Boring bits

Tannin

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It occurs to me that we here at the shop have become really, really boring these last few years. There is bugger-all variety in our products, and we tend to stick religiouly to a very small number of brands.

Cases: Bliss, and whatever those things we get from Alice are.
Power supplies: Bliss, those cheapish-but-decent things we get from Alice, and a high-end brand the name of which I forget at the moment.
Motherboards: Gigabyte. Sometimes Biostar, a very odd Albatron, but 80-90% Gigabyte.
RAM: Geil. Never anything else.
Video cards: Always Nvidia, nearly always Leadtek. Never, ever ATI.
Keyboards: Logitech or Gigabyte
Mice: Logitech or Gigabyte
Floppy drives: Panasonic
Hard drives: Samsung. Never any other brand.
Opticals: LG, Lite-On, or Gigabyte
Speakers: Altec-Lansing at the high end, Rock at the low end.
Monitors: Acer or Mitsubishi.
Printers: Epson or Canon
Scanners: Canon
A/V software: Trend Micro or Norman

The number of systems we build with bits other than those listed above ..... well, Tea could count then on the fingers of one paw.

Funny that: I'm struggling to remember the last time we had a machine fall over because of a hardware problem. You're going to need a crowbar to make me change the brand of components we use.

PS: I didn't even think to mention CPUs. AMD, of course.
 

Mercutio

Fatwah on Western Digital
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I went in to the office today, to build a computer. Even though I have the flu, and a 101 degree fever, because I knew it would take me 25 minutes and not a minute more, and because it needed to be done.

My parts list is different from Tannin's, but no less boring -

Case: FoxConn or Antec/Chieftech
Power Supply: Almost always HEC
Motherboards: Gigabyte. Biostar if Gigabyte isn't available, Soltek on the high end. Via chipset every single time and never anything else.
Video Card: Always ATI, never, ever nvidia. Generally a Gigabyte card.
Keyboards/Mice: Mitsumi or Logitech
Floppy drive: Samsung, if I bother to install one
Hard Drive: Samsung unless huge capacity, in which case, Hitachi
Opticals: LiteOn though I just bought 2 cases of NECs
Speakers: Logitech
CPU: AMD
Monitors: Lease-return Mitsubishis if CRT, Sceptre if LCD
Extra Networky stuff: Trendnet
Printers: I refuse to have anything to do with them


I can build my vanilla machine in the dark. I can get it up to a functional Windows desktop without a monitor. I feel exactly the same as Tannin about the parts I use.

Are parts just getting better? Or have we each set upon a magical formula of goodness?
 

Bozo

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I think the parts are getting better.
My plain vanilla parts list.
Case: Antec
Power supply: Antec
Motherboards: Intel
Video: Intel on motherboard / ATI
Memory: Crucial
Hard Drive: WD / Seagate SCSI
Mouse: MS optical
Floppy: Teac
Keyboards: Belkin
CD/DVD ROM: Sony, IBM, what ever the vender has that's cheap
CD/DVD burner: Plextor
CRT Monitor: NEC
LCD Monitor: Samsung/Dell
Network: 3Com
RAID: SATA, 3Ware/ SCSI, Adaptec

Bozo :mrgrn:
 

time

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I do as little hardware as possible these days, and that does make it tougher to get what I want when I want.

Cases: HEC with dust filter (but I wish they were more attractive).
Power Supplies: HEC with 12cm fan (although I'm flirting with the FSP equivalent).
Motherboards: Gigabyte. Failing that, Asus. I recently had to use a DFI and it impressed, but not through a regular supplier. nForce 4 or nForce 3.
CPUs: Athlon 64/939, Sempron 64/754 (except boards have dried up).
RAM: Unfortunately, I can't source Geil, so Legend or Corsair Value Select.
Video cards: Sapphire for ATI and Leadtek for nVidia.
Keyboards: I hate them all. The Gigabytes were bad enough for a customer to comment.
Mice: A4 Tech BigThumb except I can no longer get them. :(
Floppy drives: Whatever.
Hard drives: Samsung. Hitachi or Raptor for low-end servers.
Opticals: Pioneer. LG always seems unavailable anyway.
Speakers: No thanks.
LCD Monitors: AG Neovo or Acer.
CRT Monitors: No longer available.
Laser Printers: Kyocera.
Inkjet Printers: I try not to.
Scanners: Canon LIDE.
Routers: DrayTek or die.

Really, really bad decisions: Epox motherboards.
Really bad decisions: Cheaper power supplies, Less-known RAM.
Bad decisions: Anything with the letters "s o n y" on it.
 

Gilbo

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Well, I don't build a lot of PCs, but I do build a half-dozen to a dozen a year for family and friends. I've definitely fallen into some very specific component habits:

Cases: The SLK3000B, everytime since it's been available. It's the tiniest bit pricier than the cheapest crap, but so far above in terms of quality that I'd be an idiot not to bother.
Power Supplies: Always Fortron. The 300W ATX 12V 2.01 supply (THN suffix) is almost always overkill on modern systems.
Motherboards: DFI often. Gigabyte otherwise.
CPUs: I'm a big fan the 64-bit Semprons. 939-pin A64 gets the call about as often though.
Video cards: It's always been ATI. Gaming is rarely a consideration though so it's often lowend. This instant, if gaming was a consideration, I suppose NVidia might get the love.
Memory: Always basic Samsung.
DVD Writers: LG
DVD Readers: LiteOn
Laser Printers: Brother
Inkjets: I don't believe in them. Print your photos at a photolab. And text is supposed to be black and white, italic, bold or underlined, not green, never magenta.
Hard Drives: The last 10 disks I've bought have all been Maxtor DM10's with the 16MB cache. I'm rather agnostic here, although for some reason I haven't touched Western Digital in nearly a decade.

Most of the systems I've built hadn't needed keyboards, mice, or monitors so I haven't developed habits or affections for those. One day I might justify a Logitech MX1000 for myself, and a ThinkPlus USB Travel Keyboard.
 

Piyono

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Wha-!
<wakes with a start>

Build systems? Sure, maybe at 1998's margins. The only parts I stock are common cables and network cards. For me, building a box means spending half a day getting up to date on the latest trends, filtering out the bleeding edge and then scouring spec sheets to find componets with the best bang:buck ratio. Then it's ordering parts and driving 20 minutes each way to and from a supplier to pick them up. Clearing space on my desk, unwrapping, assembling, installing, securing. We're talking a day's work for 1% margins on the hardware plus a generously underestimated hour or so of billable time.
Unless it's for a close friend or family member (or myself), I say "no, thanks".

I'm much happier to leave system-building to to Dell, HP and the rest of the vomit-box perps and show up at my client's place to rescue their brand-new PC when after two weeks out of the box it takes them 3 minutes to open a word document or 20 minutes to check their hotmail or because of any number of common plagues that befalls the owners of said machines.

It's a service tech's dream world, my friends.
Thanks, Dell.

Piyono
 

Mercutio

Fatwah on Western Digital
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I build computers specifically because the machines I build ARE better than Dell or HP. Don't try to make any money (if I do, it's under $20), I just don't want people to think that the piece of shit with a corporate logo on it is what a computer is like.

Build a computer properly and then you don't have to service it.
 

ddrueding

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Cases: Antec / Silverstone
Power supplies: Antec / Seasonic
Motherboards: Gigabyte
RAM: Geil
Video cards: Sapphire, Gigabyte, Asus - Always fanless.
Keyboard & Mouse: Logitech Cordless Desktop
Floppy drives: No
Hard drives: Samsung / Hitachi
Opticals: Lite-On / BenQ
Speakers: Altec-Lansing at the low end, Klipsch at the high end.
Monitors: Samsung LCD
Printers: No
Scanners: No
A/V software: NOD32


I'm likely going to be building a new batch of systems for myself soon. I'm moving in with my GF and it looks like my soon-to-be-ex-roomate has grown attached to the projector/HTPC/Server that I set up and he's used in my absence. I figure I'll let him keep the lot for ~$8000
 

Tannin

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The trouble with buying a vomit box is that it is indeed a vomit box: non-standard components a lot of the time, poor warranty (only 12 months usually), very long service delays (nearly always involves shipping to Melbourne or Sydney), dreadful software setup, grossly under-spec power suplies, and, above all, horrible performance because of the cheapskate components (and, I suspect, raw native talent - no-one on the planet can make a 3200 perform like a 1600 the way that Compaq can, though Dell and Packard-Bell come close).

Vomit boxes were a bad idea in 1995, and absolutely nothing has changed since then.
 

Mercutio

Fatwah on Western Digital
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Some. At any given time I can build two to four computers new computers, and I make it a habit to keep new-in-box spares for parts I've used a lot (e.g. I have a couple GA-K8VM800s sitting here just in case).
 

Buck

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Recently I had two failed Gigabyte boards out of the box. One is being used in my personal system with a VT890 chipset, the FDD controller is bad. The other was a nForce4 Gigabyte board, the memory controller was bad and fried two sets of expensive memory. :(

Cases: Antec or Apex
Power supplies: Antec or Allied
Motherboards: Gigabyte, TBA
RAM: Kingston. Never anything else; no fuss; no failures, no compatibility issues.
Video cards: ATI or nVidia (FX5200 Gigabyte cards are real nice).
Keyboards: MS or Logitech.
Mice: MS or Logitech.
Floppy drives: Mitsumi or Teac.
Hard drives: Samsung.
Opticals: BenQ, LG, or NEC.
Speakers: Altec-Lansing.
Monitors: Samsung, LG, AG Neovo, or BenQ.
Printers: Samsung or send the customer to the store.
Scanners: Canon or send the customer to the store.
A/V software: NOD32

I was recently gifted two recertified WD drives; a 80 GB Passport and 74 GB Raptor. That Passport drive sure is handy and still works. The Raptor has failed. I'm exchanging it with a Samsung.

I had three dead Dell systems recently, one was from a bad PSU and the other two had failed motherboards.

OEM systems are vomit boxes and their manufacturers are immoral. They should be pelted with burning sulpher and hot ash. :D
 

time

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Buck, I know you're a graphics agnostic, so I'm curious - why FX5200 over 9250? Availability? Price?

Regarding your bad board, I take it you mean the voltage regulator rather than the memory controller, seeing the latter is (AFAIK) part of the CPU?
 

mubs

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I know this is blasphemy: but could Gigabyte be losing their touch on quality? I bought a new GB video card, retail, from a respectable vendor (Zipzoomfly) and it died in under 2 months. I drove it over to their U.S. office (they're ~ 20 miles away) and I haven't heard from them in over 20 days. My first experience with GB hasn't gone off too well.
 

MaxBurn

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Everyone had a bad day. But on a positive note, I like my Gigabyte K8N Pro and their Tech Support weenies are working on my KVM issue actively. I don't hope for a solution but they are coming up with good suggestions so they aren't brain dead at the keyboard.
 

Handruin

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Out of three purchases of the Gigabyte GA-K8VM800M, I had to RMA one because of a reboot hang problem. Every time the PC was rebooted, the video would stay black and I'd have to hold the reset button in for 8-10 seconds to get it to come back. Sometimes on a cold boot it would also hang. With everything disconnected from the motherboard, it still hung.

So, I RMA'd it and the new board fixed the problem. In an odd coincidence, a friend of mine had a different model Gigabyte board for a 2200+ athlon with exactly the same problem...odd.
 

Buck

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time said:
Buck, I know you're a graphics agnostic, so I'm curious - why FX5200 over 9250? Availability? Price?
Price is identical, and performance feels the same for office workstations. I didn't mean to imply that I prefer the FX5200 over the 9250. They both work flawlessly for me.

time said:
Regarding your bad board, I take it you mean the voltage regulator rather than the memory controller, seeing the latter is (AFAIK) part of the CPU?
:oops:
 

Buck

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Handruin said:
Out of three purchases of the Gigabyte GA-K8VM800M, I had to RMA one because of a reboot hang problem. Every time the PC was rebooted, the video would stay black and I'd have to hold the reset button in for 8-10 seconds to get it to come back. Sometimes on a cold boot it would also hang. With everything disconnected from the motherboard, it still hung.

So, I RMA'd it and the new board fixed the problem. In an odd coincidence, a friend of mine had a different model Gigabyte board for a 2200+ athlon with exactly the same problem...odd.
Yup. Asus is far superior. <hides>
 

mubs

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In my other "building a new PC" thread, I had listed an Asus board I was considering (recommended by Coug). After visiting Asus' support forum - on their site - and seeing the comments about various boards, I'm going to say no thank you. Reading reviews on hw sites about other brands, I've noticed reviewers griping about instability on Asus boards. So, no Asus for me.

To Asus' credit though, they've left all the nasty user comments alone in that support forum.
 

CougTek

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The gross of my folding effort for the past 4 months comes from a system with an Asus motherboard. That box is folding 24x7 and it's my main system at the same time (I'm doing all my browsing/office work and other tasks on it). I've had a few instability issues at the beginning, but it must have been 3 months since I had a hickup. If it wasn't stable, my folding units would have errors and wouldn't give me 450 points each.
 

mubs

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Coug, I guess I didn't say it like I intended to. I'm grateful to you for your suggestions, and did check out the Asus ATI-based board. But I feel one of the DFIs or MSIs suit my needs better. My post certainly wasn't meant to disparage you. I'm only concerned my skills are nowhere near yours or any of the other esteemed members of this board.
 

CougTek

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I've used (not exclusively) Asus boards for years. My conclusion is that they are a bit like Tyan : they rarely make it right when the product goes out, but they manage to fix most problems through BIOS releases. I also had a few problems with the Asus A7N266 nForce 1 µATX motherboard that sits in my other FAH machine, but after a few (4 or 5) BIOS updates, it finally became stable. Very stable. Same thing is true for my P5P800. I first got it with a BIOS v.1003 IIRC. I had occasional freeze. After BIOS v.1009 (current version I use), it is working flawlessly.

My 2 GigaByte nFarce 2 weren't great with the BIOS that came with the mainboards. The second BIOS release just after the one I had on my board corrected most of the issues I had. My DFI LanParty nforce 2 was perfect from the get go.

I don't doubt the A8R-MVP won't be problem-free with its first BIOS revision. But Asus should come up with a respectable BIOS within a few months and then the board should be quite solid. I don't know at which stage of the process they currently are.

The reason why they ship boards with unfinished BIOS revision is probably to beat other manufacturers on time-to-market. My temper is slightly better than it was so now I can live with that. I understand that people assembling whole computer systems in 25 minutes and expect everything to work flawlessly consider it crap.
 

time

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Asus provides more BIOS updates than probably any other manufacturer. You could be cynical and suggest they need to, but I'll concede that it does confer advantages, such as compatibility with new CPUs. For example, the DFI nForce3 board I used recently couldn't identify a current Sempron 3100 even with the latest BIOS update. It works, but without Cool 'n Quiet, and Windows says it's an "unknown Hammer". No such problem with Asus, naturally.

But yes, I'd be reluctant to buy an Asus board when first released.

One of the things to realize about Asus is that they make both budget and premium boards, and have different philosophies accordingly. Last time I looked, the premium boards used name-brand Japanese capacitors and were manufactured in Taiwan. The budget boards use Yum Cha capacitors and are made in China. This causes me considerable heartburn. :(

I note that on their boxes, DFI claim they use only Japanese capacitors.

Having said that, the Asus nForce3 boards I've used are in the budget category but have been exceptionally stable and fuss-free. And the design is superior to the Gigabyte equivalent. I'm typing this on an Asus-equipped Athlon 2800 overclocked to 2.4GHz but idling at 1.067GHz (at 0.85V). It is absolutely stable - I don't remember what a BSOD looks like.

But then there's the Asus Via VM400A sh*t that I got stuck with - it rated a complaint thread just by itself. I wasn't very happy with the Asus nForce 1 efforts, but they were rolled gold when compared to this unmitigated crap. :x
 

Tannin

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The VM400 chipset was a rather horrid little tart by VIA standards, we saw heaps of different boards that were rather questionable using VM400s, and went through a series of different brands looking for one that we could just plug in and trust. We found it eventually and, to our complete lack of surprise, it was a Gigabyte. (For some reason, there were no Gigabyte ones available here for quite some time, and we had to use other brands. Oh, and we got a couple of shipments of Biostar ones too, if I remember correctly, which were also fine. So, in short, it doesn't surprise me in the slightest that the ASUS one was crap.

(I should add here that the VM333/400 arrived at the same time as a fairly major mainboard price drop market-wide: it must have been very difficult indeed for the mainboard firms, trying to make a decent low-end product for a substantially lower price than ever before.)

Tell me, ASUS users, I have this suspicion that maybe ASUS make good high-end Intel mainboards. Not from any hands on experience (no-one buys Intel anymore so I don't see them), but just because I know their fancier AMD platform products are mediocre at best and their low end producs (on any platform) are seriously crappy, and yet they still seem to have some sort of ongoing reputation. So maybe it's their fancier P4 boards that people like?

Coug: you got it in one. For people like me and Merc, we need stuff that works first time, every time. We just don't have time to buggerise about trying to sort hardware problems. I (and I bet Merc too) just need it to work: we already have to spend masses of time sorting out other problems, such as the crap that people load on their brand-new machines (which is chargable), as opposed to time spent debugging hardware (which is under warranty and costs us serious money). Mind you, I spend longer than 25 minutes on a machine. Less than that to do the hardware, but I'll take a couple of multi-tasking hours doing the software side. That, however, is something I allow for, and I'm happy to spend the time paying attention to detail because that is part of what produces a quality end product. Having to buggerise about flashing BIOS just to make a system work is bullshit. I never flash BIOS unless it's for a new CPU type. Nor should I have to.
 

Mercutio

Fatwah on Western Digital
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time said:
Asus provides more BIOS updates than probably any other manufacturer. You could be cynical and suggest they need to, but I'll concede that it does confer advantages, such as compatibility with new CPUs.

Hahahahahahahahaha.

I'd suggest you look at Asus' CPU compatibility chart sometime, but the last time I could get to it on an English-language version of their site was... July, maybe?

I think Asus has Compaq disease, where they've got a bunch of firmware hackers sitting around, so they look at every problem as an excuse to release an updated BIOS. Compaq was like that up to maybe the mid-90s.

Back to the CPU thing: In my experience, Asus seems to look at CPU support as a revenue stream or else a premium service. If I remember right, almost none of the Socket A Asus boards support Sempron chips, even when they are technically compatible (A7n8x-deluxe doesn't do Sempron?). New chip = new board. You'll find CPU support that's spotty or dependant on PCB revision. I can't recall Gigabyte doing that!
 

CougTek

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The A7N8X Deluxe supports Sempron since BIOS revisio 1008. See this chart for reference. First choose CPU, then CPU type and name and the compatible motherboards will be listed below.

And it is all in english. And we are in January.
 

Bozo

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My ASUS P4C800-E-Deluxe SUCKS.
The SATA ports don't work (the ones controlled by Promise), only the rear USB ports work. Tech support is non-existant.
Some of the BIOS's that I tried wouldn't boot the computer up, or caused more problems.


Bozo :mrgrn:
 

Buck

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I have always been inclined to purchase Intel boards for Intel CPUs (since the Slot-1 days). None of them have ever failed; many are still in operation.
 

Mercutio

Fatwah on Western Digital
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CougTek said:
The A7N8X Deluxe supports Sempron since BIOS revisio 1008. See this chart for reference. First choose CPU, then CPU type and name and the compatible motherboards will be listed below.

And it is all in english. And we are in January.
1. My point was that the list is frequently down. I've posted about that matter on SF before.
2. Only PCB rev. 2 A7n8x support sempron. I've seen 1.0 and 1.2 PCBs, at least, and they all have the same technical specs. So why don't they all support Sempron?

:p
 

Bozo

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I agree with Buck. I buy Intel boards for Intel processors. Some that I built 5+ years ago are still running. When you consider that they have run 24/7 in an industrial climate, that's amazing.
The ASUS board I bought for myself. I also have a Shuttle and a Supermicro.
If AMD would produce their own quality motherboard, I'd have one of those. I'd even consider them for work.
Years ago I built 2 computers using a Tyan S25007S Trinity 450 motherboard. These were for work. They lasted 6 months and were replaced by Intel boxes, which are still running. The Tyans went to the scrap heap. I don't know where Tyan and VIA got their highly vaulted ratings and reputations, (maybe from the ASUS fanboys) but they SUCK.
Some interesting numbers. In the last six years: (I'm cleaning out my desk)
I have installed over 200 WD and IBM ATA hard drives. I have RMA'd seven ?.
I have installed 26 Seagate Cheetas. I have RMA'd four.
I have installed 24 Seagate SATA drives. I have RMA'd four. ( went back to WDs)
I have installed 8 WD Raptors (first version) and have RMA'd two. (odd, the two that I changed were from RAID 5 arrays where the controller-3Ware- said they failed, but the drives worked fine installed as a stand-alone drive??)
If I was building computers for John Q Public, my parts list might be completely different.

Bozo :mrgrn:
 
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