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Kraetos
Lovable Bastard
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Boston-ish
 
2007-03-31, 02:18

I am thinking about selling both my computers and replacing them with a custom built PC and an Apple notebook.

Reasons? (If you don't care about my reasons, skip to "Computer two: Homebuilt, dual-boot PC tower" to get to the hardware geekery )

- I don't like having two Macs. I was craving a powerful Mac after three years stuck with an aging PB G4, and I overkilled. I use my Mac for managing my movies/music/TV, the basics, (internet, email, word processing, etc) and web design and programming. Having a single, speedy notebook and an external hard drive to hold extra media would suit these needs perfectly. The Mac Pro is huge overkill, and keeping my MacBook and Mac Pro synced is a massive pain. Not just contacts and calendars, but movies and music.
- Where I do need the horsepower, though, is on the Windows side of things. I game a lot. I always have the latest consoles and games, it's just who I am. It's an expensive hobby, I know... but at least its not crack!
- I've always wanted to build a computer. I feel like its a rite-of-passage into more hardcore geekery.

My current situation, therefore, is not only needlessly expensive, but also less than ideal. Instead of having a $3000+ tower and a $1800 notebook, I could have a $1800 tower and a $2000ish notebook which would suit my needs better. A KVM switch and a docking station for the notebook might also be necessary - it depends on how much I miss 1920 x 1200 compared to 1440 x 900.

The answer, then, is clear: Apple notebook; homebuilt, dual-boot PC running Vista and Linux.

Computer one: Apple notebook.

13.3" is too small for me on a regular basis. I need a 15.4" screen. I do not, however, need 90% of the rest of the differentiating features between the MacBook and the MacBook Pro. A 15.4" MacBook would be ideal, and rumors of such a machine continue to float. I won't be doing any of this until late summer, so I can wait it out and see what happens - if nothing does, then its MacBook Pro for me.

Computer two: Homebuilt, dual-boot PC tower.

Why homebuilt? Easy: cheaper. You can save quite a bit by doing it yourself. The components I have selected would cost about $2,500 in a comparable brand name PC.

However, I have never built a PC before. A friend of mine has, and has offered to assist me. Where I need your guyses help is selecting the components. While I know plenty about CPUs and GPUs, it is the things like the motherboard and the cooling system that I am having some trouble with.

Without further adieu, the list of components in my theoretical PC:



And the HTML version, for the purposes of live links:

Warning: Excel mangled HTML ahead.

The components I am unsure of:

The case. That one is really more of a placeholder, as the case hunt will be ongoing. I know I want aluminum. I would also like smaller. If anyone knows of a good case that is ATX compliant, has at least 2 PCI slots and sufficient cooling (two 120mm fans would be ideal), and is small or just plain goodlooking, please, share your knowledge.

The motherboard. Overkill? Or just right? That board gets gushing reviews everywhere I look. The WiFi is irrelevant, since I hardwire anyway.

The power supply. Don't know much about power supplies, but that one looks powerful, quiet, and dual-GPU ready. Look good?

The GPU. Is it better to have last generations top of the line (a GeForce 7950 GTX in this case) or the current generations middle of the line? Of note is the fact that the 8800GTS is DirectX 10 compatible, but also of note is that I would be saving $90 with the 7950 GTX, but getting what is potentially a more powerful card.

The fan + heatsink. I know NOTHING about fans and heatsinks. That one is getting the best reviews. Do I need something better given the heat this computer is potentially giving off? Do I need to cool other components other than the CPU and GPU?

Thermal paste... I am going to replace the stock stuff with some Arctic Silver 5 because its dirt cheap ($6 for 3.5 grams, only .2 is the recommended use), but it can REALLY cool your CPU down.

Windows. XP, Vista Home Premium, or Vista Ultimate? XP is tried and true, and free since I have discs, but if I'm paying for a DX10 card, I wanna be able to use it. Finally, for only $70 more, I can get Ultimate, which is supposed to have some sort of extra gaming tools for optimizing performance. Sounds like a way for MS to fleece their loyal balls-in-a-vice customers, but I'd like to hear if anyone has experience with Ultimate or Home Premium, and the significant differences, if any.

Well, this was a long post. But if anyone has advice, comments, or if you simply wanna laugh at me for spending nearly $1800 on this little project of mine, go nuts.

Sadly, being a technology pundit is truly never having to say you’re sorry. You can be wrong for years and never lose your job.—The Macalope
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Stallion
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Milwaukee
 
2007-03-31, 02:47

Sell Mac Tower.

Build 1100 or less PC.

Anything else is throwing money away because the jump in performance is very little. Seriously. It won't hold its value any longer and you can save a couple hundred bucks (or in your case more) to upgrade again in the future.

Check Pricewatch for best prices, then do a google search on the store name to make sure its a good, respectable place.

Get a mid-range core 2 duo. Check Tom's Hardware for the best price/performance ratio. There in no need to get the best of the best because unless you have super human eyes for fps and insane encoding/rendering needs, it is a waste of money. Your wallet will thank you, big time.

Don't waste your money on a DX10 card now. Nothing takes advantage of it, and even in a year its not like the games will look like crap. Save the money now, and the difference in cost will ultimately get you a damn nice card in 2 years when you are due for an upgrade.

I have a rule of thumb to always buy graphics hardware a generation behind. Otherwise you pay far too much for an extra 5fps (which are already faster than the eye can see).

The GeForce 7 series is really nice right now. SLI is a waste of money. I didn't read what components you want, but you can get a nice system with a good Asus mobo, a core 2 duo, a geforce mid-range 7 series card, 2 gigs of ram, and 500gb for like 1000 or less.

Buy a cheap case online off pricewatch. Most will come with powerful power supplies. Enermax whisper are very nice power supplies. Antec makes good stuff as well.

Don't worry about brand-names on ram. Same rule applies with a mac. Generic ram works just as well. Get 2gb dual-channel and you'll be flying.

Don't worry about heatsink. It'll come with the processor. Intel actually has decent stock heatsinks.

If I missed anything let me know, I only read the first line or two or your post.
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seek3r
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: NYC
 
2007-03-31, 02:55

As someone who's built a lot of machines (and, ironically, is probably getting a mac pro as my next desktop because it's a very competitive price at the student discount - comparable to building my own in the same class) I'll try and respond. I'm kinda tired right now (don't want to sleep though) so pardon my grammar :-P.

The case - I've heard good things about cooler master, but in general I usually reccmend lian-li or antec (particulary the antec p180). Whatever case you buy, you may end up replacing fans, bear that in mind. Also, a note on that, keep an eye on a)fan size b)number and c)placement. 120mm fans for ex are either quieter than 80mm while pushing the same amount of air, or push more air at the db. The number is important both for noise level and airflow *and* how many fan plugs you have on your MB. If you want the mobo to manage the fan speed for you (as opposed to manually or with temp sensors on the fans), you're going to want to have enough plugs. Lastly, placement. I personally don't like top fans if I can avoid it, since I tend to prop my feet up on my comps. I *can't* use side-fans at all since I keep my machines in a row under my desk, there's no room for the air to blow. Keep that in mind.

The motherboard - overkill is an interesting question. Whether you need all the features of the board or not though, Asus is a good brand. One thing you may want to know is that Asus boards are both known for being exceedingly stable (good) and very picky on ram (bad). Make sure the ram you buy is cert. to work with the board, or at least find a forum post of someone using it in the board. I'd reccomend pairing an intel chip with an intel board if you decide not to go with Asus, same stability, though a bit priceier and the older chipsets for core/core2 on any of the manufacturers have some problems with ram timings, so beware.

Power supply - Most likely enough, though considering an 880 by itself draws like 180watts at full power (and you said you'll be gaming) you might want to consider something a bit more powerful. If you stay with that class and you want a quieter supply, the Antec phantom is a nice power supply. I'd also recommend JustPC power supplies from personal experience and I've heard good things about the OCZ supplies recently.

The gpu - the 8800 (gts or x) is an awesome card, and smokes any of the 7-series cards. It's also a lot quieter, I'd recommend using it. You may also want to look at ATI cards, though I'm personally a fan of nvidia (better linux drivers - and you said you'd be running linux too).

the fan - zalman makes nice cooling, I will point out though that with good airflow in the case the stock heatsink and fan are probably fine if you're not over clocking, and that would save you some money.

Arctic Silver, it's the only way to go. Make a hershey kiss dolly on the cpu and smush when you put it on :-P.

Vista - I would wait, particularly for gaming. nvidia's new drivers *are* far better than they were, but the XP drivers are still more stable, and the lack of overhead on xp compared to vista (and lack of need, since there are no dx10 games out yet) would make me recommend using XP for now. You can always buy vista later (and cheaper - and after service pack 1 :-P.

MBP 2.33 Core2 (10.4/Debian/XP); MP Quad 2.66 X1900XT (10.4/Debian/XP/Sever 2K3), Dell 2407WFP + Samsung 910t
I met a traveler from an antique land...
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Kraetos
Lovable Bastard
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Boston-ish
 
2007-03-31, 11:06

Case: I don't want a built in power supply. I will also look at some Antec cases, they looked good.

Power Supply: How about this guy? I couldn't find any Just PC stuff that was more than 600 watts. For 620 watts, this guy looks real good. Powerful enough?

The processor: 2.4 GHz seems to be a sweet-spot on price/performace. It's the cheapest Conroe with a 4MB cache, but its $200 less than the next level up, which is only 260 MHz faster.

GPU: Saving $90 would be nice, but futureproofing and, more than anything, quieter, sounds awesome. The 1900XT in my Mac Pro is easily the loudest component. It's a really tough call, though - the 7950GTXs are great, but I'll roll with the 8800GTS.

Mobo: now I'm torn. With Corsair XMS RAM and a Core 2 Duo, do you think it would be better to go with Intel or a cheaper Asus?

RAM: On that note, is that RAM completely overkill? RAM is very important, but I wanna know if I am spending entirely too much for this fancy RAM with heat spreaders and blinking LEDs... Looks like I can save some bucks with these guys.

Fan: I am totally willing to spend an extra $52 to make my baby run cooler/quieter.

OS: alright, screw Vista. I'll wait for SP1 and reallocate/save that $120.

Sadly, being a technology pundit is truly never having to say you’re sorry. You can be wrong for years and never lose your job.—The Macalope

Last edited by Kraetos : 2007-03-31 at 12:28.
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Windowsrookie
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Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Minnesota
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2007-03-31, 11:25

If you want a silent PC you can always go with watercooling.

One thing about building a PC, you'll never get the cables as nice and tidy as Apple gets them.


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Kraetos
Lovable Bastard
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Boston-ish
 
2007-03-31, 12:25

Quote:
Originally Posted by Windowsrookie View Post
If you want a silent PC you can always go with watercooling.

One thing about building a PC, you'll never get the cables as nice and tidy as Apple gets them.
If it comes to that, I'll think about it. But liquid cooling is messy, I wanny try it with a really good heatsink, really good thermal paste, and 2x 120mm fans first. That *should* do it.

And ya... I know... the inside of the Mac Pro case is beautiful. Really. But I can't justify keeping a $3000 machine around when a $1500 machine will do in its stead.

Sadly, being a technology pundit is truly never having to say you’re sorry. You can be wrong for years and never lose your job.—The Macalope
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Schnauzer
Veteran Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Arizona
 
2007-03-31, 14:12

nice video card

u could bump some mean SLI with that
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Kraetos
Lovable Bastard
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Boston-ish
 
2007-03-31, 14:40

Quote:
Originally Posted by Schnauzer View Post
nice video card

u could bump some mean SLI with that
Eventually! Trying to keep it reasonable... but upgrades will obviously be continuous.
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Wyatt
On twitter: @bwyatt
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Near Indianapolis
 
2007-03-31, 14:46

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kraetos View Post
Eventually! Trying to keep it reasonable... but upgrades will obviously be continuous.
Just make sure you buy an SLI-compatible motherboard from the start so your only upgrade expense for SLI is the second card.

I'd love to do SLI, but I've got an old computer (w/ AGP) and my GeForce 7800 is doing just fine.

Twitter: bwyatt | Minecraft: bwyatt_IN
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Kraetos
Lovable Bastard
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Boston-ish
 
2007-03-31, 14:52

Quote:
Originally Posted by fcgriz View Post
Just make sure you buy an SLI-compatible motherboard from the start so your only upgrade expense for SLI is the second card.

I'd love to do SLI, but I've got an old computer (w/ AGP) and my GeForce 7800 is doing just fine.
Oh ya. The ASUS I picked does everything under the sun.
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adamb
Formerly “adambrennan”
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Northern Ireland
 
2007-03-31, 15:20

After building many PCs, I like your choice of Asus motherboard. For the PSU I would go for a Tagan. Amazingly quiet and solid PSU in my experience of using them. I would also go for a Lian-li case as recommended above. I currently have an Antec MATX case, but it only has one 3.5" drive bay, the reason I got it was that its quite compact. Not in the same league as the Lian-Lis I have owned though.

As for cooling I have had computers run quieter on air than on water (AMD 2500+M Barton overclocked to 2.4Ghz with Zalman heatsinks on it and the GPU for those of you that care) so I wouldnt bother with the hassle of watercooling. A decent heatsink fan will do the job nicely.
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Kraetos
Lovable Bastard
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Boston-ish
 
2007-03-31, 15:30

Quote:
Originally Posted by adambrennan View Post
After building many PCs, I like your choice of Asus motherboard. For the PSU I would go for a Tagan. Amazingly quiet and solid PSU in my experience of using them. I would also go for a Lian-li case as recommended above. I currently have an Antec MATX case, but it only has one 3.5" drive bay, the reason I got it was that its quite compact. Not in the same league as the Lian-Lis I have owned though.

As for cooling I have had computers run quieter on air than on water (AMD 2500+M Barton overclocked to 2.4Ghz with Zalman heatsinks on it and the GPU for those of you that care) so I wouldnt bother with the hassle of watercooling. A decent heatsink fan will do the job nicely.
The Tagan PSUs are a little big for a mid tower. They look good, though.

Any specific Lian-Li cases you can recommend? Thanks for the vote of confidence for the Zalman heatsink too. I am building this thing to be hopefully pretty cool and quiet.

Sadly, being a technology pundit is truly never having to say you’re sorry. You can be wrong for years and never lose your job.—The Macalope
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adamb
Formerly “adambrennan”
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Northern Ireland
 
2007-03-31, 16:18

I have had a few variations of the PC60, all of which were excellent quality and very light. I havnt had any of the more recent models (after migrating back to Macs) so cant really help there.

The Tagan PSU I had (and consequently built into quite a few other systems) was 480Watt, standard ATX PSU. It really is an excellent power supply.

If you havn't heard of it already, www.quietpc.com is pretty good for your quiet components I have found.
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Schnauzer
Veteran Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Arizona
 
2007-03-31, 16:27

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kraetos View Post
Oh ya. The ASUS I picked does everything under the sun.
yeah the PC i built i used ASUS, its really the best
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washington mac user
can't read
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
 
2007-03-31, 18:23

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kraetos View Post
Case: I don't want a built in power supply. I will also look at some Antec cases, they looked good.

Power Supply: How about this guy? I couldn't find any Just PC stuff that was more than 600 watts. For 620 watts, this guy looks real good. Powerful enough?
I'm using the Corsair Power Supply right now and its a dream. Check out this article:

http://www.theinquirer.net/default.aspx?article=38310

As for the case, I'm totally in love with my Antec 900 (V 1.1) featured here:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16811129021

It has 2 120cm fans in the front and one 200cm fan on the top.

I'll post some Pictures of my set up once I get the time to. Oh yea and for the ram I would go with G. Skill:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16820231065

Holy SHIT! I just bought that ram 1 week ago for 230$ and now its 190$~!!!!! damn it... Get it, it's really good and highly overclockable.

the keyboard I got was the logitech G11 and MX518 mouse





There is a top tray for your iPod or other MP3 Player and there is USB, FireWire and Audio ports on the top so you can charge your device through them

Oh yea, I got Vista Ultimate Full for 45$ thats why I am running it if you were wondering...
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Schnauzer
Veteran Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Arizona
 
2007-03-31, 19:15

what graphics card u got ^
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turtle
Lord of the Rant.
Formerly turtle2472
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Upstate South Carolina
 
2007-03-31, 19:19

Quote:
Originally Posted by washington mac user View Post
...

Oh yea, I got Vista Ultimate Full for 45$ thats why I am running it if you were wondering...
How?
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Windowsrookie
Veteran Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Minnesota
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2007-03-31, 19:31

Washington, I've seen that case before. Doesn't it have a MASSIVE fan on the top?
  quote
turtle
Lord of the Rant.
Formerly turtle2472
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Upstate South Carolina
 
2007-03-31, 19:33

Quote:
Originally Posted by Windowsrookie View Post
Washington, I've seen that case before. Doesn't it have a MASSIVE fan on the top?
Quote:
Originally Posted by washington mac user View Post

It has 2 120cm fans in the front and one 200cm fan on the top.
Yep.
  quote
Schnauzer
Veteran Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Arizona
 
2007-03-31, 19:37

wow thats pretty big
  quote
BenP
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
 
2007-03-31, 19:47

Quote:
Originally Posted by Schnauzer View Post
wow thats pretty big
That's what she said.
  quote
Windowsrookie
Veteran Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Minnesota
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2007-03-31, 19:48

Zing!
  quote
digitalprimate
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Antwerp, Belgium
 
2007-03-31, 19:49

Quote:
Originally Posted by washington mac user View Post

So, how's the noise? Very interested in hearing (no pun intended) about that experience.
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washington mac user
can't read
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
 
2007-03-31, 23:01

Quote:
So, how's the noise? Very interested in hearing (no pun intended) about that experience.
I can't even hear it. Well, then again all my fans are on low. Setting them on high though they are really noticeable but I think there is no point to setting them on high because on low they dropped my temps, like 8 degrees.

Quote:
what graphics card u got ^
A pretty ghetto one right now. It's a Sapphire X1650 Pro and I got it on newegg for 85$ on sale. I am waiting for the R600 cards to come out before I use a good chunk of change for a good graphics card. In 3 weeks they are supposed to debut.... can't wait! I am planning on getting the mid range ones that will sell for like $300-50.

Quote:
How?
My friend works at Microsoft, and he said I could buy it at the Microsoft Employee Store.

I almost got it for free because Microsoft held an event on our campus and gave 15 Vista Ultimates out in a raffle (one number off...)

Last edited by washington mac user : 2007-03-31 at 23:12.
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Partial
Stallion
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Milwaukee
 
2007-04-01, 01:07

Waste of Money Kraetos, sorry.

If future proofing is your goal you should wait a little time for the new Intel platform to come out.
  quote
washington mac user
can't read
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
 
2007-04-01, 01:17

tensdanny38, I will have to disagree with you. It's not a waste of money because then I could just say, "Well, if you wait for Penryn to come out, it will be a waste of money because Nehalem is coming out in early 2008 which will blow Penryn out of the water..." which is true... And besides it will probably take a year for software developers to actually take full advantage of what is out right now.
  quote
washington mac user
can't read
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
 
2007-04-01, 01:52

Oh yea, if you want a good Lian Li case, I would go with this one:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16811112124

Here is a review that went into great detail I would suggest reading:

http://www.bjorn3d.com/read_pf.php?cID=1011

I was going to get that instead of my Antec but I wanted a cool case for my first build. I've been holding out for a long time on my first build because I was researching everything hardware related to get the best price/performance.
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Kraetos
Lovable Bastard
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Boston-ish
 
2007-04-01, 12:17

Quote:
Originally Posted by tensdanny38 View Post
Waste of Money Kraetos, sorry.

If future proofing is your goal you should wait a little time for the new Intel platform to come out.
Actually, having owned a 7900 GTX, the bigger reason I am going with the 8800GTS is that its quieter. All the reviews I've read say this. Smaller mfg process = more energy efficient = softer fan.

If this weren't the case, I probably WOULD go with the 7 series.

As for waiting for a new chipset... well, not that worried. The current one will serve me fine for several years, at which point I can simply upgrade the mobo.

Sadly, being a technology pundit is truly never having to say you’re sorry. You can be wrong for years and never lose your job.—The Macalope
  quote
Partial
Stallion
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Milwaukee
 
2007-04-01, 18:51

Thinking you can keep old internal components of a computer when you upgrade is a myth. When you upgrade to a new processor if its two-three years down the line, don't you think bus speeds, ram speeds, graphics, etc is all going to advance beyond the point of sticking with the old board?

Especially when you consider you're going almost top of the line stuff now.
  quote
Kraetos
Lovable Bastard
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Boston-ish
 
2007-04-01, 22:53

Quote:
Originally Posted by tensdanny38 View Post
Thinking you can keep old internal components of a computer when you upgrade is a myth. When you upgrade to a new processor if its two-three years down the line, don't you think bus speeds, ram speeds, graphics, etc is all going to advance beyond the point of sticking with the old board?

Especially when you consider you're going almost top of the line stuff now.
The mobo will probably last me 4 years. I'll probably upgrade the CPU in half that. But I don't believe that by then, my mobo will be so out-of-date that I wont benefit from new CPU/GPU.

Yeah, the mobo will need to be upgraded eventually. But once I get it all built this summer, I can chip away at it, $200-$300 at a time over the coming years.

Sadly, being a technology pundit is truly never having to say you’re sorry. You can be wrong for years and never lose your job.—The Macalope
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