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Thread: What I learned when making my E6400 PC. Long!

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    What I learned when making my E6400 PC. Long!

    Finally I've finished putting together my new PC. In case anyone's interested, here's what I bought and here's what I learned. Hope it's useful to someone. Most of what I learned came from hexus.net and silentpcreview.com.

    I had decided that I wanted a 30 inch Dell monitor which had recently come down to £900. Such a large monitor requires a good graphics card and my old AGP card wasn't up to it. When I looked further I found that I needed a PCI-Express card, which needed a new motherboard, which needed a new RAM... and it was then that I decided to buy a new PC.

    I mostly use the PC for websurfing, with some programming, Photoshop, Word, Excel, games. It needed to be quiet. I had no plans to overclock.

    Here's what I bought.


    Case - Antec P180 Silver - £95 from Scan.
    Last time I built a PC I didn't worry too much about the case, but after a while I got sick of the ugly thing which I should've spent another £30 on. As quiet cases went, the P180 was getting nice reviews and I liked the fact I could lock the front away so that my son couldn't press the off switch. The other popular cases seemed a bit too 'boy racer' for my tastes.
    The case actually turned out way better than I expected. It is solidly and thoughtfully put together and had all sorts of things designed to make it quieter. I also loved the way that different parts popped out to make installation easier. If you think that a case is a case (pretty much) then think again. I was amazed at how favourably it compared to other cases I've had. The only slight negative is that the Hard Disc LED flashes brightly at eye level when it's on a desk.

    Motherboard - ASUS P5B Deluxe/WiFi-AP - £128 from Scan.
    I chose this motherboard because I kept reading positive reviews particularly when using a Core 2 Duo E6400. I'd also been happy with Asus motherboards in the past.
    The motherboard is indeed nice, but turned out to be a little overspecced for what I need, although I suppose I'm futureproofed. I actually ended up disabling the WiFi, 2nd Network Adaptor and 2nd RAID Adaptor. If I was looking to save some money then I'd probably get a less fancy P5B motherboard. It's also worth mentioning that the Asus utilities graphically look like they were designed by a teenage boy with a SciFi fixation - ewww.

    Processor - Core 2 Duo E6400 - £150 from Dabs.
    It seems there's no doubt that Intel gives better bang for buck than AMD does at the moment and I'd also heard that they run a little cooler than AMD, which is good since I was trying to avoid using a fan on the heatsink. If I'm honest, I never quite worked out the difference between the E6300 and E6400 but since there was only £25 between them I decided to go for the one that <ahem> sounded faster. Of course, the main benefit of this CPU is the fact that it's actually two processors in one which means that when I'm unzipping in Windows I can do another task without experiencing slowdown.
    The heatsink came with an Intel heatsink which I didn't plan to use. With that in mind perhaps I should have got an OEM one and saved some money on the fan. The other cool thing about these processors is the ease in which they fit in the motherboard: they have no pins and the motheboard has a frame which eases over it. Much easier to install.

    RAM - 2Gb (2X1Gb) CorsairTwinX XMS2, DDR2 - £180 from Scan.
    I was going to go for 1GB, but people kept telling me that another gig would future-proof me, especially with Vista approaching. I went for the fastest that suited my motherboard, but to be honest the RAM thing confused the hell out of me. I ended up going with what people seemed to be getting excited about.
    RAM works fine. Was it worth getting posh RAM? I dunno. Maybe it will become more apparent when I run Vista. Probably could have saved some money here though.

    Heatsink - Scythe Ninja PLUS - £33 from Ebay.
    Like a lot of items for my PC, I looked at what QuietPC were selling. They weren't usually the cheapest, but they only sell good quality items and this heatsink seemed a good bet. I bought off eBay because everyone was out of stock. It was only when I hit Buy It Now that I realised he only took cheque or bank transfer. D'oh! As a result the heatsink was the last item to arrive.
    The heatsink was enormous and pretty ugly, but it's well made so that actually I don't need a fan on the heatsink and can just rely on passive cooling.

    Graphics Card - MSI GeForce 7900GS 256MB PCIE DVI - £147 from Dabs.
    This was another pick from QuietPC. It was about the fastest passive graphics card that supported Dual Link DVI. Some people warned me that I might want to wait for a DirectX10 card, but I was happy to be a bit behind the curve. People also warned me against running two SLI cards because although on paper they look good, many Windows programs don't support it.
    The card worked out very nicely. It runs Half Life 2 with full detail at 1600 x 1200 which is more than enough for me. Perhaps the very latest games won't run at full speed in high res, but I'm happy to drop down to a lower resolution if need be. As a passive card driving a big monitor I was worried it would run hot, but it never goes above 60 degrees.

    Hard Drives - 2 x Samsung 400Gb HD400LJ Spinpoint - £164 from Scan.
    Another QuietPC recommendation. I didn't quite know whether to go for 2 x 300GB or 2 x 400GB, but went for the larger ones in the end.
    I thought my previous drives (Western Digital WD2000JD) were quiet but these are *really* quiet. I don't actually hear them. Nice and quick too.

    PSU - Akasa PaxPower Ultra Quiet 80+ 400W - £52
    I didn't really plan to upgrade my Zalman PSU, but someone offered me this one cheaply. I like the fact that the cables are sleeved, and apparently modern PSUs are quieter and more efficient.
    The PSU is quiet and seems about the right power for my PC. If I'd known about it beforehand I'd have used the eXtrene PSU calculator. It's been suggested that I can improve the airflow with some duct taping, which I'll do some time later.

    DVD Writer - Samsung SH-S183A - £22 from Scan.
    Wanted a black DVD-R. People said this was relatively quiet, although there's no such thing as a quiet optical drive.
    This was another item that surprised me: SATA! It turned out that I didn't need a single IDE cable in my PC. SATA is far neater than IDE and better for airflow. Result.

    Keyboard and Mouse - MS Wireless Laser Desktop 6000v2 - £52 from Dabs.
    It was time to replace my worn mouse and keyboard that was full of crumbs, especially since I use it a lot and it doesn't cost much to replace. This was wireless and seemed high quality.
    Been using the keyboard/mouse for a couple of hours. The keyboard takes a little getting used to, but I think it'll be better when I've used it a while. Build quality seems good.

    Monitor - Dell 3007WFP - £900 from eBay.
    This is the monitor that got me upgrading in the first place. It felt like a huge risk going to eBay to buy it, but many people recommended EricBunny and there was a £500 difference between him and Dell.
    As it turns out, it got sent direct from Dell and comes with full warranty, so there was no cause for concern. The monitor is enormous. Everything I hoped it would be. Dell have since reduced their price to £1,000.

    OS - Windows XP Home - £59 from eBay.
    I figured it was about time I paid for an operating system. Although many people hate it, WGA really makes you want to avoid the hassle of a dubious version.
    Buying software from eBay is always risky, but this turned out fine. Sealed copy. Unused registration key. No problem.


    TOTAL PRICE WITHOUT MONITOR AND WINDOWS- £1,023





    Building the PC
    I was actually going to buy a pre-built machine because I've struggled to make them in the past, but things have actually got a lot easier especially with a good case.
    The only thing I'd do differently would be to put the CPU and heatsink on the motherboard before installing it in the case. It was quite difficult to clip in the heatsink.
    The case comes with two exhaust fans which I set on their lowest setting. With those two going I found I didn't need a fan on the heatsink. The motherboard actually has a feature that speeds up the fan when things get too hot, but the fans didn't have the right power connector for that feature.
    I guess one other thing I'd do would be to install a floppy. I always tell myself I don't need one, but very occasionally I do need one and for the sake of £10 I wished I'd fitted one. In this case I needed a floppy drive to install RAID drivers during XP install. Perhaps Vista negates the need for RAID drivers to be on a floppy.
    Oh, and a small point: cable ties really helped me keep things tidy.





    PC Performance
    The first thing to say is that the PC is solid and super quiet. I sometimes think that self-builds look rough and ready, but this is better than I've seen in most PC retailers.
    CPU runs at 45 degrees. Memory at 36 degrees. Graphics card at 58 degrees.
    Actual performance seems good. I get about 7500 in 3DMark05. I've seen people with similar cards at over 10,000 but I have the feeling that they're significantly overclocked. As I said above, Half Life 2 runs great, which is enough for me. My PCMark05 score is 6247.
    The only slight disappointment is that I still get programs that seem to hog resources and make others less responsive. Just a second ago, I had a bunch of tabs loaded in Firefox and it brought my machine to a temporary halt. I thought that Dual Core would avoid that.





    Future Upgrades
    I think I should be set up for a while now, but I might put my two old 200GB WD hard drives in to give myself some more storage. Better than sitting in a cupboard, but will they make noise even if I don't use them much? I dunno.


    So all in all, I'm pretty happy with the new PC. Spending this much money on anything always makes me wince, but I figure my PC is something that I use a lot and is worth spending the money on. The monitor too seemed expensive, but I felt the same way when I spent the same amount of money on a 20" flat screen five years ago and I don't regret that purchase for a second.

    Here's hoping I don't have to open the case for five years.


    Hope that's useful to someone.

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    Senior Member pr0p4g4nd4's Avatar
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    Thanks for posting the info. That's one very nice setup you have there I'm hoping to get a Dell 30" and build a new primary rig next year. Gonna drop about &#163;2.2k on a PC :-S should be fun saving up

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    HEXUS.social member Agent's Avatar
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    Great post mate
    Quote Originally Posted by Saracen View Post
    And by trying to force me to like small pants, they've alienated me.

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    Nice post.

    System looks good, wish mine could run passive, but I'm just too obsessed with performance

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    radix lecti dave87's Avatar
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    Going with the general theme of things, good post

    I'm guessing from the tone of your post, that whilst it took a lot of effort to find the right components and put it together, you're glad you did? The risk is you get bitten by the upgrade bug

    I'm seriously tempted to get a 20" Screen to go with the 1680x1050 Screen in my laptop - and to play a xbox 360 on (when I eventually get one) - and seeing that 30" Dell has made me want one even more

    Anyway, hope you enjoy your new setup, you've done yourself proud

    Dave

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    Quote Originally Posted by dave87 View Post
    I'm guessing from the tone of your post, that whilst it took a lot of effort to find the right components and put it together, you're glad you did?
    Yes. I'm pleased with the way it turned out. I tend to think of self-builds as a bit flaky, but this one seems solid. The case added a lot to the build quality. The only real negative is that I was expecting a bit better performance in Windows from the Dual Core.

    Quote Originally Posted by dave87 View Post
    The risk is you get bitten by the upgrade bug
    Heh. I don't think so. The last PC I built was about three years ago and didn't really feel the need to upgrade until I decided on the big screen.

    Quote Originally Posted by dave87 View Post
    I'm seriously tempted to get a 20" Screen to go with the 1680x1050 Screen in my laptop - and to play a xbox 360 on (when I eventually get one) - and seeing that 30" Dell has made me want one even more
    I think monitors, like beds, are something that are worth spending money on. I just use it so much. Pence per minute? More than most things I do... £285 for the 20" widescreen.

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    radix lecti dave87's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    Yes. I'm pleased with the way it turned out. I tend to think of self-builds as a bit flaky, but this one seems solid. The case added a lot to the build quality. The only real negative is that I was expecting a bit better performance in Windows from the Dual Core.
    Thats where overclocking comes in

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    Heh. I don't think so. The last PC I built was about three years ago and didn't really feel the need to upgrade until I decided on the big screen.
    I'm sure it wont be long

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    I think monitors, like beds, are something that are worth spending money on. I just use it so much. Pence per minute? More than most things I do... &#163;285 for the 20" widescreen.
    Oh most definitely, jus gotta find the money first - being a student doesn't really help matters sadly.

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    Very nice.

    Im looking to build something similar when I return to the UK, I have been away for three years and the laptop I bought back then crawls along now.

    Looking, reading and learning online I also have the build/buy dilemma. I have built in the past but the most recent was 4+ years ago.

    It looks like its got easier, not harder to build yourself though and I'm pretty sure ill be taking the plunge and getting my hands dirty with a self build.

    Thanks for the info.

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    Beautiful screen - seems a shame to have a non-highend video card though with a monitor that size imo.

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    This isn't a post - it is a full blown artical, excellent!

    Thank you DavidA - I really enjoyed it and found your experiences, and some responses above very useful.

    You might find you should open the case at least once a year to check for dust and fluff - I don't know where it all comes from (ok carpets, people, pets, the outside world...) but I open my PCs at least once a year - often twice, take the PC into my garage/workshop, fire up the compressor and blow out huge ammounts of dust from inside - especially fans, nooks & crannies and inside the PSU, and the motherboard. It only takes a few minutes, the airflow can do no harm, and your PC will run cooler for it.
    Try to make each and every day the best it can be.

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    good stuff

    monitor is beautiful, makes my 20" monitor look small!

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    Good spec, you've done well there!

    Maybe it's just my 'PSU paranoia' kicking in again, but personally I'd worry about a 400W PSU and all those drives. It'll probably be fine for now, but I reckon you'll need a few more watts if you plan to upgrade to a DX10 card, for example.

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    Formerly known as Viet Cong Zombi and tuone
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    sheeskebab! n1

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    SiM
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    Brilliant post mate... Looks like you perfected the art of PC making

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    The only thing I'd do differently would be to put the CPU and heatsink on the motherboard before installing it in the case.
    I wouldn't do this as it could bend your motherboard causing it to stop working...

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    HEXUS.social member Agent's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SiM View Post
    I wouldn't do this as it could bend your motherboard causing it to stop working...
    I couldnt see that happening unless somone went in heavy handed.
    The boards are designed to bend a small amount due to the HSF.
    Quote Originally Posted by Saracen View Post
    And by trying to force me to like small pants, they've alienated me.

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    The heatsink would pop into the motherboard with hardly any pressure at all. The problem I found was that with the motherboard already in the case, my thumbs could hardly reach the clips.

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