Monday, 5 May 2014

A new Windows 7 computer for the G4OBK Amateur Radio Station

Front of the Ankermann unit
With Microsoft Windows XP support now at an end and the 250 GB hard drive on my six year old HP Desktop almost full, it was time to replace the main PC I use in the shack for amateur radio, running two websites, uploading my weather station data up to the internet and the administration of virtually everything I do these days in the voluntary sector.

My computer needs I imagine, are wider than the average user - for ham radio I use the Logger 32 station management software.  This interfaces my computer via Logger 32 using Telnet, to the SOTA Packet Cluster in Scotland run by Andy MM0FMF. This computer has aother purpose -  I make extensive use of computer mapping with Memory Map, Anquet, Garmin Base Camp installed. I use an Open Street Map based app called OSMAND+ via Blue Stacks which is an Android emulator programme installed on the PC.  I use the MS Office applications Outlook, Word and Excel. I have two transceivers (On HF/50 MHz a Yaesu FT-2000 and on VHF/UHF a TS-2000X) interfaced to the PC using two seperate Microham interfaces for Voice, Morse and Datacomms.  My main antenna rotator for HF is also controlled by the computer within Logger 32 through a serial port. I had to install a PCI card for this - modern PCs don't include serial ports these days.  I run the main PC into two 19" Iiyama Monitors. The onboard graphics card is well up to the job and is a far better performer that the ATi card I had installed as an extra in my old HP machine.  It took me around two weeks to install around 40 other programmes on the Ankermann  but all is fully installed now and the system is working extremely well. 

Internal view of the Ankermann Sorbus A8-6600K
My Amazon UK review (with additional pictures) follows:

5.0 out of 5 stars Delighted with my Ankermann PC Sorbus 9 April 2014

 Name:A8-6600K 8 GB Win 7|Verified Purchase
Rear label on Ankermann Sorbus PC with AMD A8 Processor
Rear Connection Panel
I bought this quad core PC two weeks ago to replace my ageing HP DX 2300 Dual Core unit which was purchased in 2008. Whilst that unit was running well 24/7, and has for the last six years, the 200 GB hard drive is almost full, it was running Windows XP (support ended yesterday 8th April, not that it mattered to me), and I believed the old HP may be on borrowed time since a friend who is in the PC business told me that generally companies needed to replace their desktops every three years. I am not a gamer, I never play computer games but am more of a business type user. I multi task when using a computer and run some pretty demanding applications all at the same time.

Having tried out Windows 8.1 on a friends laptop I was put off with that operating system. So I wanted a PC that included a licensed version of Windows 7, a unit that was reasonably quick, that had plenty of USB ports and an SD card slot. My budget was less than £350. I studied the specification, reviews and prices of three makes of computer. CSL, Zoostorm and Ankermann. The Ankermann PC AMD Sorbus AMD A8-6600K was my choice, the price tipped the balance. I found most of the Zoostorm models did not include an SD card slot which I needed, so they were ruled out. .

The PC arrived in around 4 days - earlier than expected. Despite Ankermann being a German company the PC was shipped by Amazon in the UK. It arrived via the carrier Hermes and I was away at the time. This carrier left the double boxed carton on my doorstep on Saturday at 12.30pm and it laid there until I arrived home the following day at 7.30pm. I was unimpressed with Hermes as I have been in the past....fortunately it didn't rain over that period and the box didn't get stolen.

One Terabyte Seagate hard drive 

The unit was unpacked next day and switched on. I used my own keyboard and mouse. Windows 7 was pre installed, and after easily changing the language on boot up to English I had no problems registering the licence on the phone by auto message with Microsoft. The supplied OEM Dell Windows 7 DVD is still in it's sealed wrapper and was not needed.

The unit weighs 7 Kgs (Shipping weight on Amazon said 14 Kgs) and the dimensions of the unit are 39cm deep X 35cm high X 17.5cm W, slightly smaller than quoted on Amazon. Not a problem.

The unit comes without bloatware, not even a virus checker and this was good news. I put the unit online and installed the free AVG anti virus. Over the following week I installed around 35 applications and programmes which I use on a regular basis. No problems. The unit sports 5 USB ports on the front and 4 on the back. It also has two graphic card interfaces, a VGA and a DVI which is great as I run two monitors. I also needed a serial port to drive a motorised antenna rotator via software. Very few PCs have these installed these days so I purchased a Dynamode two port PCI serial card from Amazon for £9 and installed this myself. I am not a gamer but more of a business type user...

AMD A8 Processor on an ASUS Motherboard

So how does the unit perform? Using the built in Windows Performance Information Tool the PC scores an index of 4.9. This score is down to the onboard graphics card, which scores 4.9, but this is far superior to my previous computer and another 4 year old Acer dual core PC my wife has, which scored 2.5. I understand that the current maximum score attainable by a Windows PC is 7.9. Here is a breakdown of the scores from my Sorbus:

Processor (AMD A8-6600K): 7.3

Memory (8 GB): 7.3

Graphics (On board AMD Radeon HD 8570D): 4.9

Gaming Graphics: 6.4
Hard Disk: 5.9

I was impressed with the workmanship inside the PC and how quiet the unit is when running. The motherboard is by Asus who have an excellent reputation. I have one of their tablet PCs. You can just hear the processor fan on the Sorbus if you put your ear close to the cabinet.

I e-mailed Ankermann in Germany with a couple of queries, they replied within five days partly in German, partly in English. I used Google translate to convert the German text and it worked surprisingly well and my questions were answered.

The speed of the graphics impressed me. On my old PC I had installed an ATI HD5450 dual head graphics card to allow me to drive two monitors. Fortunately as stated, the Ankermann Sorbus already provides two graphics ports, one DVI and one VGA. Ankermann confirmed via e-mail that I could connect two monitors to the unit and they were right. Graphics have come a long way over the last five years and the on board graphics easily outperforms my dual head card by around 100% according to the specifications - so I do not need to install the old card in my new unit as the performance would be inferior to the graphics supplied.

Overall I give the Ankermann PC Sorbus a five star rating and I am really glad I purchased it. The two year warranty is also a plus point should it go wrong. My wife's Acer dual core PC is now over four years old so when the time comes to replace that I will be replacing it with a unit from Ankermann. 

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