Computer Hardware and CONFUSION!

I’ve never had to worry too much about what was in the computer I was using. The few I’ve used extensively were pre-built commercial boxes. I’m soon to build my own, though, and I need info! I’m not entirely clueless. I know what all goes into a computer, what things I need, what things I want, and what I don’t need to worry about. My issue is keeping up with all the new standards, such as hard drive types, ram types, what’s fastest, what’s fast enough, and what’s so slow it will make you cry. I don’t know what kind of bus speeds I should be looking for. I’m fairly clear about processors, but advice would be good. What brands are good, and what are not? I don’t know where to go to find this kind of stuff out! I’ve tooled around www.tomshardware.com a bit, but it’s such a difficult site to navigate. I know where to go for all of my advertisement needs, though! I’m not a noob, but I don’t know where to go to catch up on the current technology. I’d rather know where to go to find out, instead of just being told this stuff. That way, I can take care of myself in the future, too. Any help?

do you use blender alot, or are you just asking about a good computer in general?

Hey, good question! While I do mean good computer in general, I am looking for something that will be able to handle Blender. Because of that, and because of all around good things I have heard, it seems I will be shopping for an nVida card. Beyond Blender, though, I’m needing a computer for school. I am going for New Media. A better description is here: http://newmedia.iupui.edu/j/69 . I’m also planning on minoring in music, specializing in composition. I need to talk to and advisor first to get more details, but it seems I can possibly expect to be dealing with the following, maybe more, maybe less:

-Photoshop, Illustrator and the whole CS2 Suite
-Corel Painter
-Maya
-3dS Max
-Flash
-Acid, Cakewalk and Sound Forge
-Possible light programming

While I’m not totally adverse to spending some time blowing things up, I don’t plan to do very much gaming. It will probably be limited to the freeware/open source stuff I find laying around the web, and a $3 copy of Armed and Dangerous I picked up today.

Other than that, I need good all-around parts. Mostly, advice on the CPU, hard drive, and ram. I’m looking at AMD, and dual-core is looking awfully nice. I’d like at least 1 GB of ram. I’d like 2 hard drives, because I’d like to give Linux a try. So, Linux support is ideal, but not strictly necessary if it comes down to it. I’ll also need an Ethernet card. And please, help poor ol’ me with the graphics card. I’m just not that smart.

I’m not looking for the super-powered almighty so-hot-I-pack-her-in-ice rig, but I would like something with some mucsle to it. I’m trying to figure out what to look for now, so that when the time comes I know what to get. I suppose I should let everyone know that there is a chance, however slight, that I might be getting a mac, depending on what they announce at Mac World next week. Aah! So many choices!

If you really don’t know anything about building a computer, I strongly recommend something from the “For Dummies” series. Don’t be fooled by its name; I’ve learned a lot from those books even though I was already a computer junkie before I read them.

For a more powerful computer, take a look at “PC Modding for Dummies”. You may not be into cutting your PC casing, but the book demonstrates building a gaming PC. Maybe you’re not that into gaming either, but Blender could be just as demanding.

BTW I’m not advertising. :stuck_out_tongue:

Check out http://www.anandtech.com for a ton of hardware reviews. http://www.gamersdepot.com is also good. http://www.newegg.com has lots of valuable user-reviews (although they only ship within the US).

I haven’t really kept up with the latest since I built my computer last August, but I don’t think a whole lot has changed since then in terms of new components. If you’re going for a PC, definitely get a PCI-Express socket 939 motherboard (for AMD processors); AGP is pretty much obsolete. The motherboard you get should also come with built in ethernet so you don’t need an extra card.

As for graphics, I would go for a Geforce 6600 or above, PCI-E of course, depending on your budget. The 6800GT would be a good choice if you can afford it, and 256 MB of RAM is also nice. The Geforce 7800 is way too overpriced at the moment, imo.

Do some research on anandtech for your other components, mainly cases, hard drives, and RAM. I had a lot of trouble finding a good, cheap case, but I’m also very picky. I’d recommend the Cooler Master Centurion 5. It has some minor issues, but it’s relatively cheap without the power supply and has 3 built-in fans plus a front dust filter, which is quite nice.

If you’re going to do lots of graphics design stuff, get 2 GB if you can afford it, but 1 GB should be alright too.

Finally, the all important power supply (PSU). It’s best not to buy one that already comes with the case. Read lots of reviews, especially by other users on newegg.com, for instance. Definitely get one that’s 400W or higher.

I can’t think of much else without going overboard on details atm. Oh yeah, and don’t bother with a floppy drive unless you really need it.

Thank you, more good advice! I was looking at the AMD Opterons becuase they seemed like they might work just as well as the regular Athlons… until I noticed they only had half the level 1 ram! The cheapest dual core Athlon with 1mb level 2 ram per core was the 4400+ running at $500 on newegg! I’d ask if dual cores were really that important, but a single core seems like I’d just be buying obselesence even more than usual… I thought the prices on the GeForce 7800s were great! They were the funniest things I saw all night! I think I’ll stick with a 6800 GS! How do I decide on a board maker, though? I think I’d like to aim for 2GB of ram, but can anyone give me info on 512mbx4 vs 1gbx2? There seem to be some speed issues, but what I’ve read has been kind of wishy-washy on which is better. I’ll probably just get a regular old SATA 7800rpm hard drive (or two). Case will be functional and sturdy, but not flashy. I will look into the Centurion. The power supply will probably be at least 500 watts to be safe, and a reliable one at that.

I keep looking. Thanks for the help so far!

i just bought the asus a8n sli. it looks good so far. you may want to go with the deluxe because it has dual gigabit lan and 8 raid ports.

the 6800gs is a good card, it will do you good for what your doing with it. right now i am stuck between a 6800gs and a 7800gt because the 7800gt will do next gen games better…

I was looking at the AMD Opterons becuase they seemed like they might work just as well as the regular Athlons… until I noticed they only had half the level 1 ram! The cheapest dual core Athlon with 1mb level 2 ram per core was the 4400+ running at $500 on newegg! I’d ask if dual cores were really that important, but a single core seems like I’d just be buying obselesence even more than usual…

its l2 cache not ram…
i personally would buy a 3800+ and overclock it if i had the money. but i dont, so i have a venice that i will be overclocking. the 3800+ is known tgo get oc’s around 2.5ghz if your willing to venture into that. cache will make a difference but how much im not sure. try googling a 3200+ venice vs a 3500+ san diego to see the preformance differences. venice has 512k sandy has 1024k.
dual cores will make a big difference in preformance if you use lightwave and maya and blender and well, soon to be most anything. quake 4 is coming out with a multi cppu patch soon.

i would go with a gbx2 if i had the money. it leaves 2 slots open so you can go up to 4gb later. you can use high end ram for an overclock, or not overclock and have fast timings (2-2-2-5) or use valu-ram and not overclock and have slow timings (3-4-4-7) they will make a difference in speed, and again, look on google for comparisons.
i have ocz ram in my computer because i am going to overlock it, and i wanted ram that will run at 270+mhz without a divider. however, you wont need ram that fast for a 3800+ or 4400+ so you would be better off getting a pc 4000 for suitable oc or higher for a better oc.
here is some pc 4000 ram.
go with 2x1gb over 4x512mb

Well, to my credit, the cache is a special type of ram…

Anyone know if, ramwise, 512mb x 4 or 1Gb x 2 would be better? It seems to be one of the last things that need figuring out. Thanks for all the help, everyone!

yes i guess cache could be considered ram

go with 2x1gb. you will be able to upgrade later and you wont have to worry if your mobo doesnt support 4 sticks/configuration issues