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Please help me justify £2000 on this lot!!!

Discussion in 'Desktop & Laptop Computers Forum' started by MRW, Sep 28, 2004.

  1. MRW

    MRW
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    Hi all,

    Having just bought the wife a new car, and saved some cash I'm finally allowed to buy a nice new PC for myself.

    I'd be really grateful if you could cast your eyes over the following list and make recommendations as to the compatibility and suitability of the components.

    The bits I'm not really sure about are the case and the PSU.

    I want this PC to last me 3 years...

    Motherboard Asus K8V-SE Deluxe S754 VIA k8t800 ATX Sound Gig LAN Fire wire USB 2.0 FSB 800 Retail Box (£74.57 inc VAT from e-buyer)

    Chipset AMD FX53 2400mhz 1mb L2 Cache Skt939pin Retail Boxed 3 year warranty (£614.07 inc VAT from e-buyer)

    RAM Corsair (TWINX1024-3200XLPT) 1024MB (2x512M Matched Pair), DDR400 / PC3200, non-ECC, unbuffered, 2-2-2-5 (£239.98 inc VAT from e-buyer)

    Graphics Card 256MB ATI Sapphire Radeon X800 XT VIVO Platinum 21042-00-40 Full Retail (£387.75 inc VAT from scan)

    Hard Drive Western Digital WD2000JB SE 200GB Uide100 7200rpm 8mb Cache - OEM (£85.35 inc VAT from e-buyer)

    CD/DVD drive (x2) Pioneer DVR-108 Double Layer Dual 16x DVD-R/RW - OEM Beige (£55.93 inc VAT from e-buyer)

    Case Antec P160 ATX Tower Case With USB/1394/Audio No PSU (£74.81 inc VAT from e-buyer)

    PSU Ebuyer 500w Power Supply Blue With Dual Fans (£17.62 inc VAT from e-buyer) - this is probably not such a good idea...

    Sound card Creative Labs Audigy 2 ZS Platinum 7.1 Surroundsound 24-bit Sound Card (£112.09 inc VAT from e-buyer)

    Monitor AMW M19DW 19ins TFT 25ms 1280x1024 Multimedia Black & Silver (£281.99 inc VAT from e-buyer)

    Speakers Videologic Zxr750 7.1 Speakers (85.26 inc VAT from e-buyer)

    Total inc VAT £2029.42


    Please suggest any alternatives you may feel more appropriate!

    Thanks in advance.

    Matthew
     
  2. Kopite4Ever

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    dont know if you payed attention but you wont get very far with that. A socket 939 processor will not go in the socket 745 motherboard. back to the drawning baord for you me thinks
     
  3. hornydragon

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  4. Adrenochrome

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    I am no computer expert by any stretch of the imagination but is it wise to spend more on a graphics card than your monitor?

    Adrenochrome.
     
  5. MRW

    MRW
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    Hmm...

    BauerCTU - rather a good point there.

    horny - just having a look at alienware now...

    adrenochrome - I couldn't find any other 19" monitors that were anywhere near in price.

    Thanks so far guys, I'm still in the fairly early stages of looking though, so no definitive decisions have been made yet.

    Cheers
     
  6. MRW

    MRW
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  7. pringtef

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    I wouldn't buy with the intention of changing nothing in three years time. You'll end up paying more that way now, and in three years time. PCs and their components depreciate so fast, i'm always hesitant to buy the top of the range kit. You're always going to get ripped off.

    Instead, I'd go for something more towards top of middle as it were. £345 will get you an AMD Athlon 64 - 2800 and a X800 Pro graphics card. They will still fly!

    With the money you save, maybe buy a bigger hard disk, and save the rest with a view towards updating one of the components later down the line, maybe 1 - 1.5 years.
     
  8. Mark Ward

    Mark Ward
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    If it wil be used as an HTPC and you are going to be using Theatertek2 then aparantly the latest NVidea cards are the way to go, I speak as someone who recently bought Radeon!

    Mark
     
  9. MikeTV

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    I have to agree with the comments of others and prefer buying components that are much cheaper, but almost as fast. Then upgrade as the need arises - the technology moves on pretty quickly. Particularly graphics cards and CPU's.
     
  10. MRW

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    Thanks for your input guys,

    It does seem to make sense to buy mid to top of the range now, and then save the cash difference for upgrades...

    I'll keep looking!

    Cheers.
     
  11. Yandros

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    The top end graphics cards and CPUs are where the manufacturers are making all the profits. Remember that “state of the art” to “entry level” takes no longer than 18 months these days. Consider this carefully before shelling out £600 on a CPU!

    For the record I’m a fan of the Asus P4C800E + P4 3.2 (Northwood) at the moment, after having bad experiences with AMD over the years.

    For RAM I’d recommend:

    OCZ PC-3200 EL-DDR Dual Channel Platinum Limited Edition 1024MB - £233 inc VAT

    I’ve built identical PCs with this and the low latency Corsair you’re considering, and the OCZ is about 10% faster on memory speed tests.

    http://www.chillblast.com/customer/product.php?productid=409

    Antec cases are nice – the P160 is a bit heavy on the chrome for some, but if you like it, go for it. It has some good design features and the fan will be near silent. I’ve not seen one in real life, but I’d expect the finish to be not quite as special up close as it is in the pics though, based what I’ve seen of other Antecs. I’ve had a good look at the Antec Sonata and like it, and built a PC around the Antec SLK3700, which is VERY quiet, though the plastic door is a little bit cheap.

    I’m still using the good old Coolermaster Wavemaster TAC-T01, which is a 100% aluminium, and fabulous build quality (I even stealthed the DVD drive on my last one with the Coolermaster fascia – looks the business!). Just remember to change the fans if you want low noise.

    http://www.chillblast.com/customer/product.php?productid=484


    I’d recommend getting a good quality PSU (and ideally a quiet one). I’ve been using the 430W Zalman, but how about something like:

    http://www.chillblast.com/customer/product.php?productid=16545

    Since you’re obviously going to be using your PC for gaming (seeing the X800 in there), I REALLY wouldn’t go for a cheap 19” LCD. Consider a 12 or 16ms response time 17” unit, from someone like BENQ or Iiyama maybe.

    Sound card – the Audigy2 ZS is excellent (I have one partnered with the Creative 7700 speakers). If you don’t intend to use the extra connectors though, save your money and avoid the platinum edition.

    Had you considered a SATA HDD if you’re looking for future proofing?
     
  12. Madders

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    Hi Matthew,

    I may soon be taking a different route with my system so am possibly going to be selling my HTPC. I only completed it a couple of months ago and is basically the best you will find anywhere!

    It consists of:

    Stands Unique Strata PC case in silver
    Asus Motherboard
    Intel Pentium 4 processor 3.2GHz
    1GB RAM
    720GB Hard disk space
    Plextor DVD-RW
    LynxTwoB Soundcard - this item alone retails at £900!!!
    Matrox P650 Graphics Card
    Sweetspot SDI card
    Silenx Power Supply

    Running WinXP
    Powerdvd5,Windvd5 Platinum,NVDVD 2.55 , Theatertek 1.5, J River Media Player, Dscaler, Powerstrip (registered version)

    This HTPC has had bulletproof reliability and can work at native resolution with my Panny 6 plasma (852x480) - it also works with the DVI input on my plasma!!!!

    Although this cost almost £3,000 to put together, I would be looking for £1,800 - leaving you a couple of hundred to buy a monitor!! ;) If you wanted it I would put an ad in the classifieds so as not to break any trading rules! :)

    Cheers,

    Steve
     
  13. MRW

    MRW
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    Yandros,

    Thanks for the helpful post - I've not had time to read through it yet though, but it looks excellent.

    Madders, thanks for the offer, I'll look at this in more detail tonight. If possible, please can you let me know the model numbers of the motherboard and RAM before you put it in the classifieds.

    Mods, I hope this is OK.

    Cheers all.

    Matthew
     
  14. Anks

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    I've just been down the same route and I wonder if you could justify some of the purchases? :)

    As I wanted a HTPC so I went for the latest Shuttle box which supports 939 Athlons. Its small and quiet.

    RAM: I purchased Corsair 1024MB (Matched 512MB Pair) 3200/DDR400 with CL2.5 126.38 Inc VAT. Not alot of difference but 100 cheaper.

    CPU: Athlon 64 3500+ 939 240 inc VAT. OK its not an FX53 but would I notice almost 400 pound difference between the two. Highly unlikely!

    GFX: Connect 3D XT800 Pro VIVO. I have now soft-modded this to an XT800 XT PE saving 80 quid.

    DVD: I went with the NEC ND-3500, no particular reason just seemed to get better reviews.

    HD: I'd really considered this area, a fast system with poor disk IO is going to feel like a dog. The disk you have choosen just does not match the other components. Since IO is VITAL to good performance I went for WD Raptors 74GB x 2 SATA in RAID 0 config. These are extremely quick.

    Hope this helps?
     
  15. HMHB

    HMHB
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    Anks-
    That looks like the kind of system I'm thinking about doing. Is it the Shuttle SN95G5 you've got ? If so would you recommend it ? I assume the power supply is enough for that graphics card and a couple of hard drives ?
     
  16. Madders

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    Matthew - The mobo is an Asus P4P800. The RAM is 2 sticks of 512 - I can't remember the make but I got them at PC World in their component centre!
     
  17. Tim Cooper

    Tim Cooper
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    Madders,
    If you decide to split i'll take the soundcard for a ton ;)
    Tim.
     
  18. MRW

    MRW
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    Right,

    Having looked around a little more, done a little bit more research and listened to comments here and there I have pretty much made my mind up on the following:

    Case Coolermaster Cavalier 3 Silver CAV-T03 - chillblast - £77.55
    PSU Zalman Noiseless ZM400B-APS - chillblast - £64.63
    Motherboard MSI K8N Neo2 Platinum (Socket 939) Motherboard - chillblast - £99.88
    Chipset Athlon 64 3500+ S939 512Kb Box - dabs - £235.99
    Graphics Card Sapphire ATI Radeon X800 Pro 256MB DDR3 TV-Out/DVI - chillblast - £284.35
    RAM 2x512MB 184Pin DIMM PC3200 DDR Non-Parity CL2 2-2-2-5 - dabs - £196.99
    Hard Drive Western Digital Raptor 74GB SATA - chillblast - £135.13
    DVD drive Pioneer DVR-108 Double Layer Dual 16x DVD-R/RW - dabs - £55.99
    CD drive Samsung 16x48 IDE DVD-ROM Drive - OEM - ebuyer - £17.27
    Monitor ViewSonic VX910 19" TFT Display Silver - dabs - £381.99
    Speakers Creative Labs Inspire T7900 7.1 Speaker System - ebuyer - £68.00
    Keyboard Benq 6512-VA Rubber Type Standard Keyboard - ebuyer - £2.91

    Total cost including VAT = £1620.67 (ouch)

    I still have a couple of questions though...

    1) The Zalman PSU claims to be noiseless, but I'm wondering just how noiseless noiseless actually is?
    2) How easy is it to soft-mod the graphics card, and what is VIVO, which costs £20 more?
    3) Can the volume of each of the speakers be adjusted separately for the T7900 system?
    4) Does anyone have any idea how noisy/quiet this lot will be?
    5) And finally, will I need any more components? Am I missing something?! (I have a mouse and XP Pro)

    Thanks again in advance - hopefully I can finally just get the stuff ordered and assembled in time for HL2...

    Cheers,

    Matthew

    PS - Madders, thanks for the offer, but as I don't need stuff like the 720GB hard-drive, I'll have to give it a miss. Good luck selling elsewhere.
     
  19. Yandros

    Yandros
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    Easy question first – regarding speaker volume. Yes, you can. If it’s anything like the 7700 software, you’ve got two ways of adjusting speaker volume – old fashioned sliders for every channel, or by specifying individual speaker distances, db adjust and angle in the THX setup console.

    The other question I feel pretty well qualified to answer is on noise levels. “Noiseless” products like the Zalman PSU will be impossible to hear if you have any other significant noise in a room (eg, you’re playing a game, listening to music, or using the PC watch a film). If you’re sitting in a sealed quiet room, yes you’ll be able to hear it. For example, in our office we have a number of very low noise PCs, and they’re inaudible over the general office noise. When I built them, I was sitting about 4ft from a 24 port hub which has a couple of 40mm fans in it, and the hub TOTALLY drowned out all the PC noise (3 x Papst 80mm case fans, a Zalman CNPS7000 CPU cooler, and the Zalman noiseless PSU).

    So, how noisy will your PC be? Fairly noisy, but fixable pretty cheaply.

    Stock 80mm case fans are pretty loud – change them for low noise versions (I use Papst and am very happy with them ). Note that the Zalman PSU has 2 x 5v and 2 x 12v 3 pin fan connectors, which is handy – the 5v ones allow you to run the fans at lower speed (not necessary with proper quiet fans though).

    You need to fit a low noise CPU cooler if possible. I gather that the Zalman CNPS7000B-Cu will fit socket 939, and I can vouch for that as both quiet and very cool.

    http://www.quietpc.com/uk/amdcooling.php

    Insulate the case with something like Acoustipack This will help mop up CPU fan and HDD noise and reduce side panel vibration.

    http://www.quietpc.com/uk/materials.php

    I believe your motherboard has what looks from the picture to be a 40mm chipset fan. These horrid little things generate a disproportionate amount of noise and are prone to failing. The mobo does look extremely tasty though, with some very good benchmarks, so I’d probably stick with it if I were you. The case lining will help a little though.

    The Sapphire X800 Pro is reasonably quiet apparently, but will probably end up being the noisiest part of the system. Again, case lining will help somewhat.
     
  20. Anks

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    John, It is Shuttle SN95G5 and it seems to be the nicest to date. Yes the PSU although rated at a much lower wattage than traditional PSUs is more than man enough for my configuration.

    You need the VIVO boards to perform the Softmod since these still have all pipelines intact. The none VIVO boards have the four extra pipelines laser cut. To softmod this card its simply a matter of flashing the BIOS to the Gigabyte BIOS to enable the 'missing' pipes. Once the pipes have been enabled, flashing to another BIOS does not disable them again.

    BIOSes can be found here: http://www.techpowerup.com/bios/
     
  21. Big Jim

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  22. Anks

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    I've always used Nvidia cards and this time is my first ATI. However all the research I did pointed to the ATI card as the better performer for a HTPC application.

    The 800 Pro VIVO is easily softmodable to unlock all 16 pipelines.

    The 6800 series draw quite a bit more power and generates more heat.

    The 6800 is more CPU intensive in Video operations.

    There is a very comprehensive review on Toms Hardware Guide comparing the 800 Pro and 800XT to the 6800 Ultra and not the slower GT. A good read and can be found here:

    http://www20.graphics.tomshardware.com/graphic/20040504/index.html

    In the end performance was inconsequential since the 6800 is huge and would not fit in the shuttle case I had!
     
  23. Todda

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    Is the to be used more as a standard PC or a HCPC? Ian Cox from EPC gave me some exellent advice on buying an HCPC. They build a silent, attractive, PC to your specification and install an easy to use front end on it. II have never seen the PCs in action, but I have heard some positive things about them. It is the road I plan to go down in a couple of months time, when I get a plasma.
    If you plan to use it just as a standrad PC, however, then you might be paying money for a service you don't need.
     
  24. KevinR

    KevinR
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    Just my 2p

    Great advice already, but to anyone else who may be going down the same route....

    I have built PCs over a long period and two areas stand out.

    The PSU - don't ever skimp on it. There are some available for peanuts with so called high power ratings. Forget them. I have had them explode and damage other parts of the PC and the smell is something else....

    The motherboard - personal opinion I know but there is nothing more frustrating than a dodgy motherboard. I have had bad experiences (3!) with MSI and have long since converted to ASUS. They just work - for me anyway. The A8V is available for around £85 - try to ensure rev2 if you plan to overclock.
     
  25. Big Jim

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    The GT has much more reasonable power req's than the ultra, and is only sinlge slot, basically I think for this generation, both companies have done a great job and have good, fast cards. Hurrah for competetion!

    Happy purchasing whatever you end up buying, It's going to be another few months before I can afford to upgrade my badly ageing Athlon 600 :(
     
  26. Sinzer

    Sinzer
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    Definately get a good PSU and motherboard, that will really set you up.

    Can I ask exactly what you are requireing this PC for? By the sounds of it you also want it as a gaming PC? The TFT will it be used for gaming or are you hooking up to a projector?

    To not upgrade a PC for 3 years will be a tough job if you want it to play the latest games decently, really 18months-2 years is the most you will get out of some components.

    On the motherboard front I too have gone through two MSI mobos and wouldn't touch them with a barge pole. ASUS all the way for me, might not be the fastest off the block but I have never had one problem with any ASUS board I have owned, I still have an old P5 churning away. Features and reliability are what I look for.

    Do you really need to pay the premium for 939? You could knock off over a hundred quid off the price to get a 754, considering that the new BX form factor should be out shortly, the current incarnation of mobos are going to change drastically, so I doubt you will see that much upgrade advantage with the 939.

    The X800 I would also question, although it is most probably a good buy, it may be worth waiting to look at the new X700 or 6600GT the mid range cards about to be launched. Looks like they should retail for about 150 quid and are not that different in performance.

    I am not sure I agree on the HD performance, fast IO is not that important to a home PC. If you were running an 2 Terabyte Oracle Database server (not that you would on windows!) then IO becomes nearly the most important factor. But in a home PC ATA will not affect your performance, it might have a slight bearing on load times, but you will be able to stream movies fine. It is often wise going for a slow drive on a HCPC as it generates lower temperatures and requires less cooling. Size is also key and if you plan on storing DVDs on your HD you won't be able to with a 74Gb without running out of space soon.

    I would be extremely hesistant buying a 19" TFT screen, these screens are still known to show blurring in motion. I currently use a Hercules 920 Pro 17" TFT, these have the 20ms Hydis screens which are still rated as the best TFT screen on the market. I have no problems with it and game on it most days :)

    Sorry if I have come in and upset your decision, I hope not as that is a really good spec PC. However, it is worth considering what price/performance ratios are like. Paying double for a component when it only yields say 5-10% performance increase is not money well spent. I would imagine you could pay at least 300 quid less and be unable to tell the difference between that PC and your current spec under normal operating conditions.

    Usually the biggest leaps in performance are when you change a generation of components, not when you simply upgrade within a generation.
     
  27. HMHB

    HMHB
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    The 19" Viewsonic mentioned above does have a 16ms response time and has been getting good reviews, so it could well be good enough for games and DVDs (I've been looking at this one myself to be honest). There are quite a few 16ms 19" monitors coming out now and they are getting more affordable.
     
  28. Sinzer

    Sinzer
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    Response time is not the only measure to base on a TFT, also the response times are what are quoted by the manufacturer not what the actual monitor is capable of.

    Many of the 16ms quotes are actually cheats, as it is only applicable to a small pallette of common colours.

    You also need to consider contrast and colour, some TFTs are very bad on this respect so you will get washed out images.

    However, I have just some reviews at OcUK and it seems to be a pretty good choice, so ignore my comments :)
     
  29. MRW

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    Sinzer,

    Thanks for your input - read with interest.

    Yeah, the PC will be for games only, and I have realised that even with that set-up I'll still need to upgrade some parts (possibly the graphics card in around 18 months' time).

    I'm willing to take a gamble on the motherboard - the reviews that it has been getting make me want to give it a try...

    With regards to the imminent release of new ranges of motherboards and graphics cards on the way - this is exactly has been putting me off for the last year! If I don't get something now, I'll just fritter my money away on something else and never upgrade my current PC! It seems to me that we could always justify putting off buying new PC equipment as there'll always be 'something new coming along soon'. Also, the X800 sounds easy enough to soft-mod to almost X800XT levels?

    I've changed my mind with the hard-drive situation and am opting for 2 x Western Digital 160GB jobbies (£54.45 ex VAT each - komplett), which I'll run in RAID (or whatever the phrase is). The Raptor is not worth the money on reflection - thanks for the advice.

    The monitor has been getting some good reviews, and it appears as we speak today to be the only affordable, branded monitor with a claimed 16 ms response time, although I'd be happy to be corrected!

    I'm still finding the case and PSU situation a bit of a confusing place at the moment, I'm after a silver case, as quiet as possible, and I liked the look of the Coolermaster as per my spec. I've also found a Tagan TG480-U01 480W Silent PSU - £59 ex VAT from chillblast) that had some decent reviews, but it all seems like information overload. I want a quiet PSU that can easliy cope with the components above. If you have any suggestions on alternatives I'd be grateful.

    Also, if anyone out there has experience of the Creative Inspire T5900 system, I'm wondering if the volume of each speaker can be controlled independently, as I sit to one side of the centre of the room.

    I think I've got to make my final choice and go with the specification below, or the wife will find something else to spend my money on...

    Coolermaster Cavalier 3 - Silver CAV-T03 - chillblast - £77.55
    Tagan TG480-U01 480W Silent PSU - chillblast - £69.33
    MSI K8N Neo2 Platinum (Socket 939) with WI-FI Motherboard - komplett - £96.00
    Athlon 64 3500+ S939 512Kb Box - dabs - £235.99
    Sapphire ATI Radeon X800 Pro 256MB DDR3 TV-Out/DVI - komplett - £280.00
    2x512MB 184Pin DIMM PC3200 DDR Non-Parity CL2 2-2-2-5 - komplett - £190.00
    Western Digital Caviar 160GB S-ATA 8MB cache 7200RPM - komplett - £127.96
    Pioneer DVR-108 Double Layer Dual 16x DVD-R/RW - dabs - £58.50
    Sony DDU 1612 - DVD-ROM drive - IDE - komplett - £19.00
    ViewSonic VX910 19" TFT Display Silver - microdirect - £358.32
    Creative Inspire T5900 - komplett - £65.00
    White Microsoft Internet Keyboard PS/2 Win'95/98 - scan - £8.21

    Total of the above £1,585.85 includiung VAT but excluding delivery.

    Thanks again for your help.

    Matthew
     
  30. Yandros

    Yandros
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    MRW,

    regarding the speakers - you don't mention a dedicated soundcard on your spec now (you originally had the Audigy2 ZS).The volume adjustment is handled by the sound card drivers, not the speakers (which normally just have a master volume control). If you're relying on the MSI sound chipset, don't expect the same sophistication as the creative drivers (although I've no idea what the MSI ones are like - they may be very good).

    Here are the panels from the Creative Audigy2 ZS software:

    http://www2.gamma.uk.com/nwn/surround.jpg
    http://www2.gamma.uk.com/nwn/thx.jpg
     

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