So I have been using the same computer for 5 years now. I built it back in 2005 when dual core processors first became available for PCs. So it was getting really old, and it was really getting in the way of me being efficient and effective in my work.
I decided last summer that I was going to build a new one, but I knew that one of the key parts I was looking at was very shortly due for an update, so I held off. Then a couple months ago my company offered to pay for my new machine. Finally, on Feb. 28th the part I was waiting for (the CPU) became available, so I ordered the parts and built it.
So, a quick rundown on what’s inside.
- Intel Core i7 930 Processor at 2.8 GHz
- 12GB GSkill DDR3-10666 RAM (6 x 2GB)
- Intel X25-M 160GB Solid State Disk
- 2 x Western Digital Caviar Black 640GB (in RAID-0)
- 1 x Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB
- NVIDIA GeForce GTS 250 Video
- NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT Video*
- NVIDIA GeForce 8500 GT Video*
- Windows 7 x64 Ultimate Edition
* Brought over from previous machine
Why 3 video cards? I use 6 monitors, and each card drives two of them.
There are a few things that make this computer so awesome. First, the 8 virtual cores (so it works sort of like 8 CPUs)…
Second, would be the amount of memory (12GB):
Third would be the Intel X25-M solid state disk (like a hard drive, but it uses flash memory instead of moving parts, so it is much faster):
What all of this means is:
- The computer boots up in 14-16 seconds. (From Windows logo screen first appearing to all software being loaded and ready to use at the fully ready-to-use desktop.)
- There is NO period of waiting for my 57 zillion startup applications to finish loading after a restart; they’re done loading before the desktop even appears.
- Most software applications open virtually instantly:
- Microsoft Office applications are totally finished loading in well under 1 second.
- Photoshop CS3 loads in less than 2 seconds.
- Premiere Pro CS3 loads in about 3 seconds.
- Microsoft Outlook loads and is ready to use in less than 2 seconds.
- Internet Explorer, Chrome, Opera, and Safari all load instantly.
- Firefox loads in about 5 seconds.
- My development environment (Delphi RAD Studio 2007) loads in about 15 seconds instead of 2 minutes.
- The Zune software loads in about 3 seconds and is always snappy.
- iTunes loads in about 1 minute instead of 5.
- With this much memory, I can leave all of the software I use regularly running in the background; I never have to close anything if I don’t want to.
- Web browsing is much more snappy, even without getting a faster Internet connection.
- Editing standard definition video is actually very fast.
- Editing high definition HDV video is not only possible, but it is easy.
- When I’m programming and I pause to think, the development language I use only freezes for 2-3 seconds instead of 30-90 seconds. (I was literally losing hours of my time per week on this.)
- Multitasking is seamless. I can start a video render, minimize it, and not even feel the effect of it while using other applications.
- Encoding DVDs into h.264 video happens at a rate of 140 frames per seconds (as opposed to 8 on my previous machine), so movies finish in about 40 minutes instead of 12 hours.
- File transfers over my network run at 50 MB/sec instead of 7-8 MB/sec.
Total cost of hardware was just under $2,000. My company covered $1500 of that.
This computer is just a pleasure to use. I don’t have to wait for it to do anything.
It hasn’t been without a few hiccups though…
- My external MOTU 828mkII FireWire-based sound device (primarily designed for doing studio recordings) has some really buggy drivers. Sound sometimes gets distorted. This was a problem with the old computer, too. It’s apparently universal, as others (both PC and Mac users) are having the same issue with this same device. If it weren’t so expensive I’d trade it in.
- Occasionally when I restart one of the video cards isn’t detected, so I have to restart again for it to come back.
- I can’t get the fingerprint readers I use for developing my company’s Point-of-Sale software to work at all (no driver available).
- It takes me days, if not weeks, to get all of my software re-installed.
But even with those small issues, I love this machine.
And for anyone wondering why I didn’t get a Mac, I spec’d out a “roughly equivalent” machine (they don’t have an exact equivalent) and it would have been $7,173. While some areas would be better (CPU), it would still be lacking in a few areas, like memory and video performance. Upgrading the video to something equivalent would add several hundred $ more. If I were to switching to OS X, re-purchasing the software I use regularly from PC to Mac would have cost an additional $10,000+, and
several most of the applications I use every day just aren’t even available at all for OS X. Economically it just doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.