Solid specs (decided/bought):
Asus P5N32-E SLI
Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600
Thermalright Ultra-120 Heatsink w/ Scythe 120mm FDB Fan
Four 1GB PC6400 Crucial DDR2 DIMMs
Windows Vista Ultimate x64 Operating System
Hard Disk Drives
Purpose/intended usage and video cards:
OK, this is going to be a pseudo-gaming Home Theater PC (HTPC). Because it will be next to my PS3 and I prefer ("choose to support" - much
cheaper) every console game with a PC port on the PC, I want it to match or outperform the PS3, but I'm not going for "super insane specs" or anything like that. I know that this is difficult to do with the current crop of video cards, so that's why I haven't decided what to use other than that I need SLI and at least 512MB per card. That pretty much has me waiting on a deal for two 8800GTS 640MB cards (if only I got in on the Best Buy BFG $315 deal) or using a holdover card until the next-gen hits (my 7800GT SLI can spare a card for the time being). I don't want to get settled with too much non-final hardware due to potential activation issues with the OEM OS and Games for Windows (they activate now). Suggestions?
Windows Vista Ultimate x64:
It's going to be Vista Ultimate x64. Screw the 64-bit gaming and hardware incompatibilities, my brother and I have other systems to use those on. I've made my decision and I'm making the leap ($179.99 at Fry's for OEM). I want my full 4GB RAM without 32-bit I/O address ranges eating away a GB of it DAMNIT!
I'm not ruling out dual-booting though.
C2Q Q6600 CPU, 4GB system memory, and Ultra-120 Heatsink Fan (HSF) selection:
I grabbed one of the Quad-Core Intel Core 2 Quad (C2Q) Q6600 CPUs during the July 4th deals, and I made sure to get the extended warranty so that I could later trade up the 105w Thermal Distribution Profile (TDP) version for the 95w TDP "g0" version when availability filters in (I still haven't used it). I guess it's clear from that that I intent to do some overclocking, but I'm kinda weird in that I don't believe in paying the price for the ridiculously small benefit you get from extreme performance memory, so most people will gasp at my "mismatch" of just throwing in the 4GB (4x1GB) Crucial PC6400 DDR2 I got at Fry's, but that's just what I intend to do. Even so, I did splurge and get a ridiculous heat-sink fan combo (Thermalright Ultra-120 Extreme + Scythe 120mm w/ Sony Fluid Dynamic Bearings). I did that mostly because I just wanted to get the build done and NewEgg didn't have anything else I wanted with the motherboard order I was placing... I can't stand what I consider to be the Tuniq Tower's "design flaws" and they didn't have the Cooler Master Hyper 6+ HSF I wanted. Strangely, no one seems to have it (certainly not for the $30 Anandtech said it should cost).
Antec A900 case and Home Theater integration:
Though I can't stand the styling, the Antec 900 was only $69 on special and it matches my setup perfectly. I can hide the gaudy window by putting it on the right-side of my matching AV stand (holds a 52" LCD). The storage area on top fits a PS3 controller flawlessly and has USB ports right there (I have a small USB jumper to connect it for charging). It even sorta fits the XBOX 360 controller (backwards with little overhang), which is useful for Games for Windows games so it'll likely spend the most time there (I do have the MS Wireless Gaming Receiver).
I have a feeling that the top-storage will come in very handy for other things too.
Asus P5N32-E SLI Motherboard:
The motherboard I chose is the Asus P5N32-E SLI Plus. The "Plus" version is actually a nForce 650i instead of 680i, but it has the same features because it adds an nForce 570 (AMD) as a southbridge for two full x16 PCI Express for Graphics (PEG) slots and 3rd PEG for a physics GPU/PPU. Performance actually seems better than a 680i in the Anandtech review! To tell you the truth, I stumbled across it when I decided that I wanted a 650i and DTS Connect. People told me that it didn't exist because even Asus doesn't consider this a 650i (due to the unique chipset configuration). HTPCs need to connect to multi-channel surround sound systems and without either DD Live or DTS Connect this must be done by analog (except for pre-encoded DVD/HD movies). Asus actually claims that it is the exact same as the non-plus version but with solid (superior) capacitors. I don't see how that would make it less expensive, but it is! I'm sure they only meant that it was the exact same considering features and performance. Considering that there really was no "normal" 650i board with DTS Connect or DD Live, my decision was pretty much made. It just happened to be the cheapest too. No way was I paying for an Asus Striker or Striker Extreme! The Gigabyte board with DD Live AND DTS Connect kinda screws itself with the bad Realtek codec (bad EAX2.0 support and audio quality).
Now I just need to get a HDMI audio receiver and some speakers for this bad-boy (the Sony one with an XMB perhaps?)! At least I'll be ready for it. Too bad there is no SLI on non nVidia chipsets like the Intel P35.
Dual TV Tuners and HDTV:
SLI is only going to leave me one PCI slot available, so I plan to use an external USB2.0 dual-tuner (Adaptec?) and HDTV tuner (suggestion?). I'd love to have cableCARD, but it just isn't going to happen (unless someone knows a barebones OEM PC that uses a comparable board).
I guess I just need Vista Media Center-compatible tuner suggestions.
Power Supply Unit (PSU):
As it stands, I'm not sure what to do about power. I wanted to move my PC Power and Cooling (PCP&C) TurboCool 1KW 1000w PSU and the bulk of my fileserver with it including one of its two Promise SuperTrak SX6000 6-channel RAID cards and six 500GB Hitachi 7k500 drives, but the Promise card doesn't have Vista x64 drivers and the TurboCool 1KW would be wasted without that (besides, the RAID array needs it). My other PCP&C TC 510 predates PEG power connectors, though it is powering two 7800GT's right now (ones that take standard 4-pin Molex/AMP connectors). I wouldn't have any connectors left if I used that with PEG power adapters!
I really need a PSU suggestion.
DVD Recorder/Optical Disc Drives:
As far as optical drives, my brother and I have DVD burners in five computers of varying quality (one has two Plextors), so I'm just going to throw in the next cheap name-brand 18-20x one I see... Fry's puts them on sale for $20-$30 often. Does Samsung sound good? I see them often. Oh! I do intend to get a Blu-Ray burner some day, but it's not something I'm considering all too soon (o noh! me monies!).
Is there a specific recorder I should look for? What is the cheapest recordable Blu-Ray drive?
Hard Disk Drive (HDD):
I do believe that my brother and I have a Western Digital 500GB SATA HDD that has been left sealed and unused since we ordered it last year and I plan on using that. Yeah, I should probably put more consideration into the right drive with the right performance for this system, but I don't want to overspend on a WD Raptor or anything like that. I mean, high-density still equals high sustained transfer speeds, right? If I need 10,000RPM for better seek times, I don't care to improve them and I know the futility of even caring about the interface's speed as a "burst transfer rate." Since I'm not going hybrid just yet, I figure any old 500GB SATA should do.
This is something I really haven't thought enough about. Suggestions?