I've been reading this site for a few weeks, and I'd like to "Ask For Help." I'm comfortable with and have added/swapped hard drives, memory, video cards, and CPUs before, but this will be my first home-build. Many thanks in advance for the advice!
My objective is to build a PC and not to skimp on the underlying items that will allow me to upgrade/expand it in the future. I'd like to keep my budget closer to $1200 of additional spend (I already have my CPU), but I am willing to spend more on the front end to ensure that I have a good upgrade path. For example, on the MOBO, I want to be sure that I'm getting one that will allow me to upgrade my CPU at some point in the next several years, can support faster chips at higher wattage, some overclocking, etc.
For reference, my current system is an off-the-shelf Compaq Presario, Celeron2.9GHz, 2GB RAM (maxed out), 256MB EVGA GE-Force 6200, 80GB and 560GB HDs (about 130GB used across both.) The $#@% heat sink is permanently attached to the MOBO - go figure. I'm CPU-bound and unable to upgrade for the two top items on my most important list - mid-range gaming (can't run many current games) and DVD-to-IPOD conversion (takes twice as long as watching the movie.)
APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE
This month - August 2009.
$1200-$1500 (not counting the CPU or monitor)
SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT
Mid-range games, home entertainment (iPod, home movie editing, digital pictures, converting DVDs to iPod, etc.,) Internet browsing, watching movies, school projects/home office
PARTS NOT REQUIRED:
o Intel Core i7-920 - already have this.
o Monitor - Sony SDM-S205K (1600x1200)
PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS:
o I'll probably go to the Microcenter store in Houston. I've found the folks in there very knowledgeable (at least more so than I) and I've never had a problem with a part or component that they have recommended.
o CPU: Core i7-920 CPU (already have this, as above)
o MOBO: I'm thinking ASUS, as it seems to get good general reviews. Specifically I'm considering between P6T and P6T Deluxe V2. From what I can tell, these are almost identical, except that the V2 has a better power phase distribution? 16x2 for the V2 vs 8x2 for the P6T? They both appear to have the same capabilities for over-clocking. Does the power distribution for the V2 give me significantly better performance and/or upgrade path for future processors and components?
o HD: 1TB, 7200 RPM. Don't care on the mfg. I'm thinking about the Western Digital Black Caviar, but I don't think I have a particular reason for this preference. I've seen some recommendations to buy a smaller, faster HD for the OS and swap space, and a larger HD for general storage. Any thoughts on this vs. partitioning the 1TB?
o AUDIO: On-board audio is good enough for me.
o GRAPHICS: I'm certain that I want a PCIe2.0. I've had good luck with EVGA in the past. Other than that, I find myself confused by how many options are available. I think I'd like to keep this option under $100 for now. I understand that SLI has to be upgraded with like-type cards (e.g., if you have a GE-Force 9600 you have to add another 9600, you can't mix and match). Do I need to be concerned about buying an SLI card today and then not being able to get a similar card in a year or two? Very interested in comments from the group on this.
o Optical Drive: I'm probably just a basic DVD+-RW. I don't think I need a Blu-Ray.
o Heat Sink: Probably going with the stock Intel for now, unless this board can really convince me otherwise (see my overclocking thoughts below.)
o Case and Fan(s): I dunno. These seem all very similar to me. I should spend, what, less than $100 on these two items?
o Power Supply: I don't have a good handle on this yet. Should I buy my parts first, and then add up the power ratings in order to select my PSU? If I add up the maximum power ratings on my components, how much additional wattage do I need to get for my PSU - 50%? 100%? Corsair's website configuration tool suggests the HX1000W. I didn't think I was going to have to spend this much on the PSU...
o RAM: 6GB of fast DDR3
o OS: Argh! It's going to be Windows, but not going to buy Vista. Should I try Windows 7 RC1? I'm thinking about getting an OEM System Builder version of XP. I know a 32 bit version won't recognize all of my RAM, but such is life...
o Speakers, Keyboard, Mouse - basic stock. Nothing fancy.
o Am I missing anything?
Just a little bit, but not right away. I see overclocking as the best way to get the maximum value from my setup. I'll not be reaching for extreme performance. I would definitely swap the heat sink before I did this.
SLI OR CROSSFIRE:
Maybe. My comments above under "Parts Preferences"
Sony SDM-S205K - 1600x1200 (I already have the monitor)
for motherboard, I'd consider Gigabyte as well. I've used both in the past and it really just comes down to preference between the two. The 1 TB Caviar black is a fine choice for a HD. there is really no reason to go with a smaller drive if you can afford the 1 TB. The larger drive is a little faster, and as you start adding more and more data to it, you'll have better performance than a smaller drive that will have a higher percentage of utilization.
For a general rule on graphics, spend as much on the card as you would on your CPU. There are cases where you don't really need to as in a business machine where you would not have any gaming requirement, but I feel a balanced system tends to feel snappy longer without needing upgrades in a year. If you spent $200+ on a processor, I'd match it with a $200+ gfx card.
For a PSU, 650-750 watts should be sufficient unless you have plans for overclocking and multiple gfx cards.
Cases / Fans: A solid blanket recommendation would be an Antec 900 or 1200. Larger cases with more room are easier to work with. There's plenty of other fine choices from Silverstone, Lian Li, CoolerMaster, though the additional features you get with additional cost diminish quickly.
Even if you hate Vista, It's an ok OS on powerful systems, and you should qualify for a free windows 7 upgrade if you get Vista. As time goes on, XP will become more of a security risk as there will be no more major overhauls to that OS.
Going with an 8 year old OS on a new build is crazy. You'll have about half of your 6GB available. You can use combo deals on Newegg to get 64-bit Vista Home Premium with a free upgrade to Windows 7 for $80.