ZaReason's Valta X79

The Mother (Board)

The specifications on the Valta X79 don't specify a brand name for the motherboard, so I won't focus on the name printed on the board, but rather the features it boasts. First off, in order to handle the 3930K second-generation Sandy Bridge i7 CPU, the motherboard has the Intel X79 chipset and LGA-2011 socket. (More on the CPU in a bit.) Adding to the CPU itself, the X79 has:

  • Three PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots.

  • Four PCI-E x1 slots.

  • Four DDR3 Quad-Channel RAM slots.

  • 16GB DDR3 RAM @1600MHz (4x4GB).

Another pleasant surprise was the power supply included with the Valta X79. Because this build included a sizable GPU along with the zippy CPU, ZaReason installed an 850 watt PSU. Although the wattage is about what I'd expect, I was happy to see the power supply was an 80 Plus Gold-rated unit. Often when building a machine for brute horsepower, little thought is given to efficiency. Thankfully, that's not the case here. 80 Plus Gold certification means the power supply is 87% efficient at 20% load, 90% efficient at 50% load, and 87% efficient at 100% load. As it happens, when this system is running full bore with both the GPU and CPU maxed out, it's using almost exactly 425 watts. Whether it was a coincidence or not, it means the PSU was sized exactly right for maximum efficiency. Well played, ZaReason.

Figure 4. The interior is roomy and cabling neat, allowing for maximum airflow.

When 3-D Isn't Enough

The graphics card shipped with my unit specifically was chosen with Bitcoin mining in mind. Thanks to an architecture difference between NVIDIA and ATI GPUs, the higher number of Arithmetic Logic Units (ALUs) in the ATI cards means they perform better watt for watt and dollar for dollar when it comes to the pure brute force needed for Bitcoin mining and password cracking. NVIDIA GPUs aren't subpar, they're just different. They tend to have a more-advanced onboard memory system, making them ideal for different sorts of mathematical calculations. The differences are actually rather fascinating, but because I may be alone in my fascination, I'll just leave it at that. ZaReason happily will ship either an ATI or an NVIDIA graphics card. This review unit has the ATI Radeon HD 6970.

Second-Generation i7

If the ATI 6970 is a Cadillac amongst video cards, the 6-core, second-generation 3930K i7 CPU running at 3.2GHz stock in the Valta X79 is a Ferrari amongst processors. I put the CPU through its paces mining a CPU-based cryptocurrency (Litecoin to be specific), but everything CPU-intensive was just lightning-fast.

It's often difficult to find a day-to-day task that actually puts a modern CPU to the test. Thankfully, as Linux users, we still compile quite a bit of our software, and compilation takes CPU. I took it upon myself to compile a few programs. Granted, none of the programs I compiled were enormous, but I think it's telling that when I finally typed make, I thought there was a dependency that configure missed. I got the command prompt back so quickly, that I didn't even consider the possibility the compilation had completed!

I realize I make it sound like a magical CPU, and you're thinking how adorable that Shawn guy is for being impressed by a fast CPU. The thing is, my personal PC is an AMD 6-core monster overclocked to almost 4GHz. I've compiled the same programs, and I've never been fooled into thinking there was an error when really it just finished that fast. Perhaps it's raw CPU horsepower, or perhaps it's a combination of the CPU plus the quad channel RAM. The bottom line is this CPU is fast!

Software

Linux. 'Nuff said (Figure 5).

Figure 5. No Windows option here (image from http://www.zareason.com).

Seriously though, ZaReason is a company that sells Linux computers. When configuring your system, you get to choose from the most common distributions. By name, they offer all the 'buntus, Debian, Fedora, Linux Mint, no operating system and my favorite, "tell us what kind of Linux you want."

Earl, being a Linux Journal reader himself, knew my feelings regarding Ubuntu's Unity interface. For the review unit, ZaReason installed Ubuntu 11.10, but instead of the default Unity interface, they installed GNOME 3 with extensions to look much like my beloved GNOME 2 (Figure 6). You may think the review unit got special treatment, but Earl actually told me this interface is what they ship to many customers, especially those uncomfortable with Unity.

Figure 6. Look Ma, no dock!

______________________

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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