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Recommendations for new build - Media centre

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  • New Build
  • Systems
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February 21, 2008 10:08:12 AM

I built my last system three years ago and i feel now im in the need for an upgrade.
I use my pc for streaming music/video on my home network, listening to MP3s, burning dvds, internet - no gaming (i have a ps3 for that) - and some home small business applications.

As ive started to try and spec a system i cant believe how much things have progressed! its even more confusing.
what i do know is that i want to build an intel based system, with either dual or quad core - i say this because i want the system to offer quick processing and give me a few good years.

My current system is giving me trouble when im trying to extract large archive files whilst downloading and playing music at the same time. (currently have athlon 64 3000+ Newcastle)....

I have scannd the forum but most systems tend to be gamer based, i dont need this - but not sure what compromise i need to make in the graphic card department.

Im struggling to get started really - i want to spec a system then compare cost vs a ready built one.

I have some components that i`ll be keeping:

2 x Seagate Barracuda 200gb SATA HDD
LCD monitor
keyboard etc

probably go for a new case + PSU..

So far ive come across this as a good starter (I think):

Asus P5k Delux MB
q6700 processor

Ive read reviews of systems in a variety of places, but seem to be conflicting = Anybody steer me in the right direction please?

More about : recommendations build media centre

February 21, 2008 11:56:34 AM

Ok. Here's my recommendation...it's totally biased based on my preferences and over 20 years of selling and servicing high end gaming computers.

Motherboard - I love Abit. Their website is always up to get drivers. They are quick to release updates. Their warranty is the best in the industry and very quick. They have the best customer support by phone or online. The quality of their boards is also one of, if not the best, in the industry. I'd go for the IP35-Pro. It's a great board, has the uGuru, and is not too expensive. If you wanna spring for a bit more, the new IX38 QuadGT has the new Intel IX38 chipset and supports a higher FSB and RAM.

CPU - The new Intel E8400 is screaming for the price. Or if you wanna upgrade to quad core the Q6600 is the same price. A bit slower than the dual core but then you have 4 cores. It's a toss up. If you'll take advantage of 4 cores you know which to get.

For RAM I'd a get a 4GB kit containing 2x2GB sticks. DDR2-800 is what you want and it's dirt cheap. 4GB for $80 is awesome. Go for something with a brand name like GSkill, OCZ, Corsair, etc... Look at the timings and get the fastest stuff possible for the lowest price. If somethign faster is only $5 more go for it. But don't spend $50 more for super speed ram it's not worth it. I prefer OCZ.

For the video card you don't game so just a Geforce 8600GT or Radeon 2600XT will do fine. It will work great to run Vista's graphical desktop and everything else minor you throw at it.

If you want a DVD burner get a SATA one. I'd get a Pioneer SATA and they are only $25 OEM.

Any old case will do. An el cheapo Coolermaster Centurion or a cheaper Antec is nice. If you want a better case that isn't too expensive try an Antec 900 series. The 900 series has the power supply on the bottom, has a window for looks, and has the hard drives mounted sideways for easy installation and access. High quality for a decent price. If you want a home theatre style case I like the Silvermaster ones that hold an ATX size motherboard.

The above cases have no power supply since you want to buy that seperate. The power supply is the most important piece of equipment in your computer. For the price I'd go for an Antec NEO...maybe 550W. It's modular so you use only the cables you need to avoid the mess. Then it's quality built, efficient, and has a 5 year warranty. The price is reasonable compared to some enthusiast power supplies out there.

Next you wanna get a heatsink to replace the stock one on the processor. I'd go for a thermalright heatsink then buy a $10 120mm fan to slap on it. It's the best heatsink on the market. Get it and forget it. If your going to skimp over the price of a heatsink just stick with the stock one. The reason of getting a better heatsink is to have better...might as well get the best for a few dollars more. What's $10 or $15 anyways over the life of the computer. I hate it when people say a $50 heatsink is too expensive. Then stick with the stock. If you wanna cool then go thermalright. Or if you have the cash get yourself a water cooler. It's quiet too so it's great for systems used for watching movies.

The above system would do you just fine. It would be my choice for a build. All that's missing is the sound card. You can use the onboard 7.1 sound which would probably suit you fine and be better than what you have now, or you can buy one. If you have a home theatre receiver you can just run the onboard surround sound to that and your fine.

If you have a PCI-express video card now you can keep that for your new system since you don't game. Also your hard drives are fine as you stated. Glad to see you have Seagates (my personal favs) Also you case is probably still good and may your power supply. If you just have an el cheapo power supply then that's all you need to upgrade. You might also have a Burner you can keep.

Good luck.
February 21, 2008 1:55:23 PM

THanks for the info - very useful and it helps me a great deal.

I think i was getting too hung up on what chipset/cpu etc to get, so its useful to hear some recommendations.
whenever ive bought in the past ive tended to buy best of brand, and to be honest hasnt always been the most sensible.

I did look at the Antec 900, nice - however my current case is an Antec P160 - so im now thinking that will be sufficient. a bit too noisey though - (probably the fan on the cpu actually) but looks good.
And the psu is a budget 600w version, been ok, but worth getting a decent brand.

Current vid card is an agp, so thats dead in the water...

cheers
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February 21, 2008 4:36:03 PM

I'll concur on getting the Abit IP35. great chipset and very overclockable if you need to.

Q6600 would be a better bet on your archiving/music/application mix. it's cheaper too, and if you feel it's slow, you should be able to ramp it up around 3.0GHz with very little effort. Better than dropping twice as much moola on a chip that's only 200mhz faster. If you are really gearing this towards media/HTPC, get a CM Hyper 212 or a Scythe Andy Samurai Master. both are very quiet and offer great cooling for the price.

Definately get a quality PSU. I HIGHLY reccomend a Seasonic, as I have a 700w, and it's dead silent + 80% and up efficiency.

Video, I'd get a Passively-cooled ATI HD 34xx series card. Sapphire makes a 3470 with a nice big passive heatsink for only $70.

You should be fine with 2gigs of Crucial Ballistix for $50. if you're running vista, should be way more than enough with no gaming, and if you decide vista is the way to go, Vista Ultimate 32 runs great on my 2gigs :) 
February 29, 2008 5:52:26 PM

Just for the record, i went for and have built:

Abit IP35Pro
Q6600 (OC to 3Ghz - cool as anything..)
Scythe Andy Samurai Master
2x 2Gb GSkill DDR2
ANtec Neo 550 PSU
ATI 3850HD PCIE Card

Cheers for advice.

Happy with the performance!

Just need to set up a decent RAID config now...so over to the harddrive page...
!