Feedback Requested: High Performance Gaming/Multimedia Editing Build

I'm preparing to build a high performance computer for gaming as well as photo, audio and video editing. As of right now I have a good idea of what I want to build but after some second thoughts on my last build I want a second opinion on this one. Right now my goals are:

High performance - Must be quad-core
No RAM upgrades needed in life of the computer (just don't want to deal with it, been there, done that)
Massive data storage with redundancy (triple-drive RAID 5 planned, ideally hot-swappable)
Vista x64 as primary OS with XP 32 and 64 licenses just in case (Already have the XP licenses courtesy of MSDNAA, not a $$ issue there)
Single video card - My dual-monitor setup MUST function at all times (I'm picky on this one, sorry, no SLI for me until they fix that complication)
High-end sound card - must be 7.1 with a variety of input and output capability and must be of high quality
Must be able to cope with 90 degree Fahrenheit ambient room temperatures on occasion, without invoking a liquid-cooled setup
Must be reasonably portable (main reason for no liquid cooling). - This does not mean everyday-grade portable, I understand it will probably be in the neighborhood of 75+ pounds. I just need to be able to move it to college and the occasional LAN party without worrying about a hose coming undone from a water block.
Going for a theme-build - F-117 Nighthawk is the theme idea (US stealth bomber) after much pondering in this area
I did consider waiting for Nehalem/Core i7, but I want to hit the ground running on semi-proven hardware, I already fought with bleeding-edge gear once, it wasn't pretty. Also, I'm on a bit of a deadline, I need to have all of the parts in-hand by the 25th of this month so I can get it built, troubleshooted and prepped for a LAN party I'm helping to run early next month.
Budget is ~$4000 USD, at last check I'm slightly over-budget with various accessories not included in the list linked below

My current planned configuration is available here. Any suggestions/comments are welcome, throw your ideas at me. I'm fairly confident I have a good setup but there may be quirks I don't know about since I last built a high-end computer about 5 years ago.

Questions I have as of right now are:
Just out of curiosity, if I were to tinker with overclocking (no intent of leaving it OCed long-term, but curious what I might pull off) what kind of potential might this system have without modifying cooling?
Are there any 1TB drives with better performance while maintaining durability than the Western Digital I originally picked? And is there a better option for the 500GB drive?
Should I be looking at a DDR3/790i based board instead? I remember reading of major complications with them and that's why I've stayed away for now, but if someone knows otherwise I'm not completely opposed to them. (Comparison of boards fitting my revised criteria, both 780i and 790i)
Is there a heatsink that would be a better option over the Thermaltake V1?
Any comments on the video converter? It's an area I'm somewhat new to, though I believe my school district's NLE's used an older PCI-based version of that company's FireCoder product
Any other comments? I'll be watching the thread until at least Sunday before putting my order through, so don't be worried if I haven't responded for a bit.

Original post is here for reference. It contains better (but longer) explanations of some of my goals as well as other contextually helpful info.
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  1. *bump*

    Any input/thoughts on this build? I've gotten a lot of comments over at eggXpert, but I was hoping for some less vendor-tied input.
  2. Well I'll cover the audio/visual aspect.

    For one, get a better sound card.
    Don't get creative cards.

    I'd recommend a Xonar D2X. The X-Fi sound chip just isn't good. Also, if you want to offload the sound processing to a full receiver, the D2X supports Dolby DTS encoding (7.1).

    Pick up a blu-ray driver/burner, you should be able to fit it into your budget.
  3. sargx said:
    Well I'll cover the audio/visual aspect.

    For one, get a better sound card.
    Don't get creative cards.

    I'd recommend a Xonar D2X. The X-Fi sound chip just isn't good. Also, if you want to offload the sound processing to a full receiver, the D2X supports Dolby DTS encoding (7.1).

    Pick up a blu-ray driver/burner, you should be able to fit it into your budget.


    Thanks for the reply!

    I was actually considering the D2X originally, but then realized it had a couple of issues compared to my tastes, including the desire for a break-out box and clearly distinguishable ports. So far the board I have in my list is the only decent one with a break-out box I've seen. Also, a vast majority of Newegg reviews tend to conflict with what you're saying and nobody else has raised this issue, though there could be explanations for that... Any ideas here?

    With regard to the blu-ray drive, I unfortunately can't afford a burner at current prices. As much as I would love one for the movies and to back up with, the drive and media both would kill my budget and I'd rather put that money into other areas that are harder to upgrade later. The other issue here is that from what I've seen they're all SATA or USB. I have my boot drive on SATA port 1, three drives for a RAID array on 2 through 4, an eSATA drive that will use SATA port 5 via an adapter and a planned future VelociRaptor drive for video encoding that will use SATA port 6. The board I picked only has 6 SATA ports, so that would be a problem. This is another item I'm planning to add in the future somehow. An internal is just not practical at the moment and a USB drive kind of kills the point (if I'm wrong here please let me know, it's an assumption based on past experience with USB hard drives).
  4. Frankly, you have a lot of components that don't add to the performance of your build. On the surface it looks like you are trying too hard to futureproof and have lost sight of what components add real value.

    1200 watt PSU is overkill. These are made for people doing Tri SLI and Dual 4870x2's.

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817139006

    Vista retail is overpriced. OEM is designed for new computer builds. While the retail box is intended for people upgrading an existing system. Zero added value its just stealing money from your build.

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16832116493

    Q9650 is overpriced and offers 2-6% improvement over Q9550 while costing 40% more then the Q9550.

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819115041

    http://www.tomshardware.com/charts/desktop-cpu-charts-q3-2008/compare,817.html?prod[2180]=on&prod[2181]=on

    780i motherboard....why Buy an SLI motherboard if your opposed to an SLI set up? A P45 motherboard would serve your needs for less money. Asus P5Q Pro this motherboard is all over these threads cause its simply the best value.

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131299

    If your stuck on SLI get the newer FTW 780i motherboard its got solid capacitor caps and buy new Sata cables the ones included with EVGA 780i are poorly made and will cause your system to not recognize your HD's about 10% of the time.

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813188027

    That memory kit is overpriced....for less then that you could get 2 of the 2 x 2GB corsair dominator 1066 DDR2 modules. (I know these work cause I have them in my 780i FTW motherboard). Same amount of memory running faster with a fan for less money.

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820145197

    I have no idea about your video converter maybe someone else can shed some light on that.

    Now for some questions:
    Why don't you have a Blu-ray burner drive in your $4k build?
    And why no tv tuner? How do you intend to get the video into your system?
    In what way do you think that we can make a full tower case portable?

    Dragging an overclocked raid 5 full tower computer a quarter mile to a poorly ventilated 90 degree lan party is a recipe for failure. The more you move your computer the great the chance of failure for components with moving parts namely Hard Drives.

    I think that maybe your expectations for this build are a bit too high for one machine. I would recommend you take your $4k and build a lan box and full tower desktop. This will require that you sacrifice things like the expensive coolmaster case and 7 led fans. The overkill 1200watt psu. The retail Vista 64. The hot swappable drive cage, raid 5 array and the SLI motherboard.

    I would consider scaling back your HDs to a raid 1 set up with 2 - 1TB drives.

    Just my 2 cents,
    3lvis
  5. PSU: Yeah, I'm looking at dropping the PSU to a lower-wattage one. I would like to try and fit the system (tower only) on one of two 1500VA/865W UPSes I have, and am actually afraid the startup spike from the 1200W would cycle the breaker it'll be on anyways. I'm just worried at this point that I won't be able to fit it on the UPS at all, as when I account for 80 percent efficiency my maximum PSU wattage drops from ~850W to ~690W (865W*0.80=692W). (The reason for this all is that Active PFC power supplies supposedly spike their maximum wattage at start-up.)

    Vista: Yeah it's overpriced but I need 32 bit avaliable as well in case it gets too picky with 64 bit. I also have XP 32 and 64 available to me just in case, and may end up using XP 64 for most things.

    CPU: 9550 was my original choice and I may drop back to it, I'll see how other things pan out.

    Mobo: I'm not totally opposed to SLI, I just won't run it until they fix multi-monitor capability while in SLI mode. I chose to go for an SLI board because I want to give myself the option of a second GPU in the future when they fix that issue (a fix is supposedly in beta now). The P5Q or Maximus II Formula are my boards of choice if I ditched SLI though. I have no intentions of ever running Crossfire, however.

    Alternate SLI board: It appears to have all the connections I need, I'll throw the idea around and see what others have to say. Thanks for the suggestion!

    RAM: Yeah, I'm probably going to switch back to two matched-pairs rather than the matched-quad kit. It's overpriced by $100/50% over two matched pairs of the exact same RAM. As for "with a fan", in my setup there's no reason as I don't think it'll fit and even if it does there's a 120MM fan that will blow directly on the RAM anyways.

    Your questions:

    Blu-Ray: No free SATA port for it if I add an SSD drive I have planned for the future, I wouldn't buy movies on Blu-Ray as nobody else I know has the ability to play them, and I can't afford the blanks, so right now I have no reason. I've been torn over this for months though, as it would be the best non-HDD backup option I could get. This is a future upgrade when it becomes needed or practical.

    TV Tuner: I already have one I'm going to put in my server box and share using a program I know of. The video converter itself has inputs, it's not just a hardware encoder. Plus, every TV tuner I've researched doesn't work with Adobe Premiere Pro anyways (including the one I own, already tried it a few different ways with zero progress).

    Portability: The case has casters, I have a hand-truck, and that comment is mainly to express my transport concerns in regard to any liquid cooling options. The LAN party won't hit 90 degrees, the ventillation there is insane. That's in regards to my dorm, at the beginning and end of the year. It's what half-cooked the northbridge and CPU on my current desktop last year (due to my failure to use aftermarket cooling). As far as moving it increasing the chance of failure, I'm well aware of that and would pull the drives before taking the system up to the college, then bring them seperately and put them back in, hence the hot-swap bays.

    Alternate options: I can see where you're coming from with the two build idea and like it, but that simply doesn't work in my situation. I have nowhere to put two new computers in my dorm (it'll be hard enough finding space for one) and need the performance day-to-day. Additionally the RAID 5 array stays until I find a better option, I've already had a 1TB drive fail once and need at least 2TB usable space on the data drive/array with a minimum of RAID 5's redundancy. I did consider a pair of 1TB drives in RAID 1, but it just doesn't meet my capacity needs. I honestly want two in RAID 0 but fear another failure killing years worth of work a second time.

    Closing:
    3lvis, thank you for the input, it's kept me thinking of how I might be able to improve the build despite me dismissing much of it with this post. On that note, I'm sorry, I sometimes find it hard to communicate the detailed version of my requirements until someone says something which guides me in the right direction.
  6. ***Wish List Updated***

    Changes:
    1200W PSU swapped out for a similar 800W model - now a Silverstone DA800
    WD 500GB drive swapped out for a 640GB WD Caviar SE16 per recommendation at eggXpert and after reviewing benchmarks
    Matched-quad RAM dropped in favor of much cheaper set of two matched pairs of nearly identical RAM - now Corsair XMS2 DHX 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR2 800 (Model TWIN2X4096-6400C4DHX)
  7. Thread unofficially CLOSED, no further input needed as order has been placed.
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