Archive for December, 2007

Zippy New Rig!

Monday, December 10th, 2007

Been wanting to upgrade my old-er AMD 3400+ system for about 2 years, and have been needing to for at least the last year. Running Linux doesn’t force the issue as much, except when Amarok was recalc’ing additions to my audio collection. But the Windows side was pretty sluggish. My last two main workstations were AMD CPUs and MSI motherboards. I can’t really fault those for any deficiencies, they work great (aside from some hitches with the MSI motherboard and the stupid, needs-DOS-installed, BIOS update methods), but I did want to try something different (i.e. intel multi-core and a motherboard other than MSI).

I’ve been building my own for at least the last 5 years and though it’s typically the best value, I’ve grown tired of supporting my own systems when things go wrong. I guess after supporting computers for a living for so long, I’ve started to value a good service contract. I was also torn between making the switch to a Mac. Ever since OSX and the new BSD-based Darwin I’ve been intrigued by Macs.

Every couple weeks over the last few years I’d go to dell.com or alienware (now also dell), cyberpowerpc.com, newegg.com, and apple.com and spec out a system with a service contract and the type of specs I’d like (a fast processor, but not the fastest, and tons of RAM). I think of the ones I just mentiond with support contract, cyberpowerpc was the best deal going. A guy I work with loves those guys and says he’s had good experiences with them. I still found their prices on the high side, and I’d look at their components and go to newegg and spec the individual parts out and would always come out ahead at newegg. But that left the problem of building/supporting it myself.

Macs remain just too expensive to get the specs I want. A slick OS that integrates well with the hardware isn’t worth the expensive hardware costs. I considered an iMac 24″ and a Mac Pro. The iMac seems cool, but I don’t like how limiting it can be to upgrade with drives and add on cards in a slimline/form factor system like that. Also, when I spec’ed them out with all the stuff I wanted, like more RAM and the Apple Care warranty, they were always in the $1900. range. Add $1000. to that for the Mac Pro version. Sorry, but no thanks. And I’ve been hearing enough bad things about Leopard (how it’s the next Vista) to make me wary. Not to mention the fact that my experience with iTunes (that so many people — who must just not know better — revere so highly) has been much less than satisfactory. So a Mac was out.

In the end I decided that building my own was the best bet. After spec’ing out a Dell XPS with 4 GB RAM and a single 320 GB hard drive (with either an Intel Core2 duo or Core2 quad) and having it come out to around $1400. or more every time, regardless of any discounts I could find on dealnews.com or through my employer who has a relationship with Dell. I went to Newegg and spec’ed one out that is WAY better. Each part is cherry picked (unlike the Dell, which doesn’t allow you much choice in RAM, PSU, Case, hard drive, burner, etc.), the system is faster than the XP and it cost under $1200. after all the MIRs (which suck, but at least you get something back after jumping through the stupid hoops).

Here are the specs:

  • Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 Kentsfield 2.4GHz
  • Abit IP35 Pro Motherboard
  • G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400)
  • 2 x Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 ST3500320AS 500GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drives, 5 year warranty (yep, 1000GB! w00h00!)
  • Thermaltake W0116RU 750W Power Supply
  • EVGA 256-P2-N751-TR GeForce 8600GT 256MB 128-bit GDDR3 PCI Express x16 SLI Video Card
  • ASUS 20X DVD±R DVD Burner with LightScribe Black SATA Model DRW-2014L1T
  • Antec Nine Hundred Black Steel ATX Mid Tower

I am re-using my 10K RPM WD Raptor drives for the system drives. (My one regret about this system is not buying 2 new 150GB raptors for the system drives, since my old ones are 36GB & 72GB and though fast are pretty small — and noisy after 3 years of daily use!)

It’s not the fastest system out there, but a huge upgrade from what I’ve been running for over 3 years now. I am never willing to pay for the “Extreme” processors that are out. It’s not worth the extra $500 just to have a few extra Mhz. and a slightly faster FSB.

The least deluxe part is the graphics card (I’m still gun shy after frying 2 $300-$400 video cards in my last system after having them for not very long — must have been a power surge or something), which I plan to upgrade once I get some power conditioning in my house.

Anyway, finally got the dual boot between Vista Ultimate & Ubuntu 7.10 64-bit happening and everything I’m doing is a breeze! iTunes still sucks balls though, what a shitty media manager it is! (see my comments below, which have some new additions coming) I’m thinking I’m going to stop using it altogether and just find another way to keep my iPod sync’ed up. Everything else is just aces though. Makes using a PC fun again.

O yeah, and newegg had the stuff I ordered on Sunday night at my doorstep by Thursday. That’s another nice advantage you don’t get from most builders…quick turnaround.