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help out a hardware n00b

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March 19, 2007 2:00:10 AM

first of all, apologies for making another "help, i don't know how to build my own thread!" in a forum which is, at first glance, drowning in them. i need some specific advice, so bear with me, please.

ok. in a little over a month, i'm going to start ordering parts for a new pc. my old one crapped out last fall (i'm fairly sure it was psu failure), and i haven't had the time, finances or inclination to build a new one since. but once the semester ends and i start earning some cash, i'm gonna come back to sweet, sweet pc gaming.

my budget is roughly $1500 USD, though i could probably go as high as $2000 USD if there was some super-compelling reason to do so. i plan on ordering most or all of my parts online as the local hardware shops in my area are largely either staffed by incompetent teenagers or don't have very good selection. i'll probably go with newegg.

i haven't picked out anything for sure yet, but here's what i've been looking at:

- antec 900 case
- nvidia 8800gts
- intel core 2 duo 6600
- western digital 250gb hd
- ocz 600w psu with modular cabling

as you can see, i don't have a mobo, memory pack, or monitor picked out (and i likely will just use on-board sound). any advice on what my best options are would be very much appreciated.

also, i have some other questions:

- will the 8800gts fit into my case? i've heard the cards are very, very large.
- is it worth it to get 4gb of ram? i think 3gb is a sweet spot for me, but to my knowledge no one makes 1.5gb sticks. also, how hard is it to achieve proper DDR functionality between 2 sticks of ram? i know there is something you are supposed to do to increase performance, but i have no idea what it is.
- do i have any chance of finding a ~22" widescreen LCD for around $250? usb ports on the front and wall-mounting capability would be a big plus too. maybe this is asking too much for under $300.
- how hard is it to add another hard drive? somewhere down the line i expect i will want more storage, but i have no idea how to wire them together. something about "master" and "slave", right?

again, if anyone could answer any of my questions, i would be very greatful.

More about : hardware n00b

March 19, 2007 3:19:02 AM

The 8800gts will be fine in that case, im pretty sure the 8800gtx would be as well.

4gb isnt worth it, 3gb isnt either. You need a 64bit os to take advantage of more then 2gb of memory, and 64bit os driver support sucks. If you get a set of ram with two identical sticks there shouldnt be any problem using them together.

Yeah, you can find 22" monitors in the $250 range, but I think it would be better to get a good quality 19" monitor instead of a mediocre 22".

Stick the drive in the case, plug it in, set the drive as a slave in the BIOs. Done.

Im assuming your not going to be oc'ing, but are going to be gaming, hence the 8800gts.

The setup looks pretty good, if you not going to be oc'ing you dont need top of the line ram, just get the cheapest set thats still made by a respectable company, like this 2gb set. If you are, more expensive, faster ram will be needed, ram prices have been going down over the past few weeks, so most Corsair Dominator sets are now very affordable.

For the mobo I would get either a Gigabyte DS3, an Asus P5B Deluxe, or an Asus P5W DH Deluxe. All are stellar (dont think ive ever typed that word before.) mobo's, great feature sets, great oc'ing ability, ext.

The OCZ psu you picked out is alright, but there are better alternatives out there. The 610w PC P&C Silencer is an awesome unit, and its only $169. More then enough power.

If your worried about storage space I would get a 320gb drive to begin with, then get another down the road and either RAID them, or use the 2nd one as a storage drive. 320gb is the sweet spot for price performance right now anyway.
March 19, 2007 3:25:29 AM

first, and this will probably be agaisnt what most people will tell you, but i'd say to drop thet whole intel cpu first. i'd much rather save money and buy an amd cpu anyway. wouldn't you? sure they don't perform as well, but the difference isn't all that revolutionary. amd cpu's are loads cheaper, anyway, and come in energy-saving models.

second, for most anything, i'd recommend 2GB of ram. 4GB is alot, and i don't think you'll ever use it unless you're some crazy media and video editing guy.
The thing with ram is, its best to buy in pairs...two sticks of 1GB will perform faster than a single stick of 2GB

as for the screen, i'd buy that in a store, so you can see what the thing performs like before you buy it. i'd say your price range is good for that type lcd.

adding another hard disk is freakishly easy, just plug two cables in and you're done. Master and slave don't apply unless you are using an IDE hard disk, which i don't recommend. SATA and SATA II disks have higher data thourouput, and thus, perform faster. the cabling for them is easier to handle, too. i'm going to assume your 250 is a sata disk, since most nowadays are. if it isn't, i suggest you get one. also, i'm thinking that buying a higher capacity disk now is worth it. 300gb is a good spot for the pc youve got. i wouldn't go lower.

now onto the hard part. will the gpu fit in your case? i have no idea. depends alot on the case, and you can't tell from pictures. this is something you're going to have to cross your fingers on, unless you find someone with your componets in your case. most of the time, however, if you move your primary hard disk down a slot or two in the front bay, the card will fit just fine.

as for RAM, here's my three major companies i support:
budget: kingston
midrange: g.skill
high performance: corsair

as for motherboard, i'd use newegg.com to find one you like, and read ALOT of the reviews for each board you pick. There are too many motherboards out there to actually recommend one specific one, at least, that's my opinion. if i knew what you'd use the pc for, i could tell you the type of componets to include on the mobo. is you're not too sure on what things are in a bios, you certainly don't want a highly-configurable performance and overclocking beast, you'll want a simpler board.

if you need help with anything, comment back. really, you've just gotta be specific about what you want, what you need, and what you can afford to make more (good) decisions about what you should buy. message me if you like.
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March 19, 2007 8:31:02 PM

some clarification of what i plan on using the system for: gaming mostly, with some school stuff (word processing, powerpoint and maybe some photo editing), as well as holding my music collection (pretty small; about 20 gb or so), and watching DVDs.

why would you reccomend amd over intel? from what i've heard, intel is straight killing AMD right now in the proc wars.

can you go into more detail with the mobo reccomendation? i basically know jack shit about mobos, and i'd rather not pay for more than i'm going to know how to use - i don't really plan on overclocking anything, so that's not important. just good basic functionality is what i need, i suppose.

how important is so-called "monitor quality"? i'd rather have a 22" screen over a 19" screen, but maybe i'm missing something. does picture quality vary widely among monitors, or is it just a question of longevitiy?
March 19, 2007 8:51:56 PM

Why we ask about motherboards, they have "extras" that some people can't live without and others would rather do without. Such as firewire, if you need it for video camera, yes you can find that. If your graphics needs are very light, there are MB with built-in graphics, Saves a lot of money, but not for even a medium crazy gamer. Not overclocking is a key item.

Monitor Quality is many things, refresh rates, pizel size, viewing angles and ease of use on the user menus. Also if you watch movies in HD or play games, there are differences.
March 19, 2007 9:36:13 PM

The 8800GTS will fit fine. The GTS is about the same length as the MOBO, so if the mobo fits, then the card will. It's just the GTX that is crazy long. (Though they do fit in the Antec Nine Hundred. :)  )

2nd on the SATA drive. Plug in the sata cable, plug in the power cable, check that your BIOS sees it. Done.

PSU is fine.

If you are serious about gaming, and go the Intel route, get a 680i mobo, ASUS or EVGA are the frontrunners right now.

If you go AMD, then get a DFI or an ASUS, get SLi just to future proof your system. (Even if you don't get another 8800GTS, you can still throw another card in there for the future use of the 2nd PCI-E slot for physics.)

That's my $0.02.

For the monitor, just make sure you get one that whose native resolution is the same you will be playing most of your games at. With a 8800GTS, most older games you can run @ 16X12 no problem, but newer titles, you may need to run @ 12X10. Also make sure you refresh rate is <10ms, otherwise you getting "ghosting" effects.
March 19, 2007 10:51:43 PM

arg

i can't pick a mobo.

after settling on http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820145098]this ram and this cpu, i can't seem to find a mobo that does everything i want at the price i'm willing to pay (about 150USD) - obviously, i need support for my ram and cpu, and i'd like to have another PCIe slot and SLi support in case i ever decide to drop a second 8800gts in there.

also, what does 680i mean?

edit: in the future, it's quite likely i'll want to hook up an xbox 360 to my monitor and use that in place of a tv. how does this complicate my monitor choice? what connectors etc. will i need? do i need to buy a certain type of monitor to get HD support, or do they all have it?
March 19, 2007 11:16:18 PM

680i is the chipset. 965, 975, 650, 680i are all chipsets for Socket 775 mobos for C2D CPUs.

Ok, you want an option for SLI but don't wanna pay a fortune. Not a problem. I got your mobo, it's a very easy choice:

MSI P6N SLI:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

The 650i chipset is the "little brother" of the 680i. This board is getting great reviews, overclocks well, has good features, quite stable, SLI, heatpipes, good board layout. Definitely what you're looking for, and definitely in your price range. Don't bother killing yourself over a mobo anymore, P6N is your new friend ;) 

-Go for SATA drives, hands down.

-22" Samsung if you can swing the cash. They are wet dreams on a screen. Top notch, and not much more money than the garbage 22" LCDs. A monitor can last you 2 systems, so spend the extra $50 and get a GOOD one. I've tried lots, Samsung 22" are awesome for gaming, Photoshop, whatever.

-Go with Intel C2D, no question. You got the money. They overclock like monsters and will SPANK the AMD chips. I know, I've owned both. An overclocked C2D 6300 will chew through almost anything right now.

-Don't bother with 4 gigs of RAM, not needed. Trust me. Unless you're doing serious workstation stuff like 3D modelling and rendering, 4 gigs is a waste of cash right now. Truly.

-PSU, get a Seasonic 650w Energy Plus. Killer. Absolutely silent, efficient, runs like a dream. Will power 2 GTS's in SLI. And ironically, it's not much more money at all than most other PSU's. HIGHLY recommend the Seasonic, best PSU I've ever had.

-RAM, whatever is a good price and fits your budget. If you want decent overclocks then most 800 RAM will do just fine....G.Skill, SuperTalent, OCZ will all do the trick and won't break the bank.

-8800GTS 320 should do fine. 640 not really necessary, unless you have money left over.

Those suggestions should hit your budget and give you a killer system. P6N mobo, 2 gigs RAM, GTS 320, 22" Samsung, Seasonic PSU....yeah, that's a heckuva rig :) 
March 20, 2007 2:35:46 AM

ok, after a bit more searching i've found a 19" widescreen samsung LCD i can afford (22" is a little outside my budget). here it is.

outside of that, it looks like i've more or less got everything picked out. only thing left is keyboard/mouse combo and optical drive, which i believe are pretty easy to pick. can't decide if i want 2 or 1 optical drives, though.

anyways, my final system is looking something like this:
antec 900 case
nvidia 8800gts video card
intel core 2 duo 6600 @ 2.4ghz
western digital 320gb SATA hd
seasonic 650w psu (no modular cabling, it looks like... :(  )
corsair 2gb value select memory 2 stick set (240 pin ddr2 667)
samsung 19" LCD widescreen monitor (native resolution 1440x900)
MSI P6N mobo

including shipping and handling, the whole thing weighs in at just under 1900 CDN on newegg.

hopefully, i'll be rockin' medieval 2: total war plus the inevitable 'blankity blank' invasion expansion pack on max settings with this rig in two months or so.

can anyone tell me in there are any compatability issues in the rig i've picked out, obvious or otherwise? it seems like it should all jive to me, but like i said, this is my first time building my own.

edit: on poking around a bit more, i'm not sure the video card i was looking at will work with my mobo. i was hoping to use this card with this mobo, but i suspect i might have to buy this more expensive card instead. is that true? also, how much of a performance difference is there between the 640 and 320mb versions of the card?
March 20, 2007 2:50:48 AM

Specs look great!

A couple of comments....

If you REALLY want modular, look at the Seasonic M12. Expensive but absolutely top notch.

If you're looking to save some money, consider the 6300 instead of the 6600. Your setup will let you overclock a 6300 past a 6600 without breaking a sweat. That'll save you some decent money there and no performance difference if you OC.

Get 1 optical drive now, you can always add a 2nd later if you feel you really need one. So save some money there and get a better keyboard/mouse with that $$ you save. For your optical drive, I highly recommend the Samsung SH-S182...very nice, inexpensive, and not very loud either. Gotta love that.

I assume you're getting the 320mb version of the 8800GTS? With a 19" LCD, the 320 version will do just fine, and it's a fair bit cheaper than the 640 card, so that'll save money there too.

Other than that, great specs, you'll be very happy with that setup!
March 20, 2007 3:21:55 AM

oc'ing the proc sounds like a grea idea, but i have no idea how to do it, and i sure wouldn't want to void my warranty and possibly compromise system stability if there's a chance some components could get fried. how would i go about cranking a 6300 up to 6600 speeds? also, please take a look at the last section of my previous post and tell me if the evga card will work with a msi mobo.
March 20, 2007 4:28:45 AM

Apt403 gave you the real deal.

Stay C2D, Stay 2gig Ram, Stay 8800, Stay XP, any C2D will overclock.

Good Luck
March 20, 2007 3:34:13 PM

EVGA card will work with MSI motherboard. Compatibility like that isn't a problem, believe it or not. The chipset is supported, so the company making the board doesn't matter, they have to follow the standards. So you're good there, now worries at all.

Overclocking. Moderate overclocking is not hard. Here's the thing: OC'ing a C2D chip isn't that hard but it takes some research, time, and a bit of patience. If you have help, it'll go easier though. "Blowing up" a chip is not really possible, these are exagerrated urban legends, nothing more. If you follow the advice, it's actually quiet easy. Now here's the thing: if you're doing mostly gaming, then the 6300 vs 6600 won't make a difference. If you're doing alot of video encoding, Photoshop, and/or renderings and modelling, then it will make a difference. So it depends what you want to do if you don't want to overclock. The 6300 is still a very FAST chip, and it's alot cheaper. So I'm just thinking about your budget and money, that's all. Is the 6600 faster than stock 6300? Yes. Will you get better framerates? No. Will you say, "WOW! That file zipped up 20% faster, that's awesome!". Probably not. So it's a question of money and what you are willing to pay for a certain performance increase really. And what you intend to use your system FOR. That's the key there.

IF you don't want to overclock, there's no shame in that. Not a problem. We're here to help you, not necessarily make you an OC'ing "convert" LOL. If you want stock, that's ok. C2D chips are FAST at stock speeds. HOWEVER, you won't need expensive RAM if you're not overclocking. Just get cheap Value RAM, that's all the C2D chips need to run just fine at stock speeds. So you can save money there.

-So, confirm your budget.
-Figure out what this system will be mostly used for.
-How much are you willing to pay for performance increases, depending what it's used for.
-Do you want to overclock now or in the future? If so, get some decent RAM. If not, get the cheap stuff.

A 6600 and cheap RAM will do just fine for you if you want. It'll handle gaming and do other stuff like I mentioned just fine at stock speeds. So that's one good option. The other is a 6300 with decent RAM, and then overclock it at some point. Neither option is wrong, it's just a question of those factors I mentioned above.
March 20, 2007 8:32:46 PM

when you say get a 6300 and nice ram and overclock it at some point, do you mean the cpu, the ram, or both? anyways, i think that's what i'm going to do - this system will chiefly be for rockin' games. i've been looking at this one. will it do the job? also, is the ram i've picked out (check it out here) good enough to overclock with?

i assume the new cpu will be compatible with my mobo, just like the old one...?

also, what version of vista should i get? basically all i need is the same functionality i got from xp - namely, os support for the latest games, ability to watch dvds, run open office and run itunes.
March 20, 2007 8:54:46 PM

and of course, noone will agree with me, but i honestly think you're stupid to not take advantage of AMD's price drops. Intel processors are certainly not killing AMD cpu's. They are ahead, yes, but the difference to most of us is unnoticeable. you may be wondering why i say this. well, its pretty sad when my age old athlon xp 2800 overclocked to 2.2GHz can slaughter my father's 2GHz core 2 duo (game wise). he has 512MB more RAM than i
(i'm at 1.5GB), and his gpu is one step up from mine. I configured both pc's, so their software is identical. Why i can get faster load times and better frame rates, i'm lost for. but honestly, an AMD cpu won't automatically give you a bad system. there's nothing wrong with them and the performance lead with c2d is not that significant, for most of us. sure, intel's lowest processor can beat AMD's best, but where is that performance spec? in the hundreds of frame rates? let me remind you your brain can process at 30fps. does 160fps really differ from 150 or 140? not to me. AMD is cheaper and, from my standpoint, not that far behind the c2d's. i'd go with cheaper and sacrafice a little performance any day, wouldn't you?
March 20, 2007 9:59:25 PM

well, that depends on how much cheaper. i'm hoping, with a few upgrades, to use this system for a while - probably at least two years. so i don't really mind spending a few extra bucks as long at it's worth it.

right now, i'm looking to spend about $200 on my cpu. this will get me a c2d 6300, which, apparently, if coupled with some rice ram, should overclock quite easily if i ever deicde i want to go down that route. what will 200USD get me from AMD?
March 20, 2007 11:34:06 PM

If you want to overclock a C2D, you'll need better RAM. This will do nicely:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Jump on that deal NOW. It's an amazing price and probably won't last long. And for the pretty much the same price, it's ALOT better that the Value stuff you're showing.

OK, about overclocking CPU and RAM.....without getting complicated or detailed......basically when you overclock your CPU it causes your RAM to overclock as well. So you need RAM that can take the overclock. That's it in a quick nutshell. That G.Skill RAM will let you OC that 6300 no problem.

Now, about AMD. Frozen's info is somewhat correct, but a bit misleading in my opinion. He is correct that the AMD chips are cheaper, that is true. And he is also correct that, generally speaking, you won't notice a difference in gaming between an AMD 3800 and C2D 6300 for example. However, I would argue the truth ends there.

The reason for this is twofold:

1) A C2D won't give you better framerates under normal circumstance, like I mentioned. But a better chip improves your system's overall performance. If you plan on keeping your rig for 2 years, then a C2D will be more "futureproof" than the AMD, all things being equal for performance. At stock speeds, AMD can be a better deal, that is true. HOWEVER, if/when you overclock, the C2D simply pulls away and leaves AMD in the dust. There is no comparison. I know, I've owned both. Now again, an overclocked 6300 isn't gonna give massive framerate increases, but it will make every other CPU-resourced task faster by ALOT. DVD ripping, multitasking, Photoshop, virus scanning, running Vista, you name it.....these will all be faster on a C2D system and especially one that's overclocked.

2) Gaming performance largely depends on graphics card, all things being equal. So for Frozen to compare an Athlon XP 2800 to a C2D, but the Athlon has a better GPU and more RAM.......well, that's like comparing apples to watermelons. You can't compare them, end of story. An Athlon 2800 with X RAM and Y GPU.....and a C2D with X RAM and Y GPU.....well, the C2D is gonna DESTROY it. And yes, I said destroy. Not even close. So anyone that will tell you that you won't notice a difference is either mistaken or lying. There is a difference, and it's VERY big. Otherwise, why aren't we all running 486's @ 100 mhz?? Because newer chips are faster, more efficient, etc, etc. Comparing an XP to a C2D (especially an overclocked one) is like comparing a Honda to a Ferrari. No comparison. You can say the Honda is a great car and nobody would argue, but it's no Ferrari. In 2 years with an Athlon XP, you might as well be using a stone tablet......

Like I said before though, it depends on your budget. If you absolutely need to cut budget, then an AMD might be worth it. But on the total cost of a new system, it's proportionately a very small difference in price. Maybe $100? Personally, for $100 extra I'd take the Ferrari.....you can keep the Honda for yourself ;) 

The C2D 6300 is a great chip. The RAM I suggested will let you overclock it when you're ready. And it'll do you for 2 years as long as a you have a good graphics card. In a year and a half, you could even upgrade your graphics card and leave the 6300 alone. And then you'll have even better gaming. Gotta love that :) 
March 20, 2007 11:49:11 PM

well, i'm not going to start buying parts for another month or so, so i'm gonna pass on that deal you linked to. as you can probably tell, i don't have much knowledge about what makes good oc-able ram and what doesn't. do you have any tips for when it does come time to start buying?

also, about the adding a new videocard thing: how much of a boost would another 8800gts give me if i added one down to road? would it be worth it, or should i just save a little extra a buy a 8800gtx? keep in mind i'm probably not gonna be lookin to uprgade until november at the earliest after i build this thing.
March 21, 2007 12:05:41 AM

Depends what resolution you'll be gaming at. 1280....a GTS is fine. 22", could go either way. 24" or more....a GTX.

Generally speaking, one better card is always preferred over 2 lesser cards. But it depends how much of a jump between the single cards. For example, one GTS is preferred over 2 7600GT's. But 2 GTS's will beat a single GTX.

If budget is tight, you can get one 320mb GTS now, and then consider adding another one later when prices are $80-100 cheaper. By then, DX10 games will be out and you'll know whether a single GTS is good enough for you, or if you need another one in SLI.


Now, what makes parts good for overclocking? There are alot of nuances to consider. But the simple answer is that you need parts that are known to operate beyond their stock specifications with some fairly simple voltage tweaks and decent cooling. So, C2D chips are very good overclockers, it's just the way they're designed and built. Certain RAM is better for OC'ing than others, but generally speaking, most non-Value DDR2-800 RAM will work fine for a C2D setup. And then lastly, you need a motherboard that will let you raise the frontside bus (FSB) by alot. Those 3 combinations are a simple answer. Now, most overclockers around here already know what parts are able to overclock, so we can easily suggest parts that will OC well....that will take the guesswork out for you.

For example, saying to get a 6300, Gigabyte 965P-S3, and G.Skill 800 RAM will be capable of achieving a respectable overclock. Adding an aftermarket heatsink will get you get an even higher OC. Getting a 6600, P5B-Deluxe, and Team Xtreem DDR2-1000 with a Tuniq Tower will get you really high overclock speeds, but costs ALOT more as well. Other mobos won't OC as well. Other RAM can OC even better. So, most OC'ers know what parts will give you none/fair/good/insane overclocks. It's just a question of how high you want to go, and what your budget is.

Generally, you name a budget and people can find OC'ing parts to suit your range.
March 21, 2007 1:36:25 AM

well, i'm planning on getting a 19" widescreen lcd, so i'm gonna go with a gts i suppose.

about the SLi thing: i'm just gonna wait until my 320mb gts needs some help, and then i'll compare getting another one versus getting a 640mb gtx.

thanks for the tips vis a vis ram + ocing. you already know the proc i'm getting, here is the mobo i've been looking at. is it a good choice? i'd like to spend about $175 on a mobo and under $200 on ram. pick me the best ocing set in that price range that will work with my previously selected components.
March 21, 2007 1:39:44 AM

Good mobo. That G.Skill RAM I showed will work too. Both will come under your budget quite well and will let you do some very respectable OC'ing.
March 21, 2007 2:09:03 AM

yeah, but you said that deal won't last and i'm not gonna buy it now. what can i expect to pay for it in a month?
March 21, 2007 3:49:35 AM

Look at the regular price ;) 


G.Skill is budget overclocking RAM. There are others that will work too. Like I said, post your budget and we can recommend something in that range.
March 23, 2007 4:45:55 AM

just a quick update:

- after thinking about it for a bit, i've decided to go with xp over vista for now, with an upgrade somewhere down the line. i scoped out a keyboard/mouse combo (check it), so the only thing left is an optical drive. any suggestions? i just want to be able to play games, rip & burn CDs, and watch DVDs.

- about overclocking the 6300: how concerned do i have to be about cooling? will i just need a new heatsink for the CPU, or should i look into cooling solutions for my whole PC?
March 23, 2007 5:06:29 AM

Nice keyboard, not sure on mouse. heard wireless mice are not good for gaming YMMV.
Newegg DVD-Burner combo drive, available with or w/o light scribe.
Samsung no light scribe $30
Cooling. yes, yes and yes. You must have a cooler, if you are going to overclock you need a better cooler, and getting the rest of the system cool will help out cooling the CPU
March 29, 2007 5:32:21 AM

update:

after seeing this, i'm not sure i want to build my own. looks like a pretty good deal to me. thoughts? my whole basis for homebuilding was it was better value, but that comp has better specs than mine, for roughly the same price. am i missing something, or is it really the way to go?
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