Last weekend we built two new quad-core PCs over at the PC Doc HQ. I promised that you'd be first to see the results of our hard work (buildig these PCs is easy, the hard part is the photography ... hot lights, having to keep your arms out of the shot, reducing reflections ... ) - well, here you go.
Check out the quad-core project gallery here!
I've posted the parts list for this project earlier, but lets take a closer look at the components.
OK, we have all the parts, now lets start building!
I'm not going to bore readers here with all the minutiae of the build - I'm pretty sure that most ZDNet readers are familiar with how a PC goes together. What I will do is give you an overview and highlight some interesting aspects of the build.
Because all the reviews I'd read had led me to expect problem with the motherboard I decided to test build the PC out of the case prior to building (I don't usually do this because as a rule things work just fine). This meant getting the motherboard ready, fitting the CPU, heatsink, RAM, graphics card, hard drive and hooking it up to a PSU which took just a couple of minutes.
One item of note when setting up the motherboard was what a close call the CPU heatsink was - it fitted, but only just. The clearance between the CPU heatsink and the copper heatsinks on the board was about about .04 inch (1 mm). Had the heatsink been fractionally bigger we would have had to fit the stock cooler (or give the Arctic Cooler some unscheduled surgery).
Because the Striker Extreme comes with an on/off switch built directly onto the board, it's easy to jumpstart the board into life. Amazingly, as soon as the power switch was pressed the board sparked into life and the system started working. All our fears of BIOS issues, cryptic error messages, DOA boards and all the other issues evaporated at this point. With any worries that the motherboard might be a dead stick out of the way, it was time to put the parts into the case.
One of the things I really love about the Striker Extreme is the attention to detail. For example, the Q-Connector that makes connecting and disconnecting the front panel cabling easy because they're combined into a single module. While I don't expect to have to remove the motherboard from the system any time soon, I still think that this is a really sweet feature.
The board has some other sweet features, in particular I like the electro-luminescent panel on the IO plate which makes hooking up peripherals a lot easier, the onboard LEDs that light up the interior of the PC, the on-board on/off, reset and CMOS reset buttons and the LCD poster panel on the back which replaces POST error messages and makes troubleshooting problems quicker and easier.
I'm also thrilled with the Corsair PSU. The modular design helps to keep the inside of the case tidier which in turn improves airflow, helping to keep the components cool. The PSU is also really quiet during operation, helping to keep the noise level to a minimum.
When assembling the PC I made a mistake and installed all 4GB of RAM, forgetting that there's a bug in Windows Vista that can prevent the operating system being installed where there's more than 3GB of RAM installed. When I tried installing Vista I got the following error message on a BSOD:
STOP 0×0000000A (somenumber, somenumber, somenumber, somenumber) IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL
Removing 2GB of RAM allowed the installation to continue.
With the build completed and Windows going onto the system, it quickly became clear that this system packed a real punch. Windows install was done in under 20 minutes and once finished the system was blazingly fast, and after installing the latest ATI drivers the system scored a very robust Windows Experience Index score of 5.3 (the top score possible is 5.9). The processor, graphics and hard disk all got a top score. Pretty impressive.
Building this PC was a lot of fun, and to end up with such a powerful PC for the price certainly made it a worthwhile experience and the quality of the parts made it an easy and satisfying build process. Each part was chosen to provide the maximum power and pereformance for the price, and the final Windows Experience Index score, combined with the benchmark results we got (which I'll post later) confirm this.
Many thanks to Kathie for sharing her photos of the build process. If you feel like building your own PC and you'd like to learn how she will be running an online course based around this PC specification in the next few weeks over on the PC Doctor website.