Build The Ultimate Quad-Core Desktop With Intel’s QX9770April 2, 2008 – 5:13 AM
Intel has quietly begun shipping its hottest quad core desktop processor ever, the Core 2 Extreme QX9770. We built a PC, to see just how fast the 3.2-GHz, 45-nm chip, complete with a 1600-MHz front-side bus, really is.
Our previous project, where we put together a system last fall with Intel’s then top-of-the-line QX9650, resulted in a solid machine stymied by a poor choice in graphics cards.
This time, we went with a high-end Gigabyte GeForce 8800 GTS graphics, with 640-MB of video memory. For the motherboard — the key component of any system — we selected an Asus P5E64 WS Professional. This mobo uses the new Intel X38 chipset, and was one of the first to support the 1600-MHz front-side bus used in the QX9770. (Most Intel Socket 975 boards only handle FSB speeds up to 1066- or 1333-MHz. The P5E64 WS exhibit’s Asus’s usual attention to detail, incorporating an ample complement of on-board copper cooling pipes to draw heat away from the processor and core-logic chipset.
However, the mobo did hammer home one often-neglected item which should be on every PC builder’s to-do list. Namely, always check whether a BIOS update is available for your motherboard. In the case of the Asus, attention to this detail would have same us a lot of time spend investigating what at first glance appeared to be a memory compatibility issue.
A key element of the project turned out not be to electrical, but rather physical. This was the task of picking out a case. No part of the project is less enticing. However, the PC’s enclosure used to be an afterthought. Nowadays, with hot-running modern processors, it’s critical.
Complicating the problem is that the choice of cases used to be limited to a $39 special or some fancy day-glo model aimed at gamers. Now, there are too many options. The first crop I call “snap-in” designs. These are the cases with all those do-dads so you supposedly don’t have to screw in the drives and cards; these never work properly, by the way. The second, more important category of cases is designed to support good cooling.