Build-a-PC ’08– Part I: The Mobo

OK, so I want to build a new computer.  Right now I’m settled on an Intel rig.  While the new AMD Phenom chipset is tempting, performance is still lagging and Intel, as of right now, still has a leg up.  When the final decision comes (likely closer towards the middle of January) things may be different, but as of now, Intel seems the way to go.

Looking at components the hardest choice, regardless of chipset, is the motherboard.  Most, or at least many, reviews focus on overclocking (something I’m not looking for as of now) and customer reviews are peppered with comments about DOA boards and duds; even on the high-end and well reviewed boards.  This review-filled quagmire makes separating the wheat from chaff rather difficult.   As of right now I’m down to three Intel based boards ranging of the high-end/mid-range market.

At the top of the heap is the ASUS Maximus Formula. Retailing for about $260 it uses the new Intel X38 North Bridge while still utilizing the “standard” DDR2 memory (rather than the assrapingly expensive DDR3). It offers two PCIe x16 slots (2.0 specification) leaving room for a SLI setup. Of the three boards it supports the most memory speeds (1200/1066/800/667).

Middle of the heap is the ASUS P5K Deluxe Wifi Edition. Retailing for around $230 ($199 at newegg.com) it runs the older P35 north bridge and supports 1066/800/667 DDR2 memory. Unlike the Maximus it has only one PCIe x16 slot (with a second running at x4) but also has 2 eSata ports for external storage and built in Wifi.

Last is the GIGABYTE GA-P35-DS4 Rev. 2.0. Retailing for about $180 it’s features are comparable to the ASUS model above, minus the Wifi and only supporting DDR2 memory at 1066 Mhz.

All three boards support Quad-core and Core 2 Duo chips (the two ASUS boards also support the Core 2 extreme, but I’m not spending a grand+ on a CPU). Both ASUS boards have AD audio, the only thing I know about that is that it isn’t Realtek (a common standard and featured on the Gigabyte board).

Anyone out there with thoughts on matter feel free to chime in. Next time I’ll post on the CPU (right now I’m leaning towards the low-end quad core, Q6600) or maybe cases.

Bring the sexy to your PC

Extremetech has a great buying guide for gaming keyboards and mice.  My G5 still looks to be a favorite though the new G9 and even Microsoft’s new Sidewinder look they might be worth a look if the price drops.

My poor keyboard is looking pretty beat up and some of these new gaming keyboards look pretty damn sexy.  The ideazon MERC stealth looks pretty badass but the upcoming Saitek Cyborg keyboard mentioned at the end of the article looks like it might just be the right melding of functionality and cheese to suit my taste for the absurd.

 Anyway head on over and check it out. 

Netvibes, an alternative to iGoogle

I’m sure I’ve posted about this before, but I wanted to mention it again because I love it so damned much.  Netvibes, like the more well known igoogle, is a customizable homepage.  Using it’s various plugins you can load things like gmail (and other email clients), RSS feeds, and any other of productive (and not so productive) widgets into a web page.  Netvibes is probably my favorite webapp (discounting gmail) so far and find the abiltiy to but all my frequent stops on the web in one place not only damned handy as well as horribly addictive.   Did I mention it’s free?  iGoogle is a fine app, but I’ve found that I’ve enjoyed my experience with Netvibes more; though I can’t quite put my finger on why.  Anyway, give it a try and let me know what you think.

Some pics:

Netvibes Home

This is my homepage with feeds for email, wikipedia, google maps, and various time killing feeds.

Reader page

Clicking on any like to a story from an RSS feed opens up this window.  It lists all the stories on the left with a view of the post on the right.

Impressions: Crysis Demo

For those that don’t know I absolutely hated Far Cry.   It wasn’t really a bad game but, if you’ve heard of my experiences with the original Hitman, you know that stealthy action and my play style don’t go together (the original No One Lives Forever being perhaps the only exception).  That being said I felt that the Crysis demo was exceptional, and tons of fun to play.  There is a similar element of stealthiness required here but the addition of the power suit and its myriad of power makes managing combat (at least what was in the demo) much more entertaining.  The physics model is astounding; attacking a distant humvee from a machine gun turret ate through tree trunks causing the palms to crash to the ground caused a moment of visceral joy.  A fire fight in a North Korean outpost destroyed the building I was using for cover and had me seeking more solid object to hide behind and employing my suit’s cloak action to avoid heavy fire.   I won’t comment too much on graphics, my CPU lacks a dual-core and only has PC3200 ram so the game leans heavily on my Nvidia 8800 GTS (only the 320 mb model) which just isn’t enough to churn out the pixels at pretty resolutions.  The game worked, and at decent resolutions, and managed to look pretty good. 

From what I can tell the story seems to be rather interesting and the impressive AI and rendering technologies for the character models make immersion almost instantaneous.  Sound direction in the demo from the bark of weapon’s fire to the voice acting were top notch; the distant moans and cries of some thingout in the jungle with me certainly had me on edge.  Will I be buying the game anytime soon?  No.  See my previous post for some reasoning behind that.  I’d also like to put together a new PC sometime in the near future (I’m waiting on the verdict of AMD’s new Phenom line, due this month or early next year, before I decide exactly what I’m doing) so I can take better advantage of newer technology (a jump from single to quad core would rock, faster ram would be nice too, and maybe a sexier chassis to house everything).  Depending on my level of laziness at the time I’ll either build one myself or give Cyberpowerinc or iBuypower a try.

 The full game of Crsyis is out and seems to be getting solid reviews.  Both metacritic and gamerankings have average score in the low 90s.

It begins…..

Is upgrading my computer a good idea? Probably not….doesn’t mean I’m not gonna do it anyway. Phase 1 and 2 of my yet to be determined upgrade plan arrived this week. I give you now Phase 1:

Box of Excitement

The Samsung 226BW 22 inch flat panel monitor. Now the goodies inside this box ‘o fun:

the nougat center

Set up was a breeze, god bless the inventor of plug and play, and (one broken glass full of pens later):

The man in green

22 inches of shiny goodness. Also, coming later in the week, a replacement of my 350 watt power supply with a brand spankin’ new 500 watt power supply. The nvidia Geforce 8 series (in particular the 8800 line) of video cards have a pretty big minimum power standard (400 watts) and if I want the gaming power I needs me power! I certainly want teh 7337 r0x0r p0vv3r…ahem! ‘Scuse me, my inner geek got the best of me.

To the rest of you fools out there let me take a brief moment to impress upon you the awesomeness that is New Egg.com. If you want electronics on the net screw the big guys head on over to New Egg. I ordered this monitor yesterday morning, 3 day shipping is the standard and it rocks a hard one. Indeed the price of getting my monitor in something barely over 24 hours was a mere $15. Not too shabby if you ask me. Anyway, pray hard folks that during my next case-cracking adventure I don’t somehow ‘splode my computer.