New Computer Build: End of Q1 Edition

  • Posted on: 31 March 2012
  • By: Keiya

We ended making a gigantic Fry’s run to build a new a computer a couple of weeks back because old faithful had been in the process of giving up the ghost for a about a year and some change. for those who are curious: It was a combination of 0x124 BSODs for hal.dll (hardware abstraction layer), random restarts, and lockups; BSODs most often with no discernible pattern other than it always occurs when I am doing something and never idle (albeit minor tasks like clicking on a link). It would choose to crash/restart about once every hour or two at the rate of about one day out of every two or three months (and then be fine for another month or two and then repeat the cycle).

As of late, the cycle has become more frequent (it was happening about once a week). I have narrowed the issue down to some piece of hardware, either the PSU or the motherboard (extensively tested everything else). I am pretty sure that it’s the motherboard that was going bad based on other issues this machine has been having. But, long story short: New computer toy time \o/. This build is what I ended up going with. Several compromises were made in interest of being able to pick everything up at Fry’s in one trip (and not having to deal with package delivery and pickup):

Component Item Price (approx)
CPU Intel Core i7-2600 3.4GHz $299.99
Motherboard Asus P8Z68-V/GEN3 ATX LGA1155 $179.99
Memory Samsung 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1333 Memory $45.00
Graphics XFX 1GB HD 6870 (from old PC) N/A
Storage Primary: Seagate Barracuda 2TB 3.5" 7200RPM
$129.99
Data: WD Caviar Black WD1001FALS 1TB 7200 RPM (from old PC) N/A
Optical: SAMSUNG SH-S223B (from old PC) N/A
PSU Corsair 850W ATX12V $189.99
Case Antec P280 ATX
$130.00
Cooling  Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO $29.33
Sound Asus Xonar Essence STX (from old PC) N/A

I am reusing my video card, soundcard, optical drive (HTPC has a Blu-Ray drive, don’t need one for this machine), media HDD, and two of my case fans. It is kind of tempting to pick up another HD 6870 to go crossfire because those cards do not cost too much (and just for the sake of running with two VGA cards). Overall though, I know that I am probably better off going for a single card solution. The 680 looks nice, but I don’t feel like dropping half a grand on even more computer parts independent of the fact that it is effectively sold out everywhere.

I am a pretty big fan of Antec’s Performance One case line; My previous two cases being the p180 and p182. They are great at dampening fan noise among other things but anyone who has ever worked with these cases probably knows how much of a pain in the ass they are to build with in regards the the general lack of able routing options in combination with the chamber partitioning (routing all PSU cabling through one or two holes without the benefit of a modular PSU is a small nightmare).

The p280 on the other hand was so much easier to work with. It is first of all, way lighter (by about 10lbs) due to changes with the internal design (no more partitioning or drive cages). It is a bit wider and deeper than the 183; Roomy enough to fit a long video card and route wires without any issues. For example, the SATA ports on my motherboard are located along the right edge, which would be hard to reach in most cases but easy in the 182. Also there are, at long last, cutouts that allow you to route cables behind the motherboard.

Speaking of which, I really do wish that the CPU power hookup wasn’t located at the way way top of the board. That is fine for most cases, but since the p280 has a bottom loaded PSU (though without the partitioning, good riddance), it was impossible for me to route that one cable behind the motherboard as intended.. Eyesore.

Oh also: Modular PSUs are nice. (Build photos are included below in the full post)

We learned not to forget to do a quick power on test of the board before mounting everything in the case after discovering that the original HTPC mobo was DOA...

The case interior has a nice finish. Optical drive bays (top right) are completely toolless by the way. This was about as clean and cableless that I cared to get it.

Fan wiring for the top and back fans go out through the back.

Fan speed controls are on the top right. There are two speeds: slow and fast. I haven't noticed any significant temperature difference between the two speeds so I just keep them both on low.

Unlike the p182, all fan filters are removable. Pop it off and run it underneath the sink. Very easy to clean. Those two fans by the way, did not come with the case: The orange one, from Noctua, was pulled off of my old case. The bottom black one is a spare Scythe that I had in my pile. Both move a decent amount of air and are dead silent.

....the 5.25" floppy drive is a tradition. It's like the President. It's not really Airforce One without the President.