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First time build


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#1
Harpspiel

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Hi, I'd like advice on my new build. This is going to be my first desktop in years - I think the last time I owned a desktop, hard drives were still in megabytes.

I'm getting pretty tired of playing games on my Eee PC, but I'm not a heavy gamer. Mainly I want to be able to play Minecraft and some other games like Oblivion, Starcraft II, some shooters - nothing too intensive. I also want to run dual Linux/Windows systems and do some coding. My price range is around $300, preferably under $400.

I'm a pretty handy person, and I'm going to build the computer in a retro radio/phonograph case, something like this amazing build: Cobra-matic : Retro Bakelite Phonograph, so I'd also like advice on keeping everything in there cool! I'm considering purchasing cooling devices from svc.com.

Here are the parts I have so far, I'd love advice on compatibility and any suggestions:

AMD Phenom II X4 955 3.2GHz 125W

GeForce 9600 GSO 512MB 128-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Support Video Card

ASUS M4A88T-M Motherboard

Western Digital Caviar Blue 500GB Hard Drive

G.SKILL Value Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10600) Desktop Memory

really any DVD burner - hopefully something that will allow me to mod it like the Cobra-matic.

My questions so far: if the video card says DDR2 and the motherboard has DDR3 support, does that mean they'll be incompatible? Do I need a separate sound card and networking card with this motherboard? The motherboard specifically says it supports AMD Phenom IIs, but I heard there tend to be issues with the 125W Phenom II - is it compatible with the motherboard? What wattage should my power supply be? Thanks everyone!

Edited by Harpspiel, 08 October 2011 - 05:11 PM.

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#2
Digerati

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Welcome to G2G!

First - BIG MISTAKE going for a cheap, budget power supply. Would you dump cheap gas from the corner Tobacco Hut into your new Porsche? If so, would you expect it run at top performance? An engine can miss a beat with dirty gas and keep running. Not so with digital electronics. Get a good supply from a major maker that is 80 Plus certified. And choose your PSU after you have chosen your other components, and researched their requirements. Otherwise, you are only guessing and, as done here - it would be a bad guess - and not just for quality! A little homework and quick look on the GeForce 9500 GT Specifications Page shows it requires a "minimum" 350 watt supply.

That cheap 250W supply might have gone up in smoke first time you powered up, and as cheap supplies often do, taken everything connected to it, with it. See my canned text below on sizing and choosing a good supply. The PSU is one of, if not the most critical purchase decisions when building or upgrading a computer.

Also a homework question, a quick look at the motherboard's specifications shows it has integrated 6 channel (5.1) HD sound, and it has an integrated network interface too. So no sound card and no NIC (network interface card) are need.

Note too on the motherboard page, QVLs (qualified vendor lists) for CPU and Memory Support. Make sure the CPU you pick is on the list. There are too many RAM options for motherboard makers to list them all. So you can buy off the list, just make sure the specs are the same as RAM on the list.

My questions so far: if the video card says DDR2 and the motherboard has DDR3 support, does that mean they'll be incompatible?

No. The RAM type motherboards support has nothing to do with the RAM type found on graphics cards. You only need to ensure the motherboard has the necessary interface - and it does (PCI Express).

The link to your graphics card goes to the motherboard. I assume you meant this.

Canned text for PSUs:

Use the eXtreme PSU Calculator Lite to determine the minimum and recommended power supply unit (PSU) requirements. Plan ahead and plug in all the hardware you think you might have in 2 or 3 years (extra drives, bigger or 2nd video card, more RAM, etc.). Be sure to read and heed the notes at the bottom of the calculator page. I recommend setting Capacitor Aging to 30% (see my note below), and if you participate in distributive computing projects (e.g. BOINC or Folding@Home) or extreme 3D animated gaming, I recommend setting both TDP and system load to 100%. These steps ensure the supply has adequate head room for stress free (and perhaps quieter) operation, as well as future hardware demands. Research your video card and pay particular attention to the power supply requirements for your card listed on your video card maker's website. If not listed, check a comparable card (same graphics engine and RAM) from a different maker. The key specifications, in order of importance are:

  • Current (amperage or amps) on the +12V rail,
  • Efficiency,
  • Total wattage.
Don’t try to save a few dollars by getting a cheap supply! Digital electronics, including CPUs, RAM, and today's advanced graphics cards, need clean, stable power. A good, well chosen supply will provide years of service and upgrade wiggle room. Look for power supply brands listed under the "Good" column of PC Mech's PSU Reference List. Another excellent read is Tom’s Hardware, Who’s Who In Power supplies: Brands, Labels, And OEMs. Note that some case retailers “toss in” a generic or inadequate PSU just to make the case sale. Be prepared to “toss out” that supply for a good one with sufficient power.

Most PSUs have an efficiency rating of around 70%. This means for every 100 watts of power a PSU draws from the wall, only 70 watts is delivered to the motherboard, with the rest wasted in the form of heat. The best supplies are 85 to 90% efficient, and as expected, cost more. I strongly recommend you pick a quality supply with an efficiency rating equal to or greater than 80%. Look for 80 PLUS and EnergyStar Compliant labels. 80 PLUS PSUs are required to have fairly linear efficiencies. This is important to ensure the PSU is running at or near peak efficiency regardless the load or power demands. Non-linear PSUs typically are most efficient when the load is in a narrow range between 70 and 90% of the PSU’s capacity and the efficiency may drop dramatically above and below those amounts.

Too big of a PSU hurts nothing but your budget. Your computer will draw from the PSU only what it needs, not what the PSU is capable of delivering. If a computer needs 300 watts it will draw 300 watts regardless if the PSU is a 400W, 650W, or 1000W PSU. In turn, the PSU, regardless its size will draw from the wall only what it needs to support the computer. In this example, it will draw 300 watts, plus another 45 – 90 watts, depending on the PSU’s inefficiency.

As noted, the eXtreme Calculator determines minimum and recommended requirements. If the calculator (with the changes I suggested) recommends a 400 watt minimum, a quality 400W supply will serve you just fine. However, a quality 550W – 600W supply will have, among other things, larger heat sinks to dissipate potentially more heat. It might have a larger fan too. The 400W supply will run most of the time closer to capacity, while the larger supply will be loafing along, rarely breaking a sweat. To help the smaller heat sinks get rid of the wasted 80 watts (20% of 400) of heat, the fan in the 400W supply may need to run full speed, while the fan in the larger supply, with bigger sinks just loafs along too – but in near silence. Also, it is typical for manufacturers to use higher quality parts, design, and manufacturing techniques in their higher power supplies.

Note: Capacitor Aging. All electronics “age” over time. Electrons flowing through components bang around and create friction and heat causing wear and tear, altering the electrical characteristics of the device. Over time, this weakens the device resulting in eventual failure. Power supplies have always suffered profoundly from aging effects resulting in a loss of capacity. In recent years, capacitor technologies have improved. The best PSUs use the best (and most expensive) capacitors which suffer less from aging effects than older capacitor types. If planning on buying a new, high-end PSU, setting capacitor aging to 10% may result in a more realistic recommendation. However, headroom “buffer” will be significantly reduced. You can expect your PSU to last 5 years or longer. Since it is better to buy too big rather than too small, and since it is hard to predict what your power requirements will be in 3 years, using 30% for Capacitor Aging ensures you have enough headroom for virtually any upgrade.

Don't forget to budget for a good UPS with AVR (automatic voltage regulation). Surge and spike protectors are inadequate and little more than fancy, expensive extension cords.


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#3
Harpspiel

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Thanks for your reply! I've corrected the video card link and am looking into higher-end power supplies.
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#4
Harpspiel

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Okay, I'm doing some more research and changing a few parts around, so check the OP again. I would still love to hear suggestions and comments.
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#5
Digerati

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Not sure if I should go with the 8GB of 2x4 or the 6GB of 3x2 - is there any reason to stick with a 32 bit OS?

That motherboard supports dual-channel memory architecture so you need to install RAM in pairs to take advantage of it. Therefore, 2 x 4 makes sense. Using 3 sticks will work, but the 3rd stick would not be used at full potential.

I see no reason to stick with a 32-bit OS. 32-bit phasing out and 64-bit is here to stay. All new hardware has 64-bit drivers and many programs are now coded in 64-bit. And virtually all 32-bit software designed for Windows 7 will run on 64-bit Windows 7.

Plus, if you want to run more than 4Gb of RAM, you need a 64-bit OS.
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#6
Harpspiel

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Okay, thanks! I used the wattage calculator with the different video card I'm looking at (GeForce 9600 GSO) and it came up with about 415 W ideal. I'm thinking this for power supply now:

Corsair Builder Series™ CX430 Power Supply - 430W, 80 Plus, 120mm Fan, Single +12V Rail

Edited by Harpspiel, 08 October 2011 - 05:16 PM.

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#7
Digerati

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Well I like Corsair PSUs so that is probably fine. However, 430 gives you NO wiggle room for future expansion. Note there really is no such thing as too much power. The computer will only draw what it needs, not what the PSU can deliver. That is, if the computer (motherboard, CPU, RAM, drives, graphics, etc.) only need 350 watts, the PSU will deliver 350, regardless if the PSU is rated for 430, or 830W. And it will only draw from the wall, 350 plus the PSU overhead due to inefficiency.

Also, that 430W will be running at near capacity much of the time. While the PSU is designed to meet that demand, running at near capacity will cause the PSU's cooling fan to run full speed much of the time too, and full speed fans can get pretty loud.

So I would suggest something bigger, such as the 600W Corsair. Then, say in a year or two, you want to add more RAM, or another drive or bigger graphics card, you will not have to buy a new PSU at the same time.
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#8
corbek

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Another thing to consider with the PSU running near full capability at all times is wear and tear. If a fan is constantly spinning at the fastest speed it can go it will wear out and break down quickly.
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