May 7, 2014

Updating my desktop

The main thing I use my desktop computer for is streaming NBA games via NBA International League Pass. My desktop machine is pretty old, it dates back to at least December 2007 and probably a bit before that, running an Intel Quad Core Q6600 from that time. It has been having a bit of trouble streaming the NBA games. It is running with a Radeon HD2400 Pro passively cooled graphics card, I think. Anyway, I decided that I wanted to update the system. So I decided to go for an AMD build this time, thinking that it would be a bit cheaper, and I've never had an AMD system.

It turned out, as these things always do, to be more complicated than I anticipated. First off, I decided on the processor that I wanted. Might as well get the latest and greatest, so I chose a very new "Kaveri" processor with a nice integrated graphics stack. The particular one I ordered is an A10-7850K. People say that it isn't really a great update over the previous generation, but it still should be many times better than the Q6600 I am currently running. It will also require a lot less electricity. I should also be able to get better graphics performance without a card than I have with a dedicated graphics card. All this is nice because I want the machine to run cool and silently, since I have left it on continuously since 2007.

Since I'm going from Intel to AMD, I will need to buy a new motherboard. The current one is so old that even an Intel upgrade would need a new motherboard, so no big deal there. I've had good luck with Gigabyte, so I chose another one of those that is said to work well with the A10-7850K. That also means I need new memory. So I lined all those things up.

When it got here, and once I was able to find some time after putting Alan to sleep, I pulled the old motherboard and got the new one in there. I installed all the parts and… Nothing happened. Huh.

I checked around on the web, and the processor that I have is so new that you need to update the firmware on the motherboard. Which requires an older processor that does run with it. Well, there are lots of processors that will work with that motherboard, so I got a cheap one (the A6-6400K, which still should be better than the Q6600, maybe) and a few other things. A blu-ray drive to replace the DVD drive that now won't work (no ATAPI interface on the motherboard, or whatever old interface it is using) and a bunch of other things I needed: molex to sata power converter cables, and some molex to motherboard fan conversion cables to see if I could get the two large case fans to be controlled by the motherboard.

When that got here, and I found some more time, I took out the old CPU (shoot, now I need some thermal paste for when I put that back in, so I ordered some of that too) and put in the new one.

Still nothing.

Huh.

Then I checked a few things, online, and on the motherboard, and wouldn't you know it, I didn't plug in the CPU power connection. So maybe it would have worked with the original A10-7850K (it has been a few months and they might be shipping newer BIOS versions with the motherboard.) I haven't been able to check that because the motherboard posts so fast that I haven't been able to drop it into the bios screen.

Anyway, on first boot with the A6-6400K windows did come up (complained about having a problem, and that it could not fix it, and then rebooted fine) and started to install lots of drivers. I couldn't even get networking going. That was on the Radeon HD2400 Pro graphics card. I shut down after a bunch of drivers were installed and switched to the integrated graphics. That booted up too, and now I have an internet connection. To update the BIOS I need to run a few things, but until the new thermal paste comes, I'll see how well things work on the A6-6400K.

For fun, I installed Steam, and Dark Souls: Prepare to Die edition works on this setup. It probably doesn't have a rock solid framerate, but at 1280x960 (or something like that) it works well enough. Sadly, for some reason my keyboard doesn't bring up the in-game menu so I don't have a good way to quit the game (maybe because I'm using a small apple keyboard, I don't know.)

So now I've spent two days with this machine with the A6-6400K and it is just above and beyond what I had before. Probably because I was able to beat the Asylum Demon though.

Just before swapping in the A10-7850K I re-ran PC Mark7 (1949) and 3D Mark11 (it never actually got a score to me.) Also, I tried Dark Souls in 1920x1200.

Once I got around to swapping in the A10-7850K (and re-installing the drivers to pick up the proper video driver) the PC Mark7 score was 2165 (better, but who knows what that means?) and 3D Mark11 says it was P2030. Concretely, it had 2x the FPS in some of the tests that I noticed, and Dark Souls runs nice and smooth in 1920x1200, so I guess I'll just keep playing it that way.

Seems pretty good overall!




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