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Thread: Hexus Monthly Build Guide October 2011

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    Hexus Monthly Build Guide October 2011




    Intro Stuff and other shenigans

    This month saw the release of the much anticipated AMD FX CPUs based on the new Bulldozer microarchitechure. However,it seems the new FX series is very much a server CPU shoe-horned into the client space;they emphasise highly multi-threaded performance over lightly threaded tasks.

    In many lightly threaded applications such as most games the existing Phenom II CPUs offer similar performance;Bulldozer can only shine in highly multi-threaded games based on newer engines. This means current Sandy Bridge and Phenom II based CPUs are better value for gaming due to their better support for legacy engines. However,there is noise that improved motherboard support and improved Windows scheduling will help with lightly threaded performance. No doubt since Bulldozer is a very new architechure,introduces new instructions and is the first implementation of CMT, improved application support will also help performance too. The coming months will be interesting indeed!

    However, things have not been all going Intel’s way lately. The Sandy Bridge E CPUs using the new socket 2011 infrastructure have been rumoured to have problems in their own right which will. It seems these will not be fully fixed until after launch which is supposed to be next month.

    The GPU market has been relatively quiet amongst news of issues with the TSMC 28NM production process. It has been suggested that the HD7000 series is in production for a late 2011 or early 2012 release;Nvidia is also sampling the first GPUs based on the Kepler micro-architecture.

    The NAND and DRAM market remains as volatile as ever. Even though RAM is at a all time low in pricing it has been suggested that prices might even drop further. However, with margins dropping even lower there are indications of consolidation within the market. It might be a good idea to stock up on some cheap RAM this year!

    The guide and even more milarky

    This months guide has been delayed due to the wait for the FX launch;however it has not massively changed from September.

    This buyers guide will be in seven parts:


    The builds only encompass the base unit including a copy of Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit OEM(that was a mouth-full,phew!).

    Monitors and other peripheral suggestions are on the third page of the guide.

    This guide is not necessarily the only correct path available and is dependent on what components are available at the time it is formulated. These will change from time to time,as will the cost.
    If any parts are not available,drop a line on the hardware forum(not literally!) and I am sure a friendly forum member will help you out. If you do happen to come across one who is not friendly a mod will soon be around to, ahem, beach them.

    The guide is more geared towards decent quality components and upgradeability and is not necessarily the cheapest. Beware of the suggestions which place short term performance over long term reliability.

    Component suggestions and price ranges are taken from Scan.com,Ebuyer.com,Dabs.com and Aria.com only.

    Postage and special offers

    Ebuyer offers free slow postage on orders over £49.99 and Dabs do the same for orders over £99. However,Scan offers free next day postage on orders over £20 excluding VAT for forum members with 20 constructive posts:

    http://forums.hexus.net/scan-care-he...-delivery.html

    Scan also has daily and weekly offers too:

    Scan Today Only

    Scan Shop Offers

    As usual do shop around and check for the best prices.


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    Last edited by CAT-THE-FIFTH; 16-10-2011 at 11:22 PM.


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    Re: Hexus Monthly Build Guide October 2011

    Bigger Budget Gamer Build

    The Bigger Budget Gamer as the name implies is for the user who has a decent budget and wants high performance gaming at a reasonable price. It should run most games at 1920X1200 or 1920X1080 and even BF3(gasp,horror!) at reasonable settings if the Alpha results are any indication.



    The CPU choice this month is the Core i5 2500K offering blistering performance at stock speeds and decent overclocking headroom. However,remember overclocking is variable between different batches of CPUs so don't get worried if you don't hit the magical speeds seen on xtremesystems.com! OTH,they probably do push a gazillion volts through them(not good).

    If you are worried about overclocking or simply CBA, remember a Core i5 2500K is as fast in games as the previous generation uber expensive Core i7 975 Extreme Edition(it's true). It means you still have a CPU faster than most of the gaming PCs in the world.

    The P67 based MSI P67A-GD53 is my recommendation for this month. Its combination of price,overclocking ability and support for PCI-E 2.0 8X/8X Crossfire and SLI is hard to beat.
    The alternative motherboards this month are based on the Z68 chipset which offers SSD caching and Quick Sync support. They both offer USB3.0 and SATA3.0 support.

    The GPU choice this month is split between the GTX560TI and HD6950 1GB. Both offer comparable performance in many games;the HD6950 1GB supports multi-monitor gaming using one card and the GTX560TI fights back with better 3D support.

    The case of choice this month is the ThermalTake Dokker(link). It has support for graphics cards upto 12.5" in length and has the advantage of an integral HDD dock. It even supports a 200mm top fan for those who like their cases windy! The alternate case this month is the Coolermaster CM690 II Lite(also known as the Basic) which can support graphics cards upto 11.9" in length(link).

    The Antec TruePower New is a semi-modular Bronze rated PSU based on a reliable Seasonic design. With 4 PCI-E power connectors it is ready for SLI and Crossfire setups. The cheaper Bronze rated XFX PRO 650W is not modular but has cabling for two cards too and is also based on a Seasonic platform. For those of you wondering why I keep mentioning "bronze" rated it means the PSU is between 81% to 85% at most common loads. A new entry this month is the OCZ ZS 650W which is built by Sirfa;however it only has a single set of PCI-E power connectors but is a cheaper alternative to the other PSUs.

    The Samsung F3 range is based on 500GB platters and offers an ideal mix of performance,noise and price compared to many competing models.

    Both the Corsair A50 and Gelid Tranquillo air coolers are the coolers recommended this month. If you intend not to overclock my advice would be to get a Core i5 2500 and use the stock cooler. The A70 is a new entry this month due to a price cut and is considered a better if not harder cooler to find.

    Optional Components




    If you want to take advantage of the current low RAM prices, as little as £38 will get you 8GB of branded 1600MHZ DDR3.

    SSDs improve general responsive and loading time of the OS and applications. With the latest 0009 firmware,the Crucial M4 is my recommendation this month and offers a mix of decent read speeds and reliability. The SandForce SF2200 series SSDs have not been recommended this month due to firmware issues which have affected many implementations. However,these hopefully will be fully solved in the next few months meaning they will probably appear in the guide.

    A sound card might be of use of those looking to improve the quality sound output from their PC and reduce the load on their CPU.




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    Last edited by CAT-THE-FIFTH; 16-10-2011 at 10:46 PM.


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    Re: Hexus Monthly Build Guide October 2011


    Gamer Orientated Build


    Gaming orientated builds need to consider a pair of upgrade cycles,namely the CPU and the GPU and hence a balance needs to be found between each other. An essential part of this mantra is having a decent motherboard.

    Common components



    Both the HD6870 1GB and GTX560 1GB have very similar performance in games although the HD6870 has lower power consumption. I would be careful about confusing the slower GTX560 with the faster GTX560TI.

    The choice of cases this month has changed with two new entries. The first is the new BitFenix Merc Alpha, a new budget case which can even take an HD6990! It also has support for 120MM fans too. The alternative this month is the Silverstone PS04B,which can accept graphics cards upto 32.8CM in length and supports 120MM fans too. The alternative alternate case this month is the Casecom K5-9388(link) which is an Ebuyer exclusive.

    The lower wattage versions of the XFX PRO are currently hard to come by as XFX are introducing a modified version. So this month the new OCZ ZS 550W gets my recommendation. Another great PSU which has dropped in price is the semi-modular Antec TruePower New 550W which can for as little as £53 and is based on a tried and tested Seasonic platform.

    The Samsung F3 range is based on 500GB platters and offers an ideal mix of performance,noise and price compared to many competing models.


    Core Components



    This month we have split the core components list between an AMD based one and an Intel based one. The Phenom II X4 955BE quad core offers decent performance in multi-threaded games and has an unlocked multiplier for easy overclocking although an aftermarket heatsink will be required. The 970 motherboards are also compatible with the new AMD FX CPUs.

    The Core i3 2100 has very strong single threaded performance meaning it will be excellent choice especially for lightly threaded games like StarCraft II. However,it cannot be overclocked but the MSI motherboards offer an upgrade path to the Core i5 2500k and possibly Ivy Bridge. Both the AMD and Intel motherboards offer USB3.0 and SATA3.0 ports.

    Optional components




    With the lower price of RAM,8GB is a worthwhile upgrade if you multi-task extensively. However,it is not necessary for games ATM.

    An SSD improves general responsive and loading time of applications. With latest firmware,the Crucial M4 is my recommendation this month and offers a mix of decent read speeds and reliability. The Kingston V+100 trades speed for capacity. However,even a relatively slow SSD will be a big improvement over a fast hard drive such as the Samsung F3.

    The cooler choices this month are the same as for the Bigger Budget Build. The Hyper 212 has now risen in price to around £20 which is too close to better coolers.
    Last edited by CAT-THE-FIFTH; 16-10-2011 at 11:37 PM.


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    Re: Hexus Monthly Build Guide October 2011

    General Purpose Build

    The general purpose build is a budget build which is capable of light gaming as well as decent performance in a range of applications.

    Common components




    The HD5670 GDDR5 is the graphics card choice for this month. The similarly priced GT440 GDDR5 is around 10% to 15% slower on average and consumes more power. If you are running Linux I would get a Nvidia card as 3D support is better.

    The case of choice this month is the Casecom 7288 which is an Ebuyer exclusive. For the price it offers features seen in much more expensive cases such as a top mounted PSU,120MM fan attachments and tool-less drive bays.

    The Antec EA380W is the PSU choice this month and is based on a Seasonic platform. The XFX PRO 450W is being replaced by a second version meaning it is hard to find ATM. If you do intend to a card like an HD6870 1GB in the future it might advisable to go for one of the PSUs mentioned in the Gamer Orientated Build. There are other slightly more powerful PSUs in the £40 price range but these trade power for build quality.

    The F3 500GB uses a single platter meaning lower noise and higher performance. The alternative is the tried and tested Western Digital Caviar Blue which is a slower design.


    Core components




    This month's recommendation is for the Athlon II X3 450 or 455. It combines reasonable single threaded performance with decent performance in multi-threaded applications such as video encoding and many modern games. The Pentium G840 is the Intel alternative which has strong performance in image editing applications and lightly threaded games such as StarCraft II.

    The AMD motherboards mentioned this month are based on the older 760G chipset;the 800 and 900 series motherboards have not reached this price level yet. They are both AM3+ which means Bulldozer is supported. Both motherboards work with 125W TDP CPUs. The Intel alternative motherboards are based on the H61 chipset meaning they are limited to only two RAM slots. Both Asus motherboards support USB3.0 though. None of these motherboards are really orientated for overclocking.
    Last edited by CAT-THE-FIFTH; 17-10-2011 at 10:41 AM.


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    Re: Hexus Monthly Build Guide October 2011

    HTPC Build

    This build is primarily for media playback and recording purposes.

    Common Components



    The case chosen this month is the Silverstone Milo ML03B which offers an excellent blend of size,cost and looks for a lower end case. The alternative is the slightly bigger Silverstone GD05 which has three 120MM fans included as well(how nice of them).

    The Antec EA380 has 80+ Bronze which means excellent efficiency. The Samsung F4 is well regarded for its low noise and low power consumption. The Western Digital Caviar Green is a similarly priced if not slower and hotter running alternative. The Hauppauge WinTV Nova-TD 500 has dual tuners and is a popular choice among HTPC enthusiasts. The Enermax T.B.Silence VR have twister bearings(a ball bearing variant) for a longer lifespan than cheaper sleeve bearing fans and have an integral fan controller.

    Of course another important component in an HTPC is a proper keyboard. The recommendation this month is the Xenta PKB-1720 for around £20 delivered(link).
    The previously recommended Rii mini wireless keyboard is now not available from LinITX.com but can had from Play but is now £10 more expensive(link).


    Core components



    This month we see a change in the recommended parts for the HTPC. The Llano A4 CPUs have now launched meaning the previous Pentium G620T and HD6450 combination has now been superceded.

    Howeever,the recommedation this months is for the A6-3500 which has a powerful 320 shader IGP,UVD3 block and a triple core CPU all wrapped up in a 65W TDP. However,if you do need that level of processing power,the 65W A4-3400 is a cheaper alternative with an HD6450 level IGP,UVD3 decode block and slightly higher singled threaded performance.

    The stock cooler is 4CM high so should be fine for the cases listed however if proves to noisy, the Scythe Shuriken has a quieter fan.

    Optional components



    For the more discerning HTPC enthusiast a more powerful decode card might be of use. The GT440 DDR3 and HD6570 DDR3 will be ideal for such usage due to their increased shader power and memory bandwidth.

    Note

    There has been noise about the Hi10 encoded anime needing a very fast CPU. ATM,until I have done more research on this I cannot verify this claim. OTH,it could have been some people trying to win the contest of the worlds most overpowered HTPC??

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    Last edited by CAT-THE-FIFTH; 16-10-2011 at 10:44 PM.


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    Re: Hexus Monthly Build Guide October 2011

    SFF LAN Build

    An important aspect of an SFF build is to choose components with lower power consumption and heat production. The SFFLAN Build this month has not changed although some of the parts have risen in price.



    The case chosen this month is the relatively svelte Silverstone SG05. However,despite its small dimensions it packs a 450W PSU and can accept a reasonably long graphics card. The CPU choice for this month is the Core i3 2100 which has decent performance in games despite its 65W TDP and comes complete with a low profile cooler. The CPU is coupled with the latest H67 mini-ITX motherboards from both Asus and Gigabyte which offer USB3.0 and SATA3.0 ports. The Sapphire HD6870 1GB gets another nod this month down to its lower cost and lower power consumption when compared to the GTX560. It also a dual slot cooler with no heatpipe extensions out of the top of the shroud meaning it should fit the SG05 relatively easily. It is also important that RAM with shorter heatsinks is chosen.

    However,quietness and performance components in an SFF system are not an ideal long term partnership,so make sure you keep the system cool by ramping up the fans when it is under load.


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    Last edited by CAT-THE-FIFTH; 16-10-2011 at 10:55 PM.


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    Re: Hexus Monthly Build Guide October 2011

    Peripherals

    To go in hand with the PC builds suggested previously, this section deals with peripherals for the systems. This section is not an all out guide for every single peripheral in every class. It serves as more of a "helpful" start(hopefully) for getting your PC into a working state.

    Note

    Apart from the four retailers mentioned before I would definitely check pcbuyit as they are one of the cheapest places for monitors(link).


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    Monitors


    A decent monitor is essential for a gaming or media system. It is also often one of the longest serving components of any desktop PC.

    Now for the techno-BLURB!

    The monitors listed have panels of two types namely IPS and TN type. IPS panels have the advantage of darker blacks,more vibrant colours and much greater viewing angles than their TN counterparts. This means for image editing IPS panels tend to be better when calibrated.

    OTH,TN panels tend to be better for fast moving action and usually show less motion blur. However,more IPS expensive screens have RTC technology which helps boost responsiveness. Does this mean that monitors with non-RTC IPS panels are terrible for gaming - NO! It only means the RTC enabled IPS panels and TN panels are better for gaming!

    Now,lets look at some monitors(groan)!

    Bigger Budget monitors - £200 to £300



    *These lack RTC AFAIK,so might not be as good as more expensive monitors for gaming.
    (1)Check manufacturer's website for confirmation.



    In our bigger budget monitor range the recommendations this month go for the Dell U2412M and the BenQ XL2410T. For gaming the BenQ just edges the Dell due to its 120HZ refresh rate and support for 3D games.

    If you want monitors which perform well in games and are decent for image editing the Dell U2412M and Asus PA238Q seem the best bet. However,all of the listed monitors will perform well in a range of tasks. None of them are bad,so to say.


    Budget monitors - £100 to £200



    *These lack RTC AFAIK,so might not be as good as more expensive monitors for gaming.
    (1)Check manufacturer's website for confirmation.


    One of last months recommendations the Samsung SM2233RZ is EOL. The LG W2363D-PF IS my recommendations for gaming use due to its 120HZ refresh rate and 3D gaming support. For monitors more comfortable with image editing and gaming,the Dell U2212HM and Asus ML239H are better compromises. The LG monitors listed lacked RTC so are not the best for gaming but have good image quality for image editing and general usage. The BenQ G2222HDL despite being the cheapest monitor is a good compromise between gaming and general usage if image editing is not a concern.


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    Gaming Mice


    An accurate mouse is important for playing FPS games. An important factor is comfort so there are no recommendations for which one is the "best" of all. Technically they all are great mice but I would look at the shape carefully before committing to one.




    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Gaming Keyboards


    Gaming keyboards are useful for the extra functionality that they can give hardcore gamers. The keyboards listed differ from normal keyboards in the amount of gamer specific optimisation they offer. Mechnical keyboards offer better key response and longevity over normal keyboards but at the expense of noise and higher initial purchase price. All the keyboards listed here are technically meant to be great.

    However,in most cases a standard keyboard will suffice and typing comfort is the most important factor to consider. So again like with the mice,you should see which one suits you the best.




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    Speakers


    A decent set of speakers for your gaming setup will help bring your games alive. The models listed here are not the cheapest but are among the best in their respective classes. Another alternative is to connect your computer to your existing hifi setup.



    The 5 channel systems will be great for reproducing the surround sound effects in many modern games. The two channel systems OTH will be easier to accommodate.
    Last edited by CAT-THE-FIFTH; 16-10-2011 at 11:05 PM.


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    Re: Hexus Monthly Build Guide October 2011

    Other Bits!

    Fans? What Fans??

    As you have noticed I have not talked about what fans to use in many of the builds. Many of the cases do come with pre-installed fans already but there might be cases(groan) where you just need more cooling! The main issue is there is a lack of standardised testing for fans so it is really hard to recommend decent ones.

    Here is an informative post on fans and fan contollers by Pob255:

    http://forums.hexus.net/2121100-post47.html

    This mini-review of the NZXT Sentry 2(one of the cheapest touchscreen fan controllers) by ExHail is worth a read:

    http://forums.hexus.net/2121139-post67.html

    Thermal gunge?? Surely you need to buy some??

    Coolers usually come with decent thermal compound pre-applied. However,there might be times where you might need to re-seat the cooler. Any standard TIM cleaner should do the job or 100% alcohol wipes;ones which have water in the them are not a great idea!!

    If you want an up to date look at some modern thermal compounds this extensive review is worth reading:

    2011 Thermal Compound Roundup


    Finally.....!

    Remember, when you are assembling your new bundle of joy - don't panic!!

    More importantly keep the Cat away and any random Moose who may wander into the room.



    If you are not sure about something,it is always worth asking on the forum;don't feel like a right booby afterwards!!



    See you next month in November's guide!!
    Last edited by CAT-THE-FIFTH; 16-10-2011 at 11:18 PM.


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    Re: Hexus Monthly Build Guide October 2011

    Another excellent thread Cat, thank you. Stickified.
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    Re: Hexus Monthly Build Guide October 2011

    Great stuff, be interesting to see what gets added for your other posts

  13. #11
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    Re: Hexus Monthly Build Guide October 2011

    That took a bit longer than expected!!

    The links in the first post are clickable and I have added a small section about thermal compounds.


    Those despicable Elk,stealing the pond weed!

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    Re: Hexus Monthly Build Guide October 2011

    Ah I see, I was early. Excellent guide as usual

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    Re: Hexus Monthly Build Guide October 2011

    Thanks for the guide. Very helpful for first time builder.

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    Re: Hexus Monthly Build Guide October 2011

    Thanks, was just trying to decide what psu to go with out of the Silverstone Tech. Strider SST-ST40F-ES and the Antec EarthWatts Green for my cheap llano A4 build HTPC.

    Great guide.

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    Re: Hexus Monthly Build Guide October 2011

    Quote Originally Posted by spiral out View Post
    Thanks, was just trying to decide what psu to go with out of the Silverstone Tech. Strider SST-ST40F-ES and the Antec EarthWatts Green for my cheap llano A4 build HTPC.

    Great guide.
    The Antec IMHO.


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    Re: Hexus Monthly Build Guide October 2011

    Do those sound cards reduce load on CPU compared to motherboard sound chips?

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