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My new Athlon64 system

  • Posted on: 19 March 2004
  • By: agittins

Photo of new system

Ok, specs first, then I'll ramble about the hows and why's.
Everything came from Gamedude if I didn't have it already, prices as at


Athlon64 3400+

Asus K8V Deluxe mobo

Corsair LL TwinX 3200 512MBx2
(for the pair)

CoolerMaster Praetorian case

CodeGen 550W p/supply

Western Digital 200GB SATA

Coolermaster Cooldrive3
$ 98.00

GSA-4081 DVD-/+RW

Panasonic DVDROM


NVidia GF Ti-4200

DXR3 DVD decoder card

Cheapie bt878 video capture crd

Cost of "upgrade"

I went for an amd64 platform, because I primarily use linux for my desktop,
and only use windows for gaming. Because of this, I get immediate performance
benefits in linux (as it natively supports amd64), and games typically
perform marginally better on amd64 systems, even in 32-bit mode.

If I primarily used windows, I probably would have been quite happy with a
recent p4 with HT, although the gaming performance might be enough to warrant
looking at the amd64 systems - I didn't look into p4 pricing much.

CPU Choice
Anyway, I went for the Athlon64 3400+, as it gives all the benefits of the
FX-51 (clock speed, 1MB cache etc) but without the dual memory controllers or
the requirement for more expensive mobo's. The dual memory controllers were
not an issue for me, as I strongly believe that memory throughput is not a
bottleneck in DDR400 systems, and memory latency has more impact than just

To that end, I chose the Corsair TwinX DDR400 Low-latency simms. I got a 512MB
matched pair for a total of 1GB. Future upgrades will require replacement of
both simms, as running more than 2 simms will not give ddr400 speeds, and
would slow memory down as far as ddr200 in some configurations. The
low-latency ram comes at a premium, but being able to run tighter memory
timings gives performance benefits. Benchmarks show that synthetic tests like
the dual controllers, but real-world tests place the single-channel 3400+ on
a par with the FX-51, but at half the cost. This sat well with my philosophy
of always choosing the second-fastest system available to get the

Since I'd decided on the 3400+, I only had a handful of mobo's to chose from.
Between the nvidia and the via chipsets, I chose via. Nvidia's nforce3
chipsets have issues with the hypertransport bus being driven at lower speeds
(although I think they have resolved that now) and also driver support on
nforce3 is not as good as it could be on linux - they are available, but the
drivers are only available in closed-source binaries. For a mobo, I think
open drivers are a must (I don't feel that way about video). For the
selection of via k8t800-based boards I was first looking at MSI's k8t, being
one of the cheapest options around. I settled on the ASUS k8v though, as it
has a 3com gigabit lan port (3com have a strong history of good driver
support), and the SATA controller was known to work on linux, as is it's 6ch
onboard sound - on top of all that, it was only $10 more than the MSI.

My existing VGA card was an NVidia Gforce Ti4200, so I decided to stick with
that. The nvidia linux (and windows) drivers are good quality and work well,
even though they are closed, binary-only drivers. Doom3 might require
something faster, but it should do ok, and their's likely to be better cards
on the market by then anyway.

I'm running two monitors from the NVidia card, a 19" and a 15" in twinview
under both linux and windows.

I'm using my existing SBLive on the system, as the onboard sound on the K8V
has limited I/O choices - it's 6 channel, but only 2 or 4 are available if
you use line in, mic etc at the same time. I've also had bad experiences with
via-based sound codecs before, and I trust the SBLive.

My main system was previously running from an IBM DeathStar drive, which
should have died in flames a year ago, but is still chugging along. I know
it's life is very limited, so I got a WD 200GB SATA drive for the new system.
These are very nice - fast and surprisingly quiet. They also have the 8MB
cache which is nice. I got 2 Coolermaster3 drive coolers, for the SATA drive
and my old DeathStar - drive heat on the IBM's seems to be a contributing
factor to their early failure, and I want to protect the SATA drive also, so
it seemed like a good idea. They seem to work well, both drives run
surprisingly cool. The lower noise is probably in part due to these drive
coolers as well.

I already had a DVD+/-RW (LG GSA-4081b) and a DVD-ROM, all they needed was
some spray paint to match the new case :-)

As Dianne was getting the old system, I needed a new case. Since the case is
likely to last for the next few machines I went for something fairly high
quality, but without the rediculous expense of a liam lee. I got a
coolermaster Praetorian, which is all aluminium (sexy :-) ) and has 4 x 5.25"
bays, removable mobo tray and plenty of fans. Also has plenty of 3.5" bays
which is always handy, and front-panel I/O for firewire, usb and audio (not
that I'm using the audio, since I run it through my mixer, eq, patchbay, amp

Because of the increased power requirements of all the accessories, and the
amd64 chip, I got a 550W power supply as well. Diagnosing faults caused by
underrated power supplies can be really difficult, so I shouldn't need to
worry about that :-)

For software, I'm running a standard 32-bit version of XP, and using the
64-bit build of RedHat Fedora Core 1 with the 2.6 kernel from the development
tree. One day I'm likely to migrate to Debian, but I'm in no particular
hurry. And yes, it's fast :-D

Lame casemodding stuff
All I've done is a simple spray-paint job on the DVDROM, DVDRW and floppy drives so they matched the case a little better - beige is horrid in an aluminium case, and for a $4 can of paint it doesn't look so bad.


You got ripped on those prices.

Lol dude... that was back in March 2004, you know? We're talking more than 12 months ago, plus we are talking Australian dollars here - at the time those prices were about as good as could be found in Oz.

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