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Help rounding out a build for scientific computing and gaming

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Last response: in Systems
May 7, 2009 3:45:14 AM

UPDATE: My list is now basically complete, thanks for the help sorting through all of this. Some components purchased, ordering the rest from Newegg later tonight.

UPDATE x2: Awful, awful experience trying to buy from Newegg. After days of time wasted, I've ordered the remaining components from Amazon and buy.com. Updated parts list below.

I'm finalizing a new build. Previously, I've cobbled machines together from scrounged bits and pieces, and finally decided that I need a state-of-the-reasonable-art box. My firming-up component list is at the end of this post.

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: Planning to pull the trigger tomorrow or Friday. (First batch of components purchased Friday, May 8; remainder of component will be ordered from Newegg on Saturday, May 9)

BUDGET RANGE: Build cost thus far stands at $1600 or so (penciling in $100 for case and $100 for PSU, I know those will probably be higher); it could climb a bit more, but hopefully not too much. Final build cost, including monitors, looks to be around $1750.

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: Two-fold: scientific computing and gaming. I'm in a comp sci doctorate program, so I write and run quite a bit of computationally-intensive, multi-threaded code. I also use lots of virtual machines; quad-core and virtualization extensions are sine qua non. After lots of stewing and research, I've upped my original budget and decided to go the Core i7 920 route. I believe I'll be able to make good use of the extra CPU. Photo and video editing will be incidental, not a major concern, though I'll watch some HD content.

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: Keyboard, mouse, speakers (have a set of Klipsch Promedia 2.1 with which I'm quite happy)

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: I strongly favor components that I can pick up at competitive prices either by driving down to my local Micro Center or by ordering from Newegg or from a decent online dealer. Would consider another reliable website for a good deal, but shaving every cent is less important than convenience and solid service.

PARTS PREFERENCES: Current parts list at the end of this post. Based on monitor resolution and price-performance, I've short-listed video cards to either the ATI Radeon HD 4870 1GB or the nVidia GTX 260 Core 216. Both cards have dual DVI outputs, so should be able to drive the monitors. nVidia's Linux support seems slightly better at the moment, so I've waffled my way into choosing the 260 (PhysX is neat if not extensively supported; ATI's long-term Linux strategy looks better but nVidia's present state has the edge).

OVERCLOCKING: Yes. Since I'm getting a lovely, overclockable 920, I'd just feel silly if I didn't crank it up. For CPU coolers, I'm looking (with very little knowledge in this area) at possibly a Noctua NH-U12P SE1366 120mm SSO (which seems to provide very good cooling with minimal decibels) or a Xigmatek Thor's Hammer HDR-S126384 (which appears to provide good cooling, but I'm not sure about the noise levels).

Decided on the Xigmatek Dark Knight. Switched back to the Noctua NH-U12P, as I can grab one at Micro Center for $70.

Do I need more fans? Do I need to stick one of those fan rheostat units in a drive bay?

SLI OR CROSSFIRE: Yes, but not right away. I'd like the headroom to upgrade down the road, so SLI support on mobo and a good power supply are necessary.

MONITOR RESOLUTION: I'm going with a dual-monitor setup, and am looking for two 1920x1200 panels somewhere in the 24" range. I've decided I'd rather have the extra pixel real-estate than a single larger monitor. (Also 1920x1200 looks to be a pretty good resolution for gaming.) But what monitors to get? The premiums for non-TN panels are pretty steep, and TN seems to have the best response time for gaming applications. I'm going to be using these at my desk, so viewing angles aren't a huge concern. As the cost of the rest of the build has crept up, I don't want to go too crazy ...I'd like to find the best option for as close to $250 each as possible (and hopefully not over $300 each). Then again, these are the primary interaction points with the computer, so I don't want crap. Should look good both for writing code and gaming.

Update: Decided on two of the Samsung T240HD monitors. Paying a bit more and possibly sacrificing a bit on input lag (though that's very hard to tell from reviews) for flexibility and a good quality unit with a good guarantee from Samsung.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: A quiet build is much to be desired, so low-decibels are good. Linux is my day-to-day OS; I'll probably be running 64-bit Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty). For gaming I'll be installing Windows 7 RC.

I'm least comfortable with case selection. Should I spend $170 for something like an Antec 1200 or $150 for a Cooler Master HAF 932? Would an Antec 900 II for $130 have enough room for CPU cooler and future SLI? Or is there something roomy and quiet for around $100 that would do the job? Ideally, the case will be under 19" so I don't have to find a new rolling platform for under my desk (I know most of the above don't fit that requirement.)

Figuring out a PSU is even worse; I haven't come up with a shortlist yet. Again, I'd like to keep the noise down as much as possible. Settled on the Corsair 750TX, I think.

Does this build seem reasonable? Are the prices right? Am I chintzing somewhere I shouldn't?

Any input on the components I'm waffling between (mobo, cooler) would be great, 1920x1200 game-friendly display suggestions would be excellent, and case/PSU guidance will be DEEPLY appreciated.

Thanks for all the help putting this together!

PARTS LIST:

CPU: Intel Core i7 920 (purchased)
$230 from Micro Center

MOBO: Asus P6T (purchased)
$230 from Micro Center
$209 from Newegg
$250 from Newegg

RAM: OCZ Gold XTC 6GB DDR3-1600 (PC3-12800) Triple Channel DIMM Memory Kit (Three 2GB Memory Modules)
$80 from Micro Center after rebate

OCZ Platinum 6GB (3 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Triple Channel Kit Desktop Memory (ordered)
$75 from Newegg
$95 from Amazon (More expensive than Newegg, but I easily made it up by the savings on the monitors)

HD: 2x WD Caviar Black 1TB (ordered)
$100 from New Egg
$100 from Amazon

GPU: e-GeForce GTX 260 Core 216 896MB GDDR3 PCIe 2.0 Graphics Card (puchased)
$163.83 from Micro Center

DISPLAYS (2):
2x Samsung T240HD (ordered)
$330 from Newegg
$320 from buy.com

(POSSIBLY) 2x Sceptre X24WG-1080P 24" 2ms 1920x1200 (HDCP)
$240 from Newegg


(OR) 2x ASUS MK241H Black 24" 2ms 1920x1200 (but no HDCP)
$250 from Newegg after rebate


CASE: Antec Nine Hundred Two (purchased)
$130 from Micro Center

PSU: Corsair 750TX (ordered)
$110 from Newegg after rebate
$110 from Amazon after rebate

CPU COOLER:
Noctua NH-U12P SE1366
$70 from Micro Center

Xigmatek Dark Knight-S1283V
$40 from Newegg

(If it will fit the P6T without blocking the RAM. Also, do I need to buy fans for this?)

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May 7, 2009 5:20:41 AM

Well the mobos that you have listed are different...
The P6T SE from newegg doesn't have out of the box SLI certification...where as the P6T from Microcenter has both SLI and crossfire certification...
So stick with the P6T and not P6T SE...

But if you are comfortable with BIOS, then I would suggest you take a look at this...

Gigabyte: Enable SLI On X58 Boards -->
http://www.tomshardware.com/news/gigabyte-nvidia-sli-mo...

And get this board...GIGABYTE GA-EX58-UD3R - It has 2 PCIE slots, unlike 3 found in other X58 mobos...But I think 2 is more than suffice...
http://www.ewiz.com/detail.php?name=MB-EX58U3R

Some better RAM from newegg... $75 after rebate...and has CAS 7 DDR3 1600MHz...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

I suppose you are not a serious gamer because the GTX 260 would be able to play nearly all the games at 1920X1200 resolution but not with very high settings and all eye candies ON...

As for the CASE, The Antec 900 could fit in a the coolers that you have given...but they might block the 1 or 2 memory slots on some motherboards and it is not possible to use RAMs with tall hear spreaders...So better you check that out first...

And as for the CASE options, here are a few...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

One of the cheapest options but has very good airflow and has many fan slots...
A member in this forum has an i7 cooled by a CM V8 CPU cooler setup in this case...So sure is roomy...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
This case doesn't have a side window...So if you want one for it, then get this...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

PSU - Get the Corsair 750TX...Should handle SLI and other upgrades...

CPU Coolers other options...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

This should help you decide on the CPU Cooler...
http://www.frostytech.com/permalink.cfm?NewsID=74801

Monitor option...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
May 7, 2009 6:52:38 PM

Thanks, daidalas, tidefan94, gkay09.

The Corsair 750TX looks good, as does the OCZ Platinum RAM; adding those to the build.

Quote:
And get this board...GIGABYTE GA-EX58-UD3R - It has 2 PCIE slots, unlike 3 found in other X58 mobos...But I think 2 is more than suffice...


I agree that the 3rd PCI-E slot isn't necessary, but that board looks like it has only four RAM slots...and only three are set up for triple-channel. So, if I want to push past 6GB (which I expect to) I'd have to chuck my 2GB sticks for 4GB when they're available, and putting anything in the fourth slot will drop the speed. Is there another Gigabyte mobo I should be looking at instead of the P6T?

Yikes, thanks for catching the P6T/P6T SE slip-up...that could have been a nasty shock!

Quote:
As for the CASE, The Antec 900 could fit in a the coolers that you have given...but they might block the 1 or 2 memory slots on some motherboards and it is not possible to use RAMs with tall hear spreaders...So better you check that out first...


This is exactly the sort of thing that is worrying me. Are the Dark Knight or the Noctua going to block the RAM slots on the P6T?

Quote:
I suppose you are not a serious gamer because the GTX 260 would be able to play nearly all the games at 1920X1200 resolution but not with very high settings and all eye candies ON...


Well the next jump up the food chain (to the 275) is $90, which is a bit painful...and the 285, while sexy, is more than I want to spend on a GPU...I suppose I'll settle for performance that is simply very good, rather than premium.

Quote:
Monitor option...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6824236049


Looks like a nice unit. I'd be giving up the 1200 vertical pixels, though, and I do like the slightly squarer 16:10 ratio.

Mulling over the case options, thanks for the suggestions.
May 8, 2009 4:04:23 AM

Well regarding the mobo, stick with the P6T...
Spending $30 more, would get you SLI/Crossfire certification and 6 RAM slots...then stick with it...

And as for the RAM slots being blocked, I have little idea about that...so others could help you on that...
But I have seen in forums people saying that before you install the cooler, install the RAM first and then the cooler...that was a work around...but be sure to confirm the same from others...

As for the monitor, I dint notice that it was a 1080p...hmm...

Well here are a few combo deals that you can check out...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

And a very good offer...GTX 280 at the price of GTX 275 and has $25 Mail-In-Rebate...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
May 8, 2009 4:53:51 PM

The Corsair 750TX is very quiet. However, for a single video card, I'd say 650TX. It's even better quality and a bit cheaper. Expect under 40 dB here.

The Noctua cooler is the quietest you'll find. Expect under 40 dB here too.

Between HD 4870 (51.5 dB) and nVidia GTX 260 (62.8 dB), the HD 4870 is quieter by 11.3 dB. IIRC, every 10dB added are perceived as double the noise by the human ear.
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/radeon-hd-4870,1964-16.html

+1 for the S-Flex SFF21D. I personally went with SFF21E,which pushes more air and still it's very silent.

If you want a quiet PC I'd say spend more on the case and get something with insulating foam (P182, NZXT Whisper)

Edit: oops, I missed the part about future SLI. The 650TX can handle two HD 4870 in Crossfire, but for two GTX 260 in SLI you need the 750TX or better. Stick with the 750TX, it's more future-proof.

May 8, 2009 4:59:51 PM

Man...the GTX 260 can't be that load can it...i mean the fan has to be at 60% or higher for that noise...or is that max fan noise?
May 8, 2009 5:17:45 PM

aevm said:
Edit: oops, I missed the part about future SLI. The 650TX can handle two HD 4870 in Crossfire, but for two GTX 260 in SLI you need the 750TX or better. Stick with the 750TX, it's more future-proof.


The 55nm GTX260 uses less power than 4870, so TX650 would do for either one, but I wouldn't recommend it due to having only 2 PCIe connectors.
May 9, 2009 12:13:23 AM

Hm, wish I'd seen those latest recommendations before I went out and started buying! Well, no worries...one has to put at stake in the ground at some point. I liked the look and construction of the Antec 900 II, so that's what I went with. The components I'm locked into thus far are:

CPU: Core i7 920
Mobo: Asus P6T
GPU: EVGA 260 Core 216
Case: Antec 900 II

Those were the ones that Micro Center had at competitive prices. Now, just need to decide on the right 1920x1200 monitors and the CPU cooler and place an order with Newegg. Time for more research, it seems.

Thanks for all the input so far.
May 13, 2009 3:05:58 AM

Update: Had a horrible, frustrating, disappointing experience trying to buy from Newegg.

I would have liked to give my money to Newegg, but they didn't want it, and they've thoroughly offended me. I've purchased the remaining items on my list (with the exception of the CPU cooler and monitors) from Amazon.com. Buy.com had the monitors for $10 cheaper than Newegg. I'm switching my choice of CPU Cooler to the Noctua NH-U12P SE1366, which I'll be picking up from Micro Center tomorrow at lunch.