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Building My Computer: Some Basic Questions

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August 11, 2006 5:19:50 PM

I wasn't really sure if there was a sub forum to introduce yourself, but alas this is my very first post. The last time I built a computer, it was over 13 years ago. I think it was a 486DX2 66 with a *gasp* 120 Mb harddrive. With the appearance of Vista on the horizon, I've decided to build a new computer. I'm looking at a cost of sub 3000 dollars.

I see that Tom's Hardware has excellent Beginner's Guides to almost every component or the forums have good FAQS to address some other concerns. However, there are a few spots that I still need some help on.

Hard Drive
- I didn't find a Beginner's Guide on the main page nor a recently updated FAQ on the forums (it was posted in 2002). In particular I'm unfamiliar with a lot of the terminology. A basic question would be which is better: Ultra ATA or Serial ATA? I'd like answers to stuff like that.

Otherwise, this is the basic outline for my computer so far.

Chipset: Core 2 Duo Extreme
Graphics: ATI card, preferably something from the XTX line
Memory: still researching terminology
Soundcard: something with 5.1, but I'm looking at headphones that supposedly simulate this.
Cooling: I am not going to overclock. However, I want my computer to run quiet, and I see that water cooling is the way to go.
PSU: Still researching.
Case: Still researching.

So a quick question is: is there an updated Hard Drive Primer somewhere on this forum, or is Tom getting ready to write a Beginner's Guide?
August 11, 2006 6:27:07 PM

Go SATA because the cables are smaller and IDE is being phased off of motherboards.

SATA is a faster interface but the drives are the limiting factor. The drives are not fast enough to saturate the 133 IDE interface but they have more built in cache now so they are faster. A 200gb hdd with a 16mb cache will transfer information at the same speed on the IDE as a SATA.
August 11, 2006 7:00:21 PM

PSU: I suggest something from the OCZ GameXStream series, or one of Corsairs new Modular PSU's. Since your not doing OC'ing and probably no X-Fire or SLI, then no need for huge wattage...

If you want to go water-cooling, Zalman's Passive Reserator 1 Plus is decent, albeit a bit expensive... otherwise you could just go with your standard fans + fan controller... You could also buy some quiet cases like the Antec Sonata or the P1x0 series...

A good mobo should support onboard sound, at least 5.1, 7.1 I think is standard now, if you want to splurge, you could get something from Creative's X-FI series...

I would suggest getting Corsair DDR2 PC6400C5 memory at least, 2 gig should be fine for quite a while. It's also decently priced...

And go with SATA, only thing to go with these days anyways, IDE is dieing out, especially with Intel's new ICH8R Southbridge...

Good luck!
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August 11, 2006 7:05:45 PM

Quote:
I just went from ATA 133 to SATA2 and man let me tell you there is a big diffrence.


Huh? Even SATA hardrives aren't fast enough to saturate ATA 133 at the moment. You're getting theoretical bandwidth on SATA that your drive can't fill :)  The differences you are seeing in speed are likely due to other factors such as cache, rotational speed, NCQ, etc.
That being said, I would still buy SATA for the other relatively small benefits it provides vs PATA.
August 11, 2006 7:09:04 PM

For the PSU, I would recommend PC Power and Cooling's Silencer line. Very quiet, extremely powerful PSUs. PCP n' P makes the best PSU's you can buy. Check this one out : Click

For video cards, try the Radeon X1900XT - the only difference between the XT and the XTX is clock speed, and it's not by much. Those cards are very overclockable, and you can reach XTX speeds by using the included driver. Or, take a look at the GeForce 7950 GX2. The GX2 is the fastest card available, but it cheats by using two cards on two PCBs on one slot. It's SLI for non-SLI motherboards.

I would avoid liquid cooling. If it's been 13 years since your last build, it will be enough work to get it running stably. You don't need the added hassle of making sure you don't pee all over your new, very expensive parts. Granted, it looks cool and would be quiet and effective, but it's not necessary. The Core 2 architecture runs so cool that it wouldn't make that much of a difference.

Since you've got a $3000 budget, go with a RAID 0 array of two Raptor hard drives. Raptors are 10,000 RPM hard drives on a SATA interface, so they run really fast. And in a RAID array, they just scream. I have a Raptor 74GB, and it's super fast at loading up anything. Go for it.

Enjoy.
August 11, 2006 7:23:52 PM

For memory, Go with DDR2 800 or so. DDR2 1000 would be OK as well. The one thing to keep in mind is that what you get in clock speed, you tend to lose in memory latency. The faster the memory speed rating (for example DDR2 800 vs DDR2 533) generally the slower the memory latency timings. They tend to offset each other quite a bit. I would say for now, DDR2 800 tends to be a good balance between clock and timings and not ridiculous on pricing either. Try to find DDR2 800 with the lowest CAS latency timings is what I would suggest. Of course, look for a reputable brand too. Corsair, OCZ, Mushkin, Kingston, Crucial, to name a few. It doesn't sound like you're going with a Nvidia motherboard, otherwise I would suggest memory with EPP, but that won't do you any good with an Intel or ATI board. It's always a good idea once you've selected your motherboard, to make sure the memory is compatible with it. Your vendor's website should list compatible memory. Go with 2 GB for now. 1GB is becoming outdated on new builds. More that 2GB becomes problematic since Windoze XP won't recognize all 4 GB. 4GB isn't really needed for 99% of what people do today and it's obviouly cost prohibitive. Maybe in about a year or so 4GB will be the thing to get with Vista.
August 11, 2006 7:27:51 PM

Quote:

I would avoid liquid cooling. If it's been 13 years since your last build, it will be enough work to get it running stably. You don't need the added hassle of making sure you don't pee all over your new, very expensive parts. Granted, it looks cool and would be quiet and effective, but it's not necessary. The Core 2 architecture runs so cool that it wouldn't make that much of a difference.


Agreed. Conroe runs pretty cool, so your CPU fan should be reasonably quiet. Get a case with two big 120mm fans that run at lower rpms and all you have to worry about for noise might be the video card. If you're really concerned, you could always get an aftermarket cooler for the video card, when you're feeling up to the task.
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