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Need advice on a new build

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February 7, 2008 12:52:18 AM

Hello all! I'm new to the forums, but I've used this site in the past to make some buying decisions, and now I need some advice.

It's time for me to build a new machine, but I haven't made one for about 4 years and I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the options that have become available since then.

I'm looking for something on the budget end, and while there are plenty of places offering good suggestions for builds, it's hard to tell what's actually going to be a good system. My current setup is 3 monitors, one of which is a 32" HDTV. I'm okay with having just 2, but I would find myself paralyzed with only one. I use it mostly for gaming and home theatre applications.

With that in mind, I figured my best option would be to base it around the latest Ars Technica budget box: http://arstechnica.com/guides/buyer/guide-200801.ars/2, because the components listed have been getting good reviews on Newegg and I can be confident that they'll work together (and the video card supports dual monitors). I can gut my old PC for the sound card and the hard drives, which brings me to my first question:

1) I have a 20G hardrive and a 300G. I know you can install the OS on one and use the other for everything else. What are the advantages of doing this? If it is advantageous, how do I do it?

2) Assuming the motherboard/video card combo is a good one, is it worth getting the HDMI version of the motherboard, or could I not use it with the HDMI adapter on the video card?

Motherboard: http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=ENE&DEPA=0&Description=M2A-VM
Video Card: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814102715

3) Which OS should I go with? I'm used to XP, but I don't have a problem with switching if Vista is solid enough. Is it worth going for the 64 bit version?

4) This is the one I'm most confused about: How can I determine my power requirements? The case recommended by the Ars Technica article includes a 350W PSU, but I'm a bit leery of coming up too short. What should I look for in a PSU?

5) What should I shoot for in terms of cooling? The case doesn't really matter to me; any micro ATX is fine, but like with the PSU I'm unsure how to quantify the need for fans. How can I tell if I have enough cooling? Also, if possible I would like it to be fairly quiet, as I have to keep it in my room.

6) This system comes out at around $500. Does this seem like a fairly good ratio of price to performance?

I apologize for the length. Thanks very much for any input you might have.

More about : advice build

February 7, 2008 4:40:06 AM

goldplatedrook said:


1) I have a 20G hardrive and a 300G. I know you can install the OS on one and use the other for everything else. What are the advantages of doing this? If it is advantageous, how do I do it?

What you are referring to is a RAID array. There are many different levels starting at RAID 0 and going on from that depending on what you are wanting out of it. You can read up on the different levels on many a site. You can implement a RAID array with a hardware controller or a software one, depending on your use and preference.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAID#Software-based


2) Assuming the motherboard/video card combo is a good one, is it worth getting the HDMI version of the motherboard, or could I not use it with the HDMI adapter on the video card?

The video card is good, can't comment on the motherboard and I don't really know enough about HDMI interfaces to lend any helpful advice.


Motherboard: http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=ENE&DEPA=0&Description=M2A-VM
Video Card: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814102715

3) Which OS should I go with? I'm used to XP, but I don't have a problem with switching if Vista is solid enough. Is it worth going for the 64 bit version?

For gaming, right now I would use XP 64-bit. Vista is starting to finally catch up in performance, but the gap still hasn't been breached and Vista just feels too bloated to me.

4) This is the one I'm most confused about: How can I determine my power requirements? The case recommended by the Ars Technica article includes a 350W PSU, but I'm a bit leery of coming up too short. What should I look for in a PSU?

http://www.extreme.outervision.com/psucalculatorlite.js... --- Good tool to use to help you determine if you have enough power.


A good power supply should be from a trusted, name-brand vendor such as PC Power and Cooling. Things like number of amps available on the 12v rails, quality of components, etc. are important things to consider. The power supply is the one main component in a PC that you don't want to buy a cheaply made one.

5) What should I shoot for in terms of cooling? The case doesn't really matter to me; any micro ATX is fine, but like with the PSU I'm unsure how to quantify the need for fans. How can I tell if I have enough cooling? Also, if possible I would like it to be fairly quiet, as I have to keep it in my room.

Unless you are overclocking, the stock cooling will be fine if you get a decent case that includes fans. You know you have enough cooling when your system is below the 40C range or so at idle. Up to about 65 under load for the CPU is fine too, but beyond that and you are risking it. Most fans are fairly quiet, but again, it's dependent on the individual fans.

6) This system comes out at around $500. Does this seem like a fairly good ratio of price to performance?

As far as I can tell. Don't skimp on the PSU though.

February 7, 2008 5:42:01 AM

Thanks so much for taking the time to respond! I really appreciate the advice :) 
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February 7, 2008 10:12:43 AM

lol... yeah, don't skimp on the PSU... alternately, you can consider a system based on the Pentium E2140... there's a TH article somewhere there... but you'll have to OC it to get the best performance
February 7, 2008 6:19:27 PM

Quote:
A good power supply should be from a trusted, name-brand vendor such as PC Power and Cooling. Things like number of amps available on the 12v rails, quality of components, etc. are important things to consider. The power supply is the one main component in a PC that you don't want to buy a cheaply made one.


Quote:
yeah, don't skimp on the PSU


Looking at my the choices for micro ATX cases, the one that stands out is the X-QPACK2 from Apevia: http://www.apevia.com/product.php?pid=224&xcSID=59a355e6d1d90d51ac88727a902ae954.

It has a built in 500W PSU (which is almost twice the required wattage for my build) and the specs are listed in that link: 12V1 = 16A and 12V2 = 18A, but I haven't found a conclusive agreement on whether those numbers are good, because they certainly don't mean anything to me.

Are these numbers going to be sufficient or am I going to have to buy an extra PSU? I don't have any experience with Apevia, so I don't know how their PSUs stack up anyway.

I'm actually a little disheartened by the limited selection of micro ATX cases. I was hoping for a small flat type with a more home theater-ish form factor that I could set my secondary monitor onto to save some space, but all of those types are eother too small or too expensive. Has anyone had experience with a cube case? It seems like an awkward shape to put somewhere, but it looks so much better than the smaller towers in my opinion. Anyway, that's all an aside. The important question is whether this built in PSU will be sufficient.
February 7, 2008 7:51:01 PM

^Agreed. Get a top tired PSU listed there.
February 7, 2008 8:07:42 PM

I got an X-QPACK2. It's a great design, although poorly executed in my particular case (e.g. assembled by a drone who put a wire through the power switch wires). Apevia PSUs are on tier-5, and I just read [another] review in which one of their acrylic models literally melted, and well below its rated output. In a micro-ATX case, a modular PSU would be a great choice to avoid cable mess. I used Mushkin in mine, but a Corsair HX520 would be even nicer. You will also not fit a large CPU HSF in there, but the stock cooler is good for some overclocking. The X-QPACK2 has good airflow, with front and rear fans, although m-ATX boards may not be great for overclocking due to chipset limitations.
Unlike what Hawkspur said, a 20GB drive and a 300GB drive do not constitute a RAID of any kind. If you load your O/S on one drive and put the swap file and applications on the other, you will see improved performance as disk I/O will be spread across drives based on function. RAID splits I/O also, but in an entirely different way that is not based on function (nor even on file) but on internal algorithms.
The PSU tier list, also at http://www.tomswiki.com/page/Tiered+PSU+Listings?t=anon, is a frequently-referenced source. It isn't the only source, and says nothing about the size of the PSU you need (for that, go to http://www.extreme.outervision.com/psucalculatorlite.js...), but is a reasonable quality reference.
February 8, 2008 6:13:52 AM

Thanks for the responses, those websites were exactly what I needed. I'm favoring the 520HX over the VX simply because of the modular cables; it seems to be the best of the options at that price range. Having to buy another PSU (in addition to the default) is a sad dent in my budget, but I can understand the wisdom of it.

I think I'm pretty set on the X-QPACK2 as well, since it's the only non-tower I've found that doesn't either look silly (why can't designers just base everything around my tastes?) or have just one 5.25" bay. I can do without a floppy or card reader, but I might just die with only one optical drive.

Thanks again for the help!
!