Orthogonal Thought | Random musings from the creator of Cooking For Engineers and Lead Architect of Fanpop





What my 8800GTS made me do

Posted 12 August, 2007 at 10:04am by Michael Chu
(Filed under: Personal Computers)

The eVGA e-GeForce 8800 GTS 640MB Ediiton - the model that I built my computer aroundBack in May, I got tired of not being able to enjoy the variety of modern computer games available for Windows, so I went out and bought a PCI Express nVidia GeForce 8800GTS 640MB from eVGA ($380 after mail-in rebate). It wasn't the best video card out there (it was second best) but it was going to be a real jump up from my desktop, a Pentium 4 1.7 GHz with a GeForce 6200 (purchased only because my GeForce3 Ti 500 died after 4 years of continuous uptime - the FAN kept dying! These moving parts - you can't trust them…). I ended up spending an additional 2x on other components to provide a system powerful enough to support the video card! (I couldn't help it.)

I had earlier decided to base my system around a two year old mobile reference board (to save some money). The problem with using a reference board is that it's experimental - an engineering prototype used to work out the kinks in the system and to demonstrate one way of developing a system around the CPU and chipset for use as reference to the customers (in this case, laptop designers and manufacturers). This particular board was fairly old - one of the first with PCIE support (which is why I thought I could get it to work with the video card). Unfortunately, the PCIE wasn't the problem. The last time I used the board, I had managed to set it up for a set of hardware I no longer owned (I had built a temporary Media Center PC to see how well it worked on HD content), so I went ahead and reset the BIOS. Problem… now the board thinks I'm booting on a local flat panel display (like the LCD panel on your laptop) which I naturally do not have. After blindly executing the series of BIOS keystrokes needed to switch it out of this mode and onto VGA Out support, it still didn't work. This time, instead of booting, it hung in POST (Power On Self Test) with the BIOS code for bad memory. Anyway, this began a long series of problems that resulted in my going to bed after resolving to get a REAL computer built.

The next day, I went to Central Computer and picked up an Asus P5K Motherboard, a low-cost ($180) but fairly high performance Intel Core 2 Duo processor (with the intention of waiting half a year to pick up a Quad-core processor as a replacement), and 2 GB of RAM. I think the RAM turned out to be the most expensive part of the setup (except for the $380 video card; the RAM was $250). I had assumed that the most expensive component of my new computer would be Windows Vista (for I had decided to make the jump to DirectX 10 now instead of reinstalling later) which clocked in at an even $200 (Ultimate Edition).

I also had to pick up a new power supply to feed my hungry, hungry video card. I have to say these new modular power supplies are really nice. I ended up with an Antec Neo HE 550 ($120) and cable management has been greatly improved since the last time I've had to purchase a power supply for myself. With individual power cables that clip into the supply when you need them, you never have any excess power cabling complicating the inside of your computer and blocking airflow and access. Lovely.

Finally, on the second day, I managed to boot my machine and install Windows Vista and a couple games. Adobe Lightroom takes advantage of the dual-core processor so photo management is faster too. In the end I spent $1300 to upgrade my system - all because I wanted a $380 video card to play my $50 video games. It was definitely worth it — it's soooo much nicer than the Pentium 4 1.7 GHz machine that's been serving as my desktop for the last five years. (I've had laptops to do my work on, so the desktop, with it's RAID, have become more and more for data storage, web surfing, and Quicken.)

3 comments to What my 8800GTS made me do

Jesse Harris, August 13th, 2007 at 7:34 am:

  • You just described my upgrade conundrum. Any upgrade I do will minimally involve a new CPU, RAM, motherboard, case w/power supply, video card and optical drives. In other words, a brand frickin' new PC. This transition to SATA and PCI-E is dauntingly expensive, especially since I generally play older games anyway. Goodness, I *just* discovered the goodness that is Rome: Total War! There's something to be said for being a bit behind the curve.

RAIDs and Drive Remapping in Vista | Orthogonal Thought, August 13th, 2007 at 11:13 pm:

  • […] 13 August, 2007 at 11:13pm(Filed under: Personal Computers) So a couple months ago I built a new computer around a video card I bought, but I did it with the vision that it would eventually replace my […]

Michael Chu, August 13th, 2007 at 11:17 pm:

  • I ended up keeping my optical drive and main hard drive. It wasn't until this weekend that I upgraded the system with a new RAID using SATA drives. Doing it in stages helps me take the sting off of the build and lets me play around with the machine a bit to determine what I really need to do to it next (instead of upgrading all at once and discovering I didn't need something or won't ever use it).