Thursday, August 28, 2008

Technological Interlude

Those of you following my Flickr photos (there be scads of ye) have noticed my new computer "build in progress."

It's been about 5 years since my last build and my choices this time reflect a change in the industry since 2003; we're all thinking about power consumption a little differently these days. Don't really want to drive that electricity bill up any higher! I made this my top consideration while researching the latest chips from lowly "Atom" processors to "QUAD CORE EXTREME" monster units. A valuable resource for this was the CPU power dissipation wiki, which told me that modern processors may consume anywhere from 65 to 130 Watts... That's a lot of Watts, and quite the differential...

Finally settled on the Intel E7200 Core 2 Duo which is based on a newer 45 nanometer transistor technology; smaller transistors allow this chip to waste less energy on heat dissipation, running at a max of 65 Watts- and considerably less than that when "idle," which is most of the time. Despite this, it is a speedy little devil, running 2 64-bit cores on the same die (essentially 2 separate processors, but contained all on 1 "chip"). My second choice would have been the 95 Watt, quad core Q6600, but that chip is based on a less efficient 65 nanometer technology while offering very little performance improvement over my dual core choice.

My second breakthrough in this area was the power supply, an Antec Earthwatts psu, rated at 85% efficiency, wasting fewer Watts than my old power supply which was around 70% efficient. This is about as good as you can get these days- it's tough to design a power supply that doesn't waste a lot of energy in the form of heat.

Top 10 Things I Learned Building my New PC, August 2008 by Sam T;

#10) New Intel E7200 cpu rated at 18% fewer Watts than old AMD Athlon XP 3200+ cpu (goodbye AMD, it was fun while it lasted...)

#9) New cpu nevertheless 4 times faster than old cpu... whoah, that is some progress...

#8) Motherboard, processor, memory, power supply and all related parts cost about half what they did 5 years ago - not even including inflation which means they cost far less than half

#7) 4 gigs of RAM is just about enough to run Microsoft Vista

#6) My new Asus HD3850 video card runs 3D games like Oblivion mad fast and consumes about 90 Watts on full power, pretty much negating aforementioned cpu power savings. Fortunately it throttles back to around 25 Watts for normal non-3D gaming

#5) Everything is quieter in my new system; fans in particular, which means no more rattle or hum from my computer which is right next to our bedroom. One choice I made related to this was an Arctic Freezer 7 Pro cooler, which sounds like a very serious product, but actually is just a big copper pipe with giant aluminum fins that draw heat away from the cpu more efficiently than the standard Intel cooler; so the fan is less noisy because it doesn't have to run as fast to keep things cool.

#4) Actually starting to like Microsoft Vista now that I have the horsepower to run it, although it still doesn't come close to Apple in terms of user friendliness and I would recommend it to no-one on that basis

#3) Did I mention I now have 4 gigs of RAM? Doesn't that scare you?

#2) Witness my new motherboard, the Biostar TP43D2A7; it has an earth-friendly name but is actually just your basic motherboard in a pleasant blue color.

#1) I love building computers! Actually I didnt' "learn" this but knew it already. Hopefully in my old age I will be allowed to tinker with computer parts, even though by then we will probably be using holographic psychic implants instead...

Links to the parts used in my build;

CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E7200 Wolfdale 2.53Ghz
CPU Cooler; Arctic Freezer 7 Pro
Motherboard: Biostar TForce TP43D2A7
RAM: G.SKILL DDR2-800 Dual Channel Kit
Power Supply: Antec Earthwatts EA380
Case: My existing Antec Sonata is still beautiful, and "quiet" too

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