need help deciding on a fast multimedia machine

Hi, everyone in Tom's Hardware Community, how are you.

I'm planning on buying a new computer sometime in the future (not in a big hurry at the moment but at least by spring, which is when I might have enough money lol)

To begin with, I am upgrading from a 400MHz P2 w/130 MB RAM...I'm planning on upgrading from scratch the CPU + motherboard, HD, and RAM - and maybe reusing some old components from the other. I've done a lot of video editing for practice but on that machine - I never got very far when it comes to exporting it to finished product. Audio editing has come as a pain, too, as there is a lot of latency with the system. Gaming has been flawless in reference to FPS and strategy sims.

Right now, my budget is between 700 and 1,200 dollars.

The things I want to do with the new computer are capture video from VHS, edit video on the computer, convert the video to DVD, make music (nothing serious - I just have a MIDI keyboard with sequencing software such as Logic Audio and Cubase), play games (UnReal, DOOM3, NFL, etc.), do some work with 3D graphics and do multi-tasking (such as web design plus programming).

This may sound out of the budget range - but I'm hoping to build my computer instead of buying a whole one, to keep the cost down (if building a computer to keep the cost down sounds ridiculous, please correct me if possible! :) ).

Anyway, the only thing I'm worried about with this plan is -

1. Just like everyone else when it comes to buying a new computer - If I buy parts online they will go down in price a month later..So I would like to know what is going to be outdated (Pentium 3, 256 MB of RAM/DDR?) and what is going to be hot in the future that will fit my budget.

2. I'm afraid that I might end up buying the wrong parts for the computer or that maybe buying a computer that is already built would be better. That's why I'm here on the forums.

I know that it's going to get outdated someday - but the computer I want is going to have to be able to do some heavy video and audio editing, and be able to capture video excellently (maybe not flawlessly) without buying a 1,000 dollar video capture card (*drool*)..

I'm aiming for:

Pentium 4 2.0GHz with cpu, fan ($190 on pricewatch atm..)
PC3000 DDR 512MB ($121 on pricewatch, right now..)
EIDE 7200 RPM 120GB ($119 on pricewatch, right now)

that's about it..I'm not really planning on going overboard and buying accessories that I already have. Of course I would like to upgrade my CD-Burner from 6x to higher such as a 48x Cd rom or from a SoundBlaster 128 PCI to a better card that will do the job..and not a 400 dollar sound card that is only worth having if you're a studio guy that has lots of equipment. I already have a monitor (15" but I guess it wouldn't hurt to get a bigger one)

the main questions I have regarding this system:

1. does a 2,000 MHz CPU and 533 MHz bus speed really matter when it comes to video editing or can I just get a 1.0 to 1.8 and be settled? I know RAM plays an important factor and I could go as high as a GIG of RAM if that is what it takes.

2. Also, what kind of power supply do I need? I've heard stories when people use too high of a watage even on a super-fast system and frying the mobo - I have a brand new 250 watt with my 400 MHz would that work with the specs I listed?

3. I also want two hard drives - can anyone recommend a brand? The one I have now is a Maxtor and it works fine..

4. When it comes to video capture what kind of card do I need that won't break the bank but doesn't have to be professional to do a good job (no framerate skipping, excellent quality, etc.) I don't need DV at the moment. I'm thinking of a Radeon 9700.

5. Is the Sony DRU-500 worth buying as a DVD burner? I hope for most compatible with DVD players, not necessarily the fastest.

5. Since I'm making music, I need a soundcard that will be able to minimize latency as much as possible - and nothing more. I'm not really interested in getting a card that will handle ten guitars and 20 mixing boards. I can't make music right now on my computer it is so slow, but even so I was thinking about reusing my SoundBlaster PCI 128 with the new computer. Sounds crazy but would that work?

Sorry if there are too many details I will summarize in the next post if needed. Good luck with all of your computing activites.
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More about need deciding fast multimedia machine
  1. Here are my thoughts to your main questions:

    1. Yes, a fast CPU will help to speed things up especially if you'll doing a lot of rendering and converting during video editing.

    2. Nonsense, high wattage PSU won't fry any mobo. Maybe only those poorly designed or cheap PSUs will be likely.

    3. Both Maxtor and Western Digital are good brand.

    4. Radeon 9700 is fine as long as it's got vivo.

    5. Any name-brand DVD burner is fine. For most compatible drive, get the one that supports at least DVD-R format. Of course the more format it supports, the better.

    6. Yes, reuse your SoundBlaster PCI 128 with the new pc. You can always get a new card later.
  2. I have to agree with elzt. To add to that:

    2. I wouldn't go under a 350 Watt PSU. An underpowered PSU will do more harm than good in the long run. Having more power gives you more breathing room later on as you add components.

    3. Take a look at the Maxtor and Western Digital drives with 8MB cache. They wil give you better throughput. Also, two drives would definately be the way to go, using one as a system drive and the other as the work/data drive. Alot of the video-edting card manufacturers reccomend that type of setup.

    5. I would wait until the Audigy 2 Platinum has the ASIO drivers out for it, or look for another card with ASIO drivers, and upgrade to that. This will give you the lowest latency with your audio. Even using WDM drivers isn't too bad though, as long as you stay away from the older MIME driveres, which have a high latency.


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  3. Thank you both for the help! Some things I didn't know about before, it's given me new insight on the situation - it sounds promising.
  4. I believe a Radeon 8500DV is on sale for ~169.99 at w/ a $20.00 rebate. I have one, and it's great for video capture if you're using an analogue source (it has composite in/out). Unfortunately, its probably not going to play the new games coming out this year (Doom3/U2).


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  5. Xerxes, how is that Radeon 8500DV card? Does it capture video/display it pretty well? I'm considering buying one for myself.

    Also, is the Intel P4 3 GHz (with hyper-threading) really worth getting for video editing?
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