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Hardware recommendations for game programming?

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Sorry if I'm posting this in the wrong forum but I didn't find any hardware related forum so I thought this might be the best place. After having learnt the basics of Direct3D, I've decided to move on to learning more about shaders, but my computer seems to be too old to support pixel shaders (it just ignores the pixel shader parts of .fx files but seems to accept all vertex shader parts I've tried so far). So it seems necessary to get hold of a better computer, but here's the problem: my economy as a student isn't too good and I can't pay that much right now, while I'm still wanting a computer that'll be compatible for game development for a while ahead. Here are my questions: - How long do you think PCI-express bus standards will last as standard for mounting graphics cards? If I get a motherbord with PCI express support, will it last for game programming for 3 years or so if I just replace the graphics card when it gets old? - Are the cheapest of the D3D9c compatible cards too bad or is the quality of their functions acceptable for game programming? I think for my development and test running purposes, compatibility will usually be more important than memory size. - If you'd put together a rig for game programming for about $300 to $600 (assuming I buy the components and build the computer myself), assuming I already have keyboard, mouse, screen and cd/dvd unit to take from an older computer, what components would you choose for that computer if you were me? Into what components would you put most of the money? Again I'm sorry if this is the wrong subforum...

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I take it you have an AGP port at the moment? If you do you could pick up an ATI 9800 Pro for about £50 at best. 9800's support both fragment and vertex shader version 2 (SM2).

PCI-E will be around for awhile now and if you wanted to use SM3 you could get a nVidia 6600 or 6800 card which arn't too expensive anymore.

Don't buy cheap no brand ram, it's not worth the problems, I normally buy Cruical brand ram.

I built a system (excluding monitor) for myself about a year and a half ago which cost about $600. AMD64 3000+ CPU, 1GB RAM, ATI 9800, 80GB HDD, Case, Antec PSU, DVD ROM are the specs. Today I would expect to get a system that would beat this machine easily for the same price.

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Thank you, your suggested rig sounds like a good starting point for my needs. Actually what I have had up till now isn't even a normal AGP card, it's an integrated graphics card :) Thanks for the tips on the RAM too, good to know and an easy mistake I could otherwise have made.

I've never built a computer before but I've inserted PCI cards and changed memory modules, but I've never touched the processor or motherboard. Is there anything I should know about that part?
Remaining questions:
- I heard some discussion on processor socket to attach processor to motherboard, does that mean there's an extra loose part called socket that I need to buy separately or is the socket attached to the motherboard or processor? Also, does modern motherboards support all common processor sockets or do I have to worry about compatibility? Does prestanda differ much between motherboards? Is chipset something that comes with the motherboard or something separate I must buy?
- Does cache memory come with the processor or with the motherboard, or is it separate from both?
- I'm not sure about this, but I think I've heard that I can arbitrarily choose where to insert my PCI express cards, i.e. if there are 5 PCI express slots I don't have to insert the first card in slot 1 and would only be allowed to insert something into slot 2 if slot 1 would be full etc. Because somewhere else I heard that it's best to put the graphics card as far away from the other cards as possible to limit overheat and maximize prestanda, which implies that choice of card position is up to the constructor. Are both of those statements true?

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all_names,

Yes, the motherboard and processor are unique parts of the computer, because installation can be a bit tricky. Generally its best to put the processor on the motherboard OUTSIDE of the case, because the heatsink and processor can be tough to place on the motherboard. Additionally, more-so then PCI cards the motherboard is prone to "flexing," which is the subtle process of destroying your motherboard by bending it past its flexible point. Because there's so many layers to the wafer in a motherboard its possible to "flex" it and not even know it.

Once the processor is on the board, install the board into the case. Then install your DIMM's or whatever memory sticks you have. Then attach the power supply and other cables (HDD, PWR LED, etc...). Next, add your hard drives/cd-roms, and finally add your PCI cards.

With all of that said, Motherboards and Processors are designed to work together. No, you do not need to buy a seperate "socket" for your processor/motherboard. A motherboard has a slot/socket already part of it which is designed to insert a specific processor series. Generally, motherboards are designed to support either Intel or AMD processors. So your first question is, "which type of processor do I want?" Once you know that you can begin your search for motherboards which are compatible with brand of processor you want. Then you narrow in on the specific socket you need, based upon the processor model. ie. Athlon, Sempron, K7's, etc...use different "socket" types.

To make it easy on yourself, I suggest you buy a barebones system from a place such as MWave.com. You specify which motherboard/processor you want, and how much memory you need. Then you can pay $20 to have them install the processor, motherboard, and memory into the case and test the system for you. From there its just a matter of putting in the drives and cards.

Here is a link to the AMD Barebones system link on Mwave. Check out the systems you can build for $100.

Be sure to check out whether or not the motherboard uses AGP or PCI-E for video cards before you go buying an accelerator. Also, many new motherboards come with integrated video. Dont worry about these, they can be disabled in the BIOS so you can install your own AGP card.

Cheers and good luck!

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Ok thanks! I'll have to come back with questions about BIOS then if my motherboard turns out to have an integrated graphics card :)

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