New desktop, try 2

After doing yet more research on benchmarks and prices, I’ve backed away from my revolutionary stance on Intel processors. The Athlon 64 X2 represents a fair approximation, and the CPU and motherboard combo I’ve chosen will save me about $150 off of the Intel alternative. Here’s what I’m ordering tonight:

Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-MA780G-UD3H (780G chipset, ATI Radeon HD 3200 on-board, although I won’t be using it) CPU: AMD Athlon 64 X2 5600 (Dual 2.9GHz cores, 2x512K L2, 65W) Video card: Radeon HD 4870 1GB (My first PCIe x16 card! Note that this is actually a bump over the previous plan) Memory: G.SKILL 4GB DDR2 (1066 MHz, dual-channel, CAS 5. A tiny upgrade in speed) Hard drive: Western Digital Caviar WD6400AAKS (640GB, 7200 RPM, this hasn’t changed)

Add in an HDMI cable (my screen and current video card support it, but for some reason I never got around to buying one) and one of the best reviewed AM2 heatsinks on the market, and it all adds up to just over $550 including shipping. Even cheaper than I was expecting.

The savings will probably go towards an HTPC build from the old hardware. Details to come! Maybe!

New desktop specs

I’ve got my new desktop birthday gift essentially planned at this point. I’ve been doing a lot of reading on Tom’s Hardware and Ars Technica, and both of them are pointing at Intel for solid mid-range desktops nowadays. There’s some disagreement over whether the Core i7 (Quad-core on one die! Triple-channel DDR3!) is worth the price premium over the Core 2 Duo. I’ve decided that, for me, it’s not. I don’t do enough video gaming anymore for four cores to be effectively utilized. Even two cores feels like a bit of a waste.

We’re still deciding on a case (although I really like everything Lian Li, like the PC-7B plus II) since the case is a part that I feel that M should have a say in. But the guts are going to be as follows:

  • CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E8500 (Dual core, 3.16GHz)
  • Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-EP45-UD3P (Intel P45 Northbridge. X48 was tempting, but I don't need that much PCIe, and I probably never will.)
  • Video card: Radeon HD 4850 512MB (This was a hard decision. The HD 4870 1GB would be so much faster, but in the end I don't game as much as I used to, and another $100 for the performance is too much.)
  • Memory: G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) (DDR2 800, Dual Channel, CAS 5. The Motherboard has four slots, so if when I need more memory, it'll be simple.)
  • Hard drive: Western Digital Caviar 640GB (7200 RPM, SATA 3.0Gb. I'm a hard drive miser. I could splurge for a 1TB drive, but I've never even filled my current 160GB disk.)
  • Optical drive: I'll move the NEC ND-3550A DVD-RW from my current desktop. It's still solid.

Update, Mar 3: I just ordered the parts, but not before a whole bunch of stuff changed.

Will my new desktop be an HTPC?

It’s been several years since microATX motherboards became commonplace, kicking the Home Theater PC movement into high gear. While researching hardware to build a new desktop computer, I ran into an interesting question: Can it be an HTPC? The “HT” part of the quotient would require it to be able to connect to my television, which is currently in a different room than my desktop, and I want to be able to still sit down at the computer. I don’t want heavy VGA running from the machine down the hallway. So it seems like I’ve only got a couple of options:

  1. Run cables down the hallway, and hope M doesn't notice. (Good luck).
  2. Wireless video. Half junk, half expensive vapor.
  3. A thin client like a Sun Ray on my desktop.
  4. Give up and pick either a new desktop, or an HTPC.

Right now, option 3 sounds the most promising. There are a handful of people who have talked about hooking high-end thin clients up to their TV to act as a home theater interface, but I’ve found no discussion of doing it the other way, as far as I can tell. I’ll be investigating this deeper over the next few weeks. But experimentation might be too expensive; I might just end up going for option 4.