Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Gigabyte 3-D Rocket II

One of the best coolers I have used was the Gigabyte 3-D Rocket II. It was from a good looking webmaster Ramon “Sir Geek-A-Lot” Alivio. I was “crashing” his crib when I notice a Gigabyte cooler just lying around inside his room. It was given to the web master from PC Extreme, but it was defective. It was supposed to be used by his brother but the blower just won’t turn. Ramon decided to let me use it if I can make the thing work. It was still in a near mint condition, all accessories except the RPM controller are complete.

Alien looking fan

The stock thermal paste is still almost full and screws are complete. The first thing I have noticed is that this cooler is huge, but surprisingly light weight. With an all-copper block that makes contact with the processor. Ramon was quite sure that the PCB on the blower connection was defective, so he asked me to test the blower if it will turn on a direct line to a 12V supply.
At the house, I tested the connection with a multi-meter. The connection on the terminal was in good condition. But after connecting it to the system fan header the cooler was not performing at all. The blue LEDs are lit but blower was not turning. Taking out the blower, I made a direct connection to the mother board using wires from an old stock cooler. The power of the blower was enormous, it howls and I can feel wind on my face.
After tinting the copper block and the processor with the stock thermal paste, the first problem I have encountered in the installation process is the positioning of the massive heat sink. Following the instruction manual was not enough, for the board in the manual was not the same model as I have. Few adjustments were made so that the “clips” won’t take the RAM, and some capacitors space. The second problem was my case wasn’t big enough for the cooler. After mounting the motherboard on a bigger case, I have few minor issues on the power supply unit, for the clips are in contact with the power supply case and bending the case solved the problem. Last of the issues, is the noise it made when the blower runs on full speed. Seems this cooler is really noisy, installing it with a sound proof case will help dampened the noise.
Cramped but effective

After the installation, I turned on the switch and my system comes to life. I can actually feel the power of the blower! It was a very effective cooler with a noisy drawback. This cooler represents a brute force in cooling solution, overall its very suitable for my system....

Results on a hot & humid night

First attempt

So my fastest on air cooling

Friday, September 5, 2008

PC under $400

Hey Man!
Im addicted to gaming and system building but I don't have the "wawart" (money) to indulged my fat ass on a pc shopping bliss where everything you use is all highend and fast, and shiny, and hardcore, and extreme, and......haaayyy!(bubble popping)! Back to reality, I need a fix, and of course a budget fix. I prepared some list of budget build that can be decent on any games, and be fast on multimedia and any office application except 3D rendering. The list was for the CPU only, just add the monitor and all the peripherals of your choice.

AMD build*
Processor-------------Sempron 3400+ ($70)
Motherboard ---------WinFast K8M890M2MA, integrated graphics ($55)
Memory--------------2x 512 MB DDR2 SDRAM -667 ($68)
Hard Drive------------Western_Digital WD1600JS, 160 GB, SATA/300 ($55)
Optical Drive----------Samsung SH-S182D ($30)
Case-------------------Any ($30)
Power Supply---------Coolmax ATX Black 400 W ($27)
Total Cost-------------$335

Intel build*
Processor-------------Celeron D 352 ($56)
Motherboard---------Asus P5LD2-VM ($95), integrated graphics
Memory--------------2x 512 MB DDR2-667 ($68)
Hard Drive-----------Western Digital WD1600JS, 160 GB, SATA/300 ($55)
Optical Drive---------Samsung SH-S182D ($30)
Case------------------Any ($30)
Power Supply---------Coolmax ATX Black 400 W ($27)
Total Cost-------------$361
(*prices varies on online shopping)

Both are clearly capable of handling any office and multimedia task and the level of performance provided by the budget processors still is acceptable. The hard drive is fast enough to make the system feel quick, and 1 GB of RAM is enough for applications to run smoothly. And both systems can be upgraded with dual-core or Multi-core processors in case you are not happy with the performance after a while.
But, I wanna play Oblivion! Call of Duty4 or Crysis even!

Here is my alternative list*:
Processor---------------Pentium Dual Core E2180 2.0Ghz. ($72)
Motherboard-----------ECS 945GCT-M2 ($43)
Memory----------------Team Elite 2x 512MB DDR2-667 ($35)
Hard Drive-------------Seagate Barracuda, 160GB, SATA ($55)
Graphics Card----------Palit NVidia 8600GT 512MB ($67)
Case with a 500W Generic PSU ($36)
Total Cost---------------$308.00
*based on Iloilo City Philippines prices

Sacrificing the optical drive and a good PSU resulted a more playable system,
of course adding a good PSU will be over $400.

HEC is the only brand you can actually see on display on various computer shops here in Iloilo.
So buying it will be my suggestion if you are an Ilonggo or you can buy online.

This specs can play Oblivion with all the sliders maxed at resolution 1280x1024, AA 0, AF none
with a playable an average 25fps Outdoor.
Call of Duty 4 and Crysis can be smooth on medium settings. Higher than that, crappy.

So these are the options you can have on building a budget PC, of course you can try different products/brand of your choice. My choice is based on my experience on building computer systems here in Iloilo for people who don't know much about P.C.s. Overclocking may improve the performance of these specs, but it would be risky and may need additional peripherals basing on our hot and humid climate.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Overclocking my first SLI mobo

Writing this article/blog was my first time... So what happened before I have done this, I must have a topic hmmmmm.... Thats it! I will tell you the details on how I mess around with my pc on hoping to get the maximum performance from this old SLI motherboard...
This was my specs:

Processor-----Pentium Dual Core E2160
Motherboard--Gigabyte GA N650i DS4L
Memory-------2x 1Gb Team Elite DDR2 800 RAM
Hard Drive----Seagate Barracuda 160GB SATA HDD
+Western Digital 160GB SATA HDD
Video Card----Palit NVidia GeForce 8600GT 512Mb
PSU-----------A generic PSU rating at 500 Watts


Inside a generic case

The processor of my choice that fits my puny budget was the Pentium Dual Core E2160

More bang for the buck processor!

It cost around $85 at that time, and that was my 2nd Dual Core build. (I was able to build a Pentium D platform for my uncle).

Zalman fan for the NB

Seagate (above) Western Digital (below)

The Pentium Dual Core E2000 family is available at three different stock speeds: the E2140 runs at 1.6 GHz, E2160 is the 1.8 GHz part and E2180 works at 2.0 GHz. All of them utilize a 200 MHz system clock (FSB800) and the Core 2 microarchitecture. When compared to Core 2 with its 2 MB or 4 MB L2 cache, the Pentium Dual Core comes with only 1 MB, and it also doesn't support the virtualization technology called VT.
I don't need VT anyway, I just need the basics.

Attempting to raise the clock speed was possible by tweaking the motherboard's FSB speed to 355Mhz. I was expecting a 3.2Ghz. easy overclock. It never boot, I tried increasing the core voltage from 1.3V to 1.5V, it booted but the damned thing hanged! I'm using a stock fan/heatsink, and I forgot that I'm living in a tropical climate with temps reaching about 35C to 41C ambient (I got no airconditioning sorry..). Adjustments was made by lowering the multiplier by 8x yeilding a product of 2.8Ghz. of clock speed. At last I got a stable overclock (or so I think) testing it with Prime 95 for 3 hours, resulted restarts! Checking my temps, to my surprise I got 59C-62C Northbridge chipset! Core temps recorded at 59C-63C!... Man this is bad... using a stock heatsink/fan on an overclocked p.c. with an unreliable PSU was a bad idea. But Im not giving up (yet), I installed a Zalman fan on my Northbridge Chipset, and got a minus 2 on my NB temps. Ultimately, I move my rig to an airconditioned room (Electronic Lab 3 University of San Agustin) with ambient temps of 18C-22C, and I was able to cranked up a 3.0Ghz using all the specs above.

I should have an airconditioned room! hehehe, seriously, overclocking on a tropical climate needs an aftermarket heatsink/fan, and for those who had money to burn, liquid cooling is the best. For using fans only collects dust inside your system. So I decided to stay stock for a while, while saving up for those cool, expensive and nice looking heatsink/fan. And don't forget about the PSU, having a stable build requires stable voltage output that can be achieved using high quality, high output power supply.