Seeking advice on planned new build


D

David Samuel Barr

Although I used to put together AT clones from scratch and have done a
lot of repair & upgrade work under the hood over the years for many PCs,
this will be my first full build in about 20 years.
I've done a ton of research (including lurking on a.c.h.pc-homebuilt
for well over a year, which is almost enough to discourage anyone from
ever attempting this [ :) ] ) and I think I've come up with my system,
but I'd like to toss it out for comments from any of the experts out
there with the patience to read this.

First, what I'm 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.

I'm currently on a 10-year-old Gateway P166 which still works very well
for much of what I do but simply is being outgrown by some of my
software's expanding demands. I'm 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.

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

Processor: AMD Athlon 64 X2 4400+ (Toledo ADV)
Motherboard: Asus A8N-SLI Premium
Memory: Crucial 2x1Gb Kit, DDR400 PC3200
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 1: Plextor PX-716A DVD/CD combo burner
Optical Drive 2: Plextor PX-230A/SW-BL CD burner
Floppy Disk: [TBD]
Modem: US Robotics USR5610b
Power Supply: PC Power & Cooling Silencer 610 or 750
Case: [TBD]


Processor: AMD Athlon 64 X2 4400+
Although a longtime Intel diehard, the mountains of lab test reviews in
recent years claiming AMD is better finally won me over. I picked the
4400+ based on CNET's March 2006 "CPU Showdown" between the Athlon and
Pentium dual-core chips which gave it the "sweet spot" among the X2
line, way ahead of all the pre-Conroe Intels.

Motherboard: Asus A8N-SLI Premium
Despite the one persistent naysayer on a.c.h.pc-h, everything I've read
has pointed to Asus as the board to go with. I had thought about their
highly rated A8N32-SLI Deluxe, but after some negative user reviews of
its heat dispersion (supposedly the copper tubes look cool but the board
still runs hot) and some comments from white-box builders that it's
major overkill for my purposes, I'd likely go with the A8N-SLI Premium
instead. As you'll see, I'm using only one video card and not using
SLI, so that too may be more than I need and I might even be able to
drop down to the Deluxe, SE, or standard version, especially since
Asus's peculiar comparison chart on its website shows no real difference
(besides Firewire and a second LAN connector, neither of which I need)
between any of these nForce4 chipset boards; anyone know otherwise?.

[Note to those wondering why I'm not using Socket AM2 instead of 939:
1) The 4400+ Windsor apparently is no longer being made, and what few
stray units are left are being sold for more than twice the price of the
other Windsors available (and while I would not be averse to going to
the 4600+ Windsor, it still has only half the cache of the lower-priced
4400+ Toledo).
2) With an AM2 CPU I'd likely want to go with the Asus M2N32-SLI Deluxe,
presumably the equivalent of its A8N namesake. However, their only AM2
board that has a parallel port, which I still need for my printer, is
the low-end M2N4-SLI, about which I have some reservations, especially
re: its cooling. It's also built on the same nForce4 chipset as the 939
boards, without whatever advantages may be found in the newer nForce5
chipset used on all the other M2N boards.]

Memory: Crucial 2x1Gb Kit, DDR400 PC3200
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. (Although their high-performance Ballistix DDR500
PC4000 is just $8 more and Crucial guarantees its compatibility with the
A6N boards, since the published board specs top out at DDR400 PC3200
there doesn't seem much point in springing for it, despite the extra
heat spreaders.)

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.

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.

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 (which I'll put in a bay between
the two optical drives to give them all better air circulation).

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 1: Plextor PX-716A [DVD±R DL/RW & CD-R/RW]
Based on consistent rave reviews for the IDE version of this burner
(although highly negative ones for the SATA), this was an early choice,
although subsequent discovery that it is not officially deemed
compatible with the selected motherboard (a truly puzzling state of
affairs) raises questions. Anyone have any experience with this
combination? Any other drive recommendations in case this isn't
workable?

Optical Drive 2: Plextor PX-230A/SW(-BL)
Various guides recommend using a CD burner over a combo burner for
better CD writing, and since I expect I'll be burning more CD's than
DVDs (and doing little if any DVD-to-DVD copying) it seems to make sense
to go that route for the second drive. I picked the Plextor for its
general reputation and likely compatibility with the combo drive, though
I've seen some negative user comments; anyone have a better idea?

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?

Floppy Disk: [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 or
Adaptec 7500 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?

Power Supply: PC Power & Cooling Silencer 610 or 750
Early on in this process I had decided on PCP&C's Turbo-Cool 510, even
though I later found a configuration guide on their website which
instead recommended their Silencer 470. The newer motherboard-specific
Power Supply Selector currently on the site, though, says that I need
either the Silencer 610 or Silencer 750 for this rig; however, if one
uses their Power Usage Table it looks like I need something pushing over
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 practically no retailers carry
this line (although Newegg seems to have just added the Silencer 610),
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 $200 for these
Silencers still gives one pause, so I'm open to other suggestions.

Case: [TBD]
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.

I like the Antec Sonata II, except I don't want the power supply that
comes with it (see above) and could do without the door. Their P180
sounds good but various users warn that it doesn't work with the Asus
motherboard and most power supplies' cords. Word is that Antec is just
rebadged Chenming but among the latter's own available choices there
isn't really anything worthwhile. Aluminum cases are better for heat
dispersion but often flimsy and/or expensive; still, I'm kind of liking
Thermaltake's Matrix VX although it's gotten some mixed reviews (mostly
for the thinness of the metal), and while Lian-Li is generally
overpriced, I might consider the PC-61. Just PC has a few interesting
cases (e.g. D410), but there are no reviews of their products and their
website is astoundingly uninformative. CoolerMaster had some candidates
in the Centurion and Praetorian lines but reports are that you need a
first aid kit to work on these.

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

Rod Speed

David Samuel Barr said:
Although I used to put together AT clones from scratch and have
done a lot of repair & upgrade work under the hood over the years
for many PCs, this will be my first full build in about 20 years.

Fark, wota dinosaur.
I've done a ton of research (including lurking on a.c.h.pc-homebuilt
for well over a year, which is almost enough to discourage anyone
from ever attempting this [ :) ] ) and I think I've come up with my
system, but I'd like to toss it out for comments from any of the
experts out there with the patience to read this.
First, what I'm using it for:
1) Word processing (WordPerfect)

Fark, wota dinosaur.
2) Multiple large complex spreadsheets (QuattroPro)

Fark, wota dinosaur.
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

Fark, wota dinosaur.
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.
I'm currently on a 10-year-old Gateway P166

Fark, wota dinosaur.
which still works very well for much of what I do but simply is
being outgrown by some of my software's expanding demands.

You could say that.
I'm 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).

Fark, wota dinosaur.
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.
Given that, here's the hardware I've picked so far. First, the
basic list, then the comments/questions on each component.
Processor: AMD Athlon 64 X2 4400+ (Toledo ADV)

Some thing to be said for waiting a bit
longer and going for a Core 2 Duo now.
Motherboard: Asus A8N-SLI Premium
Memory: Crucial 2x1Gb Kit, DDR400 PC3200
Video Card: Leadtek WinFast PX7900GT TDH
TV Tuner/Capture Card: [TBD]

Make sure it can do HDTV.
Sound Card: Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Platinum
Hard Drive: Western Digital WD2500KS 250Mb or WD3200KS 320Mb

I prefer Samsungs myself.
Optical Drive 1: Plextor PX-716A DVD/CD combo burner
Optical Drive 2: Plextor PX-230A/SW-BL CD burner

What is the point of those two, you only need one.

And Plextor is WAY past its useby date now.
Floppy Disk: [TBD]
Modem: US Robotics USR5610b

Fark, time to get broadband.
Power Supply: PC Power & Cooling Silencer 610 or 750
Case: [TBD]
Processor: AMD Athlon 64 X2 4400+
Although a longtime Intel diehard, the mountains of lab test reviews
in recent years claiming AMD is better finally won me over.

You left it too late, the world's moved on, back to Intel now.
I picked the 4400+ based on CNET's March 2006 "CPU Showdown"
between the Athlon and Pentium dual-core chips which gave it the
"sweet spot" among the X2 line, way ahead of all the pre-Conroe Intels.

Pity about the Conroes.
Motherboard: Asus A8N-SLI Premium
Despite the one persistent naysayer on a.c.h.pc-h, everything
I've read has pointed to Asus as the board to go with.

Yeah, I prefer them myself.
I had thought about their highly rated A8N32-SLI Deluxe,
but after some negative user reviews of its heat dispersion
(supposedly the copper tubes look cool but the board still
runs hot) and some comments from white-box builders that
it's major overkill for my purposes, I'd likely go with the
A8N-SLI Premium instead. As you'll see, I'm using only one
video card and not using SLI, so that too may be more than
I need and I might even be able to drop down to the Deluxe,
SE, or standard version, especially since Asus's peculiar
comparison chart on its website shows no real difference
(besides Firewire and a second LAN connector, neither of
which I need) between any of these nForce4
chipset boards; anyone know otherwise?.
[Note to those wondering why I'm not using Socket AM2 instead of 939:
1) The 4400+ Windsor apparently is no longer being made, and what few
stray units are left are being sold for more than twice the price of
the other Windsors available (and while I would not be averse to
going to the 4600+ Windsor, it still has only half the cache of the
lower-priced 4400+ Toledo).
2) With an AM2 CPU I'd likely want to go with the Asus M2N32-SLI
Deluxe, presumably the equivalent of its A8N namesake. However,
their only AM2 board that has a parallel port, which I still need for
my printer, is the low-end M2N4-SLI, about which I have some
reservations, especially re: its cooling. It's also built on the
same nForce4 chipset as the 939 boards, without whatever advantages
may be found in the newer nForce5 chipset used on all the other M2N
boards.]
Memory: Crucial 2x1Gb Kit, DDR400 PC3200
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.

You dont need it for that use.
(Although their high-performance Ballistix DDR500 PC4000
is just $8 more and Crucial guarantees its compatibility with
the A6N boards, since the published board specs top out at
DDR400 PC3200 there doesn't seem much point in springing
for it, despite the extra heat spreaders.)
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.
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.
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 (which I'll put in a bay between
the two optical drives to give them all better air circulation).
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.)

Best way to go.
I'll pick whichever of the two drives listed
are the better buy at the time of purchase.
Optical Drive 1: Plextor PX-716A [DVD±R DL/RW & CD-R/RW]
Based on consistent rave reviews for the IDE version of this burner
(although highly negative ones for the SATA), this was an early
choice, although subsequent discovery that it is not officially deemed
compatible with the selected motherboard (a truly puzzling state of
affairs) raises questions. Anyone have any experience with this
combination? Any other drive recommendations in case this isn't
workable?
Optical Drive 2: Plextor PX-230A/SW(-BL)
Various guides recommend using a CD burner
over a combo burner for better CD writing,
Mad.

and since I expect I'll be burning more CD's than DVDs
(and doing little if any DVD-to-DVD copying) it seems
to make sense to go that route for the second drive.
Nope.

I picked the Plextor for its general reputation and likely
compatibility with the combo drive, though I've seen some
negative user comments; anyone have a better idea?

Yep, get an LG.
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.

No reason why you cant have both.
US Robotics seems to be the no-brainer choice
as it has been for many years; anyone disagree?

No need for it just for faxes.
Floppy Disk: [TBD]
Yes, I've still got lots of old stuff on floppies

Fark, wota dinosaur.
(though I did transfer my 5" ones to 3.5" several years
ago), and it's a useful option to have for emergencies.

Yes, particularly since they are so cheap.
My original plan was to use either the Mitsumi 404

There's no need to obsess about whats used in emergencys.
or Adaptec 7500 combo floppy disk/media card reader so
that I could do CD/MP3-to-SD card transfers for my sweetie,

Makes more sense to have a separate card writer.
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?
Nope.

Power Supply: PC Power & Cooling Silencer 610 or 750
Early on in this process I had decided on PCP&C's Turbo-Cool 510,
even though I later found a configuration guide on their website
which instead recommended their Silencer 470. The newer
motherboard-specific Power Supply Selector currently on the site,
though, says that I need either the Silencer 610 or Silencer 750 for
this rig; however, if one uses their Power Usage Table it looks like
I need something pushing over 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 practically no retailers carry this line (although Newegg
seems to have just added the Silencer 610), 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 $200 for these Silencers
still gives one pause, so I'm open to other suggestions.
Case: [TBD]
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.
 
M

Mike T.

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

Processor: AMD Athlon 64 X2 4400+ (Toledo ADV)

Not bad. You should be aware that the Intel Core Duo chips are beating the
crap out of these processors, at a competitive price point though. For many
years, AMD has been the only choice in terms of both performance AND
bang/buck. But right now, Intel is the only choice for building. Not that
the Athlon 64 X2 4400+ Toledo is a slouch. But it doesn't stack up well
against Intel's current offerings.
Motherboard: Asus A8N-SLI Premium

First glaring mistake. Asus is highly rated by testers that tinker with it
on a bench for a day or two, but they are toys with piss poor longevity that
do not hold up well in long-term real world use. You are building something
to last 10 years. For a mainboard, you should be thinking AOpen first,
second and third. Asus would be second from last, with ECS/PCCHips at the
bottom spot.
Memory: Crucial 2x1Gb Kit, DDR400 PC3200

Good choice for any DDR400 mainboard
Video Card: Leadtek WinFast PX7900GT TDH

Another excellent choice
TV Tuner/Capture Card: [TBD]
Sound Card: Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Platinum

Can't argue with that. :)
Hard Drive: Western Digital WD2500KS 250Mb or WD3200KS 320Mb

Again, good taste in hardware
Optical Drive 1: Plextor PX-716A DVD/CD combo burner
Optical Drive 2: Plextor PX-230A/SW-BL CD burner

Good choice for drive 1. May I assume that drive 2 is a leftover from an
older system? If not, I don't see the point. If you need two burners that
are going to be good quality and save a little money compared to the
plextor, get a matched pair of NEC brand dual-layer DVD burners.
Floppy Disk: [TBD]
Modem: US Robotics USR5610b

OMG, you're still stuck on dial-up. I'm soooooooo sorry, man. :)
Power Supply: PC Power & Cooling Silencer 610 or 750

Overkill, but can't argue with that. :)
Case: [TBD]


Processor: AMD Athlon 64 X2 4400+
Although a longtime Intel diehard, the mountains of lab test reviews in
recent years claiming AMD is better finally won me over. I picked the
4400+ based on CNET's March 2006 "CPU Showdown" between the Athlon and
Pentium dual-core chips which gave it the "sweet spot" among the X2
line, way ahead of all the pre-Conroe Intels.

OK, now, what is wrong with Conroe? The lower end ones are in your general
price range, and perform much better than the processor you chose.
Motherboard: Asus A8N-SLI Premium
Despite the one persistent naysayer on a.c.h.pc-h,

There's more than one. The naysayers are actually supporting this hardware
in the field. (ie, not just hobbyists, paid professionals) You should
listen to them. If a mechanic you trust told you that brand X's trannies
failed consistently at less than 50,000 miles and weren't covered under
warranty, would you buy a car of brand X? That's exactly why you should
listen to the naysayers. The so-called experts who keep writing glowing
reviews about Asus are not supporting these boards. The Asus boards do
perform well on a bench for a few days.

It's your money, man. But if you build with Asus, I'd be willing to bet
just about anything that you will be posting here again in a year or less,
asking for help with a strange instability problem that you just can't seem
to narrow down . . . -Dave
 
R

RussellS

I completely agree with all of Rod Speed's comments inline below. Another
hard drive option might include Seagate, as their drives have generally
excellent reliability, relatively low noise and a superior 5 year warranty.
I'm not personally crazy about Western Digital drives (except for their
RAPTOR series in certain configurations, but the price per GB, noise and
heat generation is very high on them.)

I also agree about not getting a separate CD burner, and the Plextor PX-716A
is a discontinued model (although I have one and have been happy with it for
a long time.) Get Samsung's new SH-S182D for an inexpensive, well-reviewed
18x dual-format dual-layer DVD burner that also writes DVD-RAM; you could
buy 4 of them for the same price you'd pay for the 2 Plextor drives. If you
really want to go with Plextor for some reason, their newer PX-760A is more
up-to-date than the PX-716A. That PX-230A CD burner is crap; their previous
PX-Premium CD burner line was excellent (they're releasing a new Premium2
line in the US shortly, if you insist on a CD burner, but I suggest just
getting the DVD burner.)

That PSU is overkill, but a good one. Look at 500W+ models from Antec,
Mushkin, Enermax, etc. for a better price point.

I also completely agree about going for a Core2 Duo processor-based system
with DDR2 and a 965/975 series chipset if you're not interested in
SLi/Crossfire graphics card configurations (which would be way overkill for
your intended use anyway.

The graphics card choice is good, but looks like overkill for your modest
needs. maybe you could find a MOBO with integrate graphics and then upgrade
to a separate PCI-Express card when the new DX10 cards get released in a
month or so, or get your card choice at that time, since it will have
probably dropped in price by then.

Might as well just get the 2GB memory (2x1GB dual channel) right now; you'll
be happier with the upcoming Vista and your plans to edit/encode video.

That USR hardware modem has good reviews, but is overkill for faxing. Get a
$20 plain-jane V.92 for that. You really should look into broadband.

As far as a sturdy, reliable plain-jane mid-tower case with good cooling
potential, look into the Cooler Master Centurion 5 series for a good price
point. There are better cases if you'd like to spend 2-4 times the $$, but
the Cooler master sounds like a good match for you.

I'd go Asus/Gigabyte for the motherboard (did you realize that they just
merged?)

In any event, anything released over the last 8-10 years will run circles
around that OLD system you currently use with Win95.

Good luck to you on your build.

--
Russell
http://tastycomputers.com


Rod Speed said:
David Samuel Barr said:
Although I used to put together AT clones from scratch and have
done a lot of repair & upgrade work under the hood over the years
for many PCs, this will be my first full build in about 20 years.

Fark, wota dinosaur.
I've done a ton of research (including lurking on a.c.h.pc-homebuilt
for well over a year, which is almost enough to discourage anyone
from ever attempting this [ :) ] ) and I think I've come up with my
system, but I'd like to toss it out for comments from any of the
experts out there with the patience to read this.
First, what I'm using it for:
1) Word processing (WordPerfect)

Fark, wota dinosaur.
2) Multiple large complex spreadsheets (QuattroPro)

Fark, wota dinosaur.
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

Fark, wota dinosaur.
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.
I'm currently on a 10-year-old Gateway P166

Fark, wota dinosaur.
which still works very well for much of what I do but simply is
being outgrown by some of my software's expanding demands.

You could say that.
I'm 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).

Fark, wota dinosaur.
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.
Given that, here's the hardware I've picked so far. First, the
basic list, then the comments/questions on each component.
Processor: AMD Athlon 64 X2 4400+ (Toledo ADV)

Some thing to be said for waiting a bit
longer and going for a Core 2 Duo now.
Motherboard: Asus A8N-SLI Premium
Memory: Crucial 2x1Gb Kit, DDR400 PC3200
Video Card: Leadtek WinFast PX7900GT TDH
TV Tuner/Capture Card: [TBD]

Make sure it can do HDTV.
Sound Card: Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Platinum
Hard Drive: Western Digital WD2500KS 250Mb or WD3200KS 320Mb

I prefer Samsungs myself.
Optical Drive 1: Plextor PX-716A DVD/CD combo burner
Optical Drive 2: Plextor PX-230A/SW-BL CD burner

What is the point of those two, you only need one.

And Plextor is WAY past its useby date now.
Floppy Disk: [TBD]
Modem: US Robotics USR5610b

Fark, time to get broadband.
Power Supply: PC Power & Cooling Silencer 610 or 750
Case: [TBD]
Processor: AMD Athlon 64 X2 4400+
Although a longtime Intel diehard, the mountains of lab test reviews
in recent years claiming AMD is better finally won me over.

You left it too late, the world's moved on, back to Intel now.
I picked the 4400+ based on CNET's March 2006 "CPU Showdown"
between the Athlon and Pentium dual-core chips which gave it the
"sweet spot" among the X2 line, way ahead of all the pre-Conroe Intels.

Pity about the Conroes.
Motherboard: Asus A8N-SLI Premium
Despite the one persistent naysayer on a.c.h.pc-h, everything
I've read has pointed to Asus as the board to go with.

Yeah, I prefer them myself.
I had thought about their highly rated A8N32-SLI Deluxe,
but after some negative user reviews of its heat dispersion
(supposedly the copper tubes look cool but the board still
runs hot) and some comments from white-box builders that
it's major overkill for my purposes, I'd likely go with the
A8N-SLI Premium instead. As you'll see, I'm using only one
video card and not using SLI, so that too may be more than
I need and I might even be able to drop down to the Deluxe,
SE, or standard version, especially since Asus's peculiar
comparison chart on its website shows no real difference
(besides Firewire and a second LAN connector, neither of
which I need) between any of these nForce4
chipset boards; anyone know otherwise?.
[Note to those wondering why I'm not using Socket AM2 instead of 939:
1) The 4400+ Windsor apparently is no longer being made, and what few
stray units are left are being sold for more than twice the price of
the other Windsors available (and while I would not be averse to
going to the 4600+ Windsor, it still has only half the cache of the
lower-priced 4400+ Toledo).
2) With an AM2 CPU I'd likely want to go with the Asus M2N32-SLI
Deluxe, presumably the equivalent of its A8N namesake. However,
their only AM2 board that has a parallel port, which I still need for
my printer, is the low-end M2N4-SLI, about which I have some
reservations, especially re: its cooling. It's also built on the
same nForce4 chipset as the 939 boards, without whatever advantages
may be found in the newer nForce5 chipset used on all the other M2N
boards.]
Memory: Crucial 2x1Gb Kit, DDR400 PC3200
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.

You dont need it for that use.
(Although their high-performance Ballistix DDR500 PC4000
is just $8 more and Crucial guarantees its compatibility with
the A6N boards, since the published board specs top out at
DDR400 PC3200 there doesn't seem much point in springing
for it, despite the extra heat spreaders.)
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.
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.
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 (which I'll put in a bay between
the two optical drives to give them all better air circulation).
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.)

Best way to go.
I'll pick whichever of the two drives listed
are the better buy at the time of purchase.
Optical Drive 1: Plextor PX-716A [DVD±R DL/RW & CD-R/RW]
Based on consistent rave reviews for the IDE version of this burner
(although highly negative ones for the SATA), this was an early
choice, although subsequent discovery that it is not officially deemed
compatible with the selected motherboard (a truly puzzling state of
affairs) raises questions. Anyone have any experience with this
combination? Any other drive recommendations in case this isn't
workable?
Optical Drive 2: Plextor PX-230A/SW(-BL)
Various guides recommend using a CD burner
over a combo burner for better CD writing,
Mad.

and since I expect I'll be burning more CD's than DVDs
(and doing little if any DVD-to-DVD copying) it seems
to make sense to go that route for the second drive.
Nope.

I picked the Plextor for its general reputation and likely
compatibility with the combo drive, though I've seen some
negative user comments; anyone have a better idea?

Yep, get an LG.
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.

No reason why you cant have both.
US Robotics seems to be the no-brainer choice
as it has been for many years; anyone disagree?

No need for it just for faxes.
Floppy Disk: [TBD]
Yes, I've still got lots of old stuff on floppies

Fark, wota dinosaur.
(though I did transfer my 5" ones to 3.5" several years
ago), and it's a useful option to have for emergencies.

Yes, particularly since they are so cheap.
My original plan was to use either the Mitsumi 404

There's no need to obsess about whats used in emergencys.
or Adaptec 7500 combo floppy disk/media card reader so
that I could do CD/MP3-to-SD card transfers for my sweetie,

Makes more sense to have a separate card writer.
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?
Nope.

Power Supply: PC Power & Cooling Silencer 610 or 750
Early on in this process I had decided on PCP&C's Turbo-Cool 510,
even though I later found a configuration guide on their website
which instead recommended their Silencer 470. The newer
motherboard-specific Power Supply Selector currently on the site,
though, says that I need either the Silencer 610 or Silencer 750 for
this rig; however, if one uses their Power Usage Table it looks like
I need something pushing over 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 practically no retailers carry this line (although Newegg
seems to have just added the Silencer 610), 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 $200 for these Silencers
still gives one pause, so I'm open to other suggestions.
Case: [TBD]
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.
I like the Antec Sonata II, except I don't want the power supply that
comes with it (see above) and could do without the door. Their P180
sounds good but various users warn that it doesn't work with the Asus
motherboard and most power supplies' cords. Word is that Antec is
just rebadged Chenming but among the latter's own available choices
there isn't really anything worthwhile. Aluminum cases are better
for heat dispersion but often flimsy and/or expensive; still, I'm
kind of liking Thermaltake's Matrix VX although it's gotten some
mixed reviews (mostly for the thinness of the metal), and while
Lian-Li is generally overpriced, I might consider the PC-61. Just PC
has a few interesting cases (e.g. D410), but there are no reviews of
their products and their website is astoundingly uninformative.
CoolerMaster had some candidates in the Centurion and Praetorian
lines but reports are that you need a first aid kit to work on these.
Again, many thanks in advance to all who have taken the time & effort
to read & comment. It's much appreciated.
 
R

Rod Speed

Mike T. said:
Given that, here's the hardware I've picked so far. First, the basic
list, then the comments/questions on each component.

Processor: AMD Athlon 64 X2 4400+ (Toledo ADV)

Not bad. You should be aware that the Intel Core Duo chips are
beating the crap out of these processors, at a competitive price
point though. For many years, AMD has been the only choice in terms
of both performance AND bang/buck. But right now, Intel is the only
choice for building. Not that the Athlon 64 X2 4400+ Toledo is a
slouch. But it doesn't stack up well against Intel's current
offerings.
Motherboard: Asus A8N-SLI Premium

First glaring mistake. Asus is highly rated by testers that tinker
with it on a bench for a day or two, but they are toys with piss poor
longevity that do not hold up well in long-term real world use. You
are building something to last 10 years. For a mainboard, you should
be thinking AOpen first, second and third. Asus would be second from
last, with ECS/PCCHips at the bottom spot.
Memory: Crucial 2x1Gb Kit, DDR400 PC3200

Good choice for any DDR400 mainboard
Video Card: Leadtek WinFast PX7900GT TDH

Another excellent choice
TV Tuner/Capture Card: [TBD]
Sound Card: Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Platinum

Can't argue with that. :)
Hard Drive: Western Digital WD2500KS 250Mb or WD3200KS 320Mb

Again, good taste in hardware
Optical Drive 1: Plextor PX-716A DVD/CD combo burner
Optical Drive 2: Plextor PX-230A/SW-BL CD burner

Good choice for drive 1. May I assume that drive 2 is a leftover
from an older system? If not, I don't see the point. If you need
two burners that are going to be good quality and save a little money
compared to the plextor, get a matched pair of NEC brand dual-layer
DVD burners.
Floppy Disk: [TBD]
Modem: US Robotics USR5610b

OMG, you're still stuck on dial-up. I'm soooooooo sorry, man. :)
Power Supply: PC Power & Cooling Silencer 610 or 750

Overkill, but can't argue with that. :)
Case: [TBD]


Processor: AMD Athlon 64 X2 4400+
Although a longtime Intel diehard, the mountains of lab test reviews
in recent years claiming AMD is better finally won me over. I
picked the 4400+ based on CNET's March 2006 "CPU Showdown" between
the Athlon and Pentium dual-core chips which gave it the "sweet
spot" among the X2 line, way ahead of all the pre-Conroe Intels.

OK, now, what is wrong with Conroe? The lower end ones are in your
general price range, and perform much better than the processor you
chose.
Motherboard: Asus A8N-SLI Premium
Despite the one persistent naysayer on a.c.h.pc-h,
There's more than one. The naysayers are actually supporting this
hardware in the field. (ie, not just hobbyists, paid professionals) You should listen to them.

Odd that you post howler after howler after howler yourself.
If a mechanic you trust told you that brand X's trannies failed consistently at less than 50,000
miles and weren't covered under warranty, would you buy a car of brand X?

Nope, but then I dont get that with Asus motherboards. Not a single
one has ever done that and the earliest ones are WAY past that now.
That's exactly why you should listen to the naysayers. The so-called experts who keep writing
glowing reviews about Asus are not supporting these boards. The Asus boards do perform well on a
bench for a few days.

Mine have kept doing that for years too.
It's your money, man. But if you build with Asus, I'd be willing to
bet just about anything that you will be posting here again in a year
or less, asking for help with a strange instability problem that you
just can't seem to narrow down . . .

How much was that bet for ?
 
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R

Rod Speed

RussellS" <[email protected]"replace dot with .
I completely agree with all of Rod Speed's comments inline below. Another hard drive option might
include Seagate, as their drives have generally excellent reliability, relatively low noise

They are generally rather more noisy than Samsungs tho.
and a superior 5 year warranty.

Yeah, that's currently their big advantage and it doesnt look
like their competitors are planning to match that any time soon.
I'm not personally crazy about Western Digital drives (except for their RAPTOR series in certain
configurations, but the price per GB, noise and heat generation is very high on them.)

And they have a stupid jumper scheme with ATA
drives too, now becoming irrelevant with SATA tho.
I also agree about not getting a separate CD burner, and the Plextor
PX-716A is a discontinued model (although I have one and have been
happy with it for a long time.) Get Samsung's new SH-S182D for an
inexpensive, well-reviewed 18x dual-format dual-layer DVD burner that
also writes DVD-RAM; you could buy 4 of them for the same price you'd
pay for the 2 Plextor drives. If you really want to go with Plextor
for some reason, their newer PX-760A is more up-to-date than the
PX-716A. That PX-230A CD burner is crap; their previous PX-Premium
CD burner line was excellent (they're releasing a new Premium2 line
in the US shortly, if you insist on a CD burner, but I suggest just
getting the DVD burner.)
That PSU is overkill, but a good one. Look at 500W+ models from
Antec, Mushkin, Enermax, etc. for a better price point.
I also completely agree about going for a Core2 Duo processor-based
system with DDR2 and a 965/975 series chipset if you're not
interested in SLi/Crossfire graphics card configurations (which would
be way overkill for your intended use anyway.
The graphics card choice is good, but looks like overkill for your
modest needs. maybe you could find a MOBO with integrate graphics
and then upgrade to a separate PCI-Express card when the new DX10
cards get released in a month or so, or get your card choice at that
time, since it will have probably dropped in price by then.
Might as well just get the 2GB memory (2x1GB dual channel) right now;
you'll be happier with the upcoming Vista and your plans to
edit/encode video.
That USR hardware modem has good reviews, but is overkill for faxing.
Get a $20 plain-jane V.92 for that. You really should look into broadband.
As far as a sturdy, reliable plain-jane mid-tower case with good
cooling potential, look into the Cooler Master Centurion 5 series for
a good price point. There are better cases if you'd like to spend
2-4 times the $$, but the Cooler master sounds like a good match for you.
I'd go Asus/Gigabyte for the motherboard

I avoid Gigabyte myself, they tend to release stuff too early
and you end up with too many revisions of the motherboard etc.

That recent utter fiasco with the A8N SLI bios is a complete obscenity.
(did you realize that they just merged?)

Urk, that's overstating it tho
http://www.gigabyte.com.tw/News/Company/News_List.aspx?NewsID=1283
In any event, anything released over the last 8-10 years will run
circles around that OLD system you currently use with Win95.

Good luck to you on your build.


Rod Speed said:
David Samuel Barr said:
Although I used to put together AT clones from scratch and have
done a lot of repair & upgrade work under the hood over the years
for many PCs, this will be my first full build in about 20 years.

Fark, wota dinosaur.
I've done a ton of research (including lurking on a.c.h.pc-homebuilt
for well over a year, which is almost enough to discourage anyone
from ever attempting this [ :) ] ) and I think I've come up with my
system, but I'd like to toss it out for comments from any of the
experts out there with the patience to read this.
First, what I'm using it for:
1) Word processing (WordPerfect)

Fark, wota dinosaur.
2) Multiple large complex spreadsheets (QuattroPro)

Fark, wota dinosaur.
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

Fark, wota dinosaur.
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.
I'm currently on a 10-year-old Gateway P166

Fark, wota dinosaur.
which still works very well for much of what I do but simply is
being outgrown by some of my software's expanding demands.

You could say that.
I'm 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).

Fark, wota dinosaur.
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.
Given that, here's the hardware I've picked so far. First, the
basic list, then the comments/questions on each component.
Processor: AMD Athlon 64 X2 4400+ (Toledo ADV)

Some thing to be said for waiting a bit
longer and going for a Core 2 Duo now.
Motherboard: Asus A8N-SLI Premium
Memory: Crucial 2x1Gb Kit, DDR400 PC3200
Video Card: Leadtek WinFast PX7900GT TDH
TV Tuner/Capture Card: [TBD]

Make sure it can do HDTV.
Sound Card: Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Platinum
Hard Drive: Western Digital WD2500KS 250Mb or WD3200KS 320Mb

I prefer Samsungs myself.
Optical Drive 1: Plextor PX-716A DVD/CD combo burner
Optical Drive 2: Plextor PX-230A/SW-BL CD burner

What is the point of those two, you only need one.

And Plextor is WAY past its useby date now.
Floppy Disk: [TBD]
Modem: US Robotics USR5610b

Fark, time to get broadband.
Power Supply: PC Power & Cooling Silencer 610 or 750
Case: [TBD]
Processor: AMD Athlon 64 X2 4400+
Although a longtime Intel diehard, the mountains of lab test reviews
in recent years claiming AMD is better finally won me over.

You left it too late, the world's moved on, back to Intel now.
I picked the 4400+ based on CNET's March 2006 "CPU Showdown"
between the Athlon and Pentium dual-core chips which gave it the
"sweet spot" among the X2 line, way ahead of all the pre-Conroe
Intels.

Pity about the Conroes.
Motherboard: Asus A8N-SLI Premium
Despite the one persistent naysayer on a.c.h.pc-h, everything
I've read has pointed to Asus as the board to go with.

Yeah, I prefer them myself.
I had thought about their highly rated A8N32-SLI Deluxe,
but after some negative user reviews of its heat dispersion
(supposedly the copper tubes look cool but the board still
runs hot) and some comments from white-box builders that
it's major overkill for my purposes, I'd likely go with the
A8N-SLI Premium instead. As you'll see, I'm using only one
video card and not using SLI, so that too may be more than
I need and I might even be able to drop down to the Deluxe,
SE, or standard version, especially since Asus's peculiar
comparison chart on its website shows no real difference
(besides Firewire and a second LAN connector, neither of
which I need) between any of these nForce4
chipset boards; anyone know otherwise?.
[Note to those wondering why I'm not using Socket AM2 instead of
939: 1) The 4400+ Windsor apparently is no longer being made, and
what few stray units are left are being sold for more than twice
the price of the other Windsors available (and while I would not be
averse to going to the 4600+ Windsor, it still has only half the cache of the
lower-priced 4400+ Toledo).
2) With an AM2 CPU I'd likely want to go with the Asus M2N32-SLI
Deluxe, presumably the equivalent of its A8N namesake. However,
their only AM2 board that has a parallel port, which I still need
for my printer, is the low-end M2N4-SLI, about which I have some
reservations, especially re: its cooling. It's also built on the
same nForce4 chipset as the 939 boards, without whatever advantages
may be found in the newer nForce5 chipset used on all the other M2N
boards.]
Memory: Crucial 2x1Gb Kit, DDR400 PC3200
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.

You dont need it for that use.
(Although their high-performance Ballistix DDR500 PC4000
is just $8 more and Crucial guarantees its compatibility with
the A6N boards, since the published board specs top out at
DDR400 PC3200 there doesn't seem much point in springing
for it, despite the extra heat spreaders.)
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.
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.
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 (which I'll put in
a bay between the two optical drives to give them all better air
circulation).
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.)

Best way to go.
I'll pick whichever of the two drives listed
are the better buy at the time of purchase.
Optical Drive 1: Plextor PX-716A [DVD±R DL/RW & CD-R/RW]
Based on consistent rave reviews for the IDE version of this burner
(although highly negative ones for the SATA), this was an early
choice, although subsequent discovery that it is not officially
deemed compatible with the selected motherboard (a truly puzzling
state of affairs) raises questions. Anyone have any experience
with this combination? Any other drive recommendations in case
this isn't workable?
Optical Drive 2: Plextor PX-230A/SW(-BL)
Various guides recommend using a CD burner
over a combo burner for better CD writing,
Mad.

and since I expect I'll be burning more CD's than DVDs
(and doing little if any DVD-to-DVD copying) it seems
to make sense to go that route for the second drive.
Nope.

I picked the Plextor for its general reputation and likely
compatibility with the combo drive, though I've seen some
negative user comments; anyone have a better idea?

Yep, get an LG.
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.

No reason why you cant have both.
US Robotics seems to be the no-brainer choice
as it has been for many years; anyone disagree?

No need for it just for faxes.
Floppy Disk: [TBD]
Yes, I've still got lots of old stuff on floppies

Fark, wota dinosaur.
(though I did transfer my 5" ones to 3.5" several years
ago), and it's a useful option to have for emergencies.

Yes, particularly since they are so cheap.
My original plan was to use either the Mitsumi 404

There's no need to obsess about whats used in emergencys.
or Adaptec 7500 combo floppy disk/media card reader so
that I could do CD/MP3-to-SD card transfers for my sweetie,

Makes more sense to have a separate card writer.
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?
Nope.

Power Supply: PC Power & Cooling Silencer 610 or 750
Early on in this process I had decided on PCP&C's Turbo-Cool 510,
even though I later found a configuration guide on their website
which instead recommended their Silencer 470. The newer
motherboard-specific Power Supply Selector currently on the site,
though, says that I need either the Silencer 610 or Silencer 750 for
this rig; however, if one uses their Power Usage Table it looks like
I need something pushing over 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 practically no retailers carry this line (although Newegg
seems to have just added the Silencer 610), 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 $200 for these Silencers
still gives one pause, so I'm open to other suggestions.
Case: [TBD]
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.
I like the Antec Sonata II, except I don't want the power supply
that comes with it (see above) and could do without the door. Their P180 sounds good but various
users warn that it doesn't work
with the Asus motherboard and most power supplies' cords. Word is
that Antec is just rebadged Chenming but among the latter's own available choices
there isn't really anything worthwhile. Aluminum cases are better
for heat dispersion but often flimsy and/or expensive; still, I'm
kind of liking Thermaltake's Matrix VX although it's gotten some
mixed reviews (mostly for the thinness of the metal), and while
Lian-Li is generally overpriced, I might consider the PC-61. Just
PC has a few interesting cases (e.g. D410), but there are no
reviews of their products and their website is astoundingly
uninformative. CoolerMaster had some candidates in the Centurion
and Praetorian lines but reports are that you need a first aid kit to work on
these.
Again, many thanks in advance to all who have taken the time &
effort to read & comment. It's much appreciated.
 
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M

Matt

David said:
I'm currently on a 10-year-old Gateway P166 which still works very well
for much of what I do but simply is being outgrown by some of my
software's expanding demands. I'm 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).

If you've been getting the job done with a ten-year-old box, I wouldn't
worry much about future-proofing. Today's computers are around 20 times
more capable than what you've been using. That alone would seem to give
you a lot of room to grow. I wouldn't expect the software situation
to be very stable in the next ten years. I would tend to go for
run-of-the-mill specs (but good enough for Vista) and save some money.
 

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