PC system builders and other experts: is there anything you'd change?

'tis the season to build another new computer system, this time an overclocked 2.66 GHz Pentium D. My main goal: create an Intel-based machine ideal for multimedia (TiVo-like activities, games, video editing, streaming media, content creation, media ripping and media serving). Secondary goal: test a Peltier module I’ve been developing.

Shopping List
Intel Pentium D 805, $80
Asus P5B (not Deluxe) Motherboard, $145
Corsair 2GB Dual Channel DDR2 PC6400 800MHz Memory, $225 after rebate
(2) PNY Verto GEForce 7600GS, $300
(3) Maxtor 300GB Ultra ATA hard drive, $300
Lite-On Dual DVD Rewriteable drive, $32
Mitsumi 7 in 1 + floppy drive, $20
Cooler Master Mystique 632 case with 600-watt power, $152
OS: Windows XP Professional & Virtual PC --> Windows XP Media Center Edition, Windows Small Business Server Premium

I will be configuring two of the drives as RAID 0 and using the third as an external SATA system backup device.

Your thoughts?

You said this is partly for TIVO like activities - I’m assumiing you want to build a DVR? I don’t see any TV tuner cards. As of now, the standard is the Hauppauge PVR-150/250. The 150 is basically the 250 in a slightly smaller package, and thus a smaller price. The PVR-350 has the advantage of 2 tuners plus a video-out, but since you’ve already got the GeForce I doubt you care about that. The Hauppauges listed above all have hardware decoding which will greatly lighten the load on your system, so you can probably do other things with it while also recording shows and what not.
Also, are you going to keep this in the room with the TV? Because if you are, the size and the noise can be an issue, depending on how picky you are.

I’m suspicious in general of the power supplies that come with cases. I’m positively flashing an alarm light at a 600W one that costs less than $200 including a case. That’s just way too cheap.

Otherwise, looks good. I’m not sure about the SLI 7600 GS’s, that’s a fairly low-end card (for a gamer, I mean), so it might be that a single 7900 or something similar might outperform it for less. You’d have to look around to be sure.

I’d make sure the drive has Lightscribe, but that’s just me. I hate disk labels.

the Pentium D 805 is 64-bit, yes? Given Vista’s proximity, I don’t think I’d want to get at 32-bit machine now.

Thanks for the recommendation. We have only five channels over the air, so I hadn’t really considered the TV side of TiVo. I was going to purchase the separate Windows MCE remote/receiver module, but for a few bucks more I can get it bundled with the Happauge 150. I’m not terribly worried about the noise.

TimeWinder: Yep, the 805 is 64 bit. Drive is LightScribe. The case is bundled with a HEC 585-watt power supply. My idea regarding the 7600GS was the 512MB RAM per card and power of two combined GPUs via PCI Express. Perhaps I’m mistaken?

PS: I’ve just determined the ASUS P5B has only one 16x PCI-E slot, so I’ll be buying another MB.

The only thing you’ve listed that will really take advantage of the SLI 7600’s is gaming, and the general consensus on that is that it’s better to go with a single high end card (e.g. Geforce 7900) than two lower-end ones in SLI.

For a TV tuner card I’d recommend the Hauppage PVR-500. The two tuners are really nice, as scheduling conflicts are common and it doesn’t cost that much more.

Also, you could use more storage if you’re going to use it as a media server, although you can easily add it down the road. I’ll probably shoot for at least 500 gigs up, with a terabyte if you want some breathing room.

Get yourself a decent RAID card and mirror the disks rather than stripe them. Or get more and go for RAID 3 or 5. Don’t use the motherboard RAID. And I’ll echo what Giraffe said about having two graphics cards.

I might suggest a smaller (20 to 80GB) drive for your OS. I know you’ll be doing backups and such, but I just like to keep my OS and program files separate from my massive amounts of data (I collect TV shows).

This way you can pull a drive full of media and take it elsewhere, take out a drive and swap in a new one when it gets full, or just avoid having to re-do any media when your OS needs wiping or the drive dies.

I used to just have a bunch of 80gb drives and would partition them for my OS and then my media but I kept ending up having guessed wrong on the amount of media space I’d be needing or OS space I’d be needing. Having my OS and programs on their own 80GB drive (and recoverable stuff like music, program downloads and ripped DVDs) makes me feel like my media is safer, and having my media on it’s own drive makes me feel like my OS is safer. If that makes sense.

Speaking from a gamer’s point of view, it seems sort of silly to me to spend that much on a box and get such a low-end processor. You can get either the lowest of the new Core 2 Duo line or an AMD X2 - either of which will run faster, cooler, and with less power consumption - for <200.

Also agreed on the graphics cards, with the extra bonus that if you get a single 7900, it’s pretty easy to add a second 7900 if you find that you need it later on.

Thanks, Giraffe, for the suggestions all the way around. I found a PVR 500 locally for really cheap.

Quartz: I appreciate the advice. The RAID will be upped for the next project, a server cluster for our ranch.

ZipperJJ: My idea is to add major storage capacity via external SATA sometime after the first of the year.

Kiros: I’m not a big PC gamer myself (I prefer my consoles), though I would play DOOM3 if I had a faster machine. Aside from getting a new, capable multipurpose box, the main thrust of this project is to enable extreme overclocking and a thorough test of my Peltier prototype. I can always swap out the CPU later, so this is a great opportunity to experiment.

To all: if I’m going to spend $300 on a single graphics card, would you have any other recommendations?