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Need Recommendation for new computer - Video/MP3/Picture editing, some games

Posted on 2008-06-21
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Last Modified: 2012-05-05
I want to buy or build a new computer. I want fast access and response, especially disk wise. My main usage would be editing video, music, and pictures. Media center capabilities would be nice. I see the new graphics cards from Nvidia like the 9800 GTX+, and drives such as the WD 10,000 rpm model. And there's also Flash memory, but I think this is too expensive for now. So many choices. Dell and others have really nice high end game machines in the $4-6k range, but is this really what I need. Also, should I build instead of buy? TIA.
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Question by:rdperkins
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by:jrshedden
ID: 21837363
Hi,
Supermicro, which is usually associated with high end servers now has a high end workstation that is worth comparing anyway. I'm much more into quality than low price and HP and Dell IMHO are getting too cost conscious at the expense of quality. It might be overkill for your requirements, but I have supermicros still running after 10 years of heavy use. Read the specs on quiet though, I have a supermicro here whose nickname is 'the leafblower'. Read the specs, 'quiet' is a relative and subjective term.
http://www.supermicro.com/newsroom/pressreleases/2008/press020608.cfm
Jim
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Expert Comment

by:512Thz
ID: 21837399
I expect that you will have a lot of answers ...

However you already have good part of the ansers because yes, you'll need a fast hard disk and a fast video. If like I presume you run Windows, stay away from Vista because it is much slower than XP and MS will soon come with Windows 7 therefore  giving a short life to Vista.

Personnaly, I would buy a whole system in a store that let me swap devices. I would grab one of those Dual Core 2Ghz machine and exchange the hard disk and video card for very FAST ones.

But I will let the experts go and recommend the right hardware. Who starts?
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by:Callandor
ID: 21884777
Right now, the 8800GT video card is at a very good price point for the performance it delivers.  Unless you are a hard core gamer, this should suffice for most applications.  You can get the slightly overclocked 660MHz version for almost the same price as the base version (MSI has one right now http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814127329).

For hard drives, you can get the WD Raptors, as they are the fastest IDE drives currently, but you can also get better performance using a high end controller like the Areca 1220 and setting up a RAID-5 array with normal 7200 rpm drives.  I was able to measure 150-300 MByte/sec throughput using HDTune with 5 ordinary Samsung 250GB drives.  You could always swap in the Raptors for even better performance if you can afford it.
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by:rdperkins
ID: 21885094
Has IDE been replaced by SATA? Which is faster? Also isn't one of the RAID options with dual drives faster still?
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by:Callandor
ID: 21885391
SATA has a higher theoretical maximum (1.5Gbit/sec for SATA I, 3.0Gbit/sec for SATA II), but it only lasts as long as the drive buffer is used, which at these speeds empties very fast.  An IDE drive with ATA100 can still keep up with a single drive's maximum throughput, which is around 70MBytes/sec.  SATA cables are better for cooling than IDE cables, and there is only one device per cable, so there is no downside due to sharing.  I have tried two Raptors in RAID-0, and it maxed out at 100MBytes/sec.  The more drives you have in a RAID, the faster it is, though there is a point of diminishing returns.  This is the advantage of RAID-5.
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by:512Thz
ID: 21888082
Interesting Callador, I though SATA was better for the AHCI interface where multiple access in the queue are rearranged (similar to SCSI) which helps with those "zillions" of tasks running.
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Author Comment

by:rdperkins
ID: 21891168
Except for Supermicro, no one has suggested buying a system from one of the manufacturers, such as the new HP or Dell XP, or even Alien. Considering the warranty, would I get a better bang for the buck that way or building it myself?

Also, if I build, I assume a 1KW or greater power supply and some kind of cooling capability. How about motherboards and DDR2 vs DDR3 memory?
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by:Callandor
ID: 21891665
>Interesting Callador, I though SATA was better for the AHCI interface where multiple access in the queue are rearranged (similar to SCSI) which helps with those "zillions" of tasks running.

The NCQ feature helps to optimize access in multiple request applications such as databases.  This is indeed a real advantage.

>Considering the warranty, would I get a better bang for the buck that way or building it myself?

It depends on your comfort level in maintaining the equipment.  I build because I want to choose the specific parts myself, but system manufacturers can do a pretty good job.  Paying extra for a warranty, though, is not worth it in my eyes.  The real satisfaction is knowing you built it yourself and you know it inside and out.  If you don't want to bother with it, the Dell XPS series is fairly good, and the Alienware is definitely top-end.  There is no real economic advantage to doing it either way.

You can get away with a 600W - 700W power supply (I recommend Seasonic or PC Power and Cooling for the best), unless you really want an SLI setup, in which case 800W is better.

For cooling, there are a lot of aftermarket coolers, but if you're not overclocking, the stock Intel one is sufficient.

I think a single high-end video card will outperform 2 lesser cards in SLI, and will be cheaper.  The 8800GT is a great value right now, not at the top but close and priced much lower than other cards with similar performance.

The Core2 Duo cpus are the highest performers in every category right now, so it's just a matter of choosing which one that is suitable - see http://www.experts-exchange.com/Hardware/Components/CPU_Processors/Q_23479251.html for a discussion on quad cores, or go for an E8400 if dual is good enough.  Most people don't need 4 cores, unless they do a lot of video or audio compression.

The Gigabyte GA-EP35C-DS3R is a good motherboard for Core2 cpus.  DDR3 memory is not really worth it at this point in time.
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Author Comment

by:rdperkins
ID: 21892556
Now about the graphics processor. Two new ones are now on the market, the ATI Radeon HD 4850, and the HD 3870 X2, and the NVidia GeForce 260 GTX, 8800 Ultra, 9800 GX2...Also, which connection PCI Express or AGP? Choosing a graphics card is so confusing. What's the best under $350?
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by:Callandor
ID: 21896460
Choose PCI Express, as AGP is being phased out and is slower.  TomsHardware has recommendations for many budgets: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/gaming-graphics-cards,1805-4.html

The best single card under $350 is the 8800 GTS, which is just a little better than the 8800GT.  If you go with SLI, you can get two 9600GT's.  The others you mentioned are out of your price range.
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Author Comment

by:rdperkins
ID: 21897383
Thanks Callandor. By the way, I'm a Huge WOT fan. Guess you knew that Robert Jordan passed away, but that someone else was going to complete the series.

Back on topic, in the scheme of things, the graphics card may be the 2nd or 3rd most important element in performance. If I set a budget for a $3000-3500 rig, where should the price point be for Mobo, Graphics Card(s), Memory, and Drives?
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Callandor earned 500 total points
ID: 21903602
>I'm a Huge WOT fan

Glad to hear it!  I'm still waiting for the grand finale, and I enjoyed the next to last one the most.

The balance of what you spend your budget on depends on your main use of the machine.  If "editing video, music, and pictures. Media center capabilities would be nice." is your goal, you don't need a top of the line card - those are strictly for 3D gamers where every ounce of performance is worth it.  The 8800GT (< $200) would handle this task easily.  Similarly, today's Core2 Duo cpus should be more than adequate and a budget of $1000 for motherboard, cpu and RAM should suffice.  You should get 4GB or more of RAM.  You may want a dedicated sound card for an improved multimedia experience, and $200 will get you a nice card.  That leaves $1600 plus for storage, and I/O is indeed the bottleneck for most users.  With that kind of budget, you could get a solid state drive for bootup or a high-end RAID card to put your OS on a RAID-0 striped array and a RAID10 or RAID 5 data array.  You didn't mention a display device, which actually can suck up a lot of the budget, especially for things like an Apple Cinema HD monitor.  A Samsung 24" widescreen might be more reasonable.
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Author Closing Comment

by:rdperkins
ID: 31469403
Thanks a bunch. I have decided on the WD Velociraptors, (starting with two striped), 8GB fast DDR2 Ram if I can find a mobo which will accept it, the new 4870 X2 graphics cards, 800-1kw power supply (to allow for possible drive additions later), a Blue-ray burner, and some kind of cooling. Did I leave anything out?
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Expert Comment

by:Callandor
ID: 21938837
It looks like you are set now.  The only thing you might add is a nice looking home theater case: https://www.digitalconnection.com/store/Product_List.asp?CID=3&CAT=CASE
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Author Comment

by:rdperkins
ID: 21939248
Thanks, and watch out for the snakes and foxes.
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