It was that time of the year again. It’s been 3 years since my last PC build, and now it’s time to upgrade. This time around, I’m not following my golden rule of using parts half the price for double the capacity1. When I waited this long, the technology improved so much, no matter what I choose, it’ll be a major step up.
I began with the basic necessities first: the ThermalTake tower case and Antec Power Supply. I liked the ATX case with plenty of room for the motherboard and hard drive cages. The power supply is a good (orange) looking 750W with extra 6-pin plugs for Crossfire capable video cards.
Next, oddly enough, when I began the research about 5 months ago, I thought it was a good idea to buy the Kingston HyperX RAM because there was a rebate promotion at Newegg. Then RAM prices dropped dramatically, by almost half! For sure, a painful lesson learned here. [Updated: Photo]
In the last 2 weeks, the shopping went into high gear, with the indication there were more online sale after Black Friday/Cyber Monday. It was the time to start buying the ASUS P8Z68-V PRO/GEN3 motherboard.
In order to test the motherboard, I had to make a quick decision to buy the CPU. During my research, I was originally going with lower end AMD Phenom II X6. But I read an awful lot of negative reviews on the AMD. There are many glowing reviews on the Intel i7 2600-K. I decided I needed to spend the money on a much better chip. The CPU is the brain of the operation, so it needed to be the best one. The Intel happens to be good at overclocking without requiring much power and producing heat. Additionally, I also got the Cooler Master 212+ CPU cooler, with a large heat sink and fan, to cool it off.
Next, I had to get the video card. This was an interesting decision that I had to make. The choices were high-end Radeon 69XX series, the recently discounted Radeon 68XX series, or go with new territory of Nvidia GTX series. I also had to decide on getting a card with 1G or 2G RAM. Since my 23″ monitor only has 1920×1200 resolution, I thought the 1G RAM version is sufficient. Anyway, I decided to get the discounted ASUS EAH6850. My strategy here is to get another one so I can link them in a Crossfire configuration, at a later day when prices have gone down. I need to watch the prices regularly because if the supply is gone, availability will be scarce and prices won’t come down. It’s a lesson I learned from the last build with Radeon 4850.
Finally, I couldn’t resist the temptation to try out the latest craze: Solid State Drives. It promises faster boot up time and operation. Reviews only said to stay away from first generation SSDs, so I ended up buying the more recent OCZ Vertex 3 90GB drive. I knew it’s going to be a big improvement over hard drives. Also, in the future, I may be able to use this as a cache for RAID hard drives2.
Part of this exercise is to discover the advantages UEFI “BIOS”. Microsoft touted Windows 8 to take advantage of UEFI to secure the boot process. It can also (possibly) speed up power-on bootup, as shown in their video. Right now, I haven’t explored this possibility since there’s no Windows 8 public beta, at least not until February 2012.
The ASUS’s UEFI is quite beautiful.
I always overclock my CPUs. With the new motherboards and CPUs, this has become an easy exercise. I overclocked the i7 2600K from 3.4 GHz to 4.6, with relative ease. This P8Z68 motherboard made it painless: just change the multiplier and set everything else on Auto. It’s so easy, my Grandma can do it.
Of course, with overclocking, I’ll need a good cooling system. Putting in the massive CPU cooler was not the only thing I needed for my overclocking adventures. I had to make sure the case has good air flow. So I made sure there are three 120mm fans blowing in from the front. I also sealed any holes on the sides and the top of the case. Now, when the computer is on, it’s pretty noisy – even when I close the cabinet door, where I stored the PC. I’ll need to tweak the chassis fan speeds to make it more quiet. It’s going to be a balancing act between better cooling and lower decibels.
But for now, I can get the CPU cores to operate around 70°C under full load3 at 4.6 GHz. Later, I’ll go search for that holy grail of 5.0 GHz.
Here was my shopping list. The only thing left to do is putting in another Radeon HD68XX based card for CrossFireX configuration. I can definitely wait for the price to go down a little more. Otherwise, I’m pretty much done with this setup.
- I still used rebates and looked for discounts, whenever I can, as the first rule of thumb. [↩]
- Using Intel’s SRT software. [↩]
- Using prime95 [↩]