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#1
W-Unit

W-Unit

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Alright, so I've got about $1500-1600 to spend on a new PC.

Here's what I'd like to do for the performance parts:
Processor: AMD Phenom 9950 Black Edition 2.6GHz Socket AM2+ (quadcore) - I've always been an AMD kind of guy, but if Intel offers better performance at a similar or lower price, I suppose I'd be willing to change...
Price: $184.99

Memory: OCZ Gold 8GB (4 x 2GB) - I'd really like to have 8GB RAM, as it's likely I'll be running lots of concurrect applications on a Vista machine. Of course, if it's absolutely necessary, I could downgrade to 4GB and remove Aero... but this would be sort of a last resort in price-cutting
Price: $149.99

GPU: ASUS Radeon HD 4870 512MB PCI-E 2.0 x16 - Seems to offer great performance and much more economical than the GTX 280 I was looking at before. There's another GPU I'm considering, though - see below
Price: $219.99

Sound: Creative SB X-Fi Xtreme Audio 7.1 - I may end up just using integrated sound if necessary to lower the price sufficiently. Not a big deal. If I'm going to get a sound card, though, I might as well get a [bleep] good one, since the difference between top and bottom end on sound cards is only about $30
Price: $59.99

HDD: Seagate Barracuda 250GB 7200RPM 16MB Cache - A good deal, plenty of space for me.
Price: $59.99

CD1: SONY combo drive (Too much info to post, Click Here to see specifics) - basically this one will take care of burning CDs and DVDs.
Price: $49.99

CD2: LITE-ON combo drive (again, click here to see specifics) - basically only getting this one so I can play Blu-Rays. If there were a drive like the Sony combo drive that could also read blu-rays, I would get that one and ditch the second CD drive.
Price: $99.99

Monitor: SAMSUNG 2232BW+ 22" 2ms Widescreen LCD - Considerably more expensive than I'd like and larger than I need. If I could knock more than $50 or so off the price by going to a smaller monitor WITHOUT trading in the 2ms response time, I'd do it. I'd also be willing to get a CRT, but it seems that most CRTs on the market nowadays are small resolution and low performance. I feel a bit silly spending the same amount of money on a monitor as a GPU...
Price: $219.99

I'm also considering this GPU as an alternative in order to reduce the investment I'll need to make in power and cooling systems. It's exactly the same price as the other GPU, has lower performance, but the reviews rave about its cooling technology.
HIS Radeon HD 4850 1GB w/IceQ 4
Price: $219.99

The total of these parts is $1044.92. This leaves me with about $500 to spend on a case, PSU, mobo, and cooling, which feels a bit too tight, especially for such demanding needs all these areas. I need a big enough case that is at least reasonably cool-looking and preferably has lots of fans, a great heatsink, truckloads of power for the quad-core processor and video card, possibly even more cooling components, and of course a mobo to accommodate all of this. That's why you'll notice most of my comments are about ways of reducing the price on these parts.
Probably the biggest hurdle in terms of price is the monitor. It's truly quite a bit more than I need, except that I really would like to have the best response time possible. Otherwise, any monitor (including CRTs) that supports a nice full resolution is fine.

So basically, I've got a few things I'd like to get some suggestions on:
--> I need to find an economical mobo that can handle all of this. This will probably be the hard part. Anybody know of some good mobos that can do all this that aren't extravagantly costly?
--> I have to make sure that I have a PSU that can meet the needs of all these high-performance parts. I have no idea of the wattage I'll need; just that it's going to be a lot.
--> Cooling needs to be more than just adequate. I want to at least have peace of mind knowing that I could put all the components under load and still have a couple degrees to spare before overheating becomes a concern. I don't know much about cooling. Is liquid cooling going to be necessary here?
--> I need a case to fit all this comfortably. If I end up not getting liquid cooling, if possible I'd like to have some room to spare to add it later if I decide to. It should have some degree of visual appeal as well, but this is by no means a huge concern. I don't need much in the way of cool fancy USB ports, LEDs, or fan speed controls.
--> I haven't even given much thought to a NIC. I could probably just steal the wireless card from my current PC... I have no clue what type of card it, though, is as it doesn't even work right now (due to my PC being a glorified boat anchor; I believe the card itself would work fine in another build). For a variety of reasons I won't bore you with, though, not having a NIC shouldn't really be a problem in any case, just would be nice to get one if I could afford it.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. Any replies, comments, or suggestions are greatly appreciated!

Edited by W-Unit, 31 October 2008 - 06:42 AM.

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#2
W-Unit

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Anyone?

Also, should this thread be moved to System Building and Upgrading? (sorry, didn't see that one before :) )
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#3
wannabe1

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Hello W-Unit...

I've moved your topic to system building as it seems a better forum for your queries.

I'm and AMD person myself, so I'll add my two bits worth on this.

The AMD Phenom 9950 is a good processor and is a true quad core. It tends to run a little warm, though. Even in a case known for it's cooling ability (Antec 900) and using a Zalman 9500 (110mm) cpu cooler, the temperature runs in the mid 40*C range. The 9950 also overclocks very well, but again...it tends to run even hotter when you up the voltage. With the calculations per second this cpu is capable of, overclocking is not really necessary anyway. The only problem I ran into with the 9950 is that many motherboard BIOS versions do not yet support it without updating. I had to update the BIOS on my Asus M3N-HT series using a dual core processor before it would recognize the quad core.

While the OCZ you've chosen is pretty decent RAM, you have to tweak the voltage quite a bit to bring in the really good latencies. This will, again, cause them to run a little warmer than they would at stock voltages. I've been working on a review that will compare OCZ Reaper Modules (4GB dual channel) with the Dominator series modules from Corsair (4GB dual channel) and I've found that the Corsair RAM ran consistently cooler. Both the OCZ and the Corsair modules displayed similar performance once the recommended latencies were achieved. The gold series modules you've chosen may have trouble dissipating the extra heat with the heat spreaders they use.

8GB of RAM really isn't necessary. During my testing, I installed 4GB and benchmarked then installed 6GB and benchmarked again. While the extra RAM did show up (and looked quite impressive), I was never able to utilize the extra memory...I just couldn't run enough stuff on the machine to fully engage the first 4GB. You need to keep in mind, too, that you will have to install a 64bit operating system to fully utilize anything more than 3.5GB of installed RAM. Maybe start with a 4GB set and add another set later if you find you need the additional RAM.

I'm not a gamer, so I'll pass on commenting on the GPU's you're looking at. I used EVGA 9600GT's in my build (2 cards connected SLI) and find the graphics to be more than adequate. The two cards I used cost about the same as the single card you listed and they direct the heat they generate out of the case.

Let's talk mobo before we get into the sound card or ethernet card. I used the Asus M3N-HT Deluxe with mem-pipe technology. It comes with a SoundBlaster 7.1 integrated sound processor that's pretty respectable right out of the box. I found no need to install a separate card for that using this board. It also has onboard LAN that's probably faster than the card in your older machine. So...look closely at the specs for the mobo you choose...if you spend a little more on the mobo, you may save money by not having to buy additional cards that will only generate more heat and restrict air flow within the case.

For power supplies, I can't say enough good things about Corsair's PSU's. They are steady as a rock, efficient, cool, and quiet. For your build, I would recommend at least 620 Watts...750 Watts would be even better. Anything over that would be overkill, in my opinion.

I like the Antec Nine Hundred case for it's cooling capacity, it's looks, and ease of installing hardware. It's well designed and very roomy. About the only thing I don't like about this case is the bottom mounted PSU...you have to install the PSU upside down which makes the logo upside down on the PSU....not a biggie, it just bugs me. I DO like all the fans it includes (2 120mm front - 1 120mm rear - 1 250mm top) and it will definitely move the hot air our of the case efficiently. Lots of bays, too...three 5.5" bays and six 3.5" bays. The 3.5" bays are actively cooled by the front case fans.

You don't mention what operating system you plan on installing. I'd suggest the 64bit version of Vista Ultimate. I'm running on it now and have had none of the issues I see mentioned by others who have had problems with it. All of the hardware is well supported and even my older applications run just fine.

Sorry...I didn't mean to write a book here....... :)

wannabe1
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#4
W-Unit

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Thanks a lot for the reply! Very insightful.

Right now I am looking at a Corsair 750W PSU. I expected it to be a lot more expensive as Corsair usually charges a good size premium, but it actually is pretty economical at $119.99. Also, after reading some reviews and manufacturer info, it seems that Corsair does indeed make an excellent PSU (better than getting the off-brand 1000W I was looking at before). I have to admit, though, I feel somewhat afraid that 750W will be borderline in terms of providing enough power for everything.

The mobo you suggested also looks great, and at $189.99 is well within my price range. In the review (there was only one), though, the guy reported some problems with 64-bit Vista, drivers, and RAM. His terminology was a bit too advanced for me to decipher, so here's what he said...

The x64 drivers are uneven ... Corsair TWIN2X4096-8500C5 Dual Channel won't run in "ganged" (DC) mode, only "unganged" at 1066 ... Vista core dumps. Asus tuning software doesn't recognize 780 chipset, so won't auto-tune.
...
Note that if you go DC, 4GB is the max, even though the MB supports 8GB. Add more than 4GB and you can't get DC even out of the first sticks.

Note that I've clipped the negative parts of this review. The guy still liked the mobo and gave it 4/5 stars, but I'm just kinda wondering if any of these problems (which I don't really understand, this being my first PC build in ages) might have major effects on my build. From what I can see, though, everything else looks great!

The case seems great as well. Before I was looking at the NZXT Nemesis Elite, which I must say just looks outright sexy. The Nemesis doesn't have all of the fans found in the Antec, but it does have 3 120mm fans, which is certainly respectable. Also, it is made of aluminum instead of steel, which is a plus for me as I would like to be able to move the PC around now and then. Would the Nemesis' small deficiency in terms of cooling be large enough to require a significant additional investment to compensate?

Thanks again!

EDIT:
Oh, forgot to address the OS. Yeah, Vista ultimate was what I was thinking. A dual boot with Ubuntu would be very nice if I could get all the drivers I need to work with it... (unlikely, though :))

And this BIOS update thing sounds quite scary. I don't have any other procs that will fit the socket that I could drop in to perform an update before putting the Phenom in. If this is really what happens, I suppose I'd end up taking it to some computer repair place and having them set the stuff up for me... not the best solution, but if that's what it takes, it's acceptable I suppose.

Edited by W-Unit, 02 November 2008 - 11:56 AM.

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#5
wannabe1

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It appears to me that the gentleman that did the review didn't have EPP enabled in the BIOS. EPP must be enabled to achieve the 1066 speeds. It's also quite likely that the BIOS needed an update...full support for the AMD quads and 1066MHz RAM speeds are not present in BIOS versions earlier than v1401. Even with EPP enabled, the RAM timings will have to be set manually which, with the Asus boards, is relatively simple using the included Asus Ai software.

I had no issues at all getting mine to run at 1066 (1067 actual) in dual channel...even ganged with uneven matches (2GB sticks in channel A and 1GB sticks in channel B) it ran at 1066 with no problem. It did balk when I tried to install the OCZ Reapers along side the Corsair Dominators...they just would not time together as the OCZ required more voltage to achieve the 5-5-5-15 latencies I was after. The best I could manage was 5-5-5-18...which is the native OCZ latency. Plus it raised the system board temperature by 3*C over what the Corsair alone was giving me.

I've got a lot of hardware running in my case. Two EVGA 9600GT's, all the stock Antec 900 case fans plus one I added in the side panel, 1TB SATA HDD, and a DVD burner. All the fans have LED's except the top one...even the Zalman cpu cooler is lit up. All this on a Corsair HX620W PSU...with power to spare. A 750W PSU should work very well for you.

When it comes time to order your mobo, check to see what BIOS version it has and make sure it supports the newer Phenom chips. When I ordered my M3N, it said it supported the Phenom chips...which it did, but only up to the 9850. The machine would not start with the 9950 installed until I updated the BIOS to v1401...then no problems. Asus may be shipping with the newer BIOS version by this time.

I don't have any experience with the case you like, but it looks like it would do the job and has gotten some good reviews. If it does have a problem removing the heat, Corsair also makes a nice liquid cooling rig that's very affordable...I think it's called Nautilus. I like the looks of the Antec better, though...but that's me.

Updating the BIOS on Asus boards is very easy, but the machine must start to utilize the BIOS update feature...that's why you must use a supported processor to do the update.

You might be surprised at what the newer Ubuntu distro's will support. As long as you're not using cutting edge hardware, it may well be supported natively or have drivers readily available. Always a good idea to research the hardware in the Ubuntu forums before you install, though.
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