Here we go again! It's time for our second look at what's going into the Maximum PC Dream Machine 2008! If you're just joining us, here's the skinny: once a year, the Maximum PC staff descends to its underground lair. After a number of bizarre and dark technological rituals (we sacrifice an iMac), the team emerges with a gift blessed by the Gods of Technology themselves: the Dream Machine. It is, hands-down, the single-greatest computer you could ever hope to assemble based on the year's best (and sometimes unreleased) products!
This is an epic three-part series, and you're on step number two. If you want to start from the beginning, check out our unveiling of the rig's keyboard, mouse, display and hard drive(s). If you're ready for more Dream Machine action, we're taking a look at the system's CPU(s), motherboard, optical drive, and memory this time around.
We're gluttons for speed, so we've opted to slap two of Intel's high-end Core 2 Extreme QX9775 processors in our system. You read that correctly. Two. That's 3.2 GHz of processing power split over eight cores, or at least, it would be. Did we mention we're gluttons for speed? Thanks to an awesome custom water-cooling setup (to be unveiled in the third edition of this article), we've kicked this pair of processors up to 4.0 GHz apiece.
And where will we use this power? Well, there aren't that many applications optimized for eight-cores. But there are plenty of applications that could make full use of our setup. We'd just have to run them at the same time: gaming, video encoding, disk defragmenting, a Folding@home session, a Photoshop script. The sky is the proverbial limit for what our souped-up rig will be able to handle.
Astute PC enthusiasts will be able to guess this one just by the processors we used. Since we're rocking two quad-cores, it only makes sense for us to slap these on an Intel Skulltrail motherboard. Our winner in this category is Intel's D5400XS. It gives us a ton of overclocking options which we liberally sprinkled across our two steaming processors. But more than that, it's the only motherboard we've found that will run both Nvidia SLI and AMD Crossfire setups. It's an awesome way to future-proof a rig, but more than that, it allowed us to choose our video card configuration based on speeds alone.
The motherboard also comes with the typical accouterments we've come to expect and love: support for 7.1 audio, Gigabit LAN, six external USB ports, two eSATA ports, and four PCI Express 1.1 x16 slots--a perfect fit for the video cards we'll might use...
We've opted for 8GB of Corsair FB-DIMM memory for our mighty Dream Machine. At four sticks of 2GB apiece, these 800 MHz speed-demons are primarily geared for workstation environments. Their key difference from normal DDR2 or DDR3 RAM lies in their advanced memory buffer. This gives us a serial interface between the memory controller and the memory module, allowing the RAM to use fewer wires and more memory channels than a typical parallel architecture. This, and the fact that FB-DIMM memory processes read and write requests concurrently, allows us to tap into unmatched speeds for our memory. The downside? These little sticks are more prone to latency and heat. We solve the latter by attaching a Dominator fan accessory to the hot little sticks.
The Optical Drive
HD-DVD is dead. Done. Buried. We have eschewed the combo drive route for this very fact, opting instead for the fastest possible Blu-ray burner we can get our hands on. LG's GBW-H20L allows you to read and burn your Blu-ray discs at a speedy 6x, burn your DVD titles at 16x, and burn your standard CDs at 40x. No matter your optical media of choice, you'll be in speedy hands with this awesome SATA-based optical drive.
Check back next Monday for the final unveiling of the 2008 Dream Machine's guts!