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Specs for building a modern PC.

Discussion in 'Tech Talk' started by havensal, Apr 6, 2009.

  1. havensal

    havensal Nozzle Jockey CLM

    Aug 14, 2003
    Western, NY
    After reading a thread earlier about upgrading or building new I had a thought.

    How have the spec changed in the last few years.

    My first PC build was about 10 years ago. At the time I looked at clock speed, HDD size, and RAM capacity.

    I think now it's the little things that make the difference. It's not just the frequency of the processor you have to look at, now you have the L1, L2, and L3 cache, the FSB.

    RAM is the same now too. A gig of RAM is not a gig of RAM. You have to look at the FSB, you have to look at the latencies and voltages.

    What about HDD's? Do you look past the capacity? What about the cache and RMP?

    My computer I built aver a year and a half ago. I wanted to build as fast and powerful a PC I could without wasting $. I looked at all of the above details to squeeze every last bit of performance out of my $.

    How many of you do the same?
    Do the little extra specs make that much difference?
    How much research do you do before you spend a penny?
  2. zodiacbw


    Apr 3, 2008
    Buford, GA
    Depending on who the computer is for, research varies from light to extensive. Naturally, you want to get the most for your money and not just buy the least/most expensive or best reviewed.

    As a whole, I would say yes all the little things make a difference. One thing by itself may or may not be noticable. Example, I switched out one of my friends cheapo factory RAM for some low latency GeiL stuff. A week later I told him and he replied 'I thought that was just from me cleaning the system up a little, it does seem faster' (clean up probably helped too).

    CPUs, the different caches from all the reviews I have seen make a very minimal difference, like almost nonexistant. FSB and clocking are far more important for overall performance. Find a CPU that overclocks easily to get a little more bang for your buck. My 2.16 Ghz Core 2 Duo is running at 3.1 Ghz.

    Memory, higher Mhz and lower latency will both contribute to more bandwidth, tweak them to what works best for you. Voltage won't be a problem unless you're using a cheapo motherboard, in which case, try to find memory that conforms to the proper specs for its speed (DDR2 = 1.8 Volt, most want 2.1 Volt IIRC). You probably don't need the $350 super-cooled gaming high performance stuff. I buy memory with decent latency for the speed(Mhz) and work around with it until I find settings that work.(Kingston, GeiL, Corsair, OCZ, ect)

    Hard drives.... After switching from SATA (7200rpm) to 2 SATA (7200 rpm) in RAID 0 to a 10k RPM Velociraptor, I'm sold on the Velociraptor. The solid state drives (SSD) come close in some areas and beat it in others. I'm still up in the air on those, but for the money I would probably stick with either a velociraptor or Seagate (500GB +) 7200 rpm drives. Depending on what you're doing, HD cache doesn't make a huge difference, more so I think than the CPU cache though.

    Power supplies, if it came with your $29.95 case, chances are you should throw it in the garbage and go buy another. There are tons of quality ones made today for reasonable prices (Enermax, Antec, Thermaltake ect.)

    Anywho, I've ranted enough, buy quality components, test and tweak everything thoroughly and keep it clean (software and physically).

  3. jordanrw


    Apr 2, 2009
    Completely agree. As computer programmer, when I build my machines cache, especially at the lower levels (L1, L2) are very important. More important than "hey man I got 4 cores!" Multi-core processors are great but most machines and software do not take full advantage of them yet. If you want the computer to be a bit ahead of its time get a quad core, but cache and FSB are important. The last machine I built I opted to for a dual-core instead of a quad-core because the cache was larger, it saved me some $, and the machine really wasn't running any software that knew what to do w/ that many cores.

    Latency, voltage and timing all mean something with RAM. This is my least favorite part of building a machine. I am never satisfied with my choice. Your best bet is finding the best reviewed RAM in your price range that match your motherboard (aka pick a good motherboard first)

    Capacity is important but most people don't realize that their machines can be severely slowed down by data access. RPM and Cache are more important to me. (New egg has 1TB drives with 32mb cache, not sure on RPM for $99 by the way).

    I spend probably two weeks building a machine. I scower a variety of sites looking for parts and deals once I find exactly what I want as well. Considering a few different configurations is always a good idea too. Weighing the pros and cons of each a lot of times leads to a hybrid version that is even better than the originals. Funny that it only takes a few hours to get it running though.
  4. Sgt. Schultz

    Sgt. Schultz Annoying Member

    It's 7200 RPM and free shipping.
  5. stooxie

    stooxie NRA Life Member

    Apr 10, 2005
    Northern Virginia
    If you want to reduce wait times getting faster drives will make the biggest difference. Ever notice how much time the drives spend grinding when booting, opening apps, etc? That can be addressed in two ways: using a faster drive system and making sure you touch them as little as possible (i.e, add memory!)

    As for the memory latency and all that, you're talking single digit percentages for the most part and even then it represents a tiny fraction of the overall system latencies. In other words, what difference does it make waiting 170ns for a memory transition to take place when you'll wait 7ms for disk access time? 7m == 7,000,000 ns, which is 41,176X slower than that memory transition.

    If you want to spend the money go with a SAS setup, the drives are in a different class from SATA. A cheap thing to do is add memory-- doesn't matter so much what kind, just make sure you never page to disk and cache as much as possible.

  6. havensal

    havensal Nozzle Jockey CLM

    Aug 14, 2003
    Western, NY

    When Win7 is released I think I am going to go with 64but and up my ram from 4 to 8. I am going to set a RAID to help with the disk access times.:cool: Maybe by then I should look into building a whole new PC. :dunno: :faint:

    <---- Looking up SAS for future reference.