Considering re-entering this PC nonsense

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outsider819
(Apologies for the longer than intended post, and many, many thanks in advance)

And looking for a little advice, because I will have to admit, I am confused as hell about specs and such. I haven't built a new PC specifically for gaming since like 2003, am currently using my good old faithful 2011 ASUS X53A to do most of my general computing, and have recently put together a machine running 7 with 2010-ish hardware we've scrounged over the years to run my old games again, saying I'm out of the loop with modern stuff is a bit of an understatement.

Basically, I'm considering grabbing an off-the-shelf PC or laptop (have not decided) to run some more modern games. I do not want to spend more than my yearly trackday/MX budget on this, so I understand I will have to make some tough choices, although I'm not afraid to toss some reasonable upgrades at it. I figure, based on reading previous posts and replies, I might actually get honest and useful input here if I state what I'm trying to do and my expectations of how it should run. Or I hope so, anyway, because most tech people will say I have to blow as much as a late-model roller to get acceptable performance from some liquid immersed super double overclocked monstrosity to pretend to drive a late model. That's not happening, I just want to play some video games!

This is all inspired by Flight Simulator. Other games I would like to play are PCars 2, AC, Kart Kraft, AMS2, RFactor 2, etc, the usual suspects. I have a 28" 1080 monitor and a G920, these will stay. I may consider adding two of the same monitors but have little room. I have no 4k devices in the house and no intention of adding any. I do have an increasing sense of humour with regards to trying VR, but I have no idea what I'd need to run it, or even if I'd get a vomit-inducing headache from it. I favour framerate and smooth play over pretty nonsense, most motion effects and even poor FOV can make me pretty sick (thanks post-concussion!). It absolutely maddens me on my X1X when, usually on PC2, my wheel loses its FFB and the vehicle physics take a dump (which is reason #2 I'm considering leaving the safety of the console realm), so I'd expect it to at least out-perform that. I'd presume I'm looking for a mid-high end processor and a fair bit of RAM, and maybe a low-mid-tier graphics card (things like an SSD system drive goes without saying)? And here's my real issue, what the heck IS a mid-tier now, anyways? Or should I just accept that I wait it out for a Series X?

Thanks for any and all help and advice!
 

daan

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This is all inspired by Flight Simulator.
Well then, start here and go higher where you can afford.
upload_2021-3-24_10-19-2.png


maybe a low-mid-tier graphics card
The one thing you do not want to skimp on is the graphics card.

I have:
AMD Ryzen 5 3400G
AMD Radeon RX 580 8GB
16GB (2x8GB) DDR4/3200mhz
480GB ADATA Ultimate SU630 SSD (+2TB HDD)

And it runs Flight Sim at 30-40FPS
 
253
Canada
Canada
outsider819
Well then, start here and go higher where you can afford.


The one thing you do not want to skimp on is the graphics card.

I have:
AMD Ryzen 5 3400G
AMD Radeon RX 580 8GB
16GB (2x8GB) DDR4/3200mhz
480GB ADATA Ultimate SU630 SSD (+2TB HDD)

And it runs Flight Sim at 30-40FPS


Thanks for that! 8g graphics card, eh? See, this is where I go sideways, I read things like the Tom's graphics card hierarchy page, and see a 980 is higher than a 1660 but only one version, and an AMD 590 is higher than a 5500, and some 4g cards are as high as some 8g cards, and some 6g cards apparently go toe to toe with some 12g cards. Gets a little tough to keep up with. Was thinking somewhere in the 1660Ti or Radeon Vega 56-ish range or maybe a little higher would get it more or less done without breaking the bank?
 

neema_t

Bearded Member
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neema_t
You might be aware that the graphics card market is currently ridiculous so a prebuilt is your only realistic choice to get a complete computer anytime soon, so I'd suggest starting your search by choosing a shop (if you're in the UK that means Scan, Overclockers, Aria or CCL) then choosing some options based on what you want to pay. Then just look up the specs, find benchmarks (preferably actual gameplay ones rather than synthetic), ask us what we think, etc. - that'll help you narrow it down to a bearable number of options, I'm sure.

I'd personally recommend assuming that you'll upgrade the RAM and storage as needed after purchase (so you don't necessarily need to pay over the odds to get 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD from the builder) and also replace the PSU around the warranty expiration date - system builders tend to know no one really cares about the PSU and they can improve their margin by sticking any old crap in there, maybe they don't actually do that, but I personally wouldn't trust the PSU to be built to outlast the warranty. Unless of course the builder specifies what the PSU is, in which case ignore my cynicism!

As for VRAM, if you're playing at 1080p that won't matter a whole lot to you, in fact I don't think it matters much for VR either (I might be wrong though) - textures are the main VRAM hog and VR doesn't typically have super high resolution textures, it does however lean heavily on the processing speed of the CPU and GPU so if you think that's something you want, you will need to spend a bit more on both. A 1660Ti, for example, won't be a very good card for VR. But even if you decide to forget about VR for now, you're much better served by looking up gaming benchmarks for a given card than you are by comparing VRAM, clock speeds, etc., luckily they're very easy to find.
 
2,476
United Kingdom
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nowcontrol
The one thing you do not want to skimp on is the graphics card.

And the PSU....

It would be advisable to get an 80+ gold (or better) PSU for any mid to high-tier graphics card if you want to keep it well fed.

system builders tend to know no one really cares about the PSU and they can improve their margin by sticking any old crap in there, maybe they don't actually do that, but I personally wouldn't trust the PSU to be built to outlast the warranty.

I know at Scan you have options on most of their 3XS pre-built systems that thankfully let you pick and choose most of the important things such as the PSU which is great as it allows you to adjust things to fit a budget.
 
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253
Canada
Canada
outsider819
Thanks for all the advice thus far! This is giving me something I can use to narrow focus a little bit, because my head was starting to hurt trying to compare things. And yes, the power supply, swapped a few of those out over the years, the least thought about component by most, but yeah, most of the stock ones are pretty low quality, and often from OEM's you would think would use better.

I'll see what I can come up with over the next little bit here, in Canada so the stores are a little different, but the hardware isn't.
 
1,896
Australia
Adelaide
Thanks for all the advice thus far! This is giving me something I can use to narrow focus a little bit, because my head was starting to hurt trying to compare things. And yes, the power supply, swapped a few of those out over the years, the least thought about component by most, but yeah, most of the stock ones are pretty low quality, and often from OEM's you would think would use better.

I'll see what I can come up with over the next little bit here, in Canada so the stores are a little different, but the hardware isn't.
Keep in mind that PSU efficiency ratings don't mean much - for example there are some really good Gold rated units, and some really outdated ones. I personally use this list as a reference.

For the graphics card, you'll most likely want at least 6GB if you're aiming to run high settings at 1080P. As others have said though, the graphics card market is pretty bad globally (including the used market too, it seems) so building a PC in the current climate might not be the best idea (and as others have pointed out, you may have to resort to buying a pre-built system).

Not sure how much performance has changed with updates, but this is how Flight Simulator ran at the time of release when paired with a high-end CPU and lots of RAM (and on the latest GPU's at the time):

As you can see, it's a very intensive game to run, so you might want to rein in your expectations for running it - particularly in VR, if you're considering going down that route.
 
253
Canada
Canada
outsider819
Yeah, pretty used to running with quality and effects way down anyway. The level I seem to be looking at (now that I think I've got the GPU/CPU hierarchies more or less straight, which was the real problem in the first place) would probably get what I'd consider acceptable to good but not stellar performance, which I can live with, you guys would probably find it dismal :lol:. Keep in mind I'm really comparing to consoles more than anything. Will be a prebuilt for sure, although I keep flip flopping between a desktop or maybe just getting another laptop (saw a TUF F15 with a 3060 that looked pretty good and it can be had with a 3070, although I understand ASUS throttles back the card quite a bit for battery life), even though that convenience comes with its own set of limitations, obviously. I have some heavy thinking to do and decisions to make.

The more I'm thinking about it with my history, since I've clearly got something going on between my eyes and brain that can cause me some issues, the less I'm thinking VR is a good idea for me, probably best to stay away from it, at least until I can maybe try it out first.
 

Dave A

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JDA1982
Yeah, pretty used to running with quality and effects way down anyway. The level I seem to be looking at (now that I think I've got the GPU/CPU hierarchies more or less straight, which was the real problem in the first place) would probably get what I'd consider acceptable to good but not stellar performance, which I can live with, you guys would probably find it dismal :lol:. Keep in mind I'm really comparing to consoles more than anything. Will be a prebuilt for sure, although I keep flip flopping between a desktop or maybe just getting another laptop (saw a TUF F15 with a 3060 that looked pretty good and it can be had with a 3070, although I understand ASUS throttles back the card quite a bit for battery life), even though that convenience comes with its own set of limitations, obviously. I have some heavy thinking to do and decisions to make.

The more I'm thinking about it with my history, since I've clearly got something going on between my eyes and brain that can cause me some issues, the less I'm thinking VR is a good idea for me, probably best to stay away from it, at least until I can maybe try it out first.
Laptop 3000 series GPU's are a bit of a lottery, you can get a 3060 that performs better than a 3070 in some laptops. You really need to research the exact GPU that will be in the laptop you go for (assuming you decide a laptop). They are not comparable to the desktop equivilent GPU's. Potentially a Max-Q 3070 will perform worse than a Max-P 3060 but the Max-P will draw more power and get hotter, which in a laptop can cause problems.
 
8,554
Canada
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Automotive_Buff
@r_outsider most System Integrators (SIs) have made it easy to build a pre built according to your needs using their websites.

If you wanted to play a specific game, in this case Flight Simulator, you would choose it as an option and it does everything for you. If you wanted a specific platform (Intel vs AMD/ nVIDIA vs AMD) you can choose that as well.

With how the market is currently, the general consensus is to buy a pre built, because SIs can guarantee a graphics card with the build.



Affordable SIs to view:
  • NZXT
    • Affordable, great service.
  • Redux PC
    • (charge you only for the parts. Significantly less upcharging for labor, I think they only charge $50-$100)
  • CyberPower

Custom/high-end:

I would stay away from Alienware/DELL and even HP.
  • They strong-arm you to buy their services
    • Warranty
    • 24/7 online service repair
    • In-person repair
  • Cheap out on components
    • Use DDR4 RAM at abysmally low speeds
      • <3000MHz
  • Up charge on hard drives and solid state drives

Most importantly try to shop around and compare what the SI is charging you to MSRP.
 
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253
Canada
Canada
outsider819
@Team THRT Drift Great! Even more to look at! Lol! Some good info there in those links, looks like some decent deals too. Funny enough, all my experience with the big name brands screams stay away from most of them and especially the ones you mentioned, honestly I think the only one we've (my wife did IT for a living, her eyes glaze over when I talk games and video cards, though) had decent luck with over the years is Asus, but even there, I think we can probably do better for less.

And yeah, @Dave A will definitely have to do some research if I do go with a laptop, which I really do need to be careful with, at least with a desktop you're only out a card if you want to upgrade, if you buy a laptop that doesn't cut it you're really stuck for sure. And I really don't know that much about modern cards although I'm learning a fair bit here. LOTS to think about!
 
8,554
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Automotive_Buff
Another resource I would suggest is pcpartpicker.com

Their landing page showcases several build guides that are picked out for most budgets. All you have to do is pick one and buy the parts in the list. This saves you the hassle of dealing with an SI and you get the joy of building a PC again.

Should you choose to modify the list, you can, or you can create your own from scratch. You can also view the completed builds page and take inspiration from other users (their parts are listed if you choose to do a carbon copy).
 
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253
Canada
Canada
outsider819
Well, I'd like to thank everyone for all the input and helping me to understand a bit more about this junk, after much careful deliberation, I think I've narrowed things down a bit. First off, for various reasons I think I'm going for a laptop instead of a tower like I'd initially been thinking, a compromise to be sure but at my price point, there's always going to be compromises aplenty. A large part of my research came from comparing here: https://www.notebookcheck.net/Mobile-Graphics-Cards-Benchmark-List.844.0.html and here: https://www.notebookcheck.net/Mobile-Processors-Benchmark-List.2436.0.html. Had a tough time finding a laptop GPU vs MSFS benchmark for 2021 but found one for 2020, and some desktop comparo's for 2021 and sort of extrapolated from there. Any of them should run most of the racing games just fine, I think.

I'm not completely stuck on Asus but have had good luck with their products (banging this out on my old 2011 X53E right now, still runs like a top, no GPU is the only problem with it, really), so I've focused on those and will look at competing models from a couple of manufacturers, but it was getting REALLY overwhelming to look at everything available at once. Here are my top picks, some not yet released. Whatever I end up with will be getting bumped to max RAM and a second SDD before it leaves the store, and a fresh clean Windows install as soon as it gets home. And not one of them is going to cost more than my entry fee and tire budget for the year!

My top pick, something along these lines: https://www.memoryexpress.com/Products/MX00115514

My second pick, something like this, bit ostentatious perhaps, but not much slower processor-wise than the above and I would like a number pad: https://www.bestbuy.ca/en-ca/produc...800h-512gb-ssd-16gb-ram-rtx-3060-eng/15264489

This is sort of my dark horse value pic, apparently this one does run pretty warm, though, but at my expected graphics levels apparently the 2060 does pretty well compared to the newer stuff, with the newer one due to land soon I'd expect this one to come up on sale shortly as well: https://www.memoryexpress.com/Products/MX00115453

If anyone has some further input on any of the above or suggestions on something else, I am all ears, as well, available in Western Canada is my only real stipulation.
 
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Jump_Ace

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Consider it when video card prices are back to MSRP :lol:

Jerome
 
8,554
Canada
Quebec
Automotive_Buff
but found one for 2020, and some desktop comparo's for 2021 and sort of extrapolated from there.

Please don't extrapolate on your own because there are serious marketing issues when it comes to laptops that advertise 3000 series GPUs. The issues come from the Max-Q (official nVIDIA term) and Max-P (unofficial marketing term) markings. In short, Max-Q is a power limited GPU, while Max-P is an "all-out" mobile GPU performing as it should. Sometimes they don't even designate which GPU is being used and just state "RTX 3060".

This issue is further enhanced by the fact that a 3080 mobile GPU is NOT equivalent to a 3080 desktop GPU (none of the mobile GPUs are). It's not even the same chipset, it uses a 3070 or even in some cases a 3060Ti chipset. So please, do your research before you get ripped off by a gaming laptop. You would honestly get better value and performance from a desktop setup.

Whatever I end up with will be getting bumped to max RAM and a second SDD before it leaves the store

If you do order a laptop, do those upgrades yourself and avoid getting upcharged.

And not one of them is going to cost more than my entry fee and tire budget for the year!

If I may, what is your budget for your setup? We might be able to get you a better setup than an overpriced laptop. You don't need the latest gen hardware to enjoy gaming. You still have affordable CPUs from previous gen Ryzen, and there are some better options than newegg or BestBuy out there.

available in Western Canada is my only real stipulation.

That's going to be difficult as we Canadians get shafted by the lack of deals/microcentre, and the conversion rate :/
 
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253
Canada
Canada
outsider819
Oh boy, this will be long, going to tackle this one at a time. But first, mainly decided on a laptop as I currently live on this one and my PC sees less use than my XBox. Which isn't much, I play games maybe four hours a week. Tops.

Please don't extrapolate on your own because there are serious marketing issues when it comes to laptops that advertise 3000 series GPUs. The issues come from the Max-Q (official nVIDIA term) and Max-P (unofficial marketing term) markings. In short, Max-Q is a power limited GPU, while Max-P is an "all-out" mobile GPU performing as it should. Sometimes they don't even designate which GPU is being used and just state "RTX 3060".

This issue is further enhanced by the fact that a 3080 mobile GPU is NOT equivalent to a 3080 desktop GPU (none of the mobile GPUs are). It's not even the same chipset, it uses a 3070 or even in some cases a 3060Ti chipset. So please, do your research before you get ripped off by a gaming laptop. You would honestly get better value and performance from a desktop setup.

Yeah, been reading many, many benchmark sites on the subject. Considering my fairly low expectations (for gaming) and the hardware I have to run, it looks like anything above a 1660ti will probably work, so aiming past that should get me there? Not going to get to a 3080 (or a 2080, for that matter) on my budget anyway. And then I read reviews on individual laptops, but much like any reviews, there's a ton of CRAP to sift through to find useful info, and with the number on the market and the different options available, you may never see one on a particular model.

If you do order a laptop, do those upgrades yourself and avoid getting upcharged.

No worries there, I always do it myself. My comment was mainly to say I'd be more or less immediately throwing in max RAM and a second SSD in anything.

If I may, what is your budget for your setup? We might be able to get you a better setup than an overpriced laptop. You don't need the latest gen hardware to enjoy gaming. You still have affordable CPUs from previous gen Ryzen, and there are some better options than newegg or BestBuy out there.

I'm certainly open to suggestions, I'd prefer to keep it to around $1500-ish (plus the gimme tax), will go to $2000 plus GST. And really, my gaming needs, although FS is intensive, are pretty modest. I'm not a heavy gamer, can't even run many of the really taxing visual effects. I do, however, do some pretty math heavy stuff which is why I tend towards the faster CPU's, even if they are seemingly overkill. I'm really not stuck on any store (and generally avoid the big boxes, Best Buy was mainly a convenient link to something along the lines of what I think I'm after), I saw your post before you edited, was interesting as here in the Edmonton area I'd not had any issues with that particular store and have had many dealings with them, will keep an sharp eye out though!

That's going to be difficult as we Canadians get shafted by the lack of deals/microcentre, and the conversion rate :/

It's a tough one for sure, but a big consideration is service, as an example a couple of OEM's off the top of my head will have you pay two-way shipping for warranty. Considering I can send a complete set of motorcycle suspension to California for less and faster than a computer to Ontario (a bit of an exaggeration but not much of one), that's a big one. Plus the last PC I had built and delivered was from NCIX (I'm old) and it met an early demise on Purolator's conveyors so I like picking up my own things. And with any monitor, seeing a screen before you buy is important, I think.

I agree, we absolutely get hosed, though, on a lot more than tech stuff and way worse on many things and that's not going to get any better, I'm afraid.
 
8,554
Canada
Quebec
Automotive_Buff
@r_outsider I hear you. I edited the post because I posted some links to GPUs on CDW's (Canadian enterprise/business retailer) website while simultaneously bashing Memory Express for their fees and lackluster customer support. CDW is great but they lack communication, take way too long to restock, and have their own issues with their return policies.

The links I used as examples (AMD add-in board partner 5700XT GPU, and EVGA 1660 Super) are part of their extensive list of backordered parts. Their website states a waiting time of 3-6 business days but a lot of users have been waiting months for the 3000 series cards. You might not have to wait that long for the 5700XT ($100 CAD above MSRP) or the 1660 Super (~$65 CAD above MSRP) but I couldn't in good conscience keep those links up; felt like false advertising/false hope.

With that out of the way, and my projection bias on "gaming" laptops aside, your choices might be the way to go. I would advise to hold off and wait, but again, I can't stand by that statement because there is no set date for the end to this crisis, nor do I know how urgently you need an upgrade; sometimes you have to scratch that itch.

Also with the budget you stated, it's doable to get a really nice system but that's assuming you have the monitor you want as well as the peripherals in hand already. If you need a monitor as well, that would cut a big chunk out of your system budget (about half), depending on the quality you're going to be gaming on.

For fast, reliable CPUs, I would suggest the 9th-gen i9 Intel processors. Don't go above 10th gen, as the 11th is a carbon copy/rehash with a price hike and had a disaster launch.

As of this post, using pcpartpicker:

CPU choices:
  • i9-10900 10-core (no overclocking possible) ---- $479 (Amazon)
    • 2.8GHz base --> 5.2GHz boost
  • i9-10850K 10-core (overclocking possible to 5.2GHz) ---- $499 CAD (Newegg)
    • 3.6GHz base
    • Same performance as a 10900k, but cheaper
Mobo:
  • MSI Z490-A PRO ATX ---- $221 CAD (iSanek)
    • 2.5G ethernet
    • 3.2 Gen 1 and Gen 2 USB headers
    • Great VRMs for possible overclocking if you upgrade the CPU down the line/chose the 10850k
    • LGA 1200 socket only compatible with 10th Gen Intel and above
RAM:
  • Corsair Vengence LPX DDR4-3600 16GB (2 x 8GB) ---- $115 CAD (Newegg)
    • I don't know how intensive the math stuff is, you might need more RAM at higher speeds.
Storage:
  • Crucial P2 500GB M.2 NVME SSD ---- $85 CAD (Newegg)
    • Can add more storage later.
Power Supply: depending on your need to game instantly, or provide headroom for future upgrade
  • Corsair RMx (2018) 550W 80+ Gold ---- $99 CAD (Memory Express)
  • EVGA SuperNOVA GA 650W 80+ Gold ---- $109CAD (Memory Express)
  • SeaSonic FOCUS 750W 80+ Gold ---- $135 CAD (PC Canada)
  • Corsair 850W 80+ Gold ---- $164 CAD (Vuugo/Amazon/Canada Computers)
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Total: $1000-1200 CAD

That leaves you with $800-$1000 CAD to buy:
  • CPU cooler
  • GPU
    • i9-10th gen CPUs I mentioned above come with Intel UHD graphics. However for gaming/math stuff you would need a dedicated GPU
  • Case
  • Peripherals
  • Monitor (I hope you have it already)
GPU options: not much really..
  • Asus Geforce RTX 2060 6GB Dual Evo OC ---- $588 CAD ($88-$100 above MSRP) (Amazon)

Completed build ---- $1815 CAD pre-tax

So, you could use the system with the onboard graphics on the intel CPUs while you wait for a better graphics card. That way you're not sitting with a bunch of parts worrying about the RMA window expiring. I'm sure other users on here can streamline/optimize this list way better than I can, but I hope this gives you some more insight.

At the same time I don't want to bombard you with information, and a laptop upgrade at this time could be the best course of action.
 
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outsider819
Just as a follow up because I hate leaving things hanging, after thinking about it a long, long while, in the end I took the play money I had saved up and decided on a Les Paul instead (and a Series X to stay somewhat gaming relevant if a bit meh). I'm comfortable with my decision. 🙂