New hardware - planning


My primary workstation is a 3 and a half year old Dell XPS M1710 laptop and it is getting old - the 320 Gb hard drive is getting small and slow, the 3 Gb or RAM (expanded from 2 Gb) look too small and screen is turning brown in one corner. Also dead or dying: keyboard (after cat+coffee incident), built-in speakers, battery, power adapter (twice replaced), DVD writer (rads but does not write any more) and fans (one replaced, one getting louder by the week). Also the video card is a bit slow for nowadays needs.

So I set aside some money and started considering the options. In short, I could get another laptop OR get a regular computer for the same price but with twice the power. After considering all the laptop options up to 1000LVL, I decided to get a regular computer and if/when I'll need to travel I'll either take one of the old laptops with me or get a new netbook.

Now comes the fun part - choosing the components!

So far my choices are as follows:

  • 1080p LCD/TN monitor with a built-in DVB-T TV receiver, around 23" - around 180 LVL (comparable options without the TV receiver are around 50 LVL cheaper, getting an extra digital TV in the house is a nice extra)

  • Intel Core i5 processor and a corresponding motherboard from ASUS with 4 RAM slots and 1 video card slot (I like ASUS hardware and the TurboBoost technology of i5 sounds a very nice alternative to buying a high-Ghz dual core setup) - 125 LVL + 80 LVL

  • NVidia 250GTS video card (for my WoW raiding fun) - 60 LVL

  • 2*2Gb of DDR3 1600 KINGSTON RAM with lifetime warranty, leaving 2 slots for expansion later - 60 LVL

  • 1 Tb HDD (Samsung Spinpoint F3 HD103SJ got great scores in recent digital times reviews) - 55 LVL

  • Chieftec 500W PSU and case (good experience with them so far and good reviews) - 70 LVL

  • Blueray player with DVD-RW (why not at this price?) - 60 LVL

And that is it - a great setup that will last me a few years for around 700 LVL and it will have more partial upgradability than my laptop that I paid twice as much 3 years ago.

Any tips? Did I miss anything? Is it likely that anything in the above list will cause me any trouble in latest Ubuntu/Debian installations?

Update: got all of the above, except 500 Gb HDD of the same kind (faster, cooler, but higher price per Gb) and no Blueray (no drive in LV at the moment and did not want to wait a few weeks). The results are good, but I wish I would have gone with a 5 LVL more expensive video card that has a quieter cooler. Now I am buying a separate video card cooler for around 20 LVL that will be both more efficient and much quieter than the stock cooler I have - Zalman VF1000 is the model. Has not arrived yet.

P.S. It looks like updating a post in WP, automatically bumps it back into the Planet feed. Sorry :(

Currently unrated


Rares 7 years, 5 months ago

I'd recommend a more capable PSU, just in case (eg more power - maybe 650 W). The difference isn't sensible, but the advantages are.

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aigarius 7 years, 5 months ago

Heh, that will make it around 100LVL for the PSU and case. Sharp, but better that than a computer shutting down at the worst possible moment from underpowered PSU.

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Anonymous 7 years, 5 months ago

Do yourself a favor and get Intel graphics instead. I won't argue that they'll beat nVidia on raw speed, but they'll provide a huge win in terms of usability, they'll work out of the box, they won't require buggy proprietary X drivers, and they'll always support the newest X technologies first. Modern Intel graphics chipsets will run what you want just fine, including WoW at 1080p. Furthermore, this will decrease your cost in the process.

In the process of doing so, I'd also recommend getting an Intel motherboard rather than another brand that uses an Intel chipset. Fewer cut corners, more polished workings. Furthermore, you can get a very capable Intel motherboard for much less than 80 LVL.

For the case and PSU, I highly recommend Antec. They make excellent cases with many nice features, such as built-in hard-drive suspension and other noise reduction features, thumbscrews everywhere for tool-free fiddling, rounded edges, modular power supplies to reduce stray cables, and strong rattle-free construction. They also have great support/warranties, for the occasions where I've needed a part replacement. And, again, you can get a great case and PSU for less than 70 LVL.

With DDR3 RAM, you should buy a third stick of RAM, and make sure your motherboard of choice supports triple-channel operation; this will give you a noticeable performance improvement.

The Samsung Spinpoint hard drives work great; good choice. Quiet and reliable.

Naturally, if you had some extra money to spend, I'd recommend an X25-M SSD. It sounds like you want more capacity than that, but you could always use it as a primary drive and use the Spinpoint as a secondary drive. A quick conversion suggests it would cost you about 137 LVL; trust me when I say that it represents the single best performance win you can get.

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aigarius 7 years, 5 months ago

Intel can't even stand near the performance I need - with NVidia GeForce Go 7900 GS current WoW raid drop to 5 fps in boss fights. While latest Intel cards are great, I doubt they are better than that 7900GS. I need more not less.

Thanks for the Antec recomendation, looks like they also have nice cases. And I'll think about Intel motherboards - the cheapest I see at my nearby vendor for Core i5/i7 (P55 chipset) are at 80 LVL as well.

Intel Core i5 is from the new Socket 1156 family that has dual-channel memory unlike the earlier Core i7 Socket 1366 with tri-channel memory, so this chip is actually best with two (or four) sticks of memory.

I've tested SSDs for a local newspaper. The performance is great in testing and some specific workloads, but in real life use, especially on a desktop the difference is minuscule and certainly not worth tripple the price for a 1/7th of size. Size is actually a more pressing concern for me personally.

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Anonymous 7 years, 5 months ago

"While latest Intel cards are great, I doubt they are better than that 7900GS."

I wouldn't bet on that.

"And I’ll think about Intel motherboards – the cheapest I see at my nearby vendor for Core i5/i7 (P55 chipset) are at 80 LVL as well."

Ouch. I wonder if locale has something to do with that; you can get Intel boards for much cheaper than that here in the US.

"I’ve tested SSDs for a local newspaper. The performance is great in testing and some specific workloads, but in real life use, especially on a desktop the difference is minuscule and certainly not worth tripple the price for a 1/7th of size."

My recommendation came from having one in my laptop for a long time. It makes a real-life difference in many of the things I do daily. I can boot in about 3 seconds now, using stock Debian with no optimizations. Searching source trees with grep takes very little time, whether cache-cold or cache-hot. Restoring from hibernation goes insanely fast now. Installing, searching, building, name a verb and it goes faster.

(Also, let me point out that I don't mean "SSDs", I mean the X25-M specifically. Most SSDs don't provide anywhere near the performance, even if they claim to support the same raw throughput.)

"Size is actually a more pressing concern for me personally."

Fair enough.

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Niks 7 years, 5 months ago

Personally I'm amazed that no one has brought this up yet:
I have always been a fan of nVidia but it really does seems like they're going down so I suggest you look in the direction of ATI.
ASUS is indeed good but why Kingston? IMVHO, OCZ and Corsair are a notch better while costing only a little more.
As far as I know, for a PSU per line current is much more important than overall power. Unfortunately finding these values is generally not easy. Either way, 500W PSU from a good manufacturer should be more than enough unless you're building insane gaming/computing powerhouse with two or more GPU's and n-core CPU that combined have TDP comparable to your currently selected PSU's power. For example, my Q6600 box is powered by 450W HEC PSU (~25 LVL) which I expected to fail in less than 2 years due to capacitor wear but so far I have not had any problems (the box is over 2 years and has been in use 24/7).
BTW, nowadays 4 GB RAM can fall short even on GNU/Linux if you're doing serious computing or simply using many programs that each tend to trash average system (say, Firefox + Vuze + Amarok each with insane amount of data loaded).

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aigarius 7 years, 5 months ago

ATi drivers in Linux are quite horrible, thank you. I've had so many problems with them that I never want to deal with that again. I'd rather have my computer on 24/7 and have my video card fan running full blast all the time than deal with either having 3D acceleration or XVideo depending on what version of a kernel module is loaded.

For RAM, I know that I will need to expand at some point that is why I am keeping two RAM slots empty. I can always add 4 or even 8 more GBs later when I really need it.

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Niks 7 years, 5 months ago

I'm using the open source driver on my laptop (ATi Mobility Radeon HD 3400) and XVideo works just fine (though it took a week to make X11 start). Even OpenGL is surprisingly fast for such weak adapter. Unfortunately VSync hasn't yet been implemented and overall there are some graphical glitches but I'm sure that will be fixed in less than half a year. ;)

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aigarius 7 years, 4 months ago

Looks like Samsung Spinpoint F3 HD103SJ is not available in Latvia currently, so I'm getting Samsung F3 HD502HJ 0.5 Tb (35 LVL)- it is the same hard drive, but only with 1 platter instead of two: smaller, higher cost per Gb, but much faster (25% faster random read, 4% faster random write), much cooler running and available right now in large quantities :)

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Niks 7 years, 4 months ago

0.5 TB sounds very small then again you could build a hardware RAID with less than 200 LVL using those.

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Matthew W. S. Bell 7 years, 3 months ago

Booo for supporting nvidia's closed source stand. ATI/AMD provide cards that are entirely capable of running WoW and have open documentation. For shame.

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