December 16, 2010
The RAM arrived the next day, and the build began. Olivia was anxious to experience building a system, so i let her put in as many parts as was practical. The system as assembled as one would any standard PC. At this point we opted to not install the purchased CPU cooler. The i7-950 came with a cooler/fan which seems to be working fine. The system is cruising along at a cool 38C.
Once the hardware was assembled, the system was powered. Nothing. Screen was black. I then realized that the power to the video card was being saved for last, and we didn’t get around to making the connections. Doh! There was some frustration with having to power down and do more cabling. The anticipation was pretty high. The odd power cable for the video card didn’t help. The pins were not solidly mounted, so it was a chore to hold the pins in place from the back of the power adapter to make the connection. This is a power thirsty video card, so we had to do this for two connectors.
Once these connections were made, we powered up and had video! For software installation we again followed Tony’s instructions to the letter, booting with iBoot, partitioning the hard drive, loading the OS, installing and running MultiBeast. All went according to plan.
Once the OS was installed, my TimeMachine backup was restored, effectively putting me back in business after a 2 hour and 45 min restore. Rebooted. And was back to my familiar screen. Applications, the dock, all was right with the world.
It was very satisfying to see eight CPUs where previously there were two. Technically there are only four cores; but they are each capable of two virtual cores.
Fired up World of Warcraft, turned all the graphics settings to max, and salivated. The graphics for Cataclysm look really good. And with this new hardware, there wasn’t a single stutter.
Attempted to back up the new install and caused the external enclosure to overheat. Pulled the TimeMachine drive, put it on the case, and it resumed backup without a hitch. Pulled the DELL branded disc drive from the Western Digital external enclosure which had previously caused problems. Quickly installed it in one of the 10 drive pays with a SATA cable and power. It too was recognized with no problem. Backed it up as well.
Now for the real test. Once issue which plagued us with the old laptop was a large song we attempted to mix for the CRemix Christmas Project. Some resource was regularly being taxed. Don’t know if this was because the drive and the interface shared a FW400 bus. Could have been the horsepower of the laptop’s CPU. Not sure. But one thing is certain: This new beast is ready for big projects. The Rejoice Ye Merry Gentlemen project came up in Logic Pro and ran flawlessly. One core was being hit pretty hard; but the other seven were fine. The data drive, now internally connected via SATA, wasn’t struggling at all. This was very gratifying, since the primary reason for sticking with the Mac platform was for recording.
This case, by the way, is awesome. Great air circulation. The three built in fans are all whisper quiet. There is an open SATA slot on the top of the case where Time Machine (and other raw drives) can be slipped in without having to open the case.
Outstanding issues: Really this whole thing went as smoothly as expected. The things that remain are a slight buzz with the PreSonus FireStudio Project. I suspect this is a grounding issue which could be fixed with some copper wire. Also, i’ve had to continue to use the iBoot disc in the CD drive for initial booting. The OS boots off the internal drive; but for some reason still wants to see the iBoot. However, i’ve convinced myself to treat this like a “feature.” If the iBoot disc is removed, the system won’t boot. But once it is up and running, the iBoot disc can be ejected, and the DVD burner will function as expected. This will probably eventually be addressed; but for now it is only a minor hassle.
Overall.. very pleased with the new machine. Very fast. Very stable. And for right around 1,100 for a MacPro equivalent, very awesome.