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$1500 quiet game/audio rig, need a clue

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April 21, 2006 11:19:59 PM

My 1500 budget includes the monitor/kb/mouse because my previous machine was a laptop. This is primarily for playing oblivion but I also want to produce some music on it using a separate linux partition because I am not paying for pro music software. I plan to add another HD, an m-audio sound card, and possibly a linux compatible gfx card in the future(if it can fit, maybe that pcie matrox g550).

here is my newegg wish list:
https://secure.newegg.com/NewVersion/WishList/MySavedWi...

and in case stuff dissapears from the list again:
CASE: Antec SONATA II w/ 450Watt SmartPower - $99.99
MOBO: ASUS A8N-SLI Premium - $159.99
GFX: eVGA 256-P2-N563-AX Geforce 7900GT 256MB - $319.00
CPU: AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800 - $297.00
RAM: G.SKILL Extreme 2 x 1GB 184-Pin DDR 500 (PC 4000) - $194.00
HD: Seagate Barracuda 250GB 7200 RPM SATA150 - $86.00
KB: Logitech Media Elite USB + PS/2 Standard Keyboard - $26.98
LCD: Acer AL1716BBD Black 17" 8ms LCD Monitor - $204.99
MOUSE: Logitech MX518 Mouse - $36.89
CDR: LITE-ON 16X DVD±R - $39.99
COOLING:
ZALMAN VF700-ALCU 2 Ball VGA COOLER - $26.99
Scythe SCNJ-1000P 120mm Sleeve CPU Cooling Fan/Heatsink - $39.99

Basically I want to be able to play games but also want this thing to run quiet, I am trying to save as much money as I can but still be able to play oblivion nicely with as little noise as possible. I am posting this to ask if my goals can be reached for cheaper. The SLI Premium mobo is there because it is fanless and uses an heatpipe instead. I am also trying to replace the noisy 7900gt fan with the zalman vf700. I am concerned about whether the cooling stuff will fit inside the case, I know I will have to pull that air duct out of the sonata case at least. I am also concerned about the power supply and whether I can get away with using it or if I will need a different one. Another thing is the compatability, I am not sure if my ram will play nicely, these newegg reviews are making me a bit nervous about all my choices.

I am not loyal to any brand names, if a different brand offers equivalant/better features for cheaper for any of these components I would really like to know! I would also like to know if any of my chosen parts are crappy or unreliable. I just want to play oblivion on the 1500 budget as quietly as I can afford.

I live near a tigerdirect outlet store but newegg is still cheaper.
April 21, 2006 11:47:08 PM

Switch the 7900GT with an X1800XT, unless you plan on getting a second 7900GT soon.
April 21, 2006 11:49:39 PM

I can tell you one thing for sure- G. Skill is actually really good quality cheap ram. I have purchased it on several occasions for useage on my other computers and I can say that it is stable and has decent timings for being value ram.
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April 21, 2006 11:56:54 PM

I am a bit nervous about that ram, I do see alot of people agreeing that it is good and it looks like a good deal in the newegg shop, I just wonder if it will work with the mobo, I am considering swapping it for corsair xms, it is hard to know compatibility without trying it. I just want 2gigs that works decent, not trying to pay more than $170.

I'm looking into that ati x1800 too, what sets it apart from the 7900 gt? I have never owned an ati card before. It looks like the vga cooler will fit on it though. Reviews say it runs hot, hmmm.
April 22, 2006 12:03:11 AM

Hmmm, that's a rather small case, and some of the reviews complain about the size.

I would check out this case. It's by Lian Li, and they are on par with Silverstone for the quality of their cases. You won't be disappointed. You may think that $90 is a bit for a case, but it's extremely high quality. For the power supply, snag this. It's quiet, cool, and churns out 485 watts of power.

Now that obviously costs $90 more than your case. However, I suggest that you go with the Asus A8N-E motherboard instead. You don't even have SLI, so why spend more for an SLI board? Beyond that, I'd pick up a 512 mb Sapphire X1800XT instead of that 7900 GT. All the reviews say that it performs better in Oblivion. Just there you save $90. Ok, so you have a better case, power supply, and video card (the motherboard is still a very good one). The processor, hard drive, and optical drive are all good enough. I don't think you'll have any trouble with their performance. However, you should just go with 2x1 GB of DDR 400, such as this. Pop that in and you'll be good to go. You'll also save a bit of money while not really giving up any performance at all. The first thing that you will want to buy when you have the money is a sound card. The sound in Oblivion is very well done as well, and let's face it - onboard sound can handle it, but a dedicated sound card sounds so much better. It will also increase your fps by taking weight off of the CPU. The X-Fi Xtreme, which would complement your system nicely, runs for about $115. However, you can do without that for a while. I would just pick that up as soon as you can.
April 22, 2006 12:28:52 AM

good points, bigger case, smaller mobo, ati gfx for smoother oblivion.
new wish list:
https://secure.newegg.com/NewVersion/Wishlist/MySavedWi...

would the fan on that board make much noise? Should I replace it with something quieter? The whole point of the sli board was to not require that fan, but I guess it would be cheaper to just replace it with something less noisy later on if it becomes necessary. It seems the price ends up the same except with a bigger case, better quality power supply, better video card. Should I buy a floppy drive? The last computer I had needed a flopy to update the bios.

And of course the question everybody has on their minds right now:
should I wait for conroe? I would hate to buy all this stuff then see its prices plummet in a only a couple months.

Thanks for the clues, this does seem like a better way to spend my money.
April 22, 2006 1:08:10 AM

Don't wait. You want Oblivion now. Trust me. I have it. 20+ hours of game time right now, and I've heard that you can easily get 250+ hours in. I know that I wouldn't mind that. It's beautiful. You need this system now. Besides, even with the advent of Conroe, your computer will still be good for a looong while yet. Conroe may even just be a flop. Besides, that set-up will kick serious butt. If it can run Oblivion pretty well, it should be able to tear through games like butter for at least a year.
April 22, 2006 1:13:56 AM

is there a better way to cool things quietly for a similar price? It seems the cpu cooler I chose is good but I am unsure about the vga fan or the chipset fan.
April 22, 2006 1:25:11 AM

You must likely won't need an extra chipset fan as the stock ones are pretty good unless you want to break some overclocking record. Zalman makes good VGA coolers, I hear.

~Ibrahim~
April 22, 2006 4:01:33 PM

thats good news, I was only aiming for noise reduction really, not so much overclocking stuff. I doubt I will do much overclocking with this, I just want it to not have noise issues so I can record sound decently.
April 22, 2006 4:31:09 PM

Actually, I like my list here better.
April 22, 2006 4:38:26 PM

how much louder do yo think it would be?
April 22, 2006 7:54:39 PM

Quote:


And of course the question everybody has on their minds right now:
should I wait for conroe? I would hate to buy all this stuff then see its prices plummet in a only a couple months.



That's unavoidable.

If Oblivion is your primary concern the get the Radeon X1800XT instead of the 7900GT. See here.

The X1800XT runs hotter than then 7900GT, so I would get the Zalman VF900Cu.

I am waiting for Conroe to come out before I make my decision. My OCed Athlon XP-M 2600+ is over 4 years old. What's a few more month?
April 22, 2006 8:23:59 PM

hmmm, the bigger vga fan breaches my budget, guess I'm cancelling it out with a 17 inch screen now, I am wanting to play oblivion but I am also wanting to run linux music software, ati cards seem to have trouble with linux but it shouldn't be a big deal since I am not trying to do 3d outside of windows, so long as the thing doesn't get too loud I should be in good shape. I really wish I could afford to build a dedicated machine for noise reduction and music making and a separate one for gaming, noisy hot gfx cards are really going to hinder my sound work but it is an addiction that I must satisfy. If I had more discipline I would get a matrox g550 and use the money I save on a bigger CPU, but I just can't resist playing oblivion after all the time I spent playing morrowind in 2002 on my geforce4, those were the days.

I guess I could build a music machine that is $400 cheaper and buy an xbox360 if I must play oblivion, but then I would miss out on all the player created mods. I would rather just put up with some noise and heat then miss out on those.

The list has been updated. I imagine this thing will keep changing around up until I actually get the money for it in may. I could buy it now but I wouldn't be able to afford rent and food for the next month if I did. Hopefully the prices keep dropping so I can afford a bigger cpu and an additional HD.
April 22, 2006 9:19:19 PM

you prolly dont need to spend that much on a motherboard so drop taht down a little bit and you might think about but not needed to get a case and PSU seperate. you are getting some OC ram so why not get a opty 165 with the cash you save on the motherboard. Also I think games look better on a CRT and they are cheaper so you could think about getting one of those. Have fun
April 22, 2006 9:40:32 PM

Oh shiz nit! I forgot you were recording stuff, you MUST GET A LIAN-LI! Those things have sound proofing throughout the whole case, dampens a LOAD of stuff. Lian-Li makes the best cases and the quietest!

~Ibrahim~
April 22, 2006 10:05:00 PM

Quote:
...I am wanting to play oblivion but I am also wanting to run linux music software, ati cards seem to have trouble with linux but it shouldn't be a big deal since I am not trying to do 3d outside of windows, so long as the thing doesn't get too loud I should be in good shape.



It is still possible to play Oblivion with the GeForce 7900GT, it takes a bit of tweaking that's all.

nVidia tweaking tips for Oblivion

nVidia will be releasing new drivers, a beta is out already.

Hopefully the Oblivion patch will resolve some the performance issues as well.

I too am in a tight spot because I would prefer to get the 7900GT since it produces less heat than the Radeon X18xx and X19xxx.

I'm currently specing out my near silent PC, but I'm waiting in reviews for Conroe before I decide if Intel or AMD will be the solution for my next PC.
April 23, 2006 5:04:00 PM

Quote:
Oh shiz nit! I forgot you were recording stuff, you MUST GET A LIAN-LI! Those things have sound proofing throughout the whole case, dampens a LOAD of stuff. Lian-Li makes the best cases and the quietest!

~Ibrahim~


http://secure.newegg.com/NewVersion/wishlist/PublicWish...

this is my new list as of now, I am still second guessing some of the decisions. The Lian Li PC-7B case is in there, I don't think I am willing to spend much more on a case unless the one I picked is prone to noise. I also switched to the asus a8n-e mobo so that I wouldn't waste my money on sli, the savings from that switch was cancelled out by the lian li case.

I have some options here, I could go with the 7900 gt, which runs quieter but it also costs 20 bucks more and has 256 mb instead of 512, it would save me $15 beacuse of the smaller vga cooler, effectively being 5 bucks more for less heat, noise, and gpu memory. I am not sure if it is worth 5 extra bucks and sacrificed performance, it really depends on if the VGA cooler I buy can make the ati card run as quiet as the nvidia would with the smaller cooler, I would appreciate some clues from anyone with experience in making an ati card like the one I picked run quietly. I have seen these arctic coolers for ati cards but the one for the x1800xt seems to blow the hot air back inside towards the mobo instead of out of the case, so I am opting for the zalman at the moment, but I really don't know any better.

I could also go with a CRT and use the money left over for an opty 165, I have no aversion to CRT's aside from the whiny noise some of them make and the extra power that some of them require, I would rather have a faster cpu than a flat screen when all is said and done though, and I doubt that a CRT would be my biggest noise problem. But still I am unsure of whether I should make this switch.

So my decisions left to make are nvidia+small cooler vs ati+big cooler and CRT+opty165 vs LCD+amd64x23800, with sound recording and oblivion being my primary purposes for this machine. If anyone can fortell the future and weigh that into their advice, I probobly won't be ordering until may/june when my money starts coming in again. The total cost so far is $1555.79 with $55 in rebates and I connot afford to pay more than that.

Chil your list is pretty similar to mine.
April 23, 2006 7:32:34 PM

Yeah that's my own personal PC as an example. Just a few points to mention. The Zalman VF900, like the Accelero X2 from Arctic Cooling, does not have a rear-exhaust. Both coolers will keep the warm air in the case until it is taken out by a rear exhaust fan.

If you want to play Oblivion, I would suggest an ATI card, as they have been benched to be better than Nvidia's cards. Here's a FiringSquad article based purely on Oblivion. They have 6 pages of non-SLI benchmarks starting here.

As for the Opty, I wish you the best with it. It's a great CPU, but in order to justify the higher price over an X2 3800, it will have to be OC'd alot. A 3800 can get to pretty high speeds too, especially if you have a Scythe Ninja on it. For reliability however, the Opty is worth the extra bucks.
April 23, 2006 8:58:20 PM

I switched the zalman vf900 for the accelero x2, I keep seeing nasty things said about the zalman, and if they both have this issue with the rear exhaust I might as well get the cheaper one. But yeah, it seems there was a review whicih ranked the vf900 the winner and all these forums have since challenged the rankings and are flaring up with reports of it beingtoo hot on their 1800xt's, so artctic I go!

Hopefully the lian li case can exhaust the air well enough, only time will tell.
April 23, 2006 9:44:33 PM

G-Skill is the best bang for the buck in value RAM. I'm running 2x1GB of G-Skill RAM right now. Unless you plan on alot of overcolocking, use this:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...

Same thing but it's PC3200. I'm using this and I'm overclocked 200MHz (from 2.2GHz to 2.4GHz). I can probably even go higher. The FSB is at 218MHz, meaning the memory is at 436MHz and still keeps the 2.5-3-3-6 timings. Saves you about $55 if you are not going for super overclocking.
With that price, those timings and mild to midrange overclockability, it's the best deal on memory going right now.
April 23, 2006 11:01:23 PM

Lian-Li's are great cases, and I think they exhaust pretty well. An really good overclocking company only uses Lian-Li's for two reasons:
Quiet
Moves air well

Take a look at a custom painted rig:



Of course, they've made some modifications to help cool the overclocked parts, but still...

~Ibrahim~
April 24, 2006 2:43:45 AM

Quote:
Lian-Li's are great cases, and I think they exhaust pretty well. An really good overclocking company only uses Lian-Li's for two reasons:
Quiet
Moves air well



I don't really recommend a 100% aluminum case. While brushed aluminum is nice and shiny, and it is light, it doesn't dampen noise as well as steel. Steel cases are heavy because the metal is denser making it more rigid than aluminum. Rigidity reduces the amplitude of vibrations being transmitted by the case itself. Less or lower vibrations means less noise.
April 24, 2006 4:08:26 AM

getting a motherboard with ATI chipset will give you passive cooling and lower heat output than the noisy fan on hot nvidia chipset. Samsung HDD are actually quieter and faster than seagates one..
April 24, 2006 11:34:10 PM

hmmm, I found a suitable ATI chipset mobo, and it looks like the new linux kernels work with it, on top of that it is 2 bucks cheaper than the a8n-e, heh. It is an MSI RD480, I am considering buying this soon. It seems the next round of mobo's comming out will have these trusted platform module chips on them which I am kinda morally opposed to, I would rather buy a mobo without one of those nasty things, even thought they do look inevitable at this point. The alternative was an abit mobo but it has some proprietary sensors on it which the linux sensor stuff can't work with. I am not willing to pay double price for the asus or dfi crossfire or SLI boards which use passive cooling.

The samsung hd is also like 1 dollar cheaper than the seagate I picked, might as well give it a try if its quieter.

Thanks for all the suggestions, after showing this list to everybody I can think of it has already gone through many revisions, surely this will help to make me sure that the stuff will work when I order. I
April 25, 2006 12:41:52 AM

I recently built a PC, mainly for gaming but I'm also a musician and like to do alot of recording/mastering etc.

Athlon 64 3700+ o/c 2.35ghz
Thermaltake Golden Orb cooler (slow speed) w/ Arctic Silver 5
Antec P150 acoustically shielded case w/PSU
Asus A8N32-SLI motherboard
2x1GB OCZ Platinum DDR400 2-3-2-5 o/c 433mhz
Hitachi T7K250 250GB SATA2 hard disk
Sparkle nvidia 7800GT +10% o/c
Creative X-Fi Platinum
ART Studio V3 valve preamp w/ Shure SM-57 dynamic mic

I've purchased an Antec P150 case, the one above the Sonata II. It has a better PSU, but retains the acoustic shielding material. It even has rubber ties inside for suspending the hard disk without screws, to reduce vibration noise.

Seagate hard disks are reknowned for being the quietest. However, my Hitachi T7K250 is faster and is still quiet.

With the quiet PSU that comes with the case, and 1 or 2 quiet case fans, you should find that the noisest parts of your PC are the CPU fan and GPU fan.

I'd suggest shopping around and getting a quality, quiet aftermarket cooler for both your CPU and graphics card, rather than just using the stock. If you use high quality thermal paste (eg Arctic Silver 5), then the few degrees C that you will gain from this should allow you the extra headroom to turn the fan speed to 'low' and still retain good temps (with alot of heatsink/fan combos for CPU's having adjustable fan speed).

As for audio, the m-audio card should give low-latency recording and decent quality but will be poor for gaming. Its support for the latest 3D audio standards will be limited, and it will place alot of the burden on your CPU - thus affecting framrates.

Imho, a better choice would be the Creative X-Fi (I have the Platinum edition). Not only does the X-Fi support all the 96khz/24bit recording you could need, but it also offers great quality and an arguably better SNR (signal-to-noise ratio) than what m-audio are currently offering.

In addition, it will give you all the latest effects in games and improve your framerates by taking the load off the CPU for audio. It is a blisteringly fast card... However, I'm not sure what Creative's Linux drivers are like, though.
April 25, 2006 1:55:22 AM

I think I'm gonna scratch that msi board, it has crossfire and like I said before I would rather not pay for this stuff that I'm not going to use.

So I am looking for a passively cooled mobo with no SLI or crossfire, but the problem is that these low noise mobo's seem to all be the really fancy expensive ones, I want to pay around 90 bucks or so for a single gpu quiet mobo and am having a little trouble finding something adaquate. I would rather get a quality single gpu board than a crappy double. Most of the passives at that range have integrated graphics which I also do not want.
April 25, 2006 2:01:56 AM

Quote:
I think I'm gonna scratch that msi board, it has crossfire and like I said before I would rather not pay for this stuff that I'm not going to use.

So I am looking for a passively cooled mobo with no SLI or crossfire, but the problem is that these low noise mobo's seem to all be the really fancy expensive ones, I want to pay around 90 bucks or so for a single gpu quiet mobo and am having a little trouble finding something adaquate. I would rather get a quality single gpu board than a crappy double. Most of the passives at that range have integrated graphics which I also do not want.


there is motherboard based on the ATI chipset and that are not Crossfire.. Check Newegg for idea..

I saw a TUL motherboard for 50 bucks with ATI chipset, passive cooling..
!