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Need some help building graphics machine... please

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May 29, 2009 3:39:52 AM

Hello –

I had been building or rebuilding pc’s for many years but had retired from it for about nine years ago (first pc I ever built, ram was going for about $6.00 PER meg). I recently decided to help a friend out and built a 64 bit amd based killer pc for general use. I spent more than a week googling and reading different forums to come up with the best system I could for her. Putting the stuff together took no time but finding and updating all the drivers and bios took almost another week. The parts came to about $450.00 but unfortunately after buying xp pro 64bit and paying tax and shipping the cost came to well over $700.00. I charged her nothing for labor. The system screams and she is very happy with the outcome. People have started to hear that I am building pc’s again and requests are starting to accrue. Without going into much more personal detail the next project is for an economical high end graphics pc for editing video. I can appreciate the nuances of a MAC for graphics, but he wants a PC.

The budget is $1500.00 MAX and I would love to make a couple of bucks for myself. I am going to make it a dual boot xp pro 64 and win 7 rc. I have affiliate accounts with almost every major hardware supplier possible so where to buy is not an issue. All I need are manufacturer part numbers.

The only part that is written in stone is an AMD Phenom II x4 (955) black edition, I will be o cing this monster. I’d prefer to keep the system air cooled and would appreciate all recommendations on fans and cases (full size - no BMW type s^!t).
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

The motherboard I have decided on is the ASUS MTA79T Deluxe. If you know of an alternative, please let it be known (only if it will support the specs of the rest of the system and must have at least one firewire 1394 port).
http://usa.asus.com/products.aspx?l1=3&l2=181&l3=896&l4...

Ram: 8 gigs corsair DDR3 (will be o cing these babes too). He would like to max it at 16 gig but the mobo only has 4 slots and I can’t seem to find 4 gig sticks. Also I don’t know whether to go with plain old DDR3, dual channel or tri-channel. The mobo specs call for DDR3 but nothing about the other two choices.

Graphics: ATI 4770 (possibly 2 and cross-fire). After researching the 4770 I feel comfortable with the technology, but have no idea which brand would be best to buy. This will not be a gaming pc and I looked into workstation boards but they are extremely pricey.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=E...

Hard Drives: I installed a .5 TB Western Digital (SATA) drive in the last pc I built only because I knew I could trust that manufacturer. I plan on putting a .5 TB drive as the primary and a 1 TB drive as the secondary SATA. Would love to save some money here and not scrimp on speed. E-SATA?

PSU: I want to put a ~1000w unit in without breaking the bank.

Optical Drive: Would prefer a SATA but will go with EIDE if it could save a LOT of $$. Lightscribe would be a plus if it does not jack the price up too much.

One last question. I have no idea how to calculate what to charge for building a system these days. I realize that after building a few different levels of machines that I will know what parts to buy and have all (or at least most) of the driver and bios up dates on file.

Thank you for indulging me if you were able to wade through this mini-novel and make any recommendations. I will be purchasing the parts next Tuesday.
May 29, 2009 5:54:36 AM

On that budget, you should be looking at an i7, I'm not really sure why you are focusing on a PII 955 system. The i7 kills the PII at this sort of application, and overclocks much better than the Phenom II 955. The 955 doesn't overclock very well, you are lucky to get past 3.6ghz on air cooling.
This is what I would do for CPU/MB with that budget:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

Motherboard alternate for an AMD based build, but once again I think i7 would be the way to go:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Triple channel is for i7/x58 only, AMD based builds use Dual channel, so buy ram in sets of two. You will have a rough time finding 4gb sticks of ram, and if you do, they will be extremely expensive, and not worth it at all, like $200/stick.
For the i7 build, I would use this:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
For AMD:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

For graphics work, you shouldn't be buying a Gaming GPU, it should be a workstation GPU, like the FireGL V3600. It will do much better than two HD 4770's in crossfire. Only gaming would merit the purchase of gaming GPU's.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

For the HDD, go for a WD6401AALS, its faster than the 500gb models. The WD1001FALS would be a good drive for the storage. I don't know why you want eSATA...

Why 1000W? Serious waste of money. A decent 500w PSU would be plenty. Try an Antec EA500 500w.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

IDE drives cost about $2 less than Sata drives, and don't really save money. Buy them if you already use IDE drives or have an old MB that doesn't support SATA. This one is a good one:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

When I build a PC, I do it mostly for a hobby, and I only charge 5-10% of the parts cost for myself. If you are more serious about it, you might charge something like $150 or so to make a decent profit.
May 29, 2009 6:56:04 PM

Thanks for your excellent advice! I am rethinking the AMD stance. As you may have guessed I am a fairly old fart and I tend to rebel against anything "Intel". I have gone through several of your posts and believe that you have a good grasp of what is going on now. I was disappointed that more people did not reply to this post, but now I just figure no one could add anything else. OK... pull your head back out of the clouds and let me know the case I should get and at least a good cooling system (air) for the i7.

Thanks again
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May 30, 2009 9:35:59 PM

ok... i went with the i7 build and the cost came to about $1200 before tax and shipping. just want you to know how much i appreciate your time. when i get paid i would like to buy you lunch. do you have a website with a donate link?
May 30, 2009 11:09:52 PM

crains said:
ok... i went with the i7 build and the cost came to about $1200 before tax and shipping. just want you to know how much i appreciate your time. when i get paid i would like to buy you lunch. do you have a website with a donate link?

Haha that is very kind of you, but please don't feel like you owe me anything. I enjoy giving advice to people on these forums. Its a hobby. The reward is knowing I helped someone out...that sounds awfully cliche but its true. I don't expect anything else in return.
July 28, 2009 5:15:05 PM

hey again - the person i was ordering this for backed out at the last min. and since then the machine that he has been using has totally croaked and he is pushing me to get another machine together for him yesterday. my question is: would you still go with the same components for a graphics workstation. i am looking at the http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... as the mother bd and the http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... as the processor. i think that the graphics card you recomended was a http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... and appears to be a pci card. can you recommend something in the pcie technology that is not a great deal more in price? as far as the rest of the components, i guess what i am wanting to know is if you have any different ideas since a couple of months has gone by?

thanks... cr
!