I spent about a week going over the configuration of the Athlon machine, and tried to stick pretty close to what the videoguys put together. I saw an awful lot of negative press regarding the A8N SLI Deluxe, but bit the bullet anyway and I'm glad I did. This system is unbelievably fast for 3d and DV rendering! Here's the parts I used:
AMD Athlon 64x2 4400+ ($460)
Asus A8N SLI Deluxe ($140)
2G Patriot dual channel 400 ram ($184)
PNY Quadro ($189. OEM )
3 WD 2500ks sata drives (w/cables, $270)
Aspire X cruise (w/420w, $82)
XP Pro oem ($145)
Pioneer DVR 111D ($37)
I tossed aside the 420w power supply (it's too weak for this board) and bought an Antec 500w ($90). If I ever actually use the SLI, I'll need something even bigger and also 2 new vid cards -- according to nvidia, the fx 540 will not run in SLI mode. I also bought a 19 widescreen LCD, a 1000W UPS. and a wireless mouse and keyboard. All in all, I spent about $1900 on the whole thing -- far less than I would have spent for a turnkey system.
A couple of things: the A8N is buggy for many, but so are similar SLI boards. I decided it was the best of the lot and had none of the problems I've seen on other forums. Do your homework and come up with a "build plan"... the order that things are done with this board (chipset and bios updates, etc.) is very important. The bios is confusing, but fortunately there's a lot of gouge on how to set it up properly. Good luck!
Thanks for the information. I'm just spec'ing out a new system myself for my new Sony HDV. I was contemplating the A8N but hadn't heard too much (just a bit) that it was a buggy board. Did you see this on the Asus forums?
Out of curiosity did you research the AMD dual core Opterons? These are supposed to be quite stable systems and they can also be set up as a dual processor system (ie 4 cores). This is what I'm looking into but its hard to find research that shows the difference(s) between the new dual core Opterons and the new Athlon 64x2 systems.
Opterons are pretty fast from what I've read, but since I do just amateur stuff I couldm't justify spending any more for this system. I waded through the Asus forums and the others and decided that as buggy as the board might be, it's better than most for this kind of stuff. Apparently the A8N32 series is more stable, but again, $ came into play.
As far as your dual opterons, aren't the videoguys building one of those? They know their stuff and whatever they recommend, I'd go by...
I built the 2 of the AMD system posted by videoguys and used a 512 MB Single card in one and 2x 256 MB cards in the other SLI and it does make a noticible differnce at least in Rendering Time, Exporting to MP2 and Transcoding. I use Canopus Edius also Adobe Premiere Pro and the Transcoding Test was done using Encore DVD. I will try to get some benchmarks together and post them.