So for my birthday I scraped together some cash and bought parts and built a Core i7 System.
- PSU = 750W 85%+ Efficient
- MOB = ASUS P6T WS Pro (Workstation)
- CPU = Intel Core i7 920 2.66Ghz
- RAM = OCZ 6GB (3x2GB) Tripple Channel 1333Mhz CL7
- GPU = NVIDIA GeForce 8800GTS 640MB (320bit)
Hard Drive Config:
- 2 x SAS 74GB 15,000RPM Seagate Cheetah - Raid 0 (Stripe) - OS
- 1 x SATA 500GB 7,200RPM Maxtor (single drive) - DATA
- 1 x SATA 1000GB 7,200RPM Samsung (Single Drive) - Photo Storage
I have another 500GB, 4 x 250GB, 160GB and a 120GB extra, but I'm going to consolidate and get another 2 x 1TB drives, one to stripe with my current one for faster editing and use the 3rd as a backup (I know Raid 0 will make it a 2TB drive, but I'm sure i'll afford a 2TB drive by the time I fill it up to 1TB)
In-Depth Look at the Hardware:
[Added 1st March]
The ASUS P6T-WS Pro is one of the high end LGA Socket 1366 boards out there, and is built, as the name suggests, primarily for high end workstations. Although the term workstation can be any computer, workstations in this meaning are intended for things like intense 2D or 3D editing and modeling, CAD, Game Design, or just heavy number crunching. The board has some interesting expandability options that a most other motherboards on any standard consumer CPU socket don't have. These include:
- SAS Ports
- PCI-X Ports
- Dual E-SATA
- Dual Gigabit Ethernet
All of these are pretty useful when used as a powerful workstation giving a great amount of expandibility. Allowing for cards usually only avaliable in Xeon class systems (PCI-X) or servers to be used in a normal ATX form factor at a relatively low cost.
The Intel Core i7 920 is the lowest cpu currently in the i7 range, although it is though that the 9xx series is the higher end with a 7xx series comming out later in the year for the midrange market.
The 920 has one main advantage over the 940 and 965 Extreme - it's cheaper!
- And that advantage coupled with the Core i7's fantastic overclocking abilities makes it a certain winner for most people who arn't afraid to push their chip! As it stands people have had the 920 to over 4.5GHz on AIR cooling and running stable. It is hard to believe the chips stock frequency is only 2.66GHz!
The main cache for this processor (and the 940, 965) is 8MB L3, as opposed to the 12MB L2 avaliable on the previous generation of Intel Quad Cores. 8MB is certainly nothing to scoff at, although I assume future versions will once again increase it. The cache on the Core i7 CPU's is different from previous generations and is somewhat similar to the AMD Phenom's. It uses a large L3 cache and a somewhat low L2 cache - rather than the Larger L2 cache.
Temperatures have been a hot topic on the Core i7's with many people experiencing 60-70C temperatures or higher during a high workload. This doesn't seem to disturbing as the chips are intended to opperate at quite high temperatures, so seeing them working at 60-80C doesn't worry me personally at all.
The ram chosen was OCZ-1333Mhz CL7.0 Ram (will look up full name later)
I went with this as it gave a good balance between price and performance. The latency of the ram isn't a major issue but I didn't want to settle with CL9, and the cost of CL6 ram just can't be justified.
Intel's spec clearly states that the DRAM Voltage is not to exceed 1.65V or it could damage the processor, although reading around most people have pushed this limit to 1.66V, despite the warnings given and their systems seem to work trouble free.
Installing the OS:
[Added 1st March]
The OS i have picked for now is Windows XP Pro 32bit. Why? Because its stable, it works, and all the other computers in my house run the exact same OS. I enjoy the Classic interface on XP, I know Vista and Windows 7 have options for this as well, but it doesn't "feel" the same.
My OS decisions for the future as it stands are:
- Windows XP Pro x64
- Windows Server 2003 x64
Now as to which of these I am going to choose I am unsure. I know Server 2003 (because I use it) has built in backup features that I would quite like (NT Backup) that are built right into the OS. Although I do still like to occasionally play a game or two and I am unsure about how it would work. I'm not in a desperate rush for the use of the extra 3GB of ram and whatever speed boosts x64 bit versions of Adobe Lightroom etc. will bring but when I do eventually upgrade they will be welcome.
Now to the installation...
I knew from the start that there would be little problems trying to install any OS onto a SAS Raid array. We tried our Windows XP SP3 Slipstream disk (SP3 with most of the current updates) and as expected XP couldn't see the SAS controller. Now, as you may think just pop the motherboard disk in another system, make a floppy with the drivers and hit F6 when booting the Windows disk; well a few things make that hard:
- I don't have a floppy drive
- The board doesn't have ANY IDE or Floppy connectors
- I couldn't be bothered going to get a USB one
So how does one solve this problem? Simply edit your slipstream disk, and add the drivers to it! A few clicks, drivers were added, another XP install CD was burning and we were ready to rock and roll.
This time the XP installation seen the array perfectly as a 140GB drive, and loaded Windows in under 8 minutes! I think thats a record for any computer I've loaded!
Once in XP, popped the motherboard disk in, ran the chipset, audio, ethernet drivers; installed the ASUS Probe and Turbo V applications for Temperature monitoring and software overclocking, downloaded the rest of the remaining Windows updates along with the drivers for my PCI Wifi card and NVIDIA graphics card.
That was it, everything in and working!
Well, it is FAST! Partly down to the Raid 0 SAS array, giving a total of 31,000RPM - i mean, thats nuts! Constant read speed of around 190MB/s its above a lot of the Solid State drives, and a 6.2ms lag its almost nothing!!
[Added 1st March]
Easy peasy lemon squeezy!!!
Honest! within seconds i had a stable 3.6GHz overclock ran SuperPi to 32M a few times, messed around with some stuff and it was fine. 3.8 was less stable, as was 3.97, and i managed to achieve a 4.008GHz, but within a few seconds it BSOD'd on me.
Just now it is at:
- Core Speed: 3316Mhz
- Multiplier: x20.0
- Bus Speed: 166MHz
- QPI Link: 2985.3MHz
- CPU Voltage: 1.34V
- DRAM Voltage: 1.64V
- *will post other voltages later*
So as it stands at 3.3GHz I can not no matter what I do get it to go above 65C on the CPU or 45C on the motherboard. Thats running super pi 32M, Lightroom on both screens, itunes with its virtulizer thing, along with firefox playing HD video from youtube. Even more surprising is the lack of slowdown! It seems that the computer isnt the bottleneck, its almost as if the applications just cant run anyfaster! Lightroom is pretty much instantantanious at anything, there is a LITTLE bit of lag, we're talking fractions of a second here, when using the local adjustment brush but thats something adobe already knows about.
- Addition! -
After running Prime95 on 8 threads, the CPU went up to 85 degrees after a few minutes, then I got scared and switched it off! In real world use, I find it damn near impossible to get near 50% useage out of the CPU (due to the 4 cores and 2 threads per core giving 8 cores in the task manager) so I don't feel as if the system will be unstable at all. My tests this morning proved that even under the most extreme load i could possibly put it under, apart from maybe running photoshop along side it, it wouldnt break a sweat or touch 65C - and with a new CPU cooler (when i can afford one) it should be fine on Prime95.
[Added 1st March]
- TO BE CONTINUED - KEEP CHECKING BACK!!
Canon EOS 5DmkII + BG-E6 + Canon EOS 40D + BG-E2N + Canon EOS 33
Canon 17-40 F/4L
USM + Canon 24-70 F/2.8L
USM + Canon 28mm F/1.8 USM + Canon 70-200 F/2.8L
USM IS + Canon 85mm F/1.8 USM
Canon Speedlite 580EX II + Canon Speedlite 540EZ + 2 x Nikon SB-80DX
Cactus V2s Wireless Trigger - 5 x
Cactus V2s Wireless Reciever