ASRock Mainboard contest

Over on Tom’s Hardware they have an interesting contest.

We’d like for you to tell us what sorts of board features/capabilities are currently important to you and what’s on your wishlist for your next-generation build.

Even if some of the features you want don’t exist yet, we’re sure that ASRock’s engineers would like to hear about what the best of you can dream up.

I thought about this for a bit and some pretty quick ideas came to mind.  I have been reviewing hardware and looking at all of the new stuff, and some things I have been hoping for just haven’t materialized yet.  So below is my comments on it:

Others have mentioned this, but here are some ideas combined together in what I would like to see.

1) Strip off legacy devices finally. Remove PS/2 ports, floppy, IDE, switch VGA for DVI.

2) Built in gigabyte ethernet and wireless. Both are needed.

3) Solid, well build, northbridge and southbridge heatsinks. Possibly active cooling options at least on the Northbridge. (Still giving plenty of clearance for aftermarket aircoolers.)

4) mini-lcd of some sort displaying system stats/info. RAM clockspeed, CPU vcore, etc. Instead of just the 2 digit post screen.

5) Overclocking options. Control buttons/knobs, able to change more than one facet of an overclock.

6) All pci-e slots run at 16x. Space them a little further apart to allow for dual-slot cards in crossfire to get a little breathing room.

Neat ideas that might not be for all or cost effective:

Lighted pci-e (mini and 16) connectors. ie, take the existing dark blue and make it a transparent blue with embedded LEDs. Button to disable on the board.

RAM slots that angle away from the CPU socket so we don’t have to worry about aftermarket CPU aircoolers hitting them.

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Thermaltake ARMOR A60 Review

New case review over on OCIA.net. Case reviews are one of the more difficult pieces of hardware to review, but also some of the most enjoyable pieces.

Why do I say that? Well moving an entire PC from case to case takes a little bit of time and effort, but I love seeing what case manufactures are coming up with. It is a far cry from the old beige boxes I used to work with. The industry has really moved towards the enthusiast end.

Yet every case is different and it is fascinating to see how the different ones try to solve different issues.

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Patriot Gauntlet PCGT25S USB 3.0 2.5 Inch Enclosure

New review up over on OCIA.net.  Today I am taking a look at a 2.5″ hard drive enclosure from Patriot Memory.  It is using the new USB 3.0 spec – something a lot of new mainboards and machines are starting to include.

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Sentey Arvina GS-6400 Full Tower Case

It has been a busy month, but I finally have another review up over on OCIA.net.  Reviewing PC cases, while a bit more labor intenstive are a blast.  It is really interesting to see how far the industry has some since the days of beige boxes and home tweaks to make them look quicker.

Today I take a look at the Sentey Arvina GS-6400.  Head on over and check it out!

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Vantec USB3.0 adapter

I have a new review up on OCIA.net. Today we are taking a look at the Vantec NexStar SATA to USB3.0 adapter.

Adapters are always interesting to test – sometimes they work as advertised – and sometimes not.

Stop on over to take a look at our conclusions!

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SilverStone Air Penetrator fan Review

While reviewing the SilverStone PS05B case, I also got a chance to review SilverStone’s SST-AP121 “Air Penetrator” fans.  Check out the review over at OCIA.net.

I had actually been contemplating picking up a couple of these anyways as a possible airflow management solution.  So since the case had 4 intake slots for 120mm fans, it worked out well to test those at the same time.  If you are doing a new build or looking to make some changes to an existing case, this review is worth taking a look at.

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Budget Build Part 4 – Conclusion

In case you missed it, please check out the other parts in this series.  Why to Build a PC; Part 1 (Intro); Part 2 (Part Selection); and Part 3 (The build).

All told the bill for the build came in around $700.  So I missed the mark a little bit.  I cheated a little bit by using an old monitor, DVD burner, and a SATA drive that I had on hand.  This probably saved $100-$200 by not having to purchase those components immediately.

By using the Black Edition CPU and the Gigabyte board, I was able to achieve a mild Overclock from 3.2ghz to 3.72 running on the stock cooler.  Normally I wouldn’t recommend doing this on the stock cooler, but I did for 2 reasons.  I waiting 3 weeks reviewing baseline temps on “auto” settings at stock speeds and I tweaked the fan settings.  Also, I only tweaked the unlocked multiplier, which was quick and simple to do, but with minimal heat increase.  By setting my own fan speed control settings, I was able to bump the idle fan speed just enough to actually slightly reduce the temp (from an average of 41c, to an idle average of 39c while) Overlocked.  The volume of the CPU fan is acceptable at 80%, it is only when the fan kicks in at 90%+ that it develops an annoying pitch.  I probably won’t leave it overclocked since I just don’t need it.

I recently reviewed a Noctua CPU cooler and have left that in the machine.  Saved about $60 and reduced the annoying pitch.  After a month I was really disappointed in the performance of the video card, so caved and replaced with a mid-range Radeon 5770.  This brought my Windows 7 Experience Factor from a 4.1 (limited by the vid card) to a 7.0 (Max is 7.9)  So it was well worth the additional cost.

Any way you look at it, the machine cost did miss the mark a little bit at $850, but was well under $1000.  Some sites had machines at a cost close to this, but I felt I was able to do it for a fair amount cheaper and exactly the components I wanted.  A further plus is that it is a powerful rig that is on the modern upgrade path.  For example, when the prices of the AMD 6-core CPU’s come down, it would be easy to drop one in since the board is of the newest AMD slot type.  For minimal cost I will be able to now keep this machine as up to date as I require for far less cost.

The next and most critical item is replacing the monitor with a decent 20”+ LCD, possibly since the Radeon 5770 supports it a dual 20” LCD setup would be most cost effective.  Lastly, upgrading the IDE DVD-Burner to a BluRay SATA drive and adding additional hard drive space would be nice.  All told if purchased immediately would be about $400-$500 in upgrades.  Watching the various sites should allow me to pick these up piecemeal when specific items I am looking for are on sale or snag them on ebay – further reducing costs and allowing for an even higher end machine.

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Budget Build Part 3 – The build

In case you missed it, please check out the other parts in this series.  Why to Build a PCPart 1 (Intro); and Part 2 (Part Selection).

SuperGeekBlog build of Olorin

The build itself was the smoothest I have ever had.  Components have come a long way in the last decade and they are much more user friendly.  Remembering back to a few of my first builds, cutting my hands on the case or ripping knuckles across ISA  and PCI cards, the lack of blood was a pleasant change.  (I have scars from PC builds.) Manufacturers have really gone towards what is now called the “enthusiast market” and treat the parts how people are actually going to use them.  I find it far easier to work with equipment now than I did even 3-4 years ago.

Once everything was plugged in and ready to go, I hit the power button.  I honestly can’t remember ever having everything boot and start loading the OS on the first try before.  The cables and hookups are much more clearly labeled than they used to be.  One issue I noted is the DDR3 1600 RAM is clocking at 1333, so I believe I will need to manually correct the timings on that, though didn’t prove too difficult to track down the correct settings.  Using CPUZ it pulled the timings chart from the RAM itself and I then went into the bios to fix.  Comparing the new machine to the dual core I have been using it is smoking fast.  The double cores and double the ram make a huge difference, but the solid-state drive takes the cake.

SuperGeekBlog finished build of Olorin

The low end video card and an old CRT monitor do detract from the system, so will need to be upgraded sometime, but it was one way to keep costs down and still get raw power into the machine.

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Budget Build Part 2 – Parts Selected

In case you missed it, please check out the other parts in this series.  Why to Build a PC and Part 1 (Intro).

Primary PC (Olorin)

A little note on naming convention, my primary PC has always gone by my online name of Olorin.  My oldest and personal blog, Olorinpc.com, is derived from this as well.  Naming a PC should be fun and something you want to see for a while, so be creative.

SuperGeekBlog build of Olorin

Specs:

MB: Gigabyte GA-770TA-UD3 770 R (Onboard sound, LAN, USB 2.0/3.0, eSATA, SATA 3.0/6.0)

CPU: AMD PH II X4 955BE 3.2 AM3 Quad

The board and CPU came as a combo unit.  I looked for something lower cost, yet still had the newer revisions of USB and SATA, along with being Overclocking friendly.  The AMD Black Edition means it has unlocked multiplier, so easier to OC.  Warning: I did *not* order an aftermarket cooling system.  I will be using the OEM heatsink and fan in this build – I will not be doing much in the way of OC’ing till I get a better cooling setup.  It looks like with decent cooling, most people are getting the 3.2 overclocked to around a stable 3.8.

RAM: G.Skill 4gb (2x2gb) DDR3 1600

To keep the cost down slightly, I stuck with 4gb, but at a higher clock speed.  Reviews indicate that a lot of boards load this incorrectly at DDR3 1333, but correcting the timings will bump it up to the full DDR3 1600.  With 2 free slots on the board, it will be easy to bump this to 8gb later.

Case: Raidmax Smilodon ATX-612WBP ATX Mid Tower Foldout MB with 500w PC

Budget case with power supply that still looks good and has easy access to the components.  The 500w PSU should be sufficient for most things, though you might want to upgrade at a later date.  Warning:  didn’t discover this till the day after when I was triple checking my order, but the PSU has a 4-pin mainboard connector.  The newer i7 and AMD3 boards (like the one above) use an 8-pin connector.  I had to rush order an adapter so it would arrive with all the other components.  Also, there are only 2 SATA power connectors.  If you have more than that, you will need to get some splitters.

Vid*: Sparkle GeForce 8400 GS 256mb 64-bit DDR2 PCIe 2.0

The vidcard is where I cut back the most on this build.  It was the cheapest PCIe card I could find.  It will work just fine, but for gaming this will prevent this from being a “high-end” setup.

HDD0: OCZ Solid 2 Solid State Drive 60gb

Prices on this have continued to drop.  I saved a few bucks getting one from a friend, so it didn’t count against the budget.  So it would raise your price a bit, but certainly worth it for your primary OS drive. The difference is amazing.

HDD1: Seagate 750gb 7200rpm SATA

I had this drive on hand, pulled it from its external Accomodata enclosure and plugged it in as an internal storage drive.  I wanted the higher spin rate when compared to my other external drive.

HDD2: 500gb 5400rpm – USB2.0 External

Also had this drive on hand – will be attaching it for secondary storage and backups. This drive was pulled from my old desktop and placed into an external enclosure.

NIC: ASUS PCE-N13 802.11b/g/n PCIe Wireless Adapter

This wasn’t strictly needed, however I moved to a pure wireless network a couple of years ago.  So despite the mainboard having a build in nic, I added a wireless card so I didn’t have to redo my network setup.  (That and I didn’t want to rerun cables in my house, though I am still debating the merits of returning to a wired setup.)

DVD: LiteOn DVD drive

Old IDE DVD-RW burner.  Saved a few bucks here by not getting a newer one with SATA on it.

Monitor: LG 17” CRT

Old CRT VGA monitor.  Works great and has for years.  I plan on upgrading this to a 22” widescreen LCD later, but once again to keep the build cost down went with what I had.

Host OS: Windows 7 64-bit Home Premium

I also had to purchase Windows for this build.  For starters I was finally moving to a 64-bit setup, my existing versions of Windows wouldn’t run anyways.  Since there was that minor issue, it worked out well to upgrade to Windows 7 at the same time.  I also like to run Virtual Machines for testing, so will be running those inside of Windows.

So as you can see with my component selection, I did stick with some old hardware, but it is fairly minimal.  The burner will be sufficient, but the monitor will be a pain.  After being used to laptop screens and a 22” widescreen LCD at the office, an old 17” monitor that only has a 1024×768 resolution at 75hz will be a bit difficult to work and write on.  However, it will work and will shave at least a hundred off the cost of the build.

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Budget Build Part 1 – Intro

Here on SGB I am going to do a small series on my new computer.  If you reference the post on “Why to build a PC,” that will elaborate some more on why I went with a desktop computer.  Or went back to a desktop computer I should say.  The intent on this particular build is twofold.  One, I wanted to try to keep within a budget of $600, yet still come up with a modern mid to high-end system.  Second, build a system that was pretty decent stock, but would be fairly convenient and simple to overclock.  (Why?  The biggest reason being because I can and want to see what I can do.  Though eeking a little extra performance past design is fun and a good cost saving measure.)

I have building PC’s since ’98 when I put together my first machine.  An AMD K6-2 266mhz with 256mb ram and a 6gb hard drive was a pretty decent midrange PC then.  Irrision, who has written here in the past, actually helped me select the original components and do that first build and I have been a PC convert since.  Typically I don’t do full builds.  I usually just upgrade a few parts here and there, so that original PC that I had upgraded every single components many times over.  I let that go by the wayside a bit for various reasons and ended up with a burnt out system that was for the most part too outdated to move parts over.  (It literally burnt out.  The CPU fan bearings died and the Athlon CPU cooked overnight.)

Since I have a home and work laptop, replacing it hasn’t been the highest thing on the expenditure list.  After I wrote my first review for OCIA.net, I took a look at my setup.  In order to keep reviewing and testing, some upgrades were needed.  After taking a look at what I had on hand to rebuild, I decided it was going to just be easier and more cost effective to do a full build.  So here we are.

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