Custom Core2 Quad & X38 Chipset
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Posted: 25/05/2008 1:05 AM
Well that's really a matter of perspective and there is always something better out there unless you have wads of cash to throw around! However, I would say I have a middle-of-the road PC that is pretty good value for the price of the parts.
I actually think that the basis of a good system is a spacious case that allows for plenty of air movement. This is especially important if you overclock your system (I do.. and who doesn't take advantage of an approximate 25-30% performance increase if one knows how to overclock!).
I have a 5 year-old Thermaltake Xaser solid-steel, heavy bugger-of-a-case which weighs 25 kilos with all the parts installed. You wouldn't be slinging it over your shoulder for a LAN party, nor choosing to save it in the event of a house fire, that's for sure! There are so many good cases available these days, I think it makes sense to pay extra for a decent one as the foundation for a good system. And as someone who builds their own systems, I think good cases make building a system or tinkering inside one a joy! This case has tons of room to work in and has some screwless design features which are now pretty standard these days. The 5 case fans move air around the roomy interior.
Equally important for a PC's foundation is a good reliable power supply. It must be capable of supplying stable power to all your parts and preferably, have a bit of headroom as well. Corsair are fairly new in the power supply market, but the one I have is top quality for the price (and happens to be manufactured by Seasonic; a reputable brand in their own right).
Thermaltake Xaser Tower case with 5 case fans
Corsair HX620 (620W) Power Supply
Gigabyte X38-DS4 Motherboard (Supports 1600Mhz FSB, DDR2 1200Mhz Memory, Dual PCIe 16X)
Intel Q6600 (Quad) CPU 2.4ghz overclocked to 3.5ghz (438Mhz FSB)
Thermalright XP90 Heatsink with 90mm fan
Crucial Ballistix PC2-8500 4 x 1gb RAM (1066mhz overclocked to 1095mhz)
Leadtek 7900GT Video Card with Accelero S1 Cooler
Samsung HD501LJ 500Gb HDD
Samsung SP2504C 250Gb HDD (USB External)
MSI CD/DVD Combo
Pioneer 16x DVD
Creative X-Fi Extreme Music PCI Soundcard
Logitech Z680 5.1 Speakers
Dell 1905P 19" LCD Monitor
Logitech Mx700 Duo Wireless Keyboard/Mouse
Windows XP Pro SP3
Internet - Billion Router (2 PCs networked)
Canon MP730 Multifunction Printer
Canon "Canoscan" 8400F Scanner
Opti 800C Uninterruptable Power Supply
I'm not into "bling", so there's no transparent window or the like. There's some bling on some of the fans, but they can't be seen anyhow. I don't take as much care with internal routing of cables inside the case as would some professional system builders, but with so many wires and cables to deal with, I just make sure they are all tied up and bound together as much as possible. The idea is to minimise the impedence of air movement.
As far as the whole look of the system goes, it's not meant to be some fashionable home-theatre or loungeroom system; it's my everyday workhorse/fun/do whatever I want PC in my study. At times the whole thing can look a bit of a mess. When I'm mucking around with the insides and changing things around, sometimes it's just running with its "guts" hanging out on the floor (drives and whatnot). Some people just like usin' 'em; I like playing around with 'em!
When I spend over a "grand", I want my system to last a while. I'm not one of those people who needs to upgrade every 6 months; hell, I'm now on a Carer's pension, so I no longer have the luxury of just going out and buying what I would like (I imagine a few people are nodding in unison!).
I have just upgraded from what I still consider to be a quite decent 5 year-old system (P4 3.2Ghz, Socket 478). The only reason I upgraded, is that I run some artwork rendering software that can take ages to render, so I decided it was time to invest in a quad core (the software can run multiple threads). To do that, I needed new everything! Well, except for peripherals, which have just been re-attached to the new system.
I expect I'll have this PC for another 5 years, so I like to buy upper-mainstream parts from well-known reputable brands. Sure, one can have a DOA part once in a while, but on the whole, most computer parts I have bought have been very reliable and well made. Some parts have been acquired second hand on eBay. Sometimes a used bargain can be had. I bought the Crucial RAM and the Creative X-Fi from different guys in Canada and the 7900GT video card from a guy in Queensland. The Logitech keyboard/mouse set came from a guy in NSW. So my system is a combination of new and used parts.
USABILITY & CONNECTORS
The Gigabyte board supports 12 USB ports; it has 10 on the back panel.. plus, I have 2 on the case and 4 on the monitor. More connectivity than I'll ever need. I'm running wired ethernet, although my router does wireless. The wired option is quicker for my small home network. I connect my PDA, thumb drives, camera, card reader and external HDD, printer and scanner at any given time.
I use the system for all manner of things; internet surfing and forums, eBay, art clubs, email, DVD/CD burning, video capture/edit, digital art, photo editing, film & photo scanning, music, P2P, overclock tweaking, word processing/spreadsheeting, gaming etc. While I can enjoy music on a higher quality dedicated music system, the combination of the Logitech speakers and the Creative X-Fi soundcard provides for a pleasurable music experience. I also play the occasional game, so having a good sound system gets the most out of the accompanying soundtracks of these games.
The quad core CPU allows for a smoother experience in multi-tasking, which means I can do a number of different things at once without the system crashing.
I don't run benchmarks, but I know my system is capable of very good performance in multi-media and business applications. I know this because of all the reviews I've read before buying my parts. All systems vary somewhat between synthetic benchmarks and real-world performance, so most benchmarks can only be viewed as an indication of likely performance.
My system's not quite able to run the latest games at their highest settings and resolutions, because I don't have a high end video card or run Crossfire (although my system supports it). Also, my 19" monitor is getting a bit long in the tooth; but I can't justify upgrading it at this point. It is such a good, reliable Dell screen with no backlight bleed and a Samsung panel to boot! It is very ergonomic, with height/tilt adjustment and screen rotation between portrait and landscape.
EXPANDABILITY & ACCESSORIES
Like I said, I can connect umpteen peripherals via the proliferation of USB ports, The motherboard supports 6 SATA and 2 IDE devices so that should be enough for most people. However, some people might want more SATA ports, in which case a different (and probably more expensive) motherboard is required.
I can run Crossfire if I wish. The board supports PCIe 2.0, so new generation cards will be supported. I run an Intel "Kentsfield" CPU, but the current "Wolfdale/Penryns" are also supported. While I use 4gb of RAM, the board supports 8Gb. The board came with the usual cables, manuals and driver disk, plus a double eSATA bracket which is useful. There were no "extras" in addition to what I consider a basic and standard fare for accessories.
If I'd waited another few weeks, I could have bought the second edition of my motherboard. This revision had dual LAN ports, better power regulation (12 CPU phases instead of 6) and power-saving technology/software called DES. This revision was also $30 cheaper than my revision from the same supplier. But "thems the breaks" when it comes to buying computer parts. I just didn't know at the time that a new revision was soon to become available.
I always look around for the best prices on parts, whether it be on-line or from a physical store. I check out eBay as well, because I've bought quite a few parts for PCs I've built for myself and family over the past 5 years. However, service is always a consideration and I'll pay a few dollars more for good service over the cheapest price any day!
Building one's own system, enables you to spec it exactly how you want. Plus, it's a challenge and a bit of fun and when it all fires up and works as it should, it's very satisfying. Obviously, if you're not into it, you just pay a bit of a premium to buy an "off the shelf" and hopefully don't have any headaches with a non-functioning system.
I'm still running XP which is very mature, so I don't have any driver issues at the moment. I have avoided upgrading to Vista, due to all the negative reports I have read in various articles and forums. Still, other people are very happy with that OS, so not having tried it, I can't really bag it! I am probably going to try a Linux suite before I would try Vista.
I have no system warranty, with my system being self-built. However manufacturers warranties still apply on their parts.
My motherboard gave me some issues after I installed it, so I returned it and it was replaced, although that process took 11 weeks. I was not impressed!
Things are running smoothly at the moment, although I don't think I would recommend this particular revision of this motherboard (Gigabyte X38). It has had issues with BIOS corruption and being very picky about types of memory and different memory settings. Standby functionality is also defective. My opinion is that I think the problem lies with the combination of the X38 chipset and the particular board design. The EX38 (newer revision) might be better and more stable.
I would recommend to anyone who has an interest in computers, to have a go at building a system at least once. You can save on parts, use the parts you want and gain the satisfaction of having put it together yourself. It also gives one a better understanding of how to troubleshoot when things go wrong (as they always do at some point).
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