Buying a PC and amusing intrigues
Tom's Hardware Guide Motherboards & RAM: Metamorphosis from Springdale to Canterwood. Those folks at Tom's Hardware are amazing. They figured out that the folks at ASUS activated a feature in the lowend chipset 865P that gets you an additional 5-10% performance. This normally costs you $55 more because it is only in the high-end 875P.
Amazing, the sleuthing going on as you read the piece. The net is that the ASUS P4P800 Deluxe is a great buy. Abit has now done the same thing with their motherboard. BTW, there is a P4P800 and a P4P800 Deluxe. The only difference I can find is there is a Firewire and Raid on "P4P800 Deluxe":http://www.pricegrabber.com/search_getprod.php/masterid=843014, but not "P4P800":http://www.pricegrabber.com/search_getprod.php/masterid=825529.
The net is that if I were buying a fast PC today, it would be if you want to build a big box server size machine then get:
* "P4P800 Deluxe":http://www.pricegrabber.com/search_getprod.php/masterid=843014. Fast and inexpensive motherboard thanks to the ASUS hack discussed above. If you get this, you'll also need a graphics card, power supply and chassis.
* "ProSilence 420 Power Supply":http://silentmaxx.net/silent_products/power_supplies/power_supplies.html. My pet peeve is that these things are so noisy. In my machines, it is the power supply fan that is just awful. Tom's Hardware "Power Supply How-to":http://www.tomshardware.com/howto/20030609/index.html. explains how to create a completely silent power supply. Yippee. Net net, completely silent are the Pro Silence PCS-350 by Silentmaxxfor $235 and the 300-watt Engelking AP2-6300SFC-A. Zalman's ZM400A-APF is a 400 watt supply that generates 27.5 dB(A), so it is pretty quiet. The CPU needs 90 watts and a high end card like the Radeon 9800 needs 70 watts, so you do really need a big supply now.
* "Silentmaxx Cases":http://silentmaxx.net/silent_products/cases/cases.html. These cases have sound insulation, so they cost more, but absorb 95% of the sound. $125.
* "Shuttle SB61G2":http://www.hothardware.com/hh_files/Motherboards/shuttle_sb61g2.shtml. If you want an integrated box that will be about 10% slower because it uses the 865G (integrated graphics version of the 865PE). Main issue is the on board graphics is 6x slower than a ATI Radeon 9500, a mid priced card these days, and slows the system down as it uses shared memory. Turns out there is absolutely no difference between it and a standard 865P (without the memory trick mentioned above) even with the integrated graphics if you are just doing desktop productivity things. Amazing.
Here are the common components you need to get no matter what system above you choose:
* "Pentium 2.8 GHz 800FSB CPU":http://www.pricegrabber.com/search_getprod.php/masterid=811945/blsrt=1. This is the hyperthreading 800MHz FSB screamer. The fastest is the 3.06 GHz. As usual, I recommend one part down from the very fastest available.
* "Kingston HyperX 512MB RAM":http://www.pricegrabber.com/search_getprod.php/masterid=708383. Memory incompatibilities abound between different motherboards and DDR3200 memory. "Anandtech":http://www.anandtech.com/memory/showdoc.html?i=1828 did a huge review and found that. BTW, you no longer can just ask for memory of a certain speed you have to know the timings (as in 2-2-2-5 we are referring to the CAS Latency, RAS to CAS Delay, RAS Precharge, and Precharge Delay in that order). The lower the numbers the better. They did a specific "test":http://www.anandtech.com/memory/showdoc.html?i=1828&p=11 of the P4P800 and various high speed memory and found that the Crucial LL were the fastest but very expensive while the Crucial were the best value. Unlike other benchmarks I've seen where getting CAS 2 (that's the first digit in the four digits now used) made a big difference vs. CAS 2.5 or CAS 3, with these new chipsets, it doesn't make much difference. Crucial (2.5-3-2-5) for instance was 354 fps in a Quake 3 benchmark and Corsair (2-2-2-5) was 357 fps. But, Corsair is 30% more expensive. These need to be bought in pairs I believe.
* "Value version of the nVidia GEForceFX 5900 Ultra":http://www.tomshardware.com/graphic/20030512/index.html. nVidia is back on top with this card. Beats the ATI Radeon 9800. As usual, I recommend the next card from the top for price/performance. That is either the Radeon 9700 or the upcoming nVidia value version of the 5900 engine (codenamed NV35).
* Western Digital WD2500JB":http://storagereview.com/articles/200304/20030417WD2500JB_1.html. This or (the nearly identical "WD2000JB":http://storagereview.com/articles/200304/20030417WD2500JB_1.html but cheaper $/byte) are the ones to get. Surprising given the evolution on the processor side that the recommendation hasn't change. Things are coming though with Serial ATA and the coming 10,000 RPM drives, but these will be 36GB at first, so not really good for single platter system. I'd recommend getting a pair of these and getting a set of 3.5" removables, so that you can RAID them and pull them out as needed. You should really get two. A system disk and a data disk.
* "NEC 1760V":http://www.tomshardware.com/display/20030221/hitachi-04.html. This is one of the first 16 ms response time monitors. And, it is a gorgeous 17 inches. Of course if you can afford it, go to 19 inches. That is really amazing.
If you are looking for networking gear checkout:
* "Netgear WAG611":http://www.tomshardware.com/network/20030522/netgear-11.html. OK, you need a networking card if you are going 802.11. The Netgear uses the new Atheros chipset, so you get 802.11a/b and draft g, with standard g coming. That's just about everything you need.