What’s in Wogg’s Wish List?

If you’ve read my horribly outdated system specifications on my PC page, you may conclude that I’ve given up on computers 4 years ago.  Well… not exactly, I do keep up on what’s happening and plan my eventual upgrade scenarios with the help of NewEgg’s wish lists.  So I thought I’d spend a minute sharing what I would be running.

The Digital Audio Workstation

The focus of this build remains on multi-threaded processing power, decent storage, and a simple and stable configuration.  A quad core processor with a bunch of memory is key here.  The target will be to run Sonar 8.5 under Windows 7 64bit.

Intel Option

It’s a little more money, but offers smoking fast performance

Processor: Intel i5 -750
Decent price point and tests almost as quick as it’s big brother the i7.  This chip has the added bonus of mating with cheaper P55 chipset motherboards, bringing the total system cost down.  If I was into more big sample sets and synth work instead of straight audio tracking, the added memory bandwidth of the i7 would be handy, but for my purposes, this chip is smoking fast.

Motherboard: Asus P7P55
P55 motherboards are all over the place, but I’ve always had decent luck with Asus.  This board is a middle of the road option as far as features go and comes near the $100 price point that I prefer.  For a DAW, you simply don’t need half the features on today’s motherboards like multiple video card configurations and every I/O option in the world.  The important bits are stability and drive performance.

Memory: Crucial 4GB DDR3 Kit
Crucial makes decent, reliable memory kits that have a very good chance of working with your motherboard.  Skimp money here, and you may end up troubleshooting instead of enjoying your fast system.

Upgrade Cost: $471.96 + shipping

The AMD Option

If this setup comes into my budget range first, I’ll jump on it.  The Phenom II series setups are really fast and damn cheap.  They can’t compete with Intel at the high end, but in the budget space, they off excellent bang for the buck.

Processor: Phenom II X4 925
This is a good price point and makes what I’m running now look like a Commodore 64.  ‘Nuf said.

Motherboard: Asus M4A78
Yup, it’s Asus again.  This one has the AM3+ socket for some future upgrades and AMD’s 770 chipset.  It uses older DDR2 memory though, so I may need to update the list with a DDR3 motherboard as supplies switch over.  For now, this sucker is cheap and quick.

Memory: Corsair XMS2 4GB Kit
For a DDR2 choice I went with Corsair.  I’ve used plenty of this brand and have never had any problems.

Upgrade Cost: $365.96 + shipping

Common Component

Hard Drive: Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 500G
There’s nothing special about this drive, just a run of the mill choice really.  Hard drives have been fast enough for a large number of audio tracks for years.  This one will not have any problems with reasonable track counts and even some light sample bank streaming.  The main reason I need one of these is that I’m currently running a pair of plain old IDE drives and new motherboards no longer come with two channels of old school IDE.  A SATA drive is required to avoid I/O bottlenecks.

Existing Parts

These core components would be built into my existing case and use my current power supply.

For my video card I’m running a nVidia 7600 board that is passively cooled, so no fan noise at all.  This card has good dual DVI outputs and is plenty fast for Windows 7 and audio work.

For my audio interface, the old reliable M-Audio Delta 1010 will continue to do the job.  Recent Windows 7 64bit drivers have matured a bit to fix a couple minor issues I had with the Vista 64bit driver and Windows 7 64bit RC1.

My OS boot drive will be re-used as well on the old fashioned IDE bus.  Sure a new SATA drive or even a high price SSD will speed up system boot and load times significantly, but once the OS is running and the programs are loaded, the performance difference disappears so this is not a high priority for me.

The Multimedia Monster

For my TV and game machine, the focus is a little different.  2 cores will do the job here as most games don’t take advantage of more than that.  I’ve also got a need for PCI slots to accommodate a TV tuner and a Micro ATX form factor to fit in my home theater case.

I’ve stuck with an AMD option here, since extreme amounts of speed aren’t really required and I’m really more concerned about price.  That of course means the “monster” in the title isn’t technically accurate, but it’s close enough.

My computer for this purpose is currently running Windows Media Center Edition 2005, but the target will be Windows 7 for the much improved media center interface.

Processor: Athlon II X2 250
A 3GHz dual core for $65?  Yes please.  This will be plenty fast for anything home theater related and most modern games when properly balances with a good video card.  Intel has absolutely nothing comparable at this price.  A i3 would be a bit of a step up performance wise, but would raise the price accordingly and put you into a higher cost motherboard as well.

Motherboard: ECS A780GM-M3
Micro ATX for the case, with a decent set of options.  I have used a handful of ECS boards in the past and have found them very stable.  They don’t carry all the features of the bigger brands but have a smaller price tag to compensate.

Memory: Corsair XMS2 4GB Kit
This board also hosts DDR2 RAM so, the same Corsair kit appears here.

Video Card: ATI (AMD) Radeon HD 5770
For just under $200 you can get any number of these cards.  My case needs one that has a dual slot cooler that vents to the outside to keep temperatures under control.  I’ve currently got a nVidia 9600 Pro in the system that will probably keep me going for a while.  This is primarily due to my current monitor, a 31″ CRT that was sweet back in it’s day but only offers 800X600 resolution.  That’s not enough to stress out a video card, even in today’s games so the 9600 Pro can handle that even with anti-aliasing enabled.  Stepping up to a 5770 card will triple my frame rate capability and allow me to handle an upgrade to a 1080P high definition output someday.

Upgrade Cost: $209.97 + shipping (without the video card for now)

Existing Parts

Just like the DAW, these core components would be built into my existing case and use my current power supply.

For a TV Tuner I have a ATI board that does the trick.  This computer is rarely used for recording or watching TV, so even though it’s a single tuner it does the job for now.

My OS boot and TV recording drives will be re-used as well since my recording drive is SATA already and I don’t have any additional storage requirements right now.

Where do the leftovers go?

As always, the leftover parts land hand me down style into my older systems.  My general purpose family computer is doing fine with it’s little single core Athlon 64 3200+, 2G of RAM and ATI X1600XT video card.  That is quite an old platform but does perfectly fine with Windows 7 32bit.  This sytem could use another core though, so my dual core Athlon X2 4200+ would be a nice improvement.  The remainder of the guts would be passed along to another system I have limping along on a Athon XP 2000+ setup.

There you have it… the system setups I would do now given the cashola to execute.