The Q6600 and Me
Well, I’ve had a couple days with my new system, and as promised, I’ll share my impressions. Overall, I think it is going well, and I’m pretty pleased with what I got. I haven’t ran into anything bad, but I’m pretty sure the machine is sneaking into my bedroom at night to watch me sleep. But that could be my imagination.
Anyway, assembly was nothing. Par for the course. Heck, ripping everything out of the case was probably harder than putting it back. Plus there was the whole air compressor + dusty innards = sneezy me. The only thing I discovered was that my PSU didn’t have a 6 pin graphics card power plug, and I thought it did. Luckily, the card itself came with an adapter. For those of you not up with the times (kinda like me), the LGA 775 socket uses a new retention mechanism: a plate that flips down over the CPU to press it onto the contact points. Remember, these processors no longer have pins like the old days. But it is sorta neat, and it makes a kind of crunchy noise when it locks down. At first, this scared me, till I realized it was just the socket’s pins compressing down as the CPU locked in. The thumbscrews you see around the socket go to my behemoth of a heatsink, the Tuniq Tower 120. I had to order a new backplate because I lost the original (socket 754 boards didn’t need it), but it fit well as you can see, and the screws were tossed on so I wouldn’t lose them.
I’m pretty impressed the the setup of the board cooling too. The P35 northbridge chip while solid, is not high performance, so it doesn’t get real crazy hot, and there’s no need for active cooling on it. But what they did was set up a series of three copper heatsinks joined by heatpipes. So, this makes for decent cooling, with no extra fan noise. And it looks pretty.
The Tuniq Tower is where it’s at. I got this as a review sample some years ago when they were brand new, and I must say, it is withstanding the test of time. It’s still one of the top rated heatsinks you can get at Newegg, and fits pretty much any CPU on the market. The catch is, it’s HUGE. I’ve told people about this, and they just don’t grasp how truly tall this thing is. Don’t get one if you have a tiny case. The picture at the left should give you some idea how big it is. Height on it is over 6″. But let me tell you, it does a heck of a job. I have noticed that even under load, I haven’t had a need to turn up the fan speed above the lowest setting. Eventually I’ll start overclocking the CPU to see just how much I can juice it for with this. My old AMD rig needed to be running with full fan speed full time, and it didn’t have much headroom for any overclocking.
Okay, cutting to the chase, I dropped in the RAM, got it set up in dual-channel mode, popped the motherboard tray back into the case, and dropped in the video card and other misc cards. Again, I had no complications, and everything seemed to play nicely. I’d read of some problems with the Neo2 having its SATA ports blocked by long video cards, but I didn’t experience this with the Zotac 8800GT I put it. This might be because it is a single slot design, whereas a lot of cards take up two slots of space with large coolers attached.
Here’s everything dropped in. You can see the footprint of the Tuniq Tower here, and while you can’t so much see it, it comes nearly right up to the side panel because of its height. Cabling is a mess with this PSU though, because it isn’t modular, and they were generous on lengths. Plugged in and turned on, between the video card and the motherboard, it’s quite the light show.
Now, this is where my first scare came. Apparently the Neo2 does a funny thing where it power cycles when it detects BIOS setting changes for hardware. So if you change the bus ratio, like I had to to set my RAM to 1066MHz, when you restart, it will power cycle a couple times, before actually booting. This scared the bejesus out of me the first time, as I thought something was wrong. There’s not, that’s just how it works. Once your settings are done and final, when you start up, it’s normal as anything.
So far I’m just running Windows XP. A storm killed the power halfway through installing Ubuntu on my second partition, and I haven’t gotten back to it yet (and man how I want to play with Compiz with some proper graphics). Boot up times aren’t really anything to write home about. And in all honesty, day to day activities aren’t really dramatically different. I expected it to be a little snappier opening up applications and such, but so far I haven’t felt that.
This slight disappointment is totally offset by the performance. I have been taking some TV shows and converting them to DVDs lately. Previously, a 30 minute episode took about 30 minutes or so to encode and it pretty well pulled the machine down to do it. That normally meant queuing up a bunch of episodes and letting them encode overnight. Now… damn. Four and a half minutes, tops. Some faster than that. The encoding speed is staggering. This is a huge boost to me, as I don’t have to plan any more overnight encoding sessions. Games so far are rocking too. FarCry runs fully cranked up, native resolution, with full anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering without missing a beat. 3DMark06 gave me better than 12,000 points. I plan on trying out some more robust games soon to see how it holds up against something a bit newer (plus Spore comes out in September!).
Now I’m looking forward to pushing things a bit harder, trying some newer games, and getting Ubuntu running on the machine. So far, so good, and I’d say it was money well spent. The parts like each other, and the results thus far seem to agree.