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Resource Consumer
07-11-2005, 09:39:49
Well, not exactly. I'll be doing the work. I have decided to amuse myself by building a PC at home. This will prove that any idiot can do it.

The plan is a super-duper butt kicking PC that will never be obsolete ;) (yeah, forget about the last bit).

So, where do I start? PSU, motherboard, fan and chip and case?

Suggestions?

MattHiggs
07-11-2005, 09:59:19
This thread excites me :(

If money is no object then you have to go for:

hermalTake Tai-Chi VB5001SNA +Liquid cooling Silver/black Aluminum 7x5.25" 4x3.5" 2x case fans +USB2 +Firewire
£204

FSP Epsilon 700W PSU
£111

Abit Fatal1ty AN8 SLI, nForce4 SLI, Skt 939, 2000FSB, PCI-E, SATA 3G RAID, 8ch Audio, GB LAN, NV Firewall, USB2, F/Wire, ATX
£122

AMD Athlon 64 FX57 San Diego 1MB cache 64 bit
£727

Two of these ran in SLI
Asus GF EN6800 ultra 512MB PCI-E +DVI +TV-out second VGA DDR3
£1031

Creative Soundblaster X-Fi Series Elite Pro with X-Fi Console
£234

You'll need a few of these ran at RAID 5
74 GB Western Digital Raptor 10K rpm SATA HDD
£130 (each)

Four sticks of:
Corsair® 1024MB TwinX XMS2 5400 Ultra Low Latency DDR2 Memory
£980

This would come to £3929

MattHiggs
07-11-2005, 10:13:43
Regarding a PSU, the bigger the better. Anything over 400W will do for the near future.

Motherboard should have PCI-E and SLi capability. SLi basically means you can combine two gfx cards and they'll run FAST!

HD should be Sata.

Case should be large and have good airflow, liquid cooling is becoming more common but it's not the easiest thing to set up if it's your first attempt at building a PC.

AMD are currentely leading the CPU market. You can get good and inexpensive AMD 64 sets.

Nills Lagerbaak
07-11-2005, 10:25:03
Agreed! If you can intall a samo flange and quantum particulate cracking column, then all the better!

Nav
07-11-2005, 10:51:32
You should focus on making it a quiet PC. I built mine from scratch to be quiet and I can hardly hear it purring next to me on the desk. ;)

oh and you can probably get away with spending more like £1000-£1200 if money isnt any object. ;)

You should go out and get the magazine 'Custom PC', they recommend a lot of components and they're all total geeks as well. (which I know you'll love!)

MattHiggs
07-11-2005, 11:04:32
Originally posted by Nav
You should focus on making it a quiet PC. I built mine from scratch to be quiet and I can hardly hear it purring next to me on the desk. ;)

oh and you can probably get away with spending more like £1000-£1200 if money isnt any object. ;)

You should go out and get the magazine 'Custom PC', they recommend a lot of components and they're all total geeks as well. (which I know you'll love!)

I'll have to agree with the 'quiet pc'

I had an old Athlon 2100+ with a Thermal Take 7000RPM fan that sounded like three hoovers!

Resource Consumer
07-11-2005, 11:37:33
Me is confused already :)

Lurker the Second
07-11-2005, 19:53:25
Holy shit that's an expensive homemade box.

Sir Penguin
07-11-2005, 22:46:58
Here are the things that you need:

CPU
Motherboard
RAM
Video Card
Sound Card
Hard drive
CPU fan
DVD-RW
Case

And any other peripherals you need, like monitor, keyboard, mouse, printer, etc. Also, you'll need the OS and software, at your discretion.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The CPU should probably be an Athlon64, unless you're going to be doing a lot of audio and video encoding (that's actually old advice, but I think it still holds). The current high-end Athlon64 is the San Diego core (as opposed to the Venice core), numbered starting at 3500+. So you're looking for an Athlon64 3500+ that says San Diego instead of Venice.

The motherboard is the hardest thing to find. You probably want an nForce 4 Socket 939 board. If it says SLI, don't bother. If it has integrated graphics, don't bother. It must have PCI-Express, and SATA (most, if not all modern motherboards support those). You can also get a reasonably good sound system with your motherboard. Good manufacturers are Gigabyte, Asus, uh... Chaintech... and maybe some others.

Buying RAM is a subtle process. There are a lot of numbers that you have to keep track of. Look for RAM that says CAS2, or 2-3-3-6, that's the good stuff. It should be at least PC3200 (400 MHz DDR). Having two sticks instead of one will give you a speed boost, but it's also a little more expensive. I recommend getting two 512 MB modules. Memory is often sold in dual-channel packages, so a 1 GB dual-channel package will get you that. Crucial, Kingston, and OCZ are reputable manufacturers. Don't get buffered or ECC RAM.

I haven't been keeping up with video cards, I'm sure somebody else can give better advice than I can. Just make sure that it's a PCI-Express card, so that you can plug it into the motherboard. Without looking into it too hard, I'd go for a GeForce 6600 GT, or maybe a Radeo X800. BFG, eVGA, and Chaintech are good names for nVidia (GeForce) cards, and Sapphire and ATi are good names for ATi (Radeon) cards.

Sound card, I have no idea. I don't really care about sound, and I have 5.1 sound on my motherboard. It suffices quite well.

The hard drive should be SATA, because it's easier to use and is cheaper than old-style IDE. The important numbers for hard drive are cache, and the warranty (drive size doesn't matter unless you're running a piracy ring or something). There are drives with 16 MB cache out now, but most have 8 MB, and don't get anything less than that. Most hard drives have 3 or 5 year warranties, and it's best to go for the 5-year. Other numbers: pretty much all consumer hard drives run at 7200 RPM; seek time varies widely, and isn't a reliable indicator of performance; ignore anything that says ATA100 or ATA133. Good brands are Seagate, Maxtor, and Western Digital. Personally, I've had poor experience with WD, and good experience with Maxtor, but if you swing a dead CAT5 cable on the Internet, you're bound to hit three people who each hate a different one of those. Seagate is generally considered to be the best brand. One thing you should do is to read customer reviews, because the big stat that hard drives don't advertise is their noise levels. A loud hard drive can ruin a computer.

The CPU will come with a fan, but it's crap. Get a Zalman fan. I don't know what's good these days.

One DVD-RW is pretty much like another these days. There should be a whole litany of formats the drive supports (things like DVD+RW, DVD-R, CD-RW, blah, blah, blah). Make sure it says it will do dual-layer DVDs, which can hold around 9 GB instead of 4.7 GB. I think the top brand is NEC, but LG and Lite-On are also reputable.

The case will usually come with your power supply. Make sure the power supply is at least 400 W. Also, check the brand and ensure that it's an Antec or an Enermax or something. Antec is also a very good brand for the case itself. I've heard good things about the Sonata line, which makes for a very quiet computer.

The best thing you can do is to go through a web site like www.ncix.com, and look at product descriptions to get a feeling for the language. Read the customer questions and reviews, look acronyms up on Wikipedia, and so on. You don't need to study, but it can prevent some stupid decisions.

SP

MattHiggs
08-11-2005, 08:58:58
Sound card, I have no idea. I don't really care about sound, and I have 5.1 sound on my motherboard. It suffices quite well.

Great advice - just one thing. If you'll be playing the latest games they take a severe hit when using onboard sound. That also goes for USB soundcards. You can pick up a cheap (£20) Audigy 5.1 card that is more than enough for the average user.

Another thing that sometimes can be overlooked is thermal paste. It has to be applied a certain way (it goes in between the CPU and the FAN so the heat can be conducted). You can find loads of articles all with the same advice. Apply very thinly etc...

Resource Consumer
08-11-2005, 09:33:35
Thanks very much Matt and SP. I am a lot further along the curve now thanks to you and I did some checking around yesterday.

One thing I notice, though, and don't please fight over this chaps, is that you have different view about SLI. Matt seems to think this is good and SP seems to think it is bad. Why is that? (maybe it is unproven/new?)

MattHiggs
08-11-2005, 09:45:31
http://www.twitchguru.com/2005/04/11/the_peak_of_performance/page12.html

These are some benchmarks with SLi cards. There is a HUGE performance increase when using two GPUs. It's expensive though.

Resource Consumer
08-11-2005, 10:45:48
How does this seem as a motherboard?

http://www.asus.com/products4.aspx?modelmenu=2&model=539&l1=3&l2=15&l3=0

I have 2 questions, though.

1) This seems to be some sort of "fanless" design. Does this relate just to the board? Presumably the CPU will still need a fan

2) The pic shows 3xPCI slots in the top left corner. I assume the bottom right are the PCI-E slots. They look to be in the wrong place to me for running SLix2 cards as the cards would not seem to be accessible to the monitor connection at the back. Or have I missed something?

Sir Penguin
08-11-2005, 17:05:12
The slots in the bottom right are the RAM slots. It looks like the long black and blue slots are the PCIe slots.

That looks like a good motherboard. I think that "SATA 3Gb/s" means that is has a SATA2 controller, which means that you can get a regular SATA drive, or a SATA2 drive. The latter are more expensive and not widely available, but theoretically, they give better performance. I don't know if they do in real life.

You're right that the "fanless" design doesn't mean you don't need a fan for the CPU. It's the north-bridge (the silver bit in the bottom-left that's connected to a silver heatsink by a pipe) that doesn't need a fan, which is still a good thing. The bridge fan is generally pretty quiet, but it's also cheap and fails easily (and is thereafter extremely loud).

I'm not too impressed by SLI. Maybe it gives you higher performance, but it's the classic example of 90 frames per second vs. 150 frames per second. You're paying twice as much for an increase in a number that doesn't translate into an actual improvement in quality, and won't until the technology is better and the cards are cheaper anyway. It is, however, very cool.

SP

Sir Penguin
08-11-2005, 17:17:29
The red parts on the bottom-left of the motherboard are the SATA ports. Below the RAM are blue and black IDE ports, for old IDE hard drives (they're also used for optical drives). To the right of those, the white looks like the main power connector, and below that is a black floppy drive connector. I'd be concerned about that if you were going to use IDE hard drives, because it would get very crowded in that area, but with SATA, it should be fine.

The colourful pins in the bottom left tend to be the most fiddly part of putting your computer together. They're for all the case connections, things like the power and reset buttons, USB ports, indicator lights, locks, etc. I've never had much luck with instructions for plugging things in there, but it's a reasonably sensible system and you can probably figure it out for yourself without doing much damage. :cute:

SP

Cruddy
08-11-2005, 23:02:05
Only one the computer NEEDS to have connected is the power switch - others can wait until you've got everything else working. It just won't turn on until that one is right.

It's nice to have a working reset button as well while you're setting up, but it's not absolutely necessary.

Qaj the Fuzzy Love Worm
08-11-2005, 23:39:36
I took a look around a few months back as I needed a new cooling system (the watercooling in my case crapped out - the coolant started getting schmutz in it, don't ask me how, there were no leaks, and not much later the control board for the pump went out... for the third time, so I deactivated the whole thing). Switching back to ordinary fan-based systems, I wanted something that didn't sound like a jet engine (as the waterccooler was rather quiet) and was also effective.

This came up as highly recommended in a handful of reviews, and I didn't find anything negative about it: http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.asp?Submit=Go&DEPA=0&type=&description=Thermalright+SI-97a&Category=0&minPrice=&maxPrice=&Go.x=15&Go.y=36

It doesn't come with a fan, so you have to buy it yourself. Reviews recommended a 92mm Panaflo, so I purchased the high-speed version. http://coolerguys.com/840556001072.html I needed to mod the plastic housing of the fan a little to accomodate the fan clip that came with the cooler, but that was achieved with a boxcutter knife, and should be dead simple with a Dremel or similar powertool.

It is extremely lightweight (aluminium), uses heat pipes, and is a bugger to actually install, but once it was there, and the fan clipped on, it ended up being (a) quieter, and (b) more effective than the old watercooling system (but that could be due to the degradation of the coolant). I am very happy with my purchase.

The oddest thing about it is that instead of installing the fan to extract air from the heatsink and blow it away from the mobo, it recommended that you blow air DOWN through the heatsink onto the mobo. I, and the review sites, were skeptical, but tests showed it was either no different, or actually a little cooler. Perhaps because extracting air up through the heatsink means drawing already-component-warmed air from the motherboard surface up through the heatsink, reducing cooling potential? Don't know.

But it looks way cool, runs exceptionally well, and is really quiet.

---

I agree with SP's estimate of SLI. Neat technology, but not really worth the expense. I read somewhere that in return for paying double for a video card (since you need 2) you get about a 25%-40% increase in framerate. Current high-end gfx cards are plenty fast enough for Civ4 already, so I wouldn't stress about not having SLI.

--

abit Fatality mobo sounds good, wish I had one (and a new CPU to go with it).

--

You can skimp on the soundcard - the mobo should have onboard sound, which will be good enough if you have a budget to stick to. It can always be upgraded later.

--

700W power supply is a bit of overkill. Most systems won't run with 400W used these days (unless you've got a TON of crap in it). 500W should be plenty. Make sure you get a reputable big-name brand with a good and proven RMA procedure.

--

The more RAM and HDD space, the merrier! So go for broke here, depending on budget.

--

And, very important this, get two monitors and run it with extended desktop! I can't go back to single moniors again. 3 at work, 2 at home, life is gooood :D

Cruddy
09-11-2005, 14:37:03
Yeah, I use that very heatsink. It works best for me blowing cool air down into the heatsink.
Like every other heatsink on the market. :)

I fitted a 92mm Vantec Stealth - not quite so good at cooling but loads quieter, with ceramic bearings for long life.

MDA
09-11-2005, 15:24:49
I know aluminum is lightweight and cheap, but doesn't it have horrible heat transfer properties compared to real metals?

Is it just that much cheaper?

Sir Penguin
09-11-2005, 16:16:06
The main benefit of aluminum is that it's lightweight, because the heatsink is a big chunk of metal sticking horizontally out of your motherboard. If it's too heavy, the torque can damage the motherboard or CPU. Good heatsinks come with a copper base to disperse heat from the core to the rest of the heatsink.
The oddest thing about it is that instead of installing the fan to extract air from the heatsink and blow it away from the mobo, it recommended that you blow air DOWN through the heatsink onto the mobo. I, and the review sites, were skeptical, but tests showed it was either no different, or actually a little cooler. Perhaps because extracting air up through the heatsink means drawing already-component-warmed air from the motherboard surface up through the heatsink, reducing cooling potential? Don't know.
Sucking air up creates negative pressure, which reduces conduction away from the heatsink fins (plus the warm air thing).

SP

Funko
09-11-2005, 16:23:24
When you are hot you get a fan to blow air on your face you don't use a hoover.

Resource Consumer
09-11-2005, 16:48:46
Thanks all - much to think about here.

Hoovers suck

Sir Penguin
09-11-2005, 16:52:10
Originally posted by Funko
When you are hot you get a fan to blow air on your face you don't use a hoover.
The difference is that a fan is directional. The vacuum cleaner will suck air from around your face, not just the air that took a lot of heat away from your face. If you get the nozzle up close to your skin, it can prove much more cooling than a fan, but only for a few square inches.

SP

Deacon
10-11-2005, 03:12:58
I don't have much to add. I agree that quiet is generally better than loud, and a good way to cut CPU cooler noise is to go with a large but lightweight heatsink and a 92mm fan that can be set to spin at lower RPM. My CPU fan is an adjustable 92mm.

BTW, less power required also leads to less noise. AMD processors generally require lower wattage than Intel. While it's possible to build a Pentium M desktop, it's not really worth the price, IMO.

As for cases, I've always liked Antec. Antec cases have good features, solid construction, and understated looks. I guess that also describes Lian Li. Lian Li is more expensive. I like something plain-looking that I can stick underneath a desk.

Deacon
10-11-2005, 03:59:42
Conventional wisdom for quieting a PC is to use a quiet PSU, minimize moving parts, fasten things that can rattle, use large fans turning at lower RPM, and to isolate things that vibrate. Sound dampening foam might increase temperatures some, but it won't hurt. I'm leery of foam-padded hard drive enclosures.

Finally, there are all kinds of add-ons. There are even a few different types of car cigarette lighter add-ons. Maybe they can be used for smoking, or just to supply power to devices that use a cigarette lighter adapter. A remote control might be useful for a media box.

LoD
11-11-2005, 00:20:22
Speaking of cigarette lighters, how about installing a cup holder, Keith?

Resource Consumer
14-11-2005, 11:00:57
defintely - I think one on each side

Scabrous Birdseed
14-11-2005, 12:46:19
What? Mine is right in the middle, in the top 5 1/4 inch bay.

Lurker the Second
14-11-2005, 18:25:45
Ph'd. Deserves a :rolleyes:

LoD
16-11-2005, 00:10:44
Not really.

http://store1.yimg.com/I/xoxide_1869_110939416

http://www.xoxide.com/xray1.html

:D