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Need help to trim fat on my first build in awhile

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February 20, 2007 6:14:02 PM

I've done a lot of research to try and find the best gear for a price I could afford. I replaced a number of components with ones that are supposed to be quieter or run cooler.

At this point I'm trying to pin down exactly what mobo will get the job done and give me the option of adding a second gpu later without causing problems with any HSF or breaking my budget. Any suggestions on how to achieve the same results as this equipment at a lower price point would be appreciated too.

These prices are just the ones I nabbed from newegg when coming up with my list. At the time of purchasing, I plan on rummaging newegg, zipzoomfly, and tigerdirect to find the best overall prices (or maybe placing two orders.)

CPU
Core 2 Duo E6600 - ~ $315.00
Cheapest C2D with 4mb cache. Fairly fast without extensive OC.
Mobo
Asus p5n32-e 680i SLI board - $249.99
Seemed a good mix of heat dissipation, performance, and price. Chose 680i for future SLI upgrade.
EVGA board users report a number of problems with after market HSFs.
Video
EVGA 768-P2-N831 - 8800GTX - $539.99
Gets the job done now, can later be upgraded by popping in a second when they're cheaper.
RAM
Patriot eXtreme Performance 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) - $189.99
Decent 800 ram that didn't seem to have any complaints or chipset conflicts.
Audio
Creative Sound Blaster SB0610VP, OEM - $49.99
Creative inspire P7800 7.1 surround speakers - $70.00
Both seemed at the price point I wanted while still offering high quality 7.1 surround.
Hard Drive
Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD5000KS - $149.99
Rated as the quietest full size HD by silentpcreview. Fairly fast, cheap, large.
Monitor
Acer Office Line AL2223Wd Black-Silver 22" 5ms DVI Widescreen LCD Monitor - $289.99
Best deal I could find at the time on a 22" widescreen. Open to changing.
Optical Drive
LG GSAH22N-BK - $29.99
Cheap and supposedly quiet DVD burner.
Case
Antec P180 - $129.99
Quiet and cool. Will fit 2 GTX's if one HD bay is slid out, which is no problem.
Mouse
Razer Diamondback mouse - $44.00
Heard it was a good gaming mouse. Is it worth the cost?
Power Supply
Silencer 750 quad PSU - ~$239.99
SLI certified for 2 gtx's, high power efficiency, runs quiet.
Extra cooling stuff
Tuniq Tower 120 $64.99
Arctic Silver 5 - $6
Extremely well reviewed. Runs quiet at low to mid fan speeds.

$2369.90

Planned OS - WinXP Pro

Am I missing anything? I plan to use the onboard LAN and have a keyboard to use. I don't feel compelled to have a floppy drive, card reader, or anything of that sort.

Lastly, any suggestions on jumper settings/bios updates/driver installations? It's been a long time since I've put a machine together, and in my head it seems like it was a lot more complicated than most of the "build your own machine" guides I've read.

More about : trim fat build awhile

February 20, 2007 8:43:41 PM

Case:

I do not have any personal experience with it, but a lot of posters cite the Antec Nine Hundred as having great air flow and cooling. Right now there is a great sale on it at Fry's ... $59.99 after a $40 rebate:

http://shop4.outpost.com/product/4991611

pretty cheap when you consider Newegg is selling it for $149.99 plus $15.99 s&h:

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

That would trim $70 off your system right there. Not that I have anything against the Antec P180 (I am using a P180B). I do not know about the Nine Hundred's room for the two GTX's, but it might be worth checking out.

Hard Drive:

If you have not already seen it you may want to check out a recent article at Anandtech on a new Western Digital drive that had very good performance and very low noise rating:

http://www.anandtech.com/storage/showdoc.aspx?i=2920&p=...

A WD3200KS was one of the drives in the comparison, so it should give you some useful information. While the new WD drive may have scored a few decibels lower than my Seagate 320 gig 7200.10 hard drives, I have a hard time hearing those when I have the case open and definitely do not hear them when closed, so any of those drives in that end of the list would meet your requirement for quietness.

Sound:

I am not sure how old your previous motherboard is or how much of an audiophile you are, but on-board sound has come an extremely long way ... as demonstrated by the fact that the mobo you propose to buy supports up to 8 channels. Totally up to you, but I would consider trying out the onboard sound with the speakers you picked out first ... if you decide the sound is not up to your standards all you have lost out on are a few days to have the sound card shipped to you.
February 20, 2007 9:24:48 PM

I have two suggestions. First, unless you are going for a HUGE overclock you don't really need 800 RAM, you might be able to save a little cash by going with 667. Second, the extra 2MB of cache IMHO isn't worth the price premium, if I was going C2D (which I might soon) I would get a 6300 or 6400.
Related resources
February 21, 2007 1:00:40 PM

:trophy: Finally, someone who values the PSU as much as any other parts of a PC! PCP&C is the best, IMO. You won't be disappointed.

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

Agreed with all of the above comments. Abit Soundstorm was the turning point of good onboard audio. It was on their nForce2 mobos. These days you can find almost any onboard sound to do 7.1 & dolby digital.

The argument that onboard sound loads the cpu is old. If anything, onboard network loads the cpu as much if not more so than onboard sound. So unless you're getting high end addon sound card, don't bother.

Yep, ram choices largely depend on the target overclocks. Take mine for example, 800mhz ram is running at 800mhz FSB & 800mhz RAM speed at 1:1 ratio (the best). If the target is 333mhz FSB or 333 x 9 = 2997 or 3Ghz in your case, you'd want 667/675Mhz ram. My cpu is at 400 x 7 = 2.8Ghz vs 1.8Ghz stock. If you don't overclock, it matters not what ram to get as long as they're compatible.

BTW, all those mhz/ghz on Intel platform is quad pumped. That means 800mhz fsb is actually running at 200mhz. It's marketing speak to make people think it's faster than AMD.
February 21, 2007 2:33:30 PM

Thanks for the great responses so far guys.

I hadn't thought about the onboard sound option - I definitely think I'll give that a try. I'm still milking a creative SB live! from 2000 and the days when onboard sound was synonymous for crap. I just assumed that a new gaming pc would need a nice card for a good audio experience. You make a great point that it's very easy to fix if I decide I want one after all.

I also appreciate the link to the HD reviews. I'd still like a little more space than their 160gb reviewed drive, but I like what I read about the AA series, so I changed my planned HD to the WD5000AAKS for 139.99. Seem like a good idea?

As for the RAM issue, I picked 800mhz because the motherboard said the memory standard is DDR2 800. What does that mean, exactly? On a similar note, another reason I went for the 6600 chip is because I'd rather do only a moderate amount of OC'ing and run at a cooler temp than try to crank up a 6300 to its limit. I know that I may not need the fastest RAM to do this, but I also was under the impression that with faster RAM running at slower speed, I could hit better CAS latency. Bearing that in mind, is there any benefit to getting the 800mhz RAM?

Lastly, I've debated long and hard on what mobo to use. Do you guys think this one is a solid choice? I confess I'm still a little nervous about the 680i, but it seems to be the fastest choice and the best option if I want to leave SLI open for the future.

Thanks again for your help guys!
February 21, 2007 2:47:00 PM

I'd suggest you actually run with the Asus P5N32-E SLI Plus motherboard; it is a hybrid motherboard; Northbridge is nForce 6 series, Southbridge is nForce 590. It has onboard sound on a riser card (fits into the first PCI-e x1 slot, reversed so its exclusive for the riser card).

It comes with all the goodies, the first and third PCI-e x16 slots actually run at x16, the second PCI-e x16 slot (for physics offloading) runs at x8...

It's $210 at NewEgg and reports high stability and is compatible with Micros#$t Windoze Vista.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...
February 21, 2007 4:12:24 PM

Hmm, interesting board. Listed as a 650i chipset by newegg, but seems to have a number of market differences from the rest of the 650i boards. I will definitely take it into consideration - thank you!
February 21, 2007 5:35:33 PM

The WD hdd seems fine.

You can buy 800mhz ram for stock speed. They will most likely run at 800mhz if the bios recognizes it. If not, the bios has to be set to ram's specs to take full advantage of it.

What I was trying to say is that if you overclock the cpu, the ram MAY not run at full specs. i.e. default is 266mhz fsb x 9 = 2394 or 2.4Ghz. You overclock the cpu by upping the FSB mhz. Say 333 x 9 = 2997 or 3Ghz. That's a 600MHz overclock. The cpu is running faster than stock, however, the ram will most likely run at 666mhz, regardless of its specs. So you get 800mhz ram to run at 666mhz, see where the waste is?

You need to set your target overclock in order to get the right ram for overclocking. Also, take a look at the listed cpu coolers. Any of them is better than Intel stock hsf which won't get you too far. Cpu & chipset temps will be your limiting factor.

http://forumz.tomshardware.com/hardware/Core2Duo-Overcl...

Quote:
Please also use RAM that’s rated:
-DDR2-667 4-4-4-xx (good for ~400Mhz*)
-DDR2-800 5-5-5-xx (good for ~410Mhz*)
-DDR2-800 4-4-4-xx (good for 500Mhz+*) ->Best for E6300/E6400
-DDR2-1066 5-5-5-xx (good for 530Mhz+*)
-Or any other RAM of the above mentioned speed that has even lower timings
*refer to Part2 for maximum Mhz extraction under 1:1 operation

If this sounds confusing, forget what I said. Just get what you want.
February 22, 2007 2:39:59 AM

Quote:

I hadn't thought about the onboard sound option - I definitely think I'll give that a try. I'm still milking a creative SB live! from 2000 and the days when onboard sound was synonymous for crap. I just assumed that a new gaming pc would need a nice card for a good audio experience. You make a great point that it's very easy to fix if I decide I want one after all.


Any decent motherboard is probably going to have better sound than that card.

Quote:
As for the RAM issue, I picked 800mhz because the motherboard said the memory standard is DDR2 800. What does that mean, exactly?


Pretty sure what they were saying is that that is the top standard that it supports.

Quote:
I know that I may not need the fastest RAM to do this, but I also was under the impression that with faster RAM running at slower speed, I could hit better CAS latency. Bearing that in mind, is there any benefit to getting the 800mhz RAM?


You can get a lower CAS out of the higher speed RAM, but you can buy lower CAS RAM for cheaper at the lower speed. So let's say your 800 can hit CAS 3 at 667, CAS 3 667 is probably cheaper than the 800 anyway, and CAS under 3 proabbly isn't going to have much benefit. The only reason to get 800 is if you are running AMD X2, or going for a MASSIVE overclock.
February 22, 2007 4:25:22 PM

Thanks again for all the responses guys. I've made my final choices, and with a couple of tweaks suggested in this thread I really feel like I'm getting the best performance for my dollar, along with a system that will be quiet and cool. =) Much appreciated. The main adjustments of note were swapping the mobo for the Asus p5n32-e plus and changing to the WD5000AAKS hard drive. I actually decided to upgrade the audio card slightly to an x-fi, since I'm still within my budget and the one I was planning on getting seems to no longer be on sale. :p 

I left the 800mhz RAM in for two reasons - 1. I may not be OC'ing a ton out of the gate, but I might want to later in the future and 2. right now I have an e6600, but maybe later when quad core (or higher) processors are cheaper I may upgrade to one of those and I'd rather be prepared with faster ram in case the numbers work out that that is what I want. I definitely appreciate all the information on the function of RAM speed and OC'ing though.

Anyway, just wanted to let you guys know that I made the purchase. Thanks again!
March 6, 2007 1:56:00 PM

Hi everyone,
I just thought I'd give a little feedback after the fact so others looking at my parts can benefit from my experiences.

First of all, I'd like to say that now that I have everything working, it is beautiful. I got the 7.1 speakers setup and am loving them, my graphics are top notch, the CPU never gets over 33C even under intense load, and all in all the case is relatively quiet, and the noises it does make are mostly just a pleasant sound of wooshing air. The 8800gtx seems to idle in the mid 60's, and will occasionally get up to the 70's under load, but usually after I'm done gaming the temp is only around 67C. On my un-overclocked, barely broken in state, I managed 10k in 3dmark06, which seems respectable, if maybe not the best around.

Now, that said, there were a number of trials and tribulations.

First of all, my biggest problem seemed to arise from the motherboard and RAM combination. I was originally unable to enter the bios at all, encountering basically a freeze at the splash screen. Unfortunately I didn't realize that's what was happening though, and I thought that it just wasn't detecting my keyboards, since it was stuck at the "press delete to enter setup, tab to view post message" or whatever. I tried taking out one stick of RAM, which didn't help, tried resetting the CMOS a couple times, did some other basic troubleshooting and didn't have any luck. Eventually I got to a point where it wasn't even sending a signal to the monitor. I contacted ASUS who decided they needed to send me a new bios.

After a few days I got my new chip, replaced it on the mobo with much anxiety (motherboards kind of intimidate me), and lo and behold... nothing changed. Still freezing at bios splash screen. Still getting a checksum error where it would then try to find AWDflash and flash my bios, and then lock up in the middle. I contacted ASUS AGAIN and they uselessly came to the conclusion that the bios they sent me must ALSO be corrupted (after waiting 50 minutes to even talk to tech support.) He also suggested I may have to RMA the board. After all the trouble I went to getting this together (see below), I was rather terrified at that prospect, so I decided to mess with the RAM some more.

Shockingly (or perhaps not so, I'm now coming to realize), just because one stick in different slots didn't change anything, trying the OTHER stick miraculously enabled me to get into the bios, but then shut down after a few minutes. I was able to boot up some HD formatting utilities on a RAM drive, which then blacked out, and tried a windows install which locked up. At this point I was starting to have that relieving revelation that maybe the RAM was the real culprit after all and ASUS were leading me astray.

I booted up again and changed the RAM voltage from "auto" to 2.1 V, linked and synched the RAM with the mobo speed, and forced the RAM timing to 4-4-4-12. Restarted and everything proceeded flawlessly! After getting windows installed, I popped the other stick in for dual channel and still no problems. What a relief!! I'm not quite sure which of those 3 steps actually fixed the problem, but I'm still a little to fed up with fiddling for a week to try and undo them 1 at a time to try and break the system again. When I start treading into OC territory to push my CPU forward a bit I may cautiously try adjusting the timings and voltage, but we'll see.

So, the next problem I ran into was mostly derived from the case position and space available. The case is fairly big, but the inside of it is remarkably full of stuff. There are tons of drive bays that I will not use, but there is barely any space around my P5n32-e sli plus motherboard. The good news is that it fit perfectly on the preplaced posts that the p180 had set up, so that saved me some trouble.

The Silencer 750 quad PSU was a REALLY tight fit to get into the cordoned off chamber in the bottom of the case, and the power cords just kind of all spill out into the body of the case without any easy way for me to control their placement. Removing the middle HD bays (oh darn I can only mount 4 HDs now) makes plenty of length for my 8800gtx, but the lower PCI-e slot is greatly infringed upon by this mass of PSU cables dumping out towards it. If I ever try to go SLI, that's going to be something I'll have to address.

The CPU placement is amazing for heat dissipation, but it also puts my tuniq tower 120 about 1.5" from the top of the case, which is incidentally where the 4/8 pin connector is. With the GTX and the tuniq tower in the way, and the 8 pin power all the way at the top and the PSU all the way at the bottom, it took an incredible feat of dexterity to thread the thinner 4 pin power connector under the gtx, around the tuniq 120, and then plug it into the slot with only that inch and a half to maneuver. The 8 pin power would not reach nor fit. I probably should get an extender some time (though the 4 pin seems to be doing the job).

No problems with the RAM and the video card on this board. On my last board, larger video cards made it difficult to remove RAM without removing the card first, but there's a few cm of clearance below the RAM, so that's nice.

I disregarded the included sound and mounting block for the onboard card, and I was able to use that expansion slot for the tuniq tower 120 controller knob. I had stupid user errors with this thing. The knob WILL NOT fit through the little expansion slot, but boy did I try to push it. Now it's all scratched up. Finally with an excessive amount of force I was able to break the glue and remove the knob from the card, so I can fit it through the slot, and then I just stuck the knob back on. Kind of poor design if you ask me. A knob that was just a couple mm smaller in diameter would have been much better!

I had a few issues formatting my HD because my xp Pro CD is a little old and insisted that the drive was 134gigs or something, even if I used other utilities to NTFS the drive before windows installation. Oh well, I got it straightened out after the windows install. I did really like the silicon grommets that the p180 uses for the HD mounting. Great noise dampening yet still keeps the drives cool.

No real problems getting the audio set up, except I realized that my "eschew the included CDs and just download the most current drivers from the web" technique doesn't work when the creative website refuses to give you most of the useful tools. I ended up installing their drivers, then realizing that didn't include any of the utilities, installing the CD, which insisted on installing the older drivers, and then reinstalling the newer drivers from the website. Doh. I also had another stupid user error in that, after all my work running the 7.1 speakers around my room and trying to connect everything, I was only getting sound from the front 3 and the center and rear left speakers, which though they were actually the rear right speaker. I realized that this was because... I didn't plug the plugs in all the way. Problem solved.

Lastly, I'm moderately irritated that the monitor is not adjustable height, and it's viewable range is fairly narrow, but it is quite vibrant and arrived with no dead pixels. I guess you get what you pay for, but it was still a great deal.

In conclusion, I'm thrilled with the performance of my new machine, but boy was it a lot more trouble than I wanted! I wish the case were a little more roomy, but the temps and noise may be a fair trade off - still to be determined. I'm glad I went in for the razor diamondback - it's nice to be able to move quickly and precisely with all that desktop real estate! After all my trouble to make sure that my machine might be one day upgradeable to SLI, I'm not sure if SLI will fit with the power cables where they are, but it may still be possible. I learned a few lessons about RAM and mobo compatibility, and I also learned that ASUS tech support was really a pain in the butt. I highly recommend their livechat over the phone, if possible (not because it's more useful, just because their "on hold" advertising is redundant and nearly drove me insane.)

Thanks again for all the feedback guys. Hopefully my experience will prove useful to someone out there!
!