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Build The Ultimate Quad-Core Desktop With Intel's QX9770

Our latest PC build project paired Intel's top-of-the-line Core 2 Extreme processor with an Asus motherboard, fast GeForce 8800 graphics, and DDR3 memory in a dual-boot configuration with both Vista and Windows XP.
Are you guessing where I'm headed here? I found an updated BIOS on Asus's support Web site, which did the trick. The new BIOS said that the update was to address "memory compatibility issues." Bingo.



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Another look at the components which went into the build.

View the entire PC gallery.

Since I've loaded the BIOS onto the motherboard, the system has been rock solid. I still crane my neck to look at the G.P. Diagnosis Card as the system goes through POST, to make sure it gets past the memory test, but I'm sure I'll get over that shortly.

Installing Vista

Windows Vista installed easily, with no surprises. The OS, while still pleasing to the eye, doesn't require a learning curve anymore; it's a year and a half old now. Since I had the speedy QX9770 at my disposal, and because I wanted to run a video-editing app which wasn't Vista-compatible, I decide to do a dual-boot setup, installing Windows XP on another partition of the hard drive.

I'm a big Vista fan, but I found it shocking to be reminded just how much faster Windows XP really is than Vista.

The dual-boot installation process is no cakewalk. As with all mods, that's largely because of all the minor, unexpected things which rise up. For example, I had to continually mess around with the boot order in the BIOS, so that my system would proceed from where it left off with on the Windows XP installation disc, rather than unsuccessfully attempted to boot off of the temporarily messed up (because the install was in-process) hard drive.

There are a lot of cookbook explanations floating around on the Web, which will walk you through the installation. The best one I found, for loading XP onto a system with Vista already in place, is on the SysChat forum. Its directions get you around a key stumbling block; namely, that Vista's automated boot-fix tool isn't the way to go. (You'll encounter this issue, because when you install XP onto a machine which already has Vista, it "breaks" Vista's boot-loader. A key step in the dual-boot process is fixing this.)

As the Syschat instructions correctly point out (on page 3), you need to go into the command prompt and type in these two lines:

Bootrec.exe /fixMBR
Bootrec.exe /fixBoot

Now that both Vista and XP are installed on the QX9770 PC, I have to admit I find myself opting to boot up in XP more often than not. True, that's partly because I have my video-editing app installed on the XP side. However, XP is so much faster -- for every single task I attempt -- it's not even funny.

I wish I could tell you I had quantitative data confirming my statement that XP is faster than Vista. Unfortunately, I only have my anecdotal, subjective impressions. I did run numerous benchmarks. However, the Futuremark PC Vantage benchmark I ran on the Vista side doesn't run under XP. I figured PCMark05 would form a more apt basis for comparison. However, while the benchmark ran successfully on my XP install, it wouldn't get past the hard-drive initialization test under Vista. Searching Futuremark's forums, I found this is a not-uncommon occurrence.

As well, the system underperformed comparable machines with scores posted on Futuremark's ORB comparison site. That's because, while my system has a strong processor and graphics card, it's dragged down by the hard drive and, to some extent, by the memory, which isn't the fastest possible DDR3 available

Aftermath

In conclusion, the QX9770 PC is impressive on all performance fronts, with the exception of the aforementioned benchmarks. Intel clearly has a winning desktop processor on its hands, with strong appeal to performance enthusiasts and to any users who want to run compute-intensive apps, such as video ended. The Asus P5E64 WS Professional is also a winner, and a great companion to Intel's top-of-the-line Core 2 Extreme.

Resources

QX9770 Processor, at TigerDirect for $1,600.

Asus P5E64 WS Professional motherboard.

Sunbeam CR-SW-775 Silent Whisper heat sink.

Gigabyte GeForce 8800 GTS graphics card.