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 Guide, Dual Power for under $2000
Why choose these components?
By: Steffen Scheibler, September 18, 2002  Print this article


A good question to ask now would be "Why did he choose those components and not different ones?". That’s a good and valid, question. Allow me to elaborate:

I chose dual AMD because their CPUs are quite powerful -- more powerful than Intel CPUs at the same clock-speed and about the same if you compare their rating to Intels clockspeeds, and also because of the simple fact that they are cheap. The Chipsets for AMD XP and MP have been around a little while now and have matured enough to be genuinely useful.

The ThermalTake fans are low-RPM and are quiet, but have a good block that is more than up to the task of removing the heat from these two CPUs. In combination with Arctic Silver II and a good chassis, the Chieftec DA01BD (reviewed here), I can keep these CPUs below 45C, 20C above ambient, at all times.

It is important to note that AMD says XP CPUs are not meant for SMP. In my experience there is no difference between MP and XP for the XP 1500 – XP1900 CPUs*. I have not seen an XP1800 not work in SMP, but some mainboards are a little more thorough in their checking than others. I have experienced first hand how XP2000s often woun't work in SMP, even on this board. However, it is easy to modify an XP to work in SMP by making it into an MP, but thats warranty-voiding choice you have to make for yourself. You can buy MPs for €189, which would raise the price from €1711 to €1875.

I choose the MSI mainboard over other cheaper ones because the MPX chipset is somewhat picky. Often after failing to POST due to incorrect settings, the system will hang on subsequent POST attempts for a while. The MSI board has a diagnostic LED which is, in my opinion, absolutely essential when you are new to this game, and is definitely helpful even when you are a seasoned veteran. In addition to the above, I have good experiences with MSI and servers/workstations** -- not always the best performance, but stable.

The Mainboard has LAN and Audio (AC’97) onboard but I chose the SB Live! anyway because I do think that surround sound is a very nice feature easily worth the €36.50. In addition, the on-board audio is only of medium quality.

For RAM, I chose Corsair, CL2 and PC2400 because I know from experience that Corsair are good and the MPX chipset is very demanding on memory performance.

The DVD Drive is a very good one -– slot-loading, which means that approx 2-3 seconds after inserting a CD, DVD or CD-RW you have access to the files (a tray loader can take up to 10 seconds). DVD ripping speeds depend on the DVD but I usually managed 12x with this drive, so it is more than adequate. It may surprise some of you how a slow CD-ROM or DVD drive can bring your system to its knees while its trying to auto-mount the disc...(plus it gives people a bad impression of over system performance).

The CD-RW drive is cheap, but seems to work well enough. I have the 16x/10x/40x version and I am more than happy with it.

The IBM HDDs are quite a bit cheaper than the Maxtors, but I have had so many bad experiences with IBM HDDs in the last two years that I simply refuse to use them anymore. This even applies to their SCSI HDDs and I suspect there is a very good reason why IBM announced their discontinuation of HDD manufacturing.

The Promise FastTrak series of cards can all run on the faster PCI busses (66MHz, 32-bit) which means it can take advantage of the 66MHz/64-bit PCI capability this motherboard has. In my opinion this was the best choice; the competition either charges 3 times as much or doesn’t properly support the faster bus speeds.

The 5 Papst fans are expensive, but extremely quiet and effective. I bought them at a electronic/hardware store becuase they cost half as much there than in the computer shops.

* - 20/9/2002 - AMD only guarantee SMP with MPs. I hinted at this, but the hints are too subtle and I should explicitly mention this.

** - 20/9/2002 - The ever attentive Jim over at pointed out that this board is in fact a workstation mainboard, not a server mainboard. He is absolutely correct and I am humbled.

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