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Help me build a $500 gaming PC

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I'm probably going to upgrade my 10 year old rig. I have a budget of $500 or so dollars. I know nothing about current hardware so need some help.

My requirements are that drivers are available for XP. I play UT2004 and have a crappy framerate right now of about 20 FPS. I would hope I can triple or quadruple that. I have a preference for Intel processors but wouldn't balk at AMD if I can get the same or more computing power for the same or cheaper price. I tend to do all my shopping at http://www.newegg.com/ .I guess I would like a quad core but don't know if my budget will allow for that so will settle for a dual core.

This is what I think I will need:

Motherboard

CPU / Heatsink / Fan

Video Card

Power Supply

2 GB of ram at least

Sata Hard drive

I have a case, DVD-ROM and floppy already.

I was looking at this from iBuypower: http://www.ibuypower.com/Store/Intel_H67_Core_i5_i7_Configurator It's only $539

I was also looking at this but most of the items have been deactivated at newegg: Build a Kick-a** $500 Gaming PC, Play Crysis at 40FPS!

Thanks for any input!

Edited by -X-

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I'm probably going to upgrade my 10 year old rig

Anything will completely slaughter that regardless of what you pick :)

I have a budget of $500 or so dollars

That won't get you anything one would call high-end, but you can build something pretty decent (for gaming) still.

I was looking at this from iBuypower: http://www.ibuypower.com/Store/Intel_H67_Core_i5_i7_Configurator It's only $539

$539 + a video card, so that's more like $700+ ($741 with a 6870). For modern games, you don't quite need a super fancy high-end CPU, most of the time your bottleneck is the video card, so you have to spend a good amount there. The most high end CPU combined with ghetto video will make for poor gaming performance. A really slow CPU (something old) would hurt performance for sure but you'd almost have to go out of your way to buy something way too slow. You kind of have to balance both based on your budget.

I was also looking at this but most of the items have been deactivated at newegg: Build a Kick-a** $500 Gaming PC, Play Crysis at 40FPS!

That list is from 2 years ago, so I wouldn't waste my time with it. In 2 years things can change quite a bit (completely new lines of GPUs, new price points, etc)

Out of $500, I'm not sure I'd manage to get a fancy i5, a decent basic motherboard, 4GB of RAM and a video card worth getting, for example:

Intel Core i5-2300 $185

MSI H67MS-E43 motherboard $110

G.SKILL 2x2GB DDR3 1600 (@1.5v) $48

That so far leaves $157 for a good video card which could be OK, but then you need a PSU and a hard drive too... Even going with a i3 it would be sort of difficult. Say, if you pick a $125 i3 2100 -- their most low end offer for their current socket (dual core obviously) instead of the i5 then you have $217 left.

Then you get a good quality but basic PSU, like a Antec Earthwatts 380W 80+ Bronze for $40; you got $177 left.

Then a fairly basic 500GB SATA hard drive at like $40, you got about $135 left for a video card.

That will get you an alright card like a Radeon 5770. It isn't bad, but that's about the the slowest card I'd consider getting. I wouldn't quite call it a gamer's dream.

Long story short, it's compromises all-around, and you don't get an incredible gaming rig. Then again, if you can spend a bit more on a fancier card then you can have something quite nice (it's just hard to get it all for $500)

If you pick AMD, on the same $500 budget you could get:

Athlon II X3 450 for $80. 3 cores, and still plenty fast for all but the most demanding games (and pretty much anything else)

ASUS M4A78LT-M motherboard for $70 (there's plenty more within $10, lots of choice)

the exact same RAM and PSU, and a similar 500GB SATA drive around $50. Without making compromises, you still got $212 left for a really nice video card (and possibly a larger HD or fancier CPU)

You could pick say, a significanty faster Radeon 6850 (and slightly OC'ed, it's way better for gaming than the 5770 e.g. twice the FPS in FarCry 2 & Metro 2033 both @ 1920x1200) around $175 (you'll also get $20 back in the mail sometime and a $10 gift card with it) and still have money left for an upgrade to a quad core CPU like a Phenom II X4 840. There's simply no need to compromise, cut corners or skimp on anything here. If I had extra $ to spend, I'd consider a slightly beefier (and still good quality) PSU, a bigger HD, a faster GPU (6870, 6950) so you could still have something that competes with the i5 even on a bigger budget.

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The only gaming I do is UT2004. It's a 7 year old game so the it's requirements are not high at all. I was looking at the ATI Radeon HD 5450 with either 500MB or 1000MB of ram. I really don't think I will do any other gaming. I've been playing UT since 2000 or so.

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In that case, you don't need a gaming PC at all. Almost any computer will do just fine (so long as it doesn't have the old Intel onboard video). Even my kids' ~3 year old machines with onboard video (AMD 780G chipset i.e. a Radeon 3200) can easily do over 30fps in UT 2004 @ 1280x1024. A Radeon 5450 would be plenty fast for sure.

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Yeah I think the only reason you would need a "current" gaming machine is if you used shader and high-res graphics mods on your game. But since you're playing UT (I can relate to it because I still play Q3) I can tell you there is a plateau for older games like that. For example, I ran Q3 (all max with frame limiter removed) on 6 different hw configs. For that game the performance level just stops as soon as you hit 2 cores. That being said, no further improvement in gameplay (speed or otherwise) after a P4. To say that Q3 runs the same on a P4 1.7GHz + 512MB 800MHz RDRAM and a Quad Core + 4GB DDR2 800MHz seems strange perhaps. Yes Q3 is a bit older than UT2004, but I am sure that it also has its own height of performance increase at some spec or another.

So like was already posted, it is entirely possible that you can get the same amount of performance from a (current) low-end system than you would get from a (current or even budget) gaming system. In my opinion, the only reason you should consider buying a new gaming system is if you want to play some newer game. Then you should tailor your specs to running that game, instead of the one you currently run because anything newer is going to make UT2004 better, BUT only up to a point.

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Thanks for the tips.

A huge factor in upgrading is how pig slow this thing is (P4 2.8, 1 GB ram). When I run Win7 in a VM it's just unbearable. Watching X264 720 movies is another problem...jerky playback

I went ahead and got the one at ibuypower and got the 5450 vid card, I wanted to build it myself but when I priced the items separately they came about the same but my head was spinning from trying to make sure this works with that and all that. I'm really clueless on today's hardware.

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The i3 2100 is a great CPU, gaming or not. Even if you are gaming it holds up to the older quad core i5 750 very nicely because even today most games just don't use 3 or more cores very well.

But get something a bit better than a 5450, a 5570 would cost bugger all more and is a good bit better for gaming and 1080p. The thing with UT2K is that high framerates really help, 30fps would be considered laggy by many a UT player, they like a lot of frames! 5570 should do nicely and is cheap as.

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[...]a good bit better for gaming and 1080p. The thing with UT2K is that high framerates really help, 30fps would be considered laggy by many a UT player, they like a lot of frames! 5570 should do nicely and is cheap as.

60 frames per second minimum is ideal. If you're more than a casual player then you should know to play at a reasonably high resolution with minimum detail settings. This makes opponents easier to see and gives your framerate a good boost at the same time.

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60 frames per second minimum is ideal. If you're more than a casual player then you should know to play at a reasonably high resolution with minimum detail settings. This makes opponents easier to see and gives your framerate a good boost at the same time.

That's for sure. Good graphics aren't for competitive games unless you can get away with it, or you are skillful enough to play at a lower framerate. Most competitive players I know try to make the game as fast as possible, even if that means the game ends up not looking as good. For some people, after you get really involved in doing tournaments and other match types, you are more interested in getting better scores than just playing the game.

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I know I'm late but, check out the 4GB memory strips, 40USD, so you would save some extra cash there. Timings are a bit less tight but it leaves you more upgrade space for the future ;). The 64bit vs. 128bit addressing isn't making much difference these days especially on AMD systems.

Onboard video like the 880G chipset has, HD4250, will be plenty for Unreal 2004 and H.264 @ 1080p and Bluray it does without problems. Most of those boards come with a HDMI/DVI-D output and you can use another screen on the VGA out.

That said, -X-, what case is that you have? Does it have a 8cm+ ventilator at the back? If not, I would check out a case from Coolermaster that has a 12cm fan at the back.

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Out of curiosity I just installed the ut2004 demo on my Toshiba Equium laptop (3gb memory, Intel GMAx3100 on board video, windows 7 32bit sp1, Intel dual core processor) and it runs uber smooth 800x600 32bit) and reminds me of my quake 3 days. Hope this helps. :)

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Out of curiosity I just installed the ut2004 demo on my Toshiba Equium laptop (3gb memory, Intel GMAx3100 on board video, windows 7 32bit sp1, Intel dual core processor) and it runs uber smooth 800x600 32bit) and reminds me of my quake 3 days. Hope this helps. :)

800x600? :no:

Try the native resolution of your display instead. Framerate should be at least 80 I would think.

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Native resolution is 1280x800. Ut2004 at native is still smooth but fps shows only 30-35 with average of 31 on that setting.

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Higher resolutions allow you to see further without excessive pixellation, provided there's no "fog of war" or similar hard distance limits. If there's a setting for viewable distance then it should be at least as far as you can accurately target an opponent. Snipers and "campers" should have this setting maxxed despite its potential to reduce the framerate.

Lowest detail settings reduce the enemy's effective camouflage. Camouflage works by preventing the eye from distinguishing a target by its general shape—in other words, by adding visual noise to make it unrecognizable. Lowering the detail level reduces this noise.

31 FPS may be playable, but just barely.

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I am not familiar with 2004's settings, can you change the FOV value? This also helps with being able too see "farther." In my experience, FPS (and even ping/lag) can be overcome by timing adjustments. Of course if you have the ability to remove these hurdles then that would be better.

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