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Your advice on "all around" mid-level system

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October 14, 2008 5:12:06 PM

I'm about to replace my well-loved but much out of date computer. I've a high level of tech understanding, but have not kept an eye on the marketplace, so I'm looking for feedback on a few issues.

I've decided my system will be Vista 64 Home Premium, Intel Quad, minimum 4G DDR2, overclockable (but not to cutting edge). My pocketbook allows for premium components, but I'd rather not spend money where not needed.

Here are my priorities:
* Mid-level video - I am only an occasional gamer, and don't mind playing at reduced levels. I don't envision myself ever needing a dual-GPU system.
* High performance in applications and multitasking (for example video and/or audio encoding while multitasking)
* Quiet but not silent
* Maximum upgrade options

I'm currently leaning toward
- Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3P or GA-EP45-DS3R (similar boards with better cooling on the former)
- Intel Q6600

No idea on:
- Hard drives (see below about RAID)
- CD/DVD (Blu-ray is not yet cost justified for me)
- Case/Power supply
- Memory
- CPU cooling
- Video card

Your advice much appreciated.
My old system is OC'd, water cooled and RAID 0. Water cooling was only because the darn thing was too noisy with air cooling (AMD XP CPU). I'm not sure that with current SATA speeds that RAID is still a valid concern - open to opinions. I'm not going water cooled again. Just too expensive and frankly a PITA.

I'm open to arguments about both the CPU and MB. At the moment my thinking is P45 has the longest legs, and the above MBs should allow ample options with all T socket cpus. The Q6600 is currently an amazing value, and with OC'ing is a real performer.

As far as a case, cooling and noise are the overriding concerns. As the computer will be in a livingroom environment, I would rather not have a windowed side, lights, etc.
a b B Homebuilt system
October 14, 2008 5:50:46 PM

The Q6600 is a very good choice IMO. I'm still very happy with mine after more than a year. If you can afford a Q9550 instead even better.

Video card: it depends on the games you play and the resolution. Two good choices these days in the "mid-level": HD 4850, HD 4670. There's also the 9800GTX+ but I don't trust nVidia much these days.

HIS HD 4670, $88 with shipping, 320 stream processors
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814161252

Visiontek HD 4850, $188 with shipping, 800 stream processors
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814129112

The HD 4850 above costs a bit more than other HD 4850 models but it;s got a dual-slot cooler and comes from the best manufacturer. The dual-slot cooler kicks the heat out of the case directly, which would allow you to get a case with fewer fans, i.e. quieter.

Add a WD6400AAKS hard drive or several. I wouldn't bother with RAID, too much trouble.

Between the UD3P and the DS3R I'd still get the DS3R because it's been around for long enough and we know it's reliable. I'm optimistic about the UD3P but it's too early IMO. I like the Asus P5Q Pro too. The P5Q Pro has 8 SATA ports, which helps if you're a space hog like me and expect to end up with 7 hard disks and a burner.

DVD: SH-S223Q for example.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16827151173&Tpk=Sh-S223Q

RAM:
Mushkin 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) $53
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820146731

CPU cooling: if you get the Q9550 you don't really need an aftermarket cooler. If you get the Q6600 OEM you do. I like this Sunbeam Core Contact cooler, it's enormous value for $30.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16835207004

Case/PSU: since you'll never have two video cards, and the HD 4850 recommendation is a minimum of 450W, you don't really need a monster PSU. Still, you get less noise and longer lifetime and more upgradability if the PSU is not at the minimal end of the recommendations. I'd get a Corsair 650TX. It's $72 at www.buy.com and $80 at newegg.

Case: P182 or RC-690. RC-690 is cheaper, better cooled, and roomier. However, the P182 is still roomy enough and cooled well enough for that setup, and it's quieter.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811119137
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811129025&Tpk=P182


October 14, 2008 5:51:15 PM

Case/ power supply combo the Antec Sonata/earthwatts 500w $109 with free shipping from buy.com. Biased towards quiet rather then cooling
http://www.buy.com/prod/antec-sonata-iii-super-mini-tow...
2x2 GB of DDR2 800 1.8v Mushkin RAM 5-4-4-12 timings $53 after rebate
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Western Digital 640GB SATA HD $75
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
CD/DVD - SATA get retail version if you want a cable and the software disc. LG, Liteon, Samsung. @$30
For cooler look here
http://www.frostytech.com/top5heatsinks.cfm
Get Scythe for quiet
Graphic card - HD4670 2 slot cooling to help with cooling the sonata $83 after rebate
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Related resources
a b B Homebuilt system
October 14, 2008 6:02:06 PM

LOL, dirtmountain and I did not talk to each other as we were writing the posts above, I swear :) 

I thought about the Sonata too but I'd prefer the P182 (for cooling reasons) if overclocking and HD 4850 are involved. I also skipped it because it's not that upgradable. That is, it won't fit some larger video cards, and they tend to get larger every year. Apart from that, it is a nice case and quiet. I'm sitting a few feet away from two of them right now and can't hear them.

Edit: the Core Contact will fit in the P182, according to a post on the NCIX forum. It may be too big for the Sonata, I don't know...


October 14, 2008 6:22:38 PM

Ok, lots of homework to do. At the moment I'm giving serious consideration to the Q9550 aevm recommended - If I understand correctly I would get higher performance with much less heat than an overclocked Q6600.

Back to the web to get smarter...
a b B Homebuilt system
October 14, 2008 6:38:16 PM

I used a Sonata / Earthwatts 500 combo for my wife's recent build. It is very quiet, and is extremely solid. My own rig is in a CM-RC690, and even with an additional top fan is not very loud. Both are in our living room, where the sound from both and the slight blue glow from the front of mine do not interfere with other things (like TV-watching).
I agree with those two on the Mushkin RAM; that's what I've got. I like the HIS 4670 that dirtmountain linked; if my 3850 dies, that's probably what I'll get.
a b B Homebuilt system
October 14, 2008 7:02:48 PM

+1 for aevm and dirtmountain's suggestions. It says a lot when two people come up with similar systems at the same time! :) 
October 14, 2008 7:16:13 PM

Ok, surfing and learning as fast as my little brain will allow.

Thoughts: A Q9550 will give me more power with less heat, and the increased cost is partailly offset by being able to use the current cooler.

I'll probably go with two identical 650G drives configured as RAID 1. If HD performance becomes an issue, I can later reconfigure to RAID 0.

For video, the HIS HD 4670 looks like the right ballpark for me.

So that leave me with the Case and PS to choose. The P182 is wonderful, but the full-front door isn't my favorite configuration. The Sonata is nice as it includes a workable PS. I also like the Sonata and the Solo (?)

October 14, 2008 8:37:00 PM

aevm,

probably the best and concise advice I read in a while.

dirtmountain,

from aevm reaction, I'd guess that you posted similar things too. Cake goes to aevm as he explained what and why of the matter.
!