This story actually starts over a year ago when I decided that I might like to upgrade my computer.  I used to be an avid gamer... that dried up a little, but partly because my hardware was a little deficient for the latest titles.  I don't play XBox or any of the other consoles... I just never got into them.  When I do play video games, they are on the computer.  These days, it is probably more like 85% power user and 15% gamer.  I don't need the latest and greatest hardware, but it is a nice indulgence once in a while.

As I said, I started doing my research for new hardware over a year ago.  I got about half way through picking components, and got sidetracked by something else.  By the time I got back to it a couple weeks ago, I had to start all over again.

For this upgrade I would be replacing almost the entire box and its contents.  First a look at what I am replacing:

  • AMD Athlon 64 3400+ CPU @ 2.2GHz (socket 754)
  • ABIT KV8 Pro v1.1 motherboard
  • 1GB RAM Kingston Value RAM PC3200
  • 200 GB Western Digital Caviar SATA WD2000JD Hard Drive (Configured with a 12GB System partition and a 188GB Data partition)
  • DVD-RW - NEC ND-3500A
  • ATI All-In-Wonder X800XT Video Card
  • Cambridge Soundworks 4 Point Surround speakers
  • Windows XP SP2

It is a bit funny to look back now.  I first got the CPU in November 2004.  Back then, 64-bit computing was going to be all the rage, and I thought my purchase would help to future-proof my machine.  Well, here we are 4 years later, and the machine never did see a 64 bit operating system.  Only now are 64 bits becoming more adopted and stable/supported enough to make the switch.

During this round of research, I was surprised to discover that SLI (Scalable Link Interface for the semi-techs - "hooking up multiple graphics cards together so they work as one" for the non-techs) had made a comeback.  However, I was disappointed to find out that NVidia had held exclusive licensing rights which meant the only chipset that supported SLI was the NVidia nForce chipsets.  Based on what I read, these chipsets are generally of lesser quality than their Intel based competition.  So it seems that choosing a motherboard/chipset now required you to choose which video card manufacturer would get your business (ATI or NVidia), because if you wanted to support SLI (or CrossFireX) then support from the motherboard was required.

This powerplay by NVidia has finally come to an end with the X58 chipset from Intel.  This is the latest chipset that supports the latest socket 1366 Core i7 CPU's recently released from Intel.  These processors are quad core and represent the first round in some fundamental changes to CPU architecture, compared with their predacessors.

Now normally, I am an analytical, common sense kinda guy.  I don't buy brand new cars... I buy 1 year old with 30,000 KM on them.  The same goes for computer hardware, don't buy the latest, greatest model of anything otherwise you pay through the nose now, and in 6 months, the same item can be had for 1/2 the price.  I would much rather buy the 2nd generation product and save money.

This time, I couldn't get over the NVidia chipset thing.  I wanted to try NVidia video card(s) this time, because I had seen first hand some of the low quality drivers/software created by ATI over the years.  To be fair, my research indicated that ATI has gotten better in the last year or two... but I still wanted to try walking on the green grass on the other side of the fence this time.  Choosing NVidia meant wanting to support SLI (just in case I ever move to 2 cards).  Supporting SLI meant being forcefed the nForce chipset, or bite the expensive bullet and jump to the top of price mountain and go for the X58 chipset that supports both SLI and CrossFireX.  Guess what I did.

Edit: Well, about 2 or 3 weeks after buying my nVidia GTX280 based video card, they mothballed that model in favour of the GTX285.  I guess I won't be going SLI anytime soon.  I do still like the versatility of supporting both ATI and nVidia though.

Now, for a look at what I upgraded to:

  • Intel Core i7 920
  • ASUS P6T Deluxe motherboard
  • 6GB RAM G.Skill PC10666 triple channel
  • 150GB Western Digital VelociRaptor WD1500HLFS (10,000 RPM for System Drive)
  • 1TB Western Digital Caviar Black (Data Drive)
  • DVD-RW - NEC ND-3500A
  • XFX GTX280 1024MB Video Card
  • Coolermaster Stacker 830 Evolution case
  • Logitech X-540 5.1 Speakers
  • Windows Vista Business x64

So far, things are running great, and I am happy with the upgrade.