Sunday, August 23, 2009

New Computer!

Yep, I got a new computer, and it's awesome.  And the best part is, I built it from the ground up.  Well, sorta.  I ordered each individual part and put it together;  I'll put it that way.

With the help of a couple real thick books, one or two websites, and some real technically inclined friends, I was able to gather an amazing amount of information and theoretical knowledge about the field that is computer hardware and how to put it together.

Here's the specs:

CPU: AMD Phenom II x4 3.2Ghz Quad Core Processor

RAM: 4GB 1600mhz Corsair Dominator DDR3

HDD: 750GB 7200RPM Seagate Barracuda

GPU: 1GB Sapphire Radeon HD 4870

Disc Drive: Sony Optiarc DVD Burner (can't remember the precise write speed)

PSU: Corsair 850w supply

Case: Antec 900 gaming case

Keyboard: Razer Tarantula

Mouse: Logitech G5

Motherboard: Can't remember the exact specs.

Other stuff:

-NetGear Wireless N-Draft internal Wi-fi card

-Lacie: 250GB Firewire 400 drive

-LG 22" HD monitor

-OS: Windows 7 RC

Yep, it's good stuff.  Seeing as I'm mildly bored and feel like bragging once again about my feat, I figured I'd mesh together some info about each part, and my impressions.


Before:  This thing worried me, and was probably the most nerve-racking part of construction.  You see, I assumed that the processor (or some other part) came with thermal glue.  At the time, I didn't realize that the putty-like gray square on the bottom of the heatsink was in fact thermal compound, and thus had to stop for the night to go out and buy some in the morning.  I applied it, and continued on to finish the computer, but then it wouldn't turn on.  I freaked out, and after consulting with my buddies, we decided it might have to do with the thermal compound.  So I went BACK into the computer, and took of the heatsink (the heatsink is strapped on HARD; it was very difficult to strap on, and even more difficult to take off).  The few sparks that did go through the mobo (slang for motherboard) when i first pressed the power button had begun to melt the thermal compound, fusing it with the pre-applied stuff.  Long story short, the pre-applied compound was ruined, and I ended up having to completely scrape it off, and re-apply my own.  I eventually got the computer to work, and it had nothing to do with the compound, but that's another story.  In the process of re-applying the glue, I actually dropped the processor twice.  It was scary.  <=O

After:  Well, this thing is a beast.  I've yet to max out it's usage percentage (highest I came was 92% before it promptly dropped back to 30-40), even will running an internet browser, torrents, messenger, Guild Wars, steam (downloading an update), and anti-virus.  It's incredible, this computer pretty much NEVER lags.  And if it does, it tends to be more the program's fault than the computer's.


Before:  The memory modules look incredibly beastly.  They've got black spikes on top for heatsinks, and have a brushed finish.  At first it was very tough making sure they were actually fully installed, but everything worked out.  They say you should never force anything when it comes to computer parts, but I think it's okay to get a bit strong with your RAM, if it doesn't feel like it's in completely.  The good thing about RAM is that you can only put it in one way, due to the notch it has.

After: On average, I'm using up about 30-40% of my RAM on a constant basis.  This is with messenger, Opera (no torrents), Steam, DaemonTools, and Avast! running.  The two main culprits of RAM usage appear to be Steam (also a CPU hog) and torrents.  Highest RAM usage I've gotten to was about 75%.


Before: Installing the harddrive is simple in theory, but due to the insane amount of cables spewing from the PSU, it's really a huge pain.

After: I haven't told anybody this because it isn't really a big deal to me (As it stands, I've yet to use up more than half of my 250GB external, even though I've had it for a couple years now), but this drive actually only has 700GB on it.  I coulda sworn I ordered one with 750GB.  It performs pretty quick though (faster than my old IDE drive, at least), so I guess that's cool.

Graphics Card

Before: Jesus, this thing is huge.  I was actually planning to buy a second one and try CrossFireX later on, but as it stands I'd be hard-pressed to install anything else in the computer (besides more RAM or HDDs), let alone a SECOND one of these beasts.  It takes up two PCI slots, and has it's own fans and vents.   It has a black and blue color scheme, with blue LEDs.

After: But it sure shows results.  I tried Batman: Arkham Asylum on this computer, and it actually looks better than it does on my PS3 version!

Disc Drive

Before: Probably the easiest thing to install.  I just slid it into the topmost slot, plugged it in and was good to go.

After: Haven't tried burning anything, but it played my Oban Star Racers DVD just swell.

Power Supply

Before: Oh my god, this thing has so much guts hanging out of it.  I have the power supply to blame for my computer being a horrible mess of cables inside, only half of which are actually connected to anything.  It was all I could do to tie what cables I wasn't using away to the side.

After: At this point, an 850w power supply is probably waaaay overkill (I was future-proofing for the possibility of a second GFX card), so of course I'm having no problem powering the various components in my computer.


When you look at the incredible size of the case, this thing looks like it'll be huge.  But it's actually pretty much the same size as the tower of my last computer (an old Dell Dimension).  The case is also pretty heavy, as expected.  It's got a really flexible design, so you can re-arrange the fans, and optical/harddrives.  There's 9 5.25" drive bays, and you can also install up to three hard drives in every set of three bays (or a fan).  As for interface, It's been lackluster so far.  There's two USB ports and one Firewire port on the front, as well as two audio ports.  There's also a HDD activity light, a reset button, and of course a small rectangular power button.  There's no power light, but one isn't really necessary, because each of the midsize fans have a bright blue LED on them that lights up when the computer turns on.  Seeing as, by default there's two medium fans situated in the bottom two 3-bay sets, you can immediately tell the computer is on by the ambient blue glow.  The LEDs really are a pretty feature, in my opinion.  On the top, there's a small depressed area where you can deposit iPods and such that are syncing with your computer, and, more importantly a HUGE fan.  This fan takes up just half the space of the front.  This is good for cooling, but I have one large concern.  If you sit your computer under or beside a desk, and have a habit of eating at your desk, you need to be extremely careful, because any liquids spilled on the tower will go right through the fan grating on the top and hit the circuitry. Coincidentally, the case has a black color scheme with blue LEDs..just like the graphics card.


Really, this is a pretty impressive keyboard.  I would have liked backlit keys (some of them actually are backlit), but I try not to do much heavy computing in the dark anyway, so it's a minor complaint.  This keyboard apparently has all sorts of fancy capabilities for hardcore gamers, like programmable "blank" keys on the left and right, and the ability to store up to 100 profiles.  I paid more attention to the practical parts of the keyboard, though.  The hyper-response keys work nicely, though the letter space is a bit more cramped than I'd like.  There's also shortcuts on the edges for music and other stuff.  Besides the solid and simplistic design, what I like most about this keyboard is the pulsating blue Razer symbol on the hand rest.  Well, no actually that's not it, though I do love that.  What I like most is the fact that you can remove the keys, making it easier to go after dust and such.


I actually had this mouse long before I got the computer.  It's a pretty fancy mouse, and a practical one, with a side leaning middle button, and two side buttons.  It's also ridiculously easy to grip, and has some sort of wierdly smooth plastic that lets it glide across even mildly rough surfaces.  It also comes with an assortment of small weights you can use to customize the feel of the mouse.  Now that's fancy.


Before: The motherboard was the first thing I installed, and initially the most intimidating part of the computer to install.  I was still deathly afraid of static shocking it to death, so I handled it somewhat timidly.  But installing it was ultimately a breeze, and this thing looks pretty cool.  I like it's color scheme, which is primarily blue, by the way...with blue LEDs.  It's got power and reset buttons for those hardcore technicians that need to run a computer without a case, and dual LAN ports (capable of bridging them).  

After: The integrated sound is pretty damn good.

Wi-Fi Card

Before: Easy install.  It comes with an external antenna you can either attach to a wall or sit somewhere higher up.

After: Yeah...I hate wireless.  Only reason there's a card for it in here is because my mom insisted on buying one.


Pretty fancy looking moniter, wtiih a piano-black finish (like the keyboard), and an interesting touch interface.  I'd have preferred buttons, but I appreciate the clean and simple look the lack of button gives this monitor.

Operating System

I had actually originally planned to install Windows XP, but learned it was 32-bit, and decided to just go with W7.  It's a pretty slick OS, I really love how well many programs are integrated.  I almost didn't mind using IE, simply because of how tightly integrated into the OS it is (making it that much more intuitive to use).

So yep, I'm pretty darn satisfied with this rig.

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