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| Building a Beast with the Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800 Processor (47 comments )|
by: CanadaDave (303) | Posted in cluster Final Round FiringSquad-Intel Editors Challenge
Posted 74 months ago ( edited 73 months ago ) in category DEFAULT
|» MEDIA (21)|
Figure 1 - Anticipation
Figure 2 - The Zalman Fatal1ty Case
Figure 3 - Gigabyte P965-DS3
Figure 4 - Gigabyte GV-NX76T256D-RH
Figure 5 - OCZ Platinum PC2 6400 Memory
Figure 6 - Zalman ZM600 Power Supply
Figure 7 - Zalman CNPS9700
Figure 8 - Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800
Figure 9 - Bad Things Happen
Figure 10 - Applying Thermal Grease
Figure 11 - MB, CPU and Cooler Mounted
Figure 12 - Power Supply and Video Card Mounted
Figure 13 - Installing a Hard Drive into Zalman Fatal1ty
Figure 14 - Cables Obstructing Airflow
Figure 15 - Start Cable Tie-Off
Figure 16 - Hard Drive Power Cables
Figure 17 - Rerouting the SATA Cable
Figure 18 - Proper Airflow Restored
Figure 19 - The Beast is Completed.
Figure A - Windows Updates Downloader
Figure B - Avast! Antivirus
When a shipment arrives at your house that includes not only the Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800 processor, but also a Zalman Fatal1ty case, Gigabyte 965P-DS3 motherboard, Gigabyte 7600GT graphics card, and OCZ Platinum memory... you know that it is going to be a very good day.
(See Figure 1: Picture of Boxes)
The moment the green light was given by the FiringSquad judges to test the hardware, the boxes were eagerly torn open, revealing not only the aforementioned components, but also a Fatal1ty gaming power supply and heat-piped CPU cooler. This was to be the test bed for the final round of the FiringSquad Editor's Challenge.
The Case - Zalman Fatality FC-ZE1
The Zalman Fatal1ty FC-ZE1 is a heavy case. So heavy, in fact, that when it weighed in at 28lbs at Canada Customs, they required that the box be opened to demonstrate that it didn't contain any additional components.
(See Figure 2: The Zalman Fatal1ty case)
The case has two 92mm LED fans on the front and one 120mm LED fan on the rear. The Zalman Fatal1ty is indeed a sexy piece of equipment, with the LEDs providing a nice contrast to the attractive black aluminum exterior. Its weight comes from an unbelievably thick 5mm aluminum exterior shell, which makes it one of the thickest aluminum cases on the market today. Zalman’s pride in the Fatal1ty case is evident in the logos and lettering which are found throughout, these being unabashedly laser-etched, rather than removable decals. The left-side of the case is hinged, swinging open to about 150 degrees, and has a clear plastic side window in order to be able to view the components inside. The hinged door is secured using thumbscrews and a sliding latch, while the remainder of the case panels (which would be removed less often under normal circumstances) are secured using allen bolts.
Inside, the Zalman Fatal1ty provides four 5.25 inch bays, all of which are exposed, and four 3.5 inch bays, one of which is exposed. The 3.5 inch bays employ a clever tool-less mechanism to facilitate hard drive installation, as well as various noise- and vibration-deadening hardware such as rubber contact points and foam padding.
The Motherboard - Gigabyte P965-DS3
(See Figure 3: Picture of Motherboard)
The Gigabyte 965P-DS3 has become well-known in the industry as a rock solid motherboard, with Gigabyte’s all solid capacitor design giving them bragging rights over other manufacturers who are installing cheaper components on their boards. Using the Intel P965 Express chipset, this board is perfectly suited to the gaming enthusiast market. The box announces that it is "Quad Core ready", and that the 965P-DS3 has a breadth of overclocking and voltage options.
The motherboard has a total of six internal SATA ports, four of which are driven by the Intel IC8 chipset, and the remaining two are powered by a Gigabyte controller. As the IC8 chipset lacks any standard IDE offering, Gigabyte has driven a single IDE connector off of the aforementioned controller chip. Both of the Gigabyte-controlled SATA ports also feature RAID capability.
A very interesting feature of the Gigabyte P965-DS3 is its ability to automatically adjust the voltage settings for the RAM, FSB, CPU and PCIe based on overclocking choices selected by the user. Further, Gigabyte’s BIOS Setting Recovery technology allows the system to recover after a failed POST due to overly ambitious overclocking settings, which can save a significant amount of time by not having to clear the entire CMOS whenever things go awry.
A Gigabit Ethernet port and seven USB connectors (three internal USB headers and four external integrated USB slots) complete a well-rounded offering, with the only potential strike against the feature set being the lack of a FireWire port. This, however, is the trade-off that Gigabyte has made when deciding to improve the overall build of the motherboard and maintaining its aggressive price point.
The Graphics Card - Gigabyte 7600GT Heat-Piped (GV-NX76T256D-RH)
(See Figure 4: Gigabyte GV-NX76T256D-RH)
An intriguing part of the test-bed system is the Gigabyte GV-NX76T256D-RH, which is one of Gigabyte’s offerings using the NVIDIA 7600GT platform. This card deviates from the standard 7600GT cards being offered by other manufacturers in that it runs completely silent due to Gigabyte’s Silent Pipe II technology, which is a heat-piped passive cooling solution. The card, due to the cooling solution employed, weighs 14 ounces (400 grams), and takes up two PC case slots.
The Silent Pipe II cooler spans both the front and the back of the card, and even has cooling fins outside of the case in an effort to increase the performance of the heat-piping solution. The card runs by default at 570MHz core and 700MHz memory, has two DVI connectors for dual-monitor support, and adds TV output via the use of a break-out box. Gigabyte has further chosen to include the full version of Civilization IV in the box that the test-bed card came in.
Remaining fairly consistent with other 7600GT offerings, this DirectX 9.0c card sports 256MB of GDDR3 memory, 12 pixel pipelines, 1 Texture Mapping Unit, 5 Visual Processing Units, and (at its default memory clock speed) has 22.4GB/second memory bandwidth.
The Memory - OCZ Platinum PC2 6400 2GB kit
(See Figure 5: Picture of OCZ Platinum RAM on FS Mousepad)
FiringSquad provided 2 gigabytes of OCZ EL Platinum PC2-6400 memory for the test-bed system. OCZ has provided an attractive physical package with their Platinum PC2-6400 memory, wrapping the chips in their Platinum XTC heat spreader solution. This heat spreader is perforated with dozens of tiny holes, allowing for improved air flow between heat spreader and the memory chips themselves.
The timings on the memory are a rather un-ambitious 4-5-4-15 at 2.1 volts, but the XTC heat spreader found on the memory stick itself holds the promise that the OCZ will overclock very well. OCZ Platinum PC2-6400 uses single-sided Micron memory chips on a Brainpower PCB, which further underscores the component quality found in the OCZ packaging.
The PSU - Zalman ZM600-HP 600W
The Zalman ZM600-HP power supply is a very well-designed, quiet running component which uses active cooling in addition to a heat-pipe that not only allows it to remain at optimal temperature, but also improves overall airflow within the case. The cooling solution is somewhat unique to that end, there being a 120mm fan at the bottom for air intake with the standard rear exhaust fan being replaced by the aforementioned heat-pipe.
(See Figure 6: Picture of Zalman ZM600)
The ZM600-HP has three integrated cables (motherboard, CPU, and PCIe), but the remainder are all modular in nature, including three HDD/ODD connectors, two SATA connectors, and one connector for a second CPU or PCIe cable. The supplied cables are surrounded by a black sleeve, which improves aesthetics and makes later organization much simpler. Each of the cables has multiple connectors for peripherals.
The power supply itself is an active PFC (Power Factor Correction) solution, and Zalman claims an impressive maximum efficiency rating of 84% at a full and typical load of 230VAC. This efficiency rating easily eclipses standard power supplies which generally run at about 65% efficiency. This is of high interest to overclockers, as it means that the Zalman ZM600-HP will be required to dissipate substantially less heat due to wasted power consumption than a normal power supply.
The CPU Cooler - Zalman CNPS9700
(See Figure 7: Zalman CNPS9700)
The Zalman CNPS9700 is an enormous cooler, weighing in at 765 grams (or about 1.67 pounds). Checking in at a height of 5.6” and a width of 4.9 inches, the CNPS9700 requires a substantial amount of case room to accommodate the enormous heat dissipation area that this cooler brings to bear. The all-copper design features three heat-pipes, which wind through a circular comb of cooling fins, then come back to the highly polished CPU contact point. Air is pushed through the entire package by a large 110mm fan, which also features an attractive green LED.
In the CNPS9700 package, Zalman included a bottle of their thermal grease, which will be used for the system build as well.
The CPU - Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800
Most importantly, the final box contained the heart of the system: The Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800 CPU.
(See Figure 8: Picture of Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800 in motherboard)
Representing the pinnacle of the Intel dual core effort, the X6800 runs at a 2.93GHz clock speed, has 4MB of L2 cache, and uses Intel's most recent 65nm architecture. Most importantly, as a Core based processor, the X6800 enjoys very significant performance benefits over the Netburst processors of old, even at a comparatively lower clock speed.
As this processor is a member of the Core 2 Extreme family, all multiplier restrictions have been removed to facilitate overclocking this already speedy chip.
During the planning phase for the layout of the system, a few things became obvious:
1) Cable management is going to be of high importance due to the large fans all running in close proximity to each other near the top of the case. It is desirable to make sure that the case appears 'clean' due to the window on the left-hand side of the case anyway, but the airflow situation makes it that much more of an issue. The Fatal1ty case lacks any cable channels or integrated tie-offs, so some creativity will be required.
2) Zalman used knock-out slot guards instead of a removable-replaceable design. Careful planning to make sure that those knockouts are not needlessly removed will be important in order to avoid a trip to the store for replacement knock-outs.
3) Additional space will need to be allotted for the two-slot Gigabyte graphics card.
With the above notes in mind, the first order of business was to prepare the case to have the motherboard installed. Using the included allen key, the right-hand side panel was removed, exposing the motherboard tray. The pre-installed mount points were a good fit for the Gigabyte motherboard, with the exception of the last three mounting screws which were able to be removed altogether.
With the case tray having been prepared, and after taking time to ground myself in order to bleed off any build up of static electricity, the motherboard was taken out of its static bag and set flat.
Oddly enough, Gigabyte has chosen to advertise their excellent solid capacitor design using a sticker laid across the PCI slots, forcing you to remove the sticker before the slots were able to be used. While great care was taken in removing the sticker...
(See Figure 9: Bad Things Happen)
...the adhesive backing tore away, leaving traces of glue and paper across the PCI slots. It is extremely unfortunate to have to deal with something like that during a build, and obviously, one would question the need for the sticker on a motherboard which has already been purchased, but nevertheless, a bit of delicate scraping removed the traces of debris, and work continued.
The CPU cooler mounts were installed on the back and front side, with screws put into place.
After the cooler mounts were installed, the CPU was put into the slot, and thermal grease was applied. As mentioned, Zalman included a bottle of their ZM-STG1 thermal grease, which has an interesting brush designed to make proper application of the grease straightforward. Rather than applying a single blob in the center, the grease is applied using the brush in a painting motion, covering both the CPU and the backside of the cooler with a thin layer.
(See Figure 10: Applying Thermal Grease)
The mounting of the CPU cooler followed, using a clip that fit between the heat-pipes and secured using screws on either side of the CPU itself. The RAM was installed as normal.
(See Figure 11: motherboard, CPU and cooler mounted)
The integrated component cover found in the Gigabyte motherboard box was put into the Zalman case, and the motherboard tray was refitted to the case.
Next came the power supply. This required slightly more effort than usual, as the Zalman case design lacks a power supply support shelf, and the swinging door was unable to be detached from its hinges. After a small bit of work, the power supply was mounted and relevant cables were connected. As noted previously, the Gigabyte GeForce 7600GT graphics card occupies two case slots.
(See Figure 12: Power Supply and Video Card Mounted)
The hard drive chassis is one of the most interesting parts of the Zalman Fatal1ty case. Essentially, the hard drive slides into the chassis...
(See Figure 13: Installing a Hard Drive into the Fatal1ty Case)
...and a bar slides down and locks it into place. Nothing else is required, except to connect the cables. The drive is held into place firmly, thanks to a thick foam pad that the front of the drive presses against.
After connecting the cables for the hard drive, mounting the DVD-RW drive, and connecting the various cables for the front panel, the case was beginning to look very cluttered indeed.
(See Figure 14: Cables Obstructing Airflow)
The final step to the physical build was the cable management. With airflow being the primary concern, cables were re-routed, tied down and hidden; in the end, the system not only looks neat and clean, but the various fans and coolers are able to do their job as efficiently as possible.
(See Figures 15 through 19 for cable tie-offs and final pictures.)
Operating System Installation
This system serves not only as a test bench for this article, but also as a personal system. As such, Windows XP, Windows Vista Ultimate 32bit and Ubuntu Linux (Feisty Fawn) are all required. The 500GB Western Digital hard drive in the test bed system ensures that space issues are avoided, but order of operations are important. Windows XP will be the first operating system installed, followed by Windows Vista which installs a bootloader that recognizes Windows XP partitions. Finally, Ubuntu 7.04 will be the last operating system installed - the GRUB bootloader which it installs allows for all three OS selections.
Equally important in the planning phase is the accumulation of patches, antivirus and other system tools. It is no longer acceptable to put an unpatched, unprotected Windows XP machine on the Internet to download patches - exploits and worms are simply too prevalent. To that end, Windows Updates Downloader (available from wud.jcarle.com and depicted in Figure A) was used to download the Service Packs and critical updates required. Additionally, Avast! antivirus (www.avast.com, also depicted in Figure B) was used to protect both the XP and Vista partitions during the periods that it was connected to the Internet.
Windows XP was instructed to create a 60GB partition for its installation, which proceeded without issue. Given the disparity in age between the operating system and hardware components, however, neither the driver for the video card nor the device drivers for the integrated components were loaded during installation. The CD included with the Gigabyte motherboard installed the drivers properly, and version 93.71 of ForceWare was downloaded from NVIDIA's site and installed for the graphics card.
Vista was installed on another 60gb partition created by Vista's installation process, and installation proceeded without issue. The Device Manager showed that nearly all devices were detected and installed correctly, albeit with outdated drivers. First order of business was the security patches, then the driver updates and finally Avast. Happily, no issues were encountered with any aspect of this installation.
Of note, NVIDIA released version 158.18 of ForceWare for Vista on April 26; this version was used in the Vista portion of the benchmarks.
Finally, Ubuntu 7.04 (Feisty Fawn, 64 bit version) was loaded. This action replaces the Vista bootloader with GRUB, but otherwise has no impact on either of the Windows installations. While Ubuntu installed without issue on the test system, driver installation definitely tended towards generic. NVIDIA's Linux driver website has the latest drivers, which did load successfully.
Coming up next: The second part of this three-part series for the final round of the FiringSquad Editor's Challenge will focus on tweaking the system for additional performance. The system will be overclocked as high as its components will allow, and finally the entire setup will be put to the test in a series of benchmarks. Read on as the benchmarks decide if the system performs as well in the real world as it does in its marketing literature.
|48 User Comment(s) • 21 root comment(s)|
| Anonymous (-) May 11, 2007 - 02:37 pm|
|» Hey monkey|
Great write!! It's nice to see you've come such a long way since the days of climbing filing cabinets in the AV room.
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