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New Enthusiast PC

Last response: in Systems
February 17, 2010 6:15:29 PM

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: July (Sorry, early planner) BUDGET RANGE: 1800-2800 Before Rebates (My hobbies are cheap)

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: Virtualisation, Software Development, Machine Learning, Movies/Casual Gaming

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: keyboard, mouse, monitor, speakers, blu-ray/DVD/CD

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: but will buy from other sites if the quality and price is right COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: Canada

PARTS PREFERENCES: None. Some parts chosen below but I'm VERY flexible

OVERCLOCKING: Maybe SLI OR CROSSFIRE: Yes, for future expansion only.


- I do extensive levels of multi-tasking. Firefox usually eats up about 250MBs for me at any given time, Chrome takes another 100, I'd like to be able to play a 1080p video without closing these processes and, beyond that, expand my capabilities by running virtualbox so that I can test configurations in other operating systems. I also usually run about another gigabyte worth of smaller applications or IDEs.

- I do my best to avoid a full shut-down. I'm considering running linux as the base OS of this machine in order to prevent the need to ever shut it down. Hibernation/Sleep functions are important.

- Machine should be well cooled and as energy efficient as possible given the extensive requirements. It may also be exposed to damp/humid environments, so if anybody has any suggestions about keeping a computer safe from moist conditions it would be much appreciated. (Basement, not a bridge... honest).

- I HATE bright lights... avoid if necessary. I mean seriously, it's like I can see the northern lights under my bridge... er... in my basement... every night already.

Alas, here is the build I'm thinking about so far:

PSU (is this enough?):
Antec TPQ-850 850W Continuous Power ATX12V / EPS12V SLI Certified CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Modular Active PFC "compatible with Core i7/Core i5" Power Supply - Retail

ASUS P6X58D Premium LGA 1366 Intel X58 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail

Intel Core i7-920 Bloomfield 2.66GHz 4 x 256KB L2 Cache 8MB L3 Cache LGA 1366 130W Quad-Core Processor - Retail

(?!?), Still not sure what I would need for this. Some people have suggested to me the use of a GPU for some machine learning experiments I want to try, however, I'm not quite sure how to do this and haven't quite looked into it.

G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 4GB 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model F3-12800CL9S-4GBRL - Retail x3 (For the triple channel, or is that even necessary?)

System Disk:
Kingston SSDNow V Series SNV425-S2BN/128GB 2.5" 128GB SATA II Internal Solid State Drive (SSD) - Retail

Western Digital Caviar Green WD10EARS 1TB 5400 RPM 64MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive x4 (RAID 10)

Not too concerned, but quiet and cool for a lower price would be nice.

Heatsinks/Fans/Thermal Pastes:
Reccomendations? Is it even necessary, given the right case, to not use the stock coolers?

Operating System:
Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit 1-Pack for System Builders - OEM

If you have advice on:
- Printers for small business use
- Laptop battery replacements (9 cell, Li, Dell 1520 Inspiron series. Dell's batteries look overpriced(?))
- Dedicated servers and VPS
- Computer repair/maintenance tools

I'm also interested.

This is my first system build and I want to clarify my understanding of computer hardware. This is also the first time I've appealed to technically knowledgeable people about my plans; I've been looking into it for about a year now, in bits and pieces. So, please forgive my mistakes (and correct them), and thank you in advance for your help.

More about : enthusiast

February 17, 2010 6:39:52 PM

I would absolutely go with 12 GB of memory if you're doing a lot of virtualization. As far as I know, using 6x 2 GB DIMMs in any configuration should work, though you might want to check to see if you can get a slightly better deal on 2x 3 DIMM kits. The 3x 4 GB DIMMs you have selected will allow for future expansion, but it's more expensive than going with 2x G.Skill 6 GB kit CAS 7 1333 MHz - $182 CAD x 2 = $364 - going with lower CAS rather than faster clock speed. You could also try looking at 3x 4 GB kits, though I suspect some posters on here will freak out about using dual-channel kits on a 1366 board. (Though really, if you're putting in 6 DIMMs, it will also qualify as triple-channel.)

You might also consider picking up a RAID card, motherboard-based RAID isn't the most reliable, and it almost certainly won't be portable to a new system should you ever need to move the RAID container in toto.

Graphics: For your stated usage, an ATI 5850 should be fine. If you want to make sure that you can play everything at 1900x1200 for the next couple of years, you might want to step up to a 5870.

PSU: That's overkill unless you're planning on putting 2 GPUs in the computer, which it doesn't sound like you need to do. 650ish watts should be fine.

Stock cooling is fine, as long as you're not overclocking.

As a daily Linux user and (both UNIX & Windows) system administrator, I'll mention that you may need to reboot Linux from time to time, but it's certainly less frequently than with Windows.
Related resources
February 17, 2010 8:23:06 PM

Hi JohnnyLucky, I missed that article, thanks for the link! However, I'm not sure the systems listed fit my needs; I designed most of my system already with expandability in mind.

Also, thank you coldsleep for your detailed reply. I did indeed choose the 4GB sticks for easy upgrading later, but I'm concerned about how much later that would be. I seem to have a hard time quantifying what I can do with 12GB of RAM. Would it help if I listed everything I do in detail and what I would like to do simultaneously?
If 12GB is sufficient I may be able to move down to a lower power system with lower RAM availability rather than saving the money on the RAM.

The RAID card idea is good; I figured that the MOBO RAID drive would be sufficient but I've never actually heard of anyone using them. I don't think I'll have to worry about moving my RAID though. This system should remain long-term.

As for the PSU, I was actually afraid 850W wouldn't be enough, but I guess that implies that listed Watt usage is a max rather than an average.
February 17, 2010 8:36:44 PM

That is one nice build!

With 1 5xxx series GPU a good 500-550W PSU would be suffcient, with 2 a nice 750W PSU would be more than sufficient. The 5xxx series of GPU's are pretty power friendly considering their performance.

If you OC the CPU at all, I'd recommend an aftermarket cooler. For an extra ~40 bucks, it's well worth it. And even if you don't OC, I'd still put an aftermarket cooler in, because for the money it's worth the cooler temps.

I would probably stick with the 3 x 4GB sticks, if you REALLY want to expand this guy later. It does cost more now, but chances are it would cost more in the future to replace all the 2GB DIMMS. While I see RAM prices dropping again, I don't know that they will drop that much.

Your case is really personal preference. For all those components though, I would defintely look at Full Towers.

For a GPU, I'd go with a 5850, but if you really don't game that much, it would be overkill.

February 18, 2010 1:53:56 AM

For most uses, 4-6 GB is enough RAM, but if you're planning on doing video/audio/photo editing, or running a lot of VMs, then more RAM can be handy. Since you listed virtualization as your #1 priority, I assumed that you would be using all/most of 12 GB. However, I don't really think that you'll end up running out of memory all that quickly, and although I hate to advise going with smaller DIMMs for servers, for home use getting 6x 2 GB DIMMs would make more sense. But don't let me talk you out of going with the 4 GB sticks, as it does leave your options a little more open down the road.

For RAID, it's really up to you. If you're doing anything important or relying on it for critical data, I'd at least get a $50ish card. And, of course, remember that RAID isn't a substitute for also having backups.

There are wattage calculators available, check in the system build stickies. However, the biggest consumer of power in a system is typically the graphics card, followed by the processor, and then the rest of the components consume relatively little by comparison.

The recommendation for the 5850 or 5870 is probably overkill for the time being, but the 5850 can start to struggle at 1900x1200, so for casual gaming it's ok now, though in a couple of years it might start to show its age. My impression is that the 5870 will put that obsolescence off another year or so. It's really a question of how important gaming is and how much you want to spend on that aspect right now.

At any rate, I think you got a lot right in this build, there are probably just a few minor tweaks to finish it up. Well done.
February 19, 2010 1:01:09 PM

I guess I'll go with a 750W PSU then; just in case I need to expand to dual GPUs in 5 years or so. I also didn't notice the calculators when I looked through the stick threads; thanks for pointing it out.

I'm sure RAID is enough data redundancy given adequate power protection. Of course, for truely valuable data an off-site backup plan using DVDs would be used. I'll keep that price in mind for the card though, thanks.

Of course, on the flip side, I could go with a 650W and, when needing to upgrade, scavange the parts for a budget PC. But a full set of 24GBs of 4GB sticks would need to be $500 or less to make it worth it... and the more questionable part is that's only when I need more RAM. I guess I'll try the safer route, as I've always been the more cautious type.

PS: Also, thanks for your advice as well astrodudepsu, it has been quite useful.