Submitted by amit on Wed, 2005-02-16 11:44
Yes! I've done it again. On my last India trip I took all the components except for the case of my kitchen computer to India. The home PC we had in my parent's place was getting quite old (a Celeron 433) so I just refreshed the hardware.

That left me with one less computer at home. And this one was my wife's computer she used every day for web/mail etc. So I had to replace it quickly. I decided give her our current High Performance Machine (which by now has become a mainstream PC). This is a Dell Dimension 4600, 2.8 GHz Pentium 4 with HT. It's a nice fast machine with 120 GB HDD and a 2nd generation DVD burner.

So! Now I had to get a new Performance PC for our home. As you all know I never buy a branded PC (the Dell machine was free from my employer as a one time employee benefit). I set my budget to around $700. Now you'd say you don't get a performance PC for that price, believe me you can. I anyway don't need all the add-on junk that most vendors offer (like Office software, Encyclopedia and what not), I just need a bare PC. With so many friends at Microsoft, I can always get the OS very cheap through their employee discounts, so I didn't need OS too!

After a little bit of search I realized that I just can't assemble an Intel based machine for under $700 . And what I could build for $700 would not be a performance PC at all. What I intend to use this PC for is mainly Video Editing and WMA encoding (more on that later some time!). I found this nice deal on TigerDirect for a Athlon 64 barebones system:
  • Athlon 64 3400+ (2.2 GHz, Socket 939, 512KB L2 Cache)
  • ASUS A8V Delux motherboard with Home Wireless (it comes with a 802.11g PCI card): This an awesome mobo, with 2 RAID chips on it one VIA SATA RAID and other Promise RAID which can do SATA and EIDE RAID. This MoBo supports Dual Channel memory.
  • 2x60GB Maxtor ATA100 HDDs (2MB buffer)
  • Dual-layer BenQ DVD burner
  • Soyo Mid-Tower case with Keyboard, Mouse and speakers too!
  • NVIDIA 64MB AGP graphics card
  • 512MB PC3200 DDR SDRAM
This whole package was $768 including shipping, but there were about $200 mail-in rebates! So the whole thing costs me $568! That's so cheap. Check out the performance comparisons of this CPU on Anandtech and you'll see that I got quite a bargain. As you can see from all the tests on Anandtech, this CPU trumps Intel's 3.2GHz Pentium 4 EE in almost all tests except for encoding where it's not far behind. And if you lookup pricewatch you'll notice that the P4 3.2GHz CPU alone costs more than $700!

I know Athlon 64 3400+ is not quite cutting edge, but by choosing the Asus A8V motherboard I've secured my future upgrades.

Currently I only have one 512MB memory module installed. When I get the money from mail-in rebates I'll buy two identical 512MB modules in Dual Channel configuration to boost the memory bandwidth.

I have installed the two 60GB Maxtor disks in RAID 1 configuration using the Promise RAID. That gives me 120 GB disk with about 58 MBytes/sec transfer rate (that's quite close to 65MB/sec you can get with 8MB buffer disks). That's impressive.

I tried the free Windows XP x64 64bit edition on this PC. It works fine but there aren't many applications (or even drivers) available yet for this. So I guess we'll have to wait untill Intel's 600 series P4s come to market which are 64bit enabled desktop parts.

So I've gone back to installing Windows 2000 on this machine. I'll wait till Microsoft officially releases 64bit version of Windows.

I have done some Video Editing on this machine using Pinnacle Studio 8 and the results are satisfactory. I'm sure I'll get much better performance when I upgrade to Dual Channel Memory configuration.

More later....