And thus, the grand conclusion of the Dream Machine 2008 unveiling comes to its final edition. And do we have a reveal for you! We're going to show you the ultra-secret case that encloses the mighty guts of our speedy Skulltrail machine. We're also giving you a first-look at the not-quite-as-secret videocards powering the graphics of this hefty rig. Before it catches ablaze, we'll also show you the cooling setup, and what we used to rock out whilst checking the cooler for leaks.
That's right. Today, you're getting the case, the graphics, the cooling and the sound--an epic conclusion to the most powerful rig we've ever built. If you're just joining us, you'll want to check out the first two editions of the Dream Machine saga, where we officially showed off this machine's spankin'-fast processors.
Without further ado, we'll begin with the craziest and most expensive part of the dream machine...
We challenged readers to guess what case we were planning on using in the last edition of the Dream Machine Reveal series, and only one of you got it right. And we were pretty amazed at that. So congratulations bholstege. You correctly pinned it down. For this year's Dream Machine, we're using the case of the HP Blackbird 002.
Before all the naysayers start blasting the comment thread, here's why we made this decision. For starters, we like to use cases in the Dream Machine that have never been featured previously. So while all the top case manufacturers do indeed make awesome EATX cases (a necessity for our Skulltrail motherboard), a scant few had cases in the works that would have been able to house our rig in the necessary timeframe.
The HP Blackbird 002 case isn't without its faults. Modifying the case in any fashion is extremely difficult, given that every little nuance has been crafted and locked to HP's proprietary design. But we didn't see this as a hindrance so much as a challenge. We joked in its review that the HP Blackbird 002 was a mediocre machine trapped inside an awesome chassis. How appropriate, then, for us to rip out the boring guts of the Blackbird and rebuild a Kick Ass machine inside of its heavy black frame.
But that's not to say that we didn't make subtle modifications to the case as a whole. And by subtle, we mean outlandish. Because it's not enough for the Dream Machine to have a sweet case: it has to have an amazing customized case. We've done painting. That's old-and-busted compared to our mega-tweak this year: chroming the entire case.
Due to Nvidia's decision to not suppot SLI on Skulltrail platforms, we turned to AMD to power the graphics of the Dream Machine 2008. But with four GPUs spread across two cards, we think we made the right decision. As it stands, two dual-GPU Radeon HD 4870 X2 cards stomp on one of Nvidia's top-of-the-line Geforce GTX 280 cards. The performance is nearly doubled in our 3DMark Vantage graphical test, and that's just using engineering samples of these AMD powerhouses. Look for a full review of these cards as soon as we can get our hands on final versions!
We've assembled a custom water cooling kit using parts from a number of top manufacturers for this year's Dream Machine. The internal constraints of the HP Blackbird 002 case forced us to go with a smaller two-fan reservoir than we would have preferred to use. Using Danger Den's Black Ice Pro2 Xflow radiator allowed us to connect our half-inch Tygon tubing to at opposing ends of the radiator, giving us a better chance to improve the case's inner aesthetics. We're using the same reservoir as last year's Dream Machine, Danger Den's single-bay variant.
Our pump also remains the same as last year's. Seeing that the Danger Den DD12V-D5 is one of the fastest, beefiest, quietest pumps we've seen, we see no need to switch out our top-of-the-line water pusher. As for the CPU blocks, we've opted for two of D-TEK's FuZion v2s. Not only is their performance impeccable, but we absolutely love the blocks' quick-lock Intel mounting mechanism. We didn't have to remove the motherboard at all to install this year's cooling setup, and that alone makes us thrilled to bits.
The latest X-Fi card out of Creative's Lab (tee-hee) is packed into a smaller form-factor than its predecessors. And once again, as if we couldn't stress the issue enough, Creative has slapped support for front-panel connections onto this new card, the X-Fi Titanium. Since we aren't opting for a triple-videocard setup, this gives us plenty of room to stash the Titanium in one of the Dream Machine's empty PCI Express slots. A pair of optical SPDIFs and included Dolby Digital encoding round out the mix of this awesome upgrade in soundcards.
Coming Next Week:
And there you have it! But we're not done with the Dream Machine 2008 just yet. Check back next Monday for an exclusive look at the all the behind-the-scenes construction for this year's rig, including all the heartaches, drills, and coolant leaks. And we haven't forgotten about those two mysterious hard drives from the first Dream Machine Unveiled article. We'll have the full details of those come July 21--see you then!