Seeking advice on planned new build -- v2.0


D

David Samuel Barr

Thanks to the generous advice of several of the experts here, I've
completely revamped the plans for my new build, so I'm back to run them
past you again for any additional comments or advice anyone has to
offer.

To recap from the original thread, while I am well-experienced under the
hood of PCs, this is actually my first full build in 20 years. I've
outgrown my 10-year-old Gateway P166 (which still works) and am looking
to put together a system which should last a comparable amount of time
rather than having to be replaced or refurbished every couple of years;
also looking ahead to the probable inevitability of Vista and its
successors (although I'm still happily running Win95). I'm not as
concerned about a silent PC as most reviewers seem to be; I generally
don't notice the minimal noise most computers I've used make, so unless
this build really will sound like the Wabash Cannonball coming through
the living room, that's far less of an issue than is good cooling.

Here's what I expect to be using it for:
1) Word processing (WordPerfect)
2) Multiple large complex spreadsheets (QuattroPro)
3) Filling in and printing PDF forms (Acrobat Reader)
4) Internet use
a) e-mail and Usenet (Thunderbird)
b) Web research & browsing (Firefox [or IE when needed])
c) File transfers
5) a) Creating & editing MIDI files and printed scores (Finale),
sometimes with input from an outboard digital piano;
b) Transferring vinyl to CD-R(W) or MP3; maybe some editing
c) Capturing various audio/video sources and editing sound bites
6) a) Some PVR use with some possible edits/transfers to DVD
b) Some VHS-to-DVD conversion and some editing thereof
c) Some editing of clips from DVR/PVR sources
NO GAMING (except FreeCell), NO OVERCLOCKING but a LOT of multitasking
of the above processes

Given that, here's the hardware I've picked so far. First, the basic
list, then the comments/questions on each component.

Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E6400
Motherboard: Asus P5B-E
Memory: Crucial 2x1Gb Kit, DDR2-533, PC2-4200
Video Card: Leadtek WinFast PX7900GT TDH
TV Tuner/Capture Card: [TBD]
Sound Card: Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Platinum
Hard Drive: Western Digital WD2500KS 250Mb or WD3200KS 320Mb
Optical Drive: Samsung SH-S182 DVD/CD combo burner
Floppy Disk Drive: [TBD]
Modem Card: US Robotics USR5610b
Power Supply: PC Power & Cooling Turbo-Cool 510 SLI or Silencer 470
Case: CoolerMaster Elite 330

Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E6400
Of the Conroe/Allendale line, this is the top one before the large price
jump, and reviews indicate the performance is not significantly reduced
below that of the high-end chips by the smaller cache.

Motherboard: Asus P5B-E
Despite some persistent naysayers, nearly everything I've read has
pointed to Asus as the board to go with. Of their Socket 775 Conroe P5B
boards, I picked this one rather than the Deluxe because I don't need
Wi-Fi but I do need a parallel port.

Memory: Crucial 2x1Gb Kit, DDR2-533, PC2-4200
To me, Crucial seems a no-brainer choice. I probably could get by with
just 1Gb, but again, I'm both thinking ahead and allowing for the high
needs of PVR/DVD use. I'm going with 533 because supposedly that's the
synchronous speed for the CPU's 1066 FSB, while the far more expensive
667 or 800 memory would be less efficient.

Video Card: Leadtek WinFast PX7900GT TDH
Once I had finally decided on the nVidia 7900GT over the other current
nVidia and ATI options, the fact that they only farm out their designs
to other companies complicated matters. I couldn't find any info on the
general reputations of video card manufacturers, and of the cards for
which I found specific reviews, the Leadtek seemed to be as good as or
better than the others. Points in its favour, to me, are that it isn't
factory overclocked as the others all seem to be and Leadtek reportedly
gets "cherry-picked" pre-tested cores from nVidia. On the down side,
this card seems to be getting hard to find.

TV Tuner/Capture Card: [TBD]
Since it doesn't seem that there is any 7900GT card equivalent to ATI's
All-In-Wonder options, I'm going to have to use a PCI slot for a
separate tuner/capture card. I'm open to suggestions, since I don't see
a clear leader here; I don't need a remote control as part of the
package, since I don't expect to use the PC for live viewing, just for
timed recording and for playback of hard drive or DVD content controlled
from the keyboard. I understand, though, that in a few months there are
supposed to be PCI Cablecards that will replace all current tuner/
capture cards, so I probably will hold off and add one of those instead
at a later date.

Sound Card: Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Platinum
The one true no-brainer in this build; I'd go with the basic card, but
it seems the only way to get MIDI ports on this machine is to step up
to the Platinum just to get the I/O box.

Hard Drive: Western Digital WD2500KS 250Mb or WD3200KS 320Mb
I've had good experience with WD to date and it's generally highly
regarded. I don't need the Raptor (more RPM but fewer GBs for more
money), and I don't think I need RAID. While some people recommend a
drive for OS and applications and another drive for data, I've found
that more say that a properly set up single large drive is as good or
better, even if a bit more risky in terms of loss from drive failure.
(Although my current computer has an internal tape drive, I'll probably
end up getting a matching external hard drive for major backups and
using CD-RWs or DVD-RWs for incrementals.) I'll pick whichever of
the two drives listed are the better buy at the time of purchase.

Optical Drive: Samsung SH-S182 [DVD±R DL/RW & CD-R/RW]
This was recommended as an alternative to the Plextor PX-716A I had
originally chosen, and while reviews I've found have been mixed, it does
seem to be a suitable choice at a fraction of the price of the Plextor.
I've also dropped my plan for a separate CD writer, based on vociferous
urgings here; I suppose I can always add it later if it does prove
necessary.

Floppy Disk Drive: [TBD]
Yes, I've still got lots of old stuff on floppies (though I did transfer
my 5" ones to 3.5" several years ago), and it's a useful option to have
for emergencies. My original plan was to use either the Mitsumi 404,
Adaptec 7500 or Ultra 7-in-1 combo floppy disk/media card reader so that
I could do CD/MP3-to-SD card transfers for my sweetie, but since she
dumped me in July that's no longer a priority and I can go with a plain
vanilla disk drive (and add a media card reader later if she ever comes
back). Any favourites or ones to avoid?

Modem: US Robotics USR5610b
Yes, I'm still on a dial-up connection, and more to the point, my boss
insists on using faxes instead of e-mail, so I want to be able to send &
receive them directly rather than having to use my outboard fax machine,
which is not possible with DSL or cable broadband even if I had it.
US Robotics seems to be the no-brainer choice as it has been for many
years; anyone disagree? This model was criticised here as overkill, but
I want a real hardware v.92 modem, not a Winmodem, and this is their
only one.

Power Supply: PC Power & Cooling Turbo-Cool 510 SLI or Silencer 470
Early on in this process I had decided on the 510; the motherboard-
specific Power Supply Selector on the site says the Silencer 470 also is
acceptable, however, if one uses their Power Usage Table it looks like I
need something pushing around 800 watts. Meantime, some "truth about
power supplies" sites I've read that say that my setup will rarely draw
much over 250 watts even at full blast. There's also the odd situation
that practically no retailers carry this line (although Newegg has a
very limited selection), somewhat peculiar for what is supposedly one of
the top brands in this area. I know the importance of the PS in the
system and don't plan to skimp on it, although the discounted price of
around $220 for the 510 (over twice that of the 470) still gives me
pause, so I'm open to other suggestions.

Case: CoolerMaster Elite 330
Who would have imagined this would be the hardest part of the project??
I'm just looking for a good sturdy basic mid-tower case with enough
room and excellent cooling for the components and ready access to the
power & reset buttons and drive openings in normal use (also a BIOS
speaker [for startup and error beeps], since apparently the motherboard
doesn't have one). No plastic doors or flaps to break off, no internal
light shows, no dragon or flame decals, etc.; it's just going to sit by
my desk. This seems to meet those criteria, at a reasonable price, and
while there have been very few reviews to date, those mostly have been
positive. Anyone have any experience with it?

Again, many thanks in advance to all who have taken the time & effort to
read & comment. It's much appreciated.
 
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P

Paul

David said:
Thanks to the generous advice of several of the experts here, I've
completely revamped the plans for my new build, so I'm back to run them
past you again for any additional comments or advice anyone has to
offer.

To recap from the original thread, while I am well-experienced under the
hood of PCs, this is actually my first full build in 20 years. I've
outgrown my 10-year-old Gateway P166 (which still works) and am looking
to put together a system which should last a comparable amount of time
rather than having to be replaced or refurbished every couple of years;
also looking ahead to the probable inevitability of Vista and its
successors (although I'm still happily running Win95). I'm not as
concerned about a silent PC as most reviewers seem to be; I generally
don't notice the minimal noise most computers I've used make, so unless
this build really will sound like the Wabash Cannonball coming through
the living room, that's far less of an issue than is good cooling.

Here's what I expect to be using it for:
1) Word processing (WordPerfect)
2) Multiple large complex spreadsheets (QuattroPro)
3) Filling in and printing PDF forms (Acrobat Reader)
4) Internet use
a) e-mail and Usenet (Thunderbird)
b) Web research & browsing (Firefox [or IE when needed])
c) File transfers
5) a) Creating & editing MIDI files and printed scores (Finale),
sometimes with input from an outboard digital piano;
b) Transferring vinyl to CD-R(W) or MP3; maybe some editing
c) Capturing various audio/video sources and editing sound bites
6) a) Some PVR use with some possible edits/transfers to DVD
b) Some VHS-to-DVD conversion and some editing thereof
c) Some editing of clips from DVR/PVR sources
NO GAMING (except FreeCell), NO OVERCLOCKING but a LOT of multitasking
of the above processes

Given that, here's the hardware I've picked so far. First, the basic
list, then the comments/questions on each component.

Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E6400
Motherboard: Asus P5B-E
Memory: Crucial 2x1Gb Kit, DDR2-533, PC2-4200
Video Card: Leadtek WinFast PX7900GT TDH
TV Tuner/Capture Card: [TBD]
Sound Card: Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Platinum
Hard Drive: Western Digital WD2500KS 250Mb or WD3200KS 320Mb
Optical Drive: Samsung SH-S182 DVD/CD combo burner
Floppy Disk Drive: [TBD]
Modem Card: US Robotics USR5610b
Power Supply: PC Power & Cooling Turbo-Cool 510 SLI or Silencer 470
Case: CoolerMaster Elite 330

Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E6400
Of the Conroe/Allendale line, this is the top one before the large price
jump, and reviews indicate the performance is not significantly reduced
below that of the high-end chips by the smaller cache.

Motherboard: Asus P5B-E
Despite some persistent naysayers, nearly everything I've read has
pointed to Asus as the board to go with. Of their Socket 775 Conroe P5B
boards, I picked this one rather than the Deluxe because I don't need
Wi-Fi but I do need a parallel port.

Memory: Crucial 2x1Gb Kit, DDR2-533, PC2-4200
To me, Crucial seems a no-brainer choice. I probably could get by with
just 1Gb, but again, I'm both thinking ahead and allowing for the high
needs of PVR/DVD use. I'm going with 533 because supposedly that's the
synchronous speed for the CPU's 1066 FSB, while the far more expensive
667 or 800 memory would be less efficient.

Video Card: Leadtek WinFast PX7900GT TDH
Once I had finally decided on the nVidia 7900GT over the other current
nVidia and ATI options, the fact that they only farm out their designs
to other companies complicated matters. I couldn't find any info on the
general reputations of video card manufacturers, and of the cards for
which I found specific reviews, the Leadtek seemed to be as good as or
better than the others. Points in its favour, to me, are that it isn't
factory overclocked as the others all seem to be and Leadtek reportedly
gets "cherry-picked" pre-tested cores from nVidia. On the down side,
this card seems to be getting hard to find.

TV Tuner/Capture Card: [TBD]
Since it doesn't seem that there is any 7900GT card equivalent to ATI's
All-In-Wonder options, I'm going to have to use a PCI slot for a
separate tuner/capture card. I'm open to suggestions, since I don't see
a clear leader here; I don't need a remote control as part of the
package, since I don't expect to use the PC for live viewing, just for
timed recording and for playback of hard drive or DVD content controlled
from the keyboard. I understand, though, that in a few months there are
supposed to be PCI Cablecards that will replace all current tuner/
capture cards, so I probably will hold off and add one of those instead
at a later date.

Sound Card: Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Platinum
The one true no-brainer in this build; I'd go with the basic card, but
it seems the only way to get MIDI ports on this machine is to step up
to the Platinum just to get the I/O box.

Hard Drive: Western Digital WD2500KS 250Mb or WD3200KS 320Mb
I've had good experience with WD to date and it's generally highly
regarded. I don't need the Raptor (more RPM but fewer GBs for more
money), and I don't think I need RAID. While some people recommend a
drive for OS and applications and another drive for data, I've found
that more say that a properly set up single large drive is as good or
better, even if a bit more risky in terms of loss from drive failure.
(Although my current computer has an internal tape drive, I'll probably
end up getting a matching external hard drive for major backups and
using CD-RWs or DVD-RWs for incrementals.) I'll pick whichever of
the two drives listed are the better buy at the time of purchase.

Optical Drive: Samsung SH-S182 [DVD±R DL/RW & CD-R/RW]
This was recommended as an alternative to the Plextor PX-716A I had
originally chosen, and while reviews I've found have been mixed, it does
seem to be a suitable choice at a fraction of the price of the Plextor.
I've also dropped my plan for a separate CD writer, based on vociferous
urgings here; I suppose I can always add it later if it does prove
necessary.

Floppy Disk Drive: [TBD]
Yes, I've still got lots of old stuff on floppies (though I did transfer
my 5" ones to 3.5" several years ago), and it's a useful option to have
for emergencies. My original plan was to use either the Mitsumi 404,
Adaptec 7500 or Ultra 7-in-1 combo floppy disk/media card reader so that
I could do CD/MP3-to-SD card transfers for my sweetie, but since she
dumped me in July that's no longer a priority and I can go with a plain
vanilla disk drive (and add a media card reader later if she ever comes
back). Any favourites or ones to avoid?

Modem: US Robotics USR5610b
Yes, I'm still on a dial-up connection, and more to the point, my boss
insists on using faxes instead of e-mail, so I want to be able to send &
receive them directly rather than having to use my outboard fax machine,
which is not possible with DSL or cable broadband even if I had it.
US Robotics seems to be the no-brainer choice as it has been for many
years; anyone disagree? This model was criticised here as overkill, but
I want a real hardware v.92 modem, not a Winmodem, and this is their
only one.

Power Supply: PC Power & Cooling Turbo-Cool 510 SLI or Silencer 470
Early on in this process I had decided on the 510; the motherboard-
specific Power Supply Selector on the site says the Silencer 470 also is
acceptable, however, if one uses their Power Usage Table it looks like I
need something pushing around 800 watts. Meantime, some "truth about
power supplies" sites I've read that say that my setup will rarely draw
much over 250 watts even at full blast. There's also the odd situation
that practically no retailers carry this line (although Newegg has a
very limited selection), somewhat peculiar for what is supposedly one of
the top brands in this area. I know the importance of the PS in the
system and don't plan to skimp on it, although the discounted price of
around $220 for the 510 (over twice that of the 470) still gives me
pause, so I'm open to other suggestions.

Case: CoolerMaster Elite 330
Who would have imagined this would be the hardest part of the project??
I'm just looking for a good sturdy basic mid-tower case with enough
room and excellent cooling for the components and ready access to the
power & reset buttons and drive openings in normal use (also a BIOS
speaker [for startup and error beeps], since apparently the motherboard
doesn't have one). No plastic doors or flaps to break off, no internal
light shows, no dragon or flame decals, etc.; it's just going to sit by
my desk. This seems to meet those criteria, at a reasonable price, and
while there have been very few reviews to date, those mostly have been
positive. Anyone have any experience with it?

Again, many thanks in advance to all who have taken the time & effort to
read & comment. It's much appreciated.

(P5B-E picture)
http://www.beareyes.com.cn/2/lib/200609/28/375/image002.jpg

I think one issue I see with your build, is the physical spacing between
the PCI slots and the video card. You will likely want to leave a
"blank slot" between the video card and the other cards, for cooling.
The P5B-E is an otherwise fine board (doesn't have the useless SIL4723
on it), but I don't like the spacing. I can see you having room for
two PCI cards, when you want three. One solution, would be to
go for a lower performance video card. Video card 2D performance is
for the most part, all the same between cards. With a PCI Express 4GB/sec
bus bandwidth, it doesn't matter which video card you buy, there is no
problem drawing into the frame buffer in 2D. Buying more expensive
cards, gives better 3D performance. (Since you aren't a gamer, there
is no need to buy an expensive video card.) When Vista comes out, the
desktop will use 3D elements, so that is a consideration. I would not
expect that to be a limitation. Maybe a 7300GS level card would be
another alternative, and maybe it would be OK with a PCI card
next to it.

7300GS draws 10.3W at "peak 2D". Maybe one of those would be safe to
use next to an adjacent PCI card.
http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/video/display/power-noise_7.html

This one has HDTV and Svideo output options.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16814130030

In terms of slot layout, the P5W DH Deluxe would leave you with
more spacing between the primary video card slot, and the PCI
slots. The downside of P5W DH is the inclusion of SIL4723, which
I don't consider to be an attractive feature.

http://usa.asus.com/products4.aspx?modelmenu=2&model=1198&l1=3&l2=11&l3=248

Your choice of a 7900GT video card, is "way up the food chain".
That would be a serious gamer card, and you claim not to be a
gamer.

http://www.techpowerup.com/gpudb/

7900GT "peak 2D" power is 32.4 watts. Or three times a 7300GS.
http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/video/display/power-noise_4.html

This motherboard doesn't have a bad layout. No Firewire though. Nice
spacing between PCI slots and video. You could use your 7900GT and
leave space to the PCI slots.

http://www.motherboards.org/mobot/motherboards_d/Gigabyte/GA-965P-S3/

You can search through the database here, for nicer layout motherboards.
There are, unfortunately, several "CPU Type" fields that include
Core 2 Duo, so more than one search will be needed to list all the
compatible motherboards.

http://www.motherboards.org/mobot/

You can fix the missing Firewire for $32, with this PCI Express x1
Firewire card. This won't waste any of your PCI slots. The PCI
Express card would be installed next to your three PCI cards.
If at some point, you find a PCI Express tuner, you can then
buy an older PCI Firewire card and use a PCI slot for it. With some
care, that Gigabyte board would offer effectively four upgrade
slots.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16812186009

"cherry-picked" is a myth. Don't believe it. In the industry, if
a chip supplier goes to the trouble of finding "cherries", it
costs them money to do it. The cost should be passed to the
consumer. If Leadtek makes the cards for the same price as
everyone else, then there cannot be any true "cherries" used.
A Taiwanese manufacturer can certainly try to sort through the
chips themselves, but the result would not be nearly as good,
as having the chips binned by Nvidia.

For the power supply, there is no question the Turbocool is a
nice power supply. But it does have a noisy fan. The power supply
is designed to work well, even if the ambient is hotter than other
supplies can tolerate. So, a good supply, but noisy. I'm not
familiar with the noise characteristics of the Silencer line, but
you may find a review somewhere of the unit in question.

Power supply selectors, for a most part, are a crock. I can do a
quick workup for you:

12V2:
CPU is the only load. E6400=65W, 65W/12V*(1/0.90) = 6A

12V1:
Powers everything else on the 12V rail
Fans = 0.5A
7900GT video card = 4A (48.4W/12V in peak 3D mode)
Hard drive = 0.5A
CD/DVD = 1.5A peak
Total = 0.5 + 4 + 0.5 + 1.5 = 6.5A

You will not need much of a power supply for this system. You are
getting the benefits of some small geometry silicon technology,
which is why the power has dropped.

I just tried this link, which doesn't go into any details.
A typical answer is Silencer 470W, with a 12V @ 26A total
output. Your load is 12.5A, or just half of the rating. Plenty
of room for sure. Also, very generous 3.3V and 5V.

http://www.pcpower.com/products/power_supplies/selector/

Paul
 
M

Michael Hawes

David Samuel Barr said:
Thanks to the generous advice of several of the experts here, I've
completely revamped the plans for my new build, so I'm back to run them
past you again for any additional comments or advice anyone has to
offer.

To recap from the original thread, while I am well-experienced under the
hood of PCs, this is actually my first full build in 20 years. I've
outgrown my 10-year-old Gateway P166 (which still works) and am looking
to put together a system which should last a comparable amount of time
rather than having to be replaced or refurbished every couple of years;
also looking ahead to the probable inevitability of Vista and its
successors (although I'm still happily running Win95). I'm not as
concerned about a silent PC as most reviewers seem to be; I generally
don't notice the minimal noise most computers I've used make, so unless
this build really will sound like the Wabash Cannonball coming through
the living room, that's far less of an issue than is good cooling.

Here's what I expect to be using it for:
1) Word processing (WordPerfect)
2) Multiple large complex spreadsheets (QuattroPro)
3) Filling in and printing PDF forms (Acrobat Reader)
4) Internet use
a) e-mail and Usenet (Thunderbird)
b) Web research & browsing (Firefox [or IE when needed])
c) File transfers
5) a) Creating & editing MIDI files and printed scores (Finale),
sometimes with input from an outboard digital piano;
b) Transferring vinyl to CD-R(W) or MP3; maybe some editing
c) Capturing various audio/video sources and editing sound bites
6) a) Some PVR use with some possible edits/transfers to DVD
b) Some VHS-to-DVD conversion and some editing thereof
c) Some editing of clips from DVR/PVR sources
NO GAMING (except FreeCell), NO OVERCLOCKING but a LOT of multitasking
of the above processes

Given that, here's the hardware I've picked so far. First, the basic
list, then the comments/questions on each component.

Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E6400
Motherboard: Asus P5B-E
Memory: Crucial 2x1Gb Kit, DDR2-533, PC2-4200
Video Card: Leadtek WinFast PX7900GT TDH
TV Tuner/Capture Card: [TBD]
Sound Card: Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Platinum
Hard Drive: Western Digital WD2500KS 250Mb or WD3200KS 320Mb
Optical Drive: Samsung SH-S182 DVD/CD combo burner
Floppy Disk Drive: [TBD]
Modem Card: US Robotics USR5610b
Power Supply: PC Power & Cooling Turbo-Cool 510 SLI or Silencer 470
Case: CoolerMaster Elite 330

Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E6400
Of the Conroe/Allendale line, this is the top one before the large price
jump, and reviews indicate the performance is not significantly reduced
below that of the high-end chips by the smaller cache.

Motherboard: Asus P5B-E
Despite some persistent naysayers, nearly everything I've read has
pointed to Asus as the board to go with. Of their Socket 775 Conroe P5B
boards, I picked this one rather than the Deluxe because I don't need
Wi-Fi but I do need a parallel port.

Memory: Crucial 2x1Gb Kit, DDR2-533, PC2-4200
To me, Crucial seems a no-brainer choice. I probably could get by with
just 1Gb, but again, I'm both thinking ahead and allowing for the high
needs of PVR/DVD use. I'm going with 533 because supposedly that's the
synchronous speed for the CPU's 1066 FSB, while the far more expensive
667 or 800 memory would be less efficient.

Video Card: Leadtek WinFast PX7900GT TDH
Once I had finally decided on the nVidia 7900GT over the other current
nVidia and ATI options, the fact that they only farm out their designs
to other companies complicated matters. I couldn't find any info on the
general reputations of video card manufacturers, and of the cards for
which I found specific reviews, the Leadtek seemed to be as good as or
better than the others. Points in its favour, to me, are that it isn't
factory overclocked as the others all seem to be and Leadtek reportedly
gets "cherry-picked" pre-tested cores from nVidia. On the down side,
this card seems to be getting hard to find.

For what you state as useage, you don't need a 7900GT, 7600 shou;d be
plenty
Mike.
TV Tuner/Capture Card: [TBD]
Since it doesn't seem that there is any 7900GT card equivalent to ATI's
All-In-Wonder options, I'm going to have to use a PCI slot for a
separate tuner/capture card. I'm open to suggestions, since I don't see
a clear leader here; I don't need a remote control as part of the
package, since I don't expect to use the PC for live viewing, just for
timed recording and for playback of hard drive or DVD content controlled
from the keyboard. I understand, though, that in a few months there are
supposed to be PCI Cablecards that will replace all current tuner/
capture cards, so I probably will hold off and add one of those instead
at a later date.

Sound Card: Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Platinum
The one true no-brainer in this build; I'd go with the basic card, but
it seems the only way to get MIDI ports on this machine is to step up
to the Platinum just to get the I/O box.

Hard Drive: Western Digital WD2500KS 250Mb or WD3200KS 320Mb
I've had good experience with WD to date and it's generally highly
regarded. I don't need the Raptor (more RPM but fewer GBs for more
money), and I don't think I need RAID. While some people recommend a
drive for OS and applications and another drive for data, I've found
that more say that a properly set up single large drive is as good or
better, even if a bit more risky in terms of loss from drive failure.
(Although my current computer has an internal tape drive, I'll probably
end up getting a matching external hard drive for major backups and
using CD-RWs or DVD-RWs for incrementals.) I'll pick whichever of
the two drives listed are the better buy at the time of purchase.

Optical Drive: Samsung SH-S182 [DVD±R DL/RW & CD-R/RW]
This was recommended as an alternative to the Plextor PX-716A I had
originally chosen, and while reviews I've found have been mixed, it does
seem to be a suitable choice at a fraction of the price of the Plextor.
I've also dropped my plan for a separate CD writer, based on vociferous
urgings here; I suppose I can always add it later if it does prove
necessary.

Floppy Disk Drive: [TBD]
Yes, I've still got lots of old stuff on floppies (though I did transfer
my 5" ones to 3.5" several years ago), and it's a useful option to have
for emergencies. My original plan was to use either the Mitsumi 404,
Adaptec 7500 or Ultra 7-in-1 combo floppy disk/media card reader so that
I could do CD/MP3-to-SD card transfers for my sweetie, but since she
dumped me in July that's no longer a priority and I can go with a plain
vanilla disk drive (and add a media card reader later if she ever comes
back). Any favourites or ones to avoid?

Modem: US Robotics USR5610b
Yes, I'm still on a dial-up connection, and more to the point, my boss
insists on using faxes instead of e-mail, so I want to be able to send &
receive them directly rather than having to use my outboard fax machine,
which is not possible with DSL or cable broadband even if I had it.
US Robotics seems to be the no-brainer choice as it has been for many
years; anyone disagree? This model was criticised here as overkill, but
I want a real hardware v.92 modem, not a Winmodem, and this is their
only one.

Power Supply: PC Power & Cooling Turbo-Cool 510 SLI or Silencer 470
Early on in this process I had decided on the 510; the motherboard-
specific Power Supply Selector on the site says the Silencer 470 also is
acceptable, however, if one uses their Power Usage Table it looks like I
need something pushing around 800 watts. Meantime, some "truth about
power supplies" sites I've read that say that my setup will rarely draw
much over 250 watts even at full blast. There's also the odd situation
that practically no retailers carry this line (although Newegg has a
very limited selection), somewhat peculiar for what is supposedly one of
the top brands in this area. I know the importance of the PS in the
system and don't plan to skimp on it, although the discounted price of
around $220 for the 510 (over twice that of the 470) still gives me
pause, so I'm open to other suggestions.

Case: CoolerMaster Elite 330
Who would have imagined this would be the hardest part of the project??
I'm just looking for a good sturdy basic mid-tower case with enough
room and excellent cooling for the components and ready access to the
power & reset buttons and drive openings in normal use (also a BIOS
speaker [for startup and error beeps], since apparently the motherboard
doesn't have one). No plastic doors or flaps to break off, no internal
light shows, no dragon or flame decals, etc.; it's just going to sit by
my desk. This seems to meet those criteria, at a reasonable price, and
while there have been very few reviews to date, those mostly have been
positive. Anyone have any experience with it?

Again, many thanks in advance to all who have taken the time & effort to
read & comment. It's much appreciated.
 
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D

David Samuel Barr

Paul said:
Given that, here's the hardware I've picked so far.

Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E6400
Motherboard: Asus P5B-E
Memory: Crucial 2x1Gb Kit, DDR2-533, PC2-4200
Video Card: Leadtek WinFast PX7900GT TDH
TV Tuner/Capture Card: [TBD]
Sound Card: Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Platinum
Hard Drive: Western Digital WD2500KS 250Mb or WD3200KS 320Mb
Optical Drive: Samsung SH-S182 DVD/CD combo burner
Floppy Disk Drive: [TBD]
Modem Card: US Robotics USR5610b
Power Supply: PC Power & Cooling Turbo-Cool 510 SLI or Silencer 470
Case: CoolerMaster Elite 330

I think one issue I see with your build, is the physical spacing
between the PCI slots and the video card. You will likely want to
leave a "blank slot" between the video card and the other cards, for
cooling. The P5B-E is an otherwise fine board (doesn't have the
useless SIL4723 on it), but I don't like the spacing. I can see you
having room for two PCI cards, when you want three.

Yes, this is something which has bothered me with most of the boards
I've looked at, both here and with my original Socket 939/AM2 plan which
this design replaced. It's amazed me that the manufacturers who are
making boards they are targeting to gamers ignore the fact that those
gamers are likely to put in high-end video cards with large coolers and
fail to space the card slots accordingly. One thing I'm hoping for is
that the third PCI card (the TV tuner/CableCard) will turn out to be a
PCI-e X1 card, so that it will end up on the far end of the board and
leave the extra space between the PCI-e X16 video card and the two PCI
cards.
One solution, would be to go for a lower performance video card.
[snippage] Maybe a 7300GS level card would be another alternative, and
maybe it would be OK with a PCI card next to it.

Your choice of a 7900GT video card, is "way up the food chain".
That would be a serious gamer card, and you claim not to be a gamer.

Excellent point; I suppose that choice was a side effect of most
available reviews and other DIY resources coming from publications and
sites primarily aimed at people trying to build Ferraris or Porsches
while I'm looking to build a Cadillac or Acura.

With further research, I've decided that--trying to anticipate future as
well as current needs--I don't necessarily want to go all the way down
to the 7300GS, but instead go to the middle ground with the 7600GT,
which cards also seem in most cases to be built to work in a single slot
width. Again, it's been difficult to get solid info on the various
nVidia partners' specific cards, but from what I have been able to find
I'm inclined to go with BFG Tech's card (if anyone has any thoughts pro
or con on this or other 7600GT cards, please feel free to post them).
7900GT "peak 2D" power is 32.4 watts. Or three times a 7300GS.
http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/video/display/power-noise_4.html

7600GT "peak 2D" power is 22.5 watts, vs 10.3 7300GS & 32.4 7900GT
http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/video/display/power-noise_5.html
For the power supply, there is no question the Turbocool is a
nice power supply. But it does have a noisy fan. The power supply
is designed to work well, even if the ambient is hotter than other
supplies can tolerate. So, a good supply, but noisy. I'm not
familiar with the noise characteristics of the Silencer line, but
you may find a review somewhere of the unit in question.

Found only a couple of writeups, which primarily focused on the writers'
dissatisfaction with the cables instead of the noise level.
Power supply selectors, for a most part, are a crock. I can do a
quick workup for you:

12V2:
CPU is the only load. E6400=65W, 65W/12V*(1/0.90) = 6A

12V1:
Powers everything else on the 12V rail
Fans = 0.5A
7900GT video card = 4A (48.4W/12V in peak 3D mode)
Hard drive = 0.5A
CD/DVD = 1.5A peak
Total = 0.5 + 4 + 0.5 + 1.5 = 6.5A

With the 7600GT, the video card drops to 3A and the total to 5.5A.
You will not need much of a power supply for this system. You are
getting the benefits of some small geometry silicon technology,
which is why the power has dropped.

I just tried this link, which doesn't go into any details.
A typical answer is Silencer 470W, with a 12V @ 26A total
output. Your load is 12.5A, or just half of the rating. Plenty
of room for sure. Also, very generous 3.3V and 5V.

http://www.pcpower.com/products/power_supplies/selector/

That's the same selector to which I referred in my original post, which
recommended either the TC510 or the S470. One concern is that the S470
seems to have only one 12V rail, vs two on the TC510, but as you say, my
anticipated load is less than half of that one rail's rating, so it's
probably not that big an issue.

Thanks again, Paul, for taking the time and effort to make such a
comprehensive response to my inquiry. (Also Mike for his contribution.)
 

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