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Old February 15, 2009, 02:49 AM
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Question Planning, all-purpose home workstation

2009-02-15 edit: After a look at the account and bank statement, I'll have to roll back the budget to $1'000

Alright, lads. I'm looking to build a home machine for mixed work and play with a relatively narrow criteria. My notebook will still serve as the mobile workstation, but I am seriously lacking in punch at home; I can only plug in one monitor to the laptop, anyway, and it's not something I'd stake the value of my work in. The concept of the machine is to maximize productivity and still have a system appropriate for leisurely use. That is, I need three monitors and generous amounts of memory, storage, and processors that can keep up, although we will be covering only the internal components of an initial configuration here. And I don't have the sort of money to invest in those indulgences right now (recession).

Criteria
What I'm looking for in the first incarnation
  • $1'000 total budget for the components-- that means 'try not to get near this amount'
  • AMD processors, strictly-- I don't support companies who practice nefarious business ethics
  • motherboard with support for two video cards-- something reliable and offering a good set of features
  • 4GB of memory or more-- doesn't need to be fast or enthusiast-grade
  • One ATi Radeon 4870
  • two reliable hard disk drives
  • a power supply that can provide a highly reliable output of 800 watts and higher, quietly-- the system will need it when it achieves a second incarnation with many more components
  • if I don't reuse the old one, I need a roomy computer chassis that I can put a Dremel tool to--for ducting, silencing, and soldering
Considerations
I'm keeping the project loosely open to the following, where feasible (cost-effective) recommendations can be provided. Feel obliged to contribute to this largely unnecessary list.
  • multi-socket E-ATX platforms using
  • multi-way Opteron chips
  • support for up to four video cards-- the idea is to drive more displays and the power to drive the aforesaid
  • 8GB of memory or enough DIMM interfaces to fit that amount later on
  • a computer chassis supporting E-ATX motherbards
  • are the southbridges today any good as hard drive controllers?
The bottom line
Immediately, the Phenom 940 "Deneb" has caught my attention for a one-socket machine. Community feedback seems highly positive of the chip combined with consistent processing power relaxed temperatures; the unlocked multipliers adds to its value if I feel the itch for more juice. Furthermore, if Samsung hasn't changed in 7 years, their hard disk drives will continue to be strong considerations for me. The idea here is reliability over power.

A combination of frustration and personal life incited my abandonment of my computer hobby four or five years ago, not long before when San Diego was the final blow in AMD's complete trample over Intel in the single-core era--I still have a San Diego asleep in a box somewhere. This is mostly why I'm utterly baffled by "Nehalem" this and "GTX" that; always in a state of confusion about what's hot and what's not.

I apologize if I've made this too long and, perhaps, dealing with too abstract of a machine concept, but, I'm completely confident that you lot can help me because the community here seems to know the ins and outs of the computer hobby very well. Cheers in advance.

Last edited by Amon; February 15, 2009 at 11:43 AM.
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Old February 15, 2009, 09:25 AM
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I wouldn't say AMD's business practices are any better than Intels but to each their own...

Seems like you got the processor down, Phenom 940 it is.

Motherboard wise, I'd go with a 790GX or 790FX NB with a SB750. Then you get Crossfire support and the SB750 is apparently recommended for Phenom II overclocking. To be honest though, I don't know which brand to recommend. Out of habit I'd say ASUS, DFI or Gigabyte.

Grab whatever RAM you want as long as its a 2x2GB kit. Probably wiser to get DDR2-1000/1066 so you have headroom if you OC. G.SKILL, Mushkin, Corsair, OCZ, all fine IMO.

I'd personally get dual Western Digital 640GB (maybe Black which has a 5yr warranty) hard drives. However Samsung makes a 640GB too if you want to stick with them. They all average around 100MB/s read.

PSU, Corsair TX850W. Nice single rail design and known Corsair quality.

Case wise, probably the Coolermaster HAF932. Or the ATSC840 if you prefer that design. Unless you want to move up to the Lian-Li stuff...

For your future plans, I'm not sure you'd find a dual socket board with 4x PCIe x16 slots that allow for Crossfire. It's not exactly a gaming platform, so I don't know how well that would work. And on-board RAID sucks. Definitely no where near the performance a true hardware RAID card could provide.
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Old February 15, 2009, 11:07 AM
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Thanks for the generous reply, jdrom.
What's the story with the 790 chipsets? I only remember them being some AMD pipedream; have they turned out to be a solid product? I like that Corsair power supply you mentioned. In fact, I'm completely baffled and left scratching my head at seeing so much output for pocket change... things have certainly changed. It wouldn't be too loud, would it? I'll be doing more research in the coming weeks, but, thanks for giving me a general idea of what I'm looking for in the market.

Re: the computer case. I had a peek at those you mentioned. Mate, I have to say that the open-air design of the HAF won't mix well with me. I forgot to say that I was looking for a mostly closed chassis (to isolate noise) without windows, and then drill out a ducting and exhaust system of my own design.

Any more ideas will be warmly welcomed.
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Old February 15, 2009, 11:19 AM
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With requirements as such as yours, I would definitely consider the dark side, and the i7 920 / Asus P6T WS combo.
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Old February 15, 2009, 03:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Amon View Post
Thanks for the generous reply, jdrom.
What's the story with the 790 chipsets? I only remember them being some AMD pipedream; have they turned out to be a solid product? I like that Corsair power supply you mentioned. In fact, I'm completely baffled and left scratching my head at seeing so much output for pocket change... things have certainly changed. It wouldn't be too loud, would it? I'll be doing more research in the coming weeks, but, thanks for giving me a general idea of what I'm looking for in the market.

Re: the computer case. I had a peek at those you mentioned. Mate, I have to say that the open-air design of the HAF won't mix well with me. I forgot to say that I was looking for a mostly closed chassis (to isolate noise) without windows, and then drill out a ducting and exhaust system of my own design.

Any more ideas will be warmly welcomed.
AFAIK AMD's chipsets are the best for AMD CPUs. Just like how Intel's are. Only other choice is NVIDIA which IMO doesn't have the greatest reputation in the Intel scene but I think they do better with AMD. However you don't want NVIDIA graphics so why get an SLI motherboard?

The WR for Phenom II OC'ing is held by a DFI 790FX motherboard. I think that's good enough to prove stability.

Here's some more case options, without moving into the pricey Lian-Lis:
Newegg.ca - NZXT WHISPER WHI - 001BK Black Aluminum / Steel ATX Full Tower Computer Case - Computer Cases
Newegg.ca - SILVERSTONE KUBLAI Series KL03-B Black 2.5mm aluminum front door, 0.8mm SECC body ATX Full Tower Computer Case - Computer Cases
Newegg.ca - ZALMAN PROFESSIONAL GS-1000-TT Titanium Computer Case Aluminum / 1.0mm SECC Steel Full Tower With Hot Swap Bays & PSU Roller Rails - Computer Cases
And the usual Comos (dunno how I forgot that): Newegg.ca - COOLER MASTER COSMOS 1000 RC-1000-KSN1-GP Black/ Silver Steel ATX Full Tower Computer Case - Computer Cases

TBH though, with a now $1000 budget, there's no point in getting a $200-300 case IMO. Then you'd be scraficing on the actual hardware. Might as well just throw it in a cheap Antec 300 or something for now and buy a better case later.
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