New PC

With the AUD plummeting and some demand for 64 bit versions of Planimate, I figured it was time to get together a new machine, even though my Core2 duo PC had otherwise been quite adequate. I wanted something which could cope with lots of virtual PCs with plenty of memory. I’d retain the Core2duo for multimedia work.

Heres what I ended up with.

Antec Sonata III case with 500W Earthwatts PSU
GSkill “PI” PC8800 5-5-5-15 1066MHz 4 x 2G = 8G RAM
Asus P5Q-E motherboard
1 X 80GB WD SATA 3.5″ HDD
Asus/Radeon HD-3650 silent video card
Liteon 20x DVD-DL DH-20A4P drive
Coolermaster 120mm case fan
Zalman 9500A LED CPU cooler
WinXP PRO 64 bit

While I was at it I also bought a Linksys SD2008 8 port gigabit switch since I was out of ports on my DLink G604T router and sick of bugs with VMWare and gigabit adapters on 100mbit LANs.

Heres a picture of its innards:

Things went together pretty well, apart from my initial choice of CPU heatsink, the CoolerMaster Hyper TX2. The horrible socket 775 push pins just would not fit and after reading bad things about bent boards, I decided to go with another Zalman, as for my previous 2 PCs.

The case is very similar to my Core2 Duo’s Sonata II case. Key things I like about it are the swing out door, the front air filter and how the HDDs just clip in and out.

The P5Q-E is a great board; plenty of USB2 and SATA ports, PCIe 2.0, PCI, firewire, 2 gigabit LAN adapters, 5 onboard fan connectors, digital audio output. I wont be constrained when this PC gets old and becomes a HTPC somewhere in the house 🙂

The video card was a last minute choice. I originally wanted one of the recent Matrox business video cards; I’ve liked Matrox for their hardware zoom, which helps when you are mostly blind 8) Unfortunately between the time of me investigating the options and ordering, it had skyrocketted in price nearly $200 thanks to the AUD. So I just ordered whatever was under $100, PCIe and fanless.

I ended up with an Asus EAH3650SLN, a Radeon based card which runs fairly cool, seems OK for video but most importantly, has no fan! The lack of the Matrox “pixeltouch” hardware zoom was a woory but a small program I’d hacked together using a transparent window to implement hardware zoom works as an adequate substitute. One thing that the card has in common with high end gamer cards – you lose the adjacent slot.

The 4 hard drives are set up as follows:
C: 20GB partition of 80GB drive 1
D: 80GB (drive 2)
E: 500GB (drive 3)
F: 500GB (drive 4)
G: 60GB partition (drive 1)

C: contains the OS, WinXP 64.

D: contains the swap file, TEMP folder and the “D:” hard drive image of my main work VM, which itself contains the swapfile and TEMP files of the virtual machine. In other words, D: is all temporary files, real and virtual.

E: contains backup images as well as backups of my NAS drive.

F: contains VMs

G: (the remaining partition of drive 1, the OS drive) hasn’t got much use yet.

With this approach, the workload of accessing operating system files, temporary files, backups and virtual machine files is being split between 4 physical drives, with the idea being to split the workload to reduce “thrashing”. I tbink its worthwhile given there are 4 cores to keep busy.

I’ve got the machine slightly overclocked. I dont need extreme speed, a little bonus is nice though. The CPU is running at 3.06GHz and the ram is at about 1076MHz. The CPU idles at under 38C on a warm evening, which is good enough for me.

The machine is quieter and cooler than my Core2DUo machine. Not having a horrible video card plus 2 additional large PCI card probably helps, but I think all the recent attention on energy savings by Asus and Intel are probably a part of it as well. The front, cpu and rear fans create a nice airflow throuh the case.

Here’s a picture of the 2 Sonata based machines, the new one is on the left.


An interesting solution emerged for networking my previous machine (on the right in the photo above). Rather than run another cable to the router (in another room) or move the router, I just bridged the 2 LAN adapters on the P5Q-E mobo and conected the second adapter to the Core2Duo. Works nice.

The combination of quad core, 8GB of RAM and XP64 means I can run VMs galore. I’m not installing much on the host, everything I use will be in a virtual computer.