Planning to Build a New System


T

The Mighty Favog

It's been two and a half years since I built myself a new computer.
A few weeks ago I encountered a very large Hi-Def video file that
refused to play properly on my system. Could be that I needed a new
codec, but somehow I don't think so. The file was 1080p and it would
play, but oh so slowly, with sound unsynchronized. And now I am
getting into editing High-Def as well as standard definition TV and
other video. Processing video from avi to mpeg2 or whatever to author
a DVD does take a while. I sure would like to cut down time required
for that sort of process. I don't play video games anymore, but I
confess I'd like to have a system that is capable of running new high
definition games if I ever see some game I've just got to try. So
yeah, I have the itch to build a new system. And as I've always
favored Asus motherboards, unless somebody points out a good reason to
change loyalties, this one will be Asus too.

Here's what I'm running now:

(To be replaced)
Asus P4C800-E Deluxe mbo
Pentium 4 3.2 ghz
One gigabyte RAM
ATI All-in-Wonder 9600XT video card
Creative X-Fi sound card (P4C800E onboard sound died)
(To be kept)
ATI HDTV Wonder card
PCI Modem
Four 500 gigabyte SATA hard drives
Two IDE Plextor DVD burner optical drives

For various reasons -- some maybe not so valid, but what the heck -- I
have a quadruple-boot system. Win2K is my C: partition. D: and E:
are both WinXP Pro, configured with different ATI video drivers. And
F: is Vista Ultimate, which runs semi-OK even with Aero Glass. I once
used Win2K as a testbed, but I seldom boot it anymore. I plan to drop
it when I configure the new system.

I capture Hi-Def movies from my cable box via firewire, and I capture
standard-def video with my All in Wonder. I must drive two monitors
-- both standard VGA with no HDMI available. One of the monitors is
my HDTV plasma screen. It has VGA input but it's over four years old
and has no HDMI input.

I'm willing to spend between $1K and $2K for my new hardware. No need
to buy anything I don't need, but no need to skimp if paying a little
more would make significant improvements. Here are the improvements
I'm thinking about:

Motherboard $249.99
Asus P5K3 DELUXE/WIFI-AP
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131181

Processor $480.00
Either: Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 Kentsfield 2.4GHz 2 x 4MB L2 Cache LGA
775 Processor
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819115017
or
Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 Conroe 2.4GHz $222.90
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819115003

Memory $275.99
Crucial 4GB kit (2GBx2), 240-pin DIMM, DDR2 PC2-5300 memory module
http://www.crucial.com/store/mpartspecs.aspx?mtbpoid=87270E2AA5CA7304

Video Card $399.37
Sapphire ATI Radeon X2900XT 512MB 2DVI/VIVO HDCP PCI-Express
http://www.ewiz.com/detail.php?p=AT-2900XT&c=pw
or
SAPPHIRE 100210L Radeon HD 2600XT 256MB 128-bit $149.99
GDDR4 PCI Express x16
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814102102&Tpk=SAPPHIRE+2600XT

Cooling Fan $55.99
ASUS Arctic Square 92mm Vapo Bearing CPU Cooler
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16835101010&Tpk=asus+arctic

Power Supply $414.17
PC Power and Cooling TURBO-COOL® 1KW-SR
http://www.pcpower.com/products/viewproduct.php?show=T1KWSR
or
PC Power and Cooling ULTRA-QUIET PSU: SILENCER® 610 EPS12V $147.25
http://www.pcpower.com/products/viewproduct.php?show=S61EPS

TV Tuner/Capture Card $71.99
Hauppauge WINTV-PVR-150 PCI Interface Tuner Card
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16815116625


The new P5K3 board will have three PCI slots. I plan to use them for
the HDTV Wonder, the modem (for fax capability), and the video capture
card.

There'll also be a spare PCIe slot, which I may eventually need. I
seem to be hard on sound cards for some reason. It seems every year
or so I have to get a new card. I've lost onboard sound on two
motherboards and my Creative cards seem not to last for more than a
year or two. I always lose a left or right channel and a new card
fixes things right up. I don't know what, if anything, I'm doing
wrong. I understand Creative has or is coming out with a PCIe sound
card which the P5K3 board should be able to accommodate if or when the
need arises. I don't plan to install dual video cards.

I plan to use my current case for the new system. It's an Enlight
horizontal layout case. My computer cabinet doesn't accommodate a
tower very well, but it has a nice sliding drawer for a horizontal
case. I have plenty of case fans installed -- enough so that I
haven't experienced a heat problem with my current setup.

Now for anybody who's read this far, here are some questions:

1) Do you think the new components will cause a heat problem with
everything packed tightly in a horizontal case? Even with lots of
fans?
2) Is it possible to multi-boot with 32-bit and 64-bit boot partitions
without having to make BIOS changes whenever I want to switch?
3) Will having four gigabytes of RAM cause problems with 32-bit OS
installations, or will the extra memory just be ignored?
4) Would I be better off with the more or less expensive options
mentioned above?
5) Do you see any obvious flaws in my planning? Am I about to do
something stupid? If so, warn me, please.

Thanks.

BTW, please send any offline replies to (e-mail address removed)
 
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D

Dean G.

I'm willing to spend between $1K and $2K for my new hardware. No need
to buy anything I don't need, but no need to skimp if paying a little
more would make significant improvements. Here are the improvements
I'm thinking about:

Motherboard $249.99
Asus P5K3 DELUXE/WIFI-APhttp://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131181

and


Memory $275.99
Crucial 4GB kit (2GBx2), 240-pin DIMM, DDR2 PC2-5300 memory modulehttp://www.crucial.com/store/mpartspecs.aspx?mtbpoid=87270E2AA5CA7304

5) Do you see any obvious flaws in my planning? Am I about to do
something stupid? If so, warn me, please.

First, if you are planning to use DDR2 memory, consider the Asus P5K
Deluxe (notice the lack of a 3) because that board supports DDR2. The
P5K3 Deluxe supports DDR3.

DDR3 is not pin compatible with DDR2. That would be a serious issue.

Second, even if you go with the P5K for DDR2, consider faster memory.
The P5K supports up to DDR2-1066/PC2-8500, so the DDR-2 PC2-5300
(667Mhz) is quite a step down. At the very least, DDR2-800/PC2-6400 is
fairly common and affordable.


Other things :

1) Do you think the new components will cause a heat problem with
everything packed tightly in a horizontal case? Even with lots of
fans?

The number of fans is far less relevant than the flow of air through
the case. 100 fans in a sealed box don't help at all. One good fan in
a well ventilated box can do wonders.

2) Is it possible to multi-boot with 32-bit and 64-bit boot
partitions
without having to make BIOS changes whenever I want to switch?

A good boot-loader should allow you to do that. I usually dual boot
Windows and Linux, but many of the same loaders should work for both
just fine.

3) Will having four gigabytes of RAM cause problems with 32-bit OS
installations, or will the extra memory just be ignored?

Mostly they will just be ignored, but of course they will still create
heat.

4) Would I be better off with the more or less expensive options
mentioned above?

Heat wise, the less expensive options. Fun (I mean productivity)-wise,
the most expensive options. For anything except 3d rendering and
games, the lesser video card may be the better option, as you really
don't gain anything except heat from the better card unless you run
something that benefits from the faster card. Also, the prices drop
freqently, so if you do find a game you like, buy a video card then.
It would be sad to buy an expensive video card, never really use it,
and find you need a better one when you do finally need it.

The same may go for the processor, but you seem to do some video
encoding which very well may benefit quite a bit from the extra power.
Most other things won't even notice the extra cores, and even many
multi-threaded tasks only really benefit from 2 cores at the present.
That will change, but prices will drop as well. I have a 6600, and it
can run Oblivion (3D game) just fine with [email protected] running in the
background. YMMV.

Dean G.
 
B

Bill Anderson

Dean said:
First, if you are planning to use DDR2 memory, consider the Asus P5K
Deluxe (notice the lack of a 3) because that board supports DDR2. The
P5K3 Deluxe supports DDR3.

DDR3 is not pin compatible with DDR2. That would be a serious issue.

Well this is very embarrassing and it's a perfect example of why I post
my questions in usenet before I go off and do something dumb. I thought
I had established that the P5K3 was backward-compatible, that it would
accommodate both DDR3 and DDR2. In fact, when I read what you wrote I
went straight to the Asus website to prove you wrong. And, um, well,
never mind. I actually have reviewed my notes and I've found the usenet
comments that misled me, but I have no excuse for not reading more
carefully. A P5K Deluxe/WiFi-AP with DDR21066PC2-8500 memory it shall be.
Second, even if you go with the P5K for DDR2, consider faster memory.
The P5K supports up to DDR2-1066/PC2-8500, so the DDR-2 PC2-5300
(667Mhz) is quite a step down. At the very least, DDR2-800/PC2-6400 is
fairly common and affordable.


Other things :

1) Do you think the new components will cause a heat problem with
everything packed tightly in a horizontal case? Even with lots of
fans?

The number of fans is far less relevant than the flow of air through
the case. 100 fans in a sealed box don't help at all. One good fan in
a well ventilated box can do wonders.

I have a big fan in front pulling in, and a matching fan with two
smaller ones in back pushing out. All this in addition to the processor
fan, the videocard fan and the power supply fan. With the case pushed
back on the sliding shelf, the noise is not really awful. I'll just
hope that's enough to keep the new components cool.
2) Is it possible to multi-boot with 32-bit and 64-bit boot
partitions
without having to make BIOS changes whenever I want to switch?

A good boot-loader should allow you to do that. I usually dual boot
Windows and Linux, but many of the same loaders should work for both
just fine.

Thanks. I thought this would work, but as I have no 64-bit experience I
wasn't sure.
3) Will having four gigabytes of RAM cause problems with 32-bit OS
installations, or will the extra memory just be ignored?

Mostly they will just be ignored, but of course they will still create
heat.

I may start with 2 gigabytes of RAM and add more if and when I get
around to a 64-bit OS.
4) Would I be better off with the more or less expensive options
mentioned above?

Heat wise, the less expensive options. Fun (I mean productivity)-wise,
the most expensive options. For anything except 3d rendering and
games, the lesser video card may be the better option, as you really
don't gain anything except heat from the better card unless you run
something that benefits from the faster card. Also, the prices drop
freqently, so if you do find a game you like, buy a video card then.
It would be sad to buy an expensive video card, never really use it,
and find you need a better one when you do finally need it.

Good advice. I suppose I'll go with the less expensive one for now.
The same may go for the processor, but you seem to do some video
encoding which very well may benefit quite a bit from the extra power.
Most other things won't even notice the extra cores, and even many
multi-threaded tasks only really benefit from 2 cores at the present.
That will change, but prices will drop as well. I have a 6600, and it
can run Oblivion (3D game) just fine with [email protected] running in the
background. YMMV.

Everything I've read about a quad-core processor seems to indicate I'd
need software specially designed for one, and I doubt that at present I
have much that qualifies. As you suggest, the mbo supports one so I can
always buy one later if I need it.

Many thanks for the comments!
 
P

Paul

Bill said:
Well this is very embarrassing and it's a perfect example of why I post
my questions in usenet before I go off and do something dumb. I thought
I had established that the P5K3 was backward-compatible, that it would
accommodate both DDR3 and DDR2. In fact, when I read what you wrote I
went straight to the Asus website to prove you wrong. And, um, well,
never mind. I actually have reviewed my notes and I've found the usenet
comments that misled me, but I have no excuse for not reading more
carefully. A P5K Deluxe/WiFi-AP with DDR21066PC2-8500 memory it shall be.


I have a big fan in front pulling in, and a matching fan with two
smaller ones in back pushing out. All this in addition to the processor
fan, the videocard fan and the power supply fan. With the case pushed
back on the sliding shelf, the noise is not really awful. I'll just
hope that's enough to keep the new components cool.


Thanks. I thought this would work, but as I have no 64-bit experience I
wasn't sure.


I may start with 2 gigabytes of RAM and add more if and when I get
around to a 64-bit OS.


Good advice. I suppose I'll go with the less expensive one for now.


Everything I've read about a quad-core processor seems to indicate I'd
need software specially designed for one, and I doubt that at present I
have much that qualifies. As you suggest, the mbo supports one so I can
always buy one later if I need it.

Many thanks for the comments!

In terms of the size of the PSU, you'd only need a serious power supply
if you had a high end video card. The mainstream Core2 Duo processors are
65W, which is less power than some of the previous generation of processors.
I think a Core2 Duo is even less than my old Northwood. The processor alone
won't tax the power supply. (If a motherboard had built-in graphics, you
could even get away with a 350W power supply.)

(July 22 price reductions on Intel processors -- worth waiting a couple weeks)

http://www.hkepc.com/bbs/itnews.php?tid=789466&starttime=0&endtime=0

For your video card choice, there is this article. This gives an overview
of the current generation of cards. Note that, for gaming purposes, the
high end, midrange, and low end, are separated by quite a difference in
performance. Which makes the selection process that much more difficult.
The part that bothers me, is the wasted electrical power, on a high
end card, when it isn't doing anything.

http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/video/display/r600-architecture_9.html

On the Nvidia cards, the lower end cards aren't worth upgrading to for
games. Those cards may be worthwhile, if using the video acceleration
features, but that may not fit too well with your monitors.

http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/video/display/geforce8-roundup_21.html

Some power numbers for the high end cards, are mentioned here. Xbitlabs
also does power measurements in their review articles.

http://www.xbitlabs.com/news/video/display/20070522115634.html

I have the same perspective on dual versus quad core. The quad core would
tend to waste power, when some of the cores are not being used. A dual is
closer in behavior, to a previous generation Hyperthreaded Pentium processor.
My Hyperthreaded P4 reports two virtual processors in Task Manager, and
that is what a Core2 Duo reports as well. It is easier to find ways to keep
two cores busy, than it is to keep four cores busy. If there was a lot
of software, known to scale well with the number of cores (like Cinebench),
then the quads would be of more interest.

http://techreport.com/reviews/2006q4/quad-fx/index.x?pg=6

With all the hype, it might be better to just skip the current
generation of video cards, and wait for the next. Buy something
like a 7600GT and use that to drive the two monitors.

http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/video/display/power-noise_5.html

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductReview.aspx?Item=N82E16814150185

Paul
 
P

Pecos

Processing video from avi to mpeg2 or whatever to author
a DVD does take a while. I sure would like to cut down time required
for that sort of process. I don't play video games anymore, but I
confess I'd like to have a system that is capable of running new high
definition games if I ever see some game I've just got to try. So
yeah, I have the itch to build a new system. And as I've always
favored Asus motherboards, unless somebody points out a good reason to
change loyalties, this one will be Asus too.

Here's what I'm running now:

(To be replaced)
Asus P4C800-E Deluxe mbo
Pentium 4 3.2 ghz
One gigabyte RAM
ATI All-in-Wonder 9600XT video card
Creative X-Fi sound card (P4C800E onboard sound died)
(To be kept)
ATI HDTV Wonder card
PCI Modem
Four 500 gigabyte SATA hard drives
Two IDE Plextor DVD burner optical drives

<snip>

Hi Bill,

In addition to the good advice from the others, I see an opportunity
overlooked. You sound like the perfect candidate for a RAID 0 (striped)
setup with at least two of the hard drives. Are the 500 GB drives all the
same make/model/rev? If so, you could gain almost double read/write speeds
to the disks using RAID 0. Your video 'scratch' files can be edited on the
RAID 0 volume and then saved to a redundant RAID 1 volume or one of the
stand-alone SATA drives. This is exactly the kind of task that RAID 0 was
designed for.

I have a brief RAID overview at:
http://www.pecos-softwareworks.com/foxconn_975x7ab-8ekrs2h.html#RAID

I know you want to go with ASUS, but you might want to look at the Foxconn.
It is an excellent high-end motherboard but a step down from the ASUS board
you have picked out.

Four drives will allow you to have both RAID 0 and RAID 1 or you can go
with only two drives using Intel Matrix RAID.

The motherboard you are considering, the ASUS P5K DELUXE/WIFI-AP has an
Intel ICH9R Southbridge. The R in the Southbridge name stands for RAID and
that chipset does support Intel Matrix RAID, which is a software based RAID
solution.

RAID isn't for everybody, but if you want speed, don't forget about all of
the reading and writing to the hard drives your video editing will be
doing.

If you do go with RAID, you will have to back up your data to create the
volumes and reload your operating systems. Creating RAID volumes using
Intel Matrix RAID is destructive and all data will be lost. When reloading
your operating systems start with the oldest OS first and progress to the
next oldest to keep the boot manager happy.
 
B

Bill Anderson

Pecos said:
RAID isn't for everybody, but if you want speed, don't forget about all of
the reading and writing to the hard drives your video editing will be
doing.

Thanks for the note. My drives are matched pairs. I tried RAID 0 on my
current system a few months ago. But one of the drives died and well,
it wasn't pretty. Actually, I hadn't been running RAID very long and I
didn't lose too much. Certainly nothing I couldn't replace pretty
easily. But if I ever have something irreplacable on a RAID array of
two 500 gigabyte drives, I'll be sick if one of them dies.

I'm thinking I may take your advice and run a RAID 0 array on the new
system. I could save Ghost backups of my boot partitions and my 500
gigabyte data drive on the RAID drive, as well as perform my video
editing on it. If I lose the backups I can always replace the defective
drive and do the backups again.

I'll keep thinking about it. My bad experience is making me a bit leery.
 
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B

Bill Anderson

Paul wrote:

Thanks for the help, Paul. I read every article you recommended. I
will certainly wait for the Intel price drop. I still think I'll go for
the midrange Radeon card, though. It's not TOO expensive, so I'm not
concerned that I'll feel bad about replacing it if the need ever arises.

Here's my current plan. Note that I still haven't settled on a
processor. I'll wait on the pricing situation to settle down and make a
decision then.

Motherboard $224.99
ASUS P5K DELUXE/WIFI-AP LGA 775 Intel P35 ATX
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131182

Processor $480.00
Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 Kentsfield 2.4GHz 2 x 4MB L2 Cache LGA 775 Processor
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819115017

or

Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 Conroe 2.4GHz $222.90
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819115003

Memory $229.99
Crucial 2GB kit (1GBx2), Ballistix 240-pin DIMM, DDR2 PC2-8500
http://www.crucial.com/store/mpartspecs.aspx?mtbpoid=FC3D6C36A5CA7304

Video Card $149.99
SAPPHIRE 100210L Radeon HD 2600XT 256MB 128-bit GDDR4 PCI Express x16
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814102102&Tpk=SAPPHIRE+2600XT

Cooling Fan $55.99
ASUS Arctic Square 92mm Vapo Bearing CPU Cooler
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16835101010&Tpk=asus+arctic

Power Supply $147.25
PC Power and Cooling ULTRA-QUIET PSU: SILENCER® 610 EPS12V
http://www.pcpower.com/products/viewproduct.php?show=S61EPS

TV Tuner/Capture Card $71.99
Hauppauge WINTV-PVR-150 PCI Interface Tuner Card
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16815116625
 
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P

Pecos

Thanks for the note. My drives are matched pairs. I tried RAID 0 on
my current system a few months ago. But one of the drives died and
well, it wasn't pretty. Actually, I hadn't been running RAID very
long and I didn't lose too much. Certainly nothing I couldn't replace
pretty easily. But if I ever have something irreplacable on a RAID
array of two 500 gigabyte drives, I'll be sick if one of them dies.

I'm thinking I may take your advice and run a RAID 0 array on the new
system. I could save Ghost backups of my boot partitions and my 500
gigabyte data drive on the RAID drive, as well as perform my video
editing on it. If I lose the backups I can always replace the
defective drive and do the backups again.

I'll keep thinking about it. My bad experience is making me a bit
leery.

I understand you completely. I had one of those bad experiences myself.
I could have gone back to a non-RAID setup, but I like RAID so much I
decided to stick with it.

I had my Vista OS and apps on a RAID 0 volume and all of my documents and
multimedia files on a RAID 1 volume. I lost a drive and I got to
experience first-hand what happens when one drive in the array goes away.

I lost everything on the RAID 0 volume of course, but reloading Vista and
my apps is not a big issue for me. I export my emails about every week or
so and I only lost a few days worth of emails.

I had a third drive that I used to reload Vista while waiting for my
replacement drive. Even though one drive was missing, the RAID 1 volume
was classified as 'degraded' meaning I no longer had redundancy. The
really great news was that I still had full access to all of my important
files on the RAID 1 volume.

After my replacement drive arrived, I simply reconfigured the new drive
in the Intel Matrix POST setup screen and then started up Vista. Vista
then rebuilt the RAID 1 volume on the new drive and I reloaded Vista and
my apps on the RAID 0 volume and removed it from my third drive.

I strongly suggest that if you go with a RAID 0 only setup, don't put
*anything* on it you can't afford to lose. Two drives essentially
doubles your chance of failure and as we have both experienced, a failure
can occur at any time.

With 500 GB to work with, you could go with both RAID 0 and RAID 1 on
just two drives. That is what I would recommend if you go back to a RAID
setup. Just be sure to move or copy your video files off the logical
drive/partition that is on the RAID 0 volume and over to a logical
drive/partition that is on the RAID 1 volume after you are done editing
them.

I always forget to mention this - SATA drives are required for use with
Intel Matrix RAID, so you are all set there and matched drives are
perfect.

Feel free to email me privately if I can be of further assistance to you.
 

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