As an admitted "mac-guy", I'm seriously toying with the idea of putting together a Windows machine solely for the purpose of running Pro Tools 8 and a slew of CPU-hungry plugins. Maybe Pyramix, as well, at some point in the future since it's Windows only. I haven't had much luck with running audio apps on a boot-camped Mac (sessions get glitched out after even a modest use of plugins), and my current OSX rig isn't up to snuff for my current use of virtual instruments, multitrack mixes, etc. I run Pro Tools M-Powered, so the audio card will either be external or one of their PCI-based cards. The rig will be used almost exclusively for in-the-box production, mixing, mastering, etc, with an occasional 1 or 2 track live recording.
I'll fill out the template below, but this is basically what I'm looking for: Stable 64-bit OS (no real preference b/w XP and 7, as it won't be used for anything but PT), maxed out RAM, no elaborate video requirements other than what's needed to run the software or the occasional video file if I'm working to picture, and without breaking the bank too much....ok, as cheap as possible...
Since you already have the sound card this is doable, unfortunately alot of the best parts are sold out right now(particularly RAM and the 955) and an i7 is outside of your budget range even though it would be best for your needs.
$800 may have been wishful thinking... But, yes, I'd imagine the i7 is well outside my budget, especially given the cost of addition required components.
Let's say we bump the budget to a $1k max, with an obvious preference towards the cheap, and take software out of the equation (PT is as of now incompatible with 64 bit OS, but hopefully will be in the near future. Again, wishful thinking...). Should have added RAM to the priority list, as well - I really did mean max. With lot's of hungry DSP and multitrack audio sessions, a surplus of RAM is key. Secondary until the 64bit business get's hashed out on the Digi end, of course, but I'm thinking at least 10gigs+ (if nothing else, I can run a different DAW for heavy sessions to take advantage of it).
Currently there are no 4GB sticks of DDR3 ram so that really is the most you can get right now.
With that extra $200 you still dont have the option of the i7 as you need to add in a low end graphics card, ram cost stays about the same but only gets you 6GB, and processor and motherboard costs go up pushing you well out of budget so i wouldnt change anything. You already have the sound card right?
Yes and no - I've been working with an external soundcard but thought I might upgrade to a dedicated onboard card with this build (if you're not familiar with Pro Tools, it requires proprietary hardware, and there's 2 or 3 available from M-Audio which work with my version of the software). Either way, I wasn't including that in my budget and didn't want to get too off topic nerding out on audio hardware.
Hmmm... I'll plead ignorance here and say that I'm not too versed in PC hardware/software specs, as I've always been a mac user. I take it the AMD only supports DDR3, which I can only get in 2GB chips, right? The motherboard you recommended has 4 RAM slots, so would I be able to run 8 gigs? Would a different motherboard in a different price bracket allow for more sticks? If we scrap the cost of Vista 64 (I already have a 32bit XP license I can use until I upgrade to a PT compatible 64bit OS once their software catches up), and add that to the inflated budget it leaves an extra $300 or so, if that makes any difference.
Maybe it's a better idea to wait for the i7 to come down in price? Or just pony up in either respect for a more useful/lasting system. Either way, I'm sure it beats the $3k+ tag for a decked quad core Mac Pro....
Well is Pro Tools capable of using 8 cores? How many different audio streams to do you usually work with? Unless you are working with more than 4 or 6 at a time you wont get a benefit out of the i7. Only i7 boards support more than 4 ram slots, if you go with an AM2+ board, that processor will work on it, then you can use 4GB ram sticks, however if you are only running 32bit XP you cant make use of more than 3.2GB of ram.