REALLY LONG: My thoughts from my last build


C

Clint

First off, my reason for writing this is to document what I went through on
my last build. As you'll see if you stay awake through the following tome
is that I went through quite a few options, hit some lemons, but ended up
with lemonade (i.e. something I'm happy with). If I can help anyone not hit
the same snags I did, I'll be happy. :)

Ok, so I think I'm almost done my last (well, most recent) build. It all
started when I got a decent contract gig, so I figured I'd pump some money
into upgrading my computer. My initial budget was $500 + whatever I could
get for my old parts. My old parts consisted of a P4 2.4GHz (533MHz FSB),
1GB of PC2700 memory, ATI 9800Pro, Seagate 200GB ATA hard drive, Asus P4PE
motherboard, Coolermaster Wave Master case.

So I started off with my processor. I got a decent auction on an Intel 830D
processor ($180, all prices in CAD). That's less than half what it would
cost locally, so I was happy. I figured I'd get a motherboard, some memory,
an LCD monitor, and I'd be set.

Step two, while I was waiting for the processor to show up on my door, was
to get a motherboard. I figured I'd use my old ATI 9800Pro till I needed to
upgrade it, and it was AGP. But I figured I'd want to upgrade to a PCIe
board eventually, so my best bang for buck would be an AGP/PCI-E board. So
I ordered an Asus
P5VDC-MX(http://usa.asus.com/products4.aspx?modelmenu=2&model=814&l1=3&l2=11&l3=0).
It had both slots (or so I thought), took both DDR and DDR2 memory, and had
pretty much all the other things I needed.

While I was waiting, I put my other pieces up for sale on a local newsgroup.
Well, to my surprise, I had offers on everything within 2 days, so I no
longer had to do my upgrades piece-meal. I also found out that the selected
motherboard had PCI-E x1, not 16. That does NOT support PCIe video cards!
Whoops. So when I went to pick up the rest of the pieces of my build, this
is what I got:

Asus P5LD2-VM motherboard
(http://www.memoryexpress.com/index....dProductDetail.php&DisplayProductID=5848&SID=)
Mushkin 1GB (2x512 MB) EM2-5300 DDR2 memory
(http://www.memoryexpress.com/index....dProductDetail.php&DisplayProductID=7341&SID=)
Seagate 320GB SATA HD
(http://www.memoryexpress.com/index....dProductDetail.php&DisplayProductID=8113&SID=
Aspire Aria mATX case
(http://www.memoryexpress.com/index....dProductDetail.php&DisplayProductID=4540&SID=)

My reason for this case in particular is because I decided I wanted a
desktop case, and this seemed to be a nice little unit. The reviews weren't
too bad aside from a few comments on the PSU and the noise. Well, any
negative comments about the case sure held true in my experience. The case
looked sharp, but it was made of very cheap/thin aluminum. Nothing like my
aluminum Coolermaster! The PSU was the worst I've ever monitored. Very
inconsistent 3.3V rail, like +20%. The noise was like running a vacuum
cleaner on your desk. I used it for 2 days, and then couldn't stand it any
more. Oh yeah, and the fan on this unit blew air from the PSU INTO the
case, instead of the usual out. First one I'd ever seen that did that.

My first solution was to replace the PSU. So I went and got an Enermax
Liberty 400W PSU
(http://www.memoryexpress.com/index....dProductDetail.php&DisplayProductID=6815&SID=).
Now, the reviews I'd read said you COULD put in a standard PSU, but it would
be really tight, and only possible if you had a short optical drive. Since
I had one of those, I figured I couldn't go too far wrong. I also picked up
an Antec TriCool fan, to see if I could reduce the fan noise.

The new PSU did a fine job of providing power after I shoe-horned it in, and
the modular cabling was almost required for a case this size, especially
because the cables were designed to work in a tower case (so they were much
longer than I needed). But the noise was still a problem. So I dropped in
the Antec fan, stuck it on low, and fired it up again. The noise level was
a little better, but it turns out a lot of the noise is from the air
whistling through the holes provided for ventilation. And in such a small
environment, the CPU fan would kick in often, trying to cool things off.
All in all, a fairly un-satisfying situation, and I ended up pulling out all
the parts and sticking them into my old case. I figured I tell the guy that
was waiting for it that I was sorry, but I wasn't going to be selling it.

Well, if you've stayed awake this far, you may have noticed that I didn't
get a video card with the initial build. I was waiting for my contract
money to come in. While I was waiting, I was using the on-board video of
the card, while I got things set up. So a few days later, when the cash
came in, it was back to the local shop for more goodies. This run, I got

eVGA 7600GT KO PCI-E video card
(http://www.memoryexpress.com/index....dProductDetail.php&DisplayProductID=8412&SID=)
Viewsonic VX2025wm 20" widescreen LCD
(http://www.memoryexpress.com/index....dProductDetail.php&DisplayProductID=7470&SID=)

I took back the Aria case, and got talked into this one:
Antec Sonata II w/450W SmartPower PSU
(http://www.memoryexpress.com/index....dProductDetail.php&DisplayProductID=5869&SID=)

Now THIS was more like it. The new case, even though it was exactly the
same price, was light-years ahead of it in quality. The PSU was quiet and
stable, the provided fans and HD/optical drive rails all had rubber noise
insulators, and it had a tool-less design. The monitor was soooo sexy, I
think I made a little wet spot in my pants when I first powered it up. I
finished setting things up, and started playing around.

The new configuration was, all in all, a sweet upgrade from my old system.
I started ripping some DVD's, and it took 1/3 the time of my old system.
The dual core processor meant I could be doing multiple things at once,
without feeling things bog down, even when running at 90%+ utilization.

But one issue I had consistently was Oblivion (my main game) would
constantly freeze. It wouldn't crash, but would just lock up for 30 seconds
at a time, then run again for anywhere from 1 minute to 10, then do it
again. Sometimes the audio would stutter, sometimes it would just stop. I
blew away the old drivers, ran the DriverCleaner, and re-installed. I went
through about 4 sets of NVidia drivers, 2 sets of MB drivers, 3 sets of
sound drivers. Everything I could think of. I monitored the temperatures
of the video card, the processor, and the case, and all were normal (<70C
for the GPU, <62C for the processor, and <40 for the case under full load).

Eventually, I found a number of threads in the eVGA user forums that went
something like this one
(http://www.evga.com/community/messageboard/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=16540). To
their credit, they keep these threads around. A less honorable vendor
probably would lock and purge them, but not eVGA. Seems that many people
are having issues with the 7600/7900 cards overheating. It's not the GPU,
but possibly some other components on the card. Since I was coming up to
the limit of my return period for the local vendor (7 days), I said screw
it; I'd go back to ATI. So I ponied up the extra bucks for a Sapphire
X1800GTO card
(http://www.memoryexpress.com/index....dProductDetail.php&DisplayProductID=7870&SID=).
Within 15 minutes of getting home, I had the new card installed, and haven't
looked back.

One problem with the new card was the noise, however. It was quiet when I
wasn't running a game, but I found I had to turn up the sound on my system
to compete with the fan on the video card when it was getting used hard. So
back to the local vendor, and picked up an Arctic Cooling Accelero X2
(http://www.memoryexpress.com/index....dProductDetail.php&DisplayProductID=7715&SID=).
Even though it would void my warranty, I was annoyed enough by the sound to
go ahead. Well, the thing works as advertised. It dropped my GPU temps by
10 degrees, and the fan only gets up to 50% at those temps. So that made me
happy.

My next toy was to quiet down the CPU. Under most circumstances, the unit
was pretty quiet, but when pushed hard, the CPU fan would kick in, and was
now the loud piece in the system. So I picked up a Scythe Ninja Plus
(http://www.memoryexpress.com/index....dProductDetail.php&DisplayProductID=7713&SID=).
One thing I noticed with the motherboard/case combination I've got is that
the CPU is right in front of the 120mm case fan, which happened to be the
same size as the fan on the cooler and was only about an inch away from the
cooler, which is advertised as being a "fanless" unit under low-use
situations. So my first setup was to turn my case fan around so it was
blowing air into the case. Fired it up, ran two instances of Prime95 (one
for each core), and monitored the temps. First observation was how quiet it
was (of course). The CPU temp stayed in the low 60's at peak, which was
about the same as with the stock cooler. But the case temp went up by about
5C. I tried pushing the fan up to high speed (it's a Antec TriCool unit
which came with the case), which helped with the temps, but then the noise
was annoying again. Since the case fan wasn't controlled by the MB, it was
always noisy, not just under load.

But then today (as my story nears it's end), I picked up a 2GB kit in
exchange for my 1GB kit and some cash. So while I was mucking around in my
system, I turned the case fan back around, turned it on low, and put the fan
that came with the Scythe to blow through the heat sync towards the case
fan. This setup turns out to be the cat's pyjama's. The CPU temp stays
under 55C even under extended full load (like 1.5 hours of transcoding video
files), the case temp stays low (37C), and both fans are running at their
lowest speed even under full load. The loud point in the system is now the
access noise of the Seagate HD, which I never had a chance to hear until I
got rid of all the fan noise.

One last thing I was fighting recently (like since Monday/Tuesday) was
lockups of Windows Explorer. I'd try to open up a particular folder (my
Oblivion game folder), and it would just lock up my system, with Explorer
running at 50%. It would do that for several minutes, and then let me
continue. It would also do this when I ran Oblivion. Once it got running,
it was fine. I un-installed and re-installed Oblivion multiple times,
figuring I must have some sort of virus in it, but no luck.

I figured I must have got some sort of virus, but I ran through multiple AV
solutions, through multiple mal-ware apps, and nothing came up beyond some
tracking cookies. I was ALMOST to the point of re-installing windows when I
stumbed across a link that pointed me to www.sysinternals.com, and their
tools for monitoring what's running at any given time. With that, I was
able to determine that the problem could very well be my anti-virus
software, F-Prot. So I turned off the real-time protection (just for
testing, mind you), and it solved the problem! I couldn't think of what I
had done to cause the problem, but now I'm figuring that F-Prot probably
pushed out a buggy upgrade on their software. We use the same solution in
our office, and this week, we've spent multiple hours trying to diagnose
this same issue. For most people at work, the solution was to un-install
MSN Messenger, but that didn't work on my home unit. I've since swapped out
F-Prot, and there's smooth sailing again.

Anyway, this is the end of my story. I'm a very happy camper right now,
with the system I ended up with. In hindsight, the Intel 930D processor is
now only marginally more expensive than I ended up paying for my 830D
processor, and it runs cooler (with twice the cache), so I probably would
have got that one, or waited for a Conroe processor. And I might still see
about getting some form of HD noise reduction, so long as I can do it
without affecting their reliability. I ended up being closer to $1000 than
500, I think, but what the heck, I'm worth it! :) The Viewsonic monitor
still makes me smile almost every time I look at it. I happened to pick up
a Dell P991 19" Trinitron monitor for $20 at a garage sale (I still feel a
little guilty abou that), so I've got a pretty sweet dual monitor setup
right now.

Here's my report card, on the pieces I tried:
Antec Sonata II case: A
Aspire Aria case: F (crappy PSU, noisy)
Seagate 320GB SATA HD: B (fast, but a little loud)
eVGA 7600GT KO PCI-E card: D (decent support, still has
overheating/reliability problems)
Sapphire X1800GTO PCI-E card: B (fast, but they shouldn't even sell it with
the stock HS/fan)
Intel 830D processor: A (dual core rocks!)
Mushkin EM2-5300 memory: C (does what it's supposed to, nothing more,
nothing less)
Asus P5LD2-VM motherboard: C (see comment above)
Viewsonic VX2025wm 20" widescreen LCD: A (beautiful display, multiple
inputs, makes me smile)

I hope this helps someone! :)

Clint
 
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J

johns

Well, congratulations. Your new system is not much better than
your old system at all. That 9800 is still one of the best video
cards on the market. And ASUS makes kid-toys, so you are
going to have a chronic rebooter in about 6 months. If you
bought into an eVGA card, you are trapped in that RMA loop
until you get fed up. I'm doing a lot better after much testing
by going strictly with Gigabyte mobos, and the BFG GT7900GTO
which was a little more pricey, but at least it wasn't a RMA
refurb that went right back out the door .. broke. XFX is good
for that too. LCD monitor is OK, but not big enough for movies.
The 23 inchers are coming down in price, and they are still
marginal sitting at 10 feet. Vista Beta is showing its colors
on most of these systems ( slow as itch ), and games
coming out in the Fall are Vista games ???? I'm looking
at upgrading my new system to dual processor, but I planned
for that, and my mobo will do it. Meantime all my games are
running topped out on my 3700+ ... and still running equally
well on my 9800 Pro system which I kept because it also
used a Gigabyte mobo which is highly compatible with
everything I've tried, and runs great. At any rate, seems
Vista will require the dual processor, but I'm in a position
to verify that before I make the jump. Meanwhile, the price
on the dual proc is coming down.

johns
 
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R

Rod Speed

johns said:
And ASUS makes kid-toys, so you are going
to have a chronic rebooter in about 6 months.

How odd that not one of mine does,
and they are all older than 6 months.
 
C

Clint

Wow, I'm not sure where to start, especially to try to avoid looking like
I'm just defending my choice of toys/components. But here goes...

1) How do you figure that the 9800 is one of the best video cards on the
market? What makes it "the best"? It's out-performed handily since the
X800 came out, from every test I've seen. Do you have anything to back up
your statement?

2) How bout some proof on your statement about the Asus motherboards? I've
used several over the years, and never had one die. Always upgraded when I
felt the need to. My sample size is pretty small <5, but there you go.

3) My posting was long, but somewhere in there I mentioned returning the
eVGA card, and getting a Sapphire X1800GTO. On the other hand, the problems
that I read about with the 7600/7900 cards having issues wasn't limited to
eVGA. XFX, BFG, and other NVidia vendors all had issues, as far as I could
tell.

4) Why would I want to watch movies on my LCD monitor? I've got a
perfectly good home theatre room for that, with surround sound and all the
bells and whistles I need. My computer room is for doing computer stuff.
And the price jump (around here, anyway) going from a 20" to 23"+ monitor is
pretty steep. 20" LCD's go for $300 to $500 (mine was $400, all prices in
CAD), but the 23" monitors are around $1000. I would have been better off
getting 2 of the 20" units. Cheaper, and much more screen real estate.

5) I somehow doubt we'll see many Vista games in the fall; the last release
date I've seen for Vista is Q4 2006. Doesn't make much sense to release the
software before the OS. And I wouldn't place any money on a release date
till an RC1 comes out. In any case, I feel reasonably confident my machine
will run Vista as well as any current machine. Most of the people having
issues right now with the beta are in a tizzy because they don't fully
comprehend what beta means, IMHO.

Clint
 
G

Gank

2) How bout some proof on your statement about the Asus motherboards? I've
used several over the years, and never had one die. Always upgraded when I
felt the need to. My sample size is pretty small <5, but there you go.

Ignore him, he keeps spreading the same lie about Asus over and over. Asus
should consider sueing him. :)
 
K

kony

On 18 Jun 2006 14:14:24 -0700, "johns" <[email protected]>
wrote:


I'd just like to start by noting that seldom is any post so
utterly clueless and backwards as johns' was.

Well, congratulations. Your new system is not much better than
your old system at all. That 9800 is still one of the best video
cards on the market.

Nope, it was a good value at the time but not even close to
best on the market for the past couple years.
And ASUS makes kid-toys, so you are
going to have a chronic rebooter in about 6 months.

If by "kid toys" you mean the worlds largest manufacturer of
what are regarded as high quality motherboards, yes, they're
toys - in contrast to the other junk that's no fun to play
with.
If you
bought into an eVGA card, you are trapped in that RMA loop
until you get fed up. I'm doing a lot better after much testing
by going strictly with Gigabyte mobos, and the BFG GT7900GTO
which was a little more pricey, but at least it wasn't a RMA
refurb that went right back out the door .. broke.

Any company half as bad as you suggest would be out of
business. A couple people with bad parts that whine a lot
will tend to draw a crowd, even reports from two or more
other people that had a problem. Hundreds of thousands of
products sold means that just about any make and model of
board will have a few faulty (or handling, or customer
damaged) products. Which customers end up in the same place
at the same time and start complaining about it is random
chance. When you find a product with a statistically large
failure rate, it tends to end up on the front pages of major
hardware websites.
XFX is good
for that too. LCD monitor is OK, but not big enough for movies.
The 23 inchers are coming down in price, and they are still
marginal sitting at 10 feet.

You haven't thought this through. A 9800 video card can't
push the pixels fast enough at the (native) resolution of a
larger display on modern games. An LCD TV could be used but
that makes it inferior for the core purpose, a computer
display. The 9800 will be struggling with 1280x1024 or
1440x900 res. displays soon enough if not already (in any
remotely demanding 3D game) and nobody wants to drop to
non-native res to play.
Vista Beta is showing its colors
on most of these systems ( slow as itch ), and games
coming out in the Fall are Vista games ????

There is no such thing as a "vista game".
Eventually games will be DirectX10. It'll be kinda hard to
develop those without real Vista /DX10 systems to run them
on. Then there'll have to be a market for them, actual
customers that have the RTM or retail Vista. Pretty much
impossible situation, and we can expect that for at least
the next couple years, any half-sane game developer will be
targeting WinXP / DX9c still, not Vista/DX10. They may
include DX10 features, DX9 support is going to be manditory
for a reasonable customer base.
I'm looking
at upgrading my new system to dual processor, but I planned
for that, and my mobo will do it. Meantime all my games are
running topped out on my 3700+ ...

.... and won't be sped up much if at all by a dual processor
system because they're not designed to benefit. Anything
else running in the background at a proper, not defectively
designed, priority will not interfere with gaming
performance. One exception might be 3D sound with
Sensaura/etc software based sound processing but if we're
really going to dig into that issue the answer is easy -
hardware sound, unfortunately from Creative Labs.
and still running equally
well on my 9800 Pro system

Running "ok", maybe, but today it's a bit silly to think
that's "well" relative a newer gaming card. You would have
a larger performance increase replacing your video card than
what you had proposed, replacing the CPU instead.
...which I kept because it also
used a Gigabyte mobo which is highly compatible with
everything I've tried, and runs great. At any rate, seems
Vista will require the dual processor,
No.

but I'm in a position
to verify that before I make the jump. Meanwhile, the price
on the dual proc is coming down.

It's hardly a jump, and I have to wonder what your goal is.
Vista is not mature enough for any important use, yet.
Gaming won't benefit much from the dual CPU and needs a
stronger video card. You'll be throwing away money with
little gain at all, just a lot of new bugs and time spent on
it.
 
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J

John Doe

Gank said:
Ignore him, he keeps spreading the same lie about Asus over and
over. Asus should consider sueing him. :)

It's a personal trait of johns. Apparently he does that with things
he doesn't like. Maybe he needs attention.

He won't tell you when he's kidding. Sometimes it's clear, other
times it's not clear.
 
J

John Doe

This is a typical johns troll.


Path: newssvr21.news.prodigy.com!newsdbm04.news.prodigy.com!newsdst02.news.prodigy.com!prodigy.com!newscon06.news.prodigy.com!prodigy.net!border1.nntp.dca.giganews.com!nntp.giganews.com!postnews.google.com!y41g2000cwy.googlegroups.com!not-for-mail
From: "johns" <johns321 moscow.com>
Newsgroups: alt.comp.hardware.homebuilt,alt.comp.hardware.pc-homebuilt
Subject: Re: REALLY LONG: My thoughts from my last build
Date: 18 Jun 2006 14:14:24 -0700
Organization: http://groups.google.com
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Xref: prodigy.net alt.comp.hardware.homebuilt:222693 alt.comp.hardware.pc-homebuilt:468594


Well, congratulations. Your new system is not much better than
your old system at all. That 9800 is still one of the best video
cards on the market. And ASUS makes kid-toys, so you are
going to have a chronic rebooter in about 6 months. If you
bought into an eVGA card, you are trapped in that RMA loop
until you get fed up. I'm doing a lot better after much testing
by going strictly with Gigabyte mobos, and the BFG GT7900GTO
which was a little more pricey, but at least it wasn't a RMA
refurb that went right back out the door .. broke. XFX is good
for that too. LCD monitor is OK, but not big enough for movies.
The 23 inchers are coming down in price, and they are still
marginal sitting at 10 feet. Vista Beta is showing its colors
on most of these systems ( slow as itch ), and games
coming out in the Fall are Vista games ???? I'm looking
at upgrading my new system to dual processor, but I planned
for that, and my mobo will do it. Meantime all my games are
running topped out on my 3700+ ... and still running equally
well on my 9800 Pro system which I kept because it also
used a Gigabyte mobo which is highly compatible with
everything I've tried, and runs great. At any rate, seems
Vista will require the dual processor, but I'm in a position
to verify that before I make the jump. Meanwhile, the price
on the dual proc is coming down.

johns
 
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J

JAD

johns said:
Well, congratulations. Your new system is not much better than
your old system at all. That 9800 is still one of the best video
cards on the market.

And ASUS makes kid-toys, so you are
going to have a chronic rebooter in about 6 months. If you
bought into an eVGA card, you are trapped in that RMA loop
until you get fed up.

Will you stop spewing this UTTER ****ING BULLSHIT! jesus christ, your at
the level of Jerome and his AMD mantra or Dave W's ' you have to format and
freshly install XP.. law.




I'm doing a lot better after much testing
by going strictly with Gigabyte mobos, and the BFG GT7900GTO
which was a little more pricey, but at least it wasn't a RMA
refurb that went right back out the door .. broke. XFX is good
for that too. LCD monitor is OK, but not big enough for movies.
The 23 inchers are coming down in price, and they are still
marginal sitting at 10 feet.

Vista Beta is showing its colors
on most of these systems ( slow as itch ), and games
coming out in the Fall are Vista games ????

WTF?!!!!!!!!


I'm looking
at upgrading my new system to dual processor, but I planned
for that, and my mobo will do it. Meantime all my games are
running topped out on my 3700+ ... and still running equally
well on my 9800 Pro system which I kept because it also
used a Gigabyte mobo which is highly compatible with
everything I've tried, and runs great. At any rate, seems
Vista will require the dual processor,


Who gives a crap about 'vista'? An OS that will be a nightmare for a year or
more after the RC release. Your obsessed.


but I'm in a position

Yeah and we know what position that is....Mister 'old versions of I.E. won't
connect to the net'
 

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