The case had plenty of room so getting the motherboard and drives in wasn’t a problem. The cover is held on by one thumbscrew but it fits securely and is easy to remove. The only hitch I had was the lack of an available SATA power connector for the DVD reader so I had to order a molex to sata power cable.
I used the Intel supplied cooler and sure enough, as others have described it seems pretty cheap. I’ll monitor the temperature to see how it does. So far heat isn’t an issue. The PC has been running for over 24 hours (although not doing much more than idling) and the cpu temperature is 13°C which is well under the 73.2°C maximum for the E2180 cpu. In fact, my biggest complaint so far is that with the computer sitting to the left of my desk the fans are blowing cold air towards me. If things stay cool I may pull the power on the fans or replace them with the panels supplied with the case.
The PC is quiet as promised. Because the PC sits at desk level and the fans blow towards me I do hear the sound of them running a bit. It’s more the sound of the air moving than hearing a motor run.
Even though I’d read that Windows Vista couldn’t be installed from a SATA drive (in some cases) I had to give it a try. Out of the box it wouldn’t boot the DVD. Rather than fiddle with the BIOS I just hooked up a spare IDE drive. Eventually I’ll return to the problem and tinker with the BIOS.
The actual Vista install went off without a hitch. I didn’t time it since I went away for the bulk of the install where it was extracting a copying files. But when I returned expecting it to be done it was. It was less than 30 minutes. Whether it was 10 or 20 minutes less I couldn’t say.
The Vista install didn’t have drivers for the on-board video so it used the standard VGA drivers until I installed the drivers from Zotac once the installation was finished.
The Acer monitor that I have has three video in ports, a HDMI, VGA and a DVI port. The DVI port is connected to my iMac as a second monitor. I decided to try connecting the new PC up via an HDMI port since the motherboard had an onboard HDMI port. This is where I had the first real problem. The video quality stinks and is distorted. It’s bad even when the BIOS screens are displayed so it’s unlikely that Vista is the problem. Even so, I played around with BIOS and driver settings for awhile without success. Unfortunately I don’t have a second HDMI cable or output device to narrow down the problem.
The HDMI port problem isn’t a huge issue, although it would be nice to know if it’s a hardware problem while the hardware is still under warranty. I don’t plan on having a monitor attached to the Vista machine on a regular basis and if I do need one I can use the VGA cable.
I’m using Microsoft’s Remote Desktop for Mac to connect into the Vista machine. Since they’re on the same switch performance should be good. No complaints yet but I haven’t stressed the system at all.
I had a second Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB hard drive so I decided to install it and try out the RAID on the motherboard. Using the “Windows Experience” number after a fresh Vista install there wasn’t a performance difference between the motherboard raid and a single hard drive. Both returned a score of 5.9. When configured for RAID I had to load the RAID drivers (from the motherboard driver CD) in order for Vista to see the drives and install. The driver auto detect didn’t work and I had to browse to the Vista 64 drivers but once they were loaded everything was fine. Since I want the hard drive for my Windows Home Server I ended up removing the second drive.
Speaking of the Windows Experience score, here’s the score once the install was finished and the latest drivers were in place. It’s not surprising that the on-board video is the limiting component.
The results from CPU-Z are shown in the following screenshots. Click the thumbnail to see them full size.
So, it’s been running for about two days without incident (such as bursting into flames). Time to start installing some software.