Posts Tagged “hardware”

Zalman VF900 Review

Published on July 7, 2006

I recently ordered a Zalman VF900 VGA cooler for my NVIDIA GeForce 6800 GT. As I previously mentioned, the temperatures I’ve been seeing on this card have been incredibly hot. It would probably be safe to say that this was the primary factor in my frequent system crashes, but only time will prove that theory. Well, yesterday the cooler arrived and I installed it. Read on for my thoughts on the card, the results I’ve seen so far, and more.

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Running Hot

Published on June 18, 2006

My current graphics card, an eVGA GeForce 6800GT, has been running very hot recently. Spending time in Half-Life 2 or Oblivion causes temperatures in excess of 75 degrees Celsius, scorchingly hot by most standards. As a result of these high temperatures, video output routinely becomes corrupted, requiring a power-off of the machine to set things right. This occurrence seems fairly recent, and I’m not entirely certain why. My computer has always done a good job of controlling its temperature, thanks to my Cooler Master aluminum case. I’ve inspected all of my system’s fans: three of my four chassis fans (I’ve disconnected the one on top for being too noisy), the power supply fan, the CPU fan, and the fan on the graphics card. Each one seems to be spinning, and airflow doesn’t appear to be blocked.

I’ve been looking at building an entirely new system for some time now, and this problem is only pushing me closer to actually going through with it. Switching to a more energy-efficient AMD processor should help somewhat, and I plan on adding an after-market cooler to my new graphics card (I’m currently looking at a GeForce 7900 GT). Hopefully these steps will bring my system’s temperatures down considerably.

Thinking About Upgrades

Published on March 26, 2006

I’m beginning to spend more time thinking about how to upgrade my personal computer. As I have mentioned before, deciding what pieces of hardware to buy is frustratingly difficult, especially in today’s market. This time around, I’m trying to pay more attention to user reviews at sites like NewEgg, and less attention to the dedicated hardware “review” sites, which tend to consist of more previews than anything else.

I’m currently leaning towards getting the AMD Athlon 64 X2 4400+ CPU. I’m still trying to track down a good motherboard, and then I’ll have to pick some memory and, quite possible, a new power supply. Throw in a couple of new SATA hard drives (the Maxtor drives I have are real crap), and a new graphics card, and you’ve got a brand new system.

I’m probably going to end up spending a large chunk of change on this upgrade, but I think it will be worth it. Selling my current components on eBay should offset the cost somewhat. I’ve always done a good job of taking care of my stuff, and I tend to keep the boxes that components come in, so that should help increase the price I get by auctioning them off. Plus, I’m getting a performance bonus at the end of this month at work, and that can only help.

Were I to have my way, and were I to know exactly what I want, I’d order the components today. But seeing as this upgrade is going to be rather expensive, I’m resigned to waiting a bit. I’ll clearly have to put Amazon purchases and the like on hold for several months after I make this move. The old bank account can only handle so much spending.

A Sign of the Times?

Published on March 2, 2006

The LA Times is reporting that Google is slowly switching to AMD-based processor solutions for their 200,000+ (!) servers. This is a most interesting report, especially since Intel has owned the vast majority of processor market share for so long. Could AMD be the David to Intel’s Goliath?

On a completely unrelated note, I’ve about decided to put off upgrading my personal computer. Not only does convoluted hardware make it hard to find what to buy, but things change so quickly (especially as far as prices are concerned). Instead of upgrading little bits now, I’m planning on building a completely new rig from scratch later this year (with any luck). Although I don’t have any details in place, I do have these general milestones I want to hit:

  • AMD dual-core processor (most likely)
  • No less than 2 GB of memory
  • PCI-Express based graphics card (an NVIDIA based solution, no doubt)
  • Seagate SATA hard drives (SCSI seems a little too expensive)
  • Perhaps a beefier power supply (~500 W)

Waiting a while will allow me to (a) save some money up and (b) allow prices on today’s hot hardware to fall. I generally like buying stuff one generation back from the bleeding edge. You seem to get the most bang for your buck that way.

Convoluted Computer Hardware

Published on February 8, 2006

I have recently been toying with the idea of upgrading my personal computer (although I don’t use it near as much as I used to). I’d like to double my system memory, get a faster processor (a new motherboard as a result), and replace my SATA hard drives (which have been surprisingly disappointing).

The problem is that computer hardware is complicated, and it’s getting more so all the time. I remember spending weeks researching various options for my last major upgrade; and that was well over two years ago! Since that time, processor model numbers have become increasingly complicated and motherboard options seem to have multiplied several times. Adding to my frustration are hardware review sites such as Anandtech and Tom’s Hardware, both of which make the assumption that readers spend each and every day staying up to date with hardware trends. Don’t they realize that there are those of us who look at hardware on an incredibly infrequent basis? Thankfully, Tom’s Hardware has some charts that they keep updated on a semi-regular basis for graphics cards, processors, and hard drives. The benchmarks within them are handy for people like me, who just want to get a feel for where things are.

I am thinking about moving to an AMD processor this time around. I’ve always used Intel Pentium chips, but the AMD solutions seem way more affordable. Can anyone recommend an AMD CPU / motherboard combination that would work well for gaming? It clearly needs to be faster than my current setup (P4 – 2.8GHz), but I don’t want to pay thousands of dollars for it. Why can’t any of this stuff be easy?

Giddy as a School Girl

Published on October 15, 2005

Yesterday, I received my NEC FE2111SB 22″ CRT monitor from, and I finally got a chance to set it up this morning. What a beauty! The monitor was listed as “not exactly new” on Azatek’s web page. I have found only two flaws with the monitor: the face plate is lightly scratched (you have to be looking for it to see it) and one of the buttons on the front plate is indented (it looks like it’s stuck in the depressed position, but the button is completely functional – it’s just cosmetically out of line with the others). Both of these items are minor; I think they give the monitor “character”.

I only have good things to say about Azatek. I placed my order last weekend (on Friday morning) and was assured that it would be mailed that day. When I received notification from UPS that it had not been mailed, I contacted Azatek’s customer service. They promptly replied via email, stating that the monitor was not able to fit in that day’s UPS shipment (the box this thing came in is gigantic, and apparently the UPS truck was full of other packages). My monitor was sent out first thing Monday morning, and got here (via UPS ground) yesterday. The monitor was extremely well packaged (these folks really know what they are doing) and it’s in awesome shape! If you’re in the market for a CRT, check Azatek out. I was pleasantly surprised by their fast, friendly service. And the low, low price of $337.80 (that includes shipping) didn’t hurt either!

Not Exactly New

Published on October 7, 2005

I have recently been looking at refurbished monitors from Azatek, in an effort to replace my 22″ NEC monitor which got screwed up during my recent move. They have a nice (albeit limited) selection of Grade-A 21-24″ monitors. I’m currently looking at the NEC FE2111SB 22″ model, which they list in Not Exactly New condition. What that means remains to be seen, but at only $289, it doesn’t look like a bad deal at all. I hope to order the monitor today: with any luck, I’ll have it up and running by this time next week.

It’s a shame that CRT monitors are going the way of the dinosaur. I’m surprised that no company has stepped up to fill the niche market of those who prefer the older CRT technology. You would think that there is a fair amount of money to be made by selling to enthusiasts, but apparently that’s not the case.

Update: I’ve ordered the monitor, at a final price of $337.80 ($289 + $48.80 in shipping costs). Not bad for a 22″ CRT!

GeForce Weirdness

Published on August 31, 2005

So I’m playing through Far Cry again, this time with all the eye candy turned way up. This is all thanks to the wonder that is the GeForce 6800 GT. It’s absolutely fan-freaking-tastic. But I digress…

I had just arrived at Rebellion, quite possibly the biggest map in the game. After clearing the first area of the map, I begin the long journey to the other side. As I round a bend in the road, the screen goes corrupt (in an incredibly wicked way) and my system hangs. Performing the three finger salute did absolutely nothing, so I was forced to perform a hard reset. So now I’m booting up my machine, everything is fine, and BAM – as soon as I reach the Windows desktop, I have the same problem. Complete and utter destruction of my screen. Again, keyboard control is highly unresponsive.

At this point I power down the machine and open up the case. Could the graphics card be getting too hot? I am pushing it rather hard. After waiting a few seconds, I power up again and all is well. I didn’t try loading up Far Cry again, but I plan to give it another go tonight. Has anyone ever seen this issue? I updated my chipset drivers last night (after the crash), and I also patched Far Cry (I was running 1.3, and am now at 1.33), thinking that might help in some way. Hopefully this problem isn’t an ominous omen of some sort. I certainly don’t want to replace this awesome piece of hardware.

Going Back to NVIDIA

Published on July 17, 2005

I’m all for healthy competition in the video card industry, and I think it’s a good thing that both ATI and NVIDIA are slugging it out to see who’s on top each week. But I’m seriously considering going back to an NVIDIA based graphics card. The last NVIDIA card I owned was a GeForce 2 MX, the budget model of the GeForce 2 family. I never had issues with drivers, and the card was as solid as a rock.

Then I made the switch to ATI (they had become King of the Hill at the time). My current card is a Radeon 9700 Pro, and I have had nothing but problems with it from the beginning. Whether it’s a corrupted boot up screen, crashes with various games I own, or just plain flaky-ness, this card has left a bad taste in my mouth for ATI. The NVIDIA card I’m looking at going to is the eVGA GeForce 6800 GT, one that has been getting rave reviews. The price is a little hefty, but I can afford it. Besides, my time and frustration have to be worth something.

New (Used) Monitor

Published on July 12, 2005

I picked up a used 22″ NEC monitor tonight for $200. Not a bad deal, considering you can’t find new CRT’s that size on the web for less than $550. The color isn’t 100% (it’s more like 95%), but I think I can get used to it (and I might be able to tweak it some). What’s more irritating, however, are the front buttons. The plastic bezel around the front is placing some tension on these buttons, causing the monitor adjustment menu to show up at inopportune times. Perhaps I need to disassemble this thing to see what’s causing the tension.

Anyways, I can finally run my desktop at 1600 x 1200. How glorious the web becomes at that resolution! Screen real estate is freely available now, and I couldn’t be happier.

Disappearing CRTs

Published on July 8, 2005

CRT monitors are quickly becoming endangered. The NEC/Mitsubishi FE2111SB, a 22″ behemoth that I’ve had on my wish list for some time, is now incredibly hard to find. Most places that list it are strangely “out of stock.” And those stores which actually have some have increased their price by nearly $100! The end is apparently near for the tried and true CRT. Fare thee well, old friend.

My New Notebook Mouse

Published on June 27, 2005

While over at the local Target yesterday (a store I truly enjoy visiting, by the way), I picked up a Logitech Notebook Optical Mouse Plus. This thing has to be the coolest little mouse I’ve seen for notebooks. Not only was the $19.99 price tag $5 cheaper than the Microsoft equivalent, but it’s better in almost every regard. The coolest feature is the cord management system. When you’re done using the mouse, you wrap the cord around the base and snap the USB connector to the bottom, covering (and thus protecting) the optical sensor. What an incredibly novel concept!

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