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Media / general purpose multi-tasker build?

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April 13, 2010 12:27:24 AM

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: this week, next week...

BUDGET RANGE: 600-700 After Rebates (not including monitor)

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: watching movies, DVR, internet use, minor gaming

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: NA

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: newegg or other

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA

PARTS PREFERENCES: leaning towards AMD CPU, but open to intel if it would be a better match

OVERCLOCKING: Maybe, but probably not

SLI OR CROSSFIRE: No

MONITOR RESOLUTION: ? - enough for a 23"+ monitor

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: I'm looking for a multi-tasking PC, one that can run 2 monitors at the same time, 1 being a 23"+ lcd on the computer desk, and the other being my 42" LCD. The idea being that I can watch a movie on the 42" while my wife surfs the internet on the 23". Is this possible? My office has both the computer desk and the 42", so cable runs are not an issue. Light gaming is a possibility, but I'm primarily an Xbox 360 gamer. I am interested in Stalker in some of the other occasional FPS games that bypass the consoles. This requirement definitely comes in last place. Not sure if I need a dedicated video card or not. I've heard good things about the on-board graphics for the 785 chipset, but don't know if they can run dual monitors like I'm asking. If I do get a video card, I would prefer one compatible with DirectX 11. I'm also interested in DVR potential. I've got a buddy that showed me what windows 7 can do with media center, and was amazed. Only problem is that I'm in Maryland with Comcast, who recently went all digital. You need a digital converter to get all channels other than 2-18. I'm not sure how compatible a tv tuner card will be with this. Will it work like QAM, or will I need a cable card from Comcast? I'm undecided on a case configuration. TV stand and computer desk are within 3' of each other, but oriented at different angles. I'm open to either an HTPC case or a tower, but am unsure about necessary remote angles. I'm guessing it might be easier to point the remote at an HTPC case in the media center, correct? For processor, I'm guessing an AMD quad-core cause of the multi-tasking. Either an X4 630/635, or a Phenom II quad core, but I'm open to suggestions. As for memory, I'm guessing at least 4GB of DDR3. I'm also interested in recommendations for the 23"+ monitor. I've seen some deals for around $150, but I don't want to buy something that will be less than impressive. Any recommendations on a necessary feature set would be appreciated. I look forward to your suggestions!
April 13, 2010 4:03:05 AM

any quad core and for a graphics card i would go with 4870,4890,5770 and up G/l to you.
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April 13, 2010 5:48:05 PM

CPU/HSF: X4 955 $160
Mobo: Gigabyte GA-770TA-UD3 $80 after rebate
RAM: G.Skill Ripjaws 2x2 GB 1600 mhz CAS Latency 7 $120
GPU: HD 5770 $150
HDD: Seagate 7200.12 500 GB $55
Case/PSU: Antec 300 Illusion and Earthwatts 430W $115
Optical: Cheap SATA DVD burner $22

Total: $702.

TV tuners will not work for premium channels. You'll likely have to talk with Comcast about what will work.

Keep in mind that with this setup, you both will not be able to control the computer at the same time.
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April 13, 2010 6:07:37 PM

Thanks for the build advice!

Good point about the premium channels, however I was only planning on using this for getting the unencoded QAM type stuff they transmit over the lines. Only problem is with the 42" LCD, it puts the channels in all kind of screwy order. I was hoping a tuner card would be able to smooth this out somewhat.

Can you expand a little about your statement about not being able to control the computer at the same time? If I'm using a remote and she's typing on a keyboard that won't work? I'm an absolute novice with respect to the capabilities of windows 7 and media center. What I'd like to do is use the remote and media center capabilities on the big tv to select a movie or use the DVR functions, hopefully while someone else is still able to use the keyboard and mouse to do other stuff on the other monitor. Or am I overestimating the capabilities of a multi-core processor and windows 7 and this is the stuff dreams are made of?

Many thanks!
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April 13, 2010 6:24:39 PM

I guess it depends. If you've got the remote that will only control media (i.e. volume, forward, rewind, play, pause, etc.), you could theorectically both control the computer. However, if you're trying to open files, manipulate windows, or other "computer" tasks, you will interfere with each other. For example, you go to open a new file, which causes the media player windows to be the active window. That will kick your wife out of typing in the browser.

I believe you're overestimating the capabilities of Windows. Or at least the normal uses of Windows. This is a software thing and has nothing to do with a multi-core CPU. I know it's possible to create two function computers out of one, but honestly I have no idea how it actually works.
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