Last update :- February 19th, 2012

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Core 2 Duo - The Components

As I mentioned in the previous section, for my next system I opted for one based upon an Intel Core 2 Duo processor as these provided a good performance but weren't power hungry. I won't try to explain why a dual core processor is better than a single core as others have already done so - try here for example. I bought the components for this system in October 2007 with the full intention of overclocking it for gaming - but susequent redundancy in 2008 led to a change of priorites and I simply didn't have the time. Therefore, here I'll try and explain why I chose the components I did without going into too much detail and the following section will show how these were put together.

Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 2.4GHz Socket LGA775, 4MB

Image courtesy of PCSTATS.com:

Intel Core 2 Duo E6600

Intel Core 2 Duo E6600

When introduced, the Core 2 Duo was the desktop processor to own and was available in 5 flavours - the E6300, E6400, E6600, E6700 and Extreme X6800. As I intended overclocking the system I wasn't willing to pay over the odds for the extremely overclockable X6800 and instead opted for the mid-range E6600 at £192 in 2006. Compared to the E6300 and E6400 this had a 4MB L2 cache - and the bigger the cache the better the performance. For a better explanation and review of the Core 2 Duo series I suggest you read the AnandTech review.

Motherboard: EVGA Nvidia 680I SLI Socket 775 DDR2 GB Lan SATA II Raid 7.1 Channel Audio Firewire

Image courtesy of HEXUS.net:

EVGA Nvidia 680I SLI

EVGA Nvidia 680I SLI

When the Core 2 Duo was released there was obviously support from Intel with the accompanying P965/ICH7 chipset and the later 975X/ICH8. When Nvidia introduced the nForce 680i chipset it became widely accepted as the best available at the time for enthusiasts, overclockers and gamer. See a comparision of the chipsets at Tom's Hardware.

A number of the popular motherboard manufacturers such as ASUS and Gigabyte produced their own versions of boards based upon the chipset but I opted for the EVGA because it was effectively the Nvidia reference design and was therefore fully supported by Nvidia's "System Tools" monitoring and control utility. If you look at the PC Perspective article on Nvidia's ESA architecture and in particular at the "System Monitor" and "Performance Control Panel" parts you'll see how easy they made it to overclock and monitor a system. The downside was the cost as it was £139 when I bought it in 2007.

Case: ThermalTake Kandalf LCS (Liquid Cooling System) Silver

ThermalTake Kandalf LCS

ThermalTake Kandalf LCS

As I intended to overclock the E6600 whilst keeping it cool and quiet I decided to stick with water cooling as I had done since I built my Barton 3000+ system in 2007. This time it was with a difference though as I opted for a case with an integrated system. Being a full tower I expected it to be large but it was huge! It certainly would probably have done a good job of cooling the overclocked system I intended to have as it included a large radiator in the door which used 3 120mm low-noise fans - but the problem I had was that I could never get it quiet enough for my liking at stock settings.

When I say noise I don't mean it was so loud it was unbearable - I mean that with fans on their lowest speed setting you could still hear the system running a few yards away in an otherwise quiet room when reading a book for instance. In the end I found the noise came from 3 sources:

Other than my particular demands I must admit it was a very good case so read the Overclockers Club review. As you would expect for a case with an integrated water cooling system it was expensive at £174 in 2007.

Memory:- 2 x GeIL 2GB (2x1GB) PC6400C4 800MHz Ultra Low Latency DDR2 Dual Channel Kit (GX22GB6400UDC)

GeIL 2GB (2x1GB) PC6400C4

GeIL 2GB (2x1GB) PC6400C4

"GeIL is proud to announce DDR2 800MHz, PC6400 800MHz supports CAS 4-4-4-12 with 1GB and 2GB Dual Channel Kits. These Ultra modules are hand picked for maximum FSB overclocking potential."

I read some good reviews about this and the overclocking potential. I shows how much memory prices drop as technology improves though - I bought my first 2GB kit for £165 in 2006 and the second for £26 in 2008.

Graphics: Inno3D Nvidia GeForce 8800GT 512MB OC PCI Express

Image courtesy of HEXUS.net:

Inno3D nVidia GeForce 8800GT

Inno3D Nvidia GeForce 8800GT

The Nvidia GeForce 8 series was released in late 2006, initially supporting DirectX 9 but eventually supporting DirectX 10 (for Windows Vista). The range started with the 8300 GS (OEM) which ran at a core clock rate of 450MHz and included either 128MB or 256MB of memory and went up to the 8800 Ultra wirth a 612MHz core clock and 768MB of memory. I chose this card which is based upon the 8800 GT mid-range product which has a core clock of 600MHz and up to 1GB of memory.

I chose the Inno3D OC model in particular due to good reviews and because it used a single slot rather than the normal two slot design and was supplied with a default core clock of 650MHz - although by upgrading the BIOS to one supplied with the card this could be changed to 702MHz. I left the BIOS unchanged and it cost me £170 in 2007.

Hard Disks: 4 x WD2500KS Western Digital Caviar SE16 250Gb 16Mb Cache Hard Disk Drive SATAII 300MB/s <8.9ms 7200rpm

With my previous favourite hard drive manufacturer Maxtor being acquired by Seagate Technology in 2006 I had to decide on a new favourite and opted for Western Digital -who's drives I still use today. The drives were £40 each and being SATA II 300MB/s models with 16MB cache running at up to 7200RPM were speedy.

For the first time, I decided to use the motherboard's in-built RAID controller when installing Windows XP and organized one pair as RAID 1 (mirroring) and one as RAID 0 (striping). RAID 1 uses two drives of equal size and preferably model - with one being a back-up or mirror of the other. This provides a fail safe because if one drive fails you can still use the other and for this reason I installed Windows XP Pro on this 250GB RAID 1 array. Along with the OS I used separate partitions for Windows Vista (I was going to dual boot but never got around to it), Downloads (applications, drivers, patches, etc), Emulators and Music - basically anything I didn't want to lose.

The second pair were arranged as a 500GB RAID 0 array - where files are split equally between the drives giving you increased performance and the expense of a backup. This was used for games, backups, etc.

Warning: If you're thinking of using the RAID facilities of your motherboard you need to be aware of two things:

  1. Windows XP doesn't include RAID drivers by default and these are normally supplied on a separate floppy disk or are available for download - so that you can specify them during XP installation via the F6 key. Most systems don't use floppy drives any more so you would need to modify you XP installation CD to include these drivers. The best way of doing this is to use nLite by Dino Nuhagic which also allows you to add Service Packs (if they aren't already included) and removed unused features and drivers.
  2. RAID set-up is normally accomplished via a separate part of the BIOS and is accessed by pressing a function (Fx) key during the boot cycle. You need to configure and create the array(s) before installing the OS and have to be very careful when doing so - making sure your read the appropriate section of the manual. If you're not careful and inadvertently delete or change an array you can loose your OS and installed applications. I managed to do this at one point by getting the drives mixed up but fortunately had backed up all my data and downloads on removeable drives.

PSU: Hiper 580W Type R, Modular, ATX 2.2, 12 Device con., SATA, APFC, Silent

Hiper 580W Type R

Hiper 580W Type R

I was looking for 3 things in particular when choosing a PSU for the system - at least 500W power, slient and not too expensive. The high-end PSUs out there were costing around ~£100 at the time and I wasn't willing to pay this so opted for the Hiper 580W Type R at £66. In particular, I liked the modular desgin as I like to keep the system internals tidy and this gives you the option of only using the cables you need. The other bonus was that this PSU included blue LED fans and UV reative meshing - which worked well with the window on the Kandalf LCS case and UV tubes I fitted.

Monitor: 2 x Samsung SyncMaster 940BF 19" LCD, 2ms 700:1, DVI/Analogue

Samsung SyncMaster 940BF

Samsung SyncMaster 940BF

I opted for the Samsung SyncMaster 940BF because it had a quick 2ms response time (for gaming), both DVI and Analogue connections (the latter of which I used with my laptop) and a thin "bezel" which allowed me sit two side-by-side on my desk with a narrow gap between screens. I used these at the default 1280x1024x32 resolution and they cost me £290 each.

DVD-RW: LG GSA-4167B

Keyboard: Logitech UltraX

Logitech UltraX

Logitech UltraX

Although one or two of the keys on this are starting to fade I still have this and like it because it's low profile with quiet laptop style keys.

Mouse: Logitech Trackman Wheel

Logitech Trackman Wheel

Logitech Trackman Wheel

I've used trackballs for quite a while now as I prefer them and think it helps with RSI.

External Hard Disk: 2 x Western Digital Passport 250GB USB 2.0

Western Digital Passport

Western Digital Passport

These are the modern equivalent to the old IDE hard drive caddies I used to use and are so much more convenient. They came formatted as FAT32 by default with a single partition but I reformatted them as NTFS with multiple partitions to suit my internal drives.

Printer/AIO: HP PSC 2355 Series

HP PSC 2355 Series

HP PSC 2355 Series

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