12 June 2013

Are you gonna build that?

ASRock P55DE3
ASRock P55DE3
A picture tale by Mario Kukucov. Have you seen one of these? An ASRock P55DE3 motherboard.
Intel i3-540
Intel i3-540
It came pretty cheaply. So then a client comes and says: "I want a good computer". He says good, he doesn't say awesome. So we say OK. Do you want a cheap motherboard with no warranty? How cheap, half price. OK? Perfect! We are Wednesday June 5 2013 and this motherboard is made for the Intel socket 1156. 1156 is 2009 technology, so now that we have sold the motherboard do we have a processor made prior to 2011 when the 1155 socket was released (and yes 1155 is newer than 1156). Yes, and it is the i3-540 . And it is the one and only found in the retail chains. So there is no selecting the processor or anything. There is just this one. So now it can't be a good computer, it can be OK. Can't be good. Some of you think i3 isn't as bad. It's an 2010 old i3 this computer is already a 3 years old mid range machine. Now the prices of processors don't go down too much in time as the model gets older. So we could have bought a newer CPU for about the same amount, if the client didn't buy the half price pitch on the MB (motherboard). If the CPU is nothing to write home about, then you are really not going to play the newest games, So you don't need the VGA or RAM of a gaming rig. On this CPU, there wouldn't be a point.
hard drive, video card, momory
Sapphire HD7750, WD Green 1.0TB
and 2x8GB Kingston DDR3 mem modules 
So, we got a SAPPHIRE HD7750 which is described on the sapphire website as a budget card. All the rest is awesome. We have a Western Digital 1TB Hard Drive and two 8GB DDR3 Kingston memory modules (that I am not sure will even work on this MB). Now all we need is a case. And the case I really love. It was the only component of this rig that I actually choose and it is the Cooler Master K350. Among the cheaper solutions the cooler master is the best choice, if you look at the case you can see that it has been designed with liquid or aggressive airflow cooling that is needed for a high end gaming monster in mind, with enough space for the long VGA-s and the bottom of the case PSU placement. So this is the type of case you want. This is the only type of case I would buy or sell.

As for the build, once you have the parts this is how it goes in most situations. First you need to consider if the case takes the motherboard and psu in a specific order. In this case the psu is pre-packaged so we can start with the motherboard.
the little raisers
Once upon a time a boy came into the office and told us "I bought a new motherboard and a friend of mine came to install it. But the motherboard seems to be defective. Can you take a look?" and I did, and I started laughing uncontrollably in the boy's face. OMG, they had screwed the motherboard on to the back of the case directly. Everything that could short-circuit on the back of the MB's PCB was pressed on to the metal of the case and the brand new board was as dead as a door nail. So if you have never assembled a PC look at the manual, they will tell you about the little raisers used to keep the board from touching the case. Another thing I remember from the past is the assembly staging.
The motherboard can work on its box.
No case needed!
Assembling a PC is a bit more than just putting the parts in the case, there is also cable management for within the case and component placement/thermal consideration. So the assembly can take quite a bit of time. Another thing is that although the components are brand new you just don't know if they work or not. So Before the assembly itself you just layout the components and connect them and you short the front panel pins of the power button so that the machine starts, and it doesn't care that it is out of the case. Afterwards you know you have a system that can start and actually run and you can start assembling without the risk of having to disassemble it if something turns out defective. And that is what I call assembly staging. After the motherboard you should consider how you want to hide the cables as to make sure that during transport the loose cables won't go into one of the fans and cause the system to halt during post.
Thermal considerations. This picture shows my rig, there are two possible positions for the VGA. On the lower position the card has a 20C higher temperature than on the higher one. The fans on the front and on the side should suck air in to the case and the fans on the back should be like an exhaust taking the hot air out. On this type of case where the PSU is in the bottom section, it will be cooling itself by itself. But if you keep your computer on the floor make sure that it isn't on a rug or something else soft that would allow the legs to sink and lower the clearance from the floor. Because then there would be insufficient air flow to cool the power supply. This is the same as the hot tabletop laptop problem. Laptops overheat when placed on a soft fabric, they need a hard surface as not to sink and block airflow under the laptop.
After you are done with everything and you have an assembled system you should start it one time without the side panels to make sure all fans are spinning and you are ready to install.

kingston memory
other memory
And this is where the fun starts. Day one of building this rig started with a lot of writing. I wanted to slip in a quick explanation of how I install Windows 7 through a USB flash drive, but we didn't get that far now, did we? Because the motherboard freezes on POST (power on self test) when both mem modules are inserted, and both Windows and Linux installs fail and the system reboots if only one mem module is installed. In the QVL (memory qualified vendor list) for this motherboard, there are no 8GB mem modules. So they are probably incompatible. We swap them for these 4 4GB mem modules.
kingston memory
moar memory
No dice. So I finally look at the QVL and I find a  memory model that is still available in the store. So I order 4 of them but it turns out that the people in the store don't care about minor release numbers. Yeah, you order KVR13N9 and you get KVR13N9S8.

"This is just not happening!" I told the client. "We can't build this computer with this old motherboard and processor, unfortunately we are going to have to sell you a better processor and motherboard for the same money!", to which he replied "What?"! And yes, the old motherboard costs 6 pieces of silver but the i3 costs 21 pieces of silver. The other cpu and motherboard cost 29 silver dragons but the memory we are now selling him is 3 cheaper.

pick one
And here are the new parts next to the old parts. The new are not that much newer, but they are actually better, and this is a Black Edition A8 5600K Quad Core 3.9GHz CPU. I don't know what the i3 has that would justify the higher cost. And the ASUS F2A55 is a cheap motherboard but it is ASUS so it is sort of immortal. Plus, I have always used exclusively ASUS MB and VGA in my builds and I have yet to see a component not live out its warranty.
computer guts
Today is June 11 2013, so I have been building this system for about six days. And finally, we have a working system. A note about the AMD A series is that the temperature is a bit high, but keep in mind that the CPU has a graphics chip inside. The trade off is a type of Dual Graphics between the GPU and the CPU, thus the A series are called APU. I didn't have time to test the graphics performance with and without it and I don't even know if the APU and GPU are compatible for that thing, Maybe I can look it up on the Internet, but I don't care because compatible or not these are the APU and GPU the client bought. But I would definitely go AMD APU for my personal computing needs the next time I build a computer for myself.
BIOS screen
Another thing I liked was the F2A55 motherboard. It has one of the new graphical awesome BIOS interfaces. It goes through the post as if there is no post and it supports up to 64GB of ram. It has Quad-GPU CrossFireX support and is really cheap. I can't believe how cheap it is and yet you can build a total monster around it. If you have excess amounts of money you should go Intel / nvidia because they are better. But on a budget, AMD has the better price performance ratio. In closing I will only say that I will never again try to build a computer around an old cheap second hand component.

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