Final Build Notes: Mars Lives

by fwhagen Thu, 24 January 2008

Well, the system upgrade is complete, finally.  q6600_1 Almost everything went very well.  There were a few moments of panic, but the end state is very satisfactory.  The best part is the Q6600 is running very happily at 3.005GHz with nearly no effort on my part.  I am going to leave it there for awhile, until I get the urge to tweak some more.  I will eventually replace the fan on the cooler with a better one and will tweak the timings a bit more aggressively then.  For now, everything is very stable and Mars hums along pleasingly.  The final configuration is below:

Case   Antec P182 Advanced Super Mid Tower Case
PSU   Corsair VX450W Quiet High Efficiency PSU
Optical   LITE-ON 20X DVD±R DVD Burner with LightScribe Black SATA
Motherboard   Asus Maximus Formula - LGA 775 Intel X38
Memory   Crucial Ballistix 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500)
CPU   Intel Q6600 Core 2 Quad 2.4GHz
Cooler   Scythe Ninja Mini
Video Card   Sapphire Radeon HD3870 512MB GDDR4

What can I say about the case beyond that it exceeded all my expectations.  From everything being well placed, to thumbscrews on all the right places, great sound baffling and excellent airflow.  This case was worth more than the $100 I spent on it.  I even love the "Gun Metal Black" finish it has on it.  The only changes I plan to make to it are the addition of a fan grill on the lower 120mm fan to prevent the HDD cables from potentially rubbing on it, replacing the 2 upper fans with something slightly quieter but with Motherboard connectors for variable speeds and the addition of a forced intake fan on the front.  None of these are necessary, however.

The Maximus Formula is an exceptional piece of hardware also.  Its difficult to choose a single feature that stands out above all else on this board, but it may be the "Q-Connectors" as illustrated to the right.  This particular one is a detachable standoff that allows all of the case leads to be attached before attaching it directly to the motherboard.  That has always been a difficulty to me, solved here with a simple piece of hardware.  Of course the huge cost difference would be ridiculous if not for the excellent over-clocking tools (see 1st paragraph of this post), excellent cooling features, onboard power and reset switches, 6 USB ports on the I/O shield alone, excellent built in sounds, and many more that come with this board.  Wow.  My only concern was the PC speaker.  It doesn't have one built in.  The case doesn't either; most modern ones don't anymore because the motherboard generally has them.  This generated the first panic state when the temporary PCI video card that I was going to use failed and there were no diagnostic beeps.  I had to go find an old case that I had that I could steal the speaker from.  Then it was off to Newegg to buy a $32 PCIe video card for the interim.

Not much that I can add about the Q6600 processor that hasn't been said by far more capable people than I.  It has a stock clock of 2.4GHz, and mine is running happily at 3.005GHZ at 45C idle and 68C at full heat load.  Stable, solid and 4 cores.  You got to love it.  The stock cooler kind of sucks, but that has always been the case with Intel CPUs.

Update: I have since updated the ASUS bios on the mobo which fixes incorrect temperature reading of the CPU. It actually runs between 32C idle and 55C under load.

The cooler I chose, and it was last minute, was the enormous Ninja Mini.  This thing was a pain to install, and I ended up installing it twice.  Well, the 2nd install was my fault.  I bumped the monitor extension cable and didn't notice it was loose.  I ended up reseating everything, including the CPU before noticing.  The fan it comes with is not great, but gets the job done.  "Mini" is a ridiculous name for this thing.  It is enormous.  Maybe calling it "Not so huge as it's namesake" is more appropriate.  It drops the temperature of the CPU by 20C in about 10 seconds when load is removed which is pretty stunning.  I will be replacing the stock 80mm fan with a quieter 92mm fan later on.  At $35, though, this was a great value.

Ah, the Radeon HD3870.  First time I have ever bought ATI's flagship product when released.  But for $250, it was a good buy, and only $50 over budget.  Too bad MSRP is only $220.  Very good performance and I haven't even considered over-clocking yet at all.  There were a few odd things about this card:  First off, it is a single slot cooler.  All the other 3870s, including Sapphire's are dual slot.  Nice, but odd.  Secondly, you can't even find this card on Sapphire's website; they only list the dual-slot version.  Finally, mine came without the hot-chick sticker.  I don't really care, just thought it was odd.  Anyway, I really like this card.  Very fast, great digital video performance and not a bad price.  All the games I have run (except Crysis, of course) are super smooth at the max settings so far.  I am very impressed.

In conclusion, I am very happy with the new setup.  This has been the most extreme "upgrade" I have ever performed for myself.  I was boxed into it with the AGP/Prescott setup I had before.  In order to upgrade the CPU, I needed to get a new motherboard, memory and a PCIe The video card.  It only made sense to go ahead and get the improved case and DVD-RW drive too.  It was also a very enjoyable build and blissfully successful.  It passed all my burn-in tests with flying colors.  Vista's performance score is maxed out at 5.9; I kind of hope that they raise the maximum value with SP1 so I can see the relative score increase over my last one.  Pure vanity, of course.  Overall, the system is very quiet.  I cannot hear it under my desk at all as long as the wife's machine or the server is running.  (They will be upgraded next.)  And so far, all I have lost is my CoD4 profile; no great loss. 

Final pictures are still on the camera, so I will post them at a later time.  For now, time to play more MOHA!


Filed Under: System

Comments (2) -

2/6/2008 10:05:18 PM #

Where are the pictures?


Computer Nerds
Computer Nerds
2/11/2008 8:33:13 AM #


Pretty good read here thanks.


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