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Parts list critique for long time geek, first time builder.

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March 1, 2011 6:50:05 AM

It is time for me to FINALY wish my loud and unstable custom built computer (built by a local store, not by me) good riddance, and now I am taking the plunge and building a replacement computer myself. :D 

I have done lots of research over the past couple weeks looking at review sites and forums, and I have a carefully crafted a parts list that should suit my gaming, Photoshop, video editing, and strange desire to have a fast computer needs ;)  . What I want from all of you is answers to several small questions and general input as to the computer as a hole.

My priorities are:
  • Stability: I want this computer to be rock solid and never give a BSOD caused by incompatibility of hardware or low quality components.
  • Quietness: I know I can't have a dead silent computer at this level of performance without going to major trouble, so I will be happy to compromise with a “quiet” computer.
  • Performance: I like the cutting edge and am not afraid to get my feat wet with the latest and greatest, but I am completely willing to compromise with less than the best if need be.

    I live is the U.S. and and would like to try and keep my buying to well known sites (my current list is all available on Newegg). I have budget of $1000, but would like to keep it to around $850 (that way with shipping and tax it will total closer to $1000).
  • Case: Antec P183 V3 $150; this is one of the best “quiet” cases I have found, is well known, not exorbitantly expensive, and I like the aesthetics better than most cases; I would love a Silverstone Fortress FT02 but it is not worth $250; I also looked at the Fractal Define R3 but decided it was a slightly cheaper version of the P183.

  • Motherboard: Asus P8P67 B3 $160 (when it's available, rumors are any time now); I decided to go with Asus over Gigabyte because I need Firewire; I decided on the P8P67 over the P8P67 Pro because I have never used SLI in my current system and do not think I will ever use it in my new one.

  • PSU: SeaSonic X650 650W $130; I used a online PSU calculator and it came out to worst case just under 600W, in keeping with my stability requirement I decided to error on the side of caution (and future upgrades) and go for a 600W PSU; looking around, I found that for a stable system the number one recommendation was a high quality power supply, and from what I can tell this is not only one of the best, but it is also one of the quietest around; I looked at the new X-660 but I did not see a reason to pay the higher price for a slight upgrade.

  • CPU: Intel i5-2500 Sandy Bridge $210; best bang for your buck with top of the line performance; now before you shout “get the K series!”, remember that I am looking for a stable computer, and no mater how stable a overclock it is still pushing a piece of hardware past the guaranteed “work without a problem” point; a faster overclock also means more heat and more heat means more cooling and more cooling means more noise.

  • CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-C12P $75; I know someone will suggest the NH-U12P but I decided on the C12P because of its top down design and the fact that the single 140mm fan should be extremely quiet, and remember this is not going to be overclocked; I do have a preference for Noctua.

  • Ram: G.SKILL 8GB DDR3 1333 $85; I do lots of Photoshop with big raw photo files and I decided a upgrade from my current of 4GB was well in order; my only question is G.SKILL a good reliable brand?

  • GPU: I will use my exesting Nvidia GTX 470; it will most likely be the the loudest thing in the case, but hey, its what I have.

  • OS Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar Black WD5002AALX 500GB $60; this is perhaps the one I am least shore about, I work with lots of big photo files and so I would like a fast drive (I’m not ready for a SSD) but it is extremely hard to find out the actual noise of HDDs; as far as I can tell this is a single platter drive (and so should be relatively quiet); I am willing to take suggestions for other HDDs and I would prefer it to be a Western Digital or I could be convinced to use Seagate.

  • Data Hard Drive: I will be porting my current Seagate Barracuda ST3500320AS from my old system to my new.

  • Optical Drive: I will also use my existing Pioneer DVR-115D drive

  • Case Fans: I have two Noctua NF-S12B ULN(s) and one Noctua NF-S12 from my existing computer; I plan to place one ULN in the bottom front, in front of the hard drives, and the other in the back; I plan to put the S12 as a intake fan in the “middle”.

  • OS: Windows 7 64-bit

    Total of new parts: $870
    March 1, 2011 7:50:31 AM

    Good list!

    I would go with the P8P67 Pro anyway. Compare the boards side by side and you will notice the extra capacitors and mosfets, etc. I find those help in the long run with stability, although you have the nice PSU and that will contribute most to voltage regulation. Besides, the Pro I think comes with Bluetooth and the other not? I find that compelling also.

    On the PSU CPU, that's one way to look at it. The other way is to look at the process. Which CPUs get unlocked and given the K? The better ones. Which are most likely to NEED less power and so generate less heat and noise? The Ks. Some reviewers do an efficiency graph when they overclock. You should check one of those out. Often a mild OC results in no extra heat or noise and the extra power results in LESS TOTAL ENERGY/NOISE/HEAT because the job gets done FASTER. You do not have to turn off all those great SB features while overclocking, so the CPU will still throttle back unused cores and stay cool, until you really need them.
    I'm really not telling you that you must OC, but I do want you to reconsider any of those old prejudices you may be carrying from 4 years back when overclocking was far different.

    I've been using WD drives for the last 15 years and have no complaints. It's less of an issue for me than you though, as you will be reading and writing to disk a lot more. Still, should be quiet.

    G.skill is a great brand. If you like the looks of the heatspreaders and they won't get in the way of your selected cooler, then fine. If the looks of the RAM make no difference to you, then get the kit with no heat spreader. There is no difference in performance and they will not overheat. Tests were done, though it's too late now for me to go find them.
    I have used this kit in a few builds now:
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
    The black PCB actually kinda looks nice also.

    edit because I must have been typing under the influence.
    March 1, 2011 2:18:32 PM

    Hi there,

    One little thought: I wouldn't discourage you from buying a SeaSonic PSU, they're quite nice, but you might also consider the Antec CP-850 power supply. Same price for more wattage if you expect to re-use it, and supposed to be very quiet. Tradeoffs are that it's larger than a standard PSU - specifically to go in Antec cases like the 183 you're planning on. The compartmentalized layout of the P183 should make install and use nice, but you'll have to reuse the case (or go with another Antec) to reuse the CP850.

    Operating costs of CP-850 are going to be a bit higher too, it's 80plus rated but not gold like SeaSonic. Just a thought if you hadn't considered it yet!
    Related resources
    March 1, 2011 2:30:05 PM

    Great Build, only have minor suggestions. The Seasonic X-650 is a great PSU. However, that case fits CPX form factor PSU's and it would therefore be a mistake not to take advantage of this fact and install an Antec CP-850. Why ?

    - The X-650 and CP-850 both get 10.0 performance ratings from jonnyguru.com

    - The X-650 and CP-850 both get Editor's Choice designations on silentpcreview.com

    -The CP-850 is usually cheaper ($110) than the X-650 ($130) as Antec had been pushing the CPX form factor. Those days may be over however as it's back up to the same price as the X-650. Still, 200 more watts with same level quality / performance and extreme quiet / coolness for the same price can't eb a bad thing.

    -The CP-850 will handle two 470's or two 570's in SLI, the X-650 can't.

    http://www.silentpcreview.com/article971-page7.html

    Quote:
    The Antec CP-850 is a superlative power supply by almost any standard. Its electrical performance is up at the level of its more expensive brethren, the Signature 650 and 850, and Seasonic's flagship, the M12D-850: Voltage regulation is extremely tight for all the lines at all loads, and the ripple noise is amazingly low.

    The noise performance is excellent, with the <400W performance matching or bettering virtually every PSU tested thus far. Above 500W load in our heat box, the noise level goes over 40 dBA@1m, or about the norm for PSUs rated this high. It has the virtue keeping itself extremely cool, however, cooler than any other PSU we've tested at such high loads.

    A serious consideration is that in each of the three compatible Antec cases, the CP-850 mounts on the bottom, and the intake for the PSU is quite separate from the rest of the system. In the P193 and P183, the PSU is in an entirely separate thermal chamber, and in the model 1200, a direct path can be maintained to the directly opposite, wide-open front vent. This means that our extreme hot box test conditions never apply to the CP-850; in other words, SPCR's test environment is unrealistically hot for the CP-850. Our atypical spot check with a room ambient thermal test showed the CP-850 would reach only 24 dBA@1m at 700W load in a 27°C working environment. This is ridiculously quiet for such high power output.

    The above is an obviously unfair advantage for the CP-850... but what of it? Antec has used an integrated systems approach for its CP-850 and its best cases, and if that approach is an advantage over all other case/PSU combinations, then, all the more power to Antec! It's not uncommon for enthusiasts to frequently replace the motherboard and components that mount onto it — such as CPU, RAM and video card — while the case and PSU are retained. There would be ample reason to take that approach with the CP-850 and one of the compatible Antec cases.

    For the quiet-seeking computer gaming enthusiast, the CP-850 (along with any of the three compatible cases) is something of a godsend. Fantastically stable power, super low noise at any power load, long expected reliability due to excellent cooling, modular cabling, and all at a price that's no higher than many high end 6~700W models. That you're limited to one of three well-executed high cases from Antec — one mostly for silence (P183), one mostly for gaming (1200) and one that's really an ultimate everyman case (P193) — is not exactly a hardship either.


    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

    Cooler - Noctua for a bit was producing the top performing coolers for a while, but of late they have been surpassed by other manufactuerers. The top 5 reasonably quiet ones are are:

    Prolimatech Magahlems Family
    Antec Kühler H2O 620
    Thermalright Venomous X
    Thermalright Silver Arrow
    Scythe Mugen 2 SCMG 2100

    Others to consider:

    Corsair H70 (high setting necessary to compete w/ above makes it bit loud)
    Cooler Master V6 GT (twin hi speed fans make it a bit loud)

    RAM - personally, I have not had good luck with GSkill. I started buying them when they were cheaper than the big boys (Corsair, Mushkin, etc). However, now they are no cheaper than anyone else which was kinda their niche. I have had a higher return rate with GSkills as compared to the others and even higher than that when mixing brands of otherwise identical specs.

    For Photoshop, I'd want stable, low profile (eliminates possible CPU cooler interference) DDR3-1600 and low latency. If ya think ya would ever need more than 8 GB, I'd get these CAS 7's for $155

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

    If ya want CAS 6, consider two sets of these .... but if doing heavy overclocking, you may have to relax timings to CAS 7

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

    If the extra $55 is too much, these are the ones I usually but for budget systems. All are $100:

    Corsair CAS 9 - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
    Mushkin CAS 9 - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
    Kingston CAS 9 - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

    Hard Drive - Actually THG publishes noise data and the 7200.12 is your choice if this and temperature are your overriding concern. here's the Spinpoint F3, Seagate 7200.12 and WD Black 1 TB models compared:

    http://www.tomshardware.com/charts/2009-3.5-desktop-har...[2371]=on&prod[3016]=on&prod[2365]=on

    Model - Decibels @ Idle / Under high load

    Seagate - 36.07 / 44.24
    Spinpoint - 44.60 / 49.60
    Black - 46.67 / 52.60

    With every 3 decibels representing a doubling of sound pressure level, at idle the Seagate is almost 8 times quieter than the Spinpoint and the Black is almost twice as loud as that.

    As for temps, drive surface temperature is:

    Seagate - 100.40
    Spinpoint - 106.00
    WD Black - 109.40

    And, to top it off the PC Mark Vantage Photo test came in with Seagate at the top again

    Seagate - 57.40
    Spinpoint - 35.30
    WD Black - 53.80
    March 2, 2011 6:12:45 AM

    Great points. I don't think the CP-850 is actually as high quality as the X series, but I do think it's the better option here. It's no slouch in quality and the extra overhead will ensure you don't run out of power with some future build.

    HOWEVER, be aware:

    The CP-850 will be far less efficient at idle loads.
    The CP-850 will be somewhat less efficient at higher loads also.
    March 2, 2011 6:56:37 AM

    Thanks for all the advice! After carefully considering everything mentioned, I have done more research and have come to some collections.

    I will stick with the Asus P8P67 over the P8P67 Pro, I still am still not convinced of any added benefit for the Pro. They look almost identical, the only advantage I can see of the Pro is SLI and more hard drive ports, and I am quite sure I will never use either.
    @Proximon the P8P67 does include Bluetooth. :D 

    I will also continue with the Noctua cooler. It is the best silentpcreview.com reviewed top down cooler, and with my hope to use the least number of case fans possible, the added benefit of top down cooling should help keep air moving.

    After looking at other hard drives more closely, I think I will stick to the Western Digital. It seems when Western Digital last made a 500GB Black single platter hard drive it was extremely fast and quite. There is not much information about this newer model, but I am willing to take a chance it will be just as good.

    I made a slight right turn with the RAM, I decided to change to a Corsair 4 x 2GB set. The biggest reason for the change is that it is one of the very few 8GB kits on the Motherboard's QVL list.

    @Proximon I don't know if I flow your reasoning about the PSU, however if I replace “PSU” with “CPU” it makes a lot more sense. :whistle:  :p  But I still don't know if I agree with you: I understand how doing “one off” tasks like adding a filter in Photoshop could be benefit by an OC, but what about gaming? Wouldn’t a OC while gaming still require more cooling? If I am mistaken please tell me, it is entirely possible.

    I can't make up my mind about the PSU. They are essentially the same price and I am quite sure I will never use a dual GPU set up (I only game at 1680) so the higher 850W is not an advantage. If I got the CP-850 I might have the option of using the built in fan as the only intake for the bottom, and so eliminating one fan from the mix (would that work?). If I got the X-650 I get a more efficient PSU, and because the fan does not start until 200W, it is unlikely the fan will ever be noticeable above the case fans.
    March 2, 2011 10:47:58 AM

    Why do you keep handicapping yourself with a 4x2GB kit? There is no advantage to having 4 sticks of RAM instead of 2.

    As to the QVL, it works like this... someone in the Asus lab has a drawer full of RAM sticks. They plug them into the board and write down which sticks fire right up at the appropriate settings. When the drawer is empty they stop testing. Do they ever put up an incompatible list? No. Also, remember that the actual memory controller resides on the CPU, not the MB. It's not very common for RAM to be incompatible any more, as long as it meets the voltage specs at default speeds.

    I was surprised that the boards have the same voltage regulation. I thought I had examined the two together last month, but it must have been a different model I was comparing.

    There are lots of things to read about SB that could get you a better understanding of how the CPU handles loads. Here is one:
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/sandy-bridge-core-i...

    Even if you are sure you will never OC, consider this: That CPU will overclock ALOT. The capacity to be overclocked, only available in the K processors, will extend the usefulness of the CPU by YEARS. Or, in monetary terms, 4 years from now the 2500K will still be worth something while the 2500 will not be worth anything.

    On the PSU, when I bought my 750W Corsair PSU I had no idea I would be water-cooling now, and have 11 low RPM 120mm fans in the system. I figured I might have a thirstier GPU or two. I knew though that it was most important to me that I didn't regret not buying enough power to start with.

    Once you get below a certain threshold, the number of fans makes little difference. That's why I have 11 quiet Yate Loon fans rather than 5 noisy Scythes that I had at one time. Your case doesn't have that kind of option though, but it makes up for it with sound dampening. Still, the idea still holds. If the fans are quiet enough the number of fans isn't a big deal.
    March 2, 2011 9:26:28 PM

    Future proofing sounds good, I will use the Antec PSU.

    I know it is kinda wired for a 4x2GB kit but looking throught the QVL, I notised that all the 8GB kits listed were 4x2GB so I thought it might be more stable that way, but it sounds like this is not the case. I am happy to go with Corsair 2 x 4GB DDR3 1600.

    To tel you the truth, I have been trying to convinse myself to exparement with overclocking for sometime now, :ange:  I can live without $20. One i5-2500k coming up!
    March 2, 2011 9:47:33 PM

    Glad to hear it :) 
    !