TechSpot

Building a new (budget) Athlon64 PC- Advice?

By ObiWanShinobi
Jun 22, 2005
  1. Greetings,

    I apologize if I am treading long-trodden territory here, but I figured that I would seek some input before I gather up components for my first PC build. I am trying to limit myself to $600-$650 due to budgetary constraints. Here is what I have so far:

    CPU- Athlon64 3000+ Venice Core (socket 939)
    Motherboard- Foxconn NF4UK8AA-8EKRS Socket 939 NVIDIA nForce4
    HD- Seagate Barracuda 80GB/8MB SATA
    CD/DVD- LiteOn dual-layer DVDRW
    RAM- Crucial 512MB PC3200 x 2
    Video- ABIT RX600PRO-128 PCIE Radeon X600PRO 128MB DDR

    The above is about $525 total on Newegg and I believe it includes all I need (I already have the monitor, a 120GB Seagate ATA for storage, and a copy of XP), minus the case/PSU. What is something good and reasonably (<=$85) priced with a good 24-pin PSU and front USB? Are there any changes to the above components that you would recommend? I am a bit iffy on the motherboard (though it's gotten generally positive reviews everywhere I've checked) and on the vid card. I'm not a heavy gamer and don't care whether or not I can get 90fps at 1280x1040 in Doom 3, but I want something that performs acceptably and has a stable set of drivers.

    Any help/advice/suggestions would be greatly appreciated... This whole process feels greatly intimidating to me and I am nervous about choosing crappy components and running into trouble. Thanks!
     
  2. vnf4ultra

    vnf4ultra TechSpot Paladin Posts: 2,195

    That's a pretty good setup.

    I'd consider the vnf4ultra motherboard(it's nforce 4 ultra and cheap), I have it and will recommend it.

    I don't know how much you are paying for the ram, but corsair vs ram (cas 2.5) is only about $80 on newegg now.

    You probably won't find a decent case with a 24 pin psu of any quality for your price. You can get a cheap psu (that's still decent) and a cheap case, and maybe have what you want.

    Example: cheap case
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16811147010
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16811154048

    Cheap, but ok 24pin psus
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16817103465
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16817189003
     
  3. ripken204

    ripken204 TS Rookie Posts: 315

  4. ObiWanShinobi

    ObiWanShinobi TS Rookie Topic Starter

    vnf4ultra- I've read good things about that MB. I have a couple of questions regarding it:

    Is the BIOS regularly updated? Are there any "issues" with the board (ie, quirks I should be aware of)?

    Is it possible to use a 1GB memory module in single-channel mode on that board, or do they always have to be installed in pairs? A 1GB DIMM would seem preferable as it would allow me to go from 1 gig to 2 without populating all four slots. Also, the Crucial RAM I'd been looking at (the matched 512MB sticks) are slightly more expensive than the equivalent Corsair VS memory and have a cas of 3 instead of 2.5, so it would appear to be a better choice.

    As far as the PSU thing goes, it would appear that you're right. It looks like I'm going to wind up purchasing the case and a decent PSU separately. Thanks for your input; it is extremely helpful!


    ripken204- I've also read good things about that MB; I'd like to ask of you the same questions I directed at vnf4ultra up there. Also, as far as the vid cards go, I looked at several cards based on the ATI and nVidia chipsets you suggested. Which of the two would you recommend? Which has better (ie, more stable) drivers? Thanks also for your reply!
     
  5. vnf4ultra

    vnf4ultra TechSpot Paladin Posts: 2,195

    I think the bios is well updated. It's had several revisions. There were several beta bioses at the beginning. I have bios 4.0 now, and it seems to have fixed all the little annoyances. It's a good bios IMO.
    http://www.chaintechusa.com/tw/eng/Download/dl_desc.asp?DCSNo=4&PISNo=318

    There also is a v5.0 bios, but it's for dual core cpus.

    The board has good support here.
    http://forums.pcper.com/forumdisplay.php?f=46

    I'm pretty sure 1 1gb module will work, it supports 4gb total, so it has 4 slots, which makes me think it supports up to 1gb modules. I've seen people in single channel with smaller mem. amounts (like 512mb), so It should work.

    I don't understand the logic behind getting the crucial ram. It's cas 3, which is slow, 2 is fast, 2.5 is medium, 3 is slow. 2.5 is good for budget ram though.

    Ok, at first the board had issues with cpu vcore, but now the latest bios(4) has fixed the issue. It also has a cpu fan speed controller in the bios too, which is nice.

    It oc's very well for a budget board, although many times it's the cpu that limits the overclock. It have my winnie. 3000+ 1.8ghz at 2.45ghz. It has all the basic oc options. It's been good for me.

    Venice core cpus oc even better, and support more memory configs, so I'd go for venice, they are sometimes cheaper than the winchesters too.

    I'd suggest a better video card too, but only if you can afford a better one. An x600 isn't terribly bad, it is playable if you mess with the game settings(lower detail, and screen res.).
    consider a 6600, or x700 pro. The x700pro is almost as fast as a 6600gt, and much faster than a 6600(non gt). It's only a few dollars more too.
    Here are some cheaper cards (6600 and x700pro)
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16814125176
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16814123146

    http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/video/display/2004-27gpu2_34.html
     
  6. ObiWanShinobi

    ObiWanShinobi TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Thanks for the BIOS info; the Foxconn mobo looked pretty alright, but I wasn't so sure about how on the ball they are with updates. I appreciate the links with further info, which I'm going to check out a bit later. Thanks also for the heads up about the Vcore issue; if I do wind up buying this board, I'll be sure to flash to BIOS 4 as soon as I can.

    As far as the ram goes, I don't intend to buy the Crucial chips anymore; the Corsair memory seems like a better idea as it is faster and, by all accounts, extremely reliable. I could have been a bit more clear in how I phrased it.

    Those links to the vid cards and benchmarks were helpful. I think I am going to upgrade to the Abit RX700pro; it's not far out of my budget and it looks quite solid

    I have a couple of additional (hopefully not dumb-sounding) questions regarding my build:
    1- My XP CD is pre-SP1/2; I never got around to slipstreaming either of them into a backup copy before my main rig died. Will there be any (non-Activation) issues recognizing any of the hardware during Setup? I am particularly worried about the PCIe card, as I'm unclear as to whether or not the first retail release of XP has "out of the box" support for the tech or if it was added in later.
    2- As far as the SATA drive goes, is designating it as my primary drive as simple as changing the boot order in the BIOS? Will XP setup require a driver floppy to "see" the drive?

    Thanks again for all of your help. It is much appreciated.
     
  7. vnf4ultra

    vnf4ultra TechSpot Paladin Posts: 2,195

    Before 4.0, the vcore had 1.4v and then 1.6v+ as the options(that worked, the other options were listed, but didn't work). But 1.5-1.55 is optimal, as you don't want to overdo voltage. So basically people either ran stock at 1.4v and if they oc'ed they used 1.6v. I'm using 1.6v, since I oc'ed before the v4.0 bios and got 2.45ghz, it won't work on any lesser voltage than 1.6v and be stable on my rig, so it didn't affect me when I had more voltage options.

    I really don't know about the xp thing, I used xp sp2 with my vnf4ultra, but I would guess it'd still work with xp(original).

    I didn't use a sata drive, so I can only say what I have heard others say. The vnf4ultra is supposed to not need drivers for sata, it should be just plug and play, but occasionally some drives(like some maxtor diamondmax 10 sata), just don't seem compatible. I've seen some people also use sata opticals(dvd-rw) with this board. I like seagate because they have a 5yr warranty.

    Hope it helps.

    I don't think you should have any issues.
     
  8. ObiWanShinobi

    ObiWanShinobi TS Rookie Topic Starter

    I think I remember reading about that voltage issue a week or two ago. I am kind of scared of inadvertently frying something, so I'd probably hold off on making any attempts at overclocking until I am well-versed in all the variables.

    That looks like a nice performance boost you got there...

    I wasn't sure if Windows Setup would recognize the vid card but, according to MS, PCIe is software-compatible with PCI as far as Windows goes. From what I can tell , Setup should auto-detect a SATA HD much as it would a SCSI HD so long as the MB supports it; I think drivers would only be necessary for a RAID configuration, which I don't particularly need.

    Seagate's warranty is very reassuring. I've also never had one of their drives flake out on me, which is more than I can say for Maxtor or Western Digital.

    You have been very helpful. I appreciate the time you've taken to explain/clarify things to me.
     
  9. ripken204

    ripken204 TS Rookie Posts: 315

    for video card i would say an evga or a bfg 6600gt
     
  10. vnf4ultra

    vnf4ultra TechSpot Paladin Posts: 2,195

    Yeah, a 6600gt is somewhat faster than a x700 pro, but an x700pro is only $125, while a 6600gt starts at about $160, and bfg ones are about $200.
    The x700 pro is a better "bang for your buck" now.

    Let me think of some more quirks of the board. First, it cannot use a pci(standard) video card as a primary display, it needs a pci-e card. It also has a somewhat inconvenient placement of the power connector, but that only matters for wire hiding tricks. Oh, it also doesn't have firewire, but firewire pci cards are cheap if needed.

    The board can work on a 20 pin psu, and I did it for a while, but a 24 is "best", it supplies power to the pci-e card, IIRC.

    That's all the "bad" I can think of. Everything else is good. I flashed the bios with winflasher, IIRC. You dl the bios and flash from windows, it's easy.
    http://forums.pcper.com/showthread.php?t=373815
    Go to the third post down. It explains it.

    I think that xp will work, as ms said. I also think the sata install should be fairly easy if your not doing raid.

    Good luck.
    If you need more help if you build, pm, I'm glad to help.
     
  11. ObiWanShinobi

    ObiWanShinobi TS Rookie Topic Starter

    That is some good information to know. The inability to use a PCI graphics adapter seems kind of iffy, but it's probably not any kind of big deal. The lack of firewire bugs me a bit, but it's not really necessary as I have no plans to do any video editing and firewire cards are cheap. The ability to flash the BIOS from Windows is very nice; I've always been a bit wary of the floppy disk/reboot method.

    Thanks for your offer for further help; I just might be taking you up on it within the week.
     
     
  12. vnf4ultra

    vnf4ultra TechSpot Paladin Posts: 2,195

    Yeah, the pci video card issue is odd. Many people got the board early, when pci-e cards were new/expensive/hard to find, and decided to run it with a pci card they had laying around until prices dropped and availablity was better. It didn't work, and many people were *ticked*. I got the board early, but got a pci-e card so I had no issue, maybe the issue has been resolved with the newer bioses, I don't know, nobody's said anything about the pci card issue for a good while.

    It can use a pci video card for a secondary(or more) display though, so if you want 3 monitors, you can hook 2 to the pci-e and one to the pci(or 2 to the pci for 4).

    I wish it had firewire, but so far, every periperal I have is usb 2.0 compatible, so no worries. Many devices are usb2 and firewire compatible, so unless your doing a lot of dv which needs a firewire connection, then it isn't an issue for most.

    Newer vnf4ultras have active chipset cooling(a.k.a. fan/heatsink), which keeps it cooler, but some complain(those who need it silent, not just quiet) it makes some noise. I have a passive cooler(heatsink only), and it works well, I have it oc'ed too, and it's not overheating.

    I really like the support for the board on the pcper chaintech forums, they've been very helpful from my experience. If you have any problems, they most likely know how to help.

    Yeah, if you have questions, I'll try to help you, no guarantees though. :) :p
    Vnf4ultra(my sn, not the board :))
     
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