Blue Wilhelm: Clem's new rig

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ClemSnide Posted: Fri, Nov 20 2009 12:40 AM

As many of you know, I've been shopping for a new computer. My old one is ...well, it's never run well, and it's given me a distaste for Asus and nVidia products. Its K8U-X motherboard supposedly supports SATA, but I found that I had to have a PATA drive to hold the boot record, since the weird driver methodology wouldn't allow the SATA drive (though visible in the BIOS) to work until they ran as an executable program. Both Asus and nVidia (who made the controller via their ULI division) played the blame game when it came to finding drivers, so I decided not to give them any more of my money. But beside that, it supports all of 2 GB of memory; while perfectly adequate for Windows XP and Mac OS, it was a frustrating mess when it came to Vista and 7. And its AGP processor slot was just antiquated, even with a Sapphire Radeon HD 3850 installed in it.


I estimated that the technology was five years old, which is about the lifespan of a non-Apple PC. I had been adding to it slowly over the years, and could reuse considerable of Captain Clunker's peripherals and components. But really, I wanted to build this from the ground up-- my first complete system build-- to be a good midrange system that would have value over the next six years. Have I succeeded? We'll see in 2015.

I'll post concerning the process of building it, with pictures natch, but for now we'll have to be content with just a shopping list. That Radeon HD 5850 is still hard to find, at least at a non-usurious price; Amazon now charges $35 more for it than when I placed the order, so I'm not cancelling it to start waiting again for (say) a 5970!

Bought specifically for new system:

Component Make & model Price Source
Motherboard Gigabyte GA-P55-UD3R $131.99 Amazon
Case Cooler Master HAF 932 $158.99 MicroCenter
Processor Intel i7 860 $243.80 MicroCenter
Memory Patriot 4GB 1600 MHz 7-7-7-20 $104.99 Amazon
SSD OCZ Agility 60 GB $155.00 TigerDirect
SSD bracket $5.42 MicroCenter
CPU heatsink & fan Prolimatech Megahalems with Noctua NF-P12 $86.49 Sidewinder
DVD drive Samsung 22x $25.40 MicroCenter
Fan controller NZXT Sentry 2 $27.99 Amazon
Graphics Sapphire ATi Radeon 5850 $265.59 Amazon
TOTAL $1,205.65

Moved from old system:

PSU Corsair 620W modular $100.00 Amazon
Monitor Dell SP2008WFP $120.00 Staples
Keyboard Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 $75.00 Staples
Mouse Logitech MX Revolution $55.00 Staples
Keypad Belkin Nostromo n52 Speedpad $45.00 GameStop
OS Windows 7 OEM $103.87 MicroCenter
Data HD WD Caviar Green 1 TB SATA 3.0Gb/s $76.28 MicroCenter
Extra HD WD Caviar SE 160 GB SATA 3.0Gb/s $25.00 No idea


(And a scanner I got for free, and a Brother HL2170W laser printer that's used by my networked Macs also.)

A few notes on components:

Cooler Master HAF 932 case

I just loved the way it looks and the size and quantity of the fans. I also wanted a full-tower case so that I wouldn't have to strain to get new aprts into it, and so that it could hold anything I threw at it.

Gigabyte GA-P55-UD3R motherboard

Gigabyte has well-reviewed products, and this middle-of-the-line motherboard had the combination of price and the features I wanted. I am limiting myself in the choice of a single GPU setup, but with the new Radeon card, this likely won't be an issue.

Intel Core i7 860 CPU

Nothing against AMD (two of my systems have used their processors), but Intel's Core i7 is the cutting edge in performance. I decided on the 860 instead of the 920 somewhat arbitrarily, because there are good things to be said on each side; but I didn't see much of a real-world advantage to the triple channel memory of the Nehalem line, and I liked the speed adjustment of the Lynnfield.

Patriot 4 GB memory kit

Many writers say you don't need anything faster than 1333 MHz memory for the stock i7 860, but this will cover any future overclocking. I had my eye on a less expensive OCZ kit, rated at 8-8-8-24, which is average for that breed; but the extra $20 for the slightly improved timings seemed like it was worth it. (Amazon has since raised their price to $129, as has Newegg, so that was a good deal.)

OCZ Agility 60 GB SSD

I wanted an SSD for two main reasons: Speeding up the OS and speeding up World of Warcraft. It and Windows 7 will fit with room to spare, and I don't particularly care about whether other apps have to reside on the mechanical HD. The Agility is that comforting cusp of high speed and low price; Soupstyle, a reader here at HH, pointed me toward a rebate from TigerDirect that made their price the best (who'da thunk it? They seldom have the best prices for anything).

Prolimatech Megahalems, Noctua NF-P12 heat sink & fan

I actually agonized over this one, but the Megahalems seems always to get top marks, and Silent PC Review notes that the Noctua fan here has a considerably lower noise level at all speeds than competitors. It's not the highest in cubic feet per minute (CFM), but Prolimatech recommends that their heatsink be used with a 57 CFM fan, which is about what the NF-P12 puts out at maximum speed (1300 RPM) with an acoustical pressure of 19.8 dBA-- which is much quieter than most fans. had both for a good price. Yes, this is the Rev B, which has the LGA1156-compatible mount.

Sapphire ATi Radeon 5850

Back when I was initially designing the system, the 4890 looked like the card to get. Fortunately I'm a HH reader, and slurped down all they had to read on the new line of AMD's graphics cards. The 5850 represents that sweet spot of price and performance; tied to what many would consider a smaller monitor, my resolution needs aren't that great, and my favorite game (World of Warcraft) would consider this overkill. But remember, this design must keep me satisfied for at least six years-- I think the DirectX 11 support and feature set of the 58xx series will allow that. And if they don't, well, the GPU is the easiest thing in the case to replace. I chose Sapphire because I've had good experiences with them before, though I kind of wish I'd have waited for a VaporX version. Please do not pay attention to people who say that I chose it because I'm secretly in love with Agent Ruby. We're just good friends.


As for the existing components: I really love the Belkin Nostromo keypad, now sold in a slightly updated form by Razer. It's got the controls I need (although programming it is a bit clunky). The WD Caviar Green isn't there for power savings, though I suppose any power saved with that CPU and GPU is a good thing; no, it was merely the cheapest 1 TB drive I could find! But Western Digital has been a reliable choice for years now, and I've used their products in many projects with no complaints. I may have to get a TV tuner and fill up the space with timeshifted TV shows and videos, since at the moment Captain Clunker's lone HD has all of 60 GB stored on it. The older, smaller WD drive will be used for a dedicated OS drive backup.


(Why "Blue Wilhelm?" Well, my Macs are named Beige Victoria and Silver Victoria; my NAS is named Europa; and IBM was once called Big Blue. I use that color when it comes to Windows despite the tenuous connection between the IBM-PC and today's PCs. And Kaiser Bill #1 seemed to suit the Windows attitude more than, say, Abe Lincoln.)


So there you have it: Clem's New Rig! When work permits I'm going to mount the CPU and HSF onto the motherboard, while waiting for the GPU to come. Stay tuned!

"I didn't cry when Bambi's mother was shot... but I cried when HAL was turned off."

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Remember that black friday is your friend here.  You can nab cheap hard drives.  I think theres a 2tb drive at office depot for $150.

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ClemSnide replied on Wed, Nov 25 2009 8:56 PM

Nice price, but the 1 TB is already bought and I won't be upgrading for a looong time.

"I didn't cry when Bambi's mother was shot... but I cried when HAL was turned off."

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