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First homebuilt system: advice on future-proof PC

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December 31, 2007 3:12:09 PM

I'm going to put together a PC for the first time in February/March. I've done some research but I'm still a beginner so I'd appreciate any advice you can give me. One thing is especially important, though: my system should be as future-proof as possible (within financial limits :p ). I bought my last PC pre-built, it had a socket A motherboard with an AGP port for graphics cards which went out of style only a few months after purchase, so I never was able to upgrade it. I'd like to avoid this kind of mistake this time. I know the evolutions in hardware can't always be predicted, but if you know of a certain technology that's coming soon and that will likely supplant the current standard quickly, please let me know here.

My PC will be used for pretty much everything: games, high definition media, work and general idling. I'd like to keep the price below 2000€, including the screen.

So here's a draft of what my PC might look like:
  • Antec Performance One P182 Case ~140€: I've heard it's both handy and silent, the second point being the most important since I'll be watching movies on my PC. Bit expensive for my tastes, maybe, but if it's worth the price, why not...
  • Corsair TX650W PSU ~115€: Maybe 650W is overkill? If it is, I'm also considering the Seasonic S12II-500 ~100€.
  • Not sure about the motherboard. SLI doesn’t seem to be all that useful (Tri-SLI is just ridiculous) and DDR3 apparently isn't worth the price. If I had to choose, I'd probably go for DDR3 over SLI since it could become a new standard, but I'm not sure so that's why I'm asking you guys. SLI + DDR3 is apparently not yet an option, though I've heard they're working on it. Is it worth waiting for?
  • Intel Core 2 Quad Q9450 2.66Ghz ~350€. I definitely want to jump on board with the Penryn generation. Especially since I'll also be doing video conversion and the new SSE4 should be useful.
  • 4GB (2x2GB) of OCZ Platinum DDR2 PC6400 CL5-5-5-4 ~90€. Or should I get PC8500 or higher? Or DDR3? I've done some reading on FSB speeds and the new Quad processor will have a FSB of 1333Mhz, so should I get 1333Mhz RAM or will it not make much difference anyway? Also, I've heard that more than 3GB of RAM isn't recognized by 32bit versions of Windows and that Vista 64bit is crap. What's your opinion on this? Considering the low price of memory getting 3GB when you can get 4GB is rather disappointing.
  • GeForce 8800GT ~270€. I was considering getting two, but I think I'd rather just use one and upgrade once something better comes along. One thing that worries me here is that most nVidia cards don't have an HDMI out. My screen will have an HDMI in, so wouldn't it be preferable to use HDMI over DVI? The ATI cards do have HDMI but they always come out worse in the comparisons... Or is the GeForce 9xxx series coming too soon for the 8800GT to be worth it?
  • 2 x Western Digital Caviar SE16 500GB SATA2 16MB 7200RPM ~190€.
  • Samsung SH-S203B DVD-writer ~35€ OR one of LG’s hybrid HD-DVD/Blu-Ray drives at ~300€. Anyone know if the LG drive is worth the price? And is there any competition coming in the HDDVD/Blu-ray combo department?
  • IIyama 24″ Wide ProLite B2403WS-B1 screen at ~420€. Has HDMI and can go up to full 1080p resolution. Rather expensive, though. Problem is, no 22" screen can do full HD...
  • Should I get an additional heatsink/fan for my CPU? Any advice on which one to get? Extra casefans? Again, noise is an important factor. I might not overclock much but I like to keep the possibility open.
  • I might add an Auzentech soundcard, but only if my budget permits.

    I appreciate any advice you can give me!
    December 31, 2007 4:16:13 PM

    Both Intel and AMD will be introducing new sockets next year. I personally think if you get a new Quad processor ,you will be good to go of several years, I think we've reached a point where hardware technology has gotten ahead of software development, that could change rapidly and is only MY opinion. My point is how do you define future proof? I haven't figured it out, I've been building systems ever since there were systems to be built and the last 18 months has really seen a lot of new technology that like I said , there aren't that many programs, games ect that make use of it.

    Any way sorry about the rant, P35 is the way to go for now, who knows how soon DDR3 will be worth buying? As far as what motherboard, find the ones with the features you want. I am getting the Asus p5k-e wifi, mainly for the wifi built in, plus I think the features and cost make it a good buy. There are some cheaper and some more expensive, just depends which way you want to go.

    Sorry about the long reply and good luck.
    December 31, 2007 11:00:24 PM

    Agree on the P35 and DDR3 simply is too expensive. In a year or so both AMD and Intel will be coming out with new CPUs that will require a new mobo, they won't fit on todays board. The P35 should run the first 45mm CPUs also not sure it wouldn't be more cost effective to go with the Q6600, shouldn't take much of a performance hit for the money. The newest board is the X38 and X48 is do out soon but again in a year or so there will be new mobo and the newest CPUs won't run any of the old mobo as I understand. I don't think the X38 is worth the money if there will be new mobo out in a year or so, i.e., getting to the end of the current cycle. DDR3 prices might actually come down to earth by then. This is why it's impossible to future proof technology keeps changing. I'd suggest an ASUS P5K E mobo, firewire, eSata, and 6 SATA connectors, an 880GT card, the Q6600 and Crucial Ballistix RAM. I think it's the best bang for the buck and will last you until you're ready for your next build.
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    January 1, 2008 12:09:29 AM

    There is no such thing as future-proofing as those guys before me mentioned. Technology progresses at a quick rate and it is best to buy only what you need now and upgrade later.

    As for SLI, it is for people who want to have the latest and greatest. In other words, what is faster than the fastest card out there? Well two of them. Sort of the idea. Say you bought an SLI motherboard and one card expecting to grab another later. By the time that you are ready to purchase another card, there will be newer and faster models out. Then, even a single newer card will be faster than two of the older cards most of the time. Not to mention you will be up to date on any new technology like direct x updates. So to sum it up, unless you are a hardcore gamer, or need SLI for a certain reason, I would advise against it. Taking into account the extra cost of and SLI motherboard and so on, I would say it's not worth it most of the time.

    As far as ddr3, I agree it is too expensive and not worth the cost, considering ddr2 is dirt cheap right about now. I usually build my systems to last about one year. Then I perform a minor upgrade (most of the time the GPU) then I squeeze more out of it. I would keep the budget at around $1000 (for the tower) for now, considering its you first build. In you case, I would probably pick up a q6600 (since the q's are not true quad cores anyway) and overclock the hell out of it. Its pretty easy, just do a little research and pick up an aftermarket cooler. I agree with the 8800gt, if you can get an overclocked its even better. If color quality is not too much of an issue, I would highly recommend a Hanns G monitor. Quality is on par with viewsonic and I would say better than Dell. I have 3 and love them all very much. I know they are TN panels, but the refresh rate is excellent for games and no dead pixels.

    Does anyone know how far along PCIe 2.0 is? I heard its coming soon but not sure when.

    Just do plenty of research and check plenty of benchmarks to find sweet spots, youll be fine. Thanks for reading my long rant, I hope I helped some.
    January 1, 2008 12:33:24 AM

    I had a similar thread at extremetech.com ("A good-for-five-years PC").
    I agree with the P35 mobo, which will run the 45nm Penryn in future. Sure, the P48 will appear in a year or two, but software that requires it probably won't dominate until a couple years after that, so the P35 should be satisfactory for several years. (I assume your mobo is good to 1333 MHz). Just upgrade the video card when required, if you're doing heavy gaming. Personally, I'm more concerned about the OS, so I'm going for a double-boot system with XP (32 bit) and Vista (64 bit).
    January 1, 2008 8:44:34 AM

    Thanks for the advice. Don't worry about long replies, those are exactly the ones I'm looking for :p 

    I'm kind of annoyed that a new socket and a new version of PCI-E are coming within a year, it feels like I'm going to have the same problem again eventually no matter what I do. Are there any PCI-E 2.0 compatible motherboards out there already? Because I know that if I have to upgrade it'll be the graphics card, so if I can get a mobo that guarantees I can do that when the time comes, I'd be halfway reassured...

    The CPU upgrade has been less pressing in the past. I've had my XP 2400+ for over four years and Bioshock was the first game that truly brought it to its knees.
    I hadn't considered getting a a q6600 instead of the new quads before, but I'll think about it once they're out and I know the price and performance differences.

    How often do these socket changes occur, by the way? Because if it's only once every three years, I'd rather wait a few extra months to get a compatible mobo. If it's once every year, however, I'll just go ahead anyway.

    The only thing I haven't heard anything about is the OS. Is Vista 64bit really that awful? And is there really no way around the 3GB RAM limit in 32bit versions?
    January 1, 2008 9:18:41 AM

    Okay here are my thoughts/concerns:
    * I'd consider the q6600, unless the Penryn version really shines much better than the q6600.
    * Your PSU's that you selected will be fine. Don't ever skimp on them, they are probably the most overlooked part of the build :) 
    * I haven't heard too much good on Vista 64, what I have heard has been mixed. If you use newer software, than more than likely you won't have any compatability issues. If you have some older software, you might have issues with it. You can decide here, just pointing out concerns that I've read about.
    * Socket changes on mobo's don't change too often, because it is cost prohibitive to do the changes too quickly. You should be fine with p35 mobo for some time. Intel changes chipsets quite a bit, so that is the only concern when you get a new socket set. AMD has been more friendly on the their mobo's in the past, but who knows how well they will be in the future.
    * If your going to use SLI, your limited to a few options at this point in time. IIRC, you have 650i/680i/780i, which there are a few options. 780i just was realeased recently, but is WAAAY expensive from what I've seen ($350 USD or more). If you get the Asus P5k series mobo's they support X-fire, which is 2 AMD GPU's. I see your projected monitor is 1900x1200, if I read it right, which could benefit from 2 GPU's. Currently Intel is supporting AMD's X-fire more than the nVidia's, so that might help you out. This might change though, so do your research around the time of purchase.

    The rest of the build looks good. Each option can be tweaked, but I think you have a pretty good grasp on a decent build. :) 
    January 1, 2008 12:50:03 PM

    Keep in mind that Intel's and possibly AMD's new chipsets are scheduled for sometime in 2009, possibly late 2008 but given recent delays in releasing new CPUs likely 2009. Figure 6 months or more for prices to come down and a wide choice of these new boards. This doesn't factor in new CPUs and reduced pricing as well as DDR3 RAM. Basically you're looking at close to 2 years or more for these boards. Finally, when will hardware meet the new standards? Your still pretty limited in the number and types of PCIe cards. This is why the P35 and either the E6750 or Q6600 makes sense know. I don't think it makes sense to by the high end at the end of a life cycle. E.g., the X38 has very good overclocking features but are the new features really worth what you'll pay for an end of a cycle board?
    January 4, 2008 10:09:46 PM

    Thanks a bunch for the useful advice, all of you.

    I think I'm just going to stick with medium-end hardware for now and see if an upgrade is worthwhile in a year or two. The only high-end thing I might go for is the new Yorkfield processor, but we'll see.

    I still have one smallish question, though:
    What about this HDMI business? Should my graphics card have an HDMI out, since my screen would have a HDMI in? Do I need HDMI to be able to play the new HD formats without downscaling? Does the image over HDMI look better than over DVI? All ATI cards have HDMI but I've heard the 8800GT outperforms the 3870 easily (except in Crossfire configurations, but that would set me back an extra 200€)...
    January 4, 2008 11:39:16 PM

    I've DVI to HDMI cables but don't know how they work. HDMI connections don't really drive up the cost of a video card that much and would probably be worth given your monitor
    !