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£600-800 CAD/Media System for Tech. Ed. Teacher

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April 2, 2011 2:13:59 PM

I'm new to the forums here and am looking to build my first PC from scratch. I have a reasonably good knowledge of all aspects of computing but I lack the real deep knowledge that is required for the best possible build with regards the latest components, their features and whetehr or not they work well together. I have done a lot of upgrades to my old eMachine PC but at 10 years old and having become completely rejigged over those years it is becoming unable to perform the way I need it to work.
I am a Technical Education teacher and do a lot of CAD and graphics work. I also produce some electronic music and would like to start editing and producing educational videos. These tasks all require a fair bit of juice and I'd like to invest about £600 - £700 in building a crazy powerful system that will last me at least 10 years.


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This is my proposed system:
CPU = £148.88 = AMD Phenom II x6 1090t 3.2Ghz
MOBO = £71.63 = ASUS M4A77T, USB3, ATX, Socket AM3, GB Ethernet, HD Audio,
RAM = £76.98 = Corsair CMX4GX3M2A1600C9 1600Mhz CL9 (4x 2GB DDR3 SDRAM Memory)
GPU = £91.95 = XFX Radeon HD 5770
PSU = £51.50 = Cooler Master RS550-ACAAE3-UK GX-Series 550W
SSD = £125.78 = OCZ Vertex 80Gb (OPTION for OS + programs)
HDD = £63.69 = Western Digital Caviar Black, 1Tb, 7200RPM, 64Mb Cache (or 2x 500Gb RAID 1)
Case = £49.98 = Antec 300
OPTI = £14.99 = Sony D7261S 24x DVD±RW DL & RAM with LightScribe SATA
OS = £65.00 = Windows 7 64 bit Home Premium

TOTAL HARDWARE COST = £569.60 (£695.38 with SSD option for OS)
TOTAL SYSTEM COST = £634.60 (£760.38 with SSD option for OS)

I already own 2x Samsung 920n 19" monitors which I use in a dual monitor setup. These will all also be used in the new system. I also have a Philips 32"HD TV which I could also use as a VDU.
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The majority of the items I'd like to buy using Amazon as prices are lowest I can find and I can get double Nectar points on them! See my wish list here for all the items above: http://www.amazon.co.uk/registry/wishlist/1NARYCHU3OONZ

The optical drive and SSD would be sourced from eBuyer and my OEM version of Windows 7 would be sourced wherever is cheapest.

What I really need help with is the following:
(1) Are all my parts compatible? Are there any known conflicts or issues?
(2) Will everything I have physically fit in my Antec 300 case? I've never had a posh GPU like the Radeon and it looks huge!
(3) What cooler should I buy for my AMD Phenom x6? I won't be overclocking it but will obviously need something.
(4) Not sure about which edition of Win7 I need? I read a report saying that Home Premium is enough for most users but professional is only about £20 dearer and I'm afraid I'm losing features???
(5) Will my PSU be powerful enough? I see they go right up to 900W!!!
(6) Am I being silly or wasting money thinking about a £125 SSD for the OS?

What other "things" will I need? I have thought of the following:
(a) PSU to DEVICE = 3x StarTech.com 6 inch LP4 Male to Serial ATA Power Adapter
(b) DEVICE to MOBO = 3x Latched Serial ATA (SATA II) Right Angled Data Cable - 45cm
(c) Fan or heatsink for CPU??? Will I also need Thermal Paste during assembly???

Many thanks in advance. I hope I have provided enough information and I look forward to hearing your thoughts on my proposed set up. Please completely tear this to shreds if you want but any advice and help needs to follow!!!

Regards,

Yogle
April 2, 2011 6:18:19 PM

Wow, 87 reads but not a single response!

I appreciate there are a lot of questions here but even if you could just answer one or two I'm sure I could get all the help I need.

Yours hopefully,

Yogle
April 2, 2011 7:00:56 PM

1) Yes everything is compatible.
Bulldozer (new high performance 4,6 or 8 core CPUs from AMD) is coming out this year, altho that will be months away, so if you can wait you should check those out.
Usually the preferred configuration for RAM is to only use 2 DIMM slots, so ideally you should be looking for 2x4GB. It isn't a big deal as you won't be overclocking your RAM or CPU, but if you see some for a similar price then I would take it.
You can save some money and get the same or better performance from a Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB hard drive. They are usually only around £40.
OCZ is using 25nm NAND in what used to be 32nm, they have not changed the model numbers. This means that you can get drives with reduced capacity compared to older drives. Others complain that they get lower performance compared to what they expect, but this happens all the time in other drives for various reasons, so I'm not sure how they have come to the conclusion that it is the smaller NAND dies that is causing this, especially when this website has compared some older drives to the newer drives and showed that in some cases there was improved performance. Some people take these as reasons not to get the OCZ Vertex 2, so you should be aware of these issues to make your own decision.

2) Yes everything will fit in the Antec 300. Cable management is not a strong point of that case, which is why I would not buy it. Cable ties will help.

3) Unless it is an OEM CPU it will come with a heatsink, with pre-applied thermal paste. The only reasons to buy an aftermarket heatsink is to allow yourself to overclock, keep temps down and/or to reduce noise.

4) Language support is better with the more expensive versions of Windows, Pro has an XP Mode which guarantees compatibility with programs designed for XP, but I'm sure compatibility is pretty good without that.
I usually think that if someone knows why they need more than Home Premium then they do, if they don't know why, then they don't need more than Home Premium.
If you could get a deal or access to a copy of Windows via a teaching institution then you should pursue that, and you could get the most 'feature-full' edition of Windows possible.

5) A good 550W PSU would be able to power that build easily, it may even be said to be overkill, but I wouldn't buy something from the Cooler Master GX range as they have been poorly reviewed. They aren't completely useless or dangerous, but £6 can get you something really nice:
Antec High Current Gamer 520W 80Plus Bronze £56
http://www.ebuyer.com/product/245671

a) I think those peripheral to SATA converters are not necessary, because either power supply has 6 sata connectors.
b) Motherboards usually come with SATA cables, I think the one you have chosen comes with 2 cables, so you have to want to install more than two devices that needed a SATA connector to need to buy more. So you may need one for your optical drive.
April 2, 2011 7:21:49 PM

Silvune, thank you very much for taking the time to give me your very detailed response. It is much appreciated.

A few follow up responses/questions:

1) I'll go for the spinpoint if it is just as good. Regarding the OCZ, I had read it was the bee's kness of SSD's but there are also a few Patriarch, Kingston and Crucial models available. Do you think they would be better?

2) Kids at school recommended a Thermaltake case but I preferred the Antec 300 as it was a bit less garish and seemed similar in spec. I don't want neon lights or any of that jazz just a solid, minimalist tower. Can you recc anything else?

3) Was looking at this http://www.scan.co.uk/products/amd-phenom-ii-x6-1100t-b... and it doesn't state whether the heat sink will come with it. I presume if it is AMD boxed it will include something?
Would it be worth buying an aftermarket heat sink while I'm at it? You say it can reduce noise and will it improve the lifespan of the CPU?

4)I used to get XP Pro as it had additional networking features. I basically have a home network and will be using it to stream media and run a file server. If Home Premium will do all that then that is what I'll get. Trying to think about future proofing as well as I want this PC to last me as long as my previous one! Could Win 7 Pro be more of a requirement in 5-10 years?

5)Thanks for your feedback on the PSU, I'll swap that out on my system. Good catch!

(a+b) Thanks for info. Saving me money on unnecessary parts! Will order two only, one for the optical drive and a spare for future upgrades.

Thanks again Silvune. You have put my mind at rest about a lot of niggly issues. I'll also see if I can get a hold of Win 7 through the school.

Cheers,

Yogle
April 2, 2011 7:24:30 PM

Oh - one more thing. I'm reading on Tom's Hardware about motherboards and am wondering if I have made the right selection. I see they range in price right up to £200+. I thought future proof wise that I need USB 3 compatibility and that would be fine. Is there a better model for £20-30 more that will make any significant performance to the system? If so I'd be prepared to pay it.

Will check on RAM DIMM's as well to see if I can get 2x 4Gb instead of 4x 2Gb.

Cheers,
Yogle
April 2, 2011 8:50:52 PM

Revised System coming in at £730-£750 including Windows 7 64bit Home Premium.

Scan Saved Basket: http://www.scan.co.uk/savedbasket/a4a29398b1d3418b8dfda...
Amazon Wishlist: Permalink: http://www.amazon.co.uk/registry/wishlist/1NARYCHU3OONZ

Final concerns:
(i) Have I chosen a decent motherboard. Could I spend a bit more and get something that is better - suggestions?
(ii) Have I chosen a decent GPU. Primarily for 3D CAD parametric modelling, rendering and perhaps some gaming. Also need to run dual or triple monitors.

Thanks again for any and all feedback,

Yogle
April 2, 2011 9:59:55 PM

1)
The Sandforce controller is what makes the OCZ Vertex 2 such a good drive, so anything with the same Sandforce controller will be as good performance wise.

Corsair apparently have made it pretty clear which drives use 25nm NAND and which use 32nm, so maybe the extra ~20 quid is worth the peace of mind in knowing what you are getting:
Corsair Force F60 60GB 32nm £105
http://www.scan.co.uk/products/60gb-corsair-force-serie...

Altho OCZ offer free replacements of 25nm drives with older 32nm drives as well, you just have to go to the trouble of installing the drive and checking the capacity and then contacting OCZ about it, if it matters to you.

2)
The Antec 300 is a good and popular case, it has the kind of exterior appearance that appeals to me (except for the front panel IO), but I turned it down myself for the reasons I have stated.
Others have modded the case to make it better for cable management, so you could possibly do that if you decide on it and find that the cable management is not up to your standards.

The Zalman Z9 Plus has a bit of wonky front, but the interior is quite modern seeing as it can support 2.5" drives without using adapters. And is the same price as the 300. £48
http://www.scan.co.uk/products/zalman-z9-plus-black-mid...

The Lian Li Lancool PC-K58 is also something I would consider for improved cable management and a 'not ugly' exterior. Bit more expensive tho. £55
http://www.scan.co.uk/products/lian-li-pc-k58b-lancool-...

Out of curiosity, which Thermaltake did they 'recommend'?

3)
Yes, if it is a Retail boxed processor then it will come with the stock heatsink with pre-applied thermal paste.
The only difference between the 1090T and 1100T is the 0.1 GHz of frequency, not exactly worth the extra £20.
Unless a CPU is defective it will take an incredibly long time for it to die, so I don't think having an aftermarket heatsink will make much difference to life span unless your going to be running it overclocked and hot for extended periods of time.
You can get a decent budget cooler for £20 in the Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus or £15 for the Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro Rev2.

4)
I haven't really compared the features of different Windows 7 SKUs since they were released, so I'm not that familiar with the differences now. I found this helpful at the time: http://www.neowin.net/news/main/09/04/30/windows-7-what...

As for more expensive motherboards, they usually only offer more performance in the overclocking areas and/or muliple graphics card area, so more expensive is usually about more features rather than performance.
Most 800 series motherboards have SATA6Gbps ports as standard which means being able to upgrade to SSDs that actually need that kind of bandwidth, which could be useful. The Asus M4A87TD/USB3 would be the equivalent to what you have chosen atm:
http://www.scan.co.uk/products/asus-m4a87td-usb3-amd-87...(x16)-ddr3-2000(oc)-sata-6gb-s-sata-raid-atx
Anther option is the Gigabyte GA-870A-UD3 is something which I've seen compared to the above and been favoured:
http://www.ebuyer.com/product/218937
One thing that would interest me if I was buying an AMD rig now would be the Asrock motherboards that have implemented UEFI, namely the Asrock 870 Extreme3 R2, which isn't available in the UK yet it seems.

This is a bit cheaper for the RAM:
Corsair XMS3 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3 1600MHz CAS9 1.65V £75
http://www.scan.co.uk/products/8gb-(2x4gb)-corsair-xms3-ddr3-pc3-12800-(1600)-non-ecc-unbuffered-cas-9-9-9-27-165v
The performance will be the same and heatspreaders on RAM have no benefit in terms of heat as they stay cool enough these days.
April 3, 2011 3:42:06 PM

Hi Silvune,

Thanks again for continued feedback.

1) I'll go with that 32nm Corsair so I know what I'm getting. These are the gems of knowledge I lack.

2) The kids recommended this case: http://www.scan.co.uk/products/thermaltake-element-s-vk...

Don't really like the Zalman and the Lian is OK but I do really like the Antec 300. Am sure I can sort out the cable management. Not fussy about looks, more function.

3) Will leave additional coolers out just now. Thanks for advising on two reasonable possibilities.

4) I'm going to do as you advised and take the 800 series Asus mobo. Cheaper RAM also appreciated!

Finally, would you say the graphics card I have selected is best for money? Around £100 is what I fancy spending and this seemed the best for the cash. There seems to be lots of versions though, some stating eyefinity and other stating sapphire. Are they all much the same?

Thanks again.

Yogle
April 3, 2011 4:04:09 PM

Yeah a 5770 is a solid choice for a graphics card at £100, probably the best unless you go for an older card or a second hand one.
In terms of performance in games, yes they will all perform pretty much the same - you are unlikely to notice the difference between versions.
The major differences between brands will be display connectivity, which will be pretty standard on a 5770. To run two VGA monitors you will need some adapters tho - DP-VGA, HDMI-VGA or DVI-VGA.
And the fan; how fast it spins - which you can control with software, the noise it makes and how cool it keeps the graphics chip. Usually non reference cards will be better in the fan aspect. The one currently listed in your Amazon wishlist is the reference version btw. 5770s aren't supposed to be that noisy.
!