PC buying help?

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radder
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PC buying help?

Post by radder » Wed Nov 24, 2004 7:04 pm

OK, so I am going to be needing a new windows XP audio PC. My specs so far are:

top-of-the-line (or thereabouts) processor - either AMD64 or Pentium4 (advice humbly requested)

120GB or larger HD (I know 7200RPM is pretty much standard now, are there any other things I should be looking for in an internal drive?)

512MB or 1024MB RAM (yeah totally clueless on current RAM offerings as well - i think i can do fine with just 512 but I'm not against jumping to 1024. I also know to look for fast RAM but where do you draw the line between cost and speed?)

since this will also (unfortunately) need to double as an internet machine and a media box, I will need onboard ethernet, and a CDRW possibly with DVD+-R capability.

I know I want USB ports (at least 2) and maybe a firewire port if possible.

Another thing I feel completely in the dark about is how to choose a motherboard... I can't understand all the abbreviations and it's scary! Anyone got suggestions based on these specs?

I have already decided on an E-MU 1820 for audio, so I don't need any help picking audio devices anymore

Oh and the most important thing is price factor - can't spend more than $500 for the PC itself. But I don't need a monitor, keyboard, mouse, onboard sound, modem, operating system, or a floppy drive.

I have been able to configure systems on well-rated sites linked from Pricewatch that just about do what I want for just about what I want to pay, but I wanted to seek advice here before I buy anything.
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sqook
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Re: PC buying help?

Post by sqook » Wed Nov 24, 2004 8:18 pm

top-of-the-line (or thereabouts) processor - either AMD64 or Pentium4 (advice humbly requested)

AMD64 > P4

(from what I've read, anyways)

120GB or larger HD (I know 7200RPM is pretty much standard now, are there any other things I should be looking for in an internal drive?)

If you've got some extra cash, go with SATA. Otherwise, IDE should be fine. Oh yeah, and most benchmarks show that 7200rpm doesn't offer significantly lower seek speeds that 5400rpm, so don't break the bank to buy a "faster" hard drive.

512MB or 1024MB RAM (yeah totally clueless on current RAM offerings as well - i think i can do fine with just 512 but I'm not against jumping to 1024. I also know to look for fast RAM but where do you draw the line between cost and speed?)

Put all of your extra money into ram, and buy the fastest ram you can afford. Seriously, all computer performance in modern pc's boils down to the cpu and ram... everything else is millions of times slower in comparison.

since this will also (unfortunately) need to double as an internet machine and a media box, I will need onboard ethernet, and a CDRW possibly with DVD+-R capability.

Don't waste your money on a DVD+-R unless you really need it. The prices will be down as the technology becomes cheaper produce within the next 4-5 years.

Another thing I feel completely in the dark about is how to choose a motherboard... I can't understand all the abbreviations and it's scary! Anyone got suggestions based on these specs?

Do yourself a favor and don't buy the cheapest mobo money can buy. I can guarantee you that it'll bite you in the ass a few years down the line. As far as I see it, there's really 3 types of motherboards in the industry... brand name, "oh hey, I heard of that company before", and el-cheapo generic hardware. You should be looking for the middle category, as they'll give you the best reliability and performance for the cheapest price. You can get a cpu pre-installed in your mobo, which might be the way to go given your budget, but if not, just make sure that it supports your exact chip and ram that you want to get.

Oh and the most important thing is price factor - can't spend more than $500 for the PC itself. But I don't need a monitor, keyboard, mouse, onboard sound, modem, operating system, or a floppy drive.

Ah, so you want to have your cake and eat it, too.... =)


If you want to save money just buy the parts you need individually and assemble them yourself. Don't waste money on "barebones" or "preassembled" kits.

That's my 2 cents, anyways.

radder
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Re: PC buying help?

Post by radder » Wed Nov 24, 2004 8:34 pm

sqook wrote: Do yourself a favor and don't buy the cheapest mobo money can buy. I can guarantee you that it'll bite you in the ass a few years down the line. As far as I see it, there's really 3 types of motherboards in the industry... brand name, "oh hey, I heard of that company before", and el-cheapo generic hardware. You should be looking for the middle category, as they'll give you the best reliability and performance for the cheapest price. You can get a cpu pre-installed in your mobo, which might be the way to go given your budget, but if not, just make sure that it supports your exact chip and ram that you want to get.
Yeah, the issue of guaranteed component support is what makes it tough to figure out what I'm looking for. If I go for a SATA HD, will that require something of the motherboard, or what? As I said, I'm clueless. And I don't think I've recognized any motherboard manufacturers out of the ones I've seen so far... care to throw a few middle-of-the-road names out there for me to look for?


And yes, I am angling to both own and consume this cake, but it's a dream worth dreaming. :)
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sqook
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Post by sqook » Wed Nov 24, 2004 9:22 pm

Yes, if memory serves me, your motherboard either needs to support SATA directly, or you need to buy an adapter card for it. I've never owned a SATA drive, though, so I'm pretty much just talking out of my ass here (heh, what's new?).

And as far as mobo manufacturers go, here's my complete, biased take on the ones I'm seeing on pricewatch atm:
* Abit - Really good, expensive, though
* Asus - Also really good
* Shuttle - Terrrrrible. My roomie had one and it was the flakiest hardware I've seen in quite some time
* VIA - Good. You should be aware that most via motherboards are actually 3rd party mobo's with via chips in them for the bios, though...
* Biostar - Crappy, iirc
* Archos - Also crappy
* Intel - Good, but pricey. You pay for the name, like buying CK jeans...
* AMD - Same story, but make that from The Gap instead of CK =)


Also, do yourself a favor and avoid refurbished parts for stuff like this. There's a reason that shit got sent back to the manufacturer....

radder
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Post by radder » Wed Nov 24, 2004 10:58 pm

Hmm... thanks for the response. At this point, I may just go with what I know: I've been using an Asus Pundit for the last year or so and it's definitely held up to the challenges of Live 3 usage nicely, even with a less-than-top-shelf processor. It looks like they do not make a Pundit model that supports AMD processors, though - which is a pity, but at least I wouldn't have to worry about matching the motherboard to the rest.

edit: see below... going with an AMD and still under $500!
Last edited by radder on Thu Nov 25, 2004 7:34 am, edited 1 time in total.
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drush
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Post by drush » Wed Nov 24, 2004 11:39 pm

athlon 64. yes yes.

BigGreen
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Post by BigGreen » Thu Nov 25, 2004 6:49 am

Yeah AMD64 s939. But make sure you get a DVD+-R. They arent getting any cheaper then the $89 CAD i have seen them for latley. Youll want to be able to store lots of audio at once. Getting just a cd burner/dvd-rom would end up saving you about 30 lousy bucks. 8O

I know the s939 amd is past your stated budget but you could downgrade to s754(socket type mobo/cpu compatabity #) like a 3000+ and that would put you more in line. Heres how I'd do it.

http://www.newegg.com/app/ViewProductDe ... 469&depa=0

http://www.newegg.com/app/ViewProductDe ... 426&depa=0

http://www.newegg.com/app/viewproductde ... 015&DEPA=0

http://www.newegg.com/app/viewproductde ... 026&DEPA=0

http://www.newegg.com/app/viewproductde ... 119&DEPA=0

radder
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woo!

Post by radder » Thu Nov 25, 2004 7:26 am

Hey thanks for all the advice y'all... looks like with careful use of resources and the proper web deals, I can have a $500 AMD64 3000+ / 512MB RAM / 120GB SATA system using a really nice Asus motherboard.

oh and big green - yeah the 754 is the right one for my budget and New Egg is awesome... i'll check those links before I buy, but the best deal I've found so far on it is at Mwave:

http://www.mwave.com/mwave/viewspec.hmx ... ia=BA19978
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BigGreen
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Post by BigGreen » Thu Nov 25, 2004 7:36 am

Also you may need to get a vid card with that board but you can probably drag one up from an old machine of find a deal on something Direct x 7 unless you want to game on it also.
I picked the 3000+ to becuase of the price point and also there is room on the board for a 3700+ as a future upgrade.

AdamJay
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Post by AdamJay » Thu Nov 25, 2004 1:02 pm

now that AMD has made A64 3000's and 3200's on Socket 939... i'd recommend a 939 board. especially considering you are building a desktop.

Why?

1) Dual Channel Memory support. if you buy 2 sticks of the same ram, your memory will run in dual channel, rather than single channel. Memory bandwidth for dual channel is around 40-50% more than the single channel on Socket 754.

2) upgradability. 754 maxes out at 3700... where as socket 939 has yet to max out, and the fastest current processors available are the 4000 and the FX-55. prices for these will drop in the next year or two, and you can really beef up your machine for dirt cheap in say 2 or 3 years. This keeps you current, and keeps money in your pocket. in 3 years you can shell out $200 for a mere CPU upgrade rather than 3 or 4 times that for an entirely new motherboard/cpu or even a new system.

all Socket 939 mobo's have SATA on them so no worries there on compatibility. and definitely buy from Newegg.com if you are in the states.
they ship quick, no BS, and generally have the best price or come damn close to having the best price.

good luck!

radder
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Post by radder » Thu Nov 25, 2004 5:43 pm

now that AMD has made A64 3000's and 3200's on Socket 939... i'd recommend a 939 board.

Whoa, I didn't know that... I knew that 939 was preferable but I couldn't have afforded the 3400 chip to go in it!

Thanks man! I just priced the mobo and CPU and it looks like it'll be *still* within dollars of my budget.

Motherboard $129 at http://www.newegg.com/app/viewProductDe ... 510&depa=1

CPU $149 at http://www.newegg.com/app/ViewProductDe ... 499&depa=1

Oh, and my video card will be very basic eVGA... I live near a University that has a great salvage shop for old computer parts so I'll get the vid card and power supply for ridiculously cheap there. No need to heat up the case or drain my bank account if all I'm doing is music, web browsing, and the occasional foray into Photoshop.

In conclusion, I gotta say that even when veering off-topic, this forum works great!!! Thanks to everyone for their input. I can't wait to start putting this machine together...
myspace.com/raddermusic || soundcloud.com/a-radder || Thinkpad R61 / 3GB RAM / Echo Audiofire 4

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