Building a Linux-based HTPC Part 2

Ordering my P7H57D-M EVO HTPC

This is a continuation of Part 1 of my adventures in building an Open Source HTPC.

I did a lot of price comparison, and purchased parts from Amazon (for the chassis), ExcaliberPC (for the power supply), and SuperWarehouse for the motherboard, CPU and memory. Amazon also sold the power supply at a good price, but they wanted $50 shipping!

SuperWarehouse review – not good

Well, I am not pleased with SuperWarehouse. . I used them because they had free shipping if the order was over $300. When I ordered the motherboard, the web site said they had one board in stock. Then I get an email saying it’s backordered. So I said I wanted the CPU and memory anyway. They didn’t ship the order for 8 days, or even let me know when they planned to ship it.  Everything else I ordered, even after all of the changes, and still nothing from SuperWarehouse. I canceled the order by email. The email reply was that “Sorry. The order is submitted. We can’t cancel it.” So I called them in person, and talked to someone, who canceled it. And to top it all off, they charged my credit card! Yes, they never shipped me anything, yet I find a charge on my credit card. I send an email, and they quickly responded, but charging credit cards before the parts are in stock is just wrong.

The rest of the vendors

I had to find another vendor for the mobo. I next went to FuturePowerPC. I ordered the mobo which was in stock. Get an email – out of stock. I next tried NextDayPC, and they said they had 24 units in stock. I placed the order, and they did not have any in stock! What type of !#@% inventory system do they use that has 24 missings motherboards!!! Their website lies.

Sigh… I looked around some more. I called one vendor, who said the mobo was obsolete. He wanted to sell me the -PRO version. I checked the Asus web site, and looked some more, to see that they have a Asus p7h57d EVO as well as Asus p7h55d EVO. Unlike the P7H55D boards, of which there are 10 variations,  the P7H57D board only has the -EVO version. It looked like this verison “had a few more months of tweaking” according to bit-tech. When I started looking for the P7H57D-EVO, Amazon had it for the lowest price, and quick delivery, so I used them.

I looked for another vendor for the CPU, and decided on buy.com. I’d normally pick Amazon, but sometimes Amazon delays shipping for a week, and the CPU and memory became critical because I had all of the other parts. Despite the delays that Amazon has in shipping, and despite the fact that I don;t have a Prime membership, Amazon has been very dependable. I placed all orders in one day, and after several days of waiting, anc cancelling, and choosing Amazon to ship a second order, the stuff from Amazon came faster that many of the other vendors shipping FexEx (8 days for the PSU).

I also decided to order the memory directly from Crucial, because of the good experience I had returning the old memory. This was not a pleasant experience. I used the same credit card for a dozen purchases. When I tried to use the same card on Crucial, they insisted on getting a SecureCode number from MasterCard. I did not sign up for this with MasterCard, and frankly, I don’t want the service. If I did, then the other 10 orders I placed would have been rejected.  What good is a service that prevents you from doing business with 95% of the vendors out there? As far as I know, Crucial is the only vendor that requests this. To add to the frustration, this extra requirement poped up in a new tab on my browser. I typically have 20 tabs open at once, and I didn’t notice the new tab. I repeated the entire purchase process several times, worrying that by reloading the page, I’d be charged twice.

So I finally completed my purchase using PayPal, which I did not want to do.

Additionally, when I used Crucial to suggest a memory board for my system, none of the parts seemed to match the list of parts on Asus’s Qualified Vendor List. But Crucial had a guaranty, so I will try the one they recommend. Well, it didn’t work, even though I used their oin-line tool to select a memory card. I contacted them, and they gave me a RMA. However, I the package has to arrive within 10 business days.

I ordered a Dual Channel DVI-D cable from J&R. They also wanted MasterCard SecureCode. I used PayPal instead. Grrr.

After placing the order for the Motherboard, I started looking at the P8H67-EVO. Perhaps this would have been a better choice. Here’s a tip. Always look at Amazon’s rankings of products. The P8P67d is a LGA1155 mobo. But the parts are already ordered. Oh well.

During the assembly/diagnosis process, I needed to get replacement parts. This is a real pain in the butt. Asus tells me to swap out the CPU and memory first. So how do I do that? Do I wait 2 weeks to get a replacement CPU?

And then wait another two weeks to get a replacement memory?

Some advice on buying components

Method #1 -Build with a buddy

You may want to find someone who wants to do the same thing as you. This may be near impossible, but if you have two of everything, diagnosing a problem is much easier.

Method #2 – Buy 2, and return one

You can order duplicates of every part, and then return the parts that you don’t need. Some vendors might be nicer than others. It’s a crap-shoot.

Method #3 – Buy from Amazon

FuturePowerPC.com sucks

I ordered the CPU from them because of the price.  I waited 10 days, to discover the CPU had not shipped, and I would not have discovered that unless I contacted them to find out the status.

NextDayPC.com sucks

They said they had 24 in stock. I orderd the product to find out they are out of stock.

buy.com sucks

Delivery was fast. Returns was easy. What was the problem? After returning the CPU, their web site says it takes 7-10 days to process the return. I contacted them to get the status, and then I found out that the CPU is out of stock. I got a refund. But if I had not contacted them, I don;t know when I would have found out.

Amazon.com rocks!

After dealing with a dozen vendors, Amazon is the best.  When I returned the Motherboard, Amazon sent me a replacement before I returned the original motherboard. They also gave me a month to return the second motherboard.

The reasons I didn’t first choose Amazon:

  • Other stores offered faster delivery. I don’t have Amazon prime, and I didn’t want to wait 10 days for my parts.
  • Other stores had cheaper prices. One dealer offered free shipping if I spent $300.
  • Other stores do not change state tax.

Advantages to using Amazon

  • Returns are easy and free
  • They will send you replacements before you ship the broken part back. Therefore you may be able to diagnose problems by having two units of each kind.
  • The popularity of the device is very useful. If you are buying some part that is rare, or unpopular, then you might be in trouble. It might be obsolete. Amazon can help you make sure you are using mainstream technology.
  • Amazon provides comparisons to similar products, and to related products. 99% of the time the “some people buy this instead of this” is useless to me because it rarely gives you unbiased views. It’s usually the same vendor that is suggested, but just a variation of the same product. But this is useful at times. For instance, when you buy a CPU, it reminds you of faster/slower versions of the same CPU.

If I had ordered from Amazo initially, I would have had all of the parts, and the replacement parts by now. But it’s been a month, and I still do not able to successfully boot.

Here’s how I assembled the PC. Continued.

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