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That’s what the top-dog hexa-core Core i7-3970X gives us with its 12 threads of computing might that chew through 3D modeling or video rendering in a way no quadcore could ever dream of doing. Last year’s foray into Xeon territory also taught us that not having the option of overclocking hurt us against those pesky quad-core parts in some tasks.
With our massive liquid-cooling setup, we were able to easily push our 3.5GHz Core i7-3970X to 5GHz all day. Six cores buzzing along at 5GHz with Hyper-Threading gives us a great balance of core count and frequency. Enough that Dream Machine has the gusto to compete with newer quad-core chips in workloads that can’t exploit all 12 threads.
The best part of going with LGA2011 is that we’ll get a CPU upgrade in a few months when Intel finally releases Ivy Bridge-E.
Note: This article was written before the recent release of Ivy Bridge-E.
If all we cared about was color scheme, we’d have tapped the Rampage IV Extreme’s little brother, the X79 Sabertooth, whose brown-and-black stylings would have nicely matched our beige case. But our needs demand more than the Sabertooth and most “regular” X79 motherboards can provide, so we reached for Asus’s well-respected Rampage IV Extreme board. The board is aimed at the overclocking enthusiasts who like to crank their CPUs to low Earth orbit using liquid nitrogen or liquid helium, so for our OC, it was more than enough. Even better, the R4E is one of a handful of X79 boards rated to run four-way SLI.
The Extended ATX board is a bit larger than others, but in the cavernous 900D, it practically looks like a microATX board. Since SNB-E parts and X79 don’t officially support PCIe 3.0, we used Nvidia’s utility to enable it. The difference? Not much that we could see on our 4K monitor, but it’s nice to know we can run PCIe 3.0 on all four of our board's slots.
When evaluating the current crop of GPUs for possible deployment to the Dreamghanistan theater, the Titan was always a leading contender for obvious reasons. This $1,000 GPU is the fastest single GPU on the market by a huge margin, and though it’s not as fast as a GTX 690, two Titans make a GTX 690 look like a quaint collection of silicon. And three Titans? Well, there’s nothing else that can even begin to approach that level of performance. Which is why we have gone with the only choice possible given this magazine’s pedigree—four GTX Titans, and not just regular Titans, but the water-cooled kind that cost more than most foreign-bred cat species.
Out of the box these tasty bits of gaming ordnance are overclocked 100MHz above stock speeds at 928MHz, with a boost clock of 980MHz.
You know what’s wrong? That a frakking 10-inch tablet (and no it’s not the iPad) packs as many pixels as those “high-res” 30-inch panels. To put all tablets to shame, we had to up the ante with Asus’s newly minted PQ321 that uses an Indium Gallium Zinc Oxide panel. The PQ321 packs 3840x2160 pixels into a 32-inch panel. How does that translate comparatively? Take two 30-inch, 2560x1600 panels and put them side by and side and the PQ321 still has more pixels. If you had three 1080p monitors lined up, the PQ321 would exceed their combined pixel count by 25 percent. It’s Retinastic ™!
There are so many pixels that it’s beyond the capability of even dual-link DVI. The only way to display images on the PQ321 is to use its DisplayPort 1.2-compliant port along with a video card that also supports DisplayPort 1.2, or to daisy-chain across multiple HDMI ports. Fortunately for us, the Titan supports DisplayPort 1.2. We had to resort to beta drivers and we’re using pre-production firmware on the PQ321 but it works, offering us glorious 4K Ultra HD quality. All we can say is that we’re glad we’ve finally broken through the 2560x1600 barrier.
We considered a PCIe-based SSD setup this year, but all those damned Titan cards prevented us from using one, so we went with the next best thing: two of the fastest SSDs available, in the highest capacity available. With only two SATA 6Gb/s ports on the Intel controller, we rocked dual Samsung 840 Pro 512GB SSDs for a single-terabyte partition for our OS, giving us 1Gb/s read and write speeds, and sub–15 second boot times. Hell, yeah.
The Crucial M500 is currently the highestcapacity SSD drive available at 960GB, but we didn’t choose it just because of its huge size (for an SSD). We chose it because it’s also one of the fastest drives in its class, and it’s semiaffordable, too, at $600 per drive (previous 1TB drives cost over $2,000). Even though we have a terabyte of fast SSD storage for our OS, we ran two of these M500s for an extra layer of SSD storage, just because we could.
Not even the Dream Machine can get away with an entirely solid-state storage scheme, so we had to ask ourselves, “What is the fastest, highest-capacity mechanical hard drive these days?” After we polled the staff and consulted the benchmark charts, the answer was clear: WD’s 4TB 7,200rpm Caviar Black hard drive. This one’s got it all—a fast spindle speed, a long five-year warranty, and a fat 64MB buffer. We only used three because, well, we ran out of SATA ports.
Dream Machine boasts 840mm of AX-series XSPC copper radiators with aluminum enclosures that help dissipate heat. They're strapped with 1,850rpm Gentle Typhoons on either side. Typhoons deliver top-tier performance while generating a relatively low amount of noise, which is preferable when you have 17 total in your case. We replaced the case's front fans with 1,450rpm Gentle Typhoons, and a 14cm Arctic Cooling F14 PWM fan replaces the rear. Typhoons don’t come in the 14cm size, but the F14 is a high-caliber alternative.
EK’s Supremacy Elite CPU blocks are premium hardware, with a price to match. Our trusty Swiftech MCP655 pump is not a bank-breaker, but it's highly reliable and has five speed settings. All of our Tygon silver tubing is attached with chromed compression fittings with an ID (inner diameter) of 3/8 inches using the G1/4 thread standard. The juice we set loose is simply distilled water, the base ingredient for any liquid-cooling system.
We also want to give a shout-out to FrozenCPU.com for all the help with the DM's waterworks.
Click the next page to read about the Dream Machine 2013's computer case, RAM, and accessories.