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hiptech
09-24-2005, 06:56 AM
Greetings All,
This is my first post and I wanted to say how much I enjoy your site.
You guys seem to really know your stuff. I've been out of the loop concerning PCs for over 3 years now and am just starting to catch up on all the new stuff.

I want to replace my "boat anchor" (HP Vectra VL800 - Intel P4 1.5 Mhz w/768mb ram and 128mb GeForce FX 5200) and build a new system. I haven't played any games in years but might like to start again sometime. What I need right now is a PC that will help me do some CAD work which is memory amd graphics intensive - Solid Edge and Alias programs.

I've always used Intel processors (worked there over 15 years) but now I feel ready to make the leap to AMD? Been looking at the dual core Athlon 64 X2 3800. seems to run cooler than Intels? After reading reviews, it seems to be able to do what I need and then some. If I get into burning DVDs while working I guess it might be a little slow?

I've read what you guys think about different mobo brands and I suppose it's similar to asking someone "what's the best car?" I like the Asus A8N-SLI series, the DFI LanParty UT NF4 Ultra-D and the MSI K8N Neo4 Platinum.

Of all these, what are your feelings regarding stability and support?

Also, how important are the different size PCI-E slots and where can I find a matrix showing what devices use each specific size?

If I know I will be using an external video card(s), why should I care or pay for a video chipset on the mobo? Am I correct in thinking external video will use their own processor and internal chipsets will use the cpu on the mobo?

What about old legacy perhiperal devices, I still have some old printers using parallel cables (lol) I suppose I should dump em and buy new, but it's hard to let go of stuff that still works. I do have one usb printer, but the my other 2 use parallel. Right now I have a PCI serial parallel I/O card with extra ports for the printers, is there anything similar out there for PCI-E?

Do mobo manufacturers recommend any specific memory or will any good quality brand work? Will DDR2 run any faster in a mobo that supports only DDR or does it matter? (my "boat anchor" uses rambus)

Thanks for your help and input.

casecutter
09-25-2005, 02:11 AM
Look for an AMD64 3200+ Venice and a MSI K8N NEO4 Platinum. Stay away from SLI as it takes atlot of know how and work to get it up and running to its' full potential. Either a 6800 GT or X800/X850 XT will give you excellent graphics. You can still use your legacy devices and even the most modern motherboards have parallel ports and such.

I pick the AMD3200+ Venice core and the MSI K8N NEO4 Platinum as they are an excellent base for a very stable, easy to use PC. And it will also overclock very well. You cannot use DDR2 in an AMD machine yet, and you wouldn't want to anyways. The AMD64 like low low latency ram, the lower the better. Intel doesn't require low latencies, it prefers to run 1:1. I suggest ram with timings such as 2-2-2-X, or 2-3-2-X as you will get much better performance. Let your wallet decide there. OCZ and COrsair make some of the best ram on the planet right now. Mushkin, Ultra, and more that I am forgetting also make some good ram.

DFI boards are said to overclock well, but they are very difficult to use. MSI boards overclock pretty well and are very easy to setup and use. ASUS boards are also very user friendly, but they tend to not overclock very well. If you plan on leaving your PC on its' stock settings, I strongly suggest ASUS or MSI, and I tend to like MSI more IMO. Only get a DFI if you are looking for maximum overclocking and maximum effort to get it running.

FOr around 2K, you can build a very extreme AMD64 system. And for around 1.5K, you can build a good one. If you are using your existing case, CD drive and hard drive you will save some dough. And you also will need to upgrade to Windows XP if you haven't already as the NForce3 and Nforce4 chipsets won't support Win98.

Hope this helps. If you need any more info I am sure someone else will chime in with other things I have neglected to say.

hiptech
09-27-2005, 02:17 AM
casecutter,

Thanks for your in-depth reply, I must admit your response had me doing some research on memory, specifically latency settings. I think I have a better understanding of it now, generally the lower the numbers, the more expensive?

I must admit you have me wondering about a few more things now. First, why not go with the dual processor setup? While I'm sure the AMD3200+ Venice core is a good cost-effective setup, wouldn't the dual core provide better long term capability especially when 64 bit software becomes more available?

Also, regarding my question on mobo video and audio chipsets. Again, why do these exist on higher end boards especially if most will install external sound and video cards that don't rob mobo processor speed?

You did a good job comparing the benefits of each mobo brand, I appreciate that a lot! Not sure about overclocking as a rule, I have only done this once with an old PII and didn't care if I fried it.

To my way of thinking if you factor in costs of overclocking, you run into additional perhiperal expenses, i.e. extra cooling hardware, larger power supplies, etc. Doesn't it make more sense to use the extra money and buy a higher performance cpu instead? As the system gets older I could see investing in overclocking as a way to "keep up" without spending big bucks for a new chip. Or is my logic flawed?

Anyway, thanks again for your input - really appreciate your insight.

Yawgm0th
09-27-2005, 06:12 AM
I must admit you have me wondering about a few more things now. First, why not go with the dual processor setup? While I'm sure the AMD3200+ Venice core is a good cost-effective setup, wouldn't the dual core provide better long term capability especially when 64 bit software becomes more available?
Indeed it will. If it's not too much of a problem for your wallet, dual-core makes the most sense right now.



Also, regarding my question on mobo video and audio chipsets. Again, why do these exist on higher end boards especially if most will install external sound and video cards that don't rob mobo processor speed?Most users will not install third-party sound cards. Most newer boards use very good onboard audio that most users have no problems with. A board without onboard audio is just plain silly.

As for video, very few boards include onboard video, so I don't understand your question. The boards that do have it tend to be priced lower as they don't appeal to most enthusiasts since most enthusiasts are gamers and will use a third-party video card. Boards with onboard video are generally intended for average users or very specific types of systems.


To my way of thinking if you factor in costs of overclocking, you run into additional perhiperal expenses, i.e. extra cooling hardware, larger power supplies, etc. Doesn't it make more sense to use the extra money and buy a higher performance cpu instead? As the system gets older I could see investing in overclocking as a way to "keep up" without spending big bucks for a new chip. Or is my logic flawed?
You shouldn't have to spend much, if any more on overclocking. You're logic isn't flawed; many people do choose to spend more, sometimes to the point where it's not worth it. But that's them; you can do quite a bit of overclocking without really spenidng any more money. A little bit more money (let's say $40-$60) can really help overclocking, but it's rarely a necessity. In any case, the jump from one processor to the next is a huge price jump at all levels, and the money could much better be spent on hardware that aids overclocking.

As for RAM, lower latencies and/or faster RAM can really help, but they are an afterthought at best. Tell us specifically what you want to do with the system before you decide on RAM. Quite often, getting 2GB of 2-3-3 PC3200 RAM will make a lot more sense than 1GB of 2-2-2 PC4000 RAM. Sometimes, it's the other way around. If you can afford some (actually, a lot of) really nice RAM for overclocking, then OCZ VX or Mushkin Redline are problably the best choices. If you want something in-between, some 2-3-3 PC3200 RAM will be good. The bare minimum (and essentially the cheapest) is some "value" CAS 2.5 PC3200 RAM.

As far as motherboards go, I can't see much reason to get anything other than a DFI nForce 4 Ultra board, if you're going to overclock. Ease of use is simply not an issue with any of these boards, and the MSI Neo 4 has no real advantage over DFI. I've worked with the DFI before and I didn't find it hard to use at all. The ASUS board also has no advantages, and in my experience on forums, it has been known to have more problems than the other board. The MSI K8N Neo4 Platinum is a good board, but I just can't see any reason to take it over a DFI nForce 4 Ultra board, esepcially if you'll be overclocking. It does have more SATA and USB ports, but it also has more SATA and USB ports than you'll ever use. It also has RAID 5, but I dobut you'll use it, and it's preferable to use a third-party controller for RAID 5 anyway. If you won't be overclocking, then all of the brands are irrelevent; you can save yourself a good $15-$40 by going with a cheaper (but equally reliable) brand, such as Foxconn or Chaintech. Hell, Chaintech boards can even OC okay, despite being very cheap.

Again, we'd need to know what you plan to do with the system if we're to recommend video. If you don't play games, you'd certainly be better off with onboard video.

There are only two kinds of PCI-E slots that you'll need to worry about. The first is 16X, which is used for video cards. The second is 1X, which will be used for hard drive controllers, LAN cards, and eventually sound cards, along with anything that used to be PCI. PCI is still used for sound cards as well as most network cards and hard drive controllers, so you'll certainly want a board that still has PCI.

hiptech
11-17-2005, 11:32 PM
Sorry for the long response time, had some serious surgery on both my eyes and have finally begun following up on PC stuff - sorry this was low priority in the grand scheme of things...

Anyway, now that I can see again I have been spending way too many days investigating, analyzing and trying to understand all the latest and greatest.

Would like to thank both Yawgm0th and casecutter for their excellent insight into mobos and recomendations!

A few more questions have come up during the course of my research, chipsets.

I understand primarily that Via, Nvidia and ATI are the heavy hitters here. But what I am being told by salespeople is that not only do the chipsets "boost" the graphic cards performance but direct the video cards use of system memory?

If that's true, I guess I was mistaken in my understanding of how video cards interact with the mobo. I thought the cards own memory exclusively powered the video? Now I'm told the video card memory kicks in after the chipset first uses and then allocates a certain percentage of system memory. In other words the mobo's video is supplementing the video card. Is this correct, if so it makes no sense from an efficiency point of view.

The reason I previously asked why anyone would buy a high end mobo with video (chipset) graphics onboard was due to my (possible) misunderstanding of how video graphics memory is allocated. I ASSumed the video chipset on the mobo was for basic video use without an additional video card. If you added a video card, I thought it would supersede the mobo video, wrong?

Anyway, my primary use for my new system is mostly as a 3D CAD graphics system with possible gaming if time permits. Here are the programs I wil be using; SolidWorks, SolidEdge, AutoCAD, LightWave 3D, Quark XPress, Adobe Photoshop and Ilustrator, Macromedia Studio and some photo and DVD editing.

Later on I would like to add some games, I really used to enjoy playing the old "Need for Speed" car chase games, maybe you guys can help bring me up the speed with newer stuff later on.

With that in mind, there seems to be very little hardware I will carry over from my old "boat anchor" with the possible exception of a newer Maxtor 300GB SATA 16mb drive and a newer Plextor PX-716A DVD +/-RW (wish I knew to have gotten the SATA model).

I'm still trying to narrow down the mobo choices and think I am getting closer. Nvidia seems to be the chipset of choice, right?

As for mobos, I'm a little concerned DFIs may be too "challenging" for me to setup and optimize?

After I settle on the mobo, maybe you can help me with video card and memory selection?

Thanks again for all your help

casecutter
11-18-2005, 08:11 AM
I would still suggest a MSI K8N NEO4 PLATINUM motherboard. Since you want to do CAD, I would also suggest spending as much as your budget allows on a video card. It will really benefit such a graphics intensive operation. No high end motherboard will have onboard video. That is almost always found on the Micro ATX form factor (smaller) motherboards used in home theater PCs. A graphics card's memory will do all the rendering, only using a little system memory is absolutely needed. This almost never happens. The newer video cards are fast enough to handle all the chores themselves.

Since you are going to do CAD, I would suggest a Nvidia based 7800 series card. The 7800GT is blazingly fast and prices are dropping since they just released their latest and greatest cards. The MSI K8N NEO4 PLATINUM is a nice easy board to setup and run. It is loaded with options and is a good bargain as well. I also still firmly suggest some really good ram and 2GB of it as well. THat will also help the PC when you are running heavy graphically intensive programs. Look for 2-3-2-5 or maybe even 3-3-3-7 timings. The lower the better. If you plan on running alot of stuff at once, a dual core CPU can be better, but they still cost too much in my opinion and a CPU like my AMD64 3700+ San Diego does very well, even with many programs open. Plus, the prices for the AMD64 CPUS are dropping rapidly

Yawgm0th
11-18-2005, 10:43 AM
I'm still trying to narrow down the mobo choices and think I am getting closer. Nvidia seems to be the chipset of choice, right?
Depends on your budget. ATI is actually beating nVidia in certain market segments.

hiptech
11-19-2005, 04:15 AM
Thanks guys for all your great input, really appreciate the advice!


I would still suggest a MSI K8N NEO4 PLATINUM motherboard. Since you want to do CAD, I would also suggest spending as much as your budget allows on a video card. It will really benefit such a graphics intensive operation. No high end motherboard will have onboard video. That is almost always found on the Micro ATX form factor (smaller) motherboards used in home theater PCs. A graphics card's memory will do all the rendering, only using a little system memory is absolutely needed. This almost never happens. The newer video cards are fast enough to handle all the chores themselves.

Since you are going to do CAD, I would suggest a Nvidia based 7800 series card. The 7800GT is blazingly fast and prices are dropping since they just released their latest and greatest cards. The MSI K8N NEO4 PLATINUM is a nice easy board to setup and run. It is loaded with options and is a good bargain as well. Glad to hear your thoughts on this mobo as it was the one I was leaning toward. I've been recently told to stay away from the SLI configurations for CAD work as it would not offer me any great advantage and could cause frame rate issues? Besides, I read someplace where two high end video cards in SLI may not always outperform a single higher end card?

BTW, any recommendation on vid card brands? Yawgm0th's post about ATI have me wondering if I am overlooking some alternate possibilities? I don't know why I'm apprehensive about ATI, I'm sure they offer decent products too.


I also still firmly suggest some really good ram and 2GB of it as well. THat will also help the PC when you are running heavy graphically intensive programs. Look for 2-3-2-5 or maybe even 3-3-3-7 timings. The lower the better. I plan to start with 2GB but not sure about timing specs, haven't researched far enough yet. I've seen some posts about Corsair, OZ and a few others. Are these overkill, or would a brand like Crucial be adequate?


If you plan on running alot of stuff at once, a dual core CPU can be better, but they still cost too much in my opinion and a CPU like my AMD64 3700+ San Diego does very well, even with many programs open. Plus, the prices for the AMD64 CPUS are dropping rapidly I had mostly planned on going with the AMD dual core Athlon X2 3800+, really hadn't considered much else until you mentioned AMD64 3700+ as a good alternative? I hope to find a great last minute "bundle" deal for an MSI K8N NEO4 PLATINUM mobo with Athlon X2 3800+ CPU but so far nothing.

Thanks again for the help!!!

casecutter
11-19-2005, 06:52 AM
I strongly suggest OCZ ram as they are excellent and have even better customers service. As for video cards, that is where you really need to do some research. They make cards that are specifically optimised for CAD. Those cards can also be used for gaming and what not, but the are a good deal more money. In my opinion, a Nvidia based 7800 GT would work well unless you are doing extensive 3D. I will get some examples and post some links for you.

casecutter
11-19-2005, 08:40 AM
Ok, I cannot find any examples to link you to, but you want to look for ATI FIRE GL based video cards and NVIXIA QUADRO FX based video cards for CAD. They are expensive and geared towards CAD, but if you are only going to do light CAD, I strongly suggest a NVIDIA 7800GT/GTX or an ATI X1800XL.

Yawgm0th
11-19-2005, 08:45 AM
You seem to be confusing CAD in general with 3D Rendering. For a simple 2D CAD application, a powerful video card does nothing. However, I'm pretty sure several of the applications he listed are in fact 3D rendering applications, which will use expensive video cards.

The real question is whether you value gaming performance or 3D rendering performance more. There are a number of cards at multiple price ranges specifically designed for 3D rendering programs that will give playable, but relatively bad gaming performance. On the other hand, normal cards will give good gaming performance but won't give the greatest 3D rendering performance.

hiptech
11-20-2005, 07:30 AM
Before we jump ahead to video cards I have a few more questions on the mobo memory.

According to MSI, their memory specs for the K8N Neo4 Platinum (under the DIMM Module Combination section) indicate if filling all 4 slots with double sided DIMMs use DDR 333, only use DDR 400 for single sided.

http://www.msicomputer.com/product/...atinum&class=mb (http://www.msicomputer.com/product/p_spec.asp?model=K8N_Neo4_Platinum&class=mb)

Even if all the slots with are filled with 1GB DIMMS you never reach 4GB anyway:


Due to the South Bridge resource deployment, the system density will only be detected up to 3+ GB (not full 4GB) when each DIMM is installed with an 1GB memory module
What now?

casecutter
11-20-2005, 08:25 AM
Basically, this means that the total may come up a little short of a full 4GB. but you would have most likely 3.9-3.95GB. That is truely an amazing amount of memory that you almost certainly nedver need, even for CAD. 2 fast 1GB sticks of memory would be hard to use up. And the current CPUs (AMD 64 Venice, San Diego, the X2, the Opteron) will all run 4 sticks of memory at DDR 400 speeds, albeit at 2T. The diference between 1T and 2T can hardly be felt by 90% of the computer users out there. Even when benchmarking, there is maybe a 5-10% performance loss. This is almost meaningless in real world numbers, and it would be truely meaningless when doing CAD work. If you really want 4GB of ram and cannot live with these limitations, the new DFI boards can not only run the full 4GB of ram, but at 1T as well. Plus, there is a new ATI based chipset due out next year that not only can run the memory full speed, but will break all barriers of overclocking an AMD CPU.

All that being said, I have one question. Why would you want to run 4GB of ram anyways? If you are more interested in a pure CAD computer, you should maybe consider building a workstation type PC instead of a mainstream PC. It would cost probably double, but the power you would have for advanced 3D CAD would be worth it. Are you a 3D designer? Just how much power do you need? It would help to know that for any future recommendations.

hiptech
11-20-2005, 08:36 AM
All that being said, I have one question. Why would you want to run 4GB of ram anyways? If you are more interested in a pure CAD computer, you should maybe consider building a workstation type PC instead of a mainstream PC. It would cost probably double, but the power you would have for advanced 3D CAD would be worth it. Are you a 3D designer? Just how much power do you need? It would help to know that for any future recommendations. I come from the "Home Improvement" school of "MORE POWER" :pinkie: (#)
Besides, haven't you heard, Windows Vista has a minimum requirement of 2GB!

Obviously I'm just kidding, but I want to make sure I don't end up with 4 sticks of 512mb and regret later that I should have gone with 2 - 1GB sticks.

How about info on double sided vs. single? Any performance gains/loss with either?

Thanks

Yawgm0th
11-21-2005, 07:44 AM
It's best to use 2x1GB sticks in situations in which 2GB or more RAM is required. Most Athlon 64 CPUs and boards will get significant (bus as Casecutter said, probably unoticable) performance loss from four dual-sided DIMMs, as well as the inability to upgrade beyond two GBs (although that won't even be useful for quite some time anyway). It's definitely best to get two 1GB sticks. I really can't see any reason to get four 512MB sticks.

hiptech
11-22-2005, 04:10 AM
Thanks for the suggestion Yawgm0th,

Spoke with MSI and OCZ today and asked a few more questions. Based on your input and their answers I've decided to go with...

OCZ EL DDR PC-3200 Dual Channel Platinum
2GB Dual Channel Kit PN - OCZ4002048ELDCPE-K

http://www.ocztechnology.com/products/memory/ocz_el_ddr_pc_3200_dual_channel_platinum


BTW Casecutter, you were right OCZ does have great customer service. Spoke with their CSR for almost a half hour today about my rig and confirmed what you guys have been saying. He also suggested I go with their OCZ520ADJSLI - 520W SLI Ready P/S, looks pretty good to me.

http://www.ocztechnology.com/products/power_management/ocz_powerstream_power_supply-sli_ready_

Guess we need to start posting in the video section next?

Yawgm0th
11-22-2005, 09:16 AM
Looks good. That's as much RAM as you need and it performs pretty well.