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Ultimate PC, 5 months in

Pete Brown - 03 February 2011

I've been running the Ultimate PC as my main PC for about 5 months now. I thought I'd post a few things

The Good

The SSD is amazing. While it seems slower now, I realize that is just my perception and not an actual slow-down. How? Just go use a machine with a regular hard drive and endure the wait. I'm very happy with this purchase and would not hesitate to do it again.

The 980x 6 core processor is great. I run tons of apps at the same time, so it works well there. I also love it whenever I encode video. There are already faster 4 core processors based on the new technology. I love the extra threads, but you may want to go with one of the newer less-expensive processors.

12gb Memory was definitely a sweet spot. I don't really feel any memory pressure with the majority of apps I use. 24gb would be wonderful, but that is also very difficult to overclock and would stay unused for most of the time.

Water-cooling turned out to be a great choice. My machine is pretty quiet and has run leak-free. It was fun to do and it keeps temperatures way down. Love it.

The Meh

Overlocking. I'm sure this is me more than the hardware, but I've had much better success overclocking in the past. On this machine, I can't get all the bits in tune enough to go above about 4.3ghz. Granted, that's a 1ghz overclock, so I shouldn't be complaining. The problem is not temperature, which is really low even at this speed, it's the myriad other voltages, clocks and settings that the board and 980x provide.

The speed of my memory has also prevented me from being able to reach higher speeds. In fact, the memory speed is almost certainly one of the things that is preventing me from seeing higher stable overclocks. However, 12gb of matched high-speed low-latency memory was really expensive at the time. It has since come down a bit, but is still pretty expensive.

The Bad

The ATI/AMD video card. My gut said not to go with ATI ever again, but lots of folks recommended them as better than the nVidia boards. So, not only am I out of the CUDA game, but the drivers have known issues which cause screen flickers whenever I open up a youtube or other flash video in any browser. I also get other random flickers from time to time.

Now Scott had separate issues with his nVidia card, so I wouldn't get what he got. However, there are other nVidia cards that would do just fine in this type of build.

The Gigabyte UD9 motherboard. Scott and I both got this because it was on sale - a great deal with the processor. However, we still don't have non-beta drivers for some of the chipset. I have one USB chipset that never had any working drivers (always shows up as unknown in Windows), and the BIOS versions have issues. In fact, one problem Scott and I both have right now has to do with cold boot vs. warm boot. My PC, about 2 weeks ago, started taking several minutes to boot from a warm boot. A cold boot, on the other hand, is pretty instant.


So, if I were to do this over again, I'd keep the processor, but I'd get faster memory than the 1600 I got. For the motherboard, I'd probably change to that beast of an EVGA board, since that has had really good reviews. For video card, I'd get a decent nVidia, but not one of the ones with the dual monitor heat issues.

Overall, I've been very happy, but the results of this build haven't been as smooth as some of the mid-grade builds I've done in the past. It seems when you try and hit top of the line, you really end up with hit-and-miss on quality.

(PS: with memory and my knowledge limiting my overlock, I'm getting WEI scores of 7.8 for processor, memory and disk. SSD scores vary with processor speed. Also, the graphics scores are 7.7 on this ATI card. All out of a max of 7.9)

posted by Pete Brown on Thursday, February 3, 2011
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8 comments for “Ultimate PC, 5 months in”

  1. Tomsays:
    And that's why they call it "the bleeding edge"...

    When your warm boots take awhile, where does it pause? I may have the same or a similar problem with a Gigabyte motherboard, and it pauses at the Windows 7 logo. No disk access during the pause. Then it comes back to life and finishes booting. Only happens sometimes. Maybe warm vs. cold is it, I'll have to watch for that.
  2. Petesays:

    Agreed on Bleeding Edge :)

    Mine pauses after the first line of POST, right when it identifies the board. A successful boot shows the CPU information almost immediately after that line. The warm boot takes several *minutes* to render that second line and continue. No errors, just some internal time-out or something.

    I need to write down exactly what shows up on those two lines, as I don't recall 100%.

  3. Aaron Fischersays:
    I ended up with a ASUS Rampage III Gene (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131658&Tpk=asus%20rampage%20iii%20gene) It takes some time to post but, It has very nice software based overclocking for those of use that would like to remain brain dead.

    I didn't realize the flickering issues I had been seeing with my ATI video card were known issues. Thanks for that tidbit always good to know I am not alone.

    Your boot issue could be a bios test or could it be looking to the wrong boot order of your drives?
  4. Martin H. Normarksays:
    I built my machine well over a year ago. WEI score of 7.5 - cost $1,600. I know it's tempting to go for the newest gear, but you pay a lot more for a very small advantage. Buying parts that are a few months old is where you get value for money. 7.5 or 7.9 - who cares anyway?

    I put the entire parts list on my blog: http://martinnormark.com/the-almost-ultimate-developer-pc-2-0
  5. Tomsays:
    Goals and opinions regarding PC builds vary widely. I love that there are so many options when building a PC, and you don't typically build it for just one purpose or goal - it's a set of many things. You have the opportunity to tailor your build to your situation, taking all of the factors into account. There's an awful lot to consider and it's usually going to be pretty different from person to person. It's nice to hear about and learn from the experiences of people with different goals.

    Personally I have perhaps three main aims when building a PC for myself which have served me well over the years: 1) Aim for the best bang for the buck (or slightly higher) for what I want to use my computer for (which is a lot). 2) Don't stray too far from the beaten path. 3) Once built, gather and interpret data on the performance of various components and use that info to help guide the next build.
  6. Petesays:

    We both wanted to go with the very best stuff we could afford this time. It was a splurge. No doubt you get more bang for your buck when you go a tier or two down like I normally do.

    In fact, Scott had pointed outa 7.5 WEI machine in the local best buy that was around $1500 complete, so we knew the alternatives were there.

    Congrats on such cool build :)


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