Help with <$1k computer

Hi everyone, I'm a college student in a bit of a bind. I'm currently doing all my work on an IBM T22 (wish the school offered Dell instead, but oh well) and well, let's just say gaming is less than stellar.. I'm looking toward building a new desktop for under $1000, however I'm not sure which components to take, so here goes:

Mobo: MSI's new NForce or ECS SiS735 board
This will probably come down to a price issue when the NForce is issued. If they're really $150 for the 420-D I'll be in heaven, if they're $250 like some sites are guessing, well, does anyone know ECS's history of BIOS updates? I've never really heard much of them and I want this system to last a while, so I need someplace willing to keep BIOS's updated.

If I get the NForce, video and sound will be taken care of, but if I get the ECS they won't be (AC97.. ick..). So:
Sound: Hercules GameTheater XP or Audigy XGamer
Hercules has the rack which means more space taken up, and it doesn't have a digital audio in for the DVD player from what I can tell. Is 20-40$ more than Audigy.
Audigy has digital audio in, less CPU usage, decent software bundle (PowerDVD comes w/DVD player), but I don't like the currently-disabled content protection thing. Plus 2 free games.

Video: Some GX400 card w/64MB RAM.. maybe GF2 Ti or Radeon 7500? I really need some help with this.

CPU: Athlon 1600XP or 1400, depending on budget constraints.

HSF: I have no idea, I want something light, preferably capable of screwing into the mobo (if those mobos have the holes for it, anybody know?) to prevent chip shearing during transportation to/from school. I won't be OCing simply because if I screw up I can't replace it and the performance difference isn't enough to make it worth my while, however I want a good HSF to ensure stability and a long CPU life, low noise level is an extra.

Case: Antec 635, since it'll be going back and forth from school at least 4 times per year, I want a sturdy case. I hear it's a good PSU, even if AMD won't recommend it (any reason why?)

Case Cooling: The preinstalled fan from Antec for the HD spot, 2 Enermax Thermal Control fans for the other two spots (good configuration? good fans? I don't really know..)

HD: Maxtor D740X 40GB model, IBM seems to be having trouble and Maxtor is cheaper. Anybody know how much more a FBB model is than a BB? Or even where I could find one?

DVD: Lite-On LTD 163 (comes w/PowerDVD)

RAM: 2 256MB crucial DDR sticks

Monitor: LG 795FT+ (inside/outside are both flat right?)
Frankly, I'll be looking at it for a while, and this seems to be the only flat screen that doesn't get distortion from what I hear.

Speakers: Altec Lansing ACS54 (45$, who can go wrong?)

Also, any Linux/BSD compatibility would be great, I know NVidia's been good about that, not sure about ATI. Mouse will be Logitech since Billy G will take enough of my cash on Windows XP. Keyboard will be whatever 10$ model is at the local CompUSA. Floppy will be a Teac, and I'll use rounded IDE cables (any real difference between brands?). Even though I'm sure I'll thank everyone who replies a dozen times over, I'll get started now by thanking you for reading this, I know its long and I ramble =).

Me "I bought a TNT2 M64, the BIOS says its a Vanta"
IOMagic "Theyre the same card"
Me "Um, no"
17 answers Last reply
More about help computer
  1. I've changed my mind about the case, has a great deal on the 1030B, so I'll be going with that (plus it comes with an Enermax PSU and 2 extra 80mm fans, which makes it a better deal than I can find on any 635's, plus its roomier so working inside will be easier). Anybody know of a quality black monitor? How about the Samsung 700IFT?

    Me "I bought a TNT2 M64, the BIOS says its a Vanta"
    IOMagic "Theyre the same card"
    Me "Um, no"
  2. Mobo, CPU, HSF:
    I won't be OCing simply because...

    I'd go with SHUTTLE AK31A mobo and retail XP1600+.

    gF3 Ti200 is MUCH better than any gF2. Read Tom's review.
    It's under $200, and you wont have to upgrade it for a
    long time.

    I have SoundBlaster Live! Value OEM ('bout year old).
    Works fine. Have no idea 'bout new ones.

    Case, case cooling:
    If you'r not gonna OC (as you said), any case w/300W PSU
    should be fine. Just be sure you have fan in the back to
    blow air out.

    One stick of Crucial 256M DDR shouls be fine. Double it
    only if you have to run programs that require more memory.
    If you need more later, go to and buy more
    (~$35 for 256M DDR).

    I'm still using my 'old' Seagate 20G 5400rpm ATA66.
    Extra stuff I simply burn on CD.

    I have Logitech optical, and I recommend it. (don't have
    to remove the ball and clean inside, also it works great)

    I hope this will help you a little.

    Breaking news: Intel hit by a SledgeHammer! AMD to blame! More in just a moment...
  3. If you want, you can get the ECS K7S5A, and disable the onboard sound and get your own card. I've read reviews, asked people about it, and it seems very stable and reliable.

    For a HSF, the Volcano 6Cu performs well and won't break your bank. Buy that one at

    Out of curiosity, does all that stuff you mention come to less than $1000??? That's simply amazing how much technology flies...

    Don't pay any attention to my chickenscratch. :eek:
  4. Ok, let me make a few comments. If they sound harsh at times, it's because of my opinion towards the products, not you. Be warned :)

    <font color=blue>Mobo:</font color=blue>
    nForce is NOT that great at all. The graphics are somewhere between an MX200 and an MX400, by reports. Not that great at all. The sound will be very nice, and the fact that it has built in LAN and <font color=red>phonline networking</font color=red> will be very nice. It only has 2 or 3 PCI slots though, so be warned. Overclocking/tweaking/stability/etc. is still unkown. Be careful. My advice? Wait for top-tier SiS735 mobos. The Leadtek one has great BIOS features, although I don't trust the company enough to drop money for a board.
    I'm rambling a bit, I'll try to be a bit more concise.

    <font color=blue>Sound:</font color=blue>
    I absolutely love my Game Theater. It's way better than anything Creative could put out and it...ahem...has lower CPU usage. I've owned the GTXP, a Live and a Seismic Edge, the Hercules has the lowest CPU usage of all three.
    Hercules has just as good a software bundle as Audigy, BTW. You can read my review about it <A HREF="" target="_new">here</A> if you want better info. Don't forget to visit Hercules' site for a complete list of included software.

    <font color=blue>Video:</font color=blue>
    Hmm...since you're a gamer, you might be able to find a cheap GeForce GTS Pro card. Crash might be able to recommend a good Radeon instead, though.

    <font color=blue>Heatsink:</font color=blue>
    If you get the retail AMD it will come with a heatsink. That will be sufficient. I see no reason to get a heatsink with 4 holes, as they are high-performance and more expensive. Also, the retail heatsink will cause you no problems when transporting the computer.

    <font color=blue>Case (& PSU):</font color=blue>
    Antec makes a good PSU, my suspicion is that it simply does not provide quite enough ventilation to be AMD recommended. That shouldn't cause too much of a problem, you can always get a couple of cheap case fans to counter that. Make sure the PSU is around 300w, though.

    <font color=blue>HDD:</font color=blue>
    I have two Maxtors in my computer, they've served me well. What are FBB and BB? I'm not familiar with this.

    <font color=blue>DVD:</font color=blue>
    You might also consider the Pioneer 106s (slot load). 16x DVD for cheap, it's also very good. Lite-On makes some decent stuff, too.

    <font color=blue>RAM:</font color=blue>
    Crucial. Good to see.

    <font color=blue>Monitor:</font color=blue>
    I know jack all about different models of monitor. As long as it looks good, you should be happy I guess :)

    <font color=blue>Speakers:</font color=blue>
    Speakers make much more of a difference in terms of sound quality than the sound card, but since most people won't really notice either (to a certain extent), it's probably not a big deal.

    Hope this helped. Let me know if you have any questions about what I said.

    <font color=green>I post so you don't have to!
    9/11 - RIP</font color=green>
  5. Uncle_Joe:
    With Shuttle I'm in the same situation as with ECS, I really don't know anything about the company's support, how often they update BIOS, if they'll still offer support for boards 6 months after they're released. However, for $23 more getting twice the RAM capacity and an extra PCI slot seems well worth it, thanks for the pointer. Anybody know what Shuttle's history is? And while the GF3 Ti200 would be great, it's really out of my price range, GF2 Ti might be a possibility though (only $125), however MX400s cost 50$ less than that even.. makes for a tough call. I only really play Dark Age of Camelot, some other older games, no FPS games though, so I think GF3 may be overkill. If I get the Shuttle instead of the NForce I'll go w/256 MB of RAM, the NForce would get 512 just cause the video takes from it. I'm using the same mouse, I love it =).

    I'd definitely disable the onboard sound, thanks for the HSF advice, the 6cu looks like just what I wanted, cheaper than the retail HSF and quiet (plus it comes with Arctic Silver, it's like getting the HSF for 4$). The price should end up at around $1k, maybe a little higher, and this will be better than the $3k Gateway my parents bought 2 years ago, I love technology.

    I know about the NForce, the thing is, Shuttle mobo + Audigy XGamer + GF2 MX400 card = $237, NForce provides similar capabilities (better sound/worse video) and will (hopefully) cost less. Although I must say, right now I'm getting really sick of waiting for it, that I might drop the extra cash and get the more upgradable solution. From what I read Audigy has *slightly* lower CPU usage the Hercules, and Hercule's doesn't have digital audio input and costs $50 more. I know they have comparable software, Hercules comes w/PowerDVD which I'm getting with the Lite-On, so theres really no benefit there, and Audigy comes w/ Deus Ex and something eles (free games are always good). FBB are fluid bearings (not sure why I typed the extra B in there) and BB are ball bearings, FB are quieter supposedly. Pioneer's 106s is really nice, but its more expensive, has worse DAE, and slower CD-read speeds than Lite-On. I've never heard of Lite-On before, but for 50$ I'll give em a shot (plus recommends em).

    Thanks for the help everyone, I decided on the Samsung 700IFT, it has a good dot pitch, no AG tech (no lines), and is black. Still up in the air about the mobo, which unfortunately decides whether I buy sound/video cards, but with an AK31 mobo, Audigy XGamer, and Abit Siluro MX400 it comes out to $1177. A little more than I intended.. but unless NForce comes out costing about $150 theres little I can do to lower it.

    Me "I bought a TNT2 M64, the BIOS says its a Vanta"
    IOMagic "Theyre the same card"
    Me "Um, no"
  6. Oh, FDB (Fluid Dynamic Bearing). The Quantam (now Maxtor) Fireball Plus AS drives have FDB. Also, there is a certain Fujitsu drive (Tom reviewed both of these with the Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 60 a while back) that has them. I looked for both a while back and couldn't find them (and went with the DiamondMax Plus 60s). You can now readily get the Fireball Plus AS (since they're owned by Maxtor, it's easier to find them).

    <font color=green>I post so you don't have to!
    9/11 - RIP</font color=green>
  7. If you plan on taking the computer home a lot, I would suggest a Lian-Li case, they are made out of aluminuim, are very light and have great heat dispersion (the case acts as a large heatsink). Here is a reveiw for one: <A HREF="" target="_new"></A>

    You can buy them at: <A HREF="" target="_new"></A>, or
    <A HREF="" target="_new"> big008</A>

    I know that they are expensive, and will still need a Powersupply, but they are very nice to say the least.

    If it works for you then don't fix it.
  8. While I'd love to get a Lian-Li, I'm willing to lug around 70 pounds four times a year. I'll be moving in/out at those points anyway, what's another trip to the car? =)

    Oh, and after some consideration, I'm gonna spring for Gainward's GF3 Ti200 card. I can get it for 200 now, or 100 next year and get 100$ card now. I'll take convenience.

    Me "I bought a TNT2 M64, the BIOS says its a Vanta"
    IOMagic "Theyre the same card"
    Me "Um, no"<P ID="edit"><FONT SIZE=-1><EM>Edited by kindlr on 10/24/01 09:20 PM.</EM></FONT></P>
  9. Yeh, sure, give me a full height drive bay on the bottom, with no room for my full length 3-channel SCSI RAID controller to fit. They could have ditched one of those external 3.5" bays and raised the bottom tray to make room for one full-length card!

    Back to you Tom...
  10. I feel sorry for anyone with either the Vanta or the M64.

    Back to you Tom...
  11. Well, for a P2 400mhz Gateway which initially had a 4MB noname card in it.. the M64 isn't too shabby of an upgrade. Gets along just fine with all my older games, plus let me play EQ for the few months it took to get bored of it. Oh, and it only cost $50 (this was 6 months ago). My point was more that people shouldn't buy from I/O Magic if they don't enjoy being screwed over from the start.

    Me "I bought a TNT2 M64, the BIOS says its a Vanta"
    IOMagic "Theyre the same card"
    Me "Um, no"
  12. you want it with the monitor too for 1000?

    Hows this, get a Kyro 4500 with TV-out for under 100 bucks, then go back home and jack mom and dads new HI-def
    48" TV i know everyone is getting them now that will save you money on a monitor so you can buy better things like the athlon 1800XP

    The ECS S5A revision 3.0 is a good board.
    At school you'll have a LAN connection (which is on board).. try

    hard drives... hmm yes the fireball AS will be cheaper than the ibm and performs about the same, i simply like the IBM drives though.

    i don't put too much thought into sound im not too concerned about that performance anyway. keep the on board sound and get good headphones so you dont piss your roomate off late at night, also no speakers make less to carry.

    you seem to have a good idea of what you want in a case so just load it up with enough fans to suck the chips off the boards so if you do decide to O/C (with proper bios flash) youll be ready to go,
  13. How much was the original TNT2 6 months back? It's around $30 right now and positively STOMPS the M64 and even the MX200!

    Back to you Tom...
  14. I think it came out to be right around $100, but don't quote me. I had 60$ in my pocket and saw the only AGP card at CompUSA for less than that. Easy decision when you need something on the spot.

    Me "I bought a TNT2 M64, the BIOS says its a Vanta"
    IOMagic "Theyre the same card"
    Me "Um, no"
  15. Hmm.. by Hi-def 48" I'm going to assume you mean that nice little 5" black and white TV/radio with the broken on/off switch ;). All the boards I'm looking at have on-board LAN, so no worries there (oh, and OC3 lines are amazing for anyone not blessed with one, triple the T3 bandwidth). Most of the purchases will be through Newegg, the case comes w/3 fans and I'm installing a 4th by the HD just cause I can.

    Me "I bought a TNT2 M64, the BIOS says its a Vanta"
    IOMagic "Theyre the same card"
    Me "Um, no"
  16. OK, here's where I am now:

    Antec 1030B w/Enermax 330W PSU
    Athlon 1600+ OEM
    Thermaltake Volcano 6CU
    256MB Crucial DDR PC2100
    Gainward GeForce3 Ti200
    Maxtor D740X 40gb
    LiteOn LTD 163 16xDVD
    Samsung 700IFT 17" monitor
    Altec Lansing ACS54 4.1 speakers
    Windows XP Home (is there a reason to take Pro over home?)
    Corel Office 2002 (I'm not giving M$ $200 for Office, I'll pay $15 for this)

    My only lingering concern is the motherboard. Whether I go with the NForce or the Shuttle I'll be using the GF3 Ti200, so they'll get the same video performance. I suppose what it will come down to is whether the NForce board costs more than the Shuttle + SB Audigy ($170). Unless the NForce proves a dismal failure (which I hope not, I trust NVidia drivers more than Via). It's very tempting to order everything now, and wait for news on the motherboard. Yeah I'll have a lot of boxes sitting around, but I won't watch all my good deals go out of stock while I wait at least.

    Me "I bought a TNT2 M64, the BIOS says its a Vanta"
    IOMagic "Theyre the same card"
    Me "Um, no"
  17. Good choice I'd say on going with the GeForce 3 Ti 200. It should provide good performance for far longer than a GeForce 2 level card which isn't much cheaper. Plus it has all of the DX 8 features, which I think will be usefull sooner than most people are saying because of games being ported from the Xbox.

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