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PC Gaming (Also, Advice Needed)
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Posting Junkie
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Jan 6, 2015, 04:27 PM
 
I know a few of you guys are PC Gaming enthusiasts, but I haven't owned a Windows PC in around 12 years, so I don't really know much about what happened on the PC Gaming scene, apart from titles that I played on Mac (Civ IV, Civ V, and some Football Managers).

I've been tasked with taking over video editing at work, and it looks like we're going to be using Premiere. In addition, I'm going to have to do some of the editing at nights, and with two small children, it makes it impossible to spend late nights at the office, so I need something with a bit more power than my 13" MBP at home. I'll also be in Lightroom and tinkering with our web-site quite a bit.

So...I'm doing something I've wanted to do for years. I'm building a PC (and possibly tinkering in the Hackintosh scene, if the parts happen to be compatible)...



Jawbone's First Self-Built PC — PCPartPicker.com

The parts list is as follows:
- CPU: Intel Core i5-4690K 3.5GHz Quad-Core Processor
- CPU Cooler: Thermaltake Gravity A1 31.8 CFM CPU Cooler
- Motherboard: Asus Z87-Pro ATX LGA1150 Motherboard
- Memory: *Team Zeus Yellow 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory
- Storage: Samsung 840 EVO 120GB 2.5" Solid State Drive
- Storage: Western Digital Caviar Blue 1TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive
- Video Card: Gigabyte GeForce GTX 970 4GB WINDFORCE Video Card
- Case: NZXT S340 (White) ATX Mid Tower Case
- Power Supply: Corsair CX 600W 80+ Bronze Certified Semi-Modular ATX Power Supply

So here's what I'm asking...
Should I be aware of any pitfalls during the building process?
Should I invest into some more fans?
Is liquid cooling advised?
Should my first upgrade be an additional 8 GB of memory (to 16 GB), or an i7 (in about a year), especially when considering my editing needs?

I'm really excited about this, and the whole thing will actually be tax deductible, but the great side benefit is that I'll be able to enjoy some of the PC games that I've missed out on in the past few years.

...provided my newborn starts sleeping sooner rather than later. Oh, and I'm Jawbone54 on Steam, if anyone would like to link up.

Lastly, are there any personal favorite games that you'd recommend?
( Last edited by Jawbone54; Dec 15, 2015 at 12:01 PM. )
     
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Jan 6, 2015, 04:45 PM
 
I've asked Jordan, our resident PC-build expert, to wade in here.

I cannot stress cable management enough. A clean build means better airflow, which means better temperatures. More fans != better circulation.
     
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Jan 6, 2015, 04:57 PM
 
Originally Posted by Mike Wuerthele View Post
I've asked Jordan, our resident PC-build expert, to wade in here.
Thanks much!

I cannot stress cable management enough. A clean build means better airflow, which means better temperatures. More fans != better circulation.
Luckily, the NZXT case I've purchased seems to be especially easy on cable management, and I'm incredibly OCD anyways, so that shouldn't be much of an issue.

But as far as keeping temperatures down, this is where I'm going to have an issue (and will need some help). This is partially why I don't want to overclock.
     
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Jan 6, 2015, 05:43 PM
 
Originally Posted by Jawbone54 View Post
The parts list is as follows:
- CPU Cooler: Thermaltake Gravity A1 31.8 CFM CPU Cooler
You don't need the third-party cooler, unless you plan to overclock. The cooler included with the CPU is pretty decent these days.

Originally Posted by Jawbone54 View Post
- Motherboard: Asus Z87-Pro ATX LGA1150 Motherboard
This may work, but the latest chipset, and the one that the "Devil's Canyon" CPUs (what you picked above) is designed to work with, is Z97. Asus names their things logically, so just replace Z87 with Z97 and that's the card you need.

I also note that you're using a full size ATX motherboard. Consider if you really need that. The difference between ATX and micro-ATX (or uATX) is that the number of slots drops from 7 to 4. Since most of us only have one expansion card these days, that's a lot. Unless you plan to use multiple GPUs (and you really shouldn't, for your first self-built), uATX is enough, and saves some space.

Other than that, Asus is a fine brand of motherboards.

Originally Posted by Jawbone54 View Post
- Storage: Samsung 840 EVO 120GB 2.5" Solid State Drive
For your own sanity, bump that SSD to a 240 GB model - 120 gigs is really small to be moving things around, and Windows is a lot more finicky about that than OS X is. Note that the 850 is out.

Originally Posted by Jawbone54 View Post
- Video Card: Gigabyte GeForce GTX 970 4GB WINDFORCE Video Card
A fine card, but can I ask about the resolution etc you plan to game at?

Originally Posted by Jawbone54 View Post
- Case: NZXT S340 (White) ATX Mid Tower Case
Cases are an extremely personal thing, but again, consider a uATX setup.

Originally Posted by Jawbone54 View Post
- Power Supply: Corsair CX 600W 80+ Bronze Certified Semi-Modular ATX Power Supply
600W is overkill. A PSU calculation suggests 330W. Margin is nice, but your safety margin is almost 100%. Do you plan on including other cards than the GPU?

Don't buy a bigger PSU as a "nice to have" because you might want a beefier setup later. PSUs age, and loading that PSU heavily after years of lighter work is a surefire way to kill it.

I also note that you're not including a DVD, nor does the case fit one. Is that intentional?

Originally Posted by Jawbone54 View Post
So here's what I'm asking...
Should I be aware of any pitfalls during the building process?
Looks like a good case that is easy to work with. Install the PSU first and start routing the cables behind the motherboard tray (that's why you can remove both sides of the case these days). Make sure to fix the standoffs to the case, and then fix the motherboards to the standoffs. Install the CPU. Install the cooler. If it is the boxed cooler, they are pushpins where all you have to do is make sure they're pushed in all the way (you twist them to release, if you need to disassemble). Check behind the motherboard that the pins are all the way through. Third party coolers often come with screw fixations where you need to be careful not to overtorque, as that can break the CPU.

Route all the cables to the box front panel, the drives and the fans behind the tray. SATA ports are NOT equivalent - usually the Intel controller is the ports starting from 0, and any extra controller has ports at the end. Easiest is to just use the Intel controller, IME. Check the RAM channels when installing that - usually it is color coded. When all that is done, install the GPU and its extra power cable last.

Originally Posted by Jawbone54 View Post
Should I invest into some more fans?
Maybe. There doesn't seem to be any intake fans, only outflow (three including the PSU), which can make the inside dusty. That's easy enough to install later if you feel the need, though.

Originally Posted by Jawbone54 View Post
Is liquid cooling advised?
No.

First gen liquid cooling systems relied on connecting pumps, cooling blocks and radiators and essentially topping up the whole thing yourself with cooling fluid. That was just leaky and flaky. Second gen solutions are "closed loop", a single cooling block with pump and radiator, but are only made for the CPU. CPUs don't run that hot anymore. What does run hot are GPUs, but the closed loop systems don't work with GPUs without an adapter. Installing that adapter and cooling block on a new GPU voids the warranty, and even if you did it, you'd need two radiators - which that case doesn't support. Also the GPU you picked doesn't run particularly hot. Just save yourself the trouble.

Originally Posted by Jawbone54 View Post
Should my first upgrade be an additional 8 GB of memory (to 16 GB), or an i7 (in about a year), especially when considering my editing needs?
Do not expect to be able to upgrade the CPU. Intel changes the interfaces all the time, so you will not get a better CPU than what is available right now. The only exception was now because Broadwell was so delayed, that there was Haswell Refresh and Devil's Canyon, but that is the only time since 2006 that you could get significantly better performance on the same motherboard. If you need the i7, get it now (i7-4790K is the one you want, then).

RAM you can upgrade at any time. I don't think it will get any cheaper, though, as DDR3 is being phased out in favor of DDR4.

Originally Posted by Jawbone54 View Post
I'm really excited about this, and the whole thing will actually be tax deductible, but the great side benefit is that I'll be able to enjoy some of the PC games that I've missed out on in the past few years.
Too bad you missed the Steam sale... but there will be another one along shortly. They're not exactly rare. Also, greenmangaming.com for deals.

Originally Posted by Jawbone54 View Post
...provided my newborn starts sleeping sooner rather than later. Oh, and I'm Jawbone54 on Steam, if anyone would like to link up.

Lastly, are there any personal favorite games that you'd recommend?
If you liked Civ IV, the first thing to do is reinstall that and grab some mods, like Fall from Heaven... In general strategy games are having a bit of a renaissance, and there are a lot of "AA" games where the polish is not quite up to the level of EA, Ubisoft and ActiBliz, but are usually a lot more fun for it.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Jan 7, 2015, 04:07 PM
 
Once you have it all together, make sure you set aside at least 3 hours for all the shite that will need updating. Drivers for this and that plus Windows updates etc etc.

Then, get yourself a HOTAS setup, buy Elite Dangerous, TrackIR and Voice Attack. Say goodbye to 'real' life.
     
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Jan 9, 2015, 06:56 PM
 
I just built a PC gaming machine for my son, but have a question/problem. BTW - I found the components from a site Toms Hardware, where many place their thoughts on the best build for whatever. This was the winner at $1,200 I think.

At any rate, I put it all together, installed windows 7 home premium, 64 bit, and thought all was fine, but just found out a message came up saying the 200 MB SSD is almost full. My OS is on that, and thought the 1 terabyte drive would get all the steam downloads, but I checked and in just two weeks he's got about 150MB of gaming data on the ssd.

Question is how to I transfer this onto the hard drive, and then how to I get everything to download onto the hard drive, and not the ssd? If I have to reload the OS and whatever else thats no problem(what's half a day right?)

Thanks very much in advance.
     
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Jan 9, 2015, 07:35 PM
 
When you (re)install Steam choose to install it on the HDD. When you download anything, have your downloads go into some sort of temp folder on the HDD instead of Downloads - you can configure browsers to do this automagically. Any software installation that proposes it, choose Custom which normally gives a choice where the binaries should go.

Also, grab Glary Utilities (the free one) and use it to clean up shite.
     
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Jan 9, 2015, 07:45 PM
 
This is great - so I just completely delete the Steam program, and then reinstall, however, choose custom and choose a folder I created in the HDD? If this is it, then it's much easier than I had hoped for.

Thanks!
     
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Jan 10, 2015, 12:35 AM
 
Not exactly. I think Steam itself only wants to install itself to one spot on the main drive. You can however move the game installs, which is what take up any space. When you install each game in Steam, you can control where it installs in a pop up menu. Make a Steam folder on your secondary drive and use that menu to create a new SteamLibrary - let's say you call it D: \SteamLibrary - and start installing games to there.

Even better, once you have installed a single game to that drive, you can move your existing installs. Not exactly intuitive, but find where the game install is today (probably Program Files (x86)\Steam, but you can see the location in that install box) and copy each install to the new library file. A single game is in Steam\SteamApps\common - quit Steam and copy a game from there to the same location in the new library. Then start Steam again, delete it (Delete Local Content when you right click on a game in the list) and then immediately install it again, but in the new location. If it all worked, Steam will now find the files you copied, and install will finish directly without the need to redownload anything.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Jan 10, 2015, 04:46 AM
 
You bought a K processor, so I'd go with the better HS/fan, or a closed loop cooler like the Corsair H60 (nice because they flush heat out of your case as well), and overclock it. You should be able to easily get 4.4-4.5GHz out of it without effort. And yes, 16GB of RAM, although not a must, is a big plus. All else looks fine, I might have chosen a Z97 based mobo, and a larger SSD would be better, but otherwise you're golden.
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Jan 10, 2015, 10:25 AM
 
Originally Posted by P View Post
Not exactly. I think Steam itself only wants to install itself to one spot on the main drive. You can however move the game installs, which is what take up any space. When you install each game in Steam, you can control where it installs in a pop up menu. Make a Steam folder on your secondary drive and use that menu to create a new SteamLibrary - let's say you call it D: \SteamLibrary - and start installing games to there.

Even better, once you have installed a single game to that drive, you can move your existing installs. Not exactly intuitive, but find where the game install is today (probably Program Files (x86)\Steam, but you can see the location in that install box) and copy each install to the new library file. A single game is in Steam\SteamApps\common - quit Steam and copy a game from there to the same location in the new library. Then start Steam again, delete it (Delete Local Content when you right click on a game in the list) and then immediately install it again, but in the new location. If it all worked, Steam will now find the files you copied, and install will finish directly without the need to redownload anything.
Don't delete the Steam program, uninstall it.

Just checked on my PC and the Steam.exe is installed on my HDD. There is Steam stuff for the Start Menu and there is a Steam folder under ProgramData which is 300k on the SSD as well as the Steam Launcher under Nvidia. On the HDD (D : \Apps\Steam is where is chose to store it) my Steam folder is over 100G.
     
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Jan 10, 2015, 11:14 AM
 
The Steam program itself is not the issue, it is quite small. The point is to move the installed games, which are what take up space. The process above is a shortcut for that. Alternatively, one can just uninstall them from within Steam and reinstall them in the new location, including download.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Jan 12, 2015, 09:39 PM
 
Thanks very much for the reply.

And I'm sorry about the delay in response. I've been swamped between work and a newborn with colic.

Originally Posted by P View Post
You don't need the third-party cooler, unless you plan to overclock. The cooler included with the CPU is pretty decent these days.
Yeah, I don't plan to overclock. At least not right now, but I chose the 4690K so I can think about it down the road.

For your own sanity, bump that SSD to a 240 GB model - 120 gigs is really small to be moving things around, and Windows is a lot more finicky about that than OS X is. Note that the 850 is out.
I was trying to keep the cost down around the $1,000 mark. This is another thing that I wish I had more money to splurge on, but I'm nearly out of things to sell.

A fine card, but can I ask about the resolution etc you plan to game at?
Initially, 1080p due to my existing monitor, but I'll have my hands on a 1440p screen in a few months.

I've considered an ultrawide, since it would be a huge help in Photoshop, etc.

600W is overkill. A PSU calculation suggests 330W. Margin is nice, but your safety margin is almost 100%. Do you plan on including other cards than the GPU?
See, I had a smaller power supply initially, and the people on Reddit insisted on upgrading. What gives?

I also note that you're not including a DVD, nor does the case fit one. Is that intentional?
Absolutely. I have an external Bluray drive at work that I can borrow in the evenings.

Looks like a good case that is easy to work with.
Incredibly easy so far. Cable management is supposed to be a huge plus with this case, which was partly why I chose it, in addition to the color/aesthetics.

Install the PSU first and start routing the cables behind the motherboard tray (that's why you can remove both sides of the case these days). Make sure to fix the standoffs to the case, and then fix the motherboards to the standoffs. Install the CPU. Install the cooler. If it is the boxed cooler, they are pushpins where all you have to do is make sure they're pushed in all the way (you twist them to release, if you need to disassemble). Check behind the motherboard that the pins are all the way through. Third party coolers often come with screw fixations where you need to be careful not to overtorque, as that can break the CPU.

Route all the cables to the box front panel, the drives and the fans behind the tray. SATA ports are NOT equivalent - usually the Intel controller is the ports starting from 0, and any extra controller has ports at the end. Easiest is to just use the Intel controller, IME. Check the RAM channels when installing that - usually it is color coded. When all that is done, install the GPU and its extra power cable last.
Thanks for all this!

As I've only been able to work on it in five-minute increments, all I've completed so far is the PSU, motherboard, CPU (and cooler), memory, and routed the case's audio, LED, and fan cables. I have yet to install the hard drives.

BUT...and this is the big question for me right now...

I'm having trouble fully inserting the 20-pin power connector. It's aligned properly (and definitely isn't upside down), but I can't get it down far enough to where it latches, and I feel like I'm straining the motherboard. Is there a trick to this? I'll try to post a picture of what I'm talking about tomorrow at the office.

Do not expect to be able to upgrade the CPU. Intel changes the interfaces all the time, so you will not get a better CPU than what is available right now. The only exception was now because Broadwell was so delayed, that there was Haswell Refresh and Devil's Canyon, but that is the only time since 2006 that you could get significantly better performance on the same motherboard. If you need the i7, get it now (i7-4790K is the one you want, then).
Agh... This might have been an area in which I probably should have splurged then, but it's a bit late for that. By the time I started this thread, it was already unboxed, and I had kind of accepted the idea that I probably shouldn't afford it right now.

Too bad you missed the Steam sale... but there will be another one along shortly. They're not exactly rare. Also, greenmangaming.com for deals.
What makes you think I missed the Steam sale?

Knowing what I was undertaking, I kept up with the sales every day. I purchased:
- Skyrim (Complete edition)
- Oblivion (Complete edition)
- Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
- Fallout
- Gone Home
- Half-Life 2
- Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning
- Papers, Please
- Prison Architect
- X-COM: UFO Defense (I know...old as Methuselah. I always wanted to try it.)

If you liked Civ IV, the first thing to do is reinstall that and grab some mods, like Fall from Heaven... In general strategy games are having a bit of a renaissance, and there are a lot of "AA" games where the polish is not quite up to the level of EA, Ubisoft and ActiBliz, but are usually a lot more fun for it.
The Lord of the Rings mods caught my eye in a brief look-through. I'm definitely delving into that world, but especially so with Skyrim.
     
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Jan 12, 2015, 10:09 PM
 
If the plan is 1440p, then the 970 or the slightly slower and cheaper Radeon 290 are good choices. For 1080p they're overkill, though.

I don't know what PSU you had previously, but if it was a less reliable make, it is often recommended to bump the wattage a bit to make sure it works. What is important is how many amps it can deliver at each voltage, and the rated wattage is just a summary of all those numbers. An old or poorly designed PSU might have all its amps on a less used rail, like 5V, and so you need a higher wattage to make sure you have enough at 12V. There is also a tendency to recommend slightly too big "just in case", because it doesn't hurt much. 600W just struck me as very high, and I would have dropped to 500W or so, still leaving a big margin.

The 20-pin connector: the trick here is that there is a big 20pin together with one or two 4pin connectors just next to it. Usually the PSU has a 20pin and at least one 4pin to assembly right next to it, but you have to find where to "start". Usually I look at the latch itself - there are notches where it should go on the female connector, which indicates how it should be turned and pushed in. It usually isn't that hard, so if it refuses to latch, I suspect that something is wrong.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Jan 12, 2015, 10:45 PM
 
Originally Posted by P View Post
If the plan is 1440p, then the 970 or the slightly slower and cheaper Radeon 290 are good choices. For 1080p they're overkill, though.
Oh, yeah, I have no intention of staying at 1080p. Seems like I'd be throwing away one of PC gaming's biggest benefits.

The 20-pin connector: the trick here is that there is a big 20pin together with one or two 4pin connectors just next to it. Usually the PSU has a 20pin and at least one 4pin to assembly right next to it, but you have to find where to "start". Usually I look at the latch itself - there are notches where it should go on the female connector, which indicates how it should be turned and pushed in. It usually isn't that hard, so if it refuses to latch, I suspect that something is wrong.
I appreciate this so much. I'll give it another shot ASAP in the morning.
     
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Jan 13, 2015, 12:27 PM
 
Stick with the larger PSU, down the road you may want to just pop in another GTX 970 for SLI, once prices on them drop in favor of the eventual 1000 series. Video cards have a ridiculous life cycle now, at least in PC terms, and one you buy now will be good for 3-5 years of quality gaming, in part due to how many games are merely scaled-up console ports.
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Jan 13, 2015, 01:10 PM
 
And here I go with raining on the parade again, but that idea - adding a second of the same graphics card down the line for a "cheap" upgrade - is another of those classic PC builder ideas that sound good but almost never makes sense in practice. nVidia in particular rarely if ever drop the price of a specific card significantly, so excluding close out prices when the next generation rolls around, it will cost what it does today. Doing a 970 SLI makes some sense today in that it is a massively powerful config at a price that, while high, is not completely absurd (although 2x290 in CrossfireX is a better deal, since the 290 is cheaper, CrossfireX supports SFR and the 290 outperforms the 970 at 4K resolutions - the only resolution where you'd want that much power), but it will only make less sense when the next generation rolls around. The replacement card in the same slot will cost about the same as a 970 and, if history is any guide, will perform close to the SLI setup. Add in the classic SLI problems - lack of support at game launch, noisy, higher latency, frame time variation - and you are almost always better off buying a replacement card when you need it. If you can get that second 970 for dirt cheap - say used - then maybe, but that is still a long shot.

Just to illustrate my point: take a look at what a Geforce 770 costs right now. Newegg has a number of cards for $300, but they're all out of stock. The ones still available are north of $400. Let's say that I had a 770 and planned to do that trick. Even if the currently not available $300 cards were actually in stock, that is still a lot of money - very close to what the 970 costs. My experience with a single 970 would certainly be better than with two 770, which are limited by 2GB VRAM and poor performance over 1440p.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Jan 13, 2015, 11:45 PM
 
Yeah, there's probably no way I'm going to install a second graphics card. If anything, I'll probably want to build a higher-end PC in four or five years.
     
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Jan 13, 2015, 11:48 PM
 
Oh, and I managed to get the 20-pin power cable connected. Here's a low-quality pic of the completed hardware:



I'll have some better pics soon.
     
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Jan 14, 2015, 03:54 AM
 
You know that you have to connect both PCIe power connectors to the GPU, right? Because only one is connected in the pic above.

I like the 2.5" SSD bays. My case doesn't have that - it has bays enough, 6 3.5" and 2 5.25" if I install the extra drive bay - but none of the small 2.5" bays that many cases do now.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Jan 15, 2015, 12:35 AM
 
Originally Posted by P View Post
And here I go with raining on the parade again, but that idea - adding a second of the same graphics card down the line for a "cheap" upgrade - is another of those classic PC builder ideas that sound good but almost never makes sense in practice.
Except that it does, especially with ebay awash with fully-functional, previous gen cards at well below their original street prices and manufacturers selling copious amounts of "refreshed" cards at similar discounts, 12-24 months after their original launch. Frankly, the prospect of buying a second card for SLI or CF "down the road" has never been more attractive. Also, multi-card configs have come a long way from the days of perpetual microstutter and texture popping, I play on such a setup every day and with few exceptions it's like playing on a single GPU rig.
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Jan 15, 2015, 05:21 AM
 
Except that it does, especially with ebay awash with fully-functional, previous gen cards at well below their original street prices and manufacturers selling copious amounts of "refreshed" cards at similar discounts, 12-24 months after their original launch.
Getting cards cheap is a possibility, but you have to really chase those deals and troll for good used cards - and for used, you never know what you get. They might be 2 months from letting go of the magic smoke at that point, if they've been heavily used.

And what setup, exactly, would you recommend? You can't pick a 780 or Titan setup, because those cards aren't being replaced yet. 770 or the more common 760? Those cards all (or almost all for the VRAM) have 2GB RAM and 32 ROPs. The lack of ROPs mean that you won't run 4K, and the low VRAM will limit your performance on any modern title with big textures. A new 970 will be a much better deal. On the AMD side it is a little better, because AMD is more flexible with what cards can go into CrossfireX, but you have the same sort of issues. 7970 had 3GB of VRAM, shouldn't be an issue, right? Well, it still had 32 ROPs, so 4K won't work well, and the CrossfireX bridge only supports up to 2560*1600 before you start losing performance from that bottleneck.

It is always issues like this when you try to use SLI/CrossfireX to make an older card do modern games. A 580 came with 1.5 GB VRAM, not enough for serious gaming in 2012. 6970 was again maybe a little better, but used the older VLIW design and got dropped from driver an game engine optimizations quickly. In practice, it never really works out. Technology moves too fast.

Also, multi-card configs have come a long way from the days of perpetual microstutter and texture popping, I play on such a setup every day and with few exceptions it's like playing on a single GPU rig.
SLI will always have a higher frame latency, that is inherent in a system that uses AFR - if there are twice the number of frames being worked on at one time, you will double the time between the world state of a frame and that frame being on the screen. Mantle fixes this problem by moving to SFR, but nVidia isn't going to adopt that. Also, you play on what I seem to remember is a pair of Titan Blacks, which is exactly the situation where SLI works - top of the line card doubled to get more power than any single card can provide. Each card can alone provide a good experience at those settings, but by adding a second you can increase the framerate.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Jan 16, 2015, 04:56 AM
 
780s are becoming available, either used or as refurbs, for a little over half of what they were new (~$300). If you buy used, get an EVGA, they're easy to work with on swaps and repairs, often ignoring whether you were the original buyer. Radeon 290s are very inexpensive, especially ex-mining cards which are in the $200 range (caveat emptor, buy an XFX card for the transferrable warranty), but also in the refurb market for ~$250-275, and come with a warranty. X-Fire 290s are great for 1440p, very few games will ever drop below 60 FPS and Mantle looks amazing, though I still prefer Nvidia for their features and broader support. I'm not a member of team Green or Red, though, and often swap back and forth. I got an LG 34UC97, 21:9 curved display, and it's the shiznet for gaming. The panel overclocks to 100Hz without breaking a sweat, has amazing color, and the curve makes everything so immersive. It beats the crap out of multi monitor configs (bezels just suck).

For a higher-end budget build, right now I'd get either a refurb 780Ti or a new 970, and if the person wants to OC go with the 970 (which is ~$50 less, too), because there will be a lot of those for sale on the secondary market within the year, after the 8GB cards come out (whether that makes any real sense or not).
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Jan 16, 2015, 07:49 AM
 
Ex-mining cards are a dime a dozen, especially the 280X, but they are usually extremely worn and likely to keel over and die any day.

A single 290 is enough for 1440p - that is what I run, though I prefer to dial down the AA and am fine with 40 fps as long as it doesn't drop below 30 in a crunch. My long term plan, as i think I've said, is to replace the iMac with an MBP + a 4K display, as soon as one arrives that meets my requirements, and then run the PC off of that display they way I run it on the iMac now. At that point I'll drop my action-oriented games to 1080p and keep the less demanding strategy stuff at 4K, which should let me keep the 290 for a long time.

I have used both AMD and nVidia in the past, usually every other card from each, but I have used AMD for the last two. The usual setup is that AMD offers 95% of the performance at 90% of the price, while nVidia goes for the intangibles bit with bonus features. Lately nVidia's flat-out lying (PhysX x87 code, disabling PhysX if detecting a Radeon in the system, the new "effective memory speed" BS, false TDPs, G-sync) have got to me, though, so I have been wary of picking them. 970 is a GOOD card, though, if you can stomach that price tag.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Jan 16, 2015, 02:03 PM
 
What my IT guy did was buy a refurbed (I believe it's a Sapphire) 290 for $250, then got a pair of ex-miner Sapphire 290s off ebay for $200 each (he's a harcore Team Red guy) and set them up in a 3-way CF config, with the mining cards running as the slaves (which is less stressful than running primary). That config has been running for over 6 months now without issue, as far as I know. Talk about a huge amount of graphics power for $650. Recently he said that he bought a 4K monitor and those cards handle any game he throws at them, really impressive.
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Jan 16, 2015, 02:16 PM
 
Well yes, but you have to include the the refrigerator to cool that setup and the nuke to power it...That is more power than you can fit on a 110V/10A fuse. I guess he has a 16A fuse for that setup? Not a problem for me - 230V here, so 10A stretches further - but It is a good sign that your setup is approaching the limits of the possible.

He's right about the slaves being loaded less. With that sort of power, you could also underclock them a notch to save them further.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Jan 16, 2015, 06:05 PM
 
He says he runs them all on a 1200W PSU and that it pulls 900W from the wall while he's gaming, that's not too bad.
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Jan 19, 2015, 06:49 PM
 
Originally Posted by P View Post
You know that you have to connect both PCIe power connectors to the GPU, right? Because only one is connected in the pic above.
Yeah, I took this pic before completing it. I had trouble figuring out where to put the other six-pin PCIe connector. Actually, I hope I didn't screw up. Maybe I should post pics of where I connected the other ends before booting this thing up (yeah, still haven't turned it on — this is taking forever). I don't know the names of all these connectors, so the little flat, four-pin ends (extending from the empty six-pin connector pictured above) are now plugged into the little daisy-chain connectors from the cable that connects my case fans to the PSU's six-pin port.

I'm aware of how stupid I sound. All of this is Greek to me, which is why I'm progressing so slowly.

I like the 2.5" SSD bays. My case doesn't have that - it has bays enough, 6 3.5" and 2 5.25" if I install the extra drive bay - but none of the small 2.5" bays that many cases do now.
Yeah, I was kind of surprised by the placement of the 2.5" bays. I like having them, but they seem to be in an odd location.
     
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Jan 19, 2015, 08:29 PM
 
If you have doubts/worries post (more) pics here, we can help.

(Just know that I'm a cable clutter nazi.)
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Jan 20, 2015, 07:18 AM
 
The rectangular 4-pin connectors are usually called Molex connectors. This is a bit of a misnomer, but don't worry about it - everyone calls them Molex, so that's what we call them. They were mainly used for providing power to old ATA HDDs and opticals (with a smaller version, called mini-Molex, for floppies back in the days of yore).

A GPU uses so-called PCIe power connectors - either 6-pin or 8-pin, where 8-pin is in a 6+2 format. You can use just the 6-pin part of an 8-pin if that's all you need. 6-pin can deliver 75W, 8-pin 150W. The slot itself can deliver 75W. Big cards add up these connections to reach a high enough value.

The 3-pin and 4-pin fan connectors are different. Both Molex, PCIe, SATA and most other connectors provide 12V, 5V, and frequently 3.3V as well, and they come straight from the PSU. Fan connectors deliver a variable amount of voltage over two pins, at a much lower amperage, with the third pin providing RPM rating and the fourth is used for PWM - and they come from the motherboard. You CAN also connect fans directly to a Molex for power, but you lose the RPM reporting and PWM stuff, turning the fans into dumb fans without control.

The best is if your PSU has enough 6-pin and 8-pin connectors to run directly to the card. If you don't have that, you have to use an adapter that lets you connect one or two Molex connectors into a PCIe connector. The advantage with a modular power supply, which I think you have, is that you can select the right cables to connect to the power supply so you get enough connectors of the right type. Check again which cables you received with the PSU if you didn't receive enough of the PCIe 6-pin and 8-pin cables to connect it directly. I would guess that you got at least one 6-pin and one 8-pin, which should be enough to power the GPU.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Jan 22, 2015, 11:29 AM
 
Originally Posted by P View Post
The best is if your PSU has enough 6-pin and 8-pin connectors to run directly to the card. If you don't have that, you have to use an adapter that lets you connect one or two Molex connectors into a PCIe connector. The advantage with a modular power supply, which I think you have, is that you can select the right cables to connect to the power supply so you get enough connectors of the right type. Check again which cables you received with the PSU if you didn't receive enough of the PCIe 6-pin and 8-pin cables to connect it directly. I would guess that you got at least one 6-pin and one 8-pin, which should be enough to power the GPU.
Thanks very much for all of this. I think I'm getting a grasp on things — hopefully something can be gathered from these pics.

Since my power supply ran out of 6-pin outputs, I took the 6-pin adapter that came with my power supply and plugged it into the Molex connectors branching from one of the 6-pin outputs.

Here's two shots of the adapter hooked up to the GPU:





I doubt this next shot is helpful, but it's one of the two Molex connectors that the 6-pin adapter plugged into. The two Molex connectors both branched off from the 6-pin power cable that is running to the fans, so I don't think it's going to lose the "RPM reporting and PWM stuff," but I'm wondering if it's still going to be enough to power the GPU.



And Cap'n Tightpants, I'm still rounding up some of the cables to draw them in tighter, but the power cables behind the power supply are proving to be a challenge. Luckily, no matter how disheveled they are, this NZXT case keeps them hidden, but I'll still know...

     
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Jan 22, 2015, 11:52 AM
 
Two Molexes are enough for a single 6-pin, that is not a problem. Just odd that such a big PSU is out of PCIe power connectors.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Jan 22, 2015, 12:17 PM
 
Okay, awesome. Now all I just need to install the intake fans, OS, and drivers.

The next big project is building a new desk that meets my practical criteria as well as the wife's aesthetic demands.
     
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Jan 22, 2015, 03:45 PM
 
Originally Posted by Jawbone54 View Post
The next big project is building a new desk that meets my practical criteria as well as the wife's aesthetic demands.
Practical + a wife's aesthetic demands?

Travelling at light speed would be easier.
     
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Jan 22, 2015, 05:28 PM
 
Originally Posted by mattyb View Post
Practical + a wife's aesthetic demands?

Travelling at light speed would be easier.
Ha...

We've reached a compromise. The legs of the desk have to be painted white, but I can build it as large as I'd like, even if it's L-shaped and takes up the whole office.
     
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Jan 26, 2015, 02:24 AM
 
Is this about general PC gaming stuff too? Because the AMD 3x0 cards just went into partner sampling and testing in preparation for their final revision. The Q2 release statement seems to be spot-on. With the apparent meltdown of Mantle, will a raw performance advantage be enough to draw in the sales numbers they need?
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Jan 26, 2015, 06:43 AM
 
Sure, why not?

IMO, AMD got hit bad by the 970. They did not expect nVidia to price it that aggressively. Basically, nVidia is competing harder because they are feeling the crunch from their continued failure to break in to phone graphics, and decided before AMD to make another generation on 28nm. Both AMD and nVidia cut or delayed most of their refresh generation (GK114 and GK116 on the nVidia side, and most of Sea Islands on the AMD side), and now have to retool because 20nm is such a dud.

"Fiji", supposedly 380X, has some massively impressive specs if true. Hopefully it is both true and priced aggressively, because it appears to be the only completely new card coming any time soon. Bermuda is apparently delayed, possibly because it is over the max size for the 28nm node, and Treasure we haven't heard anything about other than the name. We apparently have Tonga - retooled Tahiti (7970/280X) with newer cores - and supposedly Trinidad - retooled Pitcairn (7870/270X) with newer cores - coming in below it. Those were fine cards back in the day, but the day was 2012, and the switch to the newer core design is not big enough. Tonga comes in at the level of the 960, which is fine except that it is 350mm to the 220mm2 of the 960, and uses a much more expensive memory interface to boot. Pitcairn is the one that is sized to be a midrange card, but the gap to the 960 is much too large to be bridged by going to the GCN 1.2 cores.

I don't see how AMD is going to compete with those cards. They can't keep using bigger chips and wider memory interfaces to match nVidia's cards, because it eats into their margins all the time. I am of the opinion that AMD usually delivers more bang for the buck, but that is only sustainable if they also have lower costs. When that happens - like 7870/270X against 660/760, or 290 against 780 - I can understand how they make money, but if they truly mean to run Tonga against the 960, their margins are going to disappear entirely.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Jan 26, 2015, 12:31 PM
 
Originally Posted by Cap'n Tightpants View Post
Is this about general PC gaming stuff too?
Absolutely.
     
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Jan 26, 2015, 12:39 PM
 
Everything is great with the computer, with one terrible exception: my graphics card isn't being recognized.

I have the HDMI cable plugged into the port on the graphics card. My monitor is working fine, the LED on the front of the graphics card is lit, and the fans are running, so I'm assuming it's plugged in properly.

I also re-seated the card in the PCIe 3.0 port three times, then plugged it into the alternate PCIe 3.0 port to make sure the original wasn't defective. The issue remains the same: it's not being recognized by the OS.

I went into the BIOS and checked the settings there, and they seem to be good. I don't know what the probably could possibly be. I have the updated driver ready to install, but the installer cuts me off until the card is recognized.
     
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Jan 26, 2015, 01:03 PM
 
Make sure that the PCI-E power connectors are plugged in all the way, sometimes you need to use a little extra force. Also make sure those that's a PCI-E power cable, on the connector it will say "PCI-E 6+2", it made me concerned when you talked about only having one, that PSU is supposed to have four 6+2 PCI-E power leads (it's a modular cable with an 8 pin connector on one end and four 6+2 pin connectors on the other). From the pic you posted above, it appears you're plugging in the 8-pin CPU/accessory power into the video card, and that's not going to supply nearly enough current.
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Jan 26, 2015, 02:08 PM
 
Thanks much! I'll try as soon as I arrive back home.
     
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Jan 26, 2015, 09:20 PM
 
Yeah, your PSU connections didn't sound quite right. Please double check that.

In other news, nVidia got caught with their pants around their ankles - again. It turns out that if you try to use more than 3.5 GB VRAM on the 970, performance slows to a crawl. After this was discovered, nVidia came back with their explanation: they have disabled not just 3 SMMs (which they have said), but also one of eight backend units, that is 8 ROPs and and 256KB L2 cache. Somehow they neglected to mention that, and their official spec sheets listed 64 ROPs and 2MB L2.

Anyway. To achieve predictable performance, they segmented memory into one 3.5GB slice with full performance, and one 0.5GB slice with terrible performance, hoping nobody would notice. Why they didn't just sell the card with 3.5GB VRAM is more than I can understand, but I guess it was easier to just lie.

So, for those keeping track, this generation nVidia has lied about effective memory capacity, cache size, number of ROPs and TDP. They shader count is a complete made-up number anyway, so what is left? Clockspeed, I guess, but then they're not actually sellng any reference cards, so they're being less than honest about that too. TMU count? Must be fun to work in nVidia marketing.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Jan 27, 2015, 11:49 AM
 
Woo! I'm up and running. It was indeed a problem with how I'd routed the power cables. I'd tell you guys what it was, but it was a far-too-embarrassing rookie mistake.

The minor bad news is that I have to send the power switch / USB unit on the NZXT case back to them. The power switch itself is defective. I had a friend come over and take a look, and he quickly discovered the issue. No big deal though.

As for nVidia, I saw Reddit absolutely explode as soon as the issue was discovered. From a layman's perspective, it just seems like throwing a massive, lazy middle finger to its customers.
     
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Jan 27, 2015, 12:12 PM
 
Sorry if I missed it, but what are you firing up this thing to play right now?
     
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Jan 27, 2015, 04:06 PM
 
Originally Posted by The Final Dakar View Post
Sorry if I missed it, but what are you firing up this thing to play right now?
Gaming isn't actually the sole reason I've built it. I'm having to do a lot more work from home in the evenings these days, but I only have a 13" MacBook, so I couldn't do a lot of video editing unless I was at the office. I couldn't afford a Mac Pro, so why not build a dual-boot gaming PC and Hackintosh?

The wife and I are also using it for a Plex media server to use with our Rokus.

But lastly, yes, the games...

Civ V
Skyrim (mods)
SimCity
Counter-Strike: GO
A bunch of classics, both on Steam and GOG.com

I'm also wanted to try out League of Legends, though I'm not at all sure it'll catch hold of me.

Oh, and lastly, I'm POed at Sony. My account was one of the lucky 13,000 that got completely hacked by Lizard Squad, and my debit card info was released into the wild. But that's another story.
     
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Jan 27, 2015, 04:27 PM
 
SimCity. Ah, when I cared. Beautiful UI though.
How'd you find out your account got hacked by Lizard Squad?
     
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Jan 27, 2015, 04:52 PM
 
Originally Posted by The Final Dakar View Post
SimCity. Ah, when I cared. Beautiful UI though.
How'd you find out your account got hacked by Lizard Squad?
First a call from my bank. Someone used the debit card to create a ghost card, which they used in Tennessee, so my bank canceled my card number and notified me.

That debit card was only on file with Apple and PSN. For everything else online, I use a NOW card, which is a safeguard against fraudulent activity. From Amazon to bill payments, it's all NOW card.

I'm not 100% sure it was the Sony hack, but it's the most likely culprit.
     
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Jan 27, 2015, 05:00 PM
 
I got home this afternoon, and the GPU is once again no longer being recognized. It was working fine this morning. An error message popped up saying something was no longer connected, but nothing changed. It's seated properly, the power cables are all good to go, and it should be working.

How common is it to get a bad GPU?
     
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Jan 27, 2015, 05:16 PM
 
We're talking the recent hack, right? I can't help but be concerned.
     
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Jan 27, 2015, 05:55 PM
 
Originally Posted by The Final Dakar View Post
We're talking the recent hack, right? I can't help but be concerned.
Yes indeed. The thieves used the debit card info about two days after Lizard Squad released their goods.

I understand this stuff happens. What made me angry at Sony was that it's the third time. I already had to cancel a debit card after the 2011 attack.
     
 
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