gaming pc en Falcon Northwest Tiki Z Review <!--paging_filter--><p><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> <w:BrowserLevel>MicrosoftInternetExplorer4</w:BrowserLevel> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> <w:BrowserLevel>MicrosoftInternetExplorer4</w:BrowserLevel> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--></p> <p><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if !mso]><object classid="clsid:38481807-CA0E-42D2-BF39-B33AF135CC4D" id=ieooui></object> <mce:style><! st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } --><!--[if !mso]><object classid="clsid:38481807-CA0E-42D2-BF39-B33AF135CC4D" id=ieooui></object> <mce:style><! st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } --><!--[endif] --><!--[endif] --><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[endif] --><!--[endif] --></p> <p class="MsoNormal">&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u187432/mpc102.rev_tikiz.falconguts.jpg" width="620" height="350" /></p> <p class="MsoNormal">If you want proof that micro-towers are getting to the point where they can threaten full-tilt-boogie gaming rigs, it’s right here in front of your face with Falcon Northwest’s Tiki Z.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">How else could you explain the moment of concern -- short though it was -- that a micro-tower could actually show up this year’s $30,000 Dream Machine? The Tiki Z is no mere micro-tower, of course. Inside its 4-inch chassis, Falcon Northwest manages to magically insert the most misunderstood card of late: the GeForce GTX Titan Z. Most wondered why Nvidia would even make such a card.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">Well, here’s one reason: You can fit it in a micro-tower, and that certainly can’t be said of AMD’s Radeon R9 295 X2. What the Titan Z does for its insane pricing is give micro-towers the one thing they’ve been lacking: dual-card-like performance.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">Falcon did have to make some adjustments to get the Titan Z in there. There’s clever venting through the Nvidia symbol and sealed exhausts to keep the Titan Z from heating up the machine. Falcon also had to up the PSU to a new Silverstone 600-watt unit. The “rest” of the machine is a liquid-cooled Devil’s Canyon Core i7-4790K with an overclock of 4.4GHz on all cores and 4.7GHz on two cores. Also new to the Tiki is a base that’s cut from a billet of aluminum instead of the typical granite look the Tiki has sported the last two years. We like the change as it allows Falcon to paint it and frankly, the granite look didn’t work for all of us.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">The paint itself is spectacular. Dare we say, one of the best paint jobs we’ve ever seen in a PC? We say this because Falcon made it a point to mention that our comment about Digital Storm’s Bolt II paint being the “best we’d seen” isn’t actually custom paint since it’s a ceramic coating. We’d point that a Cerakote is still technically paint, but we’d agree the Tiki’s paint is exceptional and flawless. We won’t say the best paint ever because if we did, next month there’d be another vendor out to prove us wrong.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">None of this matters without performance though, and the Tiki Z has that it spades. Except for the multi-threaded tests, it outpaces our zero-point system with its dual-GPU GeForce GTX 690. But what about Digital Storm’s Bolt II from our June 2014 ish? There it’s a closer battle. The Tiki Z’s Devil’s Canyon CPU is clocked down a percent or three against the Bolt II, which has a much larger CPU cooler (and the chassis is also significantly bigger, too) and it suffers in the CPU benchmarks.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u187432/benchmark_0.png" width="525" height="250" /></p> <p class="MsoNormal">The dividends of the dual Titan Z show up in 3DMark 11, where the Tiki Z demolishes the Titan Black in the Bolt II by almost 50 percent. We’ll also note that we think we blew our Batman: Arkham City run for the Bolt II, as there’s no way a single Titan Black would be faster than a Titan Z.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">In the end, we’d have to say that the Tiki Z sets a new bar for the gaming performance to be expected from a micro-tower. It slips a bit in raw CPU performance but not enough to matter. If you’re looking for the ultimate compact gaming PC, you’ll have a hard time finding one faster -- or more expensive -- than the Tiki Z.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> falcon northwest gaming pc micro-tower Tiki Z From the Magazine Fri, 06 Feb 2015 03:05:14 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung 29383 at Origin PC Genesis Review <!--paging_filter--><p><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG /> <o:TargetScreenSize>1024x768</o:TargetScreenSize> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG /> <o:TargetScreenSize>1024x768</o:TargetScreenSize> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--></p> <p><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[endif] --><!--[endif] --></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u187432/origin.jpg" width="620" height="350" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG /> <o:TargetScreenSize>1024x768</o:TargetScreenSize> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG /> <o:TargetScreenSize>1024x768</o:TargetScreenSize> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[endif] --><!--[endif] --></p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpFirst" style="text-align: left;"><strong>The Genesis can be configured with the GPUs on the left or right side, and vertically or horizontally.</strong></p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpFirst">We all know the PC OEM business is a commodity parts game with every vendor having the exact same access to PC hardware as everyone else. It’s a bit like trying to impress the <span style="mso-fareast-font-family: &quot;Times New Roman&quot;; mso-bidi-font-weight: bold;">paparazzi<strong> </strong></span>on the red carpet with the same off-the-rack dress as every other starlet.<span style="mso-tab-count: 1;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle"><span style="mso-tab-count: 1;">&nbsp;</span>That’s why in every OEM’s life comes the time to design their own custom chassis. That time, it appears, has now come for Origin PC and its truly unique modular case.<span style="mso-tab-count: 1;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle"><span style="mso-tab-count: 1;">&nbsp;</span>We’ve seen modular case designs before—the most notable being Cooler Master’s HAF Stacker series—but Origin’s case goes beyond even Cooler Master’s design. The Genesis can be configured as a midtower or a full-tower case by bolting on an expansion bay that can support radiators or hard drives. Unlike the HAF Stacker’s Lego-like feel, the Origin’s design is far more integrated. In fact, you’d never know the bottom was bolted in place. Even more impressive is the ability for the case to be configured with the motherboard tray in a horizontal or vertical direction and on either the left or right side of the chassis.<span style="mso-tab-count: 1;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle"><span style="mso-tab-count: 1;">&nbsp;</span>Some have pooh-poohed such flexibility as unnecessary, but it can work wonders for someone who wants to hardware-peep the machine but keep the system on the left side. Don’t think you can reconfigure it on the fly though—the case orientation is decided <span style="background-color: #ffffff;"><em style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;"><span style="background-image: none; background-repeat: repeat; background-attachment: scroll; background-position: 0% 0%; background-clip: border-box; background-origin: padding-box; background-size: auto auto;">before</span></em></span> it’s built into.<span style="mso-tab-count: 1;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle"><span style="mso-tab-count: 1;">&nbsp;</span>While revolutionary, it isn’t perfect. There are a couple areas on the top of the case feel like the natural choice for picking up the case to move it. If you do, you’ll break it. Origin clearly labels these as no-lift areas<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>but we’d rather see these beefed up before a tragedy occurs. We also had clearance issues trying to get our dual-link DVI cable to fit with its large cable choke. These chokes are pretty common to dual-link cables, so you’ll have to resort to DisplayLink if you want to make it work. The case door is also “oversprung,” in that Origin embedded two springs to assist in opening the door. Unfortunately, the springs are so strong, the door will often pop completely off the side of the case and smash into the ground.<span style="mso-tab-count: 1;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle"><span style="mso-tab-count: 1;">&nbsp;</span>The case is also surprisingly compact. Whereas custom cases, such as Digital Storm’s Aventum II or iBuypower’s Erebus XL, are large enough to create their own gravitational fields, the Origin case is almost petite. That didn’t stop the company from shoehorning in a massive amount of hardware, though. You’ll see the full details below, but we’ll give you the notable highlights here: a Core i7-4960X overclocked to 4.4GHz–4.8GHz, four GeForce GTX 780 Ti cards, and an Asus Rampage IV Extreme Black Edition board, all of it custom-cooled with a Origin’s Cryogenic liquid cooling using a lot of Koolance hardware.<span style="mso-tab-count: 1;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle"><span style="mso-tab-count: 1;">&nbsp;</span>Of course, performance counts. And the Genesis trades blows with Digital Storm’s Aventum II that we reviewed in January. The Aventum II’s CPU sat at 4.7GHz while the Genesis mostly runs at 4.65GHz. That makes the two damned near equal on CPU tasks. In gaming though, the Genesis takes the lead as the Aventum II didn’t pack liquid-cooled 780 Ti’s; they weren’t even available back then. That gives the Origin Genesis the records—although not by much—in the gaming benchmarks. The Genesis even, in fact, surpasses last year’s Dream Machine with its liquid-cooled 4-way GeForce Titan setup, so it ain’t no slouch.<span style="mso-tab-count: 1;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle"><span style="mso-tab-count: 1;">&nbsp;</span>One thing we must note: Our machine came with a Corsair AX1200i PSU. It’s a beefy platinum-rated PSU and we had no issues, but at the wall, we saw the load sit at or near 100 percent load all of the time just running Heaven 4.0. Origin says actual gaming will use far less power than synthetic stress tests, but it has also since upgraded to Corsair’s new AX1500 PSU. In fact, the pricing actually reflects the upgraded PSU.<span style="mso-tab-count: 1;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle"><span style="mso-tab-count: 1;">&nbsp;</span>Overall, we like the case, love the flexibility, and laud Origin for creating something fairly revolutionary for a case enclosure. It’s not perfect, but add in the top-notch performance and superb attention to detail and you have a truly unique machine.</p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle"> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG /> <o:TargetScreenSize>1024x768</o:TargetScreenSize> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG /> <o:TargetScreenSize>1024x768</o:TargetScreenSize> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle"> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[endif] --><!--[endif] --></p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpFirst">$10,265; <a href="" target="_blank">Origin PC Genesis</a></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> gaming pc Origin PC Genesis Review Reviews Fri, 14 Nov 2014 04:06:02 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung 28911 at Build it: Real-World 4K Gaming Test Bench <!--paging_filter--><h3>This month, we find out what it takes to run games at 4K, and do so using a sweet open-air test bench</h3> <p>The computer world loves it when specs double from one generation to the next. We’ve gone from 16-bit to 32-bit, and finally 64-bit computing. We had 2GB RAM sticks, then 4GB, then 8GB. With monitor resolutions, 1920x1080 has been the standard for a while, but we never quite doubled it, as 2560x1600 was a half-step, but now that 4K resolution has arrived, it’s effectively been exactly doubled, with the panels released so far being 3840x2160. We know it’s not actually 4,000 pixels, but everyone is still calling it “4K.” Though resolution is doubled over 1080p, it’s the equivalent number of pixels as four 1080p monitors, so it takes a lot of horsepower to play games smoothly. For example, our 2013 Dream Machine used four Nvidia GeForce GTX Titans and a CPU overclocked to 5GHz to handle it. Those cards cost $4,000 altogether though, so it wasn’t a scenario for mere mortals. This month, we wanted to see what 4K gaming is like with more-affordable parts. We also wanted to try a distinctive-looking open test bench from DimasTech. This type of case is perfect for SLI testing, too, since it makes component installation and swapping much quicker.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/beauty_shot_small_29.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/beauty_shot_small_28.jpg" width="620" height="417" /></a></p> <h3>Triple Threat</h3> <p>Instead of GTX Titans, we’re stepping it down a couple of notches to Nvidia GTX 780s. They provide similar gaming performance, but at half the cost. We’re also using “only” three cards instead of four, so the price difference from Dream Machine to this rig is a whopping $2500 (even more if you count the fact that the Dream Machine cards were water-cooled). These cards still need a lot of bandwidth, though, so we’re sticking with an Intel LGA 2011 motherboard, this time an Asus X79 Deluxe. It’s feature-packed and can overclock a CPU like nobody’s business. The X79 Deluxe is running Intel’s Core i7-4960X CPU, which has six cores and twelve processing threads. It’s kind of a beast. We’re cooling it with a Cooler Master Glacer 240L water cooler, which comes with a 240mm radiator.</p> <p>We’ll also need a boatload of power, so we grabbed a Corsair AX1200 PSU which, as its name suggests, supplies up to 1200 watts. It’s also fully modular, meaning that its cables are all detachable. Since we’re only using one storage device in this build, we can keep a lot of spare cables tucked away in a bag, instead of cluttering up the lower tray.</p> <p>All of this is being assembled on a DimasTech Easy V3 test bench, which is a laser-cut steel, hand-welded beauty made in Italy and painted glossy red. It can handle either a 360mm or 280mm radiator as well, and it comes with an articulating arm to move a case fan around to specific areas. It seems like the ultimate open-air test bench, so we’re eager to see what we can do with it.&nbsp;&nbsp; \</p> <h4>1. Case Working</h4> <p>The DimasTech Easy V3 comes in separate parts, but the bulk of it is an upper and lower tray. You slide the lower one in and secure it with a bundled set of six aluminum screws. The case’s fasteners come in a handy plastic container with a screw-on lid. Shown in the photo are the two chromed power and reset buttons, which are the last pieces to be attached. They have pre-attached hexagonal washers, which can be a bit tricky to remove. We had to use pliers on one of them. You’ll need to wire them up yourself, but there’s a diagram included. Then, connect the other head to the motherboard’s front panel header, which has its own diagram printed on the board.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/a_small_29.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/a_small_28.jpg" title="Image A" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <h4>2. Getting Testy</h4> <p>Unfortunately, the Easy V3 does not ship with a 2.5-inch drive bay, nor do standard 3.5-inch to 2.5-inch adapters fit inside the bays. If you want to install a solid-state drive, you need to purchase the correctly sized bay or adapter separately from DimasTech. Since this is an open test bench, which is designed for swapping parts quickly, we chose to just leave the drive unsecured. It has no moving parts, so it doesn’t need to be screwed down or even laid flat to work properly. We also moved the 5.25-inch drive bay from the front to the back, to leave as much room as possible to work with our bundle of PSU cables. The lower tray has a number of pre-drilled holes to customize drive bay placement. Meanwhile, our power supply must be oriented just like this to properly attach to the case’s specified bracket. It’s not bad, though, because this positions the power switch higher up, where it’s less likely to get bumped accidentally.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/b_small_24.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/b_small_23.jpg" title="Image B" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <h4>3. Able Cables</h4> <p>The best way to install a modular power supply is to attach your required cables first. This time, we got a kit from Corsair that has individually sleeved wires. It costs $40, and also comes in red, white, or blue. Each of these kits is designed to work with a specific Corsair power supply. They look fancier than the stock un-sleeved cables, and the ones for motherboard and CPU power are a lot more flexible than the stock versions. All of the connectors are keyed, so you can’t accidentally plug them into the wrong socket. We used a few black twist ties to gather in the PCI Express cables.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/c_small_27.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/c_small_26.jpg" title="Image C" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <h4>4. Taking a Stand(off)</h4> <p>The Easy V3 comes with an unusually tall set of metal motherboard standoffs. These widgets prevent the motherboard from touching the tray below and possibly creating a short circuit. You can screw these in by hand, optionally tightening them up with a pair of pliers. Once those were in, we actually used some thumbscrews bundled with the case to screw the board down on the standoffs. You can use more standard screws, but we had plenty to spare, and we liked the look. The tall standoffs also work nicely with custom liquid cooling loops, because there is enough clearance to send thick tubing underneath (and we’ve seen lots of photos on the Internet of such setups). For us, it provided enough room to install a right-angle SATA cable and send it through the oval cut-out in the tray and down to the SSD below.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/d_small_23.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/d_small_22.jpg" title="Image D" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h4>5. Triple Play</h4> <p>This bench has a black bracket that holds your PCIe cards and can be slid parallel to the motherboard to accommodate different board layouts. It will take up to four two-slot cards, and DimasTech sells a longer 10-slot bracket on its website for workstation boards. We had to use the provided aluminum thumbscrews to secure the cards, since all of the screws we had in The Lab were either too coarsely threaded or not the right diameter, which is unusual. Installing cards is easy, because your view of the board slot is not blocked by a case. The video cards will end up sandwiched right next to each other, though, so you’ll need a tool to release the slot-locking mechanism on two of them (we used a PCI slot cover). The upper two cards can get quite toasty, so we moved the bench’s built-in flexible fan arm right in front of their rear intake area, and we told the motherboard to max out its RPM. We saw an immediate FPS boost in our tests, because by default these cards will throttle once they get to about 83 C.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/e_small_21.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/e_small_20.jpg" title="Image E" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <h4>6. Cool Under Pressure</h4> <p>Since the Glacer 240L cooler has integrated tubing that’s relatively short, the orientation pictured was our only option. We could have put the fans on the other side of the radiator, but since performance was already superb, we decided we liked the looked of them with the grills on top. To mount the radiator, we used the bundled screws, which became the right length when we added some rubber gaskets, also included.&nbsp; The radiator actually doesn’t give off much heat, even when the CPU is overclocked and firing on all cylinders, so we didn’t have to worry about the nearby power supply fan pulling in a lot of hot intake. In fact, the CPU never crossed 65C in all of our benchmarks, even when overclocked to 4.5GHz. We even threw Prime95 at it, and it didn’t break a sweat. Temperatures are also affected by ambient temperatures, though. With our open-air layout, heat coming out of the GPUs doesn’t get anywhere near the radiator, and The Lab’s air conditioning helps keep temperatures low, so it’s pretty much an ideal environment, short of being installed in a refrigerator. Your mileage may vary.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/f_small_22.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/f_small_21.jpg" title="Image F" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/main_image_small_18.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/main_image_small_17.jpg" title="Main Image" width="620" height="382" /></a></p> <h3>A Golden Triangle</h3> <p>Despite our penchant for extreme performance, we rarely build triple-GPU systems, so we weren’t sure how well they’d handle 4K, but we figured they’d kick ass. Thankfully, they handled UHD quite well. So well, in fact, that we also tested the system with “only” two GTX 780s and still got respectable gaming performance. For example, with two cards, the Bioshock Infinite benchmark reported an average of a little over 60 FPS on its highest settings. In Tomb Raider, we disabled anti-aliasing and TressFX, maxing out all the other settings, and we still averaged 62 FPS. We benchmarked the opening sequence of Assassin’s Creed 4 with AA and PhysX disabled and everything else maxed out, and we averaged 47 FPS. The Metro: Last Light benchmark, however, averaged 25FPS on max settings, even with PhysX disabled.</p> <p>Unfortunately, we had trouble getting Hitman: Absolution and Metro: Last Light to recognize the third card. This issue is not unheard of, and made us think: If you stick with two GPUs, you no longer need the PCI Express bandwidth of expensive LGA 2011 CPUs, or their equally expensive motherboards, or a huge power supply. That potentially cuts the cost of this system in half, from around $4200 to roughly $2100. You could also save money by going with, say, a Core i7-4930K instead, and a less expensive LGA 2011 motherboard and a smaller SSD. But it’s still a pretty steep climb in price when going from two cards to three.</p> <p>The test bench itself feels sturdy and looks sweet, but we wish that it accepted standard computer-type screws, and that it came with a 2.5-inch drive bay or could at least fit a standard 3.5-to-2.5 adapter. We’d also recommend getting a second articulating fan arm if you’re liquid-cooling, so that one could provide airflow to the voltage regulators around the CPU, and the other could blow directly on your video cards. With the fan aimed at our cards, we instantly gained another 10 FPS in the Tomb Raider benchmark.</p> <p>The Seagate 600 SSD was nice and speedy, although unzipping compressed files seemed to take longer than usual. The X79 Deluxe motherboard gave us no trouble, and the bundled “Asus AI Suite III” software has lots of fine-grained options for performance tuning and monitoring, and it looks nice. Overall, this build was not only successful but educational, too.</p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><strong><span class="module-name">Benchmarks</span></strong><br /> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 627px; height: 270px;" border="0"> <thead> <tr> <th class="head-empty"> </th> <th class="head-light"> <p style="font-size: 10px; font-weight: normal; text-align: start;"><strong>ZERO</strong></p> <p style="font-size: 10px; font-weight: normal; text-align: start;"><strong>POINT</strong></p> </th> <th></th> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td class="item">Premiere Pro CS6 (sec)</td> <td class="item-dark">2,000</td> <td><span style="text-align: center;">1,694</span><strong>&nbsp;</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>Stitch.Efx 2.0 (sec)</td> <td>831</td> <td><span style="text-align: center;">707</span><strong>&nbsp;</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">ProShow Producer 5.0 (sec)</td> <td class="item-dark">1,446</td> <td>1,246</td> </tr> <tr> <td>x264 HD 5.0 (fps)</td> <td>21.1</td> <td>25.6<strong></strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>Batmans Arkam City (fps)</td> <td>76</td> <td>169<strong></strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">3DMark11 Extreme</td> <td class="item-dark">5,847&nbsp;</td> <td>12,193</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> </div> <p><span style="font-size: 10px; font-weight: bold;"><em>The zero-point machine compared here consists of a 3.2GHz Core i7-3930K and 16GB of Corsair DDR3/1600 on an Asus P9X79 Deluxe motherboard. It has a GeForce GTX 690, a Corsair Neutron GTX SSD, and 64-bit Windows 7 Professional.</em></span></p> 4k computer gaming pc geforce Hardware maximum pc May issues 2014 nvidia open Test Bench Features Wed, 03 Sep 2014 19:29:01 +0000 Tom McNamara 28364 at How to Build a Haswell/GTX 780 PC <!--paging_filter--><h3>How to build a badass, silent Haswell gaming PC into an ATX chassis with a GeForce GTX 780 GPU</h3> <p>This month, <a title="intel" href="" target="_blank">Intel</a>'s "<a title="haswell" href="" target="_blank"><strong>Haswell</strong></a>" generation of desktop CPUs landed in the Lab, so like most builders, we were itching to see how she runs. For the uninitiated, Haswell is an <a title="haswell" href="" target="_blank">upgrade</a> from Ivy Bridge in terms of power efficiency and performance, but it also comes with a whole new motherboard socket—Socket 1150. We were curious to see if our building regimen would require any adjustments. As luck would have it, Nvidia also launched its 700-series cards this month to much fanfare, and since both of these components are going to be popular parts for upgraders and system builders, we decided to jump into the deep end of the pool with both of them and see how the combo performs in gaming benchmarks.</p> <p>On the CPU front, we went with Intel's <a title="intel core i7-4770K" href="" target="_blank">Core i7-4770K</a>, a quad-core chip with Hyper-Threading. The video card we used is the Nvidia reference <a title="GTX 780" href="" target="_blank">GTX 780</a>, basically a slightly watered-down <a title="Titan benchmarks" href="" target="_blank">GTX Titan</a>. We also threw in a new SSD from SanDisk, a low-noise case in the form of the <a title="Thermaltake Soprano review" href="" target="_blank">Thermaltake Soprano</a>, an alternate drive installation method, and an oversized air cooler. Our goal was to build a quiet, Haswell-based gaming rig that would give our zero-point a run for its money.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/beauty_shot_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/beauty_shot_small.jpg" title="GTX 780" width="620" height="676" /></a></p> <h3>Assembling the Super Friends</h3> <p>You may have noticed we've been using a lot of cases with sound-absorbing panels lately, and you may think we're crazy, especially since we plan to overclock, but once you've experienced a powerful PC emitting nothing more than a gentle hum, it's hard to go back. This month we tapped the Thermaltake New Soprano (which received a 9/Kick Ass verdict in our February 2013 issue). Its massive 20cm front fan should drag in a lot of cool air, and the 12cm rear fan is no slouch either. We ended up making some modifications to the case’s interior layout in order to improve airflow, which we'll talk about later.</p> <p>To cool our new Haswell chip we went with a <a title="Phanteks TC14PE" href="" target="_blank">Phanteks TC14PE</a>, which is arguably one of the best air coolers around. That should give us some extra headroom to perform overclocking duties, though the cooler’s massive size makes low-profile RAM necessary. SanDisk also has a new SSD, the <a title="extreme II SSD" href="" target="_blank">Extreme II</a>, which should give quite a boost to general desktop performance. Though the previous model, simply named Extreme SSD, was a bit of a me-too drive with its SandForce controller, this new drive has an all-new Marvell “Monet” controller and 19nm toggle NAND, so it’s primed for high performance. It even uses a tiny bit of super-expensive SLC NAND in addition to traditional MLC in a setup called two-tiered caching, which is supposed to speed up small writes from the OS.</p> <p>The Intel Core i7-4770K uses Intel's new LGA1150 socket, so we grabbed a brand-new Gigabyte Z87X-UD3H; it's basically the Haswell version of the company’s Z77X-UD3H, which has a reputation for allowing high CPU overclocks and being extremely stable.</p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><strong><span class="module-name">INGREDIENTS</span></strong></div> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 627px; height: 270px;" border="0"> <thead> <tr> <th class="head-empty"> </th> <th class="head-light">PART</th> <th>Price</th> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td class="item"><strong>Case</strong></td> <td class="item-dark">Thermaltake New Soprano</td> <td> <p><strong>$120</strong></p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>PSU</strong></td> <td>Corsair HX750</td> <td><strong>$130</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item"><strong>Mobo</strong></td> <td class="item-dark">Gigabyte GA-Z87X-UD3H</td> <td><strong>$180</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>CPU</strong></td> <td>Intel Core i7-4770K</td> <td><strong>$340</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>CPU Cooler</strong></td> <td>Phanteks TC14PE</td> <td><strong>$85 (street)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item"><strong>GPU</strong></td> <td class="item-dark">Nvidia GeForce GTX 780</td> <td><strong>$650</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item"><strong>RAM</strong></td> <td class="item-dark">Corsair Vengeance 2x 4GB</td> <td><strong>$60</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>SSD</strong></td> <td>SanDisk Extreme II 240GB</td> <td><strong>$230</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>HDD</strong></td> <td>Seagate Barracuda 3TB</td> <td><strong>$135</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>OS</strong></td> <td>Windows 8 64-bit OEM</td> <td><strong>$100</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Total</strong></td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td><strong>$2030</strong></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> <h4>1. It's About Time</h4> <p>Intel has had a "tick-tock" development cycle for its last few generations of desktop CPUs, where each "tock" is a new microarchitecture. Haswell is the latest tock. Each iteration has bumped up performance 5–15 percent, depending on the task. Physically, Haswell is pretty much identical to previous comparable Intel chips, despite changing from an LGA1155 socket to LGA1150. So, we were able to just drop it in like an 1155 chip, dab some thermal paste on top, and use the CPU cooler's installation instructions for LGA1155. We could have gone with the Core i5-4570K, which costs about $100 less than the Core i7-4770K, but none were available as of press time. And the i7 has Hyper-Threading, which is nice for multithread tasks like encoding video.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/image_a_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/image_a_small.jpg" title="Image A" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <h4>2. Taking a Byte</h4> <p>We chose the Gigabyte Z87X-UD3H because the Z77 version has a good rep for performance and build quality, and this board improves on it. For example, the SATA 6Gb/s port count has gone from two to eight, which is much appreciated. It also has beefier heatsinks around the CPU socket, but we were able to fit the husky Phanteks TC14PE without any obstructions (albeit with low-profile RAM).</p> <p>Gigabyte has also finally upgraded its unattractive EasyTune performance-tweaking software. Before, you could only plot two points on a graph to tell the board how to manage your fan speeds. Now you have five, for much finer-grained control. You also finally have several speed presets to choose from. You won't get as much overall tweaking as with Asus's AI Suite II, but the BIOS should have nearly everything you need, though it's still not as easy to navigate as we would like.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/image_b_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/image_b_small.jpg" title="Image B" width="620" height="412" /></a></p> <h4>3. Going to Extremes</h4> <p>Storage duties are handled by Seagate's 3TB Barracuda, which offers a lot of room for the money and is a snappy performer. It’s joined by the SanDisk Extreme 2 SSD, the sequel to a respectable SSD, with the intriguing addition of some internal SLC cache.</p> <p>We removed the lower drive trays to maximize airflow for the CPU and GPU, and installed the drives in the upper section, which has a 3.5-inch drive bay with storage space for both 3.5-inch and 2.5-inch drives. We had to remove the front fan to extract the slide-out tray through the front of the case. Removing the fan requires removing the front bezel, but it snaps on and off fairly easily.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/image_c_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/image_c_small.jpg" title="Image C" width="620" height="930" /></a></p> <p><em>Click the next page for the final steps along with our conclusion on how well it performs.</em></p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h4>4. Music to Our Ears</h4> <p>The Thermaltake New Soprano is a sleek-looking, low-noise case. The thick front door blocks noise coming from the front fan, which has intakes on the sides. The top and sides of the case do not have fan mounts, but that serves to keep the noise down. Both side panels have sound-dampening foam, with the right side's material being thinner to accommodate cables behind the motherboard. The bottom of the case has a 12cm fan mount if you need more airflow, or if you want to put a water cooler on the CPU or GPU.</p> <p>The motherboard standoffs are pre-installed, so installation went much quicker. The case has a few rubber grommets to the left of the board, and we had no trouble threading cables behind the board's tray. Our choice of drive installation had the drive connectors facing the rear of the case, so we didn't end up with as clean a look as we would have liked.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/image_d_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/image_d_small.jpg" title="Image D" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <h4 style="text-align: left;">5.<em> </em>An Olympic GPU</h4> <p style="text-align: left;">Right now, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 is the second-fastest single-GPU card on the market (<em>*Note: This article was written before the recently revealed <a title="780 Ti" href="" target="_blank">GeForce GTX 780 Ti</a></em>), behind Nvidia's GTX Titan. It's identical in size, and very close in gaming performance, with the main difference between the two being that the 780 has two disabled SMX units, for a total of 12, and lacks double-precision compute capability. Though we already knew the card was fast from our benchmarks, we were also eager to test the card's heat output and noise levels in a PC that we built from scratch. Subjective tests showed it to be noticeably quieter than the Titan (and like that card, you can select a target temperature or power target according to preference). The back of the case has a bracket that helps hold down the PCI slot covers, so we had to remove that before installing the card.</p> <p style="text-align: left;">The GTX 780 is 10.5 inches long, so space was a little tight with the storage drives right next to it, but it was manageable. A card that’s 11 inches or longer, such as the <a title="GTX 690" href="" target="_blank">GTX 690</a> or <a title="7990" href="" target="_blank">HD 7990</a>, would not have fit unless we installed the drives below the card.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/image_e_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/image_e_small.jpg" title="Image E" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <h4>6. Go Big or Go Home</h4> <p>An LGA1155 or 1150 system with a single GPU should run fine on 500 watts of power, so our <a title="Corsair HX750" href="" target="_blank">Corsair HX750</a> was arguably overkill, but we like having some power in reserve for hot days. It's also a modular PSU, which is better for cable management. It should also produce highly regulated power for overclocking stability, and it's backed by a 7-year warranty. It felt like a unit worthy of a $325 CPU and $650 video card.</p> <p>The Phanteks TC14PE CPU cooler is a good value for a dual-fan, dual-radiator unit, allowing us a 4.4GHz overclock without&nbsp; excessive noise levels. A water-cooler might have been better, but the case's limited fan mounts would have left us with too few options to add fans for improved airflow through the system. Also, with an untested CPU, GPU, SSD, and motherboard, we wanted to avoid the unpredictability of a new cooler. The RAM also didn't have to be anything exotic, since games don't tend to benefit from high memory speeds, so two sticks of low-profile 1,600MHz Corsair Vengeance DDR3 RAM did the trick.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/image_f_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/image_f_small.jpg" title="Image F" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/main_image_small_5.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/main_image_small_4.jpg" title="Main Image" width="620" height="412" /></a></p> <h3 style="text-align: left;">Haswell That Ends Well</h3> <p style="text-align: left;">Turning on a new PC for the first time is always a tense moment. With a case as quiet as the New Soprano, we had to double-check that we were actually up and running. Once you get a few feet away, this build is basically silent.</p> <p style="text-align: left;">Performance was excellent, too. By default, the Core i7-4770K runs at 3.5GHz and can Turbo Boost one or two of its cores to 3.8GHz when it doesn’t need all four to be running at full speed. We were able to overclock the CPU Turbo Boost on all four cores to 4.4GHz, which is a pretty good result for a CPU not using liquid cooling. The air cooler's dual 12cm fans helped keep the Haswell CPU stable while also delivering a noise level that wasn’t distracting. We tried bumping it to 4.5GHz, but with Prime95 running its gnarliest test, the overclock crossed the 80 degrees C threshold, which is a bit too hot for our tastes, so we settled at 4.4GHz.</p> <p style="text-align: left;">Combine that with a GPU core overclock of 150MHz and a GPU memory overclock of 100MHz (effective), and our reference card was benchmarking about 10 percent faster than stock speeds. The GTX 780 put out a lot of heat, but most of it was being blown directly out of the case thanks to the card's blower cooling design. It accomplished this feat despite its fan operating so quietly that it was effectively silent once the case was closed.</p> <p style="text-align: left;">The positioning of our storage devices didn't end up being as helpful as we would have liked, since the video card hogged most of the air coming through the intake fan. But the airflow is at least getting to the GTX 780 more quickly, if not the CPU. We had enough airflow to our storage devices, though, as they were both lukewarm, and the SanDisk Extreme II SSD booted quickly and seemed very peppy.</p> <p style="text-align: left;">In retrospect, it probably would have been better to go with a more conventional case, or at least one with more fan mounts. For example, if we had two mounts in the top, as with the <a title="Fractal Design Define R4" href="" target="_blank">Fractal Design Define R4</a> (which is also low-noise), we could have easily put in a 240mm radiator and even set up a custom liquid-cooling loop. Removable drive cages also would have been preferable.</p> <p style="text-align: left;">Other than that, the system has a good feel to it. It's rock-solid (after we figured out the right settings for the CPU overclock), runs cool and quiet, and produces blistering performance.</p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><strong><span class="module-name">Benchmarks</span></strong><br /> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 627px; height: 270px;" border="0"> <thead> <tr> <th class="head-empty"> </th> <th class="head-light"> <p style="font-size: 10px; font-weight: normal; text-align: start;"><strong>ZERO</strong></p> <p style="font-size: 10px; font-weight: normal; text-align: start;"><strong>POINT</strong></p> </th> <th></th> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td class="item">3DMark Fire Strike</td> <td class="item-dark">9,448</td> <td><span style="text-align: center;">9,694<strong><br /></strong></span><strong>&nbsp;</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>3DMark Fire Strike Extreme</td> <td>4,774</td> <td><span style="text-align: center;">5,013<strong><br /></strong></span><strong>&nbsp;</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">3DMark11 Performance</td> <td class="item-dark">15,195</td> <td>12,647<strong> (-16.8%)<br /></strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>3DMark11 Extreme</td> <td>5,924</td> <td>5,096<strong> (-14%)<br /></strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>Batman: Arkham City (fps)</td> <td>109</td> <td>75<strong> (-31.2%)</strong></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> </div> <p><span style="font-size: 10px; font-weight: bold;"><em>The zero-point machine compared here consists of a 3.2GHz Core i7-3930K, 16GB of Corsair DDR3/1600 on an Asus P9X79 Deluxe motherboard. It has a GeForce GTX 690, a Corsair Neutron GTX SSD, and 64-bit Windows 7 Professional.</em></span></p> 2013 August 2013 atx gaming pc geforce gtx 780 haswell how to build intel nvidia pc Rig Features How-Tos Wed, 13 Nov 2013 19:39:42 +0000 Tom McNamara 26550 at How to Build A Quiet-but-Powerful Gaming PC <!--paging_filter--><h3>We love Pure PC Power, and hate noise, so we set out to satisfy both primal desires with a hand-built and almost totally silent gaming PC</h3> <p>Powerful computer components often run hot, which requires loud fans or expensive liquid to cool them, bringing us to a central conundrum of the PC Power lifestyle—we want a big, powerful PC, but we want it to make as little noise as possible. Not only do noisy computers make it more difficult to relax, but there’s a principle at work here—you should be the master of the space where you put your PC; you must bend it to your will, not the other way around.</p> <p>This month, we decided to do just that and build a supremely powerful rig, then smother its noise output as best as we could. We haven’t built a PC like this in a while, so the project gave us the chance to check out some new gear specifically designed for quiet computing, including a fanless CPU cooler from Zalman, a case fan from a company that usually only operates in Europe, and a closed-loop liquid cooler built for video cards. We stuffed it all into a “new to us” case from Fractal Design, and then tried to overclock the PC because, well, that’s what we do here.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/build_it-7990_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/build_it-7990_small.jpg" width="620" height="682" /></a></p> <p>Starting out, we figured the thing that would probably make the biggest difference in our build (besides the components, of course) would be sound-absorbing panels. This would allow us to have some fans inside the system, as building a fanless PC with any amount of horsepower is simply impossible. Therefore, we went with <a title="Fractal Design Define R4" href="" target="_blank">Fractal Design’s Define R4</a>—a mid-tower known for its sonic excellence and balance of price and features.</p> <p>We also liked the idea of a fanless CPU cooler, as Zalman had recently released its&nbsp;<a title="fanless air cooler" href="" target="_blank">FX100 cooler</a>, and it would mean a major element of our machine would be totally silent even when running at full speed. The only problem is it would also pretty much guarantee that we wouldn't be able to overclock due to heat buildup, which is always a problem with fanless coolers. Zalman also sent us a 92mm fan that could be dropped into the center column of the heat sink if we ran into cooling issues. Zalman labels the fan as “optional” for those running socket 2011 or 1133, but we would add “overclockers” to that list, as well. A company named <a title="be quiet" href="" target="_blank">Be Quiet</a> had just sent us two 14cm Silent Wings 2 case fans, one of which we slapped in the front of our case for some additional airflow.</p> <p>In the GPU department, we happened to have an Nvidia GeForce GTX 680 with a closed-loop water cooler from <a title="680 quiet" href="" target="_blank">Arctic Cooling</a> that includes a 120mm radiator and fan, so we used that since it’s just what the rig-doctor ordered. Rounding out our components was a quiet PSU from Cooler Master, a solid-state drive from OCZ, a 1TB Caviar Black hard drive from WD, and a couple of sticks of RAM from Corsair.</p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><strong><span class="module-name">INGREDIENTS</span></strong></div> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 627px; height: 270px;" border="0"> <thead> <tr> <th class="head-empty"> </th> <th class="head-light">PART</th> <th>Price</th> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td class="item"><strong>Case</strong></td> <td class="item-dark">Fractal Design Define R4</td> <td> <p><strong>$110</strong></p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Case Fan</strong></td> <td>Be Quiet Silent Wings 2 14cm</td> <td><strong>$20</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item"><strong>PSU</strong></td> <td class="item-dark">Cooler Master 800W Silent Pro Gold</td> <td><strong>$150</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Mobo</strong></td> <td>Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD3H</td> <td><strong>$135</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>CPU</strong></td> <td>Intel Core i7-3770K</td> <td><strong>$325</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item"><strong>CPU Cooler</strong></td> <td class="item-dark">Zalman FX100</td> <td><strong>$70 (street)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item"><strong>GPU</strong></td> <td class="item-dark">Nvidia GeForce GTX 680</td> <td><strong>$450</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>GPU Cooler</strong></td> <td>Arctic Cooling Accelero Hybrid</td> <td><strong>$110</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>RAM</strong></td> <td>Corsair Vengeance 2x 4GB</td> <td><strong>$55</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>SSD</strong></td> <td>OCZ Vertex 4 128GB</td> <td><strong>$125</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Hard Drive</strong></td> <td>WD Caviar Black 1TB</td> <td><strong>$90</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>OS</strong></td> <td>Windows 7 64-bit OEM</td> <td><strong>$100</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Total</strong></td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td><strong>$1,740</strong></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> <div class="spec-table orange"><em>Click the next page to see how we built the silent gaming PC!</em></div> <h4> <hr /></h4> <h4>1. Hybrid Theory</h4> <p>We didn't want to sacrifice video card performance to achieve low noise, so we got creative. Not long ago, we installed an Arctic Cooling Accelero Hybrid closed-loop liquid cooler on an Nvidia GeForce GTX 680 (these don't run as toasty as comparable AMD cards like the Radeon HD 7970, making our job a little easier). The Hybrid is basically like a <a title="h100" href="" target="_blank">Corsair H100</a>, but designed for GPUs. Since we awarded it a 9 verdict and Kick Ass award for running so cool and quiet, it made sense to tuck this puppy into our build. The Fractal Design case we chose had an unoccupied 120mm fan grill on the bottom of the case, next to the power supply, perfect for our Hybrid’s radiator and fan (<strong>image A</strong>). It's difficult to hear noise coming through the bottom of a case, so we used that to our advantage.<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/a_small_11.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/a_small_9.jpg" title="Image A" width="620" height="416" /></a></strong></p> <h4 style="text-align: left;">2. European Styling!</h4> <p>We were looking forward to working with the Fractal Design Define R4 case for more than just its built-in sound-dampening panels. It's also about an inch wider than normal, so there's more room behind the motherboard tray for cable management. (The extra width also leaves room to add a 140mm radiator to the rear exhaust fan, but we don't need that feature this time.) In addition, the drive cages have preinstalled rubber feet designed to absorb the vibration of a mechanical drive's moving parts (<strong>image B</strong>). We also decided to remove the upper drive cage, which was secured with a couple of thumbscrews, to increase airflow in the middle of the chassis where our GPU is located. Besides, we didn't need the second drive cage since we were fine just using the three bays in the lower cage. The power supply mount also has rubber feet, and a gasket in the rear that helps with sound absorption and dust prevention.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/b_small_10.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/b_small_9.jpg" title="Image B" width="620" height="421" /></a></p> <h4 style="text-align: left;">3. On Silent Wings</h4> <p>Even though the case includes one intake fan and one exhaust fan, we wanted a third case fan to help provide some airflow to our fanless CPU cooler. The R4 has two intake fan mounts in the front, and we weren’t worried about adding an extra fan to a “quiet PC” because the added noise would be muffled by sound- dampening material. We used the unoccupied lower mount to install the Be Quiet Silent Wings 2 fan, which is like the R4's stock fans in that its blades are shaped to reduce turbulence.</p> <p>To install it, we just pressed on the fan grill to pop it open, affixed the fan to the included cage, then snapped it shut—no tools needed (<strong>image C</strong>).</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/c_small_11.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/c_small_10.jpg" title="Image C" width="620" height="437" /></a></p> <h4 style="text-align: left;">4. The Drive to Win</h4> <p>We decided to skip an optical drive, since they can make a lot of noise when they spin up, and just installed Windows from a USB stick. For our OS we naturally wanted a solid-state drive since they have no moving parts and make no noise, so we went with an OCZ Vertex 4 because it's one of the best performers at 128GB and its size is sufficient for our OS needs. The Define R4 allows you to install two SSDs underneath the motherboard tray, between the board and the case. But the screws go through the top of the tray (<strong>image D</strong>), so the motherboard needs to be removed to install the drives. For simplicity’s sake, we installed the SSD next to the mechanical drive in the lower drive cage, as its slide-out trays have screw holes for SSDs. There was enough room between the back of the drives and the side panel that right-angle SATA cables were not required.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/d_small_0.png"><img src="/files/u152332/d_small.png" title="Image D" width="620" height="409" /></a></p> <h4 style="text-align: left;">5. One Less Fan</h4> <p>We really liked the idea of using Zalman’s new fanless CPU cooler for this build, since it’s totally silent and would go a long way toward minimizing our machine’s sound output—after all, the CPU cooler, along with the GPU cooler, is responsible for the lion’s share of the noise a system emits. Since we already had the GPU on a liquid diet, silencing the CPU too should make our machine so quiet not even a bat could hear it. Of course, we also wanted a high-performance machine, so we were taking a bit of a gamble on whether a fanless cooler would work, but we figured it was worth a try.</p> <p>Since it’s a passive cooler, the Zalman is absolutely massive. This made plugging things in around the CPU socket tricky, as the cooler mostly obstructed the 8-pin motherboard power connector (<strong>image E</strong>). The CPU fan header was also completely out of reach (Zalman bundles an optional 92mm ZM-SF2 fan). You can install the cooler with the fan before putting your motherboard in the case, but then the cooler blocks the 8-pin connector. With the fan plugged in, we had to tilt the board about 30 degrees to wrestle the 8-pin cable into its socket.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/e_small_11.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/e_small_10.jpg" title="Image E" width="620" height="327" /></a></p> <h4 style="text-align: left;">6. Fighting the Power</h4> <p>Power supplies are another area where we can eliminate noise. When your system starts demanding a lot of power, that power amounts to a lot of heat going through the PSU. Its fan may have to spin pretty hard to keep up, so you want a PSU with a fan that won't create a lot of turbulence when you crank it to 11. We began our build with a Cooler Master 720-watt Silent Pro M2, and as its name implies, it's designed to operate quietly. We'd used it in a previous build, so we could confirm it would not emit more than a low hum. It seemed like a no-brainer to drop in our Define R4 case.</p> <p>Unfortunately, the M2 was about a half-inch too long, and didn’t leave enough room for the Accelero Hybrid radiator, which we mounted on the bottom fan grill next to the PSU. It seemed simpler to just get a different PSU rather than mount the Hybrid where its fan would be easier to hear. We had several other options on hand and ultimately chose the Cooler Master Silent Pro Gold (<strong>image F</strong>) because it has received positive reviews for its silent operation.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/f_small_8.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/f_small_7.jpg" title="Image F" width="620" height="277" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/main__image_small_0.png"><img src="/files/u152332/main__image_small.png" title="Main Image" width="620" height="421" /></a></p> <h3 style="text-align: left;">Silent but Deadly</h3> <p style="text-align: left;">Although it took time and some creativity to fit the FX100 fanless CPU cooler into the Define R4 case (due to the cooler’s unusually large dimensions and the case’s midsize stature), it was able to keep our Core i7-3770K in the mid-70s Celsius with Prime95 running its most challenging test (in-place large FFTs). That’s not too shabby for a fanless cooler, especially considering that our CPU was running eight threads at 100 percent load. If you place a high premium on low noise and don't care about overclocking, this cooler may fit your needs, assuming you can wedge it into your chassis. In retrospect, we would have preferred either a smaller cooler or a larger case, as this particular combo provided woefully little clearance between the top of the motherboard and the top of the case, making connecting the 8-pin power cable up in the corner of our mobo a major chore. Many full-towers fit that description, and Fractal Design makes a full-tower version of this case called the Define XL R2.</p> <p style="text-align: left;">After we installed the FX100’s optional 92mm fan (found at for $18), CPU temps were about on par with similar-size “skyscraper” coolers like the Noctua NH-D14 or the Phanteks TC14PE, with idle temps in the low-to-mid 30s Celsius and load temps in the high 60s, and it operated about as quietly. We were also able to get a stable overclock of 4GHz (from a stock speed of 3.5GHz). Going higher created noticeable fan noise when the system was under load, even with the sound dampening in the R4.</p> <p style="text-align: left;">Putting the Accelero Hybrid radiator on the bottom of the Define R4 chassis gave us the quietude we had hoped for, even when running GPU benchmarks. The Hybrid device includes a small fan blowing on the card, so the memory and voltage regulation modules didn't overheat. Since this fan didn't have to cool the GPU, it didn't have to work nearly as hard, so it stayed nice and quiet.</p> <p style="text-align: left;">Overall, this build was one part cooling experiment, and one part PC-building exercise. Though our final system was dead quiet, it took us awhile to get there, thanks to the quirks of the fanless cooler and the stringent low-noise requirements we set for ourselves. Given a second shot, we'd go with a standard CPU air-cooler with fans first, or water cooling. Maybe next time we’ll cool both the GPU and the CPU with water, and maybe even try something as exotic as an exterior radiator/reservoir.</p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><strong><span class="module-name">Benchmarks</span></strong><br /> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 627px; height: 270px;" border="0"> <thead> <tr> <th class="head-empty"> </th> <th class="head-light"> <p style="font-size: 10px; font-weight: normal; text-align: start;"><strong>ZERO</strong></p> <p style="font-size: 10px; font-weight: normal; text-align: start;"><strong>POINT</strong></p> </th> <th></th> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td class="item">Premiere Pro CS6 (sec)</td> <td class="item-dark">2,000</td> <td><span style="text-align: center;">2820 <strong>(-29%)</strong></span><strong>&nbsp;</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>Stitch.Efx 2.0 (sec)</td> <td>831</td> <td>836</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">3DMark 11 Extreme</td> <td class="item-dark">5,847</td> <td>3390<strong> (-42%)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>x264 HD 5.0 (fps)</td> <td>21.1</td> <td>15.5<strong> (-26%)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>ProShow Producer 5.0 (sec)</td> <td>1,446</td> <td>1427<strong> (-1%)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Batman: Arkam City (fps)</td> <td class="item-dark">76&nbsp;</td> <td>49<strong> (-35%)</strong></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> </div> <p><span style="font-size: 10px; font-weight: bold;"><em>Our current desktop test bed consists of a hexa-core 3.2GHz Core i7-3930K @ 3.8GHz, 8GB of Corsair DDR3/1600, on an Asus Sabertooth X79 motherboard. We are running a GeForce GTX 690, an OCZ Vertex 3 SSD, and 64-bit Windows 7 Professional.</em></span></p> July 2013 2013 cool fanless CPU cooler gaming pc Hardware loud noise Quiet Rig silent Systems Features Mon, 07 Oct 2013 23:46:12 +0000 Tom McNamara 26394 at iBuyPower Announces Limited Edition CLG Competition Gaming PCs <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="" alt="iBuyPower CLG Gaming PCs" title="iBuyPower CLG Gaming PCs" width="228" height="109" style="float: right;" /></h3> <h3>The official CLG PCs will begin shipping in September</h3> <p>Los Angeles-based boutique system builder iBuyPower has announced a new range of limited edition gaming PCs in partnership with storied <strong><a href="" target="_blank">eSports</a></strong> outfit Counter Logic Gaming.&nbsp; Designed with the needs of competitive gamers in mind, the CLG-branded machines are now <a href="" target="_blank">available for pre-order starting at $1099</a>.</p> <p>There are three models to choose from, each of which is highly configurable and boasts a custom <a href="" target="_blank">NZXT Phantom 530 case</a> that bears the LoL team’s logo on its transparent side panel. </p> <p>“We’ve stayed true to our mission since day one of committing to the eSports scene. We want to support and give back to the community,” said Darren Su, VP of iBuyPower, in a <a href="" target="_blank">press release</a>. “CLG told us that fans demanded something competitive and we listened.”</p> <p>Where specs are concerned, iBuyPower is confident that the $1099 Official CLG System 760, the $1669 Competitive CLG System 770, and the HotShotGG Edition have plenty&nbsp; of firepower and won’t let gamers down: “Available with up to an Intel Core i7-4770K CPU, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 graphics, 16GB of DDR3-1600 memory, 256GB SSD + 1TB HDD and sealed-loop liquid-cooling, the CLG systems will plow through any game.”</p> <p><em>Follow Pulkit on&nbsp;<a style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; text-decoration: none;" href="">Google+</a></em></p> counter logic gaming esports gaming pc ibuypower NZXT Phantom 530 News Thu, 01 Aug 2013 03:19:46 +0000 Pulkit Chandna 26045 at How to Build a Linux Gaming PC <!--paging_filter--><h3>We show you how to build an affordable Linux gaming PC</h3> <p>The free <a title="linux" href="" target="_blank">Linux</a> 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 <a title="windows 8" href="" target="_blank">Windows 8</a>, and gaming juggernaut <a title="valve" href="" target="_blank">Valve</a> has thrown its hat into the ring by launching a Linux version of <a title="steam" href="" target="_blank">Steam</a>, 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 <a title="windows" href="" target="_blank">Windows</a> for gaming.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154082/linux_pc.jpg" alt="linux pc" title="linux pc" width="620" height="552" /></p> <h3>Choosing the Hardware</h3> <p>Our Linux machine was built with a low target price of $650 because we wanted this project to be semi-easy to duplicate by anyone. With this in mind, we started with <a title="i3 intel" href="" target="_blank">Intel’s Ivy Bridge Core i3-3220 processor</a>, as it comes at a reasonable cost, gives us a great upgrade path, and its low TDP of 55W means we won’t need a massive CPU cooler or PSU. Our <a title="asus mobo" href="" target="_blank">Asus P8Z77-V LE</a> motherboard is also affordable while offering both <a title="SLI" href="" target="_blank">SLI</a> and <a title="crossfire" href="" target="_blank">CrossFire</a> support, as well as two USB 3.0 ports. Power is provided by a <a title="Corsair CX430" href="" target="_blank">CX430 Corsair</a> power supply from the company’s low-cost Builder series. Given our modest build-out, we figured anything bigger than 430W would be overkill.</p> <p>GPU duties are handled by a <a title="GTX 650 review" href="" target="_blank">Gigabyte GTX 650</a> video card, which at $120 performs better than a Radeon HD 7750 and should be sufficient for our Linux adventure. The system requirements of the available games are very low, so a more powerful GPU would be wasted. As our budget didn't allow for an SSD, we went with a 500GB, 7,200rpm <a title="wd caviar blue" href="" target="_blank">WD Caviar Blue</a>. We scored 8GB of <a title="ram" href="" target="_blank">G.Skill Ripjaws RAM</a> because it was dirt cheap at just $45. Holding all the gear is a <a title="Corsair Carbide" href=",2" target="_blank">Corsair Carbide</a> case, which is just $60 but has USB 3.0 front panel ports, cable routing, and tool-less drive bays.</p> <p>With the hardware in hand, it's time to build the machine. If you need any guidance putting it together, check out this <a title="how to build a pc" href="" target="_blank">step-by-step PC building guide</a> from a previous build.&nbsp;</p> <p>Now, let's turn your new box into a Linux gaming rig.</p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><strong><span class="module-name">INGREDIENTS</span></strong></div> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 627px; height: 270px;" border="0"> <thead> <tr> <th class="head-empty"> </th> <th class="head-light">PART</th> <th>URL</th> <th>Price</th> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td class="item"><strong>Case</strong></td> <td class="item-dark">Corsair Carbide 200R</td> <td><a href=""><span class="thickbox"></span></a></td> <td> <p><strong>60</strong></p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>PSU</strong></td> <td>Corsair CX430W</td> <td><a class="thickbox" href=""></a></td> <td><strong>$50</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item"><strong>Mobo</strong></td> <td class="item-dark">Asus P8Z77-V LE Plus</td> <td><a class="thickbox" href=""></a></td> <td><strong>$160</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>CPU</strong></td> <td>Intel Core i3-3220</td> <td><a href=""><span class="thickbox"></span></a></td> <td><strong>$130</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Cooler</strong></td> <td>Stock Cooler</td> <td><a href=""><span class="thickbox"></span></a></td> <td><strong>$0</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item"><strong>GPU</strong></td> <td class="item-dark">Gigabyte GTX 650</td> <td><a class="thickbox" href=""><span class="thickbox"></span></a></td> <td><strong>$120</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item"><strong>RAM</strong></td> <td class="item-dark">8GB G.Skill Ripjaws</td> <td><a href=""></a></td> <td><strong>$45</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Optical Drive</strong></td> <td>Samsung S224BB</td> <td><a href=""><span class="thickbox"></span></a></td> <td><strong>$20</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Hard Drive</strong></td> <td>500GB WD Caviar Blue</td> <td><a href=""><span class="thickbox"></span></a></td> <td><strong>$65</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>OS</strong></td> <td>Ubuntu 12.04 LTS</td> <td><a href=""><span class="thickbox"></span></a></td> <td><strong>$0</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Total</strong></td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td><strong>$650</strong></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> <p><em>Click the <a title="linux pc page 2" href=",1" target="_self">next page</a> to see how to install Linux.</em></p> <hr /> <h4>1. Download Your Distro</h4> <p>We chose the <a title="ubuntu" href="" target="_blank">Ubuntu</a> flavor of Linux for this project because it’s considered the easiest to use for beginners. To get started, we headed to the website (<a href=""></a>) and downloaded our preferred flavor (<strong>image A</strong>). We chose version 12.04 LTS because it will be supported for five years rather than the latest 12.10 version, which will be only be supported for two years. After the download was complete, we prepared to burn the ISO image to a blank CD-R.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/a_small_4.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/a_small_3.jpg" title="Image A" width="620" height="384" /></a></p> <h4>2. Burn the ISO to Disc</h4> <p>We had to find suitable software for burning the ISO to CD-R (at 695MB, the distro fits on one disc). We then used the free and easy-to-use Active@ ISO Burner to burn our distro to a CD. Go to <a href=""></a> for the download, then run it. Browse to the ISO, select your optical drive, and hit the Burn button (<strong>image B</strong>). When it's done, pop the disc into the optical drive of your new guinea rig, and prepare to install Linux.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/b_small_4.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/b_small_3.jpg" title="Image B" width="620" height="387" /></a></p> <h4>3. Install the OS</h4> <p>The biggest decision you’ll have to make when installing Linux involves drive partitioning (a partition is a chunk of a storage device that appears to the OS as a separate volume). If you’re multibooting, install Linux to a separate partition, but if you’re like us and just want to run it off one storage device, you can ignore partition options (<strong>image C</strong>). After you’ve finished (or skipped) partitioning your hard drive, the OS will begin to install. It took about 30 minutes on our 7,200rpm drive, but it will take about 10-15 minutes on an SSD (we tested it just for fun).</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/c_small_5.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/c_small_4.jpg" title="Image C" width="620" height="356" /></a></p> <h4>4. Update the OS</h4> <p>Just like with Windows, the first thing you’ll want to do after you’ve installed Ubuntu is update the operating system. To do so, you will need to grab the latest updates from the Update Manager. Do this by clicking the power button in the right-hand corner of the screen and then clicking Update Manager to see a list of the latest updates; click Install Updates (<strong>image D</strong>). Unlike with Windows, which can take days to get up to date if you’re not using a Service Pack, the update process for Ubuntu took about 15 minutes. After that and a single reboot, we were up to date.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/d_small_5.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/d_small_4.jpg" title="Image D" width="620" height="503" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: left;"><em>Click the <a title="page 3" href=",2" target="_self">next page</a> to read about how to install the video/sound drivers.</em></p> <p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h4>5. Install Video/Sound Drivers</h4> <p>The last thing you’ll need to do before installing <a title="steam" href="" target="_blank">Steam</a> is to install the latest video drivers and other non-open-source or proprietary drivers, such as those for your motherboard. To install these drivers you’ll simply click the green video-card icon in the right-hand corner of the screen, which pops up a window that displays the proprietary drivers for your computer (<strong>image E</strong>). One of the cooler features of Ubuntu Linux is that it finds all the available drivers for your system, so you don’t have to visit the manufacturers’ website to download them. After you’ve finished downloading the drivers, you’ll need to restart your system, and then you’ll be completely set up and ready to tackle some games with Valve’s Steam client.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/e_small_5.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/e_small_4.jpg" title="Image E" width="620" height="422" /></a></p> <h4>6. Install Steam</h4> <p>Installing Steam is fairly simple. Download the client from <a title="valve site" href="" target="_blank">Valve’s website</a>&nbsp;and then double-click it to run the installer, which takes you to Ubuntu’s Software Center. This Software Center shows you any newly installed software, and it's where we’ll install Steam (<strong>image F)</strong>. Once it’s installed, you can run the client. But first, you might want to check out other open-source games that are listed in the Software Center, which is a mini app store providing a few games and other small applications for Linux users.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/f_small_6.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/f_small_5.jpg" title="Image F" width="620" height="353" /></a></p> <h4>7. Set Up Steam</h4> <p>After Installing Steam, you will need to log into your account and authenticate your computer via email. You can start installing games on your Ubuntu 12.04 machine (<strong>image G</strong>) after your first log-in. As of this writing, there were 41 games available, and just like in Windows, each of them (aside from TF2, of course) costs money. You will also be able to download any of your previously purchased games that are Linux-compatible (<a title="tf2" href="" target="_blank">Team Fortress 2</a>, for example). Although 41 games isn’t very many, Valve has been adding new titles at a steady clip. The company added 15 of the 41 titles in its Linux library in just the first month of the new Steam client’s existence.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a href="/files/u152332/g_small_5.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/g_small_4.jpg" title="Image G" width="620" height="394" /></a></p> <h3>Living La Vida Linux</h3> <p>Overall, we were impressed with the experience we had using Linux for Internet browsing, word processing, and playing games. The OS ran surprisingly well on our modest rig. It booted quickly, shut down in a heartbeat, and handled multitasking without any problems. When it comes to gaming, our feeling is that it handles the games we play just fine, but the test bed of 41 offered by Steam at this time is too small a sample—we want more! We know Steam is not the only supplier of games, but we’re still talking about a relatively small gaming universe on Linux. As an example, Steam offers more than 6,000 titles on the Windows platform, so clearly no hardcore gamer can survive on Linux alone. Also, there are zero triple-A titles on Steam for Linux at this time—that right there is a deal-killer for us, at least in the long run. In testing, we sampled Team Fortress 2, <a title="Trine 2" href="" target="_blank">Trine 2</a>, and <a title="waveform" href="" target="_blank">Waveform</a>, and they all ran with ease at 1920x1200 on our budget box, with all settings maxed. We were greatly impressed by just how smoothly the games hummed along.</p> <p>Just because we can’t survive on Linux alone doesn’t mean we didn’t like experimenting with it on the side, however. Building the Linux gaming box was a fun experience, and we’d recommend any enthusiast take it for a test drive. Besides, both Linux and Steam are free, so trying either one won’t cost you a dime.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/guts_5226_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/guts_5226_small.jpg" width="620" height="551" /></a></p> March 2013 2013 affordable Build cheap free gaming pc ivy bridge linux linux games maximum pc ubuntu Office Applications Software Features Mon, 24 Jun 2013 21:05:08 +0000 Chris Zele 25623 at iBuypower Revolt Review <!--paging_filter--><h3>IBP combines affordability with good performance</h3> <p>To revolt is to rise up against an oppressive ruling authority. In <a title="ibuypower" href="" target="_blank">iBuypower</a>’s case, is the new <strong>iBuypower Revolt</strong> PC opposing big gaming rigs or game consoles?</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/ibuypower_5663_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/ibuypower_5663_small.jpg" alt="The revolt carries on the fight against substandard game consoles." title="iBuypower Revolt" width="620" height="797" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The revolt carries on the fight against substandard game consoles.</strong></p> <p>We prefer to believe that the Revolt, along with its fellow revolutionaries from <a title="alienware" href="" target="_blank">Alienware</a>, <a title="falcon northwest" href="" target="_blank">Falcon Northwest</a>, and <a title="digital storm" href="" target="_blank">Digital Storm</a>, is part of the first expeditionary force attacking the substandard gaming performance that consoles have subjected its citizens to for years.</p> <p>As we’ve said of the other small PCs of this ilk, you need only slap a $26 wireless Xbox controller on the Revolt, get it set up with <a title="steam big picture mode" href="" target="_blank">Steam’s Big Picture Mode</a>, and you’ll not only have a gaming machine that fits in nicely in the living room, but that will also likely blow away the next-gen consoles.</p> <p>The Revolt uses a new <a title="nzxt" href="" target="_blank">NZXT</a> chassis that iBuypower has exclusive rights to. It’s slightly wider than three other similarly shaped boxes we’ve reviewed from Alienware (<a title="alienware x51" href="" target="_blank">X51</a>), Falcon Northwest (<a title="tiki" href="" target="_blank">tiki</a>), and Digital Storm (<a title="bolt" href="" target="_blank">bolt</a>). iBuypower manages to jam in a 14cm NZXT liquid cooler, which lets the <a title="3770K cpu" href="" target="_blank">Intel Core i7-3770K</a> hum along at an overclocked 4.2GHz. The rig also sports an EVGA <a title="670" href="" target="_blank">GeForce GTX 670</a> GPU and is large enough to support both an HDD and SSD. This is significant because the box that spurred it all, Alienware’s X51, forces you to pick either an HDD or SSD, not both.</p> <p>While the X51 uses an external power brick, the iBuypower uses an internal FSP 500-watt PSU. There’s actually an upside and downside to both setups. The downside here is the noise. Our pre-production Revolt’s 1U power supply got shrilly under heavy loads. We had the same issue with Digital Storm’s Bolt, which was rectified in shipping units. iBuypower promises improvement in the final units, but ours was just too noisy to be used under load in an HTPC environment. However, seeing how other vendors have been able to tame the issue by tweaking the fan profiles and thermals, we suspect iBuypower will be able to do the same.</p> <p>Performance of the box against our desktop zero-point, with its hexa-core processor, was not pretty but that’s hardly a surprise, considering the ZP’s size and parts. Lest you think that a quad-core Ivy Bridge ticking at 4.2GHz is Atom-poo slow, however—it’s not. Even in the heavily multithreaded Premiere Pro test, the Ivy Bridge was but 31 percent slower than our Core i7-3930K at 3.8GHz. The GeForce GTX 670 also shows pretty well when you consider that the zero-point is housing a GeForce GTX 690.</p> <p>We also stacked up the Revolt against the Falcon Northwest Tiki and Digital Storm Bolt (we didn’t have the original X51 on which to run our new benchmarks) and found the Revolt competitive but the slow man out against its two peers. Oddly enough, in our Premiere Pro CS6 benchmark, the similarly clocked Revolt ran about 9 percent behind the Tiki and 11 percent behind the Bolt—that’s probably partly due to its single-channel RAM.</p> <p>But there are a couple of ways in which the Revolt excels over those two boxes. For one thing, it has the ability to run when laid flat, which makes it far more flexible for living room use. It also beats both the Tiki and Bolt in the price game. The FNW Tiki we reviewed in September 2012 came equipped with dual 500GB SSDs and a GeForce GTX 680 for $4,126. No doubt 500GB SSDs have dropped in price, but not by that much. The Digital Storm Bolt, reviewed in our January 2013 issue, took the price down to $1,950, using just a 120GB SSD but giving you a GTX 680 card, too. The iBuypower Revolt comes in even lower, at $1,400. Is that a good deal? Spec-for-spec, yes. It’s even comparable to Alienware’s top-end X51, which gives you a 2TB HDD and 16GB of RAM, but is capped at a GeForce GTX 660 and there’s no option for an SSD.</p> <p>That puts the Revolt in a pretty good spot. No, you can’t get it as spec’d-out as the Bolt or Tiki, but at this price, a lot of folks won’t care. Overall, iBuypower gets a lot right with the Revolt and brings its trademark practice of packing in the performance without packing on the price.</p> <p><strong>$1,400,</strong> <a href=""></a></p> April 2013 2013 computer Consumer Desktops gaming pc Hardware htpc iBuypower Revolt Review small Reviews Systems Thu, 20 Jun 2013 20:15:19 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung 25688 at Geekbox Ego Maniacal Review <!--paging_filter--><h3>A matte-black benchmark bruiser</h3> <p><strong>Geekbox’s Ego Maniacal</strong> system pays homage to <a title="maximum pc dream machine" href="" target="_blank">Maximum PC’s Dream Machine</a>—but probably not the one you’re thinking of.</p> <p>Sure, <a title="Dream Machine 2012" href="" target="_blank">last year’s Dream Machine</a> featured the same <a title="Silverstone TJ11 review" href="" target="_blank">Silverstone TJ11</a> chassis as the Geekbox Ego Maniacal, but we’re told that the actual inspiration for this custom-built box was <a title="2002 dream machine" href="" target="_blank">2002’s Dream Machine</a>, which was painted to match a <a title="BMW 2002 turbo" href="" target="_blank">classic BMW 2002 Turbo</a>. Except Geekbox has updated its tribute to the car by nodding its head to the more <a title="BMW M3" href="" target="_blank">current special edition BMW M3</a> in “frozen black.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/geekbox_4934_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/geekbox_4934_small.jpg" title="Geekbox Ego Maniacal" width="620" height="773" /></a></p> <p>The Ego might owe its inspiration to that Dream Machine of old, but its internals are a closer match with 2012’s DM. Full details of the Ego’s specs are down below, but the highlights include Intel’s new king, the 3.5GHz <a title="3970X" href="" target="_blank">Core i7-3970X</a>, a pair of liquid-cooled <a title="690" href="" target="_blank">GeForce GTX 690</a> cards, two 240GB <a title="Corsair Neutron GTX review" href="" target="_blank">Corsair Neutron GTX SSDs</a>, 32GB of Corsair DDR3/1866, and a 1,200W Corsair AX1200i PSU. The most impressive part of the Ego may be its liquid cooling, which uses both a quad-rad and dual-rad to keep the parts cool—that includes the voltage regulation modules on the Asus Republic of Gamer board.</p> <p>That’s probably a good idea, too, because the Ego pushes the new 3.5GHz Core i7-3970X to a very stable 4.8GHz. That’s about 1GHz further than our zero-point’s overclocked six-core, and with its 25 percent higher clocks, the Ego offers that much more of a performance edge. In fact, the six-core Ego gave our zero-point—which is certainly no slouch in specs—a pretty good pummeling in every single benchmark. What about something a bit beefier, such as DM2012?</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/geekbox_guts4977_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/geekbox_guts4977_small.jpg" alt="Geekbox individually sizes and sleeves the cables for each PC it builds. " title="Geekbox Ego Maniacal" width="620" height="564" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Geekbox individually sizes and sleeves the cables for each PC it builds. </strong></p> <p>Between the two, it was a classic battle of cores vs. frequency, with DM2012 sporting eight cores at 3.1GHz vs. the Ego’s six cores at 4.8GHz. In the apps that can’t exploit all the cores of the DM2012 (or even the Ego, for that matter), clock speeds won out, with the Ego pulling up a score 27 percent faster in Stitch.Efx 2.0 and 30 percent faster in ProShow Producer 5.0. When you get into the heavily multithreaded tasks, however, the cores-vs.-frequency argument gets interesting. The Ego was faster than the DM2012 in Premiere Pro CS 5.0 by about 4 percent and about 1 percent faster in the x264 HD 5.0 benchmark. That’s a victory for frequency, but at the same time, we’re talking about a 1.7GHz difference between the six-core and eight-core chips, so the core crowd can claim a moral victory. We also have to acknowledge that the Ego set benchmark records in all six official benchmarks we run. Although not everything was by a large margin, it’s still one hell of an accomplishment for one single system to sweep all six.</p> <p>The real magic of the Ego is in the phenomenal amount of detail paid to its construction. <a title="geekbox" href="" target="_blank">Geekbox</a> says it spends no less than 40 hours to build its high-end custom machines and it shows, from the washers on the case-door screws that prevent scratches to the paint, to the custom-length cables that are each sleeved and heat-shrunk by hand (nary a zip tie is present). There are other loving details about the case that we just don’t have the space for here, but we must admit we were a bit let down by the decals. Rather than covering them with a clear coat, Geekbox just stuck them atop the matte-black paint job, which is decidedly less impressive—you can feel the decals’ edges when you slide your hand over them.</p> <p>It’s also odd for the company not to include mass storage, but Geekbox says that’s more of lifestyle statement. In your garage, you’ll have your M3 for weekends and your minivan for weekdays, so why clutter the M3 with baby seats? We understand that rational but we don’t buy it, because while this machine is fast, it’s also expensive at $7,995. Yeah, that’s a deal next to DM2012’s $11,055 but one HDD couldn’t hurt.</p> <p>Despite the interesting storage configuration and heart-stopping price, we can’t argue with the raw performance and attention to detail that might take custom rigs to the next level.</p> <p><strong>$7,995,</strong> <a href=""></a></p> February 2013 2013 Consumer Desktops Core i7-3970X corsair neutron GTX february 2013 gaming pc Geekbox Ego geforce gtx 690 Hardware Hardware maximum pc Review Reviews Systems Fri, 19 Apr 2013 19:13:01 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung 25365 at Set Up the Ultimate Steam Box <!--paging_filter--><h3>Build your own small Steam Box PC using Valve's Big Picture Mode</h3> <p>As PC gamers, we’re big fans of <a title="Valve Software" href="" target="_blank">Valve</a> Software’s <a title="steam maximum pc" href="" target="_blank">Steam</a> 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 <a title="setting up big picture mode" href="" target="_blank">Big Picture Mode</a>, 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.</p> <p><a class="thickbox" style="text-align: center;" href="/files/u152332/livingroom-2271_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/livingroom-2271_small.jpg" title="Steam Box" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <h4>1. Get Yourself a Living Room PC</h4> <p>If you’re like us, you already have a desktop gaming PC that lives in a separate room, semi-far away from your television. Here in San Francisco, we reside in homes so cavernous that oftentimes our living room and bedroom or office are roughly 20 feet apart from each other, and don’t even get us started on our spacious bathrooms and ample parking options (this is sarcasm). Seriously though, space constraints aside, we like to keep our PC out of the living room since it’s big, somewhat noisy (despite our best efforts), and resides under a desk large enough to qualify as a studio apartment in the Bay Area. The living room is reserved for TV watching and Netflixing, and the only gaming it ever sees is on a board, typically. However, now that Steam offers a Big Picture Mode interface that can be controlled from across the room, we’d like a dedicated Steam box chillaxing in our living room so we can play some PC games from our couch.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/tik2_smalli_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/tik2_smalli.jpg" alt="Falcon Northwest Tiki gaming PC" title="Falcon Northwest Tiki gaming PC" width="620" height="1056" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Falcon Northwest Tiki gaming PC</strong></p> <p>To accomplish this feat, we had two options—buy or build. Anyone who reads this magazine knows the route we took, but there are also a couple of worthwhile rigs for folks who don't want to get their hands dirty. For the more budget-conscious, <a title="alienware x51 review" href="" target="_blank">Alienware’s X-51</a> has an elegant and amazingly thin chassis that can be had for as little as $800 (it received a 9 verdict when we reviewed it in our May 2012 issue). If you're willing to part with a bit more cash, Falcon Northwest has a new slimline rig called the <a title="Falcon Northwest Tiki review" href="" target="_blank">Tiki</a> that’s just 4 inches wide (pictured above). The baseline Core i5/GTX 650 combo will set you back $1,600, but Core i7 and <a title="GeForce GTX 680 review" href="" target="_blank">GeForce GTX 680</a> are also options, if you can afford it (see our review in the September 2012 issue). Though both of these machines would look great in a living room, we chose to build a system because that's what we do here, and because we have a perfect template for this task: the "<a title="small gaming PC" href="" target="_blank">How to Build a Small Gaming PC" story</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p><em>Click the next page to see how to prepare your rig.</em></p> <hr /> <h4><span style="font-size: 1em;">2. Prepare Your Rig</span></h4> <p>The rig we built for this job splits the difference between a full-powered gaming machine and a small form factor PC. We know—technically, it’s a small form factor PC since it has a tiny Mini-ITX motherboard, but that board houses some kick-ass components, including a water-cooled Intel Core i5-3570K processor, a 240GB SSD and 3TB HDD, and an overclocked <a title="GeForce GTX 670 review" href="" target="_blank">GeForce GTX 670</a> from <a title="msi maximum pc" href="" target="_blank">MSI</a>. In our benchmarks, this little rig cranked out 76fps in Batman: Arkham City at 2560x1600, which is more than enough muscle for gaming on our TV. That’s one hell of a PC, and the fact that it’s not any taller or wider than a roided-out Chihuahua is icing on the cake.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/build_it-1510_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/build_it-1510_small.jpg" width="620" height="717" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Our Steam box</strong></p> <h4>3. Choose the Peripherals</h4> <p>As desktop commandos, we know exactly which mouse and keyboard combo we usually prefer, but that all changes when you move to a softer, more comfy location like the couch. We needed a keyboard that was light and wireless, and we decided against a mouse simply because neither our legs nor our couch is flat enough to provide an accurate mousing surface. We also needed to select a gamepad that works well on a PC, and it's slim pickings these days as most gamers just use a mouse and keyboard.</p> <p><strong>Keyboard </strong></p> <p>To satisfy both our mouse and keyboard needs we went with the sublime <a title="k400" href="" target="_blank">Logitech K400</a> Wireless Touch Keyboard (below)—<br />not to be confused with its predecessor from the 1980s, the Invisible Touch. The K400 is incredibly light but provides comfortable keys and a surprisingly accurate touchpad with vertical scrolling support that makes browsing the web and navigating Steam's interface a cinch. The keyboard's 30-foot wireless range is more than sufficient, and its slim profile comes in handy when we need to stow it inside our entertainment center. We also like the fact that the included AA batteries will last up to a year; we just have to remember to turn off the keyboard when not using it.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/logitech_k400_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/logitech_k400_small.jpg" width="620" height="259" /></a></p> <p><strong>Game Controller</strong></p> <p>We debated for quite a while over which game controller to choose before settling on an old standby, the <a title="Xbox 360 controller" href="" target="_blank">Xbox wireless controller</a> for PC. We like that it's comfortable, easy to set up, and it works perfectly. We could have saved some money by going with something from <a title="saitek website" href="" target="_blank">Saitek</a> but we like the build quality and heft of the Microsoft controller. Say what you will about Microsoft’s ability to craft a touch-based OS, but the company knows how to build a peripheral, that's for sure. The wireless dongle is also easy to tuck away in our rat's nest of cables.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a href="/files/u152332/xbox_controller-3130_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/xbox_controller-3130_small.jpg" /></a></p> <p><span style="font-weight: normal;"><em>Click the next page to see how you should enable Big Picture and connect to the network.</em></span></p> <h4> <hr /></h4> <h4>4. Connect to the Network</h4> <p>Powerline networking has overcome most of its initial teething issues and has turned into a reliable and fast alternative to wireless. Obviously, running a gigabit hardline would be the best option, but that’s not always an option. And while wireless is the easiest option, it’s also prone to problems if you live in a dense area where several routers are stomping on each other. Thus, we opted for powerline networking. We can plug our router into a power outlet in our office, then connect the Steam box to a power outlet in our living room and be done with it.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/tp-link_av500powerline_adapter_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/tp-link_av500powerline_adapter_small.jpg" width="620" height="429" /></a></p> <p>The kit we chose was the winner of our powerline-networking roundup in the December issue of the <a title="maximum pc magazine" href=";cds_mag_code=MAX&amp;id=1362092597064&amp;lsid=30591703170029708&amp;vid=1&amp;cds_response_key=IHTH31ANN" target="_blank">magazine</a>, the TP-Link AV500. This $95 kit was the fastest kit we tested, with 66Mb/s average read speeds, and the least expensive, so that’s a win-win in our book. We also like how the LEDs on the front of the units show us how fast our connection speed is.</p> <p>Setting it up was as simple as plugging one unit into a wall socket, then connecting the cable to the LAN port on our router, and pressing a button on the adapter to begin the syncing process. We then connected the second adapter to a power outlet behind our entertainment system, and ran CAT5 cable from the adapter to our Steam box. After we pressed the sync button on the second adapter, we had a signal in about 45 seconds and were able to get online.</p> <h4>5. Enter Big Picture Mode</h4> <p>With our rig connected to our HDTV, all of our peripherals functioning, and our Internet connection humming along, we installed our OS (<a title="Windows 8 review" href="" target="_blank">Windows 8</a> Pro), went directly to <a href=""></a>, and installed the Steam client. Big Picture Mode is not enabled by default, so we followed a few steps to <a title="enable steam big picture" href="" target="_blank">enable it</a>, which involves opting in to the Steam Beta program. Once we restarted Steam, we found a Big Picture button in the upper right-hand corner, so we clicked it to activate Big Picture Mode.</p> <p>The interface is extremely easy to navigate, with everything nicely organized into big boxes that are easy to see, even from the couch. We attempted to navigate the UI with our Xbox controller but found we prefer using the Logitech keyboard/touchpad just because it was easier to move our finger on the touchpad and it's what we're used to. The main screen lets you choose between the Store, Library, and Friends list; we dove right into our Library. Games are organized just like in regular Steam, so we could see installed games, games we played recently, and even games that support a controller—a very nice touch, and an indication that Steam took the implementation of Big Picture Mode seriously as opposed to just overlaying a bigger skin on top of Steam. BPM also includes a web browser as well as a home page portal that includes Facebook, Twitter, Google, and our other "favorites," which are easily customizable. Is it possible that someday we'll boot into a Steam OS with all our games, our favorite web browser, and our files hosted in the cloud? We shall see.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/big_picture_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/big_picture_small.jpg" width="620" height="539" /></a></p> <p><span style="font-weight: normal;"><em>Click the next page to see what PC games work well from your couch.&nbsp;</em></span></p> <h3> <hr /></h3> <h3>Let off Some Steam</h3> <p><strong>Four games that play great from the couch</strong></p> <p>We’ll be the first to admit that we’re not the most avid living room gamers, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise to you. We’re typically found at our desks playing Borderlands 2, BF3, or DayZ, so playing with an Xbox controller is sort of akin to a dog walking in sandals. We did, however, find some games that are awesome with a controller, and we highly recommend you check them out.</p> <h4><a title="Portal 2" href="" target="_blank">Portal 2</a></h4> <p>We loved Portal 2 on the PC, and though the placing of portals and dropping of the companion cube took a bit of practice with the controller, we eventually figured it out and had a blast playing this game from our couch. Since you rarely have to use twitch movements to accurately aim yourself when being flung through the testing facility, a controller works just fine.</p> <h4><a title="Dirt 3" href="" target="_blank">Dirt 3</a></h4> <p>We've always been a fan of racing games on the PC, and as much as it pains us to say it, they are even better with a gamepad. We were able to sit back and comfortably shred the snow-capped courses of Dirt 3 while drifting to our heart's content.</p> <h4><a title="Psychonauts" href="" target="_blank">Psychonauts</a></h4> <p>Psychonauts is an oldie but a very, very goodie and it plays extremely well on a huge TV and with a gamepad. The Xbox controller is especially useful for all the jumping puzzles the game throws at you, even the horrific ones contained in the Meat Circus.</p> <h4>MotoGP 08</h4> <p>MotoGP 08 was designed for gamepad use and it’s bloody awesome. Controlling the bikes is almost as easy as actually riding a MotoGP bike in real life—or so we imagine. The main advantage is being able to hold a lean angle through the corners, with a smidge of pressure on the controller stick, which is much easier to pull off with a controller than trying to half-press a keyboard key.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/motogp_1_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/motogp_1_small.jpg" width="620" height="388" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The good old days of MotoGP—Stoner on the Ducati and Rossi on the Yamaha</strong></p> <h4><a title="Puzzle Quest" href="" target="_blank">Puzzle Quest</a></h4> <p>To be honest, we never got that into this game’s sequel, and prefer the original. We just appreciate the simplicity of the game mechanics, and love going up against an ogre or orc and unleashing a deadly chain of attacks. Having the huge display with much larger blocks than we’re accustomed to made it easier to evaluate our options before making a move, and it also made navigating the world map a bit easier, as well.</p> <p><em>Note: This article appeared in the Holiday 2012 issue of the magazine.</em></p> 2012 big picture mode Build DIY gaming pc Holiday 2012 Holiday issue maximum pc pc games Steam steam box Valve Features Thu, 28 Feb 2013 23:17:52 +0000 Josh Norem 25013 at Stealth Machines Espionage Review <!--paging_filter--><h3>A machine that will still have support in 2022?</h3> <p>You may not have heard about PC builder <a title="" href="" target="_blank">Stealth Machines</a>, but apparently that’s the way the company likes it. In fact, the company’s web page proclaims that it’s the “underground computer company of the hardcore gamer.” We’d guess that’s the “stealth” part of the name.</p> <p>So color us surprised when the <strong>Stealth Machines Espionage</strong> arrived and it wasn’t matte black and sporting that new <a title="ECS stealth mobo" href="" target="_blank">ECS Stealth motherboard</a>.</p> <p>The Espionage isn’t extreme, but it’s nicely outfitted. Built around an EVGA Z77 FTW board, it packs a 3.4GHz Core i7-3770K overclocked to 4.68GHz. All four DIMM slots are packed with Mushkin DDR3/2133. For a gamer, the most important component is the graphics card. In this case, it’s the graphics cards—plural. Stealth Machines held out until the last minute to score a pair of <a title="evga geforce gtx 660 ti" href="[primary-term]/evga_gtx_660_ti_super_clocked" target="_blank">EVGA GeForce GTX 660 Ti</a> cards.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/stealth_pc-2012_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/stealth_pc-2012_small.jpg" alt="Stealth machines Espionage" title="Stealth machines Espionage" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>We’re not fans of the LED strips on the power cables, but you might like the colorful addition.</strong></p> <p>Would it make more sense to run a single <a title="GeForce GTX 680 benchmarks" href="" target="_blank">GeForce GTX 680</a> instead? We think there’s no easy answer to that question. Our general philosophy is to run the single fastest GPU you can afford, since it will give you performance in every game from day one rather than having to wait for <a title="GeForce SLI" href="" target="_blank">SLI</a> or <a title="crossfire" href="" target="_blank">CrossFireX</a> profiles. We think the 660 Ti might be an exception to that rule. Basically, the 660 Ti duo will smoke a single GTX 680 card in most games and came surprisingly close to the performance of our zero-point rig’s <a title="GeForce GTX 690" href="" target="_blank">GTX 690</a>. Part of that is the result of the Stealth’s overclocked <a title="ivy bridge" href="" target="_blank">Ivy Bridge</a> CPU, but it’s a shocker to see this PC just 16 percent slower than our zero-point in <a title="Batman Arkham City" href="" target="_blank">Batman: Arkham City</a> and 11 percent slower in <a title="3d mark 11" href="" target="_blank">3DMark 11</a>.</p> <p>Lest you cheapskates scoff at the GeForce GTX 690, we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out that our zero-point hammers out 55.5fps in the tessellation-heavy <a title="Heaven 3.0" href="" target="_blank">Heaven 3.0</a> benchmark while the Stealth is way back at 38.3fps. That’s almost a 30 percent difference—so there is a point to the heavy metal sometimes.</p> <p>Elsewhere, the Espionage aces the zero-point in Stitch.FX 2.0 and <a title="proshow producer" href="" target="_blank">ProShow Producer 5.0</a>. Neither benchmark exploits the six cores in our zero-point, but the ZP gets payback in Premiere Pro CS6 and x264 5.0, which can eat all the cores you throw at ’em.</p> <p>In the end, the Espionage is a pretty nice gaming rig and has plenty of power for content creation, too. But we can’t publish this review without some criticism. First, we’d probably opt for a pair of 8GB DIMMs rather than four 4GB sticks, to allow for future upgrades. We also had a small snag in the overclock, as one core failed during a Prime95 test. Stealth had us add voltage to the core and all was well. Our final criticism, though, is the price. The machine, while fast for its class, is also awfully expensive for its class. As a comparison, our Ultra rig is just $140 more expensive with a hexa-core CPU, GTX 690, 3TB drive, <a title="cosmos II case" href="" target="_blank">Cosmos II case</a>, and an LGA2011 board.</p> <p>Stealth argues that much of its value comes from the warranty it’s willing to put on the line: 10 years. That’s indeed one of the longer warranties available on a modern PC, but we’re not sure we’re really going to care about any PC we buy in 2012 in 2022. Still, we can’t argue with the performance; it just doesn’t offer the price-to-performance ratio we expected.</p> computer Consumer Desktops gaming pc GeForce GTX 660 Ti Hardware Hardware ivy bridge cpu Review Stealth machines Espionage November Reviews Systems Tue, 18 Dec 2012 18:26:08 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung 24648 at How to Build a Small Gaming PC <!--paging_filter--><h3>This small gaming PC isn't as wee as our Wee Ass-Kicking Machine, but it kicks more ass</h3> <p>Way back in December 2010, we built an awesome Mini-ITX <strong>gaming PC</strong> dubbed the Wee Ass-Kicking Machine. It featured a Core i7-870 CPU, a <a title="460" href="" target="_blank">GeForce GTX 460 GPU</a>, 4GB of DDR3, a 1TB hard drive, and a 120GB SSD—all crammed into a Silverstone SG07 chassis not much larger than a shoebox. The total cost? Around $1,600 (at the time).</p> <p>It’s, uh, been a while since then, though, and I thought it was high time we built another Mini-ITX gaming PC. This one’s not quite as small, but it’s got a lot more oomph. We’re using the <a title="BitFenix prodigy case" href="">BitFenix Prodigy</a>, which has room for a full-size ATX PSU, scads of hard drives, and even a 240mm radiator (if you swing that way), while still being small enough to be lugged around by its convenient carrying handles.</p> <p><a class="thickbox" title="Bitfenix" href="/files/u154280/large.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u154280/build_it-1510.jpg" alt="Bitfenix" title="Bitfenix" width="600" height="459" /></a></p> <div> <h3>Let’s See What Fits</h3> <div>Just because this is a Mini-ITX build doesn’t mean we’re messing around with integrated graphics. Pah. Pshaw. And other expressions of contempt. Nope, when we build a gaming rig, we use a real discrete graphics card. This time we’re going with an MSI <a title="670" href="" target="_blank">GTX 670</a> Power Edition, which is factory overclocked but still sips power like the rest of the <a title="kepler" href="" target="_blank">Kepler</a> lineup.<span style="white-space:pre"> </span>We’ll use our sweet-spot <a title="ivy bridge" href="" target="_blank">Ivy Bridge CPU</a>, the 3.4GHz Core i5-3570K, on a <a title="zotac" href="" target="_blank">Zotac Z77 WiFi Mini-ITX board</a>. The board has one full-size x16 PCIe 3.0 slot, two DIMM slots, USB 3.0, and 6Gb/s SATA. We’ll fill those DIMM slots with two 4GB Corsair Vengeance DDR3/1600 DIMMs, and use a 240GB <a title="Corsair Force" href="" target="_blank">Corsair Force GS SSD</a> and a <a title="deskstar" href="" target="_blank">3TB HGST Deskstar</a> for mass storage.</div> <p> <div>The most important part of the build is the case. The BitFenix Prodigy is large for a Mini-ITX chassis, but that just means there’s room for more stuff. It can accommodate a full-size PSU (although 140mm is really the maximum depth), up to six hard drives and six SSDs, a long videocard, and, thanks to its big main compartment, a full-size air cooler or even a <a title="water coolers" href="" target="_blank">liquid cooler</a>.</div> </p><p> <div>Because most of our favorite air coolers would interfere with the PCIe slot, and we didn’t want to give up the lone 5.25-inch bay just so we could install a 240mm radiator, we opted for an all-in-one liquid‑cooling loop: Thermaltake’s Water 2.0 Performer. This will give us plenty of headroom for overclocking the 3570K to a steady 4.4GHz.&nbsp;</div> </p></div> <h3>Ingredients</h3> <div style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154280/prices.jpg" alt="prices" title="prices" width="600" /></div> <div> <h3>Building It</h3> <p>The Prodigy is roomy for a Mini-ITX case, but that still means it’s a bit of a complicated build. Here’s what I had to do.</p> </div> <div><strong>1. Prep the Case</strong></div> <div style="text-align: left;">Remove the four thumbscrews holding the side panels in place and remove the panels. Pop the four clips holding the front panel in place, and remove that too. Grip the top hard drive cage by its top and bottom clips and slide it out of the case. Turn the case on its side and remove the six screws holding the lower cage to the chassis and remove that cage (image A).</div> <div style="text-align: left;"><a class="thickbox" style="text-align: center;" title="Image A" href="/files/u154280/sides1.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u154280/build_it-1561.jpg" alt="Prep the case" title="Prep the case" width="600" height="400" /></a></div> <div style="text-align: left; "><span style="font-weight: bold;">Image A</span></div> <div><strong><br /></strong></div> <div><strong>2. Add the SSD</strong></div> <div>Attach the SSD to one of the case’s six mounting points—either at the bottom of the case, the inside of the left side panel, or the side of the PSU compartment (image B). It doesn’t really matter which of the many SSD mount points you use. You could just mount the SSD into one of the hard drive trays, but it’d be nice to leave those free for additional hard drives later on. Replace the hard drive cage. Stand the case upright.</div> <div><a class="thickbox" title="Image B" href="/files/u154280/ssdd.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u154280/build_it-1563.jpg" alt="Add the SSD" title="Add the SSD" width="600" height="400" /></a></div> <div><strong>Image B</strong></div> <div> <hr /></div> <div><strong>3. Opening the Case</strong></div> <div>Flip over the front panel and remove the two screws holding the optical drive bezel in place (image C). On the front of the chassis, pry off the metal bezel in front of the optical drive tray. Replace the front panel and slide the optical drive into the bay, stopping when it’s flush. Secure with the same M3 screws you used for the SSD.</div> <div><a class="thickbox" title="Image C" href="/files/u154280/lid.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u154280/build_it-1558.jpg" alt="Opening the Case" title="Opening the Case" width="600" height="400" /></a></div> <div><strong>Image C</strong></div> <div><strong><br /></strong></div> <div><strong>4. Add the PSU</strong><span style="white-space:pre"> </span></div> <div>Unscrew the four thumbscrews securing the PSU backplate. You’ll want as short a PSU as you can get for this: anything longer than 140mm and you’ll have a hard time routing the cables. As tempting as it is to go modular, a nonmodular PSU will be easier to deal with here. Attach the backplate to the PSU and install into the chassis, but don’t put all four thumbscrews back in, as you may want to be able to slide the PSU out later for ease of wiring (image D).</div> <div><a class="thickbox" title="Image D" href="/files/u154280/psu.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u154280/build_it-1555.jpg" alt="Add the PSU" title="Add the PSU" width="600" height="400" /></a></div> <div><strong>Image D</strong></div> <div><strong><br /></strong></div> <div><strong><span style="white-space:pre">5</span>. CPU and Cooling</strong></div> <div>Remove the CPU socket protector and install the CPU. Lower the gate arm to secure it (image E). Add the RAM. Although the Prodigy has room for the large skyscraper-style air coolers we like in our builds, those coolers don’t play nice with our solitary PCIe slot, so we’re going with a water cooler.&nbsp;</div> <div>Thermaltake’s Water 2.0 Performer (catchy!) is an Asetek-built dual-fan 120mm all-in-one cooler that should keep our CPU nice and chilly. But first we have to install the backplate. Find the Intel backplate and assemble it for Socket 1155 per Thermaltake’s instructions. Attach it to the rear of the motherboard. Assemble the retaining clips and screws in the socket ring.</div> <div>Take the motherboard I/O shield, pop off the tabs covering the Wi-Fi antenna ports, and install it into the case back. Unscrew the case’s 12cm exhaust fan and set it aside. Install the motherboard into the case using four screws (image F).&nbsp;</div> <div><a class="thickbox" title="Image E" href="/files/u154280/large_4.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u154280/build_it-1553.jpg" alt="Image E" title="Image E" width="600" height="356" /></a></div> <div><strong>Image E</strong></div> <div><strong><br /></strong></div> <div><a class="thickbox" title="Image F" href="/files/u154280/large_6.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u154280/build_it-1548.jpg" alt="Image F" title="Image F" width="600" height="400" /></a></div> <div><strong>Image F</strong></div> <div><strong><br /></strong></div> <p><strong>6. Add the Cooler</strong></p> <p>Take the all-in-one cooler and one of the 12cm fans, as well as four of the mounting screws and four washers. Run the screws through the washers, through the mounting holes at the back of the case, through the fan (making sure it’s oriented to exhaust out of the case), and into the mounting holes on the radiator. Attach the pump unit to the CPU with the socket ring. Turn to tighten, alternating in an X pattern.</p> <p>Take the other fan, positioned to blow air through the radiator out of the case just like the first, and install it on the side of the radiator. Plug the fans into the included Y cable and into the CPU_FAN header, and plug the pump unit into the SYS_FAN header near the SATA ports (image G).</p> <p><a class="thickbox" title="Image G" href="/files/u154280/large_8.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u154280/build_it-1544.jpg" alt="Image G" title="Image G" width="600" height="400" /></a></p> <p><strong>Image G</strong></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: bold; ">7. Route the Power&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Now is a good time to route some power‑supply cables. Bring the 8-pin and 24-pin ATX power cables and one PCIe cable around the front of the PSU to the right side of the case. Route a SATA power cable along the left side to the hard drive bays, connect one port to the hard drive, then terminate it at the SSD, leaving the middle port for a future second drive (image H). Route the other SATA power cable along the bottom of the case, up the front panel, and into the routing hole just above the optical drive. Pop the top fan filter off and route the cable above the optical drive and plug it in (image I). Route SATA data cables from the blue 6Gb/s SATA ports to the SSD and HDD, and route one from a red 3Gb/s port to the optical drive.</p> <p><a class="thickbox" title="Image H" href="/files/u154280/large_10.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u154280/build_it-1539.jpg" alt="Image H" width="600" height="621" /></a></p> <p><a class="thickbox" title="Image H" href="/files/u154280/large_10.jpg" target="_blank"></a><span style="font-weight: bold;">Image H</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: bold;"><br /></span></p> <p><a class="thickbox" title="Image I" href="/files/u154280/large_9.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u154280/build_it-1540.jpg" alt="Image I" title="Image I" /></a></p> <p><strong>Image I</strong></p> <p><strong>8. More Routing&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>Disconnect the HD_Audio cable from the side panel and connect the motherboard end to the mobo, as the port will be impossible to access once the GPU is in place. Run the 24-pin motherboard power cable through the front of the PSU casing and into the port on the motherboard. Run the 8-pin through the cutout toward the rear of the casing (image J) and plug it in. At this point you can reattach the top hard drive cage if you want; I’ve left it out to improve airflow.</p> <p><a class="thickbox" title="Image J" href="/files/u154280/large_11.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u154280/build_it-1536.jpg" alt="Image J" title="Image J" width="600" height="490" /></a></p> <p><strong>Image J</strong></p> <p><strong>9. Attach Front-Panel Connectors</strong></p> <p>Plug the USB 3.0 header into its place below the radiator (image K). Connect the front 12cm fan to a 3-pin-to-Molex adapter and connect that to one of the Molex adapters. Re‑attach the other end of the HD_audio cable to the left side cover (image L) and put the cover back on the side, pulling the front-panel headers through toward the GPU slot and plugging them in.&nbsp;</p> <p><a class="thickbox" title="Image K" href="/files/u154280/large_12_0.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u154280/build_it-1533.jpg" alt="Image K" title="Image K" width="600" height="400" /></a></p> <p><strong>Image K</strong></p> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <p><a class="thickbox" title="Image L" href="/files/u154280/large_13.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u154280/build_it-1531.jpg" alt="Image L" title="Image L" width="600" height="400" /></a></p> <p><strong>Image L</strong></p> <p><strong>10. Install the GPU</strong></p> <p>Unscrew the expansion‑slot cover plate and the expansion‑ slot covers, and remove them. Install the GPU, making sure the 8-pin ATX power cable can still reach its plug. Replace the cover plate and secure both it and the GPU with the three thumbscrews (image M). Run the PCIe power cable through the same hole as the ATX power cable and plug both 6-pin plugs into the GPU. Secure the PSU plate to the chassis with its four thumbscrews, double-check your wiring, and close the case back up. Screw the Wi-Fi antennae into their posts on the I/O ports.</p> <p><a class="thickbox" title="Image M" href="/files/u154280/large_3.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u154280/build_it-1525.jpg" alt="Image M" title="Image M" /></a></p> <p><strong>Image M</strong></p> <hr /> <h3>Firing it up&nbsp;</h3> <p><a class="thickbox" title="Firing it up" href="/files/u154280/large_2.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u154280/build_it-1521.jpg" alt="Firing it up " title="Firing it up" width="600" height="400" /></a></p> <p>The first thing I did with the mini machine was boot into the BIOS and do a simple multiplier overclock on the CPU. I left the stock voltages and bclock the same but cranked up the turbo multipliers on all the cores to 44 for a single core, 43 for two cores, and 42 for more. This gave me a nice, stable conservative overclock of up to 4.4GHz for single-threaded tasks. The MSI GTX 670 is factory‑overclocked, so I resisted further overclocking in an attempt to keep the noise from its fans down.&nbsp;</p> <p>Against our zero-point, the mini-rig loses in every benchmark save ProShow Producer, where its high clock speeds are more important than the zero-point’s 12 threads. But our zero-point has a hexa-core CPU , a dual GPU, and costs a lot more money—and it’s not nearly as portable. For the price, we get a hell of a lot of rig in a small footprint, and we even get carrying handles. Besides, the fast CPU and GPU on this baby mean that it’s still blisteringly good.</p> <p><img src="/files/u154280/benchmarks_buildit.jpg" alt="Benchmarks" title="Benchmarks" width="600" height="269" /></p> <p>The downside of Mini-ITX is that you only get one PCIe slot and two RAM slots, so you’ve got to be judicious with your build. The good news is that this machine still has room for all the essentials and no wasted space, while still being upgradeable. We’d gladly build into the Prodigy again, and we’re pleased we can build a kick-ass (and luggable) rig in such a small package.&nbsp;</p> Build a PC cpu gaming pc geforce gpu Hardware how to intel nvidia Rig system October From the Magazine Features How-Tos Fri, 26 Oct 2012 19:30:24 +0000 Nathan Edwards 24358 at Alien Autopsy: We Look Inside the Alienware X51 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Deep inside the smallest, most powerful gaming rig…ever?</h3> <p>Besides chocolate and coconut, oil and water, gaming and small form factor usually don’t mix. That’s something Alienware is hoping to fix with its new incredibly small X51 box.</p> <p>Maximum PC got to dig around inside an X51 unit to see how the company managed to get desktop parts into such a miniature machine and even check out the Nvidia’s top secret Optimus technology too.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u139222/alienautopsyx51-header.jpg" width="620" height="357" /></p> <p>Alienware had two targets in designing the new X51 desktop: make it small and make it powerful. The Alienware box is slightly bigger than a generation 1 Xbox 360 console and it’s very reminiscent of business-class small form factor machines. There’s a big difference with the X51 though: It has some juice.</p> <p>Alienware designers told us with this size of desktop, mobile parts are often used to keep the thermals and size down but because most gamers like to upgrade, the company said it based the X51 on desktop components. Inside is a Mini-ITX motherboard using the H61 chipset and a standard LGA1155 socket with the most powerful being an Intel Core i7-2600. Why no K chip? Alienware said the H61 makes overclocking out of the question so there’s no need to pay for an unlocked processor. The board features two standard DDR3 DIMM slots in dual-channel mode and a Mini PCI Express Card slot. The Mini PCI Express Card slot will be outfitted with an 802.11n chip but since it’s a standard slot, will take any card. The motherboard itself is an industry standard MiniITX size and could theoretically be upgraded but the I/O shield of the machine is built into the rear plane of the machine so swapping out a motherboard would seem to require Dremelling out the I/O shield area to fit any new board.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u139222/alienautopsyx51-interiorcage-big.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u139222/alienautopsyx51-interiorcage-small.jpg" width="600" height="400" /></a></p> <p>To get more hardware inside the box, Alienware had to move from the typical small, loud and hot internal PSU to an external brick. Two options will be available: A 240 Watt brick or a 340 Watt brick. The brick plugs into the rear of the box and AC/DC conversion is done inside the machine on a board in front of the motherboard.</p> <p>For storage, the X51 will mount a full size 3.5-inch desktop drive, and a slot-fed DVD burner or optional Blu-ray combo drive. There’s no mount for a 2.5-inch SSD or mobile drive but Alienware designers said they expect those interested in SSDs to remove the 3.5-inch drive and use a bracket to mount up to 2.5-inch SSDs. Knowing this would be an option, Alienware said they intentionally put three SATA ports on the motherboard. The real magic though is the GPU support. Two configurations will be available at launch: A GeForce GTX 555 or a GeForce GTX 545. These are not specially designed cards with custom coolers either—these are off the shelf cards. Alienware said gamers universally want the option to upgrade cards down the road so it made sure the unit could function with off the shelf cards.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u139222/alienautopsyx51-interiortop-big.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u139222/alienautopsyx51-interiortop-small.jpg" width="600" height="400" /></a></p> <p>The company said it believes it’s possible to run up to a GeForce GTX 580 based on the power and thermal capabilities but it has not qualified the box for it. We only saw two standard six-pin power plugs so don’t pin your hopes on anything that requires insane amount of power. Realistically, Alienware said it expects GeForce GTX 560 Ti-level of graphics as a near term upgrade. Keep in mind that as vendors introduce newer GPUs, the power requirements usually go down for mid-range cards so it’s not implausible to get GeForce GTX 580 performance later this year with the power needs of a GeForce GTX 560 Ti.</p> <p>All X51s will also come with Nvidia’s long awaited, secret Optimus technology. Optimus lets you seamlessly switch between discrete and the integrated Sandy Bridge graphics. It was actually backdoor announced by board makers when the original Z68 chipset came out last Spring but was quickly denied by Nvidia. Now nearly a year later, Optimus for desktop is finally ready. Configuring Optimus seems fairly easy and straightforward, too. Just go into the Nvidia control panel, select "Manage 3D Settings" and then you’re given an option to let Optimus automagically select what to run on by looking at the 3D workload or manually select the integrated graphics or discrete graphics.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u139222/alienautopsyx51-optimus-big.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u139222/alienautopsyx51-optimus-small.jpg" width="620" height="457" /></a></p> <p>Since gamers like bling, Alienware added a dash of that with its trademark lighting on various places around the case. Like the laptop and Aurora, the X51 lets you change the color of the LEDs on the case and the keyboard and mouse using the AFX lighting applet. To show you how much thought the designers put into the box, the signature Alienware head on the front of the box can be rotated to match the orientation of the box.</p> <p>We'll get a box in for review when we can, but we can say that the X51 is an impressive amount of hardware in a small box. We've seen high-end graphics, even up to GTX 580 cards in small form factor rigs before, but they're generally pretty bulky. That Alienware can stuff a 150-watt GPU into a box the size of a business-class small form factor is pretty damn amazing. To be honest, this isn't the first attempt at a small, thin gaming box. Hewlett-Packard's (Voodoo's) Firebird made a run at it with its <a href="" target="_blank">Firebird machine, back in 2009</a>.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u139222/alienautopsyx51-io-big.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u139222/alienautopsyx51-io-small.jpg" width="600" height="400" /></a></p> <p>While interesting and truly silent, the Firebird's use of mobile CPUs and SLI'ed mobile GPUs was a big turn off to gamers. We weren't overly joyed with the Firebird, but we did think that it was a glimpse of one possible future for desktop gaming. Alienware's X51 pretty much cements that: PC gaming is truly getting smaller and cheaper.</p> <p>Two configuations will be offered, with the cheapest being $699 for a box with a Core i3, 4GB of RAM, a 1TB drive, and a GeForce GTX 545.</p> alienware alienware x51 Consumer Desktops gaming pc Hardware nvidia optimus Small Form Factor Systems Features Wed, 18 Jan 2012 22:07:49 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung 22318 at iBuyPower's Chimera 4 Line Of Overclocked Gaming PCs Unleashes A Fiery Beast <!--paging_filter--><p><img src="/files/u138055/chimera_4.jpg" width="228" height="203" style="float: right;" />Having a computer powerful enough to play Battlefield 3 is awesome. But sometimes, power isn’t enough; sometimes, you want to get your frag on and look damn stylish doing it. Enter iBuyPower’s new Chimera 4 line of overclocked gaming desktops; the internals may vary, but they all come housed in the company’s new Chimera Inferno 4 Gaming Case, an eye-catching chassis that features a fiery, flaming profile of a lion or chimera or something. </p> <p>iBuyPower promises that every computer in the line will come with its CPU overclocked by at least 10 percent. Prices start at a budget-friendly $800 for the Chimera 4-FX, which sports, as you may have guessed from the name, an AMD FX-4100 4-Core CPU. Moving up the price ladder gets you increasingly powerful Intel Core processors, topped by the Chimera 4-V1, a $1680 setup that includes an 800W PSU, 8 GB of RAM, a 2GB AMD Radeon 6950 graphics card, and a Core i7-3930K (with a $500 option to up that to a Core i7-3960X). As usual, you can tweak and expand the system to your hearts delight with iBuyPower’s extensive customization options. </p> <p>Check it out for yourself over at <a href="">the Chimera 4 page</a> on iBuyPower’s website.</p> case chimera chimera 4 gaming desktop gaming pc Hardware ibuypower News Thu, 17 Nov 2011 20:31:52 +0000 Brad Chacos 21383 at Can You Build A 2560 x 1600 Gaming Rig Without Breaking the Bank? We Find Out! <!--paging_filter--><h3>It's easy to build a gaming machine on a budget if you're playing at 1650x1080 or 1920x1200, but if you're rocking 2560x1600, you need a little more oomph</h3> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u139222/buildit30inch-beauty-big.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u139222/buildit30inch-beauty-small.jpg" width="600" height="399" /></a></p> <p>As Maximum PC senior editor Gordon Mah Ung puts it, building a budget gaming rig for a 30-inch panel is the metaphorical equivalent of slapping a Ferrari engine into a crappy Ford car. If you can afford a display that rings up north of $2,000, then why the heck are you trying to cut corners on the system you’re connecting it to?</p> <p>I can’t answer that one for you. But what I can tell you is exactly how you can go about getting the best frame rate for your buck without purchasing a PC that’s more expensive than your mega-monitor. That’s my task for this build-it: killer gaming performance without needless budgetary destruction. And as you might expect, picking the perfect graphics card for the mix is the biggest challenge of this build.</p> <p>So in the interest of fairness, I selected two videocard setups that I put to the test in this build: the best of Nvidia’s dual-GPU monstrosities, and two high-end ATI cards in a CrossFire setup. Compared to what these cards can do, everything else on this PC is practically window dressing.</p> <h3>Choosing the Right Hardware</h3> <p>As far as top-notch processors go, Intel’s <a href="" target="_blank">Sandy Bridge</a> architecture is a no-brainer for my killer system build. I’ve opted for the 3.3GHz 2500K instead of its 2600K cousin because it’s less expensive and is easy to overclock up to the 2600K’s 3.4GHz, and I don’t feel that the addition of Hyper-Threading is going to make that much of a difference to gaming frame rates. To keep the system speedy (and load times low), Intel’s Z68 platform and its integrated Smart Response Technology allow me to use an SSD as an expanded read/write cache for a standard hard drive. What little benefit in speeds I’d see by jumping from a Western Digital Caviar Blue to a Caviar Black drive is eclipsed by the SSD cache’s performance.</p> <p>And now for the elephant in the room: the videocards. The point of this system build is to present an affordable PC that can dish out top-notch gaming on a 30-inch panel. That’s why I’m not just taking the easy route and slapping in two <a href="" target="_blank">Nvidia GTX 590</a> cards or two <a href="" target="_blank">ATI Radeon HD 6990</a> cards in a paired configuration and calling it a day (don’t do the math; the cost of these cards hurts.)</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u139222/buildit30inch-radeon6970cf-big.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u139222/buildit30inch-radeon6970cf-small.jpg" width="620" height="347" /></a><br /><strong>Maximum PC recommending a CrossFire scenario instead of a single-card setup? What is this world coming to?</strong></p> <p>As for my ultimate decision to go with two ATI Radeon HD 6970 cards in a CrossFire configuration instead of a single, dual-GPU Nvidia GTX 590, I’ll let the benchmarks (see page 2)—and the price points—speak for themselves. Simply put, I found that I could achieve similar or even better performance (depending on the game) from a comparably priced CrossFire setup than with Nvidia’s single-card solution.</p> <p>From benchmark tests of Batman: Arkham Asylum, to Dirt 3, to Metro 2033, to an ever-punishing trip through Crysis 2, my CrossFire setup consistently spanked Nvidia’s GTX 590. Now, I realize that my selection flies in the face of the advice that Maximum PC has been giving you since videocards were invented—namely, that you should always purchase the fastest single-card solution you can get under the presumption that you’ll later be able to bolster your setup with a wicked-fast SLI or CrossFire setup, if you so desire.</p> <p>But with the price of these extreme videocards shooting up into the $700 range, I think we can take that suggestion and throw it out the window. If you can afford $1,400 worth of videocards, you’re reading the wrong article. For the best out-of-box solution that can make your games scream on a 30-inch display without breaking your bank account, you can’t go wrong with dual ATI Radeon HD 6970s.</p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><span class="module-name">Ingredients</span><br /> <div class="module-content"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 627px; height: 170px;" border="0"> <thead> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td class="item">Case</td> <td class="item-dark"><a href="" target="_blank">Cooler Master</a> Storm Enforcer</td> <td>$80 </td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">PSU</td> <td class="item-dark"><a href="" target="_blank">Antec</a> HCG-750</td> <td>$95</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Motherboard</td> <td class="item-dark"><a href="" target="_blank">Gigabyte</a> Z68X-UD3H-B3</td> <td>$160</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">CPU</td> <td class="item-dark"><a href="" target="_blank">Intel</a> Core i5-2500k</td> <td>$209</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Cooling</td> <td class="item-dark">Stock <a href="" target="_blank">Intel</a> Cooler</td> <td>$0</td> </tr> <tr> <td>RAM</td> <td><a href="" target="_blank">Patriot Memory</a> G2 Series DDR3/1333 kit</td> <td>$40</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Optical Drive</td> <td><a href="" target="_blank">Lite-On</a> iHAS424-98 DVD Burner</td> <td>$25</td> </tr> <tr> <td>HDD</td> <td>1TB <a href="" target="_blank">Western Digital</a> Caviar Blue 7,200rpm</td> <td>$60</td> </tr> <tr> <td>SSD</td> <td><a href="" target="_blank">Corsair</a> Force F40 40GB</td> <td>$100</td> </tr> <tr> <td>GPU</td> <td>2x <a href="" target="_blank">XFX</a> Radeon HD 6970</td> <td>$720</td> </tr> <tr> <td>OS</td> <td><a href="" target="_blank">Windows</a> 7 Home Premium 64-bit (OEM)</td> <td>$90</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Total</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>$1,579</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> </div> </div> </div> <p style="text-align:center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u139222/buildit30inch-psu-big.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u139222/buildit30inch-psu-small.jpg" width="200" height="200" /></a><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u139222/buildit30inch-mobo-big.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u139222/buildit30inch-mobo-small.jpg" width="200" height="200" /></a><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u139222/buildit30inch-ssd-big.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u139222/buildit30inch-ssd-small.jpg" width="200" height="200" /></a></p> <hr /> <h3>Hardware Highlights</h3> <p><strong>COOLER MASTER STORM ENFORCER</strong></p> <p>It’s always a delight to attempt to pack huge videocards inside of a mid-tower case. Not! But that’s the price I’m paying for sinking most of my budget into graphics. <a href="" target="_blank">Cooler Master’s Storm Enforcer</a> case presents a tight squeeze for parts and cable management, but its slick looks, side-panel window, and support for two USB 3.0 ports on the front of the case make it an appealing package for a sub-$100 chassis. Most of the parts and pieces you can stuff inside the chassis are screwless additions, except for your screw-dependent PCI devices—an unexpected omission by Cooler Master.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u139222/buildit30inch-case-big.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u139222/buildit30inch-case-small.jpg" width="620" height="400" /></a></p> <p>See the gaping hole in what would otherwise be a nice column of drive bays? The beauty of the Cooler Master Storm Enforcer case is its modularity: You can remove some of the drive bays in the chassis to give yourself more room for cards, cables, and delicious airflow. Good thing, too—I had to remove the case’s included 2.5-inch drive bays (originally attached between the 3.5-inch bays and the PSU mount), in order to get the power supply to fit. The next best solution is to attach the SSD to a 2.5-inch-to-3.5-inch converter kit, and then use the Cooler Master’s included drive rails to attach the contraption into one of the remaining 3.5-inch drive bays.</p> <p><strong><img src="/files/u139222/buildit30inch-psu-small.jpg" width="200" height="200" style="float: left; margin: 0 15px 10px 0;" />ANTEC HCG-750 PSU</strong></p> <p>What I gained in cost savings by picking Antec’s reasonably priced power supply, I lost in modularity. There’s no way to get rid of cables I otherwise don’t need on this power supply, which is a bit of a let-down given the already cramped confines of the Cooler Master Storm Enforcer case and the two huge graphics cards I’m packing into the rig. But that’s OK—I was able to stuff the PSU’s extra cords behind the right side panel.</p> <p style="clear:both;"><img src="/files/u139222/buildit30inch-mobo-small.jpg" width="200" height="200" style="float: right; margin: 0 0 10px 15px;" /><strong>GIGABYTE Z68X-UD3H-B3</strong></p> <p>Since this is a budget build (of sorts), Gigabyte's Z68X-UD3H-B3 motherboard delivers an appealing mix of features and affordability. I love the diversity of connections Gigabyte throws into the mix: four USB ports, two USB 3.0 ports, eSATA, FireWire, and HDMI and DisplayPort for all those times you won't be using your discrete videocard. Three SATA 3Gb/s connections meet four SATA 6Gb/s on the motherboard itself, and Gigabyte makes sure to wire up its PCI connections in such a way that populating them all doesn't disable any other connections on the mobo itself—a big problem with other inexpensive Z68 motherboards I considered.</p> <p>One thing you should note: The Z68-UD3H-B3's SATA ports are color-coded to indicate which of the ports are which. The gray ports are 6Gb/s SATA, but they are on the integrated Marvell controller. The two white Intel chipset-based 6Gb/s SATA ports (hint: use these for best performance!) are next to the two black 3Gb/s ports. Careful—you can't mix-and-match RAIDs across controllers.</p> <p style="clear:both;"><strong>INTEL'S SMART RESPONSE TECHNOLOGY</strong></p> <p>Enabling Intel's Smart Response Technology is as easy as setting a single option within the system's BIOS, installing Windows onto a non-SSD hard drive, and flicking on SRT within a small Intel software utility.</p> <h3>The Big Picture</h3> <p>My initial goal with this build was to get a $1,500 PC that could run <a href="" target="_blank">Crysis 2</a> at maxed-out settings. So the cost is a little higher, and the frame rates are a little lower, but I’m confident that the PC I’ve fashioned best straddles the line between affordability and awesome gaming. And this is all without overclocking the system a single bit—I will leave the process of jacking up your CPU and GPU speeds to your capable hands. I just wanted to showcase the kind of out-of-the-box performance you can expect from such a rig.</p> <p>Gaming-wise, you aren’t going to get much better than an ATI Radeon 6970 CrossFire setup unless you jump into the realm of tri-card packages or dual-GPU CrossFireX/quad-SLI configurations, and those don’t really bring the word “budget” to mind (which is also why I opted not to pack two Nvidia GTX 580 cards into this rig). While you might scoff at my decision to spend half this rig’s cost on its graphics, I think the benchmarks speak for themselves. It’s no small feat to max out the resolution and quality of the games I’ve picked, and my system delivered excellent frame rates on what I’d otherwise consider unthinkable playing situations.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u139222/buildit30inch-guts-small.jpg" width="620" height="400" /><br /><strong>For a smallish chassis, Cooler Master's Storm Enforcer easily fits everything we need to game on a 30-inch panel.</strong></p> <p>Why’s that? It’s simple: I ran benchmarks that cranked antialiasing as high as it would possibly go on each game, a practice that’s all but unnecessary when you’re playing at a 2560x1600 resolution. You just aren’t going to need to maximize the visual-smoothing feature during common gaming. And as soon as you’ve turned that setting down a bit, boom—time to enjoy Crysis 2 in its raw, speedy glory. Wave goodbye to the 40 frames per second as reported by our maxed-out benchmark settings (including DirectX 11 and the high-resolution texture pack add-on; I’m not kidding when I say I tried to melt faces with this game).</p> <p>Since every Build It invariably generates its share of “I could do that for cheaper” comments, here are some of the downgrades I’d consider if I really wanted to stick to a $1,500 price point. First off, there’s the case: You can always find a cheaper (albeit lamer) case, but it’s going to be a journey worthy of Indiana Jones to find an inexpensive one with USB 3.0 support that doesn’t stink. I might also drop down to ATI Radeon 6950 cards sprinkled with an overclock or a third-party firmware update that unlocks the cards’ shaders. If worse comes to worst, I could always drop the SSD and SRT. But that’s not very Maximum PC now, is it? Especially when all you’re left with is a fairly average, non-eye-popping hard drive.</p> <p>For a tad over $1,500, you now have a system that’s capable of rocking out on a monitor that costs just as much, if not more, than the system itself. God speed, gamer.</p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><span class="module-name">Benchmarks (fps)</span><br /> <div class="module-content"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 627px; height: 170px;" border="0"> <thead> <tr> <th class="head-empty"></th> <th class="head-light">CrossFire ATI<br />Radeon HD<br />6970 Rig</th> <th class="head-light">Nvidia<br />GTX 590 Rig</th> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td class="item">Batman Arkham Asylum</td> <td class="item-dark"></td> <td class="item-light"></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; MSAA 16XQ, PhysX</td> <td class="item-dark">n/a</td> <td class="item-light">72</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; No MSAA, No PhysX</td> <td class="item-dark"><strong>206</strong></td> <td class="item-light">192</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; AA and AF maxed, no PhysX</td> <td class="item-dark">124</td> <td class="item-light">n/a</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Dirt 3</td> <td class="item-dark"><strong>75.6</strong></td> <td class="item-light">68.3</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Total War: Shogun 2</td> <td><strong>124.5</strong></td> <td>110.8</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Metro 2033</td> <td></td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; PhysX Enabled</td> <td>n/a</td> <td>29</td> </tr> <tr> <td>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; PhysX Disabled</td> <td><strong>40.5</strong></td> <td>30.1</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Crysis 2</td> <td><strong>42.3</strong></td> <td> <p>41.9</p> </td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>Best scores are bolded. All benchmarks run at maximum/ultra-quality mode across both setups, DirectX 11 mode used when appropriate. Crysis 2 benchmarks incorporate DirectX 11 patch and high-resolution texture patch. All benchmarks run four times, with frame rates recorded for second, third, and fourth runs.</em></p> 30-inch budget build it cooler master storm enforcer gaming pc radeon hd 6970 2011 November 2011 From the Magazine Features How-Tos Mon, 17 Oct 2011 20:58:26 +0000 David Murphy 20661 at