Tobold's Blog
Saturday, February 28, 2009
Ordered a new computer

So I'm battling disappointment with blatant consumerism, and ordered a new computer. Actually it's right on schedule, I bought my current Alienware computer two years ago. That's my usual schedule, every two years I get a brand-new computer, and my wife gets my 2-year old one. Which means the computer that actually gets chucked out is 4 years old Dell, a Pentium 640 3.2 GHz CPU with a Nvidia Geforce 7800, and 2 GB of RAM. The Alienware computer I pass to my wife is an Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 2.4 GHz CPU with a Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTS (640 MB), and 4 GB of RAM. So in a quite logical extrapolation the computer I ordered is a quad-core i7-920 with a Nvidia GeForce 9800 GTX (1 GB), and 6 GB of RAM. Double the number of cores every 2 years, add another 1000 to the GeForce serial number, and add another 2 GB of RAM. :)

Yeah, I know, the video card is nothing to write home about. I could have gone for a new GX 285 or 295 or something. But the 9800 GTX supposedly draws a lot less power, is more silent, and is quite stable. It might not be bleeding edge, but it is fast enough, especially if I mainly play World of Warcraft and not GTA 4. If that turns out to be insufficient in a year or two, I can always replace it, or add a second 9800 GTX in SLI mode.

So where things get fast is the new generation of Intel quad-core processors, the i7-920 is a big step up in speed. Needs the latest generation of motherboard as well, so I got a Gigabyte EX58-Extreme. Add 6 GB of OCZ Reaper DDR3 fast memory, and a Western Digital HD Raptor 10,000 rpm hard drive, and the whole system should be visibly faster for anything where graphics isn't the bottleneck. As the fast hard drive is relatively small, 150 GB, it'll only have the operating system and programs on it. The data go to a 1 Terrabyte normal hard drive.

As I said, my previous computer had 4 GB of RAM, but actually he only could use 2.75 GB, because of the 32-bit Windows XP operating system. With the video card of the new system having more memory, with Windows XP I would now have even less RAM addressable. So now I'm forced to finally switch to a 64-bit Vista to be able to actually use the 6 GB of RAM. Well, I think I'll survive now that Vista is two service packs further advanced, and all the drivers are developed for it. My company is going Vista this year too, and it's good to have the same operating system at home and at work.

The whole thing costs just under 2,000 Euro, which is 1,000 Euro less than the previous machine, and should be ready in a week. I finally gave up on Dell / Alienware, not because their computers were bad, but because getting them sent by UPS, and having to send out pieces for replacement by UPS was such a hassle. Now I'm buying locally in a small computer store not far from my home. Have to support the local economy in times of crisis, do I? :)
Don't worry about moving to Vista 64 Tobold. It's rock solid stable now, and has been given a quite undeserved bad reputation. The sad thing is that Vista is the best OS Microsoft have ever produced, but the early bad PR has given it such a bad name that people don't believe it.
Yeah, Vista's been very solid for me ever since the first Service pack, however you might want to look into the windows 7 beta, it's a lot slicker than vista for sure, and the annoying "User Account Control" feature could actually be disabled without hurting the security of your computer (in vista if you turn UAC off it also turns off IE protection and windows fire wall)
Oh and windows 7 loads faster xD
Gotta agree with the previous poster. Most reviews I read about windows 7 make it sound like windows 7 is a service pack windows vista never got. Apparently (at least according to the reviewers) the smartest move in todays OS world would be to skip windows vista completely and move straight to windows 7.
I need to replace my current main desktop.
Indeed are some months (since before xmas) that I decided to change, but actually I'm still trying to figure what to buy.

I badly need to change my system (is 4 years old)....

I can't decide as I'm trying to look for a perfect system. At least perfect for me.
My top priorities in general are:
system energy efficient
very low noise
hopefully powerful ^_^

Also I am a bit worried about Vista64
I know that nowadays Vista had been passed some revisions and service packs so it pretty stable and could gain momentum, but I don't know how the 64 bit version behaves with games and software in general.

Tobold, as soon as you receive your new system.....
please please... write comments and a review :)
(I'm sure you would do even if I wouldn't ask... ehhee)

@Sven, it is a very good OS when given the resources it needs. However for people with lower-end systems (and 2GB ram is still a common system these days), Vista is slower and has a negative impact on game performance (e.g. FPS). This isn't "bad PR", this is solid testing done by known names (e.g. Tom's Hardware, Anandtech).

1. I hope you got the Vista version with all the eye-candy (Aero) since your system can support it and so you might was well enjoy it :)
2. For even better harddisk performance and at a lower noise and power-requirement too (yes it's all win :)) try out one of the new Solid State Drives (SSD). Notice however there is more than one technology and the lower-end one doesn't justify its high price. Also there are sometimes controller issues - check out the review sites for more info.
3. I'm curious, what cooling solutions did you use? Did you get extra cooling for the CPU and GPU only or for rams/HD also? How many case fans and what size? Finally, when you get your system, can you make a follow-up post detailing how (a) loud it is when working under full load (b) FPS in WoW under max graphical settings, both in-and-out of Dalaran?

Thanks in advance :)
Yes, I got the Vista Ultimate 64-bit, that should have everything. I was considering solid state disks, but I guess I'll have to wait another 2 years for those, the current generation is big enough to put the operating system on, but not all the games, so you lose out on game loading time.

On cooling, I took an Antec Nine Hundred gaming case, with three 120 mm and one 200 mm fan. Came heavily recommended by the guy in the shop, who just had built a computer for himself with the same case.
"I know that nowadays Vista had been passed some revisions and service packs so it pretty stable and could gain momentum, but I don't know how the 64 bit version behaves with games and software in general."
I've run WOW, AoC, Vanguard, EVE and WAR with no problems whatsoever in Vista 64 if that helps.

"@Sven, it is a very good OS when given the resources it needs. However for people with lower-end systems (and 2GB ram is still a common system these days), Vista is slower and has a negative impact on game performance (e.g. FPS). This isn't "bad PR", this is solid testing done by known names (e.g. Tom's Hardware, Anandtech)."
Agreed, it is indeed slightly slower (< 10%), but the stability and reliability more than make up for it to me. I was happy to trade 3-4 FPS for a sleep mode that actually worked and almost never needing to reboot. It is better with more RAM, though, I'd agree. RAM is cheap these days, though.
I've been running XP 64 and now Vista 64 since the XP 64 beta. The vast majority of the problems with both were on the vendor side, particularly display and printer drivers in the early days of XP 64. Even then, though, drivers were forthcoming and there were generally workarounds for devices that weren't immediately supported. Now, and especially after the first service pack, Vista is extremely solid. I quite enjoy the user experience and I think it compares favorably to XP and newer version of KDE/Gnome with Compiz Fusion on the Linux side. Windows 7 is even better and the transition from Vista to 7 will be, by all accounts, a breeze.

Nice looking machine Tobold. I agree that solid state is not quite worth it now. I plan on building a new computer next summer, and I fully expect to be using an SSD for my os drive. The best ssd's currently available at reasonable prices, the Intel 25-m and the OCZ vector, just aren't fast/cheap enough to compete with WD Velociraptorz on a price/gb scale. Your video card is essentially and overclocked 8800gtx made with a smaller process technology and faster ram. It will do you well for any game currently available and well into the future.
So, I always hear about guildies "building" a gaming rig every so often to save some money. Having just enough skill to know when to restart the computer, I have always been reticent to go this route. How geekish do you need to be to go this route? It's a bit intimidating to someone who has bought a dell the last couple times.
I've been running vista 64 as well, it's been mostly good for me other than the occasional hiccup. I've ran conan, wow, and war all on max settings with no issues. Mine is running a q6700, 8gb of ram, and a evga nvidia 8800gts ko edition I think. I built mine about a year ago but I guess I will need a new graphics card.

Sam-- I built my last 3 pc's and it's well worth it, the parts for my pc all total were around 1400 last time and the same pc from dell or alienware was almost 3k. It really isn't hard unless you run into issues, that's the part that would always get me stuck but otherwise it's mostly just plug stuff into the right spot.

A good halfway house is to buy the basic machine from a known supplier, then fit extra RAM, HD & graphics card yourself. These are all pretty easy and you can make savings that way. Just make sure you get a good, high spec, branded power system on whatever you buy. Flakey power supplies cause a lot of intermittent problems with PCs, as the rated specs from generic makers are often unreliable, so it will look OK for normal use, but fail under high load conditions.

Don't know where you're based, but in the UK there are quite a few reputable second-tier suppliers who can sell you a fully built system that's better than you can get for the same price from the likes of Dell.

I've been building my own machines for nigh on 10 years now and while it can certainly save you money, it is not something to be undertaken lightly. The first question you ought to ask yourself is if you are comfortable being your own tech support. Nearly all of the machines I've built have had at least one component DOA (dead on arrival) such that once I had the essential components assembled, the system would not post. It can be disconcerting, and extremely frustrating, to have 1500 dollars worth of hardware lying on your table and not knowing what piece might be dead or incompatible with the others. Again, if you have the time and interest to invest towards researching appropriate parts and the basics of computer hardware, it can be extremely rewarding to build your own computer. Otherwise, I would stick to the budget or "barebones" systems from well reviewed, boutique OEMS (and even the "gamer/performance" divisions of major oems like Dell) and upgrade parts like video cards as necessary.
Hmm... can I have your old computer? It's better than anything I have. If you're just tossing it out...
Just wondering, but the comp you are tossing you, that can run WoW maxed right?

The new system looks nice, what games are you planning to try to see how nice it can run top-end stuff? Fallout 3 is not a huge system hog, but that maxed out is worth seeing. You don't like FPS, but Fear 2 is some nice eye candy as well.

What monitor are you using with the new comp?
Still the same monitor, a Samsung SyncMaster 225MW, 22" broad.
Sadly, the PC you are tossing out is much more powerful than the one I am using. QQ

/tinfoil hat

I think some gaming company is giving Tobold this new rig to bribe him into playing their game and giving it good reviews.
I think some gaming company is giving Tobold this new rig to bribe him into playing their game and giving it good reviews.

Nope, I declared everything I ever received from gaming companies. The computer is something I'm buying with my own money. The simple fact is that I'm 44, married, no children, with an university degree, and a good job. I wouldn't call myself "rich", but "comfortably well off" pretty much hits the nail on the head. Especially if you look at it in relative terms, the typical gaming audience is significantly younger, and thus often poorer than I am. Spending 2,000 Euro on a computer is a totally affordable expense for me. And in view of how much of my life I spend in front of that computer, for me that expense is justified. Other men my age buy fast cars, I buy fast computers. :)
I would recommend upgrading to a top-end 24" widescreen. Gaming at 1900x1200 is rather nice when you have the hardware to support it, and the extra screen space works wonders for games like WoW/EVE/WAR, where you usually have a ton of little windows up.

My old computer is using a 22", and the difference between it and the 24" is drastic. 1900x1200 with everything maxed is a FPS killer, but your new hardware should handle it just fine.
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