I currently own a custom CyberPowerPC that I have been very satisfied with for the past few years. For the possible sake of comparison, I have included my specs below. I am, however, finding that I crave for an upgrade as gaming graphics are too much for my wimpy GPU, etc. I was thinking of hooking up this new tower as a part of my future home theater setup (HDTV, Surround Sound Receiver, Cable Box, XBOX, etc.). That being said, I feel like I'd benefit more from custom building this one at home. Unfortunately, I have never done that, nor do I know how. From what I gather, it's customary to pick out a processor, then a motherboard, then a case, graphics card, hard drives, and accessories.
To get to the point, I'm having trouble finding what I should get and where. So far, I've looked at these as a possible CPU, Motherboard, Case combination:
CPU: AMD FX 3.1GHz 8-Core
Motherboard: ASRock 970
Case: Cooler Master HAF
All from Newegg, because it's the best place I know of.
I'd appreciate it if anyone would point out the errors of my ways and suggest a good setup for my situation.
OS: Windows 7 64 bit
Processor: Intel Core2 Quad CPU Q6600 @ 2.4 GHz, 2404 MHz, 4 Cores/Logical Processors
Motherboard: MSI G31M3-L V2(MS-7529)
BIOS Version: AMI V2.8
SMBIOS Version: 2.5
RAM: 4 GB
GPU: ATI Radeon HD 4300/4500 Series DDR2 512 MB
Power Supply: 115/230V ?W
My PSU is a 115/230W, so that'll have to go, I guess. And, after consulting my bank account, I've decided it'd be best to just upgrade my current system. That being said, my current computer has lights and is too loud to be used watching movies, so how can I fix that? Also, as you can probably assume, I have no idea how to buy a power supply. Another question: I have a USB 3.0 external hard drive with all my movies on it; is it worth getting and installing USB 3.0 ports, or is it not that much of an improvement? With the HDMI out on the graphics card, what quality will the audio be, like will it have enough channels or whatever for 5.1 surround sound?
To upgrade, but I don't know how or if necessary:
Graphics Card (I'm not interested in the games, if that affects the value of my options) Power Supply CPU? (If I can afford it)
Whatever Will Make it Quieter USB 3.0 Ports?
You could go a couple different ways to solve your needs:
1) Get a new case (solves the noise and lights of your current case), power supply, and video card. Migrate your components into the new case, and enjoy. I wouldn't recommend upgrading your CPU without doing a CPU/Mobo/Ram upgrade, which you could do in the future.
2) a new build from scratch, in which case you should check out the Systems Builder Marathon that was posted the other day:
As far as video cards go, its a question of priorities. If you aren't going to game, then you don't need a super powerful video card. If you are going to do some gaming, then the 6870 is a great price point/performance unit.
"AMD's Radeon series 3000, 4000, 5000 and now 6000 cards can pass lossless sound directly through the HDMI connector. This has been upgraded as it's now possible to have 7.1 channel, lossless sound 192kHz / 24-bit. The HDMI audio output follows HDMI standard 1.4a and supports Dolby True HD and DTS-HD audio. Obviously there is also support for standard PCM, AC-3 and DTS. HDMI 1.4a allows bitrates up to 65Mbps and 3DTV.
So with an AMD Radeon HD 6800 Series video card, all you need to do is install the card into your motherboard and connect it to your receiver with an HDMI cable. As such the AMD Radeon HD 6870 or AMD Radeon HD 6850 card removes the need for a separate sound card (in a HTPC environment)."
Concerning your USB 3.0 external drive. The real world throughput of USB 2.0 (which your current Mobo supports) is around 320mbps. That is much higher than the bitrate that your movies are encoded at (bluray is 50mbps). So, upgrading to USB 3.0 wouldn't improve performance for streaming movies. The actual spinning drive will be the limiting factor.
Ok, so I'll definitely start with a case, video card, and PSU upgrade. I will also definitely plan on playing some high end games like Skyrim, Assassin's Creed, and others, unless those aren't very graphically demanding. Looks like the 6870 is the appropriate option. As for cases, since the 6870 requires a 550W PSU, that bundle case+psu doesn't make the most sense, unless I'd be able to sell the 500W that comes with it to pay for a 550 or higher, which isn't my first choice. Also, I have a pretty cheap laptop that I currently use to watch videos on my TV via HDMI, and I find that on higher quality movies, it will sometimes do that thing where it gets all blocky and distorted. I'm not sure how else to describe it. Is that a problem to be solved by a better GPU, or is it a processor thing or I just happen to have bad copies or what? The laptop has an NVIDIA GeForce GT 335M GPU, an Intel U7300 Dual Core 1.3GHz CPU, and 4GB of Ram, running Windows 7. It's alienware if that helps.
A 500W PSU will power your current setup w/a 6870. It probably would be wise to get a beefier PSU if you're planning on upgrading to an i5/1155 mobo/ram or ivy bridge in the future. Choosing a PSU for a future upgrade is difficult, if you're not in a huge hurry I'd watch Newegg, etc. for a 750+W PSU sale and you could probably get a decent PSU in the next couple of days for a little less. Reputable brands are Seasonic, Antec, Corsair, XFX, to name a few. That would comfortable handle a single card with an overclock.
Below are a couple of cases that have sound dampening panels for quieter operation. These cases are newer, so they cost as much without a power supply as the Sonata III w/500w Antec earthwatts. Your choice.
After looking around some more with the 6870 in mind, I'm wondering if my motherboard has the proper PCI slot. On the MSI website it says this for my motherboard:
PCI-E Gen.........Gen1 (1x16)
(I don't know what these mean.)
The 6870 has a PCI Express 2.1 x16, does that fit in any of my ports?
More questions about the GPU: What's the difference between the SAPPHIRE, XFX, POWERCOOLER, HIS, VisionTek, and MSI versions of the 6870? Are those the brand names that assemble them, or what, and is one better than the others? Is there a noticeable difference between 1GB and 2GB memory sizes?
Also, 87ninefiveone, you're right about the 115/230 being voltage, but now I can't find where the wattage is listed. I'll open up my tower and look more thoroughly sometime tomorrow. Thanks for the catch, it'd be great if my PSU actually is useable.
Should I need a new PSU, how does this one look: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... ? If possible, I'd rather not spend so much on one, but it seems the cheaper ones tend to die or have some other flaws; is there a cheaper, equally good one I could find? (I'm deciding to go with the 750W for the sake of upgrade-ability and because of the fact that they tend to be only slightly more expensive, but I'd like to spend as little as possible within a region of quality.) Some I was looking at from newegg: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Productcompare.aspx?Submi...|17-139-028^17-139-028-TS%2C17-371-016^17-371-016-TS%2C17-371-051^17-371-051-TS
As for cases, my top pick seems to be the $100 Fractal R3 (mainly because of the price). Is that going to fit the components I plan to have in it?
Thanks everyone for all the great advice and help! I found the wattage on my PSU to only be 420W, but a new one isn't a completely bad thing. I can't wait til it all gets here. I'll be sure to come back to tomshardware with any questions about computers; it's a wonder I haven't discovered this place until now.