A Windows 7 Experience on MONSTER

 

A few weeks back I invested in a new machine for home use.

 

It's called Monster.

 

I thought the name was appropriate considering that it's not made by a box-shifter (Dell, HP, IBM Et al, AlienWare), but by me using some of the latest Video, motherboard and processor components.

 

Ok, here are the individual components that make up the new machine. I didn't need to buy the keyboard, mouse, DVD-RW or LCD panel as I already have those.

 

I bought all of this over the internet, from Overclockers, who I assume won't mind me lifting the technical data from their website and using it below. I've kept the links in (as OneNote puts them there automatically for me) so you can visit their site for more info, or to browse their stock.

 

BenQ FP241VW 24" Widescreen Ultimate Gaming HDMI/HDCP LCD HD Monitor - Silver/Black

 

 

 

Get into all the action in widescreen with BenQ's latest professional gaming LCD monitor. This 24-inch beauty features the latest leading technology – you'll experience smooth, lifelike visuals that meet even the most demanding standards of all avid gamers. For the adrenaline-pumping ride of your life, look no further than the BenQ FP241VW. Made purely for hardcore gamers, the FP241VW is simply unique, sleek and stylish. Surrounded with a premium metallic frame, the impressive 24” widescreen is tilt adjustable – ensuring that you find that elusive perfect viewing point for pole position. The elegant outer frame also provides space to hang headphones, game controllers and place figurines on top. Expect all your games to be smooth, crisp and unbelievably clear with BenQ's new 24-inch FP241VW and 19-inch FP94VW. With just a simple touch of a button, six specialized display modes (Standard, Dynamic, Movies, Photos, Action Game and Racing Game) deliver the widest range of viewing experiences. The two dedicated gaming modes – Action Game and Racing Game – give you the power to configure mind-blowing gaming experiences, taking you into the heart of the game. On top of that, the FP241VW is integrated with PerfectMotion dynamic video processing technology. It uses two steps to ensure that frustrating, game-inhibiting ghosting and motion blur around the screen edges are eliminated. Firstly, it reduces the grey-to-grey response time, and secondly, it inserts a black frame between motion frames – giving you a crystal-clear view, ultra-smooth motion and sure-fire advantage over the competition. Working together with an ultra-fast 12ms MPRT (Motion Picture Response Time), smooth playback of even the most action-packed visual contents is assured – satisfying your expectations of the best possible viewing experience. BenQ's exclusive Senseye Technology features in both the FP241VW and the FP94VW. Image quality is automatically and dynamically improved to deliver exquisite clarity that's bolder and brighter – taking you into the action so you don't miss anything. The human eye is emulated by fine-tuning the colour, clarity, motion and contrast – effectively enhancing image signals to display them perfectly. So, whether you're racing to win, defeating the enemy or living out a fantasy, the unsurpassed visual quality is a true force to be reckoned with. Live the action with the FP241VW's superior, lifelike, high-definition images. Thanks to its 1920x1200 (WUXGA) resolution and HDMI (High-Definition Multi-media Interface), it fully supports video resolutions of 1080P (Native Full HD 1920x1080). You'll see details you never knew existed with the perfect picture every time. HDMI is a new generation connector and is simply the best for digital video and audio performance. It allows easy connection of HD enabled equipment such as HD DVD players, the latest gaming consoles and online games. All this is done by carrying both digital video and audio signals via one cable. It couldn't be easier.

 

- Now supports 1:1 Pixel Mapping

- Exclusive PerfectMotion Technology

- Full HD Support (1080p)

- HDMI Interface

- PIP (Picture-in-Picture)

- senseye technology!

- Full pivot, swivel and height adjustment

- Built in USB Hub (3 Ports)

- 1920 x 1200 (WUXGA) Optimum Resolution

- 16.7 Million Colours

- 1000:1 Contrast Ratio

- 6ms Response Time

- 500 cd/m2 Brightness

- Viewing angle: 178/178

- One DVI-D Input

- One Analogue Input

- One S-Video Input

- One Composite component Input

- One HDMI Input

- Warranty : 3 year on-site warranty supplied by Manufacturer

 

Pasted from <http://www.overclockers.co.uk/showproduct.php?prodid=MO-025-BQ>

 

Corsair 6GB DDR3 Dominator PC3-14400C9 1866MHz (3x2GB) Triple Channel DDR3 (TR3X6G1866C9DF)

 

 

The TR3X6G1866C9DF is a 6144MByte kit of DDR3 SDRAM DIMMs based upon Corsair’s ultra performance DOMINATOR family of memory which includes Intel’s Extreme Memory Profiles (XMP 1.2). This enables a robust, profile based high performance DDR3 over-clocking solution for Intel X58 platforms targeted for enthusiasts, gamers and overclockers who want to extract maximum performance from their platforms. Built using Corsair’s Dual-path Heat Xchange (DHX) technology coupled with a Corsair Airflow Fan, this part delivers outstanding performance in the latest generation of X58 DDR3-based motherboards. This memory has been verified to operate at 1866MHz at latencies of 9-9-9-24 at 1.65V VDIMM.

 

- Each three module set is tested at 1866MHz

- Packaged together immediately following system test

- Tested together at 1866MHz, Vdimm = 1.65V, at latency settings of 9-9-9-24on X58-based motherboards.

- SPD programmed at: XMP 9-9-9-24 values at 1866MHz

- JEDEC standard 9-9-9-24 values at 1333MHz.

- 6144 Megabytes of DDR3 memory

- Three 2GB modules

- 100% tested at 1600MHz in X58-based DDR3 motherboards

- Lifetime warranty

- DHX technology provides maximum cooling

 

Pasted from <http://www.overclockers.co.uk/showproduct.php?prodid=MY-165-CS>

 

Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2 2048MB GDDR5 TV-OutDual DVIHDMI (PCI-Express) - Retail (102-B50902-00-AT)

 

 

Believe it or not - the best just got better. For the first time ever, 2.4 teraFLOPS of graphics horsepower, 1600 stream processors and 2 GB of GDDR5 memory have been combined to create the fastest and most powerful graphics card available today. The ATI Radeon HD 4800 Series GPUs deliver a cinematic gaming experience with unprecedented performance. The powerful new TeraScale graphics will propel you deep into your gameplay with seamless frame rates and high resolutions. Enhanced anti-aliasing (AA) and anisotropic filtering create striking graphics with unparalleled realism so you can max out the settings of the most demanding next-generation games or revitalize your favorite titles. Play today while preparing for tomorrow with tessellation, support for DirectX® 10.1 and scalable ATI CrossFireX™ technology. ATI Avivo™ HD is the advanced image and video processing and display technology found in ATI Radeon™ HD GPUs and ATI Theater™ video capture processors. Specifically designed for HDTV and HD video enthusiasts, ATI Avivo HD provides brilliant colors, sharp images, smooth playback of Blu-ray™* and HD video content, HDMI with built-in multi-channel digital audio, and on some GPUs, Unified Video Decoding (UVD). UVD is designed to enable a cool and quiet media PC with low CPU power requirements and playback of HD 1080p content. HD Monitor is required for full 1080p enjoyment. A system with an ATI Radeon™ HD 4800 Series graphics card can help enhance the HD entertainment experience by providing a seamless connection to an HDTV or home theater system. With built-in 7.1 surround sound audio (AC3 / DTS ), the new GPUs and graphics cards support single cable connection directly to a compatible HDTV, projector or receiver. This single cable carries both the HD video and 8 channel audio for a clean, high definition connection. Some graphics cards will be equipped with an HDMI connector, while others will output the HDMI signal using a special ATI Radeon DVI-I to HDMI adapter. These options give consumers more options and flexibility when connecting their PCs to monitors or home theaters for maximum enjoyment of HD content. The new GPU also supports xvYCC color which can display a wider range of color when connected to capable HDTVs. NATI CrossFireX™ multi-GPU technology takes your gaming experience to the next level with superb scalability, performance and compatibility. The technology combines the awe-inspiring capabilities of multiple ATI Radeon™ graphics cards and an ATI CrossFireX ready motherboard to meet the hard-core demands of your alternate reality. New ATI Radeon™ HD graphics cards are designed with an internal ATI CrossFire™ Bridge Interconnect system to simplify installation.

 

- 2 x ATI Radeon R700 (4870) Cores running at 750MHz

- Dual TeraScale graphics engines

- 956 million transistors 55nm Manufacturing Process

- 750MHz Shader Clock Speed

- 1600 Stream Processors

- 3600MHz GDDR5 Memory

- 512-Bit (2x 256-Bit) Memory Interface

- 230GB/sec Memory Bandwidth

- Double Precision Support

- DirectX 10.1 Support

- 24x custom filter anti-aliasing (CFAA) and high performance anisotropic filtering

- 2400 Peak GigaFlops

- ATI CrossFireX™ multi-GPU support for highly scalable performance (2x 4870 X2 for a total of 4 GPU's)

 

Pasted from <http://www.overclockers.co.uk/showproduct.php?prodid=GX-183-SP>

 

Asus Rampage II Extreme Intel X58 (Socket 1366) PCI-Express DDR3 Motherboard

 

 

The Republic of Gamers consists only the best of the best. We offer the best hardware engineering, the fastest performance, the most innovating ideas, and we welcome the best gamers to join in. In the Republic of Gamers, mercy rules are only for the weak, and bragging rights means everything. We believe in making statements and we excel in competitions. If your character matches our trait, then join the elite club, make your presence felt, in the Republic of Gamers. This motherboard supports the latest Intel® Bloomfield processors in LGA1366 package which has memory controller integrated to support 3-channel (6 DIMMs) DDR3 memory. Support Intel(R) QuickPath Interconnect (QPI) with system bus up to 6.4GT/s and a max bandwidth of up to 25.6GB/s. Intel® Bloomfield processor is one of the most powerful and energy efficient CPU in the world. The Intel® X58 Express Chipset is the latest chipset designed to support latest Intel® Core™ i7 Processors and Intel’s next generation system interconnect interface, Intel® QuickPath Interconnect (QPI), providing improved performance by utilizing serial point-to-point links, allowing increased bandwidth and stability. It also supports up to 36 PCI Express 2.0 lanes providing better graphics performance. SLI or CrossFireX? Fret no longer because with the ROG Rampage II Extreme, you’ll be able to run both multi-GPU setups. The board features SLI/CrossFire on Demand technology, supporting up to three graphics cards in a 3-Way SLI or CrossFireX configuration. Whichever path you take, you can be assured of jaw-dropping graphics at a level previously unseen. The motherboard supports DDR3 memory that features data transfer rates of 1800(O.C.)/1600(O.C.)/1333/1066 MHz to meet the higher bandwidth requirements of the latest operation system, 3D graphics, multimedia, and Internet applications. The triple-channel DDR3 architecture triple the bandwidth of your system memory to boost system performance, eliminating bottlenecks with peak bandwidths of up to 43.2 GB/s.

 

- Intel® Core™i7 Processor Ready

- Intel® X58/ICH10R

- Triple-channel, DDR3 1800(O.C) Support

- TweakIt

- ProbeIt

- Extreme Engine with ML Cap Design

- SLI/CrossFire On-demand

- SupremeFX X-Fi

- BIOS Flashback

 

Pasted from <http://www.overclockers.co.uk/showproduct.php?prodid=MB-319-AS>

 

 

Lian-Li PC-V2110A Aluminium Super Full Tower - Silver (No PSU)

 

 

Simple and Stylish, the Lian-Li V2110 offers large capacity, excellent cooling and solid construction. Lian-Li put a lot of effect into the external finishing, all the external parts are finished in hair-line brush anodized aluminum with no sharp edges! All new V series, with new style, new structure, and better quality! Huge internal space fits E-ATX motherboard, and graphics card which up to 395mm long, and there are room for 8 hard drivers, and a lot of internal space for liquid cooling system.It is an ideal for gamer and pro user!

 

- Case Type Super Full Tower

- Body Material Aluminum

- 5.25" drive bay (External) 7

- 3.5" drive bay (External)

- 3.5" drive bay (Internal) 8

- Expansion Slot 8

- Motherboard E-ATX, ATX, M-ATX

- System Fan (Front) 14cm Ball Bearing Fan x 1 (800~980~1180 RPM)Factory Setting to Mid speed: 980RPM

- System Fan (Rear) 12cm Ball Bearing Fan x 2 (1020~1240~1500 RPM)Factory Setting to Mid speed: 1240RPM

- USB2.0 x 4

- IEEE1394x1

- E-SATA x 1

- AC97+HD Audio

 

Pasted from <http://www.overclockers.co.uk/showproduct.php?prodid=CA-132-LL>

 

Intel Core i7 920 2.66Ghz (Nehalem) (Socket LGA1366) - OEM

 

 

Nehalem is a radically new design for Intel: for the first time, the CPU is a 'native' quad-core CPU, where all four cores sit on the same piece of silicon. With its Core 2 CPUs, Intel used two dual-Core dies to create a quad-core chip, this translates into better performance. Nehalem features Level 3 cache, something first seen on earlier Xeon server chips, but Intel Core i7s will feature up to a massive 8MB (shared between all four cores). Each of Nehalem's four cores has 256KB of lower-latency Level 2 cache.

 

The Level 3 cache of Nehalem is described as being ‘inclusive’, meaning that it holds the data of all the Level 2 caches. This means that if a core needs to fetch data, and it doesn’t find it in the Level 3 cache, it can be confident that the most up-to-date version of that data is held in system memory and fetch straight from there. If the Level 3 cache wasn’t inclusive, the core would first have to look at the cache of the other three cores to ensure that none of them had a more recent version of the data it needs. An inclusive cache is therefore said by Intel to be more efficient than an ‘exclusive’ cache design, even if it does mean that 1MB of Nehalem’s 8MB Level 3 cache is taken up by storing a copy of the 256KB Level 2 cache inside each processing core, again this translates into a performance gain over Intels previous designs.

 

Intel has integrated the memory controller onto the Nehalem CPU die rather than having it be part of the Northbridge on the motherboard. It's achieved this by modularising the design of the CPU. The seperate processing cores and caches are linked to the onboard memory controller via a new bus standard called QuickPath (sometimes called QPI, short for QuickPath Interconnect). As QuickPath replaces the Frontside Bus (FSB) and Northbridge combo, it also takes over the role of allowing the CPU to connect to other system components, busses and controllers such as the PCI Express controller and DDR3 memory.

 

The last big news about Nehalem is that it uses Hyper-Threading. This technology works just as it did with the Pentium 4, using spare resources of a processing core to try to execute a second process thread. This means that a quad-core Nehalem processor can accept and attempt to process eight threads simultaneously, making it even more massively parallel than the current Core 2 Quad CPUs.

 

- Lithography Process: 45 nm

- Cores: 4

- Threads: 8

- Frequency: 2.66 GHz

- Cache: 256 KB L2/core and 8 MB shared L3

- Memory Controller: Triple channel DDR3 800/1066/1333 MHz

- Bus Interface: 1x 4.8 GT/s QuickPath

- TDP: 130W

- Socket: LGA1366

 

Pasted from <http://www.overclockers.co.uk/showproduct.php?prodid=CP-252-IN>

 

Corsair HX 1000W ATX2.2 Modular SLI Compliant PSU (CMPSU-1000HXUK)

 

 

The HX1000W joins the family of well received HX Series Enthusiast Grade Power Supplies known for their rock solid stability, enhanced modular cable design and high efficiency. The Corsair HX1000W Power Supply sets a new standard by which all other high wattage power supplies will be judged. The Corsair HX1000W features six PCI-Express connectors, both 6-pin and 8-pin compatible, to power multiple high-end graphics cards and two EPS12V connectors for dual CPU configurations. The truly independent dual transformer, dual rail design allow for optimum load balancing resulting in greater performance and stability. Industrial-grade 105°C primary, secondary and solid state capacitors provide up to four times the lifespan of traditional components. The HX1000W not only delivers one thousand watts of clean power for the highest performance enthusiast systems, it does so at greater than 80% efficiency thanks to the double-forward switching design and multiple rail DC-to-DC converter. Due to its best-in-class efficiency the HX1000W is able to run cool and quiet with only a single 140mm thermally controlled fan.

 

- Guaranteed to deliver 1000W of continuous power at 50°C

- 80%+ energy efficient under real world load conditions

- True independent dual rail design for maximum compatibility

- Combined 80A of power on +12V

- Multiple GPU ready

- 105°C solid state capacitors

- Active Power Factor Correction (PFC) with PF value of 0.99 to ensure clean and reliable power

- Supports the latest ATX12V 2.2 and EPS12V 2.91 Standards. Backwards compatible with ATX12V 2.01

- Auto switching circuitry provides universal AC input 90-264V

- Over Current/Voltage/Power Protection, Under Voltage Protection and Short Circuit - Protection provide maximum component safety

- Dimensions: 150mm(W) x 86mm(H) x 200mm(L)

- Five year limited warranty with 24/7 on demand customer service

- MTBF: 100,000 hours

 

Pasted from <http://www.overclockers.co.uk/showproduct.php?prodid=CA-012-CS>

 

x2 Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 1.5TB SATA-II 32MB Cache - OEM (ST31500341AS)

 

 

 

Combining proven components and state-of-the-art technology, the Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 drive - the 11th generation of this award-winning desktop hard drive family - delivers high-performing, eco-friendly digital storage. Designed with industry-leading acoustics and power levels, and award-winning Seagate PMR technology, the Barracuda 7200.11 drive offers the ideal combination of world-class technology and lowest total cost of ownership.

 

- Capacity: 1.5TB

- Cache: 32MB

- Interface: SATA-II

- Spin Speed: 7200RPM

- Seek Time: 8.5ms

- Warranty: 3 Years

 

Akasa AK-967 Nero Direct Contact Heatpipe CPU Cooler (AM2/AM2+/939/LGA775/LGA1366)

 

 

Akasa NERO classic design combines peak performance and near silent operation. A multi-platform cooler designed for the entire range of Intel and AMD current processors. 3 x 8mm ultra high capacity U heatpipes are installed with direct CPU contact for rapid heat transfer. Direct contact eliminates a thermal resistance thereby increasing efficiency. 46 high grade aluminium profiled fins ensure optimum heat dissipation. A piano black 120mm PWM fan is mounted using anti-vibration siliconized rubber pins giving whisper quiet cooling. The product design has been refined to ensure ultra quiet and exceptional cooling for CPU’s up to 150W TDP (Thermal Design Power). Installation is easy using push-pins (Intel) or cam-lever (AMD) mounting mechanism. Akasa NERO can be assembled horizontally or vertically (in desktop or tower chassis) as the heatpipes work independently of installation direction.

 

- Socket type Intel LGA 775 / LGA 1366

- AMD 939 / 940 / AM2 / AM2+

- Heatsink dimension 146.4 x 120 x 65mm

Heatsink material High grade aluminium fins, copper heatpipes

- Cooler dimension 160.5 x 119.9 x 54mm

- Fan dimension 120 x 120 x 25mm

- Fan connector 4-pin (PWM control enabled)

- Fan speed 500 - 1500 R.P.M.

- Fan airflow 17.38 – 50.54 CFM

- Fan air pressure 0.152 - 1.32 mm H20

- Fan life expectancy 30000/hrs

- Bearing type Sleeve Bearing

- Voltage rating 12V

- Noise level 18.3 – 24.6 dB(A)

- Product code AK-967

 

Pasted from <http://www.overclockers.co.uk/showproduct.php?prodid=HS-052-AK>

 

Putting it all together

 

It took me a fair few hours before I had it running, unpacking, laying it all out, familiarising myself with the dozen or so different screws, nuts and other such stuff before tucking in to the manuals. I felt a bit overwhelmed after a while, with new terms and acronyms, so put the books down and began figuring out how the motherboard was going to sit in this new Lian Li case. Mostly went well, but when the board was attached to the motherboard tray, and then placed in to the case, the built-in USB\SATA\FireWire\PS2 block built in to the motherboard was not aligned with the back-panel so the connectors were partially obscured by the side of the case. Annoying. To get it to line up, I had to raise a few of the screws a few turns on the side of the motherboard facing the back-panel. Basically the motherboard is sitting on the tray being supported by these screws, and their about 1mm out. Rest of the components went in AOK, cabling coming off the PSU tidied up, along with the data cables.

 

First OS I put on was ... Windows 7 Beta.

 

I had problems with some of the software on the manufacturers installation driver CD. Not recognising the OS version string. But the drivers went on, as did the ATI Radeon display drivers and the latest motherboard BIOS.

 

I've kept this machine at stock settings. So the BIOS hasn't been tweaked out too much. I went as far as upping the memory frequency to the supported 1866Mhz and kept the CPU at stock. Great thing about this Rampage Extreme BIOS is that it can auto-tune a lot of the settings needed to keep it stable enough to use an OS on. It has done a pretty good job of letting me either adjust the memory or CPU speeds, all the while adjusting the bus speeds and making other adjustments such as voltage for me. The PSU seems to be delivering two stable 12V lines to the ATI Radeon 4870 X2 video card so the GPU should be stable.

 

Stability-wise, the system did wobble more than it should. I've put this down to the ATI drivers not being ready for Win7\DX11, as well as any beta issues the OS is experiencing. Although most of the time it all came together, and the OS, CPU and GPU delivered some amazing performance experiences in some of the most graphically demanding games available right now. I'll return to Windows 7 at the next build to see if this gets better.

 

Windows 7 did a better job of detecting my hardware than Windows Server 2008 which needed several nudges before the Device Manager tree was taken care of. But once it was all bedded in, I had 4 VM's building at the same time, while experiencing zero lag on the console OS. I've got 6GB of fast memory available, several SATA disks to spread separate operations across, and each of those VM's had 512MB of memory allocated to them. Based on 512MB per VM I could probably run 10 VM's, leaving 1GB of main memory for the host OS to use. I could also have a farm of XP\Vista machines running in 256MB so I can simulate having a lots of clients in the hierarchy.

 

I like Windows 7. The interface is a big step forward. I like it when the design of the GUI influences your ability to perform your tasks in a positive way and Windows 7 was a real joy to interact with. I did have a problem with Explorer freezing up when navigating around some drives, but would expect this to be cleared up at RTM time. I've found some of the stuff that's being done to windows Explorer stops me as an Administrator, whereas it helps the average user (from themselves mostly!), I often found that I was clearing stuff quicker, moving around, managing some files, it's hard to explain but it felt a lot more natural and fluid than before.

 

It handled my multi-LCD panel setup very well, whereas Vista can be a wrecking ball. For example only last night in Vista 64 Ultimate my Main Monitor switched from the 24" to the 19", and it greyed out the ability to change it back. After much coaxing and messing around, I gave in and ended up rebooting with the 19" disconnected, so it would set the 24" panel back as the main monitor. Then I had to physically re-attach the 19" panel and enable it in Display Settings. Crazy amount of effort involved, showing that multi-LCD panel support in Vista can be a nightmare at times. I have seen Vista handle Panels OK, but Win7 never gave me a panel problem so the developers must of shown it a lot of love.

 

If you've not seen Windows 7, take a look at it here. Microsoft have actually tweaked Explore in the right direction in my humble opinion and delivered a faster OS. Faster, yes definitely faster than Vista, I saw stunning performance, then went to back Vista and noticed the difference.

 

<http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-7>.

 

Before I could rest, I had to get Vista 64 on as my main OS. So that I can do my work, emails, general browsing etc from there. It went on ok but not without a fight. I had to really mess around until the video drivers bedded in ok. I've had a few BSOD, but none of the games have crashed. I finally have moved off of my laptop, on to a desktop machine. And the last few weeks I've been spending less time on the laptop, as it was plugged in to the LCD Panel, Keyboard and Mouse before, but now I have to use the fiddly little keyboard. Should be able to catch up on things now I have a main machine again.

 

Now, having a few ConfigMgr Primary site servers, remote SQL, remote anything, DC's, multiple subnets is all possible with Windows 2008 Server with Hypervisor installed. I'll eventually get around to seriously loading this box and write about it here, but for now this rig is handling whatever I throw at it!

 

Let's talk more about Games :>

 

Here's a list of all the games I've fired up to hammer this Monster. I've got a lot more around, but these are the core ones.

 

Enemy Territory Quake Wars

Call of Duty 4

Call of Duty (5) World at War

BioShock

Grid

Mass Effect

Shaun White Snowboarding

Unreal Tournament 3

X3-Reunion

Dark Messiah Might and Magic

Quake 4

F.E.A.R

F.E.A.R 2 Demo

FarCry 2

Fallout 3

Left 4 Dead

Lost Planet: Extreme Condition

Crysis

Crysis Wars

Crysis Warhead

 

Those last 3 are machine killers, and Fallout 3, Unreal Tournament 3 and Far Cry 2 are capable of seriously stressing hardware. The rest are not really a challenge, maybe the F.E.A.R series can put demands on the CPU for Physics calculations but the graphics are not that cutting edge.

 

My 24" panels native resolution is 1920 x 1200, so that's what I used to benchmark all of those games. I'm not going to post charts about the framerates, will just say that Crysis was giving me over 40 FPS with that resolution and every set to MAXIMUM. Amazing when you think every graphical feature is enabled, the resolution is extremely high and its not delivering FPS like a slideshow! I've seen these settings on a Geforce 8 and 9 series card. and seen it crawl!

 

In fact, every game was configured to deliver the most it could, and those that I could get to via configuration files had further tweaks and refinements until they were giving all they could too. That's all that needs to be said, if Crysis can be maxed out and still deliver 30+ FPS then WOW, the rest of those games will run 100% too. Left 4 Dead gives me 200+ FPS when in an inside environment, then drops to 100+ when outdoors. Using FRAPS to measure FPS, I was grinning like a Cheshire cat at how this machine is pretty much at the top bar when it comes to gaming performance and visuals. These two ATI 4870 strapped together to form the 4870 X2 model delivers an amazing experience. There isn't a game out there that I cannot max out graphically, rare to be able to say that, and will probably not be true in 3-6months when the next slew of DX10\DX11 games come out. If it ever does slow down I can always go buy another 4870 X2 and Crossfire the two together. That would mean 4 GPU cores available. Quad core GPU action! I could have gone for the Nvdia 2xx card, I've been using NVIDIA since the first Geforce series came out, might as well check out the competition once in a while and I'm impressed. Also worth remembering is that the video card drivers will just keep getting better.

 

This Intel i7 CPU is also delivering crazy performance. I'm very impressed with this chip, massive leap ahead compared to the previous chips with two duo-cores strapped together to form a quad core. This chip represents real value for money, and is very overclockable as long as you take care of the temperatures.

 

3DMark Vantage gave me two ratings, 12,500 at stock, and 15,000 when I tweaked the ATI cards GPU and Memory frequencies. I think The Windows Experience gave it 6.1.

 

On the temperature front, the Lian Li case has two environment partitions, or zones. The disks and PSU at the bottom of the case in the first zone, with the rest above forming the second zone. They are not air tight, two holes used for running cables between zones, but effectively there are two air-flow environments, fan at the front at the bottom of the case brings air in, over the HDD's, then on to the PSU which blows it out. The top zone sucks air in at the top back, flows over the CPU cooler, passing over the other fans and heatsinks before being blown out by the GPU fan. I can manage the case fans at L\M\H settings, and the video card I can take from 20% to 100%. At 100% it sounds like a hair dryer doing an impression of a 747 Jet taking off, no chance I can run it at 70%+ without someone in the street hearing it. I'll have to look in to water cooling soon as that'll drop the temps right down and I can look to overclock this CPU to silly speeds. For now, the GPU can rise to as high as 90c if I don't take the GPU fan above 40%, any lower and I game, it's starting to operate at fatal temperatures, or at least temps that could decrease life expectancy. Manageable if I turn the fan up, and get the temps down below 60c. CPU, System, Northbridge and Southbridge temps are pretty normal for this i7 chip.

 

So, it's all plugged in correctly, I've got 3 operating systems to flip between, from home\gaming, lab to beta testing platforms sitting on top of one mean rig. It's relatively stable, but not rock solid, something that should change as newer drivers appear. For now, I am Happy :>

 

(I put this together in Microsoft OneNote. One seriously handy tool from Microsoft. Check it out.)

  • Nice build, Rob :-)

    I'm looking into doing similar myself, though it may be a bit overpowered for playing Solitair!

  • I put the latest ATI drivers on last night, v9.1. She suddenly perked right up after installing those!

    One of the many odd things happening was that sometimes, in-game, I'd get a drop in performance every 5-10 seconds. Regular as clock-work, I could face forward and start walking and then the scene would freeze, the FPS counter go down to 0 then it'd bounce back all within about 1-2 seconds. I'd restart the game and often it would be AOK thereafter. Since installing the latest drivers that seems to have gone. Although I couldn't test more than a few times due to the other half giving me the evil eye for spending too much of the day on the PC hehe. Also noticed that the temps dropped several degrees after the new drivers went on. Better power managment no doubt, more efficient use of those 128 shader pipelines! lol

    I left Crysis Wars (the online component of the Crysis expansion) running for about 1hr while I did other things, sometimes playing it, and saw it was getting 30+ FPS and no crashing\lockups. Before it would most often than not eventually lockup between 5-30 minutes. Very smooth game-play for that FPS, to do with the DX10 blurring that happens whenever you move the mouse, makes the scene feel fluid. It rarely dropped below 30 FPS, mostly spent it's time reporting 40-45 even when several vehicles blowing up.

    Have to correct something above ... F.E.A.R 2 is a machine eater. It looks amazing at maximum settings @ 1920x1200 and it was delivering FPS on par with Crysis but it did stutter a few times delivering up new scene content but not regular like the problem before. Not sure if that's disk related, driver, or just the version of the demo. They often build the demo from older source and RTM usually has some bug fixes in it that are not in these demo's. Hoping so as it looked like a good shooter and

    Can't wait for when I have some more spare time to switch back to W2008 and carry on fleshing out the ConfigMgr lab. Aiming for 10 plus VM's to see how much it takes before Hypervisors performance starts blowing chunks!

    Pete, if you need any help specc'ing up give me a shout.

  • Rob, you haven't made it clear in your write up how you've set up your OS's. I presume it's Windows7/WS2008 dual boot?

    We're having great debates here at work over which OS to put on our new i7 boxes. We all want the features of Windows7 (media center, etc.) along with WS2008 Hyper-V. Oh why can't we have the best of both worlds in one OS :-(

  • I left a lot out of there, such as the the fun I had putting the CPU and Cooler in, the memory and it's fan, but my fiance was being a complete distraction. Next time I shall power her down (if only!) and concentrate more on what i'm writing!

    Oki the OS breakdown is thus:

    Vista 64 Ultimate

    Windows 2008 Server

    Windows 7

    Layered on in this order: Windows 7, Windows 2008 Server then Windows 7. Bootloader remained intact throughout.

    I've done nothing more to the OS's than put Hyper-V on W2008, settle drivers in, and install loads of games on Vista and Windows 7.

    I'm calling Vista 64 Ultimate my main, but I could probably switch right now to Win7 as long the ATI graphics drivers are more solid. AMD (who now own ATI) have released a Win7 preview driver. They did so a while back, but when I visited it seemed to have been removed from their site. It's back now, and I'll probably boot to Win7 tonight if I get the time and load the new drivers ... take it for a test drive.

    support.ati.com/.../default.asp

    Worth noting, is that Windows 7 is set to expire at the end of June\July?. So it's not really appropriate as a main platform since you're going to have to rebuild at some point ... Worth just slapping it on and trying out though. You can try it in a VM, but ideally it should be run on real hardware. Otherwise, you are not seeing it perform fully. Plus I do believe having a virtualised (VGA?) video card driver isn't going to give you a good experience in the GUI.

    I'm DEFINATELY going to switch to Win7, just as soon as it goes RTM. I'm really impressed with it.

  • I'm running Windows 7 Ultimate now. It's as solid as a rock. I've had ZERO crashes, and ZERO issues and I use it a lot, both for gaming and office\lab work.

    Looks like this hardware and the OS are perfectly matched. Well done to MS for producing the most stable OS i've used on my desktop. Driver library is the most complete to date, was 100% usable straight off the DVD.

    If you've not used Windows 7 yet, at least check out the Eval.

    I'd recommend upgrading RIGHT NOW!