out of hardware loop for a few years! HELP!

Hey everyone.

I have been out of the hardware/mobo loop for about 4 years now (unless I am buying... i dont really stay up to date). My system is on its final leg and I need to do an overhaul. I have been reading articles and forums like crazy... and get so frustrated when it comes to making these decisions. This is the tech world... so of course everything has evolved.

I am operating off an OLLLDDD AMP Athlon XP 1.4 GHZ, 6 HDs ~ 600 GB - (4 HDs on a dead-as-of-2-days-ago PCI ATA controller card), an AGP 64 or 128 MB nvidia card that works and a PCI vid card for dual monitor) 512mb of DDR ram (dunno the speed), a PCI Audigy card that was expensive when i got it 4 years ago HAHA, and a USB 2.0 PCI card....

I will probably turn this machine into some kind of server.

Id call myself a business power user: the occasional random program user, Adobe/Macromedia/Office suites for development/business/design (no 3D), torrent downloading, media viewing, etc (not a gamer).

I have a nice aluminum lian-li ATX case I would like to keep if possible (i read somewhere that ATX standards have progressed, do i need to upgrade case?).. but hope to upgrade as inexpensively as possible. I would LOVE to replace my 6 HDs with 2 or 3 large SATA drives, but dont want to make that HD purchase plunge YET (hope to over time).

I have decided to go with an Athlon64 processor and will find the speed in the price range I want. (I figure might as well go 64-bit now)... I wish i could afford a dual processor system!

Ill probably install 64-bit Windows on new machine?

I would like to move from a 2 monitor system to a 3 or 4 monitor system ... and do not need the graphics card speed and power available to gamers

I am definitely going to REALLY upgrade my power supply.

RAM: i will upgrade acoording to requirements of decided on mobo

I am VERY frustrated reading the plethora of information and articles about the new mainboard specs/standards/chipsets, PCIe, SLI.. what the hell! What will I HAVE to replace? Ive read articles on PCIe... but dont really know how it applies to me and what my appropriate hardware choices should be.

I see buying: board, processor, ram, power supply, vid card(s) (if needed, goal: 3 or 4 monitors, depending on on-board video capabilities), replace my dead ATA control card... hopefully im not forgetting anything. Please feel free to plug in the holes from all of this caused by my ignorance.

Could someone please offer some hardware configuration suggestions? I would be VERY thankful. I'm not a whiney user that hasn't done any of my own research... i just have found too much of it, understand a portion, and know I want an upgraded and RELIABLE box!!! All the random mainboard horror stories (for which there is always a complementary praise!!!) leave me paranoid about this decision!!!

Thanks for any and all help!!!

Best,

Jonathan
27 answers Last reply
More about hardware loop years help
  1. <A HREF="http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16813127207" target="_new">This</A> is a very nice mobo. It has the nvidia chipset, that you want, and you can use the 2 16X pci slots to run 2 lower end graphics cards, for 3 or 4 monitor support. It is still holding onto 2 ide ports (4 drives) and will also support 4 sata 11 drives.
  2. Matrox has an OK PCI-Express x1 card, you could instead use a standard PCI card since you're not interested in high 3D power. Chaintech offers a darned good board with the VNF4 Ultra priced around $80.

    Any question?

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    <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>
  3. I still dont understand what SLI is for and why I might need it.

    As far as PCIe is concerned... is it just for graphics cards?... or is PCIe the replacement for PCI, so all cards need to fit the PCIe form factor.
  4. Well yes.
    Sli allows two graphics cards to be used, for the same image. You dont want that, but it does give you the option of using the second graphics card slot, for your other graphics card.
    Pci-express is the new unibus. Remember how we used to have ISA? Well, some bright sole has decided retro is cool, so now we are going back to having everything on the same bus.
  5. Just to expand on what the other guy said about SLI:

    SLI (Scalable Link Interface) is an inteface designed by nVidia to allow users to use two graphics cards at once to render a single image. The advantage being that you get like 80% performance increase in some games. However, you don't want to game, you want to have 3 or 4 screens.

    With PCI-E, there are various slot sizes that get pushed out on the bus. You have a 1x, 2x, 4x, and 16x being used on various motherboards right now. PCI-E graphics cards (the standard that all graphics cards are using now) all run on a 16x size currently. SLI motherboards are the only ones that provide two 16x sized slots. If you do a little digging in the graphics section of THG, you'll find an article (probably around summer 2004 time) where they actually use and SLI mother board and install two graphics cards in it at once for a 4 screen output.
  6. What kind of cards fit into the different size PCIe slots?

    So for the 3-4 monitor goal, I need to get a motherboard with the nforce2 chipset with SLI and I will have to purchase two (two dual, or one dual and one single) PCIe graphics cards? Or would it be equally as good and more inexpensive to find a board with built in graphics and a 16x PCIe slot(?), then purchase a PCIe grapihcs card?

    Thanks for all your help!
  7. To be honest, I haven't seen anything besides graphics cards going into the PCI-E slots, but I haven't looked either.

    As for what you'd need, it's the nForce4 chipset, not 2. And if you can wait for another (hopefully) month, ATI's crossfire solution that's the SLI equivalent will be released which can hopefully do the same thing.

    As graphics cards these days come with two outputs each on them, going with onboard video and a separate graphics cards would only give you a maximum of 3 monitors, but I'm not sure if any onboard solutions allow you to use them while on a GPU as well (never used onboard video myself, especially not recently).

    Costs to you:
    Motherboard - $100 -> $200 model depending
    Video Card - This will vary, as I don't know the specifics of what you can get away with to set this all up. However, going with the assumption that if you can run it in SLI-mode, than you should be able to run it 4-monitor mode, than you're cheapest option is 2 nVidia 6600GT cards (apprx. $150 a piece).
  8. With PCIe... are all the slots at PCIe?... would a normal PCI USB 2.0 card, SATA controller, sound card, all that stuff work?

    I have some kind of weird information disconnect... that i cant figure out.

    Does the new ATX 1.3 render my Lian-Li aluminum ATX case unusable?
  9. I was planning on getting a new ps, so thats cool.

    What are PCIe 1x/4x/8x for then?
  10. The other PCIe slots are only useful right now for future proofing. I haven't seen any extension cards out there yet that actually use the new slots. However, they are faster than regular PCI, so in some time frame, we will see them take over.
  11. Any other particular specific hardware recommendations or other general configuration suggestions?

    Is there any reason to go p4 instead of athlon 64?

    It seems like a waste to have all those PCIe slots that arent really of any use. I understand preparing for the future... but still... :-/
  12. The two numbers to remember about PCI are
    33 MHz (bus speed) and
    32 bits per cycle (bus width)
    (or 4 bytes per cycle).

    Thus, 33 MHz x 4 bytes = 132 MB/second
    (which is the theoretical limit of ATA/133).

    This bus became obsolete when devices like
    RAID controllers needed to operate faster.

    For example, 4 x ATA/133 drives on a RAID 0
    PCI controller are limited by the maximum
    speed of the PCI bus.

    When I was reviewing RAID controllers,
    someone measured a 4-drive setup and
    could only realize around 120 MB/second
    of throughput. The PCI bus was the
    reason why his RAID 0 could not run
    any faster.

    Similarly, if one used a PCI slot
    to host a video card, the same bus
    limitations would apply. And, those
    limitations are the main reason why
    AGP became such a popular standard,
    because it uses a different/faster bus
    dedicated to video.

    In light of the inherent limitations
    of the old PCI bus, a new PCI-Express bus
    was designed to support about 4 TIMES
    the speed of the PCI bus moving 32 bits
    at 33 MHz.

    Thus, the new PCI-Express limit is
    roughly ~500 MB/second (132 x 4 = 528).

    Most new PCI-E motherboards also
    have standard PCI slots too.

    There are lots of articles on the
    Internet now that explain PCI-Express
    in much greater detail.

    I hope this helps.


    Sincerely yours,
    /s/ Paul Andrew Mitchell
    Webmaster, Supreme Law Library
  13. > Is there any reason to go p4 instead of Athlon 64?

    Hyperthreading is available in single-core P4's;
    you need the X2 for true multi-processing with AMD.

    Also, X2 versions tend to be more expensive than
    dual-core Pentiums.

    But, you need the Intel 840EE to get dual-core
    AND hyperthreading from Intel (4 simul-threads).
    All other dual-core Pentiums do NOT currently
    support hyperthreading too.

    Finally, the X2 runs cooler and thus is A LOT more
    energy-efficient. Reviews of the X2 are mostly
    superlative, with few exceptions.

    If you want a really low-wattage CPU, then
    consider the Pentium M (a Mobile processor
    with a very efficient architecture). I believe
    AOpen has an ATX mobo with a Pentium M socket,
    and THG reviewed it recently (only 37 Watts!)

    Be careful with the 64-bit version of Windows:
    I read that not all software vendors have developed
    64-bit drivers for this version of Windows.


    Sincerely yours,
    /s/ Paul Andrew Mitchell
    Webmaster, Supreme Law Library
  14. im usually a pretty effective decision maker... but when it comes to this stuff i get so frustrated!!! Maybe it would be better to go p4 w/ HT
  15. If you want multi-tasking options, then consider the Athlon X2 3800+. A hyperthreaded processor can't hold a candle compared to a true dual-core processor.

    What is you're timeline for purchasing a new system? Come the new year, Intel will be realeasing new dual-core processors that'll be much better than their current offering. But as it stands now, AMD's performance is a large cut above Intels in the DC arena
  16. I wont be purchasing a dual core chip bc of the cost... i am looking scrictly at Athlon64 or P4 w/ HT (and kinda decided on Athlon64 a short while ago). I just cant afford top of the line hardware.
  17. There is always a big premium on
    top-of-the-line hardware and,
    when it comes to CPU's in particular,
    the extra cost per GHz is just not
    cost-effective for the average user.

    Do you want to pay $200-$400 MORE
    so that your CPU waits 98% of clock time
    instead of 95% of clock time?

    Another way of looking at CPU speeds
    is that each GigaHertz (1,000 megahertz)
    could theoretically keep 1,000 Internet
    connections busy at 1 megahertz each
    (one thousand!)

    When people solicit our advice on this,
    we usually urge them to save money on the CPU
    and put the savings into a really nice monitor,
    e.g. 19" (at least) instead of 17", and other
    important components.

    On the other hand, we also urge people
    to purchase the very best motherboard they can
    afford, because it is the "foundation"
    that all other components plug into.

    Good motherboards have more expansion
    options, and they are better instrumented
    with extra fan headers, voltage monitors,
    more USB ports, extra USB & Firewire headers
    for front-panel connections, and such.

    If it's a modern motherboard, chances are
    good that today's top-of-the-line CPU will
    drop in price rather quickly, making it
    affordable at a point in the future when
    you will still own this motherboard.

    If you find that a given CPU just isn't
    fast enough after you finish your system,
    consider a faster CPU, but be sure that
    you designed your system with this upgrade
    in mind.

    Secondly, we stress the importance of
    a good power supply, backed up with an
    equally good battery back-up/UPS. Antec
    sells an inexpensive PSU tester, which
    can save hours of aggravation if/when
    a PSU is defective from the factory.

    We like to ask people this question:
    did you SEE the voltage spike that just
    fried one of your components? In other
    words, an ounce of prevention is worth
    a ton of cure, in this industry.

    Also, we've enjoyed the extra 4-pin molex
    connector on the back of our Antec 550W
    PSU: at first, we thought it was merely
    a frill. After installing the PSU, however,
    we've used it to test fans, hard drive coolers,
    and such -- very convenient.

    These simple things matter more to us than
    blinking or colored lights in any of our fans.

    Thirdly, the money spent on very reliable
    RAM will accumulate dividends in reliability,
    during regular use of the system you build.

    We use and recommend Corsair XMS series DDR,
    because it was highly recommended to us by
    a systems guru, and because it has worked
    flawlessly. Their consistent manufacturing
    quality is probably the reason why the
    company is doing so well today.

    If you are satisfied to avoid overclocking
    and to stay with factory specs (as we do),
    a properly configured system should keep running
    for 5 years easily (not counting any items with
    moving parts that will wear out).

    Finally, this should be obvious, but
    learning how to do these hardware upgrades
    yourself will save lots of money that
    you would have to pay technicians to do
    for you.

    These are some common sense suggestions
    that we've learned, from experience.


    Sincerely yours,
    /s/ Paul Andrew Mitchell
    Webmaster, Supreme Law Library
  18. There is always a big premium on
    top-of-the-line hardware and,
    when it comes to CPU's in particular,
    the extra cost per GHz is just not
    cost-effective for the average user.

    Do you want to pay $200-$400 MORE
    so that your CPU waits 98% of clock time
    instead of 95% of clock time?

    Another way of looking at CPU speeds
    is that each GigaHertz (1,000 megahertz)
    could theoretically keep 1,000 Internet
    connections busy at 1 megahertz each
    (one thousand!)

    When people solicit our advice on this,
    we usually urge them to save money on the CPU
    and put the savings into a really nice monitor,
    e.g. 19" (at least) instead of 17", and other
    important components.

    On the other hand, we also urge people
    to purchase the very best motherboard they can
    afford, because it is the "foundation"
    that all other components plug into.

    Good motherboards have more expansion
    options, and they are better instrumented
    with extra fan headers, voltage monitors,
    more USB ports, extra USB & Firewire headers
    for front-panel connections, and such.

    If it's a modern motherboard, chances are
    good that today's top-of-the-line CPU will
    drop in price rather quickly, making it
    affordable at a point in the future when
    you will still own this motherboard.

    If you find that a given CPU just isn't
    fast enough after you finish your system,
    consider a faster CPU, but be sure that
    you designed your system with this upgrade
    in mind.

    Secondly, we stress the importance of
    a good power supply, backed up with an
    equally good battery back-up/UPS. Antec
    sells an inexpensive PSU tester, which
    can save hours of aggravation if/when
    a PSU is defective from the factory.

    We like to ask people this question:
    did you SEE the voltage spike that just
    fried one of your components? In other
    words, an ounce of prevention is worth
    a ton of cure, in this industry.

    Also, we've enjoyed the extra 4-pin molex
    connector on the back of our Antec 550W
    PSU: at first, we thought it was merely
    a frill. After installing the PSU, however,
    we've used it to test fans, hard drive coolers,
    and such -- very convenient.

    These simple things matter more to us than
    blinking or colored lights in any of our fans.

    Thirdly, the money spent on very reliable
    RAM will accumulate dividends in reliability,
    during regular use of the system you build.

    We use and recommend Corsair XMS series DDR,
    because it was highly recommended to us by
    a systems guru, and because it has worked
    flawlessly. Their consistent manufacturing
    quality is probably the reason why the
    company is doing so well today.

    If you are satisfied to avoid overclocking
    and to stay with factory specs (as we do),
    a properly configured system should keep running
    for 5 years easily (not counting any items with
    moving parts that will wear out).

    Finally, this should be obvious, but
    learning how to do these hardware upgrades
    yourself will save lots of money that
    you would have to pay technicians to do
    for you.

    These are some common sense suggestions
    that we've learned, from experience.


    Sincerely yours,
    /s/ Paul Andrew Mitchell
    Webmaster, Supreme Law Library
  19. Thank you for this long post. I am definitely going to do all of the installation myself... i just get frustrated in the land of all that is out there.

    I plan on buying the most cost effective processor.. but want it to sit on the best motherboard i can afford (as you said)... i just get paranoid about buying this hardware because my desktops last for a while... and i dont want to have to deal with unreliability!!!@$!@$ It DRIVES ME CRAZY
  20. The Asus A8N-SLI Premium would probably be your best bet then. It may be a little more expensive than some of the other options out there, but it'll provide you with the least amount of headache and give you the hardware requirements that you want. Future expansion (via the extra PCI-E ports), SLI capable, or in your case, 4 monitor support, reliability, and ease to set up. Just remember to go with the SLI Premium, rather than the Deluxe of regular boards. They both have reported chipset fan issues and don't have as good performance.
  21. I ditto that recommendation, as long
    as you get the Premium version.

    And, if you shop around, you should
    be able to get a good price too:
    expect to pay $165-175 (plus tax).

    Rock bottom price in the San Diego area
    is $167 for that board, at Computer Depot:
    http://www.mypcparts.com

    Sorry for the double posts above:
    I was having connection problems.


    Sincerely yours,
    /s/ Paul Andrew Mitchell
    Webmaster, Supreme Law Library
  22. do yall have any recommendations for bottom-line graphics cards that have dual monitor support?
  23. Business and web development applications: ms office, adobe photoshop/illustrator, macromedia suite. no gaming or 3D modeling.

    i probably would like to buy something that has been released in the past couple of years. Maybe one "all in one card" ... both cards need ot support dual monitors
    because i want to run 4 monitors (at least my 21" crt and two 15" LCDs)
  24. anyone have any recommendations?
  25. For you dual-monitor options, just check out newegg to see what they have. However, one question that needs to be answered is if you need dual-DVI inputs or 1 DVI / 1 VGA. <A HREF="http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.asp?Manufactory=&PropertyCodeValue=679:9548&PropertyCodeValue=0&PropertyCodeValue=0&PropertyCodeValue=0&PropertyCodeValue=0&PropertyCodeValue=0&PropertyCodeValue=696:9641&PropertyCodeValue=0&PropertyCodeValue=0&PropertyCodeValue=0&PropertyCodeValue=0&PropertyCodeValue=0&PropertyCodeValue=0&PropertyCodeValue=0&description=&MinPrice=&MaxPrice=&SubCategory=48&Submit=Property" target="_new">Here's</A> something to get you started.

    Oh, and I found Tom's article about setting up 4 monitors on an SLI board. <A HREF="http://graphics.tomshardware.com/graphic/20041123/sli-performance-31.html" target="_new">Here</A>
  26. is there anything crazy new from the past couple months on on this topic
  27. Nope, just new graphics cards. Everything else has stayed pretty much the same.

    However, we are getting closer to Intel's release of it's new processors, and AMD's introduction of Socket M2. STill several months off, but it's closer.
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