Dilemma - RAID vs. Graphics card, + Quad or Dual?

Giggli G

Junior Member
Jul 22, 2007
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Hi guys, I am looking at buying a new computer in Canada, and I decided to wait until the price cuts that occurred today.

I am buying from this company:
Memory Expresshttp://www.memoryexpress.net

This computer is going to serve as an all-purpose computer: it will be set up in my basement, and hooked up to my 40" Samsung LNT-4061F HDTV (which has a resolution of 1950x1080). I will be using it for gaming, surfing the internet, watching movies, etc. (Once Blu-ray/HDDVD gets cheap and popular at rental stores, I plan to stick in an HD drive. If I ever get the chance, I might add in a Hauppage PVR card too. I am not concerned about those right now, though.)

I also plan on overclocking the CPU somewhat, although it will be my first time so I will not be pushing the boundaries of what is possible. I am looking for a decent and stable overclock using a $40n cooler or whatnot.

My budget is about $1500 Canadian. The Canadian dollar is worth slightly less than American, however.
I have been doing research, and came up with this (it's right up on my budget):

Cooler Master Mystique 631 Case (looked at HTPC cases, but have no rack for them really)

Core 2 Duo Q6600

2gig 6400 RAM OCZ

600W OCZ StealthXStream PSU

ASUS P5N-E SLI

2x 250GB Seagate 7200s w/NQZ in RAID 0

LG DVDRW

Zalman Cooler

Windows Vista Premium

2M HDMI Cable (or should it be DVI to HDMI?)

eVGA 8800GTS 320MB

So, basically my concerns are as follows.

I have a huge-resolution display. The 320MB video card I heard may not be able to handle this well. I am open to upgrading it but I need to shed some money elsewhere. Would the X2900 be a good choice (I would have to change my mobo), or is the 640MB 8800 or the GTX the better choice? I think it would be tough to afford the GTX.

So does RAID really do a lot, or should I save 70 bucks and get rid of the 2nd hard drive to upgrade the graphics?

I heard the Q6600 is hot.
I don't want to spend too much money on a cooler. I would be happy to OC the quad-core to 3GHz, but I am not sure what kind of a cooler can do this for cheap.

Are the four cores worth it? (I don't do video encoding often). Or should I downgrade to the E6750 (how does it overclock?) and use the extra money towards the GFX?

Finally, would the Antec Sonata III case be good for what I am attempting to achieve? It doesn't seem to have as much cooling or nearly as much style, but once again, it could save me 100bucks because it comes with a PSU (is it good enough?).


All your suggestions are greatly appreciated. I hope to make a purchase later this week.
 

Varun

Golden Member
Aug 18, 2002
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First question - yes you should get the 640MB 8800GTS. It has the extra memory for high resolution gaming, and I think it would be a good investment.

Second - I think Quad Core is overkill. Most apps are still NOT even multithreaded, at least for gaming. Some are and quad helps, but you can save some money on a good dual core. With the money you save you can upgrade your cooler - I have Zalmans and they are just OK. The 9500 I have is very loud at full speed, and turned down it still is by far the loudest fan in my system. Look into one of the heat towers.

Third - the Antec Sonata III is a well built case, and with the new PSU I think it is a winner. The Sonata II had the poor 450w which had a lot of problems, but the new 500 should be a much better built PSU. It's not huge though, but the 8800GTS DOES fit - the 8800GTX will not.

Oh, and save your money on RAID 0 it does very little for the average user.
 

Slugbait

Elite Member
Oct 9, 1999
3,633
3
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NO, you should not get an 8800 anything. The 8800 series does not support that high-def player you plan to buy, nor does it support the next generation PureVideo. If going with nVidia, you need to take the game performance hit (with a significant monetary savings) and go with an 8600GTS...then upgrade 12-18 months from now to a more powerful card that will handle games at high rez, as well as being part of an HTPC. And you don't have to get a different mobo if you go with ATI, you just have a forever-empty PCI-E slot, that's all. For example, I have a Bad Axe II, and I'm using nVidia...if I want SLI down the road (unlikely), I'll sell the mobo.

I agree: especially if you aren't encoding A/V much, quad is overkill for your purposes. However, you may find yourself in the same situation as the EE proc...small difference in speed (<300 MHz), smaller difference in price ($12), so the quad would be preferred in this scenario...unless you want to overclock, in which case the dual core EE will trounce the quad EE and then easily becomes worth it. And the Tuniq Tower is on sale for $50 at svc.com...one of the better-reviewed coolers here at Camp Anandtech.

I'm a little ticked that the Armor now costs $119 AR at newegg (I just bought one for $135 two months ago). It is vastly superior to either the Mystique or Sonata. No PSU, but hey...that means no cheap, bundled Antec PSU either, so that's a good thing. And you'll have room to spare with a card that's as long as the 8800GTX. For sheer price, the Mystique is clearly the best price at svc.com for $50 (just place it in the shopping cart next to the Tuniq) and go with the OCZ.

For an HTPC, Raid0 is great for Vista Premium since it creates one large virtual disc for recording shows. However, I have a single 250 in my MCE box, and only once came close to filling it (got lazy, didn't delete crap). Note that I don't game on it, it's just an HTPC, so if you're gaming, either get a larger single disc or do the RAID thang. Note that you won't see a performance boost with Raid.
 

Giggli G

Junior Member
Jul 22, 2007
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Hmm, thanks for warning me about that. So would the ATI 2900XT be the best choice for me then? Is it compatible with future drives?

I don't think I can afford really good memory and a mobo that goes over 800Mhz-rated, so I realized that the e6750 might not be good for my overclocking wishes. I started looking at the E4400 and it seemed intriguing, because of the high multiplier and low initial speed. Then again, I could probably take the Q6600 to 3.2 which would likely satisfy me. I was thinking 3.4 with the E4400 be acceptable.

I'll look into the case, thanks.

Thoughts?

 

Giggli G

Junior Member
Jul 22, 2007
12
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Originally posted by: Slugbait
NO, you should not get an 8800 anything. The 8800 series does not support that high-def player you plan to buy, nor does it support the next generation PureVideo. If going with nVidia, you need to take the game performance hit (with a significant monetary savings) and go with an 8600GTS...then upgrade 12-18 months from now to a more powerful card that will handle games at high rez, as well as being part of an HTPC. And you don't have to get a different mobo if you go with ATI, you just have a forever-empty PCI-E slot, that's all. For example, I have a Bad Axe II, and I'm using nVidia...if I want SLI down the road (unlikely), I'll sell the mobo.


I started looking at this and it seems that the 8600 cards simply offload decoding strain from the CPU, whereas the 8800GTS does not. If I got the quad-core wouldn't I be fine with having more strain on the CPU? Game quality is important to me right now, I won't care about HD movies for about a year. It sounds like the movies will still play fine, but it will just be more stressful on my system.

?


Oh, and by the way: 1920x1080 = 2,073,600 pixels
Anandtech says that the 320mb is fine at resolutions below 1900x1200 = 2,280,000 pixels.

So shouldn't I be fine with the 320mb?
 

Slugbait

Elite Member
Oct 9, 1999
3,633
3
81
Originally posted by: Giggli G
I started looking at this and it seems that the 8600 cards simply offload decoding strain from the CPU, whereas the 8800GTS does not.

No, there's much more to it than that. Also, you have to be careful and pick the correct card that has the crypto chip on the PCB. I don't think you'll find an 8800 with the chip.

If I got the quad-core wouldn't I be fine with having more strain on the CPU? Game quality is important to me right now, I won't care about HD movies for about a year. It sounds like the movies will still play fine, but it will just be more stressful on my system.

Actually, it will be your eyes that are stressed...not the system. Yes, the movies will play fine, but your picture quality will absolutely suck, guaranteed. You will not come anywhere close to four digits, much less 1200 lines of resolution. If you have ever watched an SDTV signal on an HD display, you already know how an old SD CRT looks blessedly glorious in comparison.

Oh, and by the way: 1920x1080 = 2,073,600 pixels
Anandtech says that the 320mb is fine at resolutions below 1900x1200 = 2,280,000 pixels.

So shouldn't I be fine with the 320mb?

For some current games, yes. For some current games, no. For games released next year: a few yes, most no. For example, you probably don't want to play Q4 at that resolution with everything turned on...your framerate would probably hover around 20. Q4 all maxed out does much better with a card that has 512 megs (or more). And that's a rather old game.

Basically, you're in a pickle...you could spend more for great game performance now and no HD compatibility later, or spend less for mediocre game performance now including HD compatibility...then use the money you saved later when newer, performant cards also do HDCP.

Another option is spend the additional $250 and buy a standalone player. Unless you want Blu-ray, in which case you have to spend $500. It's stunning how fast HD-DVD player prices have dropped so soon after release, and around Xmas I suspect they'll be below the magic $200 entry barrier.
 

Giggli G

Junior Member
Jul 22, 2007
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The 8800GTS have purevideo hardware, just not the next-generation version that is present in the 8500 and 8600. There are countless tests I found of them playing back HD content at full quality fine. And with an o/c-ed quad-core that would help too. I still don't quite understand what you are saying - the article is from before the 8800's were even released, and all of them have the hardware PureVideo (it says on the nVidia website). The new generation stuff is supposedly for picture-in-picture and other specific features that movie publishers will add-in later.

2 Superclocked 8600GTS 256MB's in SLI cost about the same as the 8800GTS 640, however, and have fairly comparable performance (a little bit worse). Another thought for me I guess.

I am waiting to see who wins the HDDVD-Blu-Ray war before I fully commit to either anyways. If HD DVD does win, I have an Xbox360 anyways and could just pick up the add-on. But it looks like Blu-Ray currently has the lead.

Now that you know my circumstances a bit better, do you still think that I shouldn't go for 8800?
 

Slugbait

Elite Member
Oct 9, 1999
3,633
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Originally posted by: Giggli G
There are countless tests I found of them playing back HD content at full quality fine.

I unfortunately haven't seen a single one. Instead, I come across site after site, forum after forum, saying it can't be done.

And with an o/c-ed quad-core that would help too.

But your CPU utilization will be very high.

I still don't quite understand what you are saying - the article is from before the 8800's were even released, and all of them have the hardware PureVideo (it says on the nVidia website).

The article also doesn't pull any punches when they say that we've been lied to for years.

Ignore PureVideo. Think HDCP. Now...

What I'm trying to say is that nVidia cards released over the last two years claiming HDCP will, in reality, NOT do playback in HD resolution (except the 85/8600 series). With an 8800, 7000 series and 6000 series, you will bump your rez down to 1280x800 to playback HD-DVD or Blu-ray or you're not going to watch the movie.

Here is the master list. Note that the 8800 is not listed in bright green.

Even MaxPC loudly griped about this (again) just a few months ago when the 8500 & 8600 were released. "Why is it their uber-cards still don't support HDCP blah, blah, blah". This isn't new info.

If you want to watch movies on that expensive TV, and you want HD resolution that takes advantage of your investment, you will not get what you paid for with that TV using an 8800.

I am waiting to see who wins the HDDVD-Blu-Ray war before I fully commit to either anyways. If HD DVD does win, I have an Xbox360 anyways and could just pick up the add-on. But it looks like Blu-Ray currently has the lead.

The add-on HD-DVD player plugs into your MCE machine, too. And it's well under $200. But I digress, you are going to be waiting for at least a few years before you go HD if you're waiting for a "winner". Think about it: you have the capability, but you DON'T have a source. Such a waste. Heck, when my GX900 ES crapped out for the fifth time, triggering an automatic replacement from Magnolia, they gave me a V333 ES...which basically upgraded me to DTS and AC-3. But without a DVD player, I had no source, and therefore could not enjoy my free upgrade to discreet surround sound. My solution: walk out the door with both the free replacement and a source (then I stopped at Best Buy on my way home, and my first DVD purchase was Blade).

Now that you know my circumstances a bit better, do you still think that I shouldn't go for 8800?

Gaming is obviously far more important to you right now, and you seem to have done enough homework to dispute everything I have said. Go with the 8800 now, and when you're ready for HD, just get a new card.

 

Giggli G

Junior Member
Jul 22, 2007
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I really do appreciate your input man. I do care a lot more about the gaming right now and will worry about the issue in a year when all the rental places in Canada start carrying HD content. I ordered today, changed a couple things, got the 640mb and the Quad :). What I would REALLY like is to just have the Xbox Live Video Marketplace in Canada. Then I could be watching in 720p at least right now. Sadly, we pay more for an X-box Live subscription than Americans do, but have severely limited functionality.

Your comments really stimulated me and I thank you a ton. :)

By the way, what do you think about the H.264 decoding article on the front page today? http://anandtech.com/video/showdoc.aspx?i=3047&p=3
What does that mean in the context of our discussion?
 

Varun

Golden Member
Aug 18, 2002
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He is not talking about decoding - he is talking about HDCP Encryption. Your system will decode just fine with the 8800, but more of the decoding will be sent to the CPU rather than the GPU like the 8600 series. From the link you posted you can see even an E4300 can decode with an 8800. If you want gaming though, you really have no choice but to go with the 8800.

HDCP is an encryption scheme for HDMI which is what he is talking about. Read about it at Wiki for some more information, but HDCP requires everything to be HDCP including the video card and monitor/TV. Right now, it is turned off because it would basically stop almost everything but the most recent equipment from playing HD. I am not sure if and when it will be turned on.
 

Slugbait

Elite Member
Oct 9, 1999
3,633
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Originally posted by: Varun
Right now, it is turned off because it would basically stop almost everything but the most recent equipment from playing HD. I am not sure if and when it will be turned on.

As far as nVidia, it was "turned on" a few months ago with the release of the 8500 and 8600. Not sure about ATI, but I believe all 2900XTs are capable.

Note that HDCP was never "turned off"...manufacturers just never included the crypto chip on the PCB to enable HDCP, but the GPU has supported HDCP for years. This is why both ATI and nVidia have gotten away with marketing their "product" as HDCP.

Note also that most 8500s and quite a few 8600s don't support HDCP; again it depends on the manufacturer. But all 8600GTS cards do support it.