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Feedback requested on new system setup

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January 8, 2005 4:21:21 AM

Hello,

My brother has requested that I build new system and I wanted to run over our HW selections with the Tom's Hardware community for some tweaking before purchase and assembly. The primary uses for this system will be gaming, school work, movies, some minor web work, and internet browsing. His main desires are a small form factor (he frequently travels to friends' homes with his current system) and good performance in 3D games with an eye toward <i>possible</i> upgradeability (this is secondary).

Based on the reviews I have read, the <A HREF="http://eu.shuttle.com/en/desktopdefault.aspx/tabid-72/1..." target="_new">Shuttle SN95G5</A> seems to have good cooling and be a quality SFF setup. I chose the AMD64 because it excels in most apps, especially games, and with the 64bit edition of Windows coming sooner than later this seemed to be by far the best choice. The 90nm 3200+ seems to be a solid performer with a great performance:cost ratio (not to mention a great overclocker). The 939 platform was selected because of dual channel memory support (not a huge issue with AMD, but still nice), it is the platform AMD will be focusing on in the coming year, and will be the platform in which dual core AMD CPUs will be released.

The below are the parts we are tentatively looking at:

MB/CASE: Shuttle SN95G5; Socket 939, dual channel memory, NVIDIA nForce3 Ultra chipset
• $315 Newegg.com

CPU: AMD64 3200+ 90nm
• $196 Newegg.com

RAM: 1GB (2x512MB) Mushkin DDR400 (2.5-3-3)
• $137 Newegg.com

VIDEO: BFG 6800 OC
• $249 Outpost.com

HDD: WD SATA 160GB 7200RPM (8MB Cache, 8.9ms access time)
• $95 Newegg.com

DVD+-RW: Aopen 16X Double Layer DVD+/- RW Black Burner
• $59 Newegg.com

Monitor/KB/MS/SPK he already has. He will be getting Windows XP Pro from his school at a discount price. Total cost is going to be about $1,200.

Some questions:

(1) Are there any AMD Socket 939 & PCI-Express Small Form Factor's available? Reviews? PCI-Express would be nice because it would open a better GPU upgrade path for the future.

(2) If we are able to go PCI Express, are there any cards out now (or in the coming 2 weeks max) that will perform similar/better than the 6800 OC for $250 or lower? The best bet I have seen so far is the 6600GT PCI Express for $180. Any news on the new X850/X800 cards and when they will be available?

(3) The Mushkin RAM (DDR400, 2x512MB, 2.5-3-3) is a fairly good deal for $137. Any recommendations for reliable RAM cheaper or faster RAM for under $150?

(4) We are looking at the 6800 OC for a number of reasons. It tends to outperform the 6600GT at most settings, especially at higher resolutions (and with AA/AF) because of the substantial difference in memory bandwidth. It seems the ~$30 difference (~$220 to ~$250) is justifiable. Any thoughts?

(5) He is looking at a DVD-+RW. Any recommendations that are better than the <A HREF="http:// http://www.newegg.com/app/viewproductdesc.asp?descripti..." target="_new">above selection</A> for the same price range?

(6) The Shuttle SN95G5 has 6 USB ports: 2 in the front, 2 in the back, and 2 internal. How are the internal ones accessed?

(7) Are there any good deals on HDD out there? Maybe high performing/cheap 120GB or some great deals on <i>quick</i> 200GB/250GB or larger drives?

(8) Are there other small form factor setups you would recommend for the 939 platform?

(9) The 90nm 3200+ is known as a great overclocker (a lot of people are taking it to 2500MHz and even 2600MHz). Any feedback on whether OCing, and how much, will be possible on such a small box? Obviously this is a small space with limited ventilation, but just curious if anyone has any solid information on this.

(9) Feel free to give other feedback, ideas, and recommendations.

Thanks for your time and feedback :) 
a b V Motherboard
January 8, 2005 8:03:14 AM

SFF really sucks, if you care to read Tom's latest Micro ATX article you'll see that Micro ATX cases are usually either narrower (less space on your desk) or shorter (less space in a rack) than a cube, while offering better...just about everything.

<font color=blue>Only a place as big as the internet could be home to a hero as big as Crashman!</font color=blue>
<font color=red>Only a place as big as the internet could be home to an ego as large as Crashman's!</font color=red>
January 8, 2005 8:24:43 AM

Micro atx is bad for OCing, SFF is bad for stock.
The X800XL is due out at the end of the month. It's MSRP is $299 but it will outperform 2 6600gts in SLI.While some may sell for less (by powercrapper maybe?) most will sell for more.
I've had bad luck with Acer optical drives. I prefer Liteon or LG.
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a c 435 V Motherboard
January 8, 2005 6:09:28 PM

Some of those setups require you to replace not just the board, but the case as well. They don't even sell the boards separately, so you'd better have a good warranty. I recommend you go to a place that specializes in cases, such as cablemart or electroseller. You should be able to find something with nice carrying handles.
a b V Motherboard
January 8, 2005 6:53:58 PM

I have a Micro ATX case here that has great ventilation, and it's tiny.

<font color=blue>Only a place as big as the internet could be home to a hero as big as Crashman!</font color=blue>
<font color=red>Only a place as big as the internet could be home to an ego as large as Crashman's!</font color=red>
January 9, 2005 2:53:17 AM

Wusy said: "And that doesn't justify the need for a SFF."

Maybe not for you, but it does for him. He comes to my house 2 or 3 times a week and the open desk does not have room for a large case. He was using a laptop here but wanted to move to a standard system. My cousing (who just went home) lugs his case over here every single week and it is a big pain and is a big mess. So something small (SFF/Micro ATX) is what he wants. A Socket 939/PCI Express MB would be great, but a small system is more important to him.

Crashman: What MicroATX case are you using with good ventalation?

He just started a new quarter of school and wants the system setup by Friday, so waiting for the X800XL (which may, or may not, be out soon...) is not really a strong option. It looks like a great card, but it is also is outside his budget... he debated the 6600GT and 6800 OC quite a bit, the $30 difference was the main swing. He could have gotten a 6800GT from a friend for $315 but he is not interested. Hoisting up another $50, waiting another month or two, waiting for a small case/MB with uncertain price, etc... is not what he is really looking at right now.

Thanks for everyones input.
January 9, 2005 3:56:16 AM

Back again ;) 

I have been doing some digging and came across a new Micro ATX motherboard from MSI using the ATI Xpress 200 and 200p chipset. The MSI board, the RS480M2, is a Socket 939 motherboard with one 16x PCI Express slot. <A HREF="http://www.msi.com.tw/program/products/mainboard/mbd/pr..." target="_new">Here</A> is some info on the Xpress 200 variant and <A HREF="http://www.msi.com.tw/program/products/mainboard/mbd/pr..." target="_new">here</A> some more details on the 200p motherboard. I believe the difference is that the 200 has integrated video and the 200p does not. <A HREF="http:// http://www6.tomshardware.com/motherboard/20041108/radeo..." target="_new">This</A> is what Toms thought about the Xpress 200.

Any comments on this motherboard (from the specs) or the chipset?

Also, if we went the route of a Micro ATX motherboard/case, any suggestions on CPU cooling? The Shuttle boxes have an efficient heat pipe design (and is supposedly fairly quiet), are there similar heat sink/fans/cooling solutions available commercially?

Thanks again, I do appreciate the ideas and feedback :) 

<P ID="edit"><FONT SIZE=-1><EM>Edited by Acert93 on 01/09/05 00:58 AM.</EM></FONT></P>
a b V Motherboard
January 9, 2005 4:24:20 AM

There are pleanty of quiet cooling options for S939 processors, these guys know them better than me.

I believe the version of the board with integrated graphics allows you to use both onboard and add-in graphics simultaniously for an optional 2 or 3 monitor configuration. Of course none of that likely interests you, so the version without onboard graphics would be a fine choice as well.

<font color=blue>Only a place as big as the internet could be home to a hero as big as Crashman!</font color=blue>
<font color=red>Only a place as big as the internet could be home to an ego as large as Crashman's!</font color=red>
January 9, 2005 4:46:13 AM

Thank you very much for your time and assistance Crashman. Same goes for everyone else :) 
a b V Motherboard
January 9, 2005 5:32:01 AM

That sink is indeed large enough to be operated with the fan at reduced speed for exceptionally low noise.

ATI's problems in the past have centered on lackluster memory controller performance. As seen in Tom's article, AMD's decision to put the memory controller on the CPU has put ATI into a commanding position!

<font color=blue>Only a place as big as the internet could be home to a hero as big as Crashman!</font color=blue>
<font color=red>Only a place as big as the internet could be home to an ego as large as Crashman's!</font color=red>
January 9, 2005 5:32:26 AM

Thanks Wusy for the recommendation! I will check out the Thermalright XP-90.
!