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I want to build an affordable PC for design and non-hardcore gaming

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Last response: in Systems
July 17, 2008 5:36:19 PM

It's been about five years since I've been into stationary computers in any way, so expect to do some eye rolling :p 

I won't be overclocking it and I won't be playing any game newer than three years old except Spore and maybe Civ 5 or the like - so I'm not looking for something awe-inspiring here.

I will be doing some pretty heavy stuff in the adobe programs, though, and I like the thought of sticking it in my living room as an HTPC when I'm done with it.

(btw: I'm Norwegian, which means a: it's hard for me to state a price range in dollars due to Norwegian prices being different and b: I can probably not get my hands on anything too exotic without paying for postage ++ from the US - so it'd be great with several alternatives)

HDD: I have a couple lying around here, so I can't justify buying a new one :p 

CPU: Whatever the sweet spot between price and performance is in quadruple-core processors. When working I usually have at least Firefox with 20+ tabs, InDesign and Photoshop open, not to mention all that stuff that runs in the background.

Should I wait for Nehalm?

ram: 2x2gb with room for two more sticks - I hear that's about the ideal place to be until 64bit technology is better utilized by the software that's out there. I guess I should go with DDR3?

PSU: Quiet and cheap, I'm guessing I won't need a lot of power, considering this:

Sound: I use a Tivoli PAL radio as my speaker, it's mono but the sound is great - I listen to a lot of music - so I guess the sound card should be decent enough for that at least.

RAID: it sounds neat, how does it work and what do I need?

Graphics: this will be the last thing I choose - I like playing games that are three years and older (so compatibility's an issue) and I would like to play spore on decent quality settings, for everything else I have my 360. I do occasionally do some work in 3D, though.

Mobo: Stable and cheap, if I save money by getting one with good enough onboard graphics for the above, I'd like to do that :) 

Case: Ideally I would like something small and elegant, something I could put in the living room - although that's not my plan quite yet. An HDMI port on my graphics card would be great for the same reason.

Anything else I need to think of?

More about : build affordable design hardcore gaming

July 17, 2008 9:07:49 PM

here's my take:

CPU: Intel Q6600 Quad Core $190
MOBO: ASUS P5K-E LGA 775 Intel P35 $145
GPU: SAPPHIRE Radeon HD 4850 512MB $150
RAM: G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) $80
HDD: (see suggestion below)
DVD: Samsung DVD+/- $25
PSU: Corsair 650TX power supply $90
PASTE: Arctic Silver 5 $6
COOLER: S1283 "Rifle" + Bracket $26+14 $40
CASE: (Elegant) Antec Performance One P180 Silver ($135)
(Cool) Thermaltake Tsunami VA3000BWA Black ($120)
UPS: CyberPower CP1350AVRLCD 1350 VA 810 Watts UPS $160

total: $1006-1021

CPU: design software like CS3 will make use of all the cores so it's beneficial to get a Quad Core no question. (get Q9450 if you are willing to spend $140 more for newer technology)

MOBO: One of the best things I liked about this board is that it has a built-in RAID controller that would allow you to do RAID10 (read HDD section below) right off the bat. Also has 2x PCI-E x16 slot that would allow you to add another 4850 for Crossfire in the future. ASUS has good BIOS if you ever want to mess with it later in time. (get an x38/x48 if you want a better Crossfire board, difference between x8 and x16 CF's are minimum, keep that in mind)

HDD: if you do alot of work on it i suggest a 4 harddrive on RAID10 (Mirror Striping) to ensure crash of any kind while boost your overall performance. Harddrive nowadays are very affordable and I'm suggesting the Seagate 250g which is the slimest, quietest, and most affordable i know of ($60each for $240 total) (RAID10 with 4x250gb gets you 500gb usable space)

GPU: 4850 is by far the best video card you can get for your money. Affordable and more powerful comparing to other cards of the same price range. ATI packes it with 800 processing units! so in rendering/processing images i assume that will translate into faster process. :)  (if you want to wait, 4870x2 is coming out soon at around $500, expensive, but it's worth it :p )

RAM: G-Skill has great user experience overall 2x2 gb kits are the best value/perfomance. (get 2x 4gb kits if you are going 64bit)

PSU: You cant go wrong with Corsair, period. (if you plan on getting 4870x2 get the 750TX or 1000W from Corsair)

PASTE: no brainer for most.

DVD: Samsung's drives seems to be the quietest I know. so if you want to put it in a living room, being quietER may mean some thing.

COOLER: a very safe choice for cooling your CPU and good price for that matter as well.

CASE: it's really a toss-up here. some people likes Mirror cases b/c they look great and so do you (when you look at yourself through it:p  ) P180 is gorgeous. Tsunami is also just as pretty but in a very different way, it's more showy and has very cool wave front panel with built-in blue LED's as well as a side window that looks fantastic in a dark room. (personally, i would go for the Tsunami for more lights, slightly less expensive, side window, and less finger prints, but that's just me :D )

UPS: for RAID setup work station or any PC usage for that matter an UPS is essential, it gives you that additional minutes to save and power down safely without harming your hardware. I own the 900W model and it's heavy (all UPS are) but it's slim, has a somewhat handy LCD and comes with desktop software that you can manage thing on your pc as well. also its size is very suitable for living room. (900W model cost $20 more here in U.S.)

All in all.
that's about 5,103 - 5,179 NOK in your currency. I'm not sure your price level but in here that's slightly above an average PC but for the price i think it's a very good build.

Nahalem is good but things always get better, plus it always takes at least several revision before 'new' things gets better so don't wait if you need it now, but wait if you can get by for now without losing quality.
July 17, 2008 9:35:45 PM

chris chris chris said:
Case: Ideally I would like something small and elegant, something I could put in the living room - although that's not my plan quite yet. An HDMI port on my graphics card would be great for the same reason.
This probably is the one thing you should decide for sure before the rest of the parts get suggested. It can have a bearing on what parts will fit inside the case. Going small also tends to be a bit more expensive in cases.
Is this something like you think you'd want? Silverstone SST-LC17 HTPC, Sort (Uten PSU)
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July 17, 2008 10:58:27 PM

Thanks for the quick replies :) 

If I could get it that cheap here, I'd buy it in a second - but right now it's just giving me the "this is about $200 more than what I was planning to spend, but it looks real nice..."- feeling - dunno if you're familiar with it.

I'm really quite flexible with regards to the case, there are nice big neutral cases out there. I'm certainly not looking for something with lighting or a window - shiny is nice, though :p 

Btw, I realise this may be like swearing in church, but shouldn't the cooler that comes with the CPU be good enough?
July 18, 2008 12:31:53 PM

chris chris chris said:
Also, do I really need a $150 GPU to play the games I mentioned? How about one of these:

I think the reason for alot of the choices that may look a bit extreme for the level of gaming you're interested in are in response to this...

chris chris chris said:
I will be doing some pretty heavy stuff in the adobe programs, though, and I like the thought of sticking it in my living room as an HTPC when I'm done with it.

July 19, 2008 9:22:35 AM

that makes sense - how would you guys change it if you disregard that?
July 19, 2008 1:49:25 PM

Well... I personally like what gaiden said. But if you really use pc for heavy design, i sugest you use nVidia quadro series or ATI fireGL. It will cost you WOULD NOT be able to use it for gaming (correct me if i'm wrong, please).
July 20, 2008 8:31:45 AM

I should've specified that as well, I'm not really looking to do any 3D design and I don't think the graphics card is all that important to Photoshop and the like :)