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New Build, Need Advice

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 
I have been away from PC gaming for a long time - it's probably been over ten years since I could really call myself a 'PC gamer' now, and I'm looking to get back into it.

I've been playing on consoles for the last couple of generations but now I'm getting bored of them, with the move towards motion controls (I would much rather see KB+M support) and due to them generally under-performing while only running games at 720p or less.


I've spent the last few weeks reading up on a wide variety of reviews and forums which has given me some idea of what I should be looking for when building a current spec PC but I'm really struggling when it comes to GPU choice. I have a few other questions about my build as well, but can't see a general hardware/build forum here.


My plan right now is to go for:
Silverstone FT02 Case
Overclocked i5 2500K
ASUS Sabertooth P67
8GB (2x4) Corsair Vengeance 8-8-8-24 1.5v
SATA3 SSD Boot Drive (probably Intel G3)
Corsair AX850 or TX950 PSU
For gaming and photo editing (Adobe) it doesn't seem like there would be any benefit to spending 50% more on a 2600K, am I right? It looks like the Adobe applications don't really scale well past four cores.

With RAM, I hear that there's no real-world benefit to going over 1600MHz, but that timings help, so it would be worth spending an extra 10% getting 8-8-8-24 instead of 9-9-9-24 ?

For the power supply, I imagine that either will supply more than enough power for the whole build, but PSUs are quieter at lower loads. I know I would get better efficiency having the PSU run around 50% load but I did that with my HTPC which left me with no room to add a gaming-class GPU now - what pushed me towards a new build. Is it worth spending an extra 20% for a fully modular, but lower wattage power supply? (I don't see any point in the partially modular PSUs from Corsair)

I chose the ASUS board (as well as Corsair components) because of the long warranty that all these parts have.


Where I'm really stuck is the GPU though, especially since the prices of previous generation cards have just plummeted recently.

I primarily plan on gaming on a 52" screen so that means running games at 1920x1080 and being limited to 60fps maximum. I would actually like a 120Hz screen (if only my '480hz' TV accepted more than 60Hz in..) but they're all too small. If only someone made a 30" 120Hz screen..

This is actually a 3DTV but the HDMI 1.4 standard only allows for 60fps at 1280x720 rather than at native resolution and to be honest I am not convinced that I actually care about 3D. Certainly 3D gaming on the consoles has been a poor experience, with downgraded visuals and terrible framerates. The option for it would be nice, but I'm not sure how important it really is. My opinion could chance after seeing games running at 60fps without compromise though. (probably not)


If it matters, games I plan on playing are:
Battlefield 3
Civilization V
Crysis 2
Deus Ex 3
DiRT3 (I assume it will support my Driving Force GT wheel OK? It worked on PS3 with #2)
Mass Effect 3
Rage
Skyrim
Starcraft II
Basically, whatever the latest and greatest is, but I think some of these games like DiRT will be in Nvidia's favour?


Anyway, onto the GPUs. My problem here is that everyone seems to come to a different conclusion over what's best, and if it's actually worth spending money on.

There also seems to be more than just the raw numbers that matter, I hear there can be issues with stuttering on SLI/Crossfire even if the numbers are high. I would prefer to keep the minimum framerate in most of these games above 60fps (essential in DiRT and Starcraft) and certainly never below 30, with all details maxed. At 1080p I am not too concerned about anti-aliasing, but it would be nice if I can maintain 60+ with it on.


So here's my problem:
Nvidia
2x 1.0GB GTX 460 Stock Clocks: £260
1x 1.5GB GTX 480 Stock Clocks: £200
1x 1.0GB GTX 560 Ti Super OC: £230
1x 1.2GB GTX 570 Stock Clocks: £250

AMD
1x 2.0GB 6950 Stock Clocks: £210
Now it's my understanding that, at 1920x1080, there is basically no need for anything over 1GB VRAM, is that correct? Certainly Bit-Tech's review of the 1GB 6950 seemed to perform identically at that resolution. I do still have some reservations about purchasing a 1GB card though, when the higher-end is shifting towards 2GB+.

From looking at benchmarks, it seems like the obvious choice would be the GTX460 SLI—it outperforms everything on that list and can even beat a single GTX580 in some tests.

But I'm guessing that not every game scales that well, and that there are other issues introduced when running SLI vs a single powerful card. It also leaves you with no room for expansion as you are already running two cards and can't drop in a third later.


There are three cards there that seem to perform roughly the same as each other - depending on the test, any of the three could come out on top. The GTX 480, 560 Ti Super OC and the GTX 570.

The GTX 480 seems like the better choice considering it is the cheapest card and has the most VRAM, but is it smart to buy a previous generation card? Are GTX480s going to be available a year from now if I decide I want to add another card for SLI?

The 570 seems like it would be the most future-proof of the cards, being a current generation part (more likely to be available in future) and running at stock speeds. While the 560 Ti Super OC is probably the better card, being a premium 560 rather than a cheap 480 or 570, it's probably going to be harder to find a year or so from now if I want to add another matching card.


With AMD, the only choice in that price range seems to be the 6950. Two 68xx cards in Crossfire are approaching £300+ and there doesn't seem to be any point in buying a 6970 when the 6950 can be unlocked. (I would probably unlock the shaders but keep to 6950 speeds) There is something appealing about going for (essentially) a company's current flagship card. I am somewhat concerned about talk of driver issues though, especially if you run in crossfire, and I feel that I will probably want to add a second GPU in a year or two to keep up with the latest titles.

I am also concerned about their tessellation performance. While I understand that AMD are optimised for efficient tessellation, Nvidia's brute-force approach seems to actually work better in real games.


Any help or advice would be appreciated. I've spent the last week going over all of this again and again and I can't reach any kind of decision.

I've been tempted to just buy a GTX580 and never be left thinking "what if.." but it doesn't seem worth the money at all, unless it's the only way to get higher performance. (e.g. you have a 570 SLI setup for 30" surround and want more)
post #2 of 3
Quote:
Originally Posted by NotAgain View Post
I have been away from PC gaming for a long time - it's probably been over ten years since I could really call myself a 'PC gamer' now, and I'm looking to get back into it.

I've been playing on consoles for the last couple of generations but now I'm getting bored of them, with the move towards motion controls (I would much rather see KB+M support) and due to them generally under-performing while only running games at 720p or less.


I've spent the last few weeks reading up on a wide variety of reviews and forums which has given me some idea of what I should be looking for when building a current spec PC but I'm really struggling when it comes to GPU choice. I have a few other questions about my build as well, but can't see a general hardware/build forum here.


My plan right now is to go for:
Silverstone FT02 Case
Overclocked i5 2500K
ASUS Sabertooth P67
8GB (2x4) Corsair Vengeance 8-8-8-24 1.5v
SATA3 SSD Boot Drive (probably Intel G3)
Corsair AX850 or TX950 PSU
Solid looking build


For gaming and photo editing (Adobe) it doesn't seem like there would be any benefit to spending 50% more on a 2600K, am I right? It looks like the Adobe applications don't really scale well past four cores.

The 2500k is a solid choice and will do everything you are wanting. With the build you're doing I dont see a point in going with the 2600k

With RAM, I hear that there's no real-world benefit to going over 1600MHz, but that timings help, so it would be worth spending an extra 10% getting 8-8-8-24 instead of 9-9-9-24 ?
This is really going to depend on how much OCing and tweaking you intend on doing. If you don't want to mess around much in the system bios, or aren't familiar with it, getting any decent brands are going to perform very close to the same.


For the power supply, I imagine that either will supply more than enough power for the whole build, but PSUs are quieter at lower loads. I know I would get better efficiency having the PSU run around 50% load but I did that with my HTPC which left me with no room to add a gaming-class GPU now - what pushed me towards a new build. Is it worth spending an extra 20% for a fully modular, but lower wattage power supply? (I don't see any point in the partially modular PSUs from Corsair)
Modular vs partial or non modular is a personal preference. You can still hide the non modulars just fine, so its up to you.


I chose the ASUS board (as well as Corsair components) because of the long warranty that all these parts have.


Where I'm really stuck is the GPU though, especially since the prices of previous generation cards have just plummeted recently.

I primarily plan on gaming on a 52" screen so that means running games at 1920x1080 and being limited to 60fps maximum. I would actually like a 120Hz screen (if only my '480hz' TV accepted more than 60Hz in..) but they're all too small. If only someone made a 30" 120Hz screen..

This is actually a 3DTV but the HDMI 1.4 standard only allows for 60fps at 1280x720 rather than at native resolution and to be honest I am not convinced that I actually care about 3D. Certainly 3D gaming on the consoles has been a poor experience, with downgraded visuals and terrible framerates. The option for it would be nice, but I'm not sure how important it really is. My opinion could chance after seeing games running at 60fps without compromise though. (probably not)


If it matters, games I plan on playing are:
Battlefield 3
Civilization V
Crysis 2
Deus Ex 3
DiRT3 (I assume it will support my Driving Force GT wheel OK? It worked on PS3 with #2)
Mass Effect 3
Rage
Skyrim
Starcraft II
Basically, whatever the latest and greatest is, but I think some of these games like DiRT will be in Nvidia's favour?


Anyway, onto the GPUs. My problem here is that everyone seems to come to a different conclusion over what's best, and if it's actually worth spending money on.

There also seems to be more than just the raw numbers that matter, I hear there can be issues with stuttering on SLI/Crossfire even if the numbers are high. I would prefer to keep the minimum framerate in most of these games above 60fps (essential in DiRT and Starcraft) and certainly never below 30, with all details maxed. At 1080p I am not too concerned about anti-aliasing, but it would be nice if I can maintain 60+ with it on.


So here's my problem:
Nvidia
2x 1.0GB GTX 460 Stock Clocks: £260 If this is the price of a pair I suggest you go this route. They have the best performance and will last for a few years at higher settings.
1x 1.5GB GTX 480 Stock Clocks: £200
1x 1.0GB GTX 560 Ti Super OC: £230
1x 1.2GB GTX 570 Stock Clocks: £250 Third choice. Like you said later on, current model and you could later upgrade to SLI.

AMD
1x 2.0GB 6950 Stock Clocks: £210
My second choice if you dont decide on the 460s. Unlockable, good perofrmer. and reasonably priced.
Now it's my understanding that, at 1920x1080, there is basically no need for anything over 1GB VRAM, is that correct? Certainly Bit-Tech's review of the 1GB 6950 seemed to perform identically at that resolution. I do still have some reservations about purchasing a 1GB card though, when the higher-end is shifting towards 2GB+.
You wont need more than 1Gb, but remember if you decide on the 6950 the 1Gb models dont unlock.


From looking at benchmarks, it seems like the obvious choice would be the GTX460 SLI—it outperforms everything on that list and can even beat a single GTX580 in some tests.

But I'm guessing that not every game scales that well, and that there are other issues introduced when running SLI vs a single powerful card. It also leaves you with no room for expansion as you are already running two cards and can't drop in a third later.


There are three cards there that seem to perform roughly the same as each other - depending on the test, any of the three could come out on top. The GTX 480, 560 Ti Super OC and the GTX 570.

The GTX 480 seems like the better choice considering it is the cheapest card and has the most VRAM, but is it smart to buy a previous generation card? Are GTX480s going to be available a year from now if I decide I want to add another card for SLI? I dont see the 480s being available new this time next year. To many things are coming up. You would have to buy used, not that there is anything wrong with that. I could be wrong though, Nvidia may keep them around...(I see no reason with the 570 and 560ti launch)

The 570 seems like it would be the most future-proof of the cards, being a current generation part (more likely to be available in future) and running at stock speeds. While the 560 Ti Super OC is probably the better card, being a premium 560 rather than a cheap 480 or 570, it's probably going to be harder to find a year or so from now if I want to add another matching card.


With AMD, the only choice in that price range seems to be the 6950. Two 68xx cards in Crossfire are approaching £300+ and there doesn't seem to be any point in buying a 6970 when the 6950 can be unlocked. (I would probably unlock the shaders but keep to 6950 speeds) There is something appealing about going for (essentially) a company's current flagship card. I am somewhat concerned about talk of driver issues though, especially if you run in crossfire, and I feel that I will probably want to add a second GPU in a year or two to keep up with the latest titles.
Remember its just like in any situation. The few that have problems make them known, and the thousands that dont arent posting on the forums complaining. I have had zero issues out of my ATI cards. Im on my 4th series now.


I am also concerned about their tessellation performance. While I understand that AMD are optimised for efficient tessellation, Nvidia's brute-force approach seems to actually work better in real games. Meh, debatable. Benches and reviews show both situations and brands winning over the other.


Any help or advice would be appreciated. I've spent the last week going over all of this again and again and I can't reach any kind of decision.

I've been tempted to just buy a GTX580 and never be left thinking "what if.." but it doesn't seem worth the money at all, unless it's the only way to get higher performance. (e.g. you have a 570 SLI setup for 30" surround and want more)

My thoughts are bolded in red
Future Proof 2.0
(15 items)
 
  
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Intel i7 6700k Gigabyte z170n-Gaming 5 ASUS Strix GTX 1070 OC G.Skill DDR4 3200 (2x8Gb) 
Hard DriveHard DriveHard DriveHard Drive
Samsung 850 Evo Samsung 850 Evo Toshiba Q Series Pro WD Black 
CoolingOSMonitorKeyboard
Corsair H100i V2 Windows 7 Ultimate 64bit Dell S2716DG Corsair K70 
PowerCaseMouse
Silversont ST1000P NZXT Manta Steel Series Rival 
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Future Proof 2.0
(15 items)
 
  
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Intel i7 6700k Gigabyte z170n-Gaming 5 ASUS Strix GTX 1070 OC G.Skill DDR4 3200 (2x8Gb) 
Hard DriveHard DriveHard DriveHard Drive
Samsung 850 Evo Samsung 850 Evo Toshiba Q Series Pro WD Black 
CoolingOSMonitorKeyboard
Corsair H100i V2 Windows 7 Ultimate 64bit Dell S2716DG Corsair K70 
PowerCaseMouse
Silversont ST1000P NZXT Manta Steel Series Rival 
  hide details  
Reply
post #3 of 3
Thread Starter 
Thank you for the reply. With regards to overclocking, I would be running it at the maximum safe overclock. That is, I am happy to up the multiplier as high as it can go, and increase clockspeeds/reduce timings, but I will stay within the specified safe limits for voltage. (usually a bit higher than stock but not significantly)

On my current E5200-based system that I have tried to adapt for gaming, that means going from 200MHz to 333MHz FSB, 2.5GHz to 3.5GHz CPU, 800MHz to 933MHz RAM frequency, timings down from 5-5-5-18 to 5-5-4-14 and +16% on the GPU clocks. Even the slightest increase on any of them past this and the system starts to get unstable. Overall performance in games is about 20-25% higher depending on the title, which makes current stuff just barely playable at minimum settings. (Onboard Nvidia 9400)

As I said though, I was under the impression that anything over 1600MHz on the RAM basically has no effect on real-world performance outside of synthetic benchmarks like Sandra.

Latency on the other hand does seem to have real-world benefits, with lower latency, lower frequency memory outperforming higher latency, higher frequency memory. Certainly once you go beyond 1600MHz the specified timings for memory seem to get a lot worse. (at least the 'stock' settings)

At 1600MHz is there any real benefit going from 9-9-9-24 to 8-8-8-24 though? It doesn't seem like a major difference - then again there isn't a major price difference between the two either. Those Corsair Vengeance sticks seem to be the best specified 1.5v chips available from the retailer I use which is why it's a choice between them.


I'm still torn on the GPUs though. It does look like the 6950 (6970 once flashed) manages to come close, or even have a slight advantage over the single Nvidia cards when it comes to 'neutral' games, but the gap between games that rely on heavy tessellation like HAWX, DiRT and Civilization V can be significant. Certainly much larger than the gap between the cards in AMD favoured games:

6970 vs GTX480

I think I'm leaning away from the GTX460 SLI option as well now - it doesn't leave me any room to upgrade in future, and I've been reading that while SLI produces higher numbers, actual gameplay can be more inconsistent than a single high performance card.

While I started out thinking the GTX 560 Ti Super OC from Gigabyte would be the way to go, I think it's now off the list as well. I'm sure it's a great card now, giving GTX570 performance for less money, but I think it would be a pain trying to find a second one a year or so from now, and would have to be downclocked to match any other 560 Ti I add.

I've had another look over the retailer and it seems that most of the GTX480s listed around £200 are actually marked as being new items, with some even being pre-orders, so I wonder if this is a new push from Nvidia here. Older cards are still priced highly.

Very tempting considering it's GTX570 performance (better in some cases) for less money. I think if the GTX570 had more VRAM I would probably just go with it, but I'm concerned about how future-proof it is with only 1.2GB compared to 1.5GB or 2.0GB if it gets to the point where I need to add a second card for better performance later.

GTX570 vs GTX480

So once again, I'm going around in circles unable to make a decision...
At least I think I've eliminated a couple of cards off the list and have it down to an unlocked 6950, a GTX480 or a GTX570 now.
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