Please help me build a computer!

  • #1
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As I have mentioned in this thread, it's that time of decade where I'm looking to build a new computer for myself. I'm hoping to not spend more than $800 CAD on the motherboard, processor and RAM but I have no real budgetary limit. Of course, I'm looking to optimize for some metric of performance per money... I will be exclusively shopping at Canada Computers since they're local to me and have very competitive prices and knowledgeable staff (an industry rarity), so you can check their website for inventory...

I need a 64 bit Windows 7 machine for software development and video editing, as well as general computer use. Software development's not exactly a computationally intense activity but video editing and encoding is! I don't plan to play any games on it except StarCraft 2...

My current machine only has a case fan. Both the processor and video card are fanless. I cheated a bit to do this by inverting the case's outtake fan to be an intake fan that blows right onto the Thermaltake http://www.thermaltake.com/product_info.aspx?PARENT_CID=C_00000518&id=C_00000519&name=Sonic+Tower+Rev.2+&ovid=n [Broken] processor. I would like to reuse my current video card (NVIDIA EN9600GT) and purchase a new heat sink to duplicate this fanlessness but it's not a firm requirement...

Power consumption is also a mild concern so something reasonably power efficient would be nice. I'd rather not burn a lot more electricity just to be a little faster...

What do you guys think? I'd be very happy to hear your suggestions!
Thank you...
 
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Answers and Replies

  • #2
Mech_Engineer
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CPU:
For bang-for-your-buck, especially when it comes to video editing, I would say base your system around an http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produ...49&cm_re=phenom_II_x6-_-19-103-849-_-Product". That will give you 6 cores for excellent multi-tasking and good video encoding as well (most video encoders are multi-threaded). It's also hard to beat the 1090T in terms of power consumption per performance.

I personally would not go passive cooling, but with a big heatsink and well-placed case fans it can do the job. The stock cooler that comes with the 1090T is probably fine, and if you want an upgrade get the http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produ...ler_master_hyper_212+-_-35-103-065-_-Product" (as long as your case is big enough). I have a Phenom II X4 940 BE with the Hyper 212+, and my temps never go above 35C at 100% load on all 4 cores (and I'm overclocked to 3.5GHz, from 3.0 stock).

Motherboard:
My favorite way to search for motherboards (and many other computer components) is to look at NewEgg and find the best-rated ones in specific sockets (in this case AM3). I usually stick with Asus or Gigabyte motherboards, but as long as it has lots of good ratings on NewEgg I wouldn't make brand name a deal-breaker. If I had to choose right now I would probably go for the http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produ...m_re=ASUS_M4A89TD_PRO-_-13-131-655-_-Product" which has USB 3.0, 2 PCI-E 16x slots, SATA 6.0Gb/s, and supports up to 16GB of RAM.

RAM:
Well you went and did it- you said the magic phrase: video editing. This of course means you'll need lots of RAM, as much as you can reasonably afford. I would say go for 16GB since we're still within your budget of $800CAD for CPU/Mobo/RAM. This also means you'll need to be running a 64-bit operating system to utilize all of it (I'd recommend Windows 7 Pro 64-Bit). In my opinion most RAM is about the same, so stick with reviews on NewEgg and find the cheapest 8GB set you can find that still has good reviews. Something like the http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produ...m_re=CORSAIR_XMS3_8GB-_-20-145-315-_-Product" is a good bet, and at $130 USD per 8GB set, you've got 16GB of RAM for about $260.

Other thoughts:
Keep in mind video editing is a hard drive hog, so make sure you've got lots of space; fortunately 1TB hard drives are cheap. Also make sure your power supply is up to the task- I would say 750W minimum.

All in all, the CPU/Mobo/RAM combo I've specified would be about $664 USD ($674 CAD), leaving some room for an aftermarket cooler for the CPU and a bigger hard drive.
 
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  • #3
Mech_Engineer
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For good-quality reviews on PC components, I'd recommend checking out MaximumPC.com, they have some good stuff on there and a very useful section- http://www.maximumpc.com/best-of-the-best".
 
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  • #4
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For bang-for-your-buck, especially when it comes to video editing, I would say base your system around an AMD Phenom II X6 1090T Black Edition ($229 USD). That will give you 6 cores for excellent multi-tasking and good video encoding as well (most video encoders are multi-threaded). It's also hard to beat the 1090T in terms of power consumption per performance.

Personally, I'm not too thrilled about the performance of modern AMD processors. I haven't had a chance to test Phenom II, but I have two computers on my desk right now, one with Core i7 920, the other with Phenom X4 9750. Core i7 is clocked at 2.66 GHz, Phenom is clocked at 2.4 GHz. In my tests with my own little number-crunching program, running 4 threads in both cases, Phenom was roughly two times slower.

Phenom II should perform better with its 6 MB of L3 cache and the ability to handle DDR3 memory, but it's probably still slower than comparably clocked Core i7.
 
  • #5
Mech_Engineer
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Personally, I'm not too thrilled about the performance of modern AMD processors. I haven't had a chance to test Phenom II, but I have two computers on my desk right now, one with Core i7 920, the other with Phenom X4 9750. Core i7 is clocked at 2.66 GHz, Phenom is clocked at 2.4 GHz. In my tests with my own little number-crunching program, running 4 threads in both cases, Phenom was roughly two times slower.

Phenom II should perform better with its 6 MB of L3 cache and the ability to handle DDR3 memory, but it's probably still slower than comparably clocked Core i7.

The original Phenom's were turds, no other way to put it. However I think the Phenom II's are definitely competitive, especially for the price.

The Intel Core i7 870 is comparable to the Phenom II X6 in performance (and it has only 4 cores to boot), but it costs more and the Intel Mobo's tend to cost more as well. If you need all-out performance for more money, Intel is definitely the way to go. If you want a better performance/price bottom line, I would argue AMD wins by a hair.
 
  • #6
Mech_Engineer
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You might be able to build a box with a Core i7-950 and comparable mobo if you dropped the RAM to 8GB, which would probably be acceptable depending on the kind of video editing you do. I think a Core i7-950 machine with 8gb of ram will outrun the Phenom II machine with 16GB of RAM.

EDIT: To take full advantage of the 950's triple-channel controller, you would need to use 3 or 6 sticks of ram, so 3x 4-gig chips for a total of 12gb would be the way to go.

Here is a chart that benchmarks some of the CPU's we've mentioned:
http://www.maximumpc.com/files/u57670/thubanbenchmarks.png [Broken]
 
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  • #7
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The original Phenom's were turds, no other way to put it. However I think the Phenom II's are definitely competitive, especially for the price.

The Intel Core i7 870 is comparable to the Phenom II X6 in performance (and it has only 4 cores to boot), but it costs more and the Intel Mobo's tend to cost more as well. If you need all-out performance for more money, Intel is definitely the way to go. If you want a better performance/price bottom line, I would argue AMD wins by a hair.

870 is overpriced. 760 is almost as good (it just does not have hyperthreading) and it costs $100less. For the price of 870, you can have 950, which will blow the 870 and all Phenoms out of the water in terms of memory bandwidth with its triple channel memory controller. According to my version of Sandra, triple-channel i7 can get close to 34 GB/s on PC16000 memory, and the fastest AMD it has in its database only does 16 GB/s.

Also, since power consumption is a factor, a 32 nm processor would be preferable. Intel rolls out its affordable 32 nm line on January 9th. AMD Bulldozer should be out around April or May, AMD is promising 50% speedup over the six-core Phenom II. Can't find any info about pricing.

edit:
Here is a chart that benchmarks some of the CPU's we've mentioned:
I'm really surprised by the poor performance of 750 compared to 870 in this chart. Apparently more programs benefit from HT than I thought.
 
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  • #8
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The original Phenom's were turds, no other way to put it. However I think the Phenom II's are definitely competitive, especially for the price.

The Intel Core i7 870 is comparable to the Phenom II X6 in performance (and it has only 4 cores to boot), but it costs more and the Intel Mobo's tend to cost more as well. If you need all-out performance for more money, Intel is definitely the way to go. If you want a better performance/price bottom line, I would argue AMD wins by a hair.
I must admit that I'm a little reluctant to go with AMD but I know so little about modern hardware that that could easily just be xenophobia on my part. I know that AMD was a much better choice while Intel was on NetBurst but when they brought their massive R&D budget together to bring out Core and its successors, the impression I get was that AMD never caught up. Do you think this is a fair characterization of what happened?
 
  • #9
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You might be able to build a box with a Core i7-950 and comparable mobo if you dropped the RAM to 8GB, which would probably be acceptable depending on the kind of video editing you do. I think a Core i7-950 machine with 8gb of ram will outrun the Phenom II machine with 16GB of RAM.

EDIT: To take full advantage of the 950's triple-channel controller, you would need to use 3 or 6 sticks of ram, so 3x 4-gig chips for a total of 12gb would be the way to go.
While the triple channel memory is very tempting, I'm not crazy about its TDP, especially if I'm opting for passive cooling, and the price for all the corresponding components is a little intimidating... It just might be a little too much computer for me...

I'm tempted to wait for Sandy Bridge but I'm not entirely sure if I can hold out that long. Does anyone know what sockets the Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge will use?

I have definitely decided to go with an SSD for my boot drive. I have always partitioned my drives into separate boot and data partitions and have meant to try using a 10,000 rpm drive as a dedicated boot drive but now I've heard that you can't beat SSDs for speed due to their incredible seek times. I'll probably go with the OCZ Vertex 2 120GB SSD although I'm not entirely sure how I'm going to fit a 2.5" device into my case. I think it'll probably just sit there, somewhere...

Incidentally, what's "extended SATA II?" Is that any different that simply SATA II?

If I do get a new computer soon, I'm thinking of going for the Intel Core i5 760 on the Gigabyte GA-P55A-UD3 motherboard. How does this sound? I just might slap 16 GB of RAM on there in the hopes that it will spare my SSD from excessive swapping...


Finally, I'm a little confused about memory speeds. Motherboards tend to support a wide range of memory frequencies but if you check Intel's product website, it looks like processors only support a small range of memory frequencies. For example, on an item like the Core i7 950, under Memory Types it will list DDR3-800/1066. Does this mean I have to use 1066 MHz memory with this processor? What would it take to use faster memory? Since when did the processor care how fast my memory is?

Did hear somewhere that it's important to match bus frequency with multiple of memory and/or clock frequency? I think I heard something about that but it's been so long ago that I could easily be fooling myself...

Thank you all for your input!
 
  • #10
1,564
7
CPU:
For bang-for-your-buck, especially when it comes to video editing, I would say base your system around an http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produ...49&cm_re=phenom_II_x6-_-19-103-849-_-Product". That will give you 6 cores for excellent multi-tasking and good video encoding as well (most video encoders are multi-threaded). It's also hard to beat the 1090T in terms of power consumption per performance....

Lots of good info here. I just put together some budget machines for our lab using the AMD 1055T and they creme the snot out of the pos Dell E5430 workstation I have at my desk. I built the AMD machines for $850 bucks each and the Intel machine cost over $3000!

870 is overpriced. 760 is almost as good (it just does not have hyperthreading) and it costs $100less. For the price of 870, you can have 950, which will blow the 870 and all Phenoms out of the water in terms of memory bandwidth with its triple channel memory controller.

What??? No way. Not with any of the benchmarks I've seen. The 1090T clobbers the i5 760 no matter how many channels you got. And the procs are only about $20 apart from newegg. And the 950 isn't really all that much faster than the 1090T.
http://www.cpubenchmark.net/high_end_cpus.html

I must admit that I'm a little reluctant to go with AMD but I know so little about modern hardware that that could easily just be xenophobia on my part.

Its self-induced xenophobia. AMD gives the biggest bang for the buck in processing power, period. Their chips certainly aren't the fastest but if you're not dropping $3k on a PC, then what does it matter?
 
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  • #11
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I have a crazy new plan... I'm considering just upgrading my computer!

Like my previous plan, I intend to get http://www.canadacomputers.com/product_info.php?cPath=15_179&item_id=032128 from OCZ. It's not nearly as cheap as I would like and this will be the last machine that can use such antiquated memory. Sadly, they're the cheapest DDR2 PC2-8500 RAM sticks I could find!

The idea behind this new plan is that I'm somewhat cheap and I'm rather loathing putting together an entirely new machine. Also, there are some Intel chips just around the corner that may be more my style (the Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge) but I don't think I can really wait for them... so this is a bit of a stop gap measure. My Intel E6600 is actually a fairly powerful and (literally) cool processor that just happens to support 64 bit processing. It's powerful enough to do everything I need it to do except maybe edit HD video smoothly. As it turns out, I think my NVIDIA EN9600GT is CUDA compliant (please correct me if it isn't!) so hopefully it will do the work that my processor can't...

What do you guys think? Is this a crazy plan or what?
 
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  • #12
Mech_Engineer
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It all depends on what you need to do with your computer. Upgrading the ram to 8GB is a good idea (that's what I'm running), but keep in mind a new computer with the AMD Phenom II 1090T or i5 760 will run rings around it. With the i7 950, you'll probably be running twice as fast when it comes to encoding HD video.

You can wait for the next gen chip due out this spring, but remember a new architecture is always about 6months away, so at some point you have to just commit!
 
  • #13
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It all depends on what you need to do with your computer. Upgrading the ram to 8GB is a good idea (that's what I'm running), but keep in mind a new computer with the AMD Phenom II 1090T or i5 760 will run rings around it. With the i7 950, you'll probably be running twice as fast when it comes to encoding HD video.

You can wait for the next gen chip due out this spring, but remember a new architecture is always about 6months away, so at some point you have to just commit!
I know! I'm so torn about what to do...

I've just learned that my GPU is worthless to me. Adobe Premiere, my NLE of choice, only officially supports a few video cards for GPU acceleration and it can't even unofficially use my video card 'cause I don't have a GB of video memory... so if I stick with my old computer, it will be software implementation all the way! This will be fine for SD video (really, can we still call it "standard?") but I am hoping to switch to HD in the not too distant future...

The thing is, my current computer is fine for everything else. Really, modern processors are overpowered for what they do. It's like driving a Hummer to the office. What's the point of all that power if you're just going to drive on roads?

I think, maybe, we're talking about what kind of future proofing I want. I don't know. I have fantasies about this being the last computer I ever buy... but I'll settle for... the next five years? It's too bad my processor wasn't on that benchmarks chart. I'd like to know empirically how my processor stands up to say the Core i5 760...

What do you guys think? Comments and criticisms are welcome!
 
  • #14
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E6600 was a pretty expensive processor back in the day. i5 760 will be faster, but not dramatically so. I've seen some benchmarks saying that i5-760 is roughly equivalent on average to the top-of-the-line Core 2 Quad (9650), which has four cores against your two and runs at 3 GHz against your 2.4.

CUDA support in the 9600GT is mostly nominal. It is there, but you won't be amazed by performance.
 
  • #15
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I finally gotten around to building my new computer and I thought the posters of this thread would appreciate a follow up! I guess I'll start by mentioning that I made a lot of mistakes when building this thing so there's a bit of a story to follow...

I bought the first component in early December, almost two months before actually putting my machine together. What happened was that much sought after components kept going into and out of sale so I waited for sales to come before buying parts until Boxing Day. In retrospect, this was a mistake since, if any components were to be defective, I would be unlikely to be able to return them. Really, it would have been better to just buy all the components at once, even if you pay a little more for them. At least I got some really good deals for my parts. Even so, I ended up going way over budget but I always knew that my budget was flexible...

Because it took me so long to gather my components, I did end up with a Sandy Bridge processor and socket 1155 motherboard to match. In retrospect, I'm glad I waited. A month really isn't a long time and it's much better to buy a product at the beginning of its life cycle rather than its end, especially sockets. I will now be able to upgrade to an Ivy Bridge processor if it suits my needs (it likely won't but we'll see)...

I ended up with the following components:


Despite how more than half of the components were purchased on sale, my system still went over budget at more than a thousand dollars! Part of the problem is that I didn't cannibalize nearly as many parts as I had previously planned. However, it ended up with some pleasant features that I didn't anticipate when I first concocted this plan.

First, having an SSD boot drive is working brilliantly so far.

Secondly, I actually splurged and got a fanless power supply. All my components use up less than 350W even at peak load so I thought it was worth going for. Even with a future planned video card upgrade, it should still pull down less than 400W at its peak...

With an airflow mod and two fan resistors on the CPU fan, my system is both very cool and very quiet! The only fans in the system are two 200mm intake fans, both with dust filters and spinning at about 500 rpm, and a 140mm CPU fan that spins at about 600 rpm at idle load.

The worst mistake I made was buying my RAM. I had no idea that Sandy Bridge uses 1.5V memory and the RAM I purchased is pulls 1.65V. This made it impossible to boot the machine with 1600Mz memory and I risked damage to my processor. I was willing to buy entirely new RAM but, out of desperation, I tried running my RAM at 1.55V just to see what would happen. As it turns out, it runs just fine and even runs at the intended 1600Mz. I now have it running at 1.525V and I suspect that it could just run at the normal 1.5V. I think RAM sticks are probably rather tolerant of what voltage they run at and RAM rated for 1.5V just happened to have been tested for that voltage... but that's just a guess...

So far, I'm very happy with my system. I certainly waited long enough for it! I'm hoping it will last me the next five years, as long as Windows 7 is supported by Microsoft...

Thank you all for your help!
 
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  • #16
Chronos
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The problem with running low voltage on any component is it draws more current. This is a bad thing for CPU/GPU's, not so much for RAM.
 
  • #17
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The problem with running low voltage on any component is it draws more current. This is a bad thing for CPU/GPU's, not so much for RAM.
Can you expand on this, please? Why would low voltage draw more current? You'd think it would draw less... Why is more current worse for processors than it is for memory?
Thank you...
 

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