With our case, PSU and motherboard firmly behind us we turn our attention now to the CPU and RAM for our build. These are actually some of the easiest choices of our build ad in the case of the CPU, the choice is made for us when we choose the motherboard, well at least for the brand.
With the choice of a Z77 based motherboard we are looking at using an Intel for the CPU. We could go down the food chain and pick an i3 or jump to the top and grab an i7 but extremes are something we have sought to avoid and I feel so should you. Extremes in computer hardware carry little in the way of true benefit. The lowest extreme means that you have fewer cores for any multi-threaded work you might be doing and the highest extreme is great performance but no true benefit for 99% of consumers when taking the cost vs. experience into account.
From the i5 processors we get a solid quad core CPU and at a reasonable price point. The question now is which one?
If you look back a bit there is an article I did that explored the i5 processor lineup when we are looking at real world gaming experience and performance. In this article I noted that from top to bottom of the i5 lineup there is only about an average performance boost of 4.7%. Now let me be clear in the world of PC gaming a difference of 5% means ZIP when it comes to your gaming experience.
With this information in hand it should be clear that at stock speeds there is no real advantage at buying at the top of the i5 rack over the bottom. However as some will note, we picked a Z77 motherboard for our build and this gives overclocking options. With this motherboard surely the i5 3570K is the better choice, right?
Well when you consider that we had a professional overclocking , Shannon Robb, explain to use that anything over about 4 GHz is not going to be worth the effort in a single GPU gaming setup. There is really no reason to seek a high end overclocking chip for this build, since gaming is our goal and an ITX build will only be a single card. (Okay technically you can extreme this and get a dual chip card but again that is the extreme)
This information BTW is further muddled with the fact that in our own testing, pushing a CPU to 4.1 GHz only gave us a bump of 6.1% above the low end stock i5. Again 6% is not anything amazing when it comes to the gaming experience. Pushing much past 4.1 we see the increase in performance vs. clock speed begin to fall off, as Shannon said we would.
What this tells me is the upper extreme is not going to offer enough to justify an extra
This chip is near the bottom of the i5 lineup in price. At stock speeds it delivers a great gaming experience and despite being a locked chip, our Z77 board can eek a little more kick out of her, we were able to to push up to 3.9 GHz. Now true this is not going to give us a huge boost but it puts us past the high end of the i5 lineup at stock and puts us very close to a moderate overclock of that higher end i5.
With the CPU choice made we turn our attention toward the RAM. ITX motherboards have a premium on space so gone are the 4 stick options we have with a typical socket 1155 motherboard. With our limit at 2 sticks the amount of memory we choose is also limited. While the system can go up to 16 gig using a 2×8 configuration, none of our testing showed a performance boost over 8 gigs in any games or in day to day use.
Since we are pretty sure we want 8 gig for the RAM, what about the speed. I mean logic would dictate that faster RAM would make a faster system. In our testing the folks at Kingston sent us a set of their HyperX BEAST memory. The particular model they sent is us a 16 gig (2×8) kit with speeds as high as 2133. We also have some Kingston HyperX ram with speeds of 2400.
For our testing I used the RAM at all the speed options I was given by the XMS settings on the motherboard, as well default of no setting which is 1333 on our board of choice. The BEAST had 1600 and 2133 for it’s two XMS settings but we also tested the 2400 speed vs 1600 using an 8 gig kit. The result was not what we expected. It seems that while there is a boost in benchmarking the memory, in the actually gaming the speed difference did not make all that much difference.
Checking with some other people I found that the general consensus is that with the Intel platform anything past 1600 seems to have little real benefit to the user. Our own testing bore this out. With a price premium of roughly $20 for the higher speed RAM at an 8 gig configuration and no real performance boost I think we will suggest that the good 8 gig (2×4) kit of DDR3 1600 is the best choice for our build. As for which specifically, well Kingston has a number of great choices in the HyperX lineup at all roughly the same price point right now on Newegg. I would say find the color that best fits your build style and enjoy. We have never been disappointed with buy ANY Kingston RAM.
So there we have it, we will be using an i5 3450 and Kingston HyperX DDR3 1600 RAM for our build and suggest you do the same.
Thank you to the folks at Intel for the processors they have provided as well as Kingston for our RAM selection.
Show segments from show airing the weekend of April 6th, 2013
Well maybe not night but it is the day before Christmas and all through the station, people are running and … Okay you know I was going to go for some witty prose but I am honestly too tired. This week has been crazy with preparations for Christmas, fight the first cold of the season and setting up all the interviews we have arranged for CES. To say I have had my hands full is an understatement.
I looked at various reviews we have on the burner ready to post, various editorial ideas I have as well that are ready to be published and I could find nothing I was happy with posting for Christmas Eve. So with that in mind this simple blog entry is all you will get. I am not going to give some deep thoughts or comments here but instead wish that each and every one of you a wonderful Christmas day.
As geeks we can get caught up in our hobby, as anyone can to be sure. So take some time this Christmas away from the PC and whatever tech gifts you are given. Instead play a board game with the kids, curl up with the wife or husband and talk or watch a movie. Enjoy some time with the family, give them the gift they want most, your time. It’s okay, the next adventure in Skyrim will be waiting for you when you get back to it.
So from myself, Doug and our families we wish you the most Merry Christmas you have ever had.
I leave you with the video of my all time favorite Christmas song.
You know I get asked a lot about software to help protect your kids on the internet. I understand this, the internet is like the wild west open and untamed. We want to protect our kids, give them a chance for their innocence to last just a little longer. However we also want to protect ourselves. Many of the websites that cater to adult material or illegal downloads also are the homes for some pretty nasty malware infections.
My general rules for dealing with protecting our kids are pretty well known to people that have listened over the years but let me put them out there again.
- Put computers in community areas of the home.
It is was to often that I see parents putting a computer for the kids in their bedroom. While we want to trust our kids and think the best of them they are in the end kids and this invites the misuse of the computer. I am not talking about just going to adult sites, I am referring to staying up all night playing WoW or chatting on Facebook with their friends that also have PCs in their bedrooms. Put the PC out where the family is.
- No Internet When Mom and Dad are not home. Letting your kid run around on the internet with you not around is the same as dropping them off in down town Chicago with $100 and tell them you will see them later. The chances for doing something wrong go up a 100 fold with kids when left unattended. This rule, applied with rule one results in kids not feeling they have the chance to sneak in that quick peak. It also means their time on the internet can be controlled. This is really easy to do, especially with new computers. Parental control tools are built right into Windows Vista and Windows 7 to let you limit time and access on the computer.
- Show an active interest in the kids internet activities. Do not use the internet as a baby sitter, rather use it as a way to bond with your kids, it really can work that way. Ask my kids of some of their fondest memories growing up and they all come back to a weekend we spent all 4 of us playing a Star Wars game together on a bunch of computers I had in the house. The time was amazing with all of us chasing each other around the game map. They teamed up to find Dad and his sniper nest. Mine are not the only experiences that bare this out. Doug has a man cave for him and boys in their home. They play video games together and talk about computers. He is right there in the room with them, set so he can see all they do. Wil Wheaton from Star Trek fame has even expressed these views in the keynote addresses he has given at the PAX Convention. In one speech he talked about how games allowed him and his son to be on equal ground and talking about tough life stuff while gaming was easier. However this is not just about games, show an interest in Facebook, have the kids show you how to make your own account and then friend them, a great way to see what they are up to on Facebook. Show interest in their computing and you will gain an insight into what your kids are doing.
These are the three rules I have over the years built from my experiences. However sometimes they are hard to implement. I mean we all work hard as adults and our time at home might be limited but the kids need access for school. Perhaps our home is small and we do not have room for the computer in the living area. There are reasons that sometimes these rules just cannot work, what do you do then? Well commercial products have always left me with a bad taste in my mouth. They seem to easy to by pass. However as silly as it sounds I have found something for free that works really well. Let me introduce you to OpenDNS.
When you computer access the internet it takes the website name you have given and looks it up in a directory to find the actual IP address of the site. This directory is called a Domain Name Server, or DNS. This is usually provided for you by your ISP however the one they provide is wide open, meaning all of the internet is there all the time.
Open DNS offers an alternative to using your ISP’s DNS system. This server allows you to set various levels of security on it to block websites you do not want your family to go to. The security is basically a content filtering system that can be customized or can use presets ranging from nothing blocked to blocking adult sites, illegal activity, social sites, video sites and so on.
The filtering is easy to do and the explanations simple to understand. In fact the settings are good enough that they are not just good for home but for small businesses as well that want to control the web content the employees can access.
Now sometimes these types of filters will block a site we want access to but that borders on questionable with the criteria the blockers are using. OpenDNS offers the ability to create a Whitelist of sites, sites that will bypass the blocker.
The control for all of this is done on their website, OpenDNS.com and is protected by a password you assign. This means no one can change these settings unless you want them to. For parents or employers this means you might want to limit who knows this password.
There are three levels of OpenDNS that you can use. For homes and small businesses the free version should be enough. The two version with costs associated basically up the number of specific sites you can block or free and offer more indepth reporting. That’s right reporting. The service allows you to see how many times people tried to go to sites that where not appropriate and verify they have been blocked. The services has an added side benefit, it also blocks phishing sites and many of the sites that are guilty of putting malware on system.
My family has been using OpenDNS since January 1 for purposes of testing. For the first 4 weeks I did not tell anyone in the family that I had engaged the filters for adult and illegal material. Good news for me, after 4 weeks no one even noticed that the filter was on. This tells me that no one in the family was going anywhere bad , always good to know. Looking at the reports however I saw in 4 weeks time almost 50 sites blocked. I discounted the sites I knew I had tried for testing purposes in that number. These where ads trying to run from legitimate sites that where being blocked by the service.
My family is still using OpenDNS today and I see no reason to take it off. All of our games and websites we like to go to work perfect and our internet has not had any issues with using an alternate DNS system. The service is free, which is great plus it is effective and simple to use. Instructions for setting this up for your home or small business are on the site. I am so impressed with this service and it’s ease of use that I have added a link on my blog and a new category, Computer Ed’s Must Use.
For family and small business this is a must have!