Help Me Build My PC Catch-All

Yeah, that'll play anything that's out right now. What's "comfortably" mean to you? What resolution is your monitor? Why Antec?

Comfortably to me means medium to high settings. I went with the Antec because it seemed like a decent price and the folks over at Tom's Hardware rated it as decent. I'm not particularly attached to it though.

My only comment on it is that it looks like you've picked out RAM that won't fit that motherboard. DDR3 DIMM isn't the same as DDR3 SO-DIMM, correct? SO-DIMM is for smaller form factors like laptops.

You should basically pick your monitor first. Your intended resolution drives what video card you should pick, which in turn drives your power supply, and then you buy everything else to suit those components and your budget.

Just FYI, a 1680x1050 monitor can be run with quite cheap hardware, but stepping up to 1920x1080 or 1200 will require either a powerful card from last gen, or a decent card from this generation.

And, yes, that RAM is wrong. I'm also not familiar with the B75 chipset, but we can get back to that after we've sized the monitor/GPU/power supply.

Staked, what about this list for options? This is the KBmod.com guys $800 parts list. You could also look at the new Nvidia GTX 660 announced this week in that $200 GPU category.

MannishBoy wrote:

Staked, what about this list for options? This is the KBmod.com guys $800 parts list. You could also look at the new Nvidia GTX 660 announced this week in that $200 GPU category.

http://hardocp.com/article/2012/09/1...

Looks like the 7850 and 7870 might be better options at the $200-$220 range... but you certainly can't go wrong with a 660 either.. looks like a nice card.

TheGameguru wrote:

Looks like the 7850 and 7870 might be better options at the $200-$220 range... but you certainly can't go wrong with a 660 either.. looks like a nice card.

I just figured since he was thinking 560, might as well consider this one. Some people have strong feelings about GPU brands. And Nvidia generally has a bit of an edge in drivers, even though I've not had that many issues with my 6950.

Question? I have a Macbook Pro ma611ll/a, Mac Mini MA206LL/A, and a Shuttle PC SD30G2B with Raptor 74gb drive in it. I was wondering if I should upgrade the drives to SSD? I was going to pick a SATA 3 (don't know if it a good idea) but the two Mac are only SATA 1 I believe and the Shuttle SD30G2B is SATA 2. Also think of moving the memory from the laptop (2gb) to the Mac mini and purchase 4gb for MacBook Pro. Only look to improve performance for my main computer, the Shuttle, and to use the Mac mini for audio recording and the Macbook Pro video editing. What do you think? What do you recommend?

I would confirm if the Mac's are actually SATA 1 or 2. If they are SATA 2, then most SSD's will still give you a pretty large performance jump, I would recommend it, at least from the standpoint of startup times and loading programs.

I was wondering if I should upgrade the drives to SSD?

There is nothing you can do to a Mac that makes more difference than adding an SSD.

It's not as important on Windows. If you have a lot of RAM, the difference is visible, but it's not that major. It's mostly visible in boot time; once the machine is up, having a lot of RAM is almost as good as having an SSD. Windows just deals better with slow drives than the Mac does.

I was going to pick a SATA 3 (don't know if it a good idea) but the two Mac are only SATA 1 I believe and the Shuttle SD30G2B is SATA 2.

I'm not sure what brand you should use on a Mac, honestly. I got a Corsair 256G last year in one of Guru's laptop sales, and it just did not work right when I transferred it into the Mac -- all beachballing, all the time. It was horrible. Works great in my Windows desktop, though.

The SATA 1/2/3 thing shouldn't matter much -- what SSDs improve the most, and what really matters on the Mac, is latency. There's some code in the Mac OS that just absolutely lives and dies on drive seek time, probably some bottleneck in their old and crufty filesystem drivers. SSDs reduce seek times to a very tiny fraction of what a spinning drive can offer, and this works on any flavor of SATA. The resulting speedup on the Mac desktop is dramatic.

They can also transfer data in a lot faster, but that's typically not that important for most uses -- most programs compress data and then uncompress it into memory, so they can only accept data as fast as it can be decompressed. It's CPU-limited. This is ideal for hard drives, but it means that on an SSD, load times may not always improve that much. It really depends on the program. So an SATA 3 drive can potentially pump 6 gigabits a second into your system, but the chance of it being able to accept and process even one gigabit isn't that high.... which means that even a 1.5 gigabit SATA1 connection is fine, at least when loading one program at a time. For two programs simultaneously, you'd want SATA2, and for four, SATA3.

You might want to ask over on Ars, in their Mac forum, to get specific brand recommendations, so that you know that a given drive's firmware will work correctly with HFS+, the Mac filesystem. Again, my Crucial generation-2 drive does not like my Mac AT ALL. I know there are plenty out there that will work fine, but I don't know what they actually are.

edit: well, I'm pretty darn certain that an Intel drive will work really well. They tend to be the gold standard in SSD drives, offering much better reliability and compatibility than anyone else. They sometimes lose a bit on benchmarks, but you can trust them more than most other brands. However, you will pay a fair bit extra for the Intel name.

Here's a quick question: What GPU tuner tool would you guys recommend for dual 6950s? I used to use ATITool but it is no longer supported and doesn't appear to work in W7.

I've been playing Far Cry 2 a lot lately and Open Hardware Monitor has noted that my GPU temps regularly reach 80°C and up (at least the main card). It sounds like the fans never ramp up automatically with temps, and I liked the tiered fan speed/temp system that you could set with ATITool (and then set it to change over when specific games started). But Open Hardware Monitor doesn't do profiles, and neither it nor AMD's own control center thing seem to be affecting fan speed automatically. I can change fan speed manually with both of those programs, though.

Thoughts from the hive-mind?

Also-- these fans are LOUD at 50% speeds and up (OHM says that's 2940RPM). Any ideas on what after-market things I can get or do to quiet these things down? I've had good luck with Arctic Cooling's GPU coolers in the past, what are they like now (aside from expensive)?

When I had those cards I was using MSI Afterburner to manually set the fan curves. Worked great.

WipEout wrote:

I've been playing Far Cry 2 a lot lately and Open Hardware Monitor has noted that my GPU temps regularly reach 80°C and up (at least the main card).

That's going to happen really. There's not a ton you can do about it. If your case has very good airflow you can probably keep the hotter card in the mid 70's. I did, but I changed out all the PCI slot covers in the rear for vented ones and aimed a 120mm fan inside the case directly at the end of both cards to get some extra air in between them:

IMAGE(http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v282/Thin_J/FanMod.jpg)

As for the noise I never really found a way around that.

MSI Afterburner is the shizz, yo. The guys who used to do RivaTuner now work on Afterburner.

MannishBoy wrote:

Staked, what about this list for options? This is the KBmod.com guys $800 parts list. You could also look at the new Nvidia GTX 660 announced this week in that $200 GPU category.

Oooh. That does look nice. Many thanks!

(Though my new PC may be getting delayed now. Took the kid to Gamestop to look at DS games and ended up walking out with the Star Wars Xbox Bundle. D'oh.)

Citizen86 wrote:

I would confirm if the Mac's are actually SATA 1 or 2. If they are SATA 2, then most SSD's will still give you a pretty large performance jump, I would recommend it, at least from the standpoint of startup times and loading programs.

They are Sata 1, I checked the data sheet.

garion333 wrote:
Eldon_of_Azure wrote:

Just got myself a new pair of headphones from PAX. Kinda didn't realize I would would need a sound card to run them well (5.1). My experience with sound cards is nonexistent, would someone recommend me a brand? Or just tell me who to avoid at all costs? Prices ranging under $75.

Looking around it appears that these headphones are made with cheap plastic that tend to break, so be prepared for that.

Otherwise, I'm a bit surprised your mb doesn't have the outputs required, but since you asked you don't really need to spend much on a sound card. Assuming you have space for a PCI card then I'd recommend this: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...

Thanks, I ended up going with this model after looking in my computer case. I did double check, I do not have all of the necessary inputs for 5.1 (missing orange, or center/sub) on my motherboard, thanks for the recommendation.
New monitor in on Monday, sound card on Tuesday, and graphics card (hopefully) by the end of the year :).

This is pretty cool. A comparison tool for GPU benchmarks on Anandtech. Just pick two cards and you'll see head to head graphs. Or you can just pick a particular benchmark and see all cards.

I have some extra money coming to me this month, some of which will likely be destined for other things, but I'm hoping to keep back about $200-$300 to play with. I'd like to upgrade my PC, but right now probably the best I can do is the video card. Does it even make sense to throw a new video card in this system, or should I set the money aside in the hopes that I can scrape enough together to do the CPU, motherboard, and RAM at some point in the future?

Video: 512MB GeForce 9800 GTX+ (EVGA)
CPU: AMD Athlon 64 X2 4000+ Brisbane
RAM: 4.00 GB Dual-Channel DDR2 @ 352MHz (5-6-6-18)
Motherboard: ASUSTeK Computer INC. M2N (CPU 1)
Monitor: 20" Samsung SyncMaster (1680x1050@59Hz)
PSU: Antec SmartPower 2.0 SP-500 500W ATX12V

I'd wait and do a full build. A video card upgrade wouldn't hurt, but a 9800 GTX+ is a pretty powerful card for 1680x1050.

You'd probably be better off doing a cpu/mb/ram upgrade and keeping the video card you have until you can get a new monitor. That's just me, of course.

Isn't the 9800 a little weak at that resolution? I was getting a bit tired of my fast 8800 at 1680x1050 several years back... it just wasn't cutting the mustard anymore. Bioshock didn't work well at 1920x1200, and even 1680x1050 got choppy and laggy. Aren't the 9800s in that same ballpark? I'm suspicious that he'd probably see at least some improvement with a current card.

That said, the rest of that system is old. That's only a 2.1Ghz CPU, and it's several generations back...compared with a last-gen 2500K, overclocked to 4.4Ghz, that's gonna, be, what, maybe a quarter to a third the speed in single-threaded execution? In some games, that would still be okay, but a large, and increasing, percentage of them aren't going to work very well on a CPU that old. I think of a 3Ghz Core 2 as being about where you can expect everything to run well, and a 2.1Ghz A64 is probably about half that fast.

Honestly, it's probably time to replace it. It looks like it's nicely tuned and balanced for when you bought it, but that chip design is almost 6 years old. You'd probably want to replace CPU/motherboard/RAM/video card all at once, and possibly the monitor. You can probably keep the case, drives, and any peripherals.

You might want to replace the power supply; while it's 500 watts, a LOT of those watts are loaded onto 5V, and the dual 12V rails are rather weakish. (17 and 19 amps, respectively.) Something's squirrely with the numbers, too. The Newegg specs say it's putting out over 700 watts, and that's not happening; this means there are limits they're not mentioning in the listing. And, per those same specs, it pulls 10A @ 115V from the wall.... which means it's requiring 1150 AC watts to push 500 DC watts out the other side. If that's accurate, it's ridiculously inefficient.

That has every sign of being a poorly designed, crap power supply, so before using it, I'd suggest taking a picture of the label on the side, and posting it for us. That'll let us decipher what it can really do, as opposed to the fluff marketing claims.

Computers have shifted, over the last 6 years, to pulling most of their power from the 12V rails. If that supply can actually put out 36 amps of 12V, and if the PCIe connectors are both on the 19A rail, then you should be able to run one overclocked Intel CPU and one solid video card with it. (plus the other assorted peripherals). But I'll bet that supply can't really do 36 amps. We can tell for sure by reading the label on the side.

Continuing from my previous posts, I think with some Fry's deals, I can put together a very cheap home server. Impressively cheap actually.

Antec Basiq 350W Continuous Power Power Supply $20.00
DDR3 4GB 1600 DUAL KINGS (2X2GB) HYPER X GENESIS $14.99
Western Digital 1TB Serial ATA/300 32MB Buffer Hard Drive - WD10EADS Factory Recertified $69.99
MSI E350IA-E45 AMD Fusion ITX Motherboard $72.00
Antec Sonata Proto Quiet Mid Tower ATX Computer Case $40.00

subtotal: $216.98

I'm not sure if the hard drive is in stock, but I know that my local Fry's has the AMD Fusion board with the E-350 built in. And it actually has a $40 MIR. I read a review with the AMD chip compared to the Atom's, and it's apparently a lot smoother. I doubt it's near as fast as the newer Pentium's or maybe even the Celeron's, but for $32 after MIR with 4x Sata3 and USB3 onboard, I don't think I can go too wrong. For a file server and simple web server, I don't think it'll chug very often.

For around $230 with tax, I'm thinking it'll be pretty nice.

Ooh, yeah, I'm not used to thinking about AMD much anymore, but yes, their little chips right above the Atom are pretty good, and as you're seeing, quite cheap. And their built-in video is supposedly reasonably okay. Should make a very nice little server box, at least if the drivers are good.

My only real worry: I have no idea what AMD driver quality is like right now, as I haven't run any of their CPUs since the Core 2 shipped. Maybe someone else can chime in whether they've had good or bad experiences.

Man, gotta love $15 for 4 gigs of RAM.

The 9800 GTX+ was a killer card. It's substantially more powerful than an 8800GT, but compared to cards now it's hard to say. Will have to some digging, but I believe it performed on par with a 5770.

Edit: It's hard to find good numbers, but the 9800 GTX+ sits somewhere just below a 5770 and performs between a 4850 and 4870 depending on the game. Problem is most benchmarks switched to DX10 and 11 games which killed off most of the comparable cards and game benchmarks.

Anyway, clearly a $200 card right now would be an upgrade, but does it make sense with that cpu (and psu)? I'd say no, not right now

Ah, the 9800 is stronger than I remembered; if it's on par with a 5770, it should indeed be pretty acceptable on a 1680x1050 screen.

And yeah, you're right, it would probably be silly to put a $200 card in there, unless the plan was to upgrade everything else soonish, and bring the card into the new system.

Citizen86: if you do build that machine as a server, please let us know what you think of it. I'm not sure any of us have worked with the low-end AMD stuff, and it would be interesting to find out how well those super-inexpensive PCs work.

Malor wrote:

Citizen86: if you do build that machine as a server, please let us know what you think of it. I'm not sure any of us have worked with the low-end AMD stuff, and it would be interesting to find out how well those super-inexpensive PCs work.

Of course! I don't think I will be running the graphics much or at all, it'll be a headless server that I take care of via webmin or something similar. But I'll keep the thread updated.

Huh. For some reason I hadn't even considered keeping the card while upgrading the rest. I'll pursue that route, I think.

This is the label on that Antec PSU. White text on light gray makes for crappy contrast:

IMAGE(http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8041/7992790596_20496375e3.jpg)

Citizen86 wrote:
Malor wrote:

Citizen86: if you do build that machine as a server, please let us know what you think of it. I'm not sure any of us have worked with the low-end AMD stuff, and it would be interesting to find out how well those super-inexpensive PCs work.

Of course! I don't think I will be running the graphics much or at all, it'll be a headless server that I take care of via webmin or something similar. But I'll keep the thread updated.

I'm interested as well. I'd like to build my parents a cheapie HTPC like that. Only concerned about that recertified HD. My understanding is that it's generally much better to go with a new one for reliability reasons.

Yeah, chances are a new one might work better. Recertified can mean anything from used for a few months and then checked/parts replaced to returned the next day without being used, checked by WD, and sold as recertified.

If you watch for sales though, I'm sure you'll find a hard drive eventually for a similar price. Actually Newegg has a Seagate 1tb for $60 and $70.

My brother-in-law always had an interesting take on recertified/refurbished electronics (this is a guy that works for Fujitsu, IIRC). He is always going for a recertified or refurbished piece of hardware, as that item has been inspected and/or at least guaranteed fixed to spec, whereas a new item might have been missed by QA on the assembly line. The idea being that not every piece is inspected or tested on the assembly line, but those that pass re-cert/refurb have been, so you've got a better chance that you're getting a quality item that's less likely to break down again (at least for the same reasons). Your mileage may vary, obviously, but it is an interesting take-- especially when, to most people, re-cert/refurb means cheaper stuff that's broken before and will likely break again for the same reason.