View Full Version : Hardware advice sought..

2011-07-21, 07:49
So...I just reduced my main desktop computer to a smoking puddle of slag. (Zalman water cooling component failure...I should have kept a closer eye on things.) Anyway, I'm starting to shop for a new motherboard, CPU, memory & video card and I'm realizing that I've totally ignored all the desktop hardware developments for the past 4 years. i5? i7? Socket LGA 1366? 1156? None of that means anything to me!

I'd appreciate hearing what folks have to say in terms of desirable components these days. I've always stuck with Intel CPUs for my desktop machines...so there is a bias there.

What this will be replacing:

Asus P5W64 WS mobo, 4gigs RAM, 2.1ghz Core2 Quad CPU, Nvidia Quadro video.

What the new setup will be doing:

Dual booting Win7 64 / Ubuntu

Lots & lots of CD ripping to flac, lots & lots of Handbrake encoding of video, everyday word processing & spreadsheet crunching, quickbooks pro accounting.

No games, architectural drafting, 3D rendering, etc, so video requirements are slight.

So..any recommendations (other than to not use H2O cooling?)

2011-07-21, 08:05
Why dual boot? Why not go with like 8 GB RAM, pick your prime OS and run the secondary in a VM using something like Virtualbox? This avoids booting back and forth. With todays hardware this should be a cakewalk.

2011-07-21, 09:25
+1 for using virtual machines instead of dual booting

I suggest 8-16GB of memory and a quad core chip, though there doesn't seem to be much of a point to quad over dual cores for most tasks. Perhaps the extra cores could be dedicated to running Ubuntu in a VM...

This stuff is so much faster and less expensive than it used to be that raw performance has not driven me to upgrade in a long time. These days it is about features and design.

I think the integrated graphics have finally caught up with Windows performance requirements, so if you aren't playing games then just about any board should be good enough

Some considerations:

Low power parts (especially CPUs) need less cooling, and less cooling means less noise. For the same performance, lower TDP CPUs are a lot more expensive than their higher power siblings. "A lot" is in percentage terms. The incremental price is still less than the price of a few cocktails
ECC memory is seriously worth considering, especially if you don't reboot often (i.e. suspend/standby instead of a cold boot). ECC support makes overclocking a bad idea (so I've heard) and rules out almost every non-Xeon Intel board (Intel has used ECC as a key feature to differentiate their consumer and enterprise parts even though there really isn't any incremental cost to support ECC). In theory all AMD boards should support ECC, but in practice only Asus has it listed on their spec sheets. Fortunately Asus seems to have feature-competitive offerings in every form factor
A SSD disk for your OS will provide the a noticeable performance improvement because I/O is almost always the limiting factor these days. SSDs are not so expensive and (apparently) when they "fail" they just become read-only. Storing swap and hibernation files on SSD makes me queasy, but I do it anyway because they are not terrifically expensive