Hi all. It has been a good while since I've been here, but the time has come to start putting together a new system. Before I do this, I want to really work over exactly what I'm up against, so to speak. Here is my situation and what I'm looking for:
I have significant health problems, and am consequently stuck in a recliner a fair amount of the time. This has the side effect that I don't upgrade my systems often, and am looking for reliability a shade more than performance. I have been stuck before with items that I have been too tired to return in time. In the past I have always intended to slowly upgrade my systems, but it has never panned out, so I'm focusing more on building a solid system that will get scrapped wholesale, or mostly wholesale, well down the road, minus a few components. I plan to spend between $1000 and $2000, including a monitor of the widescreen, LCD variety such as this Acer model: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16824009102&Tpk=Acer%2bAL2223Wd. I will likely purchase the parts online and have the system physically built at a local white-box dealer.
I am trying to create a system with which I can watch DVDs on a budget HD-TV (http://www.maxentusa.com/_coreModules/eShopping/productDetail.aspx?productMasterID=15) that I will have connected, listen to (mostly classical) music through the computer at a high quality level, and play newer games for a few years ahead. This means that I will need a system with reliable dual DVI-monitor support with allowance for the TV's 1366x768 native resolution. Space is a big limiting factor, so I plan to get 2 higher quality speakers as opposed to a surround sound setup. I am also very concerned about the quality of music playback for older, robust classical recordings such as this 60's recording of the Verdi Requiem: http://www.amazon.com/Verdi-Requiem-Sutherland-Pavarotti-Talvela/dp/B0000041PI/ref=pd_bbs_sr_2/103-4242814-2878257?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1193967939&sr=8-2. With my current system, older classical music CDs have a tendency to sound tinny or hollow, presumably because they are not optimized for modern methods of playback. This is a must-fix issue that I have not been able to resolve to date. For all I know it's a matter of setting equalizer levels, but someone here is likely to understand that issue far better than I do.
Now for a few related questions:
Are there any great wireless 2.1 speaker setups that I could look into? It would be nice to be able to relocate my speakers nearer the television for movie playback. Barring that, is there any way to create preset speaker balance options so I could switch on one for movie playback and return to a more generic balance for everything else with a few clicks or keypresses?
How possible is it to turn a computer into a DVR with a high definition TV signal? I can't really afford to do a lot of homework on this. Is there an OS that supports this in a fairly straightforward manner?
I have an Antec P160 case and don't see any reason to replace it. I also plan to use the 2 WD 800JD drives that I've been using the past 3 years. Is there a compelling reason to upgrade if I don't really need the space?
Can you recommend any good rechargeable AND ergonomic keyboard/mouse duos? I was using a logitech combo (not rechargeable) until my keyboard kicked the bucket. Now I'm using a wired Microsoft ergonomic keyboard but need to go back to wireless given my current health dilemma.
Is Vista the way to go by now? I did some research on parts about 4 months ago, at which point many were still holding out.
Do you have any solid recommendations for fans or other components to minimize the noise output of my system? Since I plan to use it as a music playback device, chances are I will be leaving it on overnight on many occasions. I'd like to reduce fan noise as much as possible. I saw mention of silent versions of GPUs in a recent thread here, so that seems like a strong possibility if the price is not extravagant.
That's all I can think of at the moment. I'm happy to hear any other suggestions you may have whether or not I've thought to ask. I'll probably post some preliminary (and slightly out of date) system specs soon for your perusal.
I'd love to get into a dialogue on this topic, both for fun and to jog my memory about any other issues, seen and unforeseen, that I may need to address. Thanks for your time!
Gigabyte 8600GT 256mb Passive $114.99 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814125070
Passive means no fan which = quiet... this is very capable of your display requirements and will play games at an acceptable level. If you game a bit more than i thought id move up to a 8800GT although this will be alot noiser than the passive option.
Vista Home Premium 64bit OEM $111 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16832116204
Vista is getting better and better, it has media centre which will play your dvds and watch TV of the digital tuner comming next... 64bit is hungray and you may consider getting 4gb instead of 2, however, if you are not doing hardcore stuff 2gb would be fine. Consider maybe Ultimate instead of Home Premium but i dont think you will get much benefit.
AuzenTech Auzen X-Fi Prelude $229 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16829156005
This is the pick of the bunch for Audio/gaming/listening pleasure. So far i have heard of no issues with Vista which the Creative X-fi's seem to have. Great audio output for your TV and speakers to listen to that classical music. If you need more connections that this then the Creative X-fi Fatal1ty would be the go but warn of the Vista issues.
SAMSUNG 226BW Black 22" $309 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16824001096
You could stick with the Acer, but i find them to be a little cheap around the edges, where as the Samsungs are reliable and generally have better picture this one is a 2ms which will minimise shearing and motion blur in games.
Speakers i would look at an AMP and floor standers as this will give you the awesome quality you are looking for, i know you wont get the mobility but you will be more impressed with a dedicated set rather than a pair of dodgey performing set of computer speakers. You could get an amp that support A and B channels then you could get two pair of floorstanders so you wouldnt need to move them just flick a switch and you got the ones at the tv, flick it make on the AMP and get the computer the Auzentech would give an awesome output for a dedicated amp
Hope i helped
EDIT: sorry no total $1420 which dont really leave much for the amp/speakers but there can be money saved all round on my selections as noted in a few areas ie CPU, monitor even GPU, drop Auzentech for onboard sound (will give less audio quality on the music titles).
I wouldn't quite say I'm more into sound than gaming... it's just that I know how games will work on a computer better than I do with sound and other multimedia hookups. I think it's fair to characterize myself as a musician/music lover who knows next to nothing about the hardware that goes into it. The same is true for the television connection beyond the point of connecting it with a DVI-I cable.
Here's a new question inspired by your response: How much sound does a video card make when it's not being heavily used? I already am going to have to live with various ambient sounds, like the refrigerator and such. At night when the monitor is off, am I going to get any sound from the video card if I'm just playing music?
I won't be getting 2 sets of speakers... it would be overkill in my 1 room place, but that is a pretty interesting idea to think about down the road for another system, perhaps. One set of floor standers is an interesting idea, but I don't know if I have the space for it. Would this provide all around better quality that would be noticeable for all purposes? For what it's worth, my existing $50 Altec Lansings have performed much better than my television's sound. The problem has been with old classical recordings specifically. Recordings over the past 10 or 15 years sound more or less as intended.
Is there a site where I can read up on how sound cards work with other devices? At this stage I would not really be able to get the most out of a really top end card I suspect, as I do not know my way around connections, especially as they pertain to non-traditional computer components.
You said you wouldnt say your more into sound than games but you havent specifically said what games you would play.
As for connecting you TV up would wont have an issue there you have DVI on the TV and on the Video so it will just work (probably set this up as a 2nd display as you are getting the 20" LCD for primary).
The one i have listed there "Gigabyte 8600GT 256mb Passive $114.99" will make none at any stage as theres no fan to be noisey. As for something with a fan it depends on the card/fan... the 8800GT (new release) is sposed to be real noisey when working in games (fan will spin harder) but in windows desktop etc. you shouldnt hear it (fan spins down in low utilisations). So to answer this "I going to get any sound from the video card if I'm just playing music?" id say no especially with the fridge close by.
Floorstanders (or hifi speakers in general) will have a much fuller sound than any PC speaker set youll get higher highs and lower lows and the mid range will not suffer (which happens on alot of pc speakers) as long as you have decent hifi amp and speakers quality will kill any pc set. TV's are generally worse than PC speakers they are small and just seems to me they are a side thought to actually making a TV so id avoid them altogether if possible. The old classics have a full range of sound hence why your Lansings wont hold up, Hifi set would easily. Even with the onboard sound it would be a helluva lot better.
Easiest way to hook up a stereo hifi amp to a sound card is a 3.5mm jack too 2 RCA's into the amp done if your amp has digital in optical/coaxial this can also be used from most onboard sound cards and all highend cards.
Ive also been thinking would headphones be the go? if you are sitting near the reciever while listening you will get some great sound outta some headphones they dont take up room and you can move em to where you are (computer or TV) easily... I use these. http://www.sennheiser.com/sennheiser/icm_eng.nsf/root/05342
I still plan to post some tentative specs of my own, but I have to feel a bit better. As far as what games I play, I'm into RP and RTS games. They may not push the system as hard as a shooter, but they're fairly demanding in most cases over time. I don't plan to go SLI due to the huge jump in cost and extra risk.
I don't know that I need a TV tuner or not. I just need to know what one would do for me if I did have one, and how I could best accomplish my multimedia system goals without breaking the bank or running out of space.
What differentiates the GIGABYTE GA-P35-DS3L LGA 775 motherboard from the recommended ASUS P5K-E other than the lack of a second PCI-Express x16 connection and raid capability? Is the latter a better board for speed or stability? I used to run a RAID setup, but it was buggy and turned out to be more trouble than it was worth. I don't know if there is any real advantage to my doing so again.
What else connects to a PCI-Express x16 other than a video card that makes having 2 advantageous?
I'm considering skipping the DVR capability and tuner for the short term until I know more about it. If anyone has a good resource for beginners, link me please. I figure this functionality could easily be added after the system was built and running.
The DS3L is an excellent board solid , although as you pointed out it doesnt have many features. You pointed out a couple of differences the P5K-e Wifi has RAID, 2nd PCI-e, Wifi, Firewire think it has more USB too but im not sure. If you dont want to raid then the DS3L should be more than ok for you.
PCI-e slots can be used with GPU's, RAID, Soundcards, Networking i think some of the tv tuners are moving to them as well but not sure.
You know, I don't have any idea what WIFI means for a motherboard. I should probably hold off on finalizing any board picks until I know if a DVR solution will use a firewire port. I'd be foolish to get a board without firewire and then need it.
What is the consensus on older sound cards compared to on-board sound. I have a Soundblaster Audigy (1) that I am thinking of using. I'm sure the new sound cards are better, but are they $200 better?
Your Audigy will still out do onboard in music quality, however, depends if you have the connectivity you need on it. The newer cards and onboard will have digital optical and coaxial that will help, whereas the audigy wont have that.