Judge my rig

I’m building my next PC. I’ve had to tinker with and upgrade computers a lot in my life, but I’ve never built one from the ground up. Also, I’ve always been a little antsy and phobic when I’ve had to upgrade machinery, so I think this will be a good exercise in developing some more mastery and confidence.

I’m modeling a high-performance PC: this machine will be doing some heavy-ish lifting with Adobe CS3, and I will be gaming on it as well. It’ll be running a dual boot, Vista and Ubuntu, hopefully 64-bit for both. I’ll start purchasing parts next week, but before that I’m exposing my parts list to the world for criticism and commentary.

First, have I done anything that’s just dumb (incompatible components, badly weak links in the system)?

Beyond that, am I being a chump in my choices? Am I spending too much for marginal improvements? Where can I get similar performance with a cheaper component? I want this to be a performance machine, but I’m trying to stay away from extreme indulgences.

Be merciless. I’d rather feel stupid now than stupid with the parts in my house.

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Jason Craft

"Earth X" indicates an unreal, alternate world from our own, in vague but fantastic terms. Im Jason and this is my blog.

2 thoughts on “Judge my rig”

  1. I just built a machine with the same motherboard. I’m very happy with the motherboard, but the tolerances are pretty tight around the graphics card. You will need to install the memory and plug in the SATA cables before you put in the graphics card. SATA 0 and 1 will be right under the end of your card.

    I ended up getting a 40mm fan for the north bridge chipset. It probably isn’t required since I’m not overclocking, but I put it there just in case.

    If you’re going to be doing Photoshop work, go with the Core 2 Quad. Even though the clock speed is lower, you have more horsepower, and CS3 makes very good use of multiple cores. I got the Intel Core 2 Quad Q9450, 2.66 GHz for mine. For games, most of the work is going to be offloaded to the GPU, so you won’t see a difference between 2.66 GHz and 3.16 GHz. But with other things that are heavily multi-threaded or just doing several intense tasks, you will notice the difference by having extra cores.

    Also, get a higher wattage power supply. Get at least a 750W, especially with the graphics card you’re getting. A higher wattage power supply will also handle more stuff later if you upgrade to say more drives or a graphics card that needs more power.

    I went with the Antec P182 for my case. It has good noise dampening, really good air flow, slide out drive cages, and it doesn’t have all that silly bling. :-p

    I ended up going with the Radeon HD 3870 for graphics since I wasn’t convinced I’d actually see the benefit for the kind of games I play.

    Oh, do not use the ATI binary driver that comes with Ubuntu for that card (white screen of death). Install EnvyNG (using Synaptic Package Manager). It will let you install the latest ATI binary driver and necessary libraries without causing any conflicts.

    I bought most of my stuff from New Egg, but I got some things at Amazon because they were either cheaper at Amazon or they were the same price, but had free shipping. Also, Amazon’s return policy is better than New Egg’s.

  2. A couple of other things.
    Case
    If you get an Antec case that puts the power supply at the bottom there is a chance that you may need an extension cable for the 8-pin CPU auxillary power cable. Mine had enough length to run over the top, but it wasn’t quite long enough to run behind the motherboard tray and back up. They don’t sell those at Fry’s. Fry’s does carry an ATX power extension cable if you end up needing one of those.

    This is the 8-pin cable:
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16812198006

    Power Supply
    The one you have picked out now doesn’t have modular cables. These are really handy for keeping down clutter inside your case. I went with this one from Xigmatek:

    Xigmatek MC NRP-MC751 750W Power Supply

    My only complaint with it is that the packaging was a bit excessive.

    DVD Burner
    Go with an SATA interface drive here. There isn’t a real performance advantage, just the benefit of getting to use a small cable (blocks less air flow) than the old IDE fire hose cables.

    Cooling Fan
    Unless you plan on over-clocking, you could stick with the cooling unit that Intel ships with the retail processor and save a few bucks.

    If you do go with the Scythe, seriously think about getting a 40mm fan for the north bridge chip. The motherboard comes with a bracket to mount one.

    The reason is that this. The manufacturers’ fans blow air down onto the processor. This then blows out over the other chips on the motherboard. Boards are often designed with this in mind, and it’s assumed when designing the heat sinks for the other chips that there will be air moving over them.

    Motherboard
    If you’re thinking of overclocking, look into other boards. This one has controls in the BIOS for overclocking, but the reviews I’ve read all say that this isn’t a good overclocking board.

    The board comes with a decorative plastic cover for the south bridge chip. I recommend against installing it. It will block heat dissipation and you could end up with a bit of melted plastic on your board.

    Linux Video Driver
    I need to re-iterate: use EnvyNG, Do not use the Linux driver that may come with the card, nor the download from the ATI site, nor shalt thou use the default Ubuntu ATI binary.

    (3 being the number of the counting, and the number of the counting shall be 3)

    I spent a few hours on this my first day with Ubuntu and ended up having to re-install the whole OS.

    EnvyNG downloads the latest driver from the ATI website and creates a pseudo-package structure for its dependencies. This prevents the libraries that the driver depends on from replacing and/or conflicting with the system libraries of the same name (but different version).

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