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New Computer Build - Seeking Opinions ($1200 Limit)

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June 27, 2006 9:21:51 PM

Hello,

I'm customizing and building a computer for a friend. AM2 is relatively new on the scene, and just as well, I'm relatively new to AM2. I understand that if you're interested in building a machine now, that it's the way to go. Established motherboard solutions are virtually nonexistant at this point, and I'm still a little shaky with the various RAM speeds (533, 667, 800 etc.).
In the past I've customized and built computers running on Socket A. A lot has happened over the years in the hardware market, so my experience is more or less old fashioned or at least ineffective.
I have been doing a little bit of reading on my own and have come up with a PC build configuration.
My friend's budget cannot pass the $1,200 limit. Thus, I've had to pass over "better" solutions and settle for the "good" ones in various cases.
Here it is:

Motherboard
ASUS M2N-E Socket AM2 NVIDIA nForce 570 Ultra MCP ATX
Newegg Link
($96.99)

Processor
AMD Athlon 64 3800+ Orleans 2000MHz HT 512KB L2 Cache Socket AM2
Newegg Link
($141.99)

Memory
OCZ Gold 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM Unbuffered DDR2 800 (PC2 6400)
Newegg Link
($206.49)

Hard Drive
Seagate Barracuda 7200.9 SATA NCQ 3Gb/s ST3160812AS 160GB 7200 RPM 8MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s
Newegg Link
($69.99)

Video Card
Open Box: ATI 100-435705 Radeon X1800XT 512MB 256-bit GDDR3 VIVO PCI Express x16
Newegg Link
($289.99)

Power Supply
Antec TruePower 2.0 TRUECONTROL II-550 ATX12V 550W
Newegg Link
($89.99)

Optical Drives
[ 1 ] - Newegg Link ($19.99)
[ 2 ] - Newegg Link ($34.99)

Tower / Case
Antec PlusView II tower - ATX ( PLUSVIEW II )
Amazon Link
($94.81)

Additional
Headphones / Ear buds ($11.99)
Keyboard ($12.99)
Mouse - Optical Trackball ($83.00)
DVI-2-VGA Adapter ($3.75)

TOTAL COST = $1,156.24


Other Comments:
I had to choose the single-core CPU due to cost efficiency. Together we discussed this, and he is left with the option of upgrading the CPU in the future if he so desires. The price for an AMD 64 X2 CPU @ 2.4GHz is $585 right now ... a bit too high. Prices, I hear, will fall in July, but prices will always be falling. And if we spent our lives waiting for prices to fall, we'd always be buying last year's left-overs.
The video card is an "iffy" and I threw it in there because he obviously has the financial wiggle room to accomodate it. My other option was the XFX GeForce 7900 GT EXTREME (520MHz). Though the ATI card I have picked out is only about $40 more than that one.

I tried to do my homework here and I'm hoping that everything is compatible in this configuration.
Please, any feedback or comments are welcomed. Though understand that his budget is strictly $1,200.
Thank you in advance.


ArbY

------------------------------
EDIT (1)
- Changed Video Card [ Old ]
- Changed Tower [ Old ]
- Changed Mobo [ Old ]
- Old cost = $1,151.14
- Explanation: I received advice to bump down my video card and use the extra cash to bump up the mobo and tower. I found the same video card only for much less on Newegg. It's labeled as "Open Box" but I'm trusting it works all the same.
June 27, 2006 9:57:26 PM

ya it looks good, depending on what your friend wants to play will depend on the video card, the 1800xt or the 7900GT are both good, and about the same, ATI has HDR and AA and w.e but still the same, also, might want to change up the motherboard, looks cheap, but otherwise looks great.
June 28, 2006 12:19:39 AM

Hi and thanks for your input.
I took your advice and changed the motherboard. I went over the build with my friend and he placed the order this evening.
You can review the final order in my above post (which I edited to include the updates).
He's quite pleased. :) 


ArbY
Related resources
June 28, 2006 1:23:03 AM

no problem, although it would be easier to determine what video card he would want by what games he is going to play, 7900GT for FpS and OC'ing, 1800Xt for MMOs
June 29, 2006 10:40:33 PM

Why not go with the Corsair XMS memory for cheaper?

$164!

It is a downright steal for 2GB of DDR2-800! It does require a mail-in rebate, though.

~Ibrahim~
July 9, 2006 7:31:36 AM

**UPDATE**

I paired the ASUS M2N-E motherboard up with the OCZ Gold Series memory and unfortunately the computer won't even post. The computer would inconsistently allow me to press [Del] and enter the BIOS Setup, but that only worked with 1 DIMM installed. Forget trying to get both DIMMs functioning.
I reseated the memory numerous times and even switched the sticks up. That series of OCZ memory isn't even on the Qualified Vendor's List (QVL), and for good reason as it seems.

I think I'll play it safe and either order twin Corsair sticks or purchase directly in accordance to the ASUS QVL.
July 9, 2006 2:17:13 PM

WAIT! WAIT! WAIT! DON'T RETURN THEM JUST YET!

OCZ overclocks much better, I think it just may be a voltage problem. Go to the stick that DOES boot, enter the BIOS. What is the memory voltage set at? Whatever it is, bring it to 1.9, the default voltage. Then pop the other stick in. Does it work?

~Ibrahim~
July 9, 2006 5:42:32 PM

Er...people at NewEgg are saying that OCZ Gold DDR2 RAM is NOT compatible with AM2 boards, especially M2N, so just go with the Corsair XMS RAM someone recommended.

Edit: 100th post!!!!! BAM Shazam, Alakazam!!!!! I'm a member, Whoo!! :lol: 
July 9, 2006 5:59:14 PM

Quote:
WAIT! WAIT! WAIT! DON'T RETURN THEM JUST YET!

OCZ overclocks much better, I think it just may be a voltage problem. Go to the stick that DOES boot, enter the BIOS. What is the memory voltage set at? Whatever it is, bring it to 1.9, the default voltage. Then pop the other stick in. Does it work?

~Ibrahim~


in this case- he needs to return them. OCZ RAM does not like Asus boards for AM2. Not sure why, its an across the board problem.

Get some Corsair XMS like Akifuddin and others have told you.
July 9, 2006 6:26:03 PM

I have been reading the same things on the NewEgg reviews...I'd at least try real quick before you return them; also make sure timings are at stock... I mean, it won't hurt.

If it doesn't work out, the Corsair Memory I mentioned earlier is even lower! Only $158 after rebate! 2GB of DDR2-800 is amazing at that price!

~Ibrahim~
July 9, 2006 7:18:20 PM

That is a great price albeit for the higher latency and timings. I have CAS 4 at 4-4-4-12 on my wish list. Is it worth the $100 difference?
July 9, 2006 9:50:19 PM

$100 for three clocks? I have to say no...It depends which manufacturer your 4-4-4-12 comes from, a little; but $100 is too much for three clocks.

~Ibrahim~
July 10, 2006 3:01:35 AM

Quote:
WAIT! WAIT! WAIT! DON'T RETURN THEM JUST YET!

OCZ overclocks much better, I think it just may be a voltage problem. Go to the stick that DOES boot, enter the BIOS. What is the memory voltage set at? Whatever it is, bring it to 1.9, the default voltage. Then pop the other stick in. Does it work?

~Ibrahim~


Before I made that post, I did set the voltage to 1.9v in the BIOS along with the timings to stock, 5-5-5-12. The problems persisted.
The last idea I can try is flashing the BIOS to the latest release. If you'll read this post here, you'll see why that may be helpful. My problem now is getting a floppy drive hooked up. I have tried two "old" floppy drives that have been around my house but neither have worked.

Correct me if i'm wrong here, but I believe the procedure to properly flashing the BIOS is as follows:
[*:36cd7e6fff]Create an MS-DOS start-up disk
[*:36cd7e6fff]Copy the updated BIOS file and flash utility to that same floppy
[*:36cd7e6fff]Boot the machine and follow the flash-procedure detailed in the manual
That should do it, right? Remember, the hard-drive doesn't have anything loaded on it yet, so there's no DOS or anything else like that. Windows set-up crashed repeatedly when it was running.
But for now, time to call it a night.
July 10, 2006 3:56:57 AM

I removed the BIOS battery from the motherboard, switched the jumper from pins [1 & 2] to [2 & 3], then back to [1 & 2], plugged the battery back in.
This cleared the CMOS.

I went into the BIOS and manually set the memory to be run at 533MHz with timings of 5-5-5-15 (which it set automatically).
Prior to this, I had the memory set to run at 800 and then at 667MHz. Windows Setup would crash or give me unusual errors then terminate the process. As of now, with the RAM running at 533MHz, I have progressed far enough where my hard-drive is in the middle of being formatted -- which is definitely positive progress. I still have only 1 DIMM installed. Putting two in gave me a blank screen with a beeping noise coming out of my PC speaker.
It'll be good if I can get Windows running with the RAM downclocked, but I'll definitely have the RAM exchanged for Corsair whether or not anything ends up working.

But wait, there's more!
If I can flash the BIOS to the latest release and then run the OCZ memory at default speed and timings, then I'll keep it (obviously). The format is almost done here (81%), so I'll see where this takes me.
July 10, 2006 7:38:51 AM

Thanks for posting your process arby, im building an am2 system in about 3 weeks and this has all been very helpful! i know now that i definitely need corsair ddr2-800 for less headaches!! if there are any other helpful hints you have come across with the am2 platform and would share that would be nice! thanks!
July 10, 2006 4:19:28 PM

Yes, we, the DIY market, are the guinea pigs for new technologies. This is what a forum is for.

Ah, ok. I would try to flash the BIOS, but if that doesn't work: Corsair it is! DDR2-800 running at 533 is unacceptable! If you wanted 533Mhz speed, you would've bought 533Mhz, at a lower price, I might add.

I've never had the occasion to have to flash a BIOS, so I wouldn't know. Don't they have like a ReadMe for those? Or some type of utility?

~Ibrahim~
July 10, 2006 6:19:46 PM

Ok I was able to flash the BIOS to the latest release using the EZ Flash Utility built into the BIOS. The version I flashed to was "0203" that I got off the ASUS website.
I copied the "awdflash.exe" file (that is located on the M2N-E drivers CD, under the folder "Software") to a USB flash drive, as well as the updated BIOS file, "m2ne203.bin". I made a bootable disk (CD-ROM) and tried that out. Unfortunately, the computer wouldn't even run the MS-DOS start-up disk that I created, so I couldn't flash the BIOS manually.
My plan was to have the computer load the DOS that was burned onto the CD, then browse to the USB flash drive where I would execute the "awdflash.exe" file.

Instead, I rebooted the computer and held <ALT> + <F2> which brought me to the EZ Flash Utility immediately. On the left side there were corresponding drive letters. I found the letter that was assigned to my USB flash drive and the BIOS file appeared in a separate box on the left. I highlighted that file, hit [Enter] and the process was underway and completed successfully.

Even with the updated BIOS, I still could not load Windows XP, even with my RAM speed at 533MHz. Right after the reformat, the set-up would get hung up Installing Windows with 39 Minutes remaining. Within a few minutes, an error window would appear saying "Data cyclic redundancy error" or something to that effect.
I tried a different Windows CD and got a BSOD during setup.

Finally, I had considerable evidence to justify running Memtest86. I ran Memtest overnight with both DIMMs installed. When I checked it this morning, there were a lot of errors reported. I'm now running Memtest with each stick individually to see if one or both are bad.
Maybe the OCZ Gold Series will work in an ASUS AM2 board, but I don't think I'll be investing any more time or effort into that endeavor. I'll be getting the Corsair eventually, and I sure hope that works.
July 11, 2006 4:05:15 PM

Ah, I'm sorry. I was so sure that the BIOS update would've done it! Guess I was wrong. I googled the error you got:
Quote:
There are plenty of technical resources on the Web that discuss cyclic redundancy checks (CRCs). Most times you won't need to worry about this technobabble. That is, until one it day it suddenly appears and you think - what the hell does that mean? In simple terms, a CRC is bit of mathematics used to ensure that your data is OK when being transfered. It's a checking procedure that quickly identifies when data has been damaged. If you get this message, it means that the file being read by your PC or software is corrupted. However, it does not mean all the data is lost forever. When data is transfered, it is usually in small blocks and each block is given a CRC value. If something goes wrong with the data between the time it leaves the source and arrives at its destination, the CRC sent at the source will no longer match the one that is calculated when the data arrives - this is when the cyclic redundancy check error will appear.
The most common times you will see the cyclic redundancy check error message is when trying to read data from a damaged CD or DVD. Just before it appears, your CD/DVD drive will probably grind and whirl away - your PC may also become a little slugglish.


A BSOD, error, after you changed the CD's? Did you catch what the error was?

The sticks are either bad or they don't work with this board. I am leaning towards the latter....Good luck with Memtest!

~Ibrahim~
July 11, 2006 7:03:57 PM

Memtest86 was run with both sticks and many errors were returned with each.
I arranged to have my money refunded and now have on order Corsair XMS2 (2 x 1GB) sticks, where I'll only be paying $158.00 due to a well-timed $40 Mail-In Rebate.

Perhaps the OCZ Gold sticks will work in the ASUS board. In fact, I'm fairly certain that they would have were there not any internal malfunctions with the memory modules themselves.
I got pretty far with Windows set-up but was sent packing with errors which only seemed to indicate faulty RAM. The fact that the machine POSTed with the OCZ memory and even allowed me to get into the Windows setup points to optimism.

As stated in the first post, this isn't my machine (I've been writing as though it is for convenience-sake), so I'm dropping the OCZ/M2N-E experiment and getting my friend the Corsair to be safe.
July 11, 2006 7:57:59 PM

$158 is a great price but I suspect that it isn't Cas 4 RAM. You should be okay with it as the ASUS boards seem to be setting up fine with Corsair, at least as far as I can tell from forums. Haven't tried it myself yet. When I do it will be with an MSI board as it is the same price as the Asus 570 chipset board but has firewire and Asus doesn't.
July 11, 2006 9:06:35 PM

Correct, the RAM timings are 5-5-5-12. You can view the Newegg page here.

Yeah, unfortunately I overlooked the firewire option when picking out the motherboard. I wonder why it lacks the IEEE 1394 plug? Is firewire a dying technology, is it being overridden by USB?
July 11, 2006 9:17:44 PM

Don't really know the answer to that. I have never needed firewire before but will begin editing movies and firewire is the best option for that. You can always add in a PCI firewire card.
July 11, 2006 10:08:55 PM

Well, there is Firewire 400 and Firewire 800. Most motherboards offer the 400 variety, which has a maximum allowed bandwidth of 400Mbps. USB 2.0, however, has a maximum allowed bandwidth of 480Mbps. Few devices use the full bandwidth, of course, but...

USB is more common, also, because more companies have adopt it. You have to remember FireWire was an originally a Mac technology. It is mainly used on PC's for external hard drives.

Sorry about the RAM. Corsair is good, just make sure you file the rebate. I always forget...

~Ibrahim~
July 17, 2006 2:08:26 PM

Update on Memory:

The Corsair RAM arrived last week, on time. I installed it and went to set-up Windows XP. After the format, Windows Setup tried to continue, but I was given an error before any further progress was made. Needless to say, I was discouraged.
I took the Windows XP CD out, and used another CD I had at my house -- XP installed flawlessly. I examined the original XP disc and noticed there was a circlular scuff mark going around the disc surface, which would explain why files couldn't be copied/installed. So, Newegg sent me a bad disc.

After XP installed, I put a few more programs on the computer and, before going to bed, I ran Memtest86. In the morning, I checked the test and there were no errors. Awesome.

The Corsair memory works great in the M2N-E motherboard (BIOS rev 0203). I manually set the memory to be run at DDR2-800 in the BIOS, with timings of 5-5-5-12.

Final build:

ASUS M2N-E Socket AM2 nForce 570 Ultra Motherboard, BIOS revision "0203"
AMD Athlon 64 3800+ Orleans, 2.4GHz
Corsair XMS2 2GB (2 x 1GB) DDR2-800 PC6400, 5-5-5-12
ATI Radeon X1800XTX 512MB
Seagate Barracuda 7200.9 RPM 3.0GB/s SATA 8MB cache, 160GB
On-board SoundMAX
SONY CD/DVD-ROM & Toshiba CD/DVD-RW
Antec TruePower 2.0, 550W
Antec PlusView II Tower
July 17, 2006 3:53:07 PM

Excellent! I'm glad it is working! It must feel good that it is finally working! That system is kicking major a$$ for only $1200. Have fun with it!

~Ibrahim~
July 17, 2006 4:23:58 PM

Quote:
Excellent! I'm glad it is working! It must feel good that it is finally working! That system is kicking major a$$ for only $1200. Have fun with it!

~Ibrahim~


It feels wonderful that it is working!
I just re-checked prices for the hardware, and if you were to buy that identical system with all the same components minus any "additionals", you'd only spend $1,043 not including shipping.

For the heck of it, I installed Doom 3 and Counter-Strike: Source to see how they'd run with maximum settings. Put it this way, on his system with 1280x1024, 8X AA, 16X AF and all other graphical settings configured to their highest, CS:S runs twice as fast than on my system (see sig) with medium/low settings, 1280 x 960, 2X AA, Trilinear Filtering, and other performance tweaks. I was astonished.
Doom 3 runs with similar settings: Ultra High Quality, 1280x1024, 4X AA (i think) and it is able to maintain a constant 60 FPS.

If I wasn't so set on purchasing a Kawasaki Ninja, and being hit with college payments ... I'd throw down $1500 on a similar build, easily. Gah!
July 17, 2006 4:48:42 PM

Very nice build. I chose Corsair XMS because I prefer it to OCZ, and every review says that OCZ and Asus don't play nice.
July 17, 2006 5:42:12 PM

Seriously? Only a few dollars over a thousand? Amazing! Wow, the X1800XT must be a big jump from a Go 6800! Have fun with it!

~Ibrahim~
!