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Bang per buck (well, pound) system. Advice please.

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March 19, 2006 10:49:53 PM

Hey! I'm thinking about embarking on my first adventure into PC building and have been looking around the these forums (amongst others) trying to get some ideas for a potential system. Lots and lots of research. Like the title says, this system is being built very much with cost efficiency in mind. I don't want to pay £100+ pounds for a small kick in performance. But I'm willing to shed out a bit more if the performance kick will be recognisable.

<b>PURPOSES OF SYSTEM</b>
-Lots of ripping and encoding of DVD's and MP3s (using very complex codecs which put the processor under quite a lot of strain - not just your iTunes ripping business).
-Some gaming. However, I'm not an FPS junkie. In fact, the type of games I play aren't reliant on getting 60+ f/s. I'm no fan of first person shooters. I'm more of a AoE 3, Civ 4, RoN and other such strategy/RTS games. Also, this PC is being built very much with a game called Football Manager 2006 in mind; the way it works is almost like a HUGE spreadsheet pushing lots of values into the RAM from the hard drive and processing lots of complex alogrothims (little/no graphics).
-Web design.


<b>PROPOSED SYSTEM (prices in British pounds)</b>

<i><b>Case & PSU</i></b>
Antec Sonata II with 450w Smartpower 2.0 - £81.32: http://www.ebuyer.com/customer/products/index.html?acti...

<i><b>CPU</I></B>
AMD A64 3800 X2 - £211.95: http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/ProductInfo.asp?WebProdu...

<i><b>Motherboard</i></b>
ASUS A8N-E - £67.80: http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/ProductInfo.asp?WebProdu...

<i><b>Memory</i></b>
2 x 1GB Corsair TwinX PC3200PT - £135.01: http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/ProductInfo.asp?WebProdu...

<i><b>Graphics Card</i></b>
256MB Sapphire ATI X800GTO2 (will unlock the extra pipelines) - £127.38: http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/ProductInfo.asp?WebProdu...

<i><b>Hard Drives</i></b>
74GB 10k Western Digital Raptor (for OS and apps) - £109.85: http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/ProductInfo.asp?WebProdu...
500GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.9 SATAII (for storage) - £220.77: http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/ProductInfo.asp?WebProdu...

<b><i>Optical Drive</b></i>
LiteOn SHW-1635S-36C DVD±RW - £33.37: http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/ProductInfo.asp?WebProdu...

<b><i>Display</i></b>
19" ViewSonic WideScreen VA1912W - £220.77: http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/ProductInfo.asp?WebProdu...

<b>PRICE</b>
About £1200 (GBP).


<b>QUERIES</b>

1)Is it worth getting an Opty 165 instead of the 3800 X2 (£30-40 more expensive)? With the components I'm getting, would I actually be able to OC enough to make it worth the extra cost? Would the Asus mobo, Antec case and PSU and memory be up to it? If not, the way I see it is that I'll have to spend extra money on a decent mobo (the DFI is another £30), suitable case and PSU (probably about £50+ if you're thinking P180 with a 480w+ TruePower PSU), some overclockable memory (which would probably be another £30/£40 going by OCZ prices), and a cooler (£20-£30) to get a decent overclock, which is really out of my price bracket.

2)I know nothing about DVD drives, and there aren't many reviews on them. Is the one I've listed fast and reliable (considering I'll be doing a lot of DVD/CD ripping and encoding).

3)Is there an Nvidia alternative to the GTO2 that represents better performance for the same cost?

4) I'll be doing lots of DVD watching on my new system. Is the Viewsonic up to this? Would there be any negative consequences from dropping down to the cheaper Acer 19" widescreen (L1916ws) which is about £180.

5) Are the timings of the memory listed above fast enough for what I want (3-3-3-8)? For only an extra £10 I could get the XMS 3200C2P2 version which has timings of 2-3-3-6. Would I actually notice any difference between the two?


Phew! I think thats all! Thanks a lot for your help guys!!
March 19, 2006 11:34:40 PM

your system is pretty solid if it were me i would give it a thumbs up. the best nvidia card that i can think of that is similar to the would be th 6800gs. but you may want to stick with the ati espcialy if you are going to unlock the extra pipes (plus that card can be OCed a bit on stock cooling).

there was an article a little while back oh THG abou DVD drives. here it is
http://www.tomshardware.com/2005/12/30/the_latest_dvd_w...

i wouldnt worry to much about OCing your current proccesor will be able to overclock itself a bit and if you have to you can always run your ram through a divider.
March 19, 2006 11:50:01 PM

Everything looks fine. If you want, look at the 7600GT. It is about identical in pricing, offers some features you may want for AOE3 (I believe AOE3 uses SM3.0, which looks pretty nice). It should also perform at about the same even if you were to unlock the card. Your monitor looks OK also, seems a bit pricy. I would keep looking around, maybe you can find one with 1680x1050 res.
Related resources
March 20, 2006 5:14:24 AM

Considering the 939 mobo and processors are nearing their end of life, why even spend this much on a system that doesn't require a lot of D3D horsepower?

Mhz/Dollar or british pound - The AMD Athlon 64 3200+ is about as good as it gets for a bargain right now at $.05/Mhz. This will save you some serious cash on the processor. Gives you a nestegg for the next generation systems coming out.

Right now if you look at Tom's Processor comparisons, the AMD 64 3200+ vs the AMD 64 X2 4800+ is about 40 frames per sec difference overall.
That's for the first person shooters. AOE III won't be that big a difference.
I'd suggest the Nvidia 7900GT card.
I'd also suggest Corsair TWINX2048-3500LLPRO Memory.
March 20, 2006 7:33:03 AM

Right lets get you sorted out...

Case good, PSU that comes along with it, crap. Always buy a third-party PSU, it's one of the most solid investments you can do on a pc, because a PSU not only powers the tonnes of components in your PC, but it also protects them from electrical surges, and nobody wants to smell a fried PSU...

I have that Mobo, good mobo, but remember to update the BIOS... it will help a lot in making the board stable for OCing....

The CPU... well, an Opty 165 will overclock far more than the 3800 X2, and will be more stable at the same time, so the extra investment will be worth it for all that encoding and gaming.

The memory is good, i have the same modules (but with lower latencies), and in the process of tweaking them to see if i can improve overall system performance and stability. I would recommend the lower latency modules if you are going to do stuff like encoding and even with the gaming, for it helps a little in the end of the day.

I'm not so sure about that DVD-RW drive, but then again, i've always had an NEC drive so i can't comment on that one. the NEC 4550A DVD-RW drive is very good, can read and write in any format, and performs well.

The nVidia equivalent would probably be the 7600GT, and that has SM3.0 support, whilst the GTO2 doesn't. Either go for the 7600GT, or if I dare say, the X1800GTO (The X1000 series version of the X800GTO, but with SM3.0 support) when that comes out, because then you get AVIVO support that all ATI X1000 series come with, and that would be bloody useful for DVD playback and encoding (the card also supports H.264 playback and encoding if i'm not mistaken).

And finally, stick with the monitor you have at the mo, you won't regret having Viewsonic quality for watching DVDs and the like...
March 20, 2006 9:29:37 AM

Quote:
Hey! I'm thinking about embarking on my first adventure into PC building and have been looking around the these forums (amongst others) trying to get some ideas for a potential system. Lots and lots of research. Like the title says, this system is being built very much with cost efficiency in mind. I don't want to pay £100+ pounds for a small kick in performance. But I'm willing to shed out a bit more if the performance kick will be recognisable.

<b>PURPOSES OF SYSTEM</b>
-Lots of ripping and encoding of DVD's and MP3s (using very complex codecs which put the processor under quite a lot of strain - not just your iTunes ripping business).
-Some gaming. However, I'm not an FPS junkie. In fact, the type of games I play aren't reliant on getting 60+ f/s. I'm no fan of first person shooters. I'm more of a AoE 3, Civ 4, RoN and other such strategy/RTS games. Also, this PC is being built very much with a game called Football Manager 2006 in mind; the way it works is almost like a HUGE spreadsheet pushing lots of values into the RAM from the hard drive and processing lots of complex alogrothims (little/no graphics).
-Web design.


<b>PROPOSED SYSTEM (prices in British pounds)</b>

<i><b>Case & PSU</i></b>
Antec Sonata II with 450w Smartpower 2.0 - £81.32: http://www.ebuyer.com/customer/products/index.html?acti...

<i><b>CPU</I></B>
AMD A64 3800 X2 - £211.95: http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/ProductInfo.asp?WebProdu...

<i><b>Motherboard</i></b>
ASUS A8N-E - £67.80: http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/ProductInfo.asp?WebProdu...

<i><b>Memory</i></b>
2 x 1GB Corsair TwinX PC3200PT - £135.01: http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/ProductInfo.asp?WebProdu...

<i><b>Graphics Card</i></b>
256MB Sapphire ATI X800GTO2 (will unlock the extra pipelines) - £127.38: http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/ProductInfo.asp?WebProdu...

<i><b>Hard Drives</i></b>
74GB 10k Western Digital Raptor (for OS and apps) - £109.85: http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/ProductInfo.asp?WebProdu...
500GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.9 SATAII (for storage) - £220.77: http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/ProductInfo.asp?WebProdu...

<b><i>Optical Drive</b></i>
LiteOn SHW-1635S-36C DVD±RW - £33.37: http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/ProductInfo.asp?WebProdu...

<b><i>Display</i></b>
19" ViewSonic WideScreen VA1912W - £220.77: http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/ProductInfo.asp?WebProdu...

<b>PRICE</b>
About £1200 (GBP).


<b>QUERIES</b>

1)Is it worth getting an Opty 165 instead of the 3800 X2 (£30-40 more expensive)? With the components I'm getting, would I actually be able to OC enough to make it worth the extra cost? Would the Asus mobo, Antec case and PSU and memory be up to it? If not, the way I see it is that I'll have to spend extra money on a decent mobo (the DFI is another £30), suitable case and PSU (probably about £50+ if you're thinking P180 with a 480w+ TruePower PSU), some overclockable memory (which would probably be another £30/£40 going by OCZ prices), and a cooler (£20-£30) to get a decent overclock, which is really out of my price bracket.

2)I know nothing about DVD drives, and there aren't many reviews on them. Is the one I've listed fast and reliable (considering I'll be doing a lot of DVD/CD ripping and encoding).

3)Is there an Nvidia alternative to the GTO2 that represents better performance for the same cost?

4) I'll be doing lots of DVD watching on my new system. Is the Viewsonic up to this? Would there be any negative consequences from dropping down to the cheaper Acer 19" widescreen (L1916ws) which is about £180.

5) Are the timings of the memory listed above fast enough for what I want (3-3-3-8)? For only an extra £10 I could get the XMS 3200C2P2 version which has timings of 2-3-3-6. Would I actually notice any difference between the two?


Phew! I think thats all! Thanks a lot for your help guys!!



Great choices with 2 exceptions :-D

I would suggest a 7600GT or 7900GT or X1900 VGA and 2 or more WD2500KS 250GB HDDs instead of a single 500.

250GB drives have a the best price / GB :-D

The Antec Smart Power is actually a decent PSU - while not as good as the TruePower series it is way better than other PSUs so you should be fine.

Good luck :-D
March 20, 2006 10:38:13 AM

OK ladies and gentlemen, I've revised some of my specs due to your fantastic help :o ). I dropped the 500GB hard drive and went with something cheaper, which freed up ALOT of money (about £160).

CPU
Opty 165 - £240
Decided to try my hand at OCing. Slightly worried that my other components won't be upto OCing - most notably my memory and the mobo - but as long as I can reach 3800 x2 speeds (another 200mhz I think) I'll be happy as it would be improved performance over the x2 as the Opty has 1mb cache per core (as opposed to the x2's 512kb).

Case & PSU
Antec P180 Case - £90
Antec TruePower 2.0 480w - £60
If I'm going to OC, I probably need a better, cooler, quieter case with a more reliable PSU, so I plumped for these. Also took on board the warning about the cheaper SmartPower PSU.

Memory
Corsair TWINX2048-3200C2PT - £145
Better timings. Only a tenner more. Seems to make sense. Will it be good enough for OCing?

Graphics Card
256MB XFX 7600GT XXX - £158
Less than £20 more, and significantly better performance. Plus it supports H.264 decoding (not encoding) through PureVideo, which'll make play back of my encoded DVD's far smoother and take a lot of strain off the CPU. Plus it'll make my system more future proof as it'll help me decode HD content (if I get round to getting on the HD train). Looked at the x1800GTO, but its hardly available over here.

Hard Drive
250 GB Western Digital Caviar WD2500KS - £65
Dropping the 500GB saved ALOT of money, and let me upgrade other parts. Fantastic advice by whoever suggested it. If and when I do run out of space on the 250GB, I'll probably be able to buy a 500GB for a lot cheaper price than I can at the moment, so its all good.

Optical Drive
NEC ND-4570A-GNB 16x16 DVD±RW - £30
The NEC won out on the THG test (although it wasnt this model) and someone on this thread recommended it, so I'll take that on board (same price, so may as well).

PRICE
About £1230 (only £30 more than the last config)


FUTHER QUERIES

1)Still a bit worried about not having the suitable components to OC. Does anyone have any experience about OCing an Opty on the Asus A8N-E mobo and Corsair XMS 3200C2PT memory? To shell out for the components which are usually recommended for OCing (the DFI Ultra-D mobo and OCZ memory sticks) will take me beyond my budget, so I don't really want to do that. Is my case overkill for OCing the Opty? Should I get the much cheaper (but less capactiy for cooling) Antec SLK3000B case instead and spend the money saved on a better mobo/memory sticks? Or forget OCing all together?!


Once again, thanks for your help guys! This is really good of you!!
March 20, 2006 11:38:57 AM

Quote:
OK ladies and gentlemen, I've revised some of my specs due to your fantastic help :o ). I dropped the 500GB hard drive and went with something cheaper, which freed up ALOT of money (about £160).

CPU
Opty 165 - £240
Decided to try my hand at OCing. Slightly worried that my other components won't be upto OCing - most notably my memory and the mobo - but as long as I can reach 3800 x2 speeds (another 200mhz I think) I'll be happy as it would be improved performance over the x2 as the Opty has 1mb cache per core (as opposed to the x2's 512kb).

Case & PSU
Antec P180 Case - £90
Antec TruePower 2.0 480w - £60
If I'm going to OC, I probably need a better, cooler, quieter case with a more reliable PSU, so I plumped for these. Also took on board the warning about the cheaper SmartPower PSU.

Memory
Corsair TWINX2048-3200C2PT - £145
Better timings. Only a tenner more. Seems to make sense. Will it be good enough for OCing?

Graphics Card
256MB XFX 7600GT XXX - £158
Less than £20 more, and significantly better performance. Plus it supports H.264 decoding (not encoding) through PureVideo, which'll make play back of my encoded DVD's far smoother and take a lot of strain off the CPU. Plus it'll make my system more future proof as it'll help me decode HD content (if I get round to getting on the HD train). Looked at the x1800GTO, but its hardly available over here.

Hard Drive
250 GB Western Digital Caviar WD2500KS - £65
Dropping the 500GB saved ALOT of money, and let me upgrade other parts. Fantastic advice by whoever suggested it. If and when I do run out of space on the 250GB, I'll probably be able to buy a 500GB for a lot cheaper price than I can at the moment, so its all good.

Optical Drive
NEC ND-4570A-GNB 16x16 DVD±RW - £30
The NEC won out on the THG test (although it wasnt this model) and someone on this thread recommended it, so I'll take that on board (same price, so may as well).

PRICE
About £1230 (only £30 more than the last config)


FUTHER QUERIES

1)Still a bit worried about not having the suitable components to OC. Does anyone have any experience about OCing an Opty on the Asus A8N-E mobo and Corsair XMS 3200C2PT memory? To shell out for the components which are usually recommended for OCing (the DFI Ultra-D mobo and OCZ memory sticks) will take me beyond my budget, so I don't really want to do that. Is my case overkill for OCing the Opty? Should I get the much cheaper (but less capactiy for cooling) Antec SLK3000B case instead and spend the money saved on a better mobo/memory sticks? Or forget OCing all together?!


Once again, thanks for your help guys! This is really good of you!!


:D 

ASUS has great stability and features and I love them for that but if you want to OC a DFI nForce4 board would be a better choice.

The Corsair XMS is great RAM and you should be able to OC it.

OCZ is also good but Corsair is great - no need to spend more for OCZ.

If you can squeeze a 7900GT in there that would be AWESOME - in the US you can get a 7900GT for only about $299 which is about 160-180 GBP I believe -- not sure about VAT and stuff tho.

The P180 case is great but the SLK3000 isn't bad either -- it does have room for 2 120mm fans ( 1 120mm fan is included and you can add another 120mm in the front ).

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...

another good case is this one:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...

it is a little lightly built but still nice.

I think you have a good config :D  but I would suggest getting a less fancy case and upgrading to a 7900GT if at all possible - it is a VERY nice card! :D 

Here's newegg pricing so you can compare:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.asp?DEPA=0&ty...


Cheers :D 
March 21, 2006 10:55:00 AM

Thanks for all your help so far people! I've made some further modifications to the proposed spec, so see what you think now!

Case & PSU
Antec P180 - £86
Antec TruePower II 480w - £62

CPU
AMD Opteron 165 - £250

Cooler
Zalman CNPS9500-LE - £38

Motherboard
DFI Ultra-D - £94

Memory
2 x 1GB Corsair TwinX PC3200C2PT - £145

Graphics Card
256MB XFX 7600GT XXX - £155

Hard Drives
74GB 10k Western Digital Raptor - £113
250GB Western Digital Caviar Re16 - £70

Optical Drive
NEC ND-4550 - £27

Display
19" ViewSonic WideScreen VA1912W - £223


As you can probably see, I've decided that if I'm gonna get the Opty, I may as well go and overclock it in style! Does everything in my system suggest I would get a good OC out of it? Will everything be cool enough? Also, I decided to stick with teh 7600GT as 7900GT was at least £50 more expensive, which I didn't think was worth the expense for my purposes.

Once again, thankyou people!
March 21, 2006 1:49:52 PM

Siskel & Ebert give it two thumbs WAY up :-D
March 21, 2006 3:25:32 PM

actually tom's hardware did a review on dvd's and that lite on did really well. BenQ also did really well, which is the one I got. I think NEC did alright also, but not as well as either of the drives I already mentioned.

as for antec psu's being crap...
oh my, I like that one!
March 21, 2006 4:12:33 PM

Looks like you play pretty much the same games as me!

I'm running an Athlon 3000+, 2x512Mb RAM (cheapo Geil value) and a vanilla 6800. Does the trick, so your far superior system should be fine.

Definately get 2Gb memory for CM2006 though - my 1Gb isn't enough for multiple leagues and I'll be sticking another Gb in as soon as Overclockers have the 2x512Mb set on special offer (currently the 2x1Gb is).

I've heard good things about Scan, but also check out:

www.dabs.com - huge range, but the site isn't the nicest to browse. Pretty cheap though.

www.overclockers.co.uk - smaller range than Dabs, but it's all decent kit and the site is nice to browse. Prices are usually competitive too. I bought my current components from these guys.
March 22, 2006 9:22:03 AM

Quote:
Looks like you play pretty much the same games as me!

I'm running an Athlon 3000+, 2x512Mb RAM (cheapo Geil value) and a vanilla 6800. Does the trick, so your far superior system should be fine.

Definately get 2Gb memory for CM2006 though - my 1Gb isn't enough for multiple leagues and I'll be sticking another Gb in as soon as Overclockers have the 2x512Mb set on special offer (currently the 2x1Gb is).

I've heard good things about Scan, but also check out:

www.dabs.com - huge range, but the site isn't the nicest to browse. Pretty cheap though.

www.overclockers.co.uk - smaller range than Dabs, but it's all decent kit and the site is nice to browse. Prices are usually competitive too. I bought my current components from these guys.


Heh. I think I've seen you over in the Sigames forums for FM2006. Either that or theres just lots of people with "llama" in their name 8O .

I think I've pretty much decided that I'm going to buy my components off Scan and Ebuyer. Both seem to be quite cheap, and both have a good record with returns (I've heard many horror stories about Dabs post-sales support). Plus Scan actually have a guy who hangs around the hexus.net forums who answers all your questions straight away and seems very helpful.

If I was American it'd be all so much simpler as I'd just buy it all of Newegg. No such consensus seems to exist for us Brits.
March 22, 2006 10:15:50 AM

Quote:
Looks like you play pretty much the same games as me!

I'm running an Athlon 3000+, 2x512Mb RAM (cheapo Geil value) and a vanilla 6800. Does the trick, so your far superior system should be fine.

Definately get 2Gb memory for CM2006 though - my 1Gb isn't enough for multiple leagues and I'll be sticking another Gb in as soon as Overclockers have the 2x512Mb set on special offer (currently the 2x1Gb is).

I've heard good things about Scan, but also check out:

www.dabs.com - huge range, but the site isn't the nicest to browse. Pretty cheap though.

www.overclockers.co.uk - smaller range than Dabs, but it's all decent kit and the site is nice to browse. Prices are usually competitive too. I bought my current components from these guys.


Heh. I think I've seen you over in the Sigames forums for FM2006. Either that or theres just lots of people with "llama" in their name 8O .

I think I've pretty much decided that I'm going to buy my components off Scan and Ebuyer. Both seem to be quite cheap, and both have a good record with returns (I've heard many horror stories about Dabs post-sales support). Plus Scan actually have a guy who hangs around the hexus.net forums who answers all your questions straight away and seems very helpful.

If I was American it'd be all so much simpler as I'd just buy it all of Newegg. No such consensus seems to exist for us Brits.

Don't think that's me on the Sigames forum (not been there in a while). Llamas are popular though - it's harder and harder to get good llama-themed usernames :) 

I've never used Scan, but I too have heard good things about their service / support. I only ever used Ebuyer once - unfortunately they use (or did) Citilink ("sh*ttylink" more like) as couriers. I had to take a 1-hour journey to get to the depot and then wait for 2 HOURS to collect my parcel 8O . All because the inept couriers tried to deliver the parcel to the wrong address. Muppets.

Dabs' returns can be a pain, but they've got a new on-line electronic RMA process so you don't even need to phone anyone. Worked fine when I last used it.

I used to use Novatech a lot, but they've gone right down the pan. Poor selection, the site is a pain to navigate and they're not cheap anymore. Looks like they've positioned themselves as cheap pre-build vendors rather than components.

My favourites are still Overclockers. Not always quite the cheapest, but buying everything from one place saves on postage and they have a good history of being honest about stock levels - if they claim that it's in stock, it is (pretty unusual for online suppliers :x )
March 22, 2006 10:37:49 AM

Ebuyer is fine, they can get orders wrong but returns department are fiarly quick. RMA is easy and online. Yep they still use citylink

Overclockers, seem on never returned any thing to them

Novatech were good, im glad some one else noticed they have gone down the pan. They are limited in choice and expensive.

Scan, I have never used but are ok price wise

All in all ebuyer are the cheapest, Overclockes are cheap and seem to have better availability (less custom than ebuyer I guess). Ebuyer has some great deals but they are gone within a day or two normally

Lowest on the Web have good deals now and again

Komplett seem cheap but I have heard bad thing about them

All in all overclockers.co.uk and ebuyer are my main sources
March 29, 2006 2:40:52 AM

the A8N-E isnt neccasarily a bad overclocker. I was easily able to pull another 200mhz out of my 3700 by just using the liitle overclocking utility that is supplied with the board (and that was on non OCing ram with an early version of the BIOS)
!