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 HDInternet.com 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.

4 comments:

  1. Nice post, Scott.

    I build my own computers too and have started getting the itch again. The two things I want are very strong graphics and fast SSD both of which shoot the price too high for me to pull the trigger.

    In my old computer, I did get the 10000RPM WD Raptor - makes it still feel fast despite being about 4 years old.

    BTW, with the video card, do you think you would do it differently or are you happy now that it is working?

    Mark

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  2. The 10,000 RPM HDD was out of stock when I ordered. I wanted it, but considering that my old computer had fried, I wasn't going to wait an undetermined amount of time for it to be shipped.

    I am extremely happy with this AMD & ATI setup. I remember horror stories, and had a few personal ones of my own, when dealing with ATI prior to them being purchased by AMD. This graphics card flies. I have no problems with DirectX based CAD (mainly Alibre). I have no problems with OpenGL based CAD (mainly Solid Edge) but it's use is limited at home -- I don't push the system very hard with Edge. And I can crank the video settings all the way up on all games I play with incredible frames-per-second.

    The problem is not universal, so I'm still working with the video card's tech support to determine the actual cause and hopefully fix it (not just work around the problem) or replace the card.

    I picked this combination because of the data link between an AMD CPU, the North and South Bridges, and an ATI card including options for CrossfireX. Knowing the Radeon 5770 have a problem, and the other cards (5830 through 5970) are outside my price range, I probably would have gone with an nVidia card, especially knowing this.
    http://techreport.com/articles.x/19404/11?preview=632e240f7a143e4e07f029c875069c28
    and therefore changed my Motherboard to have a different North and South bridge which may have led to an Intel based system. But, considering I also built this with upgrades in mind, I'm really looking forward to the Phenom II X6 and a pair of 5850's when they become affordable.

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  3. Video Card Update:

    Even though I got the video card to be mostly stable and was happy that I never got a crash while working within an application, I still pursued tech support from Gigabyte because I could repeat the problem simply by pushing that little "Auto-Tune" button on the ATI Overdrive screen shown above. It appears that power management, or sleep state, was not the issue and I didn't want to risk crashing while running an important application.

    I have RMA the card to Gigabyte Customer Service and am waiting to see their test results. In the meantime, I'm happy I bought the motherboard with the built-in graphics. I can run email and internet and I can turn all graphics settings to their lowest setting and still "work" in my applications. It's not efficient and gives me headaches. Not to mention working at such low quality graphics is anything but fun. But, at least, I can still use the computer while I wait for reconciliation to this problem.

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  4. Nice written
    article about CPU.Thanks for sharing such post.Keep updating
    your blog like this in future too.

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