Category Archives: Build 2.0

Lets Build – Case

Okay I have the board in the case along with the power supply, and have wired all the power connectors to the devices. Also powered the dock and the fans. The fans (at least 3) have molex connectors that you can plug another device into, so you can plug one fan into another, and then power them off one molex power connector. I believe I used one molex connector for each pair of fans (one for the front 2, one for the back and top ones). Who else needs power? Make sure the CPU cooler is plugged in, that’s rather important.

Other wires

The case (when new) had a load of wires stored at the top of it, with wires for the dock, some of the fans, USB and sound pannel, start and reset buttons, and power and busy lights. The Asus board made connecting these a bit of a better experience, as you can connect most of the connectors (not sound / USB) to a “quick connector” which has the names of the relevant needed wire next to each pin. (The names seem to exactly match what is on each wire, which is helpful! Good standardisation). Then you plug this quick connector onto the board (you could miss this out, but hey – it’s free, why not!). The audio goes further back, to a set of pins just above the PSU. The audio connector from the case also came with an additional (8 pin?) connector connected to the main connector – not sure what this goes to, something sound related I guess, but there were no other pins around the audio headers. I have a feeling the connector I connected to the header was HD-AUDIO, and the smaller connected connector was for standard audio, if your board was a little older. Just a theory.

Headers

The USB connector just goes to one of the USB headers – theres 3. Theres also one USB 3.0 header up the board a little, which may be handy at some point (remember we have USB 3.0 onboard the main I/O panel.

Recommendations: If you are building now with an Asus board – just have a quick check on the top of the heatsink for the onboard graphics I believe it is, where it says “Asus” – make sure there isn’t some plastic on there. I was unsure whether it was part of the sticker, or some protective plastic – its the plastic, get rid of it.

Lets Build – Graphics Card And Others

ASUS EFI BIOSWith most of the inside components connected and ready, I booted the PC to make sure it would get into the BIOS. I Plugged in my new Logitech K200 USB keyboard (~£13 from Argos). The PC booted to BIOS after a bit of turning on and off (getting itself ready I suppose), but did, and still does report CPU FAN ERROR. I actually installed Windows 7 at this point, using the disk I used for my previous PC (Windows 7 Ultimate, 64 bit). I went for Ultimate rather than Professional in the end, as Ultimate does have a few more useful features. I then began the long processes of installing the drivers for all the board utilities, LAN, onboard graphics, USB 3.0, Intel Rapid Storage etc. Still have to do Bluetooth at some point. I also updated the BIOS, took the new BIOS on a flash drive – went to the BIOS and used the easy update utility. Very easy and quick to do, but still didn’t fix the CPU FAN ERROR.

Graphics card and hard drivesShortly after this, I got the XFX ATI HD6850 from my old build, and inserted it into the top PCIe slot, then connected the power as well. I added the 2 x 1 terrabyte drives into the drive bays, and moved the “hot swap” drive connectors up to their level, as they were too close to the bottom, and I wanted the SSD to eventually be mounted on the bottom. The hot swap device enables 2 (3.5 inch or 2.5 inch with a bracket) drives to be plugged into one side, then the power and data connections to the other. The 2 drives live infront of one of the front fans – which keeps it nice and cool (HWMonitor reports about 22-24 degrees, which is more realistic than the constant 128 degrees it reports for the SSD).

Brother Computers

Brother Computers, Old PC has it's CRTs on so I could see the HDDs

Just before this point, I had been still trying to fix my old pc – as I had somehow made it unbootable. When I had eventually fixed it with a 4 hour CHKDSK /r, I made some final preparations to leave that OS – I took some screenshots of my desktop and start menu items, some information about the custom search engines I use [click here for my blog post about quickly searching in chrome], and some notes on programs to install again. I was bringing all the data with me to the new build, but I just wanted to retrieve and save any data that was easily obtainable, especially regarding the OS and settings. After this, the pc was turned off and the drives removed. It was very easy to insert the drives into the new case – just open the front fan doors, and slide them in. Then proceed to connect all the leads on the other end.

Montiors - old pc left, new pc right

Old pc doing a CHKDSK on the left, new pc installing Realplayer on the right

Once the drives were in, as was the graphics card – I took a moment to get the graphics card drivers from the ATI website, (have to get the CCC – catalyst control centre), which also enables you to manually turn the fan down – as its a bit loud on automatic, despite being cold. I have included a picture of Hardware Monitor’s findings – which aren’t all accurate – my room temperature is about 20 degrees, and some readings are colder than that. The CCC software also reports the graphics card runs at around the low 40′s. I did a “heavyload” test – which maxxed out all threads on all cores to 100%, and the temperature of the cpu rose from high twenties to around 40, but not much higher. I will try and do some proper testing at some point.

Lets Build – Problems Encountered On Build

In the last post, I added in the graphics card and 2 hard drives from my old build. Windows 7 had been installed, as has Office 2010, Macromedia Fireworks, FileZilla, Realplayer, Notepad++ and also some diagnostic things like CPUID’s HWMonitor.

Major Problems Encountered

So far I had encountered a few major problems:

  • Whenever the computer booted, it would report “CPU FAN ERROR” – press F1 to continue. I first changed the option in the BIOS to tell it to carry on in the event of an error. I email scan and told them I had tried the CPU fan in all the headers, and it was still the same. After a few days, they replied asking me if I had put it in the CPU_FAN header, which it was already in. After a few attempts at contacting them again, they replied saying they thought it was the motherboard, and did I want them to send me another. Replacing the board would have meant starting right from the start again – rethermaling the CPU, fitting the cooler back on top of it, the RAM, updating the BIOS, probably re-installing Windows and all of the drivers.. at least I could have followed this blog if I got stuck. In the end I consulted with a friend who advised me to have a look at the BIOS settings again regarding the fan. I went in and changed the CPU LOW FAN SPEED from 600RPM to 200RPM. I believe this value means the value at which an error will be thrown if the CPU fan goes too slow, rather than setting the lowest fan speed – as you may imagine. The CPU fan seems to spin around 590 – 700RPM. With the new low value set – the error was gone, as the fan was spinning quicker than it’s warning value. (My fan spins slower than most CPU fans as it is a 120mm fan rather than an 82 or 90mm). The fan is quiet, the CPU is still cool, so it is good enough for me – and I am not going to try a new board.
  • All the issues with updaing the SSD firmware, see this blog post if you want to know how to hopefully avoid these issues, and my recommendations.
  • Blue screen on boot – when changing that SATA leads around, the BIOS decided that it would rather try and boot off the old Samsung drive with it’s old Windows 7 on it. The Asus EFI BIOS (simple version) only showed a little picture of my Samsung drive – so I had to go to the advanced options – boot and give them proper boot priorities as you would in a normal BIOS. Not really a problem – but worth watching out for.
  • Trying to update my Samsung drives with an OCZ firmware and breaking the Windows installation. I’d recommend completely disconnecting all non essential hard drives when playing around with updating firmware and Linux commands.

Lets Build – Finishing Up

The last (planned) part in this mini-series regarding the build – more may appear with further reviews or problems that I encounter if needed.

With everything assembled and working – I had a functioning computer! Windows 7 was installed, drivers were updated, some programs were on and all of the hardware seemed to be going fine, however I found myself opening up the convenient front door of the case, as well as smacking side panels off again.. but why?

8 Pin power extension

8 pin EPS12V 30cm cableBefore, my CPU 8 pin power cable went straight from the PSU, over the graphics card, and back down to the board – fairly untidy. I invested in a £4.68 8 pin EPS12V 30cm black extension cable. [I noticed you can get these in different colours from this seller, and different sizes elsewhere on eBay. Just make sure you don’t get a PCI-E one, also 8 pin]. I routed this around the back of the case by the rear exhaust fan, and over the top of the case to the port on the board. Looks much better.

SATA III (3) flat 6gbps cable I also purchased a SATA 3 locking 6gbps cable (45cm) for £2.24. This was due to needing a flat SATA3 connector for my SSD – as I was mounting it on the convenient mounting points on rubber feet located at the bottom of my Antec DF35 case. The 90 degree cables were unusable, as they tried to go out of the SSD and downwards – where the case was. Fitted this cable fine, the SSD didn’t mind it, and CrystalDiskMark showed the same read and write benchmark tests (I wanted to ensure it was a 6gbps cable!).

I also ordered a PS/2 to USB connector to try with my old keyboard – just to see if it would work. That still hasn’t come yet though.

SSD Performance

This PC boots extremely quickly compared to my old computers – although it does stay around the BIOS level a long time.

The above YouTube video is of my computer booting. When I press the power button, about a second later it turns on and activates the extension lead (the PC is the “master”) and this turns on all the “slave” ports which include the monitors, speakers etc. I timed 40.1 seconds from pushing the button to the desktop. I started Chrome and opened a website (my webmail) just to show that the internet was up and ready to go straight away. Off to Facebook in 40 seconds? Pretty good.

Macromedia Fireworks loads very quickly too – somewhere just under 1.8 seconds. The pc changes from Aero to Windows basic mode (fireworks, flight sim x etc need basic mode) almost instantaneously. Notepad++ starts in about half a second, Google Chrome starts as though it was minimized, and even Internet Explorer doesn’t freeze when it starts (not that I use it. Ever. Apart from when Hotmail forced me to use it :/ ).

Farming Simulator 2011

A game I particularly enjoy, old computer handled it very well. This one handles it perfectly with even better graphics. Rarely if ever lags, the only jolts are caused by me doing things like driving forage harvesters into solid guard rails..

Flight Simulator X

Flight Sim X - Approaching Key West (INTL?)I’d like to talk to you about Flight Simulator X – the latest Flight Sim at the time of writing (21/11/2011) – and my old computer with a beefy ATI HD6850 card would be able to handle it perfectly, I thought. I was half right – it ran it fine, but the settings were medium or low/medium to be on the safe side, to try and prevent lag and slow frame rates. I installed it to this computer (I chose to install it to the SSD – which has only 54 precious gb left free) – and fired it up to have a play. I plugged my Saitek joystick in, and luckily Windows 7 found the drivers and installed them quickly – I was notified by it’s success by my aeroplane suddenly throttling up as it began to rumble along the runway. After cleaning the dust out of my scarcely-used joystick, I took off the parking break and went for a fly. It was smooth – very smooth, and the scenery looked very good too. Once up in the air (I took off from the smaller Key West airport – Florida), I decided to check out the “Display” settings to see how high I could get them to go without it becoming laggy. To my amazement, the game had detected what hardware it was allowed to use, and had ramped every setting up to “Ultra High”. After a small flight, I turned on my second screen, and got another view (View – new view) of outside my aircraft and put that full screen on the second screen. So now the game was running 2 x 20″ inch HD screens of different Flight Sim windows, and it handled it perfectly! I touched down at the (International?) larger airport after seeing many building and even tankers docked by land. I am sure there is much more to explore with the new graphics, and I certainly will at some point. I ran Hardware Monitor and the temperatures were slightly raised, but still nowhere near hot. When I play again, I will get some figures for you.

Conclusion

Well I think that’s all for now, so I will pop a small conclusion here for anyone who doesn’t want to (and I don’t blame you) read the entire blog – as I am sure there are many thousands of words. I have tried to include as many pretty pictures as I can – not an amazingly easy feat with WordPress – but not bad. Adding that YouTube video was fine – when you upload, you get a link and a button to “Embed” (into a webpage). It will give you some small HTML code – just pop this into the HTML version of your blog (hit the HTML tag on the top right when writing a post).

So what did I do? – and some quick comments and ratings

I built a computer based around the Intel i7(10/10), with:

  • Asus P8Z68-V motherboard – pretty perfect – 9/10
  • CoolerMaster Hyper Evo cooler – quiet, slow, big – 10/10
  • 8gb of Corsair Vengeance RAM – looks good – 10/10 for my purposes
  • OCZ Agility 3 120gb SSD – annoying firmware, amazing device – 9/10
  • ATI HD6850 graphics card – great card, few outputs, 6 pin power – 9/10
  • Two 1tb Samsung Hard Disks - audible, take a few seconds to spin up – 8.5/10
  • OCZ 600w ModXStream PSU – good modular design, quality – 9/10
  • All encased in an Antec Dark Fleet DF 35 – many cool features, no USB 3.0, fans a little loud – 8.5/10

Some peripherals include:

  • Logitech MX518 Gaming Mouse – great mouse – 9/10
  • Logitech K200 keyboard – simple, standard, basic – 8/10
  • TP-Link TL-WN722N wifi adapter – fine wifi adapter – 9.5/10
  • Microsoft LifeCam webcam – good webcam, very sensitive microphone – 8.5/10
  • 2 Samsung 2033HD 20″ HD screens – great screens, many many inputs [Click to see review] – 9/10
  • Logitech X-140 desktop speakers – Good speakers, good adjustable bass, input and output on right one – 8.5/10

I am sure to write blog posts about some of these at some point – as I do take a very long time to choose what I buy, and am rarely disappointed with my purchases.

Going back to what I built – the PC runs Windows 7 Ultimate 64 bit – very good, the only real choice for computer enthusiasts (especially if you have over 4gb of RAM – you need 64 bit rather than 32 bit).

Why did you build?

My old PC was getting a bit slow and out of date with its dual core. I went for an i7 due to it’s immense power, and hopefully it will not need upgrading in the near future. I opted for a 120gb SSD as I have filled 65gb already, I wanted to put some programs on it – not just the OS. I will still have to install some programs to my spinning disks, though. My documents also live on the spinning drives too. 8 gb of RAM should be more than enough for my needs, and coupled with the awesome CPU and the great ATI HD6850, they make mince meat of any games. Going to try out Portal 2 soon.

Would you do it again?

The most important question, in my opinion – to someone having done it, would you do it again, and why?
Yes. I would build this again, were this one to spontaneously combust (it shouldn’t, don’t worry). Would I opt for the same components? Yes, probably – I’d maybe consider the Corsair Force 3 SSD a bit more, but would still go for the OCZ in the end. Also make sure you have a legit copy of Windows 7, they just feel safer. I’d love a bigger SSD – but they are so expensive, a 120gb will more than suffice.
Well just a note to say thanks very much for reading, please leave any comments and I will try and get back to them as soon as I can. Alternatively email me or click here.

Post Build – FSX Temps

Just had a good go on Flight Simulator and tried to get some good temperature results when things are under a bit of load. Have a look at the table below for the temperature when playing FSX, the rough idle temperatures (min) and the maximum temperatures I achieved at some point.

FSX Temps

Flight Sim Planes

Post Build – SSD Benchmark

Here is the benchmark for my OCZ Agility 3 120gb SSD from CrystalDiskMark.

Bear in mind the drive is rated at 525/500 Read/Write.

Just found on Amazon – Sequential Read/Write up to 195/130 MB/s, and as you can see, it slightly outperforms this.

Hard Drive Benchmarks - 209mb/s max read, 143 mb/s max writeTest on the Samsung drives coming up.

But How Good Is It? Xbox 360 Wireless Gaming Receiver

I have always wanted to be able to use my Xbox 360 controller with my PC, as I am much more accustomed to it than a mouse and keyboard for First Person Shooter (FPS) and driving games. There are two ways to go about hooking up an Xbox controller to the PC, buy a wired Xbox controller (should work on both Xbox and PC) or buy a “wireless gaming receiver”. You cannot use a “play and charge kit” wire (controller – USB) to use your controller with the PC, as it seems to only transmit power and not data.

I went for the wirless gaming receiver, an unofficial one. Official ones were about £20, I got mine for £10 including postage.

What’s in the box?

Included in the box was:

  • The wireless receiver with a very long cable, 6 foot apparently.
  • Mini disc with drivers, instructions, software etc on it.
Installation

On many review that I read before buying, I saw a lot of people had problems with the drivers, especially with Windows 64 bit, which I have.
Sure enough, I plugged in the device – “Device not recognised” by Windows.
I popped the disk in and found the instructions, and drivers for 32 bit Windows.
After a quick Google, I found that the drivers seem to be built in already (and this unofficial device seems to use the same as the official one?), and found the following instructions on this website.

  • Right click on Computer
  • Go to Properties
  • Click on Device Manager
  • Right click on the Unidentified Device
  • Go to Properties
  • Go to the Drive tab
  • Click on Update Driver…
  • Browse my computer for driver software
  • Let me pick from a list of device drivers on my computer
  • Microsoft Common Controller for Window Class
  • Xbox 360 Wireless Receiver for Windows Version: 2.1.0.1349 [8/13/2009]
  • Update Driver Warning
  • Click Yes

My device manager listed 2 unknown devices, so I repeated this process, clicking whatever was the newer dated driver.

First Use

Now the right drivers were installed, the controllers connected easily (and quicker than to the Xbox 360). I connected 2, and it seemed all happy. There is a standard connect button on the device to press to open it up to new devices (controllers/headsets etc). Had a few teething issues, selecting it in a game seemed very easy (tried it in Off Road: Drive, Race Driver: Grid and Trucks & Trailers so far), and I configured the buttons to do what I wanted. One problem I had was that Off Road Drive kept pausing, but after restarting the game it seems fine now. With Trucks & Trailers (lorry driving), I noticed that when the steering wheel had been moved, it would move back to its normal (straight) position, but sometimes would be slightly off centre. This seemed to be the controller steering slightly in one direction once being used to steer, and I countered this by turning up the steering deadzone slightly.

After the odd tweak to the settings here and there, I had great fun in using my controllers with the different driving games, providing as I hoped, much more control over the vehicles. One thing you must remember is that the Xbox controller has much less buttons than a keyboard does! This is fine for GRID etc, but for Off Road Drive, with all of its different options in game for locking differentials, delfating tyres, engaging winches etc.. I had to double up some buttons (e.g hold RB and press A to turn the winch on, just A itself is handbrake).
On the disk comes some software which comes with an old HTML troubleshooting guide, and can display battery status etc, as shown in the image below.

Would I buy it again?

Yes, definitely. Would I go for the official version… possibly. This one hasn’t really let me down yet, and I believe it must be almost as good as the official ones.
Matt