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Building ~$1300 DAW - any useful tips or comments?

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April 8, 2010 5:49:18 PM

I'm building a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation, and will be buying an M-Audio soundcard - the Audiophile 192 or Fast Track USB) when I'm in the UK, but at the moment I'm planning the kit I'm going to put it into this end (in Vietnam).

I'll be getting it from Tran Anh in Hanoi - here's a google translated version of their page - http://translate.google.com/translate?js=y&prev=_t&hl=e...

I'll primarily be using this for Ableton Live, using a lot of simultaneous effects and VSTs, so I want a powerful CPU and large amounts of RAM, and to run Windows 7 64 bit to take advantage of the extra RAM.

Memory is an issue for me - latency problems are limiting the usefulness of my laptop for this, so it's a significant part of decision on the new build. Any tips on better memory units available would be useful.

I'm also not sure about the power supply - is a 600 watt unit necessary, or would 500 be OK? I assume that I will be doing a bit of overclocking.

I was also considering the i7 920, but wasn't sure the cost of the 1366 configuration would be worthwhile.

Finally, I have a mouse, keyboard, and several hard drives to use with this machine, so I've just ordered a 1.5 terabyte to have as a data storage drive, with another smaller drive for the OS and progs, maybe to upgraded to a solid state drive when they come down a bit more in price.

What do you think? Thanks for your help in advance!

1 GIGABYTE™ GA P55-USB3L

2 Core i5-750
3 ADATA™ 6.0GB (3 x 2GB) TRIPLE DDR3 bus 1600MHz - VITESTA G series
4 Western 1,5TB Caviar GREEN SATA/ 7200rpm/ 64M
5 Gigabyte 1GB DDR3 GeForce 9600 GT (N96TSL-1Gi)
6 Vỏ máy tính (Case) CoolerMaster Elite 335 (RC-335) Black a
7 D-Link 108Mbits Wireless LAN Card (PCI) for PC (DWA-520 )
8 ASUS DVD-RW 22-8-16 DVD / 48-32-48 CDRW ( 22B2S ) PATA
9 Antec Power Supply Earth Watts EA 650 (Nguồn máy tính) - 650W

Total cost (excluding soundcard): about $1000
April 8, 2010 6:53:28 PM

A couple of questions:

What is the price difference between an i5-750 and an i7-860 over there? It's likely you'd see some benefit from going with a processor with hyperthreading.

You probably want to go with either 4 GB or 8 GB of RAM with that board, as it uses dual-channel memory. The 6 GB kit you have selected is (typically) for a 1366 motherboard, which uses triple-channel memory. You can install 6 GB if you want, but it will drop down to single-channel mode and might cause a performance hit. You also want to go for lower CAS Latency (7 is generally considered the sweet spot) over getting faster memory.

Whether or not moving to the 1366 platform is really a value decision for you, it's probably not going to have a sizeable difference in performance, but it may be viable for a longer timeframe (well, or not). :) 

650 W is probably overkill for what you have, I'd expect that 500-550 W would be more than enough.
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April 8, 2010 7:24:24 PM

Thanks for the good advice.

The i7 860 costs about $100 more. I'll check out the spec. The 1366 motherboard would add about $100-150 to the bill. I was wondering if the extra $250 would be worth it, considering the perhaps minor performance increase? Although I presume that the i7 would be easily over-clocked as well, and might be well prepared for enhanced hyper-threading versions of Ableton. I haven't yet been able to find out exactly how much the Ableton program is hyper-threaded yet - I presume that is what's happening with most DAW software.

4 gig would be fine to start with, and easy to upgrade. I was thinking about the 6 gig because I have been considering the i7 920, but you're quite right, it would wasted.

Do you think the 1366/i7 combo would be worth the extra then?

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April 8, 2010 7:37:03 PM

And just to confuse things,

"Thuban (Phenom II X6) is worth the wait, if you can wait. Early price points I've seen has it coming in at the price range of the i7 930 but with 2 more cores. Performance depends on who you listen too. I've seen it will equal the current quad i7's & I've seen they will be inbetween the i7's and the Hex-cores."

I'll be building this system in the middle of July or onwards. Any thoughts on that?! These CPU manufacturers appear to be sprouting them like mushrooms at the moment.
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Best solution

April 8, 2010 8:04:56 PM

I'm planning on building an i7-930 system around the same time (May/June/July, not nailed down yet), so take the following as you will.

I'm not certain that an i7-930 build is worth it for anyone. :)  From what I have heard, the performance difference between the i7-860 and i7-920/930 is relatively minimal. The benefits from moving from 1156 to 1366 appear to be largely based on what you think Intel is going to do with the sockets over the next few years, and if you think you'll upgrade your CPU (without a mobo upgrade) in that timeframe. There are some side-benefits, like 1366 can support more/higher bandwith PCI-E lanes, but that's really only applicable to gaming builds.
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April 9, 2010 4:29:24 AM

That fits with what I've been thinking. I'm unlikely to upgrade the CPU, but may well add more memory. I'll sell the whole system, and transfer the soundcard to a new system when necessary. I should be able to get 2-3 years of strong usage from it before I have to even think about upgrading the system, perhaps longer. Thanks fro the tip about the socket i7-860, I'll definitely thin k about that as an alternative to the i5-750, as I might as well get the fastest processor I can afford now.

Thanks again for your useful comments, and I hope this helps others in the same position. I'm interested to see what happens to the system prices in the next two months (obviously!).
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April 9, 2010 3:29:08 PM

Best answer selected by hangook.
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April 9, 2010 3:30:35 PM

To follow up on the AMD 6-cores, if you're waiting until June/July anyway, revisit it at that time. If they're out and competitive, they might be a reasonable option. If they're not out, they're not really an option at that point. ;) 
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