Specification Check and Case Recommendation

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I'm considering building a new PC to replace my aging PIII. The spec so

far is

AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core 4200+ processor
Gigabyte GAK8N PRO SLI motherboard
2Gb Crucial PC3200 memory
2 off Western Digital 250Gb S300 drives
Two optical drives (existing CD-RW plus new DVD-RW)
Gigabyte GeForce 6600GT 256MB DDR11 PCIE SLI
PCI 3Com WiFi card (existing)

It'll be used for a variety of things - browsing, email, office,
digital image and video storage and processing (including encoding),
software development (ASP.NET, SQL server) and a few (undemanding!)

Firstly, any comments on the general spec? This would be my first AMD
chip - I've previously stuck with Intel. How would the above processor
compare to a similar priced P4 D 930 for these types of applications?

Secondly, any suggestions for a case / power supply? The requirements

Mini / midi tower
Maximum dimensions 20cm W x 45cm D x approx 45cm H (absolute max is
Fairly quiet. It's a living room PC so does not have to be silent, but
low noise level preferred.
Front panel USB2 and Firewire connections. Must be front panel as side
of case not accessible.

All suggestions welcome. Thanks in advance.

Re: Specification Check and Case Recommendation

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This sounds good, but the dual-core P4 might be the better choice if
graphics work is more important than games.  The tests I've seen, most
comparing older P4's and AMD's, show them to be a bit faster in these
applications, and for my money I like the compatibility that Intel
represents.  Some will disagree, of course, but that's my 2.  Regardless, I
don't think you'll go wrong either way.

I don't know what you mean by "2 off" on the HD spec, but if I understand,
instead of two 250's why not install one 74 or 150gb WD Raptor drive for C:,
or better yet two in a RAID0 array, for even more speed?  Then add a 300 or
400gb drive (SATA or PATA) for storage.
It may cost a bit more but it may be worth it for the speed increase.

I just bought an Antec Sonata case for a friend, and I like the layout of
the interior.  The HD bays point to the sides for very easy access, and the
case uses one 120mm case fan in the rear for noise reduction.  The HD's are
also mounted on rubber grommets which make them so quiet you'll wonder if
they are actually running.  Although not standard with the case, I added one
120mm fan on the HD bay for extra cooling.  If the Sonata case doesn't have
an TruePower PS (380w or larger), buy one and keep the SmartPower (or
whatever) as a spare.  All bays (except 3") use rails that allow quick

For CPU cooling, consider an aftermarket HSF like Zalman.  I use a Zalman
7000cu using Arctic Silver compound and my 3.4ghz P4 runs very cool (under
50C when stressed).  Be advised that some HSF's are heavier than the Intel
spec and if installed must be afforded great care in moving the case.  My
Zalman is 2x the P4 Socket 478 spec, but the case does not move from its
present position.  If you move the case around a lot, consider a HSF that is
<= the manufacturer's weight spec.

Some more observations:  Memory=good choice, though 2gb might be overkill
unless you do some very heavy photo-editing work like I do.  One GB might be
plenty, and that's what I'm installing on systems I build for friends who
want to do moderate photo-editing.  Why keep the CD-RW since the DVD burner
will do it all?

Re: Specification Check and Case Recommendation


Many thanks for the reply. A couple of further questions if I may?

Yes, I've always used Intel in the past, but I'm a bit concerned about
the upgrade path now that Core has been released. I may even start with
the AMD 64 3200+, then upgrade to the dual core and then even the FX60
when prices drop. If I go for the P4 930, where can I go from there?

I agree the Raptor drives are faster, but I'm scared off by stories of
high failure rates and extreme cooling setups. I need the space for
video editing and for storing "virtual machines" (disk images). I've
read that two SATA S300 drives in RAID0 are faster than a single
Raptor, so I may dedicate say 100Gb of each drive in RAID0 for video
capture and editing, but would then have enough space for my virual
machines and OS.

I will probably go for the Antec Sonata II case. Some reviews suggest
that the front door hinges are very flimsy. Do you find this? Is it
possible to remove the door completely without it looking too strange?

Finally, 2Gb is necessary as, when developing, I run multiple OS's at
the same time using Virtual PC. So, I need say 1Gb for the host OS
(Windows XP Pro) plus 1Gb for the hosted OS (Windows 2000 or 2003
server). I may sometimes need to run three OS's at the same time, so
would probably need to expand to 4Gb.

Thanks again for your help.

Re: Specification Check and Case Recommendation

DougH wrote:
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I can vouch for the quality of the Sonata II case. I've been using mine
since shortly after the release and find it close to perfect -- perfect
would be a very similar case in aluminum since the steel case, while
strong, makes for a seriously heavy computer. The cooling is just short
of amazing. I've got five HDs in mine totaling just about 1TB. I added
the optional 12cm fan on the HD cage but find it need only be run at the
lowest available speed as is the rear fan.

I've not had a problem with the front door beyond its desire to swing
forward because the table it is sitting on isn't quite level but that
was cured by the addition of a small magnet. The one part that caused a
bit of trouble was the cooling "chimney" which is supposed assist in
cooling the CPU by directing external air directly to the CPU cooler
fan. It works perfectly well but its range of adjustment limits the type
of MB that it will suit. In my case I bodged it a bit by unscrewing the
bottom (redundant) mounting bracket and trimming a plastic tab a bit to
adapt it to my setup.

John McGaw
[Knoxville, TN, USA]

Re: Specification Check and Case Recommendation

Thanks for the replies. Looks like I'll be going for the Sonata II.


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