Originally Posted by Mordacain
That being said, if I had your budget, I'd plan to build the following:
- AMD Hexcore Phenom II (they're just the most processing bang for the buck)
- 8-16Gb of DDR3 (anything over 1600MHz should do nicely). People have argued with me over the amount of ram before but the simple reason is that Windows 7 will seek to utilize as much ram as possible and if you have enough ram, you can disable the paging file altogether, which has the single greatest improvement on the "feel" of the interface of your OS IMO. Ram is also ridiculously cheap right now and 2x4G Ram dimm sets are the sweet spot in price to perf/space
- In general I'd recommend an ATI GPU if you choose to go with the AMD proc, their drivers are designed to pair together (along with the chipsets) and have some really cool performance-enhancing and power-saving features.I'd also recommend a single card solution. I've messed with the multi-GPU setups before, not only is it expensive, it drains power like crazy and for not a big improvement (around 35%). If you're just going for current games to playable at medium (or higher) settings a single mid-range card will do nicely, or splurge another $50 (midrange is locked firmly around the $150 mark in general).
- A High-Efficiency power supply is a must IMO. A good unit from Corsair, Enermax, PC Cooling and Power or Seasonic (those are just the big players) will offer greater stability and can save you money in power in the longterm. I shaved about $30 off my power the first year I had a HE power supply in my machine. I have the power supply for 4 years now and its been solid as a rock and my power rails still measure accurate to this day. IMO there is no better upgrade for your system. Plan on spending a good $80-150 (depending on how much wattage you need, I run on 520) here and you'll thank yourself by not having to replace that part again for quite a long time while its extra cost gets offset by our power savings.
- I've good reliability from Samsung, Seagate and Western Digital. I'd advise perhaps 1 hi-speed drive to partition and load your OS' on (like an SSD or 10K RPM drive) and then larger, slower drives (think 5200RPM or "green" drives) to load data on. I'd read reviews to get a feel of the failure rate of a particular drive. I'm a big fan of partitioning, but that's mainly because I can't afford to by new components, so I make do with 1Gbs worth of disk partitioned to hold my different projects. I keep long-term data stored on external disks that I only spin-up when I want to copy data off of them.
- Get a decent case. Antec makes really good cases, but a new company, Rosewill is making some good stuff too. Read reviews and check pictures and look for cases with good "rolled edges." That refers to the manufacturing process by which the interior steel edges are rolled back to keep the sharp edge from being exposed. Cheap cases tend to be deathtraps, expect to get cut. Personally I make the same recommendation here that I do for PSU's: Spend extra money here and you won't have to do it again. I've had the same Antec 900 since they were released, before that I had another Antec, which was my wife's case for 5 years and has now been passed on to my room-mate. Good quality stuff can last as long as you need it to in my experience.
Those are my basic suggestions. Good luck with the build!
I agree with most of this, especially the stuff about the case and PSU. If you DO go SSD... Don't get ANYTHING with a Sandforce controller. You want something like a Crucial M4 which while appearing to have slightly slower read/write speeds are actually just killer for the kind of thing you want to do.
I agree with the amount of RAM, but not the speed. 1333 to 1600Mhz is fine for RAM for the kind of thing you want. In fact 1600Mhz is more than fine, it's killer.
I also agree with the ATI graphics card. I just think they're all around better cards. In general they run cooler, burn less power, get almost the same framerates on most games in real world situations and they're cheaper.
The high end nVidia's are better than high end AMDs. But who the hell spends $1000+ on the graphics card? I mean sure if you want to play BF3 across 6 27" screens in 3D sure.....
Originally Posted by Mordacain
I apparently haven't checked out Procs for a few months. I just did a quick review of the status and the AMD FX are looking very nice (8 cores). Still in the same pricerange as the Phenom II but newer manufacturing process (means the CPU will run cooler with less voltage applied).
The Core i7s are still the performance leader, but at roughly double the platform cost (meaning more expensive motherboard and ram) I wouldn't think its worth it, particularly if you are mainly going to be coding, recording with the occasional game playing, the performance gap between the two proc types will be minimal.
Gotta disagree on this though. The i7s kill in recording and particularly in the box mixing. Having 8+ threads allows so much in the way of plugins to be running. Also the nature of the FSB (front side bus) makes them perfect for hosting peripheral recording devices. Turn off all the power saving states and Turbo boost and you can run a 48 track project with soft synths, samplers, hundreds of plugins and still have processing room to spare and not have too high a latency.