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#1198 by Neil Blanchard
Wed Mar 23, 2005 1:12 pm

I've decided to spruce up both my 75th and 90th Percentile system specs. Here's the 75th Percentile system (all pricing is from

INWIN C-Series Black ATX Mid Tower Case With 300W Power Supply, Model "IW-C720T.I300BFU2AD" -RETAIL $49.99

ASUS Black 52X32X52 IDE Internal CD-RW Drive w/ QuieTrack Technology, Model CRW-5232AS QuieTrack, Retail $29.49

SONY Black 1.44MB 3.5inch Floppy Disk Drive, Model MPF920, OEM $8.50

SAMSUNG 80GB 7200RPM SATA Hard Drive, Model SP0812C, OEM Drive Only $74.00

Mushkin 184 Pin 512MB DDR PC-3200 - Retail $51.00

MSI "K8T NEO-FSR" K8T800 Chipset Motherboard for AMD Socket 754 CPU -RETAIL $71.00

AMD Athlon 64 2800+, 512KB L2 Cache, 64-bit Processor - OEM $109.00
ENERMAX Thermal Control 80mm Case fan, Model "UC-001B-TC" -RETAIL $4.99
ALPHA Heatsink for AMD64, Model "PAL8150T" - Retail $29.99

Microsoft Windows XP HOME Edition With Service Pack 2 -OEM $92.95

HIS Hightech ATi RADEON 9600 Dual-DVI Video Card, 256MB DDR, 128-bit, TV-Out, 8X AGP, Model "EXCALIBUR RADEON 9600" -RETAIL $129.50

Product total: $650.41
Shipping & Handling: $ 45.95 (to Massachusetts)
Total (Before tax): $696.36

Some minor caveats: the video card has a tiny fan that it likely noisy, and so, if you need it quieter, you would want to buy the passive cooler listed below (the AeroCool), or get a Zalman VF700 Al/Cu. Also, the case fan in the InWin case is likely too high speed to be quiet, so you would want to slow it down; either by undervolting it to 5v or 7v or get a Zalman FanMate for $5.

And here's the 90th Percentile system:

Evercase Black ATX Mid Tower Case, Model "E4252BB-53" -RETAIL $35.00

ASUS Black 52X32X52 IDE Internal CD-RW Drive w/ QuieTrack Technology $29.49

Mitsumi USB Digital Card Reader/Writer W/FD (Black)INTERNAL, Model FA404A/404M $42.00

2X (for RAID1 Mirror) SAMSUNG 160GB 7200RPM SATA Hard Drive, Model SP1614C, OEM Drive Only, $98.99 each, total $197.98

2X Mushkin 184 Pin 512MB DDR PC-3200 - Retail $51.00 each, total $102.00

GIGABYTE "GA-K8N Ultra-9" nVidia nForce4 Ultra Chipset Motherboard For AMD Socket 939 CPU -RETAIL $142.00

Seasonic S12 Series ATX12V 2.0 330W Power Supply, 12cm fan, Model "S12-330" -RETAIL $59.99

AMD Athlon 64 3200+ 2.0gHz, 512KB L2 Cache 939-Pin 64-bit Processor - OEM $180.00
ZALMAN CNPS7000B-Al Cu Aluminum + Copper CPU Cooler for Socket 478/462/754/939/940 CPUs -RETAIL $36.99

Microsoft Windows XP Professional With Service Pack 2 -OEM $147.95

XFX nVidia GeForce 6600GT Video Card, 128MB GDDR3, 128-Bit, Dual DVI, PCI-Express, Model "PVT43GND" -RETAIL $185.00
AeroCool Video Magic Series fanless VGA card cooler, Model "VM-101" -RETAIL $27.49

Product total: $1,185.89
Shipping & Handling: $ 59.41 (to Massachusetts)
(sub)Total (Before tax): $1,245.30

The only thing this system needs that NewEgg doesn't sell is a quiet 120mm fan. Here's an excellent fan for $5.50 plus shipping: This is the exact same fan that is used in the Seasonic S12 330 power supply -- it is very quiet when slowed down; by undervolting or a Zalman FanMate ($5). Another option is this fan, that includes a controller:
So the actual total would be about $1,265.

You would obviously have to either assemble these systems yourself -- which is not all that difficult, or have somebody do it for you. I feel that both of these will give you good support, all things considered. You will know you own system very well, or you will have a local shop that can support it.

[Edit] Larry Gray pointed out to me (in an email) that these are all black components. I do prefer black over beige. And as Larry mentioned, the prices are virtually the same, but if they are different, the beige ones are a bit less: The beige Evercase is about $2.50 less expensive (but it may only be 50 cents -- NewEgg doesn't carry the exact case in beige!); the beige InWin is the same cost. The beige Asus CD-RW drive is $2 less, and the beige Sony floppy is 50 cents less.

So, if you prefer beige, or you don't care either way, then you can save as much as $5 -- which is an (even) better value! :-)
#13287 by Neil Blanchard
Wed Aug 16, 2006 9:15 pm

Here's a 70th percentile system:

1 BIOSTAR TForce 6100 AM2 Socket AM2 NVIDIA GeForce 6100 Micro ATX RoHs compliant AMD Motherboard - Retail
Model #: TForce 6100 AM2
$181.99 -$5.00 Combo
AMD Athlon 64 3800+ Orleans 2000MHz HT Socket AM2 Processor

SAMSUNG Combo Drive Black IDE Model SH-M522C/BEBN - OEM $23.99

Ever Case E4252BB-53 Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case $36.99

SAMSUNG SpinPoint P Series SP2504C 250GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s $69.99

SeaSonic S12-330 ATX12V 330W Power Supply - $54.00

THERMALRIGHT Ultra-90(K8 ) CPU Cooling Heatsink - Retail
Model #: Ultra-90(K8 ) $25.99

2 Scythe SY1025SL12L 100mm Sleeve Case or CPU Cooling Fan - $15.18

G.SKILL 1GB (2 x 512MB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) $104.99

Microsoft Windows XP Professional With SP2B 1 Pack - OEM

Subtotal: $646.11
Shipping: $35.54
Total: $681.65

Add a PCIe video card ($100-160) to make it a 75th percentile system.

Here's a 85th percentile system:

AMD Athlon 64 X2 4200+ Windsor 2000MHz HT Socket AM2 Dual Core Processor $183.00

SONY 16X DVD±R DVD Burner Black IDE $29.59
SAMSUNG Combo Drive Black IDE $23.99

Antec Solo Black/Silver Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - $89.99

Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD3200KSRTL 320GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - $149.99

Gigabyte GA-M55SLI-S4 Socket AM2 NVIDIA nForce4 SLI ATX AMD Motherboard - $94.99

GIGABYTE GV-NX76T256D-RH Geforce 7600GT 256MB GDDR3 PCI Express x16 Silent Pipe II, $169.99

SeaSonic S12-430 ATX12V 430W Power Supply - $99.99

Scythe SCNJ-1000P 120mm Sleeve CPU Cooling Fan/Heatsink - $49.99

mushkin 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) $195.99

Microsoft Windows XP Professional With SP2 - OEM $137.99

Subtotal: $1,225.50
Shipping: $43.25
Total: $1,268.75

Add a second video card for a 90th percentile system. (+$170)

For a 95th percentile system, swap out the motherboard and the CPU for an Intel Core 2 Duo E6400 or E6600 ($260 or $370, instead of the $183; mobo is +$70-150! or so), and upgrade to a 500GB HD (still the excellent SE16 Western Digital w/ 16MB cache) for +$50. Approximate total for E6400 system is:

Subtotal: $1,385.49
Shipping: $41.12
Total: $1,426.61

Note that this system is not SLi, so you would have to stick to one video card, though the card I used has two DVI outputs! :D

Please confirm all compatibilities -- especially the heatsinks for the proper sockets. I am pretty sure that they fit, but for our friend Justin Case...
Last edited by Neil Blanchard on Mon Aug 21, 2006 11:58 am, edited 1 time in total.
#13359 by Neil Blanchard
Mon Aug 21, 2006 11:55 am

At long last, Intel has retaken the performance lead, and they have done it with a chip that uses a lot less power than the Pentium 4. It is even a bit more efficient than the Athlon 64 X2 in some situations; though at idle, the Athlon is still best.

The new chip is called the "Core 2 Duo" and there are five models: E6300, E6400, E6600, E6700, and there is an Extreme Edition, too. They outperform the Athlon 64 X2 by about 15-30% at similar clockspeeds, on some tasks -- which is a pretty big lead, for sure. The one area where AMD still has some advantages is when running 64bit programs, though for the moment for us, this is moot.

For the moment, they are also more expensive than the AMD chips, and it remains to be seen how AMD will "respond" to improve the Athlon's performance. One possibility is they will be able to in effect, combine the dual cores into one "wider" CPU and thereby gain performance on single-threaded programs -- which is a majority of programs.

So while AMD Athlon 64 single and dual core CPU's have been the best over the last few years; running much cooler with better performance than the Pentium 4 -- Intel has gotten back into the game and surpassed AMD again; for the moment at least. The Athlon 64 X2's are as good as they ever were, and they cost a bit less (especially when you consider the motherboard and RAM costs, too).

The irony of it is, the architecture of the Core 2 Duo is "descended" from the Pentium 3/Pentium M/Core Duo, which relatively little carry over from the design of the Pentium 4. The P4 is at a dead end, and the Core 2 Duo is the new performance leader.
#13396 by materman
Wed Aug 23, 2006 5:26 am
Neil, maybe you have mentioned it before, but can you give one, or more sites where I can learn reading the specifications of hardware.

I'm trying to sort out the ingredients for a new computer and I'm very much afraid that I buy more expensive memory than needed by the motherboard, or the other way around.

-Corsair Value Select 1 Go (Kit 2x 512 Mo) DDR2-SDRAM PC5300 - VS1GBKIT667D2
-Kingston ValueRAM 2x512 Mo DDR2-533 PC4200 CL4
#13397 by Neil Blanchard
Wed Aug 23, 2006 6:34 am
Greetings Don!

Sure, for the Core 2 Duo (which I am also just learning about), here is an article on how different RAM performs:

The graphics on that site are a bit scrambled, but the info is good.

THe bottom line is, RAM should run syncronously with the bus. Since AMD has their memory controller on the CPU, this is the "root" frequency of the CPU; usually 200mHz. Since DDR2 has a 4X "multiplier" then it is 800mHz = DDR2 800.

The Mad Shrimps article shows that for Core 2 Duo, it is DDR2 533, IIANM? (133 X 4).
#13413 by Ted B
Wed Aug 23, 2006 3:20 pm
Years ago I was told that in-general Athlon chip-sets were better for CAD computers than Pentiums at the same chip-speed. This being the result of the Athlon design being biased more to numerical calculations like accounting spreadsheets and CAD, than logical computing for databases and relational-business use. I wonder if this still holds true?
#13417 by joshhuggins
Wed Aug 23, 2006 5:21 pm
Think this had to do with the floating point processing of the AMD's, were a lot more efficient back around the 3DNow era, say K-62 thru early Athlons? I remember this being a big benifit to my super charged 233 K6-2 and the reason I bought it over the PI 266. Ah, things were so simple back then :)
#13419 by Neil Blanchard
Wed Aug 23, 2006 7:34 pm
Hello Ted,

Yes, the Athlon, and the Athlon 64 are/were very powerful for floating point functions, and they have a higher IPC (instructions per clock) than the Pentium, and especially the Pentium 4. The Athlon family has also improved over the years, both in the efficiency (IPC) and lower (electrical) power consumption. In fact, the CPU that has the most instructions per watt, is a new version of the Athlon 64 X2 3800+ -- it peaks at just 35watts, and performs very well, indeed.

However, the new Intel Core 2 Duo CPU's are even better performing than the Athlon 64 X2, in general. They have different strengths, and certain tasks are very close, or even tip a little in the Athlon's favor, but the best Core 2 Duo's outperform the best Athlon 64 X2's. Their power use is also very good, but not quite as good as the Athlon; especially at idle.

The Core 2 Duo's also have a lot of headroom; for either undervolting (and therefore running much cooler) and/or for overclocking. Intel has done their homework, and after (at least) three years of playing second fiddle to AMD, they have again moved to the fore, with this new CPU design.
#16490 by Neil Blanchard
Thu Nov 30, 2006 9:30 pm

The person who runs Silent PC Review, who's name is Mike Chin, just posted an article about a collaboration between himself and an online computer company, called End PC Noise. They have co-designed an extremely quiet, and powerful midtower computer, and also a media PC.

Here's the link for the SPCR article:

And here is the link to the desktop PC:

...and here's the link to the media PC:

The prices are reasonable, considering the qualities of these machines. As Mike talks about in the beginning of the article, if you don't build a machine yourself, and you don't want to buy one from one of the very large Dell/HP/Gateway's of the world, and don't have a good local shop -- this will be a good thing to keep in mind.
#16682 by Neil Blanchard
Mon Dec 04, 2006 9:41 am

The efficiency of powerful computers has gotten much better since the Pentium 4 has been phased out. The Intel Core 2 Duo, and the Athlon 64 X2 are both relatively efficient. The SPCR article that I linked to, and other articles on that site, go into all the various aspects of this.

The noise produced by a computer come from fans, hard drives, and sometimes the electronic components. The noise produced by fans depends on the fans themselves -- lots of fans are quite noisy, and a few are much quieter. To be able to keep the computer cool enough with quiet fans, you have to have good, unrestrictive, air flow, and efficient heat sinks. The system I linked to above, built by End PC Noise ( is an excellent example of an efficient and quiet computer. It would be barely audible in even the quietest office, and virtually silent in a typical office.

The power supply is a central concern: many typical PSU's are only 65-75% efficient, depending on the range they are operating in. The best power supplies are 80-85% efficient in the 50-200watt range, which is where most computers operate. A more efficient PSU produces less heat.

In the system in the article, they have used an intake duct to let the outside air get directly to the PS so it's fan doesn't "ramp up". Personally, I like to use a 120mm fanned PS (an equally efficient unit), and let it help move air through the case.

The case is also very important: the Antec Solo (and the P150) are the best cases around: they have a steel/plastic sandwich on the exterior panels, the fan grills are as open as any you'll find (save wire or none at all), the front air intake path is low restriction *and* indirect, to prevent the noise getting *out*, and the hard drive bays use either silicon grommets or reinforced rubber suspension belts. These minimize the whine of the spinning HD motor and bearings, and any vibrations, too. This HD set up is unique in retail cases.

The hard drive itself produces three kinds of noise: idle noise (motor and bearing whine), seek noise (the heads accessing data), and physical vibrations (due to imbalances), which can cause the case to hum or resonate.

The fans in the system need to be running slowly (500-1000RPM for 120mm and up to 1500RPM for 92mm, and tad higher for 80mm fans) in order to be quiet, and in order to blow enough air at those speeds, they need to be fairly large. Usually the means 120mm case fans. Most fans run much faster than this, and many have lousy bearings, and/or clicking motors, and/or poor balance.

In the Antec case in the article system, they use 92mm fans in the front, so if you have a warmer room, or if you have two or more HD's, you can use 1 or 2 slow running 92mm fans to blow directly on the drives to keep them cool. A cool HD is a "Happy" HD!

Lastly, the heatsinks are critical: they have to have enough surface area to dissipate the heat, and the fins have to be spaced wide enough to do so in low air flow situations. If the fins are tightly spaced, then you need more air velocity to make use of it, and this means a higher speed fan. The video card's cooling is as important as the CPU, since it can produce as much (or more!) heat these days. Even the motherboard's northbridge chip must be cooled passively, in order to have a quiet system -- the tiny fans that are often used here can spin at 5000-6000RPM, which is way too fast for a low noise system.

All I know about quiet computers (and a lot of general computer knowledge), I've learned from Silent PC Review, so I'll plug them with a link: They are a calm and reputable source of info about computers, with an active and civil user forum -- kinda' like DBUG and the DataCAD Forum! I am one of the moderators on those forums, btw.
#17060 by Ernie Bayles
Fri Dec 08, 2006 3:29 pm
It's getting to the end of the year and Christmas is in the air, so I'm thinking about an upgrade to the computer system--for me.

I currently have a 1200 mhz Athlon 1900 with a GeForce 3 card, Asus A7V266 board, Windows 2000. This works just fine for most things, but is getting a bit pokey in the Sketchup and rendering modes. I also have a 21" Viewsonic monitor (14 years old now?). It all works pretty well, so the first question is whether a new system would really be that much better if I were to spend in the <$1000 price category (not including monitors)

My second question is: how much of a boost would just a better card (AGP 4x or PCI--no PCIe) give me? Any recommendations? (beyond dual LCD monitors, of course).

The third question and beyond is based on the response to the first two.


#17087 by Neil Blanchard
Sat Dec 09, 2006 10:36 am
Hello Ernie,

A 2gHz (or higher) dual core Intel Core 2 Duo, or Athlon 64 X2 will be much faster than your machine. The improvements in the efficiencies of the cores alone would be a lot, and the higher clockspeeds will make a very noticeable improvement. You should plan on starting out with 2GB of RAM, and hopefully have room for 4GB, once 64bit Windows becomes fully supported.

Any new system would require a PCIe (PCI Express) video card, and it's the improvement in the video processor chips that helps; much more than the speed of the video slot. Video processor speed is really the most important thing with SU model orbiting, and the like. Having 256MB or 512MB of video RAM doesn't hurt, either.

If you go with upgrading your current system, then adding system RAM and a fast AGP card would help somewhat, but finding the right type of RAM and a fast AGP card is not as easy as you might hope, because the types that current machines use means that older machines are harder/more expensive to buy for.

I have an Athlon XP 2100+ that has been overclocked to 2gHz, with a 256MB GeForce 6200 AGP, and 768MB of RAM is roughly half as fast as my Athlon 64 X2 4200+ (2.2gHz), 2GB, dual 256MB nVidia GeForce 7600GS PCIe video cards.
#17539 by Deeceedee
Tue Dec 19, 2006 2:35 pm
Hello Neil,

I'm thinking of getting a new pc. I get get areally good deal on a Gateway with the following specs :

AMD Athlon 64 x2 dual-core 3800+ processor
250GB IDE hard drive
Windows XP Pro

I've been using Dell for a while now ....I know nothing about Gateway. Your advice will be welcomed ?

Regards ...DCDee
#17553 by Neil Blanchard
Tue Dec 19, 2006 7:38 pm

I'd be lying if I said I know anything about how Gateway machines are these days. The last one I used is now 8 years old.

As for the specs you list: I would hope that there are 2 open RAM slots, in case you want to upgrade it to 2GB in the future. (Windows Vista will require a lot more RAM...and/or you might need it for DataCAD?) My current machine is an Athlon 64 X2 4200+ with 2GB of RAM, and it is very fast!

The 3800+ is a very cool running CPU, and it should do well in warm ambient temperatures -- you mentioned 38C in another thread? Hopefully, the stock cooler is up to the task, though it is very easy to get a better heatsink if it isn't. I have a Scythe "Ninja" heatsink, which manages a maximum CPU temp of 54C in a ~32C room with a very quiet fan.

What is your current machine's CPU, and what are the temps? Is it noisy?

What video card is in the Gateway machine? And is there a case fan blowing on the hard drive?
#17938 by Neil Blanchard
Thu Dec 28, 2006 7:26 am

Here's the $700 list:

IN WIN IW-C720T.J350BFU2AD Black SECC Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case 350W Power Supply - Retail
Model #: IW-C720T.J350BFU2AD
Item #: N82E16811108050
In Stock $59.99 -$5.00 Instant $54.99

EPoX EP-MF4-J3 Socket AM2 NVIDIA nForce4 4X ATX AMD Motherboard - Retail
Model #: EP-MF4-J3
In Stock $68.99

XFX PVT71JYHE9 GeForce 7950GT 512MB GDDR3 PCI Express x16 HDCP ExTreme Edition Video Card - Retail
Model #: PVT71JYHE9
In Stock Mail-in Rebate $30 $279.99 ($249.99 if you get to do the rebate)

AMD Athlon 64 3200+ Orleans 2.0GHz Socket AM2 Processor Model (Single Core)
ADA3200CNBOX - Retail
Model #: ADA3200CNBOX
In Stock $77.00

CORSAIR XMS2 1GB (2 x 512MB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model TWIN2X1024A-6400 - Retail
Model #: TWIN2X1024A-6400
In Stock $139.00 -$15.00 Instant $124.00

SONY Black 1.44MB 3.5" Internal Floppy Drive Windows 98SE/ ME/ 2000/ XP - OEM
Model #: MPF920 Black
In Stock $7.99

SAMSUNG SpinPoint T Series HD160HJ 160GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - OEM
Model #: HD160HJ
In Stock $59.99

SAMSUNG Combo Drive Black IDE Model SH-M522C/BEBN - OEM
Model #: SH-M522C/BEBN
In Stock $24.25
Subtotal: $697.20 ($667.20 if you can do the mail in rebate for the video card)

The $600 system is the same except for the video card:

GIGABYTE GV-NX76T256D-RH GeForce 7600GT 256MB GDDR3 PCI Express x16 Silent Pipe II, Lead Free Video Card - Retail
Model #: GV-NX76T256D-RH
In Stock Mail-in Rebate $152.99 (If you can do the $20 mail in rebate $132.99)

Subtotal: $570.20 ($550.20 if you can do the Mail in rebate)

These do not include Windows, or shipping; just the cost of the parts. The CPU is a single core -- the least expensive dual core (Athlon 64 X2 3800+) is $129, so $52 more to either system.

The Intel Core 2 Duo E6300 is $191:
This would require a different motherboard (natch), and they are similar in price:
...and RAM could be a little less money ($106 vs $124)

The best upgrade to do, is to start with 2GB of RAM ($240):

I would also highly recommend using a better CPU heatsink (to be quieter, and cooler)

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