Right Up The Middle

mikeblas

[H]ard|DCer of the Month - May 2006
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I used to get reviews from 2cpu.com, but their site has become quite stagnant. Is there another good place to look for reviews of server-class components?

What are good, conservative dual-proc boards these days?

I'd like to build a new server for myself at home. Dual proc, but I haven't even settled on a processor. Probably not Intel, as I don't feel like the cost is justified for this application. I'll build it around SATA, so SATA RAID is a plus. I'd rather not have onboard video, and certainly don't need onboard audio.

.B ekiM
 

mikeblas

[H]ard|DCer of the Month - May 2006
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defakto said:
dig through their forums instead, they are far more up todate.

Yeah, but the quality is far worse.

For now, I'm thinking about:

Tyan K8S (S2880UGNR)
2x Opteron 242
6x 512MB PC-3200 memory sticks
PC Power & Cooling supply

The K8S doesn't have enough SATA and does have SCSI. I'd like to find an Opteron solution tha doesn't have built-in SCSI.

.B ekiM
 

defakto

2[H]4U
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Look into the tiger/thuder k8w instead

also you get more update information on the forums like issues people have been having with a board instead of a straight review.
 

[H]EMI_426

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Being a news poster at 2cpu.com, it seems like people don't understand why hardware sites sometimes get stagnant. You try to get manufacturers to send you stuff, especially more expensive stuff. It's hard to do reviews without hardware to review. The people at 2cpu that do hardware reviews aren't made of money, either.

The site will eventually pick up. There are some reviews in the works. Good things come to those that wait.

It's ironic that you're posting at the [H] about the quality of 2cpu's forums. I'll pick 2cpu's forums over the [H] hands-down for asking technical questions, mostly cause the signal-to-noise ratio at 2cpu is much higher.
 

mikeblas

[H]ard|DCer of the Month - May 2006
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[H]EMI_426 said:
It's ironic that you're posting at the [H] about the quality of 2cpu's forums.

I think you've misunderstood me.

I think reviews written on most of the hardware sites are pretty poor. The editing for most sites is pretty bad; the writing isn't good. The reviews are often not careful, and sometimes leave me with more questions than answers.

Even with that in mind, I think the hardware site forums are a terrible place to get inspecific information about a product. They're also pretty bad places to seek comparative information.

When looking through forums, you end up reading about issues that are popular recently. People who are happy don't post -- or don't post regularly. Issues, even terrible ones, fall off the boards eventually. Searching on most forums is very much hit-or-miss.

Reviews don't leave me completely happy, but forums seem like a terrible place to get qualitative information. I like to read the reviews on the hardware sites because most magazines (which usually feature better writing and editing, and don't seem to have much problem getting products to review) don't review board-level products. Or, at least, not enough to be useful to me.

I'm sorry you felt the need to defend 2cpu.com. They were one of my favorite sites, before the stream of reviews dried-up.

.B ekiM
 

[H]EMI_426

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You have a point about the writing/editing quality of most reviews. I don't particularly enjoy reading a badly-written review. Lots of reviewers are just doing things "by the numbers" and may not have much of a background in a field that would provide them with the technical insight to understand what's really going on. However, I don't think that having a design-level understanding is a requirement to provide someone with a general impression of the merits, performance and limitations of hardware.

Most electrical engineers and computer engineers are out doing engineering, not writing hardware reviews.

What would you rather see? I'm not trying to be negative; I'm genuinely curious about what would make a "good" review?

As far as forums go, it depends on how they are used. If you ask a pointed question in the right place you'll probably find answers that are at least somewhat relevant. At 2cpu, I generally get useful information after a bit of sifting. Here at the [H] I get a lot of useless information and grief over my question, along with the occasional bit of useful information.
 

mikeblas

[H]ard|DCer of the Month - May 2006
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[H]EMI_426 said:
However, I don't think that having a design-level understanding is a requirement to provide someone with a general impression of the merits, performance and limitations of hardware.

Then, how do you show the merits and limitations?

[H]EMI_426 said:
What would you rather see? I'm not trying to be negative; I'm genuinely curious about what would make a "good" review?

Clear writing. Typos are typos, but hard to forgive if there's someone with the title "Editor" luring about. Some errors are so invasive that whole sentences and paragraphs can lose meaning.

Installation photos. This is particularly true about cases. If I see a review of a case featuring pictures of the cases with nothing in 'em one more time, I'll drill a hole in my monitor. What's the point? Why don't these "Sixteen Way Case Comparo Shootout!!" articles all try to build the same machine with the same motherboard in each case? I know it would take a terribly long time, but when I write professionally, I'm trying to help other people. Show me how the powersupply fits. How easy is it to route the cables? Will I need really long floppy cables, or the short ones? Prove to me that you actually used the case before reviewing it!

Insight. There's not much insight in reviews. Look at the pretty connectors, make some broken analogy (like "[This BIOS has] more voltage than a nuclear reactor"), and then run Sandra. These reviews aren't shedding light on the subject.

Quit quoting. Every site wants to be the first to post a review of some new bits, but it seems like they all sacrifice depth of reporting for that speed to market. They quote from the data sheets, steal pictures from presentations, and so on. I guess this just goes back to lack of insight, but it seems as though they're not even trying to validate the manufaturer's claims.

Clarity. Well, you do have to show the graphs eventually, right? Label them; explain them. Pick a reference platform and stick with it. Is 40394 incredibly fast, or incredibly slow? What's the unit? It's amazing how many graphs in reviews on these sites don't even mention the unit of the quantity they're graphing.

Comparison. Most comparisons I read are decent, because I at least learn the difference between two products. I think most people learn best when the new topic is related to an old topic that's understood ... or, at least, better known. It's been a long time since a stand-alone review has impressed me.

That's about all I can come up with now. Does that help you?

[H]EMI_426 said:
As far as forums go, it depends on how they are used. If you ask a pointed question in the right place you'll probably find answers that are at least somewhat relevant.

Sure. But for this part of the process (pre-purchase) I usually don't have a pointed question. Look at this thread, for instance. SuperMicro and Tyan used to be the great dual-proc motherboard makers. Are they still? I don't even know that. Should I consider a Tyan, or not? I can't imagine what I should be asking.

In a forum, if I asked "which motherboard should I'd buy", I'd expect to either get flamed, or get a bunch of answers based on religion and or empirical data for data sets that are too small.

One guy has to RMA one board from one maufacturer, and suddenly Whamco Motherboards aren't fit for human consumption by anyone, anywhere, ever, period. The three hundred thousand other users who are happier then heck aren't represented in the forum; happy people don't make much noise.

.B ekiM
 

[H]EMI_426

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mikeblas said:
Then, how do you show the merits and limitations?
Just about any way you can. For most people, that means quantifiable data...Benchmarks, more or less. You also point out design characteristics you like, etc. Comparisons with other, similarly-geared hardware is good. It doesn't hurt to mention the overall impression with the hardware, etc. What you're expecting to see will also vary depend on what's being reviewed. I'm not sure what else you're expecting to see from a review without having an engineer doing the reviewing.

mikeblas said:
Clear writing. Typos are typos, but hard to forgive if there's someone with the title "Editor" luring about. Some errors are so invasive that whole sentences and paragraphs can lose meaning.

Installation photos. This is particularly true about cases. If I see a review of a case featuring pictures of the cases with nothing in 'em one more time, I'll drill a hole in my monitor. What's the point? Why don't these "Sixteen Way Case Comparo Shootout!!" articles all try to build the same machine with the same motherboard in each case? I know it would take a terribly long time, but when I write professionally, I'm trying to help other people. Show me how the powersupply fits. How easy is it to route the cables? Will I need really long floppy cables, or the short ones? Prove to me that you actually used the case before reviewing it!

Insight. There's not much insight in reviews. Look at the pretty connectors, make some broken analogy (like "[This BIOS has] more voltage than a nuclear reactor"), and then run Sandra. These reviews aren't shedding light on the subject.

Quit quoting. Every site wants to be the first to post a review of some new bits, but it seems like they all sacrifice depth of reporting for that speed to market. They quote from the data sheets, steal pictures from presentations, and so on. I guess this just goes back to lack of insight, but it seems as though they're not even trying to validate the manufaturer's claims.

Clarity. Well, you do have to show the graphs eventually, right? Label them; explain them. Pick a reference platform and stick with it. Is 40394 incredibly fast, or incredibly slow? What's the unit? It's amazing how many graphs in reviews on these sites don't even mention the unit of the quantity they're graphing.

Comparison. Most comparisons I read are decent, because I at least learn the difference between two products. I think most people learn best when the new topic is related to an old topic that's understood ... or, at least, better known. It's been a long time since a stand-alone review has impressed me.
Fair enough. Too bad people aren't being paid to do this stuff. It seems like you're expecting professionalism from people that are doing these reviews as a hobby. I'd bet that most of the reviewers aren't English majors, never took statistics and aren't engineers. If you don't like the reviews, don't visit the sites.

Insight? What kind of insight are you looking for in a motherboard review? You've stated what people do in their reviews; how would you do it differently?

Quoting? Would you rather they plagarize? I don't think lifting the specs verbatim from a manufacturer's website is a great thing, but where else are they supposed to get statistics for the hardware? What are they supposed to tell people to expect? I don't see too many sites holding up manufacturer-supplied performance numbers as examples without saying they would provide their own performance data later. Most sites only use manufacturers' specifications for number of connectors, supported CPUs, other features of the board, etc. I think that's fine, but I don't think using manufacturer-supplied performance numbers is acceptable.

I've never written a hardware review for a website. However, soon I will be writing an article for 2cpu.com. I was a typesetter, copy editor and managing editor at a publishing firm for years, so a lot of your suggestions seem like common sense---or even second nature---to me.

Don't get me wrong, I agree with you on a lot of your points. However, I think you're expecting too much from people doing this stuff as a hobby.

Why don't you try it? Since you seem to have such a vision of how the reviews should work, why don't you contact some hardware sites and ask if they'd like some help? Or, better yet, set up, maintain and pay for the cost of operation yourself. Have you tried suggesting improvements to reviews to reviewers?
 

gnewbury

[H]ard|DCer of the Month - September 2007
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mikeblas said:
<snip>
Clear writing. Typos are typos, but hard to forgive if there's someone with the title "Editor" luring about. Some errors are so invasive that whole sentences and paragraphs can lose meaning.
.B ekiM
I have to agree - especially about the typos with Editors "luring" about. :)
Some personal complaints - frequent use of "loose" instead of "lose".
Regurgitation of sales material without actually testing, Often it is not even "quoted", just dumped wholeheartedly.

10CPU (binary :) ) is an excellent hardware site that needs more input. Can anyone name a better free site for real news about duallies ?
Especially for the few of us that buy them out of our pocket for use at home. But also for those that buy them at work.
 

Snugglebear

[H]F Junkie
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11,436
[H]EMI_426 said:
Fair enough. Too bad people aren't being paid to do this stuff. It seems like you're expecting professionalism from people that are doing these reviews as a hobby. I'd bet that most of the reviewers aren't English majors, never took statistics and aren't engineers. If you don't like the reviews, don't visit the sites.

The conclusion is correct, but some of us still expect professionalism in pretty much all endeavors - worker pride and all that old-school 'BS'. If people settle for shit, they get shit.
 

sponz

Limp Gawd
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May 4, 2000
Messages
410
I've been on the forums of both sites (hardocp and 2cpu) for years. I've not posted much on either, but i have been a long time lurker.

Over the time i have reader on both sites, I have notied a very large difference between the two sites. The forums at 2cpu are considerably smaller, but luckily they make up for it with some quality people. Do not get me wrong, there are plenty of good people here at the hard, but for every cool person, there are 4 smacktards just due to the size.

I know you were talking specifically about reviews, but the forums were brought up. There are alot of people on the 2cpu forums, that if they speak, you better listen. Just a couple to name are Jeh and BBA. BBA has not been active lately, but some of the stuff he has done is nothing short of amazing. Jeh just knows windows, unlike anyone else i've seen post.

To sum up my opinion: hardocp is much more of a gamers website. 2cpu has part of the gamer mentality but a much older age demographic. :D I would not give up either one, and will probably always read both!
 

mikeblas

[H]ard|DCer of the Month - May 2006
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[H]EMI_426 said:
Fair enough. Too bad people aren't being paid to do this stuff. It seems like you're expecting professionalism from people that are doing these reviews as a hobby. I'd bet that most of the reviewers aren't English majors, never took statistics and aren't engineers. If you don't like the reviews, don't visit the sites.

I don't know if I'm expecting professionalism, because I'm not positive what that means. I just expect something better than what I usually find.

Even if they're not English majors, they're sending their words out into the world to do their work. They've signed their name to the review. Would it be so hard to proofread it? Or have the editor look it over for a bit?

I don't read the sites, generally. I poke around a bit before I make a purchase, and that's about three times every two years.

[H]EMI_426 said:
Insight? What kind of insight are you looking for in a motherboard review? You've stated what people do in their reviews; how would you do it differently?

Well, why are you telling me to read the forums? Why do the forums contain more insight than the featured reviews?

Seems to me the reviewers are supposed to be using the product, then telling me how it went. Does the vendor-supplied hardware monitor suck ass? Does SpeedFan or MBM work with this motherboard? Did Windows install OK, or are the drivers on the floppy screwed-up?

Instead, I get six pictures of the unopened product box. How is that useful to anyone?

The numbers for benchmarks are generally pretty uninspired. Does this board work better with Brand Y RAM? Is the benchmark number reported by the article because the memory is badass, or because the board is badass? Or just a lucky combo? Why did the reviewer choose Brand Y memory for the review, and not Brand X? Or Brand Y Super?

Most of the reviews I've read read like a gradeschooler mailing-in a report about Germany. "Accoring to SiSoft Sandra, it has a land area of 53 megabytes per second, and three IDE ports on the Black Sea."

One site that has reviews that I like is StorageReview.com. They're consistent, and they usually try to pick apart the benchmark numbers they report. Why does one drive have better number than the other one? This lets the reader build some insight into the products being discussed.

Why don't you try it? Since you seem to have such a vision of how the reviews should work, why don't you contact some hardware sites and ask if they'd like some help? Or, better yet, set up, maintain and pay for the cost of operation yourself.

I've written several reviews for two or three different magazines. I've got a daytime job, and I'm not to interested in doing that kind of thing if I'm not getting paid for it. If a site wants to pay me market rates, then I'd be happy to. I'd even consider doing it if I got to keep the hardware.

But I certainly have no reason to run my own site, and I'm not sure why you'd suggest I'd do that.

Have you tried suggesting improvements to reviews to reviewers?

Yep. I wote to that Austrialian guy -- who is it, Dan's Hardware House, or something? -- about taking pictures of cases he reviews after they're built. I bought one of those new V-series Lian Li cases, where the motherboard mounts opposite the way it does in most other cases. 0The case opens on the right side, not the left.) The reviewer mentioned it in his review, and it has a very interesting effect on cable routing. He mentioned that, but a picture would have helped substantially.

He didn't respond.

.B ekiM
 

[H]EMI_426

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I'm all for proofreading/spell-checking, etc. Most sites don't have an editor and most people are lazy. Personally, I make damn sure that the stuff I post (outside of forums) is generally in fairly decent shape. I've been called a nit-picker and a perfectionist, though.

As far as the insight thing goes, reviews at 2cpu.com generally do include information about how the OS install went and other such details. They don't do too much with details about how the driver CD included with the motherboard works out, though. I can't speak for too many other sites cause I don't read a lot of reviews unless I'm researching a specific piece of hardware.

It seems like you're looking for more of a "total package" evaluation than how the hardware works on its own. I can see that. Makes sense to me. Maybe people just don't see things the same way.

Some people don't take well to suggestions, either. Sad, but true.

In short, I agree with you that reviews could be a lot better at most places. I doubt I'll be writing any hardware reviews any time soon, though.
 
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[H]EMI_426 said:
Fair enough. Too bad people aren't being paid to do this stuff. It seems like you're expecting professionalism from people that are doing these reviews as a hobby.
I've to agree that the folks over at 2CPU.com are probably the most dedicated people around the web. No only do they run the site in their spare time, but they genuinely care about what they do. They're enthusiastic and they, in their own way, gives the place an unique buzz, even without frequent hardware reviews.

The forums reflect that, in a way. Being the 'chief spammer' in the 2CPU.com forums, I know for a fact that if I don't have anything to contribute to a serious topic, I stay clear of it - let the people who can contribute get their messages through.
 

dagamore

Gawd
Joined
Oct 25, 2002
Messages
649
2cpu is a great place to read and post on the forums, and i love the review, the few that are out there, but more are coming. and the depth and the quality of the reviews are right about what i look for in a review, and it is just not a forum with out a never dieing milkshake thread :D

what exactly are you looking for, i see that you dont have it narrowed down even to cpu brand let alone type, just dual and with SATA (hopefully raided)

I would use either the PC-DL for a xeon solution, and the 400fsb xeons are cheap right now, and most OC very nicely, and the 533 are not too badly priced.

if you want an amd setup, you could go for a dual opti like i did, with a tyan entry level board, raid sata works great (hell i am folding/posting from it now) with dual opteron 246, great price for the 2.0ghz smp chips, the 248 were just too big of a price jump at the time to justify the .2 ghz speed bump. but my board does not have any OC options at all.

if you want a cheap amd setup, go with an MP setup, you could even l5 mod a XP chip to work as an MP, and they tyan tiger is a good board, but the chipset is old, and no SATA at all, but you could use a promise raid card (~100usd). with the MP's the 2500 are really cheap right now, like the price of one 246! but are not 64bit chips, and are old and slow on the fsb comparied to newer chips.

if you want really cheap you could always build any smp system with just one cpu, and add the second one latter, with windows, just update the hal if it does not prompt you, dont know about linux, all my linux installs on dual boards, already had both chips in them.


hope this helps some
Daga More
#26 on 2cpu folding team but geting more power every day (i.e. turnning systems back now that i have DSL again)
ps fold for 2cpu team 3074, or any team for that mater, just fold.
 
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