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Making Dream Gaming Machine

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May 21, 2003 6:03:37 PM

Here is my current situation and i would like any assistance you fine people could offer me.

I am building a new computer this summer and doing the research needed and getting funds needed to make the investment into my machine. In doing so I have a purposed system off of whats available now and would like you advise on the equipment i am selecting and would like some help and advise on things you feel i could do better.

Also i would like to add my current system is an AMD 1.2 gig i purchased from gateway (ACK!) 2 years ago, i spent 3000 dollars on a piece of garbage machine that can barely handle the load i am using it for now, when WOW and everquest 2 releases, among other fps i play, i don't feel my system will be stable enough to handle the load. BTW i would just like to add that anyone thinking about purchasing from gateway, please rethink, i have had to replace over 16 pieces of hardware in my machine, 3 hard drives, 2 motherboards, being some of the main things, some of which were ships to me faulty to begin with. I am currently in a battle with gateway right now to get some type of refund or replacement since my computer is obviously faulty.

Anyways back to the system
______________________

CPU - p4 3.0 800 mhz
Motherboard - Asus P4C800 Deluxe
RAM - Corsair DDR SDRAM 512 MB x2
Video - ATI Radeon 256 MB
Sound Card - Creative SB Live 5.1
Monitor - Sony CPD G520 21"
Case - Thermaltake Xaser III ( black or silver )
Hard Drive - Maxtor Atlas 73.4 GB
DVD - Toshiba SD M1612
Power Supply - 450 + watts was thinking about Thermaltake but will probably go with something a little more reviewed

......

Here are some concerns i have that maybe you guys can assist me with on this set up.

1. I will most likely be building this in August and am just getting a base of what i want with the cost now that way when i get the cash i will have the money it takes to get top of the line then or get this with some extra addy's.

- how does the 3.0 p4 hold up under testing, is this chip going to be something that will carry me with no upgrades for 2 years or would it be better to buy the 3.2 p4 in august, of course both of these will be taking a big price cut.

-I have concerns with the motherboard, Altho its by far the best in testing so far, many complain because of the board build itself and not having all the options the other boards are coming with these days, is there anything i should be concerned with and would this board be able to be upgraded for years to come or is this a 1 shot deal i will regret.

- I am new to building computers so I know very little about RAID, Would it be better for someone of my knowledge to buy a single stable drive, or purchase 2 of the new raptors and RAID them together with a large backup of the 120 gig range.

- Any suggestions on the monitor, is this a good choice for the price ($630) range, and will it be the best monitor i can get for gaming, or is there another route i should take ( ie.. smaller/lcd/flat ? )

- I am assuming this RAM is the best under the setup i have ?

- I have always been a big fan of Nvidia, I was getting into gaming heavy in the days of duel voodoo's and things of that nature, Nvidia hit the scene running and really took things to a new level IMO. However these days the rave is ATI's and i hear in the top performance, ATI runs the game now. I am wanting to go with the new ATI rad 9800 pro 256 .. altho price is outrageous atm, around august that tag should be quite lower, is this a good choice for heavy gaming.

- Thermaltake cases / all good or all show ?

- I want a simple DVD player that can read cd's and dvd's, i am not using this to copy dvd's or to play movies atm, so its purely for gaming, is toshiba the best bang for your buck ?


Any additional information would be of great help, if you could please respond and give me some feedback.

Thank you for your Time,
Muntaro
May 21, 2003 6:07:17 PM

I would also just like to add, there isn't anything that i am not willing to learn and study, i have a few months before constructing this machine, so expert advise would be appreciated to make this invest be a very sound one.

Thanks,
Muntaro
May 21, 2003 6:16:47 PM

Study sound cards. SB Live 5.1 would be adequate, but is hardly on par with the rest of the hardware.

Also, you want to have more than 1 hard drive in a system like that. Any nerd knows that you can't have your applications, Boot up O/S, data and paging file on the same disk.
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May 21, 2003 6:22:24 PM

Aren't the Maxtor Atlas all SCSI? Does that MOBO have SCSI support?
May 21, 2003 6:59:18 PM

Yah i will probably go with the Audigy 2, but the sound card wasn't the things i was mainly concerned with, its an easy upgrade. I am an extreme newbie when it comes to constructing pc's, but i am learning fairly quickly, I don't know if with my current knowledge i could do a RAID however i could assemble some type of system for a boot/storage drive and one for running apps/games, would this be the best setup, if so what drives would you recommend for the ultimate gaming experience . Again I would like the best setup for 3.0 p4 , mobo i could use advise on as well as drives.
May 21, 2003 11:38:40 PM

I think my hard drive setup is pretty pimp. I have 3 18GB 15k RPM Ultrastars and an adaptec U160 SCSI controller.

One drive has no raid, and that is where I keep my O/S and applications. This is the way to be because when your system boots up (and when games run), seek times is what really matters because you're loading many small files rather than a few large ones. RAID hurts seek times. RAID 0 only really helps maximum data throughout, like transfering large files.

The second two drives are striped (RAID 0) and that is where I keep the swap file and other storage, i.e. movies, music, (porn) etc. Having your boot up drive stripped is a real pain in the butt to implement anyways.

If you're really a pimp, SCSI is the way to go. SATA has almost the same max data transfer, but you can't get 15K RPM SATA drives. (Higher RPM = faster seek times) I have never seen a computer load XP or SUSE faster than mine and I believe I have the hard drives to thank.

BTW, IBM Ultrastars are more reliable than everyone makes them out to be. =P
May 22, 2003 12:23:03 AM

The Geforce FX 5900 will be available in June, and is faster than the 9800. It will probably be more expensive though.

Also, LCD's are a bad choice for gaming, unless you can get one with very low response delay. I'm not sure what the fastest one is now, but I do know that playing an FPS is impossible on a 35ms display (I learned that the hard way, now I switch over to a small CRT to play FPS).
May 22, 2003 2:42:51 AM

Are you buying Corsair PC 3200 or Pc 3500? I buying Pc3500. Your Mobo will be upgradable for the next two years. I'm buying P4 2.4c than sometime next June or so I'm buying Prescott. Since Prescott gets released in 2nd half this year.Two New Raptors are $179 each at New Egg 36.6 or whatever Gig Hd Price in August who knows.
May 22, 2003 7:28:38 AM

First of all the RAID. If you are prepared to learn then go for it - you can buy cheaper drives (in terms of storage capacity) and all that really differs when setting up a new PC is that you need to have your SCSI controller drivers on a floppy before you start - hardly a difficult thing to acheive. The manuals that come with RAID setups are pretty good and you can check these out online before you buy anything. It doesn't seem like money is a problem for you but do you really need SCSI?? I have 2 Seagate Barracudas running in RAID 0 (2x60GB) and they are very fast. Just check out Tom's reviews to see how highly he rates the Barracudas. They are quiet, cool and use very low CPU resources. I am doubtful that moving your SWAP file would give you a major performance gain though. The longest part of my boot up process at the moment is waiting for my RAID array to be detected by my controller - after that XP Pro boots up in seconds.

If you have loads of cash to spend and you are going for RAID 0 then it would be worth while buying a cheap drive that is the same size as your RAID array and than backing up the entire array to that drive just in case. Otherwise if one of your RAID drives fails you will be screwed. Or you could choose a higher RAID level (3 or 5) that gives you a hot spare drive or mirror drive for extra security. Of course if you don't mind re-installing your OS and stuff then you don't really need to worry about data reliability.

I would definitely stay away from TFT screens. For far less cash you could get a very good quality Iiyama Diamontron flat screen CRT. As the previous post suggested the time delay on TFTs is still an issue even on high end models and the black quality is never 100%. Also make sure that you read Tom's article on display screens with regard to dead pixels. You would be really pissed if you bought a $600 screen only to find that it had a red dot in the middle of the screen and no replacement was available. I personally find that 19" is big enough for PC gaming use if you are sat at a normal desk - any bigger and you can't see the whole screen at once. Bigger is definitely better for DVDs though. So you need to decide what your main usage will be.

I think you are headed in the right direction for your video card. I was a big Nvidia fan but they really let themselvs down with the Geforce FX. I am very happy with my Ti4600 still but Doom 3 will change all that :)  I would wait until right about the time you are going to build your PC because Nvidia will want to rectify the situation and release a much better DX9 card to rival the 9800 pro. However the Radeon will be much cheaper later on which is good for you.

As far as the case goes, you should pick one that suits YOUR situation, not just any old case that gets a triple A review. For example does it have a good upgradeability / building possibilities, is there room for all your stuff and even will the colour / design fit in to your surroundings? I personnally don't think that cream coloured PC components look good in black or Aluminium cases unless the case has a door that covers the drives.

For the power supply I wouldn't recommend anybody else other than Enermax and their 450 / 550 watt models. They have variable fan control for noisless operation and provide easily enough juice for today and tomorrow.

For your DVD drive I would recommend the Pioneer slot loading model (DVD 106s I think). I have been using them for years (both SCSI and IDE versions) and they are so practical not having to mess around with a tray mechanism, they give great DAE speed and best of all there is a region free firmware freely available on the net.

Many people will probably say wait for this / wait for that since you are not building straight away (even I mentioned 1 future product) but you will find that you are always chasing the next big thing if you do that. Just aim for a spec safe in the knowledge that you will always be able to off load stuff on Ebay when you want the next big thing. One bonus of sticking to your spec is that the prices will have dropped as you mentioned yourself. Hopefully the RAM prices wil have come down - especially since DDR 2 will be coming on a bit stronger by then I think.

By the way I would strongly recommend a Thermalright SLK900U heatsink for your P4 coupled with any 80mm / 92mm fan. Amazing cooling performance and would give you some flexibility in the future up to 4GHz I think. Dropped my XP 2500+ from 55 degrees to 36 under full load.

Hope all that helps :) 



4.77MHz to 4.0GHz in 10 years. Imagine the space year 2020 :) 
May 22, 2003 7:52:59 AM

Buy the reliable machine, first.
The faster machine- the none of games is created for it.

Better,
Create the game.

For gamer the RAM is important. 1 GB recommended.
LCD is better for work and health.
Fase HD is important for speed of load new big games.
Raptor recommended as already suffitirnt balanced solution.

Keep in mind your next machine, already today forget about this current -make you board future compatible.
!