View Full Version : PC Building - geekness abounds

Qaj the Fuzzy Love Worm
23-04-2003, 05:58:30
It especially abounds if you're in the habit of using "abounds" in a sentence, but I digress (there's another one!)

Recently, I was charged by a co-employee at work to spec out and build a system. Shouldn't be too expensive (around US$1200, I think he said) and should be overclockable. Well, after much ado, and his end-of-fiscal-year tax rebate, he finally got about to ordering the parts. Some interesting facts:

1) The place he bought his CPU from, an Athlon XP 2400+, called it a "Cray-type processor". :eek:

2) The case I spec'd out, a Koolance PC2-601, was delivered with a big fat dent in the right-hand side, where the motherboard would be attached. He called them up, complained, and they sent him a new one. I guess the fact that the case is 33 pounds of steel and plastic probably had something to do with the fact that they didn't ask for the old one to be shipped back... so he had two top quality water cooling cases.

With a bit of panel beating, the dented one came up a treat, so he had 2 top quality top condition cases. Nice. He only had one CPU cooler, though, since that's a separate item, but the case makes a nice conventionally-cooled system case, too.

3) Unfortunately, the second case wasn't as top notch as we'd thought. Once all his other parts had arrived, we set aside some time to assemble the thing. Power supply in, coolant fluid in, strange electrical smell out when turned on. No pump movement, no noise from the pumps. Odd.

We took a look and discovered the power and pump control board had a shot component on it (shot, as in literally exploded/melted). Co-worker was not amused. Especially so since I'd also forgotten to bring the thermal grease for the CPU that day. Oops. Case building postponed for a day.

Next day, I brought the grease and, trump card!, we swapped the control board from the dented case into the good one. Voila! Fluid moving, case working. We got the air out, plugged the components in, fitted the CPU and cooler, and we were on.

First things first, we installed Windows 98. Some tricksy configuration work getting the O/S to unpack the .cab files, but once we sorted that out, we were running smooth. So, for a lark, we dove into the CMOS and ramped up all the settings. In the end, the thing was showing a MHz rate of 2300 or so - equivalent to an Athlon XP 3200+. And the CPU was barely ticking over at 30 degrees C. Of course, there was no load at all, so that'll have to be tested, but it's nice to see those kinds of speeds - an effective 50% increase in (theoretical) performance.

Finally, on went Windows XP, which installed without a hitch.

As payment, I got two lunches at junk food establishments (one of which was eaten in the parking lot because of an inopportune fire alarm that day), some Pepsi, some Granny Smith apples, and the dented case, value US$230. I have the dodgy control card, so right now my pumps don't work, but I don't have a liquid CPU cooler so that's fine. Eventually, co-worker will get a replacement for the card, so I should be able to water-cool sometime soon.

System specs are approx. the following:

* ASUS A7N8X NForce2 motherboard
* AMD Athlon XP 2400+
* 60.0Gb IBM Deskstar 7200 RPM HDD
* Floppy drive
* CD-RW drive (don't know what speed)
* 16x DVD-ROM (the DVD-combo drives were a little expensive)
* Internal IDE Zip 250 Drive
* 512 Mb DDR RAM
* GeForce ti4200 128MB (came with free Morrowind disks, amongst others)
* Sound Blaster Audigy Gamer (more free games)
* Antec True380 power supply (also what I have in my PC)
* Koolance PC2-601 33lb case
* Koolance CPU-200G cooler
* 3x 80x80x25mm case fans

All the above came to between $1100 and $1300, I think, and can probably be gotten a little cheaper these days, since the above was spec'd out a few months back, and components bought in stages over said few months.

He has yet to order his Winbook 17" TFT-LCD monitor.

I'm now thinking of setting up a computer building part-time business in these here parts. I went looking around the Big PC Makers sites the other day, and I can probably beat their prices for comparable machines of comparable component quality, so a little on the top can net me some quick pocket change. But the money isn't the thing though - that last system really jazzed me up - heck, it's fun to put together a system like that that rocks!

Sir Penguin
23-04-2003, 06:14:40
I'd call you a bastard and hate you forever, if you hadn't stuck in an IBM DeathStar. I can't believe you didn't talk your friend into paying for RAID. You bastard, he ought to hate you forever.


Qaj the Fuzzy Love Worm
23-04-2003, 16:11:15
He didn't actually purchase the drive during the system building phase, it was one he had in his old system that was only recognized as 30Gig, for some reason. In fact, apart from the total price limit, it was my only specific limitation on building the thing for him. He would have loved to go RAID, but he was running out of tax rebate money.

I did buy for myself an 80 Gig DeskStar when building my system, but that was because it was the absolute cheapest out-of-state 7200RPM 80Gig I could find. I'd also love to go RAID, but the built-in RAID controller on my MB sucks, and I can't afford either a PCI RAID controller, or another HDD :) I have to buy a liquid CPU cooler and a UPS first, which'll set me back US$100 to $140.

Sir Penguin
23-04-2003, 17:12:27
I've been pricing the A7N8X-DX. It's C$220 from Netlink in Vancouver, and C$240 from everywhere local (including the chain outlet on campus, which is supposed to be cheap (as if anything on campus (outside the cafeteria) is cheap)). :rolleyes: I wonder if I'll have any money left over after this coming semester...


Qaj the Fuzzy Love Worm
23-04-2003, 22:28:13
You think the deluxe is worth the extra cash? We didn't think so - co-worker will be playing a few games on it (flight sims mostly) but the majority of it's use will be as a business machine. Damn waste, if you ask me, but I'm not the one ponying up the dough.

Sir Penguin
24-04-2003, 01:48:10
You mean is it worth the risk of having to deal with RMAs and stuff if they don't send me version 2.0? Probably not, but it could be in the near future.


Qaj the Fuzzy Love Worm
24-04-2003, 15:16:05
I don't think I meant that. I think I meant do you think the extra features of the -dx are worth the extra money over the plain vanilla A7N8X?

If I were in your position, I'd be sorely tempted to buy from the US. Could save yourself C$30. Enough for some extra memory, at any rate. And, IIRC, the A7N8X of any flavor has the nifty Dual Channel DDR thing going on, so that would officially be A Good Thing.

Sir Penguin
24-04-2003, 22:47:46
Yeah, the dual channel DDR is neat. I don't think the vanilla A7N8X comes with a RAID controller, does it? So, a SATA RAID controller, plus the 400 MHz FSB, for $20 more.

I think it's odd that the board has dual onboard LAN and onboard sound and RAID, and they still put on 5 PCI slots. What are we supposed to do with all those PCI slots?


Qaj the Fuzzy Love Worm
24-04-2003, 23:26:18
Who knows what you're supposed to do with 5 slots? It's legacy from motherboards where nothing was onboard, I guess, and they need something to fill out that empty space on the board, or they'd all have to go to micro-ATX equivalent boards, and then where would giant case manufacturers me? It's cronyism.

The deluxe version isn't all that deluxe. It's still only 333MHz FSB (not 400 like you said), comes with the SATA RAID controller (that only does RAID 0 and 1, and isn't particularly reliable - I still say, if you want RAID, get a dedicated controller - onboard RAID is like onboard sound - it's okay if you've got nothing else, but it's not great. Also, the SATA bit isn't fantastic either, since serial drives won't be better than IDE connected drives for a year or so, but it will give you bragging rights, and will possibly put you in good stead for when they are better), 2 USB 2.0 additional sockets, 2 Firewire additional sockets, the second RJ45 jack on the MB. Oh, and an integrated APU, which is handy if you're out of cash and can't afford a soundcard.

So, it might be worth the extra money, IF you're planning on using all the features you get over the lifetime of the PC.

Sir Penguin
25-04-2003, 00:23:39
The new version (2.0) has a 400 MHz FSB, as well as the new version of the RAID controller (which apparently deals with some old performance issues). I wouldn't go SATA yet, although I think the SATA cables rule. :)


25-04-2003, 01:16:00
SATA is cool, but I'd like to see some SATA DVD drives already. I don't want to look at another short and clumsy ribbon cable.

Qaj the Fuzzy Love Worm
25-04-2003, 04:22:48
You got a link for the spec page for that 2.0 version? I checked out ASUS, all they've got listed is the "old" deluxe version.

Sir Penguin
25-04-2003, 05:57:32
I misread a little. The nForce2 supports 400MHz FSB, and some retailers advertise the A7N8X-DX as doing up to 400MHz (the BIOS setting goes up to 411 MHz or something). I got the rev 2.0 stuff from here (http://www.ncix.com/canada/showthread.php?msg_id=282349&threadid=2051400&forum=101&product_id=8768), but the guy who said it didn't give a source. Also, http://www.planet3dnow.de/artikel/hardware/a7n8x_dx2/3.shtml .