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Build an $800 Gaming PC

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the fast-as-you-like dept.

Hardware Hacking 296

ThinSkin writes "Building a computer that can handle today's games doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg. In fact, you can build one for less than $800, especially given that many hardware manufacturers have cut costs considerably. Loyd Case over at ExtremeTech shows gamers how to build an $800 gaming PC, one that features an overclockable Intel Core 2 Quad Q8400 and a graphics-crunching EVGA 260 GTX Core 216. The computer exceeded expectations in gaming and synthetic tests, and was even overclocked well over spec at 3.01GHz."

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all that power... (5, Funny)

MeatBag PussRocket (1475317) | more than 5 years ago | (#28104833)

Yeah but can it run windows7?

  i kid i kid!

More to the point (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28104943)

are there any PC games left worth playing that aren't 4-5 years old?

Seems every company has abandoned the market, you might as well buy a 360 or PS3 and be just as well off.

Re:More to the point (0)

freedom_india (780002) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105501)

Yes:
Civilization III
Company of Heroes: MP
Age of Empires 2: MP
Democracy 2
Political Machine.
There are lots.
You just need to see beyond the hype.

Re:More to the point (2, Informative)

Kokuyo (549451) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105765)

Perhaps I am missing something, but Civ III just MUST be older than the parent's 4-5 year spectrum.

Re:More to the point (3, Informative)

majorme (515104) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105899)

And Age of Empires 2 was released back in Feb 1996, which makes it 13 years old now.

doh, why do I even bother. He's going to be modded 5 and I'll be -859365834 troll for speaking the truth :)

Re:More to the point (2, Informative)

Verunks (1000826) | more than 5 years ago | (#28106305)

And Age of Empires 2 was released back in Feb 1996, which makes it 13 years old now.

dude age of empires 1 is from 1997 and 2 is from 1999

Re:More to the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28106311)

I just finished warcraft 3 for the first time last week. I had loads of fun.

about 2 months before that I had a go at Simon the sorcerer 1 and was very happy playing it.

next games: heroes of might and magic 3 & 4

Re:More to the point (1)

Omestes (471991) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105667)

Some of us prefer to have a computer over a console. I'd rather play Fallout 3 on my computer because I can't stand console controllers, especially for FPSs. Its nice to be able to Alt-tab out of games and check things out, and to be able to download patches for buggy games, and extra content for the expandable ones. Consoles also suck for RTS games, as in there aren't any to speak of.

Also PCs are cheaper to deal with, once you have one for gaming. Throw in a $80 video card every 2-3 years and your good to go. This seems to be slowing down as well, so I wouldn't doubt it if your 4-5 year old card works fine.

Right now a decent video card gets you better graphics than on a console as well. As consoles age their hardware gets dated, and can only look modern by software tweaks.

Yes, more expensive to begin with, but it does more than just sit in your living room and collect dust.

Also, why the heck would I want to buy a console with either a 50% failure rate (360), or one that costs a heap more than its functionality warrants? Neither of which even come close to a computer when you don't pony up $1500 for a new TV graphics wise.

Also, can you play Dwarf Fortress II or Nethack on your big fancy PS3, out of the box?

Re:More to the point (1)

bronney (638318) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105959)

yah matey, I totally agree. PC gaming just beats consoles, just look at GTA4 and other genre you mentioned.

I do have some consoles around for the "gatherings" and occasional chick visits, you know, like in Sims 3.

Re:More to the point (2, Informative)

LKM (227954) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105979)

There are definitely reasons for preferring a PC, but some of yours don't make much sense :-)

Some of us prefer to have a computer over a console. I'd rather play Fallout 3 on my computer because I can't stand console controllers, especially for FPSs.

It takes some getting used to, and you'll never be as good with a controller than with keyboard and mouse, but it's not as bad as many PC gamers pretend it is. Besides, lots of good FPS never make it to PCs.

Its nice to be able to Alt-tab out of games and check things out,

True, but on the other hand, nothing prevents you from also using a laptop, netbook or iPhone while playing a game on a console.

and to be able to download patches for buggy games,

In my opinion, that's not a plus, it's a minus because the main result of this is that games are released in what is essentially an unfinished state. Unfortunately, the PS3 and Xbox now also allow patches for buggy games, so some console games are released with gameplay-killing bugs, too.

and extra content for the expandable ones.

The same applies to consoles.

Consoles also suck for RTS games, as in there aren't any to speak of.

That has changed in recent years. Even the Wii has a neat little RTS with Swords & Soldiers [nintendolife.com] .

Also PCs are cheaper to deal with, once you have one for gaming. Throw in a $80 video card every 2-3 years and your good to go.

The PC update race is slowing somewhat, but on average, console hardware is still cheaper (although games tend to cost more).

Re:More to the point (1)

Jartan (219704) | more than 5 years ago | (#28106061)

How exactly are you going to get good "PC games" on a console? There are still entire genre's that are just ass on a console. For the action types a console just isn't any good for FPS and RTS games. For MMO's you go PC or you don't play at all. Consoles have some good strategy games in the tactics style RPG's but the deeper strategy games like Civ 4 or Gal Civ are ignored on consoles for the most part.

Really if you are a PC gamer there is still no way you can just dump your PC and survive on console games alone.

Re:all that power... (1)

msormune (808119) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105951)

Yeah, but can it run linux and work with modern eye candy enabled in X11 without any lockups?

I'm not kidding.

Re:all that power... (1)

bored_engineer (951004) | more than 5 years ago | (#28106049)

Don't kid too much! Can it run Windows XP under Windows 7? Nope.

$800 bucks? Is it diamond encrusted? (0, Offtopic)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 5 years ago | (#28104835)

Check these cheapies out. They are only Cheeto encrusted.

Around $300 [google.com]
Around $500 [google.com]
Around $200 [google.com]

Re:$800 bucks? Is it diamond encrusted? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28104903)

"Check these cheapies out. They are only Cheeto encrusted."

But many of the games are lame and dumbed down for the crowd of gaming bottom feeders... *ducks*

Re:$800 bucks? Is it diamond encrusted? (0, Troll)

MeatBag PussRocket (1475317) | more than 5 years ago | (#28104917)

i have the one around $500 and its great, only thing is i cant do spreadsheets, email, /. , etc with it. so thats my gaming rig but i still need a whitebox (like the one i'm typing on now) that doesnt always work for everyone

Re:$800 bucks? Is it diamond encrusted? (1)

Bageloid (1131305) | more than 5 years ago | (#28104955)

Erm, it runs linux ya know.

Re:$800 bucks? Is it diamond encrusted? (0, Redundant)

MeatBag PussRocket (1475317) | more than 5 years ago | (#28104987)

as does the ps3, ya know.

Re:$800 bucks? Is it diamond encrusted? (1)

Bageloid (1131305) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105063)

Great, i misread your first comment... i need sleep...

Re:$800 bucks? Is it diamond encrusted? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28105067)

that would be his point...

Re:$800 bucks? Is it diamond encrusted? (0, Troll)

masmullin (1479239) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105275)

so get a netbook to surf/email/spreadshit... Xbox360 + netbook has got to be cheaper than 800!

and seriously, spreadsheets are so 90s!

Re:$800 bucks? Is it diamond encrusted? (2, Insightful)

passiveNecro (1070344) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105577)

but how much is x360 + netbook + tv?

Re:$800 bucks? Is it diamond encrusted? (1)

Greg_D (138979) | more than 5 years ago | (#28106353)

How much for gaming rig + cinema display?

Re:$800 bucks? Is it diamond encrusted? (1)

hack slash (1064002) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105689)

and seriously, spreadsheets are so 90s!

That doesn't make them any less useful.

Re:$800 bucks? Is it diamond encrusted? (5, Insightful)

alvinrod (889928) | more than 5 years ago | (#28104939)

They're not gaming PCs. The only one that comes close is the PS3 which could run Linux, but since it can't actually access the GPU it's not exactly going to be a gaming behemoth.

I know that consoles are a perfectly legitimate gaming platform, but posting about their cheap cost in article about PC gaming is like posting about the specs of a high end PC in a thread about console gaming.

Re:$800 bucks? Is it diamond encrusted? (4, Interesting)

CronoCloud (590650) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105137)

The only one that comes close is the PS3 which could run Linux, but since it can't actually access the GPU it's not exactly going to be a gaming behemoth.

True, it can't access the RSX under Linux, but it's still a PS3. One:

ps3-boot-game-os

in a terminal and it boots right back into GameOS so you can play your PS3 games or in my case, my PS3/PS2/PS1 games.

And even under Linux you can still play games, there's always Nethack, or Jools, or Megamek, or Epyx Rogue under Dosbox, or the PC version of Diablo under QEMUized Win95.

Re:$800 bucks? Is it diamond encrusted? (2, Interesting)

MeatBag PussRocket (1475317) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105151)

though the two are coming very close to merging in some way. there was a time when i would NEVER consider a console for games, but considering where the development has gone, i find very few appealing titles that are exclusive to the PC- most i can get on my console and not have to worry about compatibility, framerates etc. at an $800 price point you could get a PS3 and a netbook and do everything that gaming rig does, but do it better, have a laptop and a gaming rig and not really have to worry if the console breaks (not likely - save for the RROD on the360) you still can do your work on the laptop. it really is a valid counter point to a gaming rig, an i think to have a conversation about gaming hardware and not acknowledge the alternative is just ignorant. if you cant rationally consider that then you probably have no business spending $800 on a toy

Re:$800 bucks? Is it diamond encrusted? (2, Informative)

BikeHelmet (1437881) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105605)

But then, it really depends how much money you want to spend on your games.

I pick all my games up on Steam when those 75% off sales come around.

TF2 - $10
Left4Dead - $20
Assassin's Creed - $10
Universe at War - $5

I imagine by the time I've bought 20 games, I've saved money by spending more money on a gaming PC.

But y'know, if you have no morals(or are a college student), PC games cost nothing! :P

most i can get on my console and not have to worry about compatibility, framerates etc.

Plus, you know, it's a PC, so you never have to worry about framerates like you do on a console. Have you seen the shit FPS a lot of those games get? I sure can tell when they drop below 60! At least with 25% of my computer's budget being spent on the GPU, I know it'll never lag for this generation of games.

And besides, I couldn't live without my mouse and keyboard. :) I imagine if I played Left4Dead on XBoxlive, I'd sorely miss all the accusations of aim hax.

Re:$800 bucks? Is it diamond encrusted? (1)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105617)

Ah, but you're not spending $800 on a toy. You're taking a purchase that you would have made anyway, and upgrading it to also act as a toy. Those upgrades (graphics card and maybe a better CPU than you'd otherwise get) cost around $300.

I upgraded my old college desktop to a gaming rig 4 years ago, at a price of $350, and still have no problem playing modern games. I'd say it's about even with consoles in terms of bang for your buck.

On the other hand, there are those who always have to have the latest hardware and the best framerates, and end up dropping $2 grand on a PC every year or two. I could never justify that sort of cost, but then, I don't see the allure in collecting model ships or fine tuning my car either.

For the record, I also own an Xbox 360, and I greatly enjoy it as well (when it's not blinking those three accursed lights at me).

Re:$800 bucks? Is it diamond encrusted? (0, Troll)

masmullin (1479239) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105247)

parent deserves modded up... not offtopic at all.

Yay, overclocking! (0)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 5 years ago | (#28104847)

That $800 PC will be worth much less soon when the CPU fries.

Sure will (2, Insightful)

Mr EdgEy (983285) | more than 5 years ago | (#28104897)

It's not the same core as the 3GHz models or anything, oh wait

Re:Sure will (4, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105021)

Most of the time when Intel or AMD underclocks it, there's a good reason. That's not to say that it can't be done in a reliable and safe fashion, but often times it's because the chips aren't guaranteed to work reliably at the designed frequency.

Sort of like how the tri-core Phenoms are quad-core Phenoms with one of the cores inoperable. Yes, sometimes they have in the past down clocked them just for supply and demand reasons, but I'm not aware of that happening in recent memory.

Re:Sure will (4, Insightful)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105099)

Except not. They need the lower binned parts to supply people who can't afford the faster ones. A lot of times they have great yields, but they just can't sell enough CPU's at $300/ea so they disable a core and sell it as an X3, or clock it down. Really... only on the very first runs of a new process is it more likely to be the scenario you propose.

Re:Sure will (2, Interesting)

hedwards (940851) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105529)

You'll have to forgive my skepticism. But wouldn't that be a pretty blatant violation of anti-trust rules? Not producing enough of a processor is legitimate, but deliberately mislabeling or manipulating produced ones to make a false scarcity is pushing the limits of anti-trust regulations if not actually violating them.

Re:Sure will (4, Informative)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105635)

Of course not. It's called dividing up the market (I'm sure there's a technical term for it), and it's completely legitimate. If someone can't afford your top product, you make a scaled down version for them. You can't just give them the top product for a lower price, because then no one would pay that higher price. But at the same time, there's no reason to waste development money purposefully making a worse design. So you just modify the existing design to be worse.

Consider TV or internet services. There are tiered plans, not because the Cable company runs out of premium packages to sell, but because they know that not everyone wants to fork over the dough to 2000 channels.

Re:Sure will (4, Informative)

mgblst (80109) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105963)

Exactly, it is called segmenting the market.

You might as well complain that Microsoft sell different versions of Windows, they all cost the same. They all have the same media, box, it doesn't cost any extra to burn a different image.

Re:Sure will (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28106337)

Of course not. It's called dividing up the market (I'm sure there's a technical term for it),

Market Segmentation.

Re:Sure will (2, Interesting)

BikeHelmet (1437881) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105639)

No it isn't, because of the nature of how the consumer demands they price their CPUs.

Lets look at the P4 to C2D jump.

They still need money for R&D, so what are they supposed to do? Charge $100 for a 3.6ghz Pentium D(R&D all paid up), and $800 for a 1.8ghz Core 2 Duo? Good luck selling that to consumers.

Nope. We demand prices based on the performance we get - not the realities of the product. If a P4 costs $100 then an equivalent performance C2D must cost close to that - lets say $150 - or we won't buy it. Intel would clearly have no choice but to sell a higher performing part for more money, to cover the R&D costs - but how can they do that without selling lower performing parts?

Answer: They can't. And there you have the reason it's not anti-trust. Consumers demand that that companies supply a product for a competitive price. It's up to the company to figure out how the heck they balance their books.

Now...

Lately I've noticed both Intel and AMD are targeting overclockers. First Intel with their hugely overclockable C2D's, and now AMD with their core unlockable Phenom II's. Near as I can tell, just about every tri-core Phenom II is a working quad. :O I must admit, they've got my money this time around!

Re:Sure will (2, Informative)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105671)

It's not a false scarcity. It's no different than a farmer selling some of his corn to supermarkets, and the stuff he can't he sells as cattle feed. It's the exact same product, it's just that he's meeting the demand of it. Anti-trust isn't selling your stuff at a loss, or selling something better as something lower class. Anti-trust is when you do it to lock out other competitors. It's just good business sense to sell what you have rather than making them all uber-expensive chips. Do you really think a Lexus costs THAT much more than a Toyota to build? Or that it's that much higher quality, other than a little nicer finish and better electronics?

Re:Sure will (1)

cskrat (921721) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105683)

Overclocking is still a gamble. And given that we don't actually know how many chips are binned down artificially vs. the number that are binned down for a reason, there's no way to know the odds of taking that gamble. Getting your hopes up on buying a cheaper chip and overclocking it is just setting yourself up for disappointment.

That being said, why do I never see anyone reviewing an overclocked system report on the actual ambient temperatures during the test? I'm sure there's a difference in what speed you can hit depending on whether you're in a 70 or 100 degree environment. Unfortunately, I cannot finish this paragraph without leading into a rant filled with run-on sentences.

Let me just say, if you're trying to build a budget PC then there's a good chance you don't have the extra cash (or the inclination to spend it) to replace a burnt out system. However, if you have time and money to burn and a spare computer to get you on Newegg to replace the one you're screwing with, go for it.

CPU speed explanation (Re:Sure will) (5, Interesting)

ls671 (1122017) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105441)

I had a friend working at an AMD factory. He toll me the manufacturing process isn't precise enough to produce specifically 3GHz, 2GHz or 1GHz CPUs. Or at least this model helps in diminishing costs, they could probably make the process precise enough but it would raise costs.

So how do they do it ?

They produce 3GHz, 2GHz and 1GHz CPUs in one process all at the same time, there is no difference between the manufacturing process for each speed.

They then test each produced CPU to see how much clock speed it can handle then classify them with regards to this criteria.

When demand for higher clock speed CPU goes down and they have too many CPUs that can handle 3GHz on shelf, they just stamp "2GHz" on them and sell them as "2GHz" CPUs to diminish their inventory.

So overclocking would seem like a gamble, it might work perfectly because the company actually sold you a CPU that was rated for a higher clock speed. It may also not work because the company sold you a 2GHz CPU that was rated to handle only 2.000352 GHz.

Don't take for granted that because your friend or blog posters successfully overclocked a given CPU model, you will automatically have as much success.

Re:CPU speed explanation (Re:Sure will) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28105521)

Is there a (+1, No Shit) moderation option??

Re:CPU speed explanation (Re:Sure will) (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105649)

Nope. Mod me "+1, No Shit".

Oh wait...

Re:CPU speed explanation (Re:Sure will) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28105829)

When demand for higher clock speed CPU goes down and they have too many CPUs that can handle 3GHz on shelf, they just stamp "2GHz" on them and sell them as "2GHz" CPUs to diminish their inventory.

When does the demand for *faster* processors ever go *down*?

Woah! My PC is so fast I'm getting a nose-bleed; I think I'll fit a slower processor.

Oversucking (1)

deathtopaulw (1032050) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105023)

Overclocking no longer means what it did before. It's basically intel and the motherboard manufacturers graciously allowing you to use the actual power of the processor you paid for. That's not overclocking, its reversing underclocking. I laugh every time my idiot roommate claims his computer is overclocked, when he did nothing but say "do it" in a manager program in windows.

Re:Oversucking (5, Funny)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105105)

Mine's way cooler, it's got a "Turbo" button on the front that switches it from 8Mhz to 16Mhz. It's freaking awesome!!!

Re:Oversucking (1)

Shadow of Eternity (795165) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105177)

I finally got rid of mine, mostly because the boat anchor case finally rusted itself apart.

Re:Oversucking (2, Informative)

Crunchie Frog (791929) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105217)

My original 485DX33 box had the old 'turbo' button on the front to switch between 8 and 33 Mhz. The thing would never boot if it was set to 33Mhz, always froze after POST, but once booted in 8Mhz 'mode', you could happily press that button and feel that 33Mhz power blowing your hair...

Never did work out what the problem was.

Re:Oversucking (1)

Allicorn (175921) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105313)

Man, those were the freaking days doing support. I lost track of how many times various reports of "my PC is too slow" were magically remedied when it was noticed the turbo button had been accidentally poked/kicked/nudged.

Simpler times!

Re:Oversucking (1)

indi0144 (1264518) | more than 5 years ago | (#28106059)

I have one of those Pentium 100 MHz, hangs if the turbo is turned on at boot. Does yours have Via Apollo chipset? Also AT keyboard can be the issue. Anyway :) Anyone knows a good use for a machine like that? 100 MHz Mb(?) it has video and audio cards on ISA. Linux for kids distro?

Impressive machine by it's time, think I have to document it.

Re:Oversucking (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105513)

I realize you're being funny, but the "Turbo" button was always a bit of a misnomer. It was meant to be on by default and actually slowed down the computer. Basically so games and such that weren't programmed right could be run on a faster computer. I remember being unable to get King's Quest IV to run properly without turning off the turbo. I can't really recall the exact issue, but I think it had to do with the sound not working properly.

Re:Oversucking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28105971)

Mine's even cooler:

Has 3 speeds!

4.77 MHz, 8 MHz and 9.54 MHz.

I can still play "Ancient Art of war at sea" (due to it's orange Hercules monitor the sea is... orangish!), Conan the Barbarian (I can duel my brother for hours!), and a lot other cool games.

Can you guess what it is? Here's a small hint: Let's say it can be considered an ancestor of the Asus EEE Keyboard LOL!

Re:Yay, overclocking! (3, Informative)

cenc (1310167) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105391)

First, most of the overclocking taboo today is just marketing gimic.

Yea, you can fry out your processor being stupid with it, but the vast majority of people will be able to OC their processors in a very stable way for long periods with no problems. Chances are unless they are doing really crazy crap, the processor will be outdated (like by the time it got out of the box) before it looses any life from an OC.

The AMD black edition for example. Yea, AMD does not endorse it but they are actively marketing a processor for overclocking. The MB makers are providing all the tools including on many motherboards the auto features that stop newbies from burning it out. point and click over clocking, with an edge of danger to get people to do it without really doing it.

I even buy my low end workstations at my office with the intent of overclocking them when they start to reach their end of life. Gives me another year out of them, when I would have replaced them anyway. At that point I got nothing to loose. Well, at least it gives me something cool to do with them before retiring them to spare parts.

you dont need this shit (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28104935)

spend $400, get one thats 90% of this speed, in a year sell it for face value on craigslist, rinse and repeat.

I've been getting free upgrades for many years now.

Re:you dont need this shit (1)

JumperCable (673155) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105055)

What's your suggested build?

Didn't we already have this story? (4, Insightful)

the_raptor (652941) | more than 5 years ago | (#28104993)

I am sure we had a story like this the other week. I am pretty sure we have it every couple of weeks. Considering this has been (more or less) the way of things for probably about five years (I have been following the 'good enough' philosophy for that long, from a Radeon 9600xt, through a GeForce 6800, to a Radeon 4850 today), it isn't news to any nerd. You stopped needing a top of the line computer for gaming around the turn of the century when clock rates stopped doubling every 12-18 months and ATi got good enough to really compete with nVidia.

Re:Didn't we already have this story? (2, Informative)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105375)

I am sure we had a story like this the other week. I am pretty sure we have it every couple of weeks.

Yeah, but the last article I remember [maximumpc.com] was $500. So this is new news because they're spending $300 more and not promising to run crysis. In the summary anyway. Oh, it's overclocked too.

Re:Didn't we already have this story? (2, Interesting)

tygerstripes (832644) | more than 5 years ago | (#28106243)

Absolutely.

Seriously; this article, the person who submitted it, and the editor who deigned it front-page-worthy, can fuck right off.

This is not news, not useful - christ, it's not even interesting. The interwebs are totally awash with articles of exactly this nature, and have been for fucking years. 90% of /.ers are already perfectly capable of building a PC to a spec which suits their unique requirements, cheaper than this, and don't need or want to read this. The other 10% can fuck off and learn a thing or two about technology before commenting.

I ask you: HOW THE FUCK DID THIS BECOME A FRONT PAGE ARTICLE??!?.

I know this is a surly rant, but I have karma to burn and I'm frankly pissed off that shit like this got through. I mean, why don't we have a "How to write HTML" article, while we're at it?

Christ.

Ars Technica System Guide (5, Informative)

Warlord88 (1065794) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105057)

The April 2009 version of Ars Technica System Guide covers three systems priced at $700, $1600 and $12,500. The link is http://arstechnica.com/hardware/guides/2009/04/ars-technica-system-guide-april-2009-edition.ars [arstechnica.com] Tweaking the first two systems here and there should cover requirements of most users.

Re:Ars Technica System Guide (1)

tux0r (604835) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105323)

Heh - without having read the Ars guide, I recently built a system including either the recommended parts or a mentioned alternative from their Budget Box spec. The parts I got came to $1080 Australian, which is ~$850 USD. Not bad at all.

Re:Ars Technica System Guide (1)

poopdeville (841677) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105567)

Yup, I built pretty much that same box, with an e5200 Wolfdale instead of an AMD X2 (it was in the sweet spot when I built), and no monitor. Came to about $560. Just fine for my file serving, dev-boxing, hide-in-a-cupboard uses.

Wow cool, thanks for the tip! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28105117)

I built my computer for $500 and it runs Crysis on High at 60 FPS steady. There's literally no reason to spend more than this on a gaming computer. Save money now by buying what you actually need instead of stupid crap and spend that money down the road on upgrades. Make your gaming computer last 5-7 years. Easy.

A $500 system is good enough... (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105123)

My top of the line system is about $500. (More than what my 1994 Pontiac Grand Prix is worth.) That's good enough to run Quake at 500 FPS. :P

I Just Don't Get It... (5, Interesting)

JoeSixpack00 (1327135) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105255)

I don't understand why gamers have this die hard loyalty/borderline bias for Intel. Granted, they are better than AMD hands down - they're a bit of an overkill. Unless you're an extreme gamer, you'll never actually need the extra power, and to recommend the Q8400 over the Phenom II X4 940 is odd considering they're usually priced within $5 of each other.

I build a new computer almost exactly a year ago. 4 Gigs of DDR2 800 Low Latency memory, 7200 RPM SATA II hard drive with 32mb cache, an Athlon X2 5000 BE (I just bumped the multiplier from 13 to 15 to get it at 3ghz) and a HD 3870. With the exception of the CPU, everything is is running at stock speeds. These are the games I play:

Call of Duty: World at War
Fallout 3
Race Driver: Grid
NBA 2K9
Drakensang

I was sure my computer would be sluggish, but it runs all these games just fine with excellent graphics at a 1680x1050 resolution. The point? At the time of my building, all of the mentioned games were (for the most part) considered "current generation", and my CPU was lumped into the scrap heap with the "only if you have to" parts. When I actually started playing games, I soon realized that my performance was exactly what people said I wouldn't achieve.

Going for REAL cheap (3, Insightful)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105591)

Yes, you can go 'cheap' and spend 'only' 800 dollars on a machine. But that's not REAL cheap - that's just a budget, new computer. Me, I can go REAL cheap and still have a reasonable gaming experience.

I bought a used Pentium IV with a 40 GB HDD and 1 GB of RAM for 50 dollars, with a crashed O/S. It's a Dell, and I have a Dell install CD, so don't need to worry about the OS code or Genuine Advantage. I dug for a bit at pricewatch.com to get a new AGP video card with decent 3D performance in a low profile. Reviews just a year or two ago indicated it was a good chipset. It came with a DVD drive, no burner. 25 dollars got me generic mouse, KB and speakers.

Spent an afternoon, loaded a new OS, (WinXP) drivers from Dell support, and video card drivers, and I now have a system that plays newish games like Star Wars, WoW, and GTA 3 SA and GTA IV at 1024x768 on the 17 inch CRT monitor bought at a yard sale. High end? Not a chance. But for bang/buck, the 650 bucks saved on this rig will go a long way towards helping to pay for my kids' college.

And still lots of fun!

Re:I Just Don't Get It... (2, Informative)

ascendant (1116807) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105641)

You were lied to.
Additionally, you are attributing vastly more responsibility to your CPU for the performance of all of these games. Why don't you underclock your CPU and see how much effect it has on your framerates? Yes, even to 2GHz and below.

The HD 3870 was released in October 2007, Fallout 3 was released in November 2008. Those other games, around the same time. Barely a year apart, those games were designed to run on those exact games: not the 4870 which was released barely months before.

On top of that, the 3870 was almost the top of the line card for the 3000 series. It's no surprise that it can handle those games. The people that develop them are not stupid. They do not expect people to buy a new graphics card just to play their game. It will run on the cards released not even a year ago, and it will run well. Expecting it not to is foolishness.

Sheesh

Short list of websites with similar guides (4, Informative)

daemonenwind (178848) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105257)

anandtech.com
tomshardware.com
maximumpc.com
pcmag.com (hard to find, though)
arstechnica.com
sharkyextreme.com

I mean, really....does anyone think it's hard to find this stuff?

You can even find sample builds on amazon.com and on newegg.com if you look around a bit.

Time is not free (-1, Troll)

jeblucas (560748) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105327)

$800 is great for the machine that will be built from those parts, but $800 won't get you that machine. It will get you the parts with which you can construct that machine. The article mentions how much has changed in 15 months--that's about how much time it would take me to gather the minutes and hours to put together one of these homebuilt beauties. I want that computer and I want it for $800, not $800 + $1000 worth of my time.

Re:Time is not free (2, Insightful)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105361)

What the hell do you get paid, $500 an hour?

PCs are not hard to put together. Even if you got every little screw and piece not assembled, it wouldn't take more than 3-4 hours.

Re:Time is not free (2, Funny)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105383)

But here on /., fiddling with computers is supposed to be your hobby! And sex life!

Gonna go cry now and comfort myself by trying to install linux on my nintendo DS...

Re:Time is not free (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28105395)

How much worth of your time was this post ?
And how much worth of your time is spent reading slashdot ?

Re:Time is not free (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28105405)

i dont think it will take you 114h to build it

Re:Time is not free (2, Insightful)

npoczynek (1259228) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105499)

I feel like we should be paying you for that comment if the time was really that valuable. Then again, I can't help but feel... In the time it took for you to browse through TFA and comment: I probably could have popped the CPU in, mounted the cooler, inserted the memory, and started to screw the motherboard into the case. You're practically done! Granted, I'm not denying the convenience of a prebuilt machine. But to me, building my own systems and tinkering with them is a hobby. I don't envy whatever your profession is if you can't find the time for a bit of nerdy leisure.

Re:Time is not free (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28105505)

Place your geek card in the shredder and don't let the door kick your ass on the way back out to PHB land.

Re:Time is not free (1)

Prien715 (251944) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105525)

...and the 2 hours it takes me to uninstall all the crap Dell puts on my box or reformat and reinstall is free?

Granted, OCing is a bit much, but it's pretty trivial to put a system together in an evening...assuming you know what you're doing. If not, congrats, you've just saved yourself a $300 community college course;)

Re:Time is not free (3, Insightful)

Draek (916851) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105543)

I'd say that learning how to put a computer together is as important to use a computer as knowing how to change a wheel is to driving a car, and it's not hard either.

But hey, if you prefer to pay rather than learn, you can get it for far less than $1000 anyways. Your local friendly neighbor geek wouldn't charge you more than $50 for it, and it's possible he'd still do it for half that amount.

Re:Time is not free (1)

cskrat (921721) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105711)

$30 and a $5 Little Caesars pizza if you find the right geek.

Re:Time is not free (2, Funny)

znerk (1162519) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105819)

$30 and a $5 Little Caesars pizza if you find the right geek.

Bring the parts and the pizza, I'm good. Oh, and that "spare" machine you put in the garage after you let the magic smoke out last year.

Re:Time is not free (1)

networkzombie (921324) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105569)

Wha? I spent forty minutes swapping out a P4 AGP board for a DFI x38 with 2 GB Patriot, an E8500, and a ZOTAC 7600GS DVI piping 1080P to a 46" Toshiba 46RV535U via GBPVR and VGA piping to an Asus 20" monitor running 1600 x 900 simultaneously. I was drooling the entire time and it works incredibly well with cycles to spare. I can browse the web and watch The Fifth Element in 1080p at the same time without any lag. Are you saying I am wasting my time? There are very few things I'd rather be doing.
The power supply was good for a socket 775 and I already had a case, monitor, and HDD, so the RAM, MB, Video card, and CPU cost me $400 (from Newegg, of course). Then again I have dozens of cases and HDD lying around. Doesn't everyone?
I'll post pictures when the CPU and video are liquid cooled.

Re:Time is not free (1)

Techman83 (949264) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105599)

How much do you get paid an hour??? It really doesn't take that long to put a PC together. Personally I can't justify paying someone else to do something so trivial. Sure if your buying an Email machine any old Dell/IBM/HP etc box will do, but go find yourself a pre-built gaming rig... IME they are generally put together with crap parts and expensive. Mate of mine got one like this as he didn't want the fuss, ended up with a vid card that was passively cooled and the whole machine would like up during gaming unless he had a desk fan pointed at it and the side of the case pulled off. 8 Trips to the shop for warranty and no fault found...

I'll take my chances building one myself, it's hardly rocket science.

Re:Time is not free (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105825)

Actually I usually assemble my own PCs because I think I generally do a better _quality_ job than the staff at the "whitebox" shops. They do it _much_ faster I'm sure (I have to consult the motherboard manual on the pins and other stuff). But we had a whitebox shop put together a few PCs for the office, and stuff started getting loose or falling apart a year or so later. Not even sure if those guys even care about taking antistatic precautions.

So even if you save time getting them to do it, it costs you time and money when it falls apart earlier.

FWIW I actually spent a LOT of time getting Windows XP to the state I like (Yes linuxfans, the topic is gaming PC so Windows ok?). All the updates, drivers, MS/other viewers/players/codecs, menushowdelay to something low, NtfsDisableLastAccessUpdate [1], turn off autorun [2], startmenu customizations, classic mode, sound scheme, folder options (yes I do want to see system files, and file extensions and run stuff in a separate process), tweakui, browser running as a separate user, all sorts of crap like that :).

Before anyone says Linux is easier: I also had to spend a lot of time getting my Linux server to the state I like - ups monitoring (some of the el-cheapo UPSes out there require some mods to nut, and I used to have to mod nut so it'll shutdown at a particular battery voltage - because I wanted to leave more reserve in the battery ), HDD monitoring and email alerts, vmware (suspend VMs before shutdown when the UPS battery runs low etc). With Linux I usually can't reuse the old configs - because things have changed a lot by the time I get a new server.

[1]

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\FileSystem]
"NtfsDisableLastAccessUpdate"=dword:00000001

[2]

For XP Home:

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\policies\Explorer]
"HonorAutoRunSetting"=dword:00000001
"NoDriveTypeAutoRun"=dword:000000ff

For XP Pro use gpedit.msc to do it.

Re:Time is not free (4, Insightful)

lena_10326 (1100441) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105625)

If this topic was about playing chess, why would I bother to pay $58/hr to play chess?? I'd have to be a fool!! Umm. Maybe I like playing chess in my spare time. Same goes for DIY'ers who like to build their PC.

Oh and as others have said, what in the world would take u that long to put a machine together? Do you make $200-300/hr or somethin?

Why Quad Core? (4, Informative)

ffejie (779512) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105329)

I don't understand why you would go with a Quad Core. If you're looking to trim costs, get a Core 2 Duo and overclock the hell out of it. Spend your money on a better graphics card if it's for gaming. I have a quad core and it really only gets utilized for video encoding.

Re:Why Quad Core? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28105589)

FINALLY somebody said it! quad cores are being sold to suckers every day because people have the belief more cores are better. problem with quad cores is most programs (and os's) are not yet designed to utilize quad cores. so they probably use 2 of those cores which are now slower because you wanted to have a "4" on your chip.

Re:Why Quad Core? (3, Interesting)

Clinkster (1563041) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105703)

-Quad cores don't go for much more than dual core processors do. The price between one Q6600 and a E8400 is approximately $20, so not exactly a tremendous price gap there.

-Given that, the quad core is a very viable option if you wish to future proof your PC. The clocking speed shows a lower number, but you're essentially given twice as many pipelines for information to go through. Right now, that's a substantial boost if you multitask.

-Not good enough? Even for gamers, quad core would be a better option. Sure, right now you're going to see dual cores cranking out the numbers because most games have really been optimized for use with two cores. But you said it yourself, video encoding delivers results due to utilizing all four cores on the quad core. It's only a matter of time until the standard for game developers include optimizing for more than two cores. When that time comes, those people will start wishing they bought that quady.

-By the way, this same argument used to take place when dual core was introduced. Some gamers suggested buying single cores due to their higher clock speeds, but those recommendations were short lived once the software caught up.

$1021 on newegg (I have a DVD and HD already.) (0, Troll)

F34nor (321515) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105455)

LIAN LI PC-V350B Black Aluminum MicroATX Mini Tower Computer Case
DFI LANPARTY JR X58-T3H6 LGA 1366 Intel X58 Micro ATX Intel Motherboard
2x MSI R4770-T2D512 Radeon HD 4770 512MB 128-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFire Supported Video Card
FSP Group ZEN 400 400W ATX 2.2V SLI Certified CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Active PFC Fanless Power Supply
Intel Core i7 920 Nehalem 2.66GHz LGA 1366 130W Quad-Core Processor Model BX80601920
Crucial Ballistix Tracer 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10600) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory with LEDs

Re:$1021 on newegg (I have a DVD and HD already.) (1)

Max Littlemore (1001285) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105655)

Teeheehee! I've got a Porsche

Or to put it another way, isn't the whole point of TFA to spend less on a worthy gaming rig? How on earth does that turn in to an excuse to flop out your more expensive penis extension?

Re:$1021 on newegg (I have a DVD and HD already.) (1)

crazypip666 (930562) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105867)

That power supply can't handle an i7 920 and two 4770's even if you ignore the rest of the components.

Once you know, you NewEgg (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28105471)

For $600 off of NewEgg I built a computer with; a 2.9 GHz AMD Phenom II X4, an ASUS AM3 motherboard, an ATi Radeon HD 4870 1Gb, a 750 Watt PSU and 8Gb of 800 MHz DDR2.

The only thing I reused from my old computer was the hard drives and the chassis.

In India... (4, Informative)

freedom_india (780002) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105535)

You can build it a lot cheaper with branded components that cost way less: Here's my rig and prices translated into USD at INR47:$1
M2N-E-SLI mobo: 189
AMD Athlon X2-63 bit dual core 4200+: 96
9800GTX+ AND 8600GT (yeah two): 189
LG 17" monitor LCD: 93
Case: 20
OCZ Vanquisher cooler: 35
Point of View PSU: 170
Total: 792
Hell, the shops here will fix it up, assemble and home deliver free if you spend this much amount at one shop.
I got a free MS Natural keyboard, Microsoft Mouse and a 8GB JetFlash card free

Re:In India... (1)

freedom_india (780002) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105571)

I forgot to mention that it includes 4GB RAM

Pendantry (5, Funny)

Max Littlemore (1001285) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105697)

AMD Athlon X2-63 bit dual core 4200+: 96
...
Total: 792

See, that's because you got a 63 bit processor. The problem with 63 bit processors is you have no end of bizaar problems trying to run modern 64 bit, or even 32 bit software and that's why you save the $8. Myself, I'd spend the extra $8 on 64 bit. :-P

Funnily enough, this is the second reply to this story by someone with a -1 bug. Someone else mentioned their old 485DX33 system.

$800? More like $300 (1)

insane_coder (1027926) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105627)

$800 for a gaming PC? I don't think that much was needed for a long time, unless you had to play the latest game on your 2600" screen with a high resolution. For roughly $300 these days, you can build a machine to play any game you want on a 19" screen. You don't really need anything more than a GeForce 9 (~$100), and a high end X2 (~$60). The other ~$140 is more than enough to get some RAM, hard drive, dvd burner, motherboard, especially if you find a deal on newegg or the like.
This here [newegg.com] which is quite a decent machine is only $287 ($322 before rebates). Just add a DVD burner for ~$25, and you're all set.

So the real question is... (2, Interesting)

pankajmay (1559865) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105653)

So....
What is the optimum configuration that yields the high-enough FPS/high-enough resolution/lowest latencies with the minimum of price?

In other words - Build a system configuration at the minimum price after which any incremental gain in performance is disproportionate to further input in price?

An optimization problem there.

The point is not that it costs $800 this time (1)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105729)

the thing is, if you want to run current games, you will have to spend about that same amount every 18 months or even sooner.

It just isn't right: game developer should settle down once and for all, and make games that run on a 1 year old platform just as their 1 year old games did/do. Luckily I'm not a gamer (not a fanatical one anyway) or I'd be bankrupt.

wait what? (1)

majorme (515104) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105769)

Dude, it's mid 2009 now and I am yet to see a game that beats late 2005 / early 2006 games in the graphics area. Except Crysis, that is.

And why do you bother speaking about the problems today's gamers are facing since you are not even one of them?

The point being... you got it all wrong.

overclocked *well over spec* at 3.01GHz?? ha (1)

majorme (515104) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105741)

Just about any 40nm Core 2 CPU is overclockable to at least 4GHz without much trouble, ie. no voltage increase.

Try a $300 hand held pc with Nvidia 9xxxx (1)

Latinhypercube (935707) | more than 5 years ago | (#28105743)

How about a $300 gaming PC that fits in your hand capable of 1080p video + wifi + 9xxx Nvidia graphics ? NVIDIA ION + dual core ATOM - ABSOULTLEY FUCKING AWESOME & CHEAP

Can be done for half that price (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28105795)

e5200(easily overclockable to 3.3-5 ghz on stock cooling) $70
MSI P35 Neo-F Motherboard $50
4 gigs DDR2-800 $40
Radeon HD4770 $100
500 gig HD $50
DVD Burner $20
Case + acceptable PSU $50

Total $380 and it should play any game in existence acceptably until you start to push the resolution up 1920 x 1080

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