If you have ever had a computer die on you, you know it REALLY sucks. Sometimes it is something minor that you can fix, other times even the most seasoned computer folks among us scratch our heads and wonder wtf happened.
Unfortunately, I got to experience first hand a significant hardware failure on my Windows XP machine, Megatron (yes, all of my computers on our home LAN are named after fictional characters from TV, movies, mythology, etc.) I have had machines fail before and usually I have been able to salvage them, but this one was different as it seems it completely “fried” itself – the connector from the power supply to the motherboard had actually melted, and the connector from power supply to the nVidia GeForce 7900 was melted as well. Turning on the machine, the fans would spin up, but the board would not do any of the POST beeps, and the hard drive would spin up, but the operating system would not boot, and my monitor showed it was getting no signal.
Not wanting to be bothered I figured I would just forget about it. But after a few short weeks I kept finding times where I needed to have a Windows machine. One night a bunch of the guys were playing Counter Strike: Source but running it on OS X is kind of pain so I did not bother. Another night I needed to test out this database GUI app but it only ran on Windows.
Yes, I am still a proud Mac user, but as a software/web developer and gaming geek I would be remiss not to have multiple platforms available to me. Any given day working in the information technology field I may spend time in Windows, Mac OS X, Linux or Solaris.
It goes without saying that my Windows XP box was a part of my workflow and entertainment more than I had realized so I decided to rebuild it.
Megatron was a good, reliable machine for a few years. It had a nice Asus motherboard with an Intel Core2 Duo CPU, good hard drives, 4GB RAM, etc. Most of the components were premium.
Sadly though, the cost for replacing a lot of the Intel components is not cheap and I was reluctant to buy previous generation items or end of life items that may not be supported in the coming years.
So I opted to build a new rig – Gigantor – built based on the AMD platform this time. AMD has really come a long way over the years. Their performance is comparable to Intel’s offerings, but at a much better price point. I wanted a high-performance machine but on a budget and the economics of the AMD platform worked out well.
Once I decided on the platform, the rest was easy to fill in based on research and word of mouth.
Here is the rundown of the components (pictured at top of post):
MSI 790FX-GD70 motherboard (solid socket AM3 board, DDR3 RAM support, loads of goodies)
AMD Phenom 2 955 black edition (AMD’s current top-of-the-line quad core CPU)
Corsair 750 watt power supply (great reviews – my only complaint is that the cables are a pain in the ass)
OCZ Platinum AMD Edition 4GB DDR3 1600 RAM (really nice, fast RAM – currently running at a conservative 1333 6-6-6-24 timing)
HIS Radeon 4890 1GB graphic card (all I can say is this thing is a BEAST)
Creative X-Fi Titanium PCI-E sound card (for some reason most onboard sound cards still suck after all these years)
Pair of Western Digital Caviar 1TB drives (RAID 1 mirror at the moment – eventually moving boot drive to SSD)
Lian Li black aluminum case (great cases but the documentation is BRUTAL – all written in Engrish lol)
Thermalright TRUE heat sink (due to ordering issues I subbed in a Zalman until the TRUE arrived)
All of these components probably retail for $1,500 or so but with rebates, sales, coupons, and some leftover credit on PayPal I think it was all under $900 bucks, which of course I will write off on my taxes next year.
One thing I did not order (completely forgot) was an OEM Windows license. My previous XP license had been activated many times, and I did not want to mess around with XP on bleeding edge hardware, and I hate Vista so I went an alternate route and installed the Windows 7 Release Candidate (I will write up more on this experience later) and it has worked well.
So here is the machine is all built:
The inside of the case has good airflow, and the fans are pretty quiet. At idle my CPU cores are measuring at 28 degrees celcius and under 100% load about 55 degrees celcius which is not bad for air cooling.
Only a couple of annoyances in this process – one was all the extra cables from the Corsair power supply that as you can see in the picture above I stashed in the unused optical drive bays, and the other would be the tiny connectors from the motherboard to the case. They never label them well, and sometimes the pins are not an even match, ie connector might have four pins, but cable only needs three.
Other than that, it has been a smooth experience.