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Last post Author Topic: PC Upgrade - A few questions  (Read 14102 times)

nosh

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PC Upgrade - A few questions
« on: August 24, 2008, 06:43:46 PM »
I'm getting a new system shortly, mainly to experience some dual core goodness.
I've based it mainly on this list at Techspot.

Nothing's finalized yet but here's how it's shaping up:
Core 2 Duo E8400 (@3 GHz) - going under the assumption that lesser cores with more GHz per core is better for the average user, as stated elsewhere. The E8500 (3.16 ? Ghz)and E8600 (3.33 GHz) apparently haven't arrived here and the marginal differences I've seen in the benchmarks don't make the waiting/torture worthwhile.
 
Gigabyte GA-EP35-DS3P (supports FSB speeds of 1600MHz and DDR2 speeds of 1200MHz)

RAM: 2GB DDR2, make undecided - something in the 1100+ MHz range

HDDs - Haven't looked closely at HDDs yet but something fast for the system drive,  probably a Raptor running @10000 RPM
1 TB Seagate or WD for data mirroring along with my older (2x) 300GB Seagates.

GPU - I'm leaning towards the 9600GT after reading this thread but I might spring for something faster, budget permitting.

A couple of clarifications needed from the hardware enthusiasts:
My memory usage rarely touches the 1GB mark as of now, will a core 2 system running the same OS+software utilize more RAM for any reason? The low speed RAM is really cheap but the faster sticks are a bit steeper priced so I don't want to buy any more than I need and use the cash instead to push the other specs up a bit.

Soundcard: I was completely taken in by some Creative X-Fi (XtremeMusic) reviews but just saw the thread reg. poor Creative support. I plan to stick to XP-32 so don't expect to have any driver problems. Any happy X-Fi customers here? Or other cards to consider? Do these things even make a difference to the way music sounds?

Any suggestions beyond what I've asked are obviously very welcome. Thanks.
« Last Edit: August 24, 2008, 06:47:39 PM by nosh »

mouser

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Re: PC Upgrade - A few questions
« Reply #1 on: August 24, 2008, 07:03:59 PM »
im a little paranoid about memory and would advise avoiding bargain-basement memory.
if you plan on doing any overclocking then you absolutely need good quality memory, but even if not, i would consider spending extra on name brand good memory, just because memory problems are so elusive and hard to diagnose, and it's not something you want to be wondering about.

you need 2gb, dont even think about getting less.  2gb is almost certainly enough.

your plan to get a 10k primary hd (140gb or so) is a very good one, and it's what i recommend.


Lashiec

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Re: PC Upgrade - A few questions
« Reply #2 on: August 24, 2008, 07:24:32 PM »
About the RAM, if you're not going to overclock, you're just fine with plain DDR2 800, but be sure to follow mouser advice.

Think about wether is worth buying a Raptor or not as it's no longer the panacea it was a couple of years ago. Drives like the Samsung Spinpoint F1 or the Western Digital Caviar SE16 give it quite some challenge in most tasks. Another completely different thing is the VelociRaptor, that drive is a beast and only a good SSD is capable of competing with it. The only caveat is that is quite expensive.

A 9600GT or a 8800GT are both good choices. If you budget can be stretched a bit more, I suggest you to look into a Radeon 4850.

The soundcard question is tricky. The X-Fi is quite a decent card, even more considering all the years Creative was laughing at its customers' faces. Is it the better? Personally, I might opt for a Xonar DX, which is even better quality-wise, and has compatibility with the latest EAX versions using some tricks. Also, do consider what kind of sound equipment do you have. If you're going to use a couple of normal computer speakers, investing into a soundcard is not really recommended.

mouser

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Re: PC Upgrade - A few questions
« Reply #3 on: August 24, 2008, 07:26:00 PM »
Quote
Also, do consider what kind of sound equipment do you have. If you're going to use a couple of normal computer speakers, investing into a soundcard is not really recommended.

this is a good point -- all modern motherboard's have reasonable built in sound.

cranioscopical

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Re: PC Upgrade - A few questions
« Reply #4 on: August 24, 2008, 09:06:05 PM »
Quote from: nosh
I'm leaning towards the 9600GT
FWIW the BFG 9600GT OCX that I bought runs cool and makes next to no noise (which is why I bought it). Nice to know that it performs as advertised, though. If you're using the computer to listen to music you don't want fan racket.

Personally, if I want music I turn on a hi-fi so I'm happy with the on-chip audio that's on my mobo (ASUS P5E3 Premium). It's a nice mobo, btw, with the bugs already ironed out and good features.
Here, if you're interested

 
You could always start out with the on-chip audio and see if it meets your needs. If you're happy then you have saved some cash for other upgrades. If not, just put in the card of your choice later.

As others have said, please don't buy bargain basement RAM

4wd

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Re: PC Upgrade - A few questions
« Reply #5 on: August 24, 2008, 10:04:13 PM »
About the RAM, if you're not going to overclock, you're just fine with plain DDR2 800, but be sure to follow mouser advice.

Unless you're into overclocking and pushing your hardware to the limits, I'll go one further and say buy the RAM recommended for the motherboard.  You'll have far less problems as Gigabyte have tested that RAM with the board.  BTW, though the board is listed as supporting DDR2-1200 even Gigabyte on the QVL recommend running the RAM at 1066 for modules higher rated.

Also, ensure you are buying the latest revision of the motherboard.

nosh

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Re: PC Upgrade - A few questions
« Reply #6 on: August 25, 2008, 04:35:30 AM »
Thanks for all your very helpful replies.  :Thmbsup:

First a clarification -  I was not looking to buy unbranded/ bargain-basement RAM, I generally end up with one of the usual suspects - Corsair, Kingston, Transcend... not exactly premium brands but hopefully not the bottom of the barrel either, all of them have a mention in the pdf 4wd linked to. And I try to go for extended warranties for RAM whenever possible, coz it not something that can be 'fixed'. 

I'm running my current P4 box with 2GB (mostly wasted) but I wouldn't dream of going for anything below for a newer machine. My hardware knowledge is very basic (if that) and I'm too chicken to overclock anything which is why I'm looking for something that's running faster than average out of the box. Lashiec, wouldn't it make sense to try and go for a stick running faster than  800 MHz, guess what I'm asking is, what's the usual bottleneck on most newer systems. I know that's too loose a question but since most of you are running multi-core systems, where would you say your system bottlenecks, if that's a word.

No PC speakers here, the sound is hooked into a Sony component system (stereo). I may be going in for a home theatre next year so I guess I'll postpone the sound card decision till then. My onboard sound is really clear even with the current box so I guess it makes sense to focus on the system performance rather than accessories right now.

The Velociraptor is looking really good and I think I'll spring for one. But that brings up a question - on my current setup I have the system and program files on separate (physical) 7200 RPM disks.

How do I set up the drives on the new box? Assuming D: = Program files
1. Two separate Velociraptors for C: and D: - ideal, but would put a big dent in my budget.
2. Run both C: and D: off the Velociraptor
3. C: Velociraptor +  something running at 10000 RPM, a regular Raptor or one of Lashiec's recommendations [Samsung Spinpoint F1 or the Western Digital Caviar SE16] for D:
4. Run D: off a 1TB @ 7200RPM  - give cost+space preference over performance coz the performance hit is going to be minimal (?).

Left to my own devices (that's a terrible pun!  :D) I'd probably go for #3 - regular 10000 RPM for the program files. I have an idea of the Velociraptor prices but if there's a more than superficial drop,  I'm really tempted to go with #1.  Dang, even #4 sounds good considering I can always go for an SSD down the line and use that as primary and shift the Veloci to D:
Assuming a limited budget, which scenario would you go for?

I'm not much of a gamer and since I got the PSP I just find it so much more convenient than PC gaming with all its associated headaches. Still, I wouldn't want to miss out on the newer stuff - so the GPU will be the last choice made, shaped mainly by what's left of the budget.

cranioscopical, Asus is obviously a front-runner but I've had a really bad experience with my current Asus mobo (shorted cable modem + Bluetooth dongle, thanks to a screwed up USB port - both devices very new and both (thankfully) covered by warranties. Also their service was really slow - took me two weeks to get my mobo back coz they had to courier it to another city. It's reported to be bad even at present so I'm trying to steer clear of Asus. BTW, I replaced my mother's slightly older mobo with a second-hand Intel some time back and was seriously impressed with it - everything from the BIOS features (considering it's a dated board) to the thorough online help system (complete specs, diagrams) was simply brilliant.

mouser

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Re: PC Upgrade - A few questions
« Reply #7 on: August 25, 2008, 04:44:00 AM »
i say put the OS and ProgramFiles on the fastest drive.  documents can go on the slower one.

Darwin

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Re: PC Upgrade - A few questions
« Reply #8 on: August 25, 2008, 12:29:21 PM »
If you're going to be running XP, 2GB of RAM is fine. If you're running Vista... After mucking about with it on several different notebooks (all Intel Dual Cores) I'd say that you need at least 3GB of RAM... Admittedly, the previous notebook I tried had integrated video (my current one has 512MB dedicated), but even with the still earlier notebook I tried with 128MB dedicated video, Vista was sluggish with 2GB RAM. Incidentally, all of these notebooks were tried brand new with nothing other than the OS installed and the OEM garbage removed...
"Some people have a way with words, other people,... oh... have not way" - Steve Martin

tslim

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Re: PC Upgrade - A few questions
« Reply #9 on: August 26, 2008, 03:15:39 AM »
Unless you absolutely need to buy a new PC quickly, I will advise you to wait.

A Core2Quad CPU + a mobo with DDR3 is going to be the main trend in no time.
Especially on the memory consideration, due to their socket design, a mobo can only support one of them, either DDR2 or DDR3 (not both). My main concern is all major mobo manufacturers are pushing out new ver of mobo on DDR3. Take a look at my dream mobo: Asus P5E3 WS Pro this guy is all there for I/O performance.

As for HDD, I have bad experience with Seagates. I will advise you to get WD harddisk, take two 500GB HDD seems to be a better choice then 1 TB HDD. The 2 unit of the former is cheaper than 1 unit of the latter and you can raid them to gain higher performance.

Btw, you can't mirror (Raid 1) a 300GB HDD with a 1TB HDD with hardware RAID


Lashiec

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Re: PC Upgrade - A few questions
« Reply #10 on: August 26, 2008, 01:08:33 PM »
And I try to go for extended warranties for RAM whenever possible, coz it not something that can be 'fixed'.

Yeah, no problem there, I think most reputable vendors have lifetime guarantees on RAM sticks.

Quote
Lashiec, wouldn't it make sense to try and go for a stick running faster than  800 MHz, guess what I'm asking is, what's the usual bottleneck on most newer systems. I know that's too loose a question but since most of you are running multi-core systems, where would you say your system bottlenecks, if that's a word.

Not really, there is a bottleneck, that's for sure, but at that hardware level is not reflected in actual performance. Then again, considering the price of DDR2 1066 vs. DDR2 800, a few more MHz can't hurt :D. Also, take advantage of the ailing economics of RAM manufacturers, and snag a 4 GB kit, it's cheap, cheap (/me thinks about getting one...)

Quote
Assuming a limited budget, which scenario would you go for?

If money is not a concern, I'd go for #3 right away. If that's not the case, I'll go for the next best thing considering your current setup: buy two normal hard drives, a small one for C: (reserved for apps and the operating system), and a big one for D: (data and whatever you want). #2 might be acceptable, if you're not concerned about its 300GB capacity limit. I'm not too keen on #4, never liked partitions, and that dislike can also be applied to #2. But that's a personal opinion.

Unless you absolutely need to buy a new PC quickly, I will advise you to wait.

A Core2Quad CPU + a mobo with DDR3 is going to be the main trend in no time.
Especially on the memory consideration, due to their socket design, a mobo can only support one of them, either DDR2 or DDR3 (not both). My main concern is all major mobo manufacturers are pushing out new ver of mobo on DDR3. Take a look at my dream mobo: Asus P5E3 WS Pro this guy is all there for I/O performance.

Well, I'm not too sure on that one. DDR3 is far cheaper than months ago, but the thing is there is not much difference between DDR2 and DDR3 performance. DDR3 would be useful in the future, thanks to its higher bandwidth, but only for newer processors, I think. The problem buying a Core 2 Quad now (which is also recommendable for future proofing, even if not many software use 4 threads now) and DDR3 is that you have a dead-end path, as Core i7 (Nehalem, Core 2 successor) is a very different processor due to the integrated memory controller, and the new socket, so you can't upgrade to a Core i7 in the future using the same motherboard. DDR3 makes more sense with a Core i7 as more cores mean more need for bandwidth, but with a Core 2 you might just save a nice sum of money to invest it in better things.

And well, you can also wait for Core i7, but there's nothing affordable until 2009. It's the usual thing with computing, wait to get better components which yield better performance for more money, the customer have to decide if the extra performance it's worth the waiting time and the higher costs.

tslim

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Re: PC Upgrade - A few questions
« Reply #11 on: August 26, 2008, 03:50:44 PM »
I am now using a Core2Duo with DDR2.

About 2 weeks ago, I just sold my DELL XPS420 which is a Core2Quad with intel X38 chipset, well also with DDR2. (I was frustrated with its mobo design - only can fit in a PC case which open on the right)

Just a different in CPU of the above, I can feel (no need for a benchmark tool) the boost of perfomace... a real diffenrence.

The reason I urge you to wait is not for big diff in DDR3 compare to DDR2... it is the CPU. But if one is getting a Core2Quad, with those Core2Quad mobo already supports DDR3, I see no reason in using DDR2. The problem is, even though you claim DDR3 has drop price, but I think its price is still too much. (I am talking about DDR3-1600 or above)

I remember reading an article, kind of benchmark lab testing, a DDR3-1600 or above does make a big different compare to even a very fast DDR2... though I have not personally experience it.

To be frank, I am waiting.

nosh

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Re: PC Upgrade - A few questions
« Reply #12 on: August 26, 2008, 04:49:06 PM »
Yep, the waiting game can be played infinitely, can't it?

Darwin, Vista!? Soap, water, rinse! ;D

tslim, there are boards that support both DDR2 & DDR3 but I assume you meant they can't be run concurrently. If I were to consider DDR3 I would have to stretch my budget even more than it already is and I've got to draw the line somewhere. I'm going for a dual core CPU coz they have the highest GHz per core and I've read time and again right here on DC that most current apps just aren't designed to make use of multiple processors - the price differential between duo and quad is not that much, CPU power is the _last thing_ I'd compromise on esp. since it's been the biggest bottleneck on my system for years. As for HDD makes, I'm making my choices with performance foremost in mind, the drives come with a 5 year warranty and I mirror everything of importance daily and also intend to start storing stuff on an external HDD, so I'm not that concerned about crashes. BTW, I've never ever had a hard drive completely crash on me  :D - a few bad sectors in an old 80GB Seagate but it's still running as a secondary in an older PC.  :)

You RAID suggestion is really good - I've looked into RAID a little and understand the concept(s) but I'm not too sure how it's put into practice and what side effects (if any) it will have to my system's functioning. I read that software ("fake", IIRC) RAID tends to use system resources for parity checks and have used that as an excuse (justified or not!) to cop out for now, I know all the big boys are doing it and maybe I'll get to it someday.  

I'm most probably getting the machine tomorrow, here's what it looks like now:
Core 2 Duo E8500 (E8600 still isn't available, I'll give it one final try tomorrow)
Gigabyte GA-EX38-DS4
Corsair 2 x 1 GB @ 1066 MHz (I wanted a single 2GB stick but was told that wouldn't work, they have to be installed in pairs, 2x1GB or 2x2GB)
Velociraptor 300GB - system, program files & game dumps.
2 x 1 TB Seagate 7200.11 - main data and mirror drives. (The Spinpoint Lashiec recommended is the fastest of the 1TBs, but it isn't available - the 7200.11 is not as fast but comes closer to it than most others)

Western Digital My Book Essential Edition 1 TB external (I'm sticking with USB to keep it as portable as possible. Love the way it looks, BTW.)

Generic cabinet (I'll make sure it has enough air flow :-[, though I shouldn't need it as much with the Prescott gone) & a Coolermaster PSU

The video card I still haven't looked into, probably one of the 8800 series, but that's for tomorrow - my little brain deserves all the zzzs it can get today.

Thanks once again to everyone who replied!
« Last Edit: August 26, 2008, 05:03:44 PM by nosh »

cranioscopical

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Re: PC Upgrade - A few questions
« Reply #13 on: August 26, 2008, 06:04:19 PM »
I hope you have lots of fun with your new system!  :Thmbsup:

Let us know how you get on!


mouser

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Re: PC Upgrade - A few questions
« Reply #14 on: August 26, 2008, 06:17:20 PM »
remember those square little stickers on pcs that used to be all the rage.. we need some high quality cody stickers like that, saying something like "Cody Inside" :)

jgpaiva

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Re: PC Upgrade - A few questions
« Reply #15 on: August 26, 2008, 06:40:06 PM »
remember those square little stickers on pcs that used to be all the rage.. we need some high quality cody stickers like that, saying something like "Cody Inside" :)
Yes, yes and yes!!!
I already have an apple logo to stick on my laptop's screen, but I need more stickers. A "cody inside" sticker would be just perfect!!

cranioscopical

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Re: PC Upgrade - A few questions
« Reply #16 on: August 26, 2008, 08:22:59 PM »
we need some high quality cody stickers like that, saying something like "Cody Inside" :)

Hmph!  Judging by the state of my car this morning, I could use one that says "Cody Outside"    >:(



nosh

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Re: PC Upgrade - A few questions
« Reply #17 on: August 26, 2008, 10:35:20 PM »
Quote
Hmph!  Judging by the state of my car this morning, I could use one that says "Cody Outside"    >:(

 ;D

Grorgy

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Re: PC Upgrade - A few questions
« Reply #18 on: August 27, 2008, 02:22:15 AM »
My experience with soundcards is somewhat limited, but, i run all the sound thru a 100w amplifier and the difference between the on-board sound and the sound card (I use a creative USB live thingy) is quite noticeable even to my jaded ears, so if you can borrow one for a trial you can check it out, since they aren't all that cheap and if it makes no difference to you then its obviously not worth buying.  Ramble ramble ramble lol

tomos

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Re: PC Upgrade - A few questions
« Reply #19 on: August 27, 2008, 03:26:12 AM »
I sometimes wonder about using two identical drives in a computer -
the chances could be that they might both give up around the same ?
maybe it just me imaging the worst possible scenario  :tellme:
Tom

cranioscopical

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Re: PC Upgrade - A few questions
« Reply #20 on: August 27, 2008, 07:25:49 AM »
Quote from: tomos
I sometimes wonder about using two identical drives in a computer -
the chances could be that they might both give up around the same ?
maybe it just me imaging the worst possible scenario


That's an interesting point. Of the four that I bought for one of my machines three died (they had nearly sequential serial #s). That's a bit too much for me to accept as coincidence. There may have been some other reason entirely, I can't say.

OTOH I like the idea of identical components. I offer no rational support for that view, just a vague feeling of balance. At some time or another I've mixed drives in most machines I owned, with no (known) problems.

Usually I start off any new machine with identical drives. You can cross your fingers for me as I just put four drives into my new machine, each one being the same model as the rest.  I'll report back on Fryday.




tslim

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Re: PC Upgrade - A few questions
« Reply #21 on: August 27, 2008, 08:44:38 AM »
Yep, the waiting game can be played infinitely, can't it?

I understand what you mean by the waiting game. Trust me, I am quite crazy in PC upgrade. I have the game played almost every half a year for quite some time ... and I seldom wait.

Seriously, my wait this time is not a typical wait. This time it is like a global revolution taking place, generally PC buyer can:

Opt for Core2Quad rather than Core2Duo (when many are still in the era of pre Core2Duo)
Opt for RAID rather than buying a 10000RPM HDD (which never get commonplace)
Opt for DDR3 rather than DDR2
Power supply has to support the new PCIE-card's power socket.
I heard Bios are having big revolution as well.

All the above happen and most importantly become a norm in a short range of time. Yes I agree technology advances everyday, but I have never seen so many changes all within a short period... better think twice for what is your next PC build.

tslim, there are boards that support both DDR2 & DDR3 but I assume you meant they can't be run concurrently.
Seriously, I never come across one. May be it is because I am too much a ASUS mobo fan, which make me seldom visit other sites for mobo.
Could you please quote me few mobo which support both DDR2 and DDR3, I have great interest, but I need to know their chipset as well.

Darwin

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Re: PC Upgrade - A few questions
« Reply #22 on: August 27, 2008, 08:56:09 AM »
tslim -  >:(

You're making me feel bad about my recent purchase of a Core 2 Duo notebook when Intel is promising that Quad Core will be available in a mobile platform next year  :D

I salve the wound by reminding myself that this kind of leap in mobile technology will no doubt be very expensive in the first year or more that it is available...
"Some people have a way with words, other people,... oh... have not way" - Steve Martin

tslim

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Re: PC Upgrade - A few questions
« Reply #23 on: August 27, 2008, 09:43:01 AM »
ah Ha,
Your case is definitely different.
Who cares about a product due next year?

Darwin

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Re: PC Upgrade - A few questions
« Reply #24 on: August 27, 2008, 11:15:36 AM »
thanks, tslim - that makes me feel better  :D
"Some people have a way with words, other people,... oh... have not way" - Steve Martin