What sort of system do I actually need?


I'm trying to build a computer myself for the first time, since my Dell Dimension 4550 (P4@2.66 GHz, NVidia GeForce 2 MX420 (64 MB) and 2 GB RAM) from 2003 is becoming slow.

Approximate Purchase Date: A few weeks.

Budget Range: This isn't really limited, but I don't want to spend a lot on something I won't be completely making use of. I'm ready to pay at least $500.

System Usage from Most to Least Important: Schoolwork, Internet, eBooks. (Okay, the last one sounds lame, but I like to view .pdf files without lagging, thank you very much.)

Parts Not Required: Keyboard, mouse, monitor, speakers, OS

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: http://en.toppreise.ch/, http://www.amazon.de/gp/browse.html/?node=301128, http://www.ricardo.ch/ (The latter is an auction site.)

Country of Origin: Switzerland

Parts Preferences: See below.

Overclocking: Yes.

SLI or Crossfire: Maybe, see below.

Monitor Resolution: 1920x1200 on a Philips Brilliance 240S (24") and 1280x1024 or more on a M1920U (Brimax, 19". A Google search reveals that multiple manufacturers sell 'M1920U' monitors, hm.). I would like to have a third screen.

Additional Comments:

Hard drives: I've already bought a WD Raptor - 74 GB, the oldest one. Wikipedia states that its interface is a "Parallel ATA to Serial ATA bridge". What does that mean? (I will add more space later on, but that's not important right now, as I'm storing my data on an external hard drive. From what I've heard, RAID seems useful. What do you say?)

CPU: I was planning to use a i3-540 (~$3 more than the 530 and ~$15 less than the 550), since I don't think that I need the i5-750, which costs ~$80 more. It's up to you to tell me if four cores are mandatory, though.

Case: The Antec Three Hundred is a pretty cheap case, although I can spend twice as much on a Nine Hundred [Two] if someone explains me the benefits. You may suggest cases from different manufacturers - I like cases that aren't too .. (is 'ricey' the correct term?) alien-y, bling-bling-y, my-computer-is-a-rave-party-y.. well, that.

GPU&Motherboard: Since I don't see myself playing video games anytime soon, I think that the i3's (or i5's) integrated GPU will be enough. I'm planning to use this computer throughout high school (less than three years left) and upgrading it (graphics card(s)&CPU) when I enter college. As far as I know, the H55/H57 motherboards don't support Crossfire/SLI, but I guess I won't ever need more than one card. I just want to work with at least three screens.

Overclocking: Finally. I like quiet computers, but if I can go over 4 GHz, noise isn't a problem. Should I buy all fans for 23*195 MHz (i3-540) right now or buy a new one or two every time I want to push up the limits? (No, I don't need such a speed, but it looks really fun.)

RAM: I'd say 4 GB, the ability to buy a 2 GB stick every time I need more and settling at 8 GB.

Optical drive: I'll do some research and come back, I haven't read anything at all about them.

Power supply: Choice based on the different parts I'll be using; no idea.

Hackintosh: Oh. Forget everything I said. Unlimited budget. Three ATI Radeon HD 5970 in Crossfire. Xeon W5580. Anything I need in ord-- oops. Sorry.
*ahem* What are the requirements for OS X?

Well, that's it for now. Pardon any incorrect vocabulary, tenses or missed crucial (Crucial? ._. ) parts - or bad jokes, for that matter. It's late and the Dell is making a lot of noise - the neighbours are complaining. (:

Good night&thanks in advance.
9 answers Last reply
More about what sort system need
  1. For your goal, a single picutre displayed across three monitors, you will need a GPU. Pick up any of the ATI 5000 series cards, as they have native support for multi display.

    As for your CPU, a dual core is fine. Three displays won't use up very much CPU resources.

    Since you're only using a single GPU, you don't need to get a very powerful, very expensive PSU, just make sure its ~500-600W and 80+ certified, and has dedicated GPU power cables.

    The rest... I believe you have that under control already.
  2. An AMD setup may actually be better for your needs, an Athlon X2/X3, 4GB of RAM, and a HD5570/5550 with a 350W PSU should satisfy all your needs and then some while gifting your wallet with some extra bills. You lose the thrill of 4GHz, but 3.5Ghz is just as fun.

    Hackintosh is slightly more complicated though, You shouldn't have a problem with the CPU/GPU thanks to the new ATI/AMD mobile chips used in the iMac/macbooks, but the other little stuff can be a major concern. Until you decide what platform you want, this could be a little tricky, but even if you're all set, research is still necessary. Honestly, Linux dressed up in a OSXy theme might be a painless alternative.
  3. I should have added that I only own the two monitors that are listed - I won't be buying more anytime soon. Should I stick to a two-monitor compatible card for now and upgrading it after having acquired a third one? (The M1920U only has a VGA connector, but DVI to VGA adapters are cheap and work, right?)

    If that plan is good, is an ATI Radeon x1550 worth $25? Or a Sapphire TOXIC X1950 XTX $35? (Both are second-hand.) Or are they worth even more? (I have no idea why I'm afraid of high-end graphics cards.)

    Also, I decided that I will need a DVD±RW drive. Should I just get the cheapest one? There must be a reason for the $180 price tag on some drives.

    As for the other points, thanks, I'll do some research on AMD CPUs&compatible motherboards and stop being an Intel fanboy. (:

    Although I will be using Windows XP or 7 anyways, shiny OS X would be a nice addition. Glossy OS X. :3 But, yes, Linux or a nice theme would be enough eye candy, lol.
  4. Then onboard would be fine, with a AMD 7XX and up board you'll have 2 outputs.

    But if you want something used (just in case, look for cheap Intel C2Ds also if you want), look for cards newer than the 8-series from Nvidia or HD3000 for AMD/ATI.

    That X1950XTX performs no better than a $50 5550, but consumes 120W compared to barely 40W for the latter.

    On the DVD drive, get the cheapest one that's SATA, unless you burn 20 disks a day, you wont see much of a difference. The $190 ones are proprietary laptops ones.
  5. I still can't figure out which AMD processor to buy. So, for now, this is my system:

    Case: Antec Three Hundred (Should I get a Nine Hundred for $60 more?)
    Motherboard: ASUS P7H57D-V EVO (I picked this one sort of randomly - there are so many out there that I have no idea which to choose. It looks pricey at $160.)
    CPU: i3-540
    HDD : WD Raptor, 74 GB (WD740GD, "Parallel ATA to Serial ATA". I have no idea what that means, but it should work.)
    Optical drive: SONY OPTIARC AD-7263

    RAM: I won't start researching until I decide which motherboard I will take. This looks like the most confusing part.
    PSU: Will be chosen by using a calculator.

    If you think that another system would fit my needs better, please be as accurate as possible. I have already spent way too much time looking at hardware from many different manufacturers, without any results.
  6. Thanks!

    I've only got three questions left:

    Is an Athlon X4 635 worth $15 more?

    Will I be able to overclock the processor and would that small case's airflow be good enough?

    EDIT: How about waiting for Sandy Bridge? Would AMD's prices drop or Intel become a viable option?
  7. For your specs, SB is out of the equation pretty much, The 1156 CPU probably wont drop so much either, more likely to be phased out.

    The Athlon X3 should be plenty of power for your needs, Id save the $15, the 300Mhz can make up for the lost core, plus you can unlock. On OCing, the problem would be more of a cooler issue than a case issue. 3.5Ghz is still reachable with that setup with some tweaking, but I doubt you'll see great temps. I really don't recommend OCing for you, you really wont gain anything much.
  8. ...except the thrill of overclocking, as you've already pointed out. ):

    I will take the Antec Three Hundred. I've got enough space under my table and I don't want to be looking at that ugly GZ-M1 all the time (I hope that there is a way to disable the blue LEDs, lol). When it comes to my room, price doesn't matter as much as aesthetics.

    Does your recommended build require other modifications with the Antec case, such as an ATX motherboard?
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