The New Machine… It Lives!

In an amazing bit of shipping magic, everything I ordered from Amazon.com on the evening of Monday, October 11th arrived on my doorstep on Friday the 15th.  This despite the fact that I opted for free shipping and that my order shipped from four different warehouses and one 3rd party vendor and came via three different shipping companies. (UPS, FedEx, and the US Post Office.)

Actually, there were three exceptions.

I went out and bought the motherboard and the case at Fry’s during the week.  They were having a sale that made it worth paying the sales tax.  That was two of the exceptions.

And then there was the CPU.  The most expensive piece, the main focus of the assembly, the first thing you install, the star of the show.

As late as Thursday morning it was still listed as “shipping soon” at Amazon.com.  I figured I would have to wait until the following weekend to start putting things together.

Then it was suddenly flagged as shipped with an estimated arrival of Saturday the 16th.  And sure enough, Gabe, our regular postman, dropped it by the house Saturday morning. Go Amazon!  And Gabe!  Building could commence!

Of course, the first thing you have to do is also the most nerve wracking.

You have to put the CPU on the motherboard.  You have to take the most expensive item, a small square worth $300 and mount it on the 1,366 pin array on the $200 motherboard.

And the documentation for both the CPU and the motherboard pretty clearly say, “Don’t fuck this up or you’re screwed!”

Considering that the last time I mounted a CPU on a motherboard it had few enough pins that you could reasonably expect to be able to count them, I was a bit nervous.  I spread everything out on the kitchen table, tried to follow the nearly similar instructions from the two guides, and… heh… stuck it in.

Intel Core i7 Installed

It seemed to slot in okay.  But, of course, you don’t know if you’ve screwed up until you put everything else together and turn on the system.

Then came the only other tricky part, installing the CPU cooler.  And this was only made difficult by the woefully inadequate documentation.

Well, it wasn’t the worst documentation ever, but it seemed to skip over the bits where I had questions.  And even the video on their site cut between scenes right before I could get an answer to my worry.

Still, I gleaned enough to mount the giant heat sink on the CPU.

It Also Gets HBO

You can see the tiny stock Intel heat sink in the background.  And that table cloth is 100% cotton.  No static.

After that is was pretty easy.  The case was nice and roomy, and only one cable had a problem reaching.

And when I finally had everything together and plugged in, it came up on the first go.  My fear of an afternoon spent finding the flaw abated.

The final parts manifest was:

Total price: $1,119

The rebate about cancels out the sales tax, so I’ll take that as a wash.

It turned out that I had a good Antec 550 watt power supply sitting in my old Alienware case from when I had to upgrade to install that ATi x1950 board in it.  That card was a beast, arguably the fastest AGP video card available, with two power connectors and a loud fan.  It went back to the shop twice.  It and my two dead 8800 GT boards are the reason I am staying away from high-end video cards from now on.

And since I could drop the expense of a power supply, plus I found a cheaper RAM kit (no big heat sinks on them, but oh well), I opted for the GTS450 video card.  DX 11, low power requirements, runs cool, and is faster than my GTS250 to boot.

I know, bigger, badder cards are only another $30-50 up the food chain, but I’ve had such good luck with mid-range cards, so I’m sticking to them.  The longest lasting, most reliable cards I’ve had have been the nVidia GT6600, the ATi 800XL, and my current GTS250.

So there is my system.

Granted, if I decide I want to go nuts over clocking or go the SLI route with video cards I will need a bigger power supply, but for now I’m okay.

The system is running.  The Cooler Master HAF 922 case is awesome.  It is big, as bit as my old Alienware case, but it is nice.  The big fans in it move a lot of air quietly.  If I had thought about it at the time, I would have installed the CPU heatsink facing up, as there is a great big 200mm exhaust fan at the top of the case above the CPU.  My only worry is that I am going to spill my drink down that big grill in the top of the case.

Now I’ve got to reload software and get used to Windows 7.  It seems to be going okay so far.

How good will DirectX 10 (and 11) look?

12 thoughts on “The New Machine… It Lives!

  1. Carson

    That nerve-wracking-ness is the reason why I’ll always pay a few % more on a system and select the parts but get the shop to assemble it for me.

    Like

  2. We Fly Spitfires

    Sweet. I love reading about other people building PCs :) And yes, I have exactly the same fear with my HAF case! Or rather. I’m worried I’ll knock a paper clip into the fan and it will explode ;) Best to keep drinks far away in any case.

    And yeah, I’ll agree with Carson. Even though I’ve built plenty of PCs in my life I do find the whole experience quite nerve-racking so I leave it to others who have proper insurance :)

    Like

  3. SynCaine

    DX10 in EVE is impressive, definitely check that out. For a true test though, you would need to grab Crysis and see how high you can push it. At high-ish settings, that game is art.

    Like

  4. EGW

    Nice system. Congrats.

    I need a new desktop system as well. Currently playing SWG on my laptop. Runs fine, but it’s not the same as playing on a desktop.

    I agree with Carson as well. I prefer to pay a little extra and have the guys at the shop assemble it.

    Like

  5. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    “At high-ish settings, that game is art.”

    Now don’t be stirring up Roger Ebert again.

    I could have paid Fry’s $10 to mount the CPU, but I was overcome by techno-machismo.

    Like

  6. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    @Cedia – Amazon.com was cheaper across the board for the items I was looking into. The prices were lower, there was no sales tax to pay (about 10% for me in Silicon Valley, so a considerable item), and shipping was free.

    I compared across Amazon, NewEgg, ZipZoomFly, and TigerDirect. Amazon won.

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  7. H

    Once built a high end graphics workstation for the people who did the movie Finding Nemo. We’re talking several thousands of dollars worth.

    Now, we’re talking work experience here, not a full time professional gig. The pucker factor just before you turn it on for the first time is intense.

    Don’t me started on the documentation differences between mobo and case manufacturers. If there is one thing that requires standardization its the front panel audio…!!!!!

    Like

  8. Jason

    Nice build, but I have to wonder why you went full hog on the CPU and then skimped so heavily on the graphics card. The 450s aren’t bad by any stretch, but will be a not insignificant bottleneck on what is otherwise a really impressive system.

    Like

  9. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    @Jason – Well, I explained a bit of why the 450 in the post, but I will add that the CPU is going to have to last me for 3-4 years, while I’ll likely swap video out video cards a couple of times during the lifetime of the system.

    When your video card is the constraint, and this one isn’t going to be much of one for the games I play, it is usually pretty easy to adjust the settings. When you are CPU constrained, you are generally hosed.

    Like

  10. Jason

    Eh, I dunno. If you were trying to avoid being CPU constrained, you went way over the top for that. You could have gone with an i5 paired with the GTS 450 for probably half of what you spent on the i7 and had a more than adequate gaming system. That was my point; if you’re not GPU bottlenecked on a 450, you have way too much CPU for your needs. If you’re CPU bottlenecked on a 450, then you’re probably GPU bottlenecked as well, and far worse.

    Like

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