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My First homebuilt

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February 7, 2009 1:24:52 AM

Hey folks,
I'm going to build a PC for the first time and I thought I'd look for a little advice from the experts in the forum.

Here's some background:
- I'm 41 years old and have been using computers since I programmed Fortran cards in a junior high summer computer camp in 1980-ish. I've never been a programmer or IT professional but I have kept up with PC's over the years and always been relatively good with them.
- I use my PC for e-mail, surfing, picture and video manipulation and gaming.
- I intend to build more computer than I need... because I can.

Here are the specs of my current PC:
- CPU: 3.4 GHz P4 EE OC'd to 3.57 GHz (no overclocking expertise I just used ASUS's overclocking friendly BIOS)
- Mobo: ASUS P4C800E Deluxe
- OS: Win XP
- RAM: 3gig Mushkin & PNY DDR400 RAM
- Video Card: 256 Meg Verto nVidia GeForce 7800GS AGP
- Antec case and 500 watt PSU
- 3 Hard drives:
-- 1x80 gig (IDE) for OS
-- 1x250Gig (S-ATA) for documents & pictures (partitioned for each)
-- 1x250Gig (S-ATA) for videos, music and back-up duplicates of all data (partitioned for each)
- Creative Audigy Soundblaster 5.1 sound
- Pioneer CD/DVD burner

To get to this current configuration I've personally swapped out the CPU, video card, PSU, added the extra RAM and harddrives, added a 12-in-1 card reader, a PCI 4 port USB card and a few other non-essentials.
Okay - I said all that to illustrate that I'm comfortable taking the cover of the case and tinker with the insides. Now I'm ready to start from the ground up.
I've got a wish list of components that I will share you to see if you think they will ALL work together. I'd also like your feedback with lessons learned and mistakes to avoid. When you look over my list of components please don't get hung up on cost. I'm certainly not saying I'm rich I'm just saying that I can afford all the items on the list and I am more concerned with a sound quality build.

Here's my list of components:
- Mobo: MSI X58 Eclipse SLI LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX Intel Motherboard
- CPU: Intel Core i7 920 Nehalem 2.66GHz
- OS: Windows Vista Ultimate SP1 64-bit
- Video: EVGA GeForce GTX 260 896MB GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0
- RAM CORSAIR XMS3 6GB (3 x 2GB) DDR3
- Hard drive: Western Digital VelociRaptor 150GB 10000 RPM
- Case: COOLER MASTER COSMOS 1000 ATX Full Tower Case
- PSU: COOLER MASTER UCP 700W ATX12V
I'll swap my 2x250Gig HDDs over, my card reader, and any other components from old PC if necessary.

My logic behind these new components is that from what I have read in Computer Shopper and Maximum PC the improvement from my P4 system to the new i7/X58 system would be comparable to going from Pentium 3 to Pentium 4. I will finally make the switch to PCI-E and will have the capacity to add another video card, more RAM and any other items I feel the need to insert into that gimornous full tower case. I also want enough video power to utilize a 24 inch or bigger monitor should I get the wild hair to upgrade from my current 19" monitor.
One concern I have is physical compatibility (it's tough to know how all the parts will physically mesh together). For example I've the heard the MSI motherboard has slots for three video cards but many of the larger video cards may not actually fit in the third slot. I could be smoking crack and picking nits with that concern though... you tell me. Another concern is Windows Vista. I loaded it on my brand new laptop when it (Vista) came out and its been a long road of growing pains. I realize that there aren that many 64 bit applications out there but as long as I can get Vista to work I'll spend the extra money to get the extra RAM.

So why do I want more computing power than I need and want room to grow it later? I love playing Rome Total War, Medieval Total War 2 and Civ 4. That's really about it.

Thanks for your consideration. I appreciate any feedback you give me.
- CJ

More about : homebuilt

February 7, 2009 1:46:40 AM

let the professional of rome and medieval and civ ( thats right, there was a time when i ate Gauls for breakfast just to eat turks for lunch then nuke everyone when i got bord of eating) tell you that with that computer you can play at max settings.
February 7, 2009 1:52:55 AM

Are you set on an i7 system? Cuz you really don't need one for those games you described there...a PII 940 or Q9400/Q9550 system would be plenty.

But if you want an i7 just because they are awesome, I don't blame you. i7's will be around for a while probably, while Core 2 will phase out like P4 did in the next 2 years.

I wouldn't get that mobo, MSI has been having some problems. I would get the ASUS P6T or Gigabyte X58 UD4P

Don't get ultimate, unless you really want the backup utility and that stuff, but for gaming Ultimate is worse than Home Premium because the extra features bog down your CPU. And Home Premium is $100 cheaper. Since SP1, Vista is a good OS and the 64 bits is necessary if you want to use more than 3.5 GB of ram.

If you want a card that will power a 24" monitor on today's new games, I'd look at the GTX 280 or better, but if you just need one for those games that you play now, then that one will work fine.

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

I'm guessing you chose that PSU because it comes combo'd with that case from newegg...don't get it. Look at the Corsair 850tx if you think you will SLI in the future, or go with the Corsair 650tx for a single GPU option. The only good CoolerMaster PSU's are the Real Power Pro series.

The Case is great, but spendy so I don't know if that is an issue for you. I have the CoolerMaster 690 and it is very roomy with great cooling, supporting up to 7 120mm fans, and will fit any CPU cooler.

For your main system drive, I would suggest getting 2 WD Caviar Black 320GB drives in Raid 0 (I'm guessing you chose the Velocirapter cuz you want speed). You will get more speed from the Raid 0 configuration, and much more storage space, at a cheaper price. Then you can use another WD Caviar Black 640GB drive for storage.

Get a CPU cooler so you can OC. CoolerMaster V8, Thermalright Ultra 120 Extreme, and Noctua NH U12P are the best options for LGA 1366 ATM. Then get MX-2 Thermal paste and you can OC to 3.8ghz or higher. You will be blown away by the speed.
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February 7, 2009 2:37:16 AM

xTheKidX,
Thanks for the feedback.
Yeah, I'm set on the i7 just 'cuz it rocks. That and the expandability. A few years from now I can still replace it with the Extreme Edition just like I did with my P4.

Thanks for the point out on MSI specifically. I've been doing the best research I could on mobos but I've only seen one review that swayed me and that was Maximum PC's review of the MSI. I'll look over the ASUS P6T. I have been really happy with my current ASUS.

As far as Vista goes I don't really need the back-up utility because I'm used to taking care of it myself so if I can avoid bogging down the CPU - I'm down wit that.
GTX 280? Yep. You're not the first person to say that. I guess I'll have to prog in a bit more cash for that. I've seen that within the 1 gig 280 series video cards there are still some differences between core clock speeds and memory clock speeds. Do you think a regular schmoe like me will notice the fact that my core clock is 615 mhz as opposed to 700mhz or my memory clock is 2100 mhz as opposed to 2300mhz?

I chose the PSU because I assumed it would work well in the case by the same brand. I chose 700watts because I figured, "that oughtt'a be enough". No real research to that one. I'll go with the 850w because I want the power to expand later.
As far as the drive goes? Yeah - I want the speed. I'm not a fan of RAID configurations. That's only because I haven't done it yet. I guess when someone shows me how I'll love it. As far as the storage space goes? I am a big believer in multiple hard drives for redundancy. So far the 2x250G HDD's are still more than I need. With storage getting even dirt cheaper I'm sure I'll end up getting yet another HDD in the future though.

CPU cooler? Yeah - I installed a Zalman a few years ago and have loved it. I'll look into your recommendations for this new i7 core system since I can't use my existing fan.
Dude - again, thanks!
February 7, 2009 2:39:51 AM

cheepstuff said:
let the professional of rome and medieval and civ ( thats right, there was a time when i ate Gauls for breakfast just to eat turks for lunch then nuke everyone when i got bord of eating) tell you that with that computer you can play at max settings.

Excellent!
Yeah, when the wife and boy are gone I can spend an entire morning crushing my enemies. BTW have you ever played any of the mods for R:TW? I found this one called Europa Barborum. It is a much more historically accurate mod of Rome TW. Being a history nerd I really love it and recommend it.
Take it easy!
CJ
February 7, 2009 2:53:54 AM

The differences between the clock speeds of the GTX 280 is because some of them come factory overclocked. You may see a difference in performance if you play more intense games, but you are going to have to pay for the overclocking; more than its worth usually unless there is a special deal on them. Just get the stock clocked card.

For drives, get either 320 or 640gb drives, they are faster than the 250 or 500 because of the plater density.
February 7, 2009 3:02:35 AM

xthekidx said:
The differences between the clock speeds of the GTX 280 is because some of them come factory overclocked. You may see a difference in performance if you play more intense games, but you are going to have to pay for the overclocking; more than its worth usually unless there is a special deal on them. Just get the stock clocked card.

For drives, get either 320 or 640gb drives, they are faster than the 250 or 500 because of the plater density.


Excellent! I had no idea about platter density.
Okay, I had a moment of pause and thought, "what if I don't get a monitor bigger than 24 inches?" Am I going to run into problems with the native resolution of a high-end 280 series card on a 1440x900 19 monitor? If I just stick with what I have (19") should I avoid a 280? I guess I'll never really need to go SLI either. I guess with a monitor less than 24 inches I may be hitting the point of diminishing returns if I go to big with the video card. What do you think?
CJ
February 7, 2009 3:13:32 AM

I have a 19" 1440x900 with a GTX 260. In some games with all maxed out settings my framerates drop to 15-20 for a few seconds every once in a while, which isn't too bad but it gets annoying and I wish it didn't happen. I wouldn't have this problem with the 280. If you go above the resolution you are at right now and plan on playing the new games when they come out, you should get the 280 or better. For the monitor you have now...depends on how much money you feel like spending, but the GTX 280 would look nicer :D 
February 7, 2009 4:09:20 AM

With the games that you're playing, you're right in that you don't need the highest graphics power. But you don't want to shut out the future either.

With your 19" monitor, you could even drop down to a 9800GTX+, but I think that the best route for you is to get a newer 55 nm version of the GTX 260 Core 216, base clock, and then overclock it yourself. I'm with xthekidx on that point--solves the confusion about the various clocked versions.

If you ever get hooked on other games in the future, then you can always SLI.

Since you seem to be an Asus man, the P6T Deluxe V2 is finally out. :bounce:  That would be my pick for you. IMO, it's the best quality, futureproof, and has the best video card layout for i7 mobos.

As for cases, the Cosmos 1000 is the ideal case in your situation. You want something a little quieter so you can think when playing CV4 and one very nice feature that you would appreciate is the layout of the HDD racks--6 in 3x2 configuration--'cause you're a HDD man. I'd probably add a 120mm fan in the HDD cooling slot too.

You want room to grow because the OS you will want to use later is Windows 7 (but probably not until SP1).

And check out the upcoming Empire: Total War--that's probably right up your alley!
Anonymous
February 7, 2009 4:29:44 AM

Newegg currently has Velociraptor 150gb SATA for $149 plus free shipping!!!

with code. do you have it in the email flyer!
February 7, 2009 5:48:48 AM

Anonymous said:
Newegg currently has Velociraptor 150gb SATA for $149 plus free shipping!!!

with code. do you have it in the email flyer!


That's a cold deal. The 300GB was $180 not too long ago.
February 7, 2009 9:45:45 AM

Doodz,
You guys rock! Thanks for the feedback and opinions.
So I think I will go with a 280 card but keep the resolution at my monitor's native setting.

Akebono 98 - I just checked out the Empire: Total War site. All I can say is... WOW! Yeah, it's now on my list of things I want and won't have time for.

Thanks guys, take it easy!
CJ
!