Recent PC upgrades and component shuffles

Recent PC upgrades and component shuffles

A few weeks ago I finished upgrading my current PC setup, the old set was:

Daily PC

  • OS : Windows 7 Ultimate
  • Case : Antec 900
  • CPU : Intel i7-920 with stock cooler
  • Mobo : Intel DX58S0
  • RAM : 3 x 2GB Patriot  DDR3 1333 (7-7-7-20)
  • GPU : AMD ATI Radeon HD 5580
  • Storage
    • System : 2 x 150GB Western Digital Velociraptor in RAID 0
    • Data : 1TB Western Digital Caviar Green

Development Sever

  • OS : VMware ESXi Free 4.1
  • CPU  : Intel Core2Duo Q9600 with stock cooler
  • Case : Generic
  • Mobo : Asus Stryker Extreme
  • RAM : 4 x 2GB G.Skill DDR3 1333 (9-9-9-24)
  • GPU : ATI Radeon X200
  • Storage
    • System : 1 x 1GB PNY USB flash drive
    • Data : 3 x 500GB Western Digital Caviar Blue

The new Setup is:

Daily PC

  • OS : Windows 7 Ultimate
  • CPU : intel i7-2600K with Cool Master Hyper 212 Plus cooler
  • Case : NXT Phantom (White)
  • Mobo : ASrock Z68 Pro3
  • RAM : 2 x 4GB G.Skill Sniper DDR3 1600 (9-9-9-24)
  • GPU : AMD ATI Radeon HD 5580
  • Storage
    • System : 1TB Western Digital Caviar Black
    • Data : 75GB Intel x25 SSD with 20GB dedicated to Intel SRT
    • Backup : 1TB Western Digital Caviar Green

Development Sever

  • OS : VMware ESXi Free 5.0
  • Case : Antec 900
  • CPU : Intel i7-920 with stock Cooler
  • Mobo : Intel DX58S0
  • RAM : 4 x 4GB G.Skill RipJaws Series DDR3 1333 (9-9-9-24)
  • GPU : Zotac GeForce GT 220
  • Storage
    • System : 1 x 2GB Sandisk Ultra 2 SD card
    • Data :
      • 3 x 500GB Western Digital Caviar Blue
      • 2 x 150 GB Western Digital Velociraptor

The Core2Duo system replaced my mother’s aging AMD Athlon XP 1600+ PC I built over 6 years ago. My new daily PC uses the latest Intel chipset (Z68) which had two features I was really interested in:

Intel’s Smart Response Technology (SRT)

SRT lets you use an SSD (20GB or more) as a smart cache partition that will cache your frequently accessed data on the SSD.  I haven’t done much testing with it but so far my PC has booted much quick and loads levels in Portal 2 faster than my old setup. But I don’t know how much of that to attribute to the UEFI Bios (boot Times) or the fact that my earlier setup ran “hand me down” Velociraptor’s that sounded and felt like they were constantly seeking (overall file access speed). AnandTech has a great article on SRT. If you plan on using the SRT just make sure your drives are set to RAID mode in the UEFI or you’ll have to reinstall Windows like I had to after you realize that.

Lucid Virtu’s Quick Sync

Quick Sync lets you use both your integrated and discrete GPU and delegate which tasks go to your which, letting you run both with a minimal performance hit going to Quick Sync’s overhead. So you could for example encode a video with the onboard GPU and play a game with your discrete GPU. So far I haven’t really leveraged the technology and have spent more time fighting it, which was mostly due to my limited knowledge with it. A few things that tripped me up at first are listed below; once again AnandTech had a great article had that helped me through my issues :

  1. To decide which GPU is your default you hook up your monitor to the desired GPU’s display port. So to have everything go to the discrete GPU and offload encoding jobs to the onboard GPU you need to use the display ports on your discrete GPU and vice versa
    1. I haven’t tired it yet but I assume if you want multiple monitors they all need to be on the same GPU when using Quick Sync
    2. When testing with the onboard GPU as my default I had a lot of issues keeping Windows Aero enabled. Also the AMD catalyst Driver would state that it couldn’t find a suitable GPU to work with even though it worked just fine once Quick Sync enabled it. So I switched to the discrete GPU and those problems went away.

The part swapping and data migration between the 3 systems went good overall except for the tail end when I was preparing to finally make the i7-2600K my main system. After researching airflow setups I noticed that I had the Cool Master Hyper 212 Plus on the wrong way. Its fans were pulling air off the GPU and pushing it out through the top of the case, it was supposed to pull air from the front of the case and pushing it out the back. So I removed it and put it the right way, at the same time I installed a PCIe wifi card. Little did I know I had bent a pin on the CPU socket when putting the CPU cooler back on, so when I tried turning on the system it wouldn’t boo t. Because I put in the PCIe wifi card in as well I thought this was the issue, but after removing it the issue remained. So I fell down a 2 hour troubleshooting hole swapping out every component in the system except the CPU, what I eventually found out was that the system would only boot if the RAM was in single channel mode.  It wasn’t until after I contacted ASrock support for a RMA and packed the motherboard that I noticed a bent pin on the CPU socket. Out of curiosity I looked up the pin out diagram for the chipset and bent pin was associated with the DDR3 channels. Luckily ASrock didn’t catch the bent pin and sent me a new one in the mail about 2 weeks later. Once I reinstalled with all the components it booted up just fine!

In the process of putting together my new PC I came across some interesting personal revelations:

  1. Either the Cooling on my i7-920 setup was horrible inefficient and/or the HD 5800 is an extremely hot card. When I was building the i7-2600K I was still using the i7-920 as my daily PC, and when I replaced the HD 5800 in it with the GT 220 I was amazed how much cooler my office got. Now that I’m using the HD 5800 in my i7-2600K setup my room doesn’t feel nearly as hot as when it was in my i7-920 setup. This leads me to believe it was more of a cooling issue since my new case has an obscene amount of fans (2 x 200mm, 1 x 140mm and 5 x 120mm) and enough space to do proper cable management.
  2. All this time I had no clue how to tell which side did what on a case fan until a friend told me to check the side of the fan housing. Turns out there are arrows that show the directional rotation of the fan and which way air travels through the fan. If they aren’t there then air flows into the open end and goes out fan grill end.
  3. While the NXT case gave me plenty of room for unobstructed airflow and cable management it doesn’t fit under my desk as well as the Antec 900 did, especially when it comes to accessing the top mounted USB ports. Also the Cool Master Hyper 212 Plus was so tall that it bumped against the 3rd side mounted 200mm fan I wanted to install so I may get a lower profile CPU cooler in the future.
  4. I still have no clue how to properly setup or use front mounted headset and microphone ports. For some reason I can never get them to work like I want to: speakers using the back ports and the microphone using the front ports.

 

 

Posted in Intel SRT, Lucid Virtu, Personal | Leave a comment
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