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DrezKill's New Kickass Gaming Machine

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     These are pictures of my new computer. I built it overnight the night of June 2nd 2006, and as a result I missed the first night of LANParty 11. I came home from work late and jumped right into building this thing. As I was slaving away at Zales over the past few months, I would use every paycheck to buy a different set of parts for my PC. And then when I finally had all the parts, I finally built the thing. The one way that screwed me over is that I built this computer using Socket 939 and right after that AMD released Socket AM2, which is a 940-pin socket with DDR2 memory support. All future AMD chips will be on this new platform. That includes the quad-core CPUs coming out next year. The motherboard chipset for this socket is the nVidia nForce 5 series, but there is no difference between that and the nForce 4s except for DDR2 support. Didn't matter, I wanted DDR1 RAM anyways (faster timings). Though I am concerned that starting next year, DDR1 memory is not gonna provide enough memory bandwidth for next-generation games. Oh well. Notice that in some of the earlier pictures I had two 12-inch blacklights and that I re-used my two 4-inch blacklights from my previous PC. Those 4-inchers died on me, so I replaced them with another two 12-inchers (cuz they were cheaper for some reason), which you see towards the bottom. So now I have four 12-inch blacklights which really show off the UV-reactive stuff inside. Yeah, thanks to Xoxide.com for providing all of my case modding needs. And of course a big final thanks to NewEgg.com, the best place for a computer builder to get all of his / her parts from. Awesome prices, kickass deals, insanely fast shipping (especially when FedEx was standard).

The specs for my computer are as follows:

  • CPU - AMD Opteron165 (dual-core processor). Overclocked to 2.40GHz (equivalent of an Athlon64 X2 4800+)!!!! I overclocked it on August 25th 2006. Stepping CCB1E (best batch ever made, can overclock past 3.0GHz). The reason I got the Opteron is because this processor and the Athlon64 X2 3800+ were priced similarly, but the Opteron165 has 1MB of L2 cache per core, while the 3800+ has only 512KB per core (half the amount). Even though the Opteron165 is clocked slower by default, you can easily make that up with some simple OCing, but there is no way to add cache to the 3800+. Plus, Opterons have refined, higher-quality silicon that makes them more reliable over longer periods of time, cuz they were meant to run non-stop in workstation and server environments. In short, the Opteron165 was the cheapest dual-core processor I could get at the time with 1MB of L2 cache per core.


  • Memory - 2 x 1024MB DDR400 (PC3200) RAM (2048 MB / 2GB total) - Corsair XMS TwinX DIMMs. 2-3-3-6 timings (motherboard sees it as 2.5-3-3-8 before the CPU overclock. This is an issue Corsair is aware of, and they swear it still runs at 2-3-3-6. I got it to actually show up as 2.5-3-3-6 after I overclocked the CPU).


  • Graphics Card - nVidia GeForce 7900GT with 256MB of video RAM (GPU is overclocked to 500MHz, from 450MHz, VRAM is underclocked down from 1500MHz to 1320MHz cuz there is no heatsink over RAM chips), PCI-E slot.

    [UPDATE for July 16th 2007] - The 7900 GT was dying after a year of use, so I got it replaced through warranty by RMAing it back to eVGA. They replaced it with a GeForce 7950GT, which is a more powerful card that is based off the dual-card GeForce 7950 GX2. The GPU core on this card runs at 550 MHz, the video RAM runs at 700 MHz (1400 MHz DDR), and memory bandwidth has been increased by 2 GB/sec to 44.something GB/sec). The heatsink has been upgraded as well with a unit that now covers all the video RAM, so now I don't have to be concerned about the vRAM overheating, and I'm not forced to clock it down.


  • Monitor - ESA 19-inch flat-screen CRT. Cheap but excellent for gaming. Bought it when my last monitor died on me after three years (19inch KDS Visual Sensations), and I needed something cheap and quick. This new monitor was cheaper, and is lighter, has a flat screen, has truer colors, and is more reliable than my last monitor. Takes up less space too. Lighter and smaller dimensions means easy transporting for LANParties. And of course I cannot go with LCDs, I'm a gamer. I don't need a totally flat monitor that has inferior picture quality to a CRT and yet is more expensive. I would get an LCD as a secondary monitor for dual-display purposes, though. Of course if I had my choice, it would probably be an NEC or ViewSonic CRT.


  • Motherboard - DFI LANParty NF4 Ultra-D (nVidia nForce 4 Ultra chipset). This is an excellent motherboard for overclocking, as it has a wealth of overclocking options and temperature monitoring sensors. You can also save seperate BIOS / CMOS settings and load them up whenever you need to. Handy for when you have different overclocking setups, or your CMOS battery dies and all the information in the BIOS resets to its factory default values. The motherboard also has a black PCB and UV-reactive slots and brackets, which react well with my blacklights.


  • Sound card - Creative Labs SoundBlaster Audigy 1. Yeah that's right I don't have an Audigy 2 or 4, and there's no point to getting them now cuz the X-Fi series is already out.


  • Speakers - Logitech Z-5300e 5.1 THX-certified speakers.


  • Hard Drive(s) - Seagate Barracuda 400GB (SATA-II with NCQ, 7200rpm, 16MB cache), Hitachi Deskstar (I think) 160GB (IDE, 7200rpm).


  • DVD Drives - NEC DVD+-RW 8x burner (model ND-2500A), NEC DVD+-RW dual-layer 16x burner (model 3550A).


  • Power Supply - 550-watt Cooler Master Real Power (model RS-550-ACLY). Came with a useless, hard-to-read but very cool looking wattage meter (which I mounted in the front by taping it to the bottom of my floppy drive because the stupid thing would not fit far enough into the floppy bay to screw it in!). This PSU was one of the top-rated PSUs by Tom's Hardware Guide as being super-efficient (saves money on electric bill) and delivering true full-on power over the different voltage rails. I have this PSU connected to an APC UPS (uninterruptible power supply). It protects against surges and lightning strikes up to 800 watts, it has an indicator to let me know if the electrical lines in my house are faulty, and it provides battery-backup when the power goes out (brownouts or blackouts). It also regulates the voltages coming into it to make sure the alternating current doesnt fluctuate too rapidly, and to filter out "dirty" electricty that could harm or kill my components.


  • Mouse / Pads - Logitech MX510 Gaming Mouse, RatPadz GS (Gaming Surface) mousepad, fUnc Archetype 1030 gaming mousepad. I listed the RatPadz but I don't use it anymore.


  • Keyboard - Logitech G15 Gaming Keyboard. Got it as a berfday present for my 23rd berfday. I got to open it early heh. Nearly two weeks early. 18 (x3) macro keys, backlit keys and an integrated LCD display that can be used to display all kinds of information by running different program built specifically to interface with it.


  • Controllers - Saitek P2500 controller, Xbox360 controller.


  • Case / Mods - Thermaltake Tsunami Dream. Case mods include acrylic side window, four 12-inch UV Blacklights, UV-sensitive IDE and SATA cables (I used to have an IDE cable that glowed in the dark, but I put it in my Linux system), motherboard has UV-reactive slots and brackets, Xoxide.com applique.


  • OS - Windows XP Pro x64 Edition, Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit. I wanted to use 32-bit WinXP, but the version I have does not have Service Pack 1 or 2 included, cuz I got it years ago. I need at least SP1 included in order to recognize hard drives over 137GB during the install process. And since I already have a version of 32-bit Windows, I was not gonna buy it again just to have SP2 included, and no one would buy my version from me cuz they all already have WinXP. So I figured if I was gonna get a new copy of Windows, it should at least be very different. It took a loooong time before I was able to get drivers for all of my devices though. My Sony digital camera is still not recognized by 64-bit WinXP, but for some reason Vista 64-bit has no problem recognizing it. I got Windows Vista Ultimate when it was released on Tuesday, January 30th 2007. I ordered it through my friend (who shall remain nameless but you probably know who he is), who is a Microsoft employee. As a result, I only paid $45 for Vista Ultimate when it retails for $399.95! It arrived on Friday (it shipped out on Wednesday, and I paid $10 for 2 day shipping, and my brother and my dad ordered a copy as well). It comes with both a 32-bit disc and a 64-bit disc. Windows Vista should have only been 64-bit, but whatever. Microsoft is forcing companies to make software that works on both versions, and if they make drivers for 32-bit Vista they have to make drivers for 64-bit Vista and vice-versa. I'm dual-booting both OSes, with Vista installed on my older IDE hard drive so that I can mess around with it. It'll be at least a year before I can use Vista as my main OS (when all the software and hardware issues get worked out, and the OS gets more support). I usually wait at least a year before I get a new Microsoft OS anyways, but I figured I better get Vista through my friend while I still could.


As with the last few picture galleries, the viewing of these pics was meant for the Firefox web browser, so I hope you guys are using it. When you first click on the pics, it shows the larger versions scaled down to fit onscreen (if your monitor resolution is lower than these pictures), and then you can click on this larger version to zoom in and see it at full size.



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Click on each thumbnail to see the larger 1600x1200 version.






You can probably tell in the pics below that I was VERY excited to get my graphics card and my CPU. Maybe just a little bit excited.






     In these pictures below, I had been using the computer for a few weeks when I noticed my CPU temps were kinda high, and that was because I put too much thermal paste between the CPU and the heatsink. So I had to take off the HSF, clean up all the thermal paste and reapply it as a paper-thin evenly spread layer. You can see from some of the pics near the very top of this page that when I first built, the PC, in my haste and sleep-deprived state, I just gunked the thermal paste on there. Generally a bad idea anyways because that Arctic Silver 5 thermal paste is expensive, and I didn't have a whole lot of it left. Actually I ran out when first building this PC.






     The following are pictures of when I overclocked my CPU. Jacked up the FSB (Front-Side BUS) to 267 MHz, which multiplied by the 9x clock multiplier gets me 2,403 MHz for my CPU's clock speed (which is the about the equivalent of a 4,800 MHz Pentium4 processor or an AMD Athlon64 X2 4800+). And then, in order to not overclock the RAM, I had to use a DRAM divider of 3/4, which clocked the RAM back down to its normal 200MHz (400MHz DDR) speed. Overclocking the RAM would not allow the computer to boot into Windows or to run for very long - the computer would be unstable. So, in this way I was able to overclock the CPU (by overclocking the FSB) without overclocking the RAM. The ideal way to overclock is to not even touch the FSB at all, and just raise the clock multiplier. However, only super-high-end Athlon64 FXes and Opterons have unlocked multipliers. The Opteron165 is locked at 9x - it can go lower than that, but not higher. I have actual screenshots of CPU-Z and other programs from within Windows showing off the CPU and the the temps and all that, but I'm way too lazy to post those pictures at this time (there's alot of them). These pictures were taken about a week after the pictures in the section below, when I first got the Logitech G15 Gaming keyboard. I overclocked my CPU on August 25th 2006, the day after Kirk and I helped Kyle overclock his Opteron165. He's thinking about pushing on further to 2.8GHz (which is like an Athlon64 X2 5000+ or an Athlon64 FX-62). He might be able to get away with it, his CPU, mobo and case temperatures are much lower than mine.

     You might notice in the 4th screenshot below it says DDR300 during the POST. That's funny because it gave me quite a scare, but when I got into Windows I ran CPU-Z (new version 1.36) and saw that the RAM was indeed running at 200MHz, which is DDR400 speeds. When I overclocked the FSB to overclock the CPU, and when I messed with the memory divider, that confused the BIOS. The BIOS also thinks that my HyperTransport (HTT) speed is 800 MHz (1600 MHz DDR), but CPU-Z shows the HTT link speed is running at the true 1000 MHz (2000MHz DDR). CPU-Z gets its own information and monitors things in real-time on its own. This is how I know it's correct. I looked into the DDR300 reporting error and it turns out that using the 3/4 divider makes the BIOS think the RAM is running at 150 MHz, which is 300 MHz DDR. That would be true if my FSB was still 200MHz, because 200 x (3/4) = 150 Mhz. However, in this overclocked state my equation is 267 x (3/4) = 200.25 MHz. (Also, if the RAM speed is normal, the HTT speed is normal). Which means I'm fine YYAAYY!!!!!!!! Too much damn math.






     The following pictures are of my new gaming-oriented keyboard, the Logitech G15 (man I've got alot of Logitech stuff). My family knew I was looking for a black keyboard, something simple to match the color scheme of the rest of my system, you know like a $15 - $25 keyboard. Nothing fancy, I just wanted to get rid of that beige HP keyboard I had (that has served me faithfully for many years and through many LANParties). They decided to get me a keyboard for my 23rd berfday, but Good Lord they went all out! Good thing Newegg.com was selling the thing for more than 30% off the MSRP! My berfday is not until the 30th of August, but they let me open it two days before my sister's 21st berfday (August 21) because, as my mom put it, I wouldn't have enough time to enjoy it before school started. My berfday is only a week before the Fall semester of 2006 starts, but hey, Im the one who should have graduated from college more than a year ago already.
     So, about the keyboard. Most obvious is the fold-out LCD screen on the top, which is backlit. It has some pretty nice features. Games like UT2K4 use the LCD screen to show details on a map that's loading and more importantly to display the ammo count for all the player's weapons at once. It has a built-in performance meter that monitors RAM and CPU usage. The cool thing about the CPU usage graph is that it splits to show the usage of each processing core. I like having this performance monitor on-screen so I can see CPU usage while playing games (since I only have one monitor and cannot bring up the task manager on another screen). The LCD screen has 4 navigation buttons (to switch between screens in one program) and a circular to the left of those to switch between programs. The media controls below it work with both Windows Media Player and Winamp, so I can see artist and song names and skip forward and back to the next / previous tracks as well as stop, start, and pause the tracks. I can do this without even having Winamp or WMP displayed onscreen, which I didn't know how convenient that was till I started to use it. No more having to switch windows (and stop what Im doing for a few secs) to skip forward a track or to pause it. I don't bother with the volume control though, cuz my speaker system's main control unit is right on my desk anyways. The screen also has a time and date display. You can download 3rd party apps to expand it's functionality. I got a 3rd party performance monitor that does pretty much the same thing as the built-in one (except it doesn't show the usage of each core), but it does other things as well like show me how many processes running in the background are native 64-bit vs native 32-bit. It also tries to show temperatures, but fails. I got an applet from AMD's website that displays info about my CPU on the LCD screen (like cache sizes per core, voltages and HT frequency). Anyways I would like to see more games support this thing.
     The keyboard itself is high-quality, well-built and sturdy. The upper area where the LCD screen is and the USB ports are appears to be covered in some kind of rubber-like material. All the keys are backlit with two levels of brightness (or you can turn all the lighting off). Good for playing in the dark, like at LANParties. Stupid USB ports dont supply enough power to run my USB flash drive though! One thing I am very thankful for is that the navigation buttons (ins, del, home, end, page up and page down) are in the default, normal layout that keyboards are supposed to be using, cuz I can't stand it when keyboards have the same layout Jay's motherboard uses. I won't use a keyboard with that kind of layout. I need those home, end and del keys to be in their normal positions. The keyboard has a "game mode" switch which deactivates the windows and right-click keys when its switched on. This keeps you from accidentally pressing them and minimizing your game. Not something that was ever really a problem for me, but eh I use it just in case. I mean its there, why not use it? The keyboard is too damn wide and takes up all the space on my keyboard tray (and covers most of my mousepad). The main reason for that is those 18 fully programmable G keys on the left side of the keyboard. You can program them for different things. For example, WoW players can program crazy useful macros on them. I probably won't even use those darn things. I can do without them. It would be cool if I could use them to open programs, but I heard one person tried that (on some random forums I was reading), and it wouldn't let him do that. Crap. That's the only thing I would use them for. It would be hella convenient. Has a wrist rest on it, nifty. Kinda hard getting used to typing on this thing. The keys are pretty silent, I usually like the clickity-clack of typing but oh well I won't miss it too much. I gave up on trying to get a keyboard with backlit keys cuz they all have those laptop-style flat keys that I hate so much, but this one doesn't, Thank God Almighty. So yeah that's pretty much it. This keyboard is overkill for me, but the LCD screen is sweet and the backlighting is nice. That and the overall black theme are what I like best about this keyboard. Silver also work out because my monitor is black and silver as well. Anyways, check out the pics below.






Overclocking Shots. Note that in the 3rd picture, the POST displays the memory information as DDR300. This is because the memory divider was switched to 3/4 which would be 150 MHz or DDR300 if the FSB was left at 200 MHz. But since I overclocked it to 267 MHz, the RAM's actual speed is still 200 MHz (thanks to the memory divider, the RAM does not get overclocked), so it is still running at DDR400.






     In the future, I'm looking to get a DirectX 10 graphics card (probably a GeForce 8, or higher when they exist) in order to be ready for Windows Vista and the next generation of games (such as Crysis and Unreal Tournament 3). I might water-cool my CPU as well. I would also like to eventually move to a quad-core AMD processor sometime after they are released, but that will require a new motherboard and new DDR2 RAM. I don't believe in SLI (two or more graphics cards working together) because you don't even get double the performance for the ridiculous price. And by the time a new graphics card comes out, that card alone is faster than two of the previous generation cards working together in SLI! I would also like to get a SoundBlaster X-Fi sound card with 64MB of "X-RAM" for storing sound data, since alot of games are starting to use it for faster sound processing and framerates. Finally, in the future I might get two of the exact same hard drives and put them together in a RAID 0 configuration for 2x faster speeds. Getting a new sound card can benefit me immediately though. However, all of these options are far too expensive, and after getting this new PC I'm dead broke (and as of the time of this writing, I don't have a job anymore so I'll be broke for a while)! Yeah I'm broke, but damn happy.

     I've wanted a new PC for a looong time, and I've been buidling monster machines for other people, so it only makes sense that the master builder not only finally gets his own kickass machine, but that it is the most powerful PC among all the people he knows. I'm sure Kirk won't let that last long though. He's already talking about jumping on DirectX 10 cards as soon as they come out, and I heard some grumblings about socket AM2. . . It never fails. I get a new PC, and just like Justin, Kirk wants to immediately be better than me. Kirk got to be in the lead for a whole freakin' year. Now Javier, Kyle and I are ahead and he's already disgruntled. Heck even Er1c was forced to upgrade past Kirk when his GeForce 6800GT died. Kyle and I lead, but we'll see how long that lasts. Ha but my brother just got a job, and soon, yes very soon now, he'll have a chance to build a new PC, and if I can't rule, my brother shall! A Ferguson brother will be in the lead, I can assure you all of that.

UPDATE (2/26/2007): Kirk ended up updating the BIOS on his system and getting the same processor I have. However he paid much less, since AMD slashed prices by a great deal in order to compete with the superior Intel Core 2 Duo processors (who would have ever thought that Intel would finally manage to beat AMD? We're betting it won't last long though). Kirk also upgraded to faster RAM and double the amount. He is still waiting on getting a DirectX 10 card to see what ATi comes out with (then he will decide who is better and cheaper, ATi or nVidia). Chris was not allowed to use all of his money by our mom, so he got a computer as a $400 TigerDirect.com bundle that came with a cheap but decent case, a SiS chipset on the motherboard (too bad it wasn't an nForce4/5/6), and an Athlon64 FX-60 CPU. He now has the fastest CPU among us all. He is using my old RAM though. He's using Windows Vista as his main OS, after dual-booting it with XP for a while. My old computer is also in his room, which is now a Linux machine. Chris uses both at once. Justin upgraded to a super-powerful computer this past Christmas with the flagship GeForce 8800 GTX DirectX 10 card, and an Intel Core 2 Duo. He's using it both as a gaming monster and as a media center PC. Dan is in the process of buying a new computer as well. He already ordered some of the parts. It's based on Justin's machine, but with the GeForce 8 right under Justin's, the 8800 GTS. As it stands, Chris is leading with speed, and Justin is leading with power. [UPDATE 08/13/07] I forgot to mention that Eric's GeForce 7900 GT was replaced with a GeForce 7900 GTO when it was replaced under warranty through an RMA with eVGA, just as my own 7900GT was replaced with a 7950GT.







Site Created January 5 2005. Page Last Updated on September 03rd 2008.
Copyright © 2006 Clifford Ferguson II.