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OK guys,

 

Next month I am going to build me a new PC. I have quite a few parts already but I will need just the basics: motherboard, CPU, power supply, RAM, case.

 

So I'm soliciting recommendations from all you guys who play with hardware a lot - I really don't. Here's the thing: I'm looking for cheap but decent. Not the latest and greatest most souped up machine out there, just the cheapest I can get while still maintaining reliability and good solid performance.

 

I don't do any gaming. I do occasional audio editing/processing but this will not be used as a DAW regularly. So it should perform well with audio but I don't need it to be able to run 64 tracks with 97 plugins. I don't really care whether I go with Intel or AMD... if AMD is cheaper and just as good that's fine.

 

So what do you experts think? What should I buy?

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Hmmm... Athlon 64's are getting cheaper all the time, and if you go that route, you could upgrade the CPU later if you wanted / needed more power.

 

An Athlon XP 2800 is dirt cheap these days... but it may not be your best choice either.

 

What we really could use Lee, is a idea of what sort of budget we are working with, and then we can give you some appropriate suggestions for the best system in that price range.

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Hi Phil, no I don't have a power supply - I would like to get recommendations for one with a reasonably quiet fan if possible. Are the Thermaltake PS/fans as good as they say, and/or is there anything else as good for cheaper?

 

I would like to stay under $500 (and as much under as possible!) for the motherboard, CPU, 512mb RAM, case and power supply. I already have all the drives, sound card, video card and other peripherals.

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Originally posted by phaeton:

/me waits to see how long before someone drops the "minimac" reference :wave:

LOL... OK then let me make this perfectly clear: I have nothing against Macs, but this computer will be used a good deal for business. My clients run Windows and Linux. End of story. :D
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Originally posted by Lee Flier:

I would like to stay under $500 (and as much under as possible!) for the motherboard, CPU, 512mb RAM, case and power supply. I already have all the drives, sound card, video card and other peripherals.

Motherboard, go with ASUS, ABit or Intel. My choice last year was an ASUS P4P800-E Deluxe. It's a Pentium board with strong performance bang/buck. I love it. ~$110.

 

Memory, Kingston ValueRAM, not crap, not too expensive. Buy the 800MHz stuff. 2x 256MB chips, $200

 

CPU, the top of the line is ALWAYS over priced. Take a few steps back from the cutting edge, (3-3.2 GHz) to get your money's worth. To meet your budget, you can get a 2.6GHz PIV chip for $130. Plenty of horsepower for stereo editing. Buy the retail versons - not OEM. The OEM's look cheaper (they are the same chip), but are usually missing a fan that you have to buy separately. Not worth it.

 

Case, on the cheap, 400 watt power supply, $40-$50. Prices go up from there. Quiet power supplies aren't cheap.

 

I think that's around 5 bills, total.

 

Frankly, I'm a PC builder. It's fun for me, but not for everyone. I'd still check Dell. They might be able to sell you the same system for about the same price.

Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to reform.

Mark Twain (1835-1910)

--------------------

Reporter: "Ah, do you think you could destroy the world?" The Tick: "Ehgad I hope not. That's where I keep all my stuff!"

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* one of the silent/quiet power supply vendors, 400 watts

* case of your choosing

* consider the Shuttle mini-computers, small, cheap, cool, quiet

* If you build one, motherboards by either, Asus or Gigabit

* make sure the hard drive you choose has a 3 year warranty. Each manufacturer has different levels with diff. warranties now.

* used a used floppy and CDROM du jour.

* I would NOT buy a dell/gateway, especially at the lower price points.

* I have had custom PC's built using these vendors, any of which are fine

www.krex.com

www.mwave.com

* use www.pricewatch.com if yuo end up buying it part by part.

* fast ram in smaller quantity is probably better than more ram that is slower. (i.e. 400/800 FSB stuff vs. older, cheaper 100/133, etc.)

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Originally posted by deanmass:

[QB* I would NOT buy a dell/gateway, especially at the lower price points.[/QB]

Why wouldn't you buy a Dell, just out of curiosity? No, I'm not arguing any point, just trying to learn!

 

BTW, I do have a Dell. Sort of. I maintain a web site for a non-profit organization called Captive Daughters and so they gave me a cheap Dell so I could do this. Seems to work pretty well, but of course, I am not doing audio on it.

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Asus K8V Deluxe (about $115), Athlon 64 3200 (about $235), Micron PC3200 512 MB DDR SDRAM CT6464Z40B (about $80 for a single stick, leaving the other slots open for future expansion - I would strongly recommend aganst two sticks of 256 MB RAM),

ENERMAX 350W Power Supply Model EG365P-VE FMA 1.3 (about $62), Zalman CNPS7000A-Cu CPU cooler (about $45). All told, that will set you back $537 plus shipping, and you'd have a SCREAMER in terms of performance, but a whisperer in terms or radiated noise.

 

I made the assumption that you already have a case you could use. If not, toss another $20 - $30 bucks into the total price for a cheap one.

 

Too much moolah? You can go with the Retail version of the CPU, which includes a fan, but it's not going to be anywhere near as quiet as the Zalman. Ditto that on the Enermax power supply... you can get an el-cheapo case with a 350 W PS in it for $40 or so, but again, the PS is going to make a lot more noise.

 

One final option would be to go with a slower CPU. You can get an Athlon 64 2800 retail version, which includes the fan, for $130, and about $115 for the OEM (no fan included) version.

 

Let's see:

 

Athlon 64 2800 ($115)

Asus K8V Deluxe ($115)

Micron 512 MB RAM ($80 - I agree that the Kingston ValueRam is also good, and if it's cheaper, you can go with that)

Enermax Power supply ($62)

Zalman CPU cooler ($45)

Case (assuming you need one - let's call it $30)

 

Total = $447, plus shipping.

 

That would still be pretty darned fast, with expansion and upgrade capabilities for the future, and it would still be quite quiet.

 

You can knock that down to about $370 plus shipping if you go with the retail version of the CPU ($130 instead of $115), forgo the Zalman CPU cooler (-$45) and get a el-cheapo case / power supply ($45) and forgo the Enermax power supply (-$62).

 

Still just as fast, but definitely noiser. You can swap out the PS and CPU fan later if you need to.

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If you really wnat to save a few bucks and avoid the hassle of bulding it yourself....A secondhand machine might be something to consier. Just look in the classified or to a local repair shop.

Just nuke the disc and re-load the system and it could do well.

 

OF course, personally, Im too lazy for any of that.

 

I recently clicked on Dell. Even with 512Megs a 2.8Mhz intel P-chip, 80 gigs, both a CDRW and DVD drive and a firewire interface.

Total bill 700.

And no hassles at all.

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Originally posted by Kendrix:

If you really wnat to save a few bucks and avoid the hassle of bulding it yourself....A secondhand machine might be something to consier.

Yeah, that'd be good if you know the person hasn't done anything awful to it. You can always just wipe the HD, reinstall, and be up and going really fast.
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Building a machine from scratch usually doesn't take me more than an hour or two... of course, loading in the OS and programs extends that time out a lot longer though.

 

Personally I've never purchased a used machine. I'm sure some are just fine, and good bargains, and the previous owner is just selling it to get something faster... but OTOH, some of them may be "problem children", be infested with viri or whatever. I don't like the odds and I don't really want to chance spending the money only to buy someone else's problems. YMMV, but with the low cost / high performance available these days for self built systems, I feel it's worth a couple of hours of my time.

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Lee, if there's a Fry's around there, pick up one of the GQ units at $279.00. At that price you'll get a 40 gig hard drive, a cd-rw, Athlon 2600+, Integrated graphics, 10/100 net card, modem, USB 2.0, Windows XP Home and 128mb RAM. 512mb of RAM is fifty bones after a thirty bone rebate. The units that come with Linspire loaded as the OS are even cheaper,in the stores. Their website, outpost.com, has them at the same price with different processors. The Linspire has the AThlon XP and the Win WP has the Sempron processor.

The things work fine and you can add your other stuff as you need.

A great DAW? No! But, it will do very well as a dual boot Windows/Linux working box and you can do audio on it especially if you toss in a different sound card and disable the onboard.

 

Our Joint

 

"When you come slam bang up against trouble, it never looks half as bad if you face up to it." The Duke...

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A good suggestion Dak. Certainly a very low cost option.

 

A couple of comments - I'd stay away from Celerons and Semperon CPU's. Also, Lee already said she has a graphics card, so buying a mobo without an onboard video card isn't really an issue... and personally I've never been a huge fan of onboard video and shared memory, but they can certainly get the job done.

 

Ultimately it comes down to how much speed you need and what you're willing to pay for it. A Athlon 64 is newer technology than the Athlon XP series, and for $370 or so, you can have that... for a bit less you can go with Dak's Athlon XP based system suggestion. Is it worth the extra bank for the 64? Only you can decide that Lee... and of course, it really depends on what you're going to do with it. I have something similar to what Dak described, and for surfing the 'net, it does just fine. But if I was going to use it day in and day out for any type of "work", I'd opt for something a bit more powerful. YMMV of course. :)

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Phil, I agree whole heartedly about the Celeron and Sempron processors. I mentioned that Sempron because when I looked at outpost.com it showed that processor with the XP system. The local adds have all had an Atlon XP processor on those machines. Again, locally, the Linspire OS units generally are 50 buck or so cheaper, and as low as $199.990 for the unit.

 

On somewhat of a side note, I just bought a laptop for my work. I looked at a lot of units and nearly everything available at a reasonable price runs a Celeron processor. I picked up an Averatec unit with an Athlon XP2200 running 512 mb RAM, 60 gig hard drive and a cd-rw/dvd and Windows XP OS for $700.00. My compromise was a smaller screen but this thing only weights 4.5 lbs. Not too bad to carry around.

Is it the best thing going? Not at all but it's the best thing going for the price that will do what I need it to, that's run freaking windows programs for work, and will allow me to do other things, including record music for transfer to my other computer. It'll do the graphics work I need though a bit slower than my main box.

 

So, the gist of all this? That GQ box, with the memory upgrade, will do what Lee needs to do, business wise, and will, in a pinch, double as a music box at a price point under $400.00.

 

Our Joint

 

"When you come slam bang up against trouble, it never looks half as bad if you face up to it." The Duke...

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Lee, I'd highly recommend building your machine around this:

 

http://www.mwave.com/mwave/viewspec.hmx?scriteria=BA14494

 

I built a music pc several months ago and this case just made a huge impression on me. Very very quiet. Only thing bothering me is the faint hum of the oem cpu fan. The power supply is absolutely first class as well. I went the intel mobo/pentium route with crucial ram but even with two hard drives it was around six bills. I love this machine.

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I'm on a similar quest, putting together a new DAW platform.

 

Here\'s where I'm probably gonna buy it. You can spec out each and every component, and they'll either ship you the parts, or for $35 put it together and burn it in for 48 hours before they ship it to you. Break $500, and they'll ship it free.

band link: bluepearlband.com

music, lessons, gig schedules at dennyf.com

 

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Get yours.

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Yeah I agree that I want to stay away from Celeron and Sempron stuff... I've had not so great past experiences. Even for my business stuff (database work which can be processor intensive) it really never cut the mustard.

 

I've looked at Dell before (hasn't everyone? :D ) but it's my understanding that a lot of the parts they use aren't that quality. Most of the big name prebuilt machines (Dell/Gateway/HP/Sony/etc) seem to not perform very well compared to a custom built job with decent parts, even if the processor speed and other obvious specs are the same. Also, most of those machines have a lot of stuff I already have and don't need... and most of them have some proprietary chips or other garbage that makes it difficult to upgrade with generic parts. I'm tired of dealing with that.

 

Those configs look great Phil and Hendmik, that's the kind of info I need! And yeah newegg is very cool... I'll have to check out Monarch too.

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Lee,

 

Are you able to put this together yourself? It's not a dumb question, just a curious one. If not, and you're willing to stop by Minneapolis, we'll go shopping. Pretty much every suggestion about hardware was spot on, but the best price deal is in assembling it yourself. I'm sure you can find someone willing and able to help out.

 

John

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John\'s Songs

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If you can afford it, go with an athlon645. This will make it future proof when they release WinXP64. They're getting pretty inexpensive, and they kick ass.

 

AMD is outperforming Intel's these days.

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John, I had no idea you were in Minneapolis now! Another smart person who left L.A. ;)

 

Anyway, I'd love to go shopping with ya but I'm afraid the trip to Minneapolis would eat up most of my budget for the computer. :D It's cool, though, I think I can put it together myself. Thanks for the kind offer though, and hope it's all going great for you up there!

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Thanks for the well wishes. This is a temporary permanent thing. I will probably move back to LA in the summer for about 6 to 9 months and then back here, perhaps for good. The times aren't exact.

 

Anyway, if you have any questions, I'm sure there are plenty of people who can assist you with questions you may have. In all honesty, putting together a PC is not much of a mystery anymore, and you seem to have more than just a passing familiarity with the process as it stands.

 

All is well here in fly-over country. If you're in the area, we'll have to get Phait and Paul and the rest of the Wisconsin/Minnesota/(Illinois?) crew out here. I grew up in this area so it is my calling, it seems, to be back here.

 

Anyway, not to hijack this thread, Ellis Paul is playing and I just wanted to verify (as a paid IT professional) that the above suggestions were solid. Best of luck on getting a PC to fit your demands.

 

John

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John\'s Songs

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Originally posted by DakLander:

Is it the best thing going? Not at all but it's the best thing going for the price that will do what I need it to, that's run freaking windows programs for work, and will allow me to do other things, including record music for transfer to my other computer. It'll do the graphics work I need though a bit slower than my main box.

 

So, the gist of all this? That GQ box, with the memory upgrade, will do what Lee needs to do, business wise, and will, in a pinch, double as a music box at a price point under $400.00.

Please don't get my "work" comment wrong Dak. :) I certainly agree that those www.outpost.com / Fry's systems can get a lot of work done, and at a ultra-low price... but I would still prefer to pay a hundred or two bucks more for something that was a bit faster, a bit more current technology-wise for my main working system. Not only can you get more done, more quickly with a faster machine (depending on what you're needing to do, this may be a negligible difference), you also are in a better position for when Win64 comes along - and as a programmer, that might be an issue for Lee, unless she's doing most of her work in Unix. Also, you're going to have an easier time upgrading parts for it and keeping it current for longer. For a main working machine, especially for a computer programmer / recording engineer who wants to do occasional audio tasks on it, I think those are important considerations.

 

But if rock bottom price is the key in the equation, then that GQ Athlon XP 2600 looks pretty cool for $279... tempting enough that upgrading my softsynth / Giga machine (a tired old Compaq PIII 933 MHz) is looking like an excellent idea. :) Thanks for the heads up. :thu:

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Originally posted by Philip O'Keefe:

I would strongly recommend aganst two sticks of 256 MB RAM

Curious about this comment. 2 sticks instead of one do make it harder to upgrade in the future because you're left with fewer available slots, if you mismatch the RAM dimms you can experience bluescreens. But other than that, 2 dimms over one is always cheaper, no performance difference, and if you order the same brand/model, BSOD (blue screens of death - to those keeping score at home) are not an issue. So why do you not only recommend against it, but so strongly?

 

Not trying to out-tech you or compare penis sizes, just legitimately curious about this comment.

 

P.S. That's a goodprice for RAM, providing it's decent stuff. I have no experience with Micron memory, so I can't say. All I know is stay the hell away from Simpletech.

Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to reform.

Mark Twain (1835-1910)

--------------------

Reporter: "Ah, do you think you could destroy the world?" The Tick: "Ehgad I hope not. That's where I keep all my stuff!"

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The 256 v. 512 thing can be a chipset thing.

 

I have got 4 matched 256 in an Intel 3G box (Intel D865GBF) but 2 512 in the AMD 64 754 (K8V deluxe).

 

The logic is that the two channel DDR is supported in the 865 chipset, but not in the Via chipset in the AMD. Right now, I like the AMD 64. The prices are starting to break on the AMD 64 939, but the value side is still the 754. The 754 is supposed to top out at 3700 which would be brisk.

 

Watch the ads for the vaguely loathsome Fry's for a case. They may have a decent Antec. Newegg has shipping specials with sharply discounted freight on cases - keep an eye on the daily specials, especially on Tuesdays.

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Originally posted by Hendmik:

But other than that, 2 dimms over one is always cheaper, no performance difference.

Actually, if you are talking about running two chips in dual channel configuration then there is a pretty hefty performance improvement. Anywho, Lee, there has been some great things posted here and dont' mind me if I chime in with a few cents. The setup that Phil spec'd out would be best if you plan on using your system in a music production environment. Otherwise, I'd save on all of the uber-quiet components and just spend $60 on a mid-level Antec case from Newegg. They are still fairly quiet and have a very high quality PSU. If I had $500 to spend on everything but drives and an OS here's what I'd get:

 

Antec Case

 

Intel Pentium 4/ 3.0E GHz 800MHz FSB, 1MB L2 Cache, Hyper Threading

 

Intel D865PERL Motherboard

 

Mushkin Dual Pack 184-Pin 1GB(512MBx2) DDR PC-3200

 

This is roughly the same setup I use (sans drives) and it's been a pleasure to work with. I runs Sonar 4 PE without a hitch and has been rock solid. I've built a ton of systems with this Intel MB and they all have performed fantasticly!

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Dilligan,

 

Good find, nice prices. Looks like I have some reading to do about dual channeling...

Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to reform.

Mark Twain (1835-1910)

--------------------

Reporter: "Ah, do you think you could destroy the world?" The Tick: "Ehgad I hope not. That's where I keep all my stuff!"

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