Wrangling with Antec’s new P180 case proved one of the most challenging upgrades I’ve had in a long time. Granted, it’s been a while since I upgraded my system, but taking into account all of the funky cases I’ve owned over the years, the P180 is definitely up there in terms of complexity. The results of your efforts, though, will be rewarding.
The finished system, in all its glory
The impetus to upgrade came from talking to folks at the Intel Developer Forum. My computers have not been upgraded in nearly three years. I didn’t see a need. My sole game of interest is EverQuest, which doesn’t require a top-of-the-line machine. Granted, I have to turn off particle effects when raiding, but that’s because without them I simply can’t see what’s happening when 20 or more people are casting spells at once, not because of system lag.
So I got by just fine with a 3 GHz Pentium 4 PC with an ATI Radeon 9800 Pro video card. My only hardware upgrade in recent years had been the Radeon, after my old GeForce 4 died (ever see the fan on a video card freeze in place ?).
My main reason for wanting to upgrade was two-fold : one, I wanted better video, and the move to PCI Express was limiting my AGP options. I could get a new AGP card, but the performance bump would be marginal. Second, my P4s were old Northwoods and ran ridiculously hot. Even with a Thermaltake XP-90 heatsink and fan, the heat coming from the case was insane. The case sat under my desk and heat would build up, like a cloud, and eventually assault me in a wave. In the winter, it was welcome. During the summer, it most definitely was not.
I began my quest for parts on the Sunday after a lovely six-hour drive back from IDF. After doing some homework (on THG, of course), I settled on an Athlon 64 because it was more gamer-oriented and didn’t double as a hot plate like some Intel chips. Glowing reviews steered me toward the MSI K8N Neo4 Platinum motherboard. Not needing a super high-end video card, I settled on an ATI Radeon X800 XL card.
Much to my dismay, my preferred retail outlet, PC Club, didn’t have all of the pieces I wanted. All they had was the Neo4. I was forced to journey up the street to that bane of technology retail, Fry’s Electronics. There, I got the AMD Athlon 64 4000+ CPU, a 530-watt Enermax power supply and the P180 case.
The Antec’s unique power supply location, with the 120 mm fan to cool it.
I would recycle the memory, 1 GB of Mushkin PC-3200 RAM, a Maxtor 120 GB SATA drive and Sound Blaster Audigy from my original primary system. I also would strip my secondary system and move its memory and hard drive into the previous main system, taking its DVD drives and using it in my new Antec/Athlon machine.
However, with a looming deadline on a large feature story, I had to hold off on finishing construction because down time was not in the cards. The main system is also my work computer. So the following day I finished my feature (on AMD, ironically). With that done, I dismantled my former main system to remove its hard drive and floppy. The hard disk from the old secondary system went into the former main computer. Because both the original main and secondary systems had the same motherboard - Asus P4P800 SE - the new secondary system would reboot with a new drive with no problems. This saved me a ton of time.