It occurred to me that I should post my ideas here, see what others think about them. I'm a "do-it-yourself"-er when it comes to computers, so here's my parts shopping list:
- CPU: Probably an AMD Athlon 64, socket 939. Performance rating will most likely depend on when I buy it - right now, the 3200+ feels like the right price/performance ratio for me.
- Motherboard: Socket 939 (obviously), PCI Express, on-board SATA is a must, and RAID would be a big plus, USB 2.0 and Firewire. Not sure about chipsets, but the new NForce4 chipset is getting good reviews, and the SLI option for video cards is intriguing to say the least. The ASUS A8N-SLI is my current candidate, but the Gigabyte GA-K8NXP-SLI looks promising as well.
- Video: depends on the motherboard. I've been an Nvidia fan for a while, but the newer ATI PCI-E boards are pretty cool. Of course, if I go for an SLI capable motherboard, that pretty much puts me back in the Nvidia camp. No favorites as of yet. Dual monitor output would be nice, as would DVI. As for the monitor, not sure if I'll be able to afford to make the jump to LCD - especially since I'm a hi-res junkie, and LCDs that have a native resolution of 1600x1200 or higher are a serious jump in price from the normal 1280x1024 units.
- Audio: No on-board audio for me, no sir. I was about to say that my candidate is the Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS Platinum Pro (who the heck comes up with these stupid long names anyhow?), but then I saw the Audigy 4 Pro on soundblaster.com - guess it'll come down to whichever is cheapest. Really looking for good digital inputs and full-size MIDI connectors for my music-making - the fact that it'll make games sound really cool is simply a bonus. Speaker-wise, probably a simple 5.1 system without too many bells and whistles - anything less feels like a waste of the Audigy's capabilities, but not sure I can justify anything fancier.
- Chassis: OK, here's where I have a tendency to go a little bit nuts. I'm torn between something solid with a little bit of flash, like the Coolermaster Wavemaster or a Silverstone Temjin series, and something that's just plain outrageous, like the ASUS Vento or a Aerocool JetMaster. Whatever the choice, I'm going to try to make it as quiet as possible, with a quiet CPU cooler, larger intake/exhaust fans (larger fans == slower RPM for same airflow == less noise) and a quiet power supply.
- Memory/Storage: minimum 1 GB of RAM, and a big SATA hard drive (or multiple drives, if the motherboard supports RAID). DVD burner will most likely be there as well. The eternal question of backup rears its ugly head here - do I invest in some sort of tape system, or do I rely on backing up essential data occasionally on one or more DVDs? Probably a tape system will be too pricey for my budget, and probably a bit of overkill.
- Operating system: Most likely at least dual-boot - XP Pro and some Linux distro at a minimum, maybe a few different distros to choose from, and if I'm feeling really crazy (and have the hard drive space to spare) a BSD or two and BeOS.
This would become my primary system - the old system would be repurposed (Linux server maybe), and the laptop would be for Kristen and the kids. Although, I am seriously tempted by the new Mac Mini - but I'm not ready to make the switch yet, it would be a co-existence with my current systems.
And then reality hits me over the head - I've got three kids and one more on the way, a mortgage, minivan payments... when the heck am I going to be able to afford to do any of this, and when will I find time to actually use it? Oh well, it's nice to dream...