General pre-build questions

it has been a long time since i last built a machine and with the advances in technology (that i have not been keeping up with) i have a few question to throw out there.

1) CPU thermal rating: I have seen plenty of CPUs out there on the market that now have a power/ thermal rating. Aside from using more power is there a significant advantage or disadvantage of using a higher/lower CPU wattage?

2) CPU cache: the cache sizes have gotten huge since the last time i looked at building. Where is the cutoff for size to get high performance out of a machine?

2) video cards have advanced tremendously since i last built my system. ie, pre-PCI express x16. In the system that i am looking to build i doubt that i will be doing much, if any, gaming. but given the fact that i can build a new machine and enjoy some of the new games out there i might. not to open a highly dedated topic, but nVidia or ATi? How much memory on the card? I dont know anything about sli and i doubt ill ever need that kind of video processing.

3) Another hotly debated topic that im not triyng to start is AMD vs Intel. I run linux based machines, rarely use xp and will never use vista. Which one is going to perform the best for linux (im currently running an AMD 64)

4) SATA has progressed as well. Ive looked at some current mobos and found that almost all of them have 6 SATA ports. Using those 6 ports can i use optical drives and HDs in any order?

5) Ive read in some cases where the OEM CPU fans dont have good clearance inside the case. (full tower) Is it better to upgrade cpu fans when building these days?

6) mobos seem to excellent sound cards onboard these days. No need for a PCI sound card if im not planning on doing crazy sound stuff, right?

7) RAM has made it to DDR3. Any particular type (CL specs or buffered/unbuffered) to consider?

8) Any specific advantage or disadvantage in dual core vs quad core?

i know some of this is going to seem remedial to many of you but any insight would be greatly appreciated.
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More about general build questions
  1. 2. From what I've read/know ATI HD4850 is the best performance for the buck video card out there now.

    5. Most of the time if you don't plan on OCing you can use the heatsink/fan that comes w/ the CPU.

    6. I suggest using the onboard sound if you don't plan on doing any big sound stuff (like you wrote).

    7. At this point I believe that the price vs performance gain from DDR2 to DDR3 is not worth it. I'd stick w/ DDR2 for now.
  2. 1) Beside lowering your electric bill a bit, lower wattage also mean less heat. So when OCing lower wattage usually means you can push the processer further before it becomes unstable.

    2b) Right now ATI owns the GPU market. The HD48xx series is very close (if not better) to it's GTX2xx competition and is considerably cheaper. And crossfire scales better than sli.

    3) The general rule of thumb is that if you're going to OC or you're going to buy top-of-the-line, you will without a doubt want to go with Intel. The Core2's OC vastly better than the equivelant AMD offerings and AMD doesn't even offer a competing processor for Intels ridiculously expensive stuff. But if you're on a budget and you're going to leave it at stock speed, AMD will offer better price/performance (especially when the cost of the mobo is considered).

    5) Generally, if you're not OCing the stock HSF that comes with the retail version of whichever processor you choose will be sufficient. If you're going to OC, you'll definitely want an aftermarket HSF. And even if you're not OCing, if you can get an OEM version of your processor the price difference is generally neglegible between retail proc/stock HSF and OEM proc/aftermarket HSF.

    6) If you're not doing anything crazy with your sound setup, it's almost never worth the money to get a descrete sound card.

    7) DDR3 is absolutely not worth the money right now. If you wait for Intel's new Core i7's to come out (which will use DDR3 exclusively), that might change. But with any current generation components DDR2 800 or 1066 are the only reasonable choices (with 800MHz being the sweet spot, 1066 is only really necessary if your going to OC the crap out of your rig).

    8) If you do any kind of heavy multitasking, like video editing, you'll definitely want to go with a quad. For less intensive applications and particularly gaming, your choice is a little more difficult. What it comes down to is whether you want better performance now or if you're willing to sacrifice upfront performance for possible gains in the future. Right now very few games can take advantage of quad cores, so a fast dual core will be better than a slower quad core. But it's only a matter of time before more games start utilizing quad cores better. So typically quad cores are seen as more future proof whereas dual cores offer better performance for the immediate future.
  3. Good questions.

    1. Basically just energy savings, architecture will have more to do with it than most other things.
    2a. Again basically the larger, the better. More of a price cut off then a performance one i'd say.
    2b. Although my current cards are nVidia i'm leaning more towards the ATI cards. You can get decent performance for some inexpensive cards right now, or excellent performance from the 4850 at about $150. Here's a nice hierarchy chart that you can compare performance while you check out available prices,1987-6.html
    3. Both can perform well depending on mobo and chipset, Intel usually gets the nod
    4. yes
    5. Usually if you're not overclocking the stock CPU fan is fine. They can be changed out to other options if you're going for high performance or a silent/quiet system.
    6. Most on board sound is fine for all but radical gamers and audiophiles.
    7. While the top end DDR3 offers slightly better performance, it also offers a big bill. Quality DDR2 is really at the sweet spot for price and performance right now.
    8. Still only a few applications that are optimized for quad cores (some games, video editing) , that should change in the future it depends more on what you're planning to do.
  4. thanks for all the information. i think i know what where i need to start now. ill post a prebuild shopping list before i order to get some feedback.
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