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Whip me, beat me, critique me (and this build)

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March 22, 2006 3:01:42 PM

Thanks in advance to anyone offering advice. Planning to pull the trigger shortly on this ... used for work at home and 3-d gaming, and probably more and more multimedia as time goes on. Not much of an OC'er but I'll of course take any cooling advice folks have to offer

Comes in around $1,400, including OS, which is pretty much my budget. Be interested to know where the bottlenecks and any other weaknesses are.


CPU
Athlon 64 X2 4200: $355

Motherboard (939)
MSI K8N Neo4 Platinum Edition: $115

RAM
2x 512mb Corsair TwinX1024-3200C2PT $91

Video Card
GeForce 7600 GT $190

Sound Card
Audigy SE $25

Hard Drive
Western Digital Caviar SE 7200 rpm ATA-2 250GB Hard Drive 91.80

Case & Power Supply
Antec Sonata II BlackTower (ATX, 9 Bays, 450W PS), 98.88

Operating System
Windows XP Pro 64 ($90 OEM)

DVD±R/W
BenQ DW822A DVD±RW Writer $49

Monitor
19" LCD Hyundai L90D+, 8ms, $293, 16.7

Again, much appreciate any advice folks have to offer ...

Cheers
johnnylump
Louisville, CO
March 22, 2006 3:20:34 PM

Would an extra $120 for an upgrade to 7900gt kill your wallet? Also the XP Pro 64 can be downgraded to the plain old XP Pro for max compatibility...
March 22, 2006 3:41:54 PM

johnnylump,

I agree that XP64 is only going to give you problems. There are a lot of driver problems with that OS. I don't think you would see a lot of benefits from it and you would probably see some significant problems.
I think that the bottleneck right now would be memory. You are putting a lot of money towards the processor, but you won't be able to fully utilize it with only 1GB of RAM. I would either go with a $250 single core or get another 1GB of RAM.
I think the graphics card is probably beefy enough for this system.
Related resources
March 22, 2006 4:09:45 PM

Well here are my suggestions:

1) Get a cheaper single core processor. An Athalon 64 3700+ (san diego) is about $230 and is pretty decent for overclocking.

2) Get a different monitor. Unless you have a serious space limitation, CRT is the way to go. It's cheaper, and you won't notice any streaking like an LCD might. A 19" viewsonic is about $220 at newegg. You can find one for about $240 in most places.

3) Get a cheaper DVD burner. It won't save you a ton, but you can probably even get a decent one second hand for about $20. If you get a brand new one you shouldn't have to pay more than $35 for an offbrand one.

4) Use onboard sound if you got it. A $25 sound card is probably not going to make that big of a difference.

5) Upgrade the video card. This is going to be the biggest factor in quality gaming. With the $235 you could save (or just a portion thereof), you can easily upgrade to a 7900gt. Quite a killer midrange card. It'll handle older games at max settings and newer ones at pretty high settings.

6) Lose the ATA Hard drive. Big cables=less airflow. Go SATA, if you can. A 250GB drive should only be about $100, maybe less

7) Think about going to 2GB memory. You may have to go with value kinda stuff, but it should still work fine.

8) Tell it that you love it.... Ok, maybe that was a bit far...
March 22, 2006 4:11:35 PM

yes i woul go for the xp 32 bit O.S but the hard drive maybe i would go for the 74gb raptor that would speed up things a little bit on your machine
March 22, 2006 4:32:44 PM

The only hole I see is the ram, get 2x 1 gig sticks and you will see much better perf that w/ only 1 gig total. otherwise the dual core is kinda wasted.

EDIT: by "wasted" I do not mean "bad choice" just that you will see more out of your system w/ more ram, otherwise the perf will not be as good as possible.

DO NOT dump the soundcard as one suggested. onboard sound flat sucks, and even that $25 card will be better than onboard.

the video card is ok, if you are not an avid gamer (read: play games more than anything else on the system) then it will do you fine, if you are a gamer then take the above suggestion and try for the 7900gt. (~$300 us)

and i agree also that the 64bit os is only viable as a dual boot setup, not the primary os b/c of compatability issues right now.
March 22, 2006 4:44:17 PM

Good choice for the processor, but a few things to note:

If you are getting 1Gb of memory, get a single 1Gb stick. Later, if you decide, this will leave more headroom to overclock as well as upgrade to 2Gb of memory without the performance hit taken when 4 sticks force a higher clock latency. I do recommend 2Gb if you are an avid gamer.

Get a HDD with a 16mb cache, you probably won't notice, but it helps a little bit. A 300Gb drive from Seagate or WD w/16mb of cache will run about $120. Alternately, get a 10k Raptor, either the 74Gb or the new uber-Raptor, the 146 Gb behemoth. The latter will set you back almost a whole paycheck, so be sure you want that type of cost to performance ratio.

I actually have that same 19" monitor, the L90D+, which I bought when my older CRT died. Don't let the CRT junkies talk you into buying a dinosaur, just get the LCD and avoid the throbbing radiation headaches that CRT's can cause. Yeah, the image quality is "slightly" better on CRT, but after 5 hours of BF2, trust me, you won't care. My L90D+ works great without ghosting or anything noticeable. Didn't have any dead pixels either, which was nice.

Don't spend $25 on a sound card, it probably won't be worth it. If you can spend the money, get 5.1 speakers and the $110 X-Fi card, otherwise, stick with onboard until you can afford a real audio subsystem.

Finally, think about running the 32-bit version of XP. XP64, IMHO, is a waste of effort, since very few, if any, applications take advantage of it. You may encounter more problems with compatibility than you would gain in performance, so ask yourself if it is worth it. And I believe Vista will be natively 64-bit when it arrives (circa: 2012), so keep that in mind.
a b B Homebuilt system
March 22, 2006 5:00:56 PM

"onboard sound flat sucks, and even that $25 card will be better than onboard. "

Most mainboards' 8 channel integrated sound is quite adequate, at the massive expense of 1% drop in framerate for hte increased cpu load....

I haven't bought a sound card since the advent of decent sound solutions on my APollo board with a P3 in late 1998, and have no stuttering sound in Q3, HL, FEAR, COD1/2, you name it....

Exactly what part of onboard sound do you feel "sucks"?
a b B Homebuilt system
March 22, 2006 5:02:45 PM

"The latter (147gb RAptor) will set you back almost a whole paycheck,"

Only if one is working part time at below minimum wage! :-)
March 22, 2006 5:32:22 PM

bllaspheeemer!




but seriously, not only do all onboard sound chips utilize a codec (except the onboard soundblaster (creative) and soundstorm (Nv)) and thus the cpu (which hampers performance no matter how small) but ALL onboard solutions have tremendous feedback and interference from mobo components and wiring. There is nothing that can be done about it save getting a seperate card. If you cannot hear the faint hissing and crackles in the background on yours then either:

a. get better speakers/headphones (you would be surprised what cheap speakers hide in terms of fidelity)

or

b. get your hearing checked. If you have bad ears then by all means keep using what you have and game on w/ your tone-deafness ;) 

The last thing about any chip that uses a codec, which is most onboard solutions and all add-in cards that are not creative (consumer level mind you) is that I have seen many incompatability and crash issues in games and other apps that can be traced to the codec and drivers for those chips. Creative has a much better track record imo.

Many games flat crash or have no sound on non-sound blaster cards. much more stable, and have used them in almost all my system builds since my switch from the now defunct aureal chip I had once. I have tried onboard sound with many issues from sound quality to the crashes.

clear anything up as to what i think sucks about onboard sound?

let the flaming commence! ;) 

oh, and I think I have a stake somewhere here stranger...
March 22, 2006 5:56:44 PM

Quote:
bllaspheeemer!




but seriously, not only do all onboard sound chips utilize a codec (except the onboard soundblaster (creative) and soundstorm (Nv)) and thus the cpu (which hampers performance no matter how small) but ALL onboard solutions have tremendous feedback and interference from mobo components and wiring. There is nothing that can be done about it save getting a seperate card. If you cannot hear the faint hissing and crackles in the background on yours then either:

a. get better speakers/headphones (you would be surprised what cheap speakers hide in terms of fidelity)

or

b. get your hearing checked. If you have bad ears then by all means keep using what you have and game on w/ your tone-deafness ;) 

The last thing about any chip that uses a codec, which is most onboard solutions and all add-in cards that are not creative (consumer level mind you) is that I have seen many incompatability and crash issues in games and other apps that can be traced to the codec and drivers for those chips. Creative has a much better track record imo.

Many games flat crash or have no sound on non-sound blaster cards. much more stable, and have used them in almost all my system builds since my switch from the now defunct aureal chip I had once. I have tried onboard sound with many issues from sound quality to the crashes.

clear anything up as to what i think sucks about onboard sound?

let the flaming commence! ;) 

oh, and I think I have a stake somewhere here stranger...


I agree with the general idea of what you're saying. The more you can separate the sound signals from any other electronic signal, the better (hence the incredible superiority of separates hifi systems over combo units).

However, can the difference in sound quality between add in cards and onboard sound be that big? I mean, bear in mind that even if you have a separate sound card, the signal still has to go through the motherboard, where it will suffer interference. If this is supposed to be the main sonic advantage in getting a soundcard, then it doesnt sound very convincing :?
March 22, 2006 5:57:40 PM

I don't think i've ever bought a sound card :lol: 

As for your build, the suggestions above are quite adequate.

~Maxiius
March 22, 2006 6:06:55 PM

from my experience it is HUGE.

even my old system, which was on an asus a7n8x deluxe mobo I heard massive static and cracks w/ onboard vs. my audigy card. That mobo has arguably the best onboard sound solution out there, the Nv soundstorm chip. If Nv had offered that chip in a stand alone card I would have bought it right away. The specs on the chip are great and the performance was awesome, minus the background noise.

You are right that the distance is not that great, but the issue is where is the digital signal being processed to analog so you can hear it? on the mobo the chip and everything is crammed w/ all the other noise creating components. Not only is the chip crammed there but the actual processing, if it is not a DSP like the soundstorm, is done by the especially noisy cpu.

w/ a discrete card it is not only seperate, but designed w/ isolation in mind so that the processing can be done in a "quiet" environment and pumped right out to the speakers. w/ a mobo, that analog signal must then travel through the gauntlet of interference where the seperate card has it sent right out so-to-speak.

Hope that helps to underscore where the issue is...
March 22, 2006 6:26:43 PM

Glad to see this thread spawned a lively debate.

Thanks for everyone's suggestions.

You've persuaded me to go up to 2 gigs of RAM and down to regular XP Pro. I'd love to go to a 7900 GT but I don't think I can justify that expense on top of it all. I'll look at a 16mb cache on an HDD.

On the sound card ... I've always had soundblasters and liked em and further tend to agree its best to offload any work from the mobo. But I can't justify buying a high-end soundcard -- they just don't sound THAT much better to me, though I'm hardly an expert; so an Audigy SE seems like the best choice.

Now let me get out of the way so this can continue ...
March 22, 2006 6:54:15 PM

I totally disagree with someone who said to get only 1 stick of ram. I agree this gives headroom for upgrade, but you dont have the benefits of dual channel memory.

I also think you should get a CRT instead of lcd, unless you have some space or power consumption issues. I dont think crt are that close to an end...

For onboard sound... people said that had problems with interference, hiss or whatever bad noises, but lets not forget that this could also be influenced by magnetic fields on your speaker wiring, oxidation of connectors and other factors. I always used onboard audio and never had any noise issue. I am not deaf and i use some good quality speakers from edifier (R451). I dont think a 25$ sound card would make that difference...
March 22, 2006 6:57:38 PM

I cant find my stake, you got one stranger?
a b B Homebuilt system
March 22, 2006 7:31:14 PM

I have heard and read comments similar to Sojrner's about onboard sound too often to disagree with them, although being deaf in one ear I really haven't noticed personally. I have experienced sound-related crashes before, although not lately. I can't help but think that the codecs and drivers are getting cleaner. My thought would be to skip it for now; a sound card is an easy upgrade later, perhaps when you upgrade your speakers too. The onboard sound of my Abit KN8 Ultra has been decent and rich into a 2.1 setup for me; maybe onboard sound will work for you too. You're not out anything by testing it except maybe a little time.
I generally agree with bweir and others who suggested the additional RAM, or at least starting with that 1GB in a single stick. RAM upgrades are even easier than sound card upgrades.
I would also go with the LCD. The bottom line is that LCDs don't flicker; not at 60 Hz, and not at 75Hz; the slight latency is your eyes' friend. You'll retain desk space, create less heat, and consume less power.
Speaking of power, the PSU you're getting with that case may be big enough, but what of the quality? I've read a lot of comments about the PSUs that come with cases being cheap and [electrically] noisy. You can replace it for <$100, getting one you know will be big enough and have all the connectors you need.
March 22, 2006 7:51:56 PM

Here's the marketing sheet on the power supply that comes with the case, an Antec SmartPower:

Here

I guess it's not as good as an Antec TruePower (or am I wrong?) but it seems to be more than just the bare bones and that it has the right connectors for the mobo and the video card.

I'm nervous about going LCD but figured this was the time to make the jump. The 8ms ones seem like they can handle it.
March 22, 2006 7:55:51 PM

i have that case and ps... works great. Antec makes good stuff. generic ps included w/ some cases are the prblem, if you get one w/ a good qual ps then it is ok. (enermax, antec, even thermaltake have GREAT ps... enermax also sells some cases w/ generic) Yes, it is a true power antec.
March 22, 2006 9:56:13 PM

Ordered ... good news is zipzoomfly has a $40 rebate on 2 gb of corsair ram till tomorrow; so it only ended up costing me ~$55 more. Thanks again to all who posted.
March 23, 2006 2:29:16 AM

Quote:
ignore simply put completely. get a cheaper single core? are you for real. only person in a long time who has said that about a multi purpose comp. true he could get the 3800 which would be plenty but go dual core. stick with the lcd. crt's are dying and lcd's ain't as bad as everyone says. also in a couple of years time might be difficult to find a replacement if they stop making them.
Quote:


What!? Are you the first "multi-core" fanboy? If the computer is being mostly used for gaming, you'll currently get more bang for your buck with single cores. Seriously... Check the CPU charts, a 3700+ is always near the top of the pack in gaming, and never far enough behind to justify paying much more. (I'll even bet it beats out the lower end dual cores most of the time!) And frankly, unless you're running CPU intensive programs in the background, you won't notice a difference.

And if it is difficult to find a replacement for a CRT in a few years, THEN buy an LCD. :roll: That's a no brainer, it's the EXACT same thing you would do if your LCD broke... (allowing silence so embarrasement can sink in) What's more, right now you can get a near top of the line CRT for less than a bottom of the line LCD of the same size.

... Sorry, had to vent...

Anyways, what did you end up getting? Just curious.
March 23, 2006 9:35:34 AM

hey, he already bought the computer. stop whining you two
March 23, 2006 4:20:24 PM

Quote:
lol, thats twice now you should've been gagged. first the lcd/crt and perhaps as well the cpu. both times you are asking him to waste money by buying something obselete. what is the point in buying something that you will replace any way. if he bought the lcd he won't have to change in a few years.


And why would he have to change? Because his working-just-fine CRT is "obsolete"? Just because you consider something "obsolete" because the technology is old, doesn't mean it doesn't work well. A CRT running 1600x1200 @ 60Hz+ costs MUCH less than an equivilant resolution LCD, will work just as long, and will be fine for years and years to come.... or in the meantime you could pay more for a technology that's not fully matured (Read: overpriced and has various bugs, like slow response time and dead pixels)

Basically you're the one proposing that he pay for something he doesn't NEED. A CRT will work just fine, millions of people have them now, millions of people will have those same CRTs in 5 years.


Quote:
if he buys a dual core then it future proofs his system.

you obviously didn't read his first post too well. he said for work at home and gaming that alone is worth it if he like to have many apps open at once. then the killer as far as killing your argument. he says he will probably use more and more multimedia as time goes on. imagine he wants to convert files and still do his work. a single core would be a waste of money.

get a grip and actually consider what someone needs before offering advice


Future proofs? AM2 comes out this year and then 939 will not see real advancements in processing again. Hardly "future-proof" if you ask me. And either way, the money saved on a single core would be enough to get that 7900gt... If it's mainly used for gaming, that ALONE is worth the trade. Convert files at night... while you're sleeping and your computer is normally off. Problem solved, gaming experience hightened.

Finally, I'd like to point out the daft irony that you said that a dual core will future proof his system. It's funny because

1) Dual core will be "obsolete" in 2 years

2) A CRT bought today will still run the latest video games just fine in 2 years (and probably another 3-5 years after that) :roll:
March 23, 2006 4:26:55 PM

I went with the original build, LCD, soundcard, dual-core and all, with the following changes:

1) 16 MB cache on HDD sted 8 MB (All of $7)
2) 2 GB Ram sted 1 GB ($50 after rebates)
3) XP Pro 32 sted XP Pro 64 (even).

I actually agonized over the last one despite issues with 64-bit windows, in the sense that I figure things are going 64 in the coming years and might as well "future-proof" it now, and just put up with the problems as they come up.

The points about the CRT is well-taken; the particular LCD model I picked appears to have fewer of the issues than some of the others. Just figured it was time to take the plunge.

Cheers and thanks all for input,
jl
March 23, 2006 4:28:49 PM

60Hz ?!!! ouch! if I run anything under 80 I start getting headaches... I agree that a crt has a better overall pic quality WHEN RUN AT HIGH REFRESH and high res. crt's dont have to interpolate a low res image where lcds do if it is not at their native res...

BUT, lcd's do not have a refresh issue- they are static and do not flicker like crts. (if you are sensitive to that like me that is a BIG concern) lcd's take less space, use less power and are easier to move (read: LAN parties) lcd's are also getting better w/ latency and black reproduction, and overall ARE where the industry is going. I run a 19" trinitron and love it. it is a pain, and sony doesn't even make the tubes anymore, but it is the cream of the old-school crop and can hit that 1600x1200 (and more) res w/ 85Hz no prob. Having said that I will go to an lcd here in a month or so b/c of the above benefits.

and by future proof, i believe he means that soon all apps (including games) will be multi-core aware and gain much perf out of any mulit-proc/core system. all newer hardware is going that way, and soon all programs will catch up. (some already are, even unreal engine 3 is there)

take some tylenol for your head, and midol for the other areas man.
March 23, 2006 4:29:43 PM

awesome choices man, you will not be dissapointed. rock on.
March 23, 2006 4:58:07 PM

Given the similarities between our systems, I'm glad you approve. :) 
March 23, 2006 5:27:16 PM

I think future proof is relative... like, ok, you buy a dual core now coz you think it's future proof, but when future arrives, your "future proof" dual core will be obsolete, or it wont have juice to handle future applications... anyway, if he picks a dual core capable platform and he feels the need to go dual core, just change your cpu for a dual core one. period.
I feel the same about video cards... i can buy a top edge gpu to be future proof, but the next year i wont be able to play games in the resolution and detail i would like to...
March 23, 2006 5:29:21 PM

Quote:
Whip me, beat me


Something's wrong with you. :?
March 23, 2006 6:00:45 PM

the difference is huge. i've done comparisons between my old computer with integrated sound, and mine with a soundblaster audigy 2, and the old one sounds like the speakers are inside a pillow. go for the sound card.
March 24, 2006 1:19:41 AM

First of all, what are you going to use this computer for? If it is for gaming, you would definately consider spending a lil bit more money for the 7900gt as the 7600 will sort of bottleneck the dual core proc, IMO. Everything else looks fine though. Also, I would recommend getting 2 gigs of ram if your not going to later, as Vista will probabaly require more than a gig when it comes out, and most games run a lot better right now with 2 gigs (BF2, Fear, Oblivion)
!