ZaReason's Valta X79

I was recently contacted by Earl Malmrose of ZaReason, who wanted to know if I'd like to review ZaReason's new Linux-based desktop computer, built around the new Intel 6-Core processor and quad channel memory. I told him I'd be thrilled to review it, and asked if he'd also include a snappy ATI video card so I really could push the system to the limit using one of my favorite side hobbies, namely cryptocurrencies.

I start with a review of the system itself and finish with a bit of fun—I run the numbers and see what sort of CPU and GPU-hashing power I can get from it. Whether you think cryptocurrencies are a brilliant take on alternative economics or a dumb idea that wastes electricity, I can assure you no one knows how to overclock hardware quite like a Bitcoin miner. (I don't actually overclock this system, since I'm sure ZaReason would like it back in full working order, but I push it to the max with stock settings.)

The Construction

Generally, if you want a case that a regular human can change parts on, you build your own machine. That's more of a guideline than a rule, but it seems most big computer companies like to make their cases as proprietary as possible. Sure, you might be able to fit your computer system into a size 4 shoebox, but good luck if you ever want to upgrade your hardware. ZaReason, on the other hand, includes a standard CoolerMaster brand mid-side tower case. I use the term "mid-size" rather sheepishly, as it's the quite large "G-Lite 430 Black" (Figure 1).

Figure 1. The Valta X79 has ZaReason branding, but is otherwise sporting an unmodified CoolerMaster case (image from http://www.zareason.com).

ZaReason has nicely branded the case with its company name, but otherwise left it the standard CoolerMaster unit—refreshing, no? To be fair, the case itself is a bit more flexible than I'd like, but it doesn't feel cheap by any means. Part of its flexibility is due to the massive amount of ventilation it boasts (Figure 2). Because the X79 is meant to be a powerhouse, the cooling consideration is greatly appreciated. In fact, it comes with an additional case fan installed on the side to help keep the beast within on the cool side.

Figure 2. This ventilation is appropriate, but it does make the case feel a bit flimsy.

On the front panel, the case sports a power button and reset button, as one would expect. It also has the following:

  • Two USB 2.0 ports.

  • Headphone and microphone jacks (analog).

The back of the case provides quite a generous set of connections (Figure 3), including:

  • Six USB 2.0 ports.

  • Two USB 3.0 ports (clearly marked).

  • One PS/2 port.

  • Gigabit Ethernet port.

  • 8 channel, 7.1 analog jacks.

  • Coaxial SPDIF-out.

  • SPDIF-optical out.

  • One 1394 port (400Mbit).

  • External CMOS reset button.

Figure 3. The ports are easy to access, and the external CMOS reset button is very convenient.

Of course, all those ports really tell the story of the motherboard more than the case, so I cover that next.

______________________

Shawn Powers is an Associate Editor for Linux Journal. You might find him chatting on the IRC channel, or Twitter

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extremely interesting review!

rbthorne's picture

About 6 months ago, in India, I read in an Indian newspaper that Cuba, India, and at least a few South American countries were switching their public schools' computer operating systems to Linux, as I recall the Ubuntu distribution. This is best from the standpoints of speed, reliability, affordability, learning "real computers", and one's own security of confidential information in a situation where the Microsoft OS "vulnerabilities" have made your computer, and confidential information, an open book to people who have no right to be prying into everything that's yours and should be yours alone. Personally, I believe that CNN (Cee No News) is a front for powers that wish us to believe things that are simply not true. It's my opinion, from knowing someone who worked at AT&T Bell Labs, Murray Hill, New Jersey and saw many things, that Microsoft and Windows were more the creation of Bell Labs scientists, with Bill Gates as the "front man" (like Ted Turner with CNN) by powers who really want access to your personal information, political inclinations, personal plans, etc., and the ability to "lock up-freeze up" and to "make disappear" what you were working on for hours, on your Windows computer, when you were just ready to post it. I still don't know how they seem to "correctly anticipate" this timing when it's almost certainly done by software, and there are not enough people doing "Humint" (human intelligence-spying) to get this done properly. I've read that China is responsible for interfering with, and monitoring, a lot of what goes on with computers in U.S. households, corporations, etc. I also believe that the "antitrust lawsuit" against Microsoft was a farce, and a diversion, to divert our thinking away from this reality.

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."

"There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible. But in the end they always fall. Think of it. Always." -- Mahatma Gandhi

"You shall

It is quite useful and

Kratom Thai's picture

It is quite useful and informative review indeed.

GPU mining likely over in a few monts

Anonymous's picture

If you buy a GPU for Bitcoin mining, know that in a few months the reward mechanism will be dropping by half and the mining proceeds will likely drop below the cost of electricity as a result.

So hopefully you are buying the GPU for other purposes as well and won't be surprised when it never pays for itself from mining.

The scrypt-based mining will probably get a huge number of mining refugees from (sha256-based) Bitcoin so that likely won't be a good backup plan either.

Additionally, the FPGAs available today are much more efficient on power for mining, but even those will be obsoleted by the ASIC hardware that is expected in a matter of months as well.

Parts good, but in my experience, assembled poorly

Anonymous's picture

Where I work we use Linux quite extensively and we gave ZaReason a try. The parts are great, price is quite good ...however, they were assembled quite poorly. Weird stuff too. Stuff plugged into the mobo backwards. We had to send 3 back of the 6 or 7 we ordered [ I'm not even counting the one's we sent into production after fixing the stuff plugged in wrong ]. This is a promising company but someone seriously needs to bump up the level of quality control in the assembly room. Also, the cases are chintzy and flimsy on the ones we ordered.

Operating System

Angus Williams's picture

I am curious as to why they installed, and or are using Kubuntu 11.10 as oppose to 12.04 LTS

From the mag

Shawn Powers's picture

This review was originally in the magazine, and at the time of the review, 12.04 was still in beta.

Shawn Powers is an Associate Editor for Linux Journal. You might find him chatting on the IRC channel, or Twitter

ATI?

Mike D.'s picture

You get hardware with a Linux OS and ask for an ATI graphics card? Don't you consider that a bit weird? If you want gfx power you choose a Nvidia card and use the proprietary driver!

Bitcoins

Shawn Powers's picture

I specifically wanted to test cryptocurrency mining on the machine. ATI cards are orders of magnitude better at mining bitcoins than Nvidia cards.

Shawn Powers is an Associate Editor for Linux Journal. You might find him chatting on the IRC channel, or Twitter

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