Monday, January 12, 2009

It's alive!

Parts list found here, and part I found here.

OK, so here the final piece of the computer assembly puzzle... or at least tentatively final, as I'm considering running some benchmarks and seeing how it stacks up with some of those Tom's Hardware builds... and I'm also considering overclocking once I get another case fan, but more on that in a bit.

When I left off Thursday night I had the motherboard screwed in with all the drives and my graphics card in place. All I had left to do was hook up all the wires... piece of cake, right? Well not exactly... true, it's not exactly mentally challenging but there are a lot of wires to connect and some of them need to squeeze into fairly small spaces.

First up was the case fans, which had adapters to go directly to the power supply, but I wanted to connect them to the motherboard so I could monitor them... a fan stopping in a setup that generates so much heat could be pretty disastrous. Besides the CPU fan on the heat sink, there are only 2 fans with this case... a giant exhaust fan at the back and a small one at the bottom front at the hard drive bays... which is something I plan to remedy in the future. Regardless, it was a fairly simple matter to get those two plugged in. Next up was the connecting all my SATA cables. My two hard drives are both SATA 3.0, while the Blu-Ray drive is SATA 1.5... but apparently the 3.0 works fine with a 1.5 device. I also decided to use an external SATA port thing that came with the motherboard... not because I have external SATA devices but because my video card looked lonely. I ended up having to take out the drives from the bays, and remove my video card again, to get everything hooked up, including the power cables... so three cheers for the "tooless case" again since I didn't have to unscrew anything. The most annoying part was actually plugging in the SATA cables into the motherboard as the angle was a little tough and the pairs of ports are really close together. In retrospect it might have made sense to plug those in before screwing in the MoBo, though perhaps that just would have been annoying. I also plugged the external card into the 1.5 SATA ports for no logical reason since, as I mentioned above, 1.5 devices work fine on 3.0 and I have plenty of ports... oh well, something to fix next time I open the case up.

Next up is the power supply, which comes with a giant medusa like bundle of mysterious connectors. I'd already connected the the SATA drives on one cable, and the Blu-Ray drive on the other, so it was time for the motherboard power connections (2) and then video card. This would have been really easy if it wasn't for the fact that instead of having a single 8 pin connector they'll have two 4 pin connectors(or one 6 and one 2) that need to be plugged in simultaneously to fit. Harder than it sounds.

Finally, the LEDs and the power switch and other miscellaneous things from the front of the case like the speaker. I actually screwed this up because I thought the power switch cable was the power LED, so when I called Anna in to witness the dramatic powering up of my new computer... nothing happened. Kind of anti-climatic. Also, I'm pretty sure I have the hard drive access LED plugged in correctly, but it doesn't seem to do anything. Why? I don't know, but it's not something I care a whole lot about... though it still irritates me.

Anyway, here's what it looked like before being sealed up for the final time:

OK, so a little bit messy, but what do you want from me?

Vista installed fine, though it took installing the motherboard drivers before it recognized all the ports and could connect to the internet. I did have one heart stopping moment when (I think) I updated the BIOS via an internet utility and it hanged on boot. It was then I realized without a floppy drive I couldn't flash the BIOS and might be screwed... but telling it to go back to defaults seemed to do the trick. So I'm considering buying one of those card readers just in case since they only cost 20 or 30 bucks. I definitely want another case fan to pull in air from the side, because with only the two fans and a girlfriend who like the apartment really warm... my setup is running a little hot for my taste. I certainly won't consider overclocking until I get it a little cooler.

And here is my computer in its home entertainment position:

I picked up Crysis Warhead from Direct2Drive and that's a damn pretty game I must say(and pretty fun too - my type of FPS). In a completely unscientific test, my frame rate ranged from 30-70 and seemed to average in the 40's... but I think I can download the demo of the original and check it out with the same benchmarks Tom's uses to see how it compares.