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Barebones vs. mobo/cpu kit vs. totally from scratch question

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April 8, 2006 10:12:08 AM

I'm mainly a software guy - and about to take my first shot a building a pc. I have very few requirements for this machine. I'm looking to build something that will be used almost exclusively for playing music, viewing pictures, data backups, personal development web server, maybe light websurfing and video conferencing. No gaming, video editing, etc. I also want a Micro case that will fit nicely with the rest of my audio/video components.

Time and price are my #1 concerns. My goal is to keep this thing under $300 which after my initial research seems feasible. I'm torn about how to proceed. After reading these forums and searching around NewEgg, I'm overwelmed by the various types of components and don't want to buy parts that aren't compatible with each other.

I know a decent amount about memory and harddrives, but am new to the world of cpu, mobo and case purchasing.

My initial choices: should I just buy one of the barebones PCs and start from there? Or should I buy a case and then buy a mobo/cpu kit? Or should I buy every component separately? I just want to keep this project as simple as possible with a good gurantee that all the hardware will be a happy family.

Also I love the look of some of the media center micro atx cases - but some of them seem very limited about what you can stick in there. Is it worth it to go with one of the slimmer models that don't have full size (or any) PCI slots, or should I go with one of the cube shaped ones that have more space and standard sized slots?

And lastly, do I need a separate graphics card? Some of the mobo/cpu kits on NewEgg seem to have decent onboard graphics and audio, some even with s-video out, etc.

Thats it for now. Thanks everyone in advance!

~H

Heres an idea of the kind of thing I've researched so far:

Motherboard/CPU $100.99
ECS KM400-M2 Athon XP 2800+ Socket A (Socket 462) VIA KM400 Micro ATX Motherboard/CPU Set
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...
Case

Case/Power Supply $95.00
Antec LifeStyle ARIA Silver/Deep blue Aluminum MicroATX Desktop Computer Case 300Watt SmartPower Active PFC Power Supply
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...
Memory

Memory $65.00
A-DATA V-Series 1GB 184-Pin DDR SDRAM Unbuffered DDR 333 (PC 2700) System Memory
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...

Wireless Adapter $19.99
Airnet AWD154 IEEE 802.11b/g PCI Wireless PCI card up to 54Mbps Data Rates 64/128-Bit WEP, WPA
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1683...

I have a 40GB HD and cd burner I think I can put in there too. OS will be XPMce (already own). So far price is around 280 - not incl shipping or tax, etc yet. Am I forgetting anything?
April 8, 2006 4:43:12 PM

Not bad, except to the fact that ECS motherboards are awful. One of the best board brands ever in my opinion. So lets see if we can fix that.

Go with this instead for $14 more:
CPU:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?item=N82E16819104249
This CPU overclocks really well, and you can easily get to 2GHz or more. :) 

Motherboard:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?item=N82E16813157078

Gets you a newer (and 64-bit CPU) and Socket 754 is faster than socket A.

As for the case, lets see:
I like what you got there. Sweet..

For for the RAM, since I moved you to Socket754, it uses DDR-400 RAM. Get tihs:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16820145505

Wireless: fine.

Not bad, but I think you will be happier with Socket754 than Socket A.
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April 11, 2006 2:35:13 AM

Quote:
Thanks for the reply. I'm still researching around. Any comment on something like this for me?

http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/ite...

Seems to get many and great reviews on TD.

I also think I decided on this case now:

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


You certainally cannot beat the price, however the performance of the Celeron leaves a lot to be desired. You can always ditch the Celeron D and pick up a S478 P4 on the cheap via eBay if you want.
April 11, 2006 2:36:21 AM

Stay away from discount/ third tier parts, and 2 generations ago hardware. What little money you'll be saving, will bite you when you have hardware failure, or decide you want to upgrade a little.

I would stick with the suggested AMD socket 754, or spend a few dollars more for a socket 939. Forget buying a Celeron on an Intel board... crippled chip = crippled performance, not worth the money. AMDs socket 754 will be around for a couple more years... Intel's socket 478 already is history, and AMDs 939 will be gone by middle of next year.

Just my 2cw
April 11, 2006 3:38:29 AM

Thanks again. I realize this is definately nowhere near top of the line - and maybe even outdated. But for playing music, viewing pictures, and maybe the occasional divx, do I need more? Also, the motherboard has a lifetime warranty and the cpu 12 months. Does that make the deal any sweeter?

Thanks!

Edited to add: One of the other reasons I chose this was the 40 reviews almost all of which were glowing.
April 11, 2006 12:41:37 PM

Being a hardware tech, only thing I can stress is quality parts.

Using outdated hardware can bite you... again... trouble in 6 months... but it isn't availabale anymore... what is warranty worth? Send part in for repair... machine down for month or more.

When the difference between todays economy parts, and yesterdays economy parts is $25-50... Save a penny, spend a dollar later.

Not trying to be a hardnose, just know what will happen in 6 months or so. I also find people under-estimate their useage of a computer, and again, find the initial "get as inexpensive as I can" becomes a nightmare.

Honestly, if you want inexpensive, your not going to buy as cheaply as you could a MCE2005 box from the big boys, with a good warranty. I've seen some of these go fo as little as $399! That includes your Win MCE2005, and other assorted software (that you'll either need to purchase, or use illegal copies). You will have a box that will do most things media centered decently, with a few extra frills thrown in.

Not saying you shouldn't build your own. Just saying look at finances, what you want, warranties (and who carries them), etc. Also, if building your own box... stick with Newegg, ZipZoomFly, MWave... avoid Tiger and their house brands (biz expirience, all I'll say).
April 11, 2006 1:00:24 PM

Ok - thanks for the tip. This is why I came here. I'm going to revise my plan a bit. I have another question. I've been doing some research but didn't find anything specifically addressing this.

Is it a bad idea to have a machine that has both a PATA and SATA hard drive? The reason I ask - I was thinking of first building this system with a spare 20GB HD I had from another machine. I was going to install the OS on there - and then later on add a 300GB SATA for media, file storage and backup. Can SATA AND PATA coexist on the same machine?
April 11, 2006 1:11:36 PM

Both interfaces can live in harmony with no problems at all.

However, if you decide to upgrade to SATA at a latter date, I would partition and clone your OS drive (20GB) over to the new SATA drive, and do a repair install (won't boot unless you do). Reasoning: the SATA drive operates at a better performance point then your ATA/IDE drive ever will be able too, and using the SATA drive as your OS drive also will really pick-up OS loading, app loading, etc. At that time, I would religate the 20GB drive to a back-up useage. Using partitions will seperate your Programs from your data/media, so you don't have to worry about those issues. Also, at that time, if you find you are a bit short on drive space in your OS (20GB) HDD, when you partition and clone your drive over, you can expand that partition to a larger size.
April 11, 2006 1:12:19 PM

Quote:
Ok - thanks for the tip. This is why I came here. I'm going to revise my plan a bit. I have another question. I've been doing some research but didn't find anything specifically addressing this.

Is it a bad idea to have a machine that has both a PATA and SATA hard drive? The reason I ask - I was thinking of first building this system with a spare 20GB HD I had from another machine. I was going to install the OS on there - and then later on add a 300GB SATA for media, file storage and backup. Can SATA AND PATA coexist on the same machine?


I have 2 machines set up with the programs on a PATA drive and SATA drives for storage and have had no problems.
April 11, 2006 1:48:02 PM

Quote:
AMDs socket 754 will be around for a couple more years... Intel's socket 478 already is history, and AMDs 939 will be gone by middle of next year.

Just my 2cw


Anyone who thinks that Socket 754 will be around longer than the 939 is living in a fantasy world.
April 11, 2006 2:01:27 PM

Just my 2cw[/quote]

Anyone who thinks that Socket 754 will be around longer than the 939 is living in a fantasy world.[/quote]

You better check AMD's recent product maps my friend. Socket 754 will be supported at least a year past S939s drop 2-3Q '07. That's FACT. Has also been reported on Anand's, Inq, and here I believe.
April 12, 2006 4:25:43 AM

Thanks again everyone for your help. I took your advice and upgraded my components slightly. Here's what I have now. Any suggestions are welcome. Two questions I had though. I didn't go with the motherboard suggested because I want something with 3 PCI slots (wireless lan, audio, tv tuner) I chose the one below. Does this meet the approval of everyone here? I chose something which I think is comprable and compatible with the CPU which was recomended.

The other question - I'm not sure if the PSU i chose is enough. In the reviews for the mobo, people were saying it had some special power requirments. Other than what I'm listing below, I'll have a DVD R/W, 2 hard drives, and the PCI cards mentioned above. Also maybe have an inexpensive AGP card with s-video out in the future. Is this power supply sufficient?

Thanks again...

nMEDIAPC HTPC 200BA Black Aluminum/Plastic MicroATX Desktop Computer Case - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?item=N82E1681...

MSI K8MM-V Socket 754 VIA K8M800 Micro ATX AMD Motherboard - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?item=N82E1681...

ATRIX COLORS-it PSCI200PS3 MicroATX 200W Power Supply - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?item=N82E1681...

G.SKILL Value 1GB 184-Pin DDR SDRAM DDR 400 (PC 3200) Unbuffered System Memory Model F1-3200PHU1-1GBNT - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?item=N82E1682...

AMD Sempron 64 2600+ Palermo 800MHz HT Socket 754 Processor Model SDA2600BXBOX - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?item=N82E1681...
April 12, 2006 1:27:09 PM

Everything looks good except your power supply. Checked the manufacturer's website for your case, and the case uses a standard ATX power supply, not a micro-atx style, so your choice won't work.

NOW, choice of power supply can really effect the stability, cooling, and noise of your computer! One thing I preach (and many will support me here in the forums) is the need to use a quality, brand name power supply. Unfortunately, this is going to affect your budget. I have poured threw Newegg's site, looking for a 250-300watt, atx power supply, perferably with active pfc (quiter, more energy efficient, cooler running). Ruling out the no-names, and out of stock, it really limits your choices. Expect to pay $50+ for a quality power supply... and this is no part to skimp on! This power supply fits the bill: Sparkle 300watt APC ATX Power Supply. HOWEVER, your case manufacturer suggests using the Enermax noise-taker or whisper series here.

I may suggest the following MSI Radeon Xpress200 motherboard instead of your initial choice, only because of the way better on board graphics, and the ability to upgrade those graphics if you should choose latter.

I know thses two items can raise your cost easily $50+, but in the end, I think you will be far more happy with your new system!
!