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#181659 - 11/03/07 06:04 AM PC Component Advice Wanted
CV Offline
Founder, Axiom Upgrade Club
shareholder in the making

Registered: 07/20/06
Posts: 11146
Loc: Richland, WA, USA
I'm planning on building myself a new PC within the next two months. I'm building it around one of the new 45nm Intel processors. My best friend works for Intel, so he gets nice a discount on the CPUs (but no discount on motherboards, unfortunately). Unfortunately, he can only buy one of any model of processor, and he'd already bought a Q6600 for someone else. I took this as a sign to go for the high-end, and with 45nm supposedly hitting this month, I figured I may as well do it right.

I'll start with the parts I've decided on. The power supply on my current computer died last weekend, and I just upgraded it to a Corsair VX450W, which I like the look of a lot. I also got a new case to go with it, since I was hoping to make it quieter. I got the Antec P182, which I also like a lot. It was very easy to migrate my motherboard over, and I'm impressed with how far cases have come since the last time I built a computer. I also replaced the optical drive with a DVD burner, since it previously had a read-only DVD drive, and the new drive was only $30. I also replaced the video card, since my old card was getting very glitchy. I'm going to pass this computer on to someone else, so it was important for me to get it working well. Anyway, I said all of that to say that I really like the Antec P182, so I'll most likely get another one for my new system, and I like the Corsair power supply, so maybe I'll get the 550w model for the new system. I'll get an SATA version of the DVD drive, too.

What I need recommendations on are the motherboard, video card, and hard drive. I'm looking for solid Media Center functionality. I'll be running 64-bit Windows Vista Ultimate. I'm also wondering who is running a version of Linux along with Vista. Is that working out all right? I've never used any Linux, but I thought I may want to try, just to see what it's like. The motherboard should have built-in gigabit ethernet, which seems to be a common feature anymore, but I thought I'd mention it anyway. As far as the video card, I don't want to spend a ton on one. Sub-$200, definitely, though sub-$150 is better. I won't do much gaming on my computer, at least not yet. I'm wanting to see what happens with display interfaces. That's also why I'm not upgrading my really crappy 17" CRT monitor that I got free from work. For hard drive, I was looking at a 250GB Seagate Barracuda. I store all of my media and documents on an external drive, so I don't need my main drive to be that huge. However, I would like speedy and quiet, so if you have a recommendation, I'm all ears.

I'm thinking I'll get 4 gigs of RAM. That should be plenty, right? Anyone have brand/type to recommend for my planned system? Should I really be looking at DDR3 to match with the 45nm processor? It's such a jump in price.

Anyway, I've droned on long enough. If you have opinions, I'm eager to hear them. Thank you for your time!
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#181661 - 11/03/07 07:04 AM Re: PC Component Advice Wanted [Re: CV]
spaceloaf Offline
regular

Registered: 11/03/07
Posts: 6
Loc: Portland, OR
Hi CV, I just built my system a couple months ago (I also got an Intel hook-up), so I still have a bit of knowledge floating around my skull.

If you don't care about overclocking, I can recommend Intel's own D975XBX2 (aka "Bad-Ax 2") motherboard for almost guaranteed compatibility. If you're serious about using your PC as a media center, you can get the version that comes with on-board 7.1 sound (complete with digital outputs). Plus it has gigabit ethernet and plenty of SATA ports. But it uses PCIe instead of AGP, so you might be limited in how cheap of a video card you can get.

A warning note about Vista is that the sound stack for Vista has been completely changed from XP. As a result, pretty much all sound cards are having major driver/compatibility issues. So if you were planning on using a card instead of using on-board sound, I highly recommend doing some serious research first.

As for RAM, I'm using a pair of 1G Crucial Ballistix (BL2KIT12864AA804) in dual channel mode (which actually seems to be perfectly adequate for Vista 32-bit). I stressed tested it all night with Memtest and had no errors, so I think it's reliable enough. But if you don't mind spending a little more, Kingston memory has just about a 100% compatibility rate with Intel mobos (Intel uses it in-house to validate their high-end systems).

I would also recommend staying away from DDR3. The compatibility problems with DDR2 memory is bad enough. I don't expect DDR3 to gain mainstream support until next year when the successor to the Core 2 Duo comes out. In the mean time, I don't expect DDR3 to make a big amount of difference since the Core 2 Duo (even 45nm) was not really designed to take advantage of that kind of bandwidth.

For video cards, if you're thinking about getting a Blu-ray or HD-DVD drive for your PC, I would recommend nVidia's GeForce 8600 ($150). It has full H.264 decode acceleration in hardware, and will enable to you to decode hi-def video streams with ease. If you're a gamer, you'd be a fool not to get the brand new GeForce 8800 GT. It's ludicrously overpowered for the price ($200-250). By contrast, I bought my 8800 GTS just 2 months ago for $300, and the 8800 GT just slaughters it in every benchmark (I'm almost kind of pissed at nVidia now).

If you care about the amount of noise your PC makes, I'd stay away from older video cards like the GeForce 7 series. The new 8 series are significantly quieter. Even my "high-performance" GeForfce 8800 GTS is virtually silent.

I'm got a Corsair HX520W power supply which has been rock solid and completely quiet so far. Combined with a P180 case, you can't even tell if my PC is on most of the time.

I also got a free Western Digital 160G drive that is silent, but it didn't come with a box so I'm not exactly sure what model it is. Seagate Barracudas are supposed to be extremely quiet as well.

Let's see, I think that covers everything. One other word of advice, I don't recommend waiting to "see what happens with display devices." Personally, I think HDMI is a crap format that is already becoming obsolete. I recommend either sticking with DVI and getting something good now (any HDMI signal can be converted to DVI) or being prepared to wait a long time. HDMI is not going anywhere, and the successor to HDMI is quite a ways off still.

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#181668 - 11/03/07 09:54 AM Re: PC Component Advice Wanted [Re: spaceloaf]
Mojo Offline
connoisseur

Registered: 01/21/07
Posts: 3292
I highly recommend one of these rather than a home-built machine. Works from -20C to +80C, has a rated mean time between failure of 40 years and nothing will stop it short of a nuclear explosion. No moving parts whatsoever to worry about. It even has redundant fail-over supplies.

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#181678 - 11/03/07 11:29 AM Re: PC Component Advice Wanted [Re: Mojo]
Ken.C Offline
shareholder in the making

Registered: 05/03/03
Posts: 17741
Loc: NoVA
I think spaceloaf covered it quite nicely. I'm looking at a Gigabyte mobo myself, but only because of cost. And I'm not seriously looking. ;\)

I really like my Corsair HX520W. Seems quite capable.

I also like my x1950Pro. Last generation, but it seems plenty fast, and it was a good price. That said, if I was buying now, I'd get the 8800GT.
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#181682 - 11/03/07 12:52 PM Re: PC Component Advice Wanted [Re: Ken.C]
CV Offline
Founder, Axiom Upgrade Club
shareholder in the making

Registered: 07/20/06
Posts: 11146
Loc: Richland, WA, USA
I actually had the Corsair HX520W in my cart at newegg.com, since I was trying to figure out an estimate. I'm glad to hear that people like it. Thanks for the heads-up on the 8800.

I was planning on just using onboard audio, so I guess that should let me sidestep the audio issues.

Thanks, spaceloaf and Ken! And Mojo, I'll have to read more about that product to really know what it does. \:\)
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#181687 - 11/03/07 01:07 PM Re: PC Component Advice Wanted [Re: CV]
CV Offline
Founder, Axiom Upgrade Club
shareholder in the making

Registered: 07/20/06
Posts: 11146
Loc: Richland, WA, USA
Does anyone have recommendations on specific cards based on the 8800GT/GTS? Can I pretty much not go wrong? All of the 8800GT cards seem to be out of stock at newegg.com. Ha ha. I guess they're popular?
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#181701 - 11/03/07 03:39 PM Re: PC Component Advice Wanted [Re: CV]
CV Offline
Founder, Axiom Upgrade Club
shareholder in the making

Registered: 07/20/06
Posts: 11146
Loc: Richland, WA, USA
Also, this may be a stupid question, as it's been a while since I've cobbled together a system, but I also ordered an OEM version of Windows XP Professional with the case and power supply I just got for my current computer. I have no idea where my old Windows disc disappeared to, and it was only the Home edition, anyway. I wanted to do a clean install of Windows XP for the person who takes this computer off my hands. Only, I have no idea where the product key is. On the back of the booklet it says "The Certificate of Authenticity label has been removed by your PC manufacturer and should be attached to your PC." I assume that's what the product key is printed on, right? Is there something I don't know? Surely I don't need to be a Microsoft OEM Partner in order to install a single license, do I? Am I stuck paying more for the retail copy, or did they actually neglect to include a product key? I have an email in to Newegg.com, too, but I figured someone here would be able to answer faster. Thanks!
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#181702 - 11/03/07 03:47 PM Re: PC Component Advice Wanted [Re: CV]
Ken.C Offline
shareholder in the making

Registered: 05/03/03
Posts: 17741
Loc: NoVA
I don't think you want the GTS. That's an older card, and actually slower than the GT in certain operations. The GT just came out a couple of days ago, which is probably why supply is constrained. That, and all the tech sites are saying to buy that card.
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#181709 - 11/03/07 05:19 PM Re: PC Component Advice Wanted [Re: Ken.C]
spaceloaf Offline
regular

Registered: 11/03/07
Posts: 6
Loc: Portland, OR
nVidia has pretty good reference designs, so the only differences between brands are the amount of memory, the clock settings, and the cooling solution. These scale exactly as you would expect though (e.g. higher clocked cards cost slightly more, perform slightly faster, and run hotter). There are no cases where one brand's slower card will out-perform another brand's faster card, so you really get what you pay for in that respect.

Personally, I have a XFX card, and I was also considering EVGA, but I doubt you can go wrong here. As kcarlile said, make sure you're getting a GT rather than a GTS if you can find it. The GT is the more powerful card and it's cheaper (Anandtech said that nVidia was "cannibalizing their own line" by releasing the GT like this).

Sounds like newegg screwed up, but I've never bought Windows from them, so I don't know.

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#181711 - 11/03/07 05:30 PM Re: PC Component Advice Wanted [Re: spaceloaf]
CV Offline
Founder, Axiom Upgrade Club
shareholder in the making

Registered: 07/20/06
Posts: 11146
Loc: Richland, WA, USA
Thanks for clarifying on the GT/GTS. I will definitely look at getting the GT. Thanks!
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