Friday, March 19, 2010

Saturday Agape

So, after months of saving and planning, my new PC components arrived at the weekend. It's been a while since I've had the opportunity to build my own desktop machine, so I spent a quite a bit of time researching the components I needed to purchase and the technology they employed. Suffice to say, I was extremely excited when all the kit arrived!

Something old...

The old desktop PC was a Pentium 4 based system, which was fine for basic desktop tasks, but wasn't really a gaming rig anymore. Plus, working with virtual machines was noticably slow.
The machine had been put together by myself when I was studying at university (with some components being recycled from an older rig) and has undergone several upgrades over the years, serving its purpose well. It had both Windows XP and Fedora 11 installed at the time of the upgrade. The rough specs of the machine were:

  • Generic ATX Case

  • Enermax 600W PSU

  • Intel Pentium 4 2.4GHz w/HT

  • 2GB (2x 1GB) DDR RAM

  • Seagate 160GB SATA HDD

  • Seagate 300GB SATA HDD

  • Sony DVD-ROM Drive

  • Pioneer Dual Layer DVD Burner

Something New...
The new system consisted of the following new pieces of kit:

Thermaltake VI1000BNS M9 Case

This wasn't my original choice of case, I had decided on the Coolermaster Elite 330. However, the online retailer was unable to ship the order due to being out of stock of the Coolermaster. So, in order to get my Saturday delivery, I had to make a quick decision at the last moment, something I hate doing. I think I did OK though; the case looks great and definitely complements the rest of the equipment on the desk.

Asus M4A77TD Pro AMD 770 Motherboard

I had opted on an AMD-based system as I didn't have the budget to invest in an expensive Intel CPU and corresponding motherboard. However, I did want to future-proof myself a bit; so I decided on a motherboard sporting an AM3 socket and that supported DDR3 memory. I couldn't quite afford a board that was triple-channel capable, so I settled on dual-channel.

AMD Phenom II X2 Dual Core 550 3.10GHz Black Edition

This was the cheapest AM3-socket CPU that I could purchase from the retailer I placed my order with. Despite this, it's still a "Black Edition", which means there's more options unlocked in the BIOS for overclocking purposes.

Kingston HyperX - Memory - 4 GB (2 x 2 GB, PC3-12800)

This caused me a few headaches; I was unable to find suitable RAM on the retailer's site, so I ended up looking elsewhere for this. I tried several different sites until I finally settled on these Kingston sticks. I could have saved a bit of money by going for 2GB instead of 4GB, but as I'm a heavy user of virtual machines, the extra memory was critical. It's also worth noting that, as of writing, the cost of RAM is slowly increasing due to a rise in demand. So I figured better to shell out now for the additional 2GB rather than pay over the odds for it later.

XFX ATI Radeon HD 5770 XXX Edition 1024MB GDDR5

Another item that I had issues with; originally I had ordered the Gainward GeForce GTX 260 Golden Sample 1792MB. The card appeared to have a status of "pre-order" on pretty much every site I checked; when I queried the sales staff I was told that it could take 2-4 weeks for new cards to arrive from the manufacturer. I used an extremely useful article over at Tom's Hardware to find a replacement.

Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro Rev 2 CPU Cooler

To allow me to over-clock the CPU; when the thing actually arrived, I was worried that it wasn't even going to fit in the case it was so large!

Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit - OEM

I'm not a big Microsoft fan; I made the switch to using Linux as my primary OS whilst studying at uni. However, DirectX 10 and 11 are only available on Windows Vista and 7, hence the purchase (I know it is possible to get DX10 installed in XP, but this is totally unsupported). I have to say I've been quite impressed so far with some of the features of Windows 7 and the OS performs a lot better than Vista.

Something Borrowed...
In order to save a bit of money, I had opted to reuse the PSU, hard disks and DVD burner from my old machine. They were fairly recent purchases and not too shoddy:


I upgraded from the generic 350W PSU I had originally as I multiple drives in the system (magnetic and optical) and had lots of peripherals to attach. The PSU is often overlooked when building a PC, but it's a false economy to buy cheap. If you have (or expect to have) lots of hardware and peripherals connected to your system, or if you intend to overclock. I have read reviews of PSUs that spectacularly fail when under full load. I've also seen some incredibly cheap PSUs installed in some systems from major hardware OEMs.


Both hard disks have reasonable capacity, but they're not as fast as later models. The larger of the two drives is used by an installation of Fedora 12, while the smaller drive is for Windows 7.

DVD Burner

As the Sony DVD-ROM drive seemed to be on it's way out (in fact, it just wouldn't work when booted into Fedora), I only transferred the DVD burner over to the new case. I can't remember the last time I actually used two drives at once, so I'm pretty certain I can live with just the one optical drive.

Something Blue...

OK, so this is a little tenuous, but once I started down the love and marriage theme, I had to come up with something! Luckily the case sports blue LEDs; not only for power and HD activity, but there are four of them mounted in the fan at the front of the case. Oddly enough, the way they're arranged produces a swastika-like effect once the machine is on! However, this doesn't detract from the overall look of the case. The combination of gloss-black, black mesh and blue LEDs on the front bezel are a massive improvement over the previous machine.
Once I've had some time to play with the machine a bit, I'll post some performance figures before I take a look at over-clocking it!