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I am at last ready to order the components for a new PC - opinions please

Discussion in 'Desktop & Laptop Computers Forum' started by Triggaaar, Apr 20, 2005.

  1. Triggaaar

    Triggaaar
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    My requirements are:
    1) to store all my CDs, in FLAC format, and stream to squeezebox2
    2) to play games on my plasma, using existing sound setup
    3) to archive sky+ recordings to DVD
    Although it doesn’t need to be silent (it’s going in a large cupboard under the stairs), I don’t want it to be really noisy.

    I’d really appreciate it if anyone could point out any poor choices, or where I’d be better swapping an item for something better or cheaper.

    I've gone for a decent chip & memory compared to graphics card, because I can put the former through the company (vat back and less income tax).

    Just about everything from Scan – makes it easy, and saves on shipping.

    Case – Casetek 1019SA (silver alu) £72
    PSU – 420W Tagan Whisper aPFC UltraQuiet 21db £53
    Mother - Asus A8N-SLi (Standard) Socket 939 nForce 4 PCI-E £94
    alternative – Delux version £111.50 (I’ll get disc through company)
    CPU - AMD Athlon 64 3500 32/64Bit CPU S939 Winchester 90nm *OEM* £173
    alternative – 3200, retail inc fan, £127
    Zalman heatsink - CNPS7000B-ALCU £30
    Mem – 1 Gb (2 x 512 Mb) Corsair TwinX-XL, DDR, PC3200XLPT, Cas 2 £157
    note – cheaper versions aren’t in stock, but I could get them. And this would go thru co.
    Floppy - Mitsumi FA404M 1.44 Black FDD + Int USB2 7 in 1 Card Reader £13
    Hard Disks – 2 * 250Gb Seagate Barracuda (7200.7rpm, 8Mb) - SATA NCQ £92 each
    DVD - NEC ND-3520A Silver x 16x16 DVD±RW Dual Layer DVD-Writer, OEM UK £37
    is there a reason I should have an extra DVD player?
    Graphics - 256MB Galaxy GF 6600 DDR 128 bit TV/DVI/Cooling Fan PCI-E £110
    Could go better. Need DVI & VGA out
    Fans – a couple of 120mm Nexus or SilenX fans

    That comes to £923 before fans, p&p. I’ll get about £200 tax back for the motherboard, CPU and memory.

    I have a Gyration wireless keyb/mouse, and XP home.

    Any suggestions?

    Thank you!
     
  2. Skunkpipe

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    The graphics card might be a bit noisy - given you're spending money on a quiet CPU cooler and PSU it's worth thinging about as your system will be as noisy as it's loudest component
    Gigagbyte do one passively cooled 6600 for ~£140

    You could recoup the extra spent on the card by going for the (£30) cheaper casetek 1018, esp as they look the same - I use these cases occassionally for non-rackmount servers. They're huge, and I'm mightily impressed with them for the money.
     
  3. Triggaaar

    Triggaaar
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    Good point. Although perhaps the Zalman is overkill in the firs place. It certainly doesn't need to be a silent PC.
    I don't need to recoup the difference, but if the 1018 case is as good, I may as well go for it regardless of other choices. At scan, the silver 1018 is only £22 cheaper, the black/blue £25 cheaper. Does the Auminium case not make much difference with heat?

    Thanks
     
  4. MPK

    MPK
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    I wouldn't get an extra DVD player, but maybe an extra CD-RW drive as the good ones read and write CDs faster than a DVD-RW drive. Also handy to copy from cd to cd.

    Get a 6800 GTO or Ultra graphics card. Alternatively the Radeo 850XT Platinum. Probably the most important feature for a HCPC. Make sure you have dual DVI outputs so you can hook up your screen and a plasma TV.
     
  5. KraGorn

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    Any remote? Software choice will play a part in selecting that. I like the ATI Remote Wonder wireless, not the most popular but it supports TheaterTek if you use that. Alternatively an iMon 'inside' (an IR device) will give you remote power-up and the ability to use a universal learning remote.

    How big's the cupboard? You'll need to ensure decent air movement around the case, the GPU and CPU will generate a good amount of heat that'll build up over time in an enclosed area.
     
  6. Triggaaar

    Triggaaar
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    I don't need to copy CDs (as my collection will be going onto this PC, so I'll have 1 spare set). If there's a plain CD drive that will speed up coping 350 CDs to HD, with EAC using FLAC (and some method of re reading the CD to check there are no errors), I'd be interested. ie, a quality CDROM, as opposed to one with the fastest quoted read time.
    Dual DVI out could be useful, but I think a VGA out is more important for me (Belkin do a Cat5 link for VGA, so I could plug a monitor in anywhere). Also, the PCs primary function is as a dukebox, secondary is for web browsing & std pc stuff, then for games and possibly archiving sky HD.

    I don't really need one, I have a wireless keyboard, and normal TV watching, DVDs etc won't use the PC.
    Under stairs triangle, 5'5" high, 5'5" wide, 3' deep, and a hole in the bottom, to under the house. I will put other things in there, up to the point that the PC needs x amount of room.
     
  7. Mark Ward

    Mark Ward
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    I understood that there was a bug in the 6800's as far as WMV processing went. Has this been fixed. I also would recommend a fanless or at least quieter fan solution. I've got a 6600GT that has so far displayed pretty much everything I've tried it with.

    So Dual DVI Fanless 6600GT would be my suggestion. Also I'd consider using a single 300gb Drive and placing any additional storage in a different machine on the network. One HDD = less heat & noise. Personally I only have 1 x 120mb drive with additonal storage on a cheap Linux server elsewhere.

    Mark.
     
  8. Skunkpipe

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    To be honest I don't expect it'd make that much difference with that particular case - it's huge (full tower) and airflow won't be a problem.
     
  9. Triggaaar

    Triggaaar
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    Will any Dual DVI Gcards include a VGA out? Or could I get a decent PCI-E motherboard with VGA out? (I think I need VGA out, as mentioned above, to allow me to plug a monitor and keyboard/mouse into the PC from anywhere in the house (with Cat5).

    I only plan on having 1 machine, so would prefer all HDs together. I could add sound-proofing if necessary.
     
  10. betamac

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    Most cards come with dongle, so if the card is dual DVI it will have a DVI - VGA dongle for VGA out and if the card is VGA and DVI out the dongle will allow dual DVI out.
     
  11. MPK

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  12. Mark Ward

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    Where I do agree that multiple drives do allow for RAID protection, you are basically keeping a redundant drive working(& heating) 24/7 in the event that one may fail.

    Personally I just use a single (120gb in my case) drive with a 20gb Boot partition and the balance for other use. Acronis True image (about £16 from Amazon) allows for a very straight forward & quick backup to an alternative network location that can be restored from very simply and in not many minutes (less than the time to rebulid the raid array I'm guessing).

    We all have our own views, mine is keep the HTPC simple, backup periodically to another machine and there's very little to worry about. Chances are that the second partition will be loaded with movies that you'll be able to restore from the original discs (if you can be bothered). I'd far rather have the extra storage than a raid setup but I know others may disagree. I have a pal (Hi John) had a raid failure that lost his entire collection, the worst I'm likely to lose is a single drive that can easily be rebuilt from my original DVD discs. To be honest I'd most likely not re-install most of them anyway, merely replace them with newer films.

    I'm guessing I may be in the minorty here not bothering with RAID?

    Mark.
     
  13. Triggaaar

    Triggaaar
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    Cool, thanks, I'll check before ordering. Incidentally, what is a graphic card's D-Sub out?

    For my purposes, I don't need Raid for backup (ie, backup of all my CDs would be good, but it doesn't have to be permanantly up to date, and doesn't need to be instant). One virtual drive for performance could be good.

    Yep, if I do have a backup of my FLACed CDs, I'd like it to just sit there quietly. Obviously if I was using RAID, a backup disk would be constantly running, but if I just had a spare HD in the PC, that I had previosuly copied data to, would it always run, or only when I used it?

    Since the main purpose of my PC is music, I would have to copy every single CD back if the HD failed. I understand this is no speedy matter, so a back-up, would be useful. I have an old PII running WIN98. Can WIN98 see 250 gig HDrives? If so, I could use that for backup, otherwise it would be a case of having an extra drive in my HTPC (which would be fine if it doesn't have to run all the time).
     
  14. Skunkpipe

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    I image Win98 will not see anything over 136GB (LBA32 limit)
     
  15. HMHB

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    I wouldn't bother with RAID either as I like to keep things as simple as possible inside computers ! What I have done is bought an external 400GB hard drive which allows me to backup stuff onto there very quickly via firewire or Firewire800.
     
  16. Triggaaar

    Triggaaar
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    That would be a handy solution. 250Gb West Dig USB2 & firewire £135,. 300Gb Maxtor USB2 £153. 400Gb Seagate USB2 & firewire £221.
    Obviously more expensive than a spare internal drive.

    Can anyone tell me if a spare internal drive will be spinning if not being accessed?
     
  17. Triggaaar

    Triggaaar
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    Ok, so assuming there's no problem with everything else on the list, and I change the case to a casetek 1018, that leaves me with 3 questions:

    1) Would a CD drive allow me to copy my CDs to the PC quicker? (note I'll be using EAC software, FLAC format, and setting it to test as much as possible to make sure it's a perfect copy, so I imagine a CD drive would only be quicker if it's more accurate than my DVD)

    2) Will a spare internal Hard Disk keep spinning al the time the PC is on, when it's not being accessed? If so, maybe I should consider an exteral HD for keeping a backup of my data.

    3) Which Graphics Card?
    I have no idea. I want it to be decent for games, but I'm not wanting to spend £200. How about: 128MB Gigabyte GV NX66T128VP - GF6600GT?
    See here I could start with 1, then add another (SLi) in the future as games need more. Does anyone know what the perrformance of SLi is like? Would 2 of those (£128 each = £256) not out perform a 6800 costing £270 odd?

    Thanks :thumbsup:
     
  18. MPK

    MPK
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    Triggaaar
    1) I don't think it will make a big difference for reading a CD. Your DVD-RW drive I believe reads CDs at 40x and a good CD-RW reads at 48x. Only at CD writing you will find a bigger difference between the drives
    2) I think even an external HD will be spinning as long as it has power, except maybe if there is a special software that tells it to go to standby. The Windows power settings don't allow for seperate drives to be put to standby/hibernation.

    If you don't use the PC for Home Cinema and are a game freak, a 6600GT will do fine. Agreed, the SLi option allows you to put another one in. However, I think it has to be exactly the same and by the time you decide to do that you might only find that model on ebay. SLi almost doubles the performance, but I have not calculated whether it's cheaper to sell your old card and buy, say, a 6800 Ultra which will still be faster than two 6600 GTs.

    If fan noise is really important you might want to wait for the BTX motherboard form factor which is being released by Intel and will be the way forward. the new mobo layout significantly reduces the need for cooling and will cool much more efficiently. But it will be another few months until you can buy BTX mobos and you'll need a different case and power supply as well.
     
  19. Triggaaar

    Triggaaar
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    Thanks

    No extra CD is good with me. I just didn’t want to spend weeks loading CDs, only to find it could have been done in days.

    If I get an external drive, once all my CDs are on, I can simply unplug it. So unless there is some software to put a drive into standby (or I can simply unplug an internal drive) external may be the best solution. Is firewire much quicker than USB2?

    Oh, I thought it was the other way round – needing only a Radeon 9600 for HC, but more for games? I’d like to be able to copy sky+ recordings to the PC, edit and copy those to DVD, or maybe playback to the plasma, but I’ll use my Arcam/Lumagen for std DVD watching. How much I use it for HC will depend how easy it is to keep the software running smoothly. And I’m not a game freak (ie the PC doesn’t have to be the latest and best), but I would like to be able to run current games well. Would a £270 6800 card be twice as fast as the GT6600 I’ve mentioned? (the Gigabyte GF 6600 GT)

    Fan noise isn’t a big deal, I’m not going for a silent PC (it’s going in a cupboard under the stairs). I just don’t want it being annoyingly loud. And I’ve waited long enough to build this PC, I can’t wait any longer. This pile of poo (PII) I’m using just crashed, so I’ve had to do this whole replay again.
     
  20. HMHB

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    Firewire and USB2 are supposed to be about the same, but on my computer Firewire is quite a bit faster than USB2.
     
  21. Kamakazie

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    how are you connecting the computer to you speakers/reciever??

    is the an S/PDIF on the mobo or onboard sound or are you planning on getting a sound card?? im possinbly blind but i didn't see one on your list.
     
  22. Triggaaar

    Triggaaar
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    Oh yes, good point. The motherboard has SPDIF. Would connecting that to my AV processor be good enough, or would I need a seperate soundcard (for games and tv)? I won't be using a soundcard for music.
     
  23. MPK

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    I don't think it will be twice as fast, only about 20-30% (check out the benchmarks on the web), but haven't done the math yet whether it's better to put in a second SLi card or sell the old one and put a brand new one in. By the time you will do that there will probably be a 7900 GT Ultra Hyper Super Duper for about the same price.

    With regards to capturing Sky+ etc. you will need a TV capture card such as the Sweetspot or the Hauppauge PVR 250 or 500. The problem with the former is that it doesn't have MPEG-2 encoding and therefore uses huge amounts of disk space. The Second one doesn't have RGB which means picture quality suffers.
     
  24. Kamakazie

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    ive read a fair bit on here and it seems like most people are happy with using a SPDIF connection.

    im curious myself for this, im still undecided wether to get a Denon 2910 and then a PC for other tasks or go the whole hog with the HTPC. Its really for my brother and hes not great with computers so im swaying towards the easy DVD player route but just so tempted by the advantages of a HTPC :¬/

    Goodluck with the box though, hope you get some good results.
     
  25. Kamakazie

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    oh, you also might wanna check if the mobo spdif can do 96khz.... most cant from what i have read so if you want the higher sound quality you will need a sound card that can do this.
     
  26. Triggaaar

    Triggaaar
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    I thought twice as fast seemed weird – it was just that you said Sli almost doubles performance, but not as quick as a 6800 ultra. I’m not trying to be argumentative, I appreciate everyone’s help. I just thought if Sli works that well, 2 6600GTs would probably be better than a £260 6800 (ie, if someone wanted to spend that much now, rather than comparing changing later)

    Yep, I will need one. I was planning on sorting out everything else first. When you say ‘huge amounts of disk space’ how much disk space would it take to copy programs from a full sky+? (is it not just 40Gb?)

    I was making that decision last summer, and due to the constant changing software etc of PCs, and my wife watching DVDs too (and noting that some with HTPCs were going back to DVD -> scaler), I went the DVD player route (even though I knew I’d be buying this PC for music).

    Oh. Thanks, I had no idea. The description of the Asus doesn't say, so perhaps it's not 96khz? Any ideas which motherboards do (pref sock 939 PCI-E, or I'll need to start again :))
     
  27. MPK

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    From what I've read and heard using the spdif digital out from soundcards is an absolute nightmare, especially when trying to send multichannel sound to an external receiver. Unless you go for the very top soundcards such as Soundblaster Audigy 4 or 2ZS Platinum Pro you not only will have sleepless nights trying to set it up but also risk damaging your equipment. For instance, the spdif of soundcards (i.e. not the connections on the external devices of the top soundcards) have +/-5V voltage whereas your receiver will only tolerate +/-0.5V. Do a search on google for these issues and you'll realise hooking up a receiver is not as straight forward as it should be.
     
  28. Triggaaar

    Triggaaar
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    Oh.

    This MSI board, for £115, has Creative sound Blaster Live 24-bit onboard audio . Is that still not really enough?

    If not, what basic cards are there with a decent SPDIF out (which will need an 8m cable), but without the need for the high quality analogue outs that the expensive cards have?

    EDIT - And, for games, and sky+ recordings (some in DD), can you tell the difference between 48 and 96khz? (are sky movies broadcast with 96khz quality? and are games that high quality?) - I won't be using this for music of any kind.

    EDIT - I really have no idea what I'm doing :rotfl:
    If I want to copy from sky+ to the PC, I can use an SDI capture card for the video, but I don't know what I need for the audio. When using sky's function to copy from the HD, does it output through the optical out? Basically, what do I need on the PC to capture the sound, and can it capture 5.1 from sky? And will I have any problems using 8m cables for all this?

    Thanks :thumbsup:
     
  29. MikeFish

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    You can use an SDI capture card but only if you have bought a modified Sky box which has an SDI output.
    If you want to capture the 5.1 soundtrack from Sky Movies you will need a soundcard/motherboard with optical input. I've never seen one on a motherboard before.
    8m cables shouldn't be a problem as I'm using 10m video and audio cables between my PC and amp. You might have a problem with the optical sound from Sky to PC, as I'm not sure the max distance for these. However you can buy an extender which allows you to go up to 25m I think.
     
  30. MikeFish

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    Just noticed from your signature that you do have an SDI sky, so yes you could use an SDI capture card.
     

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