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Multipurpose system build

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November 23, 2007 12:08:40 PM

I plan to build a system for work/gaming.
Stability and general performance of the system is more important than gaming speed, so usually I do not like to do the OC.

A few questions:

1. I am still debating whether I should go AMD 64 6000+, Intel Q6600 or E6550. It seems that AMD is cheaper. Abount a year ago I built AMD 3200+ that I am reasonably happy with. I plan to do a multiboot, and ability to run Vista 64-bit would be a plus. The games will probably run on a regular Vista 32-bit.

2. Amount of RAM is very important (I need to run VMWARE server for work), and I plan to have a MINIMUM 4Gb of RAM. I also would like the system to support at least 8. What motherboard would you recommend? (the choice of CPU will determine the MB, of course). One more thing - information safety is VERY important, so, on-board RAID-1 will be highly preferred.

3. Any suggestions on HD? So far I've built everything on PATA (it was sufficient at a time), and this time I should go SATA, at least 500Gb each, in hardware RAID-1.

4. I really think that the system should be SLI-compatible (by the way, I defnitely prefer SLI vs Crossfire; I've had very good experience with Nvidia cards in the past - starting with my good old 4600 Ti4; I run 7600GS right now). I was thinking about 8800GTX (at least start with the single one, and then add one for SLI later), but I've seen quite a few people discourage that and recommend 2x8800GT instead. Also - what about 8800GTS? Note that OC is not that important to me, and I do not really plan to do it (because of stability considerations - unless you convince me otherwise). More monitors is better for me, though I have only 2 right now (22" V7 and 19" Hanns-G). I will probably add 2 more though at some point less than a year from now.

5. I've seen vendors recommending 1000+ PSUs for higher-end SLI configurations. What do you think is really needed - 750 or 1000 - if I will indeed add 2x8800GTX?

6. I considered liquid cooling as it's quieter, but I have not had experience with it in the past. Since I do not plan for OC right now (though that may change based on the advice I get), it's not an absolute necesity, and it adds more than a $100 to the price.

7. Would you recommend any good builders in the USA that do custom configurations for the hardware you recommended? I've dealt with Magic Micro last time. I cannot say it was that bad, but I've had some compatibility issues (which they fixed, though I had to send the system back to them). Because of the stability consideations I'd rather use a builder than putting it together on my own, though I do not ming doing that at all - if you recommend components that you think are definitely compatible.

The maximum budget is not extremely important, but I'd like to get a good value for the money. Hence, I did not just buy high-end DELL XPS or high-end Alienware. By the way - most of my previous systems are DELLs (last DELL one bought 4 years ago - still my primary work PC), and I was reasonably happy with it.

Thanks.

a b B Homebuilt system
November 23, 2007 12:35:44 PM

Q6600, Asus P5N32-E SLI or P5n32-E SLI Plus, WD7500AAKS.

8800GT is better value for the money than the GTX or the GTS. Of course, to compare it fairly with the GTX you need to add $70 for a Thermalright HR-03 GT cooler+fan, so it's not really that great a deal after all, at $370 vs $500.

SLI doesn't allow more than one monitor as far as I know. You need to do some research there.

For 2x8800GTX and 3 hard disks look at PC Power & Cooling Silencer 750W Quad. For more than 3 hard disks and liquid cooling I'd say Thermaltake Toughpower 850W or similar.
November 23, 2007 12:36:34 PM

Try the Spider Rig you can save alot of money than an equivalent Intel in performance prior to that plus you have the latest and hottest rig up to date.
Related resources
November 23, 2007 2:21:23 PM

aevm said:
Q6600, Asus P5N32-E SLI or P5n32-E SLI Plus, WD7500AAKS.

8800GT is better value for the money than the GTX or the GTS. Of course, to compare it fairly with the GTX you need to add $70 for a Thermalright HR-03 GT cooler+fan, so it's not really that great a deal after all, at $370 vs $500.

SLI doesn't allow more than one monitor as far as I know. You need to do some research there.

For 2x8800GTX and 3 hard disks look at PC Power & Cooling Silencer 750W Quad. For more than 3 hard disks and liquid cooling I'd say Thermaltake Toughpower 850W or similar.


aevm: that's a very good suggestion. The cost for the card will probably be less than 370/500 respectively.

I see 8800GT 512 Mb and 320 Mb 8800GTS in several locations for $250 or less with free s/h; overclocked 8800gts 640 Mb is $300 AR (by the way - is 640 Mb worth is vs 512?)
8800 GTX 768Mb is about $460 AR. The price difference is almost twice.

Thank you for pointing my attention to the SLI and single-monitor issue. According to Nvidia FAQ you need to disable SLI to use multiple monitors. Because it's a software setting, that's acceptable to me (I would not work when I play games :)  ). Besides, NVIDIA software can "remember" configuration of your displays, icons etc. So, no changed video settings due to the switch.

The Thermalright HR-03 is now more like $55 (with s/h) rather than $70. I wonder though whether it's needed if I will not OC?

Good suggestion on the power supply. I will probably end up with more than 3 disks eventually. The biggest price jump is when I go into the 1000+W. 850W is not that bad by comparison.
November 23, 2007 2:23:54 PM

pogsnet said:
Try the Spider Rig you can save alot of money than an equivalent Intel in performance prior to that plus you have the latest and hottest rig up to date.


pogsnet: I did some research on it, but I did not see any builders that would quote me a custom build on it. Because it's so new, I'd rather shift compatibility risk on a builder, even if I'd pay a little more for some of the components. Any suggestions?
a b B Homebuilt system
November 23, 2007 2:56:26 PM

The 8800GT 512MB beats the 8800 GTS 640MB in most benchmarks, despite having less memory.
Compared to the 8800GTX, the 8800GT almost matches it, most of the time. It will do much worse than the 8800GTX in things like Crysis/high-settings/1920x1200, but many people don't need to care about that.

Your 8800GT can live without an aftermarket cooler, if you have very good case cooling. The reasons to get a cooler are reduced noise and longer card lifetime. If you aren't particularly interested in a quiet PC and you intend to upgrade the video card in 2 or 3 years anyway then yeah, don't bother.
If you do want a cooler for the 8800GT, you need the "HR-03 GT". You definitely don't want the "HR-03 Plus" or "HR-03 Rev. A" because the Plus won't fit at all and the Rev.A won't do the job properly. The "HR-03 GT" will be in stores in about a week. This site, for example, will sell it for $55 + ($13 or $17 for a good quiet fan) + shipping.
http://www.heatsinkfactory.com/thermalright-hr-03-gt-vga-cooler.html

Hitachi makes some good 750GB drives too, and they have 32MB of cache rather than 16MB. I haven't read many reviews for those though - I'm a WD fanboy :)  It's worth investigating, I guess.
November 23, 2007 5:06:16 PM

aevm said:
The 8800GT 512MB beats the 8800 GTS 640MB in most benchmarks, despite having less memory.
Compared to the 8800GTX, the 8800GT almost matches it, most of the time. It will do much worse than the 8800GTX in things like Crysis/high-settings/1920x1200, but many people don't need to care about that.

Your 8800GT can live without an aftermarket cooler, if you have very good case cooling. The reasons to get a cooler are reduced noise and longer card lifetime. If you aren't particularly interested in a quiet PC and you intend to upgrade the video card in 2 or 3 years anyway then yeah, don't bother.
If you do want a cooler for the 8800GT, you need the "HR-03 GT". You definitely don't want the "HR-03 Plus" or "HR-03 Rev. A" because the Plus won't fit at all and the Rev.A won't do the job properly. The "HR-03 GT" will be in stores in about a week. This site, for example, will sell it for $55 + ($13 or $17 for a good quiet fan) + shipping.
http://www.heatsinkfactory.com/thermalright-hr-03-gt-vga-cooler.html

Hitachi makes some good 750GB drives too, and they have 32MB of cache rather than 16MB. I haven't read many reviews for those though - I'm a WD fanboy :)  It's worth investigating, I guess.


My current LCD monitor does not even support 1920x1200, though my old CRT did :-) It does maximum 1280x1024, so I guess 8800GT will do just fine for now. That brings an interesting point - at this resolution - will there be an advantage to get SLI configuration with 2x8800GT ?
Also - in your opinion - would the 750W power supply suffice ? In the brand you mentioned good-size price jump happens between 750 and 850 (where I looked). In fact, I saw another brand 1100W for the same price as this 850W.
I think you convinced me to do liquid cooling for video. It's not expensive, and if it makes the system quieter and makes the card live longer... I assume this is passive cooling - no fan or pump, hence, no power connected to the colling system, correct?

Re: drives - that is another excellent point. The OEM Hitachi 750Gb goes for less than $200, and 750Gb capacity will be sufficient for my VMWARE and multiple OS. Personally, I liked WDs until about 4-5 years ago when batches that me and my frieds got all went bad quickly. I switched to Maxtor then :-)

One more question - would you happen to know a custom PC builder online that allows one to chose components you mentioned? Magic Micro I mentioned deals with pretty much all of the components you mentioned, except 8800GT (they do allow selecting 8800GTS or 8800GTX). And if price is reasonable, I'd rather get everything through a single source - to make sure that everything works.
a b B Homebuilt system
November 23, 2007 5:46:31 PM

2x8800GT at 1280x1024 is WAY too much IMO. Let's say a single 8800GT gives you 70 fps in some game. Adding another one would give you 100 or 130 or so, but your monitor's refresh rate will be 60 or 70 so you don't actually get any benefit. Plus, after 60 fps the normal human eye doesn't really see any improvement.

The PC Power & Cooling Silencer 750W is better than Toughpower 750W. I think it's enough.
I played with this calculator http://www.extreme.outervision.com/PSUEngine a bit and got 736W, for 2x8800GT, 6 hard disks, Q6600 (not overclocked), 6 fans (but no liquid cooling), 2 DVDs and a bunch of PCI/USB devices.

No idea about liquid cooling, sorry. I'm guessing pumps will be involved, because the liquid has to keep moving. I didn't recommend liquid cooling, by the way.It may be fabulous but sinlce I'm clueless about it I don't tell anybody to buy it :D 
I recommended the HR-03 GT. The HR-03 GT is not liquid cooling, it has a fan. It's just quiet because you can get a good fan for it.

I like WD, haven't had any dead drives or bad sectors since 1992 :lol:  :)  I had a Seagate die on me at work, but that was after heavy use for 3 years, so I'm actually happy with that too... I think any major manufacturer is fine these days.

Online PC builders... Beats me. In Canada www.ncix.com is probably the best, but they do things like "we don't install the CPU cooler because it could damage the motherboard during shipping". Not blaming them, it's reasonable, but still, installing the cooler yourself is tricky if you've never done it yourself. Easy to mess up and have a hot CPU that dies faster than it should, or reboots right when the game gets more interesting.

There's got to be a local shop around your place. See if they are willing to build for you, for a price. Where I live there are such shops that charge $35 or $50, and you can bring some parts from outside. It usually pays to buy cases and PSUs locally anyway because they are heavy and shipping is expensive.

I'd call the guys at Magic Micro and ask about the 8800GT. Maybe they just couldn't get their hands on any for now, because the demand is huge.
November 23, 2007 6:31:13 PM

aevm said:
2x8800GT at 1280x1024 is WAY too much IMO. Let's say a single 8800GT gives you 70 fps in some game. Adding another one would give you 100 or 130 or so, but your monitor's refresh rate will be 60 or 70 so you don't actually get any benefit. Plus, after 60 fps the normal human eye doesn't really see any improvement.

The PC Power & Cooling Silencer 750W is better than Toughpower 750W. I think it's enough.
I played with this calculator http://www.extreme.outervision.com/PSUEngine a bit and got 736W, for 2x8800GT, 6 hard disks, Q6600 (not overclocked), 6 fans (but no liquid cooling), 2 DVDs and a bunch of PCI/USB devices.

No idea about liquid cooling, sorry. I'm guessing pumps will be involved, because the liquid has to keep moving. I didn't recommend liquid cooling, by the way.It may be fabulous but sinlce I'm clueless about it I don't tell anybody to buy it :D 
I recommended the HR-03 GT. The HR-03 GT is not liquid cooling, it has a fan. It's just quiet because you can get a good fan for it.

I like WD, haven't had any dead drives or bad sectors since 1992 :lol:  :)  I had a Seagate die on me at work, but that was after heavy use for 3 years, so I'm actually happy with that too... I think any major manufacturer is fine these days.

Online PC builders... Beats me. In Canada www.ncix.com is probably the best, but they do things like "we don't install the CPU cooler because it could damage the motherboard during shipping". Not blaming them, it's reasonable, but still, installing the cooler yourself is tricky if you've never done it yourself. Easy to mess up and have a hot CPU that dies faster than it should, or reboots right when the game gets more interesting.

There's got to be a local shop around your place. See if they are willing to build for you, for a price. Where I live there are such shops that charge $35 or $50, and you can bring some parts from outside. It usually pays to buy cases and PSUs locally anyway because they are heavy and shipping is expensive.

I'd call the guys at Magic Micro and ask about the 8800GT. Maybe they just couldn't get their hands on any for now, because the demand is huge.


Excellent! One reason I may still consider 2x8800gt - to use with 4 LCDs. I have only 2 now, but that is likely to change. Besides, new upcoming games are likely to push the PC more, so expected refresh rate will probably drop on those anyway :-)
One more thing - 2Gb of RAM is currently going for $25 AR, free shipping. The brand is OCZ, DDR2-800. Probably, Corsair TWIN2X2048-6400C4 is better, but for about $40. Is it worth the price in my case? Most importantly, what has better compatibility, especially with the motherboards you mentioned? OCZ is cheap even in 2Gbx2 (4 Gb for ~120). Corsair is probably not.
a b B Homebuilt system
November 23, 2007 7:17:21 PM

Don't know... I'm happy with my own OCZ RAM, for example.

I don't like the recent user reviews of the Asus P5N32-E SLI at newegg, it looks like a lot of DOAs. Maybe you should also look at other brands too, such as BFG or eVGA. You need something based on 680i for SLI.

!