Goodbye AMD, Hello Intel

Monday, July 25, 2016 8 minute read

After many years of fantastic service, my overclocked AMD build that I started in 2009 is finally going to get some rest. This weekend, I've built an Intel PC with almost entirely new parts. This post will detail the specs and reasoning behind my choice of hardware!

The Old Build

My old desktop was built in 2009, after I took an CompTIA A+ certification course and wanted to test out my skills. I chose mostly budget parts, because that's just the kind of person I am. At the core of it was an AMD Athlon II X4 620 that ran insanely hot. I think it cost $100, which was a bargain for a quad-core CPU.

The CPU still works to this day, happily overclocked from 2.6 to 3.1GHz. The rest of that original build didn't fare so well:

  • XFX Geforce 9800 GT graphics card - 512MB memory, with a tiny little fan that sounded like a dustbuster. Upon powering up the system, the fan would spin up to 100% and the card wouldn't output any video. I had to wait a bit for the boot to complete, hit the reset button, and hope that would jumpstart it into working. I couldn't even think about putting my computer to sleep/hibernate. XFX support was worthless when I tried to RMA. They blamed it on every part of my build, which I couldn't afford to replace at the time. Never buy XFX.
  • ECS A785GM-M Black Series motherboard - This was fine at the time, but I eventually replaced it for something with USB3. I think I chose this because it had a TI firewire chipset, which I needed for my:
  • Yamaha i88x firewire audio interface - I built this computer thinking I was going to pursue audio engineering as a profession, and at the heart of that dream was this beautiful rackmounted audio interface. Two perfect preamps and 8 more line-level inputs/outputs, with the ability to pipe more channels in with ADAT. MIDI, to boot! I used it with a huge Soundcraft Spirit Live mixer that I piped into the effects send to use its preamps. The i88x was the biggest pain in the ass to get working; nothing beyond 32-bit Windows 7 would work, and it was very picky about Firewire chips. I remember having to go through and disable just about every service in Windows, or else it would hiccup and lose its connection. I also had to turn off AMD Cool & Quiet, which was miserable in the summer. When it worked, it was amazing. No latency, endless headroom. I still have it in my closet and look at it longingly every so often, but the USB interfaces of today are just so much more convenient.
  • Patriot G Series 2 GB DDR3 memory (2) - If I was forced to use 32-bit Windows with my i88x, why buy more? One of the sticks died a year later, and I put up with 2 GB for all of about five minutes before buying some generic RAM of Amazon. RAM was so cheap back then!
  • Rosewill R5604 'Japanese cold-rolled steel' case - I still have no idea where that fancy rolled steel was, since this thing would cut you if you looked at it funny. The side door was also heavily warped on arrival, and Rosewill apparently stopped manufacturing it 1 minute after I bought it, so they had no replacement parts. The lock on it would rattle when my GPU got going so I ripped it out and covered the hole with a Grabass Charlestons sticker.
  • Apevia ATX-CX500WP power supply - I think this was like $40. Big surprise: it died after a few months.
  • WD Blue 640GB 7200 RPM hard drive - Cute lil guy. I thought I still used this for backups, but it appears to just be sitting in a bin in the closet. Gonna have to fix that!
  • Sony Optiarc DVD RW drive - The door opens about half the time, if you're lucky.
  • Logitech G400 optical mouse - I tried the 'ultimate' mouse at the time, the Logitech MX518, but it emitted a high-pitch squeal when it was idle. That kind of stuff drives me mental.

The thing I disliked most about my system was the heat. It would heat up a room in minutes. I experimented with extra long video cables and USB hubs and other tricks, but ultimately I just had to admit that AMD CPU was going to run hot no matter what. I bought a portable AC unit to combat it in the Florida summers.

In the end, I'd upgraded just about every part of it. I got an enormous Cooler Master Hyper 212+ CPU cooler, a nice Antec power supply, a GTX 650 from EVGA, a Biostar TA970 motherboard with fancy pants USB3, a bunch of internal hard drives (that case had a huge drive bay!), an SSD for Windows, oh, and I ditched the i88x for a tiny little Focusrite Saffire 2i2. I'm just a home recording hobbyist, not the next Glyn Johns.

After getting a great deal on a GTX 950, I realized the CPU had become the bottleneck in my system. In 2014, I went out and bought a PS4 for modern games, since my CPU wouldn't even humor me when I tried to play games like Far Cry 4. I was content with that, until my work gave me a computer with and i7-6700 and 32GB of RAM...

The New Build

This summer, I decided it was time to start a new build. There was nothing left to upgrade on my old PC, but I love to play around inside computers, so I needed to start a new one. I look at computers the same way my girlfriend looks at her kombucha scoby- it's gonna transform into something new every time I tinker with it.

Here is what I ended up with:

  • An Intel Core i7-6700K CPU that runs at 4GHz stock, unlocked for future iterations.
  • A Cryorig M9i CPU fan, which you can learn about more in the next section.
  • An MSI B150M BAZOOKA motherboard, which I think I chose because bazooka is a funny word.
  • Two HyperX Fury 8GB DDR4 memory sticks, because RAM ain't so cheap anymore.
  • An EVGA GeForce GTX 950 2 GB graphics card, re-used from the last iteration of my AMD build.
  • An EVGA 750 GQ modular power supply. It's so nice!
  • An OCZ Trion 150 240GB solid-state drive for Windows, and the madness that is Visual Studio dependencies.
  • A NZXT S340 case, in white, with a big window displaying my enormous lack of the accompanying NZXT Kraken water cooler. The front USB headers were mis-wired, and they sent me a replacement USPS Priority the same day.
  • Two Couger Vortex silent 120mm case fans, re-used from my last build.
  • A Cooler Master QuickFire XT mechanical keyboard with Cherry MX blue switches, which was a gift from my girlfriend, against all her better judgement.
  • A Logitech G400s mouse - same shape as my old one, just with higher resolution and an uglier Logitech logo.

A Bit of Controversy

The unlocked K models of the Intel processors do not come with a stock CPU cooler. At first, I just re-used my Cooler Master 212, but it looked ridiculous now that I had a window on my case. I found a great deal on a Be Quiet! Pure Rock fan on Newegg and snagged it. I got no order confirmation, but my Paypal account was charged. I heard nothing for weeks. I called Newegg and they had no record of the transaction. I filed a Paypal complaint, saying there was no record of this transaction at Newegg, and I no longer wanted the product. At every step of the automated arbitration period, I stressed that I no longer wanted the product. I bought a Cryorig M9i cooler off Amazon, installed it, and waited patiently to get my money back.

Amazingly, two weeks later, I got a package from Newegg in the mail, with that damn cooler in it. My Paypal complaint gets closed after somebody sends Paypal the tracking number and status of "delivered".

This is maddening. I call Newegg again and, again, they have no record of this transaction. There is no packing slip or invoice in the box, but it is a Newegg box and has their address on the shipping label. Paypal has lost interest; I bought an item, and I received it - that's all they care about. It doesn't matter to them that I had a complaint open for weeks without communication from the mysterious seller, that I constantly said 'even if the seller responds, I no longer want the item after this long of a wait'.

I'm done with Newegg. I'll pay more on Amazon just to be assured it gets here in a timely manner, and that I can actually get a refund if I decide to return it.