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New PC

7/24/2010

My old Quad Core system was pretty hefty by most standards, but faster compiles means faster development. Here are the specs for my new system, and why I made each choice.

Old System

New System

Windows Experience Index

Not the best measurement of speed, but it provides a quick benchmark.

For Windows 7, 7.9 is the maximum so I'm quite happy with the CPU and RAM scores. The RAID 0 provides a good Primary Hard Disk score as well. Combined with my RamDisk, development is lightening fast.

Requirements

While there are faster hard drives such as raptors, and 10,000 rpm drives, they are typically very expensive and offer smaller capacities. I chose 500GB drives with larger caches and better than average performance specifications. When combined in a RAID 0 array, there is a large performance benefit. RAID 0 provides the best performance. Other RAID configurations offer fast reads, but slower writes because they need to read whole blocks to calculate the checksums before writing.

4GB RAM modules are still very expensive, so I've chosen 4 x 2GB for now which gives me 8GB. In the future if needed I can change and upgrade to 12 GB or 16 GB. I chose 1600 MHz RAM to provide some overclocking room.

For graphics I used my existing video card with 1 GB of RAM. I don't do gaming so I do not need a high end graphics card. But it must be powerful enough to drive both of my monitors at full resolution. My NVIDIA 9400 was able to do that using a DVI for my 22", and HDMI for the 27".

The ASUS Maximus Gene III Motherboard is a special motherboard targeted to gamers with extensive overclocking features. With minimal efforts, I have already overclocked my CPU to 3.2 GHz (a little more than 10%). This motherboard even has a special chip that allows you to connect the board to another computer or laptop via a special USB cable and control the motherboards overclocking parameters while it is running to test it. It also has a CMOS reset button on the back panel, accessible even when installed in a computer case. I've yet to play with this feature, but expect I will soon.

The processor was the hardest decision and required the most research. High end CPUs increase in cost sharply for only minimal performance gain. I chose Intel versus AMD, because currently for given performance they cost about the same, and because for every AMD motherboard there are 20 times as many Intel motherboards to choose from. When I purchased my Q6600 almost 3 years ago I looked for the best "price" point in CPUs. Today I believe that is offered by the i7-875k. It even cost about the same as my Q6600 did, about $330. The i7 8xx series cost more for the equivalent i7-9xx series, but the 8xx series are socket 1166 while the 9xx series use socket 1366. Socket 1366 boards are currently geared towards servers and offer only minimal services, especially regarding overclocking. 1366 boards also cost more, so choosing a more expensive 8xx ends up being slightly cheaper because 1166 motherboards are cheaper. The k on the 875k is also worth noting. Only a few processors are offered with a k, and this signifies that it is unlocked. All overclocking parameters are unlocked and changeable by the user. But most of all the multiplier is unlocked. With most chips you simply increase the input clock. This causes all components to run faster and normally some component such as the chipset, RAM, or other motherboard part hits its limit before the CPU. With the k, you can adjust the multiplier so the CPU can be set to run faster without forcing the other components to high. Since I've chosen 1600 RAM, I have a bit of room there as well, and I can control it independently because of the motherboard and the unlocked multiplier.

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