Alienware Area 51 7500

Irinikus

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What we have here is an original Alienware Area 51 7500 and next to it is an Nvidia Quadro Plex 1000 Model IV. This pretty much represents the best that was available for gaming back in 2008. (An Nvidia Quadra Plex was a gamers dream at that time anyway, even though it wasn't a consumer grade graphics system.)



I plan on upgrading this system with a QX9770 in the future as well as sourcing the required interface card for the Quadro Plex, so that I an interface it with this machine to do some testing. (I bought this Quadro Plex brand new, with all of the required cables, installation CD and manuals, but it didn't come with the bloody interface card though.)



The machine is currently equipped with a GTX 690, so the Quadro Plex will be a huge downgrade, but it will at least be period specific to the system though.



I can't wait to benchmark Crysis on it once its ready! (As this was the game that brought systems to their knees in those times!)

I want to upgrade this system to be the maximum that it can be!



If not the QX9770, this is the CPU that I want to install: (This is supposedly better than the QX9770!)



This is the CPU cooler that I want to install:



The current BIOS revision on the Motherboard doesn't allow for me to fit such a CPU, as it's too old.

The interesting thing here is that Alienware has kind of locked the BIOS, so that you can't simply update it with the latest version for the NForce 680i SLI BIOS.

To overcome this problem, I'm simply going to order in a new BIOS chip for the motherboard that has been flashed with the latest BIOS revision for the board:



Here's where the BIOS chip sits:



If anyone else has original Alienware hardware (Before Dell took over) please share on this thread!
 

Irinikus

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I've ordered the following upgrades for my Area 51 7500: (They're taking forever to get here!!!)

Ultra low latency DDR2 800 CL4-4-4-12



An Intel QX6850 (The best CPU that the EVGA nForce 680i SLI can take)



Thermaltake Pacific RL120 Custom Water Cooling Kit (As the Alienware area 51 7500 can only accommodate 120mm fans)



Once I have these items in my possession, I'll fit them into the machine and test to confirm that they all work.

I'll then completely disassemble the machine and send the inner, metal case off for powder coating (matte black), as this will make it look far better!

Once I reassemble everything I'll fit the Thermaltake liquid cooling system with hard tubing.

THEN THE TESTING CAN BEGIN!!!
 
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Irinikus

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QX6850 slotted! (I'm currently running it with the standard cooler for now, just to test it)



The temp with the standard (crappy) cooler toped out @ 68C, while playing Crysis with very high settings. (I will only fit the liquid cooling loop once I've got all of the components for this system and tested them and powder coated the inner case!)

The RAID 0 will be fitted next, once I receive the SSD brackets and new (black) SATA cables. (I'm going to clone the current windows setup onto the RAID). Once this is done, the spinning rust will go!

This machine now renders test.blend in Blender 2.75a in 12.31 seconds, compared to the 27 seconds it took with the E6850, so the CPU is performing properly at its stock speed!

This is what the system looks like inside currently (Notice the interface card for the Quadro Plex in the slot where the GPU would usually sit!)



The missing PCIe blank is marking the place where the Fusion-io ioDrive2Duo 2.4TB MLC Flash SSD PCIe Accelerator Card will be fitted once I receive it! (Hopefully this card works!!!!)



Once I've tested all of the new components that I'll be fitting, it will be completely disassembled and the inner case will be powder coated matte black.
 
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Irinikus

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Here are some disk benchmarks showing the striped RAID 0 performance on the Alienware system: (Not as good as I'd hoped for, but better than spinning rust! Just remember that the base machine here was assembled in 2006!)



The CPU upgrade, together with the system disk upgrade have improved the systems Crysis performance, now I'm still waiting on the Ultra Low Latency DDR2 800 and the ioDrive, so lest see what benefits the next upgrades bring! (Crysis is now definitely running more fluidly on this setup!)



These are the settings I'm using:



 
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Irinikus

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I've just run an experiment, to see the yield that a 10% CPU overclock (multiplier set from 9 to 10) gives me, suing 3DMARK 6 as a measuring tool, as it's period correct performance measuring software (3DMARK VANTAGE also scaled in the same way.)

And it show that the systems performance pretty much scales perfectly! (Once I have the water cooling fitted, I hope to get it to the 4GHz range!)



Blender also confirms the 10% increase in performance (10.88 seconds): (The original render time, with the stock CPU clock, was 12.31 seconds.)

 
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Irinikus

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Today I went ahead and installed the liquid cooling loop (I just couldn't wait!)



I must admit that I was kind of apprehensive, when it came to filling the darn thing!



I'm now doing some testing: (The ambient temperature is rather high, as it's currently summer down here in Southern Africa!)

 

Irinikus

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I've upped the CPU frequency to the max that I can without having to manually raise the core voltage. (3666MHz)

This is what it scored in 3DMARK 6:



Here's the latest Blender Test result:



The increase in performance is no longer linear! (Blender proves this!)
 
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Irinikus

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My RAM arrived today, and one of the sticks is faulty, so back to the drawing board! (I'm starting to get sick of receiving DOA components for this system!)



The one stick works perfectly, but the system won't even boot to BIOS, when the other stick is inserted!!!! (With or without the working stick!)

So I've just put the memory that came with the system back in for now!

I'm not going to overclock it further, so 3666MHz is a far as I'm willing to go with this one!

MemTest is a good means of testing for overall system stability, as it tests all of the memory and stresses all of the CPU cores at the same time, and it's not nearly as crazy as Prime95!

 
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Irinikus

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Crysis image quality difference between high and very high settings on the system. (Open the original image to view it at its true resolution)
I've just played through the game with very high setting using the system and it performed pretty well. (There were only two areas where I experienced significant slowdown, it's difficult to explain why though, as the system wasn't using close to its full graphic or system memory)
The two places were, the settlement before reaching the mine and on the aircraft carrier, while the admiral was speaking over the intercom system.
Funny, I remember experiencing slowdown in these same ares, when I originally played the game in 2007!
I must admit that the original game has held up pretty well! :)



This is the machines current build!

I'm still waiting on performance RAM, an ioDrive and high performance fans with a fan controller. (This is starting to cost me a small fortune! But I love it! :) )

 
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Irinikus

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I'm going to be ordering in three of these Corsair fans as well as this fan controller, as I can source them locally (I'm getting tired of having to import all of the parts that I need for this build, as it's expensive and it's taking forever!)





I would have loved to use the industrial Noctua fans, but I can't source them locally!!! The shipping and tax will cost me more than the fans themselves!
 

Irinikus

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The ioDrive's in and it works!!!! (Not quite 2GB per second, but pretty darn fast for system running a QX6850 in an EVGA nForce 680i SLI board!!!)





The drive also has just over 99% of its writes remaining, which is awesome!!!!

 
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Irinikus

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The machine's now at its maximum configuration:



My Alienware Area51 7500 - Machine Specs:

* EVGA nForce 680i SLI Motherboard
* QX6850 @ 3.67GHz
* 8GB Patriot DDR2 @ 800MHz CL 4-4-4-12
* Quadro Plex 1000 Model IV (Dual Quadro FX 5600)
* Two Kingston 240GB A400 SATA 3 2.5" Internal SSD SA400S37/240G - HDD’s in RAID 0
* Fusion-io ioDrive2Duo 2.4TB MLC Flash SSD PCIe Accelerator Card
 
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