Criticize my new system

OK, screw it. After months of ranting here about how PCI Express is my wild mistress, I have given up. Can’t wait for ATI and NVidia to decide that the retail/DIY PCI Express market is “sufficiently developed”. How the hell do you develop a market without selling anything, is what I’d like to know!

Anyway, I always said I wouldn’t get a new system until one of Doom 3 or Half-Life 2 went gold. Now that D3 is gold, it’s time. So here’s what I’m thinking of buying, this week. This is from my newegg wishlist:

Please sling any and all brickbats! The idea is to get the best performing system I can actually buy this month without getting into the >$500-processor or >$500-video-card realm. Also I have some questions, at the end…

POWMAX ATX Mid-Tower Case with X-Window, Model “ALV90-511SEL” -RETAIL
Color: Silver
Material: All aluminum

ASUS “A8V Deluxe Wi-Fi” K8T800 Pro Chipset Motherboard for AMD Socket 939 CPU -RETAIL

SAPPHIRE ATI RADEON X800 PRO Video Card, 256MB GDDR3, 256-bit, DVI/TV-out, 8X AGP -OEM

Aspire 520W 12V Black Triple Fan Aluminum Power Supply, Model “ATX-AS520W BLACK” -RETAIL

AMD Socket 939 Athlon 64 3500+, 2.2 GHz, 512KB L2 Cache 64-bit Processor - OEM

2 X Crucial 184 Pin 512MB DDR PC-3200 8T - OEM
$176.00 (total, for both DIMMs)

4 X Hitachi 160GB 7200RPM SATA Hard Drive, Model HDS722516VLSA80 Part# 13G0254, OEM Drive Only
$394.00 (total, for all 4 drives)

Plextor 12X DVD+RW/-RW Drive, Model PX-712A, Retail

Thermaltake Combo Cool DIY Series TOWER112 4 in 1 CPU Cooler for Intel LGA775. P4 and AMD K8. K7, with Heatpipe Cooling, Model “CL-P0024” -RETAIL

Now some questions:

  • Does the motherboard have reasonable onboard audio or do I need to add a dedicated audio card? (Says it has “Realtek ALC850 8-Channel Codec”).

Hm, actually I guess that’s my only question :-)
Fire at will!

Too expensive!

I’d go for the GeForce 6800GT instead of the X800. The 6800GT easily overlocks to Ultra speeds (well, mine does), and you’ll have Pixel Shader 3.0 in the house in case something ever truly takes advantage of it. Since ATI and Nvidia performance is within a few percentage points on most tests, I’d pick by features, and the 6800 wins there.

[size=2]* Yes, I realize that there are subjective tests that say ATI has a video quality edge. Examining stills with a magnifying glass, it’s evident. In the middle of a game?[/size]

[size=1]** Disclaimer: I own both ATI and Nvidia high-end cards. ATI rules for video work, Nvidia wins for gaming. IMHO.[/size]

Is that new mega-geforce card out? Why not get that?

For audio, the problem with onboard tends to be shitty drivers and lack of features. Might want to get whatever the latest creative card is if Thief sounds like shit.

Otherwise, looks good.

Your drive choices can bite you in the ass. Heres what you should expect:

  1. Windows XP doesn’t support SATA natively. You have to buy a floppy drive and copy the SATA drivers from the motherboard’s driver CD to a floppy disk so that you can install them as part of the Windows XP install procedure.

  2. Only two SATA channels are regular SATA channels. The other two are dedicated to the RAID controller. You’ll have to choose between mirrored or striped. You won’t be able to use those two drives as single units.

Not getting a Soundblaster Audigy as a sound card can also bite you in the ass.

  1. Many games will not properly recognize your multi-speaker set up if you use integrated audio.
  2. If all you use the surround sound for is movies, you’re fine.

The 520W power supply is overkill. I run 9 hard drives, 5 fans and 2 light arrays off a 480W Antec.

Installing more than 2 memory modules will decrease your memory speed. So if you have any intentions of increasing your memory capacity in the future, you should buy a single 1 GB module instead of two 512MB modules.

You all rock!!!

“Too expensive”: I haven’t bought a new system since 2000; still running my Abit BH6 wonder. I’ve been saving :-D

6800 GT: where can I buy one? Like, today? Not at Newegg, that’s for sure! (They don’t even list it in the search box for video chipsets…) Not only that, but the only GeForce 6800 cards NewEgg is selling are the Ultras, which are $589+ (breaking my video-card-cost limit).

Native SATA: can’t the drivers be installed off a CD somehow? or not? Also, is there any change with WinXP SP2?

SATA channels: no problem. I plan to use two of the drives as a RAID 0 pair, and the other two as a RAID 1 pair.

Audigy: good advice! will do!

Memory: excellent tip, will do one 1GB DIMM.

Keep the fantastic advice coming, PLEASE!

Case: Your case is a piece of shit. Get an antec sonata. It includes a great silent powersupply. You don’t need a 500W monstrosity.

Motherboard: VIA motherboards are shit. Get the MSI nforce3 S754 250 motherboard. Socket 939 is way too expensive and offers less than a 3% performance advantage over socket 754. Dual channel memory doesn’t really help athlon64’s very much.

Videocard: Like others have said, get the Geforce 6800GT. The 6800GT is identical to the 6800U except that it only has one DVI connector and is clocked lower. Every 6800GT overclocks to 6800U speeds, which smokes the X800Pro. The 6800GT should cost around $400-- do not buy the $500 model from newegg, search on hardocp and other messageboards to find a good deal for it. The X800Pro has less pipelines than the X800XT PE.

CPU: Get the athlon64 3200+ 2.0Ghz socket 754 clawhammer with 1MB cache. Not the 2.2Ghz 512K cache newcastle. Note that this better than the CPU you listed for a lot less money.

RAM: Your RAM is fine, although going for pc3500 or CAS 2 would be nice, probably not worth the extra money.

HD: That’s the drive to get. Storagereview’s leader at the best pricepoint. Don’t know what you need 4 of them for though. Don’t do RAID. RAID is evil.

DVDRW: Just get the NEC2510A dual layer 8X burner. Don’t overpay for a commodity.

Cooler: Get the zalman cnps7000cu. It’s the best for the money.

Audio: Add an OEM audigy 1.

Don’t forget a tube of arctic silver!

I agree with everything stusser says, except this. RAID isn’t evil. Stop spreading FUD, stusser!!

BTW, good catch on the CPU, stusser. I didn’t realize he was getting a socket 939 board. I read “Asus K8V”, not “A8V”.

Just get the NEC2510A dual layer 8X burner.

Dual layer media is currently $15 per disc because Verbatim has a monopoly on it. Don’t expect your DL capability to be practical until more manufacturers get on board and lower the price of the media.

Cooler: Get the zalman cnps7000cu. It’s the best for the money.

Yes, it is. To install this cooler on the Asus motherboards, you need to unscrew and remove the plastic heatsink holder on the motherboard so that you can screw in the cooler. This might have been obvious to you once you received your components, but here’s confirmation that yes, that’s the proper thing to do.

Don’t forget a tube of arctic silver!

Arctic silver 5. If you used previous artic silver compounds, you may be surprised at how thick this one is. The viscosity makes it difficult to spread thinly, but have patience.

The asus k8v is also a piece of shit. It’s a VIA k8t800 mobo, not even k8t800pro-- no agp/pci lock and the general VIA shoddiness thrown in for free. I don’t like RAID because everybody I know who has ever used it has ended up screwed. That includes mirrored RAID!

The NEC-2510A is dual layer but only costs $80. it isn’t like you’re paying extra for it or anything.

Newegg does have the 6800GT listed at the bottom of the dropdown selector, but like I said earlier, they charge $100 over the going price for it. Buy it elsewhere.

Here’s the build I’d put together if I were buying for myself. This will overclock to around 2400Mhz, the equivalent of an a64 3800+.

Edit: Compusa has the 6800GT in stock for $400. If you’re gonna get it, get it quick… everybody is out of stock and prices are being artificially inflated.

Unless you’re mirroring as well as striping, RAID doubles your chance of losing your data in a hard drive failure, so criticism is justified.

If you’re mirroring as well, then you’re fine.

I’m gonna criticize your system: Are you going to house it in a walk-in freezer, cuz it’s gonna be hot as hell in that room!

As mentioned, the 6800GT at CompUSA is in stock. I ordered one last Wednesday at 4:30 PM and had it in my hands on Thursday at 1PM. :D

I agree with much of what’s been said so far. Rather than RAID, why don’t you pick yourself up the 10,000RPM WD Raptor 72GB as your boot and Doom3 drive ? :twisted:

Jeez. Ask and ye shall receive! Gonna try to keep up:

  • I was going for the 939 because my assumption was that there will be future 939 / PCI-Express mobos, whereas there won’t be future 754 / PCI-Express mobos. In other words, seems like I could go with 939 / AGP mobo now and then get a 939 / PCI-E mobo later, keeping the CPU. Of course if I save enough money on the 754 then who cares, right? Anyway, am I right about the future of socket 754, and does it matter?

  • RAID is evil: Thanks, but I’ll give it a try anyway. As I said, I’m doing two drives mirrored (for games & video editing), and two drives striped (for everything else, including MP3 collection). Never tried it, gonna try it, we’ll see. If I get screwed on the mirrored set then I’ll be right back here backing stusser up all the way…

  • DVD/RW: I’m willing to pay the premium for the 50% boost in write speed… I have a WHOLE LOT of DVDs and CDs to burn.

  • Case: Antec sonata, fine.

  • Heatsink & paste: sure, what do I know, never installed a heatsink before :shock:

  • 6800 GT: Went to Frye’s after my last post (getting my wife an in-car CD/MP3 player, and wanted to price these components vs. Newegg) and what should be there but the BFG 6800GT for $399! I snatched it. Looks like I’ll be keeping it! :D

  • Heat: yeah, fuck it. I need… more… POWER, SCOTTY!


I’m going to point the other way on RAID - it’s great. I prefer doing it in the OS, though, as that way you can survive the loss of a motherboard and just go plug the drives into any other machine. God help you if the hardware RAID fails.

So what do I need to do this? Just the plain old SATA ports and WinXP? Do I need XP Pro?


OK, here’s the Socket 754 version. Pretty damn close to stusser’s, except more hard drives and just one stick of 1GB RAM (as per earlier concern about cutting RAM speed if using more than two DIMM slots).

Keep those cards and letters coming!

That looks good. Pick it up.

So what do I need to do this? Just the plain old SATA ports and WinXP? Do I need XP Pro?

Yeah, the controller on the motherboard handles it. You’ll have to set it up before you load XP, though (you’ll be given the option to go into the RAID controller BIOS before you even boot to the OS). Usually the default stripe size and block size are the best.

I’ll add this cavet: Plan for regular backups, because what Jason says is true. I’m not a big fan of software RAID (hell, if you’re going to do it, get the most performance out of it, especially in a non-server enviroment), but hardware RAID goes bad, it really goes bad.