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First time builder needs advice and any help you can spare

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July 7, 2007 5:24:17 PM

Greetings :) 

I've been lurking on these forums and reading (and reading, and reading, and reading, and reading ;)  ) for some time now. This is my first post to ask for some help and advice.

I'm a first time builder, and in the process of preparing my 'shopping' list for my first build. I've been researching this for quite some time now trying to make sure I get this right. I seem to be getting a little hung-up on 'cooling' though and am having some problems deciding the right cooling solution for my build.

So I figured maybe I'd give you guys all the information I could about my build...and see if anyone could offer some advice (in case some of my build choices were bad choices) and help me determine the cooling solution that will suit my needs and situation.

So here goes...

As I mentioned, this is my first build so I've been learning and researching for weeks now. I'm a gamer (granted...an old gamer...but a gamer nonetheless ;)  ). I started out by building some 'sample' systems from the various boutique builders (i.e. Alienware, ABS, Velocity Micro, etc.) and then used those 'sample' builds as a guide. Then I started researching parts here on Tom's Hardware, other review sites, user reviews from NewEgg (Which are useful, but I've learned to take with a grain of salt), etc.

I decided to use the q6600 which has led me to alot of questions regarding cooling. I'd like to build the system with overclocking in mind. As its my first build, I won't be overclocking initially....but I'd most likely want to attempt a mild or moderate overclock eventually....and I'd like to build the system with that in mind...instead of just using the stock cooler now, and then installing a better cooling solution later. I've read an awful lot of cooling reviews and comments and posts on everything from water-cooling to towers and fans. There is a ton of information and test data for Dual Core builds....but the information available seems more 'sketchy' and varied for the hotter q6600 builds. This is where it gets a bit confusing and difficult to make a decision as one day I'll find tons of information that say that I should definitely go with water-cooling, other days I find that the tower units are the way to go (ThermalRight Ultra-120 Extreme, Tuniq Tower), other days I find that units such as the Zalman CNPS9700 will be fine. I've read similar posts to mine regarding cooling the q6600...including GraySky's great information on lapped/non-lapped use of the ThermalRight Ultra-120 Extreme. However, my build criteria seems to be a bit different than others asking similar questions...as I'm not on as strict of a budget...and 'ease' of installation and use is high on my priority list.

The office that my machines reside in has a rather warm ambient temperature. Both my wife and I are gamers....we both have machines...and with those two machines running it kicks out quite a bit of heat. After a night of gaming...its not uncommon in the summer for this room to hit 86 degrees F. As I mentioned previously, ease of build for a first timer is very important to me...as I'd like my first build experience and my first home-built machine to be a pleasant one. Ease of build, performance, and reliability are more important to me than budget...as I'm willing to extend my 'parts' budget and have a more 'flexible' budget to cater to performance, reliability, and ease of build. I'd really rather not have to modify purchased parts (such as lapping) and such.

For a cooling solution....I'm really caught between tower units (such as the ThermalRight Ultra-120 Extreme, Tuniq Tower, etc), water cooling (Such as perhaps the Gigabyte Galaxy II kit), and whatever else might work well. The q6600 would be running stock speeds initially, but eventually I'd like to overclock a bit. Nothing extreme or striving for record-breaking benchmarks...just a mild or moderate overclock.

Below you'll find my 'shopping list' of parts for my build so far. Any help or advice on the build itself, or the cooling, would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance for any advice and help!

Case: Gigabyte 3D Aurora 570 GZ-FA1CA-ASB

I chose the above case because the various reviews I'd read said that it was a great case, alot of first-time builders said it was great for a first-time builder, large, and easy to work inside. Portability of my system is not an issue...as I won't be taking it anywhere. And they say its big enough to hold 2 GeForce 8800 GTX cards which I'd like to install.

PSU Options:
Tagan TG1100-U96 ATX12V/EPS12V 1100W Power Supply

ThermalTake ToughPower W0133RU 1200W Cable Management, ATX12V/EPS12V, Nvidia SLI Certified.

I read good things about both powersupplies....they seemed like good choices with plenty of juice for dual video cards. The ToughPower unit is alot more expensive, so I'm guessing the Tagan unit would be a better choice.

CPU:
Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 Kentsfield 2.4Ghz LGA775

This seemed like my best choice for processor. I understand that July 22nd, new models are to be released...so perhaps if there is a more powerful non-extreme edition processor...I might go to the next step up. I know I definitely want to go quad-core. I realize that alot of folks mention that not all 4 cores are utilized in gaming now, but I definitely want to sitck with the quad core.

Motherboard:
EVGA 122-CK-NF69-A1 LGA775 nVidia nForce 680i SLI

I plan on installing dual Nvidia 8800GTX video cards...so I know I'd need a motherboard to support that. This seemed to be a very popular choice for motherboard in alot of the sample system builds I looked at. I'm not sure if I've made a good choice on this one though, finding the 'right' motherboard for me has been more difficult in reading and understanding the reviews. This motherboard seemed to be recommended, as well as being flexible enough to keep future memory speeds and such in mind. I've also heard good things about Gigabyte motherboards so maybe that would be a better choice? I'd like to keep the 'future' in mind.

Video Cards:
Dual EVGA GeForce 8800 GTX 768 MB GDDR3 PCI Express in SLI Mode

I noticed there were several 8800 GTX choices (Superclocked, KO, etc.). I wasn't sure what the best for my build was...so I'd still have to determine the exact model.

Cooling:

Tuniq Tower
ThermalRight Ultra-120 Extreme
Gigabyte Galaxy II Water-Cooling Kit
Zalman CNPS 9700 NT

This is where I've been stumped. I was initially trying to avoid water-cooling...so I had been researching the Tuniq Tower and ThermalRight Ultra-120 Extreme. However...after reading several posts on these forums....I'm concerned that the tower units may not fit in my case. It sounds like the Tuniq Tower would...the ThermalRight 'might' fit. However, even if they did, I'm concerned as to whether they would provide adequate cooling. The Zalman CNPS9700NT seemed like the 'simplest' of the solutions to install and would still be a step better than stock cooling...but it sounded like, from different forums, that the results people had in cooling an overclocked q6600 with it were not ideal. That brings me to the water cooling solution. The Galaxy II kit got pretty good reviews...and especially...it sounded easier to install with better documentation than other kits (Which would be important for me...I'll need all the good documentation I can get). It also offered the possibility of being able to extend the water-cooling to the video cards. The downside seemed to be the maintenance...the 'worry' of having water cooling in my case...and the fact that if I need to swap out anything...I'd have to drain the system. So I'm really stumped on the cooling choice.

Memory:

4 GB Corsair XMS2 240-Pin DDR2 1066 PC2-8500

I checked the EVGA website and the motherboard above seems to support this memory. I knew I'd like to overclock eventually so I wanted to purchase RAM that would be good for a FSB Overclock and leave me some room to push the FSB out a little. It seemed like my choice would be fast enough for my needs...but maybe I should have gone for 1200 instead of 1066? Or maybe 1066 is too much, and I should stick to 800? I was pretty sure the Corsair Dominator series wouldn't work for me...as it seems like they take up a bit of case-room as I've read alot of reviews that couldn't use the Dominator as it got in the way. I figured I'd play it safe and avoid the dominator ram.

The above is the 'base' of my build...I've left out Hard Drive choices, DVD choices, etc.

So thats it....if you've read all of this...thanks so much for just reading this far. I apologize for the long post...but I really wanted to give anyone reading this all the information I could....as that might result in getting better advice.

Thanks again!
July 7, 2007 5:45:14 PM

Quote:
As I mentioned previously, ease of build for a first timer is very important to me...as I'd like my first build experience and my first home-built machine to be a pleasant one.

Well, I'd suggest staying away from water. The kit you list may be fairly user freindly...but talk to any serious water cooling guru, and he'll scoff at such an insufficient/inferior system The "real" water cooling users create custom water cooling "loops". Check xtremesystems.com for more help if you decide to go this route. I'd stick with one of the air coolers you listed...the Ultra Extreme if it fits.

The rest of your build looks good. I'll comment on the video cards, and the RAM.

The differences in the video cards is minor OCs. If you do not want to OC on your own, it may be worth it to buy a factory OC'd model (Superclocked & KO, KO beig a higher OC). If you're willing to do it on your own, just get the basic model, i run mine at 621/999 with RivaTuner.

For RAM, I'd say you'll be safe with DDR2-800, this would allow the Q6600 to OC to 3.6GHz without OCing the RAM a bit. DDR2-1066 will allow you to push the Q6600 all the way up to 4.8GHz (YEAH RIGHT!), that's overkill IMHO.
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