The making of the new Damagebox

EVEN THOUGH I run a computer hardware website and spend my days playing with all of the latest goodies, I don’t actually upgrade my own PC all that often. I learned long ago not to stick review hardware into my own PC, for fear of messing up the main system on which I do my work. Swapping cutting-edge hardware in and out of your computer constantly is like doing cartwheels on a high wire—you’re seriously asking for trouble. Besides, moving all of your stuff from one PC to the next is a trying process, and I’d rather avoid it whenever possible.

My last PC upgrade was just over two years ago, though, and I recently decided that it was time for me to upgrade again. My old system wasn’t horrible; it was based on an Asus SK8N motherboard with a single Socket 940 and 2GB of registered DDR333 memory. However, the SK8N wasn’t exactly a stellar board, based as it was on the iffy first-gen nForce3 chipset. This particular mobo was a pre-production job that I’d used for an early preview article and then snagged for my own use. On top of that, the thing was progressively dying. The NIC never did work right, and a few months ago, the secondary IDE controller (based on a Promise chip) gave up the ghost, robbing me of some storage capacity. (I lost access to my 40GB MP3 drive!) Then the system started locking up at random for no apparent reason—the kind of hard lock-ups that suggest hardware problems more than software, at least at first glance. I wasn’t about to spend hours trying to troubleshoot an intermittent problem of that sort.

That was the final straw. It was time to build a new PC.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that PCs have gained a broad range of nifty new features over the past couple of years. The combination of dual-core processors and Native Command Queuing for SATA hard drives promises new heights of multitasking bliss in desktop PCs, and I can’t very well prattle on about the creamy smoothness of SMP without partaking of its delights myself. The transition to PCI Express has also limited the upgrade options for older AGP-based systems, especially when it comes to cutting-edge graphics cards, and that’s no fun at all. Having a second PCI Express slot for some dual-graphics action might be nice, at some point, and you don’t get that with AGP. I also like a quiet computer, and the SK8N doesn’t support AMD’s Cool’n’Quiet dynamic clock speed and voltage throttling capability. All of this new stuff would certainly be nice to have.

Plus, I had some additional objectives that I wanted to accomplish with a new PC build. Because my PC is my main work system, our always-on local file and print server, and holds gobs of precious testing data, I needed a better storage solution—namely, a large RAID 1 mirror. I also wanted the system to look nice and have a few new bells and whistles that my last box didn’t have.

The parts
So I gathered together whatever hardware I could manage, and I built a new system. Here’s a quick look at the components, with my justification for each choice. Note that my hardware choices weren’t intended to be the most EXTREME possible, as if my PC were auditioning for some Mountain Dew commercial. I was aiming for a good price-performance ratio, and I wasn’t shy about using perfectly good components from my parts shelf or my old PC.

  • AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+ processor — The Athlon 64 X2 is undoubtedly the processor of choice these days, and the 3800+ is the most affordable model. Given its likely overclockability, I don’t see much reason to pay more for a higher model. As I said in my review of the X2 3800+, taking this chip to 2.4GHz makes for a very livable overclock:

    Now, that’s a sweet overclock all by itself, but hitting 2.4GHz has the added benefit of bringing everything into line. When the memory clock is set to the proper divider for DDR333 operation and the HyperTransport clock is raised to 240MHz, the memory actually runs at 400MHz even. Lock down the PCI and PCI-E bus speeds using the motherboard’s BIOS, and you’re running virtually everything but the CPU and HyperTransport link at stock speeds. I was able to leave the RAM timings at 2-2-2-5, nice and tight. This is the sort of overclock I could live with for everyday use.

    Having a pair of K8 cores running at 2.4GHz should make for decent performance, too.

  • DFI LANParty UT nF4 SLI-DR motherboard — I’d used this motherboard for quite a bit of CPU testing, and it had been solid and trouble-free for me. Not only that, but the tweaking options that DFI has built into this board are extensive, and the mag-lev chipset cooling fan is reasonably quiet for an nForce4 mobo without a fancy heatpipe like the Asus A8N-SLI Premium. Also, this board happens to look totally pimp under black light—not that a mature, responsible individual like me would care about such things. But I did use the included bright-yellow I/O cables to connect all of the drives, and there are a couple of cold cathodes in the case. Fo shizzle.

  • Four Corsair XMS3200XL 512MB DIMMs — I’ve had 2GB of memory in my Pee Cee for years now, and no way was I going to settle for less. Corsair is a great brand, but frankly, I wouldn’t hesitate to choose any of the major enthusiast brands of memory these days, including Kingston, OCZ, Mushkin, and Crucial, to name a few. All feature lifetime warranties with no-hassle replacements, and with the exception of Crucial, they all use the same pool of chips to make their products. (Crucial is an arm of Micron and doesn’t tend to shop around like the others.) As for whether or not it’s really worth paying a premium for fancy low-latency or high-clock-speed DIMMs, well, we just published an article examining that very issue. The bottom line: value-wise, you’re probably better off going with cheaper RAM that runs at slower timings. Nevertheless, I went with some fancy DIMMs that could give me very low latencies through tight 2-2-2 timings, because I had them on hand.

  • XFX GeForce 7800 GTX 256MB graphics card — This card was the Editor’s Choice winner in our 7800 GTX round-up, so I definitely liked it. I have to admit, though, that I picked this card mostly because I already had it on hand and available. If I were buying a new card for myself, I’d probably be choosing between a GeForce 7800 GT and a Radeon X1800 XL. The 7800 GT would most likely get the nod on the basis of broader availability, current street prices, and its ability to run in SLI mode on my nForce4 motherboard.

  • M-Audio Revolution 7.1 sound card — This one is a transplant from my previous system. The Revo initially captured our hearts a couple of years ago when it did what few other cards at the time could do: reproduce audio streams with clarity and 24 bits of precision using decent quality DACs for under $100. Since then, the perennially retarded sound card market has made little progress, with the notable and happy exception of Creative’s Sound Blaster X-Fi audio processor. M-Audio has done almost nothing to improve the Revo’s drivers, which have never been all that great for gaming. I still enjoy the Revo’s crisp sound, but I may pony up for an X-Fi card soon and relegate the M-Audio card to service in a home theater PC. This motherboard also has relatively decent built-in audio thanks to DFI’s Karajan audio module, which situates the Realtek audio codec on a separate riser card. Rather than disable this second sound subsystem, I connected some external audio ports on the top of the case to the integrated audio module so that I can use a headset for voice-enabled apps without having to disconnect the speakers from the Revo’s outputs around back.

  • Two Maxtor MaXLine III 250GB hard drives in RAID 1 — The MaXLine III is a 7200-RPM drive with SATA, Native Command Queuing, and a 16MB onboard cache—not a bad drive. It’s very similar to the DiamondMax Plus 10, which we liked pretty well when we reviewed it. Even more importantly, Maxtor’s NCQ implementation performs well in multitasking scenarios, which is important given the way I use my PC. Also, I had two of these, pre-production eval units, on hand. I wouldn’t trust a single pre-production drive with my data, but two of ’em in a mirror is OK, I suppose. I seriously considered dropping the cash on a pair of 400GB WD Caviar RE2 drives instead, because I think they’re the best all-around 7200-RPM drives available.

  • WD Raptor WD740GD 74GB hard drive — Even without NCQ, the Raptor is still the fastest SATA drive around, thanks to its 10K-RPM spindle speeds. Unfortunately, the Raptor’s usefulness is seriously hampered by its relatively small 74GB capacity. I had one Raptor on hand that I considered making my Windows boot volume, perhaps as part of a RAID 0 array with a second one, but I didn’t want a single drive’s failure to force me to reinstall the OS. In the end, I decided put the Raptor’s 10K-RPM speeds to use conquering a pet peeve of mine: slow level load times in games. The Raptor now serves as my game install volume. If I lose the data on that drive due to a drive failure, it might crimp my leisure time, but it won’t knock me totally out of commission. I’ve also configured Windows to use the Raptor for its page file, giving me an additional, speedy physical volume for paging.

  • Sony DVD-U10A DVD RW combo drive — Transplanted from my old computer. No, it’s not dual-layer, but it writes DVDs on either media type (plus or dash), and it hasn’t given me much trouble. Also, it has a black front face, so it matches the scheme. I couldn’t be bothered to look for a faster drive at this point. I also threw in a Sony DVD drive to make disc-to-disc copies easier and to give me another slot for game “play” CDs.

  • Mitsumi combo floppy/6-in-1 flash card reader — Also with a black front face. This gives me the ability to read a floppy disk in case I really must, but it also enables the computer to read virtually all of the popular flash card formats, including CompactFlash, SD, SmartMedia, and Memory Sticks—all in one 3.5″ external drive slot. These things rule.

  • Generic 56K modem — This allows me to record phone interviews, and I could use it to dial up and get online in the event of a broadband outage. Otherwise, I hate modems.

  • Enermax 565W power supply — From the parts shelf. It’s nothing too special, but it’s from a decent brand and has a nice, big rating. Should allow me to run SLI if I want.

  • CoolerMaster WaveMaster ATX case — This enclosure has a swanky brushed-aluminum look, a built-in case window, and doesn’t run too terribly loud. I really liked the Antec Sonata that housed my old PC, but its PSU and cooling were iffy for newer hardware. The Sonata was quieter than the WaveMaster, though, even with an auxiliary fan installed. I’m seriously considering moving this new system into a Sonata II soon. The WaveMaster looks great and will serve for now, but its drive cage placement makes for cramped quarters and messy cable routing.

Those are the basic components. I don’t think I’ve missed anything too important. I didn’t have the production budget or aesthetic aspirations of a Superbowl halftime show, but I did want a nice, fast, solid PC.

To x64 or not to x64?
One of my big goals at the outset of this project was to install and run Windows XP Pro x64 Edition as the OS on this new PC. To that end, I checked around to make sure that my components were WinXP x64 compatible. Sure enough, pretty much all of ’em had 64-bit drivers by now, at least in beta form, so I ordered up an OEM copy of the operating system. After it arrived, I realized that I hadn’t checked on drivers for my HP all-in-one printer/copier/fax/scanner/toaster oven. Turns out that HP doesn’t yet have 64-bit drivers available for this printer, and the OS doesn’t ship with even basic drivers for it. It’s currently not possible to print to this printer from a WinXP x64 machine, even when printing over a network through a print server.

I like the idea of going to Windows XP x64 Edition. I think 64-bit computing is a good and useful thing, and I like that the Windows Explorer interface is more multithreaded in x64. It feels faster. Also, WinXP x64 has better scheduling for multi-core processors.

But I darn well need to print from my computer, and I wasn’t going to give that up. So back to the 32-bit version of Windows XP it was, and the x64 Edition sits on the shelf, waiting for a better day. I’d bet that lots of folks have had similar experiences with this OS, and it’s a shame that 64-bit stuff hasn’t gotten more traction in desktop computing. I’m afraid that it won’t until Windows Vista arrives.

Paging Oskar Wu!
I chose the DFI LANParty NF4 SLI-DR motherboard because it had been a model citizen for me when I’d used it in past testing for reviews, but when it came time to build my own system around it, things changed. Seems like they always do when I’m working on my own, personal PC. I can pick my way around problems with finicky pre-production hardware everyday while working on a review, but when I start working on a PC for myself, the wheels come off. Previously stable hardware develops a serious need for counseling, and my IQ drops 60 points, making troubleshooting nearly impossible.

Foolishly confident in the DFI board and in my ability to build a system, I installed pretty much all of the core hardware for this system into the case, attached everything, and then fired it up. No go. Thus began a long troubleshooting process in which I disconnected absolutely everything unessential from the DFI board, removed it from the case, and was still unable to get it to POST. Power would come on, the screen would remain blank, and three of the board’s four boot-time troubleshooting LEDs would light up. Then nothing. I spent what must’ve been hours working through the problem, swapping out different configurations of video cards, memory, and processors.

After some work, I was able to get the system to POST, but only intermittently. The problem seemed to be related to several things, including:

  • The number and positions of the DIMMs in the memory slots
  • The PCI Express slot used for graphics and possibly the type of card
  • The type of memory used

I found that when I varied these things, the system seemed more likely to POST. With lots of different types of cards, CPUs, and DIMMs on hand, I was able to rule out any one component as the sole source of problem. Of course, I tried flashing it to the latest BIOS rev, and I attempted various BIOS tweaks, like very conservative memory timings and higher DIMM voltages. Nothing I did would make the thing POST reliably from a cold boot. I googled around and found that lots of other folks had run into similar problems with this board, but I didn’t find any definitive solutions. Then I got lucky, I suppose, and discovered something about this problem, at least in my case, that was something of a fix. Turns out that if you leave the board on for a while after powering it up, like two to five minutes, it will pretty much always go ahead and POST eventually. You’ve just got to be patient.

In the end, I basically tweaked the board for stability and performance, using the built-in Metest86+ bootable option in its BIOS to test, and left it at that. I don’t reboot all that often, and so long as I know that the thing is going to come back out of its momentary coma and POST, I can live with the intermittent boot-time delay. Perhaps a newer BIOS or some magic memory timings tweak will fix the problem once and for all, but until then, I’ll live with it.

Installing Windows and.. installing Windows again
My next challenge was installing Windows XP, a straightforward task I’ve done tens, if not hundreds, of times. To make things even easier on myself, I decided to use an old trick that would let me avoid having to make a floppy disk with the NVIDIA RAID drivers on it: install the OS on a single drive, then install the RAID drivers, and then use Ghost to copy an image of the boot drive to the RAID 1 array. I’d done it multiple times in the past, and it seemed like the right way to go.

So I installed the OS from an installation CD, immediately installed Service Pack 2, and then installed the NVIDIA chipset drivers, because those include the basic level drivers necessary for things like Ethernet networking. Upon rebooting, though, the system wouldn’t boot into the OS properly. After several failed boot attempts, I decided that the NVIDIA IDE drivers must have been causing a problem, so I told WinXP to boot from the Last Known Good Configuration. Doing so allowed the OS to boot, but it also made this Windows install into a total head case. I uninstalled and reinstalled the NVIDIA drivers multiple times, but every time the NVIDIA storage drivers were installed, they rendered the system unable to boot. (Yes, I know I could have simply used the Microsoft drivers for storage, but that won’t work for RAID, and it robs you of NCQ.)

Believe it or not, I had to start over again—wipe the drive and reinstall Windows. Hard to believe that one would run into such basic problems with the nForce4 at this late stage in its lifespan.

The second install went more smoothly, even though I followed the exact same procedure as before: install the OS on a single drive, install SP2, and then install the NVIDIA chipset drivers, including the IDE drivers. This time, the OS would boot just fine with the NVIDIA storage drivers installed. However, I didn’t yet have the NVIDIA RAID drivers installed, because the BIOS wasn’t set to RAID mode and I didn’t have any arrays defined. I was stuck in a catch-22: turning on RAID mode would render the system unbootable, but I couldn’t install the NVIDIA RAID drivers without having RAID enabled.

I deftly stepped around this problem by installing drivers for the auxiliary Promise SATA controller on the DFI board and booting from that. Then I was able to boot the system into Windows with NVIDIA RAID enabled and install the NVIDIA MediaShield storage drivers. Smart, eh? So I thought.

My next step was to create a RAID 1 array and copy an image of my Windows boot drive on to the array. Then I’d be up and running, with all of the proper storage drivers installed. I created an array in the RAID BIOS, imaged the drive’s contents to the array with Ghost, and attempted to boot.

No go. Operating system not found. The system would not boot from the RAID 1 array, even with the MediaShield drivers installed.

After pulling out several clumps of hair, I went and created a floppy disk with the NVIDIA RAID drivers on it. I used the F6 trick to specify additional storage devices during the Windows install routine, and all was well. I brought some of this on myself, I guess, but I still can’t believe it took three attempts just to install Windows. Building a PC isn’t always easy, even though we’ve made big steps in the past five to ten years.

Overclocking in concert with Cool’n’Quiet
Once the snags with the DFI board and the storage drivers were finally resolved, I was able to install the rest of the device drivers and begin overclocking and tweaking. However, the mission that I’d laid out for myself contained a couple of things that generally work at cross-purposes with one another. AMD’s Cool’n’Quiet technology dynamically scales back the CPU’s clock speed and voltage whenever processor utilization is low. That’s a great thing to have if you’re looking to build a nice, quiet system, but it’s the polar opposite of overclocking, which generally involves locking the CPU clock speed and voltage at higher-than-stock settings. On most Athlon 64 motherboards, you’re forced to choose between Cool’n’Quiet and overclocking, especially if you’re looking to overclock the CPU far enough that it would need extra voltage.

Fortunately, DFI’s LANParty NF4 boards have a way around this problem in their newer BIOSes, and it’s very, very slick. You can specify the amount that you want to overvolt the processor as a percentage, and the motherboard will supply that much extra voltage consistently as Cool’n’Quiet slides the CPU voltage up and down through its range of possible values.


DFI’s BIOS allows one to specify a percentage above
stock CPU voltage for Cool’n’Quiet operation

In order to get my Athlon 64 X2 3800+ running stable at 2.4GHz, I knew that I needed to give the CPU some extra juice, so I set the BIOS to supply 110% of the voltage that it would at stock—in other words, a 10% overvolt. Configured this way on a 240MHz HyperTransport link, the X2 3800+ runs nice and stable at idle and under extreme loads, with a peak clock speed of 2.4GHz. Here are some CPU-Z shots from the box at idle and under load, so you can see how the CPU clock speed and voltage varies.


At idle, the CPU runs at 1.2GHz with lower voltage


Under load, the voltage and clock speed scale up beyond the CPU’s defaults

Fancy, huh? I could probably back off to the BIOS’s next lowest voltage option, 104%, but I haven’t tested that yet.

In my case, I wasn’t interested in overclocking the memory, but the DFI BIOS does provide options on that front. As you probably know, newer Athlon 64s can be set at a lower multiplier, so that it’s possible to run a CPU at a relatively conservative speed on a wildly overclocked HyperTransport link (whose clock also governs memory speeds). For instance, I might choose to run my HT link at 280MHz and lock my X2 3800+ at a multiplier of 8, yielding a 2.24GHz CPU clock and 560MHz memory. Such spectacular feats of memory overclocking haven’t, in the past, been possible in conjunction with Cool’n’Quiet, because C’n’Q will ramp the processor up to its highest possible multiplier as soon as the system’s under load. On my X2 3800+, that would result in a 2.8GHz clock speed and a very nasty crash. The DFI BIOS, however, allows the user to specify a maximum CPU multiplier value for Cool’n’Quiet, neatly solving that problem.

The end result is that I have a system that runs slower than stock when I don’t need any extra performance, with lower voltage and less power consumption; it then runs faster than stock, with higher clock speeds and a little extra voltage, when I need it most. These options may be available in the BIOSes of other Athlon 64 boards, but I haven’t seen them. I think they should become a practical requirement for an enthusiast motherboard’s BIOS.

Stress testing the new box
With all of this overclocking and cutting-edge hardware with brand-spanking-new drivers, I’d pretty much expect to run into some problems. One can always test to make sure that a system’s stable at a basic level, though, so that’s what I did. Here’s a screenshot I took during my over-the-top, uber-stability stress test.

I have running here two instances of Prime95’s torture test, with the CPU affinity for the two instances tied to the X2’s two cores. (Prime95 is a great CPU stress test, and will let you know if it encounters a single computational error.) The high-dynamic-range graphics demo in the corner does a nice job of exercising the GPU, and Winamp is playing some music to get the audio subsystem into the mix. Also running are two instances of the Windows Explorer, one of which is copying a few gigs of data over the network, while the other copies files to a 2GB USB key drive. Meanwhile, my usual mix of background apps is running, including Outlook Express, Trillian, Skype, DynDNS updater, Avast! Antivirus, POPFile, the HP printer/fax/scanner monitor, and Steam. CPU-Z shows that the CPU is running at 2.4GHz, as expected, and Task Manager confirms that CPU utilization is pegged. Up in the top left-hand corner is nTune, monitoring CPU, system, and GPU temperatures, voltages, and clock speeds.

I let the system run like this for at least 18 hours, just to make sure that it could handle it. I would have let it run longer, but temperatures were stable and there were zero problems, so I called it good.

Since then, in over a week constant use, I have had one system crash, a blue screen of death caused by nvtcp.sys. At the time, I was using NVIDIA Ethernet port with ActiveArmor TCP acceleration, but the crash confirmed my fears about the robustness of NVIDIA’s Ethernet implementation. (I’m all for ActiveArmor, but not for ActiveHarmer.) I would recommend looking for a motherboard with a good auxiliary PCI-E NIC onboard for this very reason. I’ve now switched over to this DFI board’s other onboard GigE NIC, driven by a Marvell chip. I’m willing to bet that I won’t have similar problems with this NIC.

Conclusions
Overall, I’d call this build a success, provided that the system doesn’t go up in smoke any time soon. Subjectively, I can tell the difference between this box and my old one in a number of ways. Yes, first and foremost, it’s much smoother in daily use thanks to the presence of a second processor core. I’ve spent a lot of time with SMP over the years, and I didn’t expect anything less. However, I’ve already run into problems with games not doing well on an SMP system, and in that sense, it feels like we haven’t come very far from the dually Celeron days. Surely these problems will be less common as dual-core processors become more prevalent.

This system is also a little bit louder than my previous box, and that’s why I’m considering moving it into a Sonata II case. In fact, I’d already have pulled the trigger on one of these purty Zalman coolers if I weren’t worried about it fitting inside the Sonata II’s ducting. Then again, better cooling won’t fix one source of noise that I somehow failed to anticipate fully: the RAID 1 mirror. Turns out that running two drives in tandem tends to make twice as much noise as a single drive. Who knew? If you have a good, regular backup solution, you may want to avoid RAID 1. That said, I am enjoying the benefits of 250GB of redundant storage.

Also, as fast as this system is—and it’s very quick indeed—my experiences with it so far have only reinforced the degree to which hard disk drive performance is the primary bottleneck in everyday PC use. I can’t help but start dreaming of a 15K-RPM SCSI drive while fiddling during a long reboot or application launch. I suspect the additional noise from the RAID 1 mirror has made me more aware of disk I/O and its delays, but the point is valid, nonetheless. I’d probably pony up for some exotic SCSI drives before going for, say, a second graphics card for SLI or the fastest possible FX or Extreme Edition CPU.

Comments closed
    • tsoulier
    • 14 years ago

    Nice box , i would have sprung a little more in the cpu for more cache L2
    Like the x2 4400

    • Hector
    • 14 years ago

    Guys who are paying attention to value:)

    I got the 939 Opteron 165 for $299 from mwave can do 2400Mhz all day long on 1.3 volts with stock HS.. Problem is, a decent overclock, like 2600Mhz with stock heat sink – 2600Mhz gets really hot..Like 77C under sustained Prime95 affinity loads.. needs aftermarket for higher volts or current (Mhz).. remeber this is like two FX-55’s with full cache so cheap ass stock HS will not surfice. Recommend Thermalright 120.

    ยง[<http://www.csc.calpoly.edu/~smanning/2609start.jpg<]ยง Will update testing later if you're still interested... with a real cooler and water and sustained prime... Just know 2400Mhz is trivial from everyone I've seen.. so 4800+ for $299.

      • Ragnar Dan
      • 14 years ago

      You mean to say you had to increase the voltage from 1.3 to 1.475 to get from 2.4 to 2.6 GHz? What kind of temps are you getting at 2.4 GHz? 77 C seems pretty hot for the difference, so I’d like to know how warm it is at X2 4800+ speeds.

        • Hector
        • 14 years ago

        Hey dan.. 1.3 and 2400Mhz sits at 44C with stock cooler dual priming.

        ยง[<http://www.csc.calpoly.edu/~smanning/dantemp.JPG<]ยง

          • Ragnar Dan
          • 14 years ago

          Thanks for the reply.

          Hot damn, I know what my next processor buy will be… (if there’s any left by the time I am ready for it). ๐Ÿ˜‰

          Maybe you can play around with the voltage some more if you’re going to fulfill my requests like that… I’ve seen people claim here and there that sometimes they can get an OC with lowering the voltage, too, though I’ve never remembered to try that yet myself on anything.

            • Hector
            • 14 years ago

            Dan I can’t change voltage on this mobo I’m using ATM …2430Mhz is max OC on 1.3V…

            More prime
            ยง[<http://www.csc.calpoly.edu/~smanning/dantemp.JPG<]ยง The insane temps I mentioned earlier could have been bugged out EPOX I was using eariler. Now I'm using an asrock.. Will get another board tomorrow..probably DFI and really send the volts into her. I can't use my ABIT AN8 ultra cause it takes like an hour to get it out of water setup it's in...huge PITA and it's works so well why mess with it?:)

            • Ragnar Dan
            • 14 years ago

            You seem to have lots of mobos to switch among. I do hope you experiment a bit with lowering the voltage on the DFI if possible, just for the sake of discovery if nothing else.

            This whole thing just makes no sense to me, though. AMD’s damaging their A64 X2 business by selling the new Opties so cheap. But I’m not complaining. In fact, I think I’m gonna get one before they realize they’re throwing money away.

            Thanks for all the information, and do post on the forums now and then. TR is a fun place.

            • Hector
            • 14 years ago

            Well keep it on the down low of you’re conserned about AMD loseing. I think we are a small community from anandtech to xbitlabs maybe accounts for 1% of computer sales out there. Anyway I just finnshed building a gazebo in back yard today so now I’m headed out to frys for some real fun. Let you know.:)

            • Ragnar Dan
            • 14 years ago

            Heh, well, I don’t really think that the people who know about this from reading various tech. sites will make much of a difference. But I have little doubt that online sales of roughly equivalent A64’s will decline if the prices remain the way they are. And to be blunt about it, if AMD isn’t sensible enough to price their output so as to maximize their profits, I don’t really care. So I will grab a 165 before they wise up instead of the X2 3800+ I would otherwise have (eventually) gotten.

            Of course, if someone is going to stick with stock clocking, he can probably get a cheaper motherboard which doesn’t have lots of OC features and this good deal won’t make much difference to him. But for those of us who do such things, it’s the deal of choice for the time being.

            I’ll be watching this space for your reports.

      • Krogoth
      • 14 years ago

      I just ordered an Opteron 165 before the ethuasist crowd notices their real value. I hope I can at least obtain a stable ~2.4Ghz overclock with a mininal voltage boost. I’m sure my PAL8150 and Panaflo Ultra Speed 80x25mm fan are up to the task to keep it nice and cool.

    • Taddeusz
    • 14 years ago

    It amazes me that you don’t have an SP2 slipstreamed copy of Windows XP. It is so easy to do and quite the necessity these days.

    • Samlind
    • 14 years ago

    Operton 165 – does it require reg/buffered memory? I seem to remember they do…

    Monarch is charging $475 for them. Ouch.

      • bhtooefr
      • 14 years ago

      Not on 939, it doesn’t.

      Also, MWave’s got it for $299.

    • adamlongwalker
    • 14 years ago

    Anytime Forge. Actually sent Damage SuSe 8.2 review eon’s ago but was never posted, oh well so many things have changed yet so many things still stay the same. Still believe in Open Source as a way of exchanging knowledge and a way to evolve software/developement. Oh and I finally retired the Econobox, (7 years of flawless performance) and will starting another build soon. Recently I’ve built one of my artists a graphics machine so she can finish her Masters in 2D Animation at the Acadamy of Arts College. That puppy can fly and has gotten my creative juices flowing again.

    Talk to you later ๐Ÿ™‚

    The Origional “Neanderthal with a Keyboard”, Adam LongWalker

    • adamlongwalker
    • 14 years ago

    Forge has been around and so have I. Now About the Damage and his Damage Box. I’m pleased on his choices. However I’m more intrigued on the information being given out on the Nforce 4 problem.

    I like the bantering and transfer of knowledge on this forum.

    I’m actually going with the Asrock 1695 – 939 motherboard.

    • DrDillyBar
    • 14 years ago

    Wonderful article. The Damagebox it is.
    – “Otherwise, I hate modems” – Word.
    – HP’s got a history for abandoning hardware when new OS’s ship. I’ve run into this for a Scanners in Win2k myself, and the same in x64 for an all-in-one isn’t really suprising to me from HP.
    – RE: troubleshooting the no post problem, just imagine you were a tech on a phone, helping “Joe/Jane clueless but pleasant user” through this, and needing to explain yourself so they don’t feel completely lost in the process… while you’re stumped! Thank goodness I don’t do THAT for a living. (teehee, said tech comes to me).
    – *Buy’s one of those FDD’s* ๐Ÿ˜‰
    – I use Sonata I’s x2, so *thumbs up* on the Sonata II.
    – I still think that my P4C 3.0 is slower then my Dual PIII-1.266 in several situations, (responsiveness for one) but faster in others (a straight line).
    (y)

    • Hector
    • 14 years ago

    Gentelmen, May I present Opteron 165 for $299.

    ยง[<http://www.mwave.com/mwave/viewspec.hmx?scriteria=BA22051<]ยง Woot! I got one in da mail and will post results over at anadtech... 3800+ is looking worse all the time.

      • Patrickr
      • 14 years ago

      Isn’t that still a bit above the SRP? Aren’t CPUs usually sold below SRP? Still it does seem like the CPU to have right now. I might pick one up once the price drops.

        • Hector
        • 14 years ago

        Yes SRP in lots of 1000 is $278…You won’t get this chip that cheap though for awile. People know they are mearly “cut” 4400s, as in only 400Mhz slower and will buy them like crazy driving up cost. It’s like those opteron (skt 939) 144/146’s which you can’t find and if you do it’s well over SRP.

        Bottom line if you need a dual core now, not only is this the cheapest it has full 2MB lvl2 like a $540 4400! Something a 3800 can’t have.

          • Patrickr
          • 14 years ago

          If you plan to overclock, will you do us a favor and let us know how it goes?

          • Pete
          • 14 years ago

          Holy frickin’ awesome. Now to see what, if any, limits an Opteron places on a normal system (reg./ECC RAM, OCing, MB selection?).

            • bhtooefr
            • 14 years ago

            IIRC, the Opties are top-locked and bottom-unlocked. Also, they pass at higher QA levels.

            Socket 939 Opties are otherwise the same as a S939 A64 with the same specs.

            • Hector
            • 14 years ago

            No pete.. this is just an X2 labled as opteron.. or a 939 opteron.. no matter how you look at it – it fuctions, boots, operates just like you buy an X2. Tried in 4 boards all work fine. No reg/ecc reqd – no expensive 940 board rqrd.

    • brsett
    • 14 years ago

    Let me summarize Scott’s review:

    I used a DFI board. It stunk. I used an nforce4 chipset, they’re still painful. I got a free 7800GTX, you should get a 7800GT. I don’t have good hearing, so I use a noisy case with ridiculous Maxtor drives.

    I love Scott, but his build was a disaster — he sets the bar too damn low. This stuff should be *EASY*. Why does it have to suck? In fact it doesn’t, there are good components out there, but you do have to pay a little more for them. The fact that promise is even in business indicates that too many ppl are trying to save a dollar rather than getting hardware that actually, reliably works.

      • SpotTheCat
      • 14 years ago

      I think he should have sprung for a passive cooling SLI board, personally. I would have had they been out when I built mine.

    • Smooth Beaver
    • 14 years ago

    Thanks Scott for bringing light to the nForce4 NAM and IDE issues. I think this is the first time I’ve seen this even acknowledged on a major site.

    • ChangWang
    • 14 years ago

    How ironic…

    I just ordered these beauts last night:
    ยง[<http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16813123257<]ยง ยง[<http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16814130256<]ยง The rest that will be transfered from my existing box include: s754 3700+ 2x 1GB sticks of OCZ Titanium 2x 74GB Raptors 2x 250GB SATA Maxtors Pioneer DVD+/-R DL Liteon DVD/CD-RW all in a Lanboy II with an Enermax PSU Oh yeah, cant forget my trust old 1800FP. Come tax time, after bills, I hope to have enough to pick up another vid card and that 2405FPW I've had my eye on.

    • bozzunter
    • 14 years ago

    Uhmmm… I must admit that although I liked the article, I didn’t enjoy it at all as it reminded me all that kind of problems I used to have when I set up powerful PCs for my friends. And the fact that I need an update soon doesn’t make me feel better either.

    I currently have a P4 3.0 which used to be overclocked to 3.6 GHz till a few months ago, when I suddendly started to experience problems. At present, the Dual Core option is really something I can’t live without, considering the way I use my PC. And, of course, I’ll switch back to AMD after a few years with Intel.

    The only thing I don’t care at the moment is the RAID option, although it’s simply amazing, incredible, frustrating that it looks the same horrible pain that it used to be a few years ago (I’m talking about the installation process). I have a powerful laptop and, as some other guy here, I use a disk image software to make me live in peace and love. Of course my primary work disk is an external one (it stores about 20 GB of datas so I don’t need it to be any faster), I have two daily backups of the whole folder and a crash would make me waste a couple of hours at most, but I’d be able to switch to my laptop in order to reach the night.

    What makes me depressed is the reduced difference in prices between US and Europe: while a couple of years ago I used to buy laptops in US with a 40% save, nowadays apart from memory and processors (and they ARE cheaper!), I’m to buy everything in my country.

    But what makes me even more depressed is the feeling that I can’t avoid what happened to Damage and I’m too old to swear and get crazy with hardware problems. And I’m sure I’ll have, but the only alternative, unfortunately, seems to buy crap like Dell’s, which is really not an option.

    • RED STATE RAY
    • 14 years ago

    Nvidia just released updated nForce4 AMD x64 drivers today.

    I’ve been waiting for weeks … and checking hourly since the 32-bit drivers were released last week.

    • flip-mode
    • 14 years ago

    y[< #61 said: Never do more than 2 DIMS on the LanParty boards (dfi-street.com) <]y Damage, Is this possibly the beginning of populating all RAM slots during motherboard reviews? I had stopped bringing it up because there just didn't seem to be any interest in it, and I didn't want to be a PITA.

      • Spotpuff
      • 14 years ago

      I have all 4 RAM slots populated on my DFI NF4 LP UT Ultra-D and it’s running fine. 4x512MB 2.5-4-4-7 2T

    • bdelrizzo
    • 14 years ago

    For all of you who had NVIDIA Firewall issues, have you checked out the 6.70 driver package that was posted last week?

    This should resolve any of the anomalies you were experiencing.

    Please let me know.

    Cheers,

    Bryan Del Rizzo
    NVIDIA Corporation

      • Thresher
      • 14 years ago

      Bryan, thanks for the information.

      However, the problem with the drivers extends well beyond the firewall. The IDE drivers, as mentioned, are still busted. Using them is an excercise in futility. Additionally, the ethernet drivers are just not stable.

      This chipset has been out for a while, I would have expected something a little more mature at this point.

      • Xylker
      • 14 years ago

      Hey, thanks for the head’s up! It is also nice to see that a company that caters to the “enthusiast” actually drops in and adds something.

      Kudos to you (and nVidia)

      • BXorTX
      • 14 years ago

      Do you have a brother named Frank?

      • indeego
      • 14 years ago

      Hehe… Nforce 4 is like a year old, isn’t it?

      OMG I just criticized Nvidia. I’m an anti-ATI/NVIDIA/Intel-fan-boig{<.<}g

      • Krogoth
      • 14 years ago

      I’m having no issues so far and the several internet applications that I knew would cause the Activearmor to crash the whole system are working flawlessly.

      • Pettytheft
      • 14 years ago

      I’ll try it out, i skipped over the installation of the firewall because of random anomolies.

      • indeego
      • 14 years ago

      Also looks like you released Nforce 3 drivers todayg{<.<}g

        • indeego
        • 14 years ago

        Which promptly BSOD’d my Nforce 3 box after I installed, rebooted, then disabled the nvidia ethernet port.
        y{http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/events.asp.<]ยง Data: 0000: 53 79 73 74 65 6d 20 45 System E 0008: 72 72 6f 72 20 20 45 72 rror Er 0010: 72 6f 72 20 63 6f 64 65 ror code 0018: 20 31 30 30 30 30 30 37 1000007 0020: 65 20 20 50 61 72 61 6d e Param 0028: 65 74 65 72 73 20 63 30 eters c0 0030: 30 30 30 30 30 35 2c 20 000005, 0038: 66 37 32 32 63 37 36 31 f722c761 0040: 2c 20 66 37 61 32 37 36 , f7a276 0048: 39 38 2c 20 66 37 61 32 98, f7a2 0050: 37 33 39 34 7394 <}y I was able to reboot and enable the marvell Gigabit port and use thatg{<.<}g

          • indeego
          • 14 years ago

          Always amazes me how WHQL certification means absolutely nothing as far as actual stability of a driver goes. I mean, if a simple thing like disabling a device driver causes a BSOD, then that seems like a show stopperg{<.<}g

            • Anomymous Gerbil
            • 14 years ago

            I wonder how many replies indeego can post to his own message? :-l[<)<]l

            • BobbinThreadbare
            • 14 years ago

            Maybe one is the bazzaro indeego, but then the green period would have to be at the beginingy[<.<]y

      • jacobinos
      • 14 years ago

      Hi, 6.70 have’nt fixed NVFirewall and ActiveArmor with OFFLOADABLE set , its still corrupting JPGS and downloads on an A8N-SLI as it did with 6.65,6.66,6.67,6.82 on XP SP2. It still needs some serious and quick attention and they should fix it once and for all or remove the feature altogether.

    • RED STATE RAY
    • 14 years ago

    Damage … you should’ve posted your specs before doing the work. Your problems are textbook. I have an almost identical setup.

    1) Never do more than 2 DIMS on the LanParty boards (dfi-street.com)
    2) LanParty and Corsair don’t play well. (dfi-street.com)
    3) RAID XP installs always take two tries. (Learning curve required.)
    4) There are almost no 64-bit printer drivers. Very frustrating.

    Other advice:

    1) Always up the RAM voltage on the LanParty boards
    2) Good luck finding 64-bit ethernet drivers for any add-on or external devices

    I went with XP 64. It’ll be wonderful once HP wakes up, and Microsoft provides 64-bit Intellitype, Intellisync, and Activesync. What the @!#% is taking so long?

    • satchmobob
    • 14 years ago

    Had the same boot prob with my SLI-DR build… A few mins of research and i found an instant fix. Only use slots 2 and 4 if you’re using 2 sticks of RAM. And the clincher… Run the RAM at 2.8V or a tad more. Hope that helps ๐Ÿ™‚

    • WebHobbit
    • 14 years ago

    Scott – why the hell are you installing SP2 seperately after XP???????? Why in the world would you not slipstream that bad-boy? For that matter why not roll the RAID drivers in with the slipstream as well??

    ยง[<http://greenmachine.msfnhosting.com/READING/addraid.htm<]ยง

      • Hector
      • 14 years ago

      Because it’s more work than clicking “auto-update” walking away and letting MS servers do the work for ya?

        • provoko
        • 14 years ago

        Making a slipstreaming cd can be done in a couple of minutes. Once thats over you can install it again and again without wasting hours of autoupdate.

          • 1c3d0g
          • 14 years ago

          Exactly. Just Google “nLite” and you’ll be set. ๐Ÿ˜‰

          • Usacomp2k3
          • 14 years ago

          I’d just like to say that I tried it when all the hoopla was going on. It didn’t work. Needless to say, I’m more than happy to hit F6.

      • Pettytheft
      • 14 years ago

      With using n-lite you can slipstream most of the headaches in the install. Then set up a unattended install. Pop in the CD and watch TV.

    • Hector
    • 14 years ago

    Forget 3800+, AMD has new pricing on Opteron 165 which may intrest some of you. First off it’s $278. Second it has 2mb lvl2 cache like a 4400. While running at only 1.8 …you know what to do. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    All newer 1xx opterons are 939. Meaning they work and clock in cheap 939 boards.

    These have yet to show in channel so if you can’t wait 3800+ is still the dual core to have.

    l[http://www.amd.com/us-en/Corporate/VirtualPressRoom/0,,51_104_609,00.html<]ยง

    • continuum
    • 14 years ago

    Drool. Nice, very nice. My next personal build will probably be an X2 3800+/2GB myself. Probably won’t go quite as fancy for the video card, though, since I don’t do much in the way of gaming and I don’t have any 7800GTX’s just taking space. *grins*

    • yokem55
    • 14 years ago

    That description of installing a system on raid made me want to cry. Granted setting up md raid under linux isn’t a cakewalk, but it doesn’t try to “protect” you from screwing up and leaving the system unbootable…..

    • redpriest
    • 14 years ago

    Damage,

    Given that the nForce4 supposedly has the inability to run 1T command rate with 4 double sided DIMMS, I’m surprised you went with the 4 512 MB DIMM approach. I recently upgraded from 1 GB of RAM in my “fun box” (Athlon 64 X2 overclocked to 3 ghz) to 2 GB using OCZ’s 1 GB 2-3-2-5 DIMMs, which I can run in 1T.

    nVidia’s nforce drivers are terrible, especially the ethernet driver – I’ve disabled activearmor completely because with the last driver they have on the site (not a beta or anything) it causes nothing but blue screens upon use. I’m not convinced the new build fixes it.

    Now, DFI supposedly has an ATI board which *can* run 4 double sided DIMMS in 1T mode…

    • Orion
    • 14 years ago

    When I read your choice of Maxtor drives I cringed. I have a 200GB maxtor drive that is the loudest damn HD I’ve ever had. It makes my old DeathStar sound quite. I’ve had three Maxtor drives and everyone of them have been much louder than my favorite drives by WD.

    Right now I’m running two WD 80GB Caviar drives and they are SUPER quite (RAID 1), I never hear them. But the moment my maxtor 200GB drive spins up it’s all I hear.

    For me, I’ll never touch another Maxtor drive again, WD or perhaps I’ll finally have enough $$$ to try out a Baracuda by Seagate.

      • sbarash
      • 14 years ago

      I recently purchased a new Maxtor, and while its fast as hell, it is a lot louder than my old Seagate.

      I read a lot of reviews about this Maxtor drive, and the db level was competitive with all the latest drives out there. I think the issue is the type of sound the drived makes.

      Seeks on the old Seagate produced a high pitched tinging sound that was easly muffled by the case. The Maxtor’s seeks product a low pitched rumbling sound that passes right through the case, making it seem a lot louder than the Seagate.

      db tests for hard disks seem pretty worthless. Subjective tests for hard disk noise should be included in all reviews, I think.

      -Stephen

        • Orion
        • 14 years ago

        You make a good point, given two noises at the samd dB one can be tolerable while the other completely drives you nuts.

      • Anomymous Gerbil
      • 14 years ago

      “I’ll never touch another Maxtor drive again,”

      What, even if it comes out with the fastest, quietest drive there is? It’s comments like that give fanbois (and anti-fanbois) a bad name, indicate your level of intelligence, and possibly even make baby Jesus cry.

    • Samlind
    • 14 years ago

    I just ordered an X2 3800 system yesterday, and lo and behold…

    Except I ordered an Asus board…. (bfg) and an XFX 7800GT which I will try to overclock ( but it’s already running at 450mhz and 1050mhz memory). The things that finally tipped it for me was AMD’s price reduction on the 3800, and reports of the newer 3800’s overclocking well. 2.2 ghz seems a drop dead certainty, and 2.4ghz is pretty common, and 2.6ghz is attainable, but probably not with the stock heatsink I’ll be using. If I feel the need, water cooling may be an option.

    And the trusty S754 system will be traded to a gamer friend for a lot of hardware I need to keep the family’s Socket A systems running well. All 15 of them.

    • IntelMole
    • 14 years ago

    Minor minor nitpick:
    Up in the top right-hand corner is nTune, monitoring CPU, system, and GPU temperatures, voltages, and clock speeds.

    Someone don’t know their left from right it seems.

    :-P,
    -Mole

    • jeffry55
    • 14 years ago

    Building a PC is always an adventure, whether it is a new build or a rebuild. My last rebuild went super smooth ( I don’t know why), no issues no hardware conflicts & no BSODs. I am not looking forward to my next build. I am sure everything that can go wrong, will go wrong. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • flip-mode
    • 14 years ago

    That is one crazy Windows installation method you got there. I just use the F6 option – though the need for a floppy drive irritates me to no end.

    Sounds like you had WAY too much trouble with the DFI board. IMO, DFI still has a long way to go. And apparently so does Nvidia. What’s the friggin deal with their stoopid IDE drivers anyway – how hard could it be?

    Speaking of the IDE drivers, why’d you install those if you were switching over to SATA anyway?

    Edit:
    y[

      • Forge
      • 14 years ago

      Yes, because Nvidia’s RAID is software RAID, like all the other low-cost implementations. Nothing is duplicating the reads/writes if you don’t have the RAID drivers installed, and your mirrors will desync.

      That said, Damage should really have known to F6/slipstream RAID drivers.

        • Damage
        • 14 years ago

        y[

          • Xylker
          • 14 years ago

          Ha, HA, HAHAHAHAHAHA
          Damage, you slay me. FAMPODT ! w00t!

            • flip-mode
            • 14 years ago

            Ah-ha. So the RAID isn’t a Silicon Image implementation anymore. My bad, I’ve not paid much attention to the specifics of feature implementation on any boards since the Nforce 2 (which I’m still using, and my current board has a Silicon Image 3114 chip. I believe the 3112, 3114 chips are hardware solutions and don’t require a RAID driver. Yeah.)

          • Forge
          • 14 years ago

          Oh, so since it worked for you in the past, it was the de facto Right Way? Did the prompt when the Windows install started, ‘Press F6 to load RAID/SCSI drivers’ confuse you? Did you think that it meant RAID for other people? It’s not the Forge Way, it’s the Microsoft Way, and I would think you of all people would be aware.

          Sorry if I offended Your Holiness, next time you make a bonehead mistake I’ll refrain from saying anything.

          FUVM

            • Damage
            • 14 years ago

            Nah, it wasn’t the only right way. There are many ways to accomplish one’s goals in life, and the diversity of them is a good thing, on balance. Just seems like you don’t always appreciate that fact–i.e., “Damage should have known better..” Sometimes it grates a little, man. Sorry I let it get to me.

            • Forge
            • 14 years ago

            My response was immature and pissy, too. Please accept my apologies as well.

            I do generally hold you to a higher standard, though. You were the tech writer back when I was the raw nub, and even though that may change, the mental image is still there.

            I mean… Jeez… mistakes?? You’re the maestro! That’s unpossible!

            • Anomymous Gerbil
            • 14 years ago

            Errr – why are you two having a pissing contest in your own public forum?

            You two have been at each other in posts here for a while now, what’s going on?

            • Forge
            • 14 years ago

            Not my forum. I’ve offered a few times to get on board with Damage and co, but he apparently prefers both local and on-payroll. I just live here.

            As far as today’s spat? I was in a bad mood and probably looking for a fight, and I’d bet things were the same on Damage’s end.

            • Ragnar Dan
            • 14 years ago

            I seem to have some memory of you doing something with TR’s DB, though… am I misremembering?

            • Forge
            • 14 years ago

            Newp, not I. I’ve never done anything officially affiliated with TR, with the one exception of having a few news items with me as the byline many many moons ago.

            Matrox made a liar out of me with the G800 rumors they then went back on, too. ๐Ÿ™

            ALW – Hey mang! Long time no see. Think we should finally get that Linux distro roundup finished? ๐Ÿ™‚ IIRC we were comparing Redmond Linux and Mandrake 7 at the end. ๐Ÿ™‚

            • Anomymous Gerbil
            • 14 years ago

            “with the one exception of having a few news items with me as the byline many many moons ago.”

            Sorry, that must be what I was vaguely remembering.

            • Ragnar Dan
            • 14 years ago

            That’s strange. I wonder who I could be confusing you with.

            I’m too fatigued to think clearly in the last few days, but I am relatively confident — this is Thursday, right? ๐Ÿ˜‰ – that that memory is one I have, which is now consigned to “had”. Just to complete the wrong thing, I believe it was about MySQL and the forums, as though maybe you (or whomever) wrote some SQL code/scripts or some such. No real idea about how phpBB works, and it’s not high enough on my priority list to take the time to look into it. Oh well.

            Anyway, now I have to keep reading nVidia’s forums and the Inquirer to see if anything ever ends up being the definitive answer about NForce boards. And then I’m going to go dig for that gold at the end of the rainbow…

            • Ragnar Dan
            • 14 years ago

            Back to the NF4 board and various driver issues: did you test the change mentioned by some people on nVidia’s forums, for example the posts from this point on in the following thread: ยง[<http://forums.nvidia.com/index.php?showtopic=8171&view=findpost&p=54208<]ยง - they claim 'This is a known issue, the fix is to set the ActiveArmor default to "notoffloadable" rather than "offloadable".' The RAID stuff is mentioned along there eventually... and some have various fixes they've tried. Maxtor was thought to be the problem at one point, and the Inquirer had a couple of articles about it. I'll give you the second one's link, which links to the first, which links to the forum link above. ยง[<http://theinquirer.net/?article=27153<]ยง

    • Shinare
    • 14 years ago

    Sorry to hear about the windows thing. You might wish to slipstream your RAID and chipset drivers so in the future you do not have to mess with the floppy again. Might be easier and less of a headache. I think its worth the extra time over ghosting a fresh install, just because I have done that in the past and I can say from experiance that I hardly ever have the exact same hardware configuration as I did when I ghosted the clean install many moons ago.

    Nice soundin rig. I know you said you had a lot of the bits on hand, but what would you say the total system price was? Might save me from goin to newegg and pricing out all those components myself. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • primitive.notion
    • 14 years ago

    “I’m all for ActiveArmor, but not for ActiveHarmer.”

    Hehe.

    • Calum
    • 14 years ago

    I think this shows the value of a balanced system build – my own PC is a dual Xeon on a PC-DL (2.8s @ 3.47). Not cutting edge by any means but it uses Seagate 15k.3 system drives and I never have to wait for anything to happen – the system is always responsive. Oh and the speed with which Windows comes out of hibernation has to be seen to be believed ๐Ÿ™‚

    SATA has come on leaps and bounds but if you can find the cash, fast SCSI is still an absolute joy to use. Unless you’re a hardcore gamer, I think the money on a good disk subsystem (perhaps at the expense of that second PCIe 7800) is well worth it.

    • Logan[TeamX]
    • 14 years ago

    I love my SLI-DR for a lot of the same reasons as you, Damage. However, I too am using only the Marvell-based GigE NIC and I’ve disabled the Nvidiot-based NIC. It was a serious pain in the ass for me over several Forceware updates with no resolution.

    I’ve got 2 Maxtor Diamondmax 9s 80GB SATAs in a RAID-0, and it’s SMOKING fast. That’s my OS volume, so I have another Maxtor 80GB PATA-133 HD for everything I can’t chance losing, downloads, music, etc.

    Nice choice on the vid card. How are the temps overall with the stock cooler while overclocked? I found the Venice-core retail HSFs were poor if any extra voltage was added, so I threw a TT Venus 12 at medium speed into the mix. Problem solved. I’ll be retaining it when I upgrade to a X2 after Christmas.

      • d0g_p00p
      • 14 years ago

      *[<"so I have another Maxtor 80GB PATA-133 HD for everything I can't chance losing"<]* oh the IRON KNEE. Kung-Fu kick to Maxtor minus 80GB data for the lose.

    • Chrispy_
    • 14 years ago

    Interesting to note that you agree the floppy drive isn’t quite dead yet and that the sound card market is woefully stagnant.

    (from a floppy-equipped machine with a SBLive 5.1 digital still going strong after 5 years or something like that)

    • liquidsquid
    • 14 years ago

    Now this is one of the more fun articles I have read in a while. I put a very similar system together about 4 months ago, and had the same difficulties with it, and the same frustrations. Only thing I had more of a problem with is when my video card up and died right after I had it all running.

    You made me feel much better about my experience, I thought I was the only one having trouble getting RAID to boot, and the PC to turn on. Memory issues, driver version issues, RAID driver disk corrupt, etc. Looking back now, I realize it took about a year off of my life due to frustration, but the machine runs so good now, it was worth it!

    Thanks for the article…

    -LS

    • ieya
    • 14 years ago

    Curious to see you using Avast AV – what led to its choice?

      • Xylker
      • 14 years ago

      Free! r[< <]r

        • ieya
        • 14 years ago

        ‘Free’ isn’t always ‘good’ though ๐Ÿ˜‰

          • willyolio
          • 14 years ago

          and 64-bit!
          that was my reason anyway.

    • Hector
    • 14 years ago

    Check out these sites to quite things down.

    ยง[<http://www.buildsilentpc.com/<]ยง And silentpcreview.com You should'nt even hear your computer with proper planning. Trick is you want to trash all 80mm fans and move to low RPM 120mm fans. -This includes PSU - neweggs rebadged enermax called rosewills are cheap and silent. -CPU- replace with big typhoon from thermaltake - Video card replace with arctic cooler. -HDD- samsung spinpoints. - Loose motherboard fan - those whinny 60 and 40mm SOBs are the worst. -Case Antec P180 .... course if you're a fanatic you'll just move to a properly planned water setup which can cool whole system with only 3 120mm fans @ 700 rpm like I have..

    • genesisx
    • 14 years ago

    I’m loving the DFI’s ability to gracefully combine C’n’Q with overclocking. Are all DFI NF4 boards capable of this? Anyone know of other manufacturers that have this?

    I was planning on jumping on the Asrock 939 Dual Sata2 bandwagon, in order to keep my AGP card for a while longer, but that C’n’Q thing is making me consider DFI.

      • Flying Fox
      • 14 years ago

      Any other brands that can do that?

      • mikehodges2
      • 14 years ago

      I didn’t realise until the other day, but apparently my Abit AV8 does it. I was messing around with abit’s OC Guru program, and noticed the multiplier was at 5x, and the voltage had dropped by 0.2V. When i opened Netscape, voltage and multipier both went back to what i’d set them to, then when there was no more CPU work, it dropped back down. Peachy.

      • FubbHead
      • 14 years ago

      My ASRock (although the SiS chipset one) supports locking the maximum CnQ. So if it’s only a BIOS thing, chances are the one you’re planning on do to.

    • HiggsBoson
    • 14 years ago

    The MSI BIOSes have the % overvolt as well. Since at least the 1.8 BIOS, IIRC.

      • JustAnEngineer
      • 14 years ago

      I will definitely confirm that the MSI Cell BIOS menu allows over-volting the CPU by a percentage while using Cool ‘n Quiet. It was just a matter of a few seconds in the BIOS setup of the MSI K8N Neo4 Platinum to get this 3500+ Winchester to overclock and overvolt itself to 2.5 GHz under heavy load and still throttle back to 1.1 GHz and undervolt when it was not being taxed.

    • SpotTheCat
    • 14 years ago

    I doubt this is your problem, but on many of my PSU failures the first sign of the PSU dying was the need to turn it on a few times before it would post. My guess is the caps got charged enough to where I could boot with minimal starting current.

    • mikehodges2
    • 14 years ago

    Whats that bar on the right of the screen? (screenshot on the last page)

    I want one :D.

    …and nice build – i’m hopefully gonna pick up a 4400 in the next wave of price drops.

      • KeillRandor
      • 14 years ago

      The bar reminds me of my dopus toolbar’s – not sure if that’s what it is – but it looks similar – (www.gpsoft.com)

        • pwdrhnd23
        • 14 years ago

        You can do that with your quick launch, just drag it to your desktop.

        Once it is on you destop you can move it to the sides or top just like the taskbar and even set the icon size to view.

          • KeillRandor
          • 14 years ago

          Hmm – you’re right – I forgot about that, lol… Been using dopus for too long…;) (And I hate using the computers at work that don’t have it – (or firefox etc. – damn IE/windows explorer etc. – seems to take years to get anything meaningful done on this comp, lol).

            • flip-mode
            • 14 years ago

            You noobs ๐Ÿ™‚ Try this trick: got a shortcut to a folder or drive on your desktop? Drag it to the side of the screen to instantly create a toolbar. To undo, right click on the toolbar and close it.

    • Spotpuff
    • 14 years ago

    I would hate the boot delay.

    Also several users have had issues when using the Nvidia firewall; I didn’t install it and I’m running fine now. When I did have it installed, I got the ocassional crash.

      • just brew it!
      • 14 years ago

      My Tyan Tiger MPX (yeah, old school compared to the mobo reviewed in this article) has a stupidly long delay on power-up as well. Seems to be partly due to brain-dead handling of ECC DIMMs, and partly due to slow detection of IDE devices during POST.

      My solution: I never turn it off. ๐Ÿ˜€

      (And yes, it runs Folding@home 24×7…)

      • Ruiner
      • 14 years ago

      the nv firewall corrupted every big file I downloaded.
      It drove me nuts until I uninstalled it.

    • Palek
    • 14 years ago

    I will also be getting an X2 3800+ with a Lanparty UT board, except not the SLI version but the Ultra, sometime this week. I already have two of the same 512 MB Corsair sticks that will go into the new system (EDIT: actually, I think I have the LL sticks, not the XL). We’re going to be PC brothers!!! Sniff… ๐Ÿ˜‰

    The similarities end there, though. I have a self-imposed limit of $200 for video cards, so I am looking at an HIS X800 GTO Fo-sheezy Icecold Hyperblast, the one that is guaranteed to overclock to 500MHz. Plus I almost always choose Seagate for hard drives, and it will be no different this time.

    I bought two Mitsumi card readers in the past, but both refused to read Memory Sticks on my nForce2 motherboard. I still have one of them in a closet somewhere, maybe it’ll work with the new motherboard. Did you have any problems with your reader, Damage?

    Your remark regarding Crucial and Micron reminded me of the two sticks of Crucial 512MB PC2700 memory I have sitting in the closet, using Infinion chips! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Foolio
    • 14 years ago

    *[

    • Pete
    • 14 years ago

    At least all that trouble was worth it. That’s one nice system you put together.

    Consider the brand new Antec P150 for a case. Pricey, but it looks good in every other respect. SPCR just reviewed it.

      • HiggsBoson
      • 14 years ago

      Second the P150. It looks like a sweet case, aside from the whole color thing. Why not take a look at the P180 too?

    • just brew it!
    • 14 years ago

    Mmm… dual core goodness. Almost has me convinced to upgrade from my dually Athlon MP… ๐Ÿ˜€

    • indeego
    • 14 years ago

    Good article. I share the hair pulling with system builds. They aren’t as exciting to me anymore.

    I avoid RAID1 and it’s inherent waste on workstations (never a server, of course) by using Acronis Trueimage. I have a regular boot drive, and a larger, spare/data/imaged drive. acronis images weekly the boot drive to the second drive. This gives me not only months of images where I can restore to, but I can restore each file 4 times over, not to mention system restore (which actually has worked for me in the past, quite nicely,) and backing up to a network share. The negligible performance difference on RAID1’s is paltry on workstations, and you can really find many more uses for the second drive. The downside to this is there is a window that RAID1 provides where data loss can occur, but with nightly backups you can reduce this chance. You can cross image sections of each drive and really get creative with your images and what you have available to you in the case of disasterg{<.<}g

    • Prospero424
    • 14 years ago

    Jeez, that’s quite a coincidence. I JUST ordered parts for my new system right before this article went up with a very similar parts list.

    The only real difference is that I took advantage of EVGA’s bundle deal where they are offering a 7800GT with an nForce SLI board for $369. That was just too good to pass up. The only real disadvantages of the EVGA mobo is a lack of firewire and kinda crappy onboard sound, but being that I’m planning on putting my Audigy 2 card in there (which has firewire onboard), and the fact that I don’t own any firewire devices, I don’t see this as a problem.

    I got the X2 3800+ for the same reasons Damage did, though I don’t plan to overclock it anytime soon.

    Oh man, I can’t wait ’til it gets here.

    • sluggo
    • 14 years ago

    The copy editor called and said that if you use”creamy smoothness” again he’s taking you off the joke distribution list.

      • samadhi
      • 14 years ago

      Rather than keep complaining about “creamy smoothness” perhaps you should think of ways in which it could be improved.

      I would suggest that the Tech Report borrow an idea from Google and extend the creamy smoothness depending on just how much creamy smoooooothness a particular system has ๐Ÿ˜‰

        • lyc
        • 14 years ago

        is cream technically smooth anyway?

        how people correlate the absence of latency with cream is beyond me.

    • indeego
    • 14 years ago

    I had the same exact issue with a DFI board I helped a friend with. It wasn’t passing memtest86+ tests on one of the sticks of ram, I figured bad ram, but a BIOS update later and I couldn’t repeat the problemg{<.<}g

    • indeego
    • 14 years ago

    Phone interview… with a modem? howg{

      • Damage
      • 14 years ago
        • indeego
        • 14 years ago

        Very cool. Had no ideag{<.<}g

        • Tuanies
        • 14 years ago

        Now if only it’d work with my V-TECH VOIP setup or Bluetooth….

          • FireGryphon
          • 14 years ago

          Why shouldn’t it? Run the headset cable through the modem.

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