The PC – One Year Later

Remember how I built my very own PC about a year ago? Well, it’s time to look back on my hardware and software decisions and to decide what was a good idea and what I’ll avoid doing again in the future.

Let’s have a look at the original configuration:

  • Antec Performance One P182 case
  • Corsair VX550W PSU
  • Gigabyte P35C-DS3R motherboard
  • 4GB of Corsair TWIN2X 6400C5DHX DDR2 RAM
  • Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 3.0Ghz CPU
  • Thermalright Ultra-120 Extreme
  • EVGA Geforce 8800GT 512MB Superclocked
  • 2x Western Digital 500GB HDD
  • Samsung S203P DVD-burner
  • Auzentech Prelude 7.1 soundcard
  • IIyama B2403WS 24″ widescreen

During the past year, some things have changed in this setup:

  • The Corsair VX550W PSU has been replaced by a 650W PSU. Not because I actually needed the extra power, but because I had to build a PC for my mom and the 650W was actually cheaper than the other PSUs at that time, so I just swapped it with mine since she’d have even less use for that much power.
  • The RAM has been replaced with sticks of the same brand and capacity, only with lower latency (4-4-4-12 instead of 5-5-5-18), for the same reason as above.
  • I’ve added an LG GGC-H20L Blu-ray drive
  • I’ve also replaced the standard case fans with Noctua NF-S12-800 fans, which is the same type of fan that I bought for the CPU cooler. I bought a fan controller to go with them.
  • I had to replace my old Altec Lansing speakers because they broke. Got a set of Logitech X-540 5.1 speakers instead, because they were cheap.
  • Bought a Wireless card.

The rest is pretty much the same as it was a year ago. As a reminder, I’m running Windows Vista Ultimate 64bit.

Let’s break it down, then:

The great decisions:

  • The screen. 24″ seemed like overkill when it first arrived, but I don’t think I could live without it now. The 1920×1200 resolution means I can display Blu-ray (or other 1080p material) in full, and it makes for a huge and handy workspace. I’ve had some minor problems with stuck pixels, but those were of a temporary nature. The colors and contrast are great, none of that washed-out feel you get with some cheaper PC screens.
  • The graphics card. A full year has passed, and I think the GeForce 8800 series are still close to being the best deal on the market. I can still play all new games on highest detail at 1920×1200 (with the exception of lame benchmark-games like Crysis, but that doesn’t really count), and I don’t see why anyone’d need to upgrade to a newer generation of cards just yet.
  • Those fans. It seems like a weird thing to do, replacing case fans, especially since the original fans were pretty decent to begin with, but I’m actually glad I did it. The Noctua fans have two settings and on the lowest setting these fans are pretty much inaudible. When I turn them all down it’s hard to tell the PC is even on, and that’s great for watching movies or listening to music. The fan controller looks all pretty, too.

The good decisions:

  • The case is great. Real handy to swap things around in, but most of all, does a very good job of keeping the noise inside and the heat outside. It’s heavy as fuck, though.
  • 4GB of RAM was the right decision, especially now I’m using some rather memory-intensive programs for my internship. The particular type of memory might not have been such a wise choice, but I’ll get back to that.
  • The CPU. You may remember I was considering spending an extra 100€ to get a quad core instead, but this E8400 is plenty. What’s more, I’ve managed to overclock it to 3.6Ghz on standard voltages and it’s perfectly stable. I think that CPU cooler has something to do with that, too.
  • Vista. No, really. I had some problems adapting to it at first (especially the UAC feature), but I’ve gotten used to it and overall I must say my experience with Vista has been better than my previous experiences with XP. The difference isn’t huge, and I can imagine that other users might prefer to stick to XP which is less resource-intensive and less annoying about security, but for me personally it’s been working great. When I go back to XP now I actually miss some of those small features they added to Vista. I’ve also had a chance to work on UNIX-based systems lately, and while it’s nice to feel in control of the smaller details of your system, it happens way too often that stuff just don’t fucking work. Which has not been the case with Vista.

The not so great decisions:

  • The Auzentech Prelude. It’s a great card and all, great sound quality, nice features… But I had bought it for two other reasons beside sound: 1) Eventual HDMI expension card which would allow you to hook up your PC to a reciever/TV and 2) Linux drivers in the works. Both of these features have now been dropped. They’ve given up on Linux drivers, and it seems to be impossible to get this card to work under Linux, especially not if you want multichannel audio. And even though I don’t have a receiver/HDMI capable TV for now, I intend to get one eventually, and it sucks that I’ll have to change cards. I’m not quite sure what I should have gotten instead of the Auzentech, though, since no other cards on the market that I know of offered/pretended to offer great sound quality and future HDMI compatibility…
  • The low-latency RAM. I should have just kept my original normal latency memory. The difference in performance is not noticeable at all, and my system seemed to be less stable since I replaced the sticks. Every two weeks or so it decided to freeze up on me so I had to reboot, and then it would set the RAM latency settings in the BIOS back to factory defaults. I haven’t had any freezes in a while, but I can’t be sure the problem’s really gone. Like I said, the only reason why I got this RAM was because it was actually cheaper than the regular kind, but next time I’ll just play it safe.

The rest of the hardware seems to be working fine and I haven’t noticed anything exceptional or excruciating about it so far. The DVD and the Blu-ray drive work like they should, so do the hard drives and the mainboard. I might get an extra HDD eventually, though, if only to use as backup.

Bottom line: one year after purchase, my system still runs great and feels brand new. Next time I might pass on the fancy memory and the expensive audio card, but I have no regrets.

In other news, you can now follow me on Twitter. I don’t use it all that much because it feels like I’m talking to myself, but with your help, that might change…

This entry was posted on Thursday, March 26th, 2009 at 22:05 and is filed under . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply