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Reven LXIV

I built this computer some time around 2010 or whenever my last desktop exploded. My goals in constructing it were power and versatility, since I do a lot of video editing, programming, etc... and even the occasional game.


The first part I decided on was the mainboard. I knew I was going to be using a ton of add-on cards, so I went with a full-size ATX mainboard by Foxconn, model A78AX/S, which provides me with three 32-bit PCI slots, two PCI-express slots and one 16-lane PCI-express slot, as well as 8 SATA ports, an ATA-133 port and even a floppy disk drive connector.  Although I wanted a board with at least four memory slots, the only one I could find in my price range only had two. I'll make up for that by installing the fastest RAM I can find. One feature that I really like about the A78AX/S is that it has no onboard video, which is the way all mainboards should come because who the hell uses it? When mainboard manufacturers include an integrated video acclerator all it does is generate extra heat and take up board space. I was also pleased to see that it offered two RS-232 serial (COM) ports and a parallel port, which is indispensable to geeks like me, but absent on many mainstream machines.


I really hate it when people try to hot rod computers and make them look like something used to scrub the toilets on a UFO, so I ended up buying a nice respectable ATX mid tower by Gigabyte in a stately charcoal gray color. Not only does it have plenty of room for my gigantic mainboard, it can also accomodate four 5.25" drives, five 3.5" internal drives, and one external 3.5" drive. My only modifications were painting my logo on the side and swapping out the retina-searingly-bright blue power LED with a much nicer amber colored one.

When I first built it I used a cheap generic ("RAID MAX") power supply out of another machine I wasn't using. This turned out to be kind of a mistake, since after about a year or two it started making a noise like a cement mixer, and voltage measurements showed the 12V line to be 11.6V, etc... I replaced it with a fancy high end model from Corsair, which also helped with cooling, since it has a 120mm fan and you can disconnect any power leads that you don't need so you don't end up with so much clutter.


The Foxconn A78AX provides one CPU socket for a Socket AM2+ AMD processor. I went with the comically overblown AMD Phenom x4 9850 "Agena", which provides four 2.5GHz processors on a single chip. Since this thing produces an ungodly amount of heat (126W thermal!), I also had to buy a ridiculously overblown (HA!) fan. I could really only find one that would work for this sort of thermal load, a massive 120mm fan bolted to an equally massive aluminum radiator with big chunky copper heat pipes manufactured by Thermaltake. This was before everything they made had to be covered in flashing blue lights. I didn't realize it until I got all the parts, but the heatsink is so large it doesn't actually fit in my case with the covers on, so I had to drill some holes for the heat pipes in the left side of the case. Whoops.

It was expensive, for a fan anyway, at $30. I expected it to last a while, but after a year or two the fan suddenly quit. The thermal cutout shut the machine down when that happened, but the alarm didn't do my nerves any good. I kept the heatsink but replaced the fan with a new 120 mm fan from Corsair.

I really like Hynix memory, it's what I use for most of my builds, since it seems to have the best performance/price ratio and usually lasts for a really long time, but I couldn't find any with the proper specs. I finally settled on Kingston's Hyper-X series, employing two 2GB DDR2-1066 modules, with bank interleaving. I love that Kingston includes such nice aluminum heat spreaders on their Hyper X products.

Storage and Peripherals

You can never really have enough peripherals. I have a ton of old and/or unusual hardware that I'm unwilling to give up. Number one on the list is a pair of optical drives, I went with a Panasonic 4x/16x/48x BD-ROM/DVD-R/RW drive and a TEAC 16x/52x DVD-R/RW drive which are great for general purpose DVD authoring, and have excellent read times with low latency, which is great if you're into gaming. A third, Samsung Super Writemaster 16x/48x external DVD-R/RW drive I bought way back in 2005 carried over from my old desktop. I salvaged an old 3.5" Panasonic floppy disk drive and threw that in there as well since I have some old MIDI keyboards and "vintage" computers that use floppy disks exclusively. I might throw in a 5.25" drive in as well, eventually. I can't even put it into words how much I appreciate Foxconn throwing in a floppy controller, parallel port, and two serial ports on this mainboard.

I absolutely refuse to live without a tape drive, relying on my little Quantum DAT-72 internal DDS-5 drive to backup tons and tons of precious data. Unfortunately, this board didn't have a SCSI port, but it did have plenty of PCI slots, so I fitted it with an old Adaptec card solely to run my tape drive. Another sorely missed feature was a FireWire (IEEE 1394) port, so I added in a little PCI express card based on a VIA chipset, which gives me two FireWire ports, one for my camcorder and one for my little Canopus ADVC-100 digital-to-analog video converter, which is what I use to digitize analog video. Filling out the final drive bay on the front panel is a 5.25" bay all-in-on flash card reader from TEAC that reads and writes SD, MMC, Memory Stick, xD, compact flash, PCMCIA, and even smart media cards.

As originally built, my machine had a 1TB Hitachi Ultrastar (This was after Hitachi bought the Ultrastar/Desktar trademarks from IBM, but before they sold them to Western Digital) server-grade SATA 2.0 disc, running at 7200RPM and featuring a 32MB cache. When I built my file server, the hard disc went to that project while I upgraded to something a little smaller (and fancier) for my desktop. I figured that since my memory had been performing so well I might as well invest in another Kingston product and bought a 128GB Kingston Hyper X SSD. This thing is so ridiculously, blazingly, obscenely fast, but not as reliable as I had hoped. After about 6 months it completely died on me, although I have to admit the warranty exchange process wasn't that bad, so I had a new drive up and running within a week. Although all of my files and documents are stored on my file server, I still needed a large local drive to store bulky files like games and video edits in progress (which can become extremely large), and luckily I managed to find a 2TB Hitachi Ultrastar disc for $50.

Video and Sound

I mentioned before that I never use the onboard video or sound. Although my board did have an OK sound system, I wanted something better. I need something with a built-in optical S/PDIF input/output to interface with all of my fancy audio hardware like my Cirrus Logic DAC and my old Sony DAT recorder and I found it on the pricey Turtle Beach Motego DDL. When I upgraded to Windows 7 I had a hard time getting the driver to work. Apparently shortly after I purchased it, Turtle Beach dropped support for the Montego DDL, which is insane because sound cards don't really become obsolete - I'm still using a Cirrus Logic Crystal CS-4248 card from 1999 on one of my machines. After uninstalling and reinstalling the driver half a dozen times I finally got it to work, but I don't think I'll be buying any more Turtle Beach products for a while because of that.

After a while I gave up on the Turtle Beach card and bought a used Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi something or other edition card. The drivers were kind of hard to install for that too, but at least everything works now and I don't have any of the weird

Every machine I've ever built has used an ATI video card, for some reason. I don't really have any preference, but for some reason it just works out that way. I do play games, but not very often, so I didn't go too overboard, just a litltle ASUS card with 256MB memory, and a VPU that ran cool enough that it didn't need a fan. I bought it mainly because it worked with the TV I had at the time. I've been doing a lot more 3D oriented stuff lately, though, so I upgraded to a new ASUS card with 2048MB of DDR3 memory and an AMD Radeon R7 VPU, and bought a new widescreen LCD monitor to go with it.

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