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First Time Build, Many Questions

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July 16, 2008 3:11:55 PM

So I'm finally ready to take the plunge and build my own PC after using (and getting sick of) laptops for years. I've done a great deal of reading, but still have a ton on unanswered questions/concerns before I start buying parts and (attempting to) put it all together. This will be used as a multi-purpose rig (HD encoding/playback, gaming, programming, etc) and will probably end up running 64-bit Vista (with possible Ubuntu dual-boot). My budget is $1200-1300 max, but the lower the better of course is preferred. Here's what I have so far, questions/concerns added along the way:

CPU:
Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 Kentsfield 2.4GHz 2 x 4MB L2 Cache LGA 775 Quad-Core Processor - Retail
Price: $210 shipped + taxes
-Do I need a better CPU? The price difference for say a Q9450 doesn't seem worth it to me.

Motherboard:
GIGABYTE GA-X48-DS4 LGA 775 Intel X48 ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail
Price: $235 shipped + taxes
-I plan to possibly CrossFire in the future, is this a good choice?
-Do I need any additional cables/components for this board?
-Is the onboard sound (Realtek ALC889A) decent or is an external sound card a better idea? I play mostly music (MP3 V0) and movies (720p/1080p with untouched sound, so DTS support would be nice)

Case:
Antec Nine Hundred
Price: $99 shipped (no taxes)
-Is this a decent case for a first time build? Airflow looks good, I don't mind the fan sounds as long as it's helping to keep temps down. I know this is a love/hate case for most people, but it seems like it has a good price/feature ratio.

GPU:
GIGABYTE GV-R485-512H-B Radeon HD 4850 512MB 256-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFire Supported Video Card - Retail
Price: $160 shipped (after $30 MIR) + taxes
-Is there a better brand for warranty/stability?
-Is it better to go with a 4870 now instead of waiting and possibly adding another 4850 in CrossFire in the future?
-Concerning heat issues, is it wise to get a cooler (was thinking Zalman VF1000) or wait for a driver update? Or another option?

Memory:
mushkin 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory - Retail
Specs: 5-4-4-12 timing, 1.8V
Price: $70 shipped (after $25 MIR) + taxes
*or*
OCZ Reaper HPC Edition 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory - Retail
Specs: 4-4-4-15 timing, 2.1V
Price: $87 shipped (after $35 MIR) + taxes
-Which of these would be a better choice? I doubt I'll overclock (but I may try in the future), so best stock performance is preferred. Also keep in mind motherboard choice for compatibility.

PSU:
OCZ StealthXStream OCZ600SXS 600W ATX12V / EPS12V Power Supply 100 - 240 V CB, CE, CSA, UL, FCC - Retail
Price: $60 shipped (after $25 MIR) + taxes
*or*
PC Power & Cooling S61EPS 610W Continuous @ 40°C EPS12V Power Supply 100 - 240 V UL, cUL, CE, CB, TUV - Retail
Price: $95 shipped (after $20 MIR) + taxes
-Do I need a higher voltage PSU (750W+) to power a possible future CrossFire upgrade?
-PC Power & Cooling always seems to get rave reviews, so I'm leaning that way, is it worth the price difference?
-Do I need anything else to (better/easier) mount power supply and manage cables in above case with above motherboard, etc?

Hard Drive (bought already):
SAMSUNG Spinpoint F1 HD753LJ 750GB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - OEM
Price: $108 shipped with taxes
-I assume I need SATA cables, correct? Will any generic/cheap cable do?

DVD burner:
-Any recommendations? I was thinking Lite-On or Samsung in ~$30-40 range

Misc:
-Thermal paste? Will Arctic Silver suffice (have some already), or is there a better choice?
-Are there any other cables/components I should add for an easier, more safe/stable build?

I apologize for all the questions (I'm sure some are stupid/unnecessary), I just want to doublecheck everything before I start ordering parts. If you know of lower prices/better choices on any of the components I'm thinking of, that's also greatly appreciated. Again, any and all suggestions and comments are appreciated, as all of this is still semi-foreign to me. Thanks in advance.

More about : time build questions

July 16, 2008 3:36:58 PM

Looks like you have some good choices.

The X48 is a good crossfire mobo.

Are you planning on overclocking? If you are, then you'll need an aftermarket cooler. You would need thermal paste for a different CPU cooler, but won't need any if you are using the standard cooler.

DVD burners are all about $30 - make sure to get a SATA one - easier to cable.

I have the 900 and love it. You should be able to find it a little cheaper than that. It's not the easiest to work with, but the airflow is perfect. Antec recently came out with the Antec 1200 - it's like the 900, but full tower (and fixes some of the 900's faults). I'm thinking of getting it.

Most people say that onboard sound is good enough for most.

Good luck. Take your time. Have fun with it.
July 16, 2008 3:43:39 PM

1. Good CPU, i wouldn't change it
2. Great motherboard, comes with what you need. Start with the onboard sound, you can always upgrade it later if it isn't as good as you want.
3. Airflow is good, it's ugly, but i'm an old geezer
4. I like Visiontek, but no big difference in any 4850 out now.
5. Mushkin
6. Of the 2 listed i'd go PCPower
7. DVD burner either, get SATA

Looks good
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July 16, 2008 4:10:26 PM

I'll address most of your points.

CPU: The Q6600 is a good budget/value choice in general and it is an excellent overclocker. Though if you overclock, upgrade coolers (try a http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...) and get some thermal grease/paste ( I highly recommend Arctic Silver 5). The real difference between the Q6600 and the Q9450 is 65nm vs. 45nm respectively. The later dissipates much less heat and is preferred for overclockers, but the Q6600 overclocks well for a 65nm processor anyway.

MBOARD: For crossfire use either an X38 or X48 northbridge chipset. They might have a few different features but functionality of either one should be roughly the same. X48 was meant to be 'certified stable' at the higher FSB speeds of new processors, but X38 can keep up with those speeds just as well. If you're looking to save some money, go with a cheaper X38 model. It shouldn't impact performance much.

CASE: That's a good one. To save a little, maybe try the three hundred, http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168.... It should have just as good airflow.

GPU: The 4850 and 4750 are both good choices. Pick whichever option fits the budget. And I've always had good luck with Gigabyte products across the board. Stock fans have always been too loud for my taste. But a case with good airflow will help the stock fan.

MEMORY: The OCZ memory supports a higher voltage and should be more stable at higher speeds (2.1V vs. 1.8V). I might recommend getting memory at DDR2 1066 speed, the same speed as your processor. You should get a mild increase in performance by matching speeds.

PSU: You might consider a higher wattage on those psu's. Last I checked, the minimum recommended wattage for two 4750 in crossfire was 550W. Those would leave you ~50W for your processor, hard drives, and optical drives. I would look in the 650W to ~850W range (with the higher wattage being more stable when overclocking). PC Power and Cooling does get great reviews. I've usually gone with Antec for a psu. Any way you go, get one with >80% efficiency; that's a mark of a quality psu. Also note the amp rating for the +12V rail. 50A-60A is good for a crossfire rig.

HD: Go with whatever hard drive makes you happy. They're pretty much the same. Pick a manufacturer with a good warranty. If you want to up your hard driver performance (quicker boot and load times) try a Western Digital Velociraptor, but that may be a budget buster. But they are fast.

Your motherboard should come with a few cables. Check what is included in the box. Newegg lists that motherboard coming with enough cables to get you going. Stock sound is ok. I have always noticed better sound though when I have added a sound card. I would suggest grabbing whichever Creative card fits your budget.
July 16, 2008 4:26:08 PM

A single HD4850 uses 110w at load, 2 in crossfire use 199w at load
http://www.atomicmpc.com.au/forums.asp?s=2&c=7&t=9354
a good PSU calculator to use is
http://extreme.outervision.com/psucalculatorlite.jsp
The 48xx series isn't in the database yet so you'll have to substitute a PSU with similar power use. Most PSU manufacturers recommend about 60% of rated power usage for optimum results. (heat, efficiency and longevity)
*EDIT* they added the 4850/4870 while i wasn't looking !
I got 413w total system with a mild OC
July 16, 2008 4:41:42 PM

Good choices. I like OCZ for memory (never had a problem with it) and P&C for PSU (rock solid).
!