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A few first time builder questions...

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January 26, 2010 12:55:26 AM

1. In an SLI configuration, which is better - 1GB 128 bit vs 512MB 256 bit?
2. If motherboard specifications show RAID 0+1, does this mean the controller is integrated or do I need to purchase one?
3. What is the best way to determine necessary PSU size?
4. Does the CPU affect memory performance and, if so, how much memory is too much memory?
In other words, I don't wanna buy 1600 if it's only gonna run stock at 1333.

Mobo - MSI NF980-G65 AM3 NVIDIA nForce 980a SLI HDMI ATX AMD Motherboard

CPU - AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition Deneb 3.2GHz 4 x 512KB L2 Cache 6MB L3 Cache Socket AM3 125W Quad-Core Processor

Memory - A-DATA Gaming Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model AX3U1600GB2G9-AG x2

Any and all answers/suggestions are greatly appreciated!

More about : time builder questions

a b } Memory
January 26, 2010 1:58:35 AM

Well let me see if I can help. I'm not an expert, but I do know a thing or two :) 

1. Generally the better the interface (256bit > 128bit) the better the throughput. It all depends on what GPU's your considering. I tend to shy away from SLI/Crossfire for a couple of reasons:
* Intiial costs are a bit steep (Mobo & PSU are some of the factors)
* You can have some driver issues (although they have been better recently)
* You usually have limited you upgrade paths by filling both PCI-e slots on the mobo.
* I think your generally better of with just 1 good GPU.

2. The specs on a mobo are what you get with the mobo. So if it says that you have 8 USB 2.0 ports, RAID 0,1,5,10, Firewire, eSATA: This means that this is what is included on the mobo. So "Yes" the RAID is integrated.

3. Generally it's pretty easy, but that is because I've researched a lot of information. You could use a Power Supply Calculator to determine your specific needs. Now you should keep in mind that all PSU's are built the same and they all don't perform the same. I prefer Antec/Corsair/Seasonic/PCP&C/BFG, because of their reviews and/or experience with them. They also have good warranties and they stand behind them!!
Here's a link to a PSU calculator:
http://extreme.outervision.com/psucalculatorlite.jsp

4. CPU doesn't really affect memory performance. Obviously if you have a really slow CPU, your memory is just going to have and wait for the CPU to catch up, but the memory won't be the limiting factor. If you buy 1600mHz RAM and your mobo only supports 1333mHz RAM, the RAM will still run fine, just that it will only run at the 1333mHz speed (in general). You can usually OC the RAM and exceed the 1333mHz speed, but that isn't always an option.

Generally you need to consider what you want to build and what you want to do with the build (i.e. gaming/video editing/encoding/etc.). Also be realistic with your budget too.

Here is what I consider with certain builds:
Gaming system - Generally get the best GPU that you can afford and at least a decent CPU.
Photo editing/Photoshop system - Generally I make sure I have a good CPU (quad core is usually preferred) and at least a dedicated GPU (doesn't have to be cutting edge).
Internet/Word/Excel system - I usually try and make sure I get the best onboard GPU that I can afford. AMD/nVidia have the better onboard GPU's (Intel's suck!). AMD is a bit better, so that is usually where I focus my attention at.

Did you have a particular build in mind??

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January 26, 2010 4:35:57 AM

I don't have a particular build in mind yet, but rather a few potential builds. I want it to perform well overall.

PSU - AMD Phenom II x4 3.2GHz
I chose the AM3 socket because indications are AMD plans to stick with it for a while and I was hoping to future proof the system a bit.

Mobo - MSI NF980-G65 AM3 NVIDIA
Not a lot of AMD/nVidia boards available - wanted the AM3 socket and DDR3 support as well as SLI (still unsure on the SLI)

Memory - A-DATA DDR3 1600
Since there is almost no price difference in DDR3 vs DDR2 or 1600 vs 1333, I just went with the "bigger is better" method even though I've been led to believe that my focus should be more on lat/timing. Still undecided on whether to stick with 4GB or go for 8GB.

HDD - WD Black 640GB
I have a lot of faith in WD and very little in the others and 640GB should be plenty. I had considered RAID as an option here, but the more I read on it the less interest I have.

GPU - This is where is hit a wall. Whether to go with a single 512MB 256 bit DDR3 or two 1GB 128 bit DDR2 cards. Since most of the DDR3 cards take up two slots anyway and since the cost is almost identical, it came down to which offered the most bang for the buck. Performance is the issue here for me.

PSU - OCZ ModXStream Pro 600W
I chose this PSU primarily for price after rebate and combo savings with HDD as well as the SLI, 80 Plus, and Active PFC and assumed 600W would be plenty.

Assuming support with Windows 7 64 bit OS, this is the core build I've come with minus the final decision on GPU. And as far as the GPU and Mobo go, nVidia is a must as I have a terrible history with ATI.

And on a side note, in no way related to the above build: As far as Bluetooth goes, do you know if a single dongle will work with multiple peripherals or does each peripheral need its own dongle?

Again, any and all suggestions/recommendations are greatly appreciated, as is your time.
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a b } Memory
January 26, 2010 4:49:48 AM

* The CPU you selected is a good one! It's relatively cheap and performs quite well. It can be OC'd with 30 seconds into the BIOS (unlocked multiplier).
* The mobo you selected, I just don't like. nVidia used to make good AMD based mobo's, but I'm not so sure now. It might be just fine, just thought I'd express my thoughts. The other thing I don't like is the price. I'd rather spend a bit less and use the $ to upgrade the GPU (especially when your building a gaming PC).
Here's one I like:
$88 shipped - $10 MIRc = $78!!
GIGABYTE GA-MA770T-UD3P AM3 AMD 770 ATX AMD Motherboard - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

* The RAM you selected runs at 1.65 or greater. I prefer to use RAM that runs at stock voltage, because they run cooler and there is no need to mess with BIOS settings to get the sets to run at given speed.
Here is what I like (look at specifications tab to see manufacturers specs):
$94 shipped! Runs at 1.5v, stock settings :) 
G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model F3-12800CL9D-4GBRL - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

* The HD you selected is a good one. I have another one that you might want to consider, because it's a bit cheaper (and smaller), but it performs quite well too :) 
$55 shipped!
SAMSUNG Spinpoint F3 HD502HJ 500GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

or for a bit more and 2 x the size:
SAMSUNG Spinpoint F3 HD103SJ 1TB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

* Not sure what GPU your talking about, so please let me know. Maybe I can help you with the selection and/or offer an opinion.

* The PSU should be fine, but OCZ has had some quality issues in the past. Currently they have been doing better, so I don't know if affects the latest designs or not. I prefer Antec/Corsair/Seasonic/PCP&C (now part of OCZ)/ and BFG PSU's!!
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January 26, 2010 5:19:18 AM

*The CPU - good to know I got one right. :p 

*The price on the mobo scared me a bit as well and if I choose not to go SLI the one you linked is a definately a viable option.

*I had actually considered the G.SKILL memory - what I didn't consider was the voltage. Thanx for pointing that out.

*The $20 savings on the Samsung is not enough to sway my loyalty to WD.

*I will definately put a bit more research into the reliability of the PSU before making a final selection.

*And just as an example for the GPU issue - consider these two cards.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
The first as a single - the second as in SLI.
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a b } Memory
January 26, 2010 5:35:33 AM

Don't waste your time on the 9500 gt. It's not worth it, IMHO. The 9800gtx is pretty old, by todays standards. It's 3 x the 9500, but I'd consider other options, especially in the $135 range. I'd take the savings on the mobo (~$80) and put it into the GPU upgrade! I'd consider the 5770 as your new b$tch!! Lol! It'll smoke the 9800gtx and only cost about $20-40 more than it. :)  So in reality your saving $40 over your original build and getting a better GPU!!!
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January 26, 2010 5:37:22 AM

Samsung F3 500GB has single platter which is better.

The GA-MA770T-UD3P is a good choice.

I would rather go with the 9800GTX. 1GB of video ram won't be fully utilized by the 9500GT. It is not worth SLI-ing 9500GTs unless you already got the card.

Skip on getting a SLI board and get a better GPU.

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a b } Memory
January 26, 2010 8:30:54 AM

At what resolution are you going to game, this is rather important when choosing a GPU.

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a b } Memory
January 26, 2010 1:16:52 PM

A couple of things.
If you are going to run SLI, change platforms to Intel. Intel's X58 chipset supports SLI.
Do not buy an AMD board with an nVidia chipset, don't do it, don't do it, don't do it!
If you are going to use an AMD platform, forget about nVidia, and buy a good Crossfire board with an X or FX chipset. Buy a good mid to high end ATI card, like a 5770 or better, and run it for a while. If that does not do it for you, add another later for CROSSFIRE.
Notice I am running an nVidia GPU, so I am not an ATI fanboy. I am just stating what I think is the best thing to do from my experience. I personally am also of the opinion that you always buy the very, very best single GPU you can afford. That is how I ended up with a 8800GTs. At the time, is was about the best there was.
And it still ain't half bad, for that matter.
But if I was buying new today, I would follow what I just said.
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a b } Memory
January 26, 2010 1:34:45 PM

I agree with jitpublisher. Being a fanboy just limits your possibilities for no good reason. Nvidia is getting beat up pretty bad by ATI right now. I don't know what "terrible history" you've had with ATI, but it shouldn't stop you from getting a superior GPU. Nvidia doesn't have any compelling components out right now IMO. I'm like jitpublisher, I don't have a brand preference. I just buy what's best for my money. As far as GPU's go, that means ATI right now.
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January 26, 2010 2:00:38 PM

4. To clarify this question, yes, CPU Architecture affects memory performance, or rather, the effect of RAM on end system performance depends on CPU architecture.

AMD architecture strongly favors tighter timings over faster speed.
Intel, is more balanced, but slightly favors timings still.

RAM that's too high speed is kinda pointless. If you're running CPU at stock, unless you LOWER the multiplier or use a high memory ratio, you aren't going to get close to using say DDR3 1800 RAM at full speed.

The former is stupid, the latter is silly. Generally anything under 4ghz good DDR3 1333 will be fine. You can use DDR3 1600 if you don't feel comfortable taking RAM a bit higher than specs for a 4ghz OC.
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January 26, 2010 9:29:32 PM

Thanks all for the great advice!

New potential build:

CPU & GPU combo - $305 shipped
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

Mobo - $98 after MiR
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
I went with the MA790 over the MA770 for future xfire as an option

RAM - $94 shipped
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

HDD & PSU combo - $135 after MiR
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

Under $750 for core build even after adding cost for Win7 64bit. I think I will stick with this build and see how it performs while I decide on xfire or raid 1 or even doubling up on RAM.

Only concern I have with this build at the moment is the user comments suggesting issues with the GPU drivers on Win7. It'll be a cpl more weeks before I actually order any parts so we'll see what comes of these issues in the meantime.
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a b } Memory
January 27, 2010 1:08:25 AM

^Pretty solid, personally I would still spend a little more and get an FX board, but the GX boards are fine. It's up to you. The FX does not have onboard video, but the FX chipset performs a little better, but it is a little more costly too. But it is not a big thing. Have fun.

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