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 Post subject: Quiet pre-built system?
PostPosted: Wed Mar 26, 2003 10:52 pm 
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Due to physical handicaps, I can't build my own system. So I have to buy a pre-built one. I have a Dell Dimension at work, and it's pretty quiet. But I don't want to buy a Dell for home b/c I think the new case is really ugly and I'd like to have more control over components.

So I'm looking at ABS Computer (www.abspc.com) right now. My question is: how can I get a good "guesstimate" of how noisy a system is going to be? Do I get the db rating for the various components and add them together, or take the maximum value, or something else?

Specifically, here's the system I'm looking at:

* CHIEFTEC Aluminum Server Chasis SILVER with Side Acrylic Window. (Requires Power Supply) (Item#ABS11125222)

* Allied 400W Power Supply ATX400P4 w/ Two Fans UL, CSA, FCC Approve

* Asus A7N8X Deluxe nForce2 Performance Motherboard for AMD Athlon XP Processors
Standard

* AMD Athlon XP 2700+/333 FSB 256K

* Dynatron DC1206BM-L/610-P-Cu HeatSink and Fan (Support Up to 3000+) (Item#ABS35114009)

* Maxtor 80GB 7200RPM Hard Drive (Item#ABS22144132)

* ATI RADEON 9700 PRO A.I.W. 128MB DDR 8X AGP TV/DVI/Svid-OUT TV-tuner VID-IN (Item#ABS14102250)

The PS is supposedly ~45db. The CPU cooler is 40dBA. I don't know about the case fans or the video (does the AIT AIW 9700 have a fan? I assume so).

Any comment/suggestion welcomed

thanks


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 26, 2003 11:16 pm 
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Its going to be pretty noisy - they essentially build the system for you, but don't give a rat's ass about using quiet parts. You'd definitely have to do some modding to get it silent/quiet.

45dBA is VERY loud - i don't know what i could compare it to, but i couldn't stand it. My 2 cents.

Can't you personalize it better? Maybe someone you know could build you a system?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Mar 27, 2003 12:11 am 
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Its gonna be a lot louder than the dell. Dells have 1-2 fans max and lots of ducting and plastic absorbing noise (they also consequently run warmer). But here's the figures.

The Allied PSU is gonna be LOUD. Mine had 2 Sunon Sleve Bearing 3H fans installed in it, those are notorious.

As for the Maxtor HD, if its not Liquid Bearing, be prepared for high pitched whines.

The cooler, with a 5300 rpm and a 60mm factor will be a whiner too.

The AIW fan's will be overpowered unless you silence most of the stuff.

At least change the CPU cooler, it should be only $20-30 more for a larger one with a quiet 80mm fan at 1500-2000rpm. Afterwards, usually the motherboard chipset is loudest (if it has a fan), then a tie between the PSU and the HD (the HD usually has a higher frequency so its more noticeable, but approx the same loudness) and finally the GPU.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Mar 27, 2003 2:18 am 
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Have you considered a different reseller, such as ARM Systems? They make a "Stealth" model PC that is very configurable. SPCR gave their test system a favorable review. Personally, if I wanted a pre-assembled quiet PC, I would take a good look at what this company has to offer.

Edit: Mike's test system measured 23dB @ 1m from the front of the case, with all fans turned to low-speed, and he estimated ~25dB with the processor fan cranked up. He also said the sound is a "whoosh" rather than a buzz, which is also important.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Mar 27, 2003 5:19 am 
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No dissrespect to ARM systems but you could build the same quiet computer yourself and save money. But as you have mentioned you cant build it yourself soooo, I would try to get someone to build it for you. Then again if paying a little more to have it built by a manufacturer is worth something to you (other than having to trust a friend to build it for you) then go for it.


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 Post subject: Thanks for your inputs!
PostPosted: Thu Mar 27, 2003 8:36 am 
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Thanks for all your inputs. I'll check out ARM computer. I'll also think about building my own. I have a friend who can help, though I think it's going to be a bit of a (mis?)adventure :)


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Apr 04, 2003 10:47 am 
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I build quiet PCs as a business/hobby (I don't charge nearly enough for it to be a business/business :) - and the "hobby" part is where I get to play with PC gear I can't afford "just to play with".
Anyway, the way I've worked it is
- person wanting the PC speaks with me
- I try to talk them into a Dell :)
- we figure budget, system requirements, etc.
- I order the parts at the best price I can find on the web (avoiding resellers with a resellerrating below 5 or so as I've been burned and am now shy)
- I assemble the parts into a working (quiet-ish) PC

This all started because PC noise really really bugged me - and even the Dells weren't so quiet.
Freinds hearing (or, really, not-hearing) my PC asked me to do the same for them and it got out of hand to the point where it didn't make sense for me to do it for free. So I charge 1/2 my developer-contractor rate of $120/hr (so $60) and try to take as little time as possible.

Anyway, this doesn't make sense unless you're in the Boston area (local to me) - but you might find someone like me (builds PCs for a business/hobby and hates PC noise) in your area (wherever that might be - it's not in your posting nor is it in your profile).

With that said, I take it you are building a game system? You want a quiet PC so you can better hear the sounds of gunfire as you frag the other players? :)
Anyway...
The fans on the 9700s are kind'a loud (and unpleasantly pitched). You could either use one of those Zalman heatpipe coolers, or...go to water cooling. Either way, removing the 9700 heatsink will void your ATI warranty - unless you get it back on before returning it to ATI, if there's a problem.
I haven't heard the current Maxtors - they used to be noisy, so I'm a bit suspicious.
The A7N8XDlx is a really good m-board (if you're overclocking, they won't go over ~190MHz without active cooling, but you don't care about that, right?). This is not the board for underclocking/undervolting, though (all the BIOS voltage adjustments go upwards).
Oh - I'd avoid dual-fanned power supplies. They're louder than necessary.
I've been using Zalman supplies, but even those are a bit louder than I like and require the "22Ohm fix" to get 'em quieter. Voltages on the ones I've played with have been spot-on, though.
The Chieftec cases are fine - but they're not set up for 120mm fans. You will get less fan noise (and lower pitched at that) with larger diameter fans (run more slowly but pushing the same amount of air).
Have a look at the 8000/OEM case on coolercases.com.
As far as CPU coolers (assuming you're not using water), look for the ones with a solid center section and fins that radiate out from that - and that can mount an 80mm fan. This design does a very good job cooling with a slow fan (dead airflow spot in the middle anyway, so better to use this area to conduct heat upwards). Can't remember any brand/model names at the moment - sorry.
Speaking of can't-remember, as I recall, you add noise somewhat as follows - a second source of noise exactly the same as the first adds about 3dB to the total. The dB scale is not linear (neither is our hearing, BTW) so addition doesn't work the way you'd think. You can convert to absolute sound pressure, do a simple addition, then convert back - see F. Alton Everest's The Master Handbook of Acoustics for more details than you probably want (great book, though).
Guess that's it - have fun!
Bob


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 Post subject: How low is low priced for a custom-made quiet pc?
PostPosted: Sun Aug 01, 2004 10:39 pm 
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Hi Bob (if you're still around) or someone like him,

I'm looking at ARM's Powerhouse Athlon64 system and wondering if you could do it cheaper. I'm talking acoustically dampered and ducted case, low noise fans for the case, PSU, CPU, chipset, video card Zalman heatpipe (not even sure they have this), low noise Samsung hard drive, etc. Let me (and others) know.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Aug 02, 2004 4:51 am 
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It looks like ARM systems (is/are - pick verb based on US vs UK) doing the right thing.
I've been pretty much only building water cooled systems lately, using 32bit XP-mobiles. Because of the w/c and "mobile" they're very overclockable, without going over 25dB (or so - my estimate, not sound meter + chamber) running 100% CPU load for hours on end).
Beats me about comparable prices (lots of options on the Arm Systems configuration page).
You can cost it out yourself - just go to Newegg (or someplace like that) and price your components.
For a power supply, you want a Seasonic Tornado (Rev 3) (very quiet - very efficient, good power factor might reduce the power use you're billed for). IMHO there's no need for anything beyond 300W - unless you're using some sort of graphics card that draws more than 100W.
Use as big (wide) a case as you can stand - decent sound absorbent foam just won't fit in a smaller case. I'd suggest Black hole viscoelastic foam- but you need 1.375" clearance to use it.
For optical drives - the ones that use belt drive seem quieter than the gear driven ones (so LiteOn is pretty much out). I've been pretty much using Pioneer DVD writers and Toshiba readers.
No mystery (any more) around geting quiet HDDs. IMHO, if the system is going to be used heavily, you're faced with a bit of a dilemma. The drives will run cooler if you hard mount them (and a bit cooler yet if you use thermal interface compound).
Some of the noise from a PC is simply air turbulence. The less resistance to flow, the less turbulence (oversimplification, but IMHO a reasonable way to think about it). My guess is that you could actually make an ARM Systems PC a bit quieter just by removing the fan grills (hopefully they've already got the internal wire routing right).
Beyond that, all my "get quiet" advice is around how to setup quiet watercooling - which makes sense for systems that are going to either be overclocked or run near 100% a lot of the time (or both).


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 Post subject: My specs (for Bob)
PostPosted: Mon Aug 02, 2004 10:28 am 
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OK, Bob, if you want to know what I have in mind you can refer to spastic's ARM set-up with a couple of changes:

CaseType: ARM STEALTH UltraQuiet MT w/RamAIR Duct/2x120 Fans/Black or Zalman fans
PowerSupply: 400W ARM STEALTH UltraQuiet PS - Factory Modified Zalman (or go with the 300w if it's much less)
Motherboard: ASUS A7N8X-E Deluxe or MSI K8TNEO-FSR Athlon64 or Intel D865GBFL:P4
Processor: AMD Athlon64 3000 or 3200+ 800MHz FSB, 1MB cache or Intel P4 3.0 or 3.2GHz 800MHz FSB, 1 MB cache (I can't decide between the Intel Prescott chip with hyperthreading, which I've heard runs very hot or the AMD Athlon64 with hypertransport and their quiet cool technology)
CPU Fan: STEALTH Level-4 Ultra Quiet: w/3xHeatPipe CuHS/UQ fans/Acoustipack Foam (actually, I think the foam is for the case?)
Memory: 512MB Ultra Performance DDR400 PC3200 CL2 Low-Latency SDRAM DIMM w/Heat-Spreaders
HardDrive: 200GB SATA/150 Samsung SpinPoint 7200RPM 8MB Cache
VideoCard: 128MB DDR ATI Radeon 9600XT SVGA w/TV & DVI Out (I see Sapphire has one without a fan so I'm not sure why spastic talks about a Zalman VGA cooler, and I don't see a Zalman VGA heatpipe mentioned in any of ARM's specs - as a matter of fact, I would prefer a more pwerful card for games with a Zalman, maybe the 9800 Pro?)
6.1 Creative Soundblaster Audigy 2 soundcard
I already have all the optical drives I need (a noisy Lite-On DVD reader and a quiet NEC ND2500A 8X DVD burner, a 3 1/2 floppy drive, a tape drive I rarely use, and two hard drives I want to keep (120GB Seagate and 40GB Maxtor), a flat panel 17" monitor, a subwoofer speaker system, and a flatbed scanner.

If you have time and the inclination maybe you could figure out a price. ARM's configurator indicates that they will do this for about $1,200, with the D885GBFL or K8TNEO boards and the 9600XT (it's not clear if they're including a Zalman heatpipe to replace the video card fan or if it's needed at all). Anyway, I'm curious what you would recommend.

One more thing, I'm leery of water cooling, as it sounds expensive and possibly risky. I've read about this type of solution but I believe it's mainly for overclockers and I'm not into this at all. I am looking for a powerful, fast multimedia system with high quality video and sound that is stable and, above all, quiet, without paying an arm and a leg.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Aug 02, 2004 12:52 pm 
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Well, I can save you some trouble right off the bat - the A7N8X is a N-Force2 board (so 32bit processor not 64).
If you go with the AMD64, you want a board that can dynamically underclock the processor when it's not loaded (there were some reviews on this site of the motherboards that can do this - not up on them yet myself).
IMHO, the best price/performance is still with the Athalon XP-mobiles - and they don't generate much heat.
Eventually the 64b platform will make more sense (particularly the AMD 64b mobile chips) for low-noise.
I know water cooling sounds esoteric, but it's simple and reduces noise (you can go banannas and get way-better-than-air-cooling temps if you're looking to overclock, but it's also a useful noise-reduction technique).
I'll see if I have some time later in the week to play with this.


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 Post subject: Ready to buy
PostPosted: Tue Aug 03, 2004 5:54 am 
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Thanks for all of your advice, Bob. As you can see, I don't know diddly about motherboards and compatibility, just the features I want. I was picking the Athlon64 or Intel P4 based on processor power but if the Athlon XP will provide as much brawn with less heat I want it. I still want a powerful video card for the games but not a hot one. Which do you recommend? I think all the high end cards need a fan or heatpipe replacement. Correct?

Anyway, my hard drive finally died last night after a couple of weeks of death throes. Screen freezes, BSOD's, chkdsks, then chkdsk froze, horrendous screeching whine, then clicking, then "missing" system files, then Boot Disk Failure, finally no hard drive in the CMOS. Kaput. It's a shame because I have tons of programs and thousands of music files (luckily all backed up) and I had planned on ghosting it all to a new hard drive. That's why I've been looking for a new system, in addition to wanting to upgrade from 1.2GHz and 32MB video. Ah well. So now I need one ASAP. I'm in pc withdrawal!


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 Post subject: Update
PostPosted: Tue Aug 03, 2004 8:03 am 
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Wanted to let you know I'm up to $1,400 with ARM, now that I've upgraded the cpu, motherboard, "stealth" cooling package and warranty. Staill can't decide between AMD Athlon64 or XP, or Intel P4 Prescott chip. I want fast but not too hot or unstable.


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 Post subject: Re: Update
PostPosted: Tue Aug 03, 2004 12:28 pm 
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dac10012 wrote:
Staill can't decide between AMD Athlon64 or XP, or Intel P4 Prescott chip. I want fast but not too hot or unstable.


In that case, quickly scratch the Prescott off your list. It's neither fast nor cool.

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 Post subject: choice
PostPosted: Wed Aug 04, 2004 7:54 am 
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So which processor would you choose, Athlon64 or XP? And what do you think about Prescott Hyperthreading or Athlon64 Hypertransport? Do either really improve multitasking or is it all Hype?


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 Post subject: Re: choice
PostPosted: Wed Aug 04, 2004 8:54 am 
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dac10012 wrote:
So which processor would you choose, Athlon64 or XP? And what do you think about Prescott Hyperthreading or Athlon64 Hypertransport? Do either really improve multitasking or is it all Hype?


See a couple of my posts here that directly address your question. Bottom line: it depends (of course).

My own choice: For most of the newer machines around the lab (and my new personal machine), I've chosen the A64. For several "mission critical" machines that do complicated data aquisition and analysius, I've chosen the P4 just for the hyperthreading. I expect you're not running the same apps that we are, however.

In any case, I'll echo other users' comments about ARM systems. Thus far, I've been a very happy customer with both pre- and post-sales. They have a quality build, and I was willing to pay someone else a slight premium to do all the work this time.

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 Post subject: Multitasking
PostPosted: Wed Aug 04, 2004 9:20 am 
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Here's the type of multitasking I'm usually doing on my pc: web browsing (usually multiple sites at once), downloading (large files, sometimes up to a gigabyte or two, three or four at a time, simultaneously), while playing mp3's or sometimes watching a video.

Which processor do you recommend and do you think 512MB memory is sufficient or would 1GB help considerably? Aslo, is low latency RAM worth the cost? Thanks!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Aug 04, 2004 9:43 am 
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dac10012, if you're on a T1 line and do a lot of downloading (that uses most/all your NIC's bandwidth), you may experience reduced system responsiveness based on my informal tests. Your other tasks will not significantly load your processor like mine do, so the A64 should be fine.

Others will chime in about memory and low-latency. Personally, I've gone with 1GB on all my systems just to afford the extra headroom; when a system starts swapping to disk, overall performance goes to the slow room in hell. We all know how both the OS and applications are constantly and increasingly bloated (ah, for the days of the Timex Sinclair and a whopping 64k of memory). There's a lot of tweaking you can do to reduce the number of processes/services in XP that will reduce the OS overhead. Your applications are another story. Remember the old adage: There's no such thing as too much memory or too much disk space.

Since processors are so fast today, it seems reasonable to pair them with fast memory. There are a number of threads here and elsewhere that discuss the merits of faster RAM timings. My rationale: I'm willing to spend a little more to make sure RAM speed doesn't unnecessarily create a bottleneck. For the A64, it may be overkill, but I don't have the references handy to supply evidence either way. With the new socket 939 A64's, the cost increment for low-latency is relatively small (compared to the older boards/processors).

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 Post subject: Memory
PostPosted: Wed Aug 04, 2004 10:02 am 
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First of all, I should have mentioned I am using a cable modem. I don't know if any broadband connection uses more or less system resources but maybe you could enlighten me. The other thing is I doubled my memory from 512MB to 1GB awhile ago, hoping it would speed things up and/or allow more efficient multitasking but I've never noticed any appreciable difference (I'm not talking about downloading, which nothing seems to improve.)

So, right now I'm poised to contact ARM to order a new system and although I'm leaning toward the Athlon64 because it seems to be the fastest processor out there, I would still trade a little extra speed for improved multitasking (at least the type I have described above).


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Aug 04, 2004 11:04 am 
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Dac10012, in my opinion, you'll be fine with the downloading. I do a lot of big file transfers (100-500MB) across an internal network (100 Mb), so can fill up the network pipeline easily. Cable modems/DSL lines rarely run at full capacity due to latencies from the server end, and the top speeds advertized are still in 3-4 Mb range--well below the typical 100 Mb capacity of most NICs.

It's a personal call about memory config. It's like insurance--if you never need it, then you feel like you wasted your money, but if you need it.... I'm sure most folks would agree that 512 MB is a good minimum nowadays. You could start there and add on later. Note that there is a significant performance penalty for using a only single stick in a dual channel system. If you get a dual-channel board, be sure to get an even number of sticks no matter what capacity.

From SPCR's vantage, one of the main advantages of the A64 is heat. For the speed, it simply a cooler processor. Cooler=>quieter, and that's an important bottom line.

Unless you run comparable systems in parallel, there is simply no way to definitively determine which will perform best with your situation. It's all trade-offs and educated gambles. I'm not a processor fanboy, as you have seen, so have no vested interest in either solution.

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 Post subject: Athlon64 vs. XP
PostPosted: Wed Aug 04, 2004 11:21 am 
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So, I assume you prefer the Athlon64 over the XP?

Memory - When you say don't use 1 RAM stick in a dual channel system do you mean 2 slots, and aren't most motherboards either 2 or 3 slots?

Video cards - any advantage to 256 bit interface over 128? I guess more detail and slightly faster speed? On the other hand, I've been reading that the difference between 256MB and 128MB video memory is negligible.


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 Post subject: Re: Athlon64 vs. XP
PostPosted: Thu Aug 05, 2004 6:32 am 
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dac10012 wrote:
So, I assume you prefer the Athlon64 over the XP?

No. For certain situations (e.g., my newish home computer, and some lab computers), I've chosen the advantages of the AMD64. For other lab systems, where I have multiple, simultaneous, heavy-CPU intensive apps, I've chosen the advantages of the Intel P4. As I said, it's a trade-off.

Quote:
Memory - When you say don't use 1 RAM stick in a dual channel system do you mean 2 slots, and aren't most motherboards either 2 or 3 slots?

1 stick==1 slot. Dual-channel (and indeed most commercial) motherboards typically have 2 pairs of two slots (4 total). A very few have 6 slots total. Thus, dual-channel systems should have memory installed in pairs (e.g., 512 total --> 256 X 2 sticks).

Quote:
Video cards - any advantage to 256 bit interface over 128? I guess more detail and slightly faster speed? On the other hand, I've been reading that the difference between 256MB and 128MB video memory is negligible.

I'll leave that for someone else. I'm quite content with the (passively cooled, dual-DVI) Matrox cards with "only" 64MB.

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 Post subject: Athlon64 vs. AthlonXP
PostPosted: Thu Aug 05, 2004 7:47 am 
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So the AthlonXP is out? You didn't mention. Someone said previously that it runs cooler than the Athlon64, so I wanted to consider it.

RAM - No way am I buying 256MB sticks. They're basically obsolete and if I end up upgrading to 1GB or more they'll be useless. I hope the performance hit isn't as bad as you say for one stick.

Video memory - it's obvious you don't play games. You need at least 128MB for the newer ones. This is not a knock, I know they are completely mindless, but fun. As you can see, I use my pc primarily for entertainment. Actually, more for music and web browsing than anything else. Now, I'm looking at the Audigy 2-ZS sound card with 24 bit sound.


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 Post subject: Re: Athlon64 vs. AthlonXP
PostPosted: Thu Aug 05, 2004 9:32 am 
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dac10012 wrote:
So the AthlonXP is out? You didn't mention. Someone said previously that it runs cooler than the Athlon64, so I wanted to consider it.

Sorry, I have no direct knowledge and therefore (surprisingly) no opinion. See however, Anandtech's recent comparison of Doom3 on different CPUs.

Quote:
I hope the performance hit isn't as bad as you say for one stick.


See this article about memory and configurations and especially this page summarizing configurations. Yes, the data are from Intel chipsets AND are a year old. However, I believe the advantages of RAM pairs for dual channel (after all, it's "dual") are generalizable. On the other hand, I vaguely remember some articles claiming that the dual-channel advantage is much greater for Intel than AMD, so caveat emptor.

Quote:
Video memory - it's obvious you don't play games. [...]Now, I'm looking at the Audigy 2-ZS sound card with 24 bit sound.
Right. See all the discussion in the "Quiet VGA" section at SPCR for fellow gamers' comments. There are also bunches of posts about sound cards, but you'll need to do a search for them.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Aug 05, 2004 10:32 am 
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For a general purpose machine like yours, A64 (754) is totally powerful enough, runs cool and is an absolute bargain. You can't even get non-prescott P4s anymore, so the heat vs speed ratio totally favors the A64. And all the testing I've seen about dual-ch memory suggests that it only provides a few percentage performance increase. The on-CPU mem controller of the A64 leapfrogs all this.

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