With my regular computer gaming habit, and now picking up design jobs, my computer needed an upgrade. It only had 1 gigabyte of RAM, and even that was from 2002. It was showing its age, and this week I finally had the means to get a new one.
I initially used the Tom's Hardware Guide gaming PC as a starting point, although the only components I ended up using from their list were the motherboard and CPU cooler. In the month that passed since the guide was published, I was able to get the Intel Core 2 Duo e7400, Radeon 4870, and faster RAM for just about the same prices. I also got a black aluminum Lian Li PC case, and a nice rebate on a 500w power supply, knowing the Radeon 4870 would require a little more power. I harvested my DVD-RW drive from the old machine and kept the same mouse and keyboard. The case has USB and audio ports on the front, which are not new technologies, but are new to *me,* and I like not having to climb under the desk to plug things in anymore.
Anyway, assembly was relatively easy. The case has a 120mm fan at both the front and back, and space for an additional fan to ventilate out the top. The power supply also has a fan up top so I'm not sure that other fan will be necessary. The lower fan draws air directly onto the 3.5" drive tray.
I didn't realize how big the CPU cooler was until it arrived. It's just enormous. In fact, the fan assembly is so big it sticks out over the RAM slot, thus making 8GB dual-channel RAM impossible. I just had to use the other channel; this won't be an issue for a few years. However, I do like how it directs air perpendicular to the CPU and therefore out of the case, instead of just up (or down) on the chip.
Here's a picture of the video card in place. I knew from reading reviews I had to get a mid-tower case to even fit the card inside, and even then, some cases required removal of the lower drive tray. Fortunately this fit with room to spare, though the back of the card covers up an unused system fan power connection on the motherboard. It requires a ridiculous *two* 6-pin power connectors. My power supply only had one, but fortunately, Sapphire included some adapters for existing 4-pin connections.
Here's a picture of the final machine before connecting the power cables. I would've preferred if they had sleeve coverings, but I don't think they obstruct the airflow in any serious way.
Some final scattered thoughts... I decided to bite the bullet and install Vista instead of XP or 7, because XP won't recognize the 4GB of RAM and 7 is still a beta. I picked up a copy of Vista while I was still staff at the Michigan for something like $18. This is a savings of about $300. Anyway, I'm still getting used to it. I don't trust or understand the system folder structure just yet. I'm quite frustrated at the lack of options for importing pictures off my camera (XP's Scanner & Camera wizard was, surprisingly, the perfect tool and all I ever used). And so on. I'm not noticing a performance slowdown, but there's a lot of juice under the hood here. The performance is on par with the overclocked version of the Tom's Hardware Guide PC linked above. It's nice to go back and see games and demos that would churn my old system to a halt run silky smooth on this new machine, but I think I've built a rig that can handle games of the future pretty well too.
The last couple days all I've focused on are playing demos and games to flex its graphical muscles. Tomorrow's project is importing all my pictures and mp3s from the old machine. Hope it goes smoothly.