional cooling would be needed.

I would certainly look at the 680 above the 660 in video card wise. With a 680 it certainly would not require an additional video card in the future. It also has the ability for a second monitor.



Yours Specs:
Processor - i5 3750K - This is the gaming processor to get right now, The "K" indicated that the processor is setup to be overclocked if that ever becomes something you want to pursue, I wouldn't recommend overclock right away, but the option is there.

Memory - 16 Gig of performance 1600Mhz DDR3 ram. Motherboard can be upgraded to a maximum of 32 Gig of ram, though i dont see a need for that at the moment, that again is an available change in the future.

Video Card - EVGA GTX 680 - 2 Gig of Video Ram on the card and 1536 Processor cores. The system will also be able to support an additional card in the future.

Storage - Solid State system drive (250 Gig) / Storage Drives 2 x 2 TB Western Digital Hard Drives.

Additional Items are Aftermarket CPU Cooler/SD storage Card reader/Blu-Ray (reader and burner)/Windows 7 Professional/Extra Case Cooling/ 750W Power High Efficiency Power Supply

24" HD Widescreen Display

4 Red LED Fans

Current Price Before Tax is 2068.00






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