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Trepanation's open-ended, no-budget multimedia gaming/HTPC build!

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September 17, 2009 2:35:18 AM

Hi Tomshardware!

I've been working on this build for about a month and have made numerous postings and read lots of articles, and have yet to decide for sure exactly what is is that I want! I have made a few decided purchases, but mostly for non-core system parts. I see pros and cons for some parts quite clearly, but in other areas I will need to borrow your expertise. Below I will highlight all parts of the build where input is needed, with information on my needs and any questions I have.

This build has no budget, but that is true only because of certain classifications I place, namely that no expense will be spared so long as the item in question is at a good value and is a significant upgrade from the part it would be replacing. To cite an example, I could get a Radeon 4850 card for 110 dollars. For about 90 dollars more I could have a Radeon 4870, or I could get a 4870x2 card for 500 dollars. The practical buy here would be the 4870, as it represents the optimal balance between price and performance. In essence, this means I will spare no expense - just so long as I get a fair return for my investment!

*Ahem.* This build is meant to be used primarily as an HTPC with an emphasis on gaming. There was a lot of confusion in my previous threads wherein I referred to my build solely as an HTPC, making little mention of gaming as being an important quality of the build. Users were getting confused as to why I needed a nice graphics card(s), and my choice of audio systems, others yet were debating my need for high-tier processing power at all. As such I think that referring to it in this manner makes the purpose easier to understand. It will be used for gaming, multimedia playback, multimedia processing (downloading/burning/ripping), and other computing.

Note: In the individual parts sections below I link to the part being considered accompanied with a price in dollars. This price is meant to represent what I paid/will pay for it and is not necessarily the price that will be shown in the link. Usually this is because I have found a local or a limited-stock or limited-time buy for the same part, but at a different (lower) price.

Let's get started!

Core system parts list

CPU - i5 750, i7 860, or i7 920? Obviously, there are many choices as to CPU selection, but I've seen countless AMD versus Intel fights and quite frankly I must require the professionalism and raw processing power that Intel's i5- and i7's provide.

From what I understand, an i5 750 represents the mid-high tier processor with the smallest price point for CPU/Mobo combination, due to its 1156 socketing and starting price of around $199.99. It has Turbo Boost, which lowers power consumption and increases clock speed in single-threaded applications, most of which an average PC will run with much frequency. Contrastingly it lacks Hyper Threading, which increases processing speed for well-threaded heavy applications, but these sort of applications are only frequently run by very niche users. It has the same starting clock speed as the i7 920, but with the best overclockability due to its lower power usage and heat output.

The i7 860 represents Intel's high tier CPU's, sporting the i5's improved Turbo Boost and also hyper threading, which the i5 lacks. It is about 100 dollars more expensive than the i5 but has the same motherboard socket type, so motherboard prices will be similar. It has the highest base clock speed of the 3 processors and can be overclocked with similar ease of the i5.

The i7 920 is in a similar tier as the i7 860. It has an older incarnation of Turbo Boost which is not as powerful as the i5 750's and the i7 860's, but it does have hyperthreading. It has the same base clock speed of the i5, but is much more difficult to overclock due to its higher power consumption and heat output. It is compatible with 1336 motherboards which are more "future-proof," and benefits from access to triple-channel memory. It has a price roughly between that of the other 2 processors.

From my somewhat inexperienced perspective it looks to me like the i7 860 would be the best choice, as it outperforms the i5 in every area, and beats the i7 920 in nearly every respect except for having less benefit from more powerful triple-channel memory. Of course I would love to hear your opinions and have you contradict me wherever I may be wrong.

Intel Core i7 Processor i7-860 2.80GHz 8MB LGA1156 CPU
$289.99 taxed/shipped potential for cpu/mobo savings

Mobo - Assuming that the processor decided upon would be the i7 860, the socket type of the mobo should obviously be 1156. As to the question of chipsets, I am uncertain and welcome any suggestions. I am certain of most features I want for my build as a whole, however I am uncertain as to which ones are dependent upon the motherboard.
No motherboard selected

RAM - Since the i7 860 benefits moreso from dual- than triple-channel RAM, I would like to see according suggestions. I do not mind spending extra for low-timing/latency high-speed memory, so long as the benefit is worth the price.
No RAM selected

HDD - I think a 7k RPM HDD('s) will be sufficient for now. I have heard mumblings that SSD's will be much more useful in about 4-6 months, so I think I will hold off on that particular investment for now. Also, if you think I should consider running my HDD('s) in RAID then I would welcome your input on that matter.

SAMSUNG Spinpoint F1 HD103UJ 1TB SATA 7200 RPM 32MB Buffer Hard Drive
$74.99 taxed/shipped

OS - I think the obvious choice here is Windows 7, but of course I would be welcome to well-reasoned contradiction. I do have inquiries as to which version I should get, however.
No OS selected.

Case - I would like to keep everything comfortably cool and quiet. I like the professional, minimalist case design of Lian Li cases, and if I could have help finding similarly-designed cases at better price points then that would be helpful.
No case selected

GPU - There's been lots of talk and speculation about the new Radeon cards, but quite frankly unless their performance turns out to be every bit as cutting-edge as the (questionably founded) rumors report then I cannot see a justification for a 400-500 dollar price point.

Regarding the question of Nvidia or ATI... from what I can tell, Radeon 4890's both out-value and out-perform GTX 285's. The cheapest I could find a GTX 285 for is about 280 dollars, and a Radeon 4890 for 200. Unless I a missing a quite-significant something, I simply cannot fathom any reason to purchase an Nvidia card.

XFX HD489AZDFC Radeon HD 4890 1.0 GB DDR5 PCI-E 2.0 Graphics Card
$194.99 taxed/shipped

PSU - 650w-850w seems to be right where I need it to be. I've heard purchasing the case and PSU from the same company is beneficial in case customer service needs to be contacted. Again, I don't mind spending some money to make sure it is a quality part.

CORSAIR CMPSU-750TX 750W ATX12V / EPS12V SLI Ready CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Compatible with Core i7 Power Supply
$99.99 shipped

CPU cooler - The cooler needs to um... well, you know. Keep things cool.
No CPU cooler selected

ODD - Needs to be able to burn just about any kind of disc I would want, including but not limited to Blu-Ray and Dual-layer discs. Also, that Lightscribe concept of lasering pictures onto the disc from the drive sounds cool.

LG Electronics GGW-H20L LightScribe 6X Blu-Ray & 3X HD DVD-ROM SATA Drive
$167.89

VDU - I got a really snappy deal on this screen, and I just got in the mail today and I love it :3 It looks really nice, I mean for being hooked to a Dimension 3000 via VGA blue :3 Dell UltraSharp U2410 24 inch 1920x1200 6ms 1000:1 HDMI/DVI/VGA/DisplayPort Widescreen LCD Monitor]

$505.00 taxed/shipped Purchase made

Audio - There's lots of good audio systems out there for varying price ranges, however I do not think I will be needing a new sound system at the moment due to the quality of my current system. I would agree to read over your suggestions though, if you simply must make them!
No Audio selected.

Keyboard - Similar to my taste in cases, I value something classy, and functional. Those Logitech boards with the screens and 90 extra buttons look silly and would make me look like a low-quality G@/\/\3r D00D. The Logitech G11 looks acceptable enough, though, and I dig the backlighting, but some of the Saitek Eclipse boards look good too... hmph.
No keyboard selected

Mouse - I prefer fingertip- and claw-grip mice, and Xoxide was having a clearance sale so I picked up a few highly-rated ones from them. They've yet to arrive in the mail, but I look forward to lots of testing when they get here!

Razer Lachesis
$32.49 taxed/shipped Purchase made
Logitech G9
$54.99 taxed/shipped Purchase made
Razer Salmosa
$24.99 taxed/shippedPurchase made

Thank you for your time, guys. I look forward to hearing your input!

~Viceroy Trepanation
September 17, 2009 4:10:48 AM

if the last few threads didnt help you make up your mind what difference is this one going to make ?
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September 17, 2009 4:36:15 AM

Outlander_04 said:
if the last few threads didnt help you make up your mind what difference is this one going to make ?

+1
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September 17, 2009 5:13:27 AM

Quote:
if the last few threads didnt help you make up your mind


And that's where I stopped reading, because they have helped me tremendously. I've even made some purchases already.

Are you seriously trying to complain that I am doing research? Pff.
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September 19, 2009 7:26:23 PM

Hmm, is Tom's tired of me already? :3
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!