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Programmer build

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July 1, 2009 8:05:50 PM

I'm typing this on an Abit NF-7 with a single core CPU running at 2.1ghz. This is something I built back in 2003 I believe. I am a software engineer and do a lot of Java programming. I started doing Android development and found the Eclipse IDE has a nice 6+ second pause when I hit ctrl+s to save, which I uncontrollably hit every few keystrokes! I am finally ready to upgrade.

First, a little about my needs for the system...

It appears the Eclipse compiler I use can make use of multiple threads. That is good, though I can't find much about the specifics.

The last system I built used an EVGA 680i motherboad (this was for gaming, not programming). It had just come out and was amazing fast. I'm a tech guy, I don't consider myself to be an idiot, but I had all sorts of problems, of the random kind. Crazy things, like using a PS2 keyboard causing random BSODs, an overclock that was load test stable over 48 hours would 3 days later BSOD on every boot, and the worst was being unable to cold boots with 10+ attempts. I fought it for literally months, replacing the PSU, RAM, and GPU. In the end I finally got something that works and is reasonably stable (without ever being able to determine if the fix was hardware, a bios update, or whatever), but I've never had so many problems with a build.

I need the new system to be stable. I think my problems were because the 680i was new and simply unstable (the forums had many people with similar issues). I don't want this to happen again. I like to overclock if it is stable, but at this point I would just as well not overclock to save my own freaking sanity.

I'd like to run Windows XP. Do I lose any performance doing this? I'll dual boot Ubuntu, though I rarely use it.

During most of my research I only find information for games. I don't plan on using this system for gaming. However, the monitor is a Dell 24" running at 1920x1200. A middle of the road GPU will do me fine, I don't think I'll have trouble picking that.

A solid state HDD sounds amazing. Am I missing something? I could live with a 32gb solid state drive for my OS and important apps and use a regular drive for everything else. Can I boot Windows XP off one of these? Does every modern high performance system use solid state now? I remember switching from 5400 rpm to 7200 and being amazed at the improvements. I want to feel that again!

For CPU, the i7 920 seems to be king right now, though I don't know how it compares with workstation systems.

So far I don't have any idea on a motherboard.

My budget is flexible, depending on what kind of performance I get for the dollar. I won't spend 50% more to squeeze out 10% more performance, but I would gladly pay for real, noticeable improvements. That said, my naive feelings of what would be reasonable to spend is something like $1000 to $1500. Again, I could spend more if the performance justifies it. I won't be upgrading again for another long while.

I already have a nice case, so I don't need to buy that. Other parts that may be reusable are a 7200rpm 250gb HDD and an AGP GeForce 7600GT.

Finally, I have waited so long... is there anything new that would be coming out in the next 60 days or so? I could wait a little bit longer if it were really worth it. Then again, stability is important, so I hesitate to jump on new technology again. Basically I'm asking, is this a good time to buy?

Thanks in advance for any feedback you can give! :) 

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July 1, 2009 8:35:39 PM

Good questions.

Quote:
The last system I built used an EVGA 680i motherboad (this was for gaming, not programming).

We don't recommend Nvidia chipsets around here much. Sounds like you learned why.


Quote:
I'd like to run Windows XP. Do I lose any performance doing this?

Given your current rig, I doubt you'll see the difference. It will all be very fast. However, you should grab Windows 7 for free from Technet. It will be very backwards compatible, basically running a VM for XP compatibility. There's no sense in having other than 64-bit computing. Us gamers and multi-media types need the extra RAM addresses, so you programmers need to get used to it ;) 

Quote:
A solid state HDD sounds amazing. Am I missing something?

If you wait for the dust to settle a bit I think you'll be happier. There have been issues of performance degradation due to the way SSDs read, write, and delete blocks of data. These are getting resolved or bypassed, and the degraded drives are still faster than standard drives by a smaller amount. I just can't see living with an SSD for 5 years that you buy today, when something much better and less expensive should be just around the corner.
I totally understand about tech advances and the rule is always buy now, don't wait. However, I don't think the rule applies to such new technology. There's probably some math involved there that a programmer would know :p 

I would say the Gigabyte UD4P is pretty good bang for the buck:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

However, the P6T deluxe is good too and a better price in combo with the CPU:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

Just some solid RAM that you can OC a bit with. I like G.Skill Mushkin, or Corsair for that, but OCZ is OK as well:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...



July 1, 2009 8:44:12 PM

Okay here it goes. This is an Intel based build.


Core i7 920 -279.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

GIGABYTE GA-EX58-UD4P -239.99 after MIR
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

OCZ Platinum 6x2GB -199.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

HIS H485QT512P Radeon HD 4850 -79.99 after MIR
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Xigmatek Dark Knight S1283V -39.98
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Intel X25-M SSDSA2MH080G1 80GB SATA II MLC Internal Solid state disk -314.00
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

WD Caviar Black 1TB 7200RPM -99.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Corsair 550W Power Supply -79.99 after MIR
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

LG CD/DVD Burner -24.99 once it is back in stock.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

The total is 1358.91 after the MIR. This is a very fast system, and has a few extras like the SSD and 12GB of ram. You could probably do fine with 6GB.

you may need to order some new 120mm fans, I would personally recommend the Scythe Kamikaze's. I use them, very nice and quiet. The CD/DVD I also use, very fast and quiet. I think this is everything you will need, since you have a monitor. If you want, you can also put that 250GB drive in also.
Related resources
July 1, 2009 8:55:00 PM

One thing to keep in mind as you prepare for this build is that a 32-bit OS can't even fully use 4GB of RAM, so the typical 6GB of RAM used in i7 builds does you no good with a 32-bit OS. I would step into 2009 and use 64-bit Windows 7. I'm using the RC on my main computer as well as an older backup computer and have had no compatibility issues at all. You can currently buy Windows Vista with a free upgrade coupon to Windows 7.

Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 64-bit for System Builders w/ Tech Guarantee - OEM (Includes free Windows 7 upgrade coupon)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $109.99

Edit: One other benefit to using Windows 7 is that you can run Windows XP inside a virtual machine to test code compatibility if you get the Professional version of Windows 7. Google "Windows XP mode" for more information if you haven't read about it yet. You can currently pre-order Windows 7 Professional for $100.

Microsoft Windows 7 Professional Upgrade - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $99.99
July 1, 2009 9:29:53 PM

Quote:
Given your current rig, I doubt you'll see the difference. It will all be very fast. However, you should grab Windows 7 for free from Technet.

Uhg. While my nerd side thinks the idea of making use of 64 bit is neat, I don't know it is really worth the hassle.

If I'm running a bunch of old XP apps on Windows 7 and they are getting emulated, I wonder what the slowdown will be.

shortstuff_mt has a good point about being limited to < 4gb of RAM. I know I'm in the stone age, but I currently do ok with even just 1.5gb of RAM. With my typical apps running, IDE, FireFox with a bunch of tabs, etc I'm using just over 1gb of RAM! Sure if I open Photoshop it bumps to ~1.3gb, but won't I be fine on the new system with just 3gb?

If I could smoke XP I would, but I'm just too used to it and I have tool many tools and utilities I miss when using OSX or Ubuntu. Maybe some day I'll ween myself off XP, but so far the productivity loss has been too much for me to stick with another OS. Even if Windows 7 can run all my tools, I'm sure switch won't be all smooth sailing, there are bound to be some problems. Also, I don't like beta testing an OS or my OS to expire, and I don't know I could get over whatever new crap MS wants to shove down my throat. A new OS is the perfect trojan horse, I just can't see them not doing something dastardly. It makes sense for them, it's what they do.

Quote:
If you wait for the dust to settle a bit I think you'll be happier.

Good points. I've spent the last while reading about SSDs. How long do you think it will be until the dust settles?

Thanks for the links guys, I will check out all those products.

So i7 920, some mobo, some ram... what about PSU? During my 680i debacle I replaced an Antec PSU and vowed never again to trust Antec. I replaced it with a Cor$air. I could do Corsair again, but how much wattage do I really need? I guess the last resort already answered this above: 550w.

the last resort said:
HIS H485QT512P Radeon HD 4850 -79.99 after MIR
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

I thought picking a GPU would be easier than it has turned out. :p  The Radeon HD 4850 looks like the winner to me, unless someone thinks otherwise.

The Dark Knight cooler looks sweet. I can appreciate a good cooler! I just wish the damn things were reusable. I have various heavy chunks of copper lying around that only fit antiques. Remember good old socket A? :p 

Thanks for the burner link, I need a new one and now I don't have to think! :D 

My case is an Antec P180, which has three 120mm fans and a separate PSU area, so I think I'm ok on case cooling.

So I'm well on my way now. Still have a few decisions to make though. I'll post a parts list before buying. I welcome more suggestions! :)  You guys rock.
July 1, 2009 9:36:26 PM

If your application is cpu intensive and multi core enabled, you will be very pleased with the i7 920. At stock, It is better than any competing quad, and it can be easily overclocked to 3.2, the speed of the $1000 i7-965 The i5 cpu's will be out in the fall, at a slightly lower price point.

You will need a X58 based motherboard. Asus evga and gigabyte are the most popular. A basic board should be fine, unless there is some specific feature that you need.

For ram, a i7 compatible 6gb kit is good. Don't pay much extra for faster speeds or better timings, since they don't make your applications go significantly faster.

Put in a pre-order for windows-7 home premium upgrade now at $50. The deal goes away in a week. In the mean time, download and use the release candidate. If a OS reload after october 22 will be a problem, then vista home premium 64 bit is good. Windows-7 will have added support for some SSD capabilities.

Your agp 7600GT will be of no use; no modern motherboards still have agp slots. If you are not gaming, a $50 card should suffice.

Today, the 80gb Intel X25-M would be a good SSD to get. Other MLC drives have issues with write performance.
The X25-E 32gb SLC drive is even better, but it is more expensive and 32gb seems a bit small to me.
If you can wait two weeks, there is talk that Intel will launch some better and cheaper drives.

Go ahead and install a decent oem cpu cooler. It will keep your system quieter, and give you a better overclock.
July 1, 2009 9:43:53 PM

The only applications that will not run on a 64 bit system are 16 bit DOS programs. Everything else runs in native mode.
XP was built when ram was costly. That is why it uses less. It expends effort sending much to the page file to make room. Vista keeps things around, improving speed when they need to be reused. If one of your tools depends on the internals of XP, then it might not work.

Since it is free to try, check out windows-7.
July 1, 2009 9:50:44 PM

Yep, all good points. A 4850 is really overkill if you aren't gaming. Still, that's a nice card for the money.

I think a 550VX would be a nice choice. A 650TX would be too much power of course, but it's known as one of the quietest PSUs made... something to think on.
July 1, 2009 10:08:45 PM

Building a fast computer like you're considering and putting Windows XP on it sure would be a shame. Windows 7 is an excellent OS. I'm not sure what "hassles" you foresee if you upgrade to Windows 7, but I can tell you that I haven't experienced any software incompatibilities yet. It sounds like your tinfoil hat might be on a little to tight according to comments like this:
NateS said:
I don't know I could get over whatever new crap MS wants to shove down my throat. A new OS is the perfect trojan horse, I just can't see them not doing something dastardly. It makes sense for them, it's what they do.

I don't know if you're avoiding a modern OS because of all the negative hype that surrounded Vista (which IS just hype, by the way) or what, but a system like this really deserves a modern 64-bit OS. Using 64-bit Windows 7 with Windows XP running in a virtual machine seems like the perfect software compatibility testing setup. Maybe that's just me, though.
July 1, 2009 10:39:38 PM

geofelt said:
The only applications that will not run on a 64 bit system are 16 bit DOS programs. Everything else runs in native mode.
XP was built when ram was costly. That is why it uses less. It expends effort sending much to the page file to make room. Vista keeps things around, improving speed when they need to be reused. If one of your tools depends on the internals of XP, then it might not work.

Since it is free to try, check out windows-7.

Well, that and 32 bit pointers limit the addressable memory, so wasting RAM would be a bad idea in XP. However, I use a fixed 600mb swap file. While I wouldn't be surprised if XP writes to swap even with available RAM, whatever it is doing stays under 600mb. I'm sure there is more to Vista using more RAM than it just keeping things around. It has new, different, and more "crap" which uses more RAM. Not necessarily a bad thing though, might as well make use of it.

You're right, it only costs time to try. I have been reading about Windows 7 since you guys posted the advice here. I will give it a whirl.

shortstuff_mt said:
Building a fast computer like you're considering and putting Windows XP on it sure would be a shame. Windows 7 is an excellent OS. I'm not sure what "hassles" you foresee if you upgrade to Windows 7, but I can tell you that I haven't experienced any software incompatibilities yet.

I skipped Vista just as I skipped Windows ME. 7 may very well be excellent, but I can't apologize for not being easily convinced. :) 

Quote:
It sounds like your tinfoil hat might be on a little to tight according to comments like this:

Nah, I just don't drink the same Koolaid. :)  Microsoft chokes me with a lot of their crap. I am not being overly anti-MS, just calling it like I see it. In many ways Apple is even worse. That said I use XP and have an iPhone. I choose to put up with a subset of their crap, I just have limits.

Quote:
Using 64-bit Windows 7 with Windows XP running in a virtual machine seems like the perfect software compatibility testing setup.

Sure it is. However VMs for XP, OS X, and Linux (and probably Windows 7?) can be run on other OSes. The only distinguishing part for Windows 7 is the XP VM is built-in.

I'll give Windows 7 a try. For me, the only really compelling reason is optimized SSD support.

The Intel X25-M is ~$315. How long do you guys think it will take for hardware to be available (not just announced) that can beat it?
July 1, 2009 11:12:56 PM

remember that the more ram you have, the less space on the hard drive apps will use, making everything faster.
July 1, 2009 11:19:43 PM

The X58 chipset will be king for a while. It's proven to be pretty stable. A new series of CPUs that use socket LGA 1156 along with the P55 chipset will probably appear around September. Originally I thought there would only be i3 and i5s for that socket, but now that it looks like there will also be some i7s which could possibly cannibalize the LG 1366 market for the desktop to the point that Intel decides to drop it (kinda like what happened with socket 940 (not AM2 which also uses 940 pins) once AMD put out socket 939).

Anyway use a 64-bit OS and lots of RAM especially if you are going to virtualize more than one OS at a time. Make sure you use a case with some good airflow and a high quality power supply.
July 2, 2009 12:48:01 AM

Most applications written today can not use more than 2/3gb---true. If you will be multitasking, though, you can have several such programs running concurrently without interference in 6gb.

If you plan on using the XP emulator, you will need the professional version of windows-7. Pre-order price is $99, a considerable saving.

On a nice new build, I would not try to use the old IDE dvd burner or hard drive.
Cabling is so much cleaner with SATA. Newer hard drives are cheap, and perform better than the old hard drives.

For an amusing insight to vista vs. XP google "mojave experiment"

July 2, 2009 10:07:03 AM

Oy, I didn't find the "mojave experiment" amusing at all!

Ok my friends, this is what I'm currently planning to purchase:

$280 Intel Core i7 920 2.66GHz CPU
$40 Xigmatek Dark Knight 120mm HSF
$185 Gigabyte GA-EX58-UD3R motherboard
$85 OCZ Gold 6GB (3 x 2GB) DDR3 1600 RAM
$314 Intel X25-M 80GB SSD
$80 Corsair 550W PSU
$75 Sapphire Radeon HD 3870 512MB video card
$31 Sony Optiarc 24X SATA DVD/CD burner
$12 shipping
------------
$1102 total

Those prices are after rebates.

I arbitrarily decided on Gigabyte. I don't think I lose much by picking the UD3R over the UD4P... different audio chip, eSATAII, and 3 RAM slots. Is there any compelling reason to spend the extra $55 for the UD4P?

The X25-M is a bit spendy, but I love the idea of fast storage and I decided I don't want to wait.

Apparently the Newegg deal on the Radeon HD 4850 for $80 expired! ***! It is now $110 after rebate, but thankfully comes with a crappy $30 game I don't want. While I didn't need such a nice card, I still feel like I lost $30. :p  I'm guessing the 3870 will do. Please speak up if you'd recommend a different < $100 card for my needs.

So there you have it. Thanks to all you guys who helped keep me sane during the research! I really appreciate it. :)  If you have any final thoughts on these parts, please share them now as I'm not sure how long I can hold out before purchasing. ;)  My only real worry is on the motherboard, the differences between the UD3/4/5/extreme aren't clear to me. They don't seem that different even after comparing them on the Gigabyte website.
July 2, 2009 11:42:06 AM

Look at me, finding answers. ;) 
http://www.hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1425779
UD4P supposedly runs cooler due to some different phase power (or something). Also the UD4P has an extra heat pipe and more LEDs for monitoring load and temps on more than just the CPU. Oh what the hell, I'll just go for the UD4P. I like LEDs, and it was already suggested by you guys, so I can place my order now without worrying you guys will tell me to get a different mobo. :) 

Order placed! Weeeee! I also got a $60 Wacom tablet I've been eying for the wife. Now the waiting begins...
July 2, 2009 7:50:09 PM

Looks right. ---enjoy.
July 2, 2009 8:25:00 PM

Yep good build.
July 3, 2009 4:35:25 AM

Not a bad price for the 3870. You may want to consider getting a 4670 instead though simply because it generates less heat. If you can spend a little more though try and get a Radeon 4830 which is faster.
July 6, 2009 8:13:56 AM

Re: 3870, too late. :p  I don't think heat will be too bad as my case is pretty good and I won't be OCing hardcore.

The parts get here on Tuesday! Monday night I plan on taking apart the old box to have it ready.

I have been playing around with Windows 7. Installed it on my current hardware. I'm impressed. It is fast, pretty, and generally doesn't get in the way. All my tools have run with no problems so far. I'd like to thank you guys for pushing me towards it! If I'm going to run Windows, Windows 7 is where it is at. I think it runs even better than XP.

Microsoft still has a lot of things built-in to the OS that I don't need or even want (libraries, homegroups, etc), but I've found how to turn off nearly all the extraneous stuff. I have a batch file ready that disables 15 services that are normally running that I don't want running.

Actually I have gone a bit nuts getting ready for the new build. I reviewed all my software and tools. I have a directory (7.95gb!) of apps ready to copy to the new OS and have collected all the setup files for apps that must be installed. I've got a reg file that customizes some things in Windows 7 to be how I like. I've got drivers ready to install, motherboard bios ready, and I even burned a CD containing the latest firmware for the X25-M.

This is going to be the biggest upgrade I've ever done, and I couldn't be more ready! :) 
July 6, 2009 2:30:28 PM

Nice! It sounds like you're well prepared for your new hardware to arrive tomorrow. Be sure to read through the motherboard owners manual and you should be good to go. If you run into any problems with the build there's a checklist here that should help with troubleshooting:

http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/261145-31-read-postin...

Of course you can also always post questions on here. There's usually quite a few people willing to help.
!