Category: Windows


Disclaimer:
The system being reviewed was provided for free by AMD as part of the AMD Test Drive program.

The Parts:

AMD A10-6800K APU w/stock AMD HSF
MSI FM2-A85XA-G65 Motherboard
AMD Radeon 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3-1866 RAM
Kingston V300 60GB SSD
LG GH24NS95 DVD-RAM with M-Disc Support
Fractal Arc Midi R2 Case
Fractal Tesla R2 650W PSU
Windows 7 Professional
Windows 8

The Assembly:

The assembly went smoothly with one exception. The SSD mounts located behind the motherboard tray on the case are not easy to work with. You can only mount or remove the drives when the motherboard is not installed. You will also either need some standoffs to make the SSD’s sit higher, or SSD power cables that are flatter than those provided on most power supplies. Even the included Fractal Tesla R2 PSU made by the same manufacturer as the case didn’t take this into consideration.

So initially my SSD install was going to look like this:

I ended up having to install them in the lower 3 drive bays that you see on the left. This meant having to remove and remount the motherboard.

In addition to the hardware provided by AMD I also installed my 80GB Intel SSD, 1TB Western Digital HDD, a Lite-On iHOS104 Blu-Ray Drive, and a PCI Wi-Fi card.

The final assembly of the internal components looked like this:

Software Setup:

After assembly I proceeded to install Windows 8 Pro (in lieu of the non–Pro version provided by AMD), followed by an upgrade using my Media Center Key for Windows 8 Pro (not provided by AMD). The setup went smoothly and was over within a matter of a few minutes. It was the fastest OS install I have ever completed in approximately 20 years of building my own PC’s.

I installed the drivers for my Wi-Fi card and then installed all of the latest software from the MSI website for the motherboard. After a quick reboot I installed the latest non-beta video drivers from AMD. Everything went exactly as expected with no issues during the installs. I also installed all my programs that I normally use in Windows 8. This includes Netflix, Hulu Plus, Kindle, Nook, & the default Windows 8 apps like Mail, People, Messaging, etc. I then installed Office 2013 Professional Plus (not provided by AMD) and finished by installing all updates for the OS and Office via Microsoft Update.

I enabled Hyper-V as I test system images before I deploy them on production hardware.

 

Initial Observations:

One of the first things that I noticed is that I was unable to use Netflix or Hulu Plus. I had known this was the case on my older system, but I had assumed it was due to that system being several years old. It turns out that when you enable Hyper-V on Windows 8 systems that use an AMD graphics solution it causes apps like Netflix and Hulu Plus to not work due to the DRM used to protect the content. The only recourse is to disable Hyper-V when you want to use Netflix or Hulu Plus. I am hoping that AMD develops a solution for this problem soon, as this is not an issue on systems with nVidia or Intel graphics.

Benchmarks demonstrate a vast improvement over the Dell XPS 410 that I owned for 7 years, with some scenarios showing an improvement of over 120%. They also show a solid improvement over the A10-5800k system I had built recently with improvements ranging from 10% up to 30% depending upon the scenario.

 

Everyday Usage:

I’ve now had this system up and running for a week. Performance around all tasks has been extremely smooth. Office 2013 apps load within 1-2 seconds. Gaming has been nice on the integrated Radeon HD 8760D. All of the games I play perform as expected with no stuttering or glitches at the native resolution of 1680×1050.

 

System Temperature:

The temperature for the system stays fairly low. On a day when it was nearly 100 degrees (37.7 Celsius) the APU temperature didn’t go above 40 Celsius while sitting idle. With an ambient room temperature of 75 degrees (23.8 Celsius) the APU sits at around 35 Celsius at idle. Even pushing the system hard with Prime95 resulted in a max temperature of 56 Celsius with an ambient room temperature of 75 degrees (23.8 Celsius). The system dropped back to 35 Celsius at idle within 60 seconds.

 

Final Thoughts:

I avoided upgrading my system for the last 7 years due to the rock solid nature of my prior system. It was a system where everything just worked with no real effort needed on my part. With the exception of the Hyper-V issues it seems that this system will also serve me well in that regard. I just hope that a resolution for that issue comes sooner rather than later.

New Redundancy

Hello everyone! I’m finally back after a long rest.

Right now I’m sitting at the AMC Pacific Place 11 Theater in Seattle.  They have some Windows commercials on the big screen that are on a repeat while Denali tries to get their presentation up and running.  So far they are 20 minutes late and I have no idea what is going on.

I have to say that so far this year I am unimpressed.  They moved the venue from the Washington State Convention Center (right across the street from here) to this theater.  There are only half a dozen vendors here this year as opposed to the 3-dozen present at the Server 2008/Vista event in 2008.

Denali has finally managed to get their gear working, only 26 minutes late which left me to choose between the Windows Phone session or this Denali session.  I’m sticking with Denali since it was Windows 7 related even though the original agenda would have allowed me to attend both sessions.  The presenters seem like they weren’t prepared to give a session at all.  They rattled off the basic stats about their company.  Then the speaker cracks a joke about how they are terrible at presentations, but that Microsoft is letting them give a way an XBox if we stay and listen.  This does not fill me with confidence or optimism for the quality of the next presenters.

At the end of the “pre-show” vendor presentations there is a drawing for 3 XBox 360’s. So many people have left that they had to keep calling out new numbers for several minutes just to get 3 winners.  Remember folks, this is still before the show starts, so those people who left early also forfeited their Windows 7 discs as well. It feels like it’s minutes to midnight here before it’s even begun. (Kudos to anyone who gets that reference)

The drawing is finally over and there are more technical issues cropping up, as seems to be the theme for the day.  The Windows 7 track (not sure about the Server and Exchange Tracks) is now officially starting late. The presenters finally make their way to the front. They gloss over almost everything, no deep diving into details at this event at all. They don’t stick to the agenda, and end up talking about the same 2 or 3 technologies almost endlessly.

This is “The New Efficiency”?

Starting late, dropping vendors, lowering attendance rates by using smaller venues, lowering the catering to apples, nutrigrain bars, and water, not having your equipment already setup, and having speakers who aren’t prepared to use the actual agenda. Oh, and not providing 64-bit media for attendees while repeating how awesome 64-bit is over and over again throughout the event.

I have to say if this is how Microsoft intends to continue marketing Windows 7 to the IT crowd they are going to have a long road ahead of them.

So today I’m sitting in my non air-conditioned bedroom on the second floor of my house.  The place hits around the mid-90’s on a day when it’s only in the low-80’s outside.  I decide that I’m going to head to a local park where it’s heavily wooded, so it should be nice and cool.

Before I leave I decide I should grab a couple small items for my Kindle that I’ve been meaning to pick up anyways.  So I head over to grab a copy of Wil Wheaton’s ‘Just a Geek’ which I recommended in my Kindle post.  I’m hoping to have some laughs, and also some reflection which is what Wil does best.  I then figure I should take the time to actually go to all of his other books listings on Amazon and press the little ‘I’d like to read this book on Kindle’ link.  So from the ‘Just a Geek’ listing I click on Wil’s name so it’ll take me to his listing.

BLUESCREEN!

Bluescreen

Windows 7 has now shat itself.

I look and see it’s an error caused by a file named atihdmi.sys. Being fluent in geek parlance tells me this means that for some reason the click sound (Windows ‘clicks’ when you click a link…sort of redundant) being sent from Windows via the HDMI port on my video card to my TV (which is being used as a secondary monitor) just caused the whole system to just go splat.

See Wil, these are the sorts of things that happen when you don’t respect the Kindle.  I hope you’ve learned your lesson.

As for ATi, you’re next on my list, so I suggest you learn how to sleep with your eyes open.