Specifiactions

I am still working on a case. For now it is still housed in a standard tower case but I have built real size cardboard models of all the system components and we are experimenting now with a custom case. I need something that looks small so airline staff will not question the weight, and yes I am even working on fitting in a detachable keyboard and monitor.

Specifications

  • Pentium D 960 dual core processor at 3.6 GHz with VT (Virtual machine) extensions and EMT64 (64 bit)
  • 4 GB RAM, upgradable to 8 GB
  • 640 GB hard disk space configured as RAID 0 with 2 x 320 GB 7200 RPM drives with 16 MB cache each
  • 2 ethernet ports (Gigabit)
  • WiFi with integrated WAP
  • 3 integrated RAID controllers
  • 5.1 HiFi audio system with additional optical connector
  • 2 Radeon 1300 Video Cards with 256 MB each, capable of handling up to 4 monitors simultaneously
  • 8 USB
  • 2 Firewire
  • Motherboard: ASUS P5W DH Deluxe with Intel 976X chipset

Processor

I needed something that was mid priced, supported virtualization, and 64 bit.

I debated for a long time between AMD’s new AM2, Intel’s new Core Duo 2, and the Pentium D. The AM2’s are nice but there are not as many motherboards available for them and I really wanted the option to upgrade to the Core Duo 2 later. The Core Duo 2 is the best option and is lower power than the Pentium D. But the Core Duo 2’s were release just 3 days before I built my system and are not available readily world wide. When we asked about them the everyone concurred it would be about 6 months before they were widely available outside of the US and other high demand areas. Instead I researched motherboards and made sure I purchased one that was upgradeable to the Core Duo 2. While the Core Duo 2 shares the sane socket (Socket 775) as most newer Pentium’s, there are additional voltage requirements and most current motherboards will not handle the Core Duo 2. After a lot of research I determined that the Pentium D 960 performed very closely to the upper level (not extreme version) Core Duo 2. So the only difference between the Pentium D 960 and the Core Duo 2 that I wanted was that the Pentium D uses more power and generates more heat. In the US Pentium D prices have dropped but in most other parts of the world since the Core Duo 2’s are not available they have not dropped yet. Most stores here were still selling the 960 for $500 to $700. One store here had it for around $300. I am not sure if it was a mistake or what, but I bought one of the last two they had quickly.

Video Cards

I needed something that would support Vista. I also wanted to be able to handle dual monitors. The motherboard supported ATI crossfire which allows two cards to act as one, but they have to be the same model. Getting an older model later is difficult, so instead of getting an expensive top end one I got two mid range ATI cards with 256 each. They are also fanless which fits into my design later. After installation I found out that if you use the VGA connector each card can support two monitors, so I can support four. I have some interesting presentation ideas….

Hard Drives

I wanted space. Lots of space. I wanted to multi boot many copies of XP and make new copies quickly. Like virtualization, but much faster. I wanted them to be fast but I also had space and weight constraints. RAID 0 (See also When is RAID 0 a good idea?) was the answer and I only wanted hardware RAID (see why Why 100% hardware RAID is best).. I was not going to mess with software RAID or even hardware RAID + drivers. The motherboard has three on board RAID controllers and one of them can do transparent RAID.

Cost?

All taxes included it totaled around $1,200 (USD).