I’ve just finished a complete rebuild of my PC. I thought I’d share my experiences with the forum to hopefully help people in their decision making and preparation (also to brag a little). My initial impressions are great. It’s stable, and fantastic for gaming (crysis full detail at 1900 x 1280 is very playable)
My Old Rig
I’ve always built my own computers from scratch, but due to Uni and getting a house my PC went without an upgrade for several years. I finally got fed up with not being able to play any new games at Christmas, so decided it was time for an upgrade. I was running the following
Xaser III SUPER tower case (Steel Chassis, 7 fans)
Generic PSU at 400w
Radeon 9600 pro AGP
1 x Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 160 GB (ATA)
1 x Seagate Barracuda 40GB (ATA) (not sure on version but very old)
512 MB DDR Ram
AMD Athlon 2GHZ with stock cooling
Samsung DVD RW
AOC 17” CRT Monitor (was greening around the edges, but lasted me 8 years))
I have to admit, I have a fondness for this PC. It saw me through 3 years of University, and I played some of my favourite games on it (System Shock 2, Half life 2 and Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 to name a few). But the relationship had grown sour – itwas just not delivering the goods.
My New PC
I spent about 3 weeks researching my new PC, and Pricing it up again and again. Having taken into account budget (around £1300), component availability, and future proofing (everything in the system is able to be over clocked if necessary) I decided on the following
Xaser III SUPER Tower case
Corsair 750TX PSU
ASUS Crosshair III Republic of Gamers motherboard
Onboard Creative soundcard
Phenom II 965 black edition (125w version)
4GB (2 x 2GB) Kingston Hyper X DDR3 1333MHZ at CL7
Zalman cnps9500A LED CPU Cooler
Sapphire Radeon 5870
D-Link Wireless G PCI card
ASUS 26inch VW 266H Monitor
Windows 7 OEM 64 bit
There were a few key decisions along the selection path.
If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. Cracking case due to it’s size (even my 11 inch card looks small in it), its 7 silent fans, easily accessible USB, Firewire, and Audio, it’s mounting rails for drives (I can mount and connect a HD in under 20 seconds), and its front mounted Fan controller. The only issue is it’s obscene weight (17kg empty). After the build I nearly killed myself getting it back upstairs (and I’m in good shape)
The cost of the Phenom II 965 vs the Core i7 was a killer. Not just the CPU, but the MB and RAM was going to cost me far more. I decided that the things I was going to use it for (Gaming, internet browsing and the occasional DVD) would benefit from more money on Graphics. I debated between the 955 and the 965, but the difference was only £15 so I went for the big boy. I went for the Zalman cooler because it was pretty
This one was recommended a couple of places, and the reviews were great so I bought it. Didn’t really compare this to others, as I wanted a top quality base to my system. The onboard sound had great feedback; it has a host of extra features and supports full Crossfire.
Not my area of expertise, so again I went with a recommendation from TomsHardware.
Basically I went for the cheapest quality branded DDR3 RAM in a dual channel format. These had strong timings CL7 compared to other’s I considered, so I went with them. Strangely Ebuyer was the only place that has a decent selection of DDR3 RAM in dual channel kits, which pretty much forced my hand as to which merchant to use
I used to love my old GeForce 2 MX 400 card, as it was stable and excellent value for money when I built my 1st PC. But everytime since the best cards for my budget was always an ATI. I knew I was always going to go for the 5870 or the 5850. The decison was hard, but I decided on the 5870 because
1. The price difference was about £70 – less than I saved by choosing the phenom
2. I wanted to be able to upgrade for crossfire in the future. If I bought a 5850 I could only go to 2 x 5850 (5850 +5870 didnt seem to benchmark as well), but by going to 5870 CF I could get the maximum life out of my machine.
3. I deserve the best (yes I know I could have hade to 5970, but the price was silly)
I saw this reccomended a few times in the Anandtech system builders guide. The price was competitive, and the reviews were OK. People said the image quality wasnt the best for DVD’s , but considering what I had been using, it was bound to be an improvement (I’m actually very happy with it, plus it is HUGE)
Not really a decision about the OS, more which version. I didn’t need most of the ultimate feature, so I went Home Premium 64 bit. Just wish I had thought about drivers first...
The single most annoying part of the build. Thanks Belkin for not making any 64 bit drivers for this thing. No matter what I tried I couldn’t get it to work. £20 I didn’t want to spend went on a new D-Link (and then it was a pain in the A$$ to get working properly). I’ll go into more detail in my next post .
I took a day off to dismantle my old C and build the new one, and it (mostly) went to plan, but took far longer than I was expecting. In my next post I’ll give my impressions of the parts, and my feelings on the build in general. I would do it now but I’m hungry and want some eggs!
I missed out the HD and DVD drive before. I used a WD Caviar Black 750 GB (Great Price, performance and 5 year warranty) and a cheap Sony DVD Drive (it was cheap and a name brand)
I basically made my decision on where to buy the components based on the following criteria:
1. Had I bought from the store before? I’d used Dabs and Savastore in the past without any major issues. It’s worth noting that Dabs have always been incredibly fast with my orders, regardless of the postage I’ve paid
2. Availability of components – this was mainly the ram and the cooler – RAM in dual channel was a pain to find from a reputable retailer. I settled on Ebuyer after extensive research (online surveys, magazine awards, feedback)
3. Price – Almost every single component I bought was listed cheaper at atleast 3 stores. However, I only wanted to deal with stores I trusted.
Following these criteria I managed to use just 4 suppliers
Components bought: Video card, Hard Disk Drive, PSU, CPU, Wireless Card
Packaging: Excellent packaging, overkill with the box size and the amount of air packs, but I like this approach
Delivery: Top Quality. Everything was on time. They left one package with a neighbour ( Ilive in a nice area so this works well for me) and one at the post office. They used HDNL and Royal Mail for delivery. It is worth mentioning that I have had problems with HDNL before, but they were good this time round. I went for free delivery and everything was delivered within 3 days.
Components bought: RAM, CPU Cooler
Packaging: Good Packaging. Maybe would have liked a little more for the RAM, but it was all marked Fragile and arrived in perfect condition
Delivery: Top Quality. They took about 4 days to deliver, but I went with the free option so this is fine. Picked it up from my local post office (delivered by ParcelForce)
Components bought: Monitor, Motherboard
Packaging: Great Packaging, no complaints here
Delivery: Great: It was delivered in 3 days using free delivery by interlink express. I wasn’t in so they took it to a depot that was very close by. My girlfriend went to pick it up and they helped her carry it to the car. Great experience
Components bought: OS, DVD Drive
Packaging: Great Packaging, no complaints here
Delivery: Poor. Very poor. This went through HDNL (Home delivery Network Limited), who did a good job on the Savastore.com order. My girlfriend left the house to meet me at 4.30. we returned after dinner to find it propped up against the door. My door is 2 feet from the street, and it was in full view. Any passer-by could have taken it, or it could have rained (this actually happened to my GF last year with HDNL). There was also no card through the door, so if it had been taken, I wouldn’t have known. I emailed Amazon to complain and ask how I could avoid this in the future, and the response was a clear copy/paste job. I’ll use Amazon for DVD’s or things that fit through the door, but never components again.
Next up will be my impression of the components and the build experience, and I'll try to do some benchmarking over the weekend
1st off, this took me far longer than I thought it would. I haven’t built a whole PC for around 5 – 6 years, so time had made the whole process seem quick and rosy. I took a day off work to do it and I needed it.
Secondly, my old PC was dusty as heck! It took me over an hour to empty and clean the case thoroughly. I used a Hoover to get dust out, and then cleaned the inside with a (slightly) damp cloth to get as much dust out as I could. I cleaned all the individual fans and filters, removed the old components, and made it look pretty again!
I won’t go through each of the individual steps (there are guides for that already), but I will give my impressions on each of the components. Bear in mind I am not an expert, so my experiences will be a fairly accurate description of what you’ll experience
Case – Xaser III Super tower case
What can I say?! I bought this case about 6 years ago when I was drunk after a night out. Completely unnecessary at the time, but a future-proofed godsend of a son-of-a-gun now! This thing makes my 5870 look tiny. Seriously, this is a quality piece of kit. Drives are installed in seconds, there are 7 (count them!) silent fans, and a fan speed controller. The only thing I would say is that this is heavy. I play football 3 times a week, and I’m in the gym twice a weeks as well, and it damn near gave me a hernia trying to lift this thing with my new PSU in.
PSU – Corsair 750 TX
I have bought jewels for women that have come in worse packaging than this. Came in a beautiful felt pouch thing, really well wrapped in foam too. Lots of connections so it’ll be good for crossfire or multiple HD’s in the future. There were plenty of cable ties to keep everything neat too
HDD – WD Caviar Black 750 GB
Came in a super protective casing (think of bubble boy). It seems quiet and fast so far, and I have no complaints so far.
DVD Drive – Sony Optimarc DVD RW
It was cheap and made by Sony. Not the quietest, but not atrocious either. Haven’t written any disks yet, so I can’t comment on its performance
Motherboard – Asus Crosshair III
A star performer! Fit into my case with ease and looks good to boot. It has so many useful features! The LED POSTER lets you see where a PC is having issues. It has numerous BIOS features for over-clocking. The bundled sound card is excellent, giving 7.1 support. It has enough connections for a huge number of drives, and has two full PCIe slots + 1 PCI 2.0 slot. This isn’t blocked by dual slot PCI cards, which is helpful. The USB and case control connectors are easy to arrange due to a nicely labelled block that makes attaching easy. Great piece of kit. Only issue was some of the drivers and utilities didn’t want to work with Windows 7 64bit (such as the bundled Kaspersky AV). Nothing essential, but just a little annoying
It’s blue, its DDR3 1333Mhz, and it works at CL7. I like it, but I have no idea how well it will OC
CPU Cooler – Zalman CNPS9500A LED
I love this CPU cooler! It looks good and is practically silent at lower speeds. However it is big (fits easily in my case, but may cause problems for others). The Zalman website says it comes with easily applied thermal grease with a brush. However min came with a little metal tube. This was much harder to apply ( I used a drivers license, a casino membership card, and 30 minutes to get a good coating). Also there isn’t much of it, so you really need every drop. It was easy to clip on, and seems pretty secure. It glows blue, and this is nice.
Graphics - Radeon 5870
Mwa Ha Ha! Love it! Performs spectacularly well, and was doddle to get working. No driver issues so far. It came with a game, but I haven’t played it yet (Crysis, BioShock and Elder Scrolls IV have stolen my time so far). I can play Crysis at full detail in full 1080p with no issue
Monitor – Asus VW266h
It’s 26 inches, has 1080p as its native resolution, and in built speakers. Good selection of connectors (DVI and HDMI), however the headphone jack is in a stupid place around the back. The picture quality is great in gaming, and reasonable in DVD watching. Good value for money!
Right! The single worst part of my experience was getting the Belkin card to work in windows 7! No matter what I tried it would not work. New drivers? No! Re-seated card? No! Praying to Jesus? NO! After an evening of trying to find drivers I decided to buy a new one. The D-link arrived the next day, so I plugged it in, installed the drivers and... IT DIDNT WORK!!! F^<k!!! I tried the windows 7 64bit and 32bit drivers. No Luck. Then the Windows Vista 64bit and 32bit. No Luck. I was all about to give up, but thought I’d try the (Very old) windows XP 32bit drivers, and BAM! It worked!
Overall I enjoyed the build, and had no hardware problems. It booted first time, and installed windows 7 without a hitch. I would definitely recommend you check the compatibility of your expansion cards with windows 7 before you build, especially your networking!