Well, it’s finished, and it was worth the effort! The Blaster PC is a good example on how to put together a “buildable” kit for the mass market. It comes with everything you would need to put it together and gives a list of items (tools) needed for assembly. I purchased it from Tiger Direct for $150 – the kit includes case, motherboard, built-in FM tuner and remote control; everything else, like CPU, CD ROM etc, is extra.
The instruction manual was spiral bound (a nice touch I might add), well written with plenty of pics to show the novice builder just where everything goes.
Ok, I said I would write about the entire process, so here goes – and remember folks, this is my first article of any kind so please be patient with me.
Ordering was easy with a credit card – I got confirmation within five minutes of my order, but there was a delay in getting my order filled and I later found out why – the DVD drive was no good and they replaced it before sending it out. Nice to know they tested everything beforehand.
UPS was their usual slow selves, and when it finally arrived I was surprised to see that the entire order came at the same time.
Upon opening the big box, I found they had glued foam rubber to a cardboard backing, and the case and mobo was surrounded in it.
The case has a one piece cover (old school) but the case itself was a joy to work with and in – no sharp edges to speak of and the floppy and HD cages are removable – and it also has a slide out mobo tray.
Assembly was relatively simple and, with the manual handy, I had no real difficulties except that the mobo didn’t want to line up right away.
On to the next phase of the kit: Choosing add-in parts. I went with the Nvidia TNt2m64, because I had it already and is adequate for dvd playback, and gaming; also because this computer only has ATA33 IDE interface, I chose to go with a 5400 rpm Maxtor 30G (ATA100), instead of the 7200. We haven’t decided on a modem yet, so I didn’t get one.
The mainboard is the Creative Blaster Board, slot one, with i440BX chipset and the Soundblaster live platinum chip onboard. And with two ISA and four PCI slots, there is plenty of room for any modem, NIC, and RAID card you might want to throw in.
After assembly came time to load the software, and this is where I ran into my first hiccup – the floppy drive I picked out was a Magic spin from IOmagic (29.00+ tax). The mainboard did not like it so I exchanged it for another, and had the same problem again; no matter how I setup the boot process, it simply refused to boot from a CD. Wanting to finish this project, I robbed my known good floppy out of my box and proceeded to boot up for the first time.
The BIOS setup program was simple enough and it was able to go right to 133 MHz FSB (in “chipset features”); by the way, when you raise the bus speed, it tells you right there in the BIOS what your CPU speed will be, as well as the PCI speed. I didn’t see any voltage tweaks, but I was in a hurry to deliver this system, and didn’t really look for it.
Loading the OS was the usual dull affair and, after about thirty minutes or so, I was ready to get going with the SB Live! Bundle. Everything loaded fine and seems to work, including the remote; although it is a little cumbersome for me, it’s kind of cool to be able to start programs from across the room, raise the volume and tune in the built in FM receiver.
This system is one of the best “barebones” kits I have ever seen, and to my surprise it all works! After loading the SB Live! Bundle, I played with the FM tuner, and the remote, and found the FM tuner to be a little weak, but that could be because of the close proximity to my other running computers, and it seemed to have an AM like whine to weak signals.
I decided to see if the soft DVD worked, and popped in the Matrix, and with a lowly PIII 500 (katmai), playback was superb, but with a slight hiccup every twenty minutes or so; maybe the task scheduler was interfering – I don’t know, but it wasn’t too much of an annoyance.
All in all, I would say that this kit is worth the money, especially for the first time builder. I mean, the SB Live Platinum sound card by itself costs around $100.00 U.S., and the Blaster Kit goes for $150.00, so it is economical too.
I wonder If Creative has any plans to “upgrade” to the 815, or maybe even an AMD platform in the future. I for one will be watching for another kit like this, but with a newer chipset.