I am currently using my Dell P4 3GHz based PC as a DVR with mixed results, so it is time for an upgrade. I am probably going to wait until about the beginning of December for prices to cool on the video cards and processor. My plan is to get the system together and then overclock the CPU/memory using very close to stock voltages (I don't want to worry too much about extra heat). This will be my first overclock and I am choosing the processor for its price and overclockability (and the fact that I will not have it for more than ~1 year).
I will be using the rig for gaming/HTPC for now, but after a year or two I will likely get a new gaming only machine and this will become my semipermanent HTPC (I plan to upgrade to a Penryn at that point to make it faster/cooler).
My budget isn't very rigid but this is about the amount I want to spend. Questions:
1. I have heard this mobo is a good overclocker so I am thinking about going with it. Is the sound on this mobo worse than the DS3R? If so, is it worth the upgrade? or is there some other mobo with better sound/good overclockability that is good?
2. Any opinions on the choice of processor? I am thinking the e2200 will not cost much more and will allow me to overclock higher with less heat.
It looks good for its intended purposes. I'd wonder about even bothering to o/c a HTPC, but you did say you were going to game some on it too.
If you plan to turn this machine into a HTPC-only though, you might consider the mATX Gigabyte GA-G33M-DS2R. It has ALL the features of its bigger brothers, plus the firewire they lack. For now, you'll put your 8800GT on it for gaming, but you can pull that off and use its integrated video when you turn it into a HTPC. I'm using this board in my current rig, and it has been trouble-free. When you want to build the gamer, you can also move this board into a new SFF (or other) living room friendly m-ATX case, and re-use the Sonata for your gaming build.
With a flexible budget, will a e6550 CPU fit into it?
I could probably afford it but I don't really see the point. The plan is to overclock the CPU for now, while it is my main computer and I am not worried about a bit of extra noise. But within a year I will probably be getting a Penryn, so the extra ~$90 will be better used then.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought HTPCs were supposed to be quiet, and performance is not important. Overclocking means performance is very important and it increases noise. You need to decide if you want an HTPC or a gaming machine, can't have both. I'm going to assume that you really want an HTPC rather than a gaming machine.
As a gaming machine, that build is great. As an HTPC it's too noisy, thanks to the 8800 GT. For an HTPC I'd use an 8500GT card, quiet and good enough to play HD video, but bad for gaming.
GA-P35-DS3R has better sound than GA-P35-DS3L, but the difference will probably not be noticeable. It's just a new revision of the same audio chipset, so don't expect any dramatic changes. The DS3R allows more disks (with DS3L you are allowed 3 disks and 1 DVD, with the DS3R 7 disks and 1 DVD). DS3R also allows RAID, but that's useless for an HTPC anyway. That's about it for differences. I think the DS3L will do fine for what you need.
When you transform this into an HTPC-only, you could either go with integrated graphics as noted by jtt283, or you could use something like an HD2600XT. Depending on the cooling configuration, that can be a low-power, low-heat, low-noise GPU solution with excellent HD video (and integrated audio) output.
It's tough to do "quiet HTPC" and "gaming" in the same machine. You can either sacrifice gaming performance now and get quieter components that you'll then shunt to the HTPC when you build a dedicated gamer, or you can sacrifice the quiet now and get higher-performing parts, and get newer, quieter parts when you make a dedicated HTPC.
Another thought: If the computer can be acoustically isolated (e.g. in a rack in a closet), and you can have e.g. a USB DVD player and RF kbd / mouse, you could have both a great gamer and a great HTPC. An HDMI connection can go quite a ways, and since it's digital you won't have any quality degradation with distance as you would with analog.
It still depends on how the 3870 performs. But unless the 3870 is better than the 2900xt, it looks like it will be the 8800gt. I may just have to replace it down the road if it does seem to be too loud.