I'm building a little PC and need some advice!

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  • #247555
    ron_mcphatty
    Participant

    Morning all! It’s been a fair few years since I built a PC and now that I’m an old fart in my thirties I haven’t got a clue what I’m doing! Actually, I’ve got a bit of a clue, but need some advice with the processor and RAM. Just so you know, I’m aiming for a mediumly powerful desktop machine (to hide behind a telly) that’ll do media, photo and video editing, old games and family admin to last at least five years and I’m sticking to a budget of less than £500.

    I’m going to get a Shuttle XH81 (this little guy: http://www.shuttle.eu/products/slim/xh81v/ ). I’ve made two Shuttles before, love them and won’t consider anything else, I’m Shuttle snob :)

    My first question is about the processor, which I’m thinking should be an i5 4690K. The Shuttle won’t allow overclocking so you might say the K is pointless, but I’ve read on an old Tomshardware forum post that the K should mean better integrated graphics than the £40 cheaper i5 4460. I’m not bothered about blistering graphics for games but I do want some power, enough for the likes of CounterStrike and Lightworks to run well, so is the 4690K worth the £40 more than the 4460 for a bit of future proofing? And is an i5 a good choice of processor in the first place?

    Secondly, I don’t know whether 2 sticks or one stick of RAM is better to buy. I want 8GB for now, below is some laptop RAM that I’m pretty sure will fit and work, can anyone reccomend a better choice or combo of 4GB sticks?

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Crucial-CT102464BF160B-PC3-12800-Unbuffered-NON-ECC/dp/B006YG8X9Y/ref=sr_1_16?ie=UTF8&qid=1435481384&sr=8-16&keywords=ddr+3+ram

    Finally, I’ll jam in a slightly nicer 1TB hdd than the noisy Samsung one I bought for my PS4, I’ll pinch the good old slim Sony blu-ray drive from my laptop that’s going on eBay (VAIO E i5 M450, 6GB RAM, Radeon 5000, 1080p screen for £120 plus some postage, if anyones interested!), and get myself some sort of 64 bit double glazed sash Windows, I’ll probably wait a few weeks until the 10 prices come out. I’ll be extremely grateful for any help you guys can give, thanks in advance!

    #247905
    DuffyBox
    Participant

    Hullo! I recently built myself a new PC and it’s been a great experience. I’ve been deep into various hardware comparisons trying to pick out my parts for some time (currently need to pick up a monitor, using a TV for the time being!) and the number of choices to make is dizzying! The payoff is definitely worth the research.

    A 4690K is an absolute powerhouse and is suitable for installation in even top-end gaming machines with SLI GTX 980s so you’ve no worries there! The integrated graphics on that chip (“Intel® HD Graphics 4600”) packs a lot more power than iGPUs of old and should be fine for “old games” like Counter-Strike at 1080p.

    The 4690K is a “higher binned” chip than the 4460 which means that it’s passed a higher level of stress testing in the factory. This means it’ll have more thermal headroom for overclocking (it runs cooler at stock clocks so you can clock it higher before reaching unstable or dangerous temperatures) but this really doesn’t mean too much unless you plan to overclock (which I wouldn’t recommend considering that Shuttle you’re looking at has an H81 chipset – making overclocking the 4690K either limited or impossible – and not too much room for heat dissipation). Considering the 4460 has the same iGPU as the 4690K, the cheaper option may be the better value one here.

    As for RAM, it may be worth spending ~£4 more on this Corsair dual-channel kit (make sure you select the dual stick SKU) which has lower CAS latency for ever so slightly faster performance. Your motherboard supports dual-channel RAM operation which could net you up to ~20% increased performance in intense simulations or video editing, best case, but likely won’t affect gaming performance by more than ~3%. These numbers are estimates and you should look up benchmarks if you really want to get into the nitty gritty. Also to consider is that if you want to upgrade, buying a dual slot 8GB kit today will occupy both your SO-DIMM slots meaning you’d have to remove one 4GB module in order to add one of a higher capacity.

    Have you considered an SSD for your Windows installation? This 120GB SSD should be plenty of space for Windows and a select few applications, storing media files and lower-priority applications on the HDD. That would make this system extremely quick to boot and snappy. Really though, if that seems like too much fuss and expense then the HDD should work just fine.

    Hope that’s been at least a little bit helpful and if you have any more questions don’t hesitate to ask!

    • This reply was modified 4 years, 4 months ago by DuffyBox.
    #247908
    DuffyBox
    Participant

    Hang on – I’ve just noticed that the Shuttle you linked has a 90 watt power supply. Considering that the 4460 alone has a Thermal Design Power of 84 watts, you might be cutting things a little close in terms of power delivery. In practice you’re unlikely to be drawing that much power (closer to 70W) but it’s something to consider. You could opt for a T-series CPU instead, which are optimised for low-power operation. The 4460T for instance has a TDP of just 35 watts.

    #247930
    ron_mcphatty
    Participant

    Duffybox, thanks so much for the hugely thorough response! Good point with the RAM, I’m thinking of only buying one 8GB stick for now then slipping another past my wife later in the year ;) Im thinking of a hybrid drive now actually, just to keep the heat and power draw down, Windows, programs and documents on one side and media on the other, what do you think about that?

    About the CPU, thanks for pointing out the power issue, I hadn’t even noticed that! The other i5 you recommended looks good but only has two cores which makes a big difference to me, I’d like four for parallel background rendering sort of stuff, I don’t need it often but it makes a difference to have it available. I read the wiki about TDP and that makes sense so I had a quick google about the problems you run into when your setup draws too much power, couldn’t find any answers. I’d like to stick with a four core so do you know what will happen to the computer if it tries to draw more than 90W? Also, do you know anything about undervolting? I’m thinking I could try that with a cheaper four core. Or since the PSU is an external brick could I just buy a 120W one by another company?

    #247977
    gazzagb
    Moderator

    Ron, have you had a look at this guide? http://www.logicalincrements.com/ It should help you getting the most out of your budget, although it’s probably aimed at people going for a full gaming desktop rather than a small media/gaming machine like yourself.

    Also, I’d follow up on that suggestion to get an SSD – it’s the one thing I kinda regret not getting when I built my PC because it’s a bit of a hassle to upgrade to as you have to play around with migrating Windows and stuff. I’ve briefly looked at hybrid drives like you said, but I think it might be better to get separate SSD and HDD as you can upgrade them as and when you want – which could be very useful if you end up wanting more storage space for your media files?

    #247985
    Avenger
    Participant

    On RAM, one stick can be good as it can allow expansion. Two sticks can be used in dual channel which theoretically gives better bandwidth, but could increase latency, and the benefits are minimal. I’d say it doesn’t matter too much.

    In terms of power, if the limit is exceeded it should cut out, but it could blow if it’s crap.

    Also some i5 cpu’s can be a two core, but they’re hyper threaded, so they have 4 cores, 2 physical and 2 logical. Such processors are fairly economical in power usage. After all an i7 can be 8 cores, but only 4 of them are physical

    Whilst I wouldn’t want to deter you from shuttle snobbery, I would put a few warnings, namely power for one, and temperature for second. AMD APUs can be beneficial, as they can output marginally more graphics power and the power/temperature control is quite good. But for 500 u could build a full blown AMD computer, store it away, and get it streamed through steam link. Therefore u could avoid any bulky units around the desk or lounge.

    #247995
    ron_mcphatty
    Participant

    Thanks for all the advice guys.

    Gazza, I’ve spent this evening looking into building all types of machines and even just getting one of those little Intel NUC boxes. It’s been really interesting looking into thin mini itx machines, especially the passively cooled ones. The TDP is always really low though, like 35W, and then going up to a normal mini itx board for 180W+ means the case will probably be too big for me, and though your streaming machine idea is a really great one I feel stubbornly old fashioned and just want my box in the room with me :) I’ll definitely get an SSD though, then I can use my PS4’s old drive for media.

    Avenger, thanks for the knowledge, I’ll be steering clear of drawing too much power then! On the subject of Shuttles, I’ve just found them so reliable, both my old ones reached obsolescence before showing any sign of breaking down so I really like the quality and reliability. They’re quite good at staying cool too, never had a problem with fan noise, painful heat or cpu damage. I wish I still had my old SN45G, I did butcher that a bit towards the ends. I bored holes on top for an LED fan, putt light strips underneath and cutt a hole in the side for the oversized GPU fan that totally didn’t belong in such a tiny case. It was the nuts and lasted me all the way from Unreal Tournament 2004 up to Portal 2!

    DuffyBox, I think I’ll get the i5 4570S instead. It’s a 65W jobbie, does that sound like a sensible choice?

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