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Thread: One for the PC system builders amongst us

  1. #1
    [Ex]Admin Duncan's Avatar
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    Default One for the PC system builders amongst us

    Right, I'm looking at updating my main workstation as the current one is getting a little bit long in the tooth - P4 2.7Ghz, 2Gb RAM with some SCSI drives and one ATA system drive. M/B is an Asus P4B-E. It's still no slouch, but now in need of upgrading.

    I've always built my systems, and this is no exception. I like things customised to exactly what i want, and don't mind if it costs more overall than buying a mass-produced off the shelf one, which inevitably are lacking something you want.

    Been looking around at what's available and head's spinning a bit. Haven't really kept in touch with the forever changing chipsets etc. available so am a little bit unsure what's what, and what would be best.

    My criteria are basically....
    • The sole, most important criteria of the workstation is speed - simple as that. I want it to crunch through Photoshop and RAW software processing software with ease, and minimal waiting time while it does it. It will be used for a bunch of other software, but that's the main purpose of it.
    • Looking to have Intel chip, Core 2 Duo, maybe even a quad core.
    • Quite happy for sound and ethernet to be onboard. Ethernet has to be Gigabit, no exception. Sound, just normal stereo - don't have, or intend to have, surround etc. wired up to this PC.
    • Memory - 4Gb I'd have though would be enough? I know past that, some applications don't even make use of it, or have problems addressing it.
      Question is, what type of memory? Again, I've lost touch a bit with what's what and which one is the best to go for - without paying stupid money for it.
    • Motherboard - Asus has always been a favourite, but had Gigabit in the past (mixed opinion of it) and aware that there are others like MSI and SuperMicro for instance.
      Usual features required - USB obviously (with ability to feed a front socket), FireWire as I have a FireWire film scanner.
    • Graphics card - currently running a dual-head Matrox card (to run two monitors), but will probably drop the single card idea as it had some colour management issues. Will probably go for two separate cards - one PCI-X, and one PCI - and still have windows (XP) configure them to run as a dual monitor setup. The main criteria of the card is that the LUT can be re-written to for colour management and calibration purposes.
      If the motherboard came with onboard graphics, could I just have one PCI-X card then? i.e. would XP still see the onboard graphics as a graphic card as such and still allow me to do the dual monitor thing? I'm not too fussed about the second monitor being able to be calibrated, it's basically for things like the palettes in Photoshop, Dreamweaver etc.
      I don't use the workstation for games, so the latest hugely powerful, and expensive, 3D gaming card isn't needed. Simply one that is OpenGL and DirectX compatible and a decent amount of memory with hi-res and refresh rates.
    • Drives - will probably stick in a couple of new SATA drives, and ditch the SCSI ones. Now that I have the TeraStation, the need for lots of internal storage space isn't really needed. Is PATA widely available? Is it worth having? i.e. is it significantly faster?
    That's it I think. Not many questions there really! Grateful for any insight, info etc.

    D

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    Your looking for a hi spec machine will you be sticking with XP or moving upto Vista? I'd have thought you'd be staying with XP. have you considered XP v64?? It may offer you a Photoshop performance increase due to the additional RAM addressing functionality (now4GB) + SWAP file operation.

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    [Ex]Admin Duncan's Avatar
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    Sticking with XP for the moment, maybe Vista later in the year. Re 64bit, all depends if all my software is compatible with it, which it may not be?

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    Full Member merikiito's Avatar
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    Default

    Go for a quad core cpu.
    If you want to use 4gb or more then you need the 64bit version of your operating system. You could set up a dual boot system which I have done which allows me to use the 64bit system for power work and using programs which are compatible.
    Memory is so cheap at the moment you could easy do 8gb.

    You can get a dual output card which has twin DVI output and adapters to change them to analog output.
    Nividia 7600 based chip or above or if u want direct x 10 then 8000 series chip I think.

    Its the Sata that is the fastest, PATA is the old ide system.

    Whats your budget as I have Computer shopper mags laying about the place and there is a few reviews on motherboards, graphics cards and cpus in them?

    I use Ebuyer for most of my bits as I find them reasonably priced.

    Unfortunalty I have found now it can be cheaper to buy a setup already done but then wheres the fun in that?

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    Regular Member RSV_Ecosse's Avatar
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    Dunc......recently performed a major rebuild of my own main system ( the one I use for work, web design etc ).

    Based around an Asus P5K - Intel C2D E6300 and 4Gb Geil ULL 6400 DDR memory. Also got an ATI X1900XTX in there.

    I'm running Vista64 on it and the thing is an absolute flying machine compared to my old system.

    I've overclocked the E6300 to @3.0Ghz and its been as stable as a rock since. The little E6300's are an absolute bang-per-buck bargain if you can grab one. You can pick them up for around the £50 mark now.

    As far as an O/S goes, I pondered on whether to move from XP Pro to Vista after the system was built. I wasn't sure, but eventually decided to try it and if I didn't like it I could always move back to XP.

    Couldn't be bothered with a dual-boot solution so I just went for a straight install of Vista Ultimate 64.

    I can honestly say I am glad I ditched XP.

    There was nothing "wrong" with it, but Vista is just so much better IMO. Especially running the 64 bit version with 4Gb memory sat in there.

    Can have a load of apps open and running at the one time and switch between them effortlessly. Using Dreamweaver CS3, Photoshop CS3, Fireworks CS3 and Flash CS3 all at the same time doesn't even make the rig break sweat.

    So consider Vista if you are going for a new build m8, it makes sense especially since to will be wasting the ability to address the RAM if you do chuck 4Gb in there.

  6. #6
    Regular Member RSV_Ecosse's Avatar
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    Memory - This stuff is fantastic value for money, its what I've got in mine and its quite flexible as far as tweaking and overclocking goes:-

    http://www.overclockers.co.uk/showpr...atid=8&subcat=

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    [Ex]Admin Duncan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by merikiito View Post
    Go for a quad core cpu.
    If you want to use 4gb or more then you need the 64bit version of your operating system.
    So to even have 4Gb I need the 64bit version of OS?
    Quote Originally Posted by merikiito View Post
    You could set up a dual boot system which I have done which allows me to use the 64bit system for power work and using programs which are compatible.
    True, but it'd be a PITA to have to keep rebooting into 32bit if I just wanted to quickly use a program while I was doing Photoshop stuff.
    Quote Originally Posted by merikiito View Post
    You can get a dual output card which has twin DVI output and adapters to change them to analog output.
    Yep, but can the LUT (look up table) on the card be written to by the system, i.e by calibrating software. I discovered that the card I have now (Matrox G550) won't let me do that so I can't fully calibrate my system.
    Quote Originally Posted by merikiito View Post
    Its the Sata that is the fastest, PATA is the old ide system.
    Doh!, lol - I was sure there was something faster than SATA though?
    Quote Originally Posted by merikiito View Post
    Whats your budget as I have Computer shopper mags laying about the place and there is a few reviews on motherboards, graphics cards and cpus in them?
    No set budget as such. I basically have an idea of what these components do/can cost so it's really what fits the bill within a reasonable amount.
    Quote Originally Posted by merikiito View Post
    Unfortunalty I have found now it can be cheaper to buy a setup already done but then wheres the fun in that?
    That could well be an option actually. Two of the main reasons I have self-built in the past is because I found it was difficult to spec SCSI drives on them (without going to stupendously expensive serious workstatations) and the cases never had enough bays for all the drives, CD/DVD drives I wanted to fit. As I'm now reducing the number of internal drives due to having the TeraStation, and not having SCSI, then a standard system could meet the requirements. Again, with me only wanting a couple of internal drives in the system, then a standard case would probably do, as long as it can take two DVD drives and has two 3.5" external slots i.e. for a floppy drive (for those very rare occasions when I need to use it) and a memory card panel that I have.

    Hmmm. Maybe a standard system would fit the bill. Off to Dell to have a look. Any other suggestions for ready made systems?

    EDIT: Just saw your post RSV - food for thought to! I think the E6300 was the one I had looked at in the past. I don't know what price quad cores are at the mo, I'll have to have a look. Still not sure about 64 bit. What if you have software that isn't written for 64 bit? Will it simply not run (not good), run at the speed it would on a 32 bit machine (fine) or run slower than it would on a 32 bit machine? (not good).

  8. #8
    Regular Member RSV_Ecosse's Avatar
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    Depends m8 - What software are you concerned you might have problems with?.

    Anything specific?.

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    [Ex]Admin Duncan's Avatar
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    Gawd, where do I start! lol One of the important ones is QuickBooks. Running Pro 2002 so not sure if that would work? I haven't upgraded to a newer version as the newer versions didn't really offer anything I needed. I may have to upgrade it if I go to Vista. Also running Photoshop CS2, Office 2003, Dreamweaver/Fireworks/Freehand/Flash MX suite and lots of other stuff.

  10. #10
    Full Member merikiito's Avatar
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    I think trying to spec a PC is even worse than buying a car!!!!!

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