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  • Help me build my "Dream Machine"

    Hey gang,

    I'll be building a new PC from the ground up over the next month. I'm kind of at a mental impasse where the volume of choices and options are overwhelming me. My available budget is $2500 not including a monitor, as I already ordered 27" Dell Monitor). Otherwise the total budget would have been $3500.

    Now, I'm not against going over-budget ($2500) on this build, but I need to have a good reason. I really want a balance of new-hotness, overclockability, & upgradeability. I get a chance to build a completely new rig about once every never, so I want this one to count (; So if I'm looking at my options and the options look really good $400 over budget, I'm ok with that. That said, don't worry about conforming to my arbitrary budget (within reason). I'm NOT going to spend $6K on a rig. I'd be better off spending my money hiring a lawyer to file divorce papers or calling the police to file a preemptive missing persons report (on me) :D

    I've decided I'm going to go with intel & nvidia. My processor will be quadcore. Which one? I don't know. As far as motherboard chipset, I'm at a loss. I would like to go SLi, but I've heard conflicting reports on how well the 680i can overclock, and whether or not there is any gain in SLi @ 1600x1900.

    Here's what I need help on:

    Cases

    So far I like what I see over at Mountain Mods. A modular case with good airflow and enough room for 2 possible water loops (including pumps and reservoirs) is a big plus.

    I'll take any other ideas though :)

    Cooling

    Everything water cooling. I'd like to try my chops at watercooling but the only experience I have with it is what I've read online. I want someone from TG to hold me and tell me it will be alright... I mean, where the heck can you buy 3/8" brass barbs??

    I'd like to have my CPU and northbridge cooled. I'd also like to water cool my VGA(s). I'm fairly sure I'll need to tun two loops to do this. I need recommendations for reservoirs, pumps, and hardware.

    I'll also be looking for fan controllers.

    Mother Boards

    X38? 680i? wait for 790i? To DDR3 or not to DDR3? Skulltrail? Give up SLi for DDR3? I don't know what to do, and having one sided conversations with myself is not getting me anywhere. HELP ME (:

    Graphics

    I have 2 BFG 8800GT OC's sitting at home either waiting to be returned or used depending on whether or not I decide to go SLi. I guess the main part here is do I go for a GTX (no SLi) or keep one GT and just upgrade to a 9XXX when nvidia releases their new chipset? This all depends on whether or not I go SLi.

    Anything else

    Any other input you'd like to divulge. (:

    Thanks guys RW
    Last edited by Rincewind; 12-18-2007, 01:04 AM.
    ~~ Veritas simplex oratio est ~~
    No matter how far a wizard goes, he will always come back for his hat. --T. Pratchett

    <---- You know you're getting old when you rely on your forum meta-data to remind you how old you are.


  • #2
    Re: Help me build my &quot;Dream Machine&quot;

    I hope all the TG experts come out of the woodwork on this one. I have a lot of the same questions. Very confusing. Some say SLI is better than getting a powerhungry jumbotron card that takes 2 slots and runs hot, others disagree. You got a smokin' deal on the BFGs (I bought one too) and I have read that dual (SLi) 8000GT OC run games like Crysis maxed at over 60 fps.
    The big question is will the incremental performance measure up to the steep ramp in price you may face for a 768 or 1 gig card? http://www23.tomshardware.com/graphi...=706&chart=275

    More debate also on dual core vs quad core today. Will you actually be able to have programs maximize the technology? No clue here, I have seen very different points of view.
    http://www23.tomshardware.com/cpu_20...=871&chart=424

    What every you do, make sure to set yourself up for future upgrade. I am replacing my system now because it was RDRAM based and that is sooooo expensive now. I am better off with a new 680i board and cheaper RAM.

    I will be watching your thread closely to see what the "experts" have to say, because I have the same headache that you do.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Help me build my &quot;Dream Machine&quot;

      Quad core, dual core, whatever. Either is a good choice but this is a long term system so I think quad core would suit better.

      SLI is a good option if you get the best hardware or nearly the best at the beginning. It can be difficult later on to get a cheap second card that is the same series card. My vote is for one pretty good card like a 8800GT or the new 8800GTS. Save some cash and use it for an upgrade in 1.5 years. You won't have the best but you'll have money during the system's lifetime for something pretty good all the time. Blowing your cash on something really awesome at the beginning can mean that you're using something that's just meh near the end.

      The 680i chipset is pretty popular but there are other ones you can choose if you don't want SLI. There are plenty of threads already on different mobos that TG'ers have chosen for their new rigs.

      Water cooling is expensive. You can get cheap kits but they are cheap kits. The quality of everything is average in a kit. If you want good components, you have to spend lots of money. You'll probably want to invest in a good radiator and pump since those are reusable and important to a good water cooling setup. It'll be easier to replace crapy waterblocks than a crappy rad or pump. Waterblocks will probably be replaced during the lifetime of the water cooling system too. If you have to change video cards, you'll probably need a new waterblock. So keep that in mind. The CPU and northbridge will probably be alright unless you change mobos but they're probably reusable. I would probably ditch the water cooling though. Air cooling is effective and quiet these days after the invention of the heat pipe.

      For a $2500 system, you can build quite the beast. If you shave that down to a modest $1500 system, you can save that extra cash for upgrades. You will definitely want upgrades no matter what parts you pick. When that 1.5 year mark comes around, you'll start drooling at the new hardware coming out.

      - It's who you game with.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Help me build my &quot;Dream Machine&quot;

        Well, I would hold off on building anything for the time being cause Intel is planning on releasing their newest processors in about another month or two(1 has already been released). Also, I would recommend Intel cause AMD's latest processors are still not equivilent to Intel processor of about the same price range. I also heard rumors about Nvidia releasing their 9xxx series cards shortly, maybe within 3 months?!?! For now keep the video cards you have. So many choices can be made when a price tag of $2500 os set. Personally I plan on going quad core when I build a computer in the next few months. I believe more games might be taking advantage of the extra cores. I believe what is the most expensive for what I plan on building will be all the hard drives, 2 Raptors and 1 storage hard drive. The video card comes close to being next, I planned on an 8800GT but not sure exactly what one yet. Still have some time for me to make up my mind and see if any new releases come out, lol.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Help me build my &quot;Dream Machine&quot;

          Originally posted by jb4 View Post
          What every you do, make sure to set yourself up for future upgrade. I am replacing my system now because it was RDRAM based and that is sooooo expensive now. I am better off with a new 680i board and cheaper RAM.

          I will be watching your thread closely to see what the "experts" have to say, because I have the same headache that you do.
          I hear you jb4. I, too, am upgrading from a system with RDRAM. Good ram, and the bandwidth has served me well for four years, but it's getting long in the tooth. It will be nice to lay my 2.0Ghz original P4 to rest.
          ~~ Veritas simplex oratio est ~~
          No matter how far a wizard goes, he will always come back for his hat. --T. Pratchett

          <---- You know you're getting old when you rely on your forum meta-data to remind you how old you are.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Help me build my &quot;Dream Machine&quot;

            Originally posted by Rincewind View Post
            I hear you jb4. I, too, am upgrading from a system with RDRAM. Good ram, and the bandwidth has served me well for four years, but it's getting long in the tooth. It will be nice to lay my 2.0Ghz original P4 to rest.
            LOL, mine was P4 2.0 as well. We must have purchased our computers near the same time. My parts come tomorrow so I will see if I can get it running by the end of the week.

            Portmans, OR? I lived in Beaverton and Medford before AZ. Don't remember Portmans.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Help me build my &quot;Dream Machine&quot;

              Heres the big things you have to ask yourself when building a machine of this magnitude:
              1. How long is this system going to realistically last you?
              2. Are you going to upgrade as soon as upgrades are available?
              3. What's your OS mojo (xp, vista, linux, leopard [eeeeeeewwwwww....])?
              4. What kinds of software are you going to be running?
              5. How much are you REALLY willing to spend?

              The reasons behind these are simple and boil down to the same set of points. You have to decide whether building a new machine every year or two is going to be your thing or if you want something that you can just upgrade piece by piece. A lot of people thought that piece by piece was the answer with older RAM and vid cards...until ram speeds started increasing exponentially and PCI/AGP became a thing of the past, then it was complete overhaul time and a lot of people were stuck holding a very large bill if they wanted to upgrade because it wasnt just memory and vid cards, it was new mobo, new memory, new cards, new hard drives, power supplies, etc.

              Bottom line is that before you start picking stuff out, you have to decide what you're going to DO with it. Me, I built a beast of a computer because I had my first post-college paycheck and I was feeling spicy. So I bought a high end mobo, quad core, 8GB DDR2, 2 terabytes of HD space, and dual Radeon X1950 PRO XTX LE 1GB cards. Am I running drafting/cad software, high end video modeling programs, sound studios, market analysis software? No. I run BF2, 2142, HL1/2, ms office, itunes and photoshop. 99.9% of my computer's potential is wasted on the fact that I had a pocket full of cash and wanted to be able to open programs faster than I could think about it. I put no thought into those 5 questions and it turned out for the best for me. But it cost me a buttload of money.

              If you want longevity, go with a quad core. 4 years ago, dual cores were speculated to be a very narrow market limited to people using high-end software and needing excess computing power. Now you can barely buy a computer that doesnt have one. HD's are easy enough to upgrade, as is memory. Video cards are tricky because it entirely depends on your software/gaming focus. For me, I'll be happy playing PR until the cows come home. Crysis may be flashy, but it's just not my cup of tea right now. If you want the uber-high end graphics, I'd lean toward SLI, seeing as thats expandable technology (meaning that future SLI cards are going to be available to replace your older ones). If you're satisfied with very nice graphics, but not the mega-performance, stick to one card (its probably cheaper that way anyway).

              Just keep in mind that no matter what you build now, in two years or so you'll be upgrading again, so choose wisely based on whether or not you're going to want to do a component upgrade or a full system overhaul at that point.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Help me build my &quot;Dream Machine&quot;

                I'd personally wait till mid-winter to buy and see whats out then, who knows when Intel's new CPU will be out, same with Nvidia.

                Make sure your motherboard supports PCIe 2.0. Not really needed, but since this system is gonna need to last awhile, make sure it can.

                You'll probably want SLI for that monitor, 1920x1200 is pretty damn big. Just keep in mind some games don't really take huge advantage of SLI, let alone even utilize it.

                As for watercooling, head over to http://www.dangerden.com/store/ I haven't bought a system yet, but they've got good prices last I was checking and very very good reputation.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Help me build my &quot;Dream Machine&quot;

                  Originally posted by Ferris Bueller View Post
                  Just keep in mind that no matter what you build now, in two years or so you'll be upgrading again, so choose wisely based on whether or not you're going to want to do a component upgrade or a full system overhaul at that point.
                  "You have chosen wisely, my son."

                  Originally posted by Anopsa
                  I'd personally wait till mid-winter to buy and see whats out then, who knows when Intel's new CPU will be out, same with Nvidia.
                  I hear you there. But you can get stuck in a cycle of 'just wait until the next quarter.' There's always going to be something better coming out just around the corner, and it seems to be my lot in life to be in the market for a PC EVERY FREAKIN' TIME that this is especially the case. I mean my first self funded computer purchase was a Apple PowerPC, and TWO WEEKS LATER apple announced and started selling the G3 series. This is why I will never purchase a macintosh again. :`[

                  Also, thanks for the heads up on the cooling retailer.

                  I may end up purchasing my machine bit by bit. I'm really liking what Mountain Mods has to offer in the way of cases. Huge, modular cases that will last 5-10 years. New mother board form factor? just order a new motherboard plate. I like how they think. All I need to do is order a dust free room to play my games in (; I may purchase the case and hardware now and wait till Feb. to buy the electronics... *sigh* I dunno.
                  ~~ Veritas simplex oratio est ~~
                  No matter how far a wizard goes, he will always come back for his hat. --T. Pratchett

                  <---- You know you're getting old when you rely on your forum meta-data to remind you how old you are.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Help me build my &quot;Dream Machine&quot;

                    Yeah, the cycle of waiting really bites, but right now I'd be willing to bet we're on the later half of a cycle, so it shouldn't be a terribly long wait.

                    Another question, what OS? 64 bit really isn't worthwhile at the moment or soon, but eventually it'll be good. So grabbing 8 GB of RAM is quite ridiculous now, but maybe in 4 years it'll be worth it.

                    And ya, Mountain Mods are pretty good, but if you're handy with tools, go ahead and make your own! Be a lot more satisfying I bet, just take some time.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Help me build my &quot;Dream Machine&quot;

                      Originally posted by Anospa View Post
                      And ya, Mountain Mods are pretty good, but if you're handy with tools, go ahead and make your own! Be a lot more satisfying I bet, just take some time.
                      I'd love to do that, but I'm not outfitted for it. :[ All I have is a dremmel. I'll probably be placing an order with them this week. I remember when picking a case out was harder than choosing your chipset/VGA.

                      As far aas OS's, I'll be dual booting XP and Vista64 bit. I'll see how the difference is and go from there. It seems to be different for everyone at this point.

                      I still welcome any input gang! :)
                      ~~ Veritas simplex oratio est ~~
                      No matter how far a wizard goes, he will always come back for his hat. --T. Pratchett

                      <---- You know you're getting old when you rely on your forum meta-data to remind you how old you are.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Help me build my &quot;Dream Machine&quot;

                        Well, with the budget, seriously consider some level of RAID. RAID 0 is hot when you want to quickly boot into anything, just not 100% safe (lose 1 drive, everything's gone). The "upper," levels (0+1 or 1+0) may be worth looking into, as well as a controller card. With a case as roomy as you're looking for, this would be a great idea to keep all your data easily available and safe.

                        I'm currently running RAID 0 off my motherboard controller and absolutely love how quickly things load, copy, paste, write, etc. I don't really do many backups, but have no real sensitive information I'd miss if I lost a drive.

                        Also, I'm not sure how the newer chipsets run temp wise, but NF4 chips really didn't benefit too much from being watercooled, actually sometimes would hurt a loop by adding a bit more heat and cutting down flow.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Help me build my &quot;Dream Machine&quot;

                          I'm currently trying to get a decent mouse, headset and graphics card and I'm trying to stay under 120, and I can't afford a year's SM at the moment.

                          $2500, and you don't mind going over-budget...?

                          You lucky, lucky bastard ;)
                          Anger is a gift - Malcolm X

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Help me build my &quot;Dream Machine&quot;

                            My 2 cents. Stay away from SLI for now and get a 768mb GTX (or newer 1GB cards). Later on down the road you can add another once the tech. is needed. For now, it's not needed and a waste. One card is also generally more stable.

                            Mobo; get the Asus P5N32E-SLI... done

                            As for a case, if you want troublefree expandability, get the Silverstone full-tower case. They're the only real decent looking case that can handle two huge GPUs. Not to mention, if you wanted to switch to liquid cooling down the road it's got all the piping holes already cut. If you want a cheaper solution, stick with the reliable old Antec 900 case.

                            As for cooling, dont bother with liquid cooling. Just get this:
                            [media]http://img160.imageshack.us/my.php?image=dscn2795acr9.jpg[/media]
                            I've been accused of using liquid cooling because the temps are so low. There's nothing better, period. It's called the Tuniq Tower 120.

                            As for CPUs, just get the ol' reliable Intel C2D (e6600 may suit you just fine). OC it to 3.4 and you're done. Again, later on down the road you can still upgrade to quad-core or next-gen dual-core with that mobo.

                            HDDs, get one big HDD and two smaller ones in a Raid 0. You can setup an automatic mirror through Windows for any files you want backed up. Leave your Raid array for games and for editing video, etc. Put your OS on the big HDD separate from your games. I know this may seem trivial, but you MUST have two separate physical drives for a Vista system, otherwise you're not taking advantage of the improved pagefile system (i.e. I get pagefile from disk c while I play games off of disk e). Dont get trapped into making one big Raid array or one big mirrored array. Another neat thing with Vista is, it'll automatically Defragment drives you're not using... so using more than 1 drive really keeps your system clean.

                            Here's a thread I started long ago for my build:
                            http://www.tacticalgamer.com/hardwar...lp-me-god.html

                            Here was my final build order:
                            Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 Conroe 2.4GHz LGA 775 Dual-Core Processor Model BX80557E6600 - Retail
                            Item #: N82E16819115003
                            Return Policy: Processors (CPUs) Return Policy
                            Intel (800)-628-8686 Please Verify Processor matches order Prior to installation. IMPORTANT: Always pack you CPU well for return. We will refuse your RMA if we received it as DAMAGED! $308.00
                            Item(s) shipped from NJ Tracking Number: #1Z5AE6660306153496
                            Track 2 Western Digital Caviar RE WD1600YS 160GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - OEM
                            Item #: N82E16822136062
                            Return Policy: Limited 30-Day Return Policy
                            This item is serviced by the Western Digital. Please call 800 832 4778 for service. $119.98
                            Track 1 Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 ST3320620AS (Perpendicular Recording Technology) 320GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - OEM
                            Item #: N82E16822148140
                            Return Policy: Limited 30-Day Return Policy
                            This item is serviced by the SeaGate. Please call 800 -732-4283 for service. $84.99
                            Track 1 ASUS P5N32-E SLI LGA 775 NVIDIA nForce 680i SLI ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail
                            Item #: N82E16813131073
                            Return Policy: Limited Non-Refundable 30-Day Return Policy
                            For Asus Tech Support, Please Call 502-995-0883 or [media]http://helpdesk.asus.com/[/media] $209.99
                            Track 1 Microsoft Windows Vista 32-Bit Home Premium for System Builders Single Pack DVD - OEM
                            Item #: N82E16832116202
                            Return Policy: Software Return Policy
                            Please Note CD keys are listed on the outside of the plastic wrap accompanying your product. $111.99
                            Track 1 Microsoft Windows XP Home With SP2B 1 Pack - OEM
                            Item #: N82E16832116056
                            Return Policy: Software Return Policy
                            Please Note CD keys are listed on the outside of the plastic wrap accompanying your product. $89.99
                            Track 1 THQ Gift - Supreme Commander PC Game - OEM
                            Item #: N82E16800997016
                            Return Policy: Standard Return Policy $39.99
                            Track 1 Leadtek WinFast PX8800 GTX TDH GeForce 8800GTX 768MB 384-bit GDDR3 PCI Express x16 HDCP Ready SLI Supported Video Card - Retail
                            Item #: N82E16814122017
                            Return Policy: Standard Return Policy
                            This item is service by the Manufacture Directly. Leadtek Tech Support : 1-888-532-3835 $554.99
                            Track 1 OCZ GameXStream OCZ700GXSSLI ATX12V 700W Power Supply - Retail
                            Item #: N82E16817341002
                            Return Policy: Standard Return Policy
                            For Tech support call: 408 986 8400 or email [email protected] $149.99
                            Track 1 CORSAIR XMS2 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model TWIN2X2048-6400 - Retail
                            Item #: N82E16820145590
                            Return Policy: Standard Return Policy $153.00
                            Item(s) shipped from TN Tracking Number: #1ZR4149E0300678581
                            Track 1 Antec Nine Hundred Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - Retail
                            Item #: N82E16811129021
                            Return Policy: Standard Return Policy $129.99

                            Subtotal: $1,909.92



                            Obviously, now you can build this system for MUCH less as the tech is 8 months outdated. And it still gives you the ability to upgrade down the road as needed. Honestly though, I see NOTHING in the software pipeline that can take advantage of the hardware of even my system - the only thing that hurts it kinda is FSX cranked up to max (and I mean max max). FSX brings down every system though, no matter what you do.

                            Only thing I'd add to my system is a 3rd-party large FlashRAM drive. Vista has the ability to manage flashdrives and pseudo-add them for pagefile use and to pre-load games you want to play. The tech is still pretty virgin though, but it offers a peek at solutions to games like FSX, where the bottleneck is created at the HDD. If you were locked into using one physical HDD for your system, I'd definitely add a Flashdrive though.

                            Oh, and I'd also add an SD-card reader/writer to my system so I didnt have to use a digital cam to xfer files. And I'd probably upgrade my vid. card to come with a TV-tuner (HD capable).

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Help me build my &quot;Dream Machine&quot;

                              If I was going to get a dream machine I would actually go with the HP Blackbird 002, despite how much I love building my own computers from scratch the Blackbird is a beast and the chassis design is unbelievable. The ENTIRE case is a heat sink.

                              Customize one at www.hp.com/blackbird

                              Comment

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