All I want to do is tantalise you

I think there is something wrong with me…since such a simple picture can get me excited:

I love that heat sink, looks effective but sexy with plenty of room for aftermarket cooling.  Unlike my ASUS board whose pounds of copper limits my aftermarket cooling options like nobody’s business.

Intel’s X58 boards feature a new socket to support their new “Bloomfield” processor which seems to be their new flagship “Extreme” processor. Rumor is that the top-level Bloomfield will cost $999, as opposed to the current top-level Extreme processor which costs well over the $1000 mark. I’m more excited about what that means for the pricing of the mid to low-end Bloomfields. Lower level chip, plus aftermarket cooling and some solid OC sounds good to me.

The new boards are DDR3 only, I’m still uncertain how great a performance gain the higher spec RAM yields but a quick glance at New Egg reveals some more reasonable prices than when I put together my rig.  Still nothing like the bargain basement price of DDR2 memory.  Plus it looks like we’ll be seeing both Crossfire and SLI support on these babies.  Suhweet!

No, I won’t be building a new computer this soon, but a man can dream.

PC Specs

Mainboard:  Asus Maximus Formula
An intel x38 chip with DDR2 rather than DDR3. Solid so far. Some people have complained about the abundance of copper, and there is a shit ton, but I kind of like it. It had some issues with the Wolfdale, but more on that later.
RAM: Mushkin 4GB kit
It doesn’t have fancy spreaders or super-fast speed but solid numbers and price just under $100 for 4 gigs (2gb x 2gb) was hard to pass up.
CPU: Intel E8400 Intel E6750
Here is where my problems were. I really wanted a Wolfdale. 45nm, lots of overhead for OC, solid benchmarks, large cache size all around a solid chip with some impressive numbers. It installed fine and worked great. For a bit. Then I started getting weird temperature readings. 100 degrees Celsius weird. A quick search revealed tons of problems with temperature readings; though none officially recognized by intel. Thinking maybe the stock cooler was at fault I ordered an after market model, the Zalman 9500A. It arrived nice and quick.  Unfortunately, when I attempted to install it, I realized that the aforementioned copper heatsinks on the mobo didn’t allow for the screwless installation; there just wasn’t enough room. With my warranty period rapidly expiring I did what any sane man would do…I sent both the chip and the fan back. The fan I could get a refund on, the chip could be replaced. Unfortunately, do to stock constraints, I couldn’t get a new 8400. So, as New Egg’s return policy states, they refunded me the price.  With no E8400 I decided to stick to the old 65nm models. Rather than go quad-core I went with the sub-$200 E6750 instead. It is slightly slower than the E8400 but has mature bios support and solid temperature readings. Within the next year I’ll probably replace it, I can only hope that the 45nm quad-cores are a little more solid.
Graphics: eVGA nVidia 8800 GTS (g92/512 mb)
The new smaller G92 is a little cooler and a little faster than the earlier version of the 8800. A great piece of hardware. Unfortunately it seems that the fan never revs up passed 30%.  A bit of registry hacking thanks to rivatuner and it’s up to about 60% and keeping things nice and cool.
Power: OCZ GameXstream 700w
Despite the utterly ridiculous name this is a solid piece of hardware. Cool, quiet and with a nifty blue LED.
Storage: Samsung 20X SATA DVD Burner and Seagate 750GB Hard Drive
Got a decent deal on two OEM models here. Will probably pick up an additional HD for storage as I continue to transfer my music CDs and maybe-kinda-sorta so I can dual boot with Ubuntu. The Samsung drive is fast a pretty damn sweet, not too much else to say about it. Compared to my old computer, with its ginormous IDE ribbon, SATA everything is like a dream come true.
Cooling: ZALMAN 9700 NT Fan
If my case weren’t a full-tower this thing would cause trouble. 1250 RPM in silent mode is pretty damn quiet, managed with QFAN things get even quieter while my processor stays nice and cool. It has *gasp* screws to secure it too the mobo. Easy enough but I must have downed too much caffeine when I installed cause it took me quite a few tries.
Case: Coolermaster Stacker RC-832
In all honesty I think I should have gone with the Cosmos. It does appear to be slightly sexier and have sweet cable management behind the mobo. Oh well. Most of the problems with this case were created by me. First my retarded ass managed to pull one of the internal wires for the top USB ports, oops. A quick forum search found instructions for getting to top casing off. Easy enough. Unless Satan himself had screwed your case together. One perfectly round screw head later I resign myself to -2 usb ports and a not-so-bright power button. Last but not least my neanderthal brain could not manage to wrap itself around the side panel removal/replacement until far too late. I’m sure I knocked some sort of integral sound-damping metal clip off the panel track since the case is now prone to occasional metallic rattle. Annoying, but barely noticeable during gaming and things are still quieter than the airplane like whine of my old computer.
OS:Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit
Vista has its problems but they run towards the annoying rather than the system-breaking. Vista 64 is solid enough, the only real problem is driver signing. Microsoft, in the money-grubbing tradition, requires Microsoft signed drivers for programs to work. What this means is that a lot of smaller, free, independently developed programs just won’t work. Ugh. Part of why I want to dual boot Ubuntu.  64-bit operating systems are the only ones that recognize memory configurations over 3gb so if you want tons of ram there really isn’t any other way to go and, if you want DX10, you need Vista.  Yay Microsoft!
Comments:
Over eagerness was part of my problem here. I put things together as they came rather than all at once on a free day. Things work good now though there is some fine tuning to do. With no AA and 1680×1050 I get a little over 10k in 3dMark 06, with 2x AA I’m in the solid 9k range. Crysis runs well at the same resolution with all settings on high, some reduction on post-processing effects should clear up the few minor hiccups that exist. TF2 runs as smooth as it ever did, damn but that Source engine is versatile. Speaking of Valve they made the switch to my new PC damn easy. Download Steam, sign into my account, pick the games I own and wander off while they download. Sure it took a while over a DSL connection; but still simple. Files went easy over WiFi and my iTunes library went on my iPod. Anyway, I’m sure there will be more benchmarks in the future, and more problems, but for now things are running quiet, cool, and fast.

An Odyssey Begun….

Well I’ve ordered the “first half” of my new computer. Ordered the following components:

Cooler Master Stacker RC-832
A big roomy full tower case with plenty of room for expansion
ASUS Maximus Formula
Using the X38 North Bridge, PCIe x16 2.0, DDR2. Solid looking board.
Seagate Barracuda 750GB HD (OEM)
Went OEM for the HD. Solid company. Massive Capacity.
Mushkin DDR2 800 2x (2gb)
DDR2 is still cheap as hell, got me four gigs on 2 sticks.
Intel Core 2 Duo E8400
Intel’s newest chip under the Wolfdale name. Small, cool, fast. Almost went with quad-core but I think I can wait a bit, until more software takes advantage of 4 cores.

I plan on ordering the rest (video card, optical drive, OS, and power supply) in about a week (I get paid next Wednesday). Now I only hope I put this shit together without having anything explode or catch on fire.

Bringin’ the sexy back….to keyboards

If I were willing to spend extravagant funds on my PC peripherals I would start with Art. Lebedev’s Optimus Maximus. The Optimus Maximus is a 113-key keyboard in which each of the keys is an OLED allowing dynamic icons for all keys. Coming in with a price tag of roughly $1,500 it is creme de la creme of input devices.

Engadget has an older hands-on (with delicious photos) while Arstechnica has a more recent hands-on from the ongoing CES

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.