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Need advice about building a System





Phil
I'm hoping to be getting a new system in the next few months (got a few bills to pay off first).
Obviously, I want to get one as inexpensively as possible so I've been looking around and the option of building my own has been considered.
Problem is, the last new system I had was bought over 5 years ago (a dell), and the last one I built was almost 10.
Needless to say I'm very behind the power curve when it comes to the latest and greatest technology so I was hoping to get some input from the posters at Frihost.
For starters, what's the deal between the Processors? Which is better, AMD or Intel (I don't think I want a Celeron), and what is the difference between the Pentium D and the Dual Core chips.
And also I'll throw in this: What type of memory should I look for?

Any other advice on what to look for or resources I should avail myself to would be appreciated greatly.
TheGeek
Well, i might as well start off with the thing that anyone in here will need to know to help you. What is the application of this computer most likely to be?

As for hardware and brands that i would recommend, ill start listing stuff i know, or that is IMO the best on the market for gaming since that is what i mostly do.

DFI makes the best motherboards IMHO, theyre expensive, but they are great, but they only support AMD chips.

Corsair XMS, OCZ Platinum, and Crucial Ballistix are some of the fastest RAM on the market, and again, its expensive but you cant go wrong with them. In todays standards, no less than 1GB of RAM is generally exceptable simply because windows is getting heavy and bloated.

AMD in recent years (i dont know how long you have been out of the loop) have proven to be a very good processor manufacturer. Their market is generally geared toward the gamer crowd as theyre processors are more "unlocked" then Intel processors so theyre easier to overclock. AMD processors also run far cooler than most current Intel processors.

Intel has theyre new Conroe core chips on the market and i have no personal experience with them, but i have heard good things at this point. They run hotter than AMD chips and they lock the processors multiplier, so overclocking is a little bit more difficult than with AMD processors.

Power supplies have dramatically increased in wattage over the years, and currently for a good system, no less than 450W - 500W is recommended. Antec and FSP Group are two brands that i highly recommend for a power supply.

For a graphics card, it really depends on your application, if your an occasional gamer who just wants to run a few games at 1024x768, then you dont need anything terribly fancy. But if your a hard core gamer then the prices of graphics cards can cost almost half of the price of the entire system. nVidia right now has the lead on bleeding edge graphics technology, however, ATI will soon release theyre new stuff, so its up in the air as usual on which is better.

The final thing, your hard drives, are pretty much simple. You can get a Western Digital 250GB 7200RPM SATA 3Gb/s hard drive for about $100 now a days, and that will have enough space to store whatever you really want for about as long as you can maintain the drive.

Hope that helps, i sorta took the approach of you havent seen any new hardware in 5 years so sorry if that felt like i was teaching you as if you came out of a bomb shelter from the 60's

::EDIT::

for a good site to look at parts check out http://www.newegg.com
fireydeviant
http://www.tomshardware.com/

Tom's Hardware is always a good place to see new hardware and reviews.
Phil
Quote:
Hope that helps, i sorta took the approach of you havent seen any new hardware in 5 years so sorry if that felt like i was teaching you as if you came out of a bomb shelter from the 60's


Yes, that does help. You at least cleared up a couple of things for me. And how could I forget to tell what I was planning on doing with it? Embarassed
I do like games, but nothing super extreme. Civ IV and Rome: Total War are 2 games that come to mind that I'd like to get ( neither will work on my present system). I will be networking with my wife's computer to play some games in multiplayer.
Other than that, I like to make websites and play music.

Oh, as far as video cards go, which is better, AGP or PCI?

And thanks for the link to Tom's Hardware. I'm sure it will come in handy.
Helios
Assembling, not building. Yes, there is a difference.
jipmerite
If you have a budget, just go to Dell or Alienware website and configure a system that falls whithin your budget. Assembling the same system would probably cost a tad less but you can get a basic idea of what you can get for the budget that you have allocated.
Phil
jipmerite wrote:
If you have a budget, just go to Dell or Alienware website and configure a system that falls whithin your budget. Assembling the same system would probably cost a tad less but you can get a basic idea of what you can get for the budget that you have allocated.


Well, that's definitely an option.
I just remember the last Dell I bought. It was nice. But after running into problems, fighting with tech support, I just really wanted to seriously consider building a system this time.
Phil
Hey- One more thing.
Looking at motherboards I keep seeing this "PCI Express" Slot. Just what is it and what Video card fits in it.
Saber
the pci express is a newer slot, as far as I know its only for video cards.(I dont know why I typed that)
Personally I like PCI-E over agp, Im not to sure about the real specks but Im seeing more mobos with pci-E than agp now adays.

As for the video cards that fit, its only pci-E
now one cool thing about it is that if you have two pci-slots and get two sli ready video cards you can plug them into each other. Fun stuff
TheGeek
PCI-Express slots are basically what they sound like they are, theyre PCI...but faster. Its basically a bigger slot that was made for video cards after the time of the AGP slot. It has only been around for a while, but since its release video cards have become tremdously fast and frighteningly expensive in some cases. There are two different kinds of PCI-Express. PCI-Express x1 is a small slot designed to replace PCI, however, it really hasnt done a very good job of that so far as the devices that are often hooked up to PCI slots dont need the amount of bandwidth that PCI-Express allows for, thus making it more expensive for no gain. The second type is PCI-Express x16. This is almost always used strictly for graphics cards.

If i were you i would AVOID any premade system, where they might be cheaper and easier to get than making your own system, i always find that it is good to know what is going into your system. With Dell they usually skimp on the motherboard and some of the lesser peripherals, so things like overclocking and some of the more advanced BIOS features are not available. On the flip side, AlienWare is hidiously expensive for what you get, but they do use good hardware, the only thing is is that in my experience you could build and identical system yourself that they sell for about half the price if not just a bit more than half the price.

Also, since your not going to be hard core gaming, then i suggest not using DFI because it will be more than you need for the application, and for what your using it for you wont notice a difference from it compared to some of the cheaper brands. From what i hear (though i wouldnt know from direct experience as i have never owned anything other than DFI) AsRocks, Asus, Abit and Gigabyte all make good motherboards.

As for your graphics card, you could probably get away with the nVidia 6600GT which can be had now a days on newegg for about $100 which is pretty reasonable for a graphics card, i wouldnt really go any less than that or maybe the 6600GS but definatly no lower than that. Also, make sure you get PCI-Express (also called PCI-E or PCI-X)

:EDIT:
also, since your buying a system now and not a few months ago, i would recommend if your going with AMD to go with their socket AM2. Had it been a few months ago i would have recommended 939, but its being phased out shortly so i wouldnt invest in that now.
Phil
Thanks again.
I can't believe all the new technology over the past few years. I'm having to relearn almost everything.
What I can't get over is the prices. 10 years ago I spent about $1500 for my Dell. It was OK, but definitley nothing to brag about. Now, it seems you can get a really good system for under $1000.
Now, another question. I like music. Burning CDs and playing them from my PC. What should I look for in a good sound card? Or, is the integrated sound I'm seeing on the new motherboards good enough? And as far as burning goes, what about the CD? I've always heard Lite-on is a good, inexpensive CD.
TheGeek
In gereral, my experience has been that a PCI sound card is something that is nice to have, but i have been sticking to onboard sound because usually the onboard is pretty decent. The only thing that some people may argue about that is that onboard sound uses up your processor a bit so under intense gaming or while playing music and running say...AutoCAD or some large CPU intensive program, you may notice skips and jumps or pauses in the music. Personally i have not noticed any of these things with my new system that has onboard audio. But depending on what you do you may notice it.

However, a good sound card that wont burn a hole in your pocket is the SoundBlaster Audigy2. It is around 60-70 bucks and is relatively good. Again, some will argue that the newer SoundBlaster X-Fi is better, but i think its overpriced for something that just produces sound.

::EDIT::

as for cd burners, you can get cd/dvd burners for about 40-50 bucks now and if you burn a lot of optical media (cd/dvd) then i would recommend getting a a drive that burns both dvds and cds since the price of dvd/r-rw disks has dropped a lot in the recent years. Lite-On is a good brand, but for the most part, anything really that you can get these days is pretty much safe. Right now the best brand IMO is plextor, but theyre rediculously expensive. I personally use a Lite-On and it hasnt failed yet.
psycosquirrel
DFI does not only make AMD boards, stoopid Razz

Here is what you should get:

AM2 3500+
1Gb DDR2 RAM, Corsair XMS is nice
Asus, DFI, AsRocks mobo (PCIe, AM2)
eVGA or BFG 7600GT or GS, depending on budget
Seasonic, FSP, or Ultra PSU
SATA 7200RPM HDD
DVD+-RW drive

You could get just about any case, but that sort of thing depends on your budget. How much do you want to spend? I could spec out a system in your price range...
Phil
Quote:
Lite-On is a good brand, but for the most part, anything really that you can get these days is pretty much safe.


I really want something that can copy game CDs.
Now before everyone starts to gasp, I make backups of the games I have- or images of the ISOs. I have 2 computers and 3 kids still at home. And of course, everyone wants to play any new games we get. I'll be dog-goned if I can't make a copy of a game I buy that won't leave my computer room, let alone my house, on 2 computers that are 15 feet away from each other! And everyone probably realizes the advantages of have images of games on your computer- especially for playing over a LAN.

Quote:
You could get just about any case, but that sort of thing depends on your budget. How much do you want to spend? I could spec out a system in your price range...


Of course I want to spend as little as possible, but I was hoping on getting up and running for under $1000, say $600-$800.
I don't plan on getting a monitor just yet.

Of course, my wife wants a new computer too, but she just wants to pick one from Dell.
Kd527
I used to say AMD is better, but now I think Intel owns AMD. The Intel Core 2 Duo or Xeon are some pretty powerful CPUs. I would recommend PCI Express graphics.

(BTW Apple is cheaper than Dell in PCs with the same specs... Wink )
Phil
You know, all these replies have really given me something to think about. Thanks so much.
A couple more things I would like to know about:
I said before, I really like music. Ripping CDs and making my own mixes on CDs. I really like to listen to music while at home, playing on the computer.
What are some things to look for in a Sound card? What are some good ones? And as far as ripping and burning CDs goes, what about a CD recorder? I've always heard Lite-on is a good brand, but what about Plextor?
fireydeviant
I got a Creative Audigy 2 zs Platinum, came with front panel connections and a remote. I like it cause I can hook my guitar up to it. It comes with alot of software, etc.

As far as sound quality is concerened, I have had no problems. Mine hooks up to my Onkyo tuner/amplifier, and plays great. I always have music playing, durning games, and while working with maya and bryce. My freind also uses this card and he is really into recording guitar riffs and apply computer effects to them, then mixing them together to creat songs.

Pretty much any +/- dvd burner will work for burning cds/DVDs. If you plan on copying them, you may want more than one drive to speed up the process. If you are looking to store information, you might also get one with dual layer burning.

Here is a good light-on drive, with dual layer and lightscribe:
http://us.liteonit.com/us/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=157&Itemid=67
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16827106015&ATT=27-106-015&CMP=OTC-pr1c3grabb3r
The newegg link has the price and reveiws.

And here is a plextor, also with dual layer:
http://www.plextor.com/english/products/760A.htm
($120)

Hope this helps.
Phil
Quote:
Here is a good light-on drive, with dual layer and lightscribe:
http://us.liteonit.com/us/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=157&Itemid=67
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16827106015&ATT=27-106-015&CMP=OTC-pr1c3grabb3r
The newegg link has the price and reveiws.


Believe it or not, that's the one I've been looking at. So far it's got pretty good reviews, from what i've seen. CDFreaks seems to like it.
Not to mention, I think I can get that drive at Walmart, of all places!
I'm very sure I saw it last time I was in there. I plan on comparing Walmart's price with NewEgg's.
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