IchWeissNicht.com

Dave's Product Reviews at ichweissnicht.com

2009 Computer Review

My homebuilt computer

Disclaimer: This review is my own personal opinion. It is my best effort to tell others how a particular product met my expectations. Comments and rebuttal are welcomed, but you will have to get your own web site to have them published. These comments are made without malice. I purchased this product at retail, just as most would do. No communication regarding this product has been made to the seller.


Introduction

Nearly 5 years have passed since I acquired my Aldi computer. Actually it is a Medion brand computer. For a store bought computer, it was very nice and worked well. I upgraded it with a dual head video card, a new DVD-RW drive and more memory. It cost me nearly 1000 bucks in 2004. That was then and now is now.

With Windows 7 on the horizon, I felt this was the time to put my new machine together. My friend BillyLaptop had just built his new computer. His was built as a media computer to play his favorite movies on. That put the bug in me to build a new computer, but for a different use. In this review, I will talk about how I went about making this computer, first starting with the planning.

What I wanted.

I was looking for a computer for simple tasks. That is, the regular internet activities such as surfing the net and the e-mail. In addition, writing my web pages, including images are also activities. My current storage requirements are 200GB. My Aldi drive was pretty full. I always had to off load files to a larger back up external hard drive.

I'm not interested in building a top notch gaming computer just to do my old man's activities. Also video processing wasn't something I was interested in either. If you need the fast stuff, probably some other web site is for you. Otherwise, please keep reading.

My Perfect Computing Machine.

Being the übercheapskate person that I am, this came down to money. I wanted to be able to easily and with reasonable speed do my computing tasks. Money played a major role in what I chose for this computer. Handouts were gladly accepted. A friend donated a nearly new AMD processor. He used it until higher performance processors came within his budget. When he replaced it, that is when my project started. This is called trickle down computing.

Since electrical energy is very expensive and highly taxed in my neck of the woods, and that this machine is on 16 hours a day, low power consumption is important. I am able to report that my new computer draws 55 to 85 watts, depending how hard it is working. This is half of what the Aldi uses! I expect to save about $50 a year over the Aldi.

I am a two monitor computer power user. I surf the net on my main screen, while my e-mail and other programs are on the second monitor. When I'm drawing schematics, the PhotoImage program is on the main monitor, while my symbols library is viewed on the second screen, available for dragging and dropping.

The other components are a DVD/RW drive, and a hard drive. I decided to leave the floppy drive out of this one. I had installed one in my Aldi, but rarely used it. I also didn't use my card reader that came with the Aldi, so that didn't make it to the big one. This is a real bare computer.

This is what went inside my box.

Case: Rosewill R101-P-BK 120mm Fan MicroATX Mid Tower Computer Case
Rosewill is not a well known name, but they have been around for a few years. I wanted a simple (and cheap) box to hold my computer trinkets. This is not a "tool-less" case. But I graduated from screwdriver operator training. There is also no front door to cover the drives. There are power and hard drive activity LED's. (The Aldi didn't have the HD light.) The case was easy to configure and everything fit. There was not a scrap of paper instructions, but I put enough computers together. I like this case!

PS: Rosewill RG430-2 430W 80Plus Certified,ATX12V v2.3/EPS12V v2.91, Active-PFC
Here is a little secret: Not all power supplies are power efficient, but some are. This is what I looked for. This is a moderate level power supply. Again, there is no gaming power needed here. Anymore you can't buy much less than a 400 watt supply. Of course, the actual power consumption depends on what is connected to it. The 430 watt is only a maximum.

Mobo: ASUS M3A78-EM AM2+/AM2 AMD 780G HDMI Micro ATX AMD Motherboard
I decided to use the same motherboard as Billy used. I visited him and he acquainted me with this inexpensive but versatile board. There is an on board video board, with dual outputs with VGA, DVI or HDMI output. This works with everything. All the usual stuff is built in. Except for the CPU, no board fans are used.

CPU: AMD Athlon X2 4850e 2.5GHz 2 x 512KB L2 Cache Socket AM2 45W Dual-Core
I like these lower power components. This is the lowest power cpu that works with that board. This is also my first time owning an AMD processor! I was always an Intel customer, so I was perhaps a little uneasy with the new brand. But there are millions of machines out there with AMD. If I need more computing power, a faster AMD chip will plug in place of this one.

Memory: G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800
I looked to see what other people were using for memory with the same board and cpu as I had purchased.

HD: WD Caviar Black WD6401AALS 640GB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s
With a current need for 200GB, buying a drive with 3 times that capacity seemed about right. So I chose 640GB. The 1TB drives are only 20 bucks more or so, but this is all I felt that I would need. I can add a second drive if I need more in the future.

USB: Koutech PCI to USB2.0 Card Model IO-PU520
I used to sell Koutech stuff where I worked, so I was familiar with the brand. Not too much excitement here, but I do have a lot of USB stuff.

DVD: DVD-RW IDE used as it was a donation.
I gladly took this drive, even if it wasn't SATA. It all works the same.

Mouse: Logitech G9 Laser Mouse
Take a look at the reviews of this mouse and see if it is for you. Don't pay a lot for it though. I have seen prices from $20 (after rebate) to $90, so look around. This is my second G9. One for this machine and another for my previous computer. You can do a lot of configuring with this.

HD: Backup: SAMSUNG HD502HI 500GB 5400 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5 inch
This drive is for doing my daily back-up. It is low speed, low heat and low power consumption and cheap. I still will use two external drives for the weekly and monthly back-ups. The monthly drive is stored off site.

OS: Windows 7-RC (Later Windows 7 Home)
Some of you might have noticed there are two hard drives in this box. The IDE drive is temporarily connected and has a copy of Windows 7 release candidate. As of this writing (June 09), Windows 7 is not yet available. I won't use this computer as my main machine until I can purchase a copy of 7. The RC works very well, and I am also pleased that everything works well too.

That's about it for the hardware part of this computer project. Excluding the monitor, keyboard and mouse and estimating the price of Windows 7, this machine will come in at around $500, or half the price of my previous computer.

Getting this to work.

That was the easiest part. I carefully assembled everything I had, and then went to Billy's house. He had the last parts. We plugged it in and it worked immediately! This is wonderful. I let Billy load an operating system on the big 640 drive. He then loaded the drivers and we were off and running.

Again, I wasn't looking for great speed, but reasonable speed. After having this nearly a week, I am quite happy with how it works. There is some learning curve with Windows 7, but not bad.

I connected my computer to my Vizio 32 inch HDTV. What a monitor that makes! I got the chance to see how a 1920x1080 pixel monitor would look like. What a desktop! I am now planning on replacing one of my 1280x1024 monitors with a 24 inch wide screen.

What now?

My faithful Aldi-Medion computer will become my spare box. While my current spare was only turned on once a month or so, the Aldi will be used for experimental work, leaving the new computer for my usual activities. The third computer (Pentium3 - 1000) with XP and Linux install will still see occasional use. It isn't worth much on the market, so I might as well keep it. Not sure where it will go. My nephew likes to use Linux when he visits. He is an OS snob!

Conclusion


I hope you liked my review. If your computing needs are the same as mine, you may want to follow in my footsteps. Most of the items in this project were purchased at NewEgg.

July 09 update and additional comments.

This computer is really working well. I found a way to move up the time that I can start using this machine. If one buys Windows Vista OEM after a certain date, you get a certificate for 7 when it comes out. So this is the route that I am taking with my new box. I expect that by mid July, I will start using my new computer. Then when late October 09 rolls around, I can do the Windows 7 upgrade.

By the way, since power consumption has been a key factor in the design of my new computer, I am calling this a green machine. The first filter I used was how much I would be giving the electric company per month. I really didn't mean to be green. What I really meant to do is be cheap.

Dave


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Dave's Homemade Computer, Back View