Most people would never build their own small form factor PC, fill it with high-end hardware, liquid-cool it, then overclock it. Luckily, we’re not most people
The Mission The interest in small form factor (SFF) computing seems to have reached a fever pitch over the past few months, but boutique system builders tell us they’ve been selling an S-load of them for some time now. The reason for their popularity is not hard to understand—they pack all the firepower of a full-sized ATX machine but take up half the space due to clever engineering. It takes equally clever building to fit a full-sized video card, an internal power supply, storage devices, and even liquid cooling into such a tiny box. That's no small feat, and to be honest, it sounded like just the kind of challenge that we wanted to take on for Build It. The problem is, the micro-tower form factor hasn't been around very long, so it still has some kinks to work out. We've worked with several of these systems over the past few months, and the degree of usability varies quite a bit. However, Silverstone recently announced the Raven RVZ01, a case that seems to have the ease-of-use that we like; plus, the company has demo'd the chassis using a liquid-cooling system, which we found downright nifty. All we had to do was get our hands on one and go to work.
Note: This article was originally featured in the April 2014 issue of the magazine.
A scratch-built case straight out of Defense of the Ancients
Jonathan '-=SpH!Nx=-' Garlit isn't a professional modder, but we're convinced that he's got potential. He's a die-hard fan of Dota, but with a son on the way he's giving up the game to become a full-time father. The DotaBox is a memento that represents seven years and countless hours of Dota matches. Jonathan says he wanted something to commemorate his favorite game and we think he did it justice. Enough that we're happy to make it our July Rig of the Month.
A truly custom computer case is a work of art. It is a one-of-a-kind unique statement that stands out among mass-market boxes, and pushes the aesthetic of the creative ‘case mod’ (adapting an existing case with paint and trim) to the edge.
We’ve always said that building on a budget takes far more skill and savvy than building without financial constraints. Every single component choice has to be carefully weighed for its potential benefits and drawbacks. As if that weren’t enough, budget builders have to decide between three prospective platforms: Intel’s LGA1155, and AMD’s AM3+ and FM2. With so many permutations possible, and so much room for error, a cash-strapped builder’s got to wonder which thrifty path offers the best all-around performance. We can think of no better way to answer this important question than with a down-and-dirty DIY dust-up.
Note: This review was originally featured in the June 2013 issue of the magazine.
We show you how to build an affordable Linux gaming PC
The free Linux operating system has been around for ages, but its inherent complexity and limited support has always relegated its use to extreme enthusiasts, programmers, and other hardcore types. That might be changing, though, as a lot of loyal PC enthusiasts are less than pleased with Windows 8, and gaming juggernaut Valve has thrown its hat into the ring by launching a Linux version of Steam, its popular online content delivery service. Given the lackluster reception of Windows 8 and the renewed popularity of Linux, we decided to build a Linux gaming box to see for ourselves whether the OS, at this time, could be a reasonable alternative to Windows for gaming.
Note: This article originally appeared in the March issue of the magazine.
THE MISSION The all-in-one PC is predicted to be one of the hottest PC form factors over the next few years. That’s great for Joe 12-Pack, but for an enthusiast, an AiO is pretty much as monolithic as you can get. Sure, you might be able to add RAM or swap the HDD, but that’s usually the extent of the average AiO’s upgradeability.
Note: This article originally appeared in the February issue of the magazine.
We build a machine that’s red and black to hopefully beat our benchmarks black and blue
The Mission Variety is the spice of the Lab, so this month we decided to eschew our traditional builds and go with one you don’t see every day—an all-AMD computer, built with (most of) the best parts we could get our hands on. We’re sure some of you will question the purpose of this build, so our pre-emptive answer is we built it because we could, and we were curious to see how a balls-out AMD build would benchmark, as we haven’t seen over-the-top AMD rig since The Matrix: Revolutions let us down. Plus, everyone is always ragging on us for ignoring AMD, so here you go AMD enthusiasts—an entire PC built just for you.
Note: This article was originally featured in the January 2013 issue of the magazine.
Build your own small Steam Box PC using Valve's Big Picture Mode
As PC gamers, we’re big fans of Valve Software’s Steam service and can’t imagine life without it. We’ve got a huge library of installed games, all of our friends are on it, and almost every AAA title is released on Steam, making it indispensable. The only “problem” with Steam has been that its interface was designed for sitting 24 inches away, at a monitor, making it incompatible with couch-bound gaming. Valve has rectified this dilemma with its recently launched Big Picture Mode, which slaps a 10-foot interface on top of Steam and makes it easy to control with a gamepad. Since distance and connection issues can get in the way of running your desktop PC on your HDTV screen, we’re going to walk you through a more workable solution. First, we will advise you on selecting a small-but-powerful PC that’s suitable for a living room, then we’ll walk you through selecting appropriate peripherals, and finally we’ll show you how to get it all up and running, ready for Big Picture Mode deployment.
Note: This article appeared in the Holiday 2012 issue of the magazine.
Saying that Windows 8 is a major shift in strategy for Microsoft is pretty obvious at this point. Between the Metro interface, complete dismissal of the start menu, focus on touch screen devices, and myriad other changes; this is not the Windows of the Bill Gates era. One change which hasn’t received much discussion is the idea of Windows 8 being Microsoft’s next iteration for not only Windows 7, but for Windows Home Server.
Windows Media Center may not make it into default Windows 8 installs, but the team of crack programmers behind the highly excellent XBMC media player is working hard to dull the pain. The newest addition to the open source software completely revamps XBMC's audio code and brings support for 7.1 HD audio formats, along with a lot of other goodies.