Please help a complete noob with a build

I'm looking at the following components for a quiet mid-range gaming build (actually having it built for me... inexperienced and therefore afraid to do it myself). I welcome any and all suggestions.

Antec P180
(I've heard great things about noise reduction, but worried about stories of heat warping the front door. Is there a comparable case in terms of quietness and looks... I like the style of the p180)

Seasonic s12 600W
Pricey, but worth it to me if it really is as quiet and efficient as I have heard

Asus A8n Sli-premium
Not planning to use SLI, but I like the passive cooling and ASUS name. Is there a better or cheaper alternative with similar features (no SLI necessary)?

Went with valueram, but clueless here... Is XMS worth the money? Is another brand altogether a better buy?

Need a lot of help here... hearing great things about the optys, but I've never OC'd before and while I am willing to do so it does frighten me somewhat. Is an X2 (4200 or 4400) a better bet?

CPU Cooler:
Zalman CNPS9500

150 gig Raptor
Is the performance boost from the 10K drives worth the increase in price? If not I like seagate's rep for quietness, but I've heard that their 7200 drives don't perform as well (not true 7200 speeds). Also, Zalman makes a heatpipe HDD cooler... Is it useful?

Video Card
ATI x1800 xt 256mb
I've heard that this card is the best value performance/cost out there...

VGA cooler

DVD writer
Plextor PX-740ABPS dual layer Interface IDE
Read Speed 48x (CD) / 16x (DVD)
Write Speed 48x (CD) / 16x (DVD±R) / 4x (DVD-R DL) / 8x (DVD+R DL)
Rewrite Speed 32x (CD) / 6x (DVD-RW) / 8x (DVD+RW)
Buffer Size 2 MB

I've heard that plextors run quiet and reliable but are pricey. Are they worth it or should I look at a lower end brand?

I'm also looking to output sound from the comp to my onkyo TX-SR502 receiver preferably through a digital coax or optical connection (do I need a mobo with spdif or a discrete sound card?)

Looking to keep the price (with tax and shipping but without monitor) between 1500 and 2000 (willing to pay for significant performance improvements but not looking to throw money away)

Thank you all in advance and please let me know if the above specs are not detailed enough
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More about please complete noob build
  1. Case:
    Antec P150 - If you are looking for a quiet case then you may want to consider the Antech P150 which allows you to suspend hard drives to reduce vibrations. It comes with an Antech NeoHE 430w PSU which is pretty quiet. However, there is an incompatiblity issue with Asus motherboards. However, Antec has revised the PSU to correct the issue. If you buy it, will you get the most recent version? I don't know.

    If you are not considering SLI or Crossfire getting this will be a waste of money. Getting a Seasonic S12 430w will offer way more than enough power for a single GPU solution. The S12 430w has the reputation of being to most quiet of all the S12 series. Maybe the S12 600 rivals it.

    If you buy the Antec P150, then you don't need to buy a PSU.

    One other thing Seasonic S12s do not get along with DFI motherboards. Not sure if this has been fix or is still in the works.

    AOpen nCK804a-LFS ATX - AOpen makes reliable motherboards. While they are not extreme overclockers like Abit, Asus and DFI can be they are pretty stable and offers good overclocking capabilities. My current AOpen has lasted over 4 years.

    ABIT KN8 Ultra ATX - A good mobo for overclocking enthusiats.

    EPoX EP-9NPA3ULTRA ATX - I don't really know much about EPoX mobo, but several people in this forum like EPoX so I figure I throw this in. In my opinion EPoX is similar to BioStar, both stress price, performance and stability in their mobo, making them good all rounders for the average person. Good overclocking abilities, but not extreme.

    Zalman Heatsink NB47J - You may have noticed all the mobos I recommended are nVidia. They control the majority of the AMD mobo market, but their chipset also have fans because they tend to get hot. Replace the chipset's HSF with this and enjoy the silence.

    OCZ Value Series 1GB (2 x 512MB)
    CORSAIR ValueSelect 1GB (2 x 512MB) - These are the two RAMs I generally recommend. Both are CAS2.5 and should work fine for the average overclocker. Performance wise between CAS3 and CAS2 RAM you may only see about 4% increase in performance under the best circumstances. I only recommend higher quality RAM like the Corsair XMS to those who want to push overclocking to the limit and are willing to spending that amount of cash. Like I said these are bothe CAS2.5 RAM so they should be fine in your situation.

    Get the X2 4200+ or the X2 4600+. The extra 512KB of cache that the X2 4400+ has will boost performance a little bit, it is clock speed that rules. Check out Tomshardware's CPU chart if you compare the 3 CPUs you will notice that they the X2 4400+ will be a little faster than the X2 4200+, but it cannot compete against the X2 4600+.

    The ultimate choice is yours. If you are very hesistant about overclocking then stay away from the Opteron series. People buy that for very high overclocks, the know what they are doing and I guess they are willing to spend the extra money on those. The X2 series are very overclock capable.

    CPU Cooler
    Scythe SCNJ-1000P - This is my default recommendation. It is a lot quieter than the Zalman 9500 which are known to be noisy. In a case with good ventilation like the P150 or P180, or Centurion 532 (my case) it can cool up to the Athlon 64 X2 3800+ without a fan. The fan that it comes with is pretty quiet based on the reviews that I've read, but a $18 Nexus 120mm Black & White (or Orange) is even quieter, but that adds another $18 + shipping costs.

    10K drives will be loud. Are they worth the money? Well, a friend of mine want a 74GB Raptor as the primary drive so that he cold start his PC to get to the login screen in about 30 seconds. My HTPC has a lowly 5400rpm drive can do it in less than 45 seconds. Is the extra cost and noise (and heat) worth the extra $$$? Not in my opinion. Stick with 7200RPM drives.

    SAMSUNG SpinPoint P Series 250GB - Sorry can't find the 160GB version. This reply is already taking longer than I prefer. SAMSUNG SpinPoints have the reputation of being the quietest consumer hard drives available to the consumer. They are typically 1dBA - 2 dBA quieter than their nearest competition, Seagate.

    Hard Drive Cooler
    If you are suspending you hard drives in the Antec P150 then skip this section since it cannot be done. If you mount your hard drives normally then yes you can use the Zalman heatpipe cooler if you want.

    Smart Drive 2002 Copper - This is on my list of items to get for my next PC. At $68 + shipping it is not cheap, but it keeps your hard drive cool and quiet at the same time.

    Video Card - GPU
    The GPU you selected is good, but it is also a power hog and get pretty hot. Off the top of my head is consumes around 85 - 100 watts of power under full load. A nVidia GeForce 7900GT consumes about 56 watts of power an will be easier to cool.

    Go for the card that will give you the best performance for the type of games that you play. For Quake or Doom and all games using the Quake engine you're better of with the GeForce. Games like Far Cry, Serious Sam 2 and Oblivion favors the Radeon.

    VGA Cooler
    ZALMAN VF900 – CU 2 - This performs better than the VF700Cu based on a review or two that I've read. Sorry, I don't have the time to search for those reviews, I'm typing this while at work. I especially recommend this for the hotter Radeon X1800XT GPU should the be the card you seem to want.

    DVD Writer
    Sorry no real clue. Samsung perhaps?

    Sound Card
    Creative SOUND BLASTER X-Fi Platinum - Congratulations. You are the only person I have ever recommonded this card to. For most people I recommend the cheaper Audigy 2. But since you are connecting it an actual speaker system this is what I recommend. Avoid the on-board audio like the plague. They are adquate for gaming, but they do no justice for music which will most likely sound flat. You'll probably also get static as well. Do yourself a favor buy a discreet card, even the older SoundBlaster Live will be lightyears ahead.
  2. The above recommendation should come in at about $1,400 (including shipping) if:

    1. You go with the Antec P150 which comes with a PSU.
    2. You buy the X2 4200+
    3. Do do not by the Smart Driver 2002 Copper.
  3. -K- Dont you even think about purchasing a case/tower that has a PSU included, its just pure sh!t. Buy smart, aftermarket components will really benefiet you in the long run, yes it may be pricey. But nice things cost money :twisted:
  4. Not true at all. Thats just a huge generalization. First of all, the PSU's that come in Antec cases are the same PSU's that you would buy seperatly. Not in this case, but they are still high quality, since, for some reason, thousands of people each year, buy these PSu's specifically.

    Secondly, for processor, really, I would recommend a Opty 165. They are easy to OC, and if you don't really want to push it, don't require mush experience at all. Even for a noob. You really, don't seem to nooby, so it shouldn't be a problem. And, the Opty is even cheaper, and better made.

    I don't understand these kind of people. You want to buy lots of extra cooling, when, its not yet needed, and you buy less expensive, and not as good other products? Why not spend the money you spend on HDD cooling and that zalman, on nice GPU, or CPU. I mean, sure the zalman is nice, but it isn't needed. Especially with the Opty cooler, which is really good for a stock part.

  5. Oh, I forgot, as for Motherboard, I would go with the Asus A8N32-Delux SLi, because of the coolness of the heat pipe or I would go with the DFI Lanparty UT Ultra-D.

    Also, get better RAM then that, you won't regret it.

  6. Quote:
    -K- Dont you even think about purchasing a case/tower that has a PSU included, its just pure sh!t. Buy smart, aftermarket components will really benefiet you in the long run, yes it may be pricey. But nice things cost money :twisted:

    Do some research before responding.
  7. Exactly. Its these kind of people that look for the most expensive part, and think it is therefore the best. Don't be stupid, business don't work that way.

  8. Quote:

    I don't understand these kind of people. You want to buy lots of extra cooling, when, its not yet needed, and you buy less expensive, and not as good other products? Why not spend the money you spend on HDD cooling and that zalman, on nice GPU, or CPU. I mean, sure the zalman is nice, but it isn't needed. Especially with the Opty cooler, which is really good for a stock part.


    As noted in the original post, he is looking for a quiet PC. The stock fan of just about any powerful GPU is quite loud. Yes, the Zalman VF900Cu is an extra expense on top of the GPU, but it is also a lot quieter.

    The Seasonic S12 he was thinking about is a really good PSU that is efficient, quiet and reliable. The Antec P150 comes with the Antec NeoHE which is also a quiet PSU, but older versions have problems with Asus motherboards.

    From a silent perspective I would recommend the Asus A8N SLI Premium board because of the heatsink and heatpipes, in fact that was my mobo of choice before I decided to postpone my rig until Conroe and Socket AM2 comes out. However, it is a very expensive board especially considering he will not be using SLI. His default GPU of choice is the Radeon X1800XT. But since I recommended the Antec P150 I cannot recommend an Asus due to the issues with the older version of the PSU. That's why I recommended other motherboards that are not from Asus. The newer versions of the Antec NeoHE is out, but that doesn't guarantee he will get one.

    The coolers on current X2 and Opty are better than what they used to be but can be better. Thus, may recommendation of the Scythe Ninja. Is it an overkill? Depends on your point of view. It is great for building a quiet computer.

    If you are the typical PC user I guess you don't really care about how loud your PC is since you are probably used to it. But a powerful PC doesn't have to be a loud PC.

    If you can't appreciate a quiet PC then you are correct in saying:

    I don't understand these kind of people.
  9. Antec P150 - Great quiet case, includes a good PSU, suspends your hard drive(s) via rubber ties to eliminate vibration, and WORKS ABSOLUTELY FINE WITH MY...

    Asus A8N32-SLI Deluxe - Great all-round motherboard

    2x1GB OCZ Platinum DDR400 - Runs cool, with good timings and some headroom for overclocking

    Athlon X2 4200+ or Athlon 64 4000+ - For general use I'd recommend the dual core, but the harsh reality is that the San Diego 4000+ outpaces all the X2's below 4800+ in most games.

    Hitachi T7K250 250GB - Faster than Samsung/Seagate but quieter/cooler than the Raptors. A great all-round drive.

    Geforce 7900GT - Great price/performance.

    Sony DRU-810A DVD writer - comes with a white and silver bezel that (kinda) matches the P150 case

    X-Fi Platinum - I own one of these, best all-round soundcard on the market, bar none.
  10. Quote:

    I don't understand these kind of people. You want to buy lots of extra cooling, when, its not yet needed, and you buy less expensive, and not as good other products? Why not spend the money you spend on HDD cooling and that zalman, on nice GPU, or CPU. I mean, sure the zalman is nice, but it isn't needed. Especially with the Opty cooler, which is really good for a stock part.


    I forgot to mention, but since the OP is connecting the PC to his audio system he will be listening to music using his PC.

    So let me ask you this, would you prefer to:

    1. Listen to music and hear your music and PC at the same time?

    2. Listen to music and only hear your music?

    The answer will probably depend on how much of an audiophile you are.
  11. Does RAM Latency Matter?

    The above article is from that reviews the difference between CAS3 and CAS2 RAM. The RAM I recommended are CAS2.5.

    Basically the article does state that premium CAS2 RAM does offer better performance than value CAS3 RAM. But the difference is only 3%-4% under the best circumstances. The performance difference between CAS2.5 and CAS2 will be lower than that. 1%-2% maybe.

    While the other motherboards I've recommended do not as many features as the Asus A8N SLI Premium, it is also not as expensive. Forget the "coolness" of having a heatpipe cooling the chipset. Think more practical. SLI will not be used, the cooler is "cool" but a Zalman heatsink and a decent amount of airflow in the PC case will just as fine. Yes, I know you cannot brag to your friends about it. But what more important, bragging rights and having features that you will not use or a solution that right for you?

    Don't get me wrong, I highly recommend the Asus A8N SLI Premium, but I'm not going to recommend it for the wrong reasons.
  12. Yes, I am aware that he wanted a quiet computer, and I can appreciate that. But, in reality, the GPU fan may be quiter, but is it really worth the money, and the loss of warranty? Yes the zalman cpu cooler is quieter, but, you can get a much cheaper zalman, that is just as quiet. It might not be as good for OCing, but it's still quiet. I'm just saying, sometimes, people really overkill on there cooling. Like the people that want water cooling for a Opty. Unless your OCing your Opty like 800 MHz, then, really, its not worth it. I personally want a quiet PC. I'm not going to be really going for that affect, but it would be nice to have. I am no audiofile though, so w/e is your thing, do it.

  13. Thanks everyone for your help... its nice to have a resource of knowledgeable people willing to offer assistance.
  14. I too was looking for a quiet nforce 4 mobo, and found the ABIT KN8 SLI to be a cost effective fanless heatpipe alternative at just over $105 shipped.
  15. Case: The P150 would likely be a good choice to pair with a Raptor drive because of the HDD rubber mounts, because they whistle and spin like a gail-force hurricane. Seriously, I can hear the high-pitch of my two 36Gb babies clear across my apartment, but I do have an open-sided case, which means a lot less dampening of the sound. Antec is probably the only case that includes a PSU in which the PSU is worth using. ALL other "included" PSU's are absolute horsesh*t, so don't use em'.

    PSU: can't go wrong with that beast! It'll power your system, your apartment, and a small nuclear submarine, all at once.

    Mobo: Don't get the SLI flavor if you aren't using SLI. There should be a similar model without SLI that might have additional features not included with the SLI board (RAID 5, SATA2, etc.)

    RAM: XMS is worth it, but the more expensive Corsair XMS with the flashing doo-dads and LED billboard is a waste. Consider getting 2Gb of memory in the 2x 1Gb config, it should only run you about $160 and will boost game performance, as well as WinXP performance noticeably, making it the cheapest expense with the most obvious benefits.

    HDD: Mmmmmm......150Gb Raptor. Blissful, obnoxiously expensive, untouchable performance, and it spins faster than a White House Press Secretary. Is it worth it? Only if you REALLY want to be the first to load into games and want <30 second boot times into XP.

    Processor: The Opty's are nice, and well received here on THG. The X2 series is also respectable. If you plan on OC'ing, get the Opty, but if you just want to plug it in and get going, go with the X2. Get whatever one is within your price range.

    Zalman: The 9500 is really effective, but its huge, heavy and puts a lot of stress on the socket. Only get it if you plan on OC'ing the processor, otherwise, get a smaller HSF or stick with the stock cooler.

    Video Card: If you can afford a 512mb card, get it, it will help future proof your system, otherwise, the 256mb X1800 is a good choice.

    DVD: Blah..doesn't matter, don't spend more than $50.

    Sound: The new X-Fi has gotten good reviews, but the options for SPDIF and Digital Coax are still ass-backwards (I blame Creative for this!). If you want it connected this way, you will probably need to buy the more expensive version with the expansion bay and run the cable out of the front of your system :roll:
  16. I also went w/ the board that the OP was looking at (see sig) and love the fanless cooling, all the extra connections that come w/ the premium version, and appreciate the Asus reputation and build.

    Also, even w/o using sli it gives me more slots for if/when they come out w/ more pci-e cards. It is just a solid performing board, and one day when you decide to try oc'ing it will treat you right.

    I would say get the 42/4400 x2. Personally I wish I would have gotten the 4400 only b/c of the extra cache. Mine does very well, but I can always oc a proc but cannot add more cache in the event a newer app shows bigger gain w/ cahce. Look here for an example of oblivion doing just as well w/ cache or speed... trend may continue.

    Dont bother w/ the extra coolers. The x2 cooler is very quiet, and is a copper/aluminum combo that works great for cooling. Mine is oc'd 200 Mhz w/ no change in temps. (no volt increase either though)

    If you want a future proof system, I would use the $ saved on not getting the raptor and a step down in that seasonic (recommended by someone above) and step up in video card. W/ games hitting that component so hard now a x1900 or 7900gtx is worth it more than the faster HD or bigger PS. I lean towards the 1900 not just b/c I have one but b/c that architecture is where the industry is going, and better image qual and HDR+AA that the 7900 just cant do. If you prefer Nv though, the 7900 is still a great choice. Either will not dissapoint.

    W/ the 1900, on boot up there is the loud fan... it quiets right down though and you barely hear it under non-3d apps, in games it slowly climbs up in sound but still not distracting (mine is under my desk though, if it was next to my ear that may be another matter...)

    If that is an issue, then that high-end zalman is good for aftermarket coolers. (the one w/ the heat pipes, not the older one)

    I also like the sonattaII case I have. The antec power it came w/ rocks, and is more than enough for my setup. VERY quiet w/ only one 120mm fan that is near silent. rubber mounts for HD. but is glossy black and different from the p180 look that you like. Price cant be beat though with teh PS.

    Plextor is flat out the best, but cheaper ones do get close to their performance. My pioneer is great and very quiet. Lite-on is also good but usually a bit louder. (LOTS cheaper though)

    Finally, x-fi is the best in sound. Get it and it will serv your onkyo well.
  17. The Opty 170 is right in the middle of the X2 4200+ and the X2 4400+ and still gives you the 1Mb cache per core (nec??). It is 200 Mhz slower but Optys run cooler and you might be able to get away with a fanless setup using the fanless option of the Scythe Ninja 1000P. If you decide to overclock down the road, not only will you already have a very good processor to do it with, you can add the fan to the 1000P and have the heatsink to accomplish the task as well.
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