Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My New Desktop PC

A while ago I posted information on the trending topic of AMD and ATI.  The combination of CPU and GPU makers has been a match made in heaven for future tech, and I'm still very impressed with the direction the company is going and where the technology is moving.

As much as I wanted to hold out for an APU based system, I'm afraid that my old home computer had something else in mind.  The good news is, my wife gave me permission to buy a whole new system instead of just trying to find and replace the one bad component (which I later narrowed down to the motherboard - that's a story in and of itself).  Below are the components of my new system.  Although my old mouse, keyboard, and monitor worked fine, I just couldn't pass up getting spare parts and a nice 24" 1080p widescreen monitor.

The final cost was US$1334.89 not including the OS or Space Navigator.  I try to price entire systems below $1500, and I could have saved a lot of money by not getting the monitor.  I did save room for upgrades by buying components below the major price breaks.  For example, the AMD Phenom II X6 has a nice feature not included in the X4s - the Turbo CORE technology.  But, the price jump was too much to bear.  The motherboard will accommodate an X6 when the prices come down.  I also picked up the Radeon HD 5770 because the 5800- & 5900-series were up to twice the cost and more.  I have no benchmarks, but the Win7 performance experience gives good grades, 7.0 to 7.4 on all sections except for HDD speed, which is a 5.9.  I want an SSD, but they are still too expensive to justify for home use.

One thing I did notice right away is that my internet connection speed is lacking performance.  I knew this already, but it didn't matter because my old computer really couldn't process data much faster anyway.  Now, I am often waiting for data to come through my DSL pipeline before my computer has something to do.  Funny, QWest just came out with a new website promoting its 40Mbs speeds, yet I can still only get 1.5Mbs in my area.  Come on QWest!  What will it take to get decent internet speeds in my neighborhood?

The only downside to this setup is the video card.  After getting into regular use of the computer, my screen would show vertical strips or just be blank.
This happened after coming out of the S3 sleep state.  Upon searching the internet for days, I found out that the 5700 and 5800-series graphics cards have a known problem in which users were complaining about since Jan/Feb 2010.  ATI supposedly fixed this problem with a hotfix to Catalyst Driver 10.1 around March.  I installed my card with 10.6 drivers and updated to the latest (and current) 10.7 drivers with no success.  Rumor has it the fix only works on 5800-series cards.  Thankfully, one website shows that overclocking the voltage or underclocking the frequency of the video card through the Catalyst Overdrive tool resolves this problem.
I have been stable for the past 3 days, but the solution also prevents my computer from going into the complete sleep state it once did.  I wonder if altering the Windows Power Management features would also resolve the problem.  If keeping it out of sleep state is all that is required, I may just reinstall BOINC and put my computer to use since I can't save energy.  The good news, even with the reduced frequency, this setup still outperforms my old computer based on my experience and feel.