Saturday, July 01, 2006

Vista - What now?

Windows Vista - Here at CORY-APN SAYS, we have been discussing the upcoming release of Windows Vista for the last few months. Previous posts can be found here:

1. Vista - Getting started
2. Vista - Lian Li modified case
3. Vista - CPU

The concept has been, if we are trying to design and build a new home built computer prior to Vista being released, what hardware should we be incorporating into our new system to take advantage of all of the new features Vista has to offer.

Well shucks, now we are starting to run into some major problems. Thus far, there are three areas of concern:

1. AMD's new AM2 socket
2. DirectX 10.0
3. Motherboards

Issue 1 - In a previous post we had decided to go with one of AMD's dual core X2 CPUs; A recommendation we still stand by. Question is, which socket type should we invest in, 939 or AM2? For economic reasons, back in April we had decided on Socket 939. Since then AMD has released their AM2 socket CPUs, they are priced no differently than the current crop of 939s. This is a little surprising, or maybe not. The new AM2 sockets do not actually add any performance gains or differentiate themselves from the 939s in any way except to add DDR2 memory support. So why the new socket platform in the first place? Well, adding DDR2 support is nice and I guess inevitable, but DDR2 is in itself not that big of a deal. Apparently the main reason for switching sockets is to provide for certain unspecified future upgrade plans on the part of AMD. At this point the whole business of socket types is in a state of flux. Maybe AM2 is here to stay (for awhile), maybe not. If we are going to invest in an AMD CPU, I suppose it should be AM2. But, where is all of this going and is AMD going to release an all new CPU once Vista is actually on the marketplace?

Issue 2 - One of the big promises associated with Vista is DirectX 10.0. Purportedly, this new version of DirectX will deliver all new super enhanced graphics capabilities that will radically change our gaming experience. Well, that's great. Problem is, none of the current crop of super expensive, SLI/ Crossfire, monster video cards support DirectX 10.0. It's not clear if future firmware upgrades for these wallet robbing cards will ever provide that support either. We may have the potential here to stick a couple of $600.00 GeForce 7950GX2 cards into our SLI configured system and find out later they won't support (or fully take advantage of) DirectX 10.0. Bummer.

Issue 3 - Manufacturers have started releasing the new AM2 Socket motherboards. For now, the selection is limited. There seems to be confusion on the part of motherboard designers as to what components they should be including on these boards. Since they can't seem to make up their minds, they've put everything on there except maybe, what we actually need. Frankly, what is currently available is a mess. And overly expensive too. If your building a new high performance system, do you want integrated legacy sound? No, anyone paying $200.00 for a high performance motherboard is going to want to install their own top of the line sound card, probably a Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi card. In the age of SATA, do we still need PATA connectors? For that matter, do we need SATA 1.5 connectors on the same board with SATA 3.0 connectors? We absolutely do not need integrated video on any high end motherboard and do we really need dual LAN? Also, someone needs to tell me, excluding telephone line modems (and who uses telephone modems anymore), what purpose do those PCI Express x1 slots serve? I would even go so far as to ask, does anyone ever actually use all four of the memory slots present on virtually all motherboards? Here is the problem. To make room for all of this junk and of course, the PCI Express x16 slots for SLI, the MB manufactures have started dropping PCI slots. Many of the new AM2 boards now come with only two slots. With the oversized graphics cards these days, you may only have access to one slot. Wait a minute. I need those slots! Where am I going to put my sound card, fan controller card, internal Turbo USB card and dual 8CM fan cooling card? You know what, I wouldn't need an internal USB card if the MB designers would include internal USB connectors, BUT THEY DON'T.

Conclusion - Now is not a good time to be designing and building a new home built computer that is Vista ready. There currently exists some serious ambiguity with regard to CPUs, graphics cards, motherboards, legacy hardware standards and future hardware standards. I have no doubt that Vista will accommodate the majority of hardware components currently being sold in the marketplace in some fashion or another. The question is, will that accommodation be at the expense of lost functionality or capability?

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