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To Build A Computer Part I: Choosing The Parts


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After some months of mulling over my options, I've decided to build a computer that'll last me for the next four years while I attend medical school. But before I begin, I want to thank everybody in the Vista threads and this forum in general for their wonderful recommendations over the past few years for my gaming and PC needs.


To begin with, I figure I'll introduce my current system specs (the ones I'm changing) in order to get an idea of where I'm going.


OS: Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition with Service Pack 2

CPU: Pentium 4 2.4 Ghz

Motherboard: Asus P4PE

Graphics Card: X800 All-In-Wonder

Memory: 1 GB Corsair Memory DDR333

Hard Drive: Seagate 200 GB

DVD Drive: Sony DRU-710A

Monitor: Sony SDM-HS94P


I'm seeking y'alls help because I haven't built a computer in 14 years, and that was in the days of no Plug And Plays and having to set IRQ's and what not. I still feel like I have a few misconceptions about building computers, so I hope I can get some of them cleared up.


This is the tentative design of my new computer so far.


Operating System: Microsoft Vista Home Premium


CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E6700 2.66 Ghz

Alternatives: Intel Core 2 Duo Extreme Q6700 2.66 Ghz, Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 2.66 Ghz


Motherboard: Asus P5N32-E SLI

Alternatives: Asus Striker Extreme, BFG NVIDIA nForce 680i SLI


Memory: CORSAIR XMS2 2GB DDR2 800

Alternative: ?


Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD5000KS 500GB

Alternatives: Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 ST3500630AS 500GB


Graphics Card: nVidia 8800 GTX

Alternatives: nVidia 8800 GTS


Power Supply: Tough Power 650W


Monitor: 20+ inch Widescreen Monitor with resolution of 1920 x 1200 pixels minimum


Casing and Cooling: Thermaltake VE2000BWS

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Well Dim that sure sounds like it will be a monster system :) As far as the individual components - I listed the parts out below but, I will say that if you have a $ figure you want to keep to changing the CPU and video card alone could save you a bundle... Or is this a "build to needs system"?


CPU: That part is great and will be worlds faster than your current chip :)

Motherboard: Either of the Asus motherboards will be fine but, of the two boards I'd go with the 680i chipset

Memory: Kingston, Corsair, Crucial - any of those will be fine and I think DDR2 800 will fit your needs but, if you want to try overclocking just make sure its rated well for high speeds/voltages/heat

HDD: That WD drive should be Awesome

Graphics Card: No faster card currently than the 8800 GTX :rock

Optical Drive: I agree with your assesment- get a good Panasonic or Sony dual layer DVD burner for now and get HD-DVD or BD Rom later

PSU: Asus make power supplies as well so I'd say go with one of those but any good brand should be fine and even this rig shouldn't tax a good 500w... I'd only go with the 800w+ if you plan to do SLI soon

Cooling: There have been alot of improvements in air cooling in the last year so they are much quieter now than the older gear but... None that I have used are completely silent like liquid cooling. For this I would personally recommend the Thermaltake case (listed below) as the liquid cooling is top notch and the pump etc. are already installed in the case and it supports air cooling too in case you ever need to switch or need both :)

Monitor: I think the Dell's are about the best monitor for the money you can get although I believe the Apple's are rated higher in side by side comparisons

Case: Thermaltake VE2000BWS as mentioned above... http://www.microcenter.com/byos/byos_single_product_results.phtml?product_id=249698

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Only reason I'm looking as Ultimate is the fact that Home Premium doesn't include the remote desktop client. If I want to be able to work from home, this is a must have for me. If you don't need any of the business features though, then you're probably better off with HP.




The C2D chips are all fast as hell, so whatever you buy should be fine. My method is usually to plot CPU price vs speed, and find out where the graph spikes (e.g. a $150 price jump for 10% more power), then buy the chip just below that increase. It's seemed to work so far.




As much as you can afford :) Only thing I'd make sure of is that there's room to expand. I'd probably go with 4 Gb of memory over the higher end video card, since you already said you're not going to be gaming right away, and you can always pop a new card in later on (probably cheaper and with better Dx10 performance as well).


That does sound like a monster system, but if you want it to last, then it sounds like you're on the right track.

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The current system build I have right now was not upgraded until 2005ish, and that was a memory and graphics card upgrade.


Magness, that Thermaltake case looks awesome, and the reviews I Googled make it look like a swell purchase.


With the exception of memory as I understand it, most PC component prices go down with time. I don't plan on purchasing/building this computer until at least July. The point is is that's when I'll receive my first financial aid check. Part of the loan program I'll be diving into is an allowance for an additional $3000 dollars to purchase a computer.


I'm looking at these components now because I still need to familiarize myself with the computer building world. I know what RAID is and what it's supposed to do, but I have no clue how to even implement. Those things will come in time.


So far, I like what Iive picked.


The C2D chips are all fast as hell, so whatever you buy should be fine. My method is usually to plot CPU price vs speed, and find out where the graph spikes (e.g. a $150 price jump for 10% more power), then buy the chip just below that increase. It's seemed to work so far.


I could be totally wrong on this, but the two chips I'm looking at so far only seem to come in one flavor of processor speed. I might not be looking hard enough, but I would definitely go for the lowest speed of the higher end chip so to speak.

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Agreed on the CPU price vs speed thing.


BTW: On average, if you're willing to screw with it, you're better off spending less than $1k and tossing a few hundred into it every couple of years...better off than dropping a massive amount of money now and trying to hold out 4-5 years on the same box.


I've founding running mini-upgrades works out a lot cheaper in the long run than building a mega-box from scratch every 3-4 years.


BTW: There is no need for 4GB RAM unless you are a massive multitasking photoshopper/video editing/CAD freak ;) . Barely any games even use 2GB right now (Battlefield, a few others) and most apps work great with 2GB. There's almost no tangible benefit to 4GB at this point.


Liquid cooling will get complicated if you're not careful. It's quiet but finicky. I wouldn't do this if your computer skills are rusty. It's not something I'd want to mess with and I'm constantly screwing with computers. YMMV.

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What do you do for your power supply and video card cooling with a liquid cooling case like that Thermeltake one?


I ask because my "quiet" power supply is the loudest thing in my PC, and my video card is only quiet because I killed it's tiny blower fan and strapped a low-noise 80mm fan on to it.

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What do you do for your power supply and video card cooling with a liquid cooling case like that Thermeltake one?


Koolance built a liquid cooled power supply.

Figure this one out


Having said that, my damn power supply is noisy. I hope power supply tech has improved in that area.


Thermaltake sells a Universal VGA cooling block that can become part of the cooling system.

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Yea, with liquid cooling you basically put a "cooling block" on whatever you want to keep cool. They have chipset blocks, GPU blocks, HDD blocks etc so whatever you need it on you can get in a kit or add later. The only thing to watch for is on video cards - make sure you put heatsinks on the RAM when using a liquid cooled GPU block as the RAM will get very hot itself despite the GPU staying cool. As far as the PSU is concerned, you can just buy a quiet air cooled PSU (most use 120mm fans and are pretty quiet now) like normal and use it in that same case or you can buy a liquid cooled unit. Remember though that the more blocks you add for the liquid to pass though the more overall heat to dissipate... Still the highest CPU temp I've seen with even the "cheapy" water cooling kits stays around 58 deg. under load. And that Thermaltake case stays around 50 deg. for virtually every CPU tested - even overclocked.

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With regards to 4GB of ram. My understanding is that unless you have 64-bit Vista, you can't even use 4GB ram. You'll really only be using something like 3.5 GB physically. But, with regard to statements that that much RAM won't help: apparently Vista has a caching feature where it puts frequently used programs directly into RAM. So in a sense, Microsoft has built scalability into the OS where more RAM actually does get your more performance. The more you have, the more it can cache. In theory. Imagine for example that opening FireFox would be instantaneous as if it were already running? That is what I've heard can happen.

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