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Yet Another Help-Me-Build-a-New-Computer Thread

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I also don't want to be miserable again in 2 years with a sluggish machine, so I'd like this thing to be as future-ready as possible so I can go 5 to 6 or 7 years before upgrading again.
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Alas, NOTHING you do can guarantee that - even if you buy the craziest powerhouse machine you can afford, things change. A lot. Which is a pretty good reason to NOT go all overboard, but buy something at a reasonable performance/price index.

With that in mind, an i5 2500k sounds like a very good choice. It's probably the CPU I'd go for if I were to build a new machine now (and after getting a Real Job(TM), I'm not extremely strapped for cash). Frankly, most of the time I wouldn't be able to utilize the extra Oomph an i7 has (the clock speed difference isn't all that high, and we're still at a point where not a lot of software can utilize even 4 cores... so utilizing 4 hyperthreaded cores? In the future, sure, but not now).

As for motherboard, I'd go for a chipset that lets you utilize the CPU-integrated GPU. "What, why?! I'm buying a powerful discrete GPU!", you say. Yes, you are, and that's what you'll be running your games off. But the integrated GPU can be used for GP-GPU purposes - right now there isn't a lot of uses (mainly video and audio transcoding), but there's a lot of focus on heterogenous computing right now, so this is something we'll likely see increasing in the future.

Personally, I'd go for a Nvidia GPU. I've simply had less issues with their drivers than AMD/ATi, and visual quality has often been better on the Nvidia GPUs (whether you can tell the difference at 60+ fps is another matter ;)). AMD cards may pack slightly more brute force for the cash, but that doesn't matter much when they suck at new features like tessellation (OK, nvidia GPUs also suck at that currently, but they suck less than AMD/ATi). And then there's PhysX and CUDA on NVidia, you don't get that with AMD/ATi. Go for a mid-end card, high-end cards are always too expensive :) (I'm very happy with my GTX 465).

RAM... last time I looked, RAM speed didn't matter all that much, the intel memory controllers have been extremely effective since the core2 architecture was introduced. It depends on your workload - if you can utilize MANY cores very effectively, and mainly deal with very simple computations, then you could be memory I/O bound. Stuff like file compression (think WinRAR, not audio/video) can benefit somewhat from a lot of memory bandwidth. Games tend to do 'crunch' a bit more and not just move data around.

Perhaps you should go for 8GB intead of 16GB, though? I've got 8GB in my current workstation, and definitely wouldn't go for less... OTOH, even with a 512meg ramdrive, I don't go near the 8GB very often - even with development tools and a couple of virtual machines running. Games are still predominantly 32-bit, and while gaming you probably won't be running a bunch of virtual machines anyway. The i5 has a dual-channel memory architecture, so I'd say grab 2x4GB now - you can always easily add another 2x4GB if you need it.

FWIW, I've been happy with and haven't had trouble with Corsair.

PSU... haven't looked at what's available for ages, so won't make any brand suggestions (even big names have been known to use cheap OEM parts every now and then). But you definitely DO want a modular PSU, they're so much easier to work with instead of the utterly hopeless cable mess (and bad case airflow) you get with a non-modular one. As for 80plus and all that: the more efficient the PSU is under the load you'll be putting on it(!), the less heat it will generate. This means two things:
1) do go for an efficient PSU.
2) don't go for a gazillion Watts, go for one that's close to what you'll be using but with some room to spare. And then be sure to read reviews (or find somebody on DC that has been keeping up :)) and select a stable PSU.

but it's hard to get over the feeling that 500 watts is a small amount when they're selling 1,000+ watt PSUs for the gamer market.
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My current rig (see bottom of post) idles at 150W, does the same at ~90% CPU usage while running WinRAR benchmark (says something about the CPU not going to more efficient state on idle :)), and jumps to 235W when gaming (DnF, there might be more GPU-intensive games but I think it's pretty much "idle or powered up"). 700W PSU was definitely overkill, and is probably not running anywhere near efficiently.

DO GET AN SSD. They rock. Bigtime. You sorta get used to the speed over time, but I really notice when I'm using a machine with a traditional mechanical HDD. 64GB should be just fine for your OS partition (mine's set at 24GB, but that's too small) - but you do need an additional HDD for all the 'bulk data'. You'll be installing games, the pagefile, and other huge stuff on the HDD. There's been a bunch of flaky SSDs lately, though, and I've been bitten myself by a Vertex2... my Intel X25-E hasn't had a signle hiccup, though. Electronics will be electronics, backups will be non-exis... backups.

I'd also like to overclock the CPU
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don't bother. Stresses the system too much, can make it unstable in ways that are very, very subtle - like standby/resume fscking up at weird times. And definitely don't do it just for the sake of benchfapmarks.

The case you've selected looks like the one my brother (not p3lb0x, the other one) has. It seems to be relatively comfortable to work with, but it's noisy, gathers dust, and has too much disco lighting. Take a look at the case Jeff Atwood is using for his latest rig - it looks like it's very comfortable to work with, and the cable routing is pure genious... apart from being nicer to work with, removing clutter also means better airflow.

My current rig:
Intel Q6600 CPU
ASUS P5K motherboard (intel P35 chipset)
Gigabyte GeForce GTX460 1GB OC
ThermalTake ToughPower 750W (accidentally(!) got the non-modular version :( )
4x2GB Corsair TWIN2MX-6400-C5DHX DDR2 ram
2xWD 74GB Raptor 10k RPM drives
1xIntel 64GB X25-M SSD
Whatever lite-on optical
Intel PRO/1000PT PCI-e NIC (onboard gbit NIC was too unstable on early Win7, and too slow anyway)
All stuffed in an Aerocool S55 case... looks wonderful, so-so to work with, and WAY TOO THIN SIDES, and thus noisy because of HDD vibration.

Just want to emphasize something f0dder said with regard to memory:

Upgrading memory is extremely easy - just make sure if you get 8gb of ram that you do so by getting two 4gb sticks (rather than 4 2gb sticks which would be cheaper), so that you have room to add more later.  That's a mistake people sometimes make.

Can anyone who knows for sure answer this question please?

Will a GPU that is PCIe 2.1 work on a Mobo with specifications that only mention having a PCIe 2.0 slot?

Here's the GPU I've been considering: ASUS EAH6850 Radeon HD 6850 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.1 x16 but my mobo only mentions having PCIe 2.0. . .

It appears as though NONE of the motherboards on NewEgg mention PCIe 2.1 specifically, so I would think they are compatible, but I'd feel a lot better if someone who knows for sure could verify it.
-Deozaan (July 21, 2011, 10:36 PM)
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Wikipedia isn't super informative, doesn't really mention much about compatibility. A quick googling with some (affirmative but not super informative) forum posts indicates 2.1 cards should work fine in 2.0 slots, though.

And considering that PCI-e was designed to be software compatible with PCI, my guess is that they've done a lot of compatibility work.

Looks like everyone has already done an (unsurprisingly) good job of covering the bases, but in the interest of adding "votes" to some things (i.e. if 3 DC'ers recommend something it raises confidence in ti), I'll put in my 2 cents in a couple of areas.

Case: Seems fine, a bit too much "bling" for me, but appears reasonably easy to work in. Handle is extraneous in my view, but you may like the aesthetic, heh. If the aesthetic is *not* a positive factor, there ought to be plenty of other options in the price range, e.g. Antec Sonata Elite (I've used previous gen Sonata cases and liked them very much, and have generally been a fan of Antec):

CPU: If future-proofing is really of concern, spend the extra $80 and get the i7 2600 (unless overclocking is actually something you plan to *do* and not just "play with for fun" - i.e. you will end up using the system long-term in an overclocked state - then you don't need the "k" model which saves you some $). It's worth it. Not only is it slightly faster (100Mhz per core), but hyperthreading actually makes a real difference, sometimes as much as 20% additional performance for heavily multithreaded tasks. Since you mention 3D, this may well be applicable to you. I know it is for me. It is also becoming increasingly relevant for high-end games. And, although upgrading later would be easy, unlike say a hard drive where you can have multiple and just upgrade and move your old one into a slave position for extra storage, when you do a CPU upgrade the old one is either wasted, sold *very* cheaply, or you need to buy a bunch more parts to make it useful.

Motherboard: No major opinions here (though I've liked ASUS in the past), but f0dder's point about having a motherboard that can take advantage of the CPU's onboard GPU is an interesting and possibly useful one (only applicable if you get the i5, i7 doesn't have the integrated GPU). This can be a supported config for some tasks (e.g. use CPU's integrated GPU *and* discreet GPU for GP-GPU tasks simultaneously), however I don't know if Intel's GPU tech in particular supports OpenCL, and it certainly doesn't support CUDA, so unless support for the integrated GPUs improves in GP-GPU apps it may never actually be that practical as far as actual applications that can use that config.

RAM: All brands mentioned so far are fine. What you said above is basically true, there are a lot of good-to-great brands. Faster RAM will make virtually no difference unless you're overclocking, which I would just not recommend unless - again - you are actually serious about it (and by "serious" I mean you intend to run your machine way, not "serious" in the sense that you want to go all the way to water cooling or something :D). Save the money and buy the i7 instead of i5. ;) Also, get as much as you can afford, but don't be afraid to get "only" 8GB and upgrade to 16GB in say 6 months (if you find you need it even). Just be sure, as others said, that you get 2x4GB instead of 4x2GB.

SSD: Given money seems to be a concern now I say *don't* get an SSD in the initial build. There are several reasons for this in my view. 1: as recent discussions here have shown, there are still a lot of reliability concerns. 2: although prices are coming down, they're still pretty darn high, especially $/GB. 3: they are one of the easiest, if not *the* easiest components to upgrade in your system, and doing so does not immediately make your previous hardware obsolete. 4: it sounds like you already have hard drives, so it's not like you're choosing between 2 purchase options *now* (although later you would be when you go to purchase the 2TB drive(s)). 5: your new system will be a big jump in performance with the components you've already outlined, so you'll be happy for the time being. When you get to upgrade again with an SSD later - say in 6 months or a year - it will be yet another big boost in speed without having to replace your whole system. The cost-to-appreciation ratio is better if you delay the SSD purchase.

They can make a huge difference for some things, e.g. Windows startup, app launch, game level load time. They give you a nice tangible boost in some of the things that are most traditionally slow in computer use, so the improvement in "feel" is great. *But*, they will not do much to improve actual computational performance, e.g. game frame rates, 3D rendering time, etc. Neither will they make a big difference for dealing with large files unless the file happens to be on the SSD (and with price/GB at this point, that's unlikely). So for example for me, I do a lot of large photo editing, with RAW image files of 20MB+ (sounds small but...) that I have to scroll through at fairly fast speed to review, rate, etc. not to mention when I do time lapse sequences and want to preview my sequence in e.g. After Effects. I notice load times frequently. But none of this would be made notably faster by an SSD because I wouldn't keep my photos on it (unless I splurged for a 500+GB one, hehe).

All this having been said, I don't have an SSD in my main machine myself, so I'm not speaking from as much a position of experience as f0dder and others on the subject. But for me it's just more of a practical consideration given the points I made above.

- Oshyan


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