xsistor

Buying a PC with The Coolness Factor: How would you spend £1599 (or $2628)?

In Computer Hardware, Electronics, Gaming, Overclocking & Tweaking on July 25, 2009 at 1:14 am

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The Story: How the Xsistor® CoolRig™ 1000 was Born

I know I promised to do an ultra low-cost system build with my next one, but this one’s popped up and I just have to do it, and now.

My ex-girlfriend got her  second year electrical engineering results today. She had some really brilliant grades — first class honours. Naturally she was thrilled, except her Intel ex-work buddy was in a particularly gloaty mood and was on about this awesome new system he was getting. Standing in stark contrast to her own aging Toshiba  laptop stood the The HP TouchSmart IQ820, a truly mean piece of hardware. Not something her positively miserly, aging relic of a contraption could compete with. While she was elated at her grades she lamented that she would not be getting something better until she was done with university.

HP TouchSmart IQ820 Desktop PC

HP TouchSmart IQ820 Desktop PC - Click her to view the product page

She sent me the link asking what I thought of it… Not much.

Yes, the grapes are indeed sour. Given this rather unique looking desktop system as a hand out I would certainly take it. If it were sold for less I would buy it. Fitted with a touchscreen, blu-ray drive and a ‘Full HD’ 1080p 25.5″ display it was certainly very good. But was it £1600 good? I think not.

Building Something Cooler: The Xsistor® CoolRig™ 1000

The Budget

Let’s convert that £1600 into dollars and then see how we’d spend that money on a system that I believe has a much greater coolness factor to it. The biggest reason I’m doing this in dollars is simple: the display I’m using for this build is very annoying to look for online. Unless you contact the manufacturer and order directly, or get the system off a store it’s a little difficult to find on the web. I also do not want to have to do two builds this time (one in USD and one in GBP). So for these reasons we’ll convert this £1600 and proceed to do a build in USD — for in America, they say, you can buy anything anywhere. Apparently they even do cutting-edge full-custom ASICs (Application-Specific Integrated Circuits) down at Jethro’s ‘gas station’.

First the conversion then. I use google as usual:

1599 GBP to USD, Google has all the answers :)

1599 GBP to USD, Google has all the answers 🙂

So that’s $2628 (rounding off), our budget. Let’s get to work then.

What’s the Plan Colonel?

The plan is simple. Brute force. Throwing your weight about. BARGE IN AND CONQUER. That sorta thing. Let’s buy a MASSIVE big screen DLP HD TV with a 120Hz  refresh to serve as our monitor, get a pair of new-fangled NVidia Geforce 3D Vision shutter glasses, and then blow the rest on a modest system that should run games in LIFE-SIZE STEREO 3D, play 3D movies and hopefully play blu-rays (but I don’t know that yet). MUAHAHAHHAHA! Sound like a good plan? Let’s show those HP IQ820 owners they are nothing more than posers who blew a wad on something that is far outstripped by our smart buying! 😀 … Let’s at least die trying! This will be a war to remember. Like the time with Rommel in Africa, Eighth Army, and Italians losing all their tanks to mere riflemen. 😛

Okay, maybe not quite but THAT memorable, but I think it will at least be interesting, and give you something to think about next time you spend a load of cash on that cool looking piece of electronics which probably wasn’t really worth it anyway (*cough* iMac *cough*).

I haven’t got a build in mind, and I’m not very familiar with US prices, but I have a gut feeling we should be able to pull something truly marvelous here. As my Grandma used to say, “Go with the gut. You can’t go wrong with the gut.” Yes I can see it now. It will be beautiful! It may even bring tears to the eye. The right one.

So let’s start off with our display.

Our Ultra-Cool ENORMOUS Stereo 3D Display System

Mitsubishi WD-60737 60-Inch 1080p 120Hz Home Theater DLP HDTV — $1299: I found this on amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Mitsubishi-WD-60737-60-Inch-1080p-Theater/dp/B001XUR5EU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=electronics&qid=1248477882&sr=8-1 Yes 60 INCHES! And 1080p Full HD resolution which is going to look simply amazing on 60″ of prime DLP real-estate. 60Hz is standard for an LCD display. It’s required to eliminate flicker. The 120Hz means that the TV is going to have an incredibly crisp image with no blurring even under rapid motion (hardcore FPS gamers would love that).’When you go 120HZ you’ll never go back,’ as the old saying goes. In stereo 3D mode it can do double 60Hz signals, which when synchronised with the Geforce 3D shutter glasses, presents 1 image per eye. The result is Stereoscopic 3D. i.e. stuff coming of the screen at you, 3D stuff floating right in front of you, or the whole 60″ TV looking like a massive window to a new world… no joke. Starting to look very good already, eh? 🙂

Mitsubishi 60 inch DLP TV with 120Hz capable of immersive stereoscopic 3D

Mitsubishi 60 inch DLP TV with 120Hz capable of immersive stereoscopic 3D There she is! A thing of rare beauty! The TV's not bad lookin' either 😉

Nvidia Geforce 3D Vision Kit

Nvidia Geforce 3D Vision Kit

Nvidia Geforce 3D Vision kit — $194.13: Available on Amazon.com here: http://www.amazon.com/nVidia-GeForce-3D-Vision-Kit-Pc/dp/B001PV6MCS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=electronics&qid=1248481227&sr=1-1 (these babies are cheaper in the UK). The shutter glasses work in sync with a 120Hz ‘stereo 3d ready’ display and a high-end Geforce graphics card (8800GTX or higher; GTX 260 recommended) to present two slightly different images to the left and right eyes. You may already know how the human visual system perceives depth. The right eye captures an image that is at a slightly different angle from the left eye. The distance between the eyes is a fixed given. From here, calculating depth is simple trigonometry and the process is called ‘triangulation’. With the brain, there is no math involved in the literal sense but its the same thing. The neural networks of our brain are adapted to interpret the partially overlapping visual field of these two images to produce stereoscopic vision. With the shutter glasses what happens is, each lense is shut and opened in turn very rapidly — 120 times per second. The result is that the right eye will see frames 1, 3, 5, 7, …. and all odd numbered frames displayed on the 120 Hz TV screen, while the left eye sees frames 2, 4, 6, 8, ….. and all even numbered frames. The Geforce GPU in the computer will interleave frames, as it sends them to the monitor, in such a way that the each eye  will receive the correct frame of what is roughly the same image but with a left angle or right angle bias. The result: the brain interprets these frames just as we would when we look around a room. The brain is capable of spatial reasoning through interpreting these frames which makes us ‘see’ stereo 3D. In this case it is nothing but a trick! The display screen is flat but our eyes and our brain will be deceived into seeing objects at depth in exactly the way the GPU wants us to see them. An extremely simple concept as you can see, but incredibly potent. And this isn’t the blurry, ghosty, anaglyph, red/blue glasses 3D you see in some cinemas. This is the real deal. Read more about it on the NVidia product page: http://www.nvidia.com/object/product_GeForce_3D_VisionKit_us.html

And take a look at this video. Ryan Shrout from PC Perspective does a demonstration of Geforce 3D Vision at a local store and records the reactions of the users. Watch this from the 6 min mark where the ‘demo’ starts.

Already starting to look better than a mere 25.5″ touch screen 1080p display? I would think so.

Cost of our Ultra-Cool Display System: $1493.13

Money left for our PC: $1134.87

Nice! We could probably do an Core i7 system for that. I’m am positive we can do at least a Quad Core system. In fact, let’s go for a Quad Core system based around the awesome Intel Core 2 Quad 2.83GHz processor (or ‘Yorkfield Q9550’ as it is known among enthusiasts) and then throw in a blu-ray player like we originally planned. With an i7 system we may be a little tight on the budget for a blu ray player (though only by $100 or so).

Our Super Awesome Desktop System for Our Ultra Cool Display System

Hehehehehe! Here’s what it’s going to look like:

antec900-300x300

Antec 900 Performance/Gaming Case

Now here is the list of parts with prices.

Antec Nine Hundred Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case – $107.49
Western Digital Caviar Black WD1001FALS 1TB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5″ Internal Hard Drives – $94.99
SPARKLE SXX275896D3-VP GeForce GTX 275 896MB 448-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Supported Video Card with Nvidia Gift Call of duty – $204.00
PC Power & Cooling S75CF 750W EPS12V SLI Certified CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Power Supply –
$119.99
Microsoft Comfort Curve Keyboard 2000 – $16.99
Logitech MX518 8 Buttons 1 x Wheel USB Wired Optical Gaming-Grade Mouse – $39.99
OCZ Blade Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1150 (PC2 9200) Low Voltage Desktop Memory Model OCZ2B1150LV4GK – $79.99
XFX MB-N780-ISH9 LGA 775 NVIDIA nForce 780i SLI Intel Motherboard – $149.99
$10.00 Mail-in Rebate
Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550 Yorkfield 2.83GHz LGA 775 95W Quad-Core Processor Model BX80569Q9550 – $219.99
LITE-ON Black BD-COMBO SATA Model ihes108-29 – $99.99

Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550 Yorkfield 2.83GHz LGA 775 95W Quad-Core Processor Model BX80569Q9550 – $219.99

XFX MB-N780-ISH9 LGA 775 NVIDIA nForce 780i SLI Intel Motherboard – $149.99 ($10.00 Mail-in Rebate)

OCZ Blade Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1150 (PC2 9200) Low Voltage Desktop Memory Model OCZ2B1150LV4GK – $79.99

SPARKLE SXX275896D3-VP GeForce GTX 275 896MB 448-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Supported Video Card with Nvidia Gift Call of duty – $204.00

Western Digital Caviar Black WD1001FALS 1TB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5″ Internal Hard Drives – $94.99

Antec Nine Hundred Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case – $107.49

PC Power & Cooling S75CF 750W EPS12V SLI Certified CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Power Supply – $119.99

Microsoft Comfort Curve Keyboard 2000 – $16.99

Logitech MX518 8 Buttons 1 x Wheel USB Wired Optical Gaming-Grade Mouse – $39.99

LITE-ON Black BD-COMBO SATA Model ihes108-29 – $99.99

Total for the PC: $1134.40

Wow! Just wow! I’m 47 cents under budget! Dayum, I’m getting good at this. 🙂

Total System cost:
$2627.53

For the more visually-stimulated I have a collage:

I call it the Xsistor® CoolRig™ 1000. Start liking it.

I call it the Xsistor® CoolRig™ 1000. Start liking it.

Here it is. Now all you’ve got to do is putting it all together. Unfortunately, I haven’t got the time or space to cover that in this article but hey, how hard can it be?! 🙂


Nerd Details for the Geeks

A quick discussion of the system. Unlike the flashy, poser IQ820 this thing is a real enthusiast system with lot of options and upgradability. The PSU is top-notch and the 750w can support quite a lot of additional upgrades. Tri SLI is a possible future option with the mainboard picked here (though the PSU may have trouble supporting that). You may want to add a second GTX 275 to really crank up the juice at 1080p, though even one should handle that resolution exremely well in full stereo 3D. The 60″ stereo 3D system is the kind of thing you can only find in a real dream machine, but its good to know you can build that dream machine for the price of a real poser’s system like the IQ820.

This system should overclock well. In fact you can take the Q9550 upto 3.8Ghz if you get an aftermarket cooler like the Akasa AK-967. The OCZ Blade series low voltage RAM runs at 1150 MHz at really tight 5-5-5-18 timings. Thanks to the low stock voltage rating, it can even be safely overvolted and overclocked to above 1200Mhz, and this is DDR2 we’re talking about! The Western Digital 1TB hard disk provides brilliant performance and a truly enormous volume. The LiteOn drive does 8x Blu Ray reading. The Antec 900 is a beautiful case. With a wealth of fans and additional fan options it will keep this system realy cool under 48 hour burn tests. The 60″ DLP TV and the Nvidia 3D kit are going to open a new dimension in home theatre entertainment and PC gaming. The GTX 275 was the best card I could find at this price. You could pay $120 more for a GTX 285 and get about 2 FPS more on average, but would you really be happy paying $60 per frame? If I go less I’d save about $20-$30 and get a slower GTX 260. Not worth it. At any rate, work your way up with the the GTX 275 overclock and as you near something like 700MHz+/2600MHz+/1600MHz+ you’ll find it easily be exceeding performance of a reference clocked GTX 285.

As far as peripherals go, I’ve included a decent keyboard and a really, really awesome mouse. The Logitech MX518 is easily the best mouse you can get in that price range. I use one and it is simply amazing. Yes and they’re all wired. A poser would jump at a wireless, but to anyone who squeezes the last ounce of performance from their PC, someone to whom every millisecond is noticeable and crucial (ahem, RTS gamers FPS gamers), the massive latency on wireless devices is just too much. Most users won’t notice but when reaction time is measured in fractions of a second, it does make a huge difference.

Conclusion

If any of you are in the market for a performance system (the average high-end Dell or Alienware desktop starts at around this price) try buying yourself the  Xsistor® CoolRig™ 1000. 🙂 You won’t regret it.

I think this system easily surpasses the IQ820 in every aspect except for the easier portability and the touch screen. As for portability, you really can’t expect that from a system with a 60″ home theatre system for a display.With that said, DLP TVs are lighter than displays using LCD or Plasma technology. So as far as portability goes, this thing has get a leg over your standard 60″ screen.

As for the touch screen, if you really want to touch stuff so much go to prison. 😛 It’s cheaper there. Who needs to touch a cold, flat screen when here you have stuff coming out of the screen that convinces you that you reach can touch it?! I’d take stereo 3D and a high performance system over a touch screen 25.5″ display with a paltry Core 2 Duo and an unspecified 512MB graphics card, any day!

Yup, the HP TouchSmart IQ820 ain’t got nuthin’ on the Xsistor® CoolRig™ 1000. Xsistor score 1, HP score 0. Your move HP. 😀

I’d really like to hear how you guys would spend $2628 on a system designed to bring out the ‘coolness factor’. Write your options on the comments below. Until next time, good day.


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  1. Hehe… Nice article… you have become an impressive critic 🙂

  2. Why not go with i7? Also, for the hard drive, if you’ve got a fair amount to spare, why not get a small SSD, say 80 or 160GB? This will vastly improve performance, and with a cheap TB drive you’ll still have more than enough space for documents, music, videos, and the like.

    I’m inclined to challenge you by finding a harder working system for the money, but I’m a bit busy nowadays. Maybe I’ll have some time tonight.

    In the meantime, interesting build, but it could be far better!

    • If you can manage to fit in all that on the budget of $1134.83 (if I recall correctly) then by all means, go for it 🙂 … In fact it’s worthwhile to put in the extra $100 for an i7 system, but in fairness to the comparison made in this article I have to stick to the budget. Please do post your build choices if you do get around to it. 🙂

  3. […] new monitor or display system. Don’t forget to check out my previous article on building the ultimate entertainment system with a 60″ stereo 3D display for the price of an HP IQ820. Possibly related posts: […]

  4. I wanted to make a ATI/AMD system, so I did. I took off the same amount, as I’m sure if this thing does take off AMD’ll want a piece. Could have gone for AMD/NVIDIA but then this awesome motherboard wouldn’t have worked. Anyway, check it!

    2x Radeon 4890 in Crossfire : $360
    AMD Phenom II X4 Deneb 3.0GHz: $180
    850 watt Corsair PSU: $140 ($120 after rebate)
    Quad-Crossfire capable MSI AMD mobo: $170
    OCZ Platinum 2x 2GB DDR3 2000: $97
    WD Black 1TB: $95
    Coolmaster Centurion: $45
    Lite-On Keyboard: $7
    Logitech MX518: $40

    $1134 in total, $1114 with rebate (which you might use to upgrade that keyboard.) Links are on my website, http://williamjudd.com/2009/07/25/the-1134-challenge/.

  5. For a genuine Nvidia system, sub in this motherboard for the one I picked (same price) and lots of DDR2 ram instead of the DDR3 here. You could probably get about twice the RAM for the same price.

    (see links on my site!)

  6. […] on xsistor’s latest build over at The Prior Art, I came up with this. The idea was to make a system to cost the same as some […]

  7. […] 3d vision on old mitsubishi dlp thepriorart.wordpress.com […]

  8. […] mitsubishi 60 inch dlp thepriorart.wordpress.com […]

  9. […] 60 inch mitsubishi tv manual thepriorart.wordpress.com […]

  10. […] mitsubishi 60 thepriorart.wordpress.com […]

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