Monday, October 22, 2012

Dell XPS 8500

I wasn't smart enough to just get the same machine for work that I got for home. dealnews.com informed my bank account that it would start seeing less money when it sent me a deal for a Dell XPS 8500.

The most useful documentation are the Owner's Manual and Specifications.

This box isn't bad but compared with the T3600, it has some drawbacks.  In particular:
  • The disk drives aren't mounted via a tool-less design.
  • Other than the single graphics card PCI Express 2.0 x16, all the other PCI Express 2.0 slots are x1.  If you want to expand, finding useful x1 cards seem fairly rare.
  • With the nVidia GT 640 graphics card in the x16 slot, the fan sticks out too much so that you can't use the adjacent x1 slot so you effectively only have 2 more x1 slots.
  • There is only a single 6G SATA port. The other three SATA ports are 3G.
  • There is built in wireless and bluetooth as well as a mSATA slot that the T3600 does not have.  The mSATA port runs at 6G too. 
Rather than leaving good enough alone, I decided to do the following tweaks:

On a side note, I ended up with the Apricorn card partially because of the AS Media ASM1061 controller.  This choice was based on an article from Tom's Hardware comparing the controllers.


Now to put Windows 8 on it. The installation was straightforward. I was able to configure the BIOS to UEFI boot and Windows 8 installed without a problem.  The system shipped with BIOS version A09 which seems to be compatible.  Windows 8 doesn't complain about not recognizing any the devices after a Windows update.  Also, as of Oct/22/2012, Dell's support site for the 8500 is also showing Windows 8 drivers

Doing a 'rescan disks' in Disk Manager caused the system to hang.  The ASM106x driver for Velocity  Solo seemed to be at fault.  Apricorn does not appear to have a public driver download but I was able to use the drivers provided by Syba PEX-40032 at http://www.sybausa.com/productInfo.php?iid=979.


The configuration I'm moving forward with is to have the two SSDs in a RAID1 using the motherboard Intel Rapid Storage and then using Windows 8 Storage Spaces to create a pool of the 4x750GB drives.  The storage pool then hosts two volumes - a parity volume and a mirrored volume.

More ramblings about Windows Storage Spaces in a later post.

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