Saturday, December 14, 2013

Building a New Desktop: I. Motherboard

Shortly after I joined second Life-- way back in 2006-- I managed to fry my desktop. I was installing extra memory and did something wrong, and dead box.

I really liked that computer. It was an Athlon-based system I had built myself. But I put it in storage and went to Frys and bought a Sony VAIO with a dual-core Pentium processor. I was that eager to get back home and get online.

You can read about it. Here's the first post. I think that arc contains some of my funniest writing.

In late summer of this year I managed a repeat. Yes, I blew up my computer. It died while I was installing a new nVidia 620 video card. I tried CPR, but the Sony didn't respond. I called the time of death: 8:24 pm.

Unlike the last time, I had a backup computer-- a laptop powerful enough to run Second Life. It, too, was a Sony VAOI, and it ran Second Life better than had my desktop. I hooked it up to my keyboard, monitor, and external desk drive, and was happy it let me postpone replacing my desktop, because I had other things that required spending money-- I was putting new floors in my bathroom and kitchen.

But then the laptop began to give me problems in world. Since September I've had difficulty camming, and sometimes ping times are high, which makes me walk into walls. I can come into world, but building is out of the question, at least most of the time.

I suspect the problem is overheating of the core. It's a problem I had with my desktop when it, too, was four years old, and the symptoms were similar. When hot, the processor slowed down to prevent overheating, with identical results. After I diagnosed the problem I removed the fan from the processor and found a mat of compressed dust that looked and felt like felt. When I peeled the crud off and put the computer back together, it worked fine again.

I suspect that's the problem with my laptop, too, but I'm reluctant to disassemble it. If I were to break it I'd have no way to get in world or talk in Skype with Sweetie. So I've begun to build a new desktop.

I've been looking at products at NewEgg and Amazon and reading reviews. My preference would be an i7 system with a motherboard that would allow me to run two graphics cards, and at least 8 gb of RAM. i7s, are expensive, however, so I decided to buy a much cheaper i3; later, I can upgrade.

With $150 in my pocket, a birthday gift from Sweetie, I began looking for the first component-- the mother board. I had no luck on Cyber Monday, but last week I took a drive to Frys and came back with a beaut- an MSI 787- G45 gaming motherboard.

The board was priced at $149, but I got it for just $119 because a stack had been placed on a spot advertising them for $119. Am I happy? Very.

And yay, I just discovered there's a $20 rebate!

Next up: The Processor

Read about the MSI 787 below the fold.

The MSI  is socket 1150 (that's the pin configuration for the processor) and uses late-generation Intel i3, i5, and i7 processors. It will accept nVidia and Radeon graphics cards working in tanden and up to 32 gb of DDR3 RAM. It has lots of other desirable features also:

Intel® Z87 Express Chipset
Supports 4th Gen Intel® Core™ / Pentium® / Celeron® processors for LGA 1150 socket
Supports DDR3-3000(OC) Memory
USB 3.0 + SATA 6Gb/s
Audio Boost: Reward Your Ears with True Quality
Killer Ethernet: Kill Your Lag
Military Class 4: Top Quality & Stability
OC Genie 4: Overclock in 1 Second
Click BIOS 4: Easily Fine-tune Your System
PCI Express Gen 3: World's 1st PCI Express Gen 3 Motherboard Brand
Multi-GPU: NVIDIA SLI & AMD CrossFire Support
Sound Blaster Cinema: Realistic Surround Sound Experience
Gaming Device Port: Optimized with Triple Gold-plating for High Polling Rate Gaming Devices
Total Fan Control: Optimize All Fan Speed As You Wish
Lucid Virtu MVP 2.0: Uncompromised Game Response Performance
Fast Boot: Quickly Boot Up & Enter OS in A Few Seconds

Here are some of the company's explanations for some of the above features:
The Killer E2200 Intelligent Networking Platform is built for maximum networking performance for online games and high-quality streaming media. Featuring Advanced Stream Detect? Killer E2200 automatically detects and accelerates game traffic ahead of other network traffic for smoother, stutter-free in-game performance and the competitive edge. With this exclusive, automatic traffic prioritization, games and real-time chat get priority over low-level system chatter, giving you the lowest latency for game data on the most controllable network hardware available. 
Through the detection and prioritization of gaming traffic you can finally fully utilize your network without fear of being kicked from an on-line game because of high ping. This enables true multi-tasking without manually enabling or disabling applications, updates and installations. Killer networking actually allows you to use your PC 24 hours a day.
Yay that!

Reward your ears with true quality. Get ready for ear-drum shattering sound, with MSI Audio Boost! With Audio Boost we're delivering the highest audio quality so you can enjoy crystal clear sound and music in games. Because the complete audio circuitry is isolated from other features, you'll enjoy less interference and more stability. The built-in headphone amplifier allows you to use studio-grade headgear and get the most amazing sound quality out of your gaming PC.
  • Studio level Integrated 600Ω Headphone amplifier 
  • Golden audio jacks for pure audio signals
  • EMI shielded audio codec
  •  High quality audio capacitors
VGA BoostMSI VGA Boost is one of MSI's exclusive ways to support gamers to fully engage in their virtual world. 
VGA Boost increases the power limitations for MSI GAMING graphics cards when inserted in an MSI GAMING motherboard. It simply upgrades your Power Tuning and current limits allowing your graphics to boost to higher clock speeds when your gaming graphics get more intense and sustain maximum performance for a longer time. 
This is all supported because of the power design for the PCI Express slots and the build quality of MSI Graphics cards. Now, matching MSI gaming hardware not only gives your game PC some fiery red dragon looks, your PC gaming experience will benefit from a safe and powerful boost in graphics.
Apparently the video card is able to draw upon the built-in graphics to increase performance.
With MSI Super RAID you can combine hard drives, SSDs and mSATA into blazing fast bootable drives. Load your operating system, videos or even games faster than ever. You can now enjoy the benefits of bigger and faster storage, without all the trouble that normally surround RAID configurations.
As I understand it, RAID allows you to store data redundantly on two or more drives, so there is no data loss when a drive fails.
You want more FPS, lower ping, but why use a pro-gaming mouse with old-fashioned standards? MSI Gaming Device Port is optimized for high polling rate mice (500 to 1000 Hz) which lowers your mouse's response time from 8 milliseconds to 1 millisecond! This gives a much smoother mouse response in games. The additional gold plating on the ports enhances the durability drastically and ensures your PS/2 and USB ports are always working when you ship out to a LAN party. 
• more responsive
• smoother gameplay
• faster reactions 
• 3x more gold than regular connectors
• 10x longer lifetime when plugging and unplugging
• prevents oxidation and corrosion
Guess I'll have to buy a better mouse.
Military Class 4 is the next step in high quality components. The Super Ferrite Chokes and Dark CAPs will make sure that your PC runs more stable under extreme gaming conditions.
With their aluminum core design, Dark CAP's have been a staple in high-end design motherboard designs and provides lower Equivalent Series Resistance (ESR) as well as its over-10-year lifespan. 
Super Ferrite Choke uses a Ferrite core that is Super-Permeable. This allows the Super Ferrite Choke to run at a 35 degree Celsius lower temperature, have a 30% higher current capacity, a 20% improvement in power efficiency and better overclocking power stability. 
The core of Military Class 4 is based on the essentials which increase your stability in the toughest conditions.
The humidity protection and high temperature protection ensure your system can survive each environment, no matter how harsh. The new structure of the PCB limits EMI radiation.
On top of that the all the connectors have ESD protection in order to prevent short circuit.
While the Military Grade name is hype, it's good to know MSI used high-quality electronics in the board.
OC Genie 4 supercharges your speed experience! When used, OC Genie 4 accelerates your entire system and puts it into overdrive! Tuned by the professional overclockers, OC Genie 4 hands you record-breaking performance on a silver plate.
Fast is fast. I've never overclocked a processor before, but here goes!
NVIDIA SLI/AMD CrossFireX/VirtuMVP 2.0 
MSI GAMING motherboards feature one or more PCI-Express 3.0 slots, perfectly aligned and with enough space for an optimal airflow when using multiple graphics cards. That way, you will never have to worry about an overheating PC, while you are enjoying the best graphics jumping off from your monitor when running a NVIDIA® SLI or AMD CrossFire gaming setup.
Lucid Virtu MVP 2.0 is the latest GPU Virtualization technology allowing you to utilize your CPU's integrated Intel HD graphics cores in combination with a powerful discrete graphics card to get more gaming performance! Virtual V-Sync is the most important feature for gamers as it allows you to run at a smooth fixed framerate, without compromising in mouse responsiveness, which is the biggest drawback of traditional V-Sync.
There are good software features, as well, allowing real-time monitoring of performance and temperature, fan control, and unlimited RAM disk.  

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