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What system should I buy to run Civ IV?

Discussion in 'Civ4 - General Discussions' started by I_batman, Nov 2, 2005.

  1. sjss

    sjss Chieftain

    Nov 2, 2005
    Lots of stuff is said here, I'll go on a couple tangents, and hopefully end up in a one of these lines of thought will help.

    First, I'm a big stability person, I don't care how fast it is, if it crashes more than once a week, it is completely unacceptable. This is with 24/7 operation, including gaming. If it crashes once a month, it's barely tolerable. So, yeah, except some harsh criticisms of companies that most would consider fine here.

    Pre built vs. Home-made

    Pre-built is easier initially, but has many problems - namely, to the companies, you are a consumer, and you tend to get less quality treatment, some are better than the status quo here, however. Home made require a lot more effort initially, but the companies that make many of these parts, especially the quality parts, assume, with good reason, that their customers are knowledgeable and discerning, and will treat them accordingly.

    HOME MADE (*asterixed portions are relevant to pre-built)

    First of all, I noticed a shuttle mini being mentioned - those tend to have poor stability in more modern systems because of the smaller power supplies. Also, for what you get in terms of price/performance, it's cheaper to get a good quality case, PSU and mobo separately.

    *CPU: Normally AMD is better for gaming, however for this game, just guessing at how it could be programmed given the nature of things, I think it won't matter as much. If you run a lot of stuff in the background, dual core is for you, otherwise, I'd stick with a single core CPU. Intel dual cores are competative in most application classes with AMD, however, only with hyperthreading turned on, which Intel tells you not to do, even on Dual Core HT processors (I've no clue why). Reason dual core doesn't help with gaming and nothing in the background, is that games are typically single threaded, and only utilize once CPU core at a time. In a few years this will most likely change, but not right now. AMD tends to have the best price/performance ratio across the market except for high-end dual core.
    - Keynote: I'd reccomend AMD, single core, unless you run lots in the background, the AMD multi-core, mid range.

    Motherboard: This has two parts, chipset, and manufacturer. The most reliable and stable chipsets (and fortunately, also the fastest) for Intel are the latest by Intel and nVidia, for AMD, it's the latest by nVidia. The Intel, I can't remember, but nVidia is the nForce4. For manufacturer, on AMD I stick with ABit or ASUS (except for the A8N-E) one desktop systems, and for Intel, I'll do either of those, or Intel. DFI makes good boards, if you don't mind putting a lot of effort into them, usually more than it's worth.
    - Keynote: nVidia or Intel Chipset, on an ABit, ASUS, or Intel board.

    Memory: Don't go generic, best way to kill stability along with bad mobo or PSU. I like Corsair, Crucial, Kingston, and Micron. I would be willing to give Mushkin a chance, they've been around long enough and have enough good reviews, but I am conservative in this area, as my incredible desire for stability might indicate. The memory speed will help a lot, but you don't need high timings, they are nice, but won't provide much noticable improvement, def. not worth paying 2x for. If you can avoid it, don't get DDR2, it's not low-enough latency in the PC segment yet to be worth it - in this case, the higher latency can hurt you quite a bit, unless you are up to the point of 800Mhz+ and dual channel.

    *GFX Card: I like nVidia cards here myself. I found they don't render as well as ATi, but they are less likely to produce errors that prevent gameplay. For manufacturers, I like ABit, ASUS, BFG and Leadtek. ABit doesn't make NV cards anymore, but they do make ATis, if you like ATi cards, and want to stick with them (many people have had NV experiences paralleling my (and others') ATi experiences, so I don't question those that prefer ATi). My current card is 128MB and it is fine, GPU power is more important than memory. I'd take a 128MB 6600GT over a 256MB 6600 (non-GT), for example, you'll get much higher performance. However, with higher end cards, it's not much of an issue. Next: If you have a choice between SLIing two cards, and one bigger-badder card, go for the bigger-badder card of similar pricing, chances are the performance will be similar to the two weaker cards, when SLI works on them, and much better when SLI wouldn't work on them.

    PSU, depends on the system, but 400W will run most non-SLI setups (yes, the 6800GT and Ultra say they need 480W, but thats actually due to the "typical" number of power cables that come out of the PSU at various wattages, and not due to the actual wattage). Try and get at least 17-18A on the 12V rail, or 15A one each, if there are two 12V rails. I like Antec, Enlight, Seasonic and Thermaltake PSUs personally. They tend to work well, and be reliable.

    Other stuff is as you like. Note: SATA and SATA II offer no real world performance over IDE, tests of the drives that are available on both show that there is no performance increase going SATA or SATA II - the drives cannot deliver data fast enough to max out ATA100, only in the past year have they even started to decently above the ATA66 spec. The only speed advantage on SATA, is that they (A) have the raptors, which aren't available on ATA100 (and wouldn't max out the ATA 100 bandwidth even if they were), and (B) Native Command Queueing, which helps a lot with latency, but not throughput - so really if NCQ were on IDE, you wouldn't have an improvement here. So, unless you get something like this, there's no advantage with SATA. However, that being said, it is as often cheaper than IDE, than not, now, so I would get whichever you felt like.

    Vendors: If you are in the US, Newegg, and ZipZoomFly are very good (Newegg from experience, ZZF from reviews of people I've talked to). Both offer very competative pricing and good customer service. I've heard mostly good things about Monarch Computers also, but unlike the other two, I've actually heard one or two bad things as well.


    (1) Always make sure you have a graphics card inside - if you use an integrated graphics chip (like what intel offers), you will most likely not get an AGP or PCI-E connection, regardless of manufacturer.

    (2) Dell and IBM tend to be the most upgradeable (they use the fewest proprietary parts), and also, unlike some others, you don't void the warantee opening the case on many of them. They have above average service and support to my experience, and are better priced than the competition with equivolent service, support, and quality. For the included equipment on the computer, the performance is about average, which is more than enough for most people.

    (3) Avoid Compaq, Gateway, and Sony. Compaq and Gateway tend to use very cheap, unstable and unreliable parts, in my experience, additionally, they tend to have low performance for their equipment (sometimes as low as 60%-75% the performance of a similar specced Dell or IBM). All three have poor tech support, with Sonys being extremely bad, and Gateway, being the best of the three, almost tolerable. Compaq is somewhere in the middle.

    (4) Get it straight from the manufacturer, and not someplace like Best Buy, you'll get better service that way (I have had nothing but nightmarish service from BB with my old notebook).

    (5) Alienware, Falcon and the other gaming PC stores tend to be well above market price (typically, for the same hardware/software, you'll pay 50% to 100% more for the PC) - sometimes they are better than others (usually), sometiems they are not. Depends on the model. I've seen highly mixed reviews on their service and support, so I'm a bit leery of them.

    Some general tips for both, not covered in pre-built:

    As long as you have a 3Ghz P4 or a 3000+ Athlon 64, or higher, you will not get much improvement on most games with higher CPUs, some yes, but it's getting to dimishing returns here.

    Memory: I'd reccomend at least 1GB for any modern gamer, and that will be usually sufficient. However, 2GB is often helpful and it wouldn't hurt much (but your wallet) to get it.

    GFX card, as far as I can tell, Civ IV is only moderately GFX card intensive. My 6600GT 128MB doesnt seem to have an problem with it, except when I have conflicting options set in the driver and in the game, for graphics setup on AntiAliasing.

    Just as an indicator for comparison (my system that runs a medium sized work with 6 enemies without an big/noticable lag - not tried higher yet):
    Athlon XP 2500+ @ 3000+ speeds
    1GB of Corsair "LL" model memory
    Leadtek 6600GT, 128MB memory
    ABit NF7-S V2.0 motherboard
    1 SATA 120GB Seagate HD
    1 IDE 120GB WD HD
    430W Antec PSU
  2. WillemIV

    WillemIV Chieftain

    Oct 20, 2005
    About that shuttle stability problems due the not so powerfull powersupply is nonsence.

    Got a shuttle myself (older model) only 250 watt and never got stability problems, got an amd 3000+ and a 6800GT 256 mb card inside.

    These powersupply's from shuttle are very good quality, less watt yes but you don't need much watt that is a myth these days. You only need a good quality powersupply and not more watt.

    And they are silent!! and when you make your own computer it's often not.
    Though right now my shuttle is not really silent, that 6800GT card is noisy :(

    (and the shuttle I mentioned got a 350watt powersupply and the SN26P model which can even run 2 7800GTX in SLI with that 350 watt powersupply without issues although I wouldn't choose that model because of the extra heat build up).

    And it's not really more expensive. When you get a good looking case a motherboard, cpu cooler, and a good powersupply you are not really much cheaper then a shuttle barebone computer. And shuttle's are much cooler looking.
  3. I_batman

    I_batman Emperor

    Jun 22, 2004
    markham, ontario

    Now I am really confused, with all the various opinions presented by you folks.

    I was down at my friendly computer geek store today, and the discussion about dual core vs single core vs dual processor was confusing, to say the least.

    Then we got into the options of Nvida vs ATI, which was a whole other matter.

    Bottom line, I have the following quote:

    AMD ATHLON 64 4400 Dual Core (yes, I know that is likely overkill)
    ASUS Motherboard 939 NFORCE4 PCI-E (apparently bleeding edge, which can be very dangerous)
    2048 mem OCZ400K (2 x 1024)
    SEAGATE HD, 250 GB 7200 8MB NCQ (Not a big deal, but Seagate is good quality)
    ATI RADEON X850 Crossfire 256 MB PCI-E Video Card
    Microsoft XP Pro, (which gives me a bit more security over XP Home, when connecting to Internet without a VPN tunnel)

    I have not made any commitments yet, and it will take two weeks before the ASUS motherboard arrives in the stores, but they have been tested with the ATI cards, apparently.

    Naturally, lots of bells and whistles in the mouse, keyboard, DVD writer, speakers, etc.

    Whether I want to spend the money is a big factor though.
    This rig will not be cheap, and it will be obsolete in 18-24 months.
  4. Willem

    Willem Deity

    Feb 12, 2002
    It may become obsolete from a technical stand point, but not from a software one. All games and most programs are designed for low to mid range computers so that the game companies can reach as many people as possible. Look at Civ's recommended processor speed of 1.8 ghz, even though many people these days have 3+ ghz machines. So with a system like that it's going to be awhile until you encounter a game, or any program for that matter, that will be to much for it. I'd say you'll get at least 4-5 years out of it when it comes to software compatibilty. You may have to upgrade the odd component in a couple of years, like maybe the video card, but most it will be good for awhile yet.
  5. sjss

    sjss Chieftain

    Nov 2, 2005
    Well, you didn't list an actual model - but if that board is the A8N-E, it's had a lot of hardware problems, if it's a different model by ASUS, you should be fine.

    For the vid card, if you like ATi, that's great, but last I checked (it's been a few weeks), and it's the same hardware as an x850 XT, but for $50-$100 more. Also, you cannot use Crossfire on a nVidia motherboard, so there really isn't any benefit from that extra money spent, whatsoever. Lastly you could get a 7800GT similar price, and almost 2x the performance.

    Check out newegg for the hardware clock speeds (they list them on the gfx card info), of those two ATi cards, and pixel pipes as well (to see that they are the same), as those are the main important parts. Next go to Toms Hardware and Anantech to look at some reviews so you can see the performance difference between the ATi and nVidia cards.

    I do like seagate hard drives, and NCQ is a nice feature. But with my comments listed above, I just don't believe that is a very well designed or thoughtout system.

    For the Shuttle thing, by the other poster: I was assuming it was PSU, because, even low estimates on max drain, a 250W PSU shouldn't handle a 6800GT and a single core AMD or Intel CPU of modern design - except somethign mobile, or celeron/sempron. Also, that was a guess for the most likely part, I've seen a lot of reports of lack of stability with shuttle mini-systems.
  6. butlerj1982

    butlerj1982 Chieftain

    Dec 27, 2004

    i know that there is a huge schism towards pre-packaged systems, but i got a great emachines PC with a nice monitor and printer at best buy for $525 ($450 with rebate) that runs Civ IV great... im not sure why everyone hates the models at those stores, there seems to be some OK deals there.

  7. I_batman

    I_batman Emperor

    Jun 22, 2004
    markham, ontario

    I will check those sites out. Thanks.
    Oh, and the ASUS board is an A8N32-SLI-DX, so I don't know if I am in the clear on that one.
  8. Desert Fox

    Desert Fox Fleet Admiral

    Dec 29, 2001
    Las Vegas USA
    Regarding Dual Core processors, if you want to be on the cutting edge it is the best way to go. At my website are my son's Computer business support forums. He has been building and repairing computers for 12 years now. (Not an advertisement) Our computers are built with the same parts and skills put into Alienware which leads me to suggest or recommend 3 computers makers: - NTS Computers (bias of course) Alienware and Dell.

    As far as large maps go Civ4 seems to be missing a way to generate maps at this time. I read that early 2006 they will release the Game and AI SDK tools to allow tweaking every aspect of the game. I play on Custom maps, with custom continents allowing 6 of them to be built. This seems to really push your PC to the limits during the latter stages of the game. The mini map graphics always mess up on me.

    Video cards are important for this game to run good. We have tested ATI and Nvidia and frankly Nvidia has a lot better bench marks then ATI. ATI has inflated their specs and the drivers are not that reliable as Nvidia is. This is from our own experience in the field and on our workbench tests. Both are great cards but Nvidia is way out in front. :D

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