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Gaming and Creative HTPC

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February 15, 2011 6:01:43 AM

Hi, I've filled out the New Build Advice Form below, look forward to hearing from you all.

Approximate Purchase Date: this month


Budget Range: up to AU$1000


System Usage from Most to Least Important: 3D Sculpting, 2D Illustration, Standard Definition Video, MMORPG's (light, casual gaming), Audio and Video Production in the future - audio interface and MIDI to be added later


Parts Not Required: Graphics Tablet - getting an Intuos4 separately.


Preferred Website(s) for Parts: https://www.auspcmarket.com.au


Country of Origin: Australia


Parts Preferences: Quite unsure. Intel seems like the safe bet. AMD and ATI seem to be more fraught with issues, but could this be due to overclocking? Would like advice on a Trackball (from any store - Fentec or Kensington seem pretty good). Good low-profile keyboard with backlighting. Advice on whether or not to go wireless for keyboard/trackball/tablet. I want 4 USB ports on the back and a Firewire port, and wireless and and ethernet port. I plan on a 20" screen - the HP's seem quite good, and I'm going to mount it on an Ergotron LX from another supplier.

Overclocking: Definitely Not, too scary.


SLI or Crossfire: No


Monitor Resolution: 1024x768 would be fine, not terribly concerned about it.


Additional Comments: I'd like to use an HTPC case (see the one listed, and see this review: http://www.silentpcreview.com/Antec_NSK2400_Fusion), like it to be fairly quiet. Above all a stable and long-lasting system. Plenty of headroom for intensive 3D modelling (learning/amateur, mainly with open-source and beta-ware like Sculptris) and the odd game. I've used a Mac G5 Power-PC based dual 2GHz with 2Gb of Corsair RAM and that was ideal for Blender and Digital Performer and GIMP and Planeshift; never struggled once. Now I have an older Thinkpad R52 model and it's just adequate for Web Browsing, Second Life, Youtube, iView, but struggles a bit with Blender and Reaper. Budget is quite limited, and for now use is evenly split between entertainment and tinkering with 3D and illustration. Don't care about surround sound or hi resolution video. Would prefer a 2 or 2.1 integrated audio for starters. Ergonomics are pretty important to me as well. I'm a bit wary of the stock PSu on the Antec - it was well-reviewed, should I be?

I'm still unsure whether to go for Win 7 32 or 64, this link should offer a good explanation:

Make Windows 7 support more than 4Gb of RAM:
http://www.raymond.cc/blog/archives/2009/08/19/make-win...

I'm still a mac person at heart, but I hate being ripped off and caged into such limited options, so I've opted for Windows. But, I fear all this overclocking and patching of the OS to get more out of it, and I'm not sure I'd need more than 4Gb of RAM anyway. For handling huge sample libraries down the track or doing a proper professional film job one day it might be great, but for now, just tinkering, I don't think I'd use it.


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This parts list is based on my research (and suggestions for getting the price down by the shop-guy):

Hitachi 500GB 7200rpm Deskstar (2 of these for now)
http://www.auspcmarket.com.au/info/AL-0F10381-/

Antec NSK2480 MicroATX Black case (didn't like his cube suggestion, so I picked this today and haven't run it by him yet)
http://www.auspcmarket.com.au/info/AL-NSK2480B/

8Gb Corsair PC-10600 (1333MHz) XMS
http://www.auspcmarket.com.au/info/AL-CMX8GX3M2A1333C9/

Asus GF GT220 V2 PCI-E 2.0 1GB DDR2 Video Card
http://www.auspcmarket.com.au/info/AL-ENGT220-1GD2-LP-V...

Intel Core i5 650 3.2Ghz Dual-Core CPU
http://www.auspcmarket.com.au/info/SYN-BX80616I5650/

MSI H55M-E21 MicroATX board
http://www.auspcmarket.com.au/info/ACH-MDMSIH5501D/

Samsung 22x SATA DVD-RW drive
http://www.auspcmarket.com.au/info/AL-SH-S223C-BL/

The MSI board was the shop's suggestion, I was opting for a Gigabyte or ASUS board. Also, I'm not crazy about anything Samsung - having owned a few of their DVD players. My options here are Sony or Lite-On.


More about : gaming creative htpc

February 15, 2011 12:06:17 PM

Hello Iguanadon;

Unless any of your software won't run on Windows 7 64bit - that's the version you want. On 32bit stick with 4GB RAM.
Windows 7 Compatibility Center

For trackballs I'd prefer Logitech (or MicroSoft if you can find one) over Kensington. I'm not familiar with Fentec.
Try and get a 'hands on test' because not everyone will like the same trackball.
Same for keyboard - testing hands on is best.

For what you plan a 20" monitor just doesn't seem to fit IMO. And 1024x768 is a terrible resolution for productivity. 1600x900 or better is what you want.
HP and Dell do monitors very well.


Good; Core i5 650 3.2Ghz Dual-Core CPU $253
Better; Core i5 655K Unlocked 3.2Ghz Dual-Core CPU $203
Best; Core i5 760 2.80Ghz Quad-Core CPU $269

ASUS P7H55-M LX is only $2 more than the MSI or Gigabyte boards. I'd choose Asus.
Audio support on the MB up to 7.1 channel.

RAM choice is good.

2x 500GB HDD = $140 or 1x 1TB HDD $90? 1TB Samsung F3 is an excellent choice.
Or WD Caviar Black 1TB Dual Processor SATA II hard disk $132

Samsung DVD burner is a good choice. Sony / Lite-On equally good choices

Video card upgrade to GT 430 GT 430 review

Antec NSK2400 case and Earthwatts 380W PSU. Plenty of power for your needs and relatively quiet.


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February 25, 2011 5:41:40 AM

Thanks for the advice WR2, you've given me a few useful pointers.
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Related resources
February 25, 2011 6:06:39 AM

Finished up all your shopping?
If not, I might have tip that could help.
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February 25, 2011 6:55:26 AM
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March 2, 2011 8:07:56 AM

WR2 said:
Finished up all your shopping?
If not, I might have tip that could help.


Not quite, I've decided to give myself another month to look around and explore options like buying overseas, so I'd like to hear your additional tips.
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March 4, 2011 8:37:20 AM

Why_Me said:
http://www.pccasegear.com/index.php?main_page=product_i... $119.00
ASRock H67M Motherboard

http://www.pccasegear.com/index.php?main_page=product_i... $205.00
Intel Core i5 2300

http://www.pccasegear.com/index.php?main_page=product_i... $105.00
G.Skill Ripjaws XL F3-10666CL9D-8GBXL (2x4GB) DDR3

http://www.pccasegear.com/index.php?main_page=product_i... $69.00
Gigabyte GeForce GT220 1GB

http://www.pccasegear.com/index.php?main_page=product_i... $27.00
Lite-On IHAS324 24x DVDRW


Thanks for putting me onto PC Case Gear. Looks like I could save a lot of money there. But I'm still not convinced of the merit of quad-cores. All my research to date shows they only benefit a few games I don't play and Photoshop which I also avoid. And as for future-proofing, it doesn't seem all that viable in my position either, as the forecasts predict a long wait before any proper implementation of more than 2 cores for most apps. But that's just what I've read so far.
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March 4, 2011 10:03:57 AM

the case you're looking at seems to handle full height cards. If you're going to be doing 3D sculpting and rendering, you might consider stepping up to a GTX 460 768MB model, which will have CUDA capability. Quad core *is* already more useful in many applications which are multi threaded, not just photoshop.

I'll also second Why-Me's choice of sandy bridge processor. If you really want a dual core, get the i3-2100.
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March 4, 2011 2:06:30 PM

Iguanadon said:
Thanks for putting me onto PC Case Gear. Looks like I could save a lot of money there. But I'm still not convinced of the merit of quad-cores. All my research to date shows they only benefit a few games I don't play and Photoshop which I also avoid. And as for future-proofing, it doesn't seem all that viable in my position either, as the forecasts predict a long wait before any proper implementation of more than 2 cores for most apps. But that's just what I've read so far.

http://www.anandtech.com/bench/Product/288?vs=144 <----- Look for yourself and see the difference. They didn't have the i5 2300 listed on there so I had to go with the i5 2500...but it gives you a visual on the difference between those two cpu's.
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March 5, 2011 4:47:59 AM

Why_Me said:
http://www.anandtech.com/bench/Product/288?vs=144 <----- Look for yourself and see the difference. They didn't have the i5 2300 listed on there so I had to go with the i5 2500...but it gives you a visual on the difference between those two cpu's.


Those tests seemed to support the critiques I came across in my research. I can't remember the exact articles, but they can't be too hard to find - the basic argument against this sort of testing is that the benchmarks use apps that are optimised for quad cores, making the results meaningless. The benchmarks would only be testing the particular app's utilisation of the quad processor config; if you use those exact apps, it'll work great, if you don't there are two idle cores sitting there. And they went on to talk about how long it's taking to get quad core apps to market and all the various technical obstacles developers face.

I'm not a tech user, but I found it quite interesting. I also found it interesting to learn that Win 7 64 bit is also a con, that 32 bit can be patched to behave the same - or, it is the same, just needs to be 'unlocked'. Still not sure which to go with myself though, I hate sparing with Windows, it's not as forgiving as OSX. The link for that I included in my original post.

What are your thoughts on AMD? - my main concern is reliability.
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March 5, 2011 4:56:01 AM

Iguanadon said:
Those tests seemed to support the critiques I came across in my research. I can't remember the exact articles, but they can't be too hard to find - the basic argument against this sort of testing is that the benchmarks use apps that are optimised for quad cores, making the results meaningless. The benchmarks would only be testing the particular app's utilisation of the quad processor config; if you use those exact apps, it'll work great, if you don't there are two idle cores sitting there. And they went on to talk about how long it's taking to get quad core apps to market and all the various technical obstacles developers face.

I'm not a tech user, but I found it quite interesting. I also found it interesting to learn that Win 7 64 bit is also a con, that 32 bit can be patched to behave the same - or, it is the same, just needs to be 'unlocked'. Still not sure which to go with myself though, I hate sparing with Windows, it's not as forgiving as OSX. The link for that I included in my original post.

What are your thoughts on AMD? - my main concern is reliability.

Unlocking a 32 bit o/s is an internet myth. It's been posted, yet never proven. AMD would save you some money, but these Sandy Bridge cpu's have broken all the rules to date. They run cooler than any other cpu out there, and they perform like a race horse. That and they are probably the most well priced cpu I have seen in ages for what they produce. Just about any cpu might do what you want it to do in your regards, but I can't honestly recommend any cpu other than the SB.
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March 5, 2011 7:43:52 AM

Why_Me said:
Unlocking a 32 bit o/s is an internet myth. It's been posted, yet never proven. AMD would save you some money, but these Sandy Bridge cpu's have broken all the rules to date. They run cooler than any other cpu out there, and they perform like a race horse. That and they are probably the most well priced cpu I have seen in ages for what they produce. Just about any cpu might do what you want it to do in your regards, but I can't honestly recommend any cpu other than the SB.


I think I'll stick with Intel just cos it's what I know best, and I can't afford to take risks.

Re: the unlocking Win 7 thing: it would need to be a fairly elaborate hoax. I didn't scan through every reply, but I'm yet to find one report of an actual hoax in the thread. Plenty of issues and hit and miss stuff, which were more my concern, but no evidence of a hoax.

Due to the stability issues reported I plan to go with 64 bit and hope compatibility mode works ok for most open source stuff. But that does mean someone like me needs to pay for Win Professional, as opposed to Home, just to get this feature.

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March 5, 2011 11:13:13 PM

I have to get Professional in case I need to run compatibility mode.

Do you know of a system builder tool I can use to quickly match components like you did with the Intel 2300, etc...?
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March 6, 2011 12:19:35 AM

Iguanadon said:
I have to get Professional in case I need to run compatibility mode.

Do you know of a system builder tool I can use to quickly match components like you did with the Intel 2300, etc...?

Not off hand. But for the 1155 Sandy Bridge builds... 1155 mother boards that start with the letter "H" (H57 for example) do not over clock so well, and the ones that start with the letter "P" (P67 for example) do over clock. With the Sandy Bridge cpu's...the ones with the letter "K" after them do over clock (2600K/2500K) do over clock.

For RAM any RAM that's 1.5v or less. Hope this helps :) 
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March 6, 2011 12:46:17 AM

Great, thanks for all the help.
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