Tuesday, February 3, 2009

New PC Build

So my trusty old computer from college, the first one I built from individual components, has finally bough the farm. Likely due to a damaged CPU fan, non-functioning case fan, dust accumulation, and rendering hours of home videos culminating in the processor reaching hellish temperatures. It served me well for over 6 years, and I will salvage as much from it as possible. The DVD burner is relatively new, the HDTV tuner card probably still works, and the case will live on. With death comes life, and so a new computer will rise from the ashes.

I have a couple of goals for a new computer; the main one being to build a capable home theater computer, but also to get my feet wet with Vista, finally get multi-core processing, accomplish full blu-ray playback, and do it all for a reasonable price. For home theater purposes, I need a device that has optical S/PDIF and HDMI/DVI outputs, plus it has to play nice with HDCP (a technology that is supposed to protect against piracy or something, but I just read it as HanDiCapPed, fuck the MPAA).

To achieve all this, the most important piece is the motherboard. I'm going to try the integrated video route, it's supposed to be pretty capable now a days. This will save money and I can always add in a video card in the future. For onboard video I chose the GeForce 8200 chipset, which is an NVIDIA motherboard GPU chipset aimed at home theater PCs using AMD processors. (Oh yeah, I'm also sticking with AMD. I can't get over my dislike of Intel.) So, my requirements narrow down the possible motherboard choices considerably.

For blu-ray playback I will obviously need a blu-ray drive, luckily these have been dropping in price since they were first released, but it will likely still be the most expensive component in the system. The capability to burn blu-ray is still too expensive on both the burner side and the blank media side, so I will steer clear of blu-ray burners. Some blu-ray drives will also read HD-DVDs (blu-ray's beta-max), and since HD-DVD is dead, movies in that format are cheap, so I will look at getting a combo drive.

For the processor, I’m going with a dual core, as quad cores don’t seem worth the price yet. I’d also like to get close to 3 GHz; this should be more than enough for HD playback. For memory, I probably only need 2 GB, but memory is not that expensive any more and it seems that Windows always needs more, so I’ll go with two 2 GB sticks. The hard drive has to be fat, because I will no doubt find ways to fill it, I always have. I’d like to get a terabyte, but 750 GB seems more economical. My existing computer case will work, but it will need a new power supply with higher wattage, better efficiency, and some SATA connectors. 

I'm most frightened of getting Windows Vista to function properly, but I do want to give it a chance. First of all, I don't want to blow my budget on a shitty operating system, so I will be acquiring it by other means. I'll be going with either Home Premium 64 or Ultimate 64; anything else is needlessly crippled like a Wic. The real headache will likely be getting the drivers right for all the components. I foresee a kind of "vision quest" though obscure forums via Google, which is the only real way of solving a technological problem in our modern era.

Updates to follow.

1 comment:

That One Guy said...

Why in the Hell are you going with Vista? If you must, I would go with Ultimate of some form. Home has all kinds of frilly bullshit that I know you don't need or want. If you're going to use Vista, you might want more than 2GB memory. My laptop came with Vista (a problem I remedied within a week) and 3GB because it needed it.

That said, I agree with you about processors. The Quad-Core prices are for institutional wallets at this point. Look at the Athlon X2 6000+. It's a 3 GHz, and it doesn't cost much more than the 5600+. You can probably overclock it to something outrageous like 3.2 or 3.3 GHz, with fans.