Lately, I've been kicking around the idea of building a new computer for myself. It will be the first time I've embarked on such a journey; Previously I've only purchased custom-build Dell boxes and have been relatively happy with them. At this point though, my needs are becoming more specific/specialized and I'd like to build something that gets me the most bang for my buck, instead of buying another pre-made system. I'm more or less looking for a starting point or some specific tips based on my specific wants -- if you want to list specific components, well then that is generous of you, but I'm willing to do the research myself. I more or less have a few preconceptions and ideas that I am not sure are well-informed or not and would like to be pointed in the right direction.
First off -- financial considerations -- I'd like to build a system for around $1000 (without the displays). I'm not married to the price point, but I wouldn't want to exceed $2000 (without the displays). Also note that I am a member of the MSDN alliance and so I can acquire all of the Windows operating systems I should need without charge.
I'm a big fan of NewEgg and am planning on ordering everything from them (all the parts, all at once, with lots of free time coming up to build and test).
As far as my general computer usage:
Pretty basic stuff, internet, email, web surfing. I fire up the occasional game of NBA Live which runs decently on my 500MB graphics card, but that's about it for 3D games.
My more specific intentions for using the new system:
The bulk of the video-editing and encoding I do is mostly with MPEG-2 and DV sources, although I'd like a system that can handle HD sources as well. Some of the applications I use (especially NeatVideo for filtering) are painfully slow on my single-core Pentium 4 650 3.4Ghz and I would like to speed that up as dramatically as I can. Would a multi-core system benefit me in this case or is that question entirely dependent on how the applications / OS are built and utilize multiple cores?
I'd like to get a capture card and perhaps have multiple capture cards in the box -- one of them a legacy ATI card that I am a fan of for capturing VHS footage and a newer (perhaps BlackMagic Intensity) capture card.
As far as the graphics card, I'd like to have a video card that has two DVI ports so that I can drive two monitors, but since I don't play 3D games, I am not sure what an acceptable amount of memory would be.
A big issue is hard drive space (and thus, hard drive bays). Right now I have a bit over 6TB data spread out over 6 SATA hard drives (internal: 250GB, 500GB and external case: two 1 TB drives, 1.5 TB drives, and one 2TB drive) and they are filling up fast. I use 3TB for storage and the other 3TB for backup and I'd like to double it to 12TB (6 for backup, 6 for files). It would be nice to get more drives into the new computer case, so that I do not have to buy another external case -- so I assume that means a full-sized tower case with lots of drive bays? Is cooling going to be an issue with so many hard-drives running? Is liquid cooling something that would benefit me here or should I stick with the external drives? I notice my external drives run much cooler than my internal drives (internals run ~48 C, externals ~30 C).
At some point I'd like to turn use the video files on the hard drive in a home-media server situation, but that may be down the line.
I'd like to have multiple OS running on my system -- with Windows 7 as my primary OS, Windows XP for some older applications I use, and perhaps a Linux box for experimentation. Are there any special considerations I should make for products or components that make that more powerful or convenient?
I guess the only other concern I have are bottlenecks and avoiding them.
Thanks a bundle in advance!
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Last edited by robjv1; 12th Jun 2011 at 17:01.
The legacy ATI capture card could prove problematic. ATI did not release Windows 7 drivers for any of their TV card/capture devices that pre-date the TV Wonder 600 HD, and I'm not sure if Windows 7 Ultimate or Windows 7 Professional's XP virtualization would allow you to keep using the card and its drivers. All-in Wonder AGP cards won't work with current motherboards.
Most current ATX motherboards have only 6 SATA connections (one of those may be e-SATA). In addition many still have a PATA connection that supports 2 devices, but the trend towards no PATA connection is growing, especially for motherboards equipped with appropriate sockets for the newer Intel CPUs.
Yeah, I feared that regarding the ATI card. I'll consider some other options.
As far as the hard drives --- if I can find a case that can take 5 HDDs and a motherboard with 6 SATA connections, could I take five of the drives I currently have in the enclosure/my current box and move them into the new computer, and then use the external enclosure over the e-SATA port, and fill up the enclosure with more drives?
I suppose at some point I'm going to have to look at replacing some of the lower capacity drives with higher capacity drives.
For around a kilo-buck you can get something like this: http://www.costco.com/Browse/Product.aspx?Prodid=11646666&whse=BC&Ne=5000136+4000000&e...S&Sp=C&topnav= . I got this box without Office for $799 from them.
Intel still has the speediest CPUs. These are some components that you could look at, just to see what is out there.
This is the current top AMD processor
This is a good AM3 AMD motherboard that has more than 6 SATA ports
Manufacturer-tested memory for the above AMD motherboard
The new Intel Core i7-2600K
This Intel motherboard seems good for the above Intel CPU
Manufacturer-tested memory for the above Intel motherboard
Some people like these liquid cooling system for encoding/gaming
As you know, a 64-bit OS is needed to make full use of even 4GB of memory, but there are more complications if you use much freeware for video work, such as installing the right codecs (64-bit or 32-bit) for the software.
It's also easy enough to add a PCI SATA card if you have more drives. I tend to use two optical drives, so with six SATA slots, that only leaves four for hard drives.
I wouldn't worry too much about SATA drives drawing much power or putting out much heat. Your video card will put out a lot more heat and draw a lot more power than six or seven SATA drives. I run eight SATA drives in a couple of my PCs with a 500W PS and they run cool enough, ~34C.
A six core CPU is nice for H.264 encodes as that codec can use all cores to 100% for good encode speed. Some other codecs can't. But a quad core will still usually beat a single or dual core most times if the Ghz is equal. But I've been very happy with my six core AMD CPU.
I use a Western Digital Raptor 150GB 10K RPM boot drive in two of my PCs. It does help speed up boot and load times. A SSD (Solid State Drive) is a bit faster, but lots more expensive. My other drives are usually 500GB or larger. I don't use my boot drive for anything but program storage and the OS, so it doesn't need to be large. Best to use large HDDs for storage and editing, not boot.
I use liquid CPU cooling, but I do overclock the PC in my Computer Details. If you are running a CPU at stock speeds, even the cooler that comes with the CPU is usually sufficient.
GIGABYTE GA-X58A-UD3R LGA 1366 Intel X58 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard - $189.99 after rebate
8 SATA 3.0 - 2 SATA 6.0 - 2 eSATA - 1 PATA (for 2 DVD burners) - triple channel memory - 4 PCIe x16 - 2 PCIe x1 - 1 PCI - 8 USB 2.0 - 2 USB 3.0 - 3 1394a firewire
Intel Core i7-960 Bloomfield 3.2GHz 4 x 256KB L2 Cache 8MB L3 Cache LGA 1366 130W Quad-Core Desktop Processor BX80601960 - $279.99
G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 12GB (3 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model F3-12800CL9T-12GBRL - $134.99
COOLER MASTER RC-692-KKN2 CM690 II Advanced Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - $79.99 after rebate
6 internal 3.5 drive bays - 4 external 5.25 drive bays (without the use of exposed 3.5" drive bay) - 1 external 3.5 drive bay (converted from one 5.25" drive bay) - 2 internal 2.5 drive bays (From 3.5" HDD Cage) - 7+1 expansion slots - USB / Audio / e-SATA front ports - 1x120mm rear fan - 2x140mm front and top fan
Oversized front and top mesh design for superb ventilation.
Accommodates 120 x 240 mm radiator inside the top or bottom.
Dust-control filters for all meshed areas.
Air cooling support for up to 10 fans (with support for up to 5 x 140mm fans).
External SATA X-dock .
Front blue LED fan on/off switch.
Rear retaining holes for water cooling kit.
Includes 1.8" & 2.5" HHD and SSD adapter.
Cable management and CPU retaining hole for easy maintenance.
Includes VGA card bracket (supports triple GPU card).
Thermaltake Toughpower XT TPX-775M 775W ATX 12V v2.3 / EPS 12V v2.91 SLI Certified CrossFire Certified 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Modular Active PFC Power Supply GeForce GTX 470 Certified - $119.99
CORSAIR CWCH50-1 High Performance CPU Cooler - $61.36 after rebate
EVGA 01G-P3-1373-TR GeForce GTX 460 (Fermi) Superclocked EE 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Support Video Card - $139.99 after rebate
Yes, I am a little unclear on the driver issues with Windows 7 and also in the 64-bit OS world in general. I do have access to 32 and 64 bit distributions, but I'll keep these issues in mind for the software I'm running -- and to be honest, I don't know how much of it is really going to properly utilize a 64-bit OS with 8GB of RAM. I may have to experiment a little and see if I can find something I like that will take full advantage.
Yeah, actually I added a PCI ESATA card on my current computer, so no problem with that. That's a great idea actually -- as generally speaking I like to have two optical drives as well.
Ahh yes, I've seen a little demo of VMWARE in a class at school and was impressed. I had previously I had tried using Microsoft Virtual PC and it was (obviously) not suitable for my purposes on the machine I was using, but VMWare looks like quite a step up. That would certainly be more convenient to use than installing XP / 7 / Linux on different partitions and booting between each.
I love all these full-sized cases -- reminds me of the last PC I had before any of my Dell computers, which were all mid-sized towers. I just figured it was time to build a PC since for once, I have a working PC to rely on in case I mess something up, and since I can get the OS software I need through the MSDN, it sort of negates the benefit of buying a system where it's bundled with it.
Thanks so much everyone, you've provided me with a good starting point and gone above and beyond with the suggestions, it's much appreciated!
Last edited by robjv1; 13th Jun 2011 at 02:45.
I didn't see it mentioned before, so I thought I would: You should also be chock full of RAM (matched, HiSpeed). 4GB on a 32bit, more probably if you're using 64bit OS.
Also, is this Video editing stuff "Mission-Critical"? If so, think about having a RAID1 boot drive system, and possibly (espec. if doing HD) a RAID 1+0 on the VIDEO/Storage drives. Helps alot with Read Access times, as well as the Fault Tolerance. One thing you should NOT do is use RAID 5 (or even 6) on Multi-TB drives.
Also, check on the particular NLE software that you'll be using because they may have particular preferences or requirements on the class of video card...
If one runs a CPU at stock speed, the highest speed RAM available will only operate about the same as 1333MHz RAM, or less, depending on the CPU. Even Intel's Sandy Bridge CPUs will not benefit much from faster memory than 1333MHz. See http://www.bit-tech.net/hardware/memory/2011/01/11/the-best-memory-for-sandy-bridge/1 No use buying anything faster unless one plans to overclock, or the price is less for some reason.
Installing 4GB of RAM in a 32-bit system does not always make sense. I have 4GB memory installed on a PC running a 32-bit OS. Only 3.25 GB of my installed RAM is usable. The video card's memory and the memory allocated to various items on the motherboard accounts for the difference. I have onboard VGA with just 128 MB sideport memory. If I had a 1GB video card installed instead, my usable RAM would go down to about 2.4GB. If I had a high-end ATX board and a 1GB video card installed, the amount of usable RAM could be even less.
I overlooked another nice Gigabyte motherboard that looks good for a Sandy Bridge build
Last edited by usually_quiet; 13th Jun 2011 at 19:16.
You DO get speed increase with Dual Channel RAM. That means 1 vs. 2 sticks or 2 vs. 4 for 2 or 4GB. Not 3 or 2 non-matched.
If you're cooling, you probably could overclock, and then that HiSpeed RAM WOULD make a difference.
3GB (or less) vs. more:
Check out what is "Recommended" by ALL the major Pro NLE makers - Apple FCP & Sony Vegas recommend 2, but with the caveat that if you're doing Uncompressed, Multiple Layers, or Stereo3D, you need 4. Adobe Premiere and AVID MediaComposer say out of the box 4 is recommended. I know AVID assumes that you'll be doing mulitple layers (over 2, which usually you are). Even CUDA processing only gets you so far if you're doing many layers. So it all depends REALLY on what your operating style and expectations are.
If you only got 2GB, and you also need to run Photoshop and another media app (not uncommon), you'll start running into problems. 3GB is much better, but even if you CAN'T use ALL 4GB, if it's matched Dual Channel, and you're multitasking, you will still notice an improvement in response from 3GB to 3.2 or 3.6 (as some Mobos will give you more). WHY NOT have the surplus?
Dual channel mode is faster than single channel. Nobody is going to argue with that, but otherwise your advice is overly simplistic. Figures don't lie. The 3.25GB Windows 7 reported for my system is the pretty much the mamimum amount of installed RAM that can be seen by a 32-bit Windows system. The VGA card's memory and memory addresses allocated to devices on the motherboard are always subtracted from the 4GB total that a 32-bit OS can see. If the system can only use 2.4GB out of 4GB installed because of the VGA card installed, one might as well have stuck the unused RAM in a drawer for all the use a memory-hungry application will get out of it.
Software like Photoshop is the main reason why why a 64-bit OS has become the standard on pre-built systems. People who want to use programs that require at least 3G of usable RAM have to get a 64-bit OS, or be willing to use either onboard video or a discrete VGA card that has no more than 512MB of onboard memory (possibly even less).
Last edited by usually_quiet; 14th Jun 2011 at 13:52.
For a $1000 I built my brother a i2600, 4Gb, 160SSD boot drive, 1Tb Data drive, DVDRW, system that used a ASUS Motherboard and new case.
That included a inexpensive Nvidia video card and a card reader.
I'm not including the Win7Pro I installed in that price.
Then I had to add a PCI parallel port card since he doesn't want to give up his antiquated printer.
It is nice and fast and he'll be fine with it for years.
I did use a micro ATX that only has 4 SATA connections.
It was mostly one of their bundles off of the front page at Newegg
Today they have a bundle for $1130 with full size Mobo, SATA6gbs, USB3, SSD Boot drive, ASUS ENGTX570 DCII/2DIS/1280MD5 GeForce GTX 570 (Fermi) 1280MB etc.
Keep watching there and if one of their bundles fits then buy.
I'm not suggesting this one as such more of an example.
Drawbacks of that bundle. Fancy overpriced case, smallish SSD, no data drive etc.
The one I did for my brother I used a 160GB Intel 320series SSD, he doesn't gama so a cheaper video card and cheaper case. still room for a USB3 card.
Last edited by TBoneit; 14th Jun 2011 at 15:40.If I'd known I was going to live this long, I'd have taken better care of myself.