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New build: a somewhat special beast...

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August 11, 2011 2:11:47 AM

I need to get a new desktop to replace my 6+ year old Dell Dimension 8400. The requirements for the new system are somewhat unique: gaming + business, with high system availability. As you might guess, I do the gaming and my wife runs the business. Let me explain the details.

The business work on this desktop will be office apps, Outlook email, hi-res image editing, web based credit card processing, and web page editing (Expression Web). I know, these are not tough apps but the key issue is UPTIME. My wife CANNOT afford to be without her email and web tools for very long at all. Her business really gets hurt if she can't react quickly to customer demands. So a hardware failure that would be merely annoying to most of us gamers is paralyzing for her business. Therefore I am placing a premium on quality components that are reliable, especially an excellent power supply, reliable mobo and good cooling. This is also why I'm leaning towards a boutique builder like Puget Computers so that the system gets some tested burn-in time and has a baseline level of support. I am not completely averse to a home build, but I'm hesitant on that.

My old Dell had SATA drives with RAID1 and it saved my hide about 3 times over the years when a hard drive failed. The shadow drive kept chugging along, no downtime suffered. I'd order a new drive from Amazon, plug it in, and the mobo-based Intel RAID component would sync up the drives in the background. I know some folks poo-poo RAID (like the guy who runs Puget Computers) but it really saved my bacon a few times. Again, my wife's business cannot afford much computer downtime.

BTW I know RAID is not backup. I have been using Acronis TrueImage from back when it was not bloatware and I am a backup madman. I love disk images and they have saved me a number of times. I know the importance of offsite backups and I manage them religiously.

For gaming, I would like the best base platform I can get within my budget, without pining for an upgrade in 6 months. I think that probably means a single, higher end video card but with room for SLI/Crossfire for future improvements. I have been getting by with my old Dell for a good while so I will be easily impressed, but I yearn to run first person shooter games like "CoD: Black Ops" in full glorious detail. My old Dell has a Creative SoundBlaster 5.1 surround sound card and speakers but if the new system's integrated 7.1 sound is good that is fine with me.

OK, with all that said:

Approximate Purchase Date: as soon as I can figure out what to buy

Budget Range: $1800-$2200

System Usage from Most to Least Important: business apps with high hardware uptime, gaming

Parts Not Required: Keyboard, Mouse, Monitor, Speakers (will crib these from the old system for now, will likely get a nice ASUS HD monitor from Amazon or Newegg)

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: Newegg, Amazon

Country of Origin: I'm on the USA's east coast

Parts Preferences: by brand or type: nvidia or AMD for video, intel only for CPU

Overclocking: not really interested, not willing to sacrifice ANY system reliability/uptime

SLI or Crossfire: would like to have it for the future

Monitor Resolution: will buy a HD monitor soon as mentioned above

Additional Comments/Questions:
1) Do you agree that RAID1 might be justified here? Has mobo-based RAID improved over the years? Or are premium HDDs so good now that it's really not worth it?
2) I'm thinking Intel i7-2600k CPU, P8Z68-V Pro mobo, and 1 or 1.5Tb HDDs in this price range; agree?
3) I don't think I need a SSD; agree?
4) 4 or 8Gb RAM? I dunno, isn't it true that most apps can't even address over 3Gb RAM?
5) I really need help with the video card, God there's a lot out there
6) Do you agree on the need for a good PSU and cooling to improve hardware life? I understand Tom's advice that big air cooling is better than liquid cooling.
7) OS should be included in cost. Prefer Win7 Home Premium 64 with physical source DVD.
8) This PC should last for a number of years, so I'm willing to invest in a better mobo & CPU than you might think would be the minimally capable setup.

More about : build special beast

August 11, 2011 4:29:58 AM

Just got this quote from Puget:

Motherboard: Asus P8Z68-V Pro
CPU: Intel Core i7 2600K QUAD CORE 3.4GHz 95W
Ram: Kingston 8GB DDR3-1333 (2x4GB)
Video Card: ATI Radeon HD 6870 1GB
Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar Green 2TB SATA 6Gb/s
CD / DVD: Asus 24x DVD-RW Lightscribe SATA (black)
Case: Antec P183 V3 (Gunmetal Finish)
Power Supply: Corsair HX 850W Power Supply
CPU Cooling: Gelid Tranquillo Rev2
Additional Cooling: Arctic Cooling MX-2 Thermal Compound Application
OS: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit OEM SP1
Warranty: Lifetime Labor and Tech Support, 1 Year Parts

Total: $1954 + $126 shipping

Dang, pretty steep considering no RAID...
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August 11, 2011 4:30:03 AM

1. premium hard drives still can fail so I would definitely go with a RAID setup.
2. agreed
3. I don't really see the need for a SSD but that's just me
4. I would go 8 GB just because its cheap, and multitasking will use up memory fast. My multitasking usually includes firefox w/ 12 tabs or more open, Skype, and a game. This gets me to around 6 GB.
5. I would get a 6950 or 6970. Usually I look for the maker with the best warranty, and most of the time its XFX
6. Good PSU is a must. Antec, Corsair, Seasonic are the best. Cooling will help to increase component life, but a good air cooler like COOLER MASTER Hyper 212 Plus is better than water cooling. You also don't have any risk of leaks in your system.
7. Win 7 is a great choice and you can get it for under $100 from the egg

Hope this helps.
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August 11, 2011 4:47:20 AM

Here is my system from NewEgg

Intel Core i7-2600K Sandy Bridge 3.4GHz
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

COOLER MASTER Hyper 212 Plus
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

ASUS P8Z68-V PRO LGA 1155 Intel Z68
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

XFX HD695XZDDC Radeon HD 6950 1GB 256-bit GDDR5
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

COOLER MASTER HAF 932 Advanced
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

CORSAIR Professional Series HX850 (CMPSU-850HX) 850W
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Seagate Barracuda Green ST1000DL002 1TB 5900 RPM 32MB *2
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

LG CD/DVD Burner 22X
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 64-bit
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Price so far is only about $1400. This gives you some wiggle room like to add a monitor or 2. :) 
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August 11, 2011 8:45:02 AM

AMD FX 8 Core Bulldozer + 1800Mhz RAM + 2xGTX 590 + 256GB SSD + Samsung Spinpoint 3TB HDD + Corsair 1200W PSU.
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August 11, 2011 9:19:16 AM

SquarePantaloons said:
Just got this quote from Puget:

Warranty: Lifetime Labor and Tech Support, 1 Year Parts

Total: $1954 + $126 shipping

Dang, pretty steep considering no RAID...

What did you expect? You are paying someone to build and maintain your system for as long as you own the computer or until the company goes out of business. That ain't cheap. And they need to make a profit.

My brother-in-law has an internet based graphics design business. He is smart enough to maintain his systems, but he just doesn't regard that as a productive use of his time. I expect your wife is in the same situation. So, if you cannot build and maintain her system, you do not have a lot of choice.

The ideal solution is a backup computer with similar parts.
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August 11, 2011 3:50:24 PM

Since you will not be OCing, I would save a few bucks and go with the i7-2600.

For your graphics card I would go with the HD6950 and like flyboy said, go with whichever one has the best warranty. I like the one flyboy chose.

For memory, I would go with either the Corsair Vengeance or the G.Skill Ripjaws at 1600MHz rather than the 1333. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

For the hard drive, the Samsung Spinpoint F3 would be my first choice, and definitely do NOT go with the WD Caviar Green. If you go with WD do the Caviar Black. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

As far as the PSU goes, Antec, Corsair, and Seasonic are your best choices, I have been leaining towards Antec recently. For your build and leaving room for Crossfire, I would go with somewhere in the ballpark of 850W... Antec has a 900W PSU that is 80 Plus Bronze certified. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
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August 11, 2011 5:19:58 PM

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... ASUS DVD Burner 24x

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... Samsung EcoGreen 2TB SATA II x2

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... Sapphire Radeon HD 6970 2GB (The only one currently in stock)

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... CORSAIR Vengeance 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 x2

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... Window 7 Home Premium 64bit SP1

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... Cooler Master Hyper 212+ CPU Cooler

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... Crucial M4 128GB SATA III SSD

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite... Corsair Pro Series Gold 850 Watt PSU AND Corsair Obsidian Series 650D Case

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite... Intel Core i7 2600K CPU AND MSI Z68 ATX Motherboard

Currently totaling $1,873.05, there's a $15 promo for the CPU (may not work) and some mail-in rebates floating around.

-There are cheaper Radeon HD 6970s out there... that one is just for reference, being the only one in stock at newegg.

-16GB RAM... what can I say? haha

- 2x2TB drives aren't considered the greatest quality, but some internet research I did recently seemed to point out that actual failure rates of "high quality" drives vs normal drives have negligable differences, or even show a pattern where the more expensive drives fail more. Anyways, in RAID1 it shouldn't be a worry and is plenty of space

-The Crucial M4 at 128GB is popular and comes Tom's Recommended, it's supposed to be pretty reliable, but it's within your budget to get another for RAID1 if you're not sure, a decision that would also potentially double your read speeds (not write)

-I loaded you up with Corsair stuff because, honestly, whatever they make, they make well.

Good luck!

EDIT: Shipping included in price!
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August 11, 2011 5:56:13 PM

SquarePantaloons said:
I need to get a new desktop to replace my 6+ year old Dell Dimension 8400. The requirements for the new system are somewhat unique: gaming + business, with high system availability. As you might guess, I do the gaming and my wife runs the business. Let me explain the details.

The business work on this desktop will be office apps, Outlook email, hi-res image editing, web based credit card processing, and web page editing (Expression Web). I know, these are not tough apps but the key issue is UPTIME. My wife CANNOT afford to be without her email and web tools for very long at all. Her business really gets hurt if she can't react quickly to customer demands. So a hardware failure that would be merely annoying to most of us gamers is paralyzing for her business. Therefore I am placing a premium on quality components that are reliable, especially an excellent power supply, reliable mobo and good cooling. This is also why I'm leaning towards a boutique builder like Puget Computers so that the system gets some tested burn-in time and has a baseline level of support. I am not completely averse to a home build, but I'm hesitant on that.

My old Dell had SATA drives with RAID1 and it saved my hide about 3 times over the years when a hard drive failed. The shadow drive kept chugging along, no downtime suffered. I'd order a new drive from Amazon, plug it in, and the mobo-based Intel RAID component would sync up the drives in the background. I know some folks poo-poo RAID (like the guy who runs Puget Computers) but it really saved my bacon a few times. Again, my wife's business cannot afford much computer downtime.

BTW I know RAID is not backup. I have been using Acronis TrueImage from back when it was not bloatware and I am a backup madman. I love disk images and they have saved me a number of times. I know the importance of offsite backups and I manage them religiously.

For gaming, I would like the best base platform I can get within my budget, without pining for an upgrade in 6 months. I think that probably means a single, higher end video card but with room for SLI/Crossfire for future improvements. I have been getting by with my old Dell for a good while so I will be easily impressed, but I yearn to run first person shooter games like "CoD: Black Ops" in full glorious detail. My old Dell has a Creative SoundBlaster 5.1 surround sound card and speakers but if the new system's integrated 7.1 sound is good that is fine with me.

OK, with all that said:

Approximate Purchase Date: as soon as I can figure out what to buy

Budget Range: $1800-$2200

System Usage from Most to Least Important: business apps with high hardware uptime, gaming

Parts Not Required: Keyboard, Mouse, Monitor, Speakers (will crib these from the old system for now, will likely get a nice ASUS HD monitor from Amazon or Newegg)

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: Newegg, Amazon

Country of Origin: I'm on the USA's east coast

Parts Preferences: by brand or type: nvidia or AMD for video, intel only for CPU

Overclocking: not really interested, not willing to sacrifice ANY system reliability/uptime

SLI or Crossfire: would like to have it for the future

Monitor Resolution: will buy a HD monitor soon as mentioned above

Additional Comments/Questions:
1) Do you agree that RAID1 might be justified here? Has mobo-based RAID improved over the years? Or are premium HDDs so good now that it's really not worth it?
2) I'm thinking Intel i7-2600k CPU, P8Z68-V Pro mobo, and 1 or 1.5Tb HDDs in this price range; agree?
3) I don't think I need a SSD; agree?
4) 4 or 8Gb RAM? I dunno, isn't it true that most apps can't even address over 3Gb RAM?
5) I really need help with the video card, God there's a lot out there
6) Do you agree on the need for a good PSU and cooling to improve hardware life? I understand Tom's advice that big air cooling is better than liquid cooling.
7) OS should be included in cost. Prefer Win7 Home Premium 64 with physical source DVD.
8) This PC should last for a number of years, so I'm willing to invest in a better mobo & CPU than you might think would be the minimally capable setup.


Remember, computers are designed to run 24/7. I've had my current build for almost 2 years (will be in november), and its been on 24/7 since then, except for a few weeks when I leave on vacation. Your best bet for reliability of components is getting a high quality power supply, and proper cooling of your components, as you said.

1) If you have important data, never ever depend on a single storage solution, HDD's do fail. You can either Raid or backup, its "either" or "both".
2) Disagree, the i7 2600 and the 2600k are the same, except that the K is unlocked for overclocking. You said you won't overclock so get the regular i7-2600, unless the price difference is insignificant. I'll have to check the mobo out also.
3) You don't need it, but I highly recommend it, its more reliable, efficient, cooler, smaller, durable, and best of all leagues faster then an HDD.
4) 32bit apps cannot, but 64bit can. For gaming 4GB is more than enough for your uses, but it depends if you multi-task your processes. If you do heavy web-browsing, editing of photos and web stuff, you might want to look into 8GB if you really multi-task.
5) What resolution are you gaming at?...if you are playing COD, you can get a cheap and weak video-card, because COD is not GPU intensive at all due to its poor graphics.
6) PSU won't improve hard-ware life, but it will increase the chances of the PSU not failing...a bad PSU can fail and ruin half your components along with it, which is why you want a high quality PSU that won't fail and most of all if it does, won't destroy anything else, just sacrifice itself. Air cooling isn't better than liquid cooling, it depends on the situation. If your components are kept cool, they will most likely last longer.
7) Skip
8) i7-2600K is extremely powerful, it should handle anything you through at it without even flexing its power. Not to mention if you get the 2600K, at the end of its life before you replace it, you can overclock the crap out of it and gain some more time before getting something new.

I would get the i7 2600 (or K), with a Gigabyte or Asus motherboard with SATA3/USB3 support. Pick whichever brand has the better deal, both make great motherboards. For the video-card, I'd probably get a 550Ti. For a PSU, good brands are enermax, corsair. I've used some OCZ and Cooler Master PSU's before and never had an issue with them, but people say a lot of them are melons. Corsair is one of the highest rated around. With RAM, you can get whatever fits your budget in the end. For a case, a cooler master HAF-series case will probably do fine, but there are hundreds of cases so pick one that you like and has good ratings. I recommend getting a small 40-64GB SSD as a boot drive for just your OS, and then get an HDD for your applications and data. It will make the computer feel a lot faster and snapier.
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August 12, 2011 4:17:40 AM

Fantastic info guys, I really appreciate you taking the time.

I am getting closer and closer to doing a self-build for this system. I downloaded the manual for the Asus P8Z68-V Pro mobo and I'm going through it now. I think my choices of CPU, mobo, HDDs, and PSU are such that they should play well together.

Some new Q's:

1) how about an 80Gb SSD for the OS, then a pair of 1-1.5Tb HDDs in RAID1, using the Intel Rapid Storage Technology built into the mobo? Put the SSD and DVD drives on one SATA controller and the RAID1 array on another? That way if (God forbid) a controller on the mobo fails, I haven't lost everything.

2) for something as critical as the mobo, is the cost for extra warranty coverage at NewEgg worth it, again considering my business needs for this system?

3) how do I figure out ahead of time if the components I want will fit into a given case? Are the mobo footprints pretty much standardized, i.e. where the mounting posts are located in the case? Same thing with the PSU, how do I know it will fit a certain case? Not hi tech, but if the stuff don't fit in the case the project is dead in the water.

4) what are some medium-to-large sized cases that have a good reputation for cooling and components fitting well? I have plenty of room for a big case, so maximum cooling and easy fitting of components would be great.
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August 12, 2011 4:31:39 AM

1) Ill let somebody else answer that

2) Mhm, it depends, hard to say.

3) Well there are standard size do motherboards and cases, you can also go to the manufacturer website, not the retailer to get better specifications so see if components fit. Usually most of the time, the two things that people have problems fitting is really long video-cards and absurdly large CPU coolers, because there really isn't a set standard for the size I don't think. Some coolers like a CMV10, V8, or V6 are absolutely massive.
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August 12, 2011 6:41:32 AM

^ How is your windows 7 30GB...I have Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit and its 8GB on a fresh install...after all updates.
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August 12, 2011 8:51:02 PM

^I think you may be counting the pagefile and hibernation file, which isn't really windows since you don't need them. The actual windows core is 8GB.
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August 16, 2011 3:59:40 AM

After a lot of researching here's what I've come up with. Tell me if I'm out of my mind or something.

Case: Cooler Master HAF-922 - $100 - Looks like good cooling and plenty of space.

Mobo: GIGABYTE GA-Z68XP-UD5 - $270 - Long term reliability and stability is important for this build, OC or no OC. I like these factors of the UD5: lower temps due to more copper, 20 phase voltage regulation, improved mosfets/caps/chokes, dual BIOS. The onboard HDMI is just a bonus. If the added cost over the more popular consumer mobos saves me 1 episode of hassle down the road it is worth it.

PSU: SeaSonic X Series X650 Gold - $146 with shipping - I'm willing to drop the coin on a top PSU. I like the efficiency not so much for saving money on power bills but reducing heat.

CPU: Intel i5-2500K - $220 - Plenty strong enough for me for a good while. Easy enough to upgrade in the future when everyone tries to get rid of their i7-2600K.

CPU cooler: COOLER MASTER Hyper 212 Plus RR-B10-212P-G1 - $30. Anyone know if there are fit issues with this cooler and the above mobo?

RAM: G.SKILL Sniper 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model F3-12800CL9D-8GBSR - $56 - Lifetime warranty is nice. I don't think I saw this particular model on Gigabyte's approved memory list, but they don't seem to update that list too often.

HDDs (2x, for RAID1): SAMSUNG Spinpoint F3 HD103SJ 1TB OEM - $120 (for 2 drives) - Seems like the standard go-to HDD these days.

DVD/CD drive: ASUS 24X DVD Burner - $26 with shipping. Kinda the standard, and from what I read LightScribe can be a hassle.

video card: EVGA 012-P3-1570-AR GeForce GTX 570 (Fermi) - $330 - A well received card with lifetime warranty. Anyone know if there will be fit/size issues with the HAF 922 case? Will it prevent putting in an ASUS Xonar in the future if I want?

OS: Win7 Pro full version - $265 - I know, I know, but I need a remote desktop server and no future OEM version hassles.

total cost: $1572 shipped. I already have a KB, mouse, and old DVI LCD. I'll likely get something like this from someplace other than NewEgg.
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August 18, 2011 3:13:18 AM

OK I have edited the config heavily (see post immediately above) after further research and consulting with jaquith. Pardon the bump but I would love to get some comments before I start placing orders.
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