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Sandy Bridge build experience

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January 24, 2011 10:16:10 AM

Hey! :hello: 

I have just finished building and testing my new rig, so I thought you might like some input, after patiently answering my questions over last week.

These are the components:
*Asus P8P67 PRO
*Intel Core I7 2600k
*Corsair Vengeance 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3 1600MHz CL8
*XFX HD 6970 2GB
*Coolermaster Silent Pro Gold 800W
*Western Digital Caviar Green 2TB SATAII
*Corsair 600T Case
*Pioneer 12x BD-ROM & DVD±RW
*Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bits

So, the system runs fine, after a couple of early reboots (updating the BIOS seems to have solved the problem), assembling it was a joy (except for the CPU cooler) and I'm loving it. Having said that, let me state what I think of each component.

I had originally purchased a Noctua D14 cooler, but after reading it has issues with my very tall RAM modules I decided to return it. Expect some posts from me asking for alternatives in the Cooling board :D 

I like this motherboard. It does have some issues with the earliest BIOS, but the latest stable release works great for me. The ASUS utils are really handy for checking temperatures and voltages, so you can monitor your overclocking and tweaking from within Windows. I hope it will age well!

I had some doubts about the PSU, after having read some negative opinions on Coolermaster units, but I really have no complaints about this one: extremely silent, extremely stable, semi-modular, so easy to deal with the cables. Perhaps the cable for the 4-pin connector that goes next to the CPU could be a bit longer, it is just long enough for me, but my case is huge. On the other hand, less cable also means less problems figuring out where to stick the excess.

I am quite unhappy with Intel's CPU cooler. It's rubbish :pfff:  . I need to check again that I have assembled it correctly (harder than it seems! I assembled it with the motherboard lying on my kitchen table and it left marks on the wood... bloody thing!). I get *very* high temperatures when testing with Prime95. By very high temperatures I mean I had to shut the program off when I saw the temps approaching 90deg and not showing signs of stabilising. I'm planning to buy a new cooler soon, so it shouldn't be too big an issue.

I'm really happy with the graphics card, it's the size of an alien spaceship (or a Dubai skyscraper) but it performs really well :bounce:  and doesn't overheat at all. I will consider buying a second one in a few months and run them on crossfire. I was considering the ASUS one first, but then found a deal on the XFX. I think either is a good buy. I went for the 6970 so I wouldn't have to bother upgrading the 6950 (the XFX 6970 was only a tad more expensive than the ASUS 6950).

The hard drive is slowish (and brings down my score in the Win 7 overall performance meter, which I don't give a heck about) but I knew it when I bought it. If I ever notice it slowing down the overall performance I will buy an SSD, but I think they are still too overpriced.

The memory is great, but I regret not having been able to find the Ripjaws, which aren't this tall, since it restricts my choice of an adequate cooler. I bought it because memory running at 1.6V is, in principle, less compatible with Sandy Bridge, but many people seem to be running 1.6V modules without any issues.

The Pioneer BD-ROM is OK. Haven't tested it with a blu-ray disk yet, but I don't think there will be any issues with it.

And I'm in love with the case! :love:  When I first saw it I thought I couldn't believe how huge it was. I even considered sticking in some furniture and renting it. However, after you assemble all the components it's not that big. It's extremely well built and solid, and the cable management is just brilliant. Working with it was a piece of cake, the airflow is great (you may want to add some extra fans if you plan to have another graphics card and many more HDDs, but it's not my case) and I love the looks. The white LEDs cannot be switched off, unfortunately, but they are not overly bright (I use my TV for screen, and was worried about the LEDs being too distracting) and fade a bit if you turn down the fan speed. I like the fact that it doesn't have a side window, but I'm aware that this may be a downside for some people. The fans are really quiet, the only thing I can hear is the graphics card or CPU fan when the system is on full load, and even those are pretty quiet. I foresee the dust filter will really come in handy.

Now I just wish my DSL connection wasn't so utterly awful so I could download some new Steam games faster :D 

Anyway, let me hear (read) any questions, opinions, experiences... :) 
January 24, 2011 10:29:25 AM

I agree that stock cooler sucks, I never use one even if I don't OC because as you noticed - they are a bitch to install and also pretty crap - though it sounds to me that it is not on right, CPU should not be cooking that hot - what are the idle temps?

I am curious about the Asus issues you had - I just ordered a PC with the Asus board and hear I may ned to update it. Which brings me to my next question - how did you go about updating the Bios? I have never actual done a Bios update on any of my PCs (bad I know!) so would defiantely appreciciate a noddys guide to how you did it - either here or a Pm would be greatly appreciated.
January 24, 2011 10:51:28 AM

My idle temps are ~35-38deg. On BIOS (30%-60% load) they are about 60deg. I will check the assembly this evening, since those high temps are definitely not normal. I've read many people have issues when assembling these coolers.

Not many issues with the ASUS mobo, my RAM runs at 1600MHz and the first BIOS didn't like that, it kept saying the overclock had failed (native speed is 1333MHz) and making me reboot. Not a problem since I updated it.

Normally, it's not necessary to update the BIOS if everything works fine, but in this case there are some slight improvements to HDD performance too, so you may want to do it nonetheless. If the default BIOS works fine for you, I'd wait a couple of months until more issues have been addressed and possible performance improvements have been added.

This mobo comes with a series of tools that let you download and flash the BIOS, and create a backup of the old one in case the new one doesn't work (which is GREAT!). Just install the utilities that come in the enclosed CD.

The automatic updater may not find the most recent stable release, so just go to the ASUS website for your mobo, and download it (I believe the latest stable release is version 1003, but do check it, and I wouldn't risk it with a beta, even if you have that option). The utils have an option to install a BIOS from a file, so just use that. You can add a pretty picture too, so you see that when your system boots :) 

I believe all of this is explained in the manual, and you can find the same information on the ASUS website too. In any case, best of luck :) 
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January 24, 2011 11:32:24 AM

Excellent, easy is good. I will find out when I build it tonight or tomorrow. Many thanks for the info.

If in doubt on a cooler the Hyper212+ remains my default go to cooler for a CPU especially as you can equip it with a second fan for extra cooling power. At idle with just one fan it had my i5 750 at low 20sC. In fact, in the Overclocking forum there was a thread where someone posted his temps with stock fan and Hyper on an i5 760 which I believe runs hotter.
http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/forum/forum2.php?config=t...

Again that was with just one fan equipped. I am sure there are plenty of better coolers around though probably not at such a price
January 25, 2011 7:11:36 AM

OK, it looks like the heatsink wasn't correctly assembled after all. After pushing it down again and resecuring the pins I get the same idle temps but the load temps never go over 72deg on full load. I've got some ideas for a replacement cooler, but now it's a little less pressing.
!