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System build - what could stand to be upgraded?

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March 5, 2008 11:30:24 PM

Hi all. I've been looking to put together a new system for gaming, light photoshopping, and generally use since October, but my health has been uncooperative and it hasn't happened yet. I've had components lined up since about that time, and a new development has me wondering what parts I should keep and which I should consider beefing up a bit. Here's the build:

  • Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-P35-DS3L: http://www.newegg.com/product/product.aspx?item=N82E16813128059
  • Power Supply: CORSAIR CMPSU-520HX ATX12V v2.2 and EPS12V 2.91 520W Power Supply: http://www.newegg.com/product/product.aspx?item=N82E16817139001
  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E6750: http://www.newegg.com/product/product.aspx?item=N82E16819115029
  • Memory: Crucial Ballistix 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (x2 for 4 total gigs): http://www.newegg.com/product/product.aspx?item=N82E16820146565
  • Monitor: SAMSUNG 226BW Black 22" 2 ms (GTG) Widescreen LCD Monitor: http://www.newegg.com/product/product.aspx?item=N82E16824001096
  • Sound card: bluegears b-Enspirer PCI Interface Sound Card: http://www.newegg.com/product/product.aspx?item=N82E16829127002
  • Quieter fan: ARCTIC COOLING Freezer 7 Pro 92mm CPU Cooler: http://www.newegg.com/product/product.aspx?item=N82E16835186134
  • OS: Microsoft Windows Vista 64-Bit Home Premium: http://www.newegg.com/product/product.aspx?item=N82E16832116204
  • Video Card: SAPPHIRE 100216L Radeon HD 3850 256MB (I only have to pay shipping on this to get it basically new from a friend): http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814102714

    I originally planned to buy a GeForce 8800GT, but the offer on the other card from my friend seems very much worth taking even though the card is inferior. What do you think? My logic is that his card will handle anything I care to throw at it at least in the short term, for a $10 investment for shipping, and I can buy the 8800GT cheaper in a couple years, or go for a newer card for a similar price to the GT now. If I go this way I'm saving $230 or so, which I can sink into other parts.

    I already have a great case, a couple of 80 gig, WD 800JB drives, and CD/DVD drives that seem to be more than adequate for a while yet. How much space do today's programs, including Windows Vista, take? I don't store huge quantities of data like most people, but if the programs demand more, I need to know. Is it wise to buy a faster drive or is that difference negligible?

    I also plan to buy speakers separately to use with a home theater setup in a small room, and expect to spend roughly $500 on those components including a deal currently running as I understand it.

    So what parts could use a boost in your estimation, and why?

    Thanks for your time.
    March 6, 2008 12:36:48 AM

    Consider 2 x 2 instead of 4 x 1 gigs ram for the win. Keeps future 8 gig upgrade path open for similar money. Why not a WD 500 GB HD, if not now then someday soon you'll probably be needing it. Have you considered the 8800 GT or GTS? The rest looks very solid to me.
    Related resources
    March 6, 2008 1:17:27 AM

    Looks good. :) 

    You might want to consider getting a 7200.11 HDD since you will benefit from the speed and the space. Also be warned that the DS3L has only
    March 6, 2008 1:17:36 AM

    I originally planned to buy an 8800GT, but the card I listed costs me shipping only, which I figure is hard to beat. I can always buy a better card later, right?

    Ooh, nice price cut on the PS.

    I've asked around about sound cards vs. onboard and people seem to indicate that there is a sizable difference. Do you disagree?

    The reason I was getting a separate cooler wasn't to handle overclocking or anything... it was to decrease the noise of the system. I am not really healthy enough to get into OCing a system with the potential risks involved, but I do like to listen to classical vocal music through my computer at night, where the video card would be making no noise but the system would.
    March 6, 2008 1:21:53 AM

    If your an audiofile, a sound card will make a difference, if your not, it probably won't.
    March 6, 2008 1:31:04 AM

    On board sounds better each year. Try it then add a card if needed.
    March 6, 2008 2:06:39 AM

    What I wish I could find in terms of audio expertise is someone who enjoys some of the same recordings I do, through a computer. That hasn't happened yet. For what it's worth, I'm looking for quality over volume when it comes to sound, and I want something that can handle old recordings as well as newer, digital ones. Currently I get a tinny quality to some classical works, especially larger choral works recorded in the 60's through 80's.

    I don't want to get too far off track though... any other system recommendations? I've noticed, for example, that there are several CPU models with very similar model numbers to my own, but on both sides of the price bracket. I am not sure if I've chosen the best in that range or not.
    March 6, 2008 2:20:25 AM

    Squidmaster said:
    I also plan to buy speakers separately to use with a home theater setup in a small room, and expect to spend roughly $500 on those components including a deal currently running as I understand it.

    My opinion, bang for the buck, is invest in good home audio speakers and a decent home audio receiver to power them first. A PC audio card last. But others here have more audio expertise, try a seperate post down in the audio section, some real experts lurk down there. http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/forum-6.html
    March 6, 2008 3:28:53 AM

    Quote:
    What I wish I could find in terms of audio expertise is someone who enjoys some of the same recordings I do, through a computer. That hasn't happened yet. For what it's worth, I'm looking for quality over volume when it comes to sound, and I want something that can handle old recordings as well as newer, digital ones. Currently I get a tinny quality to some classical works, especially larger choral works recorded in the 60's through 80's.


    Ya it depends what you are looking to do with your music on the computer. If you're listening to mp3's below 192 Kbps, there is no reason to really buy a sound card, the audio quality wouldn't be there in the 1st place. Myself, I thought my onboard sounded awful, you could always hear a static hiss when using high-quality headphones which drove me crazy with the acoustic albums that I listen to. A soundcard [PCMIA creative laptop card for now] was one of the better purchases I've made. Outputs incredible, full sound that allows high-end audio components use their full potential.

    From what I've read so far, Creative sound cards are more for gaming b/c of their format support [Digital Live or DTS Interactive] while Auzentech's are more for audiophile sound output [analog & optical in/out]. Apparently Auzentech has been good with driver updates, citing support for Digital Live and DTS Interactive soon. I've read some reviews of the bluegears b-Enspirer card and it sounds pretty good too, although it uses c-media drivers which some people seem to have had problems with... Keep the Auzentech in mind, even though it's a bit more expensive. It seems to be the go-to card for audio enthusiasts, and is the one that I'm going to pick up when I start building. Good luck!

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
    March 6, 2008 3:41:44 AM

    Also, it looks like you have 2 HD's so keep in mind that the GIGABYTE GA-P35-DS3L motherboard doesn't support RAID configurations. The DS3R allows for RAID if that's what you are looking for. I have a very similar build in mind, with the 8800 GT instead of 3850, and E8400 replacing E6750. Like said above, 2 x 2GB would be better for future upgrades.
    March 10, 2008 7:44:58 PM

    The jury is out on RAID. If I run a RAID setup it would be RAID 1 for security, but my experiences with RAID stability in Windows XP were dirt poor. Is Vista capable of handling this properly? If so I may do exactly what you suggest.
    March 10, 2008 8:42:27 PM

    There is generally no real world(vs. synthetic transfer rate benchmarks) performance advantage to raid of any kind.
    Go to www.storagereview.com at this link: http://faq.storagereview.com/tiki-index.php?page=Single...
    There are some specific applications that will benefit, but
    gaming is not one of them. Even if you have an application which reads one input file sequentially, and writes
    it out, you will perform about as well by putting the input on one drive, and the output on the other.

    Raid-1 helps your recovery time if you have a hard drive failure. ...only. If you lose data because of a virus, program error, operator error, fire..etc, it won't help. If you care about the data, you need to back it up to an EXTERNAL device. If you do that, how much is it worth to you to recover from a hard drive failure in seconds vs an hour? If you have a public server, of course, otherwise, maybe not.

    I would look to the E8400 processor. It is about $50 more, but it is faster, and runs cooler.

    Onboard sound is very good these days. I would try it out first. If you think it is lacking, then adding a sound card later is easy.

    I would get 4gb memory in a 2x2gb kit. It costs less, takes less power, and it preserves your option to go to 8gb.

    Go with the $10 3850 video card. If you are not satisfied, you can sell it on e-bay and upgrade it. At least, you will know how much more you might need.

    Spend any extra on a great monitor. It is something you will see and touch every day. It is one of the few future proof products around. Consider the Samsung 245T http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... cheaper units do not have the 178 degree viewing angle that the 245T has http://www.samsung.com/us/consumer/detail/spec.do?group...

    Start with your 80gb drive, assuming it is a sata drive. If it is not, then get a sata drive. IDE works, but it can be a bother. Add a second drive later, when you can properly estimate your needs.

    ---good luck---
    March 10, 2008 10:24:25 PM

    Lebowski10 said:
    Quote:
    What I wish I could find in terms of audio expertise is someone who enjoys some of the same recordings I do, through a computer. That hasn't happened yet. For what it's worth, I'm looking for quality over volume when it comes to sound, and I want something that can handle old recordings as well as newer, digital ones. Currently I get a tinny quality to some classical works, especially larger choral works recorded in the 60's through 80's.


    Ya it depends what you are looking to do with your music on the computer. If you're listening to mp3's below 192 Kbps, there is no reason to really buy a sound card, the audio quality wouldn't be there in the 1st place. Myself, I thought my onboard sounded awful, you could always hear a static hiss when using high-quality headphones which drove me crazy with the acoustic albums that I listen to. A soundcard [PCMIA creative laptop card for now] was one of the better purchases I've made. Outputs incredible, full sound that allows high-end audio components use their full potential.

    From what I've read so far, Creative sound cards are more for gaming b/c of their format support [Digital Live or DTS Interactive] while Auzentech's are more for audiophile sound output [analog & optical in/out]. Apparently Auzentech has been good with driver updates, citing support for Digital Live and DTS Interactive soon. I've read some reviews of the bluegears b-Enspirer card and it sounds pretty good too, although it uses c-media drivers which some people seem to have had problems with... Keep the Auzentech in mind, even though it's a bit more expensive. It seems to be the go-to card for audio enthusiasts, and is the one that I'm going to pick up when I start building. Good luck!

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...


    That C-Media chip was originally used for onboard sound and still is. It is no more than an AC' 97 codec chip lol and I can get them for about 11 bucks in other PCB brands.

    Someone figured out they'd make way more money by throwing it on a card and pricing it like a real sound card. It lacks a lot of punch and is quite flat compared to even the old SB Live! in my opinion. Buy an XFI. And not one of the new stripped down "gamer" ones either. Try and find the old Xtrememusic designs OEM. Best bang for the buck.
    March 13, 2008 12:48:03 AM

    I suppose the question on sound is whether I can plug the onboard sound into a receiver as easily as a more robust card, and whether or not it can handle the kind of music I listen to.

    I just had one of my hard drives go bad... what's the best brand these days to buy? My Western Digitals served me well until now, and just as this happened I found that some folks seem to think they have been unreliable for years.
    March 29, 2008 12:48:11 AM

    I was just reminded about the memory size limitations of 32 bit OS's. Is it worth getting 4 gigs of RAM for any system right now or is that overkill?
    March 29, 2008 2:09:38 AM

    It's not necessarily overkill. You'll only be able to effectively use about 3 GB in a 32-bit OS, but hey, if you decide to upgrade to a 64-bit or one of your RAM sticks fails, you've got the fourth one! Besides, Tom's just did an article a couple weeks ago about usig 8 GB. It's not overkill.
    March 31, 2008 6:59:24 PM

    So what OS's are 64 bit these days? I initially was thinking that Vista Home Premium would be, but hadn't checked it out enough at the time.

    If I get 4 gigs of RAM, is there any point to having much video card memory in play?
    March 31, 2008 7:09:39 PM

    I think the only 64 bit os to get today is Vista. Most likely home premium would do all you want.
    Shopping tips for Vista:
    1) Do you qualify for an academic license?
    If so, you can get Vista at a discounted price.
    2) Look for an upgrade version of home premium instead of OEM.
    Upgrade is a retail version which gives you support from microsoft, unlike OEM.
    For $10, microsoft will send you the 64 bit DVD.
    I saw Vista home premium upgrade recently at Costco for $85.
    There is a legitimate two step instalation process to install an upgrade version
    in a new machine.
    3) Do you really need Ultimate? There are very few features that the home user would want.
    Check out the differences on the microsoft Vista web site.
    If you get a retail or upgrade version, you will still be able to upgrade to ultimate later.

    The video card needs it's own memory for faster processing. In time, the data there gets transferred to the mobo ram. Up to a point, more ram is better for a vga card.

    Even if you were to use a 32 bit os, you would see about 3.3gb, which is a big increase over 2gb.
    March 31, 2008 7:28:40 PM

    Speakers :

    1) BOSE Companion 2 Series II multimedia speaker system: $99.00 on newegg. Makes every other speaker system look like poo,

    2) BOSE Companion 3 Series II multimedia speaker system: $249.00 on newegg. Makes everything else in the world look like poo.
    March 31, 2008 7:55:29 PM

    I would recommend the sound card you listed if you are going to watch multi-channel videos. I used that card in a HTPC and it was great for that. Standard audio on motherboards do not properly decode mutli-channel audio. This is also an issue for multi-channel games, unless you get a receiver that has the decoder.
    April 10, 2008 3:08:56 AM

    I've been looking at monitors lately since I've managed to come in well under budget with the video card mailing and my decision to use my Bose 201 series IV speakers ( B00006HO4Y]http://www.amazon.com/Bose-201-IV- [...] B00006HO4Y) for the time being.

    Choices that have my attention are:
  • Dell 2408WFP ($70 or so cheaper than the Samsung recommended here, plus it's newer - thoughts?)
  • Lenovo l220x (The LCD monitor forum looks at this favorably, and I wonder if a smaller screen works out to mean higher quality in other areas.
  • DoubleSight DS-263N (I think this is too big for my desk given that I am less than 3' away from my screen, but I have no experience to know if that's the case. I'm also curious how the quality compares with the other two screens listed.)

    I'm still looking around at monitors. I read about input lag, but something tells me my wireless mouse (which doesn't bother me at all) might be a bigger hiccup to gaming than monitor issues. What do you think? I'm also reading that many of these monitors emit a high pitched whine, which I really, really would like to avoid given my health issues.

    I'm considering getting a 7200.11 drive in a smaller size (360GB), but it's so new on newegg that it's hard to tell if it is worth it. I don't really need a 500GB drive at this point, but given that I just had a hard drive fail I think it would pay to grab a new drive just the same.

    I'm also perusing power supplies... Are there features of the 520 watt Corsair that make it worth $20 more than the 550 (http://www.buy.com/prod/corsair-vx-550w-atx-power-supply/q/loc/101/205852646.html)? I don't mess with my case much once the build is complete for what that's worth.

    Thanks again all.
    !