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Section No. 1b - Planning: Component Selection

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Section No. 1b - Planning: Component Selection - 12/2/2007 6:39:46 AM   


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Deciding which CPU to purchase is not a simple matter.  One might reasonably assume that the fastest is the best.
But the fastest may well be ahead of current software applications and will certainly be very expensive.
Therefore stepping down a rung or two and purchasing with a future upgrade in mind may be more viable.
First deciding which type of processor to go for is a good starting point.
Currently Intel seems to be flavour of the month, but could change overnight with the new AMD offerings.
The latest Intel models use 45 nanometre technology but is likely to be too expensive.
However maybe it is time to bookmark this technology by ensuring that the Motherboard will support this technology ready for an upgrade in the future when prices drop

Considering the general 64 bit model type would seem a good point for the base line.

Core 2 processor compared with P4 having Hyper Thread Technology

Intel’s Core 2 processors are based on a later architectural design.
This relatively new architecture is generally considered superior to the older P4 CPUs.
The Intel Core Duo has a single chip containing two processors.
Comparison suggest that the performance of this CPU far outstrips that of the Intel P4 and Pentium D.
With low minimum multitasking as a requirement however, a faster single core processor with Hyper Threading may be worth consideration.
With heavy multitasking requirements the dual core processor should be seriously considered.
Therefore the Core 2 processor could at this stage be considered as a good datum point for comparison.
But now there is a choice of which one.

Click here > Intel Product Brief for an overview.
Intel Core 2 Extreme Quad-core processor QX9650 £704.49
With 45nm technology and circuitry designed to deliver greater performance and power efficiency.
Running at 3.0 GHz with12 MB of total L2 cache memory and 1333 MHz front side bus: a serious CPU

Intel Core 2 Quad-core processor Q6700 £334.86

With 65nm technology
Running at 2.66 GHz with 8 MB of total L2 cache and 1066 MHz front side bus: a more sensible option if cost is a consideration
Intel Core 2 Dual-core processor E6850

With 65nm technology
Running at 3.0 GHz at 4 MB of total L2 cache and1333 MHz front side bus: excellent value for money.

This computer will be fitted with the Intel Core 2 Dual-core processor E6850 costing £169.19 for now as it will deliver a good result commensurate with the current listed software needs.
BUT the intention is also to maintain the option to:
Later swop to the Intel Core 2 Extreme Quad-core processor QX9650, as part of a future upgrade instead of building a new computer.
This will be when software and cost, plus an indication that it will have some real work to do, then make it a more realistic choice.
Balanced against the present cost is that of the quad in future plus the wasted cost of the current choice.  Does the difference warrant the wait?

With the upgrade in mind one needs to ensure that the rest of the computer will also be able to cope with this Core 2 Quad.

The choice for the computer used in this guide is therefore:

The Intel Core 2 Dual-core processor E6850
Later this CPU will be used to upgrade the computer currently in use and the cost will not be a write off.

Attachment (1)

< Message edited by geoff_pell -- 12/30/2007 8:30:20 AM >
Post #: 1
Section No. 1b - Planning: Component Selection - 12/2/2007 6:50:49 AM   


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Video Card(s)

There are numerous considerations to make when choosing a Video Card.

Todays computer will almost certainly feature a video card built to fit in a PCI -E 16 slot.
AGP and PCI video cards have to all intents and purposes been superceded.

The main considerations when using such a card are likely to be:

a,  The output potential of the card, both in visual and in video processing power such as rendering.

b,  Any need for an Addition Power Supply to the video card?

c,   Does the video card assembly occupy space below the PCI-E 16 slot?

d,   The physical size of the video card.

e,   Will the computer be used, now or in the future, with a Cross Fire or SLI configuration

f,    Consideration of whether or not to use a liquid cooling system may be important if overclocking is to be used

      if there is a need to avoid the loss of PCI or PCIe slot(s) when using oversized video card(s).

A,    Output consideration.

Modern video cards go a long way to relieving the strain on the CPU.
(Central Processing Unit commonly referred to as the computer chip, or that ruddy great thing with a big fan)

Most users will want to see a high frame rate to get a realist fluid picture as they would expect when watching a DVD on a television.
There would seem to be little point however in having the ability to create higher frame rates that the human eye or monitor use.

Complicated frame content, fast action motion and high screen resolution all require a large throughput and needs additional consideration.

Hardware Rendering for video and 3D image processing is a major factor for video editing.

Picture quality, from a video card, should not be taken for granted.  This may be especially so when High Definition viewing is required.

There are so many variables it is only prudent to list them all and see how one's requirements are met by specific video cards.

Searching out the Web Sites of Hi-Spec computer builder and scrutinising their computer specifications is often a good place to start.
But being mindful of their need to also supply good value may mean their choice may not be the best option for our build of computer.
My advice would be to use this Forum and seek the advice of professional and amateur members who will have up to date information.

B, Power Supply Requirement

High performance PCI-E 16 cards will often require an additional source of power as they are sometimes rated above that of the PCI-E 16 slot.

(Rating here is the power consumption of the video card)

The additional 12 Volt power source required will be supplied via a six or maybe even an eight pin socket wired direct from the Power Supply Unit


Via an adapter that plugs into the older large four pin type sockets that were commonly used to supply power for Hard Drives.

Plug & Socket commonly referred to as a Molex type 

C, Space Requirement

Many high performance cards require additional cooling carried out by a fan and ducting system riding piggy back on the underside of the video card when in its slot.
This could result in the loss of a PCI or PCIe slot per video card.

D. The physical size of the video card.
With the ever increasing resources built into the video card they have grown in size, usually lengthways resulting in cards that may well exceed the computer case design.

Sometimes this can be overcome by sacrificing space intended for Hard Drives.

Ensure that a suitable computer case is chosen if this kind of card is chosen.

E, Cross Fire or SLI configuration?

The need for either of these is likely to depend largely upon the uses to which a computer will be put.

There is extensive coverage on the Internet, with both in-depth reviews and comparisons.

This link, though out of date already provides a good insight into the two systems. 

Select the menu items and Click the ‘Go’ button to access all the information.

F, Liquid Cooling

This is essential in most cases where serious overclocking is to be undertaken.
The video card fan cooling system is replaced by cooling heads that clip onto the main video card processor.
This has the advantage of very efficiently cooling the processor without impinging upon the PCI card space below the video card socket.
Careful research would seem essential as the main processor is not the only source of heat.
There is lot’s of advice available on the internet.
The main computer CPU will also require consideration if overclocking is to be carried out and many over clockers strip off the CPU outer covering and attach the cooler direct to the chip found below. This will invalidate the guarantee of course.
The heated coolant, circulated in specially designed pipes, is passed through a radiator that is cooled by fans.
These can be fitted inside the computer case or externally with the added benefit of a noise reduction when sited correctly.

Liquid cooling is unlikely to be necessary for most of us.

PCI-E 16 Socket

New PCI-E 16 slot(s) are usually blue. Sometimes there is a second PCI-16 slot that may be black.
The blue No. 0, or top PCI-E 16 slot, should be used for the Primary Video Card.

When a second card is to be installed it should be in the lower No. 1, PCI-E 16 slot.

Note that the Primary No. 0 slot has 16 data channels whilst the secondary No. 1 black slot has only four or eight channels.

Enter the PCI-E (2) 16 ready Motherboard.

This will have two blue PCI-E (2) 16 ready slots each able to utilise all 16 data channels on each of the video cards.
Sometimes there may be a third black PCI-E slot.

Normally when using two cards they would be configured as a Cross Fire pair when using ATI based cards

 an SLI configuration with Nvidia based cards.

The PCI-E (2) 16 ready Motherboard is able to take full advantage of two PCI-E (2) ready Video Cards to produce up to double that of a single PCI-E 16 Video Card.

PCI-E (2) 16 cards should work on a Motherboard that is not ‘PCI-E (2) 16 ready’

having only a standard PCI-E 16 slot.

BUT The Motherboard BIOS may require updating in such a case?

The Cards to be installed in the computer used in this guide.
This is not a general suggestion !
The selection of two:
Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 3870 XT, 512MB GDDR4, TV-Out/Dual DVI/HDMI (PCI-Express)
cards using Cross Fire, is based upon specific needs:
i, The hope for best quality output as well as a good frame rate for image intensive applications.
ii, Good quality direct output to a HD television and realistic playback on the computer of DVD creations.
iii, A preference for excellent hardware rendering and a good throughput for complex imaging at as near full quality imaging as seems to be currently practical
iv, Several other smaller considerations appearing in the specification of this card.
v, Value for money
This has tended to moved the video card preference away from the Nvidea Ge-Force 8800 GTX PCIe to the ATI 3800 series card.
Perhaps the main consideration is the prospect of far superior Anti Aliasing ability from the ATI card, in Cross Fire mode, which together with the above requirements would seem to make this card more suitable choice.
(Anti Aliasing and additional features help smooth out the sharp bits, pixelation and shimmering.)

To boost hardware rendering and complex imaging potential the Cross Fire video card setup is to be used.
Note also that ATI supply an excellent  software, 'Catalyst Control Center', that enables simple control of most features and an Overdrive function to enable simple overclocking of the video cards.
Reading manufacturers specifications together with user’s reviews, has to be a good recommendation, along with comments and advice from current users.
There is excellent potential on our VFForum from which everyone can benefit, whether they want to make their own decisions in part, in full or based entirely upon other peoples opinions.
Maybe however that the more effort that one puts into the selection, the more rewarding will be the end product if one is satisfied with the result.
More importantly perhaps a far better understanding of the equipment will be achieved. 

< Message edited by geoff_pell -- 1/5/2008 11:55:39 AM >
Post #: 2
Section No. 1b - Planning: Component Selection - 12/2/2007 8:44:23 AM   


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Selecting the motherboard is basically just a case of setting out one’s requirements and matching those to a particular Motherboard.
Here it is divided into two categories.
1, Current Requirements
1a, Meet the needs of the chosen CPU
1b, Support for the 65 nanometre architecture
1c, Meet the needs of the chosen Video Card(s) and planned setup
1d, Choice of manufacturer
1e, Size of the board
1f, Built in networking or/and wireless setup
1g, Number of PCI and PCIe slots required
1h, Provision for all the Hard Drives, Optical drives and any Floppy drive required

2, Future Requirements and Upgrading Potential
2a, Replacement Quad Processor when price and software renders it a viable proposition
2b, 45 nanometre architecture support
2x, Good over clocking features
Asus Motherboards usually have advanced features related to over clocking if this is required
2y, Water Cooling consideration
One might also consider the ease of updating the BIOS and it's safety in respect of normal BIOS vulnerabilities
Asus scores well in this respect.


A, Both selected and future processors needs to be supported

B, Support for both the current 65 nanometre architecture and future 45 nanometre architecture range of processors

C, Suitability of the selected Video Card(s) and its use as SLI, Cross Fire or single card

D, Many builders will have a favourite type and make of Motherboard in mind

E, The standard size of Motherboards is currently ATX 12" x 9.6" (30.5 cm x 24.4 cm)

F, Networking and WiFi suitability simply requires selection of the appropriate board in the selected range

G, The number of PCI and PCIe slots needs to accommodate of the number of boards and take account of any obstructed sockets, due to any oversized boards such as high performance video card(s)

H, The number, type and speed of the required Hard Drives, floppy drive and Optical Drives require the appropriate number of ATI and SATA 150 or SATA 300 sockets/chipsets
Suitability for any RAID configuration required

X, When over clocking is intended, due consideration from the start will avoid wasting money later

Y, Any need for upgraded heat sink(s) and fan assemblies or water cooling components can often be a sensible inclusion at the building stage
Many Video Cards can be purchased, carrying a guarantee, with custom built water cooling already fitted.
The Motherboard selected for the computer built in this guide is the:

Asus P5E3 Deluxe WiFi - AP @n

The Manual for the P5E3 Deluxe WiFi - AP @n  can be downloaded from here 

This board servers all the requirements for the computer being built and should satisfy the intention to upgrade in the future as an alternative to building a new computer.
What should also be realised is that the above board requires DDR 3 memory and will not accept DDR 2.
Furthermore there is only room for 1 PCI card with this computers configuration.
There are however single spare PCI - E 4 mode and PCI - E 1 mode slots
Below is a typical comparison chart of three similar models

What is apparent immediately is that the P5E3 Deluxe is the only board supporting PCI-E (2) 16

< Message edited by geoff_pell -- 12/30/2007 9:27:18 AM >
Post #: 3
Section No. 1b - Planning: Component Selection - 12/2/2007 8:44:53 AM   


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The choice of memory is one of the most important to be made.
Speed and stability are essential and good cooling is a pre requisite.

DDR 2 memory is now very cheap compared with a year or so ago and the new DDR 3 modules.
but not an option with this Motherboard

Fitting out a computer, using DDR2 memory, with a four or even eight Gb is now reasonably affordable.
Considerations should include:
a,  Quality
     There are numerous manufacturers who could be recommended.  But the essential is too choose with care.
b,  Speed
     This needs to be considered in conjunction with the capabilities of the Motherboard.
c,  Cas latency
     Lower Cas Latency should generally yield better results, but studying this detail first is time well spent.
Additional considerations may include:
i,  Cost
    Cheap memory is not always as cheap as it may seem however, especially in the long run.
ii,  Perhaps additional Cooling ?
     Normally this will be taken care of by a good manufacturer unless over clocking is to be undertaken.
iii,  Consideration of over clocking potential
     Perhaps a little more critical in respect of the memory.  Check carefully first!


The selected Motherboard however requires the use of DDR 3 modules which currently are very expensive.
The images give an indication of why expense is such a concern.

Overclocking will require a serious cooling consideration.

Note the obvious, that careful checking of manufacturer's specification is necessary to ensure that the modules will fit on the Motherboard without space and Heat Sink conflicts.
Because of the expense the computer memory selection and purchase will be delayed to the last minute in the hope of a cost saving.

The equation of buying now and expanding later is not easy to solve and in this case the complete full requirement will be made as it appears to be financially a better option in the long term.

< Message edited by geoff_pell -- 12/30/2007 9:27:53 AM >
Post #: 4
Section No. 1b - Planning: Component Selection - 12/2/2007 8:45:20 AM   


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Hard Drives

The choice of Hard Drives rarely causes a problem.
Currently most people will choose them with the following specifications in mind:

1, SATA (2) 300
2, 7200 rpm or faster
3, large buffer size
4, history of reliability
5, quiet during operation

The choice of manufacturer will often be based upon who offers the best price for the chosen model.

Here six Hard Drives will be installed and configured as follows.

Drives 1 & 2: (1st Raid 0 set)

100 Gb with a Windows XP, 64 bit, Operating System
450 Mb partition for video data from the second RAID set
450 Mb partition for imaging and archive files

Drives 3 & 4: (2nd Raid 0 set)

100 Gb with a Windows XP, 32 bit, Operating System Later possibly to be replaced with Windows Vista, 64 bit, Operating System
450 Mb partition for video data from the first RAID set
450 Mb partition for other data

Drive 5:

500 Gb SATA (non Raid) for important and permanently required data.

Drive 6:

500 Gb SATA (non Raid) for backup support using Casper software.

For this computer:

Seagate Barracuda, Sata (2) 300, 500 Gb, 7200 rpm with a 32 Mb buffer

drives will be installed as they are reported as being relatively quiet and are generally accepted as reliable and have a large buffer and good seek time as well being excellent value for money at the current time.

To be selected later:

Floppy Disk Drive

Optical Drives

1st DVD Burner (DVD +/- R DL)

2nd DVD Burner (Blu-ray)

< Message edited by geoff_pell -- 12/31/2007 3:26:54 AM >
Post #: 5
Section No. 1b - Planning: Component Selection - 12/2/2007 8:45:54 AM   


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Computer Case
The main features essential in a computer case are:

a, Space
b, Efficient Cooling
c, Suitability


The casing must have sufficient room to accommodate the Motherboard, Video card(s), Memory Modules, any PCI or PCI - E cards, Hard Drives, Optical Drives, PSU (Power Supply Unit) and all the wiring associated with these items.
Particular attention should be given where Water Cooling, Heat Pipes and oversized Heat Sinks are employed.
Generally speaking one might expect this to be a common consideration for all cases.
But there are different sized cases to suit different computer needs.
Midi size will be large enough for most people.
These vary in size and careful consideration may be necessary.
Having room to work inside the computer, sufficient room to allow good cooling by an increased volume of air and the spacing of cabling are also important factors.
Efficient Cooling

The need for space inside the computer is mentioned above.
This is part of assisting the good airflow from good quality fans.
There are various recipes to accomplish good air circulation which is required even if water cooling is also employed.
The Hard drives should be located within a good cooling airstream.
This will be provided from cooling fan(s) situated to provide that feature.
The Hard Drives may be situated either side of a fan drawing air from outside of the case.
Processors have special needs with either a side ducting, an appropriate aperture or an alternative design to ensure an adequate airflow.
Sometimes an additional fan is situated above the Motherboard in the top of the case.
The features of the case can be checked out on the manufacturers Web Site.


Suitability is a product of the above requirements and consideration.
Particular care needs to be taken when very large video cards are to be used.
Conveniently placed front/top panel sockets positioning is not standard and their value will probably depend on where the computer will sit in relation to the user as this may dictate whether there is access for the user.
Having sockets on a panel that is not accessible is of no use at all.
When serious over clocking is to be employed the correct choice of case is particularly important.


Hard Drives are better placed when they are inserted from the side of the case. (With the case side removed) as this ensures that the cable and plugs are easy to inspect and are not within the hottest part of the cooling airflow.
Alloy is a far better conductor that steel, but both are useless at conducting heat away if they are covered with a plastic lining.
Good manufactures overcome this by using other means to adequately cool the installation where laminated sound proofing skins are used. Beware of cheap cases however.
Rough black surfacing absorbs and dissipates heat better than shiny silver ones.
Blue lights do nothing whatsoever to improve the efficiency of the case.
But for many they give lots of pleasure and satisfaction, and why not?
Aesthetics are often a consideration for those wanting to add that final touch to all their hard work.
Three cases were considered for the following reasons.

Thermaltake Shark

This is an excellent, though rather ugly, case being made of alloy and hence is light as well as a good heat sink.
Regrettably it is noisy due to the huge side vent which also allows dust to enter the computer and affect the efficiency of the cooling systems.

Antec P 180 and P 182

These seem to be highly recommended by several well respected members on the VFForum.
The Antec P 182 meets all the requirements of this computer and is slightly small, height wise, than the P 180 and will fit better in its intended location.
Therefore the case selected for this computer is the Antec P 182

Attachment (1)

< Message edited by geoff_pell -- 12/30/2007 9:28:58 AM >
Post #: 6
Section No. 1b - Planning: Component Selection - 12/30/2007 9:22:25 AM   


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PSU (Power Supply Unit)
The PSU is yet another crucial part to consider at the computer planning stage as it should ideally have power to spare for all the components that will ever be installed and certainly some spare capacity on the initial installation.
How then does one calculate how much power will be used by the planned system.
Well theoretically calculating the power is simply a case of adding up all the maximum power requirements specified for each component and then perhaps adding on 25% or so.
But who does that?
For this computer there will be two medium performance video cards, the manufacturer of which suggest that a PSU of 550 watts or greater is recommended.
The computer will also have to support a high end CPU one day as well as a lot of memory and six hard drives and two optical ones.
Therefore 750 watt would be the minimum output level suggested here and perhaps a larger one would be wise in view of recent history where power hungry components have become the norm.
The type and make of the until may be somewhat subjective.
Here previous experience with Thermaltake and OCZ units place these at the forefront for selection.
Basically any known good manufacturer should be safe.
Scrutinising current user reviews will yield lots of good information.
OCZ wins here due to it’s 20 amp rating on each of the four 12 volt rails and the availability of a 900 watt unit.
This is of no real consequence in practice, but the two are so equally suitable for this computer that this and a financial saving, swing the choice to OCZ, the model being of the same type as was purchased within the past two weeks and is very impressive.
This computer will therefore be fitted with the
OCZ ModXstream 900 watt Silent SLI ready ATX2 model

The 1000 watt model would be a little bit too large really especially when the extra cost is considered.
(The specifications will be published later when obtained)

< Message edited by geoff_pell -- 12/30/2007 9:29:30 AM >
Post #: 7
RE: Section No. 1b - Planning: Component Selection - 1/25/2008 8:29:09 AM   


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