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Seeking multi-purpose build, Update: quick PSU question.

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August 31, 2009 10:47:20 PM

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: ASAP but not opposed to waiting for any imminent technological developments if they are going to give more bang for the buck

BUDGET RANGE: as low as possible, but let's say up to US$800. Would actually like to hear suggestions for various price points, like "low-end", "medium", "high-end", and even "tempt me to exceed my budget", but any "top of the line" components with associated inflated premium price will probably not make the cut, esp. CPUs and GPUs.

SYSTEM USAGE:
  • media production: ProTools, Acid, Sound Forge, Vegas, Blender, Bryce, MilkDrop, GIMP, various encoding, etc.
  • games: list of stuff I'm playing in this thread + new fun stuff like Diablo III, STALKER, id Tech 5 (would be nice if EA involvement doesn't corrupt it too badly), new Mechwarrior. I'm also into recording demos of my games as much as possible, either via in-game mechanism, or FRAPS-type thing, so whatever can be done to lessen the adverse effects of doing so would be great. FWIW, I value high framerate, high resolution, and high model detail over texture detail, but I would like to keep textures at least of "medium" quality.
  • general business and software dev: Office, Visual Studio/SQL Server/IIS, Eclipse/Java, Python, Apache HTTP, PostgreSQL, MySQL, Flash, etc. This business stuff is plenty important, but I put it last because I doubt it will be the cause of much stress on the machine. Generally speaking, the server apps are just for spot development and not going to be running 24/7 on this machine.
  • Movie playback in the home theater sense is not going to be a primary use, but I want it to be able to play common formats without a hitch when needed.

    PARTS NOT REQUIRED:
  • keyboard, mouse
  • monitor
  • drives: I intend to use 3 or 4 SATA HDs, probably non-raid (2 WD WG740GD's, at least one of which will probably be replaced by 80GB Intel X25-M, 2 Seagate ST31500341AS's (one of which may become optional after I build new storage server), and at least 1 IDE DVD-RAM ("$25 Special"))
  • case (maybe but would prefer new)
  • PSU (maybe -- Antec BP500U)

    PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: prefer newegg just cuz they seem to TCB there, but not opposed to any proven no-BS alternatives.

    PARTS PREFERENCES: best bang for the buck, but no suspect brands; stuff that's not going to break; stuff that's not going to leave me with a dead-end upgrade path

    OVERCLOCKING: Maybe, but I am not looking to "experiment" at all; if I was going to modify/OC, I would want a pretty well-established "kit" and great instructions to work from.

    SLI OR CROSSFIRE: Not opposed to it but probably not required at this time. Depends on cost-effectiveness.

    MONITOR RESOLUTION: desktop 1800x1440 (1600x1200 minimum); games let's say bare minimum 1024x768 but the higher the better; I will be using my NEC FE2111SB for a while, but anticipate one or more LCDs someday. For now, dual display is a big "nice to have" but if/when I move to LCD, it will be essential.

    ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:
  • Quiet is good, but not worth paying extravagantly for.
  • I have some PCI "Classic" audio hardware I want to keep using, as well as an old PCI SCSI controller I might need to install from time to time.
  • In the future I could definitely see having multiple virtualized installs/images of Windows (XP or 7) and Linux (something mainstream and well-supported like Ubuntu). Not that I would be multi-tasking them hardcore most of the time, but more to maintain system integrity for my various "workspaces" i.e. Gaming/Media Production/Software Development.
  • Will most likely add a Blu-Ray burner when they come down a bit.
  • Would really like a recommendation on an economical, spacious, decently quiet case with good, decently quiet cooling potential, as well as decent sensor/monitoring capabilities (not sure if this is the responsibility of mobo/components/case or all of the above). Visual appeal is of almost zero importance. As case lighting/window does have some practical benefit, I would not be opposed to it, but I am not looking to spend extra for it.
  • As I do a lot of media interchange, inbuilt Firewire and even bluetooth would be bonuses.
  • I'm fine with basic on-board sound for gaming, as long as it works right & doesn't bog the system down. I usually play and stereo headphones and will most likely not use surround for gaming, though it might be handy for prototyping work in the media realm.
    NEW PARTS I HAVE PICKED OUT ALREADY: none, except the aformentioned Intel X25-M.

    I know my requirements are pretty wide-ranging, but I would appreciate any advice! I really don't follow the hardware scene at all, esp. when it comes to CPUs and mobos so even pointing me towards some basic "best of breed" starting points is going to help a lot.

    I think that's it for now. I will stop back periodically to check responses, answer any questions, and submit updated concepts based on what people recommend. Thanks for reading! :) 
    August 31, 2009 11:07:33 PM

    Antec Three Hundred Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - Retail
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

    CORSAIR CMPSU-650TX 650W ATX12V / EPS12V SLI Ready CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Compatible with Core i7 ... - Retail
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

    ASUS M4A79 Deluxe AM3/AM2+/AM2 AMD 790FX ATX AMD Motherboard - Retail
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

    AMD Phenom II X3 720 2.8GHz Socket AM3 95W Triple-Core Black Processor Model HDZ720WFGIBOX - Retail
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

    G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model F2-8500CL5D-4GBPK - Retail
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

    SAPPHIRE 100277L Radeon HD 4770 512MB 128-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFire Supported Video Card - Retail
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

    SAPPHIRE 100277L Radeon HD 4770 512MB 128-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFire Supported Video Card - Retail
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

    Total: $756.00 Shipped + $10 MIR

    Seeing as you will be working at a high resolution, and value that in gameplay, I went with a crossfire setup using the HD4770. This card scales very well and can keep up with some of the top of the line nVidia GPUs in crossfire. The CPU is very easy to OC, being the Black Edition, though for your needs, it may be worth it to upgrade to a Phenom II x4.

    I assume that you already have the Intel SSD, or are keeping it seperate from this budget, otherwise that $200+ will gimp this build severely.
    September 1, 2009 12:18:25 AM

    I would suggest a 4890 rather than 2 4770s, you can get one for $20 less and the 1GB 4890 will do better at higher resolutions
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

    You can save 80 by dropping the board down to a 790X which will still provide you with the option of 8/8x crossfire
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

    With that board you will need DDR3 ram though but the money saved by the price is still a lot less than the price of the ram. This ram is low latency with no high heat spreaders that will interfere with a heatsink for only 25 more.
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

    I like transmaniacon's build its pretty good, my changes drop the price by 75 which i would suggest putting into swapping the processor up to a 955, only a $70 increase, or a good heatsink for overclocking.
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

    Definitely dont use the basiq as the PSU, its designed to be antecs budget line, its better than the other crappy PSUs but you have the budget so make sure you get a good one like the 650TX that was suggested.
    Related resources
    September 1, 2009 11:00:33 PM

    Thanks, everyone, for the input!

    My overall feeling after the initial responses is that I want more emphasis on CPU / straight-up crunching power. I don't mean "more than what you responded with", just that I would nudge your impressions of my desired build slightly more in the "workstation" direction vs. "gaming über alles".

    CPU: Phenom II x4 955 CPU looks like a winner. Any thoughts on the comparative value of the 965 3.4GHz? BTW are these CPUs going to come with standard coolers or will I need to add that as well? What about the heat transfer paste (or whatever mechanism is used)?

    Mobo: Between the two ASUS motherboards, the more costly M4A79 Deluxe doesn't use DDR3, and "faster/better" memory seems like something I want for my media work, but it appears to be superior in other significant ways. The CFX 16x capability, as well as 2 additional PCIe x16 slots for whatever the future may hold seems important as well. I could envision some pro media hardware coming down the pipe that wants to use PCIe x16 and if I am already using the 2 I have for GFX/gaming, I'll be stuck. And, I'll admit: the nice, vague "Optimized for AM3" comment at the top of the spec sheet has an influence on inexpert readers like myself! ;)  Whereas the M4A79XTD EVO AM3 spec sheet has the comparatively scary "...Best OC Capability" tagline. As though you are not going to get "good" performance out of it without OC.

    Any alternatives that incorporate the best qualities of both, i.e. DDR3 support + the additional PCIe-x16 slots? (The additional PCIe x16 slots seem more important than the 16x CFX, but it seems like CFX 16x goes hand in hand with the additional slots.) Any other comments?

    (The Biostar mobo, btw, doesn't impress mainly due to the onboard video, which seems like something that I am going to be paying for, yet never going to use, and thus it unnecessarily complicates and possibly even compromises their design. The fact that their specs aren't as clear on their website was a negative as well.)

    Case/PSU: I am undecided but I would probably lean toward the Antec 300 + Corsair PSU mainly cuz the Corsair PSU is highly reviewed on newegg. Antec 900 + PSU may certainly be of comparable quality but just doesn't have the exposure. (12 reviews vs. 700+) I am going to see if anyone near me has these cases in stock, as I would have an easier time picking after examining in person.

    GPU: The XFX Radeon 4890 HD GPU is marked as deactivated. Any particular alternative suggestion? Still have some looking around to do on my own before I make a final decision on GPU.

    And as for my memory choice, it ultimately depends on what my other choices are going to support, but I will be leaning more towards the "high-end", just not looking to get into that "boutique"/"bragging rights" exploitative price range! ;) 

    I really appreciate the help. Just pointing me in a good direction platform-wise + the "refresher course" I've had doing all this follow-up reading today has put me in a better position to have a meaningful look at my options, myself, vs. just asking someone to "tell me what to buy!" Thank you!
    September 1, 2009 11:17:40 PM

    Yea you will benefit from a stronger CPU, and knowing that you want to focus more on a workstation build than a gamer, its easier to direct your options.

    I would also suggest the Phenom II x4 955, the 965 performance increase is not worth the added cost. All retail CPUs come with a stock CPU cooler and thermal paste applied.

    I chose the Asus Deluxe for the true crossfire support, but if you go with a single GPU, you open up a lot more options.

    Here is a good MoBo that will suit you well: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

    You want to purchase a good quality motherboard and Gigabyte is just that. These days most single card graphics solutions are sufficient for gaming, so a single PCIE2.0 slot is fine.

    You will need DDR3 RAM, look for brands like G.Skill, OCZ, and Mushkin.

    For this build, any PSU with 600 watts thats 80+ certified will be great. Stick to brands like Corsair, PC Power & Cooling, OCZ, Antec, and SeaSonic.

    The HD4890 is a solid choice, but for your budget, you might want to look at the HD4870 instead.
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
    September 14, 2009 9:56:14 PM

    Any opinions on the feasibility of using a OCZ500SXS for the new build?

    I had an "el cheapo" in my utility server that fried, so I moved the Antec into that and just bought the OCZ.
    !