Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Time for a new computer

Hello everyone.

It's time to change my old computer, this one having an AMD Athlon XP 1800+ on socket A mainboard, 512MB DDR@400MHz, GeForce4MX on AGP8X and a defective HDD Maxtor 40GB@7200rpm.
RAM quantity became insufficient for modern applications, which are in fact the same as were 6 years ago: Windows XP, firefox, Bitdefender IS, and utorrent since 3 years ago.
Other applications doesn't count due to the fact that they are used only occasionally.

After many hours spent to choose the right platform (the producer I wanted from start was Intel), this subject became so much time consuming that I had to cut the story short.
Only 2 main reasons counted for me in the end: a computer which will be silent and versatile, or powerful and noisy.

The LGA 775 platform is almost dead (looking into the future, and not so close one), so the battle is only between LGA 1156 and LGA 1366.
There are so many pros and cons for each platform that I'll point only the important ones.

LGA 1156
+ powerful i7 processors (i7 860 on LGA 1156 is equal or even better than i7 920 on LGA 1366)
+ better power management
+ lower TDP (consumed energy and exhausted heat)
+ i5 processors compatibility (another lower TDP advantage)
+ mainboards have the same accessories (sound, LAN, storage, connections) as bigger brothers and sisters
+ same or even better overclocking potential
+ memory controller integrated into CPU as i7 on LGA 1366 has

- integrated PCIexpress controller in CPU means: because only 16 lines of PCIex are available, a SLI (Crossfire) sollution will have 2 x 8 lines, instead of 2 x 16 as on LGA 1366
In real life, this thing doesn't count so much, only 2-3% of performance drop were seen.
And 3 way SLI (Crossfire) is available.

- only dual channel configuration for memory instead of triple channel on 1366
This means that LGA 1156 have a maximum capacity of 16GB instead of 24GB as on 1366.
But how many of us are installing that much and use it indeed?
So, for the commons, 4-6GB are enough.
Even 4GB are enough (dual channel kit of 2x2GB widely found).

This is the platform "silent and versatile".

LGA 1366
+ powerful i7 processors
+ overclocking potential
+ memory controller integrated into CPU
+ triple channel memory
+ PCIexpress controller is not integrated in CPU but allows 2 x 16 lanes in SLI or Crossfire. 3 way or 4 way SLI (Crossfire) is possible.

- not so better power management, mostly when overclock is used
- high TDP (great consumed energy and exhausted heat)

This is the "powerful but noisy" platform.

Its seems that LGA 1366 have more pros than cons, but those cons, believe me, count that much.
You need a good power source with higher wattage.
You need more fans and a case which has a good air flow.

Beside more energy consumed, it's creating also a great noise. So only teenagers and singles are allowed to play games, the rest have to obey wife request for a good sleep. But, even this request can be satisfied, if other satisfaction is involved before... wink

But even that most components have solid capacitors, a constant 40-60-80 degrees Celsius in the case is not good for long term use.
And not so many have funds to change the computer over 2-3 years or so.

That's why I choose the 1156.
I am not playing a lot, mostly office applications, but image/video/audio manipulation is performed sometime and i7 860 is powerful enough.

What I have chosen so far: (lets hope that retailers have these on stock)
Mainboard: MSI P55-GD80

Processor: i7 860

Memory: Kingston 4GB kit (2x2GB)

Video: MSI GTX 275 Twin Frozr

Storage for OS: Intel SSD 80GB X25-M (or maybe 2 of them in RAID 0)

Storage for documents: 2 x Western Digital 1TB Caviar Black (planning for other 2 of them - total of 4 in RAID 10)

Monitor will be for the moment a 19" one, but since a GTX 275 is involved, I have to look for a good 24" TFT monitor.
Since I have two DVD optical units, one will be used from the old computer (ATA).

Total power needed is expected around 350W for daily use but since I am planning for massive storage (RAID) and another video board, I think that I have to look for a higher wattage.

Peak power needed for:
[x] overclocked CPU up to 3.6GHz and 1.5V
[x] 4 stick of 2GB DDR3
[x] 2 video boards GTX 275 in SLI
[x] 4 HDD 7200rpm SATA in RAID
[x] 2 SSD in RAID
[x] 1 HDD and 1 DVD ATA
[x] 2 devices drawing power from USB
[x] 6 fans (2x120, 2x120led, 1x140, 1x250)
[x] additional PCI, PCIexpress cards
[x] fan controller
[x] 100% TDP
[x] 100% peak load
[x] 25% capacitor aging (even that most of the components use solid capacitors, power sources are not)

= 857W
Taking into consideration the 80%+ performance rating of the power sources, a total of 1100W are needed.

That was the peak load.
The most common used power will be with 85% TDP, 90% peak load and 20% capacitor aging: 715W.
And with power loses, 900W.

Taking into consideration the following scenario of daily usage (SLI and other additional components will have to wait for a while):
[x] no overclock for CPU (power save features and performance scalability enabled)
[x] 2 stick of 2GB DDR3
[x] 1 video board GTX 275
[x] 4 HDD 7200rpm SATA in RAID
[x] 1 SSD
[x] 1 DVD ATA
[x] 1 devices drawing power from USB
[x] 5 fans (2x120, 2x120led, 1x140)
[x] additional PCI card
[x] no fan controller
[x] 85% TDP
[x] 90% peak load
[x] 15% capacitor aging

= 433W
With 80+ performance = 550W

Two components I have left out on purpose, especially because they depend on the other components:
1. case (depending on the height of aftermarket cooler for CPU, length of video board, wire management and HDDs cage for storage and cooling)
2. power source (depending on the power consumed by every other components).

When all the details will be clear, I will post my decision for the case and power source.

If you know other details then me, tips and tricks, don't hesitate to comment, I need your good ideas for a silent, ventilated and powerful computer.
Yes indeed, all those three features are a must.

I have chosen the case, PSU and also a CPU cooler:
1. Lancool case PC-K58

2. Corsair CMPS-750HX PSU

3. Arctic Cooling Freezer rev. 2 CPU cooler

Installation time 3,5 hours! (yes, it wasn't a 5 min installation, because I wanted a decent wire management, which I succeeded but I want to improve it).
More pictures, tests, benchmarks and tips in the following posts regarding this subject.