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Newbie with Questions on Computer Hardware

Plus24 Guest

Hi,

This is my first post on this forum. I'm a private pilot who used to practice on an earlier version of FS when I was a student pilot. I haven't flown flight sims in quite awhile. I'm preparing to buy a new computer and could use some advice on components. This post is fairly long, but I wanted to be thorough and give you enough info to intelligently help me.

I already purchased Ch Yoke and rudder USB and lots of software from PC Aviator when they had their Memorial Day sale. All I need now is the computer.

I would like to keep the price around $1500 or less. I will be purchasing the parts from Directron in Houston (Directron.com) as they are right around the corner from my house. I know, I'll have to pay state tax but will have no shipping. I'm not a computer hardware techie so I want the convenience of a nearby store. They charge $39 to put the computer together for me and to burn and test everything.

To keep the price down, I've chosen to keep my old 17" CRT Monitor for a few months. I'll upgrade monitors later. That way I can get a more powerful computer now.

Below are the components I'm thinking about buying followed by my rationale for each:

Motherboard:

Asus ATX A8N-E, Socket 939, Dual DDR400, nForce4 Ultra, SATA RAID, PCI-E x16, PCI-E x1 & PCI-E x4, 8ch Audio w/S/PDIF Out. ds-sy.

I wanted PCI Express for obvious reasons. I've heard that ASUS is a good make and reliable. Comments?

CPU:

AMD Athlon 64 3200+ Socket 939 2.0 GHz 512 KB L2 Cache

I chose AMD because it is a little cheaper than Intel and is a 64 bit processor. I wanted an AMD with 1 Gb of L2 Cache, like the AMD 64-FX, but couldn't justify the difference in price of over $300. How big a difference will this make in MS Flight Simulator?

Memory:

Kingston HyperX, 1 Gb (512 Mb x2) PC3200 DIMM kit

Is 1 Gb enough? If I go with 2 Gb do I have to purchase two 1 Gb sticks or can I also use four 512 Mb sticks. Is Kingston a good brand?

Video Card:

I'm having trouble deciding just how good a card I need. One was recommended that costs $396 but the higher end card was also recommended that costs $583. Will the lower end card serve my basic needs? I'm not interested in games like Doom or other graphics intensive games. I'm only interested in MS FS and possibly a couple of combat flight simulators. Will there be a major difference in FPS between these two cards? How about overall image quality? Below are the 2 Video Cards:

Cheaper Card: MSI NX6800GT-T2D256E, PCI-E x16, 6800 GT, 256 bit 256 Mb GDDR3 SLI Ready, Dual DVI & TV-Out, ds-dy

Higher End Card: ASUS EN6800ULTRA/2D Video Card, GeForce 6800 Ultra, PCI-E, 256 bit, 256 Mb DDR3, SLI Ready, TV Out & Dual DVI

Hard Drive:

Western Digital Caviar SE Serial ATA 160 Gb (WE1600JD), 8 Mb, 7,200 RPM, OEM

I don't think I need a bigger hard drive. If I'm wrong I can always add another one later on. I figure 7,200 RPM is standard now and I'm not such a gaming enthusiast that I need a faster one.

Other components: DVD R/W Burner, DVD drive, 3.5" 1.44 Floppy drive/memory card reader/writer combo.

Operating System:

Since I'm buying the AMD 64 processor I chose the XP Pro x64 64 bit Edition of Windows.

Speakers:

Logitech Z-5500 Digital 5.1 Surround Sound Speaker System.

I'm going with the on-board sound of the motherboard for the moment as I was told my motherboard's sound was pretty good. If it isn't satisfactory, I'll upgrade to a SB sound card.

My case has a 450w power supply with 3 or 4 fans and is said to be pretty quiet.

If I go with the cheaper Video Card, only 1 Gb of memory, I'll be just a little under $1500. If I go with more memory and the Asus Video Card I'm closer to $1900.

I want to stay under $1500, if possible, but am concerned about the compromises. Any help is greatly appreciated.

Plus24

Pro Member Chief Captain
RadarMan Chief Captain

Kingston's a good brand and go with as much memory as you can afford. The next version of the sim will use much more than this. 1 gig should be the minimum for here.

The cheaper card will be more than enough.

If you use XP 64 bit you have to be sure that all the hardware and software you plan to have will run on it.
Many do not have drivers or have been updated yet.
Yes I know they are backward compatible but it's just another source of problems.

All the rest looks good to me. for the price your looking for.

Get a good copper heatsink fan, instead of the aluminum one that they give you.

Radar

Koplus24 Guest

RadarMan,

Thanks for the very quick reply.

I'll go with two Gb memory as per your suggestion.

Regarding XP64: If I get a non-64 bit version of Windows XP does that mean my Athlon 64 CPU will always be operating at only 32? Let's say MS FS 2006 supports 64 bits. If I don't have a 64 bit OS will FS2006 be able to make use of my 64 bit Athlon CPU?

Would I be better off going with a Pentium 4 and DDR2 memory? Would that not also make for less problems with compatibility of other software? Would there be much difference in FS2004 or FS2006 going the Pentium 4 route rather than AMD? I originally planned on going Intel but the tech at Directron talked me into AMD to lower the price of my system a bit. He was a gamer and liked AMD.

The main software I use is Microsoft Office Professional Win 32. I'll have to check with the other manufacturers of my less used software to see if there will be problems.

And thanks for the hint on the heatsink copper fans. I'll definitely look into that also.

Plus24

Pro Member Chief Captain
RadarMan Chief Captain

If you go with XP-Home ( a better gaming platform than Pro) you'll be at 32 bit. If 2006 is 64 bit your stuck.
Right now it's a guessing game, people aren't going to dump their present operating system just for 64 bit XP but they will buy "Longhorn" in late 2006 (early 2007) which will be 64 bit. My guess is that MS will build the flight sim 64 bit to take advantage of their new OS.

AMD is supposedly faster than Intel, I will be buying Intel but that's my choice.
AMD is cheaper than Intel but has less than 20% of the market, Intel has the rest.

It's a crapshoot, you have to go where you want, I use Intel because of their close relationship with MS but I will be most likely using a Asus board because of their reputation.

Keep us in the loop on your progress.

Radar

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