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Thread: Bringing up to speed on hardware options?

  1. #1
    SeK612's Avatar Poster BT Rep: +10BT Rep +10
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    So I'm beginning to look into getting a new PC, however am a little lost when it comes to the current specs in use.

    I've never been particuarily clear when it comes to the individual specs but it'd be nice to gain a little knowledge and make smart purchases this time around.

    By specs I mean the different formats for things such as memory, hard drives and processors.

    Memmory
    It seems DDR2 seems to be the standard for reasonable memory cards. Is it and what else needs to be looked at (it seems that a second sort is done on PC2 number which seems linked to clock speed?)?.

    Hard Disk Drive
    Traditionally I've gotten IDE drives however it seems SATA is recommended. Is this correct? Also should I back away from high capacity drives (so say above 250GB) - in terms of stuff like defragging I guess.

    Graphics Cards
    I'm really lost when it comes to graphics cards. What sort of things should I be looking for. Presumably the most on board memory? Are things like dual DVI inputs important (thinking in terms of future compatibility if everything is moving towards DVI input)? What are recommended manufacturers (for example are ATI better than NVidia in most cases or...?)? What would be a reasonable price (in pounds if possible) to be looking for a solid graphics card capable of playing the latest games (and hopefully future games for a little while at least).

    Motherboards
    I guess this depends on the processor but it'd be usefull to know what I should be looking for with regards to a new motherboard (what specs are important).

    The collection of alternative types is also a little confusing. A look at one site has the following options for an AMD motherboard AMD AM2, AMD AM2 SLiReady, AMD AM2 Micro-ATX, AMD AM2 CrossFire Ready, AMD 939, AMD 939 SLiReady, AMD 939 Micro-ATX, AMD 939 CrossFire Ready.

    Processor
    Again I'm a little lost on the numerous options. In the past I have leaned towards AMD chips over Intel. Is this still advised or are Intel just as recommended nowadays?

    What are the differences between processors such as AMD's X2 and 64 or Intel's Dual Core or Core 2 Duo?

    What kind of processor would be recommended (should it be 64 bit or is that standard now?).

    Sound Card
    I've never been sure about sound cards. Does it really make a difference having an expensive sound card over a cheaper one when your outputting sound through average speakers?

    If the speaker baseline is set at a 80-100 pounds would it make a difference if you bought a 80 pound sound card instead of a 30 pound sound card?

    Speakers
    What's the difference between 7.1 and 5.1 when it comes to speakers?

    Also are wireless speakers worth the investment (my MS wireless keyboard and mouse tended to suffer if not aligned correctly along with them not being rechargable and eating through batteries really quickly).

  2. Software & Hardware   -   #2
    Memmory
    It seems DDR2 seems to be the standard for reasonable memory cards. Is it and what else needs to be looked at (it seems that a second sort is done on PC2 number which seems linked to clock speed?)?.
    240-pin DDR2 is standard as of now. Some other things you need to pay attention to is:
    -capacity: the more RAM the better. If you're running Vista (which is possible because you're buying a new computer), 2GB of RAM is recommended, which usually comes in 2x 1GB sticks.
    -Also pay attention to the speed of the RAM, which as you said comes in the format of DDR2 800, PC2 6400 (the numbers may vary). Those numbers are related to the speed of the ram.
    -Usually you will also encounter a string of numbers like 5-5-5-12. Those numbers are standard. The lower the numbers, the faster the ram.

    Hard Disk Drive
    Traditionally I've gotten IDE drives however it seems SATA is recommended. Is this correct? Also should I back away from high capacity drives (so say above 250GB) - in terms of stuff like defragging I guess.
    I personally use SATA instead of PATA (IDE drive). SATA drives are independant of other IDE devices such as optical drives. They are relatively the same speed, and other than that, there is not much of a difference.
    The size mainly depends on what you're going to use it for. If you're a digital media kinda guy, go with higher capacities. Other than that, it only depends on how much data you have. Defragging will always take longer on bigger drives, but it doesn't hurt to have extra space.

    Graphics Cards
    I'm really lost when it comes to graphics cards. What sort of things should I be looking for. Presumably the most on board memory? Are things like dual DVI inputs important (thinking in terms of future compatibility if everything is moving towards DVI input)? What are recommended manufacturers (for example are ATI better than NVidia in most cases or...?)? What would be a reasonable price (in pounds if possible) to be looking for a solid graphics card capable of playing the latest games (and hopefully future games for a little while at least).
    Most of all the modern graphics cards now have dual channels. Currently, Nvidia has more stable DX10 drivers than ATI cards. If you want to play the latest games and future games, you may have to look into a DX10 card; for example, Nvidia GeForce 8800 series. Although they may be pricey now, they will not be outdated for a while, for DX10 has not even been implemented in any released games yet. Other than that, ATI and Nvidia are neck to neck in the graphics industry. They both make solid and good cards.

    Motherboards
    I guess this depends on the processor but it'd be usefull to know what I should be looking for with regards to a new motherboard (what specs are important). The collection of alternative types is also a little confusing. A look at one site has the following options for an AMD motherboard AMD AM2, AMD AM2 SLiReady, AMD AM2 Micro-ATX, AMD AM2 CrossFire Ready, AMD 939, AMD 939 SLiReady, AMD 939 Micro-ATX, AMD 939 CrossFire Ready.
    You just want to see a motherboard that has good upgradability such as extra PCI and PCIe slots and many features in the back I/O panel. One feature that I love is the external SATA slot for external SATA harddrives. Like you said, the compatability with the cpu is important. Most motherboards differ with the number of slots and extra features, other than that, there's not much difference. AMD is a cpu manufactuer, like Intel. They both have SliReady motherboards, which is Nvidia's dual-graphics card technology, which means thre are two pci-e slots for you to use dual graphics cards (for the ultimate game machine). Crossfire is ATI's edition of SLI. Micro-ATX is just a small motherboard used to make small computers. They usually are not as upgradable and have few, but all the essential features. BTX is another motherboard format, but is not as common.

    Processor
    Again I'm a little lost on the numerous options. In the past I have leaned towards AMD chips over Intel. Is this still advised or are Intel just as recommended nowadays?
    What are the differences between processors such as AMD's X2 and 64 or Intel's Dual Core or Core 2 Duo?
    What kind of processor would be recommended (should it be 64 bit or is that standard now?).
    Ever since Intel released it's Core2duo series, I feel Intel has taken the lead in the market. Even though they tend to run more expensive, they recently implemented a 40% price drop on all the models. Some things to pay attention to are the bus speed (higher the better), the cache (higher the better). If you are an overclocker, Intel e6300 can be overclocked to a e6600 easily, which is the top of the middle line. e6700 is pretty much top of the line, unless you want to venture into quad-core technology. I feel the e6600 is the "bang for the buck" cpu.


    Sound Card
    I've never been sure about sound cards. Does it really make a difference having an expensive sound card over a cheaper one when your outputting sound through average speakers?
    If the speaker baseline is set at a 80-100 pounds would it make a difference if you bought a 80 pound sound card instead of a 30 pound sound card?
    For audiophiles, yes, expensive ones are very different than cheap or integrated sound through good speakers. If you have average speakers, I'm not sure if it makes a great difference. Only one company is dominating the sound card industry and that's Creative. Their X-fi technology is great and their cards are not that expensive. Most Creative cards support 5.1, 6.1, and 7.1 speaker setup. 7.1 has 7 satellite speakers and 1 subwoofer, while 5.1 has 5 satellites and 1 woofer. Wireless speakers tend to distort after a certain distance. Wired ones are still better.

    Speakers
    What's the difference between 7.1 and 5.1 when it comes to speakers?
    Also are wireless speakers worth the investment (my MS wireless keyboard and mouse tended to suffer if not aligned correctly along with them not being rechargable and eating through batteries really quickly).
    See above

    Tell me if you need me to go into more detail.

  3. Software & Hardware   -   #3
    SeK612's Avatar Poster BT Rep: +10BT Rep +10
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    Thanks for the reply. I've done a bit of reading as well but am still a little confused on several points.

    In terms of memory is 2GB enough for an average computer (for the most part I suspect it will be used for running things like Dreamweaver and Photoshop so it'd be nice to be able to run these in parallel along with things like a web browser and possible an AVI file being played and not suffer too many slow downs). Is it worth buying two lots of cheaper 2GB memory or pay more for a single lot of 2GB which runs at higher speeds.

    Processors seem complicated as there are several strands for each company (for example AMD have AM2 and 939) is there a particular type that is the most up to date (for AMD it seems this is 939?). Do intel processors need similar cooling (heatsink / thermal paste) as AMD ones?

    I did say games would be nice though I don't really play a mass of them. Would a lower spec graphics card (say NVidia 8600 series) suffice? Would these be Direct X compatible. Also how would this be effected if Linux is the OS rather than Windows? I am planning to go for a dual monitor setup if that effects the cards that I need (essentially it just means I need dual DVI input).

  4. Software & Hardware   -   #4
    clocker's Avatar Shovel Ready
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    Quote Originally Posted by SeK612 View Post
    Thanks for the reply. I've done a bit of reading as well but am still a little confused on several points.

    In terms of memory is 2GB enough for an average computer (for the most part I suspect it will be used for running things like Dreamweaver and Photoshop so it'd be nice to be able to run these in parallel along with things like a web browser and possible an AVI file being played and not suffer too many slow downs). Is it worth buying two lots of cheaper 2GB memory or pay more for a single lot of 2GB which runs at higher speeds.
    Start with 2 gigs and see how it goes///you can always add more.
    Processors seem complicated as there are several strands for each company (for example AMD have AM2 and 939) is there a particular type that is the most up to date (for AMD it seems this is 939?). Do intel processors need similar cooling (heatsink / thermal paste) as AMD ones?
    Don't bother with AMD right now- you want at least a Core2Duo and a quad core if the bank is there.
    I did say games would be nice though I don't really play a mass of them. Would a lower spec graphics card (say NVidia 8600 series) suffice? Would these be Direct X compatible. Also how would this be effected if Linux is the OS rather than Windows? I am planning to go for a dual monitor setup if that effects the cards that I need (essentially it just means I need dual DVI input).
    The only decent DX10 cards available right now are the 8800 series nVidia.
    Wait six months for better options.
    Go cheap right now.
    "I am the one who knocks."- Heisenberg

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