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please help me design a solid general purpose machine

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March 27, 2006 8:27:30 PM

Hi guys first time posting.

The day has come to move up from my clunking P4 2.8.

I've been looking around the last week at the various options and I'm not ashamed to admit I really don't know what I should go for.

Basically I do a fair amount of game playing Operation flashpoint being my oldest regular game and F.E.A.R being the most recent.

For apps I do a lot of video editing (mostly Adobe premier), a fair amount of raytracing (maya, studio 3d etc, etc) and a lot of music (cubase and logic).

My budget is about £1.5k to £2K.

First question, processor AMD or Intel, duel core, multi processor?

Hard drives, I'm not so bothered about capacity I need fast access high data rate. Is it worth me chucking extra cash at a seperate disk array? or just stripe 2 disks(does anyone even do this anymore)?

Memory I'd like to start with at least 2gig with at least 4gig max.

Graphic's card, I currently run a duel monitor setup but would like to move to 3 I guess this means 2 cards, what do you thinks best, I'm more interested in image quality than pure processing speed. NVIDIA or ATI I guess.

I'm really not interested in overclocking, this PC needs to be rock solid.

Can't wait for your opinions

Thanks
ruuman
March 27, 2006 8:35:31 PM

CPU: AMD Opteron 64 170 2.0GHz Dual-Core 2MB L2 Cache
Mobo: ASUS A8N-SLI Premium
RAM: 2GB (1GBx2) Corsair XMS PC3200
GPU: nVidia 7900GT PCI-Express (the 256-Bit Memory Interface will be better for your 3D Maya/3DSMAX work vs. 128-bit in 7600GT)
HDD: 3 Western Digital 250GB in a RAID 5

~~Mad Mod Mike, pimpin' the world 1 rig at a time
March 27, 2006 11:38:16 PM

Quote:
CPU: AMD Opteron 64 170 2.0GHz Dual-Core 2MB L2 Cache
Mobo: ASUS A8N-SLI Premium
RAM: 2GB (1GBx2) Corsair XMS PC3200
GPU: nVidia 7900GT PCI-Express (the 256-Bit Memory Interface will be better for your 3D Maya/3DSMAX work vs. 128-bit in 7600GT)
HDD: 3 Western Digital 250GB in a RAID 5

~~Mad Mod Mike, pimpin' the world 1 rig at a time


Why does he need an SLI motherboard thats almost $170 USD for only one video card? The Asus A8N-E is basically the same motherboard without SLI for $92 USD.
Related resources
March 28, 2006 1:23:47 AM

Many people agree that the Asus A8N-E is better than the SLi motherboard when not using SLi.

AMD 4000+ (Upgrade to dual-core later [Opteron 170/AMD X2 4200+ or higher recommended])
Corsair XMS 2048MB Memory (2X1024MB)
X1900XT(X) 512MB
300GB 10,000RPM Raptor
A full-tower case would be nice but mid-case is okay too
Antec TRUEPOWERII 550W power supply

Good luck! :D 
March 28, 2006 2:44:13 AM

Power Supply - suggest at least 500W

AMD vs Intel. I chose AMD as they seem to be maintaining a a performance lead. There are CPU charts on THG which show relative performance in different applications - suggest you consult before you buy. For gaming generally AMD has the upper hand. CPU - single core AMD 3700+ or 4000+ I run latter and considered the perfomance for the $ was about optimum. Dual core has no real advantage for gaming right now although that could change in a couple of years.


Motherboard - question to ask is do you want SLI capability or to put it another way do you think you will ever $1000-$1200 or more on two graphics cards alone? If the answer is yes then the ASUS SLI-Deluxe or Premium are good boards. If not then there are less expensive options -I'm running an MSI k8NNeo4 Platinum and it works great but there are even lower cost options that will work well. Why do you want three monitors?


RAM - go for 2 GB. Corsair is good. I used OCZ EL Platinum DDR400 dual channel low latency - pricey but very good.

HD - go for the WD 320 GB SATA - probably optimum right now. I use a single HD and having lots of fast RAM limits disk accessing. I'm going to add another HD for backup but I haven't noticed any speed related issues with my system.

Graphics. I have an eVGA 7800GT but I'd go for the 7900GT if I was buying today. the GTX's provide more performance but not in proportion to how fast they'll lighten your wallet.

Just call me Frugal McDougal.
March 28, 2006 1:44:05 PM

Thanks for your advice so far.

Interesting to see everyone is going for AMD, I have defiantly decided this will be the CPU make. Still not 100% on which one, I will have to do some more reading up on the Opteron.
So has everyone gone off genuine duel processors? Just in my day they were the best thing since sliced bread!!

I'm also defiantly going for ASUS SLI-Deluxe mobo. Still not fully set on the onboard sound yet, what does is everyone think?
I have a lot external firewire audio kit so no to worried about that at the moment.

Corsair seems to be the everyone’s choice for RAM so I'm set there.

Now onto the HD, I really like the idea of Raid 5, I'm starting to think. single drive for OS and key apps, then Raid 5, 3x 250gig (maybe larger)drives for temp and video files. Is this even possible?
SteveMeister the reason I'm so worried about HD access is mainly due to the video editing, when you chucking around 80gigs of video things really can start to grind a little. None of you seem to like my storage array idea, should I just chuck it in the bin?

Graphics card, again NVIDA seems to be the general choice. The reason I'd like 3 monitors is so I can have my regular two screen setup for app usage, but the 3rd will be dedicated for playback and monitoring for video and dedicated camera view for ray tracing (plus it will be sweet :D  ).
Should I get a matched pair and SLI (as far as I can tell this will only be good for games). Or do I get one good new card and just add a 50 quid jobbie for the 3rd VDU?

Thanks for your help
Ruu
March 28, 2006 2:32:41 PM

Good choice on the AMD proc and ASUS board. If you are not so worried about gaming, you could go with 2 lower-cost video card in SLI mode - maybe 2 6800 GT cards, which should cost about the same as a single 7800 GTX but give slightly faster performance on F.E.A.R. according to THG. This would meet your 3 monitor spec, allow you to use SLI and give very good game performance. Or go even lower and get 2 6600GT cards, which will be even cheaper but still give acceptable game performance and let you use 3 monitors.

As far as onboard sound, the boards I have used (MSI and ABIT) had adequate onboard; it was OK as long as you don't have something to compare it with. That being said, when I went to a SB Audigy 2, I noticed a big difference in music and movies, but not so much in games. Since from you posts I get the feeling that movies and music are more important than the games, you probably want to get a seperate card.
March 28, 2006 11:37:24 PM

A Creative X-Fi soundcard will work wonders with cubase and logic and all your music needs. They can tend to be a little pricey for those who think "Oh hey, a soundcard seems nice. What?! $120?"
March 29, 2006 3:33:14 AM

A lot of folks seem to be going dual core but from the CPU charts in THG they don't seem to offer much if any advantage right now compared with single core offerings of a similar price. In some tests dual core is better and in some cases single core is better but you have to buy what's best for what you're going to use the computer for. If you buy a decent ($400+) processor whether single or dual core you'll probably be happy with it for a few years at least.

I don't have a good feel for Opteron processors and their capabilities but have seen some rave reviews on Tigerdirect (which is actually a pretty good source of reviews for different products).

If you can get away with just two monitors you can use a non-SLI motherboard, save some cash and then rather than buy say 6800GTs or 6600 GTs you could get a single 7900GT which will give you better performance for roughly the same or slightly less $. Certainly even a single GT7800 like the one I have will outperform 2 x 6600GT's in SLI however as Sp33d3r notes 6600GT's will give you acceptable performance if you must have 3 monitors and won't break the bank.
March 29, 2006 3:55:28 AM

I'll add a few more thoughts. I didn't realize you're in the UK so was thinking a budget of $2K. for GBP2K you can get just about anything you want. I built my whole rig for around CAD2K so about half what you're thinking of spending and what I have runs pretty fast - certainly miles better than my old 2.0 GHz Northwood S478 Pentium P4.

Storage - for video editing - you could run two or more WD Raptors in RAID 0 and possibly have a couple of bigger but slower SATA drives for storage of the finshed products. You'll certainly get file handling capability with those HD's

For video editing I think a dual core CPU will certainly be better than single core - THG CPU charts show relative performance in different applications so its good to consult that guide.

Memory - Usually 2 GB will suffice for most things and I think the practical limit with Windows OS is 4 GB. Not sure if you'll gain much between 2 GB and 4 GB. With my MB I can run PC3200 with 2GB but only PC2700 with 4 GB.

In terms of image quality its not just the graphics card but your monitor will also have a big effect on this. THG have just done a review of LCD's and give differnet recommendations depending on what your primary use is.
March 29, 2006 4:04:42 AM

Graphics card, again NVIDA seems to be the general choice. The reason I'd like 3 monitors is so I can have my regular two screen setup for app usage, but the 3rd will be dedicated for playback and monitoring for video and dedicated camera view for ray tracing (plus it will be sweet :D  ).
Should I get a matched pair and SLI (as far as I can tell this will only be good for games). Or do I get one good new card and just add a 50 quid jobbie for the 3rd VDU?

On you last item I had a similar thought. SLI is most often used to make two video cards function as one much more powerful card. I'm not sure if you can run SLI to give 4 monitor capability even though there would be four outputs (2 per card). If the MB allows this set up then as you say ou could get a really good card for two monitor and a cheapy for the third.
!