Buying a new computer in 2010
I bought four Core 2 systems back in 2008 (see
They're all running fine - the e7200 is my wife's office machine,
the e7300 is the kitchen computer,
the e7400 is my Windows test machine,
and the q9300 is my Linux test machine which runs
valgrind on the wine test suite every morning. But now that
I'm working at home more, I really need a separate development workstation.
This machine needs to do entry level gaming, too, so
I'll use an nvidia GeForce GT 220 and a motherboard without
Here's the non-cpu-specifc part of the system:
Now on to the cpu-specific part.
According to phoronix-test-suite's build-linux-kernel benchmark,
my q9300 takes 690 seconds to compile the kernel, but the i7 920
takes only 340 seconds.
Here's a possible configuration:
Grand total: $1106 plus $106 tax and $24 3-day shipping = $1236
AMD Phenom II x4 955
AMD is worth a look, too. The
AMD Phenom II x4 955,
$160 at newegg,
(384 seconds overclocked)
on the same benchmark, and might be a good choice if you're short on cash.
Here's a possible configuration:
So, is the extra $250 worth the extra 30% performance? Shmaybe... especially
since buying a new computer less than twice as fast as the old one just seems wrong.
I decided on the i7, and am waiting for it to arrive. I'll update this page once I have benchmarks.
Problem #1: Socket mismatch
Whoops. The i7-920 has 1366 pins, but the BOXDP55WB doesn't. Had to upgrade to a more expensive motherboard, chose
the ASRock x58 Extreme ($160 at newegg). If I could do it all over again, I'd probably have chosen the i7-860 instead, which is the
same price and just as fast, if not faster, on many benchmarks... and can use the cheaper motherboards.
Problem #2: won't boot with more than one stick of RAM in, LEDs stuck at
After initial system assmebly, the system would boot, but only if
exactly one stick of ram is in. Doesn't matter which stick,
doesn't matter which of the (white) slots; more than one stick, and the
Dr. Debug LED says "38" and hangs. I contacted ASRock, got an RMA,
and exchanged the board for a new one. Problem solved.
Problem #3: Won't boot, LEDs stuck at 75
After six months of reliable use, the system started refusing to boot
again. Even with just one stick of RAM, the LEDs are stuck at 75.
I can't even adjust the DRAM voltage because the board doesn't stay
up long enough to let me do that; it hangs after Entering SETUP and before
Setup starts. It usually still responds to control-alt-delete, though.
I contacted ASRock, got an RMA,
and exchanged the board for a new one again (good thing it was
still within the 1 year warranty period). Problem solved.
Problem #4: kernel panic when reading DVD info
The tiny test program low.c
causes a kernel panic, reported as
ASRock couldn't care less, since they don't support Linux.
Possible workaround: buy a plug-in SATA controller with a different
chip, and plug the DVD into that.
Problem #5: won't boot, LEDs stuck on 75
After two years of reliable operation, the computer suddenly started
not booting. The Dr. Debug LED says "75". This is very early, about
when the IDE drives are being detected, and you can't get into the BIOS
prompt. Resetting the CMOS by moving the little jumper for a second
didn't seem to help, but the next morning, after complaining about bad
CMOS checksum, the computer started booting properly again. It's
been OK for two weeks since, so I guess that really did fix it.
ASRock's technical support people have responded promptly via email
every time I've asked them anything. They won't support Linux, though,
so if you have a problem after OS boot, you'd better have Windows running.
Problem #6: too slow
Fast forward to 2020. The system still works!
And it's probably the only case and power supply in the house big enough
to fit a full-size graphics card like the GTX 1660.
But it's a bit slow. (Let's face it, a
passmark score of 1219 single-thread, 8668 multithread just isn't exciting anymore.)
To pep it up, I bought a Xeon W3670 for $30 from
Silicon Salvage (ssinc1500 on ebay). That's a hex core that's noticably faster
(single core 1515, multicore
14,806), yet still obsolete enough to be dirt cheap. (The next processor up,
the W3680, is only slightly faster, but cost $45... and I wanted to cheap out here.)
Also, fun fact: the W3670 is nearly identical to the i7-970.
Installing the new CPU was a snap, since it has no pins. The only challenges
were remembering how the heat sink pins work (you have to pull the pin up so the
inner pin isn't pushing the outer pin apart when removing or inserting), and
remembering to get thermal paste.
Fun fact: with no thermal paste at all, CPU temperature shot right up to 60C
and kept climbing. With thermal paste, it stayed below 32C.
I validated the CPU with
stress-ng --cpu 0 --verify --verbose --timeout 5m,
then installed and ran Phoronix' timed kernel compilation benchmark with
$ wget http://phoronix-test-suite.com/releases/repo/pts.debian/files/phoronix-test-suite_10.0.1_all.deb
$ sudo dpkg -i phoronix-test-suite_10.0.1_all.deb
$ sudo apt install -f
$ phoronix-test-suite install pts/build-linux-kernel
$ phoronix-test-suite benchmark pts/build-linux-kernel
Results for Timed Linux Kernel Compilation 5.4 on this and two other machines laying around:
So the ol' gaming box is once again the fastest machine in the house, at least for
Problem #7: I still have a what installed?
The dang thing still had a rotating rust hard drive, so I popped that
out, popped in a Samsung 860 SSD, and did a fresh install of Ubuntu 20.04.1.
This lowered the timed kernel compilation time by two whole seconds, to
It still takes 15 seconds for BIOS to decide to start loading the OS
(ick), 15 more seconds to get to the login prompt, and another 15 seconds
to bring up gmail. Aside from the infernally long BIOS delay, that's fine.
Problem #8: odd popping/crackle when any sound starts
This was rather annoying; appears I am affected by
Fix: add the following line to /etc/modprobe.d/alsa-base.d:
options snd-hda-intel power_save=0
Reboot, and all is well.
I saw these after I did my research, haven't checked my list against them yet:
Originally written March 2010; updated July 2012 and December 2020
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