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Need help spec'ing out new system

Last response: in Systems
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October 15, 2008 5:24:30 AM

After a recent death in the family (RIP X2 939 - futureproof my @$#), it's time to replace some components. I think I have most of it down, but I like coming here for suggestions.

Primary Usage
This system will be mainly used for video crunching, encompassing everything from DVD rip-and-burn to editing and converting HD video to YouTube standards. This was a painfully slow process with the old system, and I'm looking to get those times down considerably. It will also serve as the wireless media server for XBMC (Xbox mod), though I might hardwire that for increased speed. Additionally, it will be used for audio production. Though not as CPU intensive as video, I do have a great number of USB peripherals that require an obscene amount of ports.

Old Usable Components
Some parts of the old system will remain. These include:
Antec Sonata II case
WD Caviar SE16 250GB SATA-II HDD (for OS and Programs)
XFX GeForce 6600 256MB vid card (currently console-only gaming, so no need to upgrade)
PC Power & Cooling Silencer PPCS420X 420W PSU (Brand New - used in old comp autopsy)
Pioneer DVR-216DBK SATA DVD Burner (also Brand New, so don't need help deciding on that)
Linksys WMP-54GS wireless PCI card

Additionally, I will still be using 1 USB port for an external backup HDD, 3 for Audio peripherals (maybe 4 if I switch to external sound card), 1 for iPod, 1 for mouse, 1 for printer and 1 for portable HDD and Blackberry.

New Components
These are the parts I'm looking into. Please feel free to help in this area at will.
(also saved as Newegg Wish List - lurch101's Home Upgrade)

CPU: Q6600
HSF: Tuniq Tower 120 w/ AS5
RAM: Crucial Ballistix DDR2-800
HDD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 (second drive for source files)
MoBo: Gigabyte GA-EP35-DS3L
Fans: Scythe S-Flex SFF21E

Here's where I really need help. I'm pretty sure I can make use of the Q6600 vs a C2D chip, so that's probably staying. I will probably try to OC it to 3.0GHz (333 x 9). I know there's an issue OC'ing the Kentsfields between 3.1 - 3.4, so I probably don't want to add that much heat (and subsequently sound) to bring it up beyond that. That being said, what am I really looking for with my RAM? If I run at 1:1 FSB:D RAM, that would drop the DDR2-800 to DDR2-667. Would I be better off not running at 1:1 to keep the bandwidth up for video conversion, or is the SATA bottleneck the bigger problem there?

As far as the motherboard is concerned, I would like something that has DDR3 compatibility should the thing last long enough for those prices to drop. This is not a huge point, as I've seen prices on MoBos double for that option. Onboard audio and video are not even necessary and won't be used. An eSATA port would be nice, as I might upgrade my USB Backup HDD (and kill one USB device). I know I can group some USB devices to a hub, so 4 rear USB with two open headers should be minimum (one for front, one for bracket I currently have). A firewire header would be nice, as I may step off my PCI audio card in favor of a USB or Firewire audio interface. I don't assume there's many audio professionals here, but if anyone knows whether I can get comparable latencies from external devices, I might have some stuff on Craigslist.

I really don't know what I need for chipsets, or if there's much difference at all. I've looked into Intel P35s and G31/33/35, but I really don't know what's going on there. I tried hitting Intel's comparison charts on their site, but their specs don't match the boards that have those chipsets. Help in this region would be greatly appreciated.

Pricing
As it stands, I'm sitting at about $530 with a $40 rebate on the RAM. I'd be willing to push that to around $700 if there was a significant difference in performance or options.

Thanks in advance for the help and suggestions.

More about : spec ing system

October 15, 2008 6:20:53 AM

You will want a newer chipset. Since you aren't gaming, I would recommend the P5QL-E:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

That's a P43 chipset. P43 is like P45, only no Crossfire or DDR3 support. Should be a good overclocker. eSATA, Firewire, RAID, and more all for a low price.

This new P45 from Gigabyte also looks to be a winner:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
(Although the chipset supports it, the board is not DDR3 or crossfire... many P45 boards are like that)

The P5Q-E (P45 version) is a serious overclocker with all the bells, but you pay extra for crossfire, and you don't need it.

Better CPU coolers:
http://www.frostytech.com/top5heatsinks.cfm

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

Beyond this I think you would benefit from a processor upgrade, as you can afford it. Q9550 is a good price I think.

Ooops forgot RAM:

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

A couple good choices for you.
October 15, 2008 5:00:14 PM

Thanks for the suggestions. I did change to the Gigabyte-EP45-UD3R for the incredible 8 rear USB ports and 4 additional headers. The two rear Firewire ports over the 1 on the Asus was a plus, and if I'm correct, I can take one of those 8 SATA headers and wire it to a rear bracket for an external SATA port, right?

I went with the Mushkin memory over the Ballistix I'd had for the same price. I like the -0.2v (to keep heat down) with only a +1 on the CAS latency. Running it at around a 333MHz, I should be able to tighten that latency up even more.

I did like the cooling profile of the Xigmatek over at frostytech. I don't really like the 50dBA at full speed, but hopefully we won't be hitting that too much. During video editing, I'm still looking for background noise that can be eliminated (AC hum, hiss, etc.), so a quiet room is always a plus. That's the reason for the Scythe case fans.

On that point, do you think those will provide enough airflow through that case to overclock well, or should I be looking at something moving more air? In the Sonata II, the intake fan sits behind the side-mounted HDDs, cooling them while directing air over the RAM and towards the CPU. With only 2 HDDs spaced evenly, I'm under the impression that one intake fan running about 60CFM should be effective enough. The case doesn't have top or side fans, so front is the only additional option.

I looked over the Q9550, but it's +$130, and now I'm sitting at $657 (minus $35 in rebates). I see the spec advantages (12MB L2 vs 8MB, 45nm vs 65nm, SSE4) and I compared them on the Q3 charts, but but I'd like to know about OC'ing, voltage and heat. It seems to perform about 20% better right out of the box on the tests I care about, which might be worth the money, but how much farther should I expect to take it? Naturally, if I'm running less voltage, my CPU temps should be down (assuming both are running 95w). But if I try to take it to 3.4GHz (400 x 8.5), my board will be running hotter than the proposed Q6600 at 3.0 (333 x 9). Would that be a wash, or a trade advantage due to the lowered power consumption and 13% increased speed?
October 16, 2008 3:04:32 AM

I don't have a lot of hard facts from here, just speculation:

- You would be best served by a case with a lot of 120mm fans, which could be set at half speed and still cool everything down. A case such as the Antec 300, with two front 120mm fans, is great. It's big brothers the 900 and 1200 have even more air flow.

- You can buy another Scythe/Noctua quiet fan to attach to the Xiggy. It's just a standard 120MM fan... but the lil rubber guys that attach it would be a pain to remove from the fan, so if you want to do that, do it up front during initial installation.

- I really don't have solid OC numbers for the various CPUs. Q6600 was an extremely popular OC for a very long time, but you only need a very small OC on one of these newer quads to leave it behind.

400Mhz on a P45 is not a big deal. I've had my P45 over 500Mhz, and board heat was not the issue.

- I have heard that x48 is better at overclocking quads than P45. I don't know why that would be, and I think it not adequately tested... at the OCs you want it's not really an issue.

You seem to be able to read ;)  So I'm just helping you out with some thoughts here.

!