Hexus Buyers Guide.
This is a guide of people to who want to get a system and aren’t sure about what they want, I've been sent many emails asking what I recommend for peoples' system, starting with what processor, motherboard, cooler etc.
Hexus.net recommends: -
For starters you would be mad not to get a Duron with the current ones hitting very high speeds. Being able to hit a gig with just a pencil for sub £70, you will have an awesome processor. We would recommend getting a Duron 700, modding it and hitting a GHz ;) We feel that all of our users should be at one GHz minimum, anything less isn’t good enough! If your not pleased with AMD and you want to be an Intel king we would recommend getting a Celeron II 566 and clocking it to 850, maybe not be as pleasing as the AMD speed, but with the Intel it will fit the older motherboards such as the Abit BH6. This means for tiny amounts of money you can have a manic speed!
Well, once you have your cpu, you need to get a motherboard, Yes I agree that Via aren’t good at all, in fact we prefer the good old BX chipset from Intel. We would recommend getting the Abit BX-133 RAID option this is a very nice motherboard. It is developed by Abit who are the best motherboard manufacturers and also the best for overclocking. This motherboard is the best for any Intel CPUs and is the most reliable board; it has full support for bus speeds up to 200MHz in 1 MHz increments, and also full voltage adjustment. The only drawback is the fact that the AGP divider is not as good as on the Intel 815 motherboards. If we had to recommend and 815 motherboard then we would point you in the direction of the Asus CUSL mainboard. This is the best 815 on the market, there is no other one better. Yes, we do love Abit, but their 815 mainboard didn’t impress us at all, but hey, you can't win all the games.
If your heading down the AMD route then you need to look at the kt133 chipset based mainboards. They are very reliable, but there is a drawback. They are Via, so if you can afford to wait and you are prepared to make the investment then you should wait for the AMD 760 chipset mainboards with the DDR support. These have recently been delayed again by AMD but they are still the ones to have. They have seriously rocked the net recently with their support and benchmarks. If you can't wait and you need a new system now then we would recommend looking at the Asus A7V or the Abit KT7 (RAID or not). We do love the Abit KT7 and it is in both of our test rigs. We have also been more than impressed with the Asus A7V which is the competition's board. With the Abit you get the UDMA 100 support and RAID on the RAID board, but on the non-RAID edition you don’t get RAID of course, and also you don’t get the UDMA 100 support. Also with the Abit you get 6 PCI slots, 1 AGP, and 1 ISA slot, this board is the one which I am currently using and it is one serious power rig!
On the memory front there are several different aspects which you need to look into. Firstly, unless you don’t have PC100 RAM already, we would recommend getting quality PC133, as memory prices have fallen in the last 2 weeks. It means that for around the £90 mark you can get a 128MB of PC133 Cas2 RAM from Crucial who are one of the best memory makers. They use the micron chips, which also has the best performance, being seriously reliable for both the overclockers and also for people who want mission critical systems, I believe this is what people should be using in servers. If you want to go the entire run on an Intel system you may want to look at investing in some quality PC150 RAM and the best manufacturer of this memory is Mushkin: there is no competition at all. If you're going down the DDR route then the memory which I would recommend would be the Micron chips based memory. It isn’t going to be cheap for 128MB of the DDR RAM, but you are paying for the latest technology and performance.
The next problem is what coolers do we recommend. To be honest we would only recommend the hedgehog. It is designed for socket A CPUs, but is excellent on Intel CPUs aswell. They are very powerful coolers, pure copper, and perform especially well when they are installed with a black label delta fan. This is the high powered 7000rpm fan which has dominated the overclocking market. We ran this on our hedgehog in our main review, and we got some very impressive results. Another thing which we would recommend is a copper spacer, which have just been developed for the socket A CPUs. These have been around on Intel CPUs for a long time. If you're not planning to overclock, we would recommend getting a cooler such as the Taisol range: these have more than impressed us in the past. They are good value and also have good performance, some of them are even currently performing better than Alphas in our labs! Another thing, which a lot of people tend to forget about, is the Arctic silver thermal paste. This is very important in a system: it can make the difference between stable and unstable, and we think the stuff to be perfectly frank ROCKS!
Now I hear you asking what graphics card should you use? Well as this write-up is based on the performance vs. pound ratio then we think that everyone should buy the Geforce MX, then overclock it, and your rocking. If you are prepared to spend more, and I mean 4 times as much, then you should look at the new Geforce Ultra based cards. These are serious power kits: maxxed-out graphics cards for all serious gamers. if you can't afford the money now, then wait they will drop in price. If you are hanging out for the 760 chipset and the DDR memory based board, then you could wait a little long for the Geforce 3 to be released. Then you will have a serious powerhouse.
Cases - cases - cases. Well, this is a very sticky subject. Which do you go for? Well I am personally a big fan of the Coolermaster ATC200 range which I think are excellent, but how many people do you know who are happy to spend 200 quid on a case which doesn’t even have a power supply unit? Well neither would I! If I was to buy a case I would probably go for an Aopen HX08 case, which is built like a tank, it is very strong and has good mount points. It is worth spending the £80 on this. If I was to get it I would also take the time in modding the case, putting in some fans and blow holes and also cutting out the central bit of the case to allow better air flow when the cables are installed. Another popular option seems to be the GlobalWin case, which you can buy modded or not, but these things are good cases and rock with 4 120MM YS-Tech fans mounted in them. There are a lot of online retailers who are happy to do the modding for you, at an extra charge.
Once you have the case, don’t forget about the power supply. This is also an important part of the system with a lot of people running Geforce 2s on an AMD Athlon based system. For this you will be wanting a 300W or higher PSU. I would recommend paying the little extra and getting the Enlight 330W power supply. If you are running a lot of CD Roms or SCSI kit then you should be looking at the 400W + range which Enlight also offer.
Another important thing in your system is the monitor. For high-end systems we would recommend getting something such as the Mitsubishi 19 inch flat screen. They are very nice screens and have a good reliability, and also good picture quality. If you don’t want to spend £350 on a monitor I would recommend grabbing a Targa 17 inch or a Hansol 17 inch. They are both good monitors and you can get one for around the £220 mark.
The next thing which you need to get for your system is a hard drive. We like Quantums for SCSI as they are fast and they are the best. We would suggest getting something like the Quantum Atlas 10K II which are the most powerful and fastest hard drives which we have seen on the market, but they carry a large price tag ($350). We think that this is far too much for an end-user PC, so to these people we would recommend the new Quantum AS drive, which is a very high=performance drive. This is a very fast and good drive. Some of Hexus.net colleagues live and swear by IBM drives, especially the GXP 75 range. In both cases I would recommend getting 2 of these drives of the 20gb size, and running a RAID 0 array on the onboard IDE RAID controller. These drives will set you back around the £90 mark each.
For sound cards there is only one way to go, and this is with Creative Labs Live range. It is the only one which we would look at. For example the Live Platinum 5.1 card for high-end Surround Sound or the Live 1024 as a budget card. These are both good cards, the Live will feed your HIFI and mini disc player with the optical out which most of you will want.
Next up is DVDs. There are a lot about, but which one do you go for? Well all of the Hexus test systems have either a Pioneer SCSI 6X DVD, which isn’t region-locked, and no we don’t watch DVDs at work ;) This is a £80 mark, it is a good drive and it is very reliable. If you don’t want to run SCSI, then you need to look at the 16X DVD IDE edition which is easy to crack so you can run this region-free. If you don’t want to run DVD in you system, then I suggest getting a Teac IDE or SCSI CD Rom drive around the 32X range. Teac drives are renound for being reliable and long lasting.
Well you have your DVD / CD set-up, you need to look at the options of the CDRW drives, and for both IDE and SCSI we would recommend going for the Plextor range. These are the best CDRWs on the market they are fast. Don’t let anyone tell you any differently. Also getting the IDE edition you can get a burn Proof drive, which is very useful for reliability and also saving you your pounds and pennies on not wasting CDRs.
The little bits which everyone forgets are the keyboard mouse, and mousemat. These can finish off a PC. I would suggest that people get the Microsoft Intellieye Explorer mouse. This is a damn nice mouse and has that 'ergo' feel. We also recommend that you get the Microsoft Internet Keyboard Pro / Ergo Pro. We all use Microsoft keyboards in the Hexus labs, and also so do our testers around the world. The final thing which will finish off the system is an Everglide mouse mat or a Ratpad - these are both great mats.